jnaanam naasti gurum vinaa

One can't get knowledge without the guru. Thats what the subject means. Now, there have been people who argued that the guru doesn't need to be an external entity to oneself. Agreed, theoretically at least. The examples have been the great personalities of Ramana Maharshi, Sw.Ramakrishna, Sridhara Swami, etc. Well, Ramana did consider Arunachala as his guru, but lets keep that aside for a moment. Also lets sideline the fact that Ramakrishna walked many a paths being guided at each following. I'm also unwilling to ignore that Ramakrishna spoke to Kali every moment. Even forgetting that Sridhara kept Ramadas Swami in his guru's position. But... but, do we really need to say that we're akin to any of the above? If so, you may not even be reading this nonsense I write here!

So, a guru is needed. Be it in any form that you yourself are willing to accept and submit unto, at times arguing in order to learn. This requires one to sideline one's ego and accept that the guru would only do good unto him spiritually. Its a mandate, be it unwritten if you may. The guru's features have also been mentioned. He has the capacity to take one across the darkness of ignorance so that one may see the light for oneself. He makes the most complex brahmajnaana simple to understand. Take Adi Shankara... the beauty of his following words makes you wonder the utter simplicity of it all:
shlokaardhena pravakshyaami yaduktam granthakotibhih
brahmasatyam jaganmithyaa jiivo brahmaiva naa parah

("What crores of scriptures have to say I'll tell in half a stanza: brahmaN is real, the world is not-real, the individual soul is same as brahmaN, not different")

Amazing, simplistic beauty, incomparable... all that there is to know is here and now. Thats the importance of a guru. This is what a guru does to us! The dumbest of the students need understand this... the guru comes down to your level and pulls you out of the clouds of ignorance into the clear skies of the sun rays.

The guru I talk of is a spiritual, self-realized, brahmajnaani, nothing less. Any other comparison to teachers of academia or religion are of no further use in adhyaatma. Why? A reason is that anyone who's not a jnaani, can teach others only bookish knowledge. Putting it to use is left unto you, that you yourself alone are incapable of handling! Rather blunt, but true... thats the reason one's after a guru in the first place. Okay, let me accept, still, that one can make use of the shruti teachings even from an unrealized teacher.

There's one beautiful analog that I'd particularly like bringing in at this juncture to make a point how important a guru is. One may have learnt all the veda shaastra-s or all that there is to learn but still jnaana *won't* surface without a guru. Consider the ladle in the paayasa (kheer; a savoury dish) being/already cooked. Its in the paayasa all the while, is it not? Still, does the ladle get the taste of it? jnaanam naasti gurum vinaa.

ajnaanatimiraandhasya jnanaanjanashalaakayaa
chakshurunmiilitan yena tasmai shri guruve namah
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