“I’m thirsty, but I guess I should wait for an aquatic scientist before drinking.”
There is no need to wait
Searching for a certified, aquatic scientist before making the decision to drink water is ludicrous, right? I mean, who in their right mind would even think of that?
Yet that’s exactly what some trained and certified (by their tradition) meditation teachers advise new meditators. Frankly, I think that’s a load of crap and it promotes further division along sectarian lines. Yes, I understand that Buddhist meditation isn’t something that anyone can teach, but let’s be realistic, sitting in silence, focusing on your breath, and learning to be with yourself isn’t rocket science.
The argument seems to be that non-certified meditation teachers can’t take a student deeply into their meditation journey and, therefore, might omit the finer points that a traditionally-trained meditation teacher would be equipped to teach.
So, respectfully, I get that, but again, we’re not talking brain surgery here. Ok, we are kind of talking about a brain-changing experience, here is where I think that logic breaks down.
The thirsty deserve water now
When faced with a thirsty crowd, you do what you can to help them find water. You don’t direct them to conduct an esoteric search for an aquatic scientist. You engage in the compassionate-kindness that your own practice helps you evolve. You exercise your desire to help and to serve. You give them a damn glass of water. 🙄
To deny a thirsty individual water -when you know where it is and how to drink it- is both disgraceful and dispassionate.
I view teaching meditation as a life-saving, life-changing opportunity. I know this because my own meditation practice both saved and changed my life. It has transformed who I am, how I live, and how I view reality. It’s opened me to a view of the world that’s based on compassion and service.
I didn’t learn how to meditate from a traditionally-trained or certified/authorized meditation teacher and it hasn’t seemed to impede my path at all. I read books, a lot of books. I watched videos on YouTube by the Dalai Lama, Pema Chödrön, the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and others, and I talked with other meditators, but the most important thing I did, was jump-right-in.
You learn meditation mostly my sitting in meditation. One’s meditation experience isn’t magically enhanced in some way by the presence of a pedigreed teacher.
It’s still just you, the cushion, and your unruly mind. No amount of sitting with the teacher will change that. In fact, the Insight Timer app for both Android and iOS is a great way to keep your meditation guided according to what interests you.
The monastic vs. the lay practitioner
Having said all of that, if you’re considering taking monastic vows, then I’d suggest you find a meditation teacher and fellow monastic from within that tradition. A life-long commitment to a monastic lifestyle is not an easy path. It requires stamina, fortitude, a willingness to give up the comforts of the world in order to study deeply the teachings of the Buddha and your own awakening.
I’m a lay practitioner and teacher. I’m not authorized nor certified by anyone other than those who seek my input, the thirsty who want this life-changing water. The monastic life appeals to me on a deeper level, but the life I’ve built over the years isn’t conducive to any monastic order and, honestly, it isn’t something I’m called to follow.
I am called to both service and teaching. I am absolutely convinced that teaching others to enter into a meditation practice and those of mindfulness and compassionate-kindness is the one focus of my life I could easily devote the rest of my days carrying out. It is my mission.
What should you do if you’re thirsty and searching for water?
I can only tell you what I would do: and that would be to jump-right-into the well and let your heart and your experience lead to the next step. If you’re ultimately led to a traditionally-trained teacher for a deeper walk within a tradition, I would be both supportive and very happy for you.
Any meditation teacher whose heart is enveloped in compassion would feel the same. If they don’t, well then…