“Verily, these three are rare to obtain and come only through the grace of God: human birth, desire to obtain Moksha [liberation] and the company of the great-souled ones.”
The first thing needed is Manushyatvam, human birth, because it only is favourable to the attainment of Mukti [emancipation]. The next is Mumukshutvam. Though our means of realisation vary according to the difference in sects and individuals—though different individuals can lay claim to their special rights and means to gain knowledge, which vary according to their different stations in life,— yet it can be said in general without fear of contradiction that without Mumukshuta nothing can be achieved. What is Mumukshutvam? It is the strong desire for Moksha [liberation]—the earnest yearning to get out of the sphere of pain and pleasure—utter disgust for the world. When that intense burning desire to see God comes, then you should know that you are entitled to the realisation of the Supreme.
Then another thing is necessary and that is the coming in direct contact with the Mahapurushas, the great-souled ones, and thus moulding our lives in accordance with those of the great-souled ones who have reached the goal. Even utter disgust for the world and an intense burning desire for God are not sufficient. Initiation by a Guru [spiritual teacher] is necessary. Why? Because it is the bringing of yourself into connection with that great source of power which has been handed down through generations, from one Guru to another, in uninterrupted succession. The devotee must seek and accept the spiritual preceptor as his counsellor, philosopher, friend and guide. In short, the Guru is the sine qua non of progress in the path of spirituality. Whom then shall I accept as my Guru? “He who is versed in the Scriptures, without taint, unhurt by desire, he who is the best of the knowers of Brahman.”
He who is not only learned in the Scriptures but who knows their subtle secrets, who has realised their true import in his life. Mere book-learning is of no avail. Nowadays, everyone wants to be a Guru. Even a poor beggar wants to make a gift of a lakh of rupees! Then, the Guru must be without a touch of taint; and he must be unhurt by any desire,— he should have no other motive except that of purely doing good to others, he should be an ocean of mercy-without-reason and not impart religious teaching with a view to gain name or fame, or anything pertaining to selfish interest. And he must be the intense knower of Brahman.. Such is the Guru, says the Scripture. When spiritual union is established with such a Guru, then comes realisation of God,— then God-vision becomes easy of attainment.
There should be in the aspirant after Truth, Abhyasa or earnest and repeated attempt at practical application of the Truth by prescribed means of constant meditation upon the Chosen Ideal. Even if you have a burning thirst for God, or have gained the teacher, unless you have along with it, Abhyasa, unless you practise what you have been taught, you cannot get realisation. When all these are firmly established in you, then you will reach the Goal.
Do not forget the great ideal of our religion,— which is to go beyond this phenomenal world,— not only to renounce the world, but to give up heaven too; aye, not only to give up evil but to give up good too; and thus to go beyond all, beyond this phenomenal existence and ultimately realise the “Sat-Chit-Anandam Brahman” — the Absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, which is Brahman.
~ Swami Vivekananda