Srimad Bhagavata Mahatmyam, at the very outset, says:
Chintaamanir-loka-sukham suradruhu swargasampadam
prayacchati guruhu preeto Vaikuntam yogidurlabham'
-- Chintamani bestows worldly desires; Kalpakavruksha even the comforts of heaven but Vaikuntam, rare even for Yogis, is attained by one who has earned the affection of the Guru!
There is a stone known as Chintamani. No one knows where it can be found. It has the special power to fulfill the desire of one who holds it in his hand and makes a wish. But Saunaka Maharishi here says loka sukham (worldly desires). Holding Chintamani in your hand can you attain Krishna, if you so desire? No. You can only attain things of the world.
There is a tree called the Kalpakavruksha. If you sit below this tree and desire even heaven you will attain it. But if you desire Krishna while sitting under this tree, can you attain Him? No.
But Saunaka Maharishi says the abode of Lord Vishnu, which is rare even for the Yogis, is attained. By who? By one who has earned the Guru’s affection: prayacchati guruhu preeto.
The Upanishads speak of the glory of the Guru. Shouldn’t the Maharishi have said "Take refuge in a Guru. Attain a Guru, serve him and earn his love. Do paada seva to the Guru, wash his clothes, eat Guru's ucchishtam (left over food), receive upadesafrom the Guru, have unflinching faith in the Guru, surrender to the Guru"?
Instead, the sloka reads differently. It does not speak of your love for the Guru; it speaks of the Guru’s love for you!
You may be the worst sinner, highly undisciplined; you may have committed all kinds of atrocities; yet, if a mahatma declares, “Oh, he is my child”, that will suffice for you to attain even Liberation! -- prayacchati guruhu preeto Vaikuntam yogidurlabham.
We have an illusion that study of the shastras, of Vedanta and the performance of yagnas, will lead us to moksha. But they will not. By such studies we are only trying to sharpen our brain and it does not come down to the heart.
In Sri Ramanasramam in Tiruvannamalai, adjacent to Sri Ramana Maharshi's samadhi you will find a samadhi for a deer called Valli. Did Valli study the shastras? Did she receive upadesa of Brahmavaakya? Prayacchati guruhu preeto—the deer had simply earned Bhagavan Ramana's love.
There is a samadhi for a dog called Jackie in Ramanasramam. There is also a samadhi for a crow there. Have you ever found a samadhi for a crow anywhere? Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
There is a samadhi for a cow called Lakshmi, also in Ramanasramam. Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
At Shirdi just as puja is done for Shirdi Mahatma, so too is puja done to the samadhi of Shyamsundar, a horse. What is the reason? Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
At Alandi, here is a samadhi for a buffalo and puja is done there just like puja is done at Sant Jnaneshwar’s samadhi. Why?Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
When Maha Periyava became the head of the Kanchi Mutt, there was an attendant who was very old. He sincerely served Maha Periyava. When he passed away, Maha Periyava fasted for ten days, did japa, gave all his tapas to him and sent him to a highloka. Maha Periyava told the Mutt people that he had attained moksha. How did this happen? Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
Once Yogi Ramsuratkumar was sitting on the steps outside his Sannidhi Street house in Tiruvannamalai and talking to a devotee. He was talking happily to him, when suddenly he became serious. He went inside the house and began walking up and down. He moved his hands, doing something. He continued to do this for a while. After half-an-hour he came out again and sat down. After 2-3 hours a telegram arrived. A devotee had passed away. Yogi Ramsuratkumar had known about it. Do you know what reply he asked to send? "He is safe!" Prayacchati guruhu preeto!
Somehow earn the pleasure of a mahatma and make him believe that you are his devotee! If that mahan considers you his bhakta, it becomes his responsibility to take you ashore, doesn’t it?
Hence Srimad Bhagavata Mahatmyam says at the very beginning, "Become a vessel for the Grace of such a Guru."