THE Guru is only one, but Upa-gurus (secondary gurus) may be many. He is an Upa-guru from whom anything whatsoever is learned. It is mentioned in the Bhagavata that the great Avadhuta (a great yogi) had twenty four such Upa-Gurus.
(a) One day, as the Avadhuta was walking across a meadow, he saw a bridal procession coming toward him with loud beating of drums and great pomp. Hard by he saw a hunter deeply absorbed in aiming at his game and perfectly inattentive to the noise and pomp of the procession, casting not even a passing look at it. 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 was on your game."
(b) An angler was fishing in a pond. The Avadhuta approaching him asked, "Brother which way leads to such and such a place?" The float of the rod at that time was indicating that the fish was nibbling at the bait; so the man did not give any reply but was all attention to his fishing rod. Having first hooked the fish, he turned round and said, "What is it you have been saying sir?" The Avadhuta saluted him and said, "Sir, thou art my Guru. When I sit in contemplation of the Deity of my choice (Ishta), let me follow thy example and before finishing my devotions let me not attend to anything else."
(c) A kite with a fish in its beak was followed by a host of crows and other kites, which were pecking at it and trying to snatch the fish away. In whatever direction it went, its tormentors followed it cawing, till at last they made it let go the fish in vexation. Another kite instantly caught the fish and was in its turn followed by the whole lot. The first kite was left unmolested and sat calmly on the branch of a tree. Seeing this quiet and tranquil state of the bird the Avadhuta saluting him, said, "Thou art my Guru, for thou hast taught me that peace of mind is possible in this world, only when one has given up one's adjuncts (upadhis); otherwise there is danger at every step."
(d) A heron was slowly walking on a marsh to catch a fish. Behind, there was a fowler aiming an arrow at the heron, but the bird was totally unmindful of this fact. The Avadhuta saluting the heron, said, "When I sit in meditation, let me follow thy example and never turn back to see who is behind me."
(e) The Avadhuta found another Guru in a bee. The bee had been storing up honey with long and great labour. A man came from somewhere, broke the hive and drank up the honey. The bee was not destined to enjoy the fruit of its long labour. On seeing this, the Avadhuta saluted the bee saying, "Lord! Thou art my Guru; from Thee I learn what the sure fate of accumulated riches is." (166)