It is said that the disciple needs at least one physical contact with the Guru (or guru's earthly representative), Is it possible that one could have had this contact in a previous incarnation and would that count for the current incarnation? I ask for those that are not able to travel to Ananda centers or otherwise are unable to receive this.
Yours is a most interesting question and I thank you for asking it. Swami Kriyananda has written and spoken extensively on this issue and yet I don’t recall his commenting on this subject in quite the way you have done so here.
I will go out on a limb, therefore, and say that the term “physical contact” could include a “virtual” contact through the mail, telephone, email and internet. I believe that contact with other disciples in these forms would constitute “contact” for the purposes of the truth behind the teaching.
By this I mean contact that is direct and personal and not just a book or a web site. (Some disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda are said to have claimed, that his printed lessons in the teachings and techniques will “be the guru” when Yogananda is gone. But this is going too far because a book or printed thing cannot give you personal guidance.)
There have been famous saints who did not seem to have had a guru or representative in his or her life so it would seem possible for a past life connection but to be spiritually safe I would suggest that anyone who can, whether in person or vitually, have contact with living disciples should feel the spiritual duty and opportunity to seek that contact for the purposes of greater attunement with the guru.
Blessings, Nayaswami Hriman