This is magical thinking, that there is some divine guidance or infallible inner guru that no matter how stupid, uneducated, uninformed, or tortured a seeker is, God or the totally obscured inner guru will inevitably guide you to the right teacher for you at that moment.
In real life we lack in depth knowledge about any teacher, as well as an economic or family ties freedom to seek gurus far out of our neighborhoods.
Often the “truth” about a teacher does not come out until some supposed, politically incorrect action is exposed or a scandal breaks out, such as with Osho, Muktananda, Adi Da (Franklin Jones), Jim Jones, the Hari Krishna organization, Amma, or most any Zen master.
Then we judge the teacher based on the common morals of the time as well as his or her books, newsletters and Satsangs.
There is no perfect information, there is no equal access to all teachers. Even the most famous teachers with a dozen ashrams have limited access to getting the feel of the teacher because he or she is rarely seen.
Then too there are common trends in the spiritual marketplace that tend to last ten to twenty years, such as Zen in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by Vipassana and Tibetan Buddhism in the 1980s and 1990s. Now the fashion is Advaita and neo-Advaita.
These fads dominate the spiritual marketplace’s “airwaves,” and cultural artifacts, such as the spiritual choices of Tom Cruise, Oprah, Richard Gere, and like create waves of imperfect, filtered information.
Actually, it is a completely random crapshoot as to the teachers you end up with. Were they available to you when you were seeking at age 16, 20, 30, 40, etc.? Did you have any idea of what you were seeking at any of those ages? Are you lazy and not too intellectually bright and you jump to the do-nothing teachings of the “pointers” or neo-Advaitins? Are you meditation inclined, so flocked to Zen or the Tibetan Emptiness meditations? Have you a Christian background and therefore buy into the ways of sacrifice and prayer, and then into, for example, into Bernadette Roberts, and then into Zen from there?
Having no clear idea of that which you seek, from undefined terms of enlightenment or awakening, wandering from teacher to teaching that is available to you at the time, how can you expect that you always have the perfect teacher for you or the one you deserve?
In actuality, you have the one you have. In other words, you have what is. No more can or should be said.
As general guidelines, I would avoid very famous teachers because a seeker will have very little access to the teacher. At best you will have direct access to the organizations leaders, who are not the reason you came to that teacher. Osho and Muktananda had tens or hundreds of thousands of students who rarely saw either of them, and in fact became embedded in the vagaries of the organizations and the many sub teachers.
I would avoid like a plague any teacher who toots his or her own tune too much such as Da Free John, or those who claim to be the voice of God. Here you are dealing with manic depressives, schizophrenics, or potentially malignantly narcissistic personalities, and you will potentially fall under their sway and follow them all the way to hell.
I have met very few teachers that I would consider “worthy” who made excessive claims for themselves. Most were down to earth, accessible, friendly, and truly loving.
Also, you really need to know what you are seeking. If you seek peace, rest, “transcendence,” there are a myriad of ways from Vipassana, to Ramana’s and Nisargadatta’s Advaita, Tibetan Zen, Buddhism and Taoism in general.
If you desire true Self-Realization I recommend a Bhaktic path that emphasizes feelings, emotions, and other inner movements, but without the hard analytic mind of Vipassana or Advaita. I think Christianity and Sufism based on service, devotion, love, etc., can end in Self-Realization and finding the unity of one’s inner Self with the divinity of God.
By Self-Realization, I don’t mean the rather dry transcendence of Ramana or Nisargadatta’s final state, but the Self-Realization of the early 1938 Nisargadatta that was filled with devotion for his guru, chanting Bhajans, and loving introspection of his own inner Self through resting in his I Am sense.
This results in an explosive eruption of pure Jnana, knowing truth, and at the same time, an explosion of “divine” energy within you, that is the Life Force, or Shakti of all sentient beings.
With this kind of awakening, there comes a knowing of who and what you really are for the first time in your life, and a feeling of having the centeredness and immobility of a mountain combined with a flow of love that totally dissolves your chest and being in utter relaxation and surrender to that inner power.
Here is a well-hidden secret: The good teachers don’t want to have many students because it kills access. Also, a real teacher will cause you a lot of pain, sometimes deliberately, but mostly because he has to destroy your illusions, emotional attachments, or lifestyle choices, which will cause pain. He will cook you in many ways, and he only wants those who will stick with him (or her) to the end. He or she seeks those who join in a spiritual marriage, which is sexless, yet a permanent bonding. You will know this teacher and he or she will know you instantaneously.