A certain king once developed dispassion for the world. He had heard that King Parikshit had attained Supreme Knowledge after hearing the Bhagavata for seven days. He sent for a renowned scholar who lived close by and began listening from him to the recital of the Bhagavata. Even after hearing the Bhagavata regularly for two months, he did not attain to any knowledge whatsoever. He said to the Pandit: ‘Parikshit attained Supreme Knowledge after hearing the Bhagavata for only seven days. And even after hearing it for two months, how is it that I have not realized anything? If you do not answer this question by tomorrow, you will not get any money or other remunerations.’ Worried at the profound displeasure expressed by the king, the Pandit returned home with a heavy heart. He could not arrive at any definite answer to the question even after hard thinking. He became much distressed and started worrying with numberless puzzling thoughts crowding in his mind. He had an intelligent daughter who was very much devoted to him. She saw her father in that distressed condition and asked him again and again the cause of it. Pressed by the love for his child, he was forced to tell her the cause of his sorrow. The daughter smilingly told him, ‘Father, you need not worry at all. I shall answer the king tomorrow.’
Accompanied by his daughter, the Pandit presented himself at the king’s court the next day and said, ‘My daughter will answer your question.’ The daughter began by saying, ‘If you want an answer to the question, you must abide by whatever I say.’ When the king nodded assent, the Pandit’s daughter told the palace guards: ‘Bind me to one pillar and the king to another.’ At the king’s command, the guards did as told. Then the little girl said to the king, ‘O king! Please release me quickly from this bondage.’ The king said, ‘You are asking for the impossible! I am myself bound, how can I remove your bondage?’ The girl smiled and said, ‘O king, this is the answer to your question. King Parikshit was a seeker of Moksha, and his teacher was Sri Shukadeva himself, the all-renouncing, great knower of Brahman. King Parikshit attained to Supreme Knowledge as a result of hearing the Bhagavata from Sri Shukadeva. On the other hand, my father is himself attached to the world and is expounding the scripture to you with the hope of getting money in return. How can you attain Knowledge after hearing him?’
This meaningful story makes it clear that without the instructions of a Sadguru, there is no possibility of release from bondage.
In this context, two more opinions are usually voiced. Some say that irrespective of how a disciple is, if he gets a Sadguru his mukti is assured. Some others say that irrespective of how a Guru is, if the disciple has devotion and faith, he becomes liberated. We cannot reject outright either of these opinions. But in reality such situations occur very rarely. Normally speaking, both Guru and disciple should be competent. It is seen that there exist some distinctions even among the disciples of one great soul. This is due to the varying degrees of competence of the disciples. If the disciple is endowed with faith, and is humble and studious, he is very easily able to grasp the truths taught by the Guru. It is quite evident from the relationship between the Guru and disciple described in our scriptures, that the different duties enjoined on the disciple make his body and mind disciplined in such a way that he develops into a man in the true sense of the term.
(Source: Swami Brahmananda as We Saw Him)