Hooray, another beginner's question!

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.

Hooray, another beginner's question!

Postby Kona » Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:20 pm

I have considered myself a Buddhist for many years. I have read a great number of books on the subject and I think that I have a good basic understanding of the Buddha's teaching. My problem now is finding personal guidance.

The person who introduced me to Buddhism many years ago was a Zen monk. I have ben attending a local Zen center for regular meditation practice. I asked the monk in charge of the center to explain his idea of Zen to me, and he said that it is like a "short cut" to nirvana. He also said that it is good to keep a questioning mind and to never lose the feeling of not knowing.

Maybe it's just my western upbringing, but my "not knowing" mind is not satisfied by being told to keep "not knowing." In all of my reading of what the Buddha taught, he gave great and practical advice to those who were seeking it, but he never suggested that the average person just sit or chant for hours or days on end as a means to a "short cut."

I want to learn, but one can only read so many books. I am wary of taking a college type of class because I don't want to read text books or memorize dates and names and vocabulary terms. I want to embrace Buddhism and bring it into my life.

Can anyone suggest a course of action for me? Are there temples or centers that offer more than just the chance to sit quietly? I live in Las Vegas, and a simple Google search shows me that there are plenty of places here in town, but is there a better way to go about it than just visiting a different temple every week and hoping to stumble upon a good match for me? For lack of any better ideas, my next action will be to join a local Meet Up group and see what that has to offer. At least it will probably give me a chance to meet like-minded people and see what they would do in my situation.
Kona
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 6:42 pm

Re: Hooray, another beginner's question!

Postby SarathW » Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:47 am

I joned this forum as I did not have time to go to temple. So far members were able to provide satisfactory answer to all my questons.
I use the following hand book which I found very helpful.


http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/buddh ... gsurw6.pdf
SarathW
 
Posts: 1331
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Hooray, another beginner's question!

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:01 am

You know, David Snyder, the man who runs this board, is from Las Vegas (I'm pretty sure?). You should PM him and ask him for a recommendation; he might actually have a group himself.

The entire heart of Buddhism is sila, samadhi, and panya - ethical conduct, meditation, and wisdom. If you want to bring Buddhism into your life, start by following the five precepts and establishing a regular meditation schedule. If you are interested in a more active, traditional meditation style, I would recommend Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's guide to anapanasati as a great place to start.

Otherwise, I think visiting local temples, whether Theravada or Zen, would be your best bet, even if it is a somewhat awkward process sometimes.

Good luck!

Also, in addition to PM'ing David Snyder, feel free to PM me as well if you have any questions. I might at least be able to point you in the right direction (or at least point you in the direction of the person who can point in the right direction :smile: )

Good luck!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
User avatar
LonesomeYogurt
 
Posts: 900
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:24 pm
Location: America

Re: Hooray, another beginner's question!

Postby Digity » Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:00 am

Over the course of a few years I checked out places in my city...it took me a while before I finally found a place that suited me. The place I go teaches in line with the Thai Forest Tradition, which I'm a big fan of. Mahayana Buddhism never really clicked with me and neither did Zen. So yes, you should keep searching until you find the right place...I think once you find it you'll know...assuming you have a decent enough grasping on the teachings. If so, you should be able to recognize whether they're teaching in line with your understanding of things. If you're really new to the teachings you might want to be a bit more open-minded and just go to different places and absorb what they have to say. For me, I had a good idea of what I felt the proper way to teach was so I was much more discriminative.

I took a university course on Buddhism...sure, these things help, but I don't think it's necessary for you. I did the course, because I was already in university for computer science and was interested in Buddhism. I would spend as much time as possible reading through Access to Insight: http://www.accesstoinsight.org I've spent numerous hours reading through those suttas and still continue to review them...it's an amazing resource to have as a Buddhist and will provide you with plenty of studying.

However, too much studying can be a problem...it's a problem I have too. Think of it this way, studying the Dharma is like reading a recipe for a cake. You read it over and over and say yes, I see how to make this cake and you think you understand things perfectly. However, then you go and make the cake, but you mix the batter too much or forget the cake in the oven and it gets burnt. You realize you're not as smart as you think and need to practice more or pay closer attention to what you're doing. It's the same with studying Buddhism...you can sit there and read about it all day and think you got it all figured out, but once you try to put it into practice you run into all these problems and all these conflicting desires, etc.

The true essence of Buddhism is in the daily practice. It's in your daily mindfulness, in how you relate to others, in following the precepts. All the studying in the world doesn't amount to much if you're not living the teachings. I have a problem in this area, because I'm more enthralled by studying the teachings than I am in practicing...although, my practice isn't terrible, but it can always be better and I probably need to spend less time reading.

Having said all that, I'd try to find a place that puts an emphasis on the "practice" part. Although, it would be nice too if they have a study component. You could always study yourself and ask questions here or even ask the teacher at your center. Going to a place where you spend time sitting isn't bad, because that's real practice. Anyway, just start searching and I'm sure you'll find your place somewhere.
Digity
 
Posts: 519
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 2:13 am

Re: Hooray, another beginner's question!

Postby alan... » Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:14 am

Kona wrote:I have considered myself a Buddhist for many years. I have read a great number of books on the subject and I think that I have a good basic understanding of the Buddha's teaching. My problem now is finding personal guidance.

The person who introduced me to Buddhism many years ago was a Zen monk. I have ben attending a local Zen center for regular meditation practice. I asked the monk in charge of the center to explain his idea of Zen to me, and he said that it is like a "short cut" to nirvana. He also said that it is good to keep a questioning mind and to never lose the feeling of not knowing.

Maybe it's just my western upbringing, but my "not knowing" mind is not satisfied by being told to keep "not knowing." In all of my reading of what the Buddha taught, he gave great and practical advice to those who were seeking it, but he never suggested that the average person just sit or chant for hours or days on end as a means to a "short cut."

I want to learn, but one can only read so many books. I am wary of taking a college type of class because I don't want to read text books or memorize dates and names and vocabulary terms. I want to embrace Buddhism and bring it into my life.

Can anyone suggest a course of action for me? Are there temples or centers that offer more than just the chance to sit quietly? I live in Las Vegas, and a simple Google search shows me that there are plenty of places here in town, but is there a better way to go about it than just visiting a different temple every week and hoping to stumble upon a good match for me? For lack of any better ideas, my next action will be to join a local Meet Up group and see what that has to offer. At least it will probably give me a chance to meet like-minded people and see what they would do in my situation.


as far as zen is concerned i feel it does not follow the buddha's instructions. is this because it is a short cut? perhaps, but it never worked for me. i believe there is potential if you study directly under a deeply accomplished master for an extended period of time.

if you can find a true master and the time then give it a shot. if not, i would stick with theravada, progressive techniques and step by step instructions fill the pali canon. in zen if you don't have a teacher you are out of luck, reading will only bring you so far. you will find writings but many will disagree with each other and EVERYONE will tell you you MUST have a teacher to progress. if it is a short cut, it's full of pit falls and traps that you must have a guide to get you through as there is no agreed upon map of the land. theravada is a path with a highly detailed map that is known by many and generally agreed upon.

theravada people will say you should have a teacher as well but most agree that if you simply can't find one then theravada is the best school for solitary practice. also in theravada you have the pali canon as something to compare a teacher to to check up on them. in zen there is no such thing. if a teacher behaves in a certain way there is no official book of rules to compare their actions to and say "wait a minute, you're no zen master! you just broke such and such rule!" zen eludes this kind of systematization and zen masters can pop up any where and be anybody with any habits as zen does not use an agreed upon set of texts. in fact many zen people, if one tries to compare zen to texts, will bring up the old: "a transmission outside the scriptures" argument and blow it off. as opposed to theravada masters that are supposed to act in accordance with a preset list of qualities elucidated by the buddha in the pali canon.

again though, zen certainly has potential, i don't doubt that. it may truly be the ultimate short cut. i'm just listing out the differences between it and theravada i noticed having practiced both.

also many theravada practitioners and teachers would tell you that it is not "the long way" or something. i find my progress in theravada to be very satisfactory.

however in theravada as well you do have to sit in meditation. it is more fun in my opinion. in zen you just focus on reality and wait for nirvana (certainly once you get there it's as good or better than theravada meditation though). in theravada you enter progressively more blissful states of meditation called "the jhanas". so you will almost undoubtedly enjoy the sitting part of it immensely!

i would find a theravada temple if i was you. if you can't then get books! and utilize this site! it couldn't hurt to check out the local zen masters either. if you find one you are 100% positive has deeply mastered zen then that may work very well for you.
here is a mind blowing info dump that will clear up any questions you have:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/narada/nutshell.html
alan...
 
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm

Re: Hooray, another beginner's question!

Postby Mawkish1983 » Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:07 am

I've been practicing and studying for almost five years now. What I've come to realise is that all traditions have strengths and weaknesses and practicing any one of them carefully, consistently and correctly will be beneficial in one's progress. It really doesn't matter which tradition to choose as long as you stick to it (and any pre-conceptions don't hinder your practice, study and conduct. If they do, you can either address those pre-conceptions or try a different tradition, but give it time to see if there really is a hinderance or if there is simply restlessness)
Mawkish1983
 
Posts: 1173
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:46 am
Location: Essex, UK


Return to Discovering Theravāda

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests