There are many spiritual teachers in this world. Most are impersonalists or only so-called spiritual teachers, who are really materialists, who do not think about how to help anyone else.
How can the conditioned souls progress and get the nectar of pure love and devotion for God? This is the desire of a bona fide guru. Many people give charity to the poor and destitute. And many philosophers advocate this charity for maintenance of the body. Although they may give food to the poor for a day or two, the next day people will again be hungry. How long can they give shelter to the hungry? If the poor and destitute want to take shelter of the donor and stay with him continuously, the donor will not give any chance. He will give cloth, medicine, and food, and then send them away. This is one manifestation of pride.

If anyone comes near God’s associates in this world, they will take responsibility to help that person cross over the ocean of material existence and attain the shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.
A so-called spiritual teacher does not help take care of other souls, but only maintains the physical dress of the embodied souls. This is only cruelty and pushes them deeper into illusion.

Śrī Guru is not an ordinary mortal. If someone who does not know how to swim goes to help another drowning person, then they will only drown together. If one is not qualified to help, then one will be pulled down and defeated by the soul drowning in material life. Śrī Guru means he who brings others out of the darkness of illusion into the light of truth. If one acts as guru without qualification, he will be pulled into darkness as well, this is not helping anyone. This is also cruelty. If you do not help others, or if you are pulled down by them, both are problems. If you do everything for God’s pleasure, this will be real help for all souls. If we go for any personal help, then people will steal and enjoy us.

Śrīla Gurudeva guides the soul into a pure loving relation with Kṛṣṇa. Any personal help is not good; no one is our relative if we are not related to Kṛṣṇa. If one is related to Kṛṣṇa then all souls are one’s relatives. A guru will thus have neutrality. He is the servant of Kṛṣṇa, and comes to this world to help the conditioned souls. Gurudeva is internally engaged in service to Kṛṣṇa, but those with no transcendental vision will not be able to see this. Therefore, guru practically shows by example and teaches others how to serve Kṛṣṇa. Such a guru is called ācārya, or a spiritual preceptor.

ācinoti yaḥ śāstrārtham ācāre sthāpayaty api

svayam ācarate yasmād ācāryas tena kīrttitaḥ

Vāyu Purāṇa

An ācārya is one who fully understands the conclusions of the revealed scriptures and whose behavior reflects his deep realization. He is a living example because he teaches the meaning of the scriptures both by word and deed.

Śrī Guru is present with his disciples through his speech and instructions. If anyone hears or reads his discourses or books, than Śrī Guru is directly with them. Śrī Guru’s speech is not ordinary words and sentences. It is spiritual. Śrī Guru is eternally present with his instructions. Śrī Guru is always with one who is connected to his message and instructions.

tatra bhāgavatān dharmān

śikṣed gurvātma-daivataḥ

amāyayānuvṛttyā yais

tuṣyed ātmātma-do hariḥ

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.3.22

A spiritual practitioner should adopt the practice of bhakti free from all hypocrisy. He should approach a guru who knows all the truths related to the Supreme Lord and who is very dear to the Lord. The practitioner should receive instructions on the pure religion of the soul from such a spiritual master. By carrying out those instructions, God personally gives Himself to the devotee.

Disciples that continuously follow the teachings of Śrī Guru will be happy because Kṛṣṇa is pleased with them. How can we recognize when Kṛṣṇa and guru are pleased with us? If they are not pleased with us, then one day we will enthusiastically practice bhakti, but the next day we will be hopeless and spend all our time idly. What is the cure? Always stay nearby Śrī Guru. Yet, staying nearby Śrī Guru is not enough. We must have desire to serve Śrī Guru. We should not be like a leech or mosquito. If we have love for Śrī Guru and serve him with intimacy, then what will Śrī Guru give? Śrī Guru will give us admission into Kṛṣṇa’s service.

Kṛṣṇa told Uddhava, “Guru is not separate from Me.”

ācāryaṁ māṁ vijānīyān

nāvamanyeta karhicit

na martya-buddhyāsūyeta

sarva-deva-mayo guruḥ

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 11.17.27

One should know the ācārya as Myself, and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods.

Kṛṣṇa said, “The spiritual master is not mortal, he is My expansion. Service to guru is service to Me.”

Śrī Guru gives qualification to serve Kṛṣṇa. If he teaches other things, then he is not a bona fide guru. He is an enjoyer. Never disobey or neglect guru, and never think he is something small. The power of God is invested in guru.

Śrīla Gurudeva gives guru-mantra and harināma. How can we realize this? We must go and receive the blessings of sādhus. When they are pleased with us, seeing our desire to follow bhakti and our sincere inquisitiveness, they will bless us and enable us to realize Śrī Guru, mantra, and harināma.

The conditioned souls are misguided and don’t follow the soul and Supreme Soul. They are engaged in the service of their mind and senses, and are thus misguided. Our ācāryas make large temples, and arrange many things in this world. What is this for? They open the direct branch offices of Sevā Kuñja, Vṛndāvana. Śrī Guru brings Sevā Kuñja to this world, and establishes branch offices of Sevā Kuñja.

Kṛṣṇa sends His associates to this world to open these branch offices of Vraja. Śrī Guru appears in this word and teaches the conditioned souls how to properly follow sādhana-bhakti so they can progress to the higher stages of devotion. Guru fights with the forces of illusion, and extracts the conditioned souls from their bondage to māyā. Guru protects those who take his shelter from the influence of māyā, and gives them a chance for entering vraja-sevā. If anyone has a little faith and love and wants to cross māyā and enter vraja-sevā, then Śrī Guru takes them in his lap and gives so much love and affection.

Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from rasik@kripa.tv )