For some people, Guru comes on his own in their life. They are blessed. They have done their homework in their previous births!
Others tend to search for a Guru. They may finally find a Guru of their liking, but only time can tell whether they have ended at the right place, or it is only a temporary shelter till they find the permanent one. The reality is that when the search is earnest, the right Guru actually finds them, sooner or later, in first attempt or later attempts!
A serious seeker, intentionally and consciously searching for a Guru should sincerely answer many queries.
Each of us have different tastes, temperaments, capacity of intake w.r.t. religion and spirituality.
- How much of spirituality do you want?
- How much of worldly life do you still want to enjoy?
- Is your search of a guru or a saint simply for finding solutions to your current worldly problems and to get His blessings to escape from them?
- Or is it higher and more purposeful to understand the goal of life and just not materialistic?
- If you want both, how much of balance between the two is acceptable to you?
- How much of sacrifice are you prepared to do to acquire real spiritual knowledge?
- What is your mental inclination towards Bhakti? What is our taste towards Jnyana? Are you attracted by yoga?
- If you have bhakti, are you confined to a specific God form or sect only (like emotional bonding to Shiva/ Vishu/ Shakti and tend to think other Gods as lesser Gods?).
- Would you be more comfortable and content to follow rituals, do formal worships, chant slokas and so on as a devotee rather than read scriptures and break your head with matters like soul, Atman, Brahman, Nirvikalpa Samadhi and so on?
- Do you have a family Guru by tradition? Do you have liking and respect for him? Would you be contented to follow him or you want something better?
- What is your exposure to spiritual books? How much of exposure do you have towards our scriptures in general? Have you read Ramayana and Mahabharata reasonably well?
- Have you read Bhagavad Gita? Do you find its teachings making an impression in you or having an influence on you?
- Have you got any idea about the Hindus ideologies like Advaita, Vishistadvaita and Dvaita?
- Have you got exposed to any of the life and teachings of Avatara Purushas, Mahatmas and saints like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda, Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, Kanchi Maha Periyaval, Shirdi Saibaba, Satya Saibaba, Ma Anandamayi, Swami Shivananda, Papa Ramadas, Swami Chinmayananda, Shringeri Shankaracharyas, Nisarga Datta Maharaj, Mata Amritanandamayi or any such saints of recent history?
- Do you feel highly attracted or influenced by any of their lives and teachings? Do you feel like surrendering and seeking their guidance (even if they are no longer alive)?
- Would you be happy to follow the living disciples of any of the above Gurus who are not alive now? Or do you wish for a living Sadguru’s guidance only?
- Do you know the difference between a Guru, Acharya and a Sadguru?
If you earnestly get the answers to these queries from your heart, you will at least know where you stand and what you expect.
If you seek help and suggestions from people who already have gurus, you will invariably end up listening to a sales-promotion talk recommending their Guru for you too! It is exactly like people offering free medical advice when you tell them about some ailment you are having!
In olden days, people were less informed, had better humility, faith and sense of surrender. Spiritual knowledge or ideas were not freely available. Like arranged marriages, people easily accepted their traditional Gurus and got better. Only earnest Mumukshus (ardent seekers of Moksha – liberation) went around searching for Gurus. But times have changed now.
It is better to acquire some spiritual basis by reading books or listening to their talks/ videos unless you are blessed with a Guru who comes on his own in your life. Personally, I got my spiritual fundamentals firmed up by reading books. I was immensely influenced by reading Deivaththin Kural (Tamil, from Kanchi Paramacharya), The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Swami Shivananda, Exposition of vedanta from Swami Chinmayananda and so on.
The more and more I read them, the more I got a clearer picture of my own mental leanings, tastes, strengths and weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and limitations. And I would say divine grace started working on me to guide me to seek my Guru. I found my life being lead from one step to another to lead me to my Sadguru.
I am just sharing what happened to me. Divine grace is the real thing and it acts differently in different people. I know that there are umpteen ways and inscrutable happenings through which so many others have come and landed at the feet of my Sadguru.
The same is true for those who have found their own living Gurus in the present and in the past.
If you get a feeling that such-and-such person could be potentially your Guru, visit him and offer yourself there with humility. He may or may not be your final Guru. Sri Ramamaharshi gives one indication – If your mind finds total peace when you are at the sannadhi of the Guru, he is most likely to be your Guru.
If disturbances and doubts are there, perhaps he is not your Guru. May be his grace will guide you further to end up at your right Guru’s feet. May be he could still be your Guru, too but your time has not arrived!
You don’t have to break your head too much on the correctness of your judgment. The earnestness and humility are the vital needs. Sri Ramakrishna used to say “Suppose a person goes on a pilgrimage to Puri by walk from his village; he is not familiar with the directions and roads; somewhere he might have turned a wrong direction and missed his path. But as he inquires, somebody will always correct his mistake and redirect him to the right path. Quickly or belatedly he is sure to end up in Puri. Don’t worry”.
Search – earnestness – humility – surrender –grace . This is the working reality of getting the right guru.