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Dhamma Teachers


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#1 Guest_Scott Duncan_*

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 02:37 PM

Dear All,

Many refer to teachers they have had. I've been told that I ought to find a teacher. I have had none. How does one assess a potential teacher? There is, invited by the Alberta Buddhist Vihara, a Bhikkhu who is coming for the rains retreat. I'm planning to meet with him. I don't really know what I'm looking for. Other than going by intuitive factors, can those with experience in this matter offer any suggestions?

Sincerely;

Scott.

#2 Wolfgang

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Posted 17 June 2006 - 08:41 PM

QUOTE(Scott Duncan @ Jun 17 2006, 04:37 PM) View Post

Other than going by intuitive factors, can those with experience in this matter offer any suggestions?


Dear Scott,

quite a difficult question to give a straight answer to. Therefore, I would like to give you the advise found in the Chanki Sutta, MN 95:

... There are five ideas that ripen here and now in two ways. What five? Faith, preference, hearsay-learning, arguing upon evidence, and liking through pondering a view. Now something may have faith well placed in it and yet be hollow, empty, and false; and again something may have no faith placed in it and yet be factual, true, and no other than it seems; and so with preference and the rest. If a man has faith, then he guards truth when he says, "My faith is thus," but on that account draws no unreserved conclusion, "Only this is true, the other is wrong." In this way he guards the truth; but there is as yet no discovery of truth. And so with preference and the rest.

How is truth discovered? Here a bhikkhu lives near some village or town. Then a householder or his son goes to him in order to test him in three kinds of ideas, in ideas provocative of greed, of hate, and of delusion, wondering, "Are there in this venerable one any such ideas, whereby his mind being obsessed he might not knowing, say 'I know,' unseeing, say 'I see,' or to get others to do likewise, which would be long for their harm and suffering?" While thus testing him he comes to find that there are no such ideas in him, and he finds that, "The bodily and verbal behavior of that venerable one are not those of one affected by lust or hate or delusion. But the True Idea that this venerable one teaches is profound, hard to see and discover; yet it is the most peaceful and superior of all, out of reach of logical ratiocination, subtle, for the wise to experience; such a True Idea cannot be taught by one affected by lust or hate or delusion."

It is as soon as by testing him, he comes to see that he is purified from ideas provocative of lust, hate, and delusion, that he then plants his faith in him. When he visits him he respects him, when he respects him he gives ear, one who gives ear hears the True Idea, he remembers it, he investigates the meaning of the ideas remembered. When he does that he acquires a preference by pondering the ideas. That produces interest. One interested is actively committed. So committed he makes a judgment. According to his judgment he exerts himself. When he exerts himself he comes to realize with the body the ultimate truth, and he sees it by the penetrating of it with understanding. That is how there is discovery of truth. But there is as yet no final arrival at truth. How is truth finally arrived at? Final arrival at truth is the repetition, the keeping in being, the development, of those same ideas. That is how there is final arrival at truth."
...


This is only a short excerpt of Nanamoli's translation. It's well worth to read the whole of it.

In my case - it was really difficult with the teachers of my former tradition (Goenka). Where one has not a change to get to know any of them really closer. But the practice itself helped me so much, together with the understanding available in the Pitaka - I didn't felt lost without a constant teacher either.

Good luck,

Wolfgang

#3 RobertK

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 02:16 AM

Dear Scott (and wolfgang)
For the begiiner it is hard to know who is teaching correctly.

In my early Buddhist life I met and followed many teachers, they were all charismatic and had good behaviour. Later I studied Abhidhamma and came to know about anatta- the heart of Dhamma. After that I could ask questions that revealed if someone understood Dhamma correctly at least at the theoretical level (and if they don't understand it at that most coarse level, there is no possibilty that they comprehend it at deeper levels). It was kind of a shock to find out that so many of the teachers I used to revere were actually mired in wrong view.

So I began a search. After reading a book (VipassanaBhavana)I stayed for several months at a temple in Thailland where the teacher was very good on Anatta. He was a 85years old at that time (and the author of the book) and a student of Acharn Naeb who had died a few years earlier. His way of explaining anatta was really excellent, and in complete agreement with the texts. But there was one point, the way of practice and the theory were not 100% aligned, there was a small disconnect. It was enough.
Eventually, after more searching, a trip to sri lanka and writing letters, I found someone who taught Dhamma in accordance with the Tipitaka and Commenatraies and whose way of practice was in full agreement with anatta and Dhamma. There are not so many I feel.

I wrote this old post about the daughter of Anathapindika who was a sakadagami but died because she pined away desiring a lover
http://www.abhidhamm...&st=0
We can see that we can't really know about people by
outer behaviour.
We can only know ourselves- and in the beginning the moments of
sati may be so few and so weak that it is not clear even to
ourselves. If we haven't heard details of the Dhamma and
considered it and applied it properly we can delude ourself and
think we have few defilements. What is true is that if we are genuinely gaining insight we can
detect more and more subtle levels of wrong view - by discussion
and listening or reading what people say. We can see who
understands the path. Perhaps we find that some of the teachers
we were in awe of in early days now seem stuck in subtle, or not
so subtle, wrong practice.

If we get stuck on a teacher who is not teaching correcty we can follow them into a deep hole- albeit a very attrative one, with many apparent benefits. It is easy to do, becuase even the worst teachers encourage modesty, sublimation of sense desires etc etc. Our outward behviour will improve immensely as students of just about every Buddhist teacher (and many non-buddhist as well). It is better to stay by oneself and study alone than follow the wrong one.
Robert

#4 Guest_Scott Duncan_*

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 03:21 AM

Dear Wolfgang and Robert,

I would like to thank you both sincerely for your very helpful responses! I'll be re-reading these more than a few times I can tell you! You are both excellent brothers in the Dhamma.

Sincerely,

Scott.

#5 Wolfgang

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 07:04 PM

Dear Scott (and Robert),

I thought about your question a second time and its relation to - how it actualy was for myself.

In my humble view: All what teacher can tell you, is what one can read in the Sutta, the commentaries, the abhidhamma - and how these teachings where realized by them. Which can be very inspiring to start realizing oneself.

In my practice I was astonished, that the actual instructions in the Sutta, for example in the Anapana Sutta, were so simply outlined - that one could think something was lost in them.

But through the actual practice so many details became apparent in my own experience - it would be really different if I only had heard of these details from teachers, or some scriptures.

That's why I think the Buddha, for the most part, in the Sutta gave only instructions for how to practice - and not so much about the 'results' - because manytimes humans are so easily satisfied with intelectual knowlege - and don't want to take any hardship in practicing themself!

Even myself, I consider it almost impossible to practice insight while talking or writing. For example, if I would talk about the insights I had at one time or the other - at the same time I know, now while talking, they are only memories of a distant past and not actual insight.

So my plea is just to plunge into practice yourself (of course: beside the study).

Then all teaching of others after the Buddha could become quite stale compared to what has been experienced by yourself. Just as my memories of my past insight are allways stale compared to actual insight. (- hopefully you understand that I don't want to deminsh anyone's wisdom - I only want to point out that only your experiental wisdom could really liberate. That is hard work, and easily avoided by paying prolonged homage to other)

All the best,

Wolfgang


#6 Guest_Scott Duncan_*

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Posted 18 June 2006 - 09:06 PM

QUOTE(Wolfgang @ Jun 18 2006, 01:04 PM) View Post

So my plea is just to plunge into practice yourself (of course: beside the study).

Then all teaching of others after the Buddha could become quite stale compared to what has been experienced by yourself. Just as my memories of my past insight are allways stale compared to actual insight. (- hopefully you understand that I don't want to deminish anyone's wisdom - I only want to point out that only your experiental wisdom could really liberate. That is hard work, and easily avoided by paying prolonged homage to other)


Dear Wolfgang,

Thanks for your further reflections. I appreciate the personal disclosures.

And the advice to "plunge into practise" is good; although, I think problematic as well. Let me try to clarify that. When I don't really know how to practise, or what is "right" I can go wrong. I don't want to just fly off in all directions, if you know what I mean. Hence the search for a teacher.

One's experiential wisdom could really liberate but I know myself somewhat and I don't think I could do it without a good spiritual friend. Your point is well-taken in that, even with the perfect teacher, it is only my work and my own experiential wisdom that carries the day. And even then, knowing that anatta is the deepest doctrine, there is nothing anyone can force. I agree, though, paying homage to a teacher is just misguided hero-worship. Respect those worthy of respect, yes, but I've seen people getting totally carried away in their own desire and clinging in their relationship with a teacher.

I remember going along and observing a Tibetan sand mandala ritual once. The monk himself was seemingly just a humble guy but some of his adherents were literally flipping out with ecstatic something or other as he carried out the destruction of the mandala and took it to be dispersed in a local river. One guy began an intense series of prostrations and later, along the banks of the river, I thought this one woman had actually become orgasmic. This says nothing of the teacher here, and I mean him no disrespect. I learned that day to be extremely careful. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, though.

Sincerely,

Scott.

#7 Wolfgang

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 02:20 PM

QUOTE(Scott Duncan @ Jun 18 2006, 11:06 PM) View Post


One's experiential wisdom could really liberate but I know myself somewhat and I don't think I could do it without a good spiritual friend.

Sincerely,

Scott.


Dear Scott,

your considerations are really to the point. Better than I ever could express it (with my limited second language skills).

Moreover, exactly because I learnt to appreciate you, with only a few posts of you, as such a considerate and sincere person - I particularly gave this advice to you personally.

I would have said something completely different to those attending sand mandalas in the way you discribe.
Nevertheless - it is certainly you who knows yourself, and not only somewhat better.

The very best,

Wolfgang


#8 Guest_Scott Duncan_*

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 01:28 AM

QUOTE(Wolfgang @ Jun 21 2006, 08:20 AM) View Post

Moreover, exactly because I learnt to appreciate you, with only a few posts of you, as such a considerate and sincere person - I particularly gave this advice to you personally.

Dear Wolfgang,

Thank you for your very kind words, and especially, again, for the personalised advice.

Metta,

Scott.

#9 Lawrence

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 06:07 PM

Dear scott
As social animals we do often feel the need to belong to a group, to recieve affirmation,etc., but we can be our own great teachers, we have the resources, the Nikayas,the Abhidhamma,the Visuddhimagga, etc.. When we know to watch out for those times we try to fool ourselves (constantly for me) and have access to the thoughts of other Bhikkhus such as I find posting on this site ,(thank you all) progress can be assured don't you think.

metta
Lawrence

#10 Guest_Scott Duncan_*

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 06:18 PM

QUOTE(Lawrence @ Jul 30 2006, 12:07 PM) View Post

As social animals we do often feel the need to belong to a group, to recieve affirmation,etc., but we can be our own great teachers, we have the resources, the Nikayas,the Abhidhamma,the Visuddhimagga, etc.. When we know to watch out for those times we try to fool ourselves (constantly for me) and have access to the thoughts of other Bhikkhus such as I find posting on this site ,(thank you all) progress can be assured don't you think.

Dear Lawrence,

I do think so indeed. Left to my own devices, I could only imagine the hideous bastard of the Dhamma I would think up based on my own wanderings. Is there a word that is more than "constantly" since that is how often I fool myself and, also, its a competition and I want to be higher at fooling myself than you say you are ;-))

With loving kindness,

Scott.