…a guide who knows the terra incognita that lies beyond our known world…
One model in the west: sit in a big auditorium and have someone talk to you for hours and share some nice ideas, and you will become a different, better person. You just have to go to a lecture.
You don’t really have to do anything. It’s all about sitting there and hearing the right ideas. Especially if they tell you things you already believe anyway. That can be very nice.
Another model: you have to become the engine of your own change. You have to practice. You ride the cushion, making the great journey.
Do we need a teacher? If someone wants to jog for twenty minutes a few times a week, they may not need much by way of coaching. Perhaps one session to make sure they’re not likely to hurt themselves, and off they go. On the other hand if someone hopes to join the Olympic team, they are very likely to need a hands-on coach.
Perhaps it’s comparable in the world of meditation. If we are seeking a low-level mindfulness practice of a few minutes a day, with an occasional longer sit, as a mildly therapeutic activity, for some self-regulation and improved connectivity, we still need to be clearly instructed in practice, but thereafter it may not be necessary to engage closely with a teacher. On the other hand, if we are seeking either deep self-enquiry, or a more devoted approach to practice, with the possibility of major shifts in experience, then a guide who knows the terra incognita that lies beyond our known world is more important.