Is it necessary for a Guru to be a Jivan mukta? How can a person, who is not free himself, liberate others from bondage? How do you identify such great souls?
In the broadest sense of the word, it is not necessary for a guru to be a jivan mukta (one who has overcome all ego-sense, and therefore no longer accrues personal karma). “Guru” simply means dispeller of darkness.
However, one who is not a jivan mukta will not have the same power to uplift disciples as would a jivan mukta. Such a person can certainly help others, but may not be able to lift them into final freedom. The true guru is one who knows God and has the power to help others to know God. Final freedom is beyond knowing God; it is merging into God.
Paramhansa Yogananda said that, in order to become free, one must help at least six others to become free. Swami Kriyananda has said that this applies all down the line of development: Wherever we are on the ladder of spiritual growth, in order to grow further we must help others to reach the place where we are — whether or not we are jivan muktas ourselves. It is not just “a good thing to do”; it is a requirement of divine law.
How does one identify a jivan mukta? You can’t unless you have attained a certain level of spiritual attainment yourself. So just do the best you can, draw from whomever you can draw from, and give to whomever you can give to. Concern yourself more with whether your attitude is that of a true disciple than whether a teacher is a jivan mukta. That is the way to becoming free yourself.