what is a guru


Having a teacher to guide us in any field is invaluable. This is true in Spirituality as well. As Spirituality is subtle or intangible in nature, it is difficult to identify with certainty who is a spiritually evolved guide or Guru. A Guru is very different to a teacher or a preacher. He is a beacon of spiritual light in our world, and teaches us the universal spiritual principles that underlie all religions and cultures. This article expands on His characteristics and salient features.

1. Introduction

What if children were told to educate themselves in modern sciences without any teacher or any access to prior knowledge gained over centuries? What if we had to reinvent the wheel in every walk of life, without having access to knowledge that was already available from authorities in the field? If this were the case, we would spend a lifetime trying to educate ourselves without making much headway or perhaps even going down a wrong path.

Universal mind and intellect: Just as God’s creation such as humans, animals etc. have a mind and intellect, so does God’s entire creations, the Universe has a Universal Mind and Intellect which contains absolutely genuine information of all things in the Universe. It can be thought of as God’s Mind and Intellect. As one progresses spiritually one’s subtle mind and intellect merge with the Universal Mind and Intellect and thus that is how one is able to access information about the whole of God’s creation.

In the same way, a guide is very much required in our spiritual journey too. It stands to reason that a guide in any field needs to be an authority in that particular field. According to Spiritual science a person who is an authority in the field of Spirituality is known as a Guru.

There is a saying that in the kingdom of the blind the seeing man is a king. With a highly activated sixth sense, the Guru is the totally ‘seeing’ person in the kingdom of the spiritually blind and ignorant. He is someone who has already walked the spiritual road under the guidance of his Spiritual Guide, and has access to the Universal Mind and Intellect. In this article, we will explain who can be considered a Spiritual Guide or a Guru and His characteristics.


2. Definition of a Guru or an evolved spiritual guide

There are various aspects to the Supreme God Principle. These various aspects of God perform specific functions in the Universe. This is pretty much akin to the government of any country which has various departments to facilitate the smooth governing and functioning of the country as a whole.

Just as we have a department for education in a government, which facilitates teaching of modern sciences throughout the country, the aspect of God that looks after spiritual teaching and spiritual growth in the Universe is known as the Guru. This is known as the unseen or unmanifest (nirguṇ) Guru or the Teaching Principle of God. The unmanifest Guru pervades the entire Universe and is with us at all times during our life and even after we die. The salient and highlighting feature is that the unmanifest Guru stands by us throughout our life and slowly lifts us from our worldly life into a spiritual way of life. The Guru guides us according to our spiritual level, i.e. our capacity to imbibe knowledge whether we know it or not, helping us develop skills such as perseverance, dedication, attention to detail, tenacity, compassion etc. through our lives. All these kinds of skills are intrinsic to being a good seeker of God and are vital in sustaining our spiritual journey. For those who are proactively seeking spiritual growth the Guru is more active, guiding them in an unseen form according to what is needed for them. 

Out of the entire population of the world, few take up spiritual practice that is universal and beyond the confines of formal, organised religion. Among these, very few people through their spiritual practice (regardless of their religion of birth) attain a spiritual level of over 70%. The unmanifest Guru then works completely through some of these evolved individuals who are then known as the manifest (saguṇ) Guru or the Guru in the human form. In other words, a person has to be at least of the 70% spiritual level to qualify as a spiritual guide or a Guru. The Guru in human form acts as a beacon of spiritual knowledge for humanity and is in total alignment with the Universal Mind and Intellect of God

2.1 Literal Meaning of Guru

The word ‘Guru’ is derived from the Sanskrit language and has a deep spiritual meaning. Its two syllables Gu and Ru stand for the following:

Gu denotes the spiritual ignorance that most of humankind is in.
Ru represents the radiance of spiritual knowledge that dispels the spiritual ignorance.

In short, the Guru is the One who dispels the darkness of spiritual ignorance in humanity and bestows upon them spiritual experiences and spiritual knowledge.

3. Differences between a teacher/professor and a Guru

The following chart gives the differences between a teacher and a Guru in human form.
finding Guru

4. Differences between a preacher and a Guru

There is a vast difference between a person preaching Spiritual sciences or religious study as compared to a Guru. The following table expands on the differences between them when guiding people.

Most preachers in today’s world are at the 30% spiritual level and as a result they are neither able to understand the true implied meaning of the Scriptures they quote, nor have they experienced first-hand everything that has been written. Thus, the possibility of leading the audience astray is high.

5. What are the differences between a Guru and a Saint?

5.1 What makes a person become a Guru over and above being a Saint?

Every Guru is a Saint but the reverse is not always true. Only some Saints qualify as Gurus.

The following table shows how many Saints and Gurus are there in the world in May 2013.


  1. By a Saint we mean a person who is at or above the 70% spiritual level. A Saint creates an interest among the people in society to undertake spiritual practice and guides them to follow the path of Spirituality.
  2. Gurus take full responsibility of guiding seekers to attain Final Liberation (Moksha) and actually ensure that they do.
  3. Though a person below the 70% spiritual level is not considered a Saint, we have still displayed the total number of seekers in the 60-69% spiritual level category which is 5,000. Individuals in the spiritual level range 60 to 69% (seekers) are on the way to becoming Saint or Guru. It also means that they have the potential to become a Saint or a Guru. If seekers in this spiritual level category were to continue spiritual practice then out of them 70% (i.e., 3,500) would become Saints and 30% (i.e., 1,500) would become Gurus.

5.2 What are the similarities between a Saint and a Guru?

  • Both a Saint and a Guru are over the 70% spiritual level.
  • They both have spiritual love (prīti) for all of humankind, i.e. love without expectation.
  • They both have very little ego. This means that they do not identify themselves with their five senses, mind and intellect but with the soul (ātmā), that is the God within.


5.3 What are the differences in characteristics between a Saint and a Guru?

The following table shows a gross comparison between a Saint and a Guru at the 80% spiritual level.

what is Guru and what is saint

Footnotes (based on the numbers in red in the above table):

  1. By love for others, we mean loving others without any expectation. This is different from worldly love which is always tainted with some sort of expectation. 100% would mean the unconditional, non-partial, all-pervading love of God, extended equally to all of creation right from non-living things, to the tiniest of living beings like ants to the highest of beings i.e. humans.
  2. Service means service unto the Absolute Truth (satsēvā) or Spiritual science, that is the universal principles that underlie all religions and govern the entire universe. 100% here would mean 100% of their time and abilities in all dimensions like physical (bodily), mental, intellectual, financial, social, etc. is spent in serving God.
  3. Sacrifice (tyāg) means how much of their time, body, mind and wealth have they sacrificed to serve God.
  4. Quantity of writing of texts related to explaining or propagating the Absolute Truth.
  5. The nature of the writings of Saints and Gurus are more about spiritual experiences and spiritual guidance respectively.
  6. God functions by His mere existence. He does not need to make any effort, hence His energy is not manifest. The forms of His energy are unmanifest, like Serenity (Shānti), Bliss (Ānand) etc. But Saints and Gurus, because they have a tangible physical body, do use manifest energy to some extent.
  7. [en-I ness]

    As Gurus are more one with the unmanifest form of God, they do not need to use much manifest energy. As the ‘I’ in Saints is higher than that in Gurus, they use more manifest energy than Gurus do. But this is much lower compared to those performing similar functions with the help of supernatural powers. For example, when a person is cured of his illness due to blessings of a Saint, only 20% energy is manifest, whereas the same may be up to 50% in the case of one who is not a Saint but heals with supernatural healing powers. As the manifest energy of God is 0, the manifest energy one expends is a function of oneness of God. Thus the more your manifest energy, the further away you are from God. Signs of manifest energy are bright, glowing eyes, sharp hand movements, etc.

  8. In order to carry out their mission Saints and Gurus alike need manifest energy which is given by God. Saints sometimes solve worldly problems of their devotees which use up comparatively more energy. A Guru focuses His disciple on spiritual growth, which in turn makes the disciple self-sufficient in overcoming problems where the root causes are spiritual in nature. As a result the Guru uses up less spiritual energy.
  9. Both Saints and Gurus have a spiritual level of at least 70%. After crossing the spiritual level of 70%, spiritual progress is faster in Gurus than in other Saints. They attain the level of a Sadguru (80%) and a Parātpar Guru (90%) faster than other Saints attaining the same spiritual levels. This is because they are constantly engrossed in the mission of spiritually uplifting a disciple, while Saints also help their devotees at a more worldly level.

6. What is the importance of the Guru in the human form?

Each one of us seeks guidance from teachers, doctors, lawyers etc. in their respective fields. If a guide is needed even in these comparatively simple fields, then imagine the importance of the Guru, who releases one from the bondage of life and death.

6.1 Importance of the Guru – from the perspective of educating a student

The Guru comes in many forms. He teaches us through situations, books, in human form, etc. The following table is a comparison between these various forms and it shows the importance of the Guru in the human form.

what is gurus importance in the human form


6.2 Importance of the Guru – from a psychological perspective

There are many psychological benefits for a student to have a spiritual guide in the human form.

  • Unlike God and deities who do not display their existence and potential, the Guru displays His form through the human Guru. This way the student of Spirituality has a tangible guide to take care of him on his spiritual journey.
  • The Guru in human form is omniscient just as the unmanifest Guru and is able to perceive everything about his disciple. He knows through His access to the Universal Mind and Intellect whether the student is sincere or not and where he is making mistakes. As a result, the student being aware of this ability of the Guru, often refrains from doing bad deeds.
  • The Guru does not allow the disciple to develop an inferiority complex from the fact that he is lesser than the Guru. He eradicates the inferiority complex in the deserving disciple and grants him the all pervading nature of the Guru.

6.3 Importance of the Guru – from a Spiritual science perspective

The following table shows the importance of a Guru in the human form for the spiritual growth of a seeker/disciple.

Importance of the Guru in the manifest or human form

Footnotes (based on numbers in red in the above table):

  1. At around the 55% spiritual level, a student/disciple develops enough spiritual maturity to benefit from the Guru’s presence in human form. It is akin to receiving a scholarship in Spirituality. At this level of spiritual maturity, the disciple is set to take proper advantage of the Guru’s assistance in guiding him towards experiencing God.
  2. It is relatively more difficult to derive benefit from an idol. The subtle, intangible frequencies that an idol or picture of a Guru emits, can only be useful to a person beyond the 60% spiritual level with an activated sixth sense.
  3. When one follows the guidance of a Guru in human form, the effort required to make spiritual progress is the least as it is channelised most efficiently. In all other cases, the chances of making mistakes are much higher.
  4. To be able to understand the implied meaning of the scriptures is no easy task. Very often Holy Scriptures and books are prone to misinterpretation.
  5. Here ego refers to faith in oneself. If faith in oneself is not high, then one cannot make spiritual progress without taking guidance from someone.
  6. Without a spiritual guide the likelihood of stagnation or even regression in spiritual growth is high.

7. Some salient features of a Guru in the human form

  • A Guru is beyond organised religion and He looks upon all of humankind as the same. He does not discriminate on the basis of culture, nationality or gender. He only seeks the student who intensely desires spiritual growth.
  • A Guru will never ask one to convert from his religion. He will lift the student to comprehend universal spiritual principles that underlie all religions.
  • Whichever spiritual path or religion one follows, they all finally lead to the path of grace of the Guru.


what is gurus grace


A Guru functions with spiritual power at the level of resolve. With this spiritual power given by God, He lifts a deserving student just by His thought that the student should progress. A seeker/student of Spiritual science cannot reach the spiritual level of 70% unless he has the Guru’s grace and is guided by the Guru in the human form. The reason for this is that, in the earlier stages of our spiritual growth, we can progress just by following the basic laws of spiritual practice. However after a certain stage, the spiritual knowledge becomes so fine that one can easily be misguided by ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies, etc.) through their sixth sense. One needs a highly evolved spiritual guide in the human form to accurately negotiate the way for further spiritual progress towards Sainthood.

  • Even after one reaches the level of a Saint one needs to continue one’s spiritual practice to ensure a constant flow of Guru’s grace.
  • He lifts the student to be able to access the soul knowledge within. This is as opposed to some people with sixth sense (ESP) who, as mediums, access knowledge from subtle-bodies (spirits) in the subtle-dimension. When one acts only as a medium, one cannot make spiritual progress.
  • The relationship between Guru and student is pure and the love that the Guru has for the student is without expectations and is unconditional.
  • The Guru is omniscient and is therefore able to take care of the student even when he is not with Him physically.
  • The Guru will always teach with a positive attitude. For example, a Guru may advise one to undertake any one spiritual practice among the following, depending on the student’s spiritual maturity, ‘‘Sing devotional songs, chant The Lord’s Name, perform service to God, etc.’’ He never guides in a negative way such as ‘‘Do not drink alcohol, do not behave this way,’’ etc. The reason for this is that teaching not to do certain things is at the psychological level, and does not serve any purpose from the point of view of making spiritual progress. The Guru focuses on the spiritual practice of the student. Over time this itself will give the student the capacity to discard activities which are detrimental to him.
  • Though the clouds shower rain equally everywhere, the water accumulates only in craters while the erect mountains remain dry. Similarly Gurus and Saints do not discriminate. The bestowal of their grace on all is the same but the ones with pure intention to learn and grow spiritually are like the craters, able to receive and retain the benefit of their grace.
  • The Guru being omniscient intuitively knows what is best for the student to further his spiritual progress. He guides on a one-to-one basis.

8. Finding a Guru – How do we recognise and acquire an evolved spiritual guide?

It is difficult for a student of Spiritual science to judge the ability of a Guru. This would be like the student testing the teacher.

[en-Subtle world]

To test someone, one has to be of a higher calibre than that person. The student cannot be that person to test the Guru. More importantly, the ability of the Guru is in the subtle or spiritual dimension, i.e. beyond the understanding of the five senses, mind and intellect. It can be gauged only through a highly activated sixth sense.

This leaves the average person in a quandary of whom to follow.

The Spiritual Science Research Foundation (SSRF) recommends that one should not go searching for a Guru. In almost all cases, one will not have the spiritual maturity to be able to discern as to who to choose as a spiritual guide.


[en-Sattvik intellect]

To grow one’s capacity to discern, one needs to do regular spiritual practice according to the six basic principles of spiritual practice. This will ensure spiritual growth and development of a sāttvik intellect. The all-pervading unmanifest Guru or the Teaching Principle of God keeps a constant watch on all of us. When one achieves a spiritual level of around 55%, a Guru in the human form comes into one’s life. (The mode spiritual level of present day people is 20%). At the spiritual level of 55%, a student of Spiritual sciences has the spiritual maturity to have a sense for whether the Guru is genuine with their sattvik intellect itself.


8.1 The fake or unauthorised Guru

80% of the Gurus in society today are fake or without spiritual authority. That means they are at a spiritual level much below 70% and do not have access to the Universal Mind and Intellect. In some cases, these people may have a high ability to attract thousands of people by some specific spiritual power they have obtained.

For example, a person at 50% spiritual level may be able to cure disease from an early age through spiritual power obtained from spiritual practice undertaken in a previous birth. Most of humankind in today’s era being between the 20-25% spiritual level are unequipped to discern whether the person is a Saint or not. However they generally end up following the person who can heal them or perform miracles.

For the benefit of an average person, we have listed some points that a true Guru is not. These are a few points that will help you in finding out fake Guru’s that can be understood by the intellect and tested. These are some cases where these fake Gurus have exposed themselves by their actions.

1. The Gurus who generate a feeling of inferiority in others and try to show off their greatness:

One Saint asks everyone who comes to pay obeisance to him their name and age. Once that is told he says, “Both the answers are wrong. The name and age belong to the body. You are the soul. It has neither a name nor age”. Then he speaks on Spirituality and asks, “Are you doing spiritual practice?” If someone happens to reply in the affirmative, he asks “What spiritual practice?” If one replies, “The one recommended by my Guru”, he says “You were not able to answer simple questions about your name and age. Then what has your Guru taught you? Only a real Guru can reply to these questions. Come to me. I will tell you.”

One should tell such fake Gurus, “Actually your questions were meaningless! You asked me my name and age only because of your awareness of the body (dehabuddhi), so I too replied with awareness of the body”.

What kind of Guru is he who is unable to make out at the first glance whether one has a Guru, or if one’s spiritual practice is going on appropriately or not?

2. Those who have an attachment to wealth and women

3. Putting on false airs

One Guru does not use a watch because he does not want to be bound by the restrictions of time and a watch strap. Yet after every fifteen to twenty minutes he asks others, “What is the time?”

4. Desirous of fame

Some people who have an earnest desire to be known as Gurus and are spiritually evolved to some extent, recommend different kinds of spiritual practice to others. In most cases, they do not walk their talk themselves. As a result, it has been observed that the seekers undertaking the advised spiritual practice progress but the so called Guru remains stagnant.

5. Encourage dependency in their students

Some Gurus fear that if they impart all spiritual knowledge to their disciples, they will have no importance thereafter. Hence they do not impart all knowledge to them.

9. In summary

The following are the key take away points from this article.

  • A Guru is a spiritual guide beyond the 70% spiritual level.
  • Do not go searching for a Guru, as in all likelihood you will not be able to discern for sure if the person one is looking up to is a Guru.
  • Instead do spiritual practice and ensure that it is aligned with the six basic laws of spiritual practice. This will help one grow to a point wherein one has the spiritual maturity to not be fooled by a fake Guru.
  • One cannot reach Sainthood, i.e. a spiritual level of 70%, without the grace of the Guru.