The topic of guru evokes strong emotions. The supporters of the concept of guru are quite passionate about their teachers and have very good reasons to be so, since they feel that they have benefited enormously from their gurus. On the other hand, there are enough doubters who feel otherwise.
We can get a reasonably balanced picture if we answer these questions. What is the modern concept of a guru? Why do people flock in such large numbers to their chosen gurus? What does the Bhagavad-Gita say on this topic?
First, let us clarify our understanding of a modern day guru. He or she is someone who initiates a disciple by giving him or a mantra, which is also known as diksha. Disciples are expected to attend the spiritual discourses given by their gurus, whenever possible. They are also expected to contribute towards the projects of their gurus. Some disciples even personally serve their gurus. And, this relationship is supposed to be more or less permanent, even eternal.
Why are people so enamoured by their gurus? There is a strong belief that gurus possess special powers, and that their disciples can derive all kinds of material and spiritual benefits through them. Listening to the discourses of their gurus can help disciples get a better understanding of life.
What does the Bhagavad Gita say on this topic? God is the real guru (Gita 11.43); others can only be tattvadarshis (Gita, 4.34). But what is a tattvadarshi? He or she is a wise, knowledge person. He or she is someone who is anxious to make spiritual progress, and set example of ideal behaviour by strictly following what he or she preaches. One must surrender to god only (Gita, 18.66), and no one else. One must follow godís instructions at all times (16.24), and not create oneís own set of rules and regulations (16.23). Finally, one must attempt to link up with god (18.65).
People are too lazy to do what God instructs them. They suffer from the false impression that their gurus have some special powers, other than knowledge, through which they can attain enlightenment. Admittedly, this notion is promoted by some gurus themselves. Needless to say this is absolutely false. If anything, the Bhagavad Gita prohibits preaching to the undeserving (18.67). Rather, spiritualists are expected to help one another (Gita, 18.68) by exchanging information and realizations (Gita, 10.9).
One should only be guided by the scriptures. One should be grateful to whoever helps (Gita, 4.34), but should never become dependent on the person.