Chapter XIII

Pseudo-Masters or false and Impostor-Masters

A pseudo-master is an inefficient and inadept master who is ignorant even of himself but is ever ready to advise others. 

Of such persons it is said:

Blind masters and blind disciples, the one leads the other to hell.

If one follows such a dangerous person, then the following saying applies to him:

Oh brahmin, you will drown yourself, and your followers will be drowned with you.

One cannot cross a stream by catching hold of the tail of a sheep. 


By catching it one is always in doubt.

Bhai Gurdas, Var

But one can cross a stream by catching hold of the tail of a cow.

The world is full of the so-called masters. They are to be met with at every step. There are more masters than disciples. It often happens that when seekers after Truth wish to meet a Guru, they visit these self-styled masters and serve them with faith. But when, while living with them at close quarters, they find that the master is also entangled in the mind and senses like others and is hankering after wealth, they decide not to have him as a master and quite frequently raise an agitation against the institution of Mastership itself. They even go to the extent of saying that the mention made about a Master in the scriptures was valid only at the time it was made and not for all times; that there is no necessity for a Master in these days, and that the scriptures can serve the same purpose as a perfect Master. 

The result is that the Living Master is not worshipped, but instead the custom of worshipping the dead has come into vogue. No living Saint or Mahatma is respected, but instead, houses are decorated with pictures of dead Seers and Saints. The real roses are not being smelled, but paper flowers have become the fashion of the day.

No one studies the book of his own self, but studies paper books instead. No one seeks a living Saint. Instead, worldly newspapers, monthly magazines and tracts are made to serve the purpose. 

The ignorant think that the Master should be a learned man, who can make speeches or give discourses. They think that he should be the author of some books, should possess occult powers for granting boons or flinging curses; should be able to read the thoughts of others and gather persons around him. If this were correct, then all learned persons should be Masters, but it is always easy to see that learned persons are also subject to the vagaries of the mind and senses, as are others. 

The condition of these theoretical thinkers is similar to that of a donkey who carries a load of books or a bundle of sandalwood, but is ignorant of the knowledge in the books or the scent in the sandalwood. If persons with occult powers are masters, then the hypnotists and magicians, who wander about the streets to earn money, are also masters.

The real Master knows the essence of spirituality and though he is possessed of various powers, he does not use them for the purpose of show. It has happened that because the number of impostors is very large, the true and real Saints are also quite frequently considered to be impostors. As a consequence, some people do not believe in them. One who has been bitten by a snake is apt to be afraid of a rope. After once being deceived by a pseudo-master, people sometimes hesitate to believe in a real Master. Because of our painful experiences with impostors, we have become extremely cautious.

It is very difficult for a seeker to find a Perfect Master and to recognise him. One who is not familiar with a path cannot be certain of the sights on the way.

It is a mistake to test a Master, but there is also a risk in blindly accepting a Master because an imperfect master cannot lead one to salvation.

No release can be gained through an imperfect master.

 Ramkali M1, 932-11

Being a Master is not similar to carrying on a profession. It is a gift of the Lord. But the impostors and pretenders have lowered its prestige.

Something is whispered in the ear, and the brahmin becomes a master!

Asa M1, 471-4

Of what use is a master who cannot remove our doubts? He will be drowned, and those who accompany him will also be drowned.

Oh Kabir, shave the head of the self-styled master as that of an outcast, for he cannot dispel doubts. Such masters are lost in the Vedas. They drown their disciples also.

 Kabir, Shalok 1370-1

They are drowned in scriptural learning, and so will their disciples be drowned. He who has not crossed the ocean of the universe himself cannot carry others across.

He who is himself sinking cannot save others. Oh Nanak, he who is imbued with love is saved and saves others.

Maru M5, 1101-7

When a so-called master is himself blind, how can he save his disciples?

When the master is blind. The disciple also stumbles around blindly.

Sri Rag M1, 58-3

Guru Amar Das Ji says that one who does not know the inner path and whose inner eye has not been opened, cannot see beyond this gross world. How then can he guide others on this path ?

When the master is ignorant and blind, how can the disciple find the way?

 Gujri M3, 491-11

Such a so-called master is himself being robbed by the five dacoits of lust, anger, greed, attachment and egotism. He is ignorant and cannot recognise the spiritual path.

When a blind man leads, how can one know the way? His mind is shallow, and he will not find the way.

 Suhi M1, 767-1

Such a master tells untruths, feeds on the dead, and is looted by Maya. He is totally blind, not for lack of sight but for lack of enlightenment. Such a person is called blind.

The truly blind are not those who have no eyes to see. Oh Nanak, the truly blind are those who do not see the Lord.

 Ramkali Var M3, 945-15

He who is such a blind person and yet claims to guide others, undoubtedly misleads his companions. He is not honoured in the court of the Lord.

He tells lies and feeds on the dead, yet he presumes to guide others; he is deceiving himself and deceives others. Oh Nanak, such are the leaders of today.

 Majh Var M1, 140-1

Guru Nanak Sahib says:

Oh Nanak, when a blind man leads, he misleads; when he ventures beyond, he comes to grief.

Majh Var M1, 140-14

Only he who is blind will tread the path shown by such a blind man. If he has eyes to see the Truth, he will not tread the wrong Path.

Only a blind man will follow the path shown by a blind man. Oh Nanak, a man with eyes will disdain his leadership.

 Ramkali Var M3, 954-15

A blind master cannot dispel doubts. He does not know the right path and goes astray. He is full of the poison of Maya and is bound by Maya.

A blind master cannot dispel doubts. He abandons reality and goes astray. He is so imbued with the poison of Maya, that the poison fills him.

 Gauri M3, 232-1

When a master is blind, his disciples also remain in the dark. They follow their own will and tell untruths.

If the master is blind, his disciples do dark deeds; they act according to their own wills, and always tell untruths.

Ramkali Var M3, 951-7

It is not easy to be a True Master. It is a job of great responsibility. The Master has to unite the soul of the disciple with the Lord. This can only be done by one who is fully competent. 

Anyone else causes harm and damage to himself. He goes astray. This applies to all impostors.

Oh Kabir, the brahmin is the master of the world, but he is not a guru for true devotees; he entangles himself and dies in the study of the Vedas.

Kabir, Shalok 1377-7

There should be a True Master from whom something can be gained, and who has something to give.

Oh Farid, find the pool where you can get the treasure. What is the use of searching in a shallow pool? You will only smear your hand with mud.

Farid, Shalok, 1380-15

He alone who practises spirituality has the right to preach it. 

Guru Arjan Sahib says:

First practise, and then preach.

Gauri M, 185-7

Only the teachings of one in whom the Lord dwells is of help.

He in whom the Formless One dwells, His advice takes one across.

 Gauri M5, 269-6

One who is filled with the poison of mind and matter, and of wealth and women, but talks sweetly to the people, deserves to go to hell.

He who has poison in him but speaks sweetly, goes to hell and is sorely afflicted.

Gauri M3, 194-3

Such a person's character is low and he does wrong acts. His heart is devoid of love for the Lord, but he can always please the people with clever words and phrases. The Lord knows every heart, and is not pleased with external formalities. He who himself does not practise but teaches others is born again and again.

His speech and action do not agree; He has no love but only lip-sympathy: The Lord knows all, and does not judge by outward appearances. One who does not practise what he preaches is born again and again.

Gauri M5, 269-7

Those who do not practise but simply preach and engage in arguments, do not know the Shabd or the real substance.

Those who preach but do not practise, do not know the Shabd.

 Asa M5, 380-2

It is therefore necessary that one should first cleanse one's mind, make Ram Naam dwell in one's heart, and then instruct others.

He should first enlighten his own mind, and should then try to persuade others. His mind should first repeat the Name of the Lord, and then he may instruct others.

Asa M5, 381-12

Just as a spoon, even when smeared with pudding, remains unaware of the taste of the pudding, similarly, those gurus who are not imbued with Naam and have not tasted it, are of little use.

The spoon moves through the food, but it knows not the taste thereof. Oh Nanak, seek out those, who are imbued with the Lord's essence.

 Gujri Var M5, 521-5

It is useless for those who have no faith in their mind to meditate and contemplate.

Those who know not their own mind, oh Nanak, how can they impart knowledge?

Sorath Var M4, 647-3

Those who have deceit in their hearts but talk loftily are simply churning water; no butter or any other good thing comes out of it. Deluded by Maya, such people are led astray. What useful advice can they give ?

They have deceit in their heart, yet they utter words of wisdom. They tell lies and churn but water.

Kabir, Sorath 656-2

Those who are full of poison and doubts, how can they guide others?

 Ramkali M3, 909-18

Sit in the company of a person who is filled with the Divine Nectar. If a master has something to give, his servant will get it; but if he has nothing to give, the servant cannot possibly get anything. If the master is naked and hungry, how can his servant be well-clothed and well-fed? If, while serving a master, one is still accountable to the Lord of Death, his service is a source of suffering. We should serve a Master who is God-personified and the sight of whom is fruitful, so that one is not called upon to render account to the Lord of Death. 

Guru Ram Das Ji says:

He whose master is naked and hungry, cannot have a satisfying meal. Only what the master has, the servant can have. A servant cannot have that which the master has not. To serve a master and still be accountable to death, is of no avail. Oh Nanak, serve the Lord-like Master. Seeing Him is fruitful; there can be 110 days of reckoning for His servant.

Gauri Var M4, 306-12

The world is full of false masters. The true Master is he who is imbued with the Shabd and who practises it, and connects the disciple with the Shabd. He who serves a master of the other sort is ensnared in Maya. His life as a human being, which is a rare opportunity, is wasted. The Gurus say, "Do not delay about giving up such a master."

Do not delay in giving up a false master, for with him you will wander and will not find the Shabd.

Seeing such deplorable conditions, people talk ill of Guruship and criticize even the True Holy Men and Saints. They are so much disgusted with them that they hesitate to go even to true Saints. Even when they do go, they look at them with clouded vision and form wrong ideas about them.

The Lord, the Saint, and the company of the Saints are the three basic principles of spirituality. One cannot gain salvation without a Saint and his company. If we are on close terms with a holy man, the radiance of his holiness and perfection will begin to shine in us and all our doubts will be removed. True holiness can never remain hidden. A Perfect Master's sweet words and spiritual power will inevitably affect us, and we will begin to understand the Master as he really is.

The impostors are so numerous in the world that many people think there is no True Master, and that if there is one it is very difficult to find him. As a consequence, they sit resigned and believe themselves to be helpless. But if one really has a sincere desire to meet a Master, the Lord Himself will arrange for a meeting. The True Master will come of his own accord. This is the Law of the Lord.

Knock and it shall be opened. Ask and it shall be given unto you.

The Guru appears when the chela, disciple, is ready. In fact, the True Master himself searches out a disciple. 

The Gurus say:

The merciful Lord has commanded thus: Whatever the child asks for, let it be provided.

 Malhar M5, 1286-15

There is no delay in the appearance of the Master. The delay is in our earnestness and seeking. If we need something, we will go on searching for it in spite of any and all disappointments. If diamonds and rubies are mixed with stones, we should not throw them away simply because it is difficult to separate the jewels from the stones. 

There must first be the pangs of separation, and then the Lord Himself will bring about the meeting with the True Master.