Find the Buddha, Kill the Buddha
by Eli Walker
“If you meet the Buddha, kill him.”– Zen Master Linji
Not literally, obviously.
On the path to enlightenment, through study, meditation, yoga, prayer, etc., you will meet many figures who will tell you that they know all of the answers. They will tell you what is “wrong” with you, and how they can fix you. And you may surrender your power to them out of respect and humility, hoping, with best intentions, to evolve.
This proverb advises that as soon as you “meet the Buddha,” or rather, “see enlightenment,” your conception is wrong, and you must destroy whatever image you see, and continue on your own journey.
This is an excerpt from my new book, “Drunk Yoga: 50 Wine & Yoga Poses to Lift Your Spirit(s).” Very much like the practice of yoga, there is no “one size fits all” teacher. In fact, I’ve learned from personal experience how to identify a teacher. Sometimes you learn from their teachings, sometimes you learn because of their teachings, and sometimes, you simply learn in spite of them.
Let me walk you through the differences.
You’re at the beginning of your yoga journey, and it’s just you and the mat. You know nothing, and you’re at the mercy of your yoga teacher’s instructions. They instruct, you obey. Repeat. Refine. Relearn. At the very least, you’ll learn the basics of an asana practice. At best, you’ll not only dive deeply into your body’s relationship to time and space such that your alignment, breathing, and awareness of both unify, but your collective experiences of this hard and greuling practice will also lead you to the ultimate understanding that you are not your mind--you are nothing but pure consciousness. That nothing is happening to you. Things are only happening in your awareness of them. And, with this understanding, you realize you are ultimately your life’s storyteller. The hero of your journey.
Cue Joseph Campbell quote: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Your first yoga teacher should lead you into the cave. Once you’ve found the treasure...
...you start to develop your own insights. And if you continue traversing through the cave, into the darkness, bound for light, you will inevitably surpass your teacher’s teachings.
If you stick around too long out of stubbornness or perhaps loyalty, you’ll realize, perhaps too late, that all that glimmers isn’t gold. When you know this--that you are a yogi with your own inner compass--you start to see clearly your teacher’s humanness. Their faults and all of their glory. This may make you feel defeated, and angry. Why can’t they be who you want them to be? Why can’t they teach you something new? Something more? Something better? Now’s the time for you to put everything you’ve learned in your practice about compassion, non-judgment and letting go of expectations to practical use. Because this is where you can learn the most.
My first yoga teacher was a real hard-ass--to put it lightly. He was militaristic in his teaching style, and the practice was punishingly challenging. Beyond the physical aspect of his lessons, if he caught me being my own flavor of humanness, he’d jab, “Stay present. Be conscious. Let go of attachment. Just trust me.” At first I was grateful he seemed invested enough in my “path to awakening,” that he would take the time to lecture me, I mean enlighten me, that the reason I made noise when I walked on the floor was because I wasn’t “conscious enough” yet. ...Which soon led to, “You need to lend me $5000 to work on your trust issues...believe me...I can help you…be present...” which was followed by some serious Harvey Weinstein-esque propositioning that’s a blog for another time. It didn’t take long for me to realize that his behavior was abusive. But, after time and distance, I also realized that his constant criticism of others (masked as spiritual teaching) was, in part, simply an expression of his own inner demons. (An excuse? No. A reason? Perhaps.)
It was because of his abuse that I learned the importance of loving myself in order to be an authentic teacher for others.
In spite of.
Not to be dramatic, but this one’s the best. You’ve traveled long and far, and you’ve cleaned up after your pity party (...the one you threw for yourself when you realized that you are your own best teacher and life is hard and you’ve gotta, for the most part, walk it alone...)Good news. Now that you know no one else is responsible for your happiness, you can enjoy an array of different teachers, a smorgasbord, if you will, and value their lessons for what they are. You’ve developed such a strong relationship to the unity of your mind, spirit, skin and bones that even if you take a rather terribly executed yoga class from a teacher you just don’t jive with, you’ll glean insight from your own experience anyway that’ll only serve to polish a new perspective.
No matter the teacher, learn from them, because of them, and through your own personal acumen, even in spite of them.
“Not to get all “yoga teacher” on you here, but I want to tell you that you are your own best teacher. As you tread your spiritual path, you ought to learn from as many instructors, sages, wise old men, wise young men, and even wiser women.
Your life is yours to live, and your identity is yours to claim. To surrender your power to a self-proclaimed guru in the name of spiritual devotion is disrespectful to the very existence you’ve earned by being alive in a body. The best way to honor your spirit is to let go of any idea that you are “doing life wrong,” while others are “doing it right.” You are in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, under exactly the right circumstances. (Otherwise, you would be somewhere else, and someone else, entirely, emmaright?)”
If you'd like more insights on carving out your unique path in life, becoming your own teacher and using yoga as a practice for both, I've got something special for you. In just a few weeks the Drunk Yoga book is being released where you'll find a collection of drunk yoga poses and philosophies to create your own containers for joy. You can pre-order now at : https://www.amazon.com/Drunk-Yoga-Wine-Poses-Spirit/dp/1510740821