Qualifications for Spiritual Teachers ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

excerpts from THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST, Discourse 23

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“The organizational work that God and my Guru and Paramgurus have started through me is carried on…by those who have dedicated their lives to the highest objectives of renunciation and love for God…I am concentrating on monastic teachers who renounce all for God’s work.”   Paramahansa Yogananda


In the early years of my work in the West I used to hold seminars to create teachers to spread the message of the Masters.  But I soon abandoned that practice.  Too often, those who were the least qualified spiritually were the most eager to emote and aggrandize themselves as leaders…Spiritual eloquence is less a matter of articulation than of soul magnetism born of virtuous living and meditative inner communion with God. Spreading the word of God should not be used as a medium for glorifying one’s ego and indulging its penchant for recognition.


Until I feel a disciple is true from the past, I would not ask him to teach.  If a devotee has good karma and sincere willingness to listen, it does not take much to train him.  Attunement is the most important requisite.  All great masters have chosen their disciples according to that, notwithstanding the Judases in whom latent egotistical tendencies awake to snatch away their spirituality.   Humility, love for God and doing everything with the thought of God, forgetting self, are the fundamental criteria characterizing a true servant of God’s word. …

l to r, Swamis Shraddhanandaji, Smarananandaji, Shantanandaji
Swamis (l-r) Shuddhananda, Smaranananda, Shantananda

Spirituality should never be used for commercial or personal gain.  It is preferable that a spiritual teacher not receive a salary.  Once he begins to take money for his service to God’s work, it becomes merely a job; his mind will be on making a living and wanting more money, not upon the Christlike ideal of serving without thought of remuneration.  That is why I have never allowed paying teachers of Self-Realization Fellowship.   I am concentrating on monastic teachers who renounce all for God’s work. They must be free to give unselfishly of themselves.  That is the way I was trained, and that is what I believe.  God’s work and those who serve it will be supported by God through the goodwill offerings of those who are benefited, as well as through the proceeds from spiritual goods and services that spread the work. …


Additionally, I would include the following requirements and practices, principles that Jesus also, in one form or another, instilled in his apostles during the time they spent in his company absorbing his spirit and ideals:

Sri Daya Mataji

A spiritual teacher should have Self-realization, or at least be sincerely striving for that God-attunement and subversion of the ego.  

He should have an appreciative, respectful, comparative knowledge of religions, while being grounded in truth, free from hidebound dogma.  He should know the difference between true religion and custom, discriminating between universal spirituality and denominational observances.

In order to transmit truth effectively, one must be inspired by the inner perception of truth.  The highest type of spiritual teacher spends much time in the divine communion of prayer and meditation —preferably, every morning, noon, and night. This is the way to be able to arrive at the truth in any given situation.

He should believe in and be well versed in the truths he wants to teach, and then strive to realize those truths in himself. The intuitional teacher is the most qualified.  The intuitive power of the soul, once awakened by meditation, does not have to depend on reason; it knows.

Brothers (l-r) Bhaktananda, Anilananda, Bimalananda

The best sermon a teacher can give is through the voice of his character and actions; he should be one with God in exemplary qualities.  He should be morally upright, balanced and evenminded, honest, and agreeable.  He should wear a soulful smile; cheerfulness that comes from the soul.

Proper decorum and knowing the rules of etiquette are highly desirable, but even more important than manners is sincerity.  He should always keep his word with people; one’s word is one’s bond.

He should be natural and loyal to his ideals.  He should always stand firm for the truth, but never be angry with or entertain revengeful thoughts against people who criticize him. He should never spread gossip or speak unkind words about others.

One cannot transmit truth if he is not sympathetic.  A spiritual teacher should be free from racial and class prejudices and preferences, and give spiritual help to those seeking relief from their troubles as well as to those seeking spiritual development.

Mri Ma SRF kriya sign_Fotor
Sri Mrinalini Mata

A spiritual teacher should never try to compete with others; he should stick to his goal and teach loyalty to that purpose.

He should never allow himself to be controlled by those who would compromise his ideals for financial or organizational favors given.

Only a true disciple who has undergone the purifying discipline of the sadhana, spiritual practices, of a master will make a good teacher.  The disciple cleanses his delusion-infected ego by obeying the word of his guru implicitly, because he recognizes the master as a channel of wisdom and purity.

“…at the Head…Men and Women of Divine Realization” ~ Paramahansaj

Paramahansaji on the Importance of his SRF/YSS Monastic Order

SRF and Shankaracharya Bharati Krishna Tirtha, head of the Swami Order of India