Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Do We Require a Teacher?

Do We Require a Teacher?
by Scott Bradley

Opinion is divided as to whether we require a teacher if we are to realize our full human potential. This disagreement does not simply exist between different traditions, but within them as well. There is a difference of opinion within Zen, for instance.

I think Zhuangzi would have answered this question in the negative. He was very much an individualist, and he encouraged the same in others. This is part of his greatness, that he was able to emerge from the collective mentality which typified his time.

We must remember, however, that if we conclude we do not 'require' a teacher, this does not mean that we could not benefit from having one.

Personally, I find the assertion that we require a teacher as dogmatic, and indicative of a bondage to 'content', whether articulated or esoteric. Yet, I suspect one could certainly profit from having one, provided one did not surrender one's own unique expression to him or her.

This likewise applies to the fuzzy idea of 'transmission' wherein spiritual insight is somehow mysteriously passed from teacher to student. To each his own, but I prefer to remain free of a belief in the miraculous.

The real meat of the matter for me, however, is my trust in myself — and yourself. We are human, and this is about becoming fully human in the sense of realizing our human potential. We can do it. We can discover our own unique expression. And that expression has no defined goal. 'Enlightenment' can be a most pernicious concept (to use a favorite word of late). It tells us there is a specific goal and no other. If you don't attain this, you have attained nothing at all. No. And again, I say, No. I will not assume these chains and fetters.

I have a friend who would now say, But we are all interconnected and our every thought has its source in our collective experience. All your ideas, Scott, are rooted in your exposure to millennia of human thought and experience. Yes. And again, I say, Yes. This collective connectivity is both reassuring and humbling. It does not, however, diminish the uniqueness of each one of us, or obviate our responsibility to nurture that unique expression. Life does not reduce to logical pigeon-holing or the tyranny of mutual-exclusion. We can each one become our own Omega Person (without concern for an imagined Omega Human).

So, yes, I declare my independence. I live alone within this mind and it is thus that I will forge my own way — with the help of all humanity collectively expressed in me. I require no other teacher.

Nevertheless, I would gladly embrace one should she or he become evident to me. Yet, I do not seek one; nor would I ever sacrifice my way to the way of another.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. Books would have to make my list of teachers but my most direct teachers were:

    A tree. I was standing next to this one tree and it stood. Perfect I realized, this tree does not need to ask 'why?'

    Some deaths close to me were teachers.

    Magic mushrooms. Showed me that this daily world we all live in is one of an infinite interpretations of the data.

    An ant. I sat in deep contemplation on a beach when "ow!" It bit me. I realized "shit yes, don't waste life sitting thinking about life" and I leant over, kissed my wife and ran to float in the ocean.

  2. Well, I must disagree somewhat with this. Books are great, but someone taught you to read, taught you some skills. Likewise with skiing, qigong, brush painting, cooking...and even meditation. If you have never felt the energy of a great teacher, it's a pity. You miss an opportunity. We certainly shouldn't be dogmatic slaves to a master, but sometimes some other people are a little further along the path of "human development." There are ideas, energies, and skills that are transmitted, that one never could have experienced on one's own. Yes, books, trees, mushrooms are sources for lessons, but none of them are human. And your first greatest teacher was probably your mother...if you were so fortunate. And of course, a really great teacher also learns from his students.

  3. I think what we are pointing to is known by children with no teacher. We then learn worldly things and lose touch.

    It is feeling that we have lost touch or something is amiss that leads people to 'seek'.

    Then the key is very much to unlearn, remove a little every day.

    Regain that which we thought was lost but we could never truly have been separate from.


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