To light a candle one needs another burning candle; in the same way those who are unenlightened need the help of an illumined guru.
The Sanskrit word guru means 'remover of darkness and ignorance'. It is a negative term in that it does not say that the guru gives you anything, only that he removes something. He removes the mental blocks and obstacles that prevent the spontaneous effulgence of the light of truth. The guru's role is to remove the veil, the ignorance, the preconceived ideas and mental conditioning that prevent the already existing light from shining through. The more this accumulated dross is removed, the greater will be our awareness of ourselves and existence.
The means adopted by the guru varies greatly. It can be by personal instruction, by inspiring his followers, by rebuking his disciples for actions which are not in accordance with their nature (adharmic) and by guiding disciples so that their actions are appropriate to their own physical and mental make-up (dharma). But whatever the method used, the aim is the same: higher awareness.
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