A guru or teacher represents an energy source, an energy source that we pull into ourselves to expand ourselves and dissolve the shell of karma we’re born into. It’s very much like the way things work on an atomic level: the more energy an atom captures, the greater the distance between the nucleus and the electrons becomes. Eventually the state of the entire system changes, and the atom changes into a different state.
The energy source of the teacher is experienced within the traditional process of initiation. In an initiation, we experience our connection to that energy source and have a strong enough experience that we have confidence and conviction that it will benefit us. Having the experience of a change of state, we enter into a new process, the expansion of our own energetic mechanism. Instead of living in the shell of the disappointments of our ancestors, we live in the energy field of our teacher and the teachers before him (or her).
It’s not necessary to understand a teacher. It is necessary only to experience the energetic connection and keep it clear. For the most part, my experience with my guru, Rudi, was that he was operating on too many levels for me to really understand him. Swami Muktananda was far too complex for anyone to really understand him. Anyone I’ve ever studied with who had anything profound was operating on a number of levels at the same time and was often impossible to comprehend.
Historically, in spiritual literature, the thing that has always gotten students in trouble is trying to understand. There’s a wonderful story we grew up with in Catholic school about St. Paul walking on the beach lost in thoughts of the Trinity. On his walk St. Paul encounters a boy with a bucket who is running back and forth filling his bucket with water from the ocean and emptying it into a hole that he has dug in the sand. In this encounter St. Paul comes to realize that just as the boy could never empty the entire ocean into a hole, so too can a human never understand the infinite mystery that is the Holy Trinity.
In fact, in working with a teacher, the more you try to understand, the less you’re getting it.