Sri Ramakrishna would emphasize upon the role of guru in one’s spiritual life. Such a guru is unique and only one. However, one can learn from many upagurus or secondary teachers in ever so many ways so as to advance in spiritual life.
To explain this idea he used to narrate an incident from the Bhagavata concerning a great avadhuta (a great yogi) who is supposed to have had 24 such upagurus.
One day the avadhuta was walking across a meadow lost in his own thoughts. Soon he saw a bridal procession coming towards him. It was a noisy crowd with loud beatings of drums. It was a show of great pomp and exhibition of wealth.
Suddenly he saw that there was a hunter deeply absorbed in aiming at his game or target. Although the hunter was so near the marriage procession, he was totally oblivious to the noise or the distractions. He was totally inattentive to what was happening around and did not even cast a passing glance at the crowd. He seemed to be dead to the surroundings and was totally absorbed in pursuit of his goal.
The avadhuta, saluting the hunter said, “Sir, thou art my guru. When I sit in meditation let my mind be concentrated upon the object of meditation as yours is on your game.”
Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that a spiritual aspirant should be always alert and be ready to learn from anyone. The avadhuta was a great yogi and yet he was ready to learn from a hunter. He did not hate or despise him thinking that the person was indulging in something base or unspiritual. He was ready to learn from him the art of concentration.
Spiritual journey is extremely difficult and unless one is deeply conscious of the ultimate goal and is ready to learn and work for it with great diligence, it is not possible to reach the goal.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 12th Apr 2014