False Gurus & Finding the True Teacher – Nisargadatta Maharaj

The following are quotes from Nisargadatta Maharaj, taken from the book ‘I Am That’. The subheadings are my own additions; I have also added bold type where I felt emphasis would be useful:

I Am That

False gurus

Questioner: You were telling us that there are many self-styled Gurus, but a real Guru is very rare. There are many jnanis who imagine themselves realised, but all they have is book knowledge and a high opinion of themselves. Sometimes they impress, even fascinate, attract disciples and make them waste their time in useless practices. After some years, when the disciple takes stock of himself, he finds no change. When he complains to his teacher, he gets the usual rebuke that he did not try hard enough. The blame is on the lack of faith and love in the heart of the disciple, while in reality the blame is on the Guru, who had no business in accepting disciples and raising their hopes. How to protect oneself from such Gurus?

Maharaj: Why be so concerned with others? Whoever may be the Guru, if he is pure of heart and acts in good faith, he will do his disciples no harm. If there is no progress, the fault lies with the disciples, their laziness and lack of self-control.

On the other hand, if the disciple is earnest and applies himself intelligently and with zest to his sadhana, he is bound to meet a more qualified teacher, who will take him further.

Your question flows from three false assumptions: that one needs concern oneself with others; that one can evaluate another and that the progress of the disciple is the task and responsibility of his Guru. In reality, the Guru’s role is only to instruct and encourage; the disciple is totally responsible for himself.


On surrender to a guru

Q: We are told that total surrender to the Guru is enough, that the Guru will do the rest.

M: Of course, when there is total surrender, complete relinquishment of all concern with one’s past, presents and future, with one’s physical and spiritual security and standing, a new life dawns, full of love and beauty; then the Guru is not important, for the disciple has broken the shell of self-defence. Complete self-surrender by itself is liberation.


What if both guru and seeker are inadequate?

Q: When both the disciple and his teacher are inadequate, what will happen?

M: In the long run all will be well. After all, the real Self of both is not affected by the comedy they play for a time. They will sober up and ripen and shift to a higher level of relationship.

Q: Or, they may separate.

M: Yes, they may separate. After all, no relationship is forever. Duality is a temporary state.


Is meeting a guru a chance occurrence?

Q: Is it by accident that I met you and by another accident shall we separate never to meet again? Or is my meeting you a part of some cosmic pattern, a fragment in the great drama of our lives?

M: The real is meaningful and the meaningful relates to reality. If our relationship is meaningful to you and me, it cannot be accidental. The future affects the present as much, as the past.


How can I determine a True Guru?

Q: How can I make out who is a real saint and who is not?

M: You cannot, unless you have a clear insight into the heart of man. Appearances are deceptive. To see clearly, your mind must be pure and unattached. Unless you know yourself well, how can you know another? And when you know yourself – you are the other.

Leave others alone for some time and examine yourself. There are so many things you do not know about yourself – what are you, who are you, how did you come to be born, what are you doing now and why, where are you going, what is the meaning and purpose of your life, your death, your future? Have you a past, have you a future? How did you come to live in turmoil and sorrow, while your entire being strives for happiness and peace? These are weighty matters and have to be attended to first. You have no need, nor time for finding who is a jnani and who is not?

Tom: ie. knowing yourself is the chief aim, and this should be the focus of your attention, not concerning yourself about who is a real jnani/guru and who isn’t.

Q: I must select my guru rightly.

M: Be the right man and the right Guru will surely find you.