Is a Guru essential? – A Discussion between Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna

When Swami Vivekananda first visited Ramakrishna Paramahamsa he asked: ‘I have read the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures several times, I lecture and give discourses on the Gita and Ramayana. Do I still need the help of a saint; do I still need a guru?’

Sri Ramakrishna didn't reply to Vivekananda's question.

After a few days Ramakrishna called upon Vivekananda and handed him a parcel to be delivered at a village a few hours away by the sea route.

Early morning the boat and sailor would be ready and all he needed to do was to go to the village and deliver the parcel to the designated person.

Vivekananda agreed and decided to start early. He found the boat and the sailor ready to put out to sea. Suddenly, upon sitting in the boat, Vivekananda realized that he didn't know the road to the village. He inquired of the sailor who had no clue, either. Vivekananda decided to go back to his guru to ask him the shortest way to the village.

Upon this Ramakrishna said, ‘Narendra, this is my reply to the question you asked me when we met the first time:

Today, you have the medium (the boat), you have the resource (the sailor), you have the road (the sea), you know what to do (deliver the parcel) and you also know where to go but you don't know the way.

Likewise you have read all the scriptures, and you can conduct wonderful discourses on them. However, to realize the wisdom of scriptures one needs a guru, someone who has already traversed that path so that he can guide you through the journey and encourage you to not give up.

(Source: Speaking Tree Section in the Times of India dated 20 September, 2007)

Today is Guru Purnima