Q: What is the meaning of Guru? Who can be called a Guru?
A: Our ancient scriptures have defined the meaning of Guru through various illustrations. A Guru has been described as one who leads us from darkness to light, from untruth to truth and from ignorance to the knowledge.
I would say that a Guru is one who leads others the path of spirituality and ultimately takes one unto God. A Guru acts as a spiritual mother of the disciple and takes utmost care so that the disciple can reach his ultimate destination of self-realization.
Q: Is it true that a person can not advance on the spiritual path without a Guru?
A: I personally don’t believe so. For example even without having a Guru, one can get up early in the morning, pray to God, sit in meditation, read inspiring books, perform Japa, sing bhajans, make efforts for the purification of the mind, perform introspection and try to overcome one’s weaknesses. One does not have to wait for a Guru in order to practice such austerities.
If you have bad habits, does it make sense to wait indefinitely for a Guru before attempting to rid yourself of them? Why should you wait for a Guru before implementing good habits? So according to me, a Guru is not inevitable in order to advance on the path of spirituality.
When one reaches a certain point in sadhana and truly needs someone to guide them for spiritual advancement, God will send someone in the form of a Guru. Until then one should continue to march forward on the path even without a Guru.
Q: When a person comes into contact with his Guru for the first time, how does he know that this is the Guru for him? Does some special attraction take place?
A: Sometimes a special attraction does take place and sometimes it does not. Sometimes a person feels indefinable peace in the first meeting with his Guru whereas sometimes nothing happens. There is no universal law in this regard.
I would say that a person should take time in deciding about his probable Guru. One should observe the different facets of his Guru's life. If after such prolonged observation one’s soul is attracted towards him then one should accept him as his Guru.
The relation of a Guru and shishya (Disciple) spans a lifetime and has profound effects upon one’s life, so one should take utmost care before accepting someone as his Guru.
Q: Tell us about the characteristics that one should consider before selecting a Guru.
A: Never select your Guru in haste. First, have a closer look at your Guru's daily routine. Second, ask yourself whether or not the Guru’s ideas and thoughts are acceptable to you. Ensure that the Guru is interested in sadhana and whether he himself has some experience in sadhana; verify that the Guru’s nature matches with yours; check whether the Guru has any bad habits or any material desires.
In ideal Guru should have love for God and should have attained self-realization or self–knowledge. Try to have frequent contact with your probable Guru and ascertain that the Guru's philosophy and attributes are ideal in all aspects and then make your decision accordingly.
Once you select a Guru, maintain a deep attachment with him. Have complete faith in your Guru. Never forsake your Guru for trivial reasons. Never say malignant words about your Guru. Even in adverse situations, remain loyal to your Guru with utmost faith and devotion.
Q: How to find an ideal Guru?
A: I would say that one would not always be able to come by an ideal Guru. The main criteria is that one has to prove themselves to be deserving of a Guru. I mean, one has to become an ideal shishya to come across an ideal Guru.
If you are submerged in material pleasures and worldly desires, lust and anger etc. how can you come across an ideal Guru? First, you must rise above such things and earnestly yearn for the grace of God or Guru. Then the Guru will come and find you instead of you finding them.
In the present time it is more difficult for a Guru to find an ideal disciple than vice versa! First, try to be an ideal shishya and God will take care of the rest.
Q: Can a person have/make more than one Guru?
A: Yes, one can. A Guru is one who provides inspiration, who guides one on the spiritual path. A person can have more than one such Guru. It is for the individual to decide as to who his Guru should be.
Ideally a person should take refuge unto the feet of only one Guru. A Guru, who inspires an individual for spiritual progress and leads one to the Divine. A Guru is one whose vision is enough to fill one's heart with complete dedication of his being, his identity and his ego. A Guru is an entity with whom one establishes a lifelong relationship as ‘Guru-Shishya’.
Ramakrishna Dev said that there can be many Shiksha Gurus (from which one can take inspiration) but there can be only one Diksha Guru (ultimate guide for the advancement on the path of spirituality). Complete dedication should be in only one Guru’s lotus feet.
Q: How can I ideally serve my Guru?
A: Depending upon the requirements and interests of your Guru, there are different ways to serve him. However according to me the best service of your Guru lies in following the path he has shown for your spiritual advancement.
You should have an unconditional and indubitable faith in your Guru. You should sincerely try to follow your his teachings. You should never try to see your Guru's faults but instead try to see faults within yourself. If you can not praise or spread the glory of your Guru then be silent but never say anything negative about him. By following these, you will serve your Guru in an ideal manner.