The need for a Guru is an often debated concept in recent times. Since much of the material is available and accessible to most of us, the need for someone who is required simply to explain these materials is confounding. When self-learning at a pace that suits and a regime that is comfortable is gaining popularity, spiritual path still stoically demands the presence of a guru. Some reasons why a Guru becomes indispensible in this journey:
a. Self-knowledge has to be revealed: It is important to know that the ‘self’ is not like the other objects that we recognize through our sense organs and then understand them. Since the self is the subject and not the object, it has to be discovered or revealed. This can be done only by a person who has experienced it, apart from knowing how to enable it for another person.
b. Guru is the proof of this knowledge: Since this knowledge is subtle, most of us find it difficult to comprehend and persevere along the path to realizing the self. Hence during these times, the Guru who has realized this truth becomes the beacon of light. He is a constant reminder that this knowledge is the truth since he is living it in front of our eyes. Hence the Guru becomes the inspiration and the teacher leading the way. He provides the needed proof that the goals of self-realization and liberation are attainable goals.
c. Knowledge of Sanskrit is insufficient: Reading the Upanisads and other prasthana-trayi may be possible if one has the knowledge of Sanskrit. But this does not help since it will become only a mere intellectual exercise. Even for one who is adept in the language understanding becomes difficult since the texts are full of contradictions. While many people may dismiss it as prattle by the inexperienced, only a ‘srotriya-brahma-nistha’ Guru can help you see the message hidden behind the words. Hence we need a Guru to elaborate and help us imbibe the concepts and also help us to live it as we learn.
Based on the above three reasons, it becomes obvious that it will fairly impossible for one to go through the learning of the subject of ‘self knowledge’ without a Guru, thus making him or her indispensible in this journey.