When an individual is a qualified one (adhikari) to study vedantic texts the Lord would direct him to a Guru who gives/grants him of the Self-knowledge. The knowledge of Vedanta must be obtained only from the Guru and should not be pursued independently, mainly because the Vedas could be misinterpreted due to misunderstanding.
‘When a student is ready, the teacher appears’ – unknown
Guru is the one who removes the ignorance. ‘Gu’ means ‘ignorance’ & ‘ru’ means ‘dispeller’. Guru removes the ignorance in an individual with the Self-knowledge. There is a two-fold qualification for a Guru SÅootriya & Brahma-nistha.
Gurupasadana – Reaching the Guru
Reaching the guru is called ‘gurupasana’ or ‘gurupagamana’ i.e. guru + upa + sadana
Guru means Teacher
Upa means near
Sadana means going (going near the teacher, approaching the teacher, reaching the guru). It is important for the student to approach the teacher and ask questions on the Self. The absolute dictum in matters of Self-knowledge is given only when asked. Only to a sincere student who has the thirst for knowledge of the Self, will the Guru point out the knowledge of the Self.
The Upanishads, Bagvad Gita and the Brahma-sutra are collectively called as pranthana-trayi. They all describe the true nature of the Self & also point out the ways/means of attaining the knowledge of the Self. These are collectively names as ‘pramanas’ i.e. ‘the instruments of gaining the Self-knowledge.
The tradition of carrying ‘samit’ to the Guru
Traditionally the student is supposed to approach the Guru with ‘samit’ (twings) used for the homas & yagÄ?s to display the seva bhava (service mentality).
The idea is the student is humble enough to accept the directions of the Guru. If the student is arrogant, or shows off that he knows, Guru cannot add any more to him/her. Taking the ‘samit’ to the Guru really meant, “Oh Guru! I am at your service. Your word is my command and your desire is my will!’ This attitude is possible only when the student is longing sincerely & intensely for the Self-knowledge. (From my personal experience, in the western culture sometimes humbleness is perceived and misinterpreted as low self esteem, less competitive and less aggressive in business environment)
Qualifications of the Guru
Guru is the one who removes the ignorance. ‘Gu’ means ‘ignorance’ & ‘ru’ means ”dispeller’. Guru removes the ignorance in an individual with the Self-knowledge. There is a two-fold qualification for a Guru.
SAootriya is one who is well versed in the study of Vedanta. Only when the guru is well versed in the Vedantic texts, he can instruct his student clearly. Without this qualification even an experienced master will not have the knowledge to explain his profound experience to his student. The scriptures give the student the words through which he can explain, describe, clarify the questions; a student might have on the ever present, indescribable, indestructible Self.
Brahma-nistha: The study of Vedanta should culminate in the Experience of Brahman. (The ability to see the Self in all living creatures; Advaita without duality). He, who has that experience, will be ever established in that experience is called Brahma nistha.
For a teacher to be effective he should have both the knowledge of the Vedantic texts and the direct Experience of the Self.
As a general rule he should be both but there have been some mouna teachers (silent) who have Experienced the Self and have imparted that knowledge to other just by being silent. (I personally think Ramana Maharishi as one of them)
A Guru is indispensable in the spiritual pursuit
The question is ‘do we require a Guru to guide us to Self-knowledge or is it possible to gain IT (IT here is ‘it capitalized’ – refers to Brahman not technology) without any guidance?
1. The knowledge has to be revealed.
If we can know a thing through senses or mind, it is an object of perception or experience but Atman is neither of these. It is the subject and can never be an object of perception or experience.Therefore, unless a Guru reveals Self to us, we would not have an inclination to even think about knowing IT.
2. Guru is the proof of knowledge
Even though the scriptures explain that the Atman, all pervading Brahman is not the Body, Mind and Intellect, one may never trust this knowledge or it promised results of liberation from this samsara without actually seeing one who is abiding on IT and showing us the possibility of leading us towards achieving IT.
3. Mere knowledge of Sanskrit alone is not enough.
Upanishads are full of seemingly contradictory statements. They’re elusive, difficult to understand, confusing, puzzling, and incomprehensible without the proper guidance of a teacher.
For example the statement “The Self is subtler than the subtle and greater than the great” or “IT (refers to Brahman nothing to with technology) is father away than the far-off and IT is near at hand too”. A thing can be subtle or gross, near or far but not both at the same time. But Upanishads describes Self as such.
Only sAootriya-Brahma-nistha Guru who can comprehend the Upanishads and decipher their hidden meanings can give the right, coherent understanding to an aspirant student