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.
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Alex123
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by 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?
"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..."

Kenshou
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by Kenshou » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:50 pm

It isn't really a matter of perfection.

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Alex123
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by 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?
"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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tiltbillings
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by 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.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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daverupa
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by 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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octathlon
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by 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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tiltbillings
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by 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.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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octathlon
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by octathlon » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:13 am

Carry on and enjoy.

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daverupa
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by 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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Alex123
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by 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.
"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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tiltbillings
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:25 am

Alex123 wrote:
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?
You learn.
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.
That puts you in a really hard place. Cannot trust teachers to be perfect. Being unawakened, driven by delusion and such stuff, cannot trust your own interptretations not to be seriously affected by such defilements. Cannot trust translations by unawakened, imperfect people to be a guide. And even poor Sariputta, an arahant himself, screwed up. Heavens to betsy; it is a hard world out there.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Alex123
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by Alex123 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:33 am

Buddha has left His teaching to be used as a guide. I do not believe that suttas are written so poorly that they require lots of interpretation for practice. I think that the Buddha was the Best teacher and His instructions are written in the best form to be used individually.

Teachers can make mistakes and one shouldn't, imho, idealize them. Also many books written by them are also available, so it is not that one has to use one's own interpretation of the suttas. I believe that people should eventually become independent when it comes to Dhamma and be able to find answers for themselves rather than to rely on someone.

tiltbillings wrote:it is a hard world out there.
Yes, it is hard world out there. This is why Dukkha is the 1st Noble Truth.

When the Buddha has died, He has left His teaching as the Teacher. He didn't appoint someone (like Ananda) to be The Teacher or as a successor. The Sutta and Vinaya that Buddha gave is the Teacher.



"Master Ananda, is there any one monk appointed by Master Gotama [with the words], 'He will be your arbitrator after I am gone,' to whom you now turn?"

"No, brahman. There isn't any one monk appointed by the Blessed One — the one who knows, the one who sees, worthy & rightly self-awakened — [with the words] 'He will be your arbitrator after I am gone,' to whom we now turn."

"Then is there any one monk authorized by the Sangha and appointed by a large body of elder monks [with the words], 'He will be our arbitrator after the Blessed One is gone,' to whom you now turn?"

"No, brahman. There isn't any one monk authorized by the Sangha and appointed by a large body of elder monks [with the words] 'He will be our arbitrator after the Blessed One is gone,' to whom we now turn."

"Being thus without an arbitrator, Master Ananda, what is the reason for your concord?"

"It's not the case, brahman, that we're without an arbitrator. We have an arbitrator. The Dhamma is our arbitrator."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"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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tiltbillings
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:42 am

Alex123 wrote:Buddha has left His teaching to be used as a guide. I do not believe that suttas are written so poorly that they require lots of interpretation for practice. I think that the Buddha was the Best teacher and His instructions are written in the best form to be used individually.
But since you do not read Pali, you must rely on imperfect translations, and it is obvious just from this forum itself how wildly divergent interpretations of the same text can be. But even if the translations were perfect, you, as unawakened individual, driven by delusion, want, fears, and other such goodies, must interpret them.
Teachers can make mistakes and one shouldn't, imho, idealize them.
No one here is idealizing teachers.
Also many books written by them are also available, so it is not that one has to use one's own interpretation of the suttas. I believe that people should eventually become independent when it comes to Dhamma and be able to find answers for themselves rather than to rely on someone.
Books have their limitations, and as for becoming independent of relying on others, sure; however . . . .

Do you actually have something new to say here, or are you going to keep going in circles? octathlon is getting dizzy from this round-and-round business.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by Nicro » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:48 am

Alex, why are you so opposed to a teacher? You are willing to read their book but not study with them?
octathlon wrote:
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

: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.

What kind of meditation were you doing? Anapanasati? Whose method? I think progress can be made with any good method. You just gotta be consistent. In my own opinion, if you meditate at least an hour a day you won't go backwards and if you do at least 2 hours a day you will go forwards.
octathlon wrote:
What about going to a teacher of a different school and getting confused vs. meditating on your own vs. not at all?
What is the local community of? If its Zen there seems to me to be a lot of similarities of Zazen to Vipasana, especially Bhante G's method. You could even go to a group session early and ask the leader if he is OK with you sitting with them but doing your own style of meditation.

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Ben
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Post by Ben » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:52 am

Sorry for the delay, Octathlon,
octathlon wrote: 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.
Yes, I can give you some recommendations of people on this forum that I believe would be excellent buddies (if they are willing - and I am sure they will be). You are welcome to contact me via PM.
kind regards,

Ben
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