When I was going to take initiation from my Guru in 2014, who is a master of Surati Shabd Yoga, my great-uncle spoke to me. He said that a realized master can be met only in wilderness, away from all mayhem and public. There is no self-realized master out there in public. I didn’t confront him with arguments for many reasons but it did impress me with something which is common among people around me.
Outer symbols are often given way too much importance. A bearded man is more likely to be self-realized than a non-bearded man. An unmarried man is more likely to be self-realized than a married man. A man who does nothing and sits under a tree is more likely to be a renunciate than a man who works whole day to earn his living. These are all faulty premises to judge about the self-realization.
Self-realization might come in any guise before you. A guru might be a commoner, a renunciate or a wealthy merchant–it doesn’t matter. Even external conduct doesn’t matter. People think that a self-realized master will behave consistently. It’s not true. History proves otherwise. People also think that a self-realized master will never get angry. It’s also not true. Just look through history and you will know.
It’s a misconception that a self-realized master will conform to certain norms you have in your mind. It’s true that the current which will touch you in his company will be extraordinary but it’s not true that outer appearance and idiosyncrasies will conform to your expectations. The transformation which will take place in the company of the master is all that is of utmost importance. Buddha, Jesus, Nanak, Kabir, Mohammed, Zarathustra, Meera, Dadu, Chaitanya, Raidas, Ramana, Nisargadatta and many others lived in public and divine was speaking through them day and night. They are proof enough that God can be found in the market-place. But what proof is there that there is a God living in the jungle?
If a person comes to you and says that he visited a great sage in a cave–either he is promoting his self-interest or he might be deluded or he might have had a genuine experience. In first two cases–that experience is of no use, and in the third case you need to search that sage who lives in the wilderness. By living in the wilderness he has indicated that his love for solitude is far more than his compassion–so you need to be a deserving candidate to find his grace–again it depends on so many factors whether you will be able to meet such a master or not.
The self-realization burns off most of the Karma, still the idiosyncrasies of personalities keep living until the body is there. The body has some fringe-ego which is necessary for its survival. The bodily vehicles which are chosen by the divine to do its work need to stay on the earthly plane even after self-realization. Such masters will exhibit traits of their personalities and they will be unique and unlike any master you have seen before, because every personality is unique in nature. There is no replica. No two persons have same thumb prints. So, a Krishna is different from a Jesus and a Jesus is different from a Buddha who is different from a Kabir. But the same God is speaking through all of them. It’s same flame burning brightly and calling you home. Don’t get misguided by external appearances!