For me personally I evaluate teachers according to the guidelines mentioned in the Lam Rim.
I didn't post those here because I realize that some people might feel they are too rooted in Sutra, and that true tantric gurus might manifest differently.
As I mentioned above, for me I prefer to rely on a teacher who manifests more conventionally- especially during these modern times when there is so much confusion, it seems a little bit safer. I also prefer to get to know gurus before taking them as teachers.
This can be politically difficult while working as a translator and living at a dharma centre, because when a lama comes on a tour everyone will ask "Why aren't you coming to the initiation/vow ceremony/tantric teachings etc."
These comments by Berzin I found helpful, on what being a fully qualified lama actually means:http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... of+teacher
A guru is a very fully qualified spiritual master. The word literally means someone who is heavy, meaning with a great deal of weight of good qualities. The term is translated into Tibetan in various ways. One is the word “lama” (bla-ma), which again means a very highly realized master, although the term is used in different Tibetan type cultures in many different ways with lesser meanings. So in some Tibetan cultures “lama” is used just to refer to any monk. We certainly do not mean that with guru-yoga. And in other cultures it can be somebody who has just done a three-year retreat, which just means that they have become qualified to be a village priest and do rituals. We certainly don’t mean lama with that. And then there are some Western people who just declare themselves “lama” just pretentiously for various reasons – which might not be the purest. We certainly don’t mean that.
And also the term “lama” is used with a reincarnate lama. Such a person is called a “tulku” (sprul-sku) in Tibetan and they are referred to with the title “Rinpoche.” And we don’t necessarily mean that either. Just because someone is a reincarnate lama, that doesn’t mean that they are a qualified teacher. It could be a child. And even as an adult, if the conditions and circumstances for their raising, being raised, and their education and their environment and everything is not conducive, then since the vast, vast majority of them are certainly not enlightened, and certainly not even have had their perception of voidness (nonconceptual cognition of voidness), then negative karma ripens with them as well – which they still have – and they might not be acting like a proper teacher at all. So just because somebody has the title of tulku or reincarnate lama, it doesn’t mean that they are a great master. It just means the person who started their lineage was. So His Holiness the Dalai Lama always speaks very strongly about how these tulkus, the reincarnate lamas, should not rely just on their names, and their followers should not rely just on them having great names and high titles, but each reincarnate lama must prove themselves and their qualifications in this life.
Another name for a guru is coming from a slightly different Sanskrit term for this, is sometimes translated as “spiritual friend (kalyana-mitra).” And what this means – “spiritual” actually is not at all the word here – it’s a friend to help us to become constructive. The word that’s translated as “spiritual” (kalyana) actually means constructive. And so with someone who treats us – with whom we are very, very close – like a dear friend or a family member. It doesn’t mean somebody that we go drinking with and go to the movies with, but someone who we really have a heart to heart close connection with. The whole purpose of the relationship is to help us to be more and more constructive, more and more positive, to gain more and more good qualities. The Tibetan word for that is “geshe (dge-bshes, dge-ba'i bshes-gnyen).” It’s only later, much, much later, that it became a title for someone who completed the education system in the Gelug tradition. Its original meaning was a spiritual friend. The equivalent term in the other Tibetan traditions is “khenpo” (mkhan-po), which in other contexts means an abbot of a monastery. Literally, the word means a learned one.
So just because somebody is a Geshe or a Khenpo also doesn’t mean that they are spiritually developed or that they are at all a good teacher. It just means that they are very well-educated and passed a lot of exams, as we might see with university professors. Being well-learned is a qualification of being a great teacher, but just being well-learned is not enough. They also have to have the personalities that go with it, in which they really have developed all these good qualities that they have learned about.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin