9 Ways to Spot a Fake Guru or Spiritual Teacher

fake guru

By Paul Lenda

Guest writer for Wake Up World

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.

About the author:

Paul Lenda is a conscious evolution guide, writer, speaker, workshop facilitator, life coach and celebrator of life wishing to provide an integral role in the personal and collective social transformation of humanity. Paul has degrees in business and psychology, over a decade of extensive spiritual practice, a drive for esoteric knowledge and a desire to see and understand the wider horizon of Reality. Paul has spoken at various shows, events and locations and his articles have been published in magazines and journals around the world. Paul’s words will stir up a spirit of action and change, make you question the way you think, and challenge your perception of reality.

From adolescence onward, Paul became an active seeker of everything that was never taught by the established educational systems. By doing so, and by filtering our “the noise”, Paul was able to develop an extensive knowledge base to which he also applied diligent personal practice, verifying what resonated as functional and effective in the evolution and elevation of consciousness. By focusing on maintaining balance in all aspects of his life, Paul offers an approach to conscious evolution that ensures there is harmony in your quest for healing and growth.

Paul also offers private sessions, usually via Skype, for those looking to consciously evolve from where they are to where they envision themselves to be.

You can connect with Paul via:

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  • Zack

    Can I suggest a #10?
    I have noticed that a lot of fake gurus externalize spiritual struggles by focusing on some enemy that must be conquered. Spiritual development always includes an acknowledgement of a constant internal struggle with our baser instincts, a struggle sometimes illustrated by the creation of mythical enemies. However, I have noticed a lot of so called gurus focusing heavily on enemies, saying “we are the good, they are the bad” to create a sense of specialness and superiority – so long as you are following the guru.

    • Yeah, my journey has been all about finding balance. What I’ve uncovered is that once I shifted my ideas away from the materialist culture, I began to gravitate towards negative paranoid knowledge.

      Our enemies are merely obstacles, and sometimes obstacles arise at the backdoor. But we need to focus on staying positive within our internal landscape!

  • Benjy

    6/9 i hope 🙂 when i’m at my best of days 😀
    I would fail on the following
    point 1 : charging redicelous amounts of money .
    However i am working on a free donation basis @ the moment i would like to evolve out of this at one point; I think 300 bucks for a 12 dimensional DNA strand activation ( for a whole weekend with food and board included) not redicoulisly much .:)
    Point : 5 behaving hypocritical ,
    depends on your defination of love and peace and light . I notice that people snap of of spiritual teachings because they find a fload in what they percievie as love/light. For example : I drive a car and eat meat , For some people this would be totally hypocritical and in paradox with the teachings … Or the tibetan monks after a 16 hours of spiritual cleansing , opening up a bottle of coca cola and drinking it in one go …
    Point 9 : no quick path to self realisation .
    It is possible to reach a point of self realization with 1 meditation .
    This idea that you have to struggle all your life to obtain enlightenment is bollocks .
    Enlightenment imho is nothing more than reaching a solution to a problem .
    And the self realisation of who you REALLY are love/light is not as hard as one might presume …
    To maintain this awareness , is another matter and imo also beside the point of being a human being .

    • Lorna

      One does not have to meditate in order to have an awakening experience.

      I agree enlightenment is bring light to ones own thinking.

  • Name Gary

    What you have to say certainly is food for thought. My question is —- who are you trying to look like in your little red ridding hood outfit. A total turn off. As such I could go through your data line by line, but why waste the time. Sorry, your presentation (picture of your self) is laughable.

    • The picture is from the film Kumare, a documentary about an Indian man who sets out to be a fake guru and discovers some fascinating things about the psychology of human beings. I recommend you watch it. http://kumaremovie.com/

  • dimitri

    High on my list of massive phonies are the TM Meditation folks with their “yogic flying” and thousand dollar plus fee to receive your special mantra.

  • Thanks for this. I mainly work with acutely sensitive people and many of those are ones who have suffered due to this kind of subtle (and sometimes not) assault/abuse. If anyone does need support or guidance please feel free to refer to my website. Safe Practices in alternative therapies is my priority. Blessings and thanks again. Odette

  • Roage

    I concur on all points but one. There are conscious raising events that can occcur rather quickly but those cannot be promised but it does occur when permitted.

  • Jim Yost

    Great article, you really hit the nail on the head. Most of the so-called ‘gurus’ on the internet don’t have a comments section following their rants because they can’t risk being scrutinized.

    For example, one time I wrote to Bro. Neanderthal (Bro Nathaniel) and told him that according to the Apostle Paul Christians aren’t supposed to have an appearance that is different from the anyone else. He wrote me a vehement reply (certainly void of any Christian love) and didn’t post my comment.

  • Jim Yost

    Another time I posted a comment on Ryan Dawson’s site dissing him for parroting the media narrative on the Sandy Hook false flag incident; he deleted my comment and then wrote me a scathing reply and blocked me from posting any more comments.

  • Wise

    Add Ashayana Deane aka Anna Hayes Gruber, aka Diane Tigue. She may have change her name yet again.

  • hp

    Reporter: How can a person tell he has a genuine guru?

    Srila Prabhupada: Can any of my students answer this question?

    A disciple: Once I remember John Lennon asked you, “How will I know who is the genuine guru?” And you answered, “Just find out the one who is most addicted to Krishna. He is genuine.”

    Srila Prabhupada: Yes. The genuine guru is God’s representative, and he speaks about God and nothing else. The genuine guru is he who has no interest in materialistic life. He is after God, and God only. That is one of the tests of a genuine guru: brahma-nishtham. He is absorbed in the Absolute Truth

  • abinico warez

    Ha, ha, ha – the description sounds just like Obama.

  • Ivan Sanchez

    A fake guru or teacher in in spiritual things is anyone that denies the the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    I used to be into this false spiritualism, Robert Monroe’s books and astral projection but now I believe this is demonic deception. I believed the Bible was deception and it was just another solar religion. Then one night I said a prayer: Jesus if you are real and really created everything of course I’d serve you, just show me something.
    A month later while driving my jeep after mocking and scoffing my wifes church it was as if my spiritual eyes were opened I knew I was on the wrong side of things as if god was sitting in the passenger seat. I stopped the car got out and knelt and prayed for forgiveness and was hit with the most intense feeling of power and love, it engulfed me so that you could mentally, physically and spiritual feel it. I wept and wept. To think that I walked and talked against the one that created me and he still had this insane amount of love for me, it’s beautiful.

    • Michael

      I strongly disagree that if you dont acknowledge Jesus that you are a false teacher. Everyone has a different path and that is cool. Personally I prefer spiritualism to Christianity and not everyone has to see things the way that you do. It is not deception.

  • Adam Evenson

    Never mind comment #4, Paul, as dimitri failed to “get” the meaning of your robe stunt. What you did there (the stunt) is quite high class and astute. Your article is consistent with, and says the same thing, especially with the obvious look on your face, as your article. All is 100% consistent. Thus, how could anything here be amiss? As smart as you evidently are, surely you knew, going in, that maybe only about ten percent (if that much) of the human population on earth, would get the drift of it, because of the 90+/-%, that are exactly like dimitri #4. Ha, ha, ha. I’m sorry, it’s just the truth and I love that stuff. I wallow in it constantly. It makes me smile and laugh just about all the time. I would gladly die for it (The Truth, not necessarily the wallowing, but, that too, really, come to think about it. Ha, ha, ha. Every thing about Truth is great.)

    At any rate, I liked your article and can see you have been somewhat disillusioned on The Path while seeking a real person of some kind, somewhere, which is not phony baloney. Join this small crowd of which I am a part (but maybe it has been only one, moi, and not really a crowd, after all:). I have no business condemning and it hurts me even to get close enough to it to wrest some usable goodness out of it, as here, however, I’m sacrificing a tiny amount of my political purity just one more time for this auspicious occasion and condemning the hell out of just about everybody I’ve run into in this life. Ha, ha, ha. (I had to write that; the devil literally made me do it. He’s sitting beside me as I write:).

    Humankind is just too damned self-centered for all the wrong reasons. Just because God and Nature made human beings to be gods of this planet (it only, I might add) and all its dominions, said humans develop a god-ego complex that is simply a false one. Only One Being holds the authority to pin a spiritually justified ego on its own chest or brandish an ego, as a Standard on a stick, and that would be, yes, none but God Almighty, because God’s Ego is God’s Ego. Thus, when humankind exercises such ego, especially those that hold themselves apart from ordinary humankind as though, but not actually, spiritually advanced beings, it carries with it all the seeds of it’s own undoing. It’s not that spiritual lying is simply “not permissible” due to ‘special’ codes of conduct that ought to be adhered to, although this it is, for sure, but it’s impossible to do it consistently and get forever away with it because it always comes undone even when it is neatly tied up in a nice bundle of deceptive ‘gift wrappings.’

    In my own situation, nobody is really phony when we’re face-to-face, as, from the highest that I’ve met, to the lowest, all flesh is stripped bare when I view it close enough to touch with my ‘magic wand,’ which “wand” is little more than good sense and good judgment, and I see everybody nude. Nobody lies to me about what they really, really are, up really, really close, as the very nature of flesh forbids it. I suppose it’s mainly because I don’t allow otherwise, but much of this “defaulting to honesty” when my best judgment gets very close to people, (all of which honesty is implanted by God Almighty in Creation) is probably a true, very deep desire to be honest with oneself AND me. So you see, I have at least an eensy-weensy smidgeon of faith in humankind in general. But I’m exactly as you, Paul, are (I’ve always liked that name), in the Disillusionment category. Humankind has disillusioned me all the way from top to bottom and inside and out, from the woman that gave birth to me (the poor, unfortunate thing, not because of me, but for her genetic forebears), to just about all the spiritual authorities’ of this world. I sit here amidst more spiritual abundance than I can possibly imagine, and can’t give a tiny speck away for the phoniness (unjustified ego) in humankind just because humans are created gods of this earth. Humans being forcing their way on lesser beings (animals in this case), justifies only a false ego attribution that gets the creature in hot water only continually. Thus, as punishment for withholding all the graces that humankind withholds from the ‘lesser’ animals (they are not lesser, by the way), humankind is cursed to be the way it is, which is a way that neither of us, (you or I), find entertaining.

    But again, I liked your article and think you are well on your way now (after suffering all the disillusionment.) Just keep being high class about it; it’s about the only requirement at this stage of your apparent development short of The Big Flash. When The Big Flash comes, and for you, it looks as if it could, well, you are not only a human being any longer.

    • Michael Snake

      I would like to speak with you Adam, I have a funny feeling I’ve met you before.

  • Adam Evenson

    Ooops, I was referring, not to Dmitri #4’s comment above, but to Name Gary’s, #3. Sorry, Dmitri, but, thankfully, you’ll survive and so will I.:)

  • Lorna

    Self realization can happen in stages then again it can happen in a blink of an eye.

    I came into a world and recognized the dysfunction of the world I was born into. I could see the hypnotic state of the individuals in my life. I could see how easily one is manipulated into believing a system even if that system is corrupting their well-being. The world we live in today is a reflection of this corruption. My greatest wish is to live in a world that reflects our true nature.

    My suggestion for any one that is seeking the meaning of life that have a yearning to improve their conditions is to listen to their own body wisdom. All that you need to full-full yourself with love is with in. I suggest being mindful and able to recognize those spiritual teachers that are still held with in their own conditioned mind.

    Most of humility is living with in their intellect and living from an idea of what love is. It is a side effect of living from the conditioned mind.

    It is the mental aspect of human nature to categorize and hypothesis when living with in the programmed mind. The ultimate goal is to live from consciousness and knowing your intellect is a tool for you to experience in physical form. Know that there are still many spiritual teachers that do not know this distinction.

    To understand what the ego is and also to understand how the self as an expressed individual is a stepping stone for self realization. The alter ego was created when the All That Is judged onto itself once descended into physical form. The ego, the identity, is a necessary component of being in physical form.

    I have seen that many spiritual teacher have undermined the ego which is quite hilarious for with out the identity the all that is (God) would not have the opportunity to experience all the wonderful sensations that comes from manifesting into physical form. Expressing in physical form is the purpose of life.

    Separation of spirit and manifested form was a side effect when the individual seeing from the individual mind judged onto itself. When a spiritual teacher is blaming the ego for the imbalances of humanity this is an indication that they have not, transcended their own programming, and are not yet fully realized. They have yet to see that they are caught in the loop of their own conditioning.

    Having a near death experience can open the doors to full self realization, depending on how attached that individual is to their own intellect. The death experience is influenced by your beliefs about yourself and weather prior to the death experience have transcended the intellectual mind.

    Belief in the world of form the way it is is a clear indication that the spiritual teacher does not see the illusion of not being fully realized.

    When you are in the realization that to harm that which you are interacting with is harming yourself then the choices you make in life will change automatically.

    Understanding and experiencing that, “you are everything and you are no-thing” is full self realization. Infinite awareness is a difficult concept for the intellectual mind to grasp until it has had the direct experience of it. You are so much more than light and love.

    Know the world of form will transform beyond our wildest imagination when we are operating from the truth of who and what we are, when full transcendence has occurred.

  • Adam Evenson

    Lorna, I can’t say you’re right or wrong, but I experienced Awakening in August 1968, and it hasn’t left me. I capitalize to differentiate from the generic kind, as there is a BIG, BIG difference betwixt the two. According to my first hand, first person experience, Meditation (same capitalization reason here) and Awakening are one and same. After one finds one’s way there, one does not need to speculate about the situation any longer because one KNOWS THAT ONE KNOWS, which is a cut above and beyond mere knowing.

  • rick

    There’s a guy in Winnipeg with the last name of King who fits this description to a tee. He helped ruin my marriage because my wife “trust ( s) him implicitly”. I knew I was doomed a that point.

    • eevie

      Damn, Rick ….i am so sorry. That should never happen.

    • White-Horse Orca-Spirit

      good to know.. im new to winnipeg… 😛 ill be on the look out. And also, sorry to hear that. 🙁

  • christianity

    Sounds like christianity

  • eevie

    This has become a real problem. Thank you for addressing it so well, giving form to my thoughts and knowing. What i have tried to share with others…..it has cost me friends. But, truth is truth and that is where i stand. 🙂 Thanks.

    btw i love the pic instead of trying to read a code!! =)

  • Michael

    J. Krishnamurti is a worthwhile resource for contemplating spiritual authority.

  • Tracy

    I think I understand and would like real meditations so to avoid needed stress when looking for spiritual authority I find coffee helps me, they best part of waking up for some

  • Tracy

    nice to be back

  • Paul, please be careful with the idea of a “Master of the Universe”. It is the same problem as with enlightenment – who will arrogate himself to make a decision who a master is, who enlightened is and who not ?

    YOU ? Each person him/herself ? Or shall we found a council and vote ?

    What my experience is:
    We were all born as souls with a calling to support humanity. All education, even any single personal contact can traumatize or finally even destroy the soul-connection in a child as well as in any other older person to follow this calling. Usually problems start while parents have no idea how creation works and that ALL CHILDREN ARE SENT AS OUR TEACHERS(OR MASTERS) to bring new knowledge and energy into our creative reality I call this process of damaging a new born soul “educational downsizing” usually for economy and money and yes, i agree, teachers by calling don’t ask much money because they are for working for love and not like prostitutes.
    My experience with gurus: I like the buddhist approach.

    Love and Light

  • Bobby Boris

    If you are looking for a serious way to become ‘enlightened’, without all this fussiness mentioned above, you should probably consider to check out Vipassana Meditation.
    There are no dogmas involved, it’s a technique which is certainly just about self discovery, and….
    it’s simply just a wonderful technique! It actually was the first proper step of ‘enlightenment’ I was experiencing. Before I woke up – also I was trying things, read a lot esoteric methods and (tried to) practiced them, but none of them was so effectively (because I haven’t had the patience to practice them properly) as the Vipassana technique.

    It is completely based on donations – the centers even prefer donations of being involved as a server, to help others to get the same chance – instead of donating money.

    It’s a strict process, a ten days course, food and facilities are provided and centers are located all over the world. You need to register, tho. And the ‘enlightenment-searcher’s’ demand is obviously rising, so it’s quite hard in some areas to get a spot 😉 I recommend to travel a bit (South-East-Asia or Australia and New Zealand not soo busy as Europe).

    Be Happy! 🙂

  • sheila

    Hi …yes something like Vipassana is very good, and has great moral integrity …although there are also many types of Vipassana …not just Goenkajis …When you do this kind of retreat, it is hard to justify a lot of the so called teachers out there who charge a lot of money. Greed is one of the factors which causes suffering, so a teacher who shows this aspect cannot be enlightened.
    Another factor is anger or hatred. I once went to a teacher in Germany …who claimed he was enlightened….. I would love to name and shame him , but will rise above that urge….who became so angry with
    me publicly when I refused to prepare some massage tables after he had shown a disgusting video about a so called spiritual orgy….such a display of anger clearly to me showed he was definitely not enlightened and I promptly left and went to the nearest Vipassana centre and had a wonderful 10 days giving service in a very genuine set up……At the time of staying with the fake teacher I had lost my credit card …even though I had every intention of paying him and did as soon as I could, I was hounded for the money as soon as I left ….I had a lucky escape and am confident that the false ones are easy to recognise …once you have seen thos3 such as the Vipassana centres, any Theravadan buddhist monastery in Thailand or Burma which offer free meditation from the heart, then such people as the aforementioned really pale into insignificance …..I wish wisdom and discernment for all in this area.

  • sheila

    reply to Benjy …if enlightenment were simply a solution to a problem thennearly everyone would be enlightened!

    I prefer to go by the Buddha’s definition …freedom from craving …ie no desire for any sense experience, no desire to become anything and no desire for extinction …..
    Also when you come across authentic practioners who
    use this as their reference point then they simply aren’t interested in any monetary gain for themselves…..they are free from all greed, hatred and delusion …Very rare but most inspiring ….. and then hard to settle for anything less.

  • Khurki Wale

    Jus another effort in reading on why do we need a GURU: a spiritual guide: http://khurki.net/why-do-we-need-a-guru-in-our-life-he-is-infinite-and-tangible/

  • Hi Paul, my wife wrote a similar piece here. I’ll link to it below if you are interested. When I studied kundalini yoga I was introduced to the concept that the Sanskrit guru does not really mean what we think it does. Essentially “guru’ describes the learning space that exists between two individuals. We meet in the heart and learn from each other, and being heart-focussed, we avoid the traps of ego. https://wakeup-world.com/2015/05/15/discernment-navigating-the-spiritual-minefield/

  • Abraxas

    I have noticed what seems to be a sudden proliferation of gurus and teachers although many use the terms ‘light-workers’, and ‘energy healers’. I think most of them are sincere and offer value for their work. But with so MANY teachers popping up it can be difficult to filter out the fakes. Good article!

  • Louise Smith

    hmmm..a lot of these are perfectly normal and avatars fulfil all these whilst also being incredible gifts from the divine.

  • Eduardo


  • Ryan Daniel Collins

    I do agree with this post , that being said we are all still human and have emotions, there still will be emotions and slip ups from even the true people from time to time. The wrong ambience can make a person lose sight temporally, as well as just being human.

  • Poopdeck

    One way to identify them is their use of spiritual accessories. A necklace here, a dancing shiva statue there, etc.

  • BW

    A true teacher requires minimum to nothing in order to share their gifts.Truly spiritual people know money means nothing and ultimately no matter what the religion u can’t take it with you when your gone . It ultimately boils down to people just taking advantage of others hope-that to me is the worst possible thing a person can do!

  • Pat Wiggins

    Great article and you are spot on!!!

  • Dana Corby

    I’ll give you something even better. Over 40 years ago a young writer named PEI Bonewits, in his book “Real Magic,” devised a tool for evaluating ‘spiritual’ groups and teachers. He called it a Cult Danger Evaluation Frame.’ Over the years he tweaked it and renamed it the “Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame ” — or ABCDEF. I’m on my tablet so I can’t provide a link but if you google it you’ll want to download it. And you’ll never be taken in again.

  • Dalien

    I have to retort about #7… it sounds to me like the author is directly criticizing those who teach the Law of Attraction but I don’t really see a problem with this teaching per se. Sure, its application may result in pure “spiritual materialism” (as defined here) by some of its practitioners… but by attempting to impose our own outside, “less materialistic/more ‘spiritual'” belief system onto others we do them a disservice. Everyone operates out of their current state of awareness… if someone has not progressed too far down the spiritual path, then they will be concerned with more material things – even making a lot of money, perhaps. This actually IS their spiritual path and the Universe/LoA/whatever you want to call it, empowers them to get exactly what they want to create – even if that is a very materialistic and so-called “shallow” experience.

    I’ve learned recently that this is how we help others progress down the spiritual path: by empowering them to create whatever they want. This is what the Universe does, but human beings love to cast judgment and pretend that our own moral code is the superior one… let’s not look down on others for wanting lots of material wealth. Only after they’ve fulfilled those material desires will they naturally turn to more esoteric matters, not before – indeed, if we try to get them to see things in our more enlightened way, we’re more likely to make them determined to pursue their own path… and that is as it should be.

    • Tim Chiswell

      The ‘law of atteaction’, as applied to gaining material wealth, is bunkum. Just the same old same old – medieval monks were charging money for blessings and prayers to attract wealth 700 years ago, and charlatan priests from the Greaco-Roman, Egyptian and Vedic traditions were selling ‘spells’ and formulae for wealth 3000 years back and more.
      I take your point that everyone’s path is different, and maybe plunging ven deeper into society’s obsession with ‘owning stuff’ is what some people need (hell, the samurai sought, and sometimes found, enlightenment by chopping people’s heads off), but you risk falling into the quagmire of absolute moral relativism if you try to pretend that money-heads trying to get ever richer by re-packaging spiritual ideas and selling them on to other money-heads is anything other than an addictive process, pure and simple.
      Sure, some people even find their spiritual path through addictions (i’ve known a few crack-heads and junkies in 12 step programs who did), but that’s via recovery – the process of one addict feeding their adfiction by getting others hooked on the drugs they sell is never a ‘spiritual process’ (except in the broadest possible sense that everything is, and even the most despicable acts serve a higher purpose), and that’s all that ‘harness the law of attraction to acheive your wealth goals’ classes/groups are – they’re a dealer getting rich selling drugs to the gullible.
      It’s not a question of trying to impose my own beliefs on another’s path (hey, if the ‘law of attraction’ is your thing then knock yourself out kiddo), its just a simple observation that ceryain things tend to block people’s paths rather than progress them… and it’s not ‘my’ belief, in the sense that it’s in no way original – the Buddha, Lao Tsu, Jesus Christ, and many others comprehensively expressed this point millenia ago. JC summed it up as well as anyone – you simply CAN’T get into an enlightened state while wrighed down with material goods and desires… in his words it would be easier to get a camel through a needle’s eye (or a very tiny gate, impossible to negotiate carrying baggage, depending on how you interpret the text). I suspect that today he would not be overturning money lenders tables in the temple, but rather wrecking the merchandising stand at a Deepak Chopra or Brandon Bays seminar.
      I agree with you though that lecturing and criticising people about this is entirely counter-productive. Lead by example, always. In the short term, brash marketing may win out over the small quiet inner voice, but the path is a marathon, not a sprint.

  • simon wareing

    become aware; enlightenment is inevitable, constantly.

  • Jo meyer

    I call this “Transcendence in a Can.” If it were not so sad to see how much more harm than good some of this can do, it would be quite comical to watch

  • Cheryl Viuhkola-Pelletier

    #10. His last name is Duggar

  • kris

    “A disciple is an asshole looking for a human being to attach itself to.” -Robert Anton Wilson

  • Eric Hisler

    Very nice list. Also gurus who pretend they are in some kind of “trance” or “peaceful” bliss state when they talk versus just being themselves. Or talking in high “peaceful” tones, as if that’s how you become when you become enlightened or a guru…Lol. Also gurus who are excessively overpositive to the point of not looking at reality.