Just like it is mandated in shastras that a Guru must test his disciple before accepting him, it is a good idea today for a disciple to test his Guru and be completely satisfied before accepting someone as a true guide or mentor. Quite often, particularly in this age, there are many people who may have had some spiritual experience, or even developed a few lower level abilities, but who operate from their ego-minds and believe themselves to have become great master. This is nothing but self-delusion. Only someone who is truly in contact with the Divine, and not operating from his normal human mentality is a genuine Guru. This is possible when the central axis of the mind, the I-sense, has been destroyed or totally replaced by the presence of the Divine in the form of a devata or the Self or Brahman.
Only someone who is truly in contact with the Divine, and not operating from his normal human mentality is a genuine Guru.
Sri Aurobindo used to say things like spirituality and character is taught by actions, not by sermons and self-propaganda. Even Ramakrisna would encourage his disicple to test him freely before accepting his advised as useful or true for spirituality. There was the famous incident where some of his disciples kept money under his bed because the 19th century Kali devotee from Bengal would often say that he can’t touch money. To see if the statement was true literally or a mere hyperbole, some of the disciples kept some money under his bed without informing him. Ramakrishna, as soon as he sat on the bed, got up in flash commenting something is wrong here. When the truth was revealed Ramakrsna instead of getting angry he was actually happy that they would not take his words at face-value. Actions are the determinant of truth, words are cheap and easy. Only spiritual talk does not mean much, for the world is not without great speakers and even greater pretenders without any genuine spirituality in them. Then later Ramakrishna would advise people that they must test the Guru in public, they must test him in private, they must see his if words and actions have any gaps which is a sign of clear deficiency. Only in this way can one be sure of a person’s true spiritual depth. If someone of the calibre of Ramakrishna Paramhasmsa can be tested, it stands to reason that it is a good idea to test a Guru before accepted in this age when things are infinitely more corrupted.
Coming to the path of mantra and Tantra sadhana there is only one genuine test of a Guru, achievement or mantra siddhi or devata siddhi. Again these are not mere claims but can be demonstrated and visible to others not necessarily as a spectacle but as per demands of a situation or sadhana. Each individual who attains siddhi of a mantra is like an unbroken link in a chain that draws its Shakti from the deity itself and continues over large spans of time. Such individual’s behaviour, guidance, and advises are unfailingly accurate. There is no scope of speculation, no loose advises, no ifs and buts, no need for excuses and explanations. In any case things like Tantra sadhana cannot be learned from books, one needs a genuine and authentic Guru for guidance, one who has achieved and accomplished the sadhana to its final goal.
One of the more rational ways of judging the impact of a spiritual mentor to objectively note down what changes have occurred in the sadhak’s life after interactions with the Guru. This is not a one day process and takes time, but keeping things objective and factual is a sure shot method of finding out where things are really headed. As a famous Aghori used to say, “Live with reality or reality will come to live with you.” Generally, if it increases chaos, confusion, disturbances then it is a clear indication that the said guru is not the right individual to guide, if not an outright pseudo.
Again there are those Gurus who spend all their mental energy in past life speculations about their own greatness or future projections of how awesome they will turn out to be instead of living in the present moment. Such characters must be shunned at the earliest for they are permanently trapped in a fantasy world.
There are also occasions when a sadhaka moves away from one Guru to another as his own sadhana progresses. There are many recorded cases of great sadhakas who left their Gurus and moved on when they felt they have reached the end of whatever had to be learned from their earlier Guru. Sri Aurobindo himself left Vishnu Bhaskar Lele, his first Guru, much to the chagrin of Lele and later some of Lele’s own disciples left him and took Sri Aurobindo as their Guru.
The spiritual path is so complex and real progress so difficult that no set rule can be made about anything. Inspite of the necessary caveats that one must follow while deciding on the right Guru, there is not an iota of doubt that a good Guru is indispensable to reach the highest states of sadhana. A powerful Guru and a capable disciple make a deadly combination. Otherwise, both Guru and disciple can fall down if truth and reality is sacrificed at the altar of pretence and propaganda.
“From a humbug you can acquire nothing but his humbuggery.” – Sri Aurobindo