I find that I have a deep appreciation for non-dual traditions (Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, Advaita, theistic mysticism) etc.. And in particular for the wisdom and experiences accumulated by a large number of people over centuries and millennia, and for having the opportunity to have as a guide people who have gone through many years of practice within these traditions. There is a solidity and lack of naivete here that is immensely valuable. They know the terrain, as explored by thousands of people, they know the typical pitfalls, and they know the practical tools that work.
I also find a deep appreciation for those who do not have a background from or belong to any particular tradition. People who use a simple, everyday language to describe their own direct experiences. There is a freshness and immediacy here that do exist – but is rare – in the traditions.
The drawbacks of the traditions include a stilted and mystical sounding language, attachment to ideas passed on through generations, attachment to an exclusive set of methods and techniques even when new ones are available, external expressions – peripheral to the aim – which may take center stage for some within the traditions and also turn interested people away.
The drawbacks for those outside of traditions include not refining awakenings with the guidance of an experienced teacher, missing the phase of integration, rehumanizing and maturing with an experienced teacher, lack of precision in expressing it, not having access to certain teaching tools, and in some cases not appreciating the traditions.
It seems that for each one of us, it is helpful with both. It is helpful to practice (for awakenings/integration) with an experienced guide trained in a solid tradition, and it is helpful to expose ourselves to the freshness of those outside of the traditions. And there may be phases in our lives where one goes to the foreground and the other to the background.
Some of the folks outside of traditions that I have found helpful include Douglas Harding, Byron Katie, Joan Tollifson, Arjuna Ardagh, Adyashanti, and some I want to explore such as Tony Parsons, Toni Packer and others. Although many of these woke up on their own, some were involved in traditional training/transmission, but are now functioning on their own.
There are also those very much operating within a tradition, but develop approaches that has the freshness and immediacy of anything originating outside of the traditions. A good example of this is the Big Mind process developed by Genpo Roshi.