Dhamma Teachers?

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Dhamma Teachers?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:54 am

In light of reading the Hardcore Dhamma thread, and some developments in other places I have some involvement in, it seams like a good time to ask (for me at least) one important question.

What standards should a Lay Dhamma Teacher hold themselves to?

There is no minimum standards really except the 5 precepts for any Buddhist, but as Lay Dhamma Teachers do seam to have no real conformity between them, and to assume a position of 'authority', what as possible students, or interested listener would expect?

Personally I would expect the Novice training rules to apply to them in all its entirety (including expulsion/punishment rules)except for the 10th precept directly, but I feel that would still have a bearing in some circumstances, so it would be the 8precepts with the 10th as a loose addition applicable only to selling Dhamma directly, Dhammadana is the highest gift after all.
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby gsteinb » Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:24 am

a householder shouldn't be able to watch a movie with their spouse, sleep on a 'high' bed, or eat after noon? Many of the lay teachers I know have jobs and families....all that seems particularly impractical.
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby Ben » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:50 pm

Hi gsteinb
Impractical? No.

A lay-teacher who teaches the fundamental importance of sila has more real spiritual attainment in his little toe than all of the self-proclaimed "ariya" teachers put together. As people mature in their practice they see for themselves that sammasamadhi and panna, particularly bhavana-maya-panna is impossible without sila. As practitioners mature in their practice, there is a very natural tendency to cleave to sila, not out of any dogmatic attachment, but because one sees for oneself the fundamental importance of sila. Its that simple.
kind regards

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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby gsteinb » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:55 pm

Hi Ben,

I'm not sure who the self proclaimed Ariya teachers are or what group you're inclined to lump me into, but I know and am friends with many of the more popular western vipassana teachers and they sleep in beds and eat after noon, particularly those with jobs. I've even seen movies with some of them. Their sila seems pretty strong and the retreats they teach and centers they teach at are typically held in fairly high esteem in forums such as these.

best wishes,

Gary
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby Ben » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:57 pm

Gary I am not lumping you in with anyone.
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

Sayagyi U Ba Khin


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global Relief
UNHCR Syria Emergency Relief AppealTyphoon Haiyan Relief AppealKiva: (person to person micro-finance)

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby pilgrim » Sun Sep 05, 2010 1:23 pm

Neither my sila or dhamma is particularly good and I don't set myself up as a teacher. But if asked or if the opportunity arises, I will teach what little I know.
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Sep 05, 2010 1:25 pm

Manapa wrote:
There is no minimum standards really except the 5 precepts for any Buddhist . . . .
That should be enough.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby SamKR » Sun Sep 05, 2010 6:00 pm

In my opinion, the first requirement is that the teacher should not have an urge to teach for the sake of being a "Dhamma teacher".
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby Dharmakara » Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:32 pm

To teach not only by word, but by example, understanding not only the written letter of the teaching, but also the spirit in which it was given.
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:22 pm

Ideally, a lay teacher would follow 5 to 8 precepts strictly and lead by example and not charge for the Dhamma. A good example would be U Ba Khin and S. N. Goenka. But I understand some need to charge for the costs of retreat facilities, utilities, food, etc. But where it can go bad, in my opinion is when a lay teacher attempts to completely make a "living" by teaching Dhamma, charging exhorbitant fees, publishing expensive books at retail prices, etc. The Theravada tradition is famous for its free service to all; with only voluntary dana allowed to be accepted.
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:40 pm

Hi Everyone,

i am admittedly a bit of a purist when it comes to this question. I not so recently had a falling out with a lay teacher to whom I owe a lot in terms of setting me more firmly on the path. Unfortunately, as time went on I noticed that he began to refer more and more to himself as the exclusive teacher of the community and it has now gotten to the point where one must schedule an interview (with a suggested donation of $35 to $75 per half hour interview) once per year to remain a member of the group. I can understand that he wants to get to know the members of the core group but I can't help but feeling that the group is becoming more "guru" centered. In addition I recently discovered that he is a writer of non-Dhamma fiction on the side and, although I don't know why, this doesn't sit well with me. I suppose my discomfort with his hobby has something to do with the fact that this teacher reminds everyone at the end of every meditation or class that he is "supported entirely by dana" by, then again, I 'm probably just being mean. It has all been a little too much for me so I've more or less decided to stick to the bhikkhu sangha when looking for teachers.
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:28 am

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Hi Everyone,

i am admittedly a bit of a purist when it comes to this question... It has all been a little too much for me so I've more or less decided to stick to the bhikkhu sangha when looking for teachers.

singing to the choir their :)

to my thinking it is a position of dual responsibility, both to the Dhamma & students, although David & tilt do have a point, the 5 & 8 precepts should be enough for a lay teacher.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Dhamma Teachers?

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Sep 11, 2010 10:57 pm

There is another version of the 8 precepts- the 'aajiva ashtamaka sila' which is perhaps more in line with the noble eightfold path in some ways- it does not contain the bits on entertainment but goes into more details of right speech and right livelihood which is good. It is a bit more sympathetic in that sense to a lay practitioner.

I guess it is natural (and particularly western) tendency to look for qualifications in their teachers/practitioners. Why dont we just learn from whom we can learn something from- and that includes most people around us, and not expect them to be somehow perfect.

I do teach, don't charge money, have a job to support myself. I think I have become a better teacher over the years and if I had waited until I was somehow better it would have just taken longer and less people would have benefited (being realistic). The Buddha's dispensation is a team effort! Why do I do it- I just feel an urge to share what I have learnt and the benefits to others. It is a craving- hence a slight problem to me. It also causes some problems to my ego which I am monitoring. But on the whole it has had a lot of positive impact on me (and others) therefore I continue to teach the dhamma.

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