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Why We Need a Teacher

Before the Internet Age, I would borrow books from the University library on the Eastern Wisdom Traditions. I remember being so angry as I read book after book. They would discuss the free states of awareness and bliss I inherently knew existed but did not know how to access. They would allude to secret techniques and tell of the beautiful metaphor called the Transmission of Light. I could follow much of what they said, up until a certain point when it began to sound like double-speak, with phrases like “awareness aware of awareness” or “voidness void of voidness”. When the discourse reached this point, no matter the tradition, it invariably ended with something like: Words are meaningless; you must have a Teacher to show you the Path.

My Protestant Christian upbringing taught me we can access God directly – no middleman needed. I practiced the focusing techniques I could find on my own, and found beautiful realms that made me feel happy and high. But the experiences were fleeting, and not the life-changing spiritual metamorphosis the books revealed. I knew there was more, if only I could find the secret method in some obscure book. Or perhaps I needed to decode the metaphors to find the right breathing technique, and the doors to Infinite Awareness would snap open for me. Deep inside my heart, I knew it was possible, and that the way was within me.

The idea I needed to bow down to some teacher like a sycophant was abhorrent. It all sounded so cultish, this guru worship and devotion to some person who would decide if someone like me could hear the magic teachings. With each new book, I would get excited feeling this must be the one with the secret code, but each time as it stopped just short of revelation, I would yell at the book, “Oh come on, just tell me already!” Out of frustration I wanted to throw the books against the wall, but many were old and borrowed, so I restrained myself.

Then one day, after I had decided those exalted states described in the books were mere stories and exaggerations, I met my Teacher. He did not offer any special breathing exercises or meditation methods. He invited us to sit up straight. As we sat, my mind opened beyond the confines of myself. There was Light – a tangible golden Light – filling the room despite my efforts to blink it away. My mind dissolved in silence, and I was forever changed.

How this process works exactly, I cannot say. All I know is it does, and it has for thousands of years. Even if I had left and never saw him again, I was irrevocably changed with that one meditation. Fortunately, he was entertaining enough that I stuck around to learn how to share this secret teaching with others. While I may never reach the level of intensity he was able to transmit the teaching, I’ve watched students blossom before my eyes.

It is not a “shhh, don’t tell” kind of secret. Secret means hidden in plain sight from those who are not yet open. When a teacher goes into the silent state, something is transmitted that is beyond all of our senses. The meditative state is shown to the student, and the student opens to it, and then learns how to access that state beyond the mind. This silence is already within each of us; it’s really a matter of access, of finding the door.

The best analogy I can come up with is swimming. We can talk about swimming, we can watch videos about swimming, and we can imagine swimming. But until we actually get in the water, we have not been swimming. A Teacher takes you swimming beyond the Mind. This is how we learn to meditate. This is what it means when the books say we need a Teacher.

Now I wish I could walk up to any random person, stop my thoughts and transmit this teaching so they can experience the innate bliss of being. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, we all have the free will to control the focal point of our attention. It is through this focus of attention that a student becomes receptive to the Transmission of Light. No teacher can force this on another person.

Hence, all the preliminary techniques in countless books and now on countless websites exist to prepare you for that meeting. Even before you find a teacher or even if you have no interest in finding a teacher, you can benefit from the exoteric methods you find widely available. At a purely physical level, they can help with relaxation and anxiety and be wonderful tools for building a happy life. Mentally, focusing techniques can help make your mind stronger and provide a level of balance, allowing you to bounce back quickly when life events knock you down. Insight techniques can help you make sense of the wanderings of your mind so you don’t feel so trapped by it. These are powerful tools anyone can benefit from using, and ones that can be taught by anyone who uses them.

For the rare individual who wants more, who craves that life-changing spiritual metamorphosis, a qualified Teacher is required. The teacher cannot do it for you; rather, they show you what is already there. If this is something you are drawn to explore, make your mind ready by strengthening it. Then open your eyes, let your body move into action, and you will find your Teacher. We are sometimes in the most unlikely places, so be open and trust yourself. And of course, it will most likely not be what you expected!


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Published inBuddha Lessons / MindfulnessMeditation


  1. Hui Hui

    I love your analogies of the experience of the Teachings. And yes(!), a Teacher has been tremendously helpful in walking this Path. Thank you!

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