We know how Lord Krishna, though he was fully conscious of His Supreme Divinity, served His Guru and studied under him. What He said was what He did; and what He did was only a commentary on what He said. Let us, therefore, turn to the Bhagavad Gita, the Immortal Words of Sri Krishna, to see what He says about one’s attitude to the spiritual preceptor.
“Na hi jnaanena sadrisham pavitramiha vidyate,” said Lord Krishna; there is nothing here so grand, ennobling and purifying as Knowledge. How can we attain that Knowledge?
There are two statements that answer this great question. “Shraddhaavaan labhate jnaanam”—” a person who has Shraddha attains Jnana”. This word Shraddha is indeed very difficult to define; it is a perfect blending of love, faith, devotion, total egolessness and absolute surrender. The other statement is “Tadviddhi pranipaatena pari-prasnena sevayaa; Upadekshyanti te jnaanam jnaaninah tattvadarsinah”; “Know that by prostrating yourself to, by questioning and by serving those Great Ones who have had a direct perception of the Self; they will impart that Knowledge to you.” This Knowledge is impossible for one to acquire by one’s own unaided self-effort.
This truth is clearly brought out in the Visvarupa-Darshana Yoga. After revealing Himself to Arjuna and after once again assuming the lovely human form of Krishna, the Lord declares: “The Wondrous Form that you beheld just now, even the gods are ever desirous of witnessing.” The Lord had already said: “The Devas and the Maharshis know Me not; for I am their very Source.” “But, by Ananya-Bhakti I am capable of being known,” says the Lord. When a person has Ananya Bhakti the Lord reveals Himself to the devotee, even as He revealed Himself to Arjuna. This is a point worth remembering; even then it is He who reveals Himself. It is only after the Lord gave Arjuna the Divya-Chakshu or the Divine Eye was Arjuna able to behold Him. Similarly, “Dadaami buddhi-yogam tam yena maamupayaantite”, when the aspirant is ripe for Wisdom, “I give the Buddhi-Yoga to him and he attains Me.” Even in the crowning declaration of the Gita: “Sarvadharmaan parityajya maamekam sharanam vraja”, the Lord has made it abundantly clear “Aham tvaa sarva paapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shuchah.” “Surrender yourself wholeheartedly, unreservedly and totally to Me; that is all that you can do; I will free you from sins. You cannot do this yourself. But I will do it, fear not.”
“You can only develop Shraddha; I will give you Jnana. You can only surrender yourself; I will give you Liberation.” That is the final declaration of the Lord.
A beautiful truth emerges from these passages in the Gita. At one place the Lord says: “I give the aspirant Buddhi-Yoga and he reaches Me.” At another place he says: “Go to the Great Ones; (they are your spiritual preceptors); prostrate to them; serve them; and ask of them; they will impart the Knowledge to you.” Reading the two together we get a glimpse of the grand truth that Guru is God-incarnate upon earth. You can get at the Truth, you can attain Self-realisation either by cultivating Ananya-Bhakti to the Lord in His Transcendental Formless aspect or in His Immanent aspect as your own Guru with a Name you can repeat, a Form on which you can meditate, a distinct personality which you can see, touch and hear, and which can guide you, inspire you, and lead you to the realisation of your Immortal Self.
Thus has the Lord established His complete identification with the Spiritual Preceptor, the Guru. And the aspirant can direct his Shraddha and Bhakti either to Him in His Formless aspect or to His Immanent Form upon earth, the Guru, and the latter is certainly more practicable for the vast majority of the aspirants.
Guru-Bhakti and Guru-Seva terminate (if it can at all be called a termination) in Self-realisation. You will have to go on serving the Guru. The Guru will reveal the Truth to you when your self-surrender is complete, when the time is ripe. But that is not your concern. Even as Arjuna prayed for the Visvarupa-Darshana and waited for the Lord to bestow the Divya-Chakshu on him, you will have to serve, serve, and serve, and the Guru will bestow the Knowledge on you when you are ripe for It. Some deluded aspirants serve their Guru for some years and then give it up foolishly imagining that they have attained Chitta-Shuddhi. They do not gain the Supreme Knowledge; they do not reach their Goal. They, no doubt, gain some merit (Punya), but Self-realisation is not attained: this is indeed a great loss, a great blunder.
Guru-Bhakti and Guru-Seva are like the two oars to the boat of Sadhana that takes you across the torrential stream of Samsara. You cannot do without them until you reach the other shore, until you attain Immortality and Eternal Bliss, until you become a Jivanmukta. Then Guru-Bhakti itself manifests in you as Self-realisation; and Guru-Seva becomes Lokasangraha in which you automatically engage yourself.
One who has such a Guru-Bhakti, one who has totally surrendered himself to the Guru, one who serves the Guru wholeheartedly, knows no grief, no sorrow, no fear, no pain, no misery, no ignorance and he instantly attains Godrealisation: for, Guru and God are one. He attains instantaneous Knowledge and Self-Illumination. Therefore have the Upanishads also declared: “Yasya deve para bhaktiryathaa deve tathaa gurau; Tasyaite kathitaahyarthaah prakaashante mahaatmanah.” “One who has Supreme Devotion to God and equal devotion to his Guru, to such a great Mahatma will the truths of the Upanishads be clear as crystal.”
May you all shine as the embodiments of Guru-Bhakti! May you all roam about freely as Jivanmuktas in this very birth! May God bless you all with health, long life, peace prosperity and Kaivalya Moksha!