How we can recognize false teachers and prophets

By Swami Bhakti Aloka Paramadvaiti

There are many people in this world that conceal their personal motivations behind marvelous signs that appeal to the religious sentiment of humanity. Virtually all the lies in this world are secretly hidden behind some beautiful signs and diverse fragments of truth that are universally attractive and accepted. We rarely find someone who says: "watch this film and you will become more violent", "smoke this cigarette and you will have cancer", "accept this philosophy so that I can take your money", "accept this political leader so that he can enjoy the glory of his false ego and not serve the public as his promised". In order to recognize the truth and to be able to protect ourselves from the false invitations and deceit that this world offers, we have to become more profound and not only see what the diverse groups and persons promise and say. First we should analyze their character and the results of practicing the teachings of the master or school, in the persons that sincerely follow this path. We should see, for example, their sexual conduct; if extramarital sexual relations are permitted, we can already reject this teaching as counterproductive to advancement.

If some type of intoxication is permitted that simply damages the brain causing chemical dependence, drug addiction or alcoholism we should not accept this as something truthful. If we find some message in it, where it is permitted to murder or mistreat animals, we should immediately understand that on the path that proclaims this, there is very little love and therefore is nothing interesting for us. If it promotes deceiving others and practicing games of chance or if there are lies, this is not going to be something that brings us to the truth. In India, there are many criteria given by the scriptures in order to recognize a true spiritual master. First, a spiritual master comes from a chain of spiritual masters and he teaches and practices what he learned from his spiritual master. The master is not attracted by opulence or money; everything that he receives, he immediately uses for the good of others and for the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

With much mercy, he teaches in order to uplift the fallen from their conditioning so that they can take refuge in spiritual amnesty. Spiritual masters teach their pupils that the revealed authorized scriptures are the real guidelines to determine whether a person can be accepted as a spiritual authority. Their teachings should coincide with the sacred scriptures and they should also be endorsed by the practice of those who follow their instructions and who can be seen as positively transformed persons. Additionally, one should check one's own heart to see if one feels inspiration and positively guided after having visited him and whether the guru, scriptures and other masters agree and harmonize their teachings. If we see this and the heart also feels something positive, we should follow this teaching because in this world the only thing that we can make is our best effort and if we decide to practice with all sincerity the good that we have found, this attitude will guarantee that we get ahead. And if, in some moment, we are mistaken, the Lord Himself will protect us from these false paths.

The false teachings of materialism that are promoted in modern schools and universities and in the media, are very dangerous and have discouraged and made a majority of humanity more materialistic. Consumerism is dedicated to making the system wealthier, but without consciousness and sensitivity for individuals. And the great necessity, the great desire of the people to leave this completely disagreeable situation is taken advantage of by unscrupulous people with hidden agendas.

Really they do not teach the complete truth because God is that which maintains everything. If not even we maintain ourselves how can we say that there is no one above us? Mother nature is above us, and if it is not God, we should be grateful to those good ones who are generous to us. Since we all have a gigantic false ego, we like when someone tells us that there is no one above us, that we are all part of the Supreme; but as Schopenhauer calls it, this is the cortex of atheism. Instead we should search for the humble masters who give recognition to and who are grateful for the teachings and illumination and who feel true compassion for all other beings. These should be the stars that teach us the light, the path and universal love until we can find a personal relationship with the Lord of the Universe, the friend of everyone.

Swami B.A. Paramadvaiti

Translation: Erica Wolski