SWAMI VIVEKANANDA explains why it is necessary to have a teacher in the spiritual field, just as it is in most other areas of life.
Every soul is destined to be perfect, and every being, in the end, will attain the state of perfection. Whatever we are now is the result of our acts and thoughts in the past; and whatever we shall be in the future will be the result of what we think and do now. But this, the shaping of our own destinies, does not preclude our receiving help from outside; nay, in the vast majority of cases such help is absolutely necessary. When it comes, the higher powers and possibilities of the soul are quickened, spiritual life is awakened, growth is animated, and man becomes holy and perfect in the end.
The Guru is the bright mask which God wears
in order to come to us.
As we look steadily on, gradually the mask falls off
and God is revealed.
This quickening impulse cannot be derived from books. The soul can only receive impulses from another soul, and from nothing else. We may study books all our lives, we may become very intellectual, but in the end we find that we have not developed at all spiritually. It is not true that a high order of intellectual development always goes hand in hand with a proportionate development of the spiritual side in Man. In studying books we are sometimes deluded into thinking that thereby we are being spiritually helped; but if we analyze the effect of the study of books on ourselves, we shall find that at the utmost it is only our intellect that derives profit from such studies, and not our inner spirit. This inadequacy of books to quicken spiritual growth is the reason why, although almost every one of us can speak most wonderfully on spiritual matters, when it comes to action and the living of a truly spiritual life, we find ourselves so awfully deficient. To quicken the spirit, the impulse must come from another soul.
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From Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 3, Chapter 4
Vivekananda (1863-1902) was born as Narendranath Datta, and became the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. He was an Indian monk, philosopher, author, teacher, and key person in introducing yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. Swamiji became a popular figure after the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, where he was so impactful that... Read more