By Scott Shaw, Ph.D.
There is the tradition on the Buddhist path that one is a direct reflection of their teacher—that one possesses no authenticity unless they can document the transmission of enlightenment from their teacher to themselves and from their teacher to their teacher's teacher, back to the Buddha. Though this method of transmission is commonly accepted, there is many flaws in this path to enlightenment.
First, and perhaps most important, is the fact that enlightenment is not something which can be given. Enlightenment is not a rank which can be earned. Enlightenment is a personal process of progressing towards the ultimate understanding of human consciousness. Though a teacher is commonly used as a tool to lay the foundations which ultimately achieve this end, a teacher cannot give you Nirvana as if it were some sort of gift or an earned distinction.
Student consciousness is obvious throughout the Spiritual Path. When one is initially drawn to the path, the first step is oftentimes the seeking of a Guru. Once one becomes a disciple, they often times idolize this individual to the degree that they believe them to be so all encompassingly holy that obtaining their level of consciousness is a virtual impossibility. Due to this fact, students become locked into, “Disciple Consciousness.” Though they become great at performing the techniques of worship, they do not develop the necessary mental elements to let go of this limited understanding and move onto the realm where Nirvana may actually be embraced.
Christians are the ideal example of, “Disciple Consciousness.” They have attached such a great singular obtainment to one figure, Jesus Christ, that how could anyone ever hope to become, “The Son of God?” What is misunderstood by many modern Christians and is revealed by Middle East, Judaic, and Biblical scholars is that the term, “Son of God,” or more precisely translated, “Child of God,” was a term which was assigned to everyone from the Jewish faith of that era who were persecuted by the Romans. As time evolved and translations of the writing of the disciples of Jesus took place, the term “Son of God” took on the singular connation of being assigned solely to Jesus Christ.
When an ideology becomes singularly obtained by one individual, it obviously cannot be experienced by any other person. Buddhism is no different.
Siddhartha Guatama, The Sakyamuni Buddha lived over two thousand years ago. Numerous legends have come to be attributed to his life and his enlightenment. With a being so distant and so immaculate, how can anyone hope to achieve the same level of consciousness?
Whereas Christianity has evolved to the level where it is, in fact, blasphemy to contradict the totality of holiness, which is solely held by Jesus Christ, the Buddhist should not be bound by this mentality. Yet, in many cases, they are.
Certainly, from a Christian perspective, it may be argued that, “Enlightenment is not God-hood.” But, it must be kept in mind that the Buddhist does not want to become the, “Son of God.” The Buddhist seeks enlightenment: oneness between the individual self, the universal self, and the cosmic whole.
In India, where Buddha found his enlightenment, there are an untold number of Sadhus, Yogis, and renunciates everywhere. They do the most abstract things to their body and mind in order to alter their consciousness so that enlightenment may enter. They vow to stand only on one leg for a lifetime. They walk naked through the streets, never wearing any clothing, even in the cold of the Himalayan winter. They lock themselves away in caves, refusing to interact with any other human being. This is all done as a pathway to enlightenment. Though these beings may have been initially initiated by a Guru, who gave them a mantra or a specific spiritual practice, they have let go of “Disciple Consciousness,” and have forged their won pathway to Nirvana.
Legend states that Buddha himself had two primary teachers. But, he found no enlightenment from them. So, he moved forward and achieved Nirvana by his own method.
Whatever immaculate connotation you assign to your teacher, it is must be understood that as long as you unduly idolize them, you will never reach Nirvana. Nirvana can only be experienced by the individual who lets go of the definitions of Better and Worse, Higher and Lower, Less and More, and relinquishes themselves to the fact by letting go you can become one with all that is: nature, the teacher, and the universe. This is Nirvana.
The Pali Canon of Buddhism describes twenty-eight Buddha which lived before Siddhartha Gautama. Throughout the centuries in in India, Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, Japan, and now the Western World, there have been cases of others who have also achieved the highest level of consciousness. So, it is doable! But, it is ultimately only doable by you.
Do you wish to be a student or do you wish to be enlightened? If you say you are not good enough, knowledgeable enough, pure enough, or holy enough—you never will be. Your teacher may know more than you, but that is information and knowledge. Information and knowledge are nice, they are even useful to present a point of view, but they are not enlightenment. Enlightenment is steeping beyond all that is believed and that is known.
Let go of your teacher and become enlightenment.
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