The Perfection of Wisdom teachings say, over and over again, that a bodhisattva must be fearless. This is a liberating, but daunting, theology.
[Caveat: what follows may be difficult to hear, and you might not want to read further.]
The jubilant side of the Perfection of Wisdom teachings is that if there is nothing to stand on – no teacher, no teachings, no doctrine – we are free. If the formations of our mind, rising and falling, have no own being, then the mind can, indeed, be far beyond hindrances and fear.
Starting with yogic gurus in the late 70's, to the present time of studying with Zen teachers, I have had great devotion and also, I suppose, high hopes. But, in general, gurus and roshis have often betrayed us with sexual crimes or abandonment. Teachers, like all of us humans, seem to be just as broken and as full of suffering, as I am. So it is with great doubt that I now question whether anyone can actually guide me or teach me or help me. Or do anything more than point at the moon. (And I do see the moon.)
Recently, when I realized, with some flash of clarity, that “teachers” have nothing to stand on, that they are one more “karmic construction,” I felt liberated. With no clinging to this deep seated need to be pulled up to a higher plane by another, I felt free. “Yes! It is over, I thought.” This decades-long entanglement with gurus and teachers.
But the shadow side to the Perfection of Wisdom teachings is the realization that there is actually nothing to stand on. Instead of the fuzzy feeling of interconnection, we are ultimately alone, in the same way that when we are dying, we are ultimately alone. We may have dharma friends who offer love and consolation and support – to the extent possible – but ultimately we are alone. We may care deeply for each other as spiritual friends, but, in the end, we are alone.
And that is very scary. That is why the Perfection of Wisdom teachings say, over and over again, that a bodhisattva must be fearless. This is a liberating, but daunting, theology.