How can one distinguish between a guru (teacher) and the Sadguru (Divine Teacher of the Truth)?A.
In the word Sadguru (sat-guru), the prefix 'sat' means the Truth. A Sadguru always preaches the truth. Truth is always harsh and is not liked by most people. Therefore a Sadguru has very few disciples. A Sadguru says that the path with thorns will lead to the Lord. People do not like this. He also says that the path with flowers leads to hell. People are not happy with this preaching either. A guru's preaching is what pleases the majority. The guru says that the nature of the goal will be the nature of the path. Since the Lord is full of bliss, the path also must be filled with flowers and happiness. Since hell gives pain, the path to hell must also be the painful and thorny path. This argument is very attractive. Majority of people will be taken in by it and will become followers of the guru. People will praise him and give him a lot of guru daksina (donations) because his argument is what they want to hear.
A Sadguru on the other hand says that the path with thorns alone will lead to the Lord. In this path you have to cut the bonds with your family and with your hard-earned money. Sacrifice gives a lot of pain but sacrifice alone will lead to the Lord. The path with flowers strengthens your bonds with your family and money. It gives you lot of happiness temporarily. However, it leads straight to hell. People do not like this argument and so the rare one or two persons who realize the veracity of the Sadguru's words alone become His disciples. A Sadguru will never worry about the number of the disciples and about the quantity of guru daksina. Even if a single disciple is available He is happy.
The majority always goes to hell. Only one in millions like Sankara, Vivekananda, Mira can reach the Lord. Diamonds are always rare. Gravel stones are in plenty. Therefore among thousands of gurus there may be only one Sadguru and among millions of disciples there may be only one true disciple. When you pray to God you are praising the Lord as a poet in the court of a king, praises the king. The foolish king may get flattered and give him some reward but the Omniscient Lord can never be fooled by such praise and flattery. When you sing songs, chant the name of the Lord or express feelings of devotion by shedding tears or by meditation, you get happiness and peace immediately as a result of those actions. You achieve the fruit of those actions there and then. The Lord will not give any more fruit for these same actions. When you are pained and you lose your mental peace by cutting family bonds and by sacrificing your work and wealth for the sake of the Lord, then only will the Lord give real rewards to you.
Suppose you are working in the field for the owner. Doing the work pains you. The owner will pay you for your work. Without doing work, if you simply chant the name of the owner or sing songs in praise of the owner, a wise owner will never give you any wages. The songs you sung made your heart light. They were of no benefit to the owner. The owner is concerned only with his work, which you did not do. So where is the question of getting paid? When you do all the spiritual practices, you get peace from it. God does not get anything from it. If you have already derived bliss and peace by eating the sweet in your hand, why should anyone pay you for enjoying yourself? When you sacrifice the sweet to the Lord, he will pay you. Therefore a Sadguru teaches only sacrifice, which is the thorny path leading to the Lord.
Veda says that sacrifice alone can bring the grace of the Lord (dhanena tyagenaike amrtatvam anasuh). If you ask for a payment for your prayers and devotion the Lord will pay you from your pocket alone. He will bring the results of good deeds from your future life cycles and present them to you. It is like the owner giving you money out of your next month's salary for the songs that you sung for him. In short, he will not pay you for it. You will get a reduced salary next month. If you sacrifice the sweet to the Lord in spite of your hunger and your heartache, the Lord will reward you from His pocket. Therefore the true path leading to the Lord can be identified by a loss of peace, mental worry and pain. The path to the hell is identified by temporary peace, happiness and benefit. Sadguru leads you to the Lord and guru leads you to hell.