Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:36 am

tiltbillings wrote: you do not know what the suttas say other than what the translation skills of the translators say they say.
The point is, you are bringing to the suttas your stuff.


And so do those teachers, they use suttas that we can read as well. How can we be sure that teachers do not bring their stuff to their teaching? How do we know that their experience is the real one? Maybe a person has enough quality experience by him/herself and access to the same material to be able to make his/her own choices?


Ultimately Dhamma is to be realized by oneself, not by other. Only you can free yourself, nobody else can.


The Dhamma is: Paccattaṃ Veditabbo Viññūhi = realized by the wise each for himself.

svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo sandiṭṭhiko akāliko ehipassiko opaneyyiko paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhi
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:54 am

octathlon wrote:Another variation on this question I would be interested in is: As a practitioner of Theravadin Buddhism, is it preferable to go to a teacher of another school such as Zen rather than have no in-person teacher at all? Would all the differences in approach, beliefs and practices just cause more confusion and problems?


Zen has what appears to be irreconcilable doctrinal difference with Theravada. I don't know how much confusion it can cause, but the basic thing is this. Theravada and Early Buddhism teaches that we start as ordinary people prone to suffering and through gradual path and stages (stream, once-returner, non returner, Arhat) to become liberated from suffering by reaching Arhatship or Buddhahood. Zen states that we are already Awakened, and already have Buddha-Nature. So while in Theravada you practice to become awakened, in Zen you are merely to recognize that you are Buddha already and don't need to do anything for that would contradict your already perfect nature. ... ... The "practice" itself is an expression of Enlightment rather than a method that leads to it.


Dogen's Fukanzazengi
Primordial Awareness is in essence perfect and pervades everywhere. How could it be dependent upon what anyone does to practice or realize it? The movement of Reality does not need us to give it a push. Do I need to say that it is free from delusion? The vast expanse of Reality can never be darkened by the dust of presumptions. Who then could believe that it needs to cleaned of such dust to be what it is? It is never separate from where you are, so why scramble around in search of it? - translated by Yasuda Joshu roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi


So it seems to suggest that we are perfect and don't need to practice to become better. Moreover the idea of practice would go against such statement for to practice would mean that one doesn't know that one is already awakened and doesn't need to do anything more as one is perfect already... I disagree with this.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:28 am

Alex123 wrote: . . . .
You really do not respond to what people write to you. You just keep saying the same small thing over and over, never actually addressing the other person's points raised in response to what you have said. It makes for fruitless discussions that go nowhere:

Image
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby ground » Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:02 am

octathlon wrote:Another variation on this question I would be interested in is: As a practitioner of Theravadin Buddhism, is it preferable to go to a teacher of another school such as Zen rather than have no in-person teacher at all? Would all the differences in approach, beliefs and practices just cause more confusion and problems?


As a practitioner of Theravada Buddhism you should have a Theravada teacher. How could one validly be called a "practitioner of Theravada Buddhism" otherwise?
If you think it does not matter of what tradition one's teacher is then what's the point of different traditions and what's the point of speaking of "a practitioner of Theravada Buddhism" ?


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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby octathlon » Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:58 am

TMingyur wrote:
octathlon wrote:Another variation on this question I would be interested in is: As a practitioner of Theravadin Buddhism, is it preferable to go to a teacher of another school such as Zen rather than have no in-person teacher at all? Would all the differences in approach, beliefs and practices just cause more confusion and problems?


As a practitioner of Theravada Buddhism you should have a Theravada teacher. How could one validly be called a "practitioner of Theravada Buddhism" otherwise?
If you think it does not matter of what tradition one's teacher is then what's the point of different traditions and what's the point of speaking of "a practitioner of Theravada Buddhism" ?


Kind regards

I take that as a "no". :D although that was also my initial response, I asked because it was suggested as one possible way to deal with not having access to a Theravadin teacher. The only Buddhist center I can find anywhere near me (30 miles) is Zen, which as Alex pointed out is a very different approach. IOW, is the need for a teacher important enough to outweigh the differences between schools, or is sticking to the tradition I have been following more important? (Plus I have no idea what that place is like or whether there is even a good teacher there anyway).
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:11 am

octathlon wrote: The only Buddhist center I can find anywhere near me (30 miles) is Zen, which as Alex pointed out is a very different approach.
Maybe it is different, especially is a koan type practice, but if they do Soto practice, you might find a home there. If there is a teacher at the Zen place, talk to him or her about it. If it is Soto, the differences are not great that that you could not benefit from working with a Soto Zen teacher.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby ground » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:12 am

octathlon wrote:IOW, is the need for a teacher important enough to outweigh the differences between schools, or is sticking to the tradition I have been following more important?

I think that "sticking to a tradition" without teacher from this tradition is impossible. But "teacher" may vary in meaning i.e. it may cover all kinds of eye and ear contact.


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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby octathlon » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:31 am

tiltbillings wrote:
octathlon wrote: The only Buddhist center I can find anywhere near me (30 miles) is Zen, which as Alex pointed out is a very different approach.
Maybe it is different, especially is a koan type practice, but if they do Soto practice, you might find a home there. If there is a teacher at the Zen place, talk to him or her about it. If it is Soto, the differences are not great that that you could not benefit from working with a Soto Zen teacher.

The website says it is an affiliate of the Kwan Um School of Zen. http://kansaszencenter.org/
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:45 am

octathlon wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
octathlon wrote: The only Buddhist center I can find anywhere near me (30 miles) is Zen, which as Alex pointed out is a very different approach.
Maybe it is different, especially is a koan type practice, but if they do Soto practice, you might find a home there. If there is a teacher at the Zen place, talk to him or her about it. If it is Soto, the differences are not great that that you could not benefit from working with a Soto Zen teacher.

The website says it is an affiliate of the Kwan Um School of Zen. http://kansaszencenter.org/
There a lot of things to consider. If you went to that center to practice, there is a lot of bowing and other ritual things, which some find a bit awkward, but then there is bowing and such things in Theravada. Talk to the teachers and see what they have to say, if they and you think it could be workable with your practice and what they do, then it might be worth a serious try. If you are doing a mindfulness of breath practice, that is pretty universal in the Buddhist meditation world. It worth a shot and just looking into it will be an interesting experience and worth doing.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby octathlon » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:57 am

Thank you, Tilt. :)
tiltbillings wrote:It worth a shot and just looking into it will be an interesting experience and worth doing.
:sage:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:59 am

octathlon wrote:Thank you, Tilt. :)
tiltbillings wrote:It worth a shot and just looking into it will be an interesting experience and worth doing.
:sage:
If you get a chance to meet with these teachers, let us know how it went.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:40 pm

octathlon wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
octathlon wrote: The only Buddhist center I can find anywhere near me (30 miles) is Zen, which as Alex pointed out is a very different approach.
Maybe it is different, especially is a koan type practice, but if they do Soto practice, you might find a home there. If there is a teacher at the Zen place, talk to him or her about it. If it is Soto, the differences are not great that that you could not benefit from working with a Soto Zen teacher.

The website says it is an affiliate of the Kwan Um School of Zen. http://kansaszencenter.org/



And that center uses koans (kong-an):
"The purpose of kong-an practice is to help us cut through our thinking. It is an essential part of our practice."
http://kansaszencenter.org/?page_id=18

There is a fifth major form: kong-an practice. Kong-an interviews are available once a month in Lawrence and Kansas City, and on retreats.
http://kansaszencenter.org/?page_id=4

Even when it comes to Zazen:
Zazen is not based upon teaching, practice or realization; instead these three aspects are all contained within it. Measuring realization is based upon some notion of enlightenment—this is not the essence of zazen. Practice is based upon strenuous application—this is not the essence of zazen. Teaching is based upon freeing from evil and cultivating good—this is not the essence of zazen. Teaching is found in Zen but it is not the usual teaching. Rather, it is a direct pointing, just expressing the Way, speaking with the whole body.

Although we speak of "practice", it is not a practice that you can do. That is to say, the body does nothing, the mouth does not recite, the mind doesn’t think things over, the six senses are left to their own clarity and unaffected. So this is not the sixteen stage practice of the hearers [the path of insight or darsanamarga into the four noble truths at four different levels]. Nor is it the practice of understanding the twelve nidanas of inter-dependent emergence of those whose practice is founded upon isolation. Nor is it the six perfections within numberless activities of the Bodhisattvas. It is without struggle at all so is called Awakening or enlightenment. Just rest in the Self-enjoyment Samadhi of all the Buddhas, wandering playfully in the four practices of peace and bliss of those open to Openness. This is the profound and inconceivable practice of Buddhas and Awakened Ancestors.
http://www.wwzc.org/translations/zazenYojinki.htm


It excludes 16 steps [of anapanasati]. It excludes path of insight or to develop understanding of dependent origination, nor is it practice of six paramitas...

How much these can be reconciled with suttas, I am not sure.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Oct 14, 2011 10:03 pm

Alex123 wrote:It excludes 16 steps [of anapanasati]. It excludes path of insight or to develop understanding of dependent origination, nor is it practice of six paramitas...

How much these can be reconciled with suttas, I am not sure.
Actually, it is something that octathlon and those Zen teachers can discuss and work out, as necessary. As to actual Zen practice, there are a wide variety of statements as to what it is an how it works. Are they all in conflict with basioc Theravada idea of cultivating mindfulness and concentration in terms of our mind/body process? I would say not, but again octathlon and the Zen teachers can discuss this among themselves, and octathlon can decide if this is a course of action he would like to follow.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:11 am

And there are some extensive discussion comparing Zen and other meditations here:

http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... =17&t=5422
http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... p?f=7&t=34
http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... =64&t=1656

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=7346
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=93
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=929
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=8726

Personally, I'd rather sit with chan/zen group than have no personal interaction. The basics of mindfulness are simply the basics of mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh and his followers, for example, seem to me to have a very effective approach to mindfulness that is very compatible with Theravada teachers.

:anjali:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby ground » Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:14 am

No offence intended since I do not find any advantage in identification with a tradition but I find it completely inconsistent to claim to follow Theravada but then practice with another tradition.

But it may be just showing that traditions and their tenets are "naturally" merging when they are spreading in one and the same geographical area. For hundreds of years traditions have been "fermenting in their own juices" in their eastern countries of origine that have somehow been their "natural ghettos".


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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:22 am

mikenz66 wrote:Personally, I'd rather sit with chan/zen group than have no personal interaction.


It could be fine until strong ideological differences emerge, like those which I've posted few posts before. Maybe the contradictory advice would hinder rather than help? It is like, are you supposed to become better or are you already perfect with Buddha nature and all that? Two contradictory approaches. Practice is based on certain basic assumptions, and if they differ, then the practice would be different - even if it can initially seem to identical.

Cosmic consciousness The nearest comparison to satori is a glimpse of cosmic consciousness. Here in the Zen context, the most frequent exclamation is “nothingness.” Every thought, every vision, every master, every concept is transformed into nothingness. Before this breakthrough there is high tension. There maybe lights or maybe total darkness. Then abruptly the infinite space turns into nothingness. Or ‘I and the universe are one’ is a common comment http://www.kktanhp.com/a_touch_of_zen.htm


mikenz66 wrote:The basics of mindfulness are simply the basics of mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh and his followers, for example, seem to me to have a very effective approach to mindfulness that is very compatible with Theravada teachers.


Thats because: Nhat Hanh's approach has been to combine a variety of traditional Zen teachings with methods from Theravada Buddhism, insights from Mahayana Buddhism, and ideas from Western psychology—to offer a modern light on meditation practice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nhat_Hanh#Approach

Not every Zen center is like a buffet, and it may or may not be the best approach in all cases.
Last edited by Alex123 on Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:33 am

Alex123 wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Personally, I'd rather sit with chan/zen group than have no personal interaction.


It could be fine until strong ideological differences emerge, like those which I've posted few posts before.
If this is worked out with the teachers ahead of time, if should not be a problem.


Cosmic consciousness The nearest comparison to satori is a glimpse of cosmic consciousness. Here in the Zen context, the most frequent exclamation is “nothingness.” Every thought, every vision, every master, every concept is transformed into nothingness. Before this breakthrough there is high tension. There maybe lights or maybe total darkness. Then abruptly the infinite space turns into nothingness. Or ‘I and the universe are one’ is a common comment http://www.kktanhp.com/a_touch_of_zen.htm
Now you are reaching, going to a wack-doodle website for information. Obviously you know next to nothing about Zen.

Let it go, Alex. I lived -- not just visted, but lived -- three years in a Zen Center as a Theravadin and I never had a problem. They were very accomadating to me and I got a lot out of it.

Just let it go, Alex; let octathlon explore this possibility of funding support for his practice.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:35 am

Hi Alex,

My experience is that in real life people don't go to meditation sessions to discuss doctrinal technicalities. Those really have little to do with it...

I understood this thread to be about the establishment of a basic meditation practice, which is what I'm talking about.

:anjali:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:39 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Alex,

My experience is that in real life people don't go to meditation sessions to discuss doctrinal technicalities. Those really have little to do with it...

I understood this thread to be about the establishment of a basic meditation practice, which is what I'm talking about.

:anjali:
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And there is a very good possibility of the Zen center in question of being accommodating of that. octathlon will have to work with some of the external forms of the center, such as bowing, but then that is all just mindfulness practice and actually has an aesthetic quality to it that can be quite supportive of practice.
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: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby octathlon » Sat Oct 15, 2011 2:42 am

tiltbillings wrote:
octathlon wrote:Thank you, Tilt. :)
tiltbillings wrote:It worth a shot and just looking into it will be an interesting experience and worth doing.
:sage:
If you get a chance to meet with these teachers, let us know how it went.

OK. I will have to think about it for a while though, I don't jump into these things very easily.
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