It isn’t hard to understand our lives are a series of experiences and lessons from those experiences. From birth we learn by doing: how to walk, how to speak, and how to eat. There isn’t much that we know today that wasn’t taught to us first by someone else, then by doing and feeling comfortable with our actions. It’s an easy concept but many don’t want experience to be their teacher, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. I’ve found many just want to find the wisest teacher, most devote pastor, and best church on Zagat so not to have to do the real work that awaits everyone. Tired of learning from the beginning, many people just want to give the reigns to someone else who appears more knowledgeable, and exactly where they want to be. So if that teacher has it, why not just allow them to be our guides and take from them. Where do I start?
I am someone who actually used to think that way. I didn’t want to do the leg work, hoping I could link up with individuals who had more knowledge, class, and wisdom, giving me a chance to siphon what I felt worked for me with little to no effort. The amount of people who indulge in similar activities is staggering, and then we wonder why many aren’t as educated as they appear, and really just not what they appear to be at all. Having the best Monk as your teacher wont make you the best Buddhist without putting things into practice. Going to the best church doesn’t make you an amazing Christian; nor does living in Beverly Hills make you classy. After a while it must be important to no longer be Christian-like, Buddhist-lite, or wise adjacent. At some point it will be important, if it really is important to you to be present and be what you aspire to be, with experience being the way.
This topic came about during Buddhist readings to deepen my practice. There is a sutta called the Kalama Sutta, in which Kalamas went to the Buddha for advice. They were frustrated with the array of teachings from different teachers, unsure who to follow, and what message was the true message. Part of me doesn’t want to give you any more details because I want you to look up the sutta and form your own conclusion. However, the short of it revolves around experience. I’m mentioned before in a few post about being a seeker and asking questions (click here), and about putting too much on a Monk or Priest because of their title (click here). They all boil down to self discovery and experience that teach a person how to live a life that us at peace with everything and everyone.
Because I don’t have a teacher yet, I do a lot of reading and put a lot of things into practice. I do believe in a teacher, if for nothing else but to get a perspective from someone who has made their spirituality their life. And please understand this doesn’t have to only pertain to a spiritual teacher. We are taught pretty much everything, teachers will come and go, but the only one that is constant is you. I have been my own teacher in many areas for quite a while. Something is made aware to me, I do some research, I put an action plan together, and I experience the results. After that I make my conclusion and go from there. Sounds scientific doesn’t it? Well it is, and that is what I love about Buddhism. It doesn’t give me mysticism (alone because there are some stories) or blind faith. Buddhism asks its followers to questions, inquiry, test, and drawn a conclusion. Buddha tells us if our mental qualities can lead to actions that are unskillful and cause harm and suffering, abandon them. If they are blameless, praised by the wise, and lead to well-being and happiness then keep following them. This can only be done by one’s own experience.
I’m sharing this with you because I get frustrated by a lack of action. I do sometimes slack on my own experiences, taking the easy routine of agreeing when I know the other person has more knowledge and more hands on experience than myself. It isn’t the worst thing but it wont get me to where I want to be, especially if I admire that teacher and truly want to be like them. I truly don’t want to be like anyone else. I want to be the best version of myself and have found through experience, I am at my best when I am following Buddhist principles, laughing, reading spiritual books, eating healthy, laughing ( it bared repeating), and being empathetic. I can look at someone and see qualities that match up with my spirit, adopt them, take them for a spin, and let experience tell me if it fits. That’s living and life as I see it and know it. That is what I’d like for everyone.
So I want to say, continue being taught by friends, family, Monks, and Pastors. They all have something to share with you, but experience will inform you what fits your spirit. Experience is teaching you, learn for your own well-being, and that well-being will spread to the experience of others.