Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:12 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Typically on the interviews in popular methods the suggestions were all the same "just observe!" or "don't forget to label that".
And sometimes one simply needs to be told that over and over again.


Why can't a discerning person tell him/herself that? Not everyone needs a "babysitter" . . . .
You can tell yourself whatever you want, and certainly you can tell yourself that you won't let your fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking get in the way of what you are telling yourself.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby MattJ » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:16 pm

I also don't think a teacher is required, especially not for keeping the precepts!

However, I have found teachers at times to be indispensable. This is especially true in the beginning. A beginning meditation student is facing not only a lifetime of unwholesome habits, but a world which tosses many obstacles at you. It is like we're drunk, asleep, and in the middle of a dream. It is easier if you work with some one who is more awake.

I spent a while doing phone retreats with Shinzen Young. Some teachers are available even if you are far away.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:03 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Why can't a discerning person tell him/herself that? Not everyone needs a "babysitter" . . . .
You can tell yourself whatever you want, and certainly you can tell yourself that you won't let your fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking get in the way of what you are telling yourself.



The teacher him/herself can have "fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking" so personal ignorance can just substituted with personal ignorance of the teacher. I believe that suttas are the best teacher, and some parts of VsM (dealing with meditation) are also very helpful.

If even Pacceka Buddhas cannot teach Dhamma, nothing to say about ordinary (or most) teachers.


Four great authorities. No matter what monk or group of monks state, it should be compared to Suttas and Vinaya.
AN 4.180 and also found in DN16

There can be a very learned elder who is of Wrong View, and has a large following. - AN 5.88 (A III. 114)
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:17 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Alex123 wrote:Why can't a discerning person tell him/herself that? Not everyone needs a "babysitter" . . . .
You can tell yourself whatever you want, and certainly you can tell yourself that you won't let your fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking get in the way of what you are telling yourself.



The teacher him/herself can have "fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking" so personal ignorance can just substituted with person ignorance of the teacher. I believe that suttas are the best teacher, and some parts of VsM (dealing with meditation) are also very helpful.
Suttas may be the best teachers, but are you able to listen to them without your fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking get in the way ?

As for teachers' fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking, there is no guarantee, but a teacher choosen carefully will be one who is less caught up in these things than oneself, having some degree of insight into the process of awakening.

You don't need a teacher, just like you do not need a lawyer in court. You can be your own teacher, which is not at all unlike being your own lawyer.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby octathlon » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:21 pm

Ben wrote:To be honest, "required" is not a word I would use. I apologise if it appears I am eel-wriggling.
That's OK, I know it's not necessarily a simple yes or no question. :)

Ben wrote:I have seen some people excel on their own but I have seen many more who, in the absence of teacher or retreat, misunderstanding something and develop a wrong view to which they become very attached. That is where I think the problem lies (from my perspective at least). And I believe for those people it may have been better just to concentrate on dana, sila and pariyatti than attempt meditation without support.
That sounds reasonable.

Ben wrote:I also recognize that some people may not be proximate to a meditation centre and teacher and that their only access to meditation practice is via CD or book. In such a case I would recommend that they make contact with people who are experiencd in the meditation practice one is doing who are willing to be their practice "buddies" and be ok with answering questions.
Would you consider the people on this forum to meet that requirement? I know no other Buddhist practitioners in my town, though I'm sure there must be some.
Well, I did meet one person last year who said he was a Buddhist after he heard me tell someone else I was studying it. I was certainly surprised because he had been spouting off all kinds of ego-centric, self-promoting stuff all evening. He proceeded to tell me I should meditate on drawing in negative energy from the world and "transforming" it into positive energy or something like that. :o I told him I already had more than enough negativity of my own to transform thank you very much. :)
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:23 pm

tiltbillings wrote:As for teachers' fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking, there is no guarantee, but a teacher choosen carefully will be one who is less caught up in these things than oneself, having some degree of insight into the process of awakening.


And how can you be sure that your choice of the teacher is the right one?

tiltbillings wrote:You don't need a teacher, just like you do not need a lawyer in court. You can be your own teacher, which is not at all unlike being your own lawyer.



We have a teacher it is called Sutta-Vinaya, and some commentaries such as VsM have interesting and helpful instructions on meditation. Nothing to say about many good meditation books written by good monks.
Last edited by Alex123 on Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:25 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:As for teachers' fears, ignorance, delusion, and wishful thinking, there is no guarantee, but a teacher choosen carefully will be one who is less caught up in these things than oneself, having some degree of insight into the process of awakening.


And how can you be sure that your choice of the teacher is good one?
Time and practice.

We have a teacher it is called Sutta-Vinaya, and some commentaries such as VsM have interesting and helpful instructions on meditation.
You have a collection of texts that you interpret.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:29 pm

tiltbillings wrote:You have a collection of texts that you interpret.


One can get many good books on meditation written by good knowledgeable monks in order to know various different perspectives. What is wrong in reading good Dhamma books that contain instructions on how to meditate, etc?
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:34 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:You have a collection of texts that you interpret.


So one can get many good books on meditation written by good knowledgeable monks in order to know various different perspectives. What is wrong in reading good Dhamma books that contain instructions on how to meditate?
Nothing. I did not say that there was, but a book can not know you, hear your voice, see your body language, sense your feelings, ask you questions and all the other things that goes with human interaction.

You certainly can practice on your own, but a good teacher is a good thing.
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: does anyone here do kasina meditation?

Postby octathlon » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:36 pm

bodom wrote:Having a "teacher" is ideal but is not an absolute requirement. Having good experienced friends to discuss your practice with such as here at Dhamma Wheel is a blessing. Please dont give up your sitting practice because you dont have access to a teacher. Mindfulness of breathing can be undertaken by anyone and will produce good results without a teacher sitting over you watching every breath.

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu:

The next consideration is what they call an "acariya (teacher, master)". But in truth, even in the old training systems, they did not talk much about "acariya." They called such a person a "good friend (kalyana-mitta)." To say "friend" - an advisor who can help us with certain things - is correct. We should not forget, however, principle that no one can help someone else directly. Yet nowadays, everyone wants to have a teacher to supervise them! A good friend is someone who has extensive personal experience and knowledge about the meditation practice or whatever else it is that we are striving to do. Although he is able to answer questions and explain some difficulties, it is not necessary for him to sit over us and supervise every breath. A good friend who will answer questions and help us work through certain obstacles is more than enough. To have such a kalyana-mitta is one more thing to arrange.


http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/books ... athing.htm

:anjali:

Thanks for this answer, Bodom. It sounds encouraging, but I don't feel I made any progress with my mindfulness of breathing even after several months of almost-daily practice. I don't necessarily blame it on not having a teacher, though. I may be doing something wrong but as you say, it's pretty simple! It is more likely that I would need to increase session times or have patience and continue steadfastly, but I have just burned out on it I guess. It's funny, I actually did a lot better when I first started and it gradually went downhill from there.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:41 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:You have a collection of texts that you interpret.


So one can get many good books on meditation written by good knowledgeable monks in order to know various different perspectives. What is wrong in reading good Dhamma books that contain instructions on how to meditate?
Nothing. I did not say that there was, but a book can not know you, hear your voice, see your body language, sense your feelings, ask you questions and all the other things that goes with human interaction.
You certainly can practice on your own, but a good teacher is a good thing.


How often do the teachers stray from general instructions and can give something personal and original that you can't find in good Dhamma books? And how reliable can that be? Even Ven. Sariputta could misjudge a person in front of him (MN97), nothing to say about people today. Even Pacceka Buddha with all his wisdom that is below of only Samma Sambuddha cannot give Dhamma instructions, and yet we are supposed to believe that ordinary people or monks can give perfect instruction?
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Kenshou » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:50 pm

It isn't really a matter of perfection.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:07 am

Kenshou wrote:It isn't really a matter of perfection.


If the teacher doesn't know better theory than you, then what is the requirement in a teacher? If teacher has written books outlining everything that he or she knows, then why not buy those books and study them?
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:48 am

Alex123 wrote:and yet we are supposed to believe that ordinary people or monks can give perfect instruction?
No one said anything about perfect instruction, but you are taking instruction from meditation books written by others and from your interpretation of these books and from your interpretation of translations of the suttas (which are other people's iinterpretations) and whatnot. And as I said, like being your own lawyer, you can be your own instructor.

If the teacher doesn't know better theory than you, then what is the requirement in a teacher? If teacher has written books outlining everything that he or she knows, then why not buy those books and study them?
As I have said, a book cannot get to know you and your oddities, it cannot hear your tone of voice, it cannot ask you a question that might unlock a problem area. Pretty much, you are left with being your own imperfections as you try to toddle down the path of your own interptretations.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby daverupa » Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:58 am

Alex123 wrote:Why can't a discerning person tell him/herself that? Not everyone needs a "babysitter" . . . .


It is only stream-enterers, et al for whom we may confidently make this declaration. Dwelling "diligent, ardent, and resolute" takes spending time among kalyanamittas.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby octathlon » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:03 am

OK I guess this will be another one of those threads of a couple people repeating their same argument over and over for 10 pages. So, maybe a teacher is required, maybe not. OK.

What about going to a teacher of a different school and getting confused vs. meditating on your own vs. not at all?
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:11 am

octathlon wrote:OK I guess this will be another one of those threads of a couple people repeating their same argument over and over for 10 pages. So, maybe a teacher is required, maybe not. OK.
And now with someone who adds his own disgruntled disapproval of a brief repetative back and forth. If it had actually gotten to 10 pages, then the disgruntled grousing would make sense.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby octathlon » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:13 am

Carry on and enjoy.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby daverupa » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:14 am

octathlon wrote:What about going to a teacher of a different school and getting confused vs. meditating on your own vs. not at all?


Well, I think we should discard "not at all" since, as far as I can tell, the meditation fare to which people have access is fairly benign, and preferable to a complete absence of any bhavana at all.

As far as schools go, I would recommend studying the Anapanasati Sutta(s) on ones own while seeking out a local community, perhaps more than one, and I would engage with them (all) about anapanasati as a shared component of all Dhamma schools.

Ask about it, discuss it, do it. Compare notes.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:16 am

tiltbillings wrote:As I have said, a book cannot get to know you and your oddities, it cannot hear your tone of voice, it cannot ask you a question that might unlock a problem area. Pretty much, you are left with being your own imperfections as you try to toddle down the path of your own interptretations.


And what prevents that teacher himself from making mistakes when dealing with you? What prevents the teacher from dealing in a standard way with you (something you can read from the books)? Teachers do not have the Buddha's capability of reading minds and mistakes are possible. Even Ven, Sariputta a Chief Disciple and Arahant could misjudge a person in front of him.

In a perfect world somebody could give you all you need, but unfortunately this doesn't happen anymore. The Buddha is gone and left a Teacher, His teaching.
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