People often ask, “Is it not enough to read scriptures and get knowledge from them? I read for many hours a day. Why do I need a living Guru?”
A man who had never seen a cow before or drank milk, heard about cows from his master. “White color with brown patches, relaxed animal, four udders for milk, two tiny horns, two flappy ears, a bushy tail and a cow gives white liquid called milk.” Armed with this information, he set out to find this interesting animal, and came upon the statue of a cow. Nearby, some painters were whitewashing the barn. The man put two and two together, and drank up the white colored paint thinking it was milk. To say his stomach went for a toss would be an understatement. When he accosted his master angrily, the master coolly replied “If you had milked the cow yourself, you would have had no trouble!”
Thus there is no substitute to being mentored by someone who has had direct first-hand experience of the Divine.
Further, it is important to be in the physical vicinity of such a Guru. Having a ‘paper guru’, or one who is on the altar in a paper photograph alone, is of limited use. Why? Because knowing our monkey-minds, we might continue to commit all sorts of blunders, and will fool ourselves that everything we are doing is perfectly alright. Having a live guru may not always be pleasant – but only when he points out our mistakes and corrects us, would we be able to get rid of our ego. And as we are well aware, giving up the ego is the most important requirement for spiritual perfection.