jkhedrup, The Characteristics of the spiritual masters to be relied upon:
I don't agree with number 4 as much study is not indicitive of an enlightened being.
I also don't agree with number 7 as proficient speakers can be dangerous if the teacher be too glib.
I think the most important characteristic would be a feeling of peace in the presence of a teacher.
In general while this feeling of peace/being inspired important I don't feel it is the main thing. I cannot tell you the number of people who trusted in their feelings but didn't do their homework and ended up with teachers who took advantage of them financially, isolated them from other masters even manipulated them emotionally etc. As a translator in interviews I have heard many such sad stories- in many cases people end up abandoning spiritual practice completely. If people study the basics of Buddhism themselves they will be less likely to be fooled by charlatans, and better equipped to differentiate between genuine and false masters.
If you don't agree with the points that is okay, but I should mention that they are not just the opinion of the Gelug masters or the Lam Rim. The points were sourced and elucidated from the Mahayanasutraalamkara (Ornament of Mahayana Sutras), one of the Five Treatises of Maitreya. According to this website http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?titl ... ana_Sutras
" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; this is widely studied in the Nyingma tradition as well. So the points are pretty much universal.
What does Mahayanasutraalamkara say?
Rely on masters, who are disciplined, pacified, thoroughly pacified,
Have superior qualities, are enthusiastic and rich in scriptural knowledge
Have an excellent understanding of thusness, skill in teaching,
A compassionate nature and have overcome discouragement.
(trans. Rosemary Patton)
People may mention Milarepa in this regard, that he never studied the scriptures. I believe he was a very special exception. This is because his teacher Marpa, was a Sanskrit scholar and journeyed to India to carry back texts and receive initiations. He studied quite a bit. Gampopa, one of Je Milarepa's foremost disciples, was a Kadampa scholar who systematized that approach in a way that integrated Milarepa's esoteric instructions as the pinnacle of practice.
So I would state that being learned, as mentioned by Berzin in the article I posted, is no guarantee of a qualified teacher, it is an important quality in a qualified one. I would not take as my tantric master a Geshe who studied well but didn't practice or exemplify spiritual qualities. That is why I have relatively few teachers. And even if a teacher is not a qualified guru, if he can pass on genuine dharma knowledge even if his presence is not inspiring or he doesn't exemplify many qualities, at least the teachings he is given are based on genuine Buddhist sources- so at least the students come away with something.
If a teacher is charismatic, but not a true guru, and in addition has no solid basis of knowledge, then maybe even wrong information will be passed onto the students and they begin practicing bizarre things.
But yes, knowledge can be manipulated by the particularly shameless. So even a good grounding in the dharma is no guarantee unfortunately.
The bottom line is no matter what we need to be careful.