still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
alan...
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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by alan... » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:23 am

ground wrote:
still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?
Maybe you should investigate into your expectations as to receiving help from others and develop self-confidence instead? :sage:
i have been relying on myself alone for four years and everything was going swimmingly until i discovered how deep the jhana confusion really goes. i practice in utter isolation. i don't even know a single other buddhist in person. without self confidence i would have fallen off this path long ago.

until now my expectations as to receiving help from others was that i didn't need it, i could learn all i need from the suttas and books. i still feel this way to a degree, it's been only recently i have considered that i may need a teacher, my only problem is defining jhana practice. once this is done i will likely be in good shape.

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by Goob » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:47 am

What does your gut tell you about what teacher is right for you? I often find that when I'm confronted by multiple roads to walk down on I sort of already knew what was right deep down. Feeling like you're suppressing qualms about what a teacher is saying probably means that it wasn't meant to be. I'd say you're knowledgable enough to go with your instinct in this matter. I had the same problem regarding the Jhana-confusion for some time but am confident that I've picked an approach that instinctively works for me.

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by Dmytro » Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:06 pm

Hi Alan,
alan... wrote:i have too many questions for one book to answer and reading more than one book to answer a question ends in conflicting ideas so i'm back to square one.
Seems like you rely on books a lot. The book knowledge need to be delicately balanced with inner knowledge.

It goes like this - at the end of each meditation sitting, and at the end of each day, you reflect what happened, and learn from it, posing new questions to explore in the future.
This seemingly simple practice evolves with time into the inner knowledge.

For example:

"Suppose that anger is interfering with your concentration. Instead of getting involved in the anger, you try simply to be aware of when it's there and when it's not. You look at the anger as an event in and of itself — as it comes, as it goes. But you don't stop there. The next step — as you're still working at focusing on the breath — is recognizing how anger can be made to go away. Sometimes simply watching it is enough to make it go away; sometimes it's not, and you have to deal with it in other ways, such as arguing with the reasoning behind the anger or reminding yourself of the drawbacks of anger. In the course of dealing with it, you have to get your hands dirty. You've got to try and figure out why the anger is coming, why it's going, how you can get it out of there, because you realize that it's an unskillful state. And this requires that you improvise. Experiment. You've got to chase your ego and impatience out of the way so that you can have the space to make mistakes and learn from them, so that you can develop a skill in dealing with the anger. It's not just a question of hating the anger and trying to push it away, or of loving the anger and welcoming it. These approaches may give results in the short run, but in the long run they're not especially skillful. What's called for here is the ability to see what the anger is composed of; how can you take it apart."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... cmind.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I can give more examples if you are interested.

"Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .vaji.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Best wishes, Dmytro

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:29 pm

alan... wrote:there are zen schools near me, should i just give up and go learn from someone at one of those schools?
if so, should i still practice and read theravada scripture?
I think it might be useful for you to explore the Zen tradition, given that there are similarities with Theravada. Also it might be good to spend more time with other Buddhists even if their approach is currently different to yours. Meanwhile maintain a basic practice.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by alan... » Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:50 pm

richard_rca wrote:What does your gut tell you about what teacher is right for you? I often find that when I'm confronted by multiple roads to walk down on I sort of already knew what was right deep down. Feeling like you're suppressing qualms about what a teacher is saying probably means that it wasn't meant to be. I'd say you're knowledgable enough to go with your instinct in this matter. I had the same problem regarding the Jhana-confusion for some time but am confident that I've picked an approach that instinctively works for me.
at this point i'm just wary of teachers in general since my last one was such a bad experience. my gut let me down on that one. i kept thinking he must be guiding me in the right direction and so must the other teachers. i still wonder what was up with all of that. i can't imagine for a second how any of them or any of the other students found any merit or progress in what they were doing. seeing it from the inside i always thought there was something i didn't understand and was missing. now from the outside it seems like they were missing all the important points of the dhamma. but who knows? maybe i just always caught every teacher and the abbott at bad times? i'm not sure, but i know very well that they taught me nothing but vague mindfulness techniques and inadequate mindfulness of breathing sitting meditation techniques. it's possible some of this was due to language barriers. i went to a retreat once and 95% of all speech was non english. but then a couple years later four teachers were native english speakers so again, i have no idea what the deal was.


my gut tells me i wasted many years and that i should not trust any teacher unless they help me make progress and are clearly skillful and knowledgeable. the problem is there are no theravada temples near me, none at all. so it's my old teacher and two other zen temples and a couple tibetan. that's it.

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:13 pm

alan... wrote: ... i only consider zen because my choices are: zen or tibetan lol! it's the best one of the two. i agree with you. i've just got so many questions!!!


for example i even find questions in thanissaro's little quote above! what is concentration per se? zero thought? thoughts arise but no interaction? is there consciousness of the senses and inputs? and so on. i just wish i could freaking talk to a teacher!


zen goes back and forth as well. some teachers in history went with a really odd outlook like meditation is the opposite of what you want to do since by meditating you are getting further from the truth because the goal of meditation is your true nature so to seek it is to lose it. that kind of stuff is almost the exact opposite of what the buddha taught. but soto zen for example is fairly close to theravada. it's really a mix of different traditions. you see old school buddhism in early zen, heavy on meditation and morality, then in late zen you see this odd mixture of it and other things, some masters are extremely violent, one cuts a man's finger off, another cuts a cat in half, there are masters shouting and beating people, and so on, and they teach odd things like the above about meditation on and off. in some ways it's far from what the buddha taught but in other ways, coupled with the theravada dhamma (or perhaps a firm guiding hand through zen practice itself), these shocking ideas and thoughts can help cut through some of the confusion in practice, that is as long as one already has a firm grounding in theravada dhamma.

for example i used shikantaza to just sit and noticed how automated everything is in the body, even consciousness itself! this was very liberating as i realized how little room there is for a willful self when the body and mind run with or without my consent!
Since you can do shikantaza there is enough to settle the mind upon a proper aiming-point, which for me is the nikāyan analysis of the rise and fall of psychophysical causal processes.

I did zen for 20 years and other than the contemplative work of zazen and shikantaza, found it to be fortune-cookie Buddhism and a poor guide.
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alan...
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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by alan... » Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:20 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
alan... wrote: ... i only consider zen because my choices are: zen or tibetan lol! it's the best one of the two. i agree with you. i've just got so many questions!!!


for example i even find questions in thanissaro's little quote above! what is concentration per se? zero thought? thoughts arise but no interaction? is there consciousness of the senses and inputs? and so on. i just wish i could freaking talk to a teacher!


zen goes back and forth as well. some teachers in history went with a really odd outlook like meditation is the opposite of what you want to do since by meditating you are getting further from the truth because the goal of meditation is your true nature so to seek it is to lose it. that kind of stuff is almost the exact opposite of what the buddha taught. but soto zen for example is fairly close to theravada. it's really a mix of different traditions. you see old school buddhism in early zen, heavy on meditation and morality, then in late zen you see this odd mixture of it and other things, some masters are extremely violent, one cuts a man's finger off, another cuts a cat in half, there are masters shouting and beating people, and so on, and they teach odd things like the above about meditation on and off. in some ways it's far from what the buddha taught but in other ways, coupled with the theravada dhamma (or perhaps a firm guiding hand through zen practice itself), these shocking ideas and thoughts can help cut through some of the confusion in practice, that is as long as one already has a firm grounding in theravada dhamma.

for example i used shikantaza to just sit and noticed how automated everything is in the body, even consciousness itself! this was very liberating as i realized how little room there is for a willful self when the body and mind run with or without my consent!
Since you can do shikantaza there is enough to settle the mind upon a proper aiming-point, which for me is the nikāyan analysis of the rise and fall of psychophysical causal processes.

I did zen for 20 years and other than the contemplative work of zazen and shikantaza, found it to be fortune-cookie Buddhism and a poor guide.
i don't understand. your first statement equates shikantaza with a theravada practice, your second statement brushes off the whole tradition (or at least your experience). so is shikantaza good or bad in your opinion?

i found roughly the same. lots of little ideas and thoughts that didn't really fix anything. just quick temporary fixes that were similar to learning secular philosophy.

EDIT: not hating on zen, just giving my experience. i'm obviously fairly confident there is progress possible in zen considering i'm thinking about finding a zen teacher.
Last edited by alan... on Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:33 pm

alan... wrote: ... i don't understand. your first statement equates shikantaza with a theravada practice, your second statement brushes off the whole tradition (or at least your experience). so is shikantaza good or bad in your opinion?

i found roughly the same. lots of little ideas and thoughts that didn't really fix anything. just quick temporary fixes that were similar to learning secular philosophy.
Shikantaza is in essence the same as ‘calm and insight’ (samatho ca vipassanā), and roughly equivalent to later Burmese Vipassanā methods. There had been no significant conflict with these practices for me in transition from Zen to Theravāda practice.
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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by Mr Man » Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:52 pm

Hi alan, In my opinion one of the great things about the teaching of the Buddha is that there really isn't a need for a "school affiliation" that is something extra. Our affiliation is to the path.
If you feel you are at a gridlock I would try and really figure out where it is you want to go and take it from there.

From Ajahn Chah:

“Whenever you have feelings of love or hate for anything whatsoever, these will be your aides and partners in building parami. The Buddha-Dhamma is not to be found in moving forwards, nor in moving backwards, nor in standing still. This, Sumedho, is your place of non-abiding.”

http://fsnewsletter.amaravati.org/html/ ... yyears.htm

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by alan... » Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:36 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:
alan... wrote: ... i don't understand. your first statement equates shikantaza with a theravada practice, your second statement brushes off the whole tradition (or at least your experience). so is shikantaza good or bad in your opinion?

i found roughly the same. lots of little ideas and thoughts that didn't really fix anything. just quick temporary fixes that were similar to learning secular philosophy.
Shikantaza is in essence the same as ‘calm and insight’ (samatho ca vipassanā), and roughly equivalent to later Burmese Vipassanā methods. There had been no significant conflict with these practices for me in transition from Zen to Theravāda practice.
very cool. thanks for clarifying.

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by alan... » Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:37 am

Mr Man wrote:Hi alan, In my opinion one of the great things about the teaching of the Buddha is that there really isn't a need for a "school affiliation" that is something extra. Our affiliation is to the path.
If you feel you are at a gridlock I would try and really figure out where it is you want to go and take it from there.

From Ajahn Chah:

“Whenever you have feelings of love or hate for anything whatsoever, these will be your aides and partners in building parami. The Buddha-Dhamma is not to be found in moving forwards, nor in moving backwards, nor in standing still. This, Sumedho, is your place of non-abiding.”

http://fsnewsletter.amaravati.org/html/ ... yyears.htm
well by "switch schools" i meant from pali canon only teachings to mahayana since that's what the only temples near me are.

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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by daverupa » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:34 pm

alan... wrote:well by "switch schools" i meant from pali canon only teachings to mahayana since that's what the only temples near me are.
There are probably Xian churches near you as well, but those aren't in the running - presumably because they aren't based on what the Buddha taught - so I fail to see how Mahayana made the cut, as it largely falls to the same criticism.

:shrug:
  • "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: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by Khalil Bodhi » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:38 pm

I agree with Dave not solely due to the logic but from actual experience. Although I have been Theravadin at heart since I met the suttas I have, for similar reasons, found myself trying to practice with Zen, Seon, Vajrayana. In the end I feel like I wasted a lot of time. There will always be some cognitive dissonance there and you will never be able to really listen and/or learn from them so you will be doing a disservice to both parties. Whatever you decide though is your choice and I wish you the best of luck!
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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by alan... » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:26 am

daverupa wrote:
alan... wrote:well by "switch schools" i meant from pali canon only teachings to mahayana since that's what the only temples near me are.
There are probably Xian churches near you as well, but those aren't in the running - presumably because they aren't based on what the Buddha taught - so I fail to see how Mahayana made the cut, as it largely falls to the same criticism.

:shrug:
eh. i see a large parallel between particularly soto zen and the vippassana school of theravada. i see other parallels in other areas of zen but soto is the most consistent one. i don't know what the other thing you're talking about is. i wouldn't even consider other mahayana schools like pure land, nicheren, vajrayana, and so on. nothing wrong with them, just not my style. zen, and specifically certain types of zen are the only things i would even consider as they are pretty close to theravada in some areas. others not so much...

in the end though i'm theravada through and through. this thread was out of frustration, i wasn't thinking clearly. i consider some zen ideas but only the ones that fit in with the pali canon. i would still even consider talking to a zen teacher but only because i know enough theravada to see when and where it aligns with whatever this hypothetical teacher would be teaching me.
Last edited by alan... on Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

alan...
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Re: still no hope of a teacher, should i switch schools?

Post by alan... » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:27 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:I agree with Dave not solely due to the logic but from actual experience. Although I have been Theravadin at heart since I met the suttas I have, for similar reasons, found myself trying to practice with Zen, Seon, Vajrayana. In the end I feel like I wasted a lot of time. There will always be some cognitive dissonance there and you will never be able to really listen and/or learn from them so you will be doing a disservice to both parties. Whatever you decide though is your choice and I wish you the best of luck!
indeed. ever read any alan watts? that guy will really make you think!!!

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