Seek a guru to show the way, not to sanction your way
Some people seek a guru as a social ornament. If they live in a pious society, then having a guru enhances their image. They like to flaunt to others: “This is my car; this is my house; this is my dog – and this is my guru.” Such people simply want the guru to sanction their way of living and speak some encouraging platitudes, not give any demanding instructions.
In marked contrast is the Bhagavad-gita’s approach. It (04.34) urges us to approach spiritual teachers in a mood of submission and enquiry with a desire to serve. Significantly, serving the guru helps bring out our best, which is what we too ultimately want. It’s just that we don’t fully understand what is best for us because our understanding of our identity is incomplete: we see ourselves primarily as material beings whose worldly welfare is meant to be reassured by some nominal devotion to some God.
The guru helps us understand that we are essentially spiritual beings. As souls, we are parts of Krishna and are meant to delight eternally in a life of loving service. The guru guides us so that we give our spiritual life due place and priority. In fact, when we learn to live in our original identity as souls, such a life leads to the development of our all-round potential in our service to Krishna.
The guru shows us the way to live such a full and fulfilling life – and also shows why this is the best way by giving coherent and cogent explanations about who we are, who God is and how a life of spiritual devotion is the best way to live. With such a wise and well-wishing spiritual mentor, our path to a meaningful and joyful life becomes clear.
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