According to our scriptures, a spiritual seeker needs a spiritual guide. Vyasacharya conveys this important idea through Arjuna Saranagathi to Krishna. There are many misconceptions that a guru is not required. But our scriptures declare otherwise. Krishna himself says in the fourth chapter Thadviddhi pranipathena pariprashnena sevayaa Upadekshyanthi thae jnaanam jnaaninasthathva darshina: 4.34 May you gain that knowledge by prostration, by service and by proper enquiry. The wise sages will impart that knowledge to you. Kjrishna says Guru is a must and Mundakopanishad declares Thadvijnaanaartham sa gurumaeva abhgachcheth Samithpani: shrothriyam brahmanishtam 1 . 2 . 12 Let him ( the student) in order to obtain the knowledge of the eternal, take sacrificial fuel in his hands and approach that preceptor alone who is well-versed in the Vedas and is established in Brahman. This mantra gives the complete and exhaustive definition of a guru. One should necessarily go to a teacher, which, unfortunately many people think, is not necessary. Some say Atma is the guru and one need not search outside. This is not said anywhere in the shastras. Atma is an absolute principle which is not capable of teaching or guiding or blessing. Many others say that world itself is the guru. This is not correct because when the world is available in the front, we will interpret it according to our (mis)conceptions and will not learn the proper way. My teacher always quotes the story of a person who wanted to correct an alcoholic. He wanted it to be conveyed that alcohol is poison, capable of killing a person. He called the alcoholic to demonstrate. He brought two vessels, one with alcohol and the other one with water. He picked up and dropped two insects and dropped one in each bottle. The insect in alcohol struggled and died. The teacher asked the alcoholic, what lesson he learnt from this experience. The alcoholic said “ from this I learn that whoever consumes alcohol will not have insects in his stomach, but have a clean stomach” ! Mind always interprets any instance to its advantag if it is week. This clearly illustrates, learning from the world is very often a fallacy. People often quote the names of mahathmas who became wise without the help of a guru. They should have been exceptions and cannot be taken as a rule. If a genius like Ramanujam does not require a guide, it does not mean, all schools and colleges should be abolished ! So, the universal rule is that a guru is required. Now, what type of a guru is required for spiritual knowledge ? What we need is consistent , systematic teaching, communication, step by step for a length of time by a competent guru. This is because spiritual knowledge is more subtle than objective sciences. The guidance we need is consistent teaching. Spiritual energy cannot be passed by any shortcut method ! Krishna’s teaching to Arjuna is in the form of a dialogue and not a monologue. Krishna very often asks “have you understood” ? And arjuna asks questions and doubts. Infact he asks the same doubt which he asked in the beginning of third chapter, again at the beginning of eighteenth chapter ! This shows, the enormous patience required by a guru. A definition of guru reads Gukarasthvandakaro vai rukarasthannirvathaka: Andhakara nivarthithvath gururithyabhideeyathe The letter “gu” stands for darkness; “ru” means eliminator; Guru means the eliminator of darkness, that is self-ignorance. Hence we require a teaching guru, a physically available guru for interaction. And it is unto such a teacher that a student has to surrender and that is what Arjuna did in the second chapter. Love, Chithra.