Many people wonder whether there is a need for a Sage, a Master, a Guru, to help them traverse the path to Self-Realization.
In my experience, a good teacher is an essential ingredient in learning any complex skill or body of knowledge. Without the help of so many teachers throughout my life, I'm sure that I would not have learned much.
When the subject to be learned is Yoga, the need for a teacher is increased because the practices of Yoga have to be selected for each particular person. One size does not fit all. Knowing which practices are best for each individual is one of the things a teacher does.
But beyond a mere teacher, there is, in Yoga, a need for a Master, a person who has gone beyond his or her own ego and can help the Yoga aspirant do the same. Without such a Master, the student's ego would likely expand and block his progress.
Furthermore, there is a subtle dimension of Yoga that one cannot access on his or her own. It is often said in the Himalayan Yoga Tradition that the main teaching is "in the silence." This means that the teaching comes from the inside, from within the student's mind - through the inner connection with the Guru lineage. Without that inner connection, which comes from initiation by a Master, a Guru, that connection isn't made. Then progress on the path is stunted.
The link below is to a video of an interview with Sri Swami Rama, the great Himalayan Master who is Hymla's and The Rancho Meditation Sanctuary's Spiritual Guide. On the topic of this essay, note what Swami Rama says, about halfway through the interview, as to why meditating in places in the Himalayas like Gangotri is more beneficial for a spiritual aspirant than meditating in the mountains in the USA. It's because, he says, the great Sages have meditated in those places, and their spiritual field remains there and lifts the minds of those who visit those places. This is what a Guru does. Without that grace, little progress can be made.
Enjoy the video: https://youtu.be/OVp-5EZ_7y8