Can one learn sailing a sailboat on the open, often stormy sea by oneself, teaching oneself? YES!
But is it best, especially in the early days, to 'learn the ropes
' from an experienced teacher, and perhaps to have some experienced mates to show one how to know the wind? YES!
Otherwise, good chance you will misread the weather at some point because of naivete, end up washed up on a beach or smashed against rocks and reef.
Sure, each sailor must truly do most of the hard work by herself with "her self" ... just the "me myself and I" alone on the open ocean. Nobody can do your sailing for you, nobody can tie and untie the knots for you ... all they can be is a wise voice to point out a good way and show ya a couple of tricks.
And maybe, eventually, the teacher just becomes a good compass, and the words of Buddhist Teachings are good charts ... something that any good sailor, even the most independent, will keep close by on the whole trip to show where the channel is, the hidden icebergs in the fog, the strong currents ...
Zen Practice is like a sailing trip with no particular destination or, better said, the sea is ever all around us and the voyage happens in each moment, and in each salty drop. There is no destination, no right or wrong way to sail. Yet, there are perils out there, ropes can become tangled, sails torn and masts broken, storms (both outside and within us) can spin us around, one can go mad in the darkness and loneliness at night as the mind plays tricks, monsters can spring out of the deep. There is no place ultimately in need of going, but we can end up going around and around in circles before we get there. There is nothing to attain, but never leave the wheelhouse unguarded. There is no place to fall, but DON'T FALL OVERBOARD!
Thus, it is good to have a teacher, an experienced voice, an arrow pointing to whom one can always turn about which way to turn ... getting one's bearings.
Something like that.
Gassho and Good Sailing, Capt' Jundo