Hello, today I want to talk a little bit about a problem with spiritual teachings. I think ultimately it comes down to the fact that no spiritual teaching is the truth. In order to speak about it, we’re putting it into words, which automatically becomes dualistic because words typically only have meaning because there are things it’s not. For example, “chair” only has meaning because there are things that are not chairs. If everything was a chair, then there would be no real meaning to the word.
Now, ultimately, the truth is non-duality. What we experience is non-duality. So as soon as we start trying to point or talk about it, we need to instill error. We have to deviate in order to talk about it. And when teachings are given, what is sometimes often forgotten is that a good teacher will change their teachings based on where the seeker or student is. I mean, it is one thing to teach from just your own standpoint, saying, “This is my experience.” It is another to also say, “Based on my experience and my understanding of the entirety, I can tell where you’re at, and instead of trying to bring you to where I am, I can find the best path for you where you are now.”
So there’s a little bit of variation that can come into play because a superior teacher will modify their teaching depending on the audience they’re talking to. If you listen to enough of their talks, they may actually contradict themselves. They may say one thing to one group and then say the exact opposite thing to another group. This is what Zen would call skillful means because to a certain extent, what you’re doing is tailoring to the group.
Now, in the end, whatever is going on is the finger pointing at the moon, as Zen would say. And too often, we focus on the finger and get attached to the finger, the words, how they’re said, the actual teachings, and we want to declare that as the truth. But it’s just the finger. You have to look at what’s being pointed at, the moon. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you’re pointing that way to the moon. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, you’re pointing that way to the moon. The directions of the pointing, in absolute terms, vary, but they’re pointing at the same thing.
It’s like depending on where you’re at on the mountain, you could be pointing at the peak, but the peak might be north for one person, south for another, east for another, west for another. It depends on where they are on the mountain. And so, that’s the fundamental problem with spiritual teachings. We become attached to the teachings and can’t simply see past them to understand what’s really being pointed at.
So, I recommend taking a more fast and loose approach with spiritual teachings. Don’t get so caught up on what is being said and don’t become overly attached to something. In a conversation I had earlier this week, someone was referring to a teaching by Ramana Maharshi where he said, “We aren’t the doer; the divine is the doer.” The person became very attached to it and wanted to make divine agency the sole agency and not the individual. However, the fallacy is that there’s only the self, there is no duality. So, in saying that the divinity is the sole doer and I am not, you’re creating a separation, a duality that doesn’t exist. Depending on who is being spoken to, this can be a good teaching or pointer. However, if you take it as absolute truth and try to say that this is how it is, you’ll get stuck because there was an error put in there in order to talk about it. And depending on the direction being pointed at, it may not be true for where you are.
So, don’t become attached to any teachings. Take what’s useful and let the rest go.