Tell Tale Signs
A sign of a true lama is that they give up what normal worldly people like and pursue. If a lama gives up the chance to become famous, that would be a sign that they might be a real lama. Everybody wants more money, so if a lama has the chance to come into some money and they do not pursue it, that would be a mark of a true lama.
Many people praise lamas by saying the lama has such a high view, is so realised or is very compassionate. Personally, I wouldn’t take much notice of such statements, as we have no way of really knowing for ourselves how realised etc. a lama is. But if we look at how they conduct themselves day-to-day, what they see to be important, what they dedicate their time to and encourage their students towards, we should come to have a fairly good idea of how authentic the lama is.
Gauging the level of a lama by listening to what they say while they are seated on the teaching seat is not so easy. It’s fairly easy to talk the talk. No one who takes the role of a lama will teach that money is the most important thing. We all say that wealth is futile and impermanent and should not be pursued with any vigour. But the true test is whether the lama lives by that principle outside of the teaching time.