Absence of spiritual Teacher or Guru
Socrates did not have any teachers nor was he initiated in philosophy. He spoke instead of an Oracle or the inner voice which became his Teacher or guide. He said, ‘You have heard me speak at sundry times and in diverse places of an Oracle or a sign which came to him and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment. This sign which is kind of voice, first began to which came to me when he was a child ; it always forbidding but never commanding him to do anything which he was going to do.’
He became interested in philosophy when Oracle of Delphi referred him as the Wisest man and he wanted to know why. Therefore, he proceeded to investigate and approached some celebrated poets with passages from their writings and he found there was hardly a person who could not talk better of their poetry than they did of themselves. Then he realized that ‘. . . not by wisdom do poets write poetry but by a sort of genius and inspiration ; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things but do not understand the meaning of them. The poets appeared to me to be much in the same case; and I further observed upon the strength of their poetry they believe themselves to be wisest of men in other things in which they were not wise.’ He was surprised that ‘the men most in repute were all but the most foolish ; and that others less esteemed were really wiser and better.
He rationalized that ‘although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful or good, I am better of than he (the poet or the politician)is, for he knows nothing and thinks that he knows; (whereas) I neither know nor think that I know. In this particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him’. He comforted himself saying ‘I am called wise for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others; but the truth is that God only is wise; and by his answer (that there was no man wiser than me)he intends to show that the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing ; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name by way of illustration, as if he said He, O Men, is the wisest, who like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing .And so I go about the world obedient to the god, and search and make inquiry in to the wisdom of any one, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the Oracle I show him that he is not wise; and my occupation quite absorbs me.
Ramana Maharshi’s case was slightly different. No one had called him wise nor he had considered himself wise, Therefore, he had no reason to search for wise men or expand whatever wisdom he had. If any thing drove him to Self Inquiry it was the primeval fear of death. When he was told that that according to Sri Aurobindo he had no Guru, he explained, ‘That depends on what you call a Guru. He need not necessarily be in human form Dattatreya had twenty-four Gurus - the elements etc. That means that any form in the world was his Guru. (But) Guru is absolutely necessary’. At the same time he told Swami Yogananda that every one has to have a Guru, because ‘there can be no mass instruction’and‘it depends on the temperament an spiritual maturity of the individual’. Therefore, ‘Two things are to be done, first to find a Guru who is outside yourself and then to find Guru within’. When Mr. Bose insisted that a Guru is necessary Maharshi remarked ‘Practice is necessary for you, the Grace is always there’, continuing he remarked, ‘You are neck deep in water and yet you cry out that you are thirsty . . . Guru is like an ocean. If one comes with a cup he will get a cupful. It is not use complaining of the niggardliness of the ocean; the bigger the vessel the more he will be able to carry. It is entirely up to him’.
Maharshi accepted that he had a Guru saying ‘Guru is one who at all times abides in the profound depth of the Self’.’ Therefore, even as Death was a teacher for Nachiketa, - a communicator like whom was not to be obtained nor any one similar, for Maharshi also Death came as a teacher, when ‘. . suddenly a violent fear of Death came over me . . (and felt that) I just felt I was going to die’ and without having to ‘call any of the relatives or a doctor. I felt that I have to solve the problem myself. The shock of the fear that I may now die drove me inward to think for myself’ . . . Without framing the words, I asked myself: ‘Now that the Death has come what it means? What is Death; what is it that dies’. Even after that during his extended period of his penance and austerity, the self within remained his sole Guru - unrestrained receptivity with his five senses of perception together with Mind ceasing from their operation and intellect itself not stirring, becoming the stick with which he stirred his conscience and communion being the conclusive communion.