appicchato wrote: The internet can be your friend...
You experience, I'm sure, echoes that of many. One of the great benefits of DhammaWheel is the "sangha" here of monks, as well as many very experienced Theravadins. The level of Dhamma discourse can be miles ahead of that which you might find in a local generic sangha or sitting group. I have also found that at some American Thai/Lao Wats in my area, for example, that the level of English is not high, and the Dhamma talks can be very basic when given to farang at the temple. Having said that, I feel there's also real benefit to having a sangha nearby to sit with, to converse with, and to simply share airspace with. You may find that your ideas about Dhamma, and meditation, will vary from that of the sitting group, but there can be social benefits to being part of a sangha in any case. To me, one of the great benefits of DW is that , despite where one lives and despite the access (or lack thereof) to a Theravada temple, one can interact with scholars, Bhikkhus/Bhikkhunis, and experienced lay teachers/students from around the world. Bhante makes this point exactly, above. Like shopping for an automobile, you may have to "shop around" your local sanghas, take them for a test drive, and see if you can find a group that will give you support for your practice, or at least some kalyana mitta with whom to associate.
Yes, I've learned a lot from resources on the internet (like Dhammawheel!), but I've pretty much been an Internet Buddhist for the past 3-4 years since I've identified as "Buddhist." I've gone to a few local Mahayana temples and lay sitting groups, but they don't didn't do much for me. I appreciated the opportunity to meditate, but the focus wasn't where I wanted it to be (esp in the lay group). I feel like my practice would deepen if I found a good sangha, lay or not.
Goofaholix wrote:I think you have to visit whatever groups you can get to and decide for yourself, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
The presense or lack of monastics is no guarantee that you are going to find the experience helpful or not.
If you are mostly interested in learning meditation then a lay sangha is likely to be more suitable, if you are mostly interested in religion then you're going to prefer a monastic setting.
Many lay teachers have had decades of monastic life and/or teaching experience under their belts. Whereas some monastics are thrust into teaching quite early and may not have a lot of experience, and if it's an ethnic monastery there may be a cultural divide.
You make a good point! Thanks. Like I said above, I've been to Mahayana temples that had monks leading the services, but it was far from helpful to my practice. Not that it hindered, but it surely didn't help.
I've contacted a couple of sanghas, even if they're not the most convenient to get to. One seems to be more geared towards the small Thai community, but I'll see where this goes.