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Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:13 am
by PeterB
How about an Ask A Teacher Forum like ZFI has ?

It would need to be a different format to that of ZFI. The teachers could be for example those Bhikkhus with a teaching remit, the mods etc..

Anyone can pose a question...but only those recognised to do so and named can answer in THAT specific subforum..
The rest of the forum functions as normal.

There are huge advantages.

It cuts out meta discussion and reduces papanca to a minimum.

It has become the go to place on ZFI. In fact as far as I am concerned it has become the only go to place on ZFI..but then I am not a Zennist.
I would anticipate that a similar forum here would be more integrated into the overall forum.

Those addicted to meta discussion will of course blanche at the very suggestion.

But a brief visit to Zen Forum International will see that it has been highly sucessful in terms of actually focussing on Dharma/Dhamma.

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:07 pm
by Jhana4
I second this idea. It sounds useful and beneficial in a number of ways.

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:53 pm
by plwk
Thirded...

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:58 pm
by retrofuturist
Greetings Peter,

Can I let you know what I find a little troublesome about this idea?

Primarily, it's the inference that there is a group of people qualified to respond to someone's questions, and another group of people who are unqualified to respond.

Firstly, I think that's problematic because it can create elitism amongst the "chosen few", but secondly, it then puts an onus on the staff here to select that "chosen few", and by what criteria would we do that? We've never met people in person, we have no idea about the maturity of their practice beyond how we see them behave here at Dhamma Wheel. It also assumes that the moderators and administrators know the Dhamma, and can therefore spot others who know the Dhamma too. All of which is the pre-cursor to doing the E-Sangha trick of separating "dhamma" from "adhamma", according to the personal preferences and beliefs of those in charge... and I'm not comfortable with that.

What we do have though is the Discovering Theravada section, which is where newbies and those of other traditions can ask questions of the community. We moderate this section more closely than most, because we make a concerted effort to remove papanca and also that if someone gives a response that does not seem in accord with Theravada, we lean on them quite hard to back it up, lest the asker of the question mistakenly take their word to be a reflection of Theravada Dhamma.

In my opinion, meta-discussion can be managed through other means.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:13 pm
by mikenz66
retrofuturist wrote: What we do have though is the Discovering Theravada section, which is where newbies and those of other traditions can ask questions of the community. We moderate this section more closely than most, because we make a concerted effort to remove papanca and also that if someone gives a response that does not seem in accord with Theravada, we lean on them quite hard to back it up, lest the asker of the question mistakenly take their word to be a reflection of Theravada Dhamma.
Could I ask the posters above whether a similar purpose would be served by some strengthening of the guidelines for the Discovering Theravada forum, and more energetic removal of anything that wasn't just a straightforward answer to the question (or topics that were not just a straightforward question)?

:anjali:
Mike

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:17 pm
by retrofuturist
Greetings,

Further to Mike's question, there's also the possibility for us to create a moderator queue for the Discovering Theravada section so that each post much be reviewed and approved by a moderator or admin before it becomes visible.

It would add a bit of work for us, and slow down the rate of response that questioner's receive, but it's a technical possibility, so I put it out there for discussion....

Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:24 pm
by PeterB
Its worked well on ZFI Retro...I know that DW is not ZFI.
I also know that initially there was a lot of concern about an elite being created...but that hasnt happened.
But...there it is. No biggie.
Actually a moderator queue on the Discovering Theravada forum might be very good.

We dont get the volume of flying saucers/kundalini/changing traffic lights by acts of will stuff to the same degree as ZFI, but we get get a proportion of people apparently a little confused about the nature of that which is being potentially discovered... :smile:

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:26 pm
by retrofuturist
Greetings Theravada,

We also have less of a clear delineation in Theravada of what actually constitutes a "teacher"... Dhamma Wheel is founded more on the principle of kalyana-mitta, than student-teacher relationships.

We'll see what others have to say on the extent that the Discovering Theravada section could or should be more rigorously constrained.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:30 am
by christopher:::
What I think would be very helpful would be if more of the advanced practitioners and teachers here started study groups such as Mike has done, or like David's Pali word of the day. Each person picks a topic they would like to teach/explore in more depth and then the rest of us can join. By doing that you set up a teaching situation from the start, where one person (or more) with knowledge and experience is leading the discussion.

The current Study Groups forum is set up for sutta study only, and Mike is leading all the discussions. You can either change that structure or create a larger teaching/study forum with Mike's area as a subforum. The key thing here is that the person who leads the discussion has a deeper understanding or experience then the average practitioner. That might help to deter some of the debating we've seen in discussions, and it might even be a rule of the forum that if you disagree with how something is being taught/led by someone this forum is not the place to challenge and debate too vigorously, the discussions have a specific facilitator who is guiding conversations.

As an example, I'd really like to join a thread where we discuss Ajahn Chah's dhamma talks, but I'd like it if there was a leader (or two) in the discussion, so that I can ask questions and we don't start getting into heated debates of meaning. The problem of "who's qualified to teach" could be addressed by creating a topics recommendation thread, where members might suggest both topic and possible facilitator/teachers. If I suggest the Ajahn Chah discussion and 4 others show interest, we then might become a group that is responsible for finding someone to lead the discussion.

Anyway, just some suggestions on another way to approach this...

:smile:

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:37 am
by Wizard in the Forest
I'd support that.

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 6:00 am
by mikenz66
Hi Christopher,

That's a useful suggestion. However, I should point out that I didn't start this Sutta Study group, and I don't feel like I'm particularly "teaching". However, it is true that because there is a particular focus, and because I've looked up a few references to quote, the conversations do tend to be reasonably focussed, as you say here:
christopher::: wrote:The key thing here is that the person who leads the discussion has a deeper understanding or experience then the average practitioner. That might help to deter some of the debating we've seen in discussions, and it might even be a rule of the forum that if you disagree with how something is being taught/led by someone this forum is not the place to challenge and debate too vigorously, the discussions have a specific facilitator who is guiding conversations.
:anjali:
Mike

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 6:09 am
by christopher:::
Right! That's why the approach (or a variation on it) that you have set up in the study forum could be a way to help avoid the "free-for-alls" that sometimes arise here. A person doesn't need to be a certified teacher to help facilitate and guide a discussion. And yet teachers could also be invited to start some topics that interest them. I think its helpful that the moderators maintain some control over topics, not that you decide what topics to put up but you field our requests and suggestions, having the final say.

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 6:40 am
by mikenz66
Hi Christopher,

I'm not sure if the moderation team is really up to fielding/organising topics. Would there be any support for an area (or areas, or some sort of flag on a thread --- the technical mechanism is not so important) that was kind of the opposite of the Dhamma Free For All, where the OP's posts set the ground rules for the discussion?

Sometimes members put quite a lot of effort into setting up a topic, such as IanAnd's topic on meditation here:
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=7110" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
and it can be discouraging for the OP if such threads turn into a heated argument.

So, for example, if someone wants to provide various resources to facilitate discussion of the meditation teachings of various Forest Ajahns, they probably don't want to field endless arguments about contradictions between Ajahn Maha Bua's descriptions and the Suttas or Commentaries. Or if someone is interested in discussing the teachings of various Burmese Sayadaws they probably won't find comments that the Abhidhamma and Commentaries are worthless particularly helpful.
[I'm not talking about comments like: "It is interesting that Ajahn's description seems to contradict various Suttas and Commentaries", I'm talking about comments like: "I wouldn't bother with Ajahn X, he's clearly a schismatic who never paid much attention to the Theravada tradition."]

I guess, to put it simply, I'm wondering if there is a use for an area/flag where a request from the OP that "I want to consider this topic from such-and-such a perspective" would be rigidly enforced. Would that encourage some members to lead a discussion?

:anjali:
Mike

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:36 am
by christopher:::
Hmm. I could be wrong but I think this is already the intention behind the majority of discussion topics started, outside of the Dhamma-free-for-all forum. Most members begin a discussion and try to frame the issue in the OP, not always expecting that someone with a critical view is going to come by.

I guess i was trying to suggest something a bit closer to PeterB's initial suggestion, where people with training, long term experience, knowledge (or some level of familiarity above the norm) are designated as the facilitator and discussion guide. If there is one central thread for people to make suggestions it might not take that much of the mod's time. You come by and see that a teacher, bikkhu or long-term practitioner has made a suggestion or a group of folks have agreed on a topic, have written the OP and have a facilitator and then the mod opens (or approves) the topic.

The mod's only work would be to approve or start the discussions.

I dunno, maybe the idea isn't workable yet.

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:53 am
by Aloka
The key thing here is that the person who leads the discussion has a deeper understanding or experience then the average practitioner
.

So what sort of criteria should be used on the internet to determine this 'deeper understanding or experience' ? It can be the case that people who are very eloquent with the written word and have read lots of books and resources don't necessarily have much inner understanding or experience of that which they might be able to discuss impressively.

We're all at different levels which personally I think its impossible to know when we only have the written word, so 'long term practitioner' might not be as significant as it appears.

There are people who can discuss philosophy, religion, history etc at great length too - but is it just academic knowledge we are seeking? Just expressing some random thoughts though....

with kind wishes :)

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:15 am
by PeterB
Should such a subforum happen on this Forum and should it follow the pattern set by ZFI the discussion leaders would be the Bhikkhus......(.whether they would want that role is another issue altogether.) Just as on ZFI the discussion leaders are Zen lineage holders
Aloka is correct longevity in Dhamma is not enough in itself. As one Ajahn was heard to say " show me a man with 20 years meditation experience which is self directed and I will show you a man with one years experience repeated 20 times.."

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:01 am
by Ben
I actually think Peter's idea has merit and I would back a trial to see how it worked here. That is, if board software has the functionality, wasn't an onerous impost on mod/admin and 'teacher-designates' time and the support of my mod/admin colleagues.
If Peter's idea doesn't get off the ground, we can produce a close facsimile of it by drastically reducing the amount of off-topic (inc meta-discussion) posts we are individually responsible for. And it will go a long way in making a significant improvement of everyone's experience of DW.
kind regards

Ben

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:11 am
by appicchato
Personally speaking, I find some of the most intelligent, applicable, inspirational (for me), answers and comments come from 'regular' participants here...setting people up as 'teachers', no matter their station in life, or this forum, is a recipe for sour apples...just one more 'feeling' from this corner...

Be well...

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:13 am
by Ben
Hi Bhante,
appicchato wrote:Personally speaking, I find some of the most intelligent, applicable, inspirational (for me), answers and comments come from 'regular' participants here...setting people up as 'teachers', no matter their station in life, or this forum, is a recipe for sour apples...just one more 'feeling' from this corner...

Be well...
I have similar concerns regarding the use of the term 'teacher'. Perhaps then we just need to change the terminology if this idea was to proceed?
Just a thought!

Re: Ask A Teacher.

Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:54 am
by PeterB
appicchato wrote:Personally speaking, I find some of the most intelligent, applicable, inspirational (for me), answers and comments come from 'regular' participants here...setting people up as 'teachers', no matter their station in life, or this forum, is a recipe for sour apples...just one more 'feeling' from this corner...

Be well...
Its sad to see that a knee-jerk egalitarianism has infected the Sangha.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a recognition of teacher status .
It would not be compulsory for people who are more comfortable pissing into the tent rather than out of it.
And the forum will never run out of those.