Many years back we visited the famous Badrinath temple. At that time we visited many places with the sole purpose of having a darshan and meeting with any Siddha dwelling there. We could not come across such great personality, but we met one mahatma, who was very simple.
He took us inside his place and welcomed us with a smile. We saw in his small room that there was nothing – no picture nor idol of any God or Goddess. However, there was a table on which a small handkerchief was spread, upon which a bottle and small container was placed. We were surprised to observe that.
We asked that Mahatma about it. He clarified, "they are my Guru and provide me inspiration."
We were astonished as to how a bottle and a small container could possibly be a Guru. In order to clear our doubts he added, "these two items provide me with inspiration and constantly awaken me. Just like Lord Dattatrey had 24 Gurus from whom he got inspiration, I also believe these two articles as my Guru."
“How?” We could not resist ourselves from asking.
He said, "The bottle contains water of the Ganges. It reminds me to keep my life pure and sublime. The small container (dabbi) contains ashes of my wife. When she died, I took it and renounced the world. This ash constantly reminds me about the transitory nature of the world and all objects therein."
He added, “whenever my mind is attracted towards any worldly object, it reminds me that one day everything will turn into ashes. So I am able to worship consciously and to my satisfaction. Whenever I go, I carry them with me and worship them."
Having heard his clarification we had high respect for him.
The entire universe is a big university. In order to get inspiration and in order to march forward on the path of spirituality, Guru in a human form is helpful. But even in absence of a human form or in the physical absence of a Guru, a spiritual aspirant can derive inspiration from his surroundings. If we keep our eyes and mind open and if we are truly awake, we can get inspiration from everywhere.