Question: May I kindly ask for a few minutes of your time to clarify the topic which I’ve come across recently while reading a book by Swami Ramsukhdas “Is Salvation Possible without a Guru?”
Following the analysis on the necessity of having a Guru, Swami emphatically concludes that salvation is actually possible without a Guru. A couple of quotes from the book:
In reality bliss, liberation, divine wisdom and attainment of God are not dependent on a Guru. If without a Guru there is no knowledge of the self, then how would the first Guru in the world have attained wisdom? Thus it proves that a human being realizes eternal truth only by the grace of the Almighty God. But nowadays it has become a common belief that it is a prerequisite to become a disciple, to accept the principles of a Guru and then only the Guru would guide. <…> If somebody seeks my opinion, I would say, “Attend spiritual discourses, take as much advantage as possible, but do not have a Guru”. From wherever you gain something good, accept it and if there is no benefit in it, move on. You shouldn’t get stuck to a Guru.
Why should we create the distance of a middleman between us and God when we ourselves are capable of having an intimate and direct relationship with Him? By doing so we shall attain salvation even without seeking.
It seems that this goes against the generally accepted idea often heard in different spiritual discourses that a Guru is a must for a striver and that without a Guru one should not think of a spiritual upliftment, what to speak of salvation.
I would be very grateful if you could clarify the topic.
Answer: I know this book and the author also. I do not agree with him on this point, although I have much respect for him. He was a great Swami, very learned, renounced and humble. I knew him personally. He saw many people getting exploited by gurus and thus he became averse against the principle of taking a guru. Especially women get easily exploited by male gurus. So he spoke against it. His advice is very good for common Indian people who live in family and follow some dharma. He understood that real gurus are very rare and thus better to forget the idea of having a guru.
He himself had a guru but he did not make any disciples. He had many people who followed him.
So my reply is as follows:
Guru and Disciple
If one is simply following a regular Varnasrama system type of life, then guru is not needed. That applies to most Indian families. So his book is for such people. They can just have what are called family gurus who come and do rituals.
If you want to follow bhakti then guru is must. Bhakti comes by the grace of guru and not independently. There are so many scriptural statements for that. Without guru one cannot even understand bhakti because bhakti is not a material thing. You can follow Varanasrama without guru but not bhakti.