Q: Can I attain enlightenment on my own, or do I need the help of a spiritual teacher?
A: Anything, including enlightenment, can be obtained without anyone’s help. But help really helps! In any field of knowledge, mentors are needed to help the novice grow systematically and become more focused. A mentor (or teacher) is someone who has assimilated the experiences of previous seekers and explorers and has made good use of these experiences.
An authentic teacher has received clear instructions from his or her own mentor, has traveled the path, and has integrated the wisdom gleaned along the way. Such a person is qualified to help us find and follow the most appropriate path.
Just as God is within and yet is unknown, so too the teacher within remains unknown until our intuitive eyes are opened. According to yoga, God—the Supreme Consciousness—is the primordial master. The teacher in the external world shows the student how to go within and find the truth that abides there. If you can introduce yourself to the teacher within, you do not need to be bothered with a teacher outside, but unfortunately, few people have that ability.
Remember, even those great, blessed ones—such as Krishna, Rama, and Buddha—who perhaps had the ability to achieve the goal without an external teacher, searched for their teachers, underwent the disciplines given by their teachers, and gave the entire credit for their sadhana (spiritual practice) to their teachers. The example of these great ones warns us not to disregard the teacher outside while waiting for everything to be unveiled by the teacher within.