Listening to our inner voice is one way in which we can learn to please God. But Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda, warns us that we should not rely solely upon this source of knowledge alone.

In particular, it may be difficult to tell the difference between what the Lord in the heart is telling you, and what your mind may be telling you. “How do you know whether it’s God telling you something is right or wrong, or whether it’s just your mind?” Jagad Guru asks. He answers this question by saying that we also need both a bona fide guru and scripture because, if you’re not sure about something you are being told from within, then you can check with guru and scripture.

“If it contradicts, then you can know it’s not from God. It is similar with scripture. A person can be reading scripture, but he can’t just have scripture. He also has to be taking that into his heart so that the Lord within will help him understand its meaning and importance; not that he just memorizes by reading scripture. The Lord in the heart must also be there and guru must also be there.”

Jagad Guru says the yoga system of learning is to hear what your spiritual master is speaking and then check it with the Lord in the heart and with scripture. Likewise, when you read scripture, you check it with the Lord in your heart and with guru. So, in acknowledging the need for all three sources, you are not misled. You are not misled by some verse you don’t understand in scripture. And you will not be fooled by a fake guru or cult leader because it will be clear that their teachings contradict scripture and the Lord in your heart.

There are also people who say all we need is a guru; that we don’t need books or scripture, and we don’t need the Lord in the heart. They say, “‘All you need to have is guru. Whatever he tells you, do it. Whatever he says is true. ‘Why is it true?’ Because he said it.”

But if what the guru is saying is blindly taken as truth, danger lies in this approach as well. Jagad Guru illustrates this by saying that the truth is in the truth, not in the messenger. “What I am saying is true because it’s true, not because I’m saying it. There’s a difference there. The truth is the truth. Now, if I say the truth, if I am a medium for what is true, then I am guru. If I stop being a medium for truth, if I start saying things which are not true, then I’m no longer guru. It’s not that I’m guru no matter what.

It’s not that I’m guru even if I say things which are not true. Truth is there with or without me. And this truth can be confirmed through scripture as well.” The obvious sign of a phony guru or cult leader is they claim what they teach is true simply because they said it. In this way, what is true today may not be true tomorrow. Such imposters should be rejected.

Jagad Guru notes that if people who have previously followed false gurus or cult leaders would have read and followed scripture, if they had taken the teachings within to check them with the Lord in the heart, they would never have followed the teachings of those fake spiritual masters.

“Once you embrace all three sources of truth—learning from a true spiritual master, reading and understanding scripture, and listening to the Lord in your heart—then you will gain confidence in your ability to live a life pleasing to God, and you will not be misled by pretenders.”

Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda is a Vaishnava spiritual master in the disciplic succession known as the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya. This highly respected spiritual lineage extends back over 5,000 years to Lord Krishna Himself.