How can I find a spiritual master (guru)?

Finding a spiritual teacher is serious business, but it’s not impossible. Every human being is supposed to have a spiritual master. It’s said that when the student is ready, Krishna gives a teacher, and then the teacher gives him Krishna.

Bhagavad-gita courseTo find a teacher, it helps to know what the qualifications of a teacher are. It also helps to know what the qualifications of a student are, since, if you’re not really interested in doing what it takes to pursue a path of spiritual knowledge, better to be honest and wait until you are before you seriously accept a guru.

Finding and accepting the guidance of a spiritual teacher requires that you be serious about learning, and willing to make that learning a priority.

There are many kinds of spiritual teachers. In one sense, there’s something we can learn from everyone, so everyone is our guru.

In another sense, there are people whom we deeply respect and trust, who amplify the voice of Krishna within our heart. For a successful spiritual life, we need people who help us understand Krishna's teachings, which come down throughout history from master to disciple. The person most responsible for translating and distributing Krishna's teachings in the present day is Srila Prabhupada. The better we understand his writings, the more likely it is we’ll be able to see how to apply Krishna conscious principles in our life.

Bhagavad-gita course

To find a spiritual teacher, it can help to have recommendations from trusted devotees, and testimonials (if available) from other students and disciples. Accepting a spiritual master is a lifelong commitment, and the more we know a person, the better we’ll be equipped to make a choice about entering such a relationship with them.

In general, it is very helpful to have relationships with our spiritual elders, especially people whom we are inspired by and whose advice we naturally seek. It’s very helpful to offer service to our respected superiors and seek their good wishes. It is by the good wishes of Krishna’s devotees that we are able to make any progress at all in our spiritual lives.

If we ourselves are following the process of Krishna consciousness, learning as much as possible about the qualifications of a spiritual master, and what’s expected of us as students, over time we will develop relationships with a healthy variety of spiritual teachers. From these relationships it will eventually become clear who inspires us the most in our spiritual practice.

Further reading:

Bhagavad-gitaAs It Is: Find out Lord Krishna's own views on the importance of finding a spiritual master (Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 4.34)

The Spiritual Master and the Disciple: a compilation of many quotes from all of Prabhupada's writings on the dynamics of the relationship between teacher and student.

Transcendental Diary: the published diaries of Hari Sauri dasa, who served as Prabhupada's servant for years, documenting his struggles and joy as a disciple able to have close personal contact with the guru on a daily basis.

What is the Difficulty?: Another disciple of Prabhupada, Sruta Kirti dasa, relates his own often humorous and touching memories of what it was like to serve Prabhupada.