When in your Yoga practises and in your inner life you have come to the stage that you are sincerely longing to be guided to a higher level of consciousness than you can achieve through your own discipline, when you are crying for peace, light and joy and when life seems meaningless without the spiritual life your teacher will not be far away. Your own sincerity like an inner magnet will draw you to your teacher or your teacher to you. The Universe has a wonderful way of putting you in touch with your destined guide.
There is an old saying that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher appears’. This can be the case for many people. When the students inner development has reached a certain point they may find themselves ‘coincidentally’ picking up a certain book by a Master, or talking to a disciple of their destined Master, or going to a Yoga or meditation class run by their future Guru or students of their future Guru. The soul of the seeker will be fully aware of this natural flow of destiny but the conscious mind may be the last part of the being to recognise what is happening. In other cases, a seeker may spend some time actually consciously looking for a teacher, and may have to go to a few different teachers.
All of the great teachers seem to agree, that you will know if your teacher is the right one for you if you feel joy when you see them, if their face, their presence gives you an unexplainable peace, inspiration, joy and delight. In many cases the connection between a Master and a disciple may not be just beginning at this first encounter but continuing from previous lifetimes so the disciple will feel a strong connection and familiarity with their Guru immediately, like a feeling of coming home.
The Guru will always be fully aware of whether you are meant to be their disciple or not right from the first moment. A true Master will only accept those who are meant for their path. Interestingly enough, the Guru cares very deeply that those who are destined to come, find their way. In many cases a good number of a Gurus disciples are predestined to train with a particular Guru, even before they are born and the Guru is fully aware of who they are in the inner worlds before they take birth. Sri Ramakrishna used to cry on the rooftops to Mother Kali (in Indian philosophy Kali is the female aspect of God), asking why some of his disciples were taking so long to find him.
However it may take time because of the veils of ignorance in the mind, for the student to fully find, recognise and accept the teacher wholeheartedly. In the case of Vivekananda, who was a very advanced seeker, it took time because of his highly developed intellectual mind to accept Sri Ramakrishna as his teacher, Vivekananda said to one of his disciples who had been teased by a friend because of her doubts, scruples and hesitations to believe, “Let none regret that they were difficult to convince! I fought my Master for six long years, with the result that I know every inch of the way.” Even though Vivekananda was struggling to believe in Sri Ramakrishna for those first years, all the time he felt inextricably drawn to him and kept finding himself returning to visit, and on many occasions having profound inner experiences.
In the first few years not everything the Guru says or does may make sense to our reasoning intellectual mind because of our current level of spiritual development. Many truths that a Guru may utter may take years for us to mentally understand. It is always best to meditate on these truths until understanding dawns inwardly. We cannot expect to fully understand a Guru until we too have reached the same heights as them.
Time is needed to really know if a teacher is right for you. Ultimately your increasing happiness and deepening spiritual progress will let you know, you have found the right Guru. During this early trial time it is important to follow your Guru’s path implicitly, as you can only travel one road successfully at a time. If you are trying to follow several teachers simultaneously, you will only suffer from confusion, and will not make satisfactory progress on any of the paths. All the teachers are right in their own way, and all the paths are leading to the same destination, but they will just take a different road to get there.
It is important when selecting a Guru to be wary of any teacher who personally indulges or encourages you to indulge in the lower sense enjoyment life, such as drugs, alcohol or sex-life, or who demands from you large sums of money for their services. Also be aware of any teacher that claims to be the only perfect teacher and that all others are false.
You must feel purity first and foremost in your Master. Your own sincerity will protect you when you are choosing a teacher, and you will know when you are in the presence of an authentic Guru by seeing peace, light, bliss and poise in abundant measure in them, and you will feel those same qualities increasing in yourself in boundless measure by being in their presence. This will be enough for you to know. A genuine Master does not have to prove his or her God-realisation by performing spectacular miracles.
‘There is no seeker on earth who will remain without a teacher if he is desperately in need of one. If his aspiration is intense, if his inner cry is constantly mounting, how can God remain asleep? It is God who has kindled the flame of aspiration in that particular seeker, and it is God who will bring a spiritual Master to him or place him at the feet of a spiritual Master.’ – Sri Chinmoy