‘Can’t I figure everything out myself? What do I need a guru for? Can’t I just read a book and learn that way?’
Teachers help us progress faster. They can see (if we let them) what we’re doing wrong, and help us correct it. Books can’t do that. Plus, you can close a book. A teacher may pursue you.
Krishna consciousness works best when three items are in place: guru (spiritual master or teacher), shastra (scripture), and sadhu (keeping company with other serious students).
The shastra is the knowledge upon which everything is based. It’s the starting point, the guide. It shows us the goal. How we apply that knowledge is another thing. Do we accept some things and not others? Do we consider part three of the scriptures to be of utmost importance while choosing to ignore part four?
The guru, the teacher, can see where the student is at, and help them adjust their course. A good teacher is always a good student also. They can preach because they practice. A sincere student can progress farther and faster with a teacher than without one: it’s true for football, piano, and spiritual life as well.
A guru is a spiritual teacher who takes devotees from the darkness (gu) to the light (ru). The disciplic succession of Krishna Consciousness is a lineage of gurus, extending back to the Universal Guru, Sri Krishna.
*According to Srila Prabhupada, the founder/acharya of the modern Krishna Consciousness movement, “Acharya means the person whose behavior is to be followed. Not that as we follow somebody according to our taste. Not like that. That acharya comes in the standard disciplic succession.” He knows the intricacies of Vedic knowledge and personally behaves accordingly.