Many, such as Osho, or Rajinish, begin as clear vessels and then go haywire as the love of power and ego tendencies start to emerge. We can feel all kinds of inspiration and inner peace and finally belonging around such people, or just be carried along by the crowd in a blissful dance of loosened inhibition. But that has nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do with needing to feel that somebody has all the answers. As in cases such as Jim Jones of Jonestown: People felt wonderful around him until 900 people died because of his commands, including 200 children, who were murdered.
Just because we can escape into something other than our difficult lives and join a group that makes us feel safe is not enough basis for really knowing if the spiritual teacher is genuine. It is more than a feeling. Feelings come and go and are mostly based on our mind’s reaction to something first. If we have a wonderful feeling of peace because we have finally found the answer out of our misery, that may not be enough of an indication as to whether the teacher is genuine or not.
So many spiritual teachers have gone the way of power and corruption, it would be easy to trash them all. But, the genuine ones stand the test of time. “Satya” Sai Baba was discovered to have serially molested boy students for years. Yoga guru Bikram also indulged in sexual misconduct. They both had excessive collections of jewelry, cars, and other items of personal wealth in their multimillion dollar estates. Osho owned 94 Rolls Royces, and was aiming at one for every day of the year.
Yet, on the other hand, we have Sai Baba of Shirdi, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Lao Tau, Sri Ramana Marharshi, and so many other great spiritual teachers whose lessons have endured. These teachers were simple in their lives and acknowledged that they were only expressing the inner light and the truth of Spirit and Soul that was revealed to them through contemplation and grace.
As we can see through the years, ultimately the true teachers emerge. They do no harm to their students. They do not seek to get rich off of their students. If they charge a fee, it is because the student needs to show commitment. The student needs to work for it. But it is a nominal fee compared to the energy the teacher puts into sharing understanding and spiritual experience of lasting value. In my own experience, spiritual teachers put in three times the energy of any student. These teachers do not want to be celebrities or be worshipped. They see themselves as humble vessels who were blessed with the ability to communicate and then step out of the picture.