It seems like a strange question when people are asking, “How can I recognise a true Guru?” In India we say that it is not possible to recognise a true Guru – there is no meaning for this – because from the external appearance it is not possible to recognise – and, if you can recognise with your inner Self, then it means you are equal to the Guru; you have attained the same level of consciousness. If you have attained that level of consciousness, then you are already fully liberated and do not need a physical Guru.
The Guru is guiding his disciple on the path to find Atman, or Soul. But to reach Atman, or soul, is not so easy. Atman is covered with a thin curtain – in Hindi and Sanskrit we call it maya, or illusion. But we cannot realise Atman through reading books, or through listening to others speak. This is known as second-hand, or borrowed knowledge. Our intellect is full of thoughts. And those thoughts are also making big obstacles if we want to find our soul. We feel that we have gained big knowledge and are full with that. So we are only happy if we hear those answers that we want or expect to hear. On the other hand, the conditioned mind will automatically reject what it cannot comprehend or what seems completely unreasonable in the light of previous experiences, and our face will show displeasure. The mind is conditioned with worldly experiences. And these experiences are hurdles when we are searching for our Soul.
Because of our limited knowledge and conditioned mind, many people also want to see a Guru completely healthy at all times. They believe that the Guru will never be sick or ill. So if the Guru is not physically healthy, they have doubts in their mind.
This physical body is made of five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. Somehow, if there is any imbalance, then the body will become sick or diseased.
If we ask someone, “How is your health?” in English, it always has a very superficial meaning, and there is only reference to physical health. But in Hindi, when we talk about actual health we say Swast. A person who is truly healthy in the deep sense of the word is someone who has settled in Truth; it is a person who has realised Soul. That is true health. We have no idea about this spiritual health, because of our limited knowledge.
There are many examples in Ramayana, the Indian Epic, of how even the gods had to face many troubles and suffering. Rama was a Lord, the incarnation of Vishnu, who was himself a god, and in one story his wife was kidnapped by Ravana, the demon.
There is another example of how Lord Krishna’s life ended. Krishna was lying near the waterside and a hunter thought that this was an animal drinking water, so he shot a poisonous arrow which killed Krishna.
Jesus was a great spiritual master who was hanged on the cross to die. People were laughing at him and telling him to save himself. They did not understand. These are examples. It is very difficult to understand the activities of a spiritual master.
People often have many expectations of the Guru. Generally they are searching for a Guru who will cure their diseases and they want miracles. These are excitement for the mind. But wanting to see miracles is not useful, because these miracles cannot give you much help.
Sometimes people are asking their Guru, “Can you tell me about my previous life?” But there is no meaning for such things. If people are not doing sadhana, or Kriya Yoga practice, the mind will be tied up in this kind of useless curiosity. The intellect will continue to judge and to differentiate.
So we have to fully decondition the mind. If a piece of paper is covered with writing, nothing new can be written on it. We have to be willing to make ourselves very empty and let go of preconceptions and learned ideas.
Unless it is coming by itself from inside, we cannot search for Atman, the Soul. And if we really want to search for Atman, the muddy waters of the intellect will clear and there will be no more desire to listen to sensational stories and there will be no more need for thrillings.