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Almost everyone needs a teacher to support them in the realization that they are the ocean as well as the wave. The role of a teacher is to model and transmit the experience of the divine realized in the human life. The teacher must herself know that she is the ocean to provide this.

This is a little different than what we might think of as the usual role of a teacher, based on our experience in school. This kind of teaching is not rooted in intellectual understanding, not based on book learning, and it’s not a matter of having accepted someone else’s story about your true nature. This kind of teaching is rooted in the experience of being the divine.

Book learning may, however, be part of the  understanding and expression of the teacher. For instance, familiarity with the scriptures of various religions, and the writings of the great mystics, may have shaped the teacher’s perspective and fed the teacher energetically. Too, the teacher’s teachers, their lineage, usually are hugely important in the development of the teacher who passes on the torch that has been lit by others.

So, the teacher is the wave that realizes it’s the ocean and is able to share that feeling, that insight, that experience with those who don’t realize that yet. As one of my teachers, Eknath Easwaran observed, “Spiritual awareness is not so much taught as caught.” Just as iron filings can be magnetized, a realized teacher can transform the student.

Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations for teachers, expecting them to be superhuman or flawless. The teachers themselves sometimes feed those expectations because of their own flawed understanding and shortcomings.

In my experience it’s best to take all teachers, myself included, with a grain of salt or two. I suggest you regard spiritual teachers as human beings who hopefully have some areas of profound development, and who likely are subject to having a bad day now and then, error, growth and eventual physical death.

The key is whether they treat you with respect and love within appropriate boundaries, and whether they support the transformation of your perspective from wave to wave/ocean.

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