As far as teachers are concerned, a teacher is found wherever you are when you’re ready for that teacher. If you’re aware enough to ask the question, “How am I going to get on with my work?” and you answer it, “Well, what I ought to do is calm my mind down,” the next question would be, “Well, how do I calm my mind down?” The act of asking that question sensitizes you to see a lot of beings around you who have been busy calming their minds down, or teaching people how to calm their minds down. Until you asked the question you’ve passed by them and never noticed their existence, because you were busy thinking of them as kooks, nuts, cranks, or people that do those things but who are nice guys anyway. And so you begin to find out that your teachers are often people who have been around you all along. They’re called Upa Gurus, as opposed to Sat Guru. The Sat Guru is somebody who beckons from beyond. He’s somebody who’s all finished. The Upa Guru is anybody or anything along the way that points to the path that helps you along the way. So even your enemies often are your Upa Gurus because they wake you up to a place you’re not, which helps you get free of that place, which helps you get on with it.
So you learn to honor everybody you meet as your teacher when you realize that there is nothing else you can do but be conscious, for the good of yourself and for all your fellow men and women, and to bring you closer to the place you’re trying most to get to by all the other means you thought you were working on. You work on your own consciousness, and the way to do that is to see the teaching that is in everything in the universe … about where you’re not conscious or where you’re asleep. You begin to see that everything in your universe becomes your teacher. Right? So your teacher is everywhere. Your guru is waiting for you to be ready for him. That’s the model you can work on. So you don’t have to rush to India because it’s always right where you are. There are beings who can get as high as any enlightened being ever got, sitting in the middle of Topeka, Kansas, or in the middle of New York, or in the middle of anywhere. It depends on your readiness, and that has to do with your karma or your readiness to get on with it all.
– Ram Dass – May 5,1970