Temples and Viharas

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Temples and Viharas

Post by JackV » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:03 pm


I do hope that this is the right place to post this. Do you think it's necessary to go to temple?
I have been practicing in my own home for quite some time and had put off going to either of the two temples (actually one Sri Lankan Vihara and one Thai temple) near me for anything. The first reason for this was essentially just nerves.
Well I finally decieded to beat my nerves and went along to the Thai temple firstly, and to be honest after my one visit I was in no rush to go back. Basically I felt completely out of my depth with the tradition. What I mean by this is that I had no idea of the words of Pansil (not sure what the Thai people actually call it) the long series of chanting at the start of the practice and so sat there feeling very out of place whilst everyone did their thing. Then, without any explicit explanation, half the people got up and left. Feeling like I wanted to get out of there I followed only to find that these people were the 'beginner group' and were heading to another room. So luckily I happened to go the right way for practice. Oh and for instance no one told me or pointed me in the direction for the mats
So I basically felt pretty bad because i felt out of place and no one seemed to help or advise me.
I then decieded to got to the Vihara the next week. This place was more or less a repeat of the same. I found the monk at the entrance quite intimidating. People were bowing to him on entry and speaking, presumably Tamil or Sinhalese, and I just wandered up and was like, "err I'm here for the..." Before he could say a word (and it didn't look like he was planning to) a nice lady came out and asked me if I wanted the class. Sadly it wasn't on and secretly I was relieved.

I know this is my problem. I really hate feeling uncomfortable and self conscious and not knowing what to do and these places didn't seemed to concerned with explaining or helping

So my question is; should I just stop being a chump and just go because I will be missing out on something vital?
Or to put it another way will practice by oneself suffice?

With kindness,
Here where a thousand
captains swore grand conquest
Tall grasses their monument.

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Re: Temples and Viharas

Post by DNS » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:15 pm

Hi Jack,

It could just be a 'culture shock' situation. Some Westerners are attracted to the teachings of Buddhism and philosophically accept them and like the practice of meditation, but are unfamiliar with the temple practices and they can actually look quite foreign to the Westerner.

It may be best to have your first Dhamma center visits at a place that has more Western born practitioners for now. That way it won't look so foreign with the cultural differences. And then later you could return to the temples and viharas for more instruction from the bhikkhus. Depending upon where you live there should be at least a few peer led groups or groups run by a lay Dhamma teacher, usually in someone's home or at a rented space, such as at a yoga studio, etc. There the focus is more toward meditation, walking meditation, instruction, and Dhamma talks without some of the cultural items that may have made you feel out of place.

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Re: Temples and Viharas

Post by cooran » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:34 pm

Hello Jack,

In the future, it would be worth considering making a telephone call to the temple/vihara before attending. Just explain that you are unfamiliar with the practice at the temple and arrange/request contact with someone who could meet you there on the day, and provide some introductions and explanations. I attend a mainy Sri Lankan temple and that's how I began. There are not many westerners attending, though the monk is a German.

Alternatively, join a local lay meditation group and you are most likely to find someone in that group attending a temple in your vicinity.

Other than that, use the internet and do as many Retreats in a year that you are able to, and talk to us on DhammaWheel.

with metta
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
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Re: Temples and Viharas

Post by Jhana4 » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:39 pm

I have found the Sri Lankans at the Vihara I attend to be enormously warm and friendly. Their customs did freak me out at first, but I think that benefited me by helping to make me less provincial and presumptuous in my attitudes. A bit :).

It isn't necessary, but I think it helps to sit with a group once a week.

If you are in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area there are many choices for secular Buddhist meditation groups. Check out the links under "Local Theravada Meditation Groups" on the right side:

http://dcbuddhiststudies.wordpress.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: Temples and Viharas

Post by rowyourboat » Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:28 pm

Interesting .. what would make it easier to approach a temple/vihara I wonder? JackV suggested someone who could guide the way. Now this is a simply thing, but not something a traditional temple ever needed to do because parents would have taught their children the right 'vihara etiqutte' without the need for anyone special. But clearly in different cultures it would be another story. Suggestions anyone?
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Re: Temples and Viharas

Post by Goofaholix » Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:26 am

I don't think it's necessary to frequent viharas or temples. I do think it's necessary to attend retreats or sitting groups, sometimes you can get these through temples or viharas otherwise though insight meditation groups.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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