Question: Do you think that an aspirant needs a living Guru in order to realise God?

Sri Chinmoy: A living Guru is not absolutely indispensable in order to realise God. The first person on earth who realised God, the very first realised soul, had no human Guru. He had only God as his Guru.

If you have a Guru, however, it facilitates your inner spiritual progress. A Guru is your private tutor in the spiritual life. Now there is a big difference between a private tutor and an ordinary teacher. An ordinary teacher will look at a student’s paper and then give him a mark. He will examine the student and then pass him or fail him. But the private tutor is not like that. He encourages and inspires the student at home so that he can pass his examination. At every moment in life’s journey, ignorance tries to test you, examine you and torture you, but this private tutor will teach you how to pass the examination most easily. It is the business of the spiritual teacher to inspire the seeker and increase his aspiration so that he can realise the Highest at God’s choice Hour.

In order to learn anything in this world we need a teacher in the beginning. To learn the ABC we need a teacher. To learn higher mathematics we need a teacher. The teacher may be necessary for a second or for a year or for many years. Now, it is absurd to feel that for everything else in life we need a teacher but not for God-realisation. As we need teachers for our outer knowledge, to illumine our outer being, so also we need a spiritual Master to help and guide us in our inner life, especially in the beginning. Otherwise, our progress will be very slow and uncertain. We may become terribly confused. We will get high, elevating experiences, but we will not give them adequate significance. Doubt may eclipse our mind and we will say, “I am just an ordinary person, so how can I have this kind of experience? Perhaps I am deluding myself.” Or we will tell our friends, and they will say, “It is all mental hallucination. Forget about the spiritual life.” But if there is someone who knows what the Reality is, he will say, “Don’t act like a fool. The experiences which you have had are absolutely real.” He encourages the seeker and inspires him, and gives him the proper explanations of his experiences. Again, if the seeker is doing something wrong in his meditation, he will be in a position to correct him.

A soul enters into a human body and the human being completes his first year of existence, his second year and so on. During this time his parents teach him how to speak, how to eat, how to dress, how to behave. The child learns everything from his parents. The parents play their part in the formative years. Similarly, in the spiritual life, the Master teaches the student how to pray, how to meditate, how to contemplate. Then, when the student learns to go deep within, he can do all this by himself.

Why does one go to the university when one can study at home? It is because he feels that he will get expert instruction from people who know the subject well. Now you know that there have been a few — very, very few — real men of knowledge who did not go to any university. Yes, there are exceptions. Every rule admits of exceptions. God is in everybody, and if a seeker feels that he does not need human help, he is most welcome to try his capacity alone. But if someone is wise enough and wants to run towards his Goal instead of stumbling or merely walking, then certainly the help of a Guru can be considerable.

Right now I am in London. I know that New York exists and that I have to go back there. What do I need to get me there? An aeroplane and a pilot. In spite of the fact that I know that New York exists, I cannot get there alone. Similarly, you know that God exists. You want to reach God, but someone has to take you there. As the aeroplane takes me to New York, someone has to carry you to the Consciousness of God which is deep within you. Someone has to show you how to enter into your own divinity, which is God.

A spiritual Master comes to you with a boat. He says, “Come. If you want to go to the Golden Shore, I will take you. Moreover, once you get into my boat, you can sing on the boat, you can dance, you can even sleep; but I will bring you safely to the Goal.” If you say that you do not need anybody’s help, if you want to swim across the sea of ignorance alone, then it is up to you. But how many years, how many incarnations will it take you? And again, after swimming for some time you may become totally exhausted and then you may drown.

If someone becomes a true disciple of a Master, he does not feel that he and his Guru are two totally different beings. He does not feel that his Guru is at the top of the tree and he is at the foot of the tree, all the time washing the feet of the Guru. No! He feels that the Guru is his own highest part. He feels that he and the Guru are one, that the Guru is his own highest and most developed part. Therefore, a true disciple does not find any difficulty in surrendering his lowest part to his highest part. It is not beneath his dignity to be a devoted disciple, because he knows that both the highest and the lowest are his very own.