Of the 64 angas of bhakti that are mentioned by Srila Rupa Goswami in the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, the very first limb is Gurupadashraya, taking shelter of the lotus feet of a bona fide spiritual master, and this is indeed one of the most important limbs of Bhakti, as it is only and only by the mercy of Sri Guru that one can have any understanding of Krishna Consciousness. The Spiritual master is the manifestation of the Lord’s mercy upon the conditioned living entities and it is he who descends into this material world to deliver us from our fallen position. Being the true well-wisher of the disciple, the guru imparts various instructions, following which a sincere sadhaka can make progress on the path of self-realization and reestablish one’s constitutional relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is for this reason that the Guru has been regarded to be as worshipable as Sri Krishna himself. It is mentioned in the Sri Guruvastakam, verse 7:
Saksad dharitvena samasta-sastrair
uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih
kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya
vande guroh sri-caranaravindam
“The spiritual master acting on the Supreme Lord’s behalf must be worshiped as being as good as the Supreme Lord, for he is the Lord’s most confidential servant in broadcasting the Lord’s message for the benefit of the conditioned souls involved in the material world.”
Anyone proclaiming to be able to make spiritual progress without the guidance of a spiritual master is indeed fooling oneself and is sure to fall down from any spiritual practices the person may be carrying out. Even the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, accepted Sandipani Muni as his Spiritual Master and studied under his guidance in his Ashram in Ujjain. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had also accepted Sri Ishvara Puri as his Spiritual master, thus setting the standard that every single person ought to approach a bona-fide spiritual master and inquire submissively from him about the true purpose of life. It has also been stated in the Bhagawat Gita (4.34):
tad viddhi pranipatena
upadeksyanti te jnanam
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.
When one thus approaches the Spiritual master and whole heartedly submits oneself to his lotus feet, unfathomable good fortune awaits such a fortunate person, for the doors to spiritual advancement and transcendental bliss then become wide open for him. Seeing the sincerity of the disciple, the Guru engages him in the devotional service of the Lord to purify him of all material contaminations, and when the heart of the disciple is thus made soft by rendering service to the Lord and the vaishnavas, the Guru mercifully sows the seed of Bhakti in the heart of the disciple and thus awakens his true good fortune. In the Chaitanya Caritamrita it is mentioned:
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
In the course of traversing the universal creation of Brahmā, some fortunate soul may receive the seed of bhakti-latā, the creeper of devotional service. This is all by the grace of guru and Kṛṣṇa.
Once this bhakti lata bija is sown in the heart of the devotee, the guru nourishes it with Krishna Katha and directs the disciple to save the creeper thus growing from the rampant mad elephant of offenses. And thus, gradually, by the mercy of Sri Guru, one can make progress in bhakti and ultimately achieve the highest goal of life, Krishna prem.
Therefore, one who is desirous of making advancement in Spiritual life must certainly take shelter of the lotus feet of Sri Guru and make their lives sublime.