Our true teacher is not within the boundary of a single person. If we believe that they are, then we will be like an old person, still looking for their perfect parent.
In the Mahayana, the three core concepts are: prajna, compassion and skillful means.
We might imagine that prajna (intuitive wisdom) is the quality which the perfect teacher has; compassion is his orientation of that towards everyone else, and skillful means is his method of taking that wisdom and compassion to reduce the suffering of living beings.
If we think in that way, we’re mistaken. What we need to understand is that the purpose of a teacher is to wake us up from the dream of the self.
It’s as if we are sitting directly opposite someone. This person holds out their hand, revealing various precious jewels. We reach towards this person looking to take the proffered jewels, when suddenly they grab us by the wrist and pull us forward.
It’s this movement which is the important thing. It’s this movement which enables, as it were, the cloak of the self and all its patterned nonsense of gain and loss to fall off.
That cloak is a cloak of invisibility. Not obviously for the self and all the desires and strategies of the self – which are all too visible. What that cloak makes invisible is this great miracle of all being.
With the cloak of the self dropping off, what we understand is that our teachers’ incompleteness and our incompleteness and the incompleteness of all things is the hand that opens and reaches out to all things.