“You are your own teacher.
Looking for teachers can’t solve your own doubts.
Investigate yourself to find the truth – INSIDE, not outside.
Knowing yourself is most important.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t find a real teacher with some real accomplishment – you should!
Like a good coach, they can elevate you and take you up to the next level – they save you a lot of time and heartache from doing things wrong. For example, Ajahn Pannavadho used to read a lot of books and study a lot of the Buddhist texts – but he didn’t really progress in his cultivation until he trained under Ajahn Maha Boowa.
You need a teacher that’s been there, done that. As Master Hsu Yun would say – a teacher can’t give what they don’t have. He was referencing enlightenment – so an unenlightened teacher can’t give what they don’t have – so they can’t help others open up their own enlightenment because they don’t know how to do it themselves!
Now bear in mind that famous teachers may not necessarily be the best teacher for you. Maybe they’re too busy with other disciples. And maybe you click better with someone else. Sometimes, you find people who are catalysts for your own development – just by being around them.
For example, Ajahn Achalo related the story of how one day, he just woke up feeling annoyed and then all of a sudden, instantly, he would feel this warmth of loving kindness. So he wondered – what happened? Later on, he saw his teacher, Ajahn Anan doing walking meditation nearby. So afterwards, he asked his teacher, “What sort of meditation were you doing earlier on?”
Ajahn Anan replied, “Metta” (loving kindness) medtation. And then he related his experience earlier on. Ajahn Anan said it was like knocking a brick out of the wall and replacing it with metta bricks. So maybe just by being around some people – perhaps their mental state ripples out on to you.
Ajahn Chah called metta his magnet. Because he had great metta – tonnes of people were drawn to him. And some disciples had amazing meditation experiences whilst meditating near Master Hsuan Hua.
So it’s great if you can find an excellent teacher who can help guide you onwards.
However, YOU still need to do the work. A teacher can’t learn for you – you need to develop the skill yourself.
In terms of finding the Truth of the Dharma, talking to your teachers and reading Sutras can serve as a great guide – but you eventually, to really understand – you need to go inside yourself. Just close your eyes, breathe deeply and go inside yourself – practice letting go. Feel your way into it. Become familiar with the mind ground.
The Truth is not to be found outside. Outside means the external world – which is the world of the senses. You need a body (the 5 skandhas) to experience the world of the senses, so we are experiencing the sensory realm through our bodies. So this reality that we are experiencing is just a sense thing – our awareness goes out the sense gates (Salyatana) into the world of the senses experience it.
So the world that we live in is just a sense thing anyway – sensory information gathered from our senses and interwoven by our mind to give us an experience of “me” living in my body, experiencing the world out there moving around in space and experiencing time pass by – so it’s a “perception” of experiencing living in a body that you “think” is “you” with a lifespan in space and time.
Hence why the Diamond Sutra says no mundane self, no others, no living beings and no lifespan – it doesn’t mean there really aren’t these things but these are constructs of the external sensory world to be seen through in cultivation and understood at a gut level. Nor does it mean you can use the Diamond Sutra to go killing, stealing, lying and committing sexual misconduct cos you say, “Hey, the Diamond Sutra says they don’t exist, so I can do whatever I want!” Why not? Because the absolute Truth does not belie mundane truths – they interpenetrate.
But the body is not self – so the body is not really who you are. It’s just like a house that you’re temporarily living out of – just a physical shell that your senses can see out of and experience the sensory world out of – but it’s not the real you. But who is it that is actually doing the seeing? What is the awareness that is experiencing all of this? This is a question that is used to investigate in Zen and Chan meditation – and is explained in detail in the Shurangama Sutra.
Because if you temporarily shut off your senses – go to a quiet room (no sound is activating your ears), closing your eyes (no light is activating the retina) whilst sitting still (your sense of touch is not being disturbed) along with no smell or taste (because you’re not eating anything). Sensory deprivation tanks are pretty in vogue now too.
So if be still for long enough to quieten down and de-activating all of your senses – you will notice – the external world has disappeared to you, yet you yourself have not disappeared. Your body too is a perception belonging to the external sense world – you the perception of your body also disappears too! But you are still there!
Now this also gives you an idea of how, when your body dies, you will keep going on, in another form (according to your good or bad karma). Because that’s just similar to your house falling apart and you moving on to the next house.
Your thoughts and thinking is not self either – so if you can focus on a meditation object and become one with it, your thoughts quieten down and your mind stops rippling with all sorts of different thoughts. If thoughts arise, just place your awareness on the thoughts and they will dissipate of themselves. So thoughts are part of the external world too – they are part of the “outside” and are not self, not you.
So this is what is meant by finding the Truth inside of yourself – not searching outside in the external world for answers. So hopefully, that will give you guys a bit of a start. Enjoy!