Bhakti Yoga Meditation
Home: Who is the Guru: Recognizing a Guru


How to Recognize a True Guru

If we understand the importance of having the association of a Guru who is a true Saint, then we will naturally want to learn how to recognize him or her. How can we tell if someone has attained God?

It is difficult to recognize a true enlightened Saint because there are four kinds of people in the world. Two of these are ordinary human beings and two are true Saints. They include those who are:

  1. An ordinary human being who is materialistic inwardly and outwardly and who makes no attempt to hide his materialistic nature from the world.
  2. An ordinary human being who wears the traditional robes or marks of a holy person, yet is not truly realized.

  3. A Saint who is Divine internally and externally -- and who remains completely absorbed in God, making no attempt to act worldly on the outside.
  4. A Saint who is Divine internally but acts normally in the world -- 99.9% of historical and modern Saints are in this category. Although God realized, they conceal their Divine state. Is it difficult to recognize these saints? Absolutely, because they hide their love for God very carefully.

How can we tell a genuine Guru from one who merely acts like one?

The Hindu scriptures say a a true Guru is free from maya. The Shvetashvatar Upanishad adds that the one who is free of maya is free of all desires, because maya is the mother of all desires. Therefore, if someone doesn't express human vices like anger, greed, hatred and so on, we might assume he is free from desire, and therefore a Saint.

But if someone is posing as a Guru and you insult him, he will keep on smiling and pretend to be unaffected. How will you know what his internal status is? Some general guidelines follow for determining who is a true Guru.

  • A Saint doesn't give, bless or bestow worldly wealth. The amount of worldly property an individual attains in the course of his lifetime is determined by his destiny, and this is the result of actions performed in his previous births. A true Saint only graces his disciples with devotional love for God.
  • A Saint doesn't do "karma-cleansing". In other words, you created your destiny out of actions you performed with your free will. You are responsible for both the choice of action and the outcome of those actions. This outcome can't be eliminated. It follows that it would be even more impossible to "cleanse" the karmas of someone else besides yourself.
  • A Saint doesn't perform miracles, although he possesses the power to do so. There are four main types of powers or siddhis. Three yogic siddhis correspond to the three qualities of maya, tamas, rajas and satva, and if exercised can produce many supernatural effects. The fourth siddhi is Divine, called mukti or liberation. Although this last siddhi is a Divine attainment, nondual realization is considered highly undesirable if one wants to practice bhakti. The greatest and only miracle a true Saint performs is inspiring your heart with love for God.
  • A true Saint doesn't initiate disciples using multiple names and forms of God. A Saint's Divine experience is an embodiment of a particular form of God he has realized. A true Saint will only teach his disciples one kind of devotion to one form of God.
  • A true Saint lives to be a normal age. According to the history of Saints, all Saints lived within a range of 100 years.
  • A true Saint doesn't show any pride of being a Saint. Humility is a feature of the Divine. A Saint always remains humble and doesn't demonstrate any pride through his behavior.
  • A true Saint doesn't follow any particular order of life. A Saint may be renounced from the world or a family person with children.
  • A true Saint radiates Divine love. A person who faithfully associates with a true Saint can experience the effect of his radiance in the form of an increased feeling of love for God and a decreased feeling of attachment in the world.
  • A true Saint never introduces a new concept about the form of God or about devotion. A Saint follows the teachings of past Saints and of the scriptures, and introduces the same name and form of God to his disciples and thus explains the original devotional truth of the Vedic scriptures.
  • The words of a Saint have a powerful effect, leaving a profound impression on the listener. Doubts that couldn't be dispelled even after a lifetime of study are removed easily by a genuine Saint.
  • A true Saint is recognized by his external Divine expressions. A Saint's heart is always filled with God's bliss. Sometimes this inner love overflows and produces certain Divine ecstatic expressions, which may occur during the chanting of the Divine name. These manifestations are visible in the form of eight symptoms. They are:
    • Tears of love
    • Tremors
    • Horripilation or goosebumps
    • Perspiration
    • Dullness
    • Paleness
    • Choked voice
    • Unconsciousness

Lord Krishna describes these ecstatic Divine states in the Bhagavatam,

A Saint of this class should be approached with reverence and faith. If you spend some time in his association, and if he is a true Saint, you will see these eight symptoms. Combining this with your other practical experience as described above will be your best guide for determining who is the true Saint.