Criterion to judge a Genuine Master
Do not judge a Master by his external appearance, genealogical descent, rich or poor attire, country of origin, how he talks, eats, or the position he holds, the number of books that he is the author of, or by what people say about him. First receive the inner experience he promises and then judge from that elevated angle of vision. Self-experience is the criterion for judging a genuine Master. Any living person who sees things from a spiritual level - man and his embarrassments, difficulties and helplessness—and who has studied the problems confronting humanity can provide their solutions, and is also able to correct and guide man visibly and invisibly, morally and spiritually, in theory as well as in practice. Only such a person is fit to take the responsible position of a Master. Blessed are those who experience a stirring emotion of happiness and longing in their hearts, on hearing the news that such a Master exists and is near.
Spirituality is a science simpler and easier than other sciences. Man has not to exert except in moulding himself ethically and morally to the climax of love, sincerity and humility, which will produce the necessary state of receptivity in him. Everything else is in the hands of the Master. Again, a movement, no matter how spiritual it may appear to be on the surface, should not be judged by the number of followers that it has. A good speaker can attract crowds anywhere, yet there may not be anything material or convincing in his speech.
Spirituality is not the exclusive possession of any family or place, but it is like a scented flower that grows wherever Nature has ordained, around which the bees gather from far and wide to sip its nectar. Masters do not rush after glory of self, although they certainly deserve such glory. Even in ordinary talks, they will be heard to say, "Oh, it is all the grace of my Master. It is none of my doing. My Master deserves all the praise and credit." This humility places them far above the low level of egoism found in this world.
Masters have come in all ages to offer this Natural Science to man. Only those who are discontented with this world rush to them. Others to whom worldly attractions, pleasures and luxuries are dear, turn their backs. Those in whose hearts all noble sentiments are dead, not only put all possible obstacles in the way of the Saints, but also subject them to various kinds of tortures, as a study of the lives of Jesus, Guru Nanak, Kabir and others will show. Masters have come in the past, are existing today, and will continue to come in the future for the spiritual benefit of rnan. To suppose and accept that Spirituality has become the sole prerogative of any religion after the passing of the Master, on whose teachings it is based, and that sacred books are the only guide, shows the thoughtlessness of man.
How can we distinguish between a genuine and a false Master? There is in fact no such testing stone or magical formula except that of self-experience, for discriminating right from wrong, truth from falsehood, and reality from unreality. Even in the time of Emperor Janak (the father of Sita of the Ramayana), who was prepared to pay a big fee for the theoretical knowledge of this Science, only one, Yagyavalkya, out of all the Rishis, Yogis and Munis in India, was able to do so and won the prize. Yagyavalkya, however, had the moral courage to admit, "Gargi, I know the theory only but have no personal experience of it." On a second occasion, Emperor Janak proclaimed that he wanted a practical experience of this Science on a certain date, and that in a very short time too, not exceeding the time taken to straddle a horse and put each foot in its stirrup. Great Yogis and Rishis throughout the length and breadth of India were invited, but at the appointed time only one person stepped forward to accept the challenge. This was a hunchback named Ashtavakra, who had eight humps in his body. The audience, taking him for a maniac, laughed aloud at his appearance. Ashtavakra said, "How can you expect to get a spiritual experience from these cobblers you have collected, who have eyes only for the skin of the body but cannot see within?" The experience was duly given to the Emperor within the allotted time. The point to consider is that at the time when Spirituality was thriving, only one person came forward to accept the challenge. In these times then, when materialism is on the increase, we do not find competent Masters growing like mushrooms.
So search we must, not allowing false propaganda, the testimony of others, blind faith, the promise of future happiness, and our regard for position, wealth and pleasure, to lead us astray. When such personalities come, they are competent to give life to millions of people who go to them. They are the children of Light, and give Light to all humanity.
Blind faith is one of the main obstacles to overcome. What we simply listen to, read or follow without investigating as to what and where it will lead to, is blind faith. If one is careless to forget the end while following the means, and does not see whether he is nearing the end or not, it is still blind faith. When one goes to a Master and listens attentively to the explanations given by Him on the subject of gaining Self-knowledge by self-analysis, duly supported by one or more quotations from the valuable sayings of various Saints, he is intellectually convinced to tread the path as an experimental measure and act up to what the Master says with faith for the time being. This is the first stepping-stone to learn about Reality. When he has the first-hand experience, of whatever degree it may be, he is convinced and progresses from day to day. Today, man listens to talks, lectures and sermons, accepts and believes these all his life and takes for granted that he has been placed firmly on the way to salvation. But when death comes with all its sufferings, pangs of separation and fears of the unknown, he realizes his mistake. Man's life-long habit of attachment to the body, occupies all his thoughts, while friends, doctors, relatives and priests stand by helpless and despairing.
It is here that the Science of Para-Vidya is of great help to us. The soul's withdrawal from the body is greatly eased and the Master appears to receive and guide it further in the Beyond. Death is to such a one the happiest of events, and like marriage, it is the union with the Beloved. He has already visited and convinced himself of the superiority of the higher regions and traverses the familiar territory without fear. My Master, Hazur Baba Sawan Singh Ji, when impressing the need of spiritual practices on his disciples, used to say to them, "Go to see a disciple dying to become convinced." Saints believe in salvation during one's lifetime and not in salvation after death. This is indeed a simple and easy science, and the disciple should never rest content with his Initiation without spiritual experience. He should then devote regular time to the spiritual practices and the Master must be regularly informed of his progress. He should constantly seek the guidance of his Master personally or by letter, without entertaining thoughts that he is bothering him. The Master knows by intuition how each disciple is faring and can remove most of his difficulties by thought transference or other means, but he wishes any difficulties in progress to be brought to his notice in writing.
The ancient path of Surat Shabd Yoga or Para Vidya, is one that can be followed by men, women and children of all ages without any difficulty, unlike other ways, which involve complicated, strenuous exercises, and control of the breath. These, at the most, lead to a slight control over the self and a few paltry powers. The latter methods also require a strong physique and a rich diet. As such, they are condemned by tte Masters as unsuited to this age, and as involving physical dangers to the body.