How To Spot Fake Guru or Spiritual Teacher

Fake Guru or Spiritual Teacher

~By Paul Lenda

The old paradigm of life-controlling and mind-manipulating belief systems has left many to finally realize they have been living in an artificial reality created by egotistical people on power trips. This has led to a situation where many are wandering, trying to find their own way in a world without many true leaders, and as a result of this, a new market has developed which attempts to showcase answers to those people who have become disillusioned with the old dogmatic systems.

However, there are quite a few (an understatement) in this new domain of contemporary spiritual guidance that are taking outright advantage of people and creating circumstances that vary very little from the old paradigm; they simply polished it and gave the illusion that it’s something else.

There’s an influx of ‘enlightened masters of the universe’ pervading the spiritual sphere these days. Gurus and spiritual teachers are popping up left and right. Many of them seem to provide an easy way out of the voids many people feel they have within their lives, and as a result these gurus and teachers make a ridiculously massive amount of money… even earning social ranks akin to being glamorous superstars.

Yes, it seems there are those within the spiritual arena who are looking at the qualitative aspects of self-growth and seeing a marvellous money-making opportunity or a way to have incredible power over others; a pyramid scheme is sometimes then created and established. This is very dangerous in that it can negatively affect the perception of legitimacy on the entire spiritual community and all that it encompasses. As a result, genuine spiritual teachers and self-growth coaches are often disregarded as being ‘false gurus’ giving out spiritual-sounding nonsense that lacks substance and is unhelpful for a person’s spiritual growth.

Being aware that there are such enlightenment pyramid schemes can help us steer away from the false gurus and find the genuine teachers that truly wish to help people and the global consciousness of humanity. It is admittedly difficult at times to see through the spiritual façade that some create as a front to hide their true nature and intentions, even moreso with teachers who were once very enlightening but the money and the fame got the best of them.

Having others do the work for us, such as various guru rating services that exist today, is dangerous as well since we are putting our faith in a complete stranger to pick out “authentic” and genuine spiritual teachers. Obviously there can be plenty of deception, subjective bias, and decisions made without those raters being fully informed about a particular person who stands in line for the golden star of approval.

Identifying False Gurus and Spiritual Teachers

1. Charging Large Amounts of Money

Actions speak infinitely louder than words. Anyone can proclaim magnificent and wonderful things. But do these words live up to how the person lives and expresses themselves in his or her daily lives?

Perhaps the biggest problem that I have found is the issue of money. I have seen self-appointed gurus, spiritual teachers, and whatever other title they go under charging unbelievably large amounts of money for information, knowledge, or so-called ‘higher wisdom’ that is available to everyone — by looking to sages who charge little or nothing, and also by looking within for the answers via meditation and other self-induced spiritual practices. I have also seen several money embezzlement cases. If you’re paying someone $295 for a spiritual ’12 strand DNA activation’ then you’ve probably just been conned.

2. Giving Themselves Fancy Titles

While on the subject of empty words, when looking to a potential spiritual teacher for guidance, notice if that individual proclaims such magnificent titles referring to themselves as being enlightened masters, self-realized yogis, or being a saint – one of the ultimate delusions of grandeur following the narcissistic Christ Complex. An enlightened person finds no need for ego masturbation.

Those who have experienced the Ultimate/Absolute Reality don’t continuously boast about how they have achieved enlightenment and are better than others. They are in fact, quite humble, perhaps sometimes too humble, but humble they are. They understand that there is no benefit to themselves or their students to make such declarations based on the realizations they’ve had about Reality. There is no need to establish a hierarchical framework within teachers and students work as we are all passengers on the same train, separated only slightly in that we sometimes sit in different train cars. We are all going the same direction, ultimately.

3. Inability to Take Criticism

Another sign of a con-man in guru’s clothing is whether the person is able to take criticism or not. Those who are not genuine spiritual teachers will get offended and defensive over criticisms made towards them instead of looking inward and taking into consideration what those criticisms are. How dare an unenlightened mortal criticize them! Nobody is perfect, after all. But I have even seen the sad situation of lawsuits being made by these so-called enlightened masters against people who had the ‘nerve’ to point out something they feel was incorrect, deceptive, harmful, etc.

4. Overly Focused on the End Goal

If you notice a spiritual teacher or guru having an almost-bizarre love affair with enlightenment this and enlightenment that, be cautious. Many of these enlightenment gurus focus on enlightenment itself instead of actually teaching others how exactly to attain that state. They do not teach about all the baby-steps leading up to the enlightening of one’s awareness in the most authentic of ways. Even the revered Buddha did not reach enlightenment overnight. Unless a spiritual teacher shows you a realistic way to reach enlightenment, such as through a particular meditation or awareness expanding technique, then you will be better off without their help… and you will keep your hard-earned money as well.

5. Behaving Hypocritically

Beware of hypocrites! This is perhaps one of the simplest methods of weeding out spiritual “snake-oil salesmen”. Look if they practice what they preach. If they teach about how you should meditate daily to promote your spiritual growth, do they meditate daily? Are they leading by example? When they talk about radiating love and light and all that is beautiful, are they doing so themselves? Nobody likes a hypocrite, especially if that hypocrite is promising spiritual enlightenment.

6. Focusing on Fulfilling Egocentric Desires

One especially important aspect of a guru or spiritual teacher that we should look into is their investment in the material aspects of life. Are they displaying behavior that is indicative of being a neophyte on the spiritual path? Do they overly focus on money, sex, and power? A dynamic Taostistic-like balance is a necessity for a balanced life, but when dependence and abuse of the material starts to emerge and creep into the mind then there is a problem.

7. Displaying Spiritual Materialism

Spiritual materialism is something that’s especially become more of an issue in recent years and is worth becoming more aware about for anyone on the path to self-realization and enlightenment. In Psychology Today, Michael J. Formica defines: “Spiritual materialism is that process by which the ego grasps at the accomplishments and progress of the self upon the spiritual path; an act by which its very nature denies the Self.”

The increased focus on spiritual materialism is problematic. All the courses, teachings, books, and workshops that focus on using the Law of Attraction to bring us riches and worldly abundance hold materialist desires at their core, and do not reflect actual spiritual growth messages.

Although spiritual growth and self-actualization can lead to ‘like attracting like’, because of the immense positivity we project outward, attracting riches is not the purpose of attaining these mind states. These messages that use the dynamics of attraction are not bad in and of themselves, but when they are misrepresented as being a path towards higher spirituality, then that is when we should be cautious of proceeding further. Do not become lost in the illusion that faux spirituality creates.

8. Behaving Selfishly

Selflessness should be the dominant quality in the spiritually-advanced soul, not selfishness. Spirituality has no place for superstars and glamour. It is not the spiritual teacher themselves that should be the focus, but rather the spiritual messages and teachings. How can we attain our own Self-realization if our position of awareness is focused externally on the teacher, rather than internally on the Self?

9. Promising a Fast Path to Self-Realization

There is nothing directly bad with spiritual workshops themselves, but when you see a spiritual teacher giving a spiritual course that’s several hundred or thousand dollars and lasts several days or even weeks do not expect to reach enlightenment just by completing such a workshop. Yes, we all live busy lives and feel as if we do not have enough time to dedicate towards our spiritual growth, but let’s be realistic: it is highly unlikely you will become self-realized in 3 weeks.

The processes of spiritual growth, self-actualization, self-realization, and enlightenment can take years or an entire lifetime – some even say multiple lifetimes. It’s said that there is only one person in recorded history that attained enlightenment in one lifetime (Milerapa) and the way he attained the enlightened state was highly unorthodox, to put it lightly. We would all like to believe that there is a fast lane to these things, but this is not the case. Of course, there are always exceptions and some reach the mountain’s summit faster than others. But as a whole, it is a process that includes much dedication and time.

In closing…

These are several ways in which you can spot a false guru, spiritual teacher, or other peddler of faux spirituality. In this day and age where there are thousands of so-called gurus, we have to be careful who we choose to listen, to because if we make the mistake of following someone who is ego-centered in their true intentions, then we will lose time, money, and opportunity costs (among other things).

It is my hope that this article can help others discern between the genuine teacher that wishes nothing more than to help others become self-realized and experience spiritual bliss, and those who proclaim they will do these things for you but in reality are just emptying your bank account. Be mindful of who you decide to listen to, and you will be thankful you spent some time to discern between those who are looking out for others and those who are looking out for themselves.


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  • Hello….. I am human just an ordinary man, I am from Gods heaven and in Gods hell, I am human i know there is only one race and that is human, and i know we are all Gods children, we each have a heart and we each have a soul and Gods loves each of us the same, so in Gods hell tho a dismal place there is a smile on every face, if you can see hell in this way you will be in heaven and you will know yourself…. 🙂

  • One must surrender to guru in order to move up in spiritual realm. it will give good result only if the guru is genuine. Surrendering oneself to wrong guru or wrong sangha would be like the union of Karna and Duryodhana. once we identify an excellent guru, all our burdens will be gone and only thing that will be left will be to walk the steps laid by him. Excellent guideline for beginners how to look for a a genuine guru. more inputs from members will be appreciated.

  • There are many ways a person can identify a spiritually evolved person.

    1. The first thing you feel when near an enlightned person is that you feel you are overpowered by the other person. You can literally feel the vibration just like the vibration and the soothing feeling we get when we go to certain powerful temples.You feel that your ego or yourself is literally melting away.

    2. when you stand near a evolved person you will get goose bumps for no reason.This is because his bio plasma energy field or other wise called aura or suksham sarirs ( in sanskrit) is expanded very much outside his physical body and massively overpowered than your sukshma sarira.When his energy field interact with your body you will get chilly feeling or a coldness or cool breeze kind of feeling.

    3. Your brains or mind will be under havoc bcoz when an evolved persons field interacts with yours your mind will have all kinds of thoughts running wild just to get away from it.Bcoz its your ego playing.Bcoz our ego dont wants to be humbled by the presence of a superior person.You will recollect old thoughts,or thoughts or forgotten memories run wildly in your mind just to distract from other person.””It takes a little time to settle for us or our mind/ego to sit or stand near an evolved person””.Remember its like when you go to temple for prayer & stand in front of idol you will have all kinds of thoughts except for god . The same phenomenon happens here also bcoz ego wants us to distract from divinity. But if you go to a fake guru you will have the most welcoming feeling.

    4.An evolved person will never say he is enlightned bcoz the dont need anyones recognition or approval or certifications.They never ever try to show off. Even if we ask them they will never say they are enlightned .They will either divert the subject or give an indirect answer .But you will understand him once you be with him for some time. Bcoz they way he see the world,explain things and do things will be the clear indication of their spiritual evolution. THEY DONT HAVE ANY TRACES OF EGO.THE PRELIMINARY CONDITION FOR ENLIGHTMENT IS THE DEATH OF EGO.So if yo saw a guru giving big big lectures in public or giving interviews in TV, showing himself as that he knows God,or living in big mansions or travelling in big luxuary cars or own big empires in the name of charity or serving people, THINK TWICE. Bcoz REAL GURUS will not do anything against the law of Karma. they have clear understanding that whatever a person or society experiences how bad or good its all result of their karms & past births action. They will never try to change anything bcoz whatever a person experineces is their karma and no guru have the power to change ones karmic account.Even lord Siva rarely changes the law of karma. Real gurus accepts whaterever it is as the law of karma or divine will and accepts it. They will never acts as the saviour of people or society.

    5. Real gurus never ever ask for anything in return. Their only wish is the spiritual upliftment of their students.If somebody asks you money then beware.But its the responsiblity of a student to give something as alms to his guru be it food or service bcoz guru also needs to sustain his physical existence

    6. When you are with a guru you will surely see that your habits,your life style,you actions and most importantly your thinking and thought pattern changes.You will become more “feminine” in character .All your aggression,anger , all goes away.Your ego will become thinner and thinner everyday.

    7. A real guru always encourage to ask questions to him.Be it any wild question or doubts be anything he will “” patiently “”” answer it. Patience is the recognition of a real guru.

    8.A real guru have very few students and he will never ever teach in public or in groups.He will give one to one training to every students bcoz he surely knows that everyone one is different and needs different approach and methods to uplift different person. So if you see a guru teaches a group of people in a class room with a nice setting—– think!.

    9. REAL GURUS OR MAJORITY OF REAL GURUS – SAY 95% DO NOT TOUCH OTHER PEOPLE .Only in rare instances they touch other people.

    10. REAL GURUS will not accept you as their students instantly. 90% of the time you are together he will evaluvate you. Rest is used for real teaching and they will give you the right knowledge only if you are worthy.The idea of going to a gurus office /ashram & start classes is merely wild imagination and utterley nonsense

  • Prana Violet Healing gives you a Healing Wand which is a cosmic geometry. It is an energy sensor plus energy transmitter for healing.With this wand we check aura, energy of chakras, size of chakras, negative emotions in the aura, negative energies on a person and also good energies so we can check spiritual energy, ego energy, etc etc
    Also can check divine cord of a person. Size of aura, size of divine cord & Comparison of size of crown chakra ( spiritual chakra) and sacral chakra ( desire chakra)shows which energy is more active hence we can v easily judge whether Guru is genuine or not.
    Prana Violet Healing is a free teaching an healing course.We welcome everyone to learn it

  • It is hard to give guidelines for spotting a real Guru. The result is actually in your experiences. To say that a real guru will not be offended by questions is lame. Followers can be a nuisance, and some questions are just plain stupid and tedious. Gurus can ignore such questions, or refuse to entertain them. As for charging fees, this has come by way of too many westerners coming to India and making an occupation out of Yoga. Any westerner who dislikes school, can use his social security to visit India, name a few important yogis, go back home and start his yoga school. Commercialisation of meditation and yoga is a western con job. The Indian gurus have started charging in response. This does not make them fake. Certification of yoga is another nonsense western trait. It is also true that many westerners are IMPATIENT. They want results NOW in this lifetime. SO they do some 20 years with one Guru, don some orange robes and are westernising Indian traditional institutions with rules and bureaucracy.

    The whole system has been jeopardised. If the West gives yoga free, it will remain free in India. Challenge??

  • Fine article. Different people have different reasons for having gurus. This spiritual materialism, USA is the leader.

  • Real guru. ..All those easily available either by paying fees or free ones r not the ones …SHRIMADBHAGWATGEETA:- Lord krishna to arjun on explanation of 4 kind of devotee:- aart atharthi jigyasu n gyani. ..he clearly stated. .hajaro main se koi meri prapti ke liye yatan karta hai aur usme se koi ek muje jan pata hai wo gyani sakshat mera hi swaroop hai wo mujme Main aur main usme istith hoon….arjun asked him how to recognised him he said difficult Becuase he will still be doing his daily job as usual …as per this calculation only 1 or 2 in this whole world r gyani …The one who know the ultimate truth will remain silent simply because it can never be explain in words. ..my personal experience of last 10 year visiting all the holy places n asking question to so many baba sadhu masters…they endup telling u Wat is written in books to make ur life better understanding karma n it’s consequences. ..but no one knows the ultimate truth. ..tht can be achieved only by urself …u r the soul not the body. ..UNDERSTAND this n decode this from RAMAYAN ram ji told laxman MAIN MERA AUR TU TERA….yahi Maya hai…just keep trying keep reading books ved n purana upnishad. …aur aapki life automatically change ho jayegi. .again one more quote from GEETA
    Lord himself said. ..main hi tere hardaye main isthith tera aatma hoon mere se smriti gyan aur uphoan hota hai…….stop running outside look inside u r the creator u r the destroyer ..AHAM BRAHMASMI. …

  • Karna- I appreciate your above comments about how to identify a true Guru. You have said it in a short but crisp manner. Thanks for the same.