Ten Signs That a Guru Is a Fraud or a Fake

Triple Gunas

Fake Gurus pose a major problem in contemporary Hinduism

by Jayaram V

Disclaimer: The information in this essay is meant for educational purposes only. The characterization and the image of the person portrayed as a guru in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. No identification with any actual person's (living or deceased), qualities, actions or behavior is intended or should be inferred

In Hinduism, a spiritual guru enjoys more respect than even parents because he not only gives his disciples a spiritual rebirth but also leads them on the path of liberation. Hence, he is considered God in human form, and at times even ritually worshipped. Unfortunately, this sentiment is often exploited by fake gurus who assume the role of a spiritual master without necessary qualifications and engage in misdeeds.

When scandals break out about their scams and crimes, it breaks the hearts and souls of millions of his or her followers who look upon him as God and savior. It is difficult to distinguish a fake guru from a real one. How to discern a fake guru? Deluded people cannot perceive truth because their minds are crowded by desires and they see what they want to see. Therefore, discernment (buddhi) is certainly important. The following are a few important signs that a guru may be fake, or not as sincere as he or she pretends to be.

1. His past is unclear, vague and mysterious

You will find that accounts of his past life before he became a guru are unclear and contain many contradictions, hyperboles and misinformation which make it very difficult to know whether he is truly enlightened or pretending to be one. You may also hear few scandals and controversies about his past such as fake educational qualifications and other credentials or marital problems.


2. He does not truly practice renunciation

You will find that although he is a sanyasi who renounced his family and worldly life, his family members still hang around him and look after his business and daily activities. Besides wielding power and influence over him, they enjoy his trust and confidence, while ordinary followers do the chores and lead a hard life.


3. He prefers the company of rich and powerful people

You will see that the guru does not treat his followers according to their spirituality but their wealth and power or nationality.  They manage to gain easy access and spend quality time with him, while others have to be content with seeing him from a distance or meeting him by chance or after a long wait.

Preference to Wealthy people

4. His actions betray his ethical and spiritual conduct

You will find that although the guru preaches virtuous conduct and ethical living, his personal conduct betrays his true nature as a materialistic person as he lacks true contentment and habitually engages in the violation of Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha (non-covetousness) to increase his net worth.


5. He exploits his disciples to promote his goals   

You will see that the guru makes clever use of the talents and skills of his followers, offering them little in return, except the satisfaction that they are working for a noble cause. You will see that people who were otherwise successful, donated their life savings to him and remain at his mercy, doing menial tasks.


6. He is motivated by name and fame, power and influence

You will see the guru is a good at public relations and spends a lot of time promoting himself and his greatness or increasing his following and popularity directly or through his trusted followers. From his actions and decisions, you will wonder whether his real motive is to spread spirituality or use it to earn name and fame or wealth and awards. 


7. He is not free from pride, anger, egoism and envy

You will find that the guru is not truly free from egoism, anger or vengeance. While he preaches tolerance and compassion, he does not easily forgive or forget those who betray him or turn against him. You will hear them being trolled, ridiculed ostracized, threatened or humiliated by his loyal and trusted disciples. He may even engage a group of lawyers to intimidate his critics.

Duty towards gods

8. He advocates celibacy but does not practice it

You will find that the guru employs or inducts many good-looking women in his establishment and keeps them isolated and under surveillance. You will also hear the whispers that he has a soft corner for certain women disciples, who enjoy special power and privileges to meet him frequently or look after his personal needs. You may also see stories circulating in the media about his sexual conduct.

Duty towards gods

9. He exploits spiritual beliefs for material gains

You will find that the guru runs his spiritual organization like a business establishment, using every available opportunity to market various products or services for a premium. While you hear him saying that it is being done for charitable causes, you will suspect that he is not honest about it or his motives. You may even see him collecting unreasonable amounts of fees from followers for his services.

Duty towards gods

10. He is attached to his name and form and identity

You will find that the guru not only shows attachment to his name and form or how people perceive him but also takes great care of his looks or attire or his public image to appear  to the public as a saintly or pious person, including dying his hair to look younger. You will also find that his publicity department alters his images and videos to make him look better and healthier.

Duty towards gods


These are just a few important characteristics or signs that a spiritual guru may be fake and lack integrity and transparency. If a spiritual guru is practicing any of them, it does not necessarily mean that he or she is fake. They are just indications or symptoms. Nothing is certain in this world. Human character is more complex than we imagine and cannot easily be categorized. Some gurus may not entirely be fake, but possess negative characteristics or weaknesses, which betray their true nature and cast doubts upon their ability to guide others. The truth has to be found out through further scrutiny and examination and ascertaining additional confirmation. If you practice spirituality and cultivate discernment, you will intuitively know a true guru from a false one.

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