PeterB wrote:On a personal note in terms of things Sangha, I have in a sense come full circle. I have spoken elsewhere of the fact that I started my Buddhist life at Wat Buddhapadipa when it was in Sheen in London, I first took Refuge there and was taught Vipassana. After a serious illness I found myself without any kind of emotionality or strategy going back to my Theravada roots. Due to reasons connected to work matters , my wife and I are now spending part of each week in an apartment a short journey from Wat Buddhapadipa in its present location in Wimbledon... Life's a funny business..
That's wonderful to hear, Peter..!
I dont think that Sangha is an abstract Chris, it is always present to in human form. I think its arguable whether cyber Sangha is actual Sangha or an aid to Sangha.. The Buddha taught in the most hands-on way possible. I think that this wasnt just because of the era in which he lived, but because the nuances of thought and comunication are only possible in face to face encounters with people, the body language, the subtlties of tone and inflexion. I am always struck for ezample in the way that reducing Ajahn Chahs words to written form takes almost all the life from them..they become lifeless in comparison to the vivid living quality of hearing those words spoken. Its the same with the words of Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Brahm.. the words on the page are pale reflections of the person who is communicating Dhamma beyond the words. I am not talking about anything mystical here..I am talking about people whose words and gestures and actions show their internalisation of the Dhamma.
Well, first, you could be absolutely 100% right. My view though is that it depends. We do not have access to the voice of the Buddha, to videos of him, and will never be able to sit in his presence. And yet his wisdom has come across time, some of it very simple and practical. You don't need to be near him to benefit, one simply needs to follow his instructions.
A good example of this would be a link Retro provided me with recently on Buddha's advice concerning sexual craving. It's the best thing I've heard yet, some I'd heard from teachers before but seeing Buddha's advice in one short "recipe" format I realized right away where i'd been tripping up, why i've been struggling, and now have a wise, flexible yet clear strategy (four strategies actually) to implement.
Another example would be a video I saw very recently, of one of my favorite Buddhist teachers talking with his key disciple, a man who would later go on and become involved in sexual scandals. The teacher, who died a long while ago and is still highly respected, did not seem to pick up on some his disciples issues. Somehow he was successfully conned..!
His wisdom though, his teachings and advise, were spot on. He successfully taught many students face-to-face, but thousands of others have also benefited from his teaching, thru books mostly.
So it just seems to me that it all depends. To have a great teacher is a great great gift. But even those with great teachers don't always learn from them... It's always up to each of us to put the dharma into practice. You do that and one can be liberated. Fail to follow the Buddha's dharma to the letter, and one will suffer.
Just my view.