DIRECT AND INDIRECT TEACHING
If you have read the teachings of Christ, Buddha, Socrates,Lao Tzu and the many Zen masters there is a pattern that leaps out at you. They all teach in a very indirect way. Christ had his parables, Lao Tzu had his analogies, Buddha had his stories and the Zen masters used the koan (paradoxical story). Socrates had his question based dialogue. Why do these great teachers choose this very indirect way of delivering their message? Why not just be direct and tell the world what to do? Why did Jesus not simply say, “hey, read and follow the Ten Commandments and you will get to heaven”? Why do Zen masters frustrate their students with stories that boggle the mind and initially, at least create more confusion that clarity? The reason lies in the intention of their teaching. Direct teaching is fine for increasing our doing, but only indirect teaching can begin to touch our “being”. They are all pointing to an enhanced “being” and that is something that cannot be addressed directly.
Most of us grow up learning through direct methods. Our parents and school teachers tell us what is the right and wrong way to tie our shoes, clean our room, cut the grass, add and subtract, cook a meal, write a paper, do research, the way our government system works, what happened in what year in history, etc, etc. It is an endless parade of direct teachings aimed at affecting our doing in this world. Some of it to the simple doing of tasks, some of it to the doing of a test to get a good grade, some of it to driving a car without hurting yourself, and a multitude of other activities from sports to sex, communications to dressing for success. For the most part this works and in the simple physical world, being very direct in teaching and communications is very helpful and useful.
Since this worked so well on this simple doing level, ages ago people decided that it should also work on the being level. So began the endless admonitions and rules and values and conditions about how we should “be” in this world. It became the scorecard of who is a “good” person and who is not. Preachers took the indirect messages of Christ and turned them into direct messages of “do this and don’t do that”, all in the name of the Son of God. The secular world created value statements, personal missions, key principles, and others such content to tell people or as they would put it, “let people discover for themselves” the right way to “be”. Sounds good to the people schooled in the direct learning method who are desperately trying to find the answer to a happy life. “If I just knew the right rules, I could then live my life correctly” is what they seek. Climb the mountain to find the guru who will give me the secret of life’s happiness. All a quest for a direct answer to our being. It does not work and that is why the great teachers did not use that method.
The indirect method of teaching has, as it’s fundamental intention to help one un-learn the clutter of a life of conditioning that fills and stifles our being. This is stuff that is very hidden, protected and defended deep inside us, sometimes close to the core of our being. All this came about by the direct teaching of morals, values and other “right” ways of being in this world. All that was justified with the silly notion that we are born as sinners and must be conditioned out of that. What we cannot see is that it is the very conditioning itself that leads us to the many horrendous acts we humans do commit. To unlearn that stuff is tricky indeed, and for most an almost impossible quest.
The indirect method is one that turns the mind on itself with questions, stories, paradoxes, parables, etc, in order to begin to reflect inwardly without the desire for an answer (the direct method) but only for an understanding. The indirect method is based on the inherent goodness and wisdom of a human being. It’s premise is that when you clear out the conditioning and ego of normal human life, you will be left with a clarity and peace of being that will do no harm or evil. It will be a perfect nothingness that seeks no gain, no competition, no self-righteousness, no defensiveness, and no fear. So, why can’t we just tell people this and be done with it.
The indirect way is done in order to trick the defenses of the ego self that lives to preserve it’s existence. It has taken over our being and has convinced us that without our identity and attachments to values, we will be bad people, rejected by everyone. And since the vast majority of people live this way, as soon as you show up without the right values, there is a rejection by the masses. What else can they do, this is all they have been taught.
Teaching indirectly is to let the human being stand on their own and “see” for himself or herself how they and the world work. No one can tell you how to do that for it is your unique journey. What teachers can do is point toward something you may have never looked at and ask questions that shed light, your light, on what that may mean to and for you. People who claim to have the answer and method of achieving higher levels of being are asking you to adopt and once again be conditioned to another answer. This puts you further into the sleeping trance that continues to capture our being. By the way, an indirect teacher will never desire a following; only the direct teachers wish that. For a following is a confirmation that “my” way is the right way and needs to be accepted. There is no right way to be in this world. Being is beyond that.