"As rivers in their flowing reach their home in the ocean and cast off their names and forms, even so one who knows is delivered from name and form and reaches the Supreme beyond the Most High." - Mundaka Upanishad Each one of us is a river. Our life flows a unique course as we wind and search our ways through life. Eventually we shall reach the eternal ocean of existence and consciously merge with God. Until that moment we wind on. As we journey towards the unknown shore it is of great value to have a teacher, a guide, from whom to take guidance and council. A genuine spiritual teacher has reached that great sea and has turned around to help other individuals find their own way to Truth. As we journey towards infinity we look upon ourselves and the world, and our minds are besieged by an endless stream of questions concerning the meaning of life, death, the physical realm, the realm of spirit and energy, the solar system, the universe and our lives. We can spend a lifetime bouncing from one question to the next and yet never truly understand our own lives and the significance of our existence. The journey is long and challenging, yet even the longest journey begins with a first step. In order to travel we must embark. We must commit to movement, to action, although many of us fear movement and changes. In any journey it is helpful to have a guide, someone who can help us in times of difficulty. Often, we do not venture forth due to fear. A good guide, a teacher, quells our fear and gives us confidence during our journey. An old Indian adage says: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." Sri Chinmoy has a beautiful poem that talks about this journey. You have a multitude of questions, But there is only one answer: The road is right in front of you, And the guide is waiting for you. How can it be that to a multitude of questions there is only one answer? Perhaps we are offered a clue to this mystery in the Isha Upanishad: "In the heart of all things, of whatever is in the universe, dwells the Lord. He alone is reality." To truly know something, we must probe to its very heart. That is how we will find the answers to our questions. The poet William Blake wrote: To see a world in a grain of sand And a Heaven in a wild flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. The road to knowledge and understanding is right in front of us. Whatever question we pursue wholeheartedly will bring us to the ultimate truth of life. Inactivity will not bring us towards our goal. Only when we begin to move do we discover the answer. The road, the path we must take, is directly in front of us: it is in an awareness of our lives, thoughts, actions and circumstances that we can discover the essence of life. There are no valid excuses as to why we cannot begin our journey towards Truth. Jesus spoke of "each man taking up his cross and following me." This means accepting our lives, circumstances and situations; taking responsibility and beginning our journey towards understanding. By beginning, we are sure to succeed if we continue until our goal is won. Having a good guide will prove essential in this quest. Jesus said: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but he shall find for himself the light of life." -John 8:12 Notice in this passage that Jesus says, ". . . he shall find for himself. . ." The seeker will find. Just because one decides to have a guide does not take away the responsibility of the seeker to tread the path towards Truth. Having taken the help of a guide does not diminish our achievement, rather, it only hastens it. To have a genuine spiritual teacher is a great blessing. The Buddha, speaking 500 years before the birth of Jesus, said: "He who takes refuge in the Buddha, the Law and the Order; he who with clear understanding sees. . . having gone to that refuge, a man is delivered from all suffering." -XIV: 189-192 These words are quite similar to those of Jesus: "Come to me, all who labor and carry burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and meek in my heart, and you will find rest for your souls." -Matthew 11: 28-29. Lao Tzu describes the state of a true spiritual teacher, one who firmly resides in the realm of Truth: "He who, conscious of his own light, is content to be obscure, he shall be the whole world's model; his virtue will never fail. He reverts to the Absolute." The Qur'an speaks of teachers and the guidance they offer: "Muhammad is only a messenger; and many a messenger has gone before him." A spiritual teacher is truly a messenger-he or she stands as an intermediary between God and humanity, relaying man's aspiration and longing to God and God's Compassion and Blessings to man. The concept of a spiritual teacher being a messenger helps convey the humility genuine teachers possess. Humility abounds in a true teacher. The road to understanding, to true knowledge, is right in front of us and a guide is waiting to help us. All we must do is take that first step, begin our journey, and all will be shown to us. The first step undoubtedly requires great courage, but that courage is intensified if we have a guide to help us in our journey. The degree of our sincerity and determination will bring us a teacher of equal sincerity and understanding. As has been said, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."