Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains how to search in the proper manner.
Question: Mahārāj, being a neophyte devotee, I was wondering what questions must be answered in one’s mind or heart to know who your Guru is?
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: First is śravaṇ-daśā: you are to attend the lectures and hear the advices and instructions of so many probable gurus, and after that is finished, you can come to a conclusion by the suggestion of your inner spiritual conscience: in whom do you find the instructions and impressions which can satisfy the innermost demand of your heart? Then, you are to select there. You are to decide that such deep, such spacious, such sweet, instructive waves are coming from a particular place and that that will be wholesome for you. In general, you are to seek in the śāstra left by the mahājans what should be the qualification of a guru and what should be the qualification of a disciple. With the proper mood and guided by the śāstra, you will approach the Guru whose position is unquestionable.
You are to consult the śāstra, which contains the opinions of unquestionable spiritual masters, spiritual persons, to consult yourself, and then to approach the persons from which some average spiritual life may come. You are to approach them personally, one by one, all the possible instructors, and then you are to decide on whom your inner approval and accepting tendency selects to be your eternal guide, who can appeal most to the deepest sentiments of your heart and satisfy the deepest earnestness of your heart. Then, you are to accept your guide.
Suppose you want to visit a place such as Africa. There are so many guides, and you are to make acquaintance with them and then decide who will be the most safe guide to take you and show you that place.
I am suggesting some necessary advice for you from my own experience, but ultimately you will be the judge in the selection of your guide. In consultation with the śāstra and the sādhu, and then with your personal approach, you are to select whose association touches you deepest. You are to decide finally. The selection must come from you and in this way. That will be safe.
Question: Mahārāj, is it possible to spend too much time looking for a Guru?
Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: As long as you are not satisfied, as you do not feel maximum satisfaction, you should not surrender anywhere and everywhere. You should take some time. At the same time, you must be earnest, and you must try as soon as it is possible because human life is not a permanent thing; it is vulnerable, and at any time we may lose it.
You must be earnest but at the same time you must tackle all possible sources and satisfy yourself. You must come in direct touch with them, personally, or even through their writings. In any way, you are to examine them to have a taste of their instructions, and then you are to select that which suits you best, which you can trust best, and feel, “I must throw myself here, whatever my future fate is.”
With this idea, you are to throw yourself down at the feet of such a great mahājan. But before throwing yourself finally, surrendering yourself finally, you will try your best to be sure. The most undesirable disaster is to leave one’s Guru; it is the greatest curse in one’s life if one has to be separated from his selected Guru, so we shall try our best that we may not have to meet such disaster. Always you will pray to the Lord, to the transcendental, “Please help me to select my guide, please send me my guide.” That will be your prayerful mood to the upper, all-omniscient Almighty: “Please send me my guide, please show me my guide.”
Of course, it is not possible for the disciple to know the Guru, but with this sort of prayerful mood you will examine as much as possible. We also did such; I wandered and wandered here and there and tried to test as much as possible within my jurisdiction, but I was dissatisfied. Then finally, when I was satisfied fully, I threw myself there. For more than five or six years, I ran hither and thither to different directions searching after a Guru. At last after six years, in the seventh year I came to accept my Guru.
More or less, you are all attracted by Swāmī Mahārāj, so your general line will be to try with his appointed Āchāryas. But I don’t say that you will finalise with them there; if anything comes to you from any other quarter beyond that, then you will try that also.
Their instructions, advices, and their discourses or any of their books—by somehow or other coming in connection with them, you are to select where you find the thread of future union: the same taste, same liking, same aspiration, the same chord that can bring harmony with the chord that is within your heart.
As fast as possible it is necessary, but at the same time it must be considerate, not injudicious or insincere. Sincere, judicious searching with earnestness; this is what you are to do. Just as with marriage according to Hindu law: once married, no separation is possible. Selected for life; no divorce system here.
Spoken 2 January 1982.