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 octathlon » Sat Oct 15, 2011 2:58 am

TMingyur wrote: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.
I'm not really concerned with meeting criteria for a particular label. I'm more concerned about having to learn a bunch of stuff from another tradition when I haven't even scratched the surface of Theravada. On the other hand it may not require all that, but be just a benefit to improve the meditation aspect of my Theravada practice. On the third hand it could turn out to be a perfect match for me and wind up converting to Zen. On the fourth hand I may decide not to practice there at all. :D
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby ground » Sat Oct 15, 2011 3:11 am

There may be no end of hands. :smile:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby PeterB » Sat Oct 15, 2011 7:15 am

Do you have or have you had a human Buddhist teacher T Mingyur.....
It it helps get the ball rolling I an more than happy to talk about my teachers.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:12 pm

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.


But meditation is based on certain basic fundamental assumptions and eventually these may be create irreconcilable differences of the purpose and the method of meditation. Just because they sit in meditation posture, it doesn't mean that their meditation has the same aim as in Theravada. Sure, initially there can be some overlap, but soon enough the differences can be seen. I've recently read plenty of authentic teachings from Zen masters in order to form this understanding. One Chan Master (ex: Sheng Yen) teacher talks about impermanence, emptiness, not-self.... Where is dukkha which is 1st NT? And generally the impression that I've got is that Dukkha tends to be under-emphasized in Zen, and I consider 4NT to be the key part of Dhamma.

The typical Zen teaching of "when I eat I just eat. When I walk I just walk, etc" has been severely criticized as becoming no better than animals. Animal too knows when he walks, eats, etc. So the Theravadin Satipatthana Commentary tells us how to avoid that.

Their emphasis on no-mind, no-thought, non-reliance on scriptures (which some may misunderstand to mean that ignorance is a bliss), almost sounds like trying to become like a little child, which the Buddha rebuked in suttas such as MN64.
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:31 pm

Alex123 wrote:
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.


But meditation is based on certain basic fundamental assumptions and eventually these may be create irreconcilable differences of the purpose and the method of meditation. Just because they sit in meditation posture, it doesn't mean that their meditation has the same aim as in Theravada.
It does not mean that it is different, either.


I've recently read plenty of authentic teachings from Zen masters in order to form this understanding.
You read this, you read that, but there is yet no real understanding of Zen teachings. The "cosmic consciousness" quote you gave us shows you have not enough understanding to really know what you are talking about when it comes to things Zen.

The typical Zen teaching of "when I eat I just eat. When I walk I just walk, etc" has been severely criticized
. . .
Only by those who do not understand the point of what is being said.

Their emphasis on no-mind, no-thought, non-reliance on scriptures (which some may misunderstand to mean that ignorance is a bliss),
It is only a problem if you take it out of context. I'll be more than heppy to suggest a book or two if you are seriously interested in actually learning about Zen rather than cherry-picking from the internet.
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 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:35 pm

tiltbillings wrote:It is only a problem if you take it out of context. I'll be more than heppy to suggest a book or two if you are seriously interested in actually learning about Zen rather than cherry-picking from the internet.



Which ones would you suggest? Or even better, are there good articles online that you find helpful?

Anyways, some of the quotes I've provided were from authentic sources (such as Dogen, and recent master Sheng Yen). I did recently read "The Art of Just sitting" which had teachings of many reputable Zen masters. I've also read almost entirely Sheng Yen's book (method of no-method) from which I've quoted the impermanence, emptiness, not-self.
”Even the water melting from the snow-capped peaks finds its way to the ocean."
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:56 pm

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:It is only a problem if you take it out of context. I'll be more than heppy to suggest a book or two if you are seriously interested in actually learning about Zen rather than cherry-picking from the internet.



Which ones would you suggest? Or even better, are there good articles online that you find helpful?
Since I do not frequent Zen sites online, I cannot help you there, but I would recommend three books. First is Peter Harvey's An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices as a foundation for putting things into some context. Secondly, Robert Aitken's Taking the Path and finally, Zen Action: Zen Person by Thomas P. Kasulis. All of which can be gotten cheaply used.

Anyways, some of the quotes I've provided were from authentic sources (such as Dogen, and recent master Sheng Yen). I did recently read "The Art of Just sitting" which had teachings of many reputable Zen masters. I've also read almost entirely Sheng Yen's book (method of no-method) from which I've quoted the impermanence, emptiness, not-self.
If you are going to do comparisons, you really need to understand what it is that you are comparing, and that I have seen from you.

Why are you making such a struggle out of this? octathlon is an adult here. He can choose what works best for him. If as a Theravadin, sitting with a Zen group supports his practice, then that is good. If he runs into things that don't quite mesh with how he understands things, that is good, in that it can help him understand his own position better. Fundamentally, it is a matter, not of book learning, rather, it is a matter of learning to pay attention. As Dogen says: To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all dharmas. To be enlightened by all dharmas is to be free from attachment to the body and mind of one's self and of others. It means wiping out even attachment to awakening. Wiping out attachment to awakening, we must enter actual society. When man first recognizes the Dharma, he unequivocally frees himself from the border of truth. He who awakens Dharma in himself, he is a human being in his own true place.
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 » Sun Oct 16, 2011 12:52 am

FYI: I am a "she". :smile:
Even with different schools, I figure the Dhamma is the Dhamma and we eventually find the approach that fits for us. For me, I have always been interested in Buddhism and read about Zen years ago-- because that used to be pretty much what all the books were about, pre-internet days. I found it intriguing but didn't feel it was something that would work for me. That could be from lack of a good understanding an no actual experience of it. But after finding Theravada, I found something that really resonates with me so much more.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby PeterB » Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:32 am

In all honesty octhathlon if you find a local Zen group teaching Shikantaza, or a local Tibetan group teaching Vipashnya or Shamatha...( Vipassana or Samatha ) I doubt that you will experience anything wildly different from a meditation group run by Theravadins...Each and any of those options would be far better than an attempt to teach yourself from books or videos..
Beyond those meditation classes I guess any further involvement would be up to you...

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

Postby ground » Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:07 am

octathlon wrote:But after finding Theravada, I found something that really resonates with me so much more.

Maybe it's "having found the Buddha's words kindly having been transmitted through centuries".
And your involvement with Zen most likely was necessary to prepare this capability to find. So it is actually part of that which now has been found and may be appreciated for that reason.

Kind regards
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby befriend » Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:31 am

practicing buddhism without a teacher, is like trying to build a mansion by teaching yourself carpentry. its fine to read books in the beginning to get ageneral understanding of it, and meditate some to develop some saddha. but i went a few years without a teacher, i got a teacher and learned more in a few months than i did spending a few years reading the same old books from Borders. there are so many ways to confuse yourself. i used to worry about being reborn as an animal then my teacher said dont do that. teachers are very wise, even if your not interested in buddhism its good to have a buddhist teacher. hahahaa.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby NEMP » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:07 am

It has been good to read the above comments as I am new to both Theravada and this forum as well as not having a teacher. As a guide does the meaning of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha mean that a community ( with teacher) is important even for lay practice ?
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby danieLion » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:08 am

tiltbillings wrote:But since you do not read Pali, you must rely on imperfect translations.... Books have their limitations....
Pali's is itself imperfect and limited--ultimately unreliable.
Daniel :heart:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:12 am

danieLion wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:But since you do not read Pali, you must rely on imperfect translations.... Books have their limitations....
Pali's is itself imperfect and limited--ultimately unreliable.
Daniel :heart:
Unreliable? For what? It is the perfect language for the Pali suttas.
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 danieLion » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:14 am

Did the Buddha mandate a teacher requirement for practice, and if so, in what Canonical document or documents did he do so? If he did not, I do not not see any way to reasonably justify a "yes" response to the OP's question.

I also feel this thread could use a good working definition of "teacher."

DL :heart:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby danieLion » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:15 am

tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:But since you do not read Pali, you must rely on imperfect translations.... Books have their limitations....
Pali's is itself imperfect and limited--ultimately unreliable.
Daniel :heart:
Unreliable? For what? It is the perfect language for the Pali suttas.

It's imperfect for the same reason any language is imperfect.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:20 am

danieLion wrote:It's imperfect for the same reason any language is imperfect.
DL
Well, if you want to have the Pali Canon, then you need Pali, which makes it a perfect fit.
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 » Mon Oct 17, 2011 9:58 am

danieLion wrote:Did the Buddha mandate a teacher requirement for practice, and if so, in what Canonical document or documents did he do so? If he did not, I do not not see any way to reasonably justify a "yes" response to the OP's question.

I also feel this thread could use a good working definition of "teacher."

DL :heart:

As I mentioned above:
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=10001&start=40#p153284
there are many suttas that describe monks taking instruction from other monks.

Moreover, most suttas seem to be personalized instructions from the Buddha or one of his assistants to a particular person/audience. That seems to be how it worked back then, therefore it seems reasonable to do the same today.

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

Postby PeterB » Mon Oct 17, 2011 10:41 am

danieLion wrote:Did the Buddha mandate a teacher requirement for practice, and if so, in what Canonical document or documents did he do so? If he did not, I do not not see any way to reasonably justify a "yes" response to the OP's question.

I also feel this thread could use a good working definition of "teacher."

DL :heart:

2500 years of experiential processes are the mandate.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby chownah » Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:36 pm

danieLion wrote:Did the Buddha mandate a teacher requirement for practice, and if so, in what Canonical document or documents did he do so? If he did not, I do not not see any way to reasonably justify a "yes" response to the OP's question.

I also feel this thread could use a good working definition of "teacher."

DL :heart:

This is not exactly a definition but perhaps is worth thinking about:
1. You can see a form and think "teacher".
2. You can hear a sound and think "teacher".
3. You can smell an odor and think "teacher".
4. You can taste a flavor and think "teacher".
5. You can feel a bodily sensation and think "teacher".
6. You can experience a thought and think "teacher".
What else can there be to a teacher?
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