Different ways of looking at things catch us at different times and that is why the Buddhist teachings are so diverse. It is not that we have to learn all the methods, study all the texts of all the schools, become engrossed in the history of Buddhism throughout the ages and learn all the languages the texts are written in, before we can get to the truth of it. Truth is not locked in a word or a description or even in a long stream of them. The truth is the same from first to last; it is about us; it is about what we are and what is beyond concepts and the thinking mind.
Descriptions are merely devices or skilful means for awakening, but they are not the reality itself; they are just hints: Let’s look at it this way; let’s look at it that way. . . They are all aids to help us open our own eyes. That is really as far as words and anybody’s teachings can ever take us. Trevor Leggett used to say that trying to point to the truth is a bit like telling a joke:
Sometimes one sees a joke: it’s enough. But if someone doesn’t see it, or if it’s an inappropriate joke, or if that person has no sense of humour, then it is no use labouring it ― ‘You’ve got to see it!’ ― or arguing about it. Just pass on to another one.
So too with all the descriptions, methods and techniques one hears about in Buddhism. If one doesn’t get it, there is no point in labouring it; it is better to try something else. Somewhere along the line maybe one will catch us ― like a good joke.
There is no point in plodding through mountains of texts and trying out every possible meditation technique. Once we find something that works for us we can use it; we can get to the very bottom of it, get on the path, on the right track and then keep going; no need to go back to the beginning again to learn another technique.
Whatever else, awareness is the key to the whole of the Buddha’s teaching; it is the basis of all techniques yet is not itself a technique. There is nothing simpler or more obvious than awareness, but until we properly see what it is and realise its relevance, we might need various techniques to help us get there, like honing our concentration by counting breaths while sitting in meditation, or naming each action we take (silently to ourselves) throughout the day ― ‘walking’, ‘sitting’, ‘lying down’, ‘sneezing’, ‘eating’, ‘dressing’, on and on ― until one day we suddenly ‘fall in’, we suddenly realise what awareness is, what being at one with the moment is, its reality and its power. Then the techniques are transcended.