Among these unsatisfactions, one that stands out very prominently in the thoughts of many aspirants to higher consciousness is eagerness to find a teacher. It is the greatest encouragement to know that there must be those who have gone ahead of us and become part of that unseen spiritual life which is surely as intimate to our daily life as our material atmosphere and the earth under our feet.
And all religions affirm that from that realm external inspired teachers appear to remind men of their spiritual nature, origin and destiny. But if we use this blessed knowledge wrongly, as so many do, and fall into the constant habit of craving for assistance, we shall find this to be one of the greatest obstacles to meditation and spiritual realization.
It is surely right that in the midst of our self-reliance we should always recognize the necessity of a teacher. But remember that you always have a teacher at your side, though that teacher is not necessarily a man at first or at any time. Perhaps you have found a book that for the time inspires you; let that be your teacher for the time being; do not crave for a teacher while neglecting the teacher at your hand. It has been credibly asserted that at an advanced stage in the aspirant’s progress, when he has used to the full all the general knowledge that he finds in books or obtains from those who know the beginnings of the art, he will receive intuitive instruction from the world of life. The teachers are at hand every moment, and will speak with us when we prefer them to the things of confusion which at present we seek to grasp, to know and to fondle. They will not come before, because to do so would be an injury, not a benefit, to us.
In old India they had gurukulas or teachers’ homes, to which pupils went for both secular and spiritual teaching. Those were the days when books were not generally available, but nowadays every one of us can have at hand the words of the greatest teachers of the world available in books. Still, commenting on the Sanatsujatiya, [Op cit. Trans K T Telang, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1908] a book belonging to ancient times, the famous teacher Shri Shankaracharya, wrote that the attainment of the pupil could be ascribed to four causes: one quarter to the maturity of understanding that comes by time, one quarter by associating with the teacher one quarter by means of his own talent and effort, and one quarter by studying the subject-matter in consultation with his fellow-students.
When you have performed the three parts of using your own talents and studying with others for sufficient time to allow maturity of understanding, I should be much surprised to hear that you have not come into touch with a teacher to direct your final efforts, or at least advise when you are missing the way â€” the teacher who, it is said, when the pupil is ready is always there.