Christina Sarich, Staff
Kumare, the documentary, makes fun of our eagerness to give someone else sovereignty over our highest selves. Let’s face it – sometimes spiritual work is hard. Why should we do the true work required of a developing soul? We have to look at some pretty dingy mirrors sometimes to overcome the ego. Why not give that burden to someone else? While spiritual teachers can be invaluable in someone’s path to realization, the world is ripe with fakes, phonies and sickos who want to pass off their brand of ‘crazy’ wisdom, when really, they are just plain crazy.
These fake gurus or false prophets can be slippery though.
So how do you know if your spiritual ‘master’ is duping you? Bankers and members of congress are not the only ones who can let power corrupt them, utilizing their positions for personal profit at the expense of someone’s pocket book, or more importantly, their emotional stability, or physical health.
Unfortunately, in times when people are really seeking answers to the BIG questions, we can sometimes turn to individuals that have all the clout in the world, hoping to find answers. Many of these fools don’t know a damn thing about enlightenment. Some are getting closer, but most are learning as they go just like you and me. Until a brave whistleblower exposes the more egregious creeps for who they really are, they keep abusing their power and hurting people instead of bringing them closer to enlightenment, and certainly no closer to joy.
Even if you suspect you are dealing with a charlatan and consider exposing them, they may try to embarrass you, call you a spiritual inferior, or oust you from an otherwise spiritually minded community, but its time to weed out the fakers, no matter where they hide, and that includes in our governments as well as religious temples, yoga ashrams, and elsewhere.
They can come from good lineages. They can claim they are the seventh generation of descendents from Lao Tzu or T. Krishnamurti’s grandson (as in the case of Kausthub Desikachar, the grandson of Sr. T. Krishnamacharya, who was found to be emotionally and sexually abusing women involved in the Krishnamacharya Yoga and Healing Foundation). You can be Bikram Choudhury, the hot yoga guru who is being sued by a former yoga student for sexual misconduct, and caught bragging about marathon 72-hour sexual meditation sessions. Lineage, fame, money, and reputation doesn’t mean squat if a guru or teacher doesn’t uphold some basic principles that any ‘realized’ person would display with ease and effortlessness if they were the real deal.
These charlatans are priests of the highest order, as in the Roman Catholic priests who were sexually abusing children as young as three years of age. The USDA and Monsanto are obvious psychopaths, but what about a seemingly benign teacher of ‘love’ and ‘light’ like Andrew Cohen of EnlightenNext magazine who has been ridiculed in many a blog post for acting like a spoiled king and emotional blackmailer? EnlightenNixt has lot’s to say about him.
There are hundreds, if not thousands more fakers in the world today. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some real gems out there – a guru or teacher in the true sense of the word. However; here’s a general list of things to look out for. It isn’t meant to be all inclusive, and you still have to use your intuition – trust it – if something seems off, then it probably is. You don’t always find out the reasons why your personal alarm bells are going off until later, but take heed when they do:
- Let’s start with the big one – money. A real guru often won’t ask for a dime. In fact, some of the most powerful healers on this planet are explicitly instructed by the elders of their tradition that they cannot take monetary compensation for their healing ‘gifts.’ In a documentary about a nameless Chinese healer in urban Java, he told filmmakers that he was not allowed to even talk about how he healed people with his hands (using qi), and that he could lose his powers if he charged for them. This being said, many real gurus take donations, and many healers need to eat and pay rent. If they charge exorbitantly or live opulently while ignoring those in need around them, then they are fakes. Walk away.
- Just because someone is psychic, doesn’t mean they are realized. We ALL have psychic abilities. Some of us have just advanced this particular ability more than others. It isn’t the sign of a true guru just because they can read your mind – a little or a lot.
- Someone who lives a real dharma won’t preach about it. They show it in their ‘works’ – that is the way they live their lives every day. If someone is ethical, virtuous, kind, giving, patient, harmonious, has integrity, and lives with a sense of serving others more than themselves, then you can likely trust them. Someone who teaches these principles but does not live them – isn’t a real guru. Obviously someone who steals, lies, and manipulates, or stalks women or children for their own sexual perversions is not a guru. They are psychopaths. If you even get a sniff of this – run and run fast. Tell as many people as you can to save them from being sucked into a fake’s power-lair.
- Real gurus never claim it’s their way or the highway. There are many paths to a righteous mind, and elevated consciousness. True enlightenment happens to every day Joes and Sarah’s just as much as someone who lives in Nepal, or India, meditates in caves or only eats vegetarian foods. There are many paths to realization. If a teacher offers you a path, and also tells you that there are many – they are more trustworthy than someone who claims to have a direct connect to God or your own higher consciousness.
- They don’t use disinformation to convince you to follow their path. Indulgences given out by the Catholic church would be an example, as well as gurus claiming to give diksha (the transference of wisdom from guru to disciple), when this can truly only be given by very few teachers and to students who are properly prepared to receive it. While some gurus really can lighten your karmic load, you usually have to do this on your own through a real emotional breakthrough and with plenty of trial and error and, unfortunately, some real struggle. Pain is a tool for transformation. Any guru who says they can take all your pain away is probably lying. A true guru wouldn’t want to. They know how well pain can teach you. It’s called being a spiritual warrior for a reason.
- There are different levels of realization – Samadhi, is the Sanskrit term. While you can have a very high level of consciousness, being completely enlightened means you would be pretty immune to most things ‘of this world.’ Even Muktananda, Paramahansa, and Osho were still struggling to achieve full enlightenment. While we can learn from those in high stages of spiritual evolution, if they are still on this planet, they are likely still somewhat unenlightened. Some cultivation is not complete ascension. Beware of those who have made a little progress but claim to have lassoed the moon.
- A true guru, or master of this world will have few desires. In Zen they call this the pure mind. A pure mind doesn’t want for anything because it already knows it is everything. In Sanskrit this is called Sat Chit Ananda. It means All Knowing, All Pervading, Everywhere Present. If you really, truly know that you are all knowing, all pervading, and everywhere at one time –what could you possibly need ten mansions, a new Maserati and countless women (or small boys) for?
- You will always be allowed to read holy books from whatever tradition suits your fancy. In fact, a true guru knows that this elevates your consciousness, and that minimizing the information you seek can ‘dumb’ you down and make you single minded. Reciting mantras, reading the Bhagavad Gita, A Course in Miracles, The Tao, The Life and Prayers of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Upanishads, the Christian Gnostic writings, Sufi poetry, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Pali Canon, etc. are all expressions of the divine and a true guru knows this.
- Enlightenment takes effort. Every wisdom school will tell you this. You can’t sit on your ass and expect to wake up fully. The path of wisdom takes courage, perseverance, and a humble ability to screw up often and then apologize to others and yourself, and start again. Any guru who offers a magic pill, book, session, etc. for instant enlightenment is a charlatan.
- No matter if you call it the Godhead, the Tao, your Original Self, your True Nature, the Realized Self, etc. it’s all you rediscovering the Perfect You. Read what you want, but ultimately the work is to remove much of everything you’ve ever learned. A real guru will dismantle much that you’ve intellectualized in order to install true wisdom.
If you have other suggestions for determining if someone is a real guru, please add them in the comments section below.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.