There is an old Koan, its over-use becoming cliche', "If you meet the Buddha on the road, Kill him!" The reference of course is metaphorical, and goes something like this: The Buddha is your perception of what a Buddha is, your feelings about enlightenment, forms it can take, impressions, the mental residue attached to non-existent things, making them seem real. The road is your path, or the stream you enter on the way to awakening. So, while in the process of waking up, you attach yourself to anchors of dreams, you will stay in your dream state. Until you remove those obstacles, enlightenment will never happen.
I have had a long and twisted journey on this path, and still sometimes return to dreaming, emerging after a short time, or after a lengthy indulgence, I am by no means done. Skeptical of religion as a general rule, I was attracted to Zen by virtue of its focus on "practice." There is direct experience, one achieved through individual effort, devoid of dogma that I so intensely hated (obstacle). After experiencing a deployment, and several resulting tragedies, I looked for a refuge, a place of healing because I could no longer find the strength to do it alone. I used to go every once and a while to a beautiful Mahayana Monastery and back to that place I returned. It was a cold and icy day, and the roads were treacherous. It seemed that I was the only one who made it out for the Sunday service, so the Abbot, a kind a learned monk, invited me into his home to talk by the fire. He spent several hours with me, mainly just listening to my vent my spleen over recent events and the toll the mental damage did to myself and by extension my family. This total stranger felt like a respected a honored uncle, and I decided at that moment to take refuge in the Sangha.
As the healing continued, my heart softened, and aversion to unwieldy Dharma (the 7 this, the 6 that, the 32 otherthings) turned to intellectual curiosity. Studying these lists and meditating on them served to induce a calmness of mind and warmth of spirit that before seemed lost to me forever. I once only maintained one or two choice Dharma books (although I would read anything and everything Thich Nhat Hanh ever wrote), my library began to grow. I started reading translations of Pali, delving deeply into canonical tomes, looking for wisdom, hungering for knowledge. I went to multi-day retreats, getting up hours before anyone else, putting in many extra hours of meditation in all day meditation retreats.
And then one day (LOL fairy tale reference) I was sitting with everyone else, in deep meditation, the snap-out-of-it bell rang and something clicked, actually I could feel something click or pop in my brain, like a light switch being flipped on. One of our senior lay practitioners was about to give a detailed lecture on the 72 something something of Nagarjuna.
It was a sunny warm day outside so I quietly got up, bowed to the Sangha, and loped out to the garden where I spent the next hour, just being present. Not being especially gifted and talented, I took me the rest of the day to realize that I had killed my Buddha.
So, here is the dilemma with I currently wrestle: of what use are sutras? Why should I ever pick up another Buddhist text, or listen to another Dharma talk? Things have come back around full-circle and here I stand again at the beginning, I take refuge in the beginning.