One of the beliefs that I have heard dripping from the mouths of mystics time and time again, is that true knowledge of the Way can only be obtained through direct transmission from a teacher or enlightened sage. Perusing the Taoist classics, again and again, the writers say that the Tao can only be discovered through the aid of a good teacher.
This belief has always rankled me somewhat. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a fiercely autodidactic person. I never trusted any of my teachers at school, and, to this day, I will never take anything anyone says to me as truthful until I have thoroughly researched it, or experienced it directly myself. I have always seen education as a deeply personal, internal process, and have been exceedingly loathe to give up any sovereignty over myself by submitting to a teacher.
All the same, I do understand the logic behind these assertions. Enlightenment is an energetic transformation. That energy can be explained through books, but not acquired from them. An enlightened teacher, however, has the upper-hand in this respect. Like Don Juan Matos was able to enlighten Carlos Castaneda through various sorcery techniques, and how myriads of Zen Buddhists have been illumined through receiving a harsh blow from their masters, these sages can utilize their superior understanding and mastery of the laws of reality to alter the consciousness of their students, and transfer energy and understanding to them over a period of time.
But the universe is essentially holographic. Anything that you could ever wish to know or experience is encoded and immanent in the tiniest particulate of every atom. If you can break them open using the atom smasher of your mind, then you can see all that there is to see. Enlightenment is programmed into the very matrix of being. Teachers may be able to show you the path they took, but you must ultimately follow your own. The algorithm of reality is one of simultaneous innovation and recidivism. If you didn’t create your own path, how would the universe be able to fulfil its commitment to updating the eternal truth through newer and fresher means?
Let every tree, stone, man, woman, child, event, and action be your teachers. But, most of all, be a student receiving the lesson of the divine will within you. It is said that Bodhisattvas, through their immense accomplishment, are able manifest themselves however they wish, appearing in any guise they see fit, bringing whole towns, populations, worlds, and even universes into being simply through the power of their minds. The whole of existence is the manifestation of a single, compassionate being revealing itself to itself. From this perspective, how can one look anywhere, whether through eye, mind, telescope or microscope, and not find a Buddha to teach them?
In a short parable, Franz Kafka wrote of an eccentric philosopher who spent all his time playing with a spinning top. Though he was laughed at by the local kids, he was committed to the single-pointed focus he was directing at this toy. He believed if he was able to understand this spinning top, then everything else would immediately become comprehendible to him.
What will you use to be your spinning top? What will be the single profound moment that sets off your chain reaction of understanding?