A fascinating documentary on gurus gone wrong in the Hare Krishna Movement called "The Persuaders" that a friend recommended to me.
It is rather long so if you want to cut to the comments I am pointing at scroll to 22:16http://krishnatube.com/video/192/The-Pe ... ocumentary
"There's people on an island who worship the Duke of Edinburgh."
Do people feel that there is any truth to what he says? That merely a few adornments can make a person an important object of faith? How do we differentiate between fanfare and genuine qualifications?
The Prince Philip Movement is an offshoot of a cargo cult (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult
) -- Cargo Cults are a bit more complex and involved than a few adornments. But ritual adornments play an important role in generating and maintaining faith. Just look at the roles rituals and adornments play from Catholicism to Tibet Buddhism. Rituals affirm and reinforce a devotee's faith.
It's a good question on how to determine genuine qualifications. It's easy to point towards the Hare Krishna movement, in one documentary made by a cynical broadcaster with a definite point of view, and focus on one woman who becomes disillusioned and say - see, that one Guru is bad (and so too is that "foreign" religious movement). As a filmmaker I could do that with anyone if I was so inclined, including the Dalai Lama. The very core of many lineages of Tibetan Buddhism relies on Guru devotion. We hear about abuse of that devotion quite often, as well as counter claims that there was no abuse, and only the deluded fantasies of the western disciple who brings too much cultural baggage and expectations, etc. But what if we watched a documentary that really only showed the accusations and marginalized the explanations as the rationalizations of a serial abuser?
In many ways, Christianity could be considered a cult. Buddhism could be considered a cult. Most people don't have the ability to separate out the true qualifications of a teacher from the fanfare. In fact, there's really no way for an unenlightened mind to know what an enlightened mind should be like. All we have are the made up ideas of what we think enlightenment should look or sound like. How can an unenlightened person judge? We rely on the fanfare and the pomp and circumstance and how we see others responding to a particular teacher to give us clues. Religions aren't the only ones to do this, countries, schools, sports teams, etc. all do this.
We can only do our best to work with our own causes and conditions. The rest is really up to our karma I suppose.