“The guru’s role is to open the door of the cage. If a disciple, finding himself still attached to limitation, cries, “Leave me alone; I like my nice little nest of pleasures and desires!” the guru won’t insist. He will say, simply, “I came because you called me; otherwise I would not have troubled. It wasn’t my need that brought me. It was your need. So, until you call me again, I will wait.”
— Swami Kriyananda
The word “guru” literally means “dispeller of darkness,” “darkness” referring to ignorance. On the most basic level that’s just a teacher, of which we have many. However, we only have one true Guru, known as the Sat Guru in India. This teacher comes to teach us about our true Self or God.
One time someone asked Swami Kriyananda, the founder of Ananda, if they needed a guru. He surprised everyone by saying, “No, you don’t need a guru”. He then finished by adding, “Unless you want to find God, then you need a guru.” Why do we need a guru to show us the way to God and inner freedom? Can’t we just Google how to do it? Well, like anything extremely difficult, it’s easier to learn if you know someone who’s already done what you’re trying to accomplish. He/she can tell you the different ways you might mess up and how to avoid them. Just being in the presence of your guru is a tremendous spiritual help, because he/she has a very strong and high energy which can help you to raise your consciousness.
This guru only reveals himself or herself when you are ready and willing to follow. In my case, I had heard of Yogananda before and met some of his disciples, but it wasn’t until I was ready to stick to a single path that I suddenly realized that he was my guru.
So if you’ve gotten this far and have decided that you want a guru, you may be wondering how to find one. This can require a little patience. Try visiting different spiritual groups and reading spiritual books and see if any stand out to you. Find a path or teacher that you’re comfortable with and start following their practices, but keep your mind open until you’re sure it’s the right one.
Sometimes people feel drawn to gurus that have already left their bodies. This is okay, you don’t need to run off to India to find one that’s still alive (just look how many followers Jesus has). It definitely does help, though, if you can find others in that guru’s spiritual lineage and get guidance from them, since they are more experienced in following that particular guru and have the same kind of energy. It also helps to keep your practice strong if you have the support of others doing the same practices.
If you let him, your guru can be the best friend you have ever or will ever have. In Ananda communities there is practice called a “purification ceremony.” During the ceremony, people walk up to the minister at the front of the room and say, “I seek purification by the grace of God.”
Then the minister says, “The Masters say, ‘Open your heart to me and I will enter and take charge of your life.'” The minister then blesses the person on the forehead, and ends by saying, “By the grace of our Masters, you are free.” This is what gurus do for us; they free us.
A Handbook on Discipleship by Swami Kriyananda
The Guru: How God Guides the Devotee by Hriman McGilloway
Why a Guru? by Swami Kriyananda
Experiences With My Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda by Hare Krishna Ghosh