Question: Is it necessary to have a Guru or can you reach enlightenment on your own?

Sri Chinmoy: One can reach enlightenment on the strength of his own aspiration. We know that the first person who realised God did not have a human Guru. But again, we know that there is something called speed. If one gets help from a qualified person, then he can make the fastest progress. Why do you attend this university? So many people are studying here. They could have studied at home instead. But they knew that they could not make the fastest progress by themselves, so they came here to study. Books are available for the students to read, but they also need a teacher who will be able to show them how to study the field they have chosen and how to interpret the meaning of what they learn. In this way they learn their lessons faster.

For everything we need a teacher. The mother is the first teacher. She teaches the child the alphabet for a few months. Then he has a kindergarten teacher, primary and high school teachers and college and university professors. Then this human study, earthly study, ends, and he himself becomes a teacher. But the mother played her role for a few months. She taught him the alphabet. If I want to learn how to sing, I need a teacher. If I want to learn how to sprint, I need a teacher. If I want to do anything on earth, I need a teacher to show me the best possible way. Then how is it that I do not want or need a teacher in the spiritual life? Spirituality is also a kind of knowledge. You will say, "God is within us. Why have we to take any help from anybody?" But I will say, "God is in this book also. Why do we ask a teacher to explain the book?" God is in everything, but we know that there is always someone who is more advanced in a particular subject than we are. A professor of English has more knowledge than a student. In the spiritual life also, a God-realised man, a spiritual Master, has much more God-Knowledge than a seeker. But when a seeker realises God, he is like a student who has received his Master's degree. He no longer needs a teacher.

We have to know how fast we want to go. In the spiritual life we can stumble, we can walk or we can run the fastest. When we have a Master, we can run the fastest because he offers us his own inner strength, his protection, his concern, his compassion and God's Light. He offers, and the disciple receives from him. A guru is not indispensable, but again, one can be wise in this matter. If one can reach the Goal much faster by taking help from someone on the way, what is wrong with that? America is the land of speed. Everything here is faster than the fastest. If you want to realise God as fast as possible, then take the help of someone. After you have reached your Goal, you no longer need to take his help. I came to San Francisco from New York by jet. The jet pilot was my guide. As soon as I landed here, I no longer needed the jet or the pilot; I had reached my destination. In the spiritual life also, when you reach your destination you don't need anyone. But while you are travelling you have to know how fast you want to go. I could have come to San Francisco from New York by some other means, but it would have taken me a longer time. The seeker has to know whether he prefers to travel at the speed of a bullock cart or at the speed of a jet plane. If one wants to realise God on his own, he will proceed at the speed of a bullock cart; but if one wants to realise God with the help of a Master, he will complete his journey at jet speed.