Granths and Scriptures and learned Men cannot take the Place of Guru
Guru is the name of a very pure spiritual being, who has access to Sach Khand, True Region. He has experience of the gross, subtle and causal regions. He has experience of spiritual matters and is free from the bondage of the senses. Unless we become connected with such a person, our spiritual aspirations do not awaken.
The Guru, in fact, is a glowing lamp whose light rekindles the lights that have blown out. A burnt-out lamp cannot do this. Many persons say that we can light the lamp of knowledge by merely reading religious books. They say that we need no Guru and that the books will serve the purpose of the Guru.
Let us consider what these books are. They are invaluable records of the spiritual experiences of Saints and holy men. It is, therefore, good to be fond of reading such religious books. We must have respect and love for them. But persons who depend upon books alone have yet to understand the difference between insentient and sentient beings.
Books stimulate the desire to hear about spirituality and to understand its principles, and to read accounts of the lives of Saints. All this can be of great benefit to us, but it cannot activate the spiritual life within us. We can obtain this spiritual life only from some spiritually-realized soul. Only a burning lamp can light another lamp. It is impossible to get life from inert matter. Similarly, spiritual knowledge cannot be attained by the mere reading of religious books, were it even for millions of years.
Spiritual knowledge cannot be taught. It is a 'touch' which can be had only from a man of realized experience.
Spirituality cannot be taught but caught.
The experience of Saints cannot be had except by revelation. It is not simply a matter of knowing it; one has to realize it as an experience.
The Gurus have discussed this at considerable length.
To worship the Guru is to serve the Lord; He Himself by His Grace takes us across. Others worship the dead or their graves; they waste their labours in vain.
Malar M4, 1264-2
Religious books and Mahatmas of the past ages advise us to come to a living Guru and render loving devotion to Him.
Drink the water that has washed the feet of Saints; surrender your life to the Saints. Bathe in the dust of the Saints. May I be a sacrifice unto them!
Gauri M5, 283-7
Serve the Saints, this is the way for the disciple.
Asa M5, 400-8
Bhai Gurdas says:
The Vedas and Granths deal with experiences about the Lord; they tell us of means to cross the ocean of existence. But Reality cannot be understood without a Master. The Master comes and makes us understand.
Var 1, Pauri 17
People study the scriptures regularly throughout their lives. They may become intellectual giants or very learned persons. They may deliver lectures for hours on end. But do they possess spiritual knowledge even in the slightest degree? Actually, they are blank so far as spiritual life is concerned, because they are not connected with a Living Master.
It is said in 'Asa-di-var':
We may read whole cartloads of books, and make great piles of them. We may read shiploads of books, and build up huge libraries. We may read for years on end, we may read for months and months, we may read for life after life, we may read till our last breath, but the thing that matters is just One Word. Oh Nanak, the rest is labour lost.
Asa M1, 467-14
Oh Nanak, one may read pages weighing maunds. One may know their mysterious accent. One may write without a break. One may write with the speed of the winds. Oh Lord! You cannot be valued thus; oh Lord! Your Name cannot be described.
Sri Rag M1, 15-2
Books contain knowledge about the Lord, but:
Knowledge is absorption in the melody, which is indescribable. It is like a fruitful green tree, which has immense shade.
Sri Rag M1, 59-8
That knowledge is within you. But unless you know the method of going within and opening the knot of consciousness and gross matter, you remain without realization of it. If spiritual knowledge were to be had from books, the learned ones would have become self-realized. But they are no more than walking encyclopaedias, and are as lifeless as a mansion of bricks and stones.
The brain full of book-knowledge is like a donkey that is carrying a load of sandalwood but is unaware of its scent, or like a spoon that remains in the halwa day and night but does not know its taste. If one could become spiritually-minded by reading books, there would be as great a flood of spirituality as there is a flood of books.
But how many really enlightened souls do we come across in this age of books? Hardly any.
Whenever Saints come into the world there is a flood of spirituality. Numberless seekers are dyed in the colour of the Saints and turn to the spiritual life. A soul can get spiritual uplift only from another soul. An intellectual teacher cannot do this. One may be very intellectual or learned, but unless he is himself spiritually evolved, he cannot help another. It is very easy to give discourses or talks on spiritual matters, but it is quite another matter to lead a spiritual life. No one can become spiritual by simply studying books on the science of spirituality. Any claim to spirituality based on such a study would be pretentious. It is useless to expect that one can obtain spirituality from a learned man.
Maulana Rumi says:
Take shelter with the Master, one should not tread the path with an impostor.
He whose company and example awaken the desire for spiritual progress in the disciple is a Guru. Such persons are oceans of mercy. Whoever takes shelter with them is saved from the wheel of eighty-four. We should serve them with body and mind.
The Gurus say that our bodies, minds and wealth belong to the Saints. And it is owing to Their mercy that we taste the Nectar of Naam and obtain peace. No one except the Saints are truly charitable. They lead all, who come to them, to the higher regions.
Body, mind and wealth belong to the Saints. By the Grace of the Saints we meditate on Naam and gain happiness. Except the Saints there is no real benefactor. Whoever takes shelter with the Saints is taken across by Them.
Sorath M5, 610-8
The object of having Guru as an ideal is purely spiritual. It is not a doctrine of man-worship. By the Guru, we mean not only the Master in human form, but also in the form of the Shabd. The body is like a robe which has to be cast aside both by the disciple and the Master. But blessed is the body in which He works! We respect it and it should be worshipped. It is also called Guru. We have a body and we can be taught only by one having a body. Those who describe the sitting at the feet of a Master as man-worship do not know the Reality. Even if this criticism is taken as true, it is far better than book-worship or idol-worship. Man is a conscious being, and only a conscious being can teach another conscious being.
People say that Khusro is an Idol-worshipper; yes, yes, I am. I have nothing to do with the world and its creatures.
The devotees of God and worldly-minded persons cannot get along well together. How can those without any love for the Guru, know what a Guru really is? He is a resplendent sea of the light of the Lord. The spiritually-minded are dyed in His colour. To understand this secret one needs to have eyes that can see.
In reality, the Guru is not the name of a man. He is a power which is manifested in this body temporarily. He is our true ideal in the light of which true spiritual progress is made. He is full of radiant light, like an electric bulb. While He shines, the thought of the structure of the bulb does not enter the mind. The seekers after spirituality sacrifice themselves like moths over this divine light.
Kabir Sahib says:
They who consider the Guru to be human are ignorant fools! They sink in the ocean of the world again and again. They who consider the Guru to be human are deficient in body and mind. They identify the Guru with the body.
How can they be redeemed? They who consider the Guru to be human, How can they have any devotion? He is certainly an ignorant one; he cannot cross over, nor can he help others to do so. They who consider the Guru to be human, and consider the water that has washed His feet as ordinary water, are surely doomed to a life of hell, and shall wander like stray dogs from birth to birth.