Monday, January 16, 2012


Scott Bradley

I do often wonder what I am doing here. Am I teaching? Most of you would probably reply, yes and no. Yes, I am expounding on things of mutual interest and sometimes provide a helpful spin on things. But no, if teaching in the context of things spiritual means one must be a teacher, then I do not qualify. I presume to teach, but I am not a true teacher.

There is something to be said for designating a true spiritual teacher a "guru". This clarifies immediately what we mean by a teacher. She is someone who practices what she preaches. She has experienced totally that of which she speaks. She has 'arrived'.

The difficulty with gurus, of course, is that we have to take their word for it. We have to buy into their message and believe that they have experienced it. I have never met one, but I imagine there are gurus out there who are able to convince people of their authenticity by their very presence. I cannot presume to judge the merits of "buying into" such a one. Only I know that there are many 'gurus' out there who have duped people. But then, maybe we're all duped one way or the other; maybe there are only various kinds and degrees of duped-ness.

As a means to clarifying things a bit, I'd like to suggest four kinds of teachers. There are those who know, those who think they know but don't, those who know they don't know but pretend they do, and those who know they don't know and say so. Obviously, the two most to be avoided, as either a disciple or a teacher, are the ones in the middle. As one who presumes to teach, I try and stay squarely in the camp of the don't-knowers. This is not because I do not aspire to be one-who-experientially-knows, but because I understand that it is a quantum leap from here to there. I feel this distinction in my bones and that keeps me, for the most part (I hope), honest.

One positive consequence of the way of not-knowing is that it tends to keep one relatively honest about not knowing. It is, after all, the sign of one's 'spirituality'! This is putting it a bit cynically, perhaps, but it is important to remember that there are pitfalls everywhere. Nevertheless, it can be a way of honesty. And honesty is essentially that quality which Confucius called sincerity — the sincerity which, when realized, is true authenticity.

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


  1. Did you cover those who know there is nothing to know?

    Guru is an interesting word as it means someone who guides you from gu dark to ru light but we may see that there is no light to be guided to, we are Taoist after all and know that opposites are an interplay. The quest for enlightenment is great but defines all on it as being in darkness. Neither light or dark are wrong as Tao is both. Striving for one though is un-taoist isnt it?

    Of course the concept of enlightenment may not be this, it could be preconceived as something else, but that too can be filtered in the same way as above.

    I do read you as a teacher but then I see everything from axe murderer to flower as a teacher, every thing, every person, every word is a teacher. I did for some time think there was some eternal bliss to be had but now my enlightenment, or my ballance-ment is that you take what's there, you'll never be anywhere you weren't supposed to be. Sometimes it's bliss and sometimes it's shit - there is though an ever present wonder in every moment either way. I'm sure when the keys stop tapping and you rest with the ocean you are there too. I think anyone of us has felt Satori, when with nature or not thinking too much, but the strive to make it everlasting seems like a Buddhist dream and not Taoist. Isn't it?

  2. I'm kind of reluctant to comment here, partly because I frequently make reference to my teacher(s) for whom I have great respect and appreciation, especially the ones who speak Chinese and have been involved in Taoist traditions for many years. Also, it's all just language games, often manipulated to reinforce the position one has taken in the first place.

    None of my teachers have ever said "there is nothing to know," and in fact, recently one mentioned that to be Taoist one must acquire, among certain other things, a "deep understanding [of the concepts]."

    Ta-wan mentions "satori," which is of course a Japanese Buddhist concept, although it can be understood in Chinese as "wu" (falling tone), which means to realize or awaken.

    But "knowing" has other meanings..".wo zhidao ni" (I know you), or "wo bu mingbai le" (I don't understand that). My teacher, when he said one must have a deep understanding, said "mingbai," not "wu".

    None of my teachers (mentors) has had a "message." Indeed they are all just people, humble but wise. They are just more familiar with the texts, the language, and the techniques and can assist in the "mingbai." The "wu" is up to the individual.

    (Generally I avoid any teacher who has a lot of money and a big commercial presence...just like televangelists.)


Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.