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I’ve written a few posts now which touch on the theme of how an awakened person goes about teaching others how to awaken. Over all, if you’re not enlightened, it’s a good idea to hang around enlightened people. Because many of us are able to know the minds of others, we’re able to use language in a way that can point your mind in a direction that will be helpful for your progress. For the unawakened, this is an invaluable service.

However, there is one particular disadvantage that may arise when the student is way less skilled and developed than their teacher. This is because true mastery of any skill usually requires that the master no longer thinks about the mechanics of the skill. For example, when first learning how to play guitar it makes sense to pay close attention to where one places the pads of their fingers, and just how much pressure is applied to the string, etc. But once this is learned, it’s better for the guitarist to keep their attention on others things, so as to play in a responsive way. It’s difficult to be responsive to one’s band mates when attention is applied only to the mechanics of pushing a finger to a string.

Because of this, the person who develops mastery tends to ignore the basic skills once they are developed. They simply “play.” And this means that not every master is a good teacher of basic skills. For, to teach basic skills well requires paying attention to them. And paying attention to the basics after already moving on to more interesting skills is not very interesting.

The awakened master is not always a good teacher of basic practice skills. In all honesty, the best teachers of basic skills are those who have only recently mastered them to some degree. Stream-enterers make great vipassana coaches, for example, because they just go the hang of the skills required to develop along the path. But after many years of vipassana practice, the yogi doesn’t even think about it. They just do it. They sit down, direct their attention, and the process just does what it does. It’s just like what happens when a skilled pianist sits down and just starts playing. Or, just like they way you get into your car, turn it on, and just start driving. Rather than focusing on the gas pedal, you’re probably watching the road in order to be responsive to the environment.

The point here is to choose your instructors carefully. Don’t discount the new stream-enterer as less capable of helping you if you have yet to progress to their level. They might be the best resource for developing specific skills. But also do your best to find a teacher or mentor who is developed well beyond your level, so you can keep the greater goal in focus. Having access to a genuinely awakened person will help to keep you from falling off track, as they tend to be good at keeping you moving in the right direction.

“Enlightenment is . . . to snap out of the movie of life. To wake up, to shake it off. You are, and always have been, at the movies, as the Witness. But when you take life seriously—when you think the movie is real—you forget you are the pure and free Witness and you identify with a little self—the ego—as if you were part of the movie you are actually watching. You identify with somebody on screen. And therefore you get frightened, and therefore you cry, and therefore you suffer altogether.

“With meditation, you begin to relax in your seat and just watch the movie of life, without judging it, avoiding it, grasping it, pushing it, or pulling it. You merely Witness it: you employ the mirror-mind, you rest in simple, clear, spontaneous, effortless, ever-present consciousness.” [Italics his.]

-Ken Wilber, One Taste

How does an awakened person describe the indescribable?

Easy. They don’t.

Nothing an awakened person says should be taken as truth, at least not in any absolute sort of way.

When I talk about the source, I do so as a pointer. Do I really mean that the source is itself the uncaused-cause, like some kind of singularity from which objects spew forth and return?… maybe. (Wouldn’t you love to know.)

… but even if I was, that’s not the point (or should I say, not the pointer). When I, like any other awakened person out there, provides you with an analogy for awakening, beware of any comfortable feeling that comes along with the thought, “Oh, I get it!” Awakening is not like solving a mathematical equation. It’s not a piece of knowledge you can carry around in your head, and reveal any time someone asks you about it.

The teachings of the awakened are used to influence the student’s state of mind. It’s much more like helping someone tune an instrument than helping them dig a whole or climb over a fence. What we say comes at others at a certain frequency or pitch, which results in either consonance or dissonance in the minds of those who listen. Both are used to guide you in a particular direction – one that will lead you closer to the state of mind that is ripe for awakening. When the fruit is truly ripe, it drops from the branch. That’s what it’s like to awaken.

You can’t figure it you. You never will. But you can listen, and you can practice.

But, for god’s sake, don’t spend time getting good at describing something you don’t yet understand. You might be able to fool yourself and some others who are not awake, but you’ll never fool the awakened. Not a chance.