I'm reading Sri Adi Sankaracarya's Aparoksanubhuti (Direct Experience of the Self) with commentary by Swami Chinmayananda - just starting it, as evening reading before bed. The first verse is the mangalacarana or verse praising the Source of the Teaching. In this case the verse is: "I bow down in prostration to that Sri Hari, the world preceptor, the Lord of the universe, the All-pervading, the cause of the whole Universe and the Supreme-Blissful Reality."
Chinmayananda's commentary states, "To Sankara, his teacher is not a mortal individual, but a person in whom the Great Truth stands revealed. It is through the mortal coil of the teacher that this Truth is communicated, but the real Teacher is SriPati, Narayana Himself. The human teacher is the vehicle through which the disciple listens to the words of Narayana. Thus the concept of the teacher is not that the teacher ishimself the Lord, but the teacher is the vehicle through which the disciples listen to the words of the Lord. So this Mangalacarana is directed to both the teacher and the Lord. The Lord alone is the one who can instruct us in this great Reality."
I certainly feel this way about my Teacher, Amma or Ammachi, the Hugging Saint. I've had trouble in the past saying that Amma is my Teacher, because I felt I wasn't experiencing her like that - I think I must have poor associations with the idea of 'teaching.' (Harping on?) I preferred to call her my 'Beacon' which has a meaning similar to Guru, one who dispels darkness and brings the Light. At times I have most definitely identified her with "Narayana Himself" because of the intensity of divinity I've felt - and seen - in her presence, but Amma says she doesn't like it when people refer to her as identical with God. I think because I grew up a Christian and had such a strong sense of 'the incarnation of God' - and in our sect we were expected to see Jesus and God as being one and the same - not all Christians see it that way, I've since learned, but more often see Jesus as a Teacher, in this sense that Sankara means. I have a devotee friend who says to me, 'What if Amma is just an ordinary human person? What does that say about us?' I think Amma would like this question.
For me, all I know is, that whenever Amma is around, my experience of the Divine intensifies and I learn many many things. So She is my Teacher. Not only does she speak the words of truth, but she shows us the Truth. One of her close Indian disciples now Swamini Atmaprana (think that is her name now, although I knew her as Dr. L--) told me once at the ashram in India that the reason Kali sticks out her tongue is to convey to us that this world is a 'Showing' - and Amma 'shows' us the true divine nature in her actions. She both teaches us through words and through example. Jesus too, when asked what he was all about, said to people, 'Come and see.'
And on yet another level Amma teaches us through the many amazing synchonicities that happen all around her. That surely must be a very high level of teaching. And on yet another level up, she gives us internal experiences that show us the direct, personal experience of the Self - that seems to me to be the highest level of teaching - although perhaps it's only the highest level I've yet known.
The Teaching comes through 'the Teacher.' The Teaching comes through all times and places forever. "Let those who have ears, hear." Yes, it's just a question of being open to it, at the least, and longing for it at the most. This is why my mother, who belonged to a Gnostic/Christian/Muslim sect throughout most of her youth believed in 'ongoing prophecy.' According to her, there is no 'final' prophet even though many religions like to claim their Teacher as such. She believed in ongoing prophecy until the end of her life, which she met with great equanimity.
"How blessed on the mountaintop are the feet of the one who brings Good Tidings." (Bible)
Thousands of pranams to the blessed feet of Amma, my Teacher.