In the spiritual tradition I 'grew up' in, Zen Buddhism, you can find people who are hell-bent on finding a teacher, some flesh-and-blood instructor. You can also find people who are hell-bent on avoiding finding such a teacher. And most of the rest combine some elements of both positions.
But tonight I feel like arguing that if you lay claim to an interest or investment in Buddhism, you have, by definition, got a teacher. For it, against it or mixed-up in the middle ... still you already have a teacher. No joke.
To distinguish this from that is to have a teacher.
To praise one thing and disdain another is to have a teacher.
To be pleased by accomplishments and depressed by defeats is to have a teacher.
To succeed today and fail tomorrow is to have a teacher.
To be ignited by virtue and flummoxed by evil is to have a teacher.
To be owned by certainties or wracked by uncertainty is to have a teacher.
To succeed at koan A and fail at koan B is to have a teacher.
To imagine things might be improved is to have a teacher.
To fear that something is missing or well in hand is to have a teacher.
Intellectual and emotional understanding is to have a teacher.
Lack of intellectual and emotional understanding is to have a teacher.
Having a teacher is implicit in being a Buddhist no matter how much anyone might suggest or underline the importance of having a teacher. Why? Because Buddhism as I get it means to pay attention ... to everything. And the closer the attention, the greater the teacher and teaching. There is no escaping the teacher and no embracing him/her/it either.
None of this is to malign or overlook the friends anyone might meet along the way, or the good instruction those friends might offer. Thank you very much, one and all!
But let's not fret too much -- those of us who lay some claim, even a limping one like my own, to Buddhism. Having a teacher is like wetness and water ... how could wetness or water possibly abstain or protest?
Isn't that just the way things are ... endlessly teaching?