By Kripamoya Das
Here is a brief checklist to help you with your testing of a prospective guru.
Has he studied Vedic literature sufficiently to become a teacher?
Has he become an expert in any particular literature?
Has he passed any examinations?
Can he recite verses from memory?
Does he demonstrate his learning by references when he gives classes?
Is he faithful to Srila Prabhupada’s translations and commentaries in his presentations?
Are you sure that he does not unduly emphasize any particular portion of the philosophy but provides a balanced presentation?
Is he knowledgeable of Deity worship?
Does he perform Deity worship himself?
Can he conduct ceremonies and teach others how to celebrate festivals?
Does he know how to cook for Krishna?
Does he know the standard Vaishnava songs and prayers?
Is he faithfully following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions regarding sadhana-bhakti, the daily practise of chanting sixteen rounds on beads, studying the Vaishnava literature and discussing it with others, engaging in worship and kirtan and so on?
Does he exhibit the devotional qualities you have read and heard about?
Is he controlled and moderated in his speech, eating and sleeping?
Is he free from attachment to money, power or sexualised speech?
Would you describe him as having the ‘spirit of service?’
Does he personally exemplify the qualities you’d like to have?
His personal example should make you aware of your own obstacles – is this happening?
Does he have strong friendships with his peers?
Are there any devotees he considers to be his superiors?
Does he meet with them for guidance?
Does he deal affectionately with other Vaishnavas?
Is he helpful to those who are not his disciples?
Does he personally teach you, or can you regularly access his teaching?
Does he encourage learning, and does he make it enjoyable?
When he answers your questions do you feel as if your doubts have been removed?
After a class or talk from him you feel inspired and determined?
Does his teaching leave you enthusiastic?
Apart from his guru, who were his teachers?
Has he been blessed by his seniors to teach officially and accept disciples?
What are his other disciples like?
Is he committed to advancing the mission of his own guru?
Does he personally exert himself in establishing Krishna consciousness in new places?
Does he advocate standard preaching activity such as street chanting, book distribution, prasadam distribution, hall festivals and home gatherings?
Does he answer the questions of new enquirers, correspond with them, or host a website for introducing visitors to Krishna consciousness?
Is he successful at attracting new people to Krishna?
Does he have time to offer you guidance and encouragement in addition to teaching?
Is he somewhat experienced in offering help at important points in life such as times of transition, bereavement, adversity or spiritual challenge?
Does he have the ability to care for you in addition to his existing disciples?
Does he reply to correspondence or offer some other way of regular connection?
Does he schedule personal visits to your country, at least annually?
Has he successfully helped others in their spiritual lives and does he have a good number of balanced, happy and successful disciples?
How many of his disciples do you personally know?
Will you be able to take instructions from him if you choose him as your guru?
Can you trust his guidance?
Would he be pleased if you surpassed his knowledge or service?
Is he generally happy within himself?
Is he free from the tendency to criticise others?
In conversations and actions, does he direct attention to himself or to others?
Would you say that he is not overly demanding as regards personal service?
Is he free from distracting eccentricities of behaviour, speech, eating or dress?
Is he emotionally balanced or is he prone to spells of negativity, anger or depression?
Does he request large sums of money as ‘dakshina’ to be spent on projects situated in other countries from where you live?
What is his personal history? How much do you know?
Does your prospective guru function well as a member of a team?
Does he become involved in joint projects with his peers?
Does he generally work in a spirit of cooperation with local leaders?
Is he respectful of, and responsible to, a governing body that supervises him?