I need a guru but alas I am a 19 year old with no money. I want to know God. That is slowly becoming my only desire. I want to just find a self-realized guru and learn under him/her for years at an ashram. Can anyone give me advice on how to find a true guru? And do gurus take students free of charge?
Dear Friend and Truth-seeker,
Perhaps you have heard the old "saw," "When the disciple is ready, the guru appears!" At age 25 I sold everything and went to India for the same purpose, but, like Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz, I, too, came up empty handed, only to find my guru upon my return.
In my case, Paramhansa Yogananda had long left this earth (1952) but I met Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple. He wouldn’t accept the role of guru, but he is a wise spiritual teacher and a true, divine friend.
So, I suggest to you that you seek a spiritual path and spiritual teacher. Let the concept of "guru" work itself out. For, after all, if you find someone, how will you know he or she is a true guru and not just a spiritual teacher who is magnetic and intelligent but still subject to human emotions etc.?
Begin with books, then to classes, and then to a spiritual family. Bit by bit as you refine your intentions and deepen your commitment by self-effort, being always open to divine grace and guidance, your true guru will appear: whether in human form or through the disciples of a true guru.
Steady, steady, soon done! Meditate daily, read truth teachings, find others of like-mind, think and act with right attitude and right action. The magnetism you develop through devotion, wisdom and spiritually centered action will draw to you the grace you need each step of the way to final freedom.
As to the subject of money, see money as energy. It takes great energy to become God-realized and free. Spiritual teachings only cost money owing to the practicality of what it takes to attract and share them with those who are sincerely interested. But for the devotee’s part, we must understand that it is we who must sacrifice all for the pearl of great price. So don’t judge spiritual teachings by whether they are "free." Nothing worth having is truly free in the highest and best sense. No guru is going to zap you with cosmic consciousness for the mere asking. We have to earn spiritual freedom just as we have to earn our livelihood to take care of ourselves and render grateful service to humanity.