Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Stiphan
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Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by Stiphan » Fri Mar 18, 2016 3:29 pm

Why is it that teachers -- all of them credible -- sometimes disagree with each other on certain doctrinal or practical issues, and more importantly, how do we judge which teacher is right?

For example, some say that you need jhāna to get enlightened, or even to practice vipassanā, others say you don't need jhāna for either. Some strongly advise against meditating for 3 hours, others say it's up to you. Some say right view is an advanced stage of practice, others say there is also a preliminary type of right view.

I could give other examples, but it seems that many teachers have different views on a range of different doctrinal and practical points.

And as far as ordinary Buddhists are concerned, there are even more disagreements. So I am sure I will get different responses to my question. But how do I know which one(s) is/are right?
Last edited by Stiphan on Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Crazy cloud
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Re: Why do teachers conflict one another

Post by Crazy cloud » Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:42 pm

I've come to that the safest way to get answers or rather; come up with the right questions, is by trusting in my intuitiv awareness and thereby further developing stilness in body and mind. I mostly do this training alone, and thereby its less doubt I guess ..

I listen a lot to Luong Por Sumedho, and find his advise to be down to earth true

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SDC
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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by SDC » Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:52 pm

I moved this topic from DT because answers are going to be mostly opinion, something we do not like to contend with in the beginner's section.

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by Zom » Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:59 pm

And as far as ordinary Buddhists are concerned, there are even more disagreements. So I am sure I will get different responses to my question. But how do I know which one(s) is/are right?
This is not an easy answer. You need to have your wisdom to differentiate and make conclusions.

However, there is an advice from the Buddha one should follow:

1) "Here, monks, a monk may say thus: 'Face to face with the Blessed One, friend, have I heard, face to face with him have I received this. This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the message of the Teacher.'
"Monks, the speech of that monk should neither be welcomed nor reviled. Non-welcoming, non-reviling, every word and syllable should be well studied, placed beside the Sutta and compared with the Vinaya. When placed beside the Sutta and compared with the Vinaya, should they not fit in with the Sutta, nor accord with the Vinaya, you should come to the conclusion: 'Truly this is not the word of the Blessed One, and has been wrongly grasped by that monk.' Thus, monks, you should reject it. If they fit in with the Sutta and accord with the Vinaya, then you should come to the conclusion: 'Truly this is the word of the Blessed One and has been rightly grasped by that monk.' Monks, understand this as the first great standard.

2) "Again, monks, a monk may say: 'In such and such a residence lives a community of monks with an elder, a leader. Face to face with that community of monks have I heard, face to face with it have I received this. This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the message of the Teacher.'
"Monks, the speech of that monk should neither be welcomed nor reviled ... Monks, understand this as the second great standard.

3) "Again, monks, a monk may say: 'In such and such a residence live many elder monks, of great knowledge who have mastered the tradition, Dhamma-bearers, Vinaya-bearers, tabulated summary-bearers. Face to face with these elders have I heard, face to face with them have I received this. This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the message of the Teacher.'
"Monks, the speech of that monk should neither be welcomed nor reviled ... Monks, understand this as the third great standard.

4) "Again, monks, a monk may say: 'In such and such a residence lives a monk, an elder, of great knowledge, who has mastered the tradition, a Dhamma-bearer, a Vinaya-bearer, a tabulated summary-bearer. Face to face with this elder have I heard, face to face with him have I received this. This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the message of the Teacher.'
"Monks, the speech of that monk should neither be welcomed nor reviled. Non-welcoming, non-reviling, every word and syllable should be well studied, placed beside the Sutta and compared with the Vinaya. When placed beside the Sutta and compared with the Vinaya, should they not fit in with the Sutta, nor accord with the Vinaya, you should come to the conclusion: 'Truly this is not the word of the Blessed One and has been wrongly grasped by that elder.' Thus, monks, you should reject it. If they fit in with the Sutta and accord with the Vinaya, then you should come to the conclusion: 'Truly this is the word of the Blessed One and has been rightly grasped by that elder.' Monks, understand this as the fourth great standard."


others say you don't need jhāna
And then you check MN 64 and "come to the conclusion: 'Truly this is not the word of the Blessed One and has been wrongly grasped by that elder" 8-)

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Aloka
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Re: Why do teachers conflict one another

Post by Aloka » Fri Mar 18, 2016 5:14 pm

Crazy cloud wrote:

I listen a lot to Luong Por Sumedho, and find his advise to be down to earth true

Me too. :anjali:

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by DC2R » Fri Mar 18, 2016 5:44 pm

Ajahn Chah wrote:Suppose there’s an elephant and a bunch of blind people are trying to describe it. One touches the leg and says it’s like a pillar. Another touches the ear and says it’s like a fan. Another touches the tail and says, ‘No, it’s not a fan; it’s like a broom.’ Another touches the shoulder and says it’s something else again from what the others say.

It’s like this. There’s no resolution, no end. Each blind person touches part of the elephant and has a completely different idea of what it is. But it’s the same one elephant. It’s like this in practice. With a little understanding or experience, you get limited ideas. You can go from one teacher to the next seeking explanations and instructions, trying to figure out if they are teaching correctly or incorrectly and how their teachings compare to each other. Some monks are always traveling around with their bowls and umbrellas learning from different teachers. They try to judge and measure, so when they sit down to meditate they are constantly in confusion about what is right and what is wrong. ‘This teacher said this, but that teacher said that. One guy teaches in this way, but the other guy’s methods are different. They don’t seem to agree.’ It can lead to a lot of doubt.

You might hear that certain teachers are really good and so you go to receive teachings from Thai Ajahns, Zen masters and others. It seems to me you’ve probably had enough teaching, but the tendency is to always want to hear more, to compare and to end up in doubt as a result. Then each successive teacher increases your confusion further. There’s a story of a wanderer in the Buddha’s time that was in this kind of situation. He went to one teacher after the next, hearing their different explanations and learning their methods. He was trying to learn meditation but was only increasing his perplexity. His travels finally brought him to the teacher Gotama, and he described his predicament to the Buddha.

...

Understanding this, that wanderer made up his mind to practise as the Buddha advised, putting things down. Seeing ever more clearly, he realized many kinds of knowledge, seeing the natural order of things with his own wisdom. His doubts ended. He put down the past and the future and everything appeared in the present. This was eko dhammo, the one Dhamma. Then it was no longer necessary for him to carry his begging bowl up mountains and into forests in search of understanding. If he did go somewhere, he went in a natural way, not out of desire for something. If he stayed put, he was staying in a natural way, not out of desire.

Practising in that way, he became free of doubt. There was nothing to add to his practice, nothing to remove. He dwelt in peace, without anxiety over past or future. This was the way the Buddha taught.
May the blessings of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha always be firmly established in your hearts.

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by Thisperson » Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:02 pm

DC2R wrote:
Ajahn Chah wrote:Quote
:goodpost:

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by JohnK » Fri Mar 18, 2016 6:08 pm

Upasaka Sumana wrote:Why is it that teachers -- all of them credible -- sometimes disagree with each other on certain doctrinal or practical issues, and more importantly, how do we judge which teacher is right?...
It might be helpful to have a look at One Dharma by Joseph Goldstein where he suggests that different teachings and instructions are "skillful means" that have been developed to aid in progress toward liberation. Liberation is beyond language, so different means (and even different descriptions of realization itself) have evolved over a long time in different traditions. He does however discuss the elements of the "One Dharma" that are common. (Of course these few sentences simplify.)

I seem to recall a story about Ajahn Chah where he describes his teaching as keeping the students (was the metaphor that they were blind?) from falling into the ditches on either side of the road. He might see one heading to the ditch on the left and so he would instruct "move right." At another time he might have to instruct "move left." The instructions are not contradictory. So that may be part of what you are talking about.
"Why is it, Master Kaccana, that ascetics fight with ascetics?"
"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics" (AN 2: iv, 6, abridged).
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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 8:11 pm

Hi Upasaka Sumana,

I agree it can be confusing. It's a lot less confusing if you think about why people teach what they teach: because of their personal experience, and the experience of their students, of what was helpful.

Ajahn Brahm had deep meditation experiences while still a student in the UK, and build on that basis. Other students of Ajahn Chah brought backgrounds from other sources. Ajahn Tiradhammo mentioned on one retreat I attended that he found "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation" very helpful. As you might expect with that background he teaches more of a Burmese Vipassana approach, and doesn't emphasise deep concentration.

And that's just two students of one particular teacher...

In the end there is no real contradiction. Full liberation requires the development of (among other things) tranquillity and insight. The order varies in the suttas, so it's not surprising it varies in the teachings of various teachers.

This is, by the way, why it can be really confusing to mix up instructions from different teachers.

See also: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=25479.

:anjali:
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Mar 18, 2016 9:37 pm

From Dhotaka's Questions, Suttanipāta:

"I can see now," said Dhotaka, "that there is, in this world, a man who has nothing, a Brahmin, a wanderer. I bow down and honour you. Sir, the eye that sees everything. Please, Man of Sākya, free me from confusion!"

"It is not in my practice to free anyone from confusion," said the Buddha. "When you have understood the most valuable teachings, then you yourself will cross this ocean."
AIM ForumsPāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by Alex123 » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:33 pm

Hello Upasaka_Sumana,

Different people can require different specific approach to counter their specific defilements and misunderstandings.
Even though in all cases lobha, dosa, and moha must be let go, the specific instructions how to best arrive there can differ.
In the suttas you will find many different specific teachings about the path. Sometimes Buddha taught metta, sometimes anapanasati, sometimes one of many other meditation subjects. Some people reached this or that stage while hearing a short or long discourse.

Unfortunately there is no "one size fits all". If that was the case, then all suttas would focus on just that one "technique" and we wouldn't have 40+ kammatthana subjects.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by Stiphan » Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:45 pm

Thank you all for your views. Duly noted and much appreciated.
You can call me "Stiphan" (correct spelling: Sṭīphan) or Stephen. May you be well and happy. :heart:

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by dhammarelax » Sat Mar 19, 2016 12:28 am

Upasaka Sumana wrote:Why is it that teachers -- all of them credible -- sometimes disagree with each other on certain doctrinal or practical issues, and more importantly, how do we judge which teacher is right?

For example, some say that you need jhāna to get enlightened, or even to practice vipassanā, others say you don't need jhāna for either. Some strongly advise against meditating for 3 hours, others say it's up to you. Some say right view is an advanced stage of practice, others say there is also a preliminary type of right view.

I could give other examples, but it seems that many teachers have different views on a range of different doctrinal and practical points.

And as far as ordinary Buddhists are concerned, there are even more disagreements. So I am sure I will get different responses to my question. But how do I know which one(s) is/are right?
You practice what one teacher says and see the results, do they look like final liberation or not, if not practice what other teacher says and compare again, but be smart enough to not just dump all the teaching of a person just because they are not conducive to final liberation, some of it is useful some of it is not. Results are the key factor.

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Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by cappuccino » Sat Mar 19, 2016 12:38 am

Read the suttas, until you understand...
Last edited by cappuccino on Sat Mar 19, 2016 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Mar 19, 2016 12:42 am

Oops, 2500 years too late...

Image

For the Aussies:

Image
http://aussiememes.com.au/character/julia-gillard-meme

:coffee:
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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by pilgrim » Sat Mar 19, 2016 1:21 am

The area of greatest contradiction appears to be the role or importance of jhanas. Recently an attempt at reconciling these views has developed with the understanding that the jhanas described in the Visudhi Magga is not exactly the same as those that described in the suttas.
http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Other than this point, most perceived contradictions appear more to be differences on emphasis..

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by pegembara » Sat Mar 19, 2016 3:07 am

Upasaka Sumana wrote:Why is it that teachers -- all of them credible -- sometimes disagree with each other on certain doctrinal or practical issues, and more importantly, how do we judge which teacher is right?

For example, some say that you need jhāna to get enlightened, or even to practice vipassanā, others say you don't need jhāna for either. Some strongly advise against meditating for 3 hours, others say it's up to you. Some say right view is an advanced stage of practice, others say there is also a preliminary type of right view.

I could give other examples, but it seems that many teachers have different views on a range of different doctrinal and practical points.

And as far as ordinary Buddhists are concerned, there are even more disagreements. So I am sure I will get different responses to my question. But how do I know which one(s) is/are right?

"Gotami, the dhammas of which you may know, 'These dhammas lead — to passion, not to dispassion; to being fettered, not to being unfettered; to accumulating, not to shedding; to self-aggrandizement, not to modesty; to discontent, not to contentment; to entanglement, not to seclusion; to laziness, not to aroused persistence; to being burdensome, not to being unburdensome': You may categorically hold, 'This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Teacher's instruction.'

"As for the dhammas of which you may know, 'These dhammas lead — to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to shedding, not to accumulating; to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to entanglement; to aroused persistence, not to laziness; to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome': You may categorically hold, 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher's instruction.'"

— AN 8.53

"Upali, the dhammas of which you may know, 'These dhammas do not lead to utter disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, nor to Unbinding': You may categorically hold, 'This is not the Dhamma, this is not the Vinaya, this is not the Teacher's instruction.'

"As for the dhammas of which you may know, 'These dhammas lead to utter disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding': You may categorically hold, 'This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher's instruction.'"

— AN 7.79
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by Pinetree » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:26 am

But how do I know which one(s) is/are right?
What is relevant to you is your personal understanding of the teachings. Talking about who is right and who is wrong would be pure speculation.

You should try and see which understanding of the teachings is right for you.

And what is right for you is what moves you away from dukkha.

By that, I don't mean something which gives you a feeling of comfort, but what gives you an understanding of dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by The Thinker » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:12 am

We come from different cultures and backgrounds, we may read different material, we may read the same material and interpret it differently, our teachers are just the same, I may not believe in rebirth and many would question what is he doing on this Theravada forum, but this is where I feel comfortable, I need not be secular because of my view, I reject the word secular, for it ignores the teachers that have impacted me, and most of those are monks and nuns of this tradition whom hold my greatest respect, for they live the path.

“Attachment to desire is the cause of the personal suffering. In the instance of spiritual progress, by attaching to desire - what stage am I in, and I want to get to the next stage - you can see this is based on the illusion of me as a person trying to become something. To, me, this is desire of ignorance. By recognizing the ignorance, the delusion, you can let go.”


“The personality never gets enlightened.”
- See more at: http://dharmawisdom.org/node/286#sthash.Ahpocb7W.dpuf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


If there is no I , where can I go? :namaste:
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Aloka
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Re: Why do teachers sometimes conflict one another

Post by Aloka » Sat Mar 19, 2016 10:14 am

Pinetree wrote:
But how do I know which one(s) is/are right?
What is relevant to you is your personal understanding of the teachings. Talking about who is right and who is wrong would be pure speculation.

You should try and see which understanding of the teachings is right for you.

And what is right for you is what moves you away from dukkha.

By that, I don't mean something which gives you a feeling of comfort, but what gives you an understanding of dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

Yes,I agree with this. I think its important to continue investigation in a direct way which is relevant to ones own situation, rather than getting caught up in the endless views and opinions of others.


:anjali:

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