Who is a real guru? How do I find a real guru?
You are asking an essential question!
Many are called (or call themselves) “guru,” but very few are the real, or true Guru, as he (or she) is described in the Scriptures. The true guru is a Sat-Guru, who knows his Self to be one with God. There is no trace of ego left in him, no sense of “I”, of “I am this person.” His consciousness is infinite, his inner state is perennial nirbikalpa samadhi.
Imagine a clean window, with the sunlight shining through it in all its brightness. The Guru is that window. The sun is God. God shines fully through a true Guru (Sat-Guru), with all His power. Such a Sat-Guru alone can free the soul.
Yogananda once was praised for his humility. His simple answer was, “How can there be humility, when there is no consciousness of ego?” He therefore taught: “I am not the Guru. God is the Guru.” Such a free soul alone is, in his oneness, the true Guru. Jesus Christ was similarly praised, and replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, except one, that is, God.” (Luke, 18,19)
To such a Guru we can fully bow, can offer our complete obedience, our life, our all. To none else.
Listen to the Scriptures (Advaya Taraka Upanishad):
“The syllable gu [signifies] darkness; the syllable ru [signifies] the destroyer of that [darkness]. By reason of [his power] to destroy darkness, he is called Guru. The Guru alone is the supreme Absolute. The Guru alone is the supreme way. The Guru alone is the supreme knowledge. The Guru alone is the supreme resort. The Guru alone is the supreme limit. The Guru alone is the supreme wealth. Because he is the teacher of that [supreme Reality}, he is the Guru, greater than [any other] guru.”
Another Scripture (Kula Arnava Tantra) teaches a crucial point for us to ponder: “O Devi, there are many gurus on earth who give what is other than the Self, but hard to find in all the worlds is the Guru who reveals the Self.”
Yogananda is a true Guru, or Shivananda, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharishi, and such caliber of souls.
You can have many teachers (small, still unripe gurus), but only one true Sat-Guru, who is your eternal link to God. In India often it is taught that you need a living guru, who is in the body. But where is that Sat-Guru, the true Guru, who is without any trace of ego? I have met various great saints, but even they were clearly not yet fully free of the ego. If we fully trust in them, we might even get quite a shock treatment: sooner or later we realize their ego, maybe a desire for power, a weakness for sex, for money, or a tendency toward self-importance.
Please don’t get me wrong. Saints and inspiring teachers are essential for us all. We need them, and should find them. I consider Swami Kriyananda a supreme blessing of my life, and am forever grateful. He is an important living link to my Guru and was a highly advanced soul, fully capable of teaching and guiding other souls. Yet he always emphasized that he wasn’t the Guru, but simply our teacher, being not yet perfect himself. “Yogananda is the Guru”, he insisted.
“But Yogananda is dead,” many reply. Yogananda answers, “No, I’m not!” He is alive. A true liberated Guru is never limited to having a body. He works from within, even though he has left his physical vehicle. The secret of such inner discipleship is attunement, through love, devotion, meditation, service.
How to find your own Sat-Guru (in the body or without it)? Pray to God, and prepare yourself through your sincere sadhana, and through your intense search for Truth. It is said that when the disciple is ready, the Guru automatically appears. Feel in your heart who is your link to God, who is your spiritual family, where you feel at home, spiritually speaking.
Try following various teachers and apply their teachings and techniques. Ask God: “Is this mine?” Once you have found your Guru, your search is over. You follow just one Guru. He is yours. Loyalty is a main ingredient in the Guru-disciple relationship.
Yogananda teaches: “It is extremely necessary to remember that in the beginning it is wise to compare many spiritual paths and teachers, but when the real Guru (Preceptor) and the real teaching is found, then the restless searching must cease. The thirsty one should not keep seeking wells, but should go to the best well and daily drink its nectar.”
At that point make the Guru your highest priority, higher than your husband (or wife), higher than your children, your parents, your career, your desires, your everything. The true Guru is God on earth: he is His vehicle, His mouth, His arms, His heart, His blessing. The reason for it is that he is nothing: only a pure window for God’s transforming light.
All the best in your search,