When we want to learn anything in this world, it is natural to look for a teacher who will teach us the knowledge or skill that we desire to acquire. It’s important to look for the most qualified and knowledgeable expert in the particular field we are interested in. We respect and acknowledge the authority of those who have gained expertise in those areas. To learn about spiritual life it is vitally important to find a guru who is an authority on spiritual development and self realization. How do we find such a genuine guru?

The process of finding a guru is not a trial-and-error process. It is an undertaking clearly delineated in the authoritative scriptures and writings of saintly persons. If one is sincere, the Supreme Authority Himself guides the seeker in the form of scripture and the Lord in the heart. Thus a person is able to advance in his spiritual development and move closer to the goal of self-realization.

How To Find A Genuine Guru

Video Transcript

Jagad Guru: Cassie. You have any questions?

Cassie: How do I know that you are a…

Jagad Guru: A bona fide spiritual master?

Cassie: Yes.

Jagad Guru: Yes. That is a good question. An intelligent person must ask this question, “How do I know that someone is a bona fide spiritual master?” You can know from God. That’s all.

There are three basic ways. The first way that God tells you whether or not someone is His representative, the first way is from within the heart. From within the heart He tells me, He confirms to me within that, “What this person is saying is true. This person is My representative.” Not just that, but He actually helps me experience from within my heart that I could place my entire life in this person’s hands and in doing so, I am placing my life in God’s hands. Okay? I’ll have that vision from God.

Second thing is, and it’s not necessarily… it’s not in order. It’s not that one comes first. The other thing is that through shastra or scripture. If a person is teaching that which contradicts scripture, then they cannot be accepted as representative of God. If a person is teaching the same thing as scripture… I don’t mean using the same terminology, I don’t mean necessarily calling God by the same name, I don’t mean… we’re not talking about custom, we’re not talking about time and place. We’re talking about the essence, okay? That the essential point, the essential teaching is identical. He doesn’t deviate from the central teaching. Do you understand this? He doesn’t deviate from the central teaching. The central teaching is the same.

So for example, if I am teaching you, if I say to you that, “I am God and you are God but we forgot; I have remembered that I am God and I now know I’m God but you haven’t remembered you’re God yet so you must meditate to remember.” If I teach you this, then I am not a bona fide spiritual teacher because it contradicts scripture – because the living entity is not God.

In scripture, it’s very clear that the living entity is a part and parcel of God but not God Himself. Okay? Do you understand this? So if I teach that which is contradicting scripture or if I teach you, for example, that you can do anything you like and still be a servant of God, this is not the conclusion of scripture so therefore you cannot accept me. Or if I teach you that, oh, you should pray to God… the relationship with God, and the reason why you must have a relationship with God is, and the basis of your relationship with Him is material sense enjoyment. Ask God for this and ask God for that. God’s business is simply helping you win horse races and, you know, get you a lot of money from your business or to make you have good health; then again you cannot accept me as a bona fide representative of God. If I teach salvationism as the ultimate truth, the absolute truth, then again you cannot accept me. If I teach you that God is not a person, that God is simply an impersonal void, then you cannot accept me. Why? Because all of this is contradicted in scripture. So you must check scripture.

So you have scripture and you have the person teaching and you check what he’s saying, what he’s teaching. If he’s teaching something which contradicts scripture then you cannot accept. Do you understand? The essential points must not contradict. It cannot contradict. Otherwise you can’t accept.

So these two are the ways you check guru, whether or not a person is a bona fide spiritual master. His teaching, whether or not it is contradicting scripture, and the Lord in the heart, hearing from the Lord inside your heart telling you that, “Here is My representative. This is My son. This is My beloved friend.” This must be there.

And the person cannot be a living contradiction. He must be in disciplic succession. Disciplic succession means that a person who’s teaching you must himself have had a teacher. Not that he’s teaching you but he has no guru. If I’m telling you, you need guru but I myself don’t need guru, I myself I don’t need a teacher, I did not need a teacher; I’m saying that you need to be a disciple but I never needed to be a disciple, I don’t need to be a disciple, then this is contradictory. This is hypocrisy. This is not acceptable. So disciplic succession means that a bona fide spiritual master is one who has himself a spiritual master and that their disciplic succession begins with God Himself.

So if a person is in disciplic succession, okay, they’re in disciplic succession to God, what they’re teaching is the essence of scripture, and the Lord in the heart lets me know, “Yes, here is My servant. Here is My representative,” then you can know. So that is how. So it’s not a simple thing. In other words, it’s not simply sentiment, “Oh! Feels like it, feels right.” Something can feel right and it can be wrong.

Too many people they go and they get all gooey-eyed, you know. They cry, “Oh! This must be the representative of God. Ohh…” And he’s sitting there teaching them, “Oh, you are God, I am God but we forgot.” And they’re sitting there listening to all this. “Ohh! That makes so much sense. He’s so wonderful.” No. And they may be very impressed, he has great power, preaches with great power and authority, you know, makes everybody scared. They say, “Ohh! This must be from God. Oooh!” No. You must check what he’s teaching. You must check to see he’s in disciplic succession and you must hear from the Lord in your heart. Do you understand this? Hmm?

So it is not expected that a person, nor is it desirable that a person blindly accept anyone as their spiritual master or as representative of God. You want to know whether or not I am actually the representative of God. There’s so many people saying they’re the representative of God. So you must check. You must check what I’m teaching and you must check with the Lord in your heart. Not you should just lightly or blindly accept just because many people are accepting.

You know, most people, they consider whether or not somebody is or is not a bona fide spiritual master by how many followers they have. This is how they judge. If some certain swami has fifty million followers bowing to him, then oh, he must be… They don’t look at what he’s teaching. They don’t listen to what he’s teaching. They don’t really ask the Lord in the heart. They don’t check. A person must check. They must check. They must go through experiences of doubt and prayer.

Jesus Christ put it very nicely when he was asked basically the same question. They asked him how they are supposed to know he was from God, how they’re supposed to know he was the messiah, and he said, “Those who want to do the will of my Father, they will know that I am from Him. And those who don’t care to do the will of my Father, they won’t know that I’m from Him.” That’s all. It’s a very simple thing.

So if a person wants to know, or if a person wants to serve God, if a person wants to dovetail their will with God’s, if a person actually wants to give their life to God, then God will show them who His representative is, how they can go about this activity, how they can go about giving their life to God. But if they don’t want to, if they just sort of want to know Him, if they just kind of want to know Him, if they just kind of want to have a little more distant relationship, maybe not quite so dovetailed, just a little dovetailed, then He lets them have that vision.

He’s within the heart of each and every one of us and He gives us what we want, okay. So whether or not you know I’m God’s representative or not, it’s not up to me to try to convince you by trying to act in such a way to fit into your pattern of how you think maybe I should act according to your preconceived notions of your idea of what I’m supposed to be like or act like because it’s not my business!

It’s not my job to try to make anyone think that I’m God’s representative. It’s simply an understanding of faith that the devotee of God has, that the representative of God has, that everybody is on a particular level in their relationship with God. Everybody’s in a particular place – how close they are, how much they want to serve Him – you know, there’s different degrees, okay? And he understands this fully and he understands that God is giving each person what they want, just how much of a relationship they want, what kind of relationship they want with Him and so on; He’s giving it to them, okay. He’s organizing it, arranging it. He understands that God even gives the atheists the lack of vision so that they don’t need to see Him. Okay? So he has full faith there.

So he knows that if a person wants to serve God, then they will see that I am serving God and they can be serving God simply by dovetailing their will with mine, because mine’s dovetailed with God’s. They fully understand that God will show them from within their heart, if that’s what they want, if they want to serve God. If they don’t want to serve God, then He’ll show them something else. He’ll give them the vision by which they won’t see. So God gives us the vision. It’s God Who lets us see.

Now there’s a slight danger that sometimes some people say, “I don’t see you as God’s representative but I want to.” This is wrong. This is wrong. You’ve got it backwards. I mean, what if I’m not God’s representative and you want to see me as God’s representative? Then God will give you what you want! He’ll let you see me as God’s representative even though I’m not. Do you understand this? People tell me that all the time, you know? Write me letters, “Oh, I don’t see you as God’s representative but I really want to.” You know? “I want to.” What’s that? No. Why do you want to see me as God’s representative if you don’t know that I am? If you don’t know I’m God’s representative then why in the world would you want to see me as God’s representative?

In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna states that He gives a person who wants to worship the demigods, He gives that person the faith by which they can keep their faith firmly placed upon the demigod. So the method is not to try to ask God, “Please give me the vision that this person is Your representative.” But rather it’s simple. “Dear Lord, please LET ME KNOW WHETHER OR NOT this person is Your representative.” That’s a different way to ask. You don’t ask, “Dear God, please let me see this person as Your representative.” You ask, “Dear God, please let me know if this person is Your representative. I need to know.” That is the way.

So what did you expect?

Cassie: I don’t know… I guess, maybe, I expected you to be something other than human. You know? Not…

Jagad Guru: Yeah. See, that’s the whole thing. It’s like you don’t know… you have certain conditioning, certain experiences. See, the problem with… if I was to try to fit into some image of yours, which is completely different than someone else’s, of what I’m supposed to be like, but then I’m no longer God’s servant, am I? I become your servant, yeah? I have to serve your concept or your image that you’ve gotten from your conditioning, from your life’s conditioning, you know. So I’m no longer God’s servant. I simply try to convince everybody that I’m God’s servant by certain actions, you see. Or maybe I should shave my head and wear orange robes or maybe I should wear my hair long and don’t comb it or comb it like Jesus does in his pictures. You see? (laughter) But what happens if I lose my teeth, you know what I mean? (laughter) What if I lose my teeth? (laughter) Huh? What will happen?

Audience Member: Nobody will watch TV.

Jagad Guru: Nobody will watch TV. (laughter) This is an important point, you know. Pity that pseudo guru, so-called guru, who has to spend his life trying to convince the masses of people and his followers that he is a bona fide guru. Pity this person who’s simply struggling to get the worship of others, trying to convince them that he’s God’s representative. There’s nothing more of a bummer. There’s nothing worse. There’s nothing more pitiful. There’s nothing more saddening. If you want to know what suffering is, that’s suffering. That’s suffering. All these external things. What is it?

Therefore it is said that a vaishnava, a representative of God, is seen through the ears, not the eyes. That’s a fact. Through the ears you hear the Absolute Truth, you hear the truth, the same truth as it is revealed in scripture and you hear the holy names of God being sung by the pure lover of God. This is how we see the lover of God, not with our external eyes. This is one drawback with television. With television you see, “Oh, he’s Caucasian. Oh, he’s young. Oh, he’s like this. Oh, he has his hair like that. Oh, he wears this kind of shirt.” Yeah but that’s today. You should have seen last month. You should have seen last year. What do you know?

But I’m not my shoes, I’m not my shirt. I’m not my hair. This is the body. I’m using this body. What am I using it for? To speak, to teach the Absolute Truth, to give instruction and hopefully have people follow it.

People are so immersed in bodily identification, false bodily identification. They just don’t understand. They can’t transcend their eyes, what they see with their eyes. This is unfortunate. “Oh, he doesn’t look like a guru!”
“What’s a guru look like?”
“You know, different.”
“What? What?”
“You know, like, you know, whatever.” Depends. If you’re an evangelical Christian, it looks like, you know, the other evangelical Christians. If you’re a hippie Christian, then it looks like Jesus in the pictures with a long beard and long hair and robes on. If you’re a yogi type, meditator type, “Oh, where’s his orange robes? How come his hair’s like that? He’s not Indian! He’s not Indian. He’s haole; he’s American. He’s Caucasian.” This is all false bodily identification. So you must transcend this. Just like some people think that someone’s a holy man just because he’s got long hair and an orange robe.

You must look at what the people are teaching. Try to transcend the visuals, try to transcend what people look like. Try to transcend their manner. Try to transcend these things. I have my own manner, my own way of speaking. It doesn’t matter. If somebody else has a completely different way of speaking, completely different appearance and they’re saying the same truth, then it’s the same. Okay?

Spiritual life means you must give up all your mental speculation, all your preconceived notions and conditioning and simply go to the heart of the matter. One, what is this person teaching? And two, is he living it? Does he dovetail his life with God’s will? And three, does God Who’s within you, does He confirm that this is His representative? This must be done.

Be careful. That’s all. Careful is different than blind skepticism. So you don’t want to have either blind faith and you don’t want to have blind skepticism. You want to be able to have enough doubt and enough fear to be able to check or to be motivated to check. Just like some people they come to one talk or something. They go, “Oh, I believe! I believe! I believe! Oh! I believe! Wow! I believe!” But if I were to ask them, “What do you believe?”
“I believe you, what you’re saying, what you’re saying.”
I say, “What am I saying?”
They go, “Oh, I don’t know but I believe it.” This is called blind faith.
“No doubts? No doubt?”
“No, no, no. No doubt. No doubt.”

In fact that person is not really going to go… not really deep. If you don’t have any doubt, then why would you pray? You must have at least enough doubt to be able to pray to ask God whether or not it’s true. If you don’t have doubt and fear then you’re not going to pray. You’re not going to ask God, “God, is this person really as he says he is? Is he really Your representative?” You’re not going to do that and if you don’t really ask in that real doubt and really wanting to know, He’s not going to answer you anyway. If you don’t really want to know, then He’s not really going to tell you. But if you really want to know and it’s very, very, very important to you, it’s your life at stake and you’re asking God with this experience or feeling of importance and urgency, then He’ll let you know.

Spiritual life is not for foolish people, shallow people. Spiritual life is heavy. So listen to what I’m teaching. Listen to what I’m teaching. Try to hear it, try to understand it. Maybe you won’t understand everything I’m saying, okay. You won’t. Try to understand. Maybe you’ll understand twenty percent, maybe fifty percent, maybe seventy percent but gradually the more you hear, the more you’ll understand. I don’t understand this today but maybe I’ll understand it better later. Understanding does not come all at once.

So if you listen, you hear, you try to understand, you check it with scripture and you check within your heart, then there’s nothing to lose because if it contradicts scripture then you reject it. If it contradicts the Lord in your heart, your instruction from the Lord within your heart, then you reject it. If it doesn’t contradict the Lord in your heart and it doesn’t contradict scripture, then you accept it. So you’re really not alone.

It’s not like you’re in a position where you have no protection. You have protection. If I’m a charlatan, then you’re protected by God within your heart and you’re protected by scripture. So you don’t need to worry about that. You’re not alone. So there’s not that much to worry about, you know. It’s very wonderful. If people only knew that God is there to give them instruction and they have enough sense, enough common sense to take that instruction… it’s not that a person is supposed to just blindly accept another person as their teacher. No.