Question: Is it necessary to study under a teacher to achieve self-realisation? What does a spiritual teacher do? Are there any advantages to be gained by studying with a spiritual teacher? Do you ever outgrow your need for a teacher? Can anything be achieved alone?

Sri Chinmoy: Now, to be very frank with you: who was the spiritual teacher of the very first person who realised God on earth? He who realised God for the first time on earth didn't have a spiritual Master as we have. But he did realise God.

Here we see that every rule admits of exceptions. He did realise God. In that particular case, God helped him, God Himself became his teacher. Anyway, he realised God. The first realised person on earth didn't have a human being to help him realise God. God became his inner teacher and outer teacher.

By this time, there are many spiritual Masters who have really realised God. Again, there are many unrealised persons who claim to be spiritual Masters. There are false teachers. There are genuine teachers. Mother-Earth is cursed with false Masters and blessed with true Masters.

To come back to your question, we have to know the role of a spiritual Master quite well. He is not a school teacher. A school teacher will examine you and mark you according to your merit. If you have done well, your teacher will pass you. If you have not done well in your examination, he will fail you. This is his business. You are always examined by the teacher here. But a private tutor is not like that. A private tutor helps you wholeheartedly, individually, privately, to pass the examination. He will constantly help you so that in school, in college, you can get high marks. This is his role. He will only try to help you, to expedite your progress in acquiring knowledge. So, a spiritual Master, a real spiritual Master, is a private tutor. And what does he do? He helps, he inspires and he kindles the flame of aspiration in the seeker for the seeker so that the seeker can stand right in front of the sea of ignorance and face it and conquer it. This is what a spiritual Master does.

Now in this world, we need a teacher for everything. So there is nothing wrong in having a teacher for one's spiritual and inner education. But, you may say, for how many years will the teacher be necessary? For five years or ten years or twenty years? To get your Master's degree you have to start at the beginning as a child, in kindergarten. Then after you get your own highest degree, you do not continue to go to the University as a student. Then you yourself start teaching. You have every right to teach then, because you have acquired your knowledge. Now you are in a position to teach others, to help others. In the spiritual life also, if one is wise, one knows that the role of a spiritual teacher is like a private tutor. You take help from the teacher for a few years, for as long as you need to get your own inner illumination: five years, ten years, twenty years or fifty years. Or it may take a few incarnations because, after all, it is a difficult subject.

One may say, "No. God is part of me, He is in all of us. For that, why should I go to others to get God-Knowledge?" I would like to say that it is true. God is within you. God is also inside all knowledge. Why do you then go to a teacher to learn? You go to him precisely because you need his instruction, you need his guidance.

God is within you. But unfortunately, you do not know where He is. God is inside you, but He is seated at a particular place. He is seated on a Throne. You do not know how to reach that Throne. Here the role of the teacher begins. He comes, he carries you. He shows you God's Throne. Then his role is over. Just take a little help from him. You need it. He is not God, but he has seen God a few seconds before you or a few years before you. Your schoolteacher also learned from someone else what he teaches you now. It is the individual who has to be wise. If he feels that he wants to run faster towards his Goal, then naturally he has to take help from the one who has already seen the Goal, and stays in the Goal.