Sādhu Bābā forbade his disciples to accept any śikṣā-Gurus and preached that Guru is one. I absolutely accept that but I have felt guilty about not being able to live up to that. Not that I have ever placed any other sādhu than Bābā on the altar to do pūjā to, or that I have ever addressed anyone else as Gurudeva or so, but I did go around and consult quite a few persons since Bābā ended his manifest pastimes. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī teaches in Bhakti Sandarbha (238) :
śrī gurvājnayā tat sevanāvirodhena ca anyeṣām api vaiṣṇavānāṁ pūjanaṁ śreyaḥ anyathā doṣaḥ syāt. yathā śrī nāradoktau - gurau sannihite yastu pūjayed anyam agrataḥ. sa durgatim avāpnoti pūjanaṁ tasya niṣphalam
“It is good to worship other Vaiṣṇavas only if it is on the order of Sri Guru and does not contradict his service. Otherwise it is a fault, as is said by Śrī Nārada: “Whoever worships others in front of the Guru attains a bad destination and his worship will be fruitless.”
Recently I decided to compile a collection of glorifications of the Guru for those sceptics who believe it is not necessary or important to accept one, and as I immersed myself in the ācāryas’ comments on the relevant verses, particularly the verses about the 24 Gurus in the 11th Canto, I found the answers and consolation to my conscience problem (about having consulted so many others) too:
labdhvānugraha ācāryāt tena sandarśitāgamaḥ
mahā-puruṣam abhyarcen mūrtyābhimatayātmanaḥ
Although Śrīmad Bhāgavata 11.9.31 (na hyekasmād gurur jñānaṁ susthiraṁ) seems to say one cannot get full knowledge from one single Guru alone, all commentator-acaryas have said this does not mean one should erect a forest of śikṣā-guru-pictures on one’s altar -
Śrīdhara Swāmī comments:
jnāna-pradaṁ gurum eveti jñāna-pradaṁ gurum ekam eva vakṣyati, mad-abhijñaṁ guruṁ śāntam upāsīta [bhā.pu. 11.10.5] iti. uktaṁ ca, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam [bhā.pu. 11.3.22] iti.
"The word jñāna-pradam guru, or the Guru who bestows divine knowledge, is in singular case in verses 11.10.5 and 11.3.21. »
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s Krama Sandarbha comment:
nanv eka eva yogyo guruḥ kartavyaḥ. tasmād eva sa-parikaraṁ jñānaṁ setsyati. kiṁ vā, matāntara-jnā evānye praṣṭavyāḥ. kiṁ gurv-ābhāsair vyāvahārika-padārthair ity āśankyāha—na hīti. ekasmān mukhyād guror labdhaṁ supuṣkalaṁ susthiraṁ yaj jnānaṁ tad api na syāt na sampadyate. kutaḥ? tatrāha—brahmeti. tat-tan-matena mati-bhaṅgād ity arthaḥ. tasmān mahā-gurūpadiṣṭa-mata-poṣāya tad-viruddha-mata-nirasanāya ca sva-buddhyā mananārthaṁ vyāvahārika-padārthā eva gurutvena sambhāvitāḥ, na tu kāpilādi-matāntara-sthāpakā iti bhāvaḥ
« Actually one should surely accept one single qualified Guru and perfect one’s knowledge through him. Should one then inquire from teachers who have differing opinions? Why is it then recommended that one learn from many so-called spiritual masters appearing in the forms of ordinary material objects? The Avadhuta replies to this that even if one receives steady and profuse knowledge from a single, major Guru, it cannot be accomplished by hearing from him alone. That is made clear in the second half of the verse – though brahman is unique, it is sung of by the seers in many different ways.” By hearing so many different opinions our purpose and resolution is ruptured. Therefore while hearing all these different teachers (by observing all these ordinary objects) one should use one’s discriminating intelligence and due reflection to nourish and strengthen the opinion of the great teacher (one’s own Guru) and to refute opposing views. Consulting so many teachers should not serve to establish opposing views like those of Kapila and others."
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda comments:
nanu mad abhijñaṁ guruṁ śāntam upāsīta [bhā.pu. 11.10.5] iti, tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta jijnāsuḥ śreya uttamam [bhā.pu. 11.3.22] ity ādy uktibhya eka eva gurur āśrayaṇīyo’vagamyate. nāpi śvetaketu-bhṛgu-pramukhair bahavo gurava āśritāḥ. satyaṁ mamāpi mantropadeṣṭā gurur eka eva upāsyo vartate. kintūpāsanāyām ānukūlya-prātikūlya-dṛṣṭāntībhūtā ete padārthāḥ parāmṛśya gurū-kṛtā ity anvaya-vyatirekābhyāṁ me śikṣā-gurava evaite jneyāḥ…… śikṣā-gurūṇāṁ tu bāhulyam eva prāyo jnāna-dārḍhya-prayojakam ity āha—na hīti......
“From two other Bhāgavata-verses mentioned before and after (11.3.21-22 and 11.10.5) it is clear that one should take shelter of one single Guru alone. Even great sages like Śvetaketu or Bhṛgu did not take shelter of many Gurus. Truly, only the Guru who gave me my mantra (the dīkṣā-guru) is worshipable for me. śikṣā-Gurus with their direct and indirect teachings can surely serve to point out what factors are favorable and unfavorable for my worship, though. Accepting many instructing teachers is done for strengthening one’s knowledge.”
Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda’s ṭīkā on Śrīmad Bhāgavata 11.29.34:
niveditātma mat-svarūpa-bhūtāya man-mantropadeśakāya gurave – „Surrender to me means surrendering to the Guru who instructs in My mantra (the dīkṣā-guru) and who is My very form.”
In other words, other sādhus and material objects that teach us something true, are all just manifestations of our one and only beloved Śrī Gurudeva. Along with these comments all the other Guru-verses in the 11th canto, 11 in total, speak of the Guru in the singular case.
This is just a synopsis. The full compilation has been posted on my website madangopal.com, under the name ‘The glories of (the one) Guru’, at the linktab ‘Articles’.