Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.

Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:50 am

Greetings all,

I've recently discovered that one of the people from whom I've most enjoyed learning the dhamma has definitely not attained stream entry. I wasn't seeking to learn their level of attainment (or lack thereof), it was just casually mentioned during a recent dhamma talk. I now find that I'm thinking about this when I listen to other dhamma talks by this person.

To the point, should a teacher at least be someone suspected to be Sotapanna? Am I wrong to allow this unrequested knowledge of their lack of attainment to affect my view of the person as a teacher? I certainly feel I've learned a lot from their talks, but now I wonder if my time might not have been better invested listening to a teacher "a bit further along the path". Comments? Guidance?

AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai
User avatar
AdvaitaJ
 
Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:17 am
Location: Michigan, USA

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:31 am

i know it wouldnt bother me, as long as theyre "a bit further along the path" than i am.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
User avatar
jcsuperstar
 
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Location: alaska

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:35 am

well the suttas do mention this and from memory I elieve they need to beon the path, stream entry or above to teach what is dhamma as dhamma etc, ithout straying into teaching what is not dhamma as dhamma etc although how do you know they are not just trying to put you off the scent?
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."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5686
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:57 am

Greetings AdvaitaJ,

You could listen to Dhamma Talks from the Buddha... he wasn't just a stream-entrant, he was The Arahant!

The Buddha is cool 8-)

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sutta.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14603
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby poto » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:25 am

If somebody is a Sotapanna, then surely they are well qualified to teach Dhamma. However, I do not think that stream entry is required to teach Dhamma. Many people including many monastics lack attainments, yet they are still able to teach the Dhamma effectively and benefit many.

If you no longer feel comfortable learning from a particular teacher, perhaps finding another teacher would benefit you. Or as Retro suggested, you could study the Buddha's teachings directly.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
User avatar
poto
 
Posts: 363
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 3:21 am

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:38 am

Five qualities (thoughts, in a teacher) for teaching Dhamma:

1. I will speak step-by-step
2. I will speak explaining the sequence of cause and effect
3. I will speak out of compassion
4. I will speak not for the purpose of material reward
5. I will speak without hurting myself or others

(from Anguttara Nikaya 5.159)

It is difficult to know what a teacher's attainments are (if any) and even if they report a certain stage they could be mistaken. Some may even have a calm and good disposition, but could be faking it while in public. In private they might be a different person. The best way to really know them is when living with them for an extended time, which the Buddha mentions in one discourse.

One thing that is a turn-off for me is when a teacher (usually a lay one) charges exorbitant fees for Dhamma programs (see #4 above) or routinely mentions other specific teachers for the point of disparaging them (see #3 and #5 above).
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 7912
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:48 am

Three essential qualities in one who teaches Dhamma:

1. The teacher is able to penetrate the letter and spirit of the teachings
2. The one hears is able to do so too
3. Both teacher and listener are able to do both of these

(from Majjhima Nikaya 137, Digha Nikaya 12)

"Penetrating the letter and spirit" is a little vague, but I suppose could imply some attainment. Certainly a teacher should be at least knowledgeable about the Dhamma.
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 7912
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Ben » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:59 am

Dear AJ
Ummm....personally, and maybe this is just me, but I would be very cautious with any teacher claiming this or that attainment.
Within traditional Buddhist cultures in Southeast Asia, a lay person declaring they have a particular attainment invites scrutiny. And of course, it is a breach of vinaya for a monastic to indicate their attainment to a lay person. My experience has been that one indicator that a person has attained is their humility.
Anyway, they're just my thoughts.
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global Relief

Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 15887
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby cooran » Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:47 am

AdvaitaJ wrote:Greetings all,

I've recently discovered that one of the people from whom I've most enjoyed learning the dhamma has definitely not attained stream entry. I wasn't seeking to learn their level of attainment (or lack thereof), it was just casually mentioned during a recent dhamma talk. I now find that I'm thinking about this when I listen to other dhamma talks by this person.

To the point, should a teacher at least be someone suspected to be Sotapanna? Am I wrong to allow this unrequested knowledge of their lack of attainment to affect my view of the person as a teacher? I certainly feel I've learned a lot from their talks, but now I wonder if my time might not have been better invested listening to a teacher "a bit further along the path". Comments? Guidance?

AdvaitaJ


Hello Advaita, all,

These suttas may be of assistance:

Teaching the Dhamma.
The Buddha teaches only dukkha and its cessation: MN 22
The Buddha's simile on ~: SN 22.84
Three frames of reference for becoming a fit teacher: MN 137
Ven. Isidatta wisely declines a teaching invitation from his elders: SN 41.3
How to teach Dhamma: AN 4.111
Meditators and Dhamma scholars: Do not disparage each other!: AN 6.46
Don't teach what you don't know: AN 10.24
The Buddha doesn't hold back any esoteric teachings: DN 16
A skilled teacher is like a ferry-man: Sn 2.8
Dhamma should not be taught for the purpose of material reward: AN 5.159
Five prerequisites to teaching the Dhamma to others: AN 5.159
Teaching alone doesn't mean you're truly committed to the Dhamma: AN 5.73
How to recognize authentic teachings: AN 3.72, AN 7.80, AN 8.53, "Recognizing the Dhamma" (Study Guide)
Examples of lay Dhamma teachers: Anathapindika (AN 10.93); Citta (SN 41.7)
How to choose — and learn from — a teacher: MN 95
How to recognize a teacher: AN 4.192
Three kinds of Dhamma teachers: DN 12
Dhamma teaching compared to medical treatment: AN 3.22
The Buddha asks who is his teacher: Dhp 353
Teacher of the Devas (Jootla)
"How should I teach Buddhism to my children?" (Frequently Asked Question)
Technical Notes (Bullitt)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-su ... l#teaching

How to recognise a Lay Stream Winner -
AN 5.179 Gihi Sutta: The Householder
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

How to recognize — and become — a person of integrity
MN 110 Cula-punnama Sutta: The Shorter Discourse on the Full-moon Night
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7320
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Tex » Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:21 pm

Aren't monks prohibited in the Vinaya from discussing their attainments with the laity?

If this is correct, wouldn't it be impossible to seek out only monks with particular levels of attainment to learn from?

I've always wondered if this was among the reasons for that rule -- if monks disclosed their attainments, surely all or most of the laity would flock to learn from the ones who have reached sotapanna or beyond, and they might miss out on a chance to learn from a monk who has not yet reached sotapanna but whose teaching style might be better suited to their learning style.
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi
User avatar
Tex
 
Posts: 619
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:46 pm
Location: Austin, TX, USA

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby meindzai » Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:06 pm

Tex wrote:
I've always wondered if this was among the reasons for that rule.


Good question! The Vinaya is always interested with regards to the origin stories of these rules:

To report, says the Vibhaṅga, means to speak directly of one's own attainments, as explained under Pr 4 — i.e., to claim that the state is present in oneself or that one is present in the state. To speak indirectly of one's own attainments — e.g., "The bhikkhu who lives in this dwelling enters jhāna at will" — entails a dukkaṭa. According to the Commentary, gestures fall under this rule as well. Thus, if a bhikkhu who has attained stream-entry nods when asked by a lay person if he has any noble attainments, his nod would fulfill the factor of effort here. As under Pr 4, the use of idioms to express a superior human attainment would fulfill the factor of effort as well.

The origin story to this rule deals with bhikkhus who, as a tactic for getting almsfood in a time of scarcity, had agreed to speak of one another's superior human states to householders. This would seem to suggest that to speak of another bhikkhu's actual attainment of superior human states with such motives in mind — e.g., hoping to get a share of the increased gains he might receive — should entail a penalty too, but none of the texts mention this point, so it is not an offense. Still, any bhikkhu who plans to act in such a way, on the grounds that whatever is not an offense is perfectly all right, should remember that the Buddha criticized the bhikkhus in the origin story in very strong terms.



Buddhist Monastic Code
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... h08-1.html
meindzai
 
Posts: 555
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:10 pm

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:You could listen to Dhamma Talks from the Buddha... he wasn't just a stream-entrant, he was The Arahant!
Retro,

Right you are, but listening to the Buddha is beyond me. However, I absolutely value reading the suttas and have begun to realize the limitations of not being at least a little more versed in Pali. That's why I still also need someone who's "in the know" on all the inside meanings behind the translated words.

:anjali: AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai
User avatar
AdvaitaJ
 
Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:17 am
Location: Michigan, USA

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Fri Nov 20, 2009 1:16 am

All,

Thanks for the quick responses.

I would almost certainly be skeptical of anyone who publicly claimed any level of attainment so I can't imagine ever "knowing" about a teacher.

The issue for me is that I now know the opposite. This means that despite years and years of practice and having been ordained in SE Asia, this particular teacher may have missed something along the way and could unintentionally cause my practice to likewise not progress as it might. I am not elderly, but none of us has time to waste! It's probably a poor analogy, but would you want to take pilot lessons from someone who hasn't got their own pilot license?

Regards: AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai
User avatar
AdvaitaJ
 
Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:17 am
Location: Michigan, USA

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:30 am

AdvaitaJ wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:You could listen to Dhamma Talks from the Buddha... he wasn't just a stream-entrant, he was The Arahant!
Retro,

Right you are, but listening to the Buddha is beyond me. However, I absolutely value reading the suttas and have begun to realize the limitations of not being at least a little more versed in Pali. That's why I still also need someone who's "in the know" on all the inside meanings behind the translated words.

:anjali: AdvaitaJ


Your fairy god-Manapa is here to grant you one wish
http://www.suttareadings.net/index.html
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."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5686
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Ben » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:00 am

Hi AJ
AdvaitaJ wrote:All,

Thanks for the quick responses.

I would almost certainly be skeptical of anyone who publicly claimed any level of attainment so I can't imagine ever "knowing" about a teacher.

The issue for me is that I now know the opposite. This means that despite years and years of practice and having been ordained in SE Asia, this particular teacher may have missed something along the way and could unintentionally cause my practice to likewise not progress as it might. I am not elderly, but none of us has time to waste! It's probably a poor analogy, but would you want to take pilot lessons from someone who hasn't got their own pilot license?

Regards: AdvaitaJ


I think its important that you have confidence in the person who is teaching you and that you can see for yourself the results of efforts from their instruction - whether it be your efforts, their efforts or the efforts of their students. Some of the references that Chris has listed are excellent in this regard in determining who is a fit and worthy teacher. I actually don't consider a teacher's attainment of stream-entry as important as being able to instruct in a manner that suits you and that is also in concord with the Buddha's teachings. But then, I would never ask that question of anyone teaching Dhamma. Instead, I would be looking at their moral conduct, whether there was any controversy surrounding their character or their teaching, etc. At some point AJ, a good teacher will lead you to become completely independent rather than dependency.
Anyway, they're just my thoughts!
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global Relief

Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 15887
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:07 am

AdvaitaJ wrote:I would almost certainly be skeptical of anyone who publicly claimed any level of attainment so I can't imagine ever "knowing" about a teacher.


:thumbsup:

The issue for me is that I now know the opposite. This means that despite years and years of practice and having been ordained in SE Asia, this particular teacher may have missed something along the way and could unintentionally cause my practice to likewise not progress as it might.


Maybe he (I assume 'he' since you mentioned ordained in Thailand :tongue: ) was a scholar monk? Scholar monks do great merit, but often don't have the time to spend on their own practice. Two great examples:

Buddhaghosa, author of Visuddhimagga and other commentaries only hoped to be reborn to a heavenly realm and later learn from the next Buddha, Metteyya. It was because he had spent so much time writing the commentaries and analyzing the Dhamma.

Bhikkhu Bodhi mentioned in an interview, years ago, that he had not advanced much in his own practice due to the time he had spent over the years translating texts and other writings.

Obviously the above two monks gained great merit with their works and were / are very proficient in the Tipitaka / Dhamma.

Stream entry is difficult to attain, even though listed as a 'first stage' of enlightenment. Perhaps a better question might be: has this teacher helped you and have you benefited from his teachings and guidance?

I am not elderly, but none of us has time to waste!


:thumbsup: Mindfulness of death and our mortality is a good practice so it is good to realize the seriousness of practice.

It's probably a poor analogy, but would you want to take pilot lessons from someone who hasn't got their own pilot license?


Perhaps a better analogy is: Is it okay to have a sports coach training you in a sport who never won a championship as a player? And based on numerous examples, including Vince Lombardi, John Madden, and others in the U.S., the answer appears to be; yes.
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 7912
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby cooran » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:00 am

Hello David,

David said: Buddhaghosa, author of Visuddhimagga and other commentaries only hoped to be reborn to a heavenly realm and later learn from the next Buddha, Metteyya. It was because he had spent so much time writing the commentaries and analyzing the Dhamma.

Bhikkhu Bodhi mentioned in an interview, years ago, that he had not advanced much in his own practice due to the time he had spent over the years translating texts and other writings.


My understanding from Bhikkhu Bodhi is that he had a problem with crippling headaches which interfered with meditation. I know a friend of mine took him to an acupuncturist in Hong Kong for assistance. Could you link to a reference about he had not advanced much in his own practice due to the time he had spent over the years translating texts and other writings - as well as to the statement about Buddhaghosa?

metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7320
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:22 am

Hi Chris,

Here's the interview you're thinking of, I think.
http://es-es.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=140960493146
What sort of training have you had in meditation practice?

During my early years in Sri Lanka I did very little intensive meditation. This was not my ordination teacher’s mode of practice; he integrated regular periods of meditation into his day-to-day life. When I later practiced intensive retreats on my own, I used anapana-sati [mindfulness of breathing] as my sole meditation subject. But after some time, I found my mind became dry and rigid, and I felt the need to soften and enrich it with other types of meditation. Thus, at different times and under different circumstances, I learned the practices that constitute the “four protective meditations”: recollection of the Buddha, the meditation on loving kindness, the contemplation of the repugnant nature of the body, and the recollection of death. Throughout my life as a monk I have made extensive use of these four meditation subjects. I have also done occasional extended retreats at hermitages in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Regretfully, though, because of my poor merits and the debilitating headache condition, I have not reached any attainments worthy of a true practitioner.

Personally, I would not want to make judgements about the attainments of Venerables Bhodhi and Buddhagosa.
Or my teachers. I don't want to fall into the "my teacher has more attainments than your teacher" thinking.

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10092
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby catmoon » Fri Nov 20, 2009 8:13 am

Attainments are not a problem - unless you surpass your teacher!
User avatar
catmoon
 
Posts: 368
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 1:59 am

Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:42 pm

Chris wrote:My understanding from Bhikkhu Bodhi is that he had a problem with crippling headaches which interfered with meditation. I know a friend of mine took him to an acupuncturist in Hong Kong for assistance. Could you link to a reference about he had not advanced much in his own practice due to the time he had spent over the years translating texts and other writings - as well as to the statement about Buddhaghosa?


Hi Chris,

The interview linked by Mike from facebook was posted this year, but is actually a much older interview:

http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/2002b ... _bodhi.htm

I think there was another interview with him saying the same things in Tricycle several years ago. Since that time, I am sure he has much more chance for practice. In any event, as I mention in my post, he is clearly highly proficient in the Dhamma.

Buddhaghosa apparently mentions his desire for a heavenly realm in the epilogue to the Visudhimagga:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhaghosa#Critics
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 7912
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Next

Return to Discovering Theravāda

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests