One who is versed in Vedas, who has knowledge of Brahman, who has a balanced mind, who is an ocean of mercy and who is able to remove the doubts and Avarana of the aspirants is a real Guru.
A true Sat Guru is absolutely free from passion, anger, selfishness, greed, hatred and egoism. He is beyond worldly temptations. He is able to remove the ignorance of people. He can clear any kind of doubt. He can give practical, easy lessons to control the mind and the senses. His instructions are very impressive. Even an arrogant proud man bends his head before him. He is able to take the students to the door of Moksha. He can remove the obstacles, pitfalls and snares on the path. He is versed in the Vedas. He is sinless. He is an ocean of mercy. He is a friend to all.
There are some Sattvic souls in these days but sages who have Brahmic experience are very rare. These Sattvic souls have no direct experience and they are mistaken for liberated sages. Even Sattvic aspirants who are treading the path of Truth, who possess virtuous qualities must be adored. Such aspirants also are very rare. Some Sattvic souls pose for Jivanmuktas. This is deplorable. Their disciples begin to worship them, gradually they get a downfall by becoming a slave to respect, honour and worship. Maya havocs in a variety of ways. It is very difficult to understand her ways and operations.
Doubtless there is dearth of genuine Gurus. But there is still more dearth of genuine disciples also.
Aspirants complain: "We cannot get good Gurus in these days." Gurus also complain: "We do not get good disciples these days." Who is right? Who is wrong? The lower court cannot decide this point. The matter will have to be assuredly placed before the Privy Council of Jnanins. Can a patient gauge the merits of a doctor as soon as he enters the consultation room? Ignorant disciples who have not even an iota of experience in the spiritual path at once begin to test and examine the Gurus. They make serious remarks, some hasty, wrong conclusions and inferences from external appearances and ways of living. Paramahamsas have different mysterious ways of living. Even though you live with them shoulder to shoulder for twelve years, you can hardly understand their hearts and depth of knowledge. Jnana and spiritual experiences are quite internal states. Foolish Chelas run from one Guru to another Guru. Pitiable is their lot!
Do not dig here and there shallow pits for getting water. The pits will dry soon. Make a very deep pit in one place. Centralise all your efforts here. You will get good water throughout the year. Even so, try to imbibe thoroughly the spiritual teachings from one preceptor alone. Drink deep from one man. Sit at his feet for some years. There is no use of wandering from one man to another man out of curiosity, losing faith in a short time. Do not have the ever-changing mind of a prostitute.
With the help of one light you can light up several other lights. Even so, a realised soul can make several others to realise God, provided they are in a fit condition to receive the light imparted by him. Therefore serve your preceptor with great devotion. Out of compassion on you one day or other he will enlighten you. He will lift you up. Wait patiently. Surrender yourself unto him completely.
He alone who sits at the lotus feet of a preceptor, who has knowledge of the Self and who is also well-versed in scriptural knowledge is able to grasp the Truth. In the Gita also, Chap. IV-34, Lord Krishna says: "Know it by means of prostration to the Guru, interrogation and service. The wise who have cognised the Truth will instruct thee in that knowledge of the Self."
Initiation into the mysteries of Brahman will fructify only in that disciple's mind who is desireless and will produce Jnana in him.
It takes a long time for the charcoal to catch fire but gun powder can be ignited within the twinkling of an eye. Even so, it takes a long time for igniting the fire of knowledge for a man whose heart is impure. But an aspirant with great purity of heart gets knowledge of the Self within the twinkling of an eye, within the time taken to squeeze a flower by the fingers.
Unless you are pure, you will not be able to realise the true greatness of a liberated sage. When he appears before you, you will take him for an ordinary man only, and you will not be benefited. You will try to find out defects in him on account of your fault-finding nature (Dosha Drishti). Even if Lord Krishna or Sri Sankara remains with you, He will not do anything for you, unless you are fit to receive Him, unless you are ready to receive the spiritual instructions.
It is quite true that mere Grace of a Guru, his touch, sight or Sankalpa can work wonders, but that does not mean that the disciple should sit idle. Guru will show the path and remove obstacles, snares and pitfalls. The student will have to place his feet on the rungs of the ladder of Yoga. The Gita says: "uddharet atmana atmanam na atmanam avasadayet-Let him raise the Self by the Self, let him not lower himself." Chap. VI. 5.
Guru's Grace is needed by the disciple. This does not mean that the disciple should sit idle and expect a miracle from the Guru to push him directly into Samadhi. The Guru cannot do Sadhana for the student. He can guide the student, clear his doubts, pave the way, remove snares, pitfalls and obstacles and throw light on the path. The disciple himself will have to place each foot step in the spiritual path. He himself will have to place his step on each rung of the ladder of Yoga.
You will have to place each step yourself in the spiritual path or rung of the ladder of Yoga. No miracle will happen to push you into Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Teachers can inspire you and remove your doubts and pitfalls. Introspect, find out weaknesses and remove them. Be regular in your meditation. You will reach the goal quickly.
Realisation cannot come to the student as a miracle done by the Guru. Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus, Rama Tirtha have all done spiritual Sadhana. Lord Krishna prescribes: "vairagya abhyasa-dispassion and practice." He did not say to Arjuna: "I will give you Mukti directly."
When there is intense urge from within to take the definite steps in the spiritual path, you will have to take recourse to rigorous Sadhana. But the Sadhana must be well-regulated and gradual. There must be ladder-like ascent like the rise of temperature in Typhoid fever. You must place your footstep in the Yoga ladder just as you place your footstep in the staircase.
Distance has nothing to do between a Master and a disciple. It is the nearness of the heart that counts. There must be perfect unity between the Guru and the Chela. Then only the disciple will be immediately benefited.
The sun is at a very long distance and yet the lotus rejoices in the morning as soon as it beholds the sun. The moon is at a very long distance and yet the lady-of-the-lake bursts into joy when it sees the moon. The clouds are at a long distance and yet the peacock dances in joy when it sees the clouds. Even so, friends may be separated by a long distance and yet they can be well-united in bonds of friendship and love. Distance is no bar. Gurus and disciples may live in distant places and yet the Gurus may help their disciples by their strong spiritual thought-currents.
This is a strange world. We have to learn many lessons. Even the disciple who was devoted to his Guru tries to destroy his own beloved Master at a later time. Many obstacles will come for the growing aspirant only at every step. These will develop his soul-force; inner strength and power of endurance. The aspirant will have to show his strength when he is placed in adverse condition. He should think and feel that nothing has happened.
If you have no Guru, take God, Lord Krishna, Lord Siva or Rama as your Guru. Pray to Him. Meditate on Him. Sing His Name. Remember Him. He will send you a suitable Guru. A personal Guru is necessary in the beginning. He the Guru of Gurus alone can show you the path to attain God, and obviate the snares and pitfalls on the path.