Acquire this transcendental knowledge from a Self-realized master by humble reverence, by sincere inquiry, and by service. The empowered ones, who have realized the Truth, will teach you. (4.34)
Contact with great souls who have realized the truth is helpful. Reading scriptures, giving charity, and doing spiritual practices alone may not give God-realization. Only a God-realized soul can awaken and kindle another soul. But no guru can give a secret formula for Self-realization without His grace. The Vedas say: One who knows the land gives direction to the one who does not know and asks (RV 9.70.09). It is also said that the precepts of Truth are essentially an individual process. People discover the truth by their own efforts. One has to row his or her boat through the turbulent waters of this material world.
The Vedas prohibit the sale of God in any form. They say: O mighty Lord of countless wealth, I will not sell thee for any price (RV 8.01.05). The role of a guru is that of a guide and a giver, not of a taker. Before accepting a human guru, one must first have — or develop — full faith in the guru and leave the guru’s human frailties out of consideration, take the pearls of wisdom and throw away the oyster shells. If this is not possible, it should be remembered that the word “guru” also means the light of Self-knowledge that dispels ignorance and delusion; and the light comes — automatically — from the Supreme Being, the internal guru, when one’s mind is purified by selfless service, spiritual practice, and surrender.
There are four categories of gurus: A false guru, guru, realized guru, and the divine guru. In this age too many false gurus are coming to teach or just give a mantra for a price. These false gurus are the merchants of mantra. They take money from disciples to fulfill their personal material needs without giving the true knowledge of the Supreme Being. Jesus also said: Watch out for false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but they are really like wild wolves on the inside (Matthew 7.15). Saint Tulasidasa said that a guru who takes money from disciples and does not remove their ignorance, goes to hell (TR 7.98.04). A guru is one who imparts true knowledge and complete understanding of the Absolute and the temporal. A realized guru is a Self-realized master mentioned in this verse here. A realized guru helps the devotee maintain God-consciousness all the time by his or her own vested spiritual power.
When the mind and intellect are purified, Supreme Lord, the divine guru, reflects Himself in the inner psyche of a devotee and sends a guru or a realized guru to him or her. A real guru is a giver. He never asks any money or a fee from a disciple because he depends on God only. A real guru would not ask anything from a disciple for personal or even for organizational gain. However, a disciple is obliged to do the best he or she can to help the cause of the guru. It is said that one should not accept any fee from a pupil without giving full instruction and understanding of the Absolute, divine kinetic energy (Maya), temporal material Nature, and the living entity (BrU 4.01.02).
Our own Spirit inside us is the divine guru. Outside teachers only help us in the beginning of the spiritual journey. Our own mind — when purified by selfless service, prayer, meditation, worship, silent chanting of Lord’s name, congregational chanting of holy names, and scriptural study — becomes the best channel and guide for the flow of divine knowledge (See also Gita 4.38, and 13.22). The Divine Being within all of us is the real guru, and one must learn how to tune in with Him. It is said that there is no greater guru than one’s own mind. A pure mind becomes a spiritual guide and the inner divine guru leading to a real guru and Self-realization. This is expressed by the common saying that the guru comes to a person when he or she is ready. The word “guru” also means vast and is used to describe the Supreme Being — the divine guru and internal guide.
The wise spiritual teacher disapproves of the idea of blind personal service, or the guru cult, which is so common in India. A Self-realized (SR) master says that God only is the guru, and all are His disciples. A disciple should be like a bee seeking honey from flowers. If the bee does not get honey from one flower, it immediately goes to another flower and stays at that flower as long as it gets the nectar. Idolization and blind worship of a human guru may become a stumbling block in spiritual progress and is harmful to both the disciple and the guru.