A good teacher is needed to help us get rid of our spiritual ignorance. We need to understand how to be attached only to the Supreme One. His feet are our refuge, and we must know how to reach His feet. One cannot get atma gnana by reading the scriptures. There will be a lot that will not yield its inner meaning to us. We can get the meanings of words with the aid of a dictionary. But the interpretation of the texts is what is important, and it is here that a guru becomes essential, pointed out Kidambi Narayanan, in a discourse.
A good guru is one who speaks the truth. But he doesn’t stop with that. He also motivates others to be truthful. He has control over his indriyas. His mind is always focused on the Supreme One. He is patient and calm. The Taittriya Upanishad lays down all these as qualities of a good guru. But it is not easy to find one who is knowledgeable and also has all these attributes. If one set about looking for such a perfect guru, one may spend a lifetime searching, and yet be disappointed.
Lord Krishna, in the Uddhava Gita, tells us that we need not go far to find a good guru. There are many all around us! He gives a list of gurus, whose examples are there for us to follow, and the Lord’s list includes such varied things as the earth, serpents, doves and so on. Animals, birds and the elements are all gurus, if we observe them and choose to follow their example, the Lord points out.
Lord Krishna came up with two Gitas. One was the famous Bhagavad Gita, which was what He preached to Arjuna. The other was the Uddhava Gita, which He preached to Uddhava. When the Lord’s avatara was about to end, Uddhava was overcome with grief. He did not want to live once the Lord’s avatara ended. So he asked the Lord to bless him with the knowledge of how to be detached. The Lord then pointed to various facets of Nature as being teachers and giving us valuable lessons. Lord Krishna simplified the task of seeking a guru. We do not have to go in search of the elements, because they are all around us. In His list, the Lord mentioned animals, birds and reptiles too as good gurus.