Guru/Spiritual Teacher

Choosing a Guru

A great teacher inspires
The seeker.

A great teacher aspires
In and through the seeker.

A great teacher knows
That he is the journey’s soul
Of the seeker
And also his journey’s goal.


There are three kinds of spiritual teachers. One will say, “I will do everything for you, my child. There is nothing for you to do. You may sleep, you may drink, you may enjoy vital life, you may do anything. You just remain in your own world and I will give you realisation and liberation. You don’t have to do anything.” You should remain thousands of miles away from that kind of spiritual Master.

The second type of teacher will say, “I have told you what the Truth is. I have tried to inspire you. I have played my part; now you have to work hard to reach your goal. Now you have to discover your own inner divinity.” This kind of teacher does not solve any of the disciple’s problems. This spiritual teacher is weak, even if he is sincere.

Then there is the third kind of teacher. On the strength of his absolute oneness with the highest Supreme, he says to the disciple, “My child, let us walk together. You shall aspire, and I shall bring down infinite Grace and Compassion from the Supreme. I have my own salvation, but I will walk with you and guide you. Let us work together.” He is the real spiritual teacher.

How can an aspirant know if a Master professing to be realised is actually realised? A God-realised spiritual Master is not someone with wings and a halo to identify him. He is normal, except that in his inner life he has abundant Peace, Light and Bliss. So if you come to a spiritual Master expecting something other than boundless Peace, Light, Bliss and Power, then you will be disappointed. But again, you must know if you are fit to judge. If I know nothing about medical science, how am I going to judge a great doctor? Only another doctor will know how to judge him properly.

In the spiritual life, a real seeker who has sincere aspiration and dedication has already achieved a little bit of inner Light. Because of his aspiration, God has endowed him with an iota of Light, and with that Light he is bound to see and feel something in a true spiritual Master. If one is really advanced in the spiritual life and is making fast progress in his inner journey, then his aspiration will be the best judge as to whether a spiritual Master is genuine or not. The best judge is one’s sincere aspiration.

An unrealised Master can fool you for a day or for a month or for a few years, but he cannot fool you forever. If your own sincere aspiration is one hundred per cent pure and you want nothing but God, then God will not keep you with an insincere, unrealised Master indefinitely. It is impossible!

Very often people come and try to judge whether the Master is perfect or not. Here they can easily make a mistake. If the Master is genuine — that is to say, if the Master has realised God — then what may appear to them to be weaknesses in the Master will not hinder them in their self-realisation.

Again, so-called human weaknesses are one thing; but if the Master indulges in lower vital life, sex life, then that Master is very bad and you have to leave him. If you don’t feel purity in the Master, if you don’t see in him the perfection of the lower vital life, the emotional life, then you must give a wide berth to him. Otherwise, how will you ever get from him the perfection of your own vital life?

Some Masters do have their own realisation, true realisation, and still some of their disciples leave them. But do you think that a Master is not realised just because people have left him? No, it is the aspirant’s own imperfections and limitations that take them away from their Master. Some people come up to a certain point and then their vital or ego comes forward and they don’t want to go any farther.

After accepting the spiritual life for two years, six years, even ten years, some people become tired. If one becomes tired of walking on the spiritual path and leaves the path, it is not necessarily the Supreme’s Plan. So don’t try to judge a Master just because many are leaving him. Many will leave, but many others will come.

Even if a Master is genuine, he may not be meant for you. How do you know when you have found your own Master? It is like this. There may be many people around you, but when you see a particular person, immediately you get some joy. That means that your soul has some connection with that particular person. Ten persons may be right in front of you and for nine of them you may have no feeling. But one person’s face or very presence gives you joy. In that case you have to know that this person has some inner connection with you.

If you have an inner connection with a genuine Master, it most likely has existed for many incarnations. So the moment you see that particular Master, you will get boundless, overwhelming joy. Your whole being will be surcharged with inner joy and light. You will feel that your life has at last found its source in the Master. You will feel that you are a leaf and the Master is the tree. The spiritual Master who gives you immediate joy, spontaneous joy, boundless joy, is your Master. Sometimes, if you are lucky enough, you may find your own Master the first time you see a spiritual Master. On the other hand, you may have to go to quite a few spiritual Masters.

When you find a Master whose very presence gives you immediate inspiration, joy, peace and delight, then you have to ask yourself the last and absolutely most important question: “If this Master does not give me realisation, liberation or anything that I want, am I still in a position to give him my love, my devotion, my surrender, my life?” If the answer is, “Yes, I don’t want anything from him except to be allowed to serve him and give him what I have and what I am,” then you will know for sure that he is your Master. He is absolutely your Master.

There is a saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” But it happens many times, hundreds of times, that the Master has come and the disciple is also ready, but there is a veil of ignorance in front of the disciple. He is not seeing the light, although the light is right in front of him. If your own teacher stands in front of you and blesses you twenty times, even then you may not recognise him. The teacher recognises you, but he cannot tell you, “You are my student,” for you will misunderstand. You will think, for example, “I have millions of dollars. That is why he is telling me I am his disciple. He is asking me to be his disciple just so that he can grab my money or this or that from me.”

In this world, when we discover something for ourselves, then only do we feel that it is true. When somebody else discovers something and tells it to us, then we disbelieve, we doubt. If the realisation comes from within you that I am your Master, then you feel that it is your own discovery; but if I tell you, then you feel that you have every right to doubt me. I have seen quite a few sincere seekers who were destined to be my disciple and sooner or later did become my disciples; but something was preventing them from accepting me at the time. My telling them would not have expedited their recognition of me. On the contrary, this would only have delayed them further. So I remained silent in order that when the time was ripe they could have the satisfaction of their own discovery.

In the spiritual life, there are some teachers who can instruct you for a couple of years and there are some who can teach you right from the kindergarten level to the highest university courses. They have the capacity to take you up to the highest height. Even if a teacher is sincere, if he doesn’t have the capacity to take you to the highest, naturally you will leave him when you have gone as far as he can take you. Again, there are so-called Masters who do not have the capacity to teach at all, but who will try to keep you as long as they can, just to exploit you. But it is you who have to know whether the teacher is able to help you. Your inner being will tell you whether you are making satisfactory progress or not. The moment you feel that you are not making any progress whatsoever in spite of your sincerity, then don’t waste your time. You have every right to leave a teacher whenever you want to.

But what sometimes happens is that the teacher has true, genuine knowledge, but the student does not want to learn the truth in the way that the teacher wants to teach — or rather, in the way the Divine wants the teacher to teach. Very often, unfortunately, it happens that when a spiritual teacher tells the truth or unveils the truth, he is misunderstood by the doubtful mind of the aspirant. The aspirant asks a question, but his mental doubt does not allow him to accept the answer. Then, no matter how true, how significant and how sublime the answer may be, it is useless to the seeker.

Some seekers change their teacher almost every month. Today this teacher, tomorrow that teacher, the day after, somebody else. They are extremely restless and they will never attain illumination.

A teacher is like a boat. If you are in one boat, you are safe. But if you keep one leg in one boat and another leg in another boat, then you will just fall into the sea of ignorance. If you are securely seated in my boat or in someone else’s boat, then the boatman is capable of taking you to the other shore. Then, once you reach your destination, you will see that all the boats arrived by different routes. The goal is one, but the paths are many. You cannot constantly change paths and hope to make the same speed. The seeker has to be wise, careful and discriminating.

Rome is one place, but there are many roads to reach that place, and each traveller will take a different road. Each Master is right in his own way. But once you choose a Master you have to stick to his path with total dedication and surrender. For you can only travel on one road at a time.

One Master teaches this, another Master teaches something else and a third Master teaches something completely different. You may feel it is like different subjects in school: history, geography, philosophy and so on. But I wish to say that in the spiritual life there is only one subject: God-realisation. For that one subject, the most profound subject, you should follow one particular path. If it is the path of devotion, wonderful. If it is the path of knowledge, wonderful. If it is the path of selfless service, wonderful. Again, you can combine all these into one. When you realise God, all paths become one; the three major paths of devotion, knowledge and selfless service inevitably merge into one.

We cannot say that our path is by far the best for everyone. Let us not be such fools. We can only say that our path is the path of love, devotion and surrender. If others want to accept it, well and good. Our path is the best for us and we are staying on this path because it is the path that the Supreme wants us to follow. Others also have to find the path that is best for them.

The spiritual path, the journey of the inner life, is a lifelong process. If you are ready to go through such a lengthy discipline, then only will you get your true Master. When you are studying you have to be serious in order to pass your examinations. Similarly, you have to be extremely serious and sincere in your spiritual life. So first please go deep within and feel whether you want a spiritual Master to guide you for the rest of your life and whether you can listen to him totally, wholeheartedly and unconditionally. If you feel that you can follow a Master faithfully and devotedly and give your life to his path, then the Master is bound to come to you. If you feel that you do not and cannot exist without the spiritual life, then you can rest assured that you are ready for the spiritual life. If you feel that you cannot stay on earth without inner peace, without inner joy, without the living guidance of God through a spiritual Master — if you have come to that stage — then you are bound to get a spiritual Master very soon.

There is no seeker on earth who will remain without a teacher if he is desperately in need of one. If his aspiration is intense, if his inner cry is constantly mounting, how can God remain asleep? It is God who has kindled the flame of aspiration in that particular seeker, and it is God who will bring a spiritual Master to him or place him at the feet of a spiritual Master.

 (Sri Chinmoy „The Master and the disciple“)


About the author



We are all leaves, flowers
And fruits
On the different religion-branches
Of the birthless and deathless

(Sri Chinmoy)

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