“Your guru could very well appear somewhere and in a form you least expect. Having a title or not is irrelevant to the qualities of the guru. Your guru could be a janitor or a banker or an academic—whoever inspires you, leads you, and gives you the confidence to practice the Dharma.
There are gurus who come from great institutions, like the Sakyapas, Karmapas, and Dalai Lamas, with long, renowned lineages. They are easy to identify, which makes your search much easier. Their schedules are published on websites, and they have centers on many continents. The force of conditioning to trust the institutional gurus is quite strong. It’s a practical choice.
Then we have gurus in the tradition of Patrul Rinpoche and present-day Alak Zenkar Rinpoche, who never belonged to a legendary monastery and who have no entourage or patrons. The fact that this list is so short indicates that there are simply not that many gurus in this tradition, and even if there are, their greatest quality is reluctance to be renowned or popular. They are inconspicuous by nature.
So the searcher must be alert. A random nun or yogi who looks like a beggar may hold the lineage better than the showy lama, because during their guru’s lifetime they may have been the ones who managed to receive what we refer to in the tantra as the transference of the guru’s mind.”
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
(The Guru Drinks Bourbon)