I get asked a lot who my teacher is. Sometimes it triggers a sense of inadequacy, such that I wonder what I’m missing. It’s like those car ads that make you feel like you’re driving around in a pile of junk, or the beer ads that show all those people looking like they’re having fun. Then, I realize those ads are simply trying to program you into a certain way.
That doesn’t mean I don’t honor teachers. Quite the contrary. I believe there is room for many teachers and many lessons. I guess right now I’d call myself a life-ist, in that my lessons are coming from life, from interacting with others, with events, with challenges, with whatever presents itself.
It seems to me that was the counsel of one widely-respected teacher:
Be a lamp unto Yourself
As the Buddha was dying,
who would be their teacher after death.
He replied to his disciple –
“Be lamps unto yourselves.
Be refuges unto yourselves.
Take yourself no external refuge.
Hold fast to the truth as a lamp.
Hold fast to the truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone besides yourselves.
And those, Ananda, who either now or after I am dead,
Shall be a lamp unto themselves,
Shall betake themselves as no external refuge,
But holding fast to the truth as their lamp,
Holding fast to the truth as their refuge,
Shall not look for refuge to anyone else besides themselves,
It is they who shall reach to the very topmost height;
But they must be anxious to learn.”
Quoted in Joseph Goldstein, The Experience of Insight
I’d like to hear what you feel about this idea.