Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: May I ask another question, Śrīla Prabhupāda? "Is a guru essential for one to enter the spiritual path and attain the goal, and how does one recognize one's guru?"
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, a guru is necessary. In the Bhagavad-gītā, when Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna were talking as friends, there was no conclusion. So Arjuna decided to accept Kṛṣṇa as his guru. Find this verse in Bhagavad-gītā: kārpaṇya-doṣopahata svabhāvaḥ.
pṛcchāmi tvaṁ dharma-sammūḍha-cetāḥ
yac chreyaḥ syān niścitaṁ brūhi tan me
śiṣyas te 'haṁ śādhi māṁ tvāṁ prapannam
"[Arjuna said:] Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me." [Bg. 2.7]
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. So a guru is necessary. Like Arjuna, everyone is perplexed about his best course of action. Nobody can decide by himself. Even a physician—when he is sick he does not devise his own treatment. He calls for another physician, because his brain is not in order. How can he prescribe the right medicine for himself?
Similarly, when we are perplexed and cannot find any solution, at that time the guru is required. It is therefore essential for everyone to surrender to a guru, since in our present existence we are all perplexed. Arjuna is representing the perplexed position of the materialistic person. So under the circumstances, a guru is required to give us real direction.
Now, Arjuna selected Kṛṣṇa as his guru. He did not go to anyone else, because he knew, "I can't find any other means to pacify me. You are the only one." The purport is that like Arjuna, we should also accept Kṛṣṇa as the guru who can intruct us in how to get relief from our perplexed position. So Kṛṣṇa is the guru not only for Arjuna, but for everyone.
If we take instruction from Kṛṣṇa and abide by that instruction, then our life is successful. Conveying that fact is our mission. This Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement teaches, "Accept Kṛṣṇa as your guru. Don't divert your attention." We don't say, "I am Kṛṣṇa; follow my order." We never say that. We simply ask people, "Please abide by the order of Kṛṣṇa." Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja [Bg. 18.66], and we say the same thing: "Give up all other ideas of so-called dharma and surrender to Kṛṣṇa." The same thing. we don't say of ourselves, "I am the authority." No, we say, "Kṛṣṇa is the authority, and you should surrender to His instruction and try to understand Him." This is the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Now, one may say, "Kṛṣṇa is no longer present, so how can I surrender to Him?" Kṛṣṇa is no longer present? How can you say that? Kṛṣṇa's instruction is there—Bhagavad-gītā. How can you say that Kṛṣṇa is not present? Kṛṣṇa, being absolute, is not different from His words. The words of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself—they are the same. That is the meaning of Absolute Truth.
In the relative world, the word water and the substance water are different. When I am thirsty, if I simply chant "Water, water, water," my thirst will not be satisfied. I require the real water. That is the nature of the relative world and relative consciousness. But in the spiritual world or spiritual consciousness, the name is the same as the thing that is named. For instance, we are chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. If Kṛṣṇa were different from the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, then how could we be satisfied chanting the whole day and night? This is the proof. An ordinary name—if you chant "Mr. John, Mr. John," after chanting three times you'll cease. But this Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra—if you go on chanting twenty-four hours a day, you'll never become tired. This is the spiritual nature of the Absolute Truth. This is practical. Anyone can perceive it.
So Kṛṣṇa is present through His words and through His representative. Therefore we advise everyone to accept Kṛṣṇa's instructions in Bhagavad-gītā and to surrender to His bona fide representative. You have to accept a guru, so why go to a pseudo guru, who will mislead you? Why not take instructions from a real guru? Now you are in doubt about whether a guru is needed. Yes, a guru is needed, but you have to go to a real guru. That is the instruction given by Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā. Just find this
tad viddhi praṇipātena
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth." [Bhagavad-gītā 4.34]
Śrīla Prabhupāda: So this is the real guru—one who has seen the truth, just as Arjuna has seen Kṛṣṇa. Arjuna heard Kṛṣṇa's instructions and said, "You are the Absolute Truth." Now, if you take the instruction of Arjuna, then you will understand the Absolute Truth. So what is the instruction of Arjuna? Find out in the tenth chapter.
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam
ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
"Arjuna said, 'You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original person, the unborn, the greatest.'" [Bhagavad-gītā 10.12]
Śrīla Prabhupāda: And the Vedānta-sūtra says, athāto brahma jijñāsā: "Now, in the human form of life, is the time to inquire into what is the Supreme Brahman." So here in Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna has realized, "O Kṛṣṇa, You are the Supreme Brahman," So you should make Arjuna your guru and Kṛṣṇa your guru. Arjuna is the representative of Kṛṣṇa, the friend of Kṛṣṇa. The guru is essential. But why go to a bogus guru? You will be cheated. For instance, when you are diseased, for your treatment you need to go to a physician. But you want to go to a real physician, not a cheater who has no knowledge of medical science and misrepresents himself—"I am a physician, an M.D." Then you'll be cheated. The guru is necessary; that's a fact. But go to the real guru. Who is the real guru? The real guru is Kṛṣṇa or one who has seen Kṛṣṇa, such as Arjuna.