One should not approach the spiritual master “cutting a return ticket.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada used to always say, “You have come here cutting a return ticket.” We must not approach the spiritual master with that attitude. Rather, we should think that we have seen everything, that we have full experience of this mortal world, and that we have nothing to aspire after here. With this clear consciousness, we should approach the guru. That is the only way for us to live. This world is mortal. There is no means, no possibility of living here, and yet the will to live is an innate tendency everywhere.
“I only want to live and to save myself. I am running to the real shelter.” With this earnestness, the disciple will bring his spiritual master the necessary materials for sacrifice. He won’t go to his spiritual master only to trouble the guru, but will approach him with his own necessities already supplied. He will go there with his own bed and baggage. Not that he will show some kindness to the spiritual master and give him name and fame by becoming his disciple.
And what will be the spiritual master’s position? He will be well versed in the revealed truth, not in ordinary information. Revelation in many shades has been spread in the world from the upper realm, but the guru must have some spacious, graphic knowledge. He must have extensive knowledge about the revealed truth. And he must always be practicing real spiritual life. His activities are all connected with spirit, not with the mundane world. He is concerned with Brahman, the plane which can accomodate everything, the fundamental basis of everything (brahma-nistham). Not that he is leading his life with any mortal, mundane reference. He always lives in the transcendental plane and keeps himself in connection with that plane his whole life. Whatever he does, he will do only with that consciousness. This is the version of the Upanisads.
And in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.21) it is said:
tasmad gurum prapadyeta
jijnasuh sreya uttamam
sabde pare ca nisnatam
Maya means misconception. We are living in the midst of misconception. Our understanding of the environment is based on a completely misconceived set of ideas and thoughts. We have no proper conception of anything in the absolute sense. Our ideas are all relative. Provincial selfishness has been imposed on the environment, and we are living under that misconception. When one comes to the conclusion that everything will vanish, then, with that mood, he will feel the necessity of approaching the guru, the divine guide and preceptor, with the purpose of inquiry. “What is the highest good for me?” With this inquiry, he will approach the spiritual master.
And who will he approach? One who is not only well-versed in the precepts of the revealed scriptures, but who has also come in contact with the revealed truth. One who is conversant with the very object of the scriptures, and who has practical experience, who is established in pure consciousness, is a genuine guru. One should approach such a guide for his own relief, to understand what is the highest benefit in the world and how to attain it. This is necessary. It is real. It is not imaginary. At the same time, it is difficult. The Absolute Truth must be sought out through a real process, otherwise we shall go the wrong way and then say, “Oh, there is nothing here; it is not real.” So, only if we follow this real process of understanding the truth will we experience the real nature of divinity.
[Excerpted from the Chapter One: “Surrender to Sri Guru” of “Sri Guru and His Grace” From Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaja’s Folio]