Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

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Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby SarathW » Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:12 am

To create the proper conditions for wise attention, it is important to have a teacher who can put you on the path leading to truth and wisdom. The Buddha himself said that one who is intent on finding the truth should seek out a reliable and competent teacher. If you cannot find a good teacher and follow his or her instructions, then you must turn to the plethora of meditation literature available today. Please be cautious, especially if you are an avid reader. If you gain a general knowledge of many techniques and then try to put them all together, you will probably end up disappointed, and even more doubtful than when you started. Some of the techniques may even be good ones, but since you will not have practiced them with proper thoroughness, they will not work and you will feel skeptical of them. Thus you will have robbed yourself of the opportunity to experience the very real benefits of meditation practice. If one cannot practice properly, one cannot gain personal, intuitive, real understanding of the nature of phenomena. Not only will doubt increase, but the mind will become very hard and stiff, attacked by kodha, aversion and associated mental states. Frustration and resistance might he among them.

See Doubt:

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... html#Doubt

======
I never had a formal teacher to guide me with my meditation.
I have never been even to a retreat yet!
Is it possible to learn meditation without a teacher?
What is your opinion?
:reading:
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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:20 am

Greetings Sarath,

I think it is definitely possible to follow the Buddha's instructions on meditation (e.g. satipatthana, anapanasati) without requiring a flesh-and-bone teacher being in your presence to supervise you and reframe the teachings as a differentiable method.

It is often said that a teacher is needed to help with meditation specifically, but I am inclined to think the primary role of any teacher is to impart Right View. The prominence of Right View and its subsequent role in meditation is depicted here...

MN 117: Maha-cattarisaka Sutta wrote:The Blessed One said: "Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.

"Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view. And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.

"And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions [of becoming]; there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"And what is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? 'There is what is given, what is offered, what is sacrificed. There are fruits & results of good & bad actions. There is this world & the next world. There is mother & father. There are spontaneously reborn beings; there are contemplatives & brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is the right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.

"And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

"One makes an effort for the abandoning of wrong view & for entering into right view: This is one's right effort. One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. Thus these three qualities — right view, right effort, & right mindfulness — run & circle around right view.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby chownah » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:37 am

Perhaps some people need an instructor and some people do not.
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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:37 am

One can work without a teacher; however, working with a good teacher, experienced is a very good idea, and recommended by the Buddha. Less likely to take a walk down the garden path and less likely to hung up on road blocks.

    I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara's mother, together with many well-known elder disciples — with Ven. Sariputta, Ven. Maha Moggallana, Ven. Maha Kassapa, Ven. Maha Kaccana, Ven. Maha Kotthita, Ven. Maha Kappina, Ven. Maha Cunda, Ven. Revata, Ven. Ananda, and other well-known elder disciples. On that occasion the elder monks were teaching & instructing. Some elder monks were teaching & instructing ten monks, some were teaching & instructing twenty monks, some were teaching & instructing thirty monks, some were teaching & instructing forty monks. The new monks, being taught & instructed by the elder monks, were discerning grand, successive distinctions.
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


    As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquility of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: 'The mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way. Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby suriyopama » Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:11 am

:oops:
Last edited by suriyopama on Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Dec 13, 2013 7:37 am

SarathW wrote: Please be cautious, especially if you are an avid reader. If you gain a general knowledge of many techniques and then try to put them all together, you will probably end up disappointed, and even more doubtful than when you started.

Excellent point. There can be a lot of pointless time-wasting trying to compare advice from different people...
retrofuturist wrote:It is often said that a teacher is needed to help with meditation specifically, but I am inclined to think the primary role of any teacher is to impart Right View. The prominence of Right View and its subsequent role in meditation is depicted here...

I agree. I think. For me the most important role of a teacher is to point out where you're going wrong. That's something that sometimes can be very difficult to figure out alone...

:anjali:
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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby BlackBird » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:07 am

The Buddha is the only teacher I have ever needed. Apart from my Mum of course, and well, I suppose my teachers at school.

Point is, you don't need a teacher to get good at meditation. You do need the Suttas to know where your boundaries are, for inspiration and to maintain your effort however. That said, a good physical teacher is priceless. 'Tis a shame those actually qualified to teach according to the Buddha's standards (Ariyans) are few and far between. Then again, we should all count our lucky stars we've been so damn fortunate as to be born during a time when the Buddha's teachings are still available. So many other countless beings have not had the same good fortune and will wander on for what could be countless aeons yet, we on the other hand have a unique opportunity to put that to bed. So just meditate, the more you do it the better you get. As long as you're mindful, as long as you maintain good virtue, as long as you have good faith in the Buddha and get to know his teachings according to what he said as opposed to ones own predilections, you really cannot go wrong.

metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby Mkoll » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:31 am

I think so. But as others have said, having a skilled teacher is better.

~

To the extent that there are animals — footless, two-footed, four-footed, many footed; with form or formless; percipient, non-percipient, or neither percipient nor non-percipient — the Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, is reckoned the foremost among them. In the same way, all skillful qualities are rooted in heedfulness, converge in heedfulness, and heedfulness is reckoned the foremost among them.

-AN 10.15

Enduring patience is the highest austerity. "Nibbana is supreme," say the Buddhas. He is not a true monk who harms another, nor a true renunciate who oppresses others.

-Dhp 184
Peace,
James
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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby kmath » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:00 pm

tiltbillings wrote:One can work without a teacher; however, working with a good teacher, experienced is a very good idea, and recommended by the Buddha. Less likely to take a walk down the garden path and less likely to hung up on road blocks.


Agree. You can waste a lot of time in meditation if you don't know what you're doing and there are A LOT of ways to go wrong, some of which have pretty negative effects on you. Best to at least check in with someone occasionally, but not necessarily the same person. In fact, if something's going on that you want to bounce off somebody, posting on DW is not the worst idea either! There's plenty of experienced meditators here.

:anjali:
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Re: Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Postby mettafuture » Tue Dec 17, 2013 5:23 pm

Can we learn meditation without a teacher?

Yes, you can. In part, it depends on how good of a self-regulated learner you are.

Meditations on the breath, divine abodes, elements, and recollections (anussati‎) aren't difficult, and there's a very slim chance you'd break something even if you didn't do them perfectly. But it might be better if you consulted with an experienced meditator for the charnel ground and jhana meditations; you could probably cause psychological damage if you did those wrong.
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