Given the profusion of gurus in the world, all modern seekers are faced with a vexing question – how can one identify a genuine guru? Generally, the tendency is to ask someone whom one trusts and to go by their advice. However, the responsibility of accepting a guru is one’s own alone, and so are the consequences. Therefore, it is wise to clearly understand the qualities of a genuine guru.
One should know how to make a distinction between a devotee and a guru. All gurus in the Caitanya tradition are devotees, but all Caitanya devotees, even if siddhas, are not gurus. This is because not all siddha devotees can carry out the primary function of a guru, which is to teach scripture and model its teachings.
I have written an article on this elsewhere where I cite verses from scripture that serve as a guide on this important topic. Here, I list some qualities which I have observed in my own guru which, I hope, can help seekers in the Caitanya tradition-
- The guru has śāstriya śraddhā.
- The guru is extremely well-versed in Sanskrit, the language of the scriptures.
- The guru is fiercely protective of authentic, scriptural teachings received in the paramparā.
- The guru has learned the six darśanas in the traditional way from his or her own guru for many, many years.
- The guru does not have rāga and dveṣa for anyone or anything in the material world. That is, the guru must not have strong positive or negative emotions for others (all strong emotions are reserved for the path of bhakti).
- The guru is free from a desire to make disciples.
- The guru never approaches disciples for money or any other type of service.
- The guru’s only expectation from disciples is that they perform bhakti as taught by the Goswamis.
- The guru never admits to being realized or advanced in any way at all.
- The guru does not expect praise from others.
- The guru does not manipulate others’ emotions, or display emotions in public.
- The guru may humor private emotional displays on the part of disciples but does not appreciate them. (Real emotions in bhakti only appear when bhāva manifests- everything else is pretty much a material emotion.)
- The guru values honesty on the part of the disciple and displays honesty in all dealings.
- The guru dislikes external displays of humility and is expert at diagnosing whether a person really means what they say. The guru is an expert at diagnosing pretense.
- The guru values learning.
- The guru does not offer false praise of any kind.
- The guru is embodied genuine-ness. That is, the guru is genuinely learned, genuinely fixed in bhakti, genuinely humble, genuinely realized, a genuine follower of the Goswamis, genuinely honest – in other words, worthy of genuine respect.