Nayeli, my apologies for being distracted and not getting back to you sooner, but I see this growing community has been actively involved. One of the wonderful benefits to having others to share in our experiences, thoughts, and struggles.
Ah, yes, you explained it very well, and I appreciate you taking the time to do so. As Mark said, our ties to lineage bring with them the good and the bad that have always been. But in our contemporary culture, we tend to question more, to not turn a blind eye to some of the problems we see, but rather we work to change them for the better. It is what frustrates many Catholics I know with recent abuse problems in the church, that the mis-handling of these very real issues is making people lose their faith in their faith, not just their church or a person who abused their authority over others.
There are many reasons we may be seeing a growing interest in changing that model, of a single leader or teacher providing the instruction for others. Our culture is becoming more willing to question. Digital technology and social networking in particular is allowing wonderfully talented people who don't happen to have chosen the vocation of teacher to share their thoughts worldwide, and actively respond to others. And with Buddhism in particular, where the practice is very clearly dependent on one's own efforts and *not* through the agency of a divine representative on Earth, the dependence on religious institutions is weakened.
Of course, we do still need guidance. It not only points us in the right direction, it gives us the encouragement we need to take the steps on the path, and provides the feedback to let us know when we're straying. In Buddhism we have the concept of the kalyana mitta, the "spiritual friend", a peer with whom we share our journey. That's what we're exploring, how we can support one another, ask questions, and share what we've found in our own daily practice. This isn't a replacement for the help of a teacher, it is a critical part of ongoing practice. And the friendship part is always nice!
Our concept of teacher is, I think, changing from a specific lineage holder to something more open, more based on experience and demonstrable proficiency. I've seen too many (for example) zen priests who got their robes for the "cool factor" rather than any actual skill, who are poor practitioners and worse teachers. And we have that in our peer to peer groups, too! We also have good teachers, and good fellow meditators. So how do we decide, how do we determine who might be a good person to listen to?
The Buddha's advice was pretty clear: look at what they say, look at what they do. Do they speak and act with compassion, with understanding, with equanimity and joy? Or something else? We can find that there are many teachers to be found, and our need for one and only one, diminishes as we can find value in diversity. The choices can be confusing, yes, but this basic guideline can help.
I have had several teachers, and still do, over the years. There is great value in investing the time with a teacher who learns about you, gets to know you, and can see through our own misperceptions about ourselves. Having more than one brings with it additional perspectives, and I've found that very helpful, too, as they see different aspects of my practice that need attention. It also reduces the risk one takes in *only* seeing teachers in everyone we meet -- sure, there are things we can learn from each other and situations, but they are not always focussed on our progress, and a teacher is.
Can we rely on each other to be "good" teachers, and help guide us? Or do we need a single person to provide that insight? Perhaps a balance can be found as we loosen the bonds of hierarchical power of traditional settings, but carry the idea of commitment to our kalyana mittas, and sincerely do our best to help each other. Is this enough? I honestly don't know, but I do suspect that those who do provide good insights and guidance will become self evident and grow into teaching roles, however informally that may be.