How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

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How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby ignobleone » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:30 am

Hi all,

I think in this era of Dhamma downturn it's important to know our teacher's quality, unless it's ok to be taught by incompetent one. Anyone has any idea?

:anjali:
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby santa100 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:27 am

Maybe through the four traits as mentioned in AN 4.192. Notice it won't be easy since it'll take quite some time to find out the truth.. ( http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html )
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:39 am

Or the Canki Sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"There is the case, Bharadvaja, where a monk lives in dependence on a certain village or town. Then a householder or householder's son goes to him and observes him with regard to three mental qualities — qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion, qualities based on delusion: 'Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on greed that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, "I know," while not knowing, or say, "I see," while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?' As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on greed... His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not greedy. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. This Dhamma can't easily be taught by a person who's greedy.

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on greed, he next observes him with regard to qualities based on aversion ... delusion ...

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.


As Santa says, it takes some time and observation...

:anjali:
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:48 am

Greetings ignobleone,

The above posts and accompanying sutta references are very good.

From a personal, practical perspective, we don't need to know whether every single teacher out there is right for us - we just need to find (at least) one that is... and that one needn't exclude "textual teachers" such as the Buddha himself, as transmitted via the Sutta Pitaka, or the authors of ancient anthologies like the Visuddhimagga and Vimuttimagga, or the authors of more recent and well regarded compendiums on meditation and Dhamma practice.

In the quest towards finding (at least) one guide that works for you, feel free to ask questions here of Dhamma Wheel members and other Buddhist practitioners, asking for any reason why you would not take a particular teacher or reference as a guide. If after being appraised of any caveats you're satisfied with the guide(s) you have selected... then it's just a case of putting in the hard yards. In doing your research, you may as well leverage the thoughts, experiences and perspectives of other dedicated practitioners.

:meditate:

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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:14 am

ignobleone wrote:I think in this era of Dhamma downturn it's important to know our teacher's quality, unless it's ok to be taught by incompetent one. Anyone has any idea?


I think it's pretty presumptuous to believe one can or should assess the quality of others.

If a teacher's teachings are helpful for you then keep going back, if not then go elsewhere, but don't assume that a teacher that didn't do it for you is incompetent.

You could try some of the scriptural yardsticks that have been suggested here if you feel the need to judge, but if somebody has helped you and continues to help you then isn't that good enough?
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby nibbuti » Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:03 am

How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Hi ignobleone

The good teacher will invite the student to examine him/her, rather than avoiding or even prohibiting critique (as is often the case under the banner of "keeping faith/peace"), because there are none or at least considerably fewer "defiled states recognizable by the eye or ear consciousness" in a good teacher.

Vimamsaka Sutta - The Examination

Bhikkhus, by the bhikkhu who could [not] examine the thought processes of another the Thus Gone One should be examined on two things. On things cognisable by eye consciousness and ear consciousness. Are defiled things cognisable by eye and ear consciousness evident in the Thus Gone One or are they not? When examining he knows. These defiled things cognisable by eye and ear consciousness [1] are not evident in the Thus Gone One. Then he should make a further examination: Are mixed things cognisable by eye and ear consciousness evident in the Thus Gone One or are they not? When examining he knows. These mixed things cognisable by eye and ear consciousness [2] are not evident in the Thus Gone One. Then he should make a further examination: Are pure things cognisable by eye and ear consciousness evident in the Thus Gone One or are they not? When examining he knows. The pure things cognisable by eye and ear consciousness [3] are evident in the Thus Gone One.

Then he should make a further examination. Has the venerable one attained to these things of merit since long or are they attained to recently? ...

Then he should further examine. Does the venerable one not indulge in sensuality, through destruction of greed or through fear? ...

Then the others should question that bhikkhu. On what grounds did the venerable one say, that the venerable one did not indulge in sensuality because greed is destroyed and not through fear? ...

Then further it may, even be questioned from the Thus Gone One himself: Are defiled things cognisable by eye and ear consciousness evident in the Thus Gone One or are they not? ...

Then the others should question that bhikkhu. On what grounds did the venerable one say, the Blessed One is rightfully enlightened, the Teaching is well proclaimed and the Community of bhikkhus have gone well? ...

Bhikkhus, in whomever faith is established in the Thus Gone One in this manner with these phrases and words, it becomes well established, thoroughly rooted faith and insight. ...


http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/2Majjhima-Nikaya/Majjhima1/047-vimamsaka-sutta-e1.html

:reading:
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:21 am

Goofaholix wrote:I think it's pretty presumptuous to believe one can or should assess the quality of others.

If a teacher's teachings are helpful for you then keep going back, if not then go elsewhere, but don't assume that a teacher that didn't do it for you is incompetent.

You could try some of the scriptural yardsticks that have been suggested here if you feel the need to judge, but if somebody has helped you and continues to help you then isn't that good enough?

Hi, Goofaholix,
There are a couple of points here that I think are worth picking apart.
(1) We may not be able to "assess the quality of others" as human beings and probably shouldn't try but when it comes to assessing the knowledge and skill of someone who is providing a service to us - a plumber, a mechanic, a doctor - I think we should make the attempt.
(2) If we don't know much about drains, cars or medicine, we can't judge their competence on the basis of our own knowledge so we typically ask around. Or we ask about how to judge, which is what the OP did here.
(3) As a teacher myself (not of meditation!), I am well aware that some teachers of my subject are wrong in ways which a beginner can not be expected to be able to discern. The results of following such a teacher are typically that the student has to painfully unlearn misinformation or bad habits, and sometimes the effort is simply too great and they give up completely. That scenario, surely, is worth avoiding.

That said, "don't assume that a teacher that didn't do it for you is incompetent," is still sound advice in a subject as personal as meditation.

:namaste:
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby ignobleone » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:14 pm

Hi all,

@santa100
Thanks for the link, you give a very good, relevant sutta link. The sutta says:
'It's through discussion that a person's discernment may be known, and then only after a long period, not a short period; by one who is attentive, not by one who is inattentive; by one who is discerning, not by one who is not discerning'

I can say my question is all about to know whether the teacher is dull, or not discerning. It's most likely that such teacher will mislead students, and we know that spreading wrong view is a very bad kamma. So, this issue is important since we can then prevent people from getting misled at the same time prevent the teacher (unknowingly) from spreading wrong view.

@mikenz66
Yes it's true it takes some time and observation. The question is about what to observe, what clue can be used to know someone worth teaching or not.

@nibbuti
You come up with a very good, interesting point. Thanks.

Anyway, the title shows that I expect answers related specifically to meditation teacher, not to find a good teacher in general. I think so far no one has come up with a specifically relevant point.
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby ignobleone » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:15 pm

Goofaholix wrote:I think it's pretty presumptuous to believe one can or should assess the quality of others.

If a teacher's teachings are helpful for you then keep going back, if not then go elsewhere, but don't assume that a teacher that didn't do it for you is incompetent.

You could try some of the scriptural yardsticks that have been suggested here if you feel the need to judge, but if somebody has helped you and continues to help you then isn't that good enough?

Hi Goofaholix,
I should have defined more specifically what I mean by "incompetent". Incompetent = misleading.
You think assessing teacher's view is impossible while it's not so, it's easy. It's not about helpful, it's about correctness. I guess "helpful" for you is very subjective here. Helpful is not always correct for some cases, especially if you have no idea whether what you have been told is correct (since you never investigate, for example.)
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby ignobleone » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:31 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:Hi, Goofaholix,
There are a couple of points here that I think are worth picking apart.
(1) We may not be able to "assess the quality of others" as human beings and probably shouldn't try but when it comes to assessing the knowledge and skill of someone who is providing a service to us - a plumber, a mechanic, a doctor - I think we should make the attempt.

Hi Kim O'Hara, I completely agree with this point.

(2) If we don't know much about drains, cars or medicine, we can't judge their competence on the basis of our own knowledge so we typically ask around. Or we ask about how to judge, which is what the OP did here.

That was it.

(3) As a teacher myself (not of meditation!), I am well aware that some teachers of my subject are wrong in ways which a beginner can not be expected to be able to discern. The results of following such a teacher are typically that the student has to painfully unlearn misinformation or bad habits, and sometimes the effort is simply too great and they give up completely. That scenario, surely, is worth avoiding.

For this point I think you should distinguish between "the approach/way of teaching" and "what to teach". My question on the title is about "what to teach", whether the teacher teach right view or wrong view.
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby nibbuti » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:12 pm

ignobleone wrote:Anyway, the title shows that I expect answers related specifically to meditation teacher, not to find a good teacher in general. I think so far no one has come up with a specifically relevant point.

What do you mean by "in general" and "specifical", ignoble one?

Almost everything said and quoted here relates directly and specifically to the topic and question regarding meditation teacher, even if it doesn't say "meditation teacher" per se.

Are you sure your self of how you define "meditation teacher"?

:)
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:27 pm

ignobleone wrote:@mikenz66
Yes it's true it takes some time and observation. The question is about what to observe, what clue can be used to know someone worth teaching or not. n teacher, not to find a good teacher in general. I think so far no one has come up with a specifically relevant point.

I thought the sutta I quoted was very practical.

It is significant that the first two sets of qualities mentioned in the sutta are easy to observe, and don't require expert knowledge.
qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion,

So that provides a useful initial filter that anyone can easily use.

The final set is, of course, more difficult, and would take more time, observation, and cross-checking:
qualities based on delusion


So a beginner is not being asked to assess whether the teacher is "correct". I think that this is an important point, because when one is learning something it is very difficult to assess whether a teacher is knowledgeable, and "second guessing" the teacher can be extremely counter-productive.

In hindsight, my Dhamma investigation started by using the first two criteria, and I'm sometimes surprised that relative beginners think that they can jump to the third and assess whether teacher X is correct or not.

:anjali:
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Oct 17, 2012 9:50 pm

ignobleone wrote:
(3) As a teacher myself (not of meditation!), I am well aware that some teachers of my subject are wrong in ways which a beginner can not be expected to be able to discern. The results of following such a teacher are typically that the student has to painfully unlearn misinformation or bad habits, and sometimes the effort is simply too great and they give up completely. That scenario, surely, is worth avoiding.

For this point I think you should distinguish between "the approach/way of teaching" and "what to teach". My question on the title is about "what to teach", whether the teacher teach right view or wrong view.

Okay ... but in practice they are hard to separate. For instance, the sequence of instruction is "the approach/way of teaching" and also "what to teach" in the short term. So is the choice of meditation techniques and subjects (if you browse the forum here you will find that many members have used many different techniques at different stages and for different reasons, but they haven't learned them all at once).
I think you have to go back to Mike's suggestions (Canki sutta and his follow-up).

Good luck!

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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby ignobleone » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:38 am

mikenz66 wrote:
ignobleone wrote:@mikenz66
Yes it's true it takes some time and observation. The question is about what to observe, what clue can be used to know someone worth teaching or not. n teacher, not to find a good teacher in general. I think so far no one has come up with a specifically relevant point.

I thought the sutta I quoted was very practical.

It is significant that the first two sets of qualities mentioned in the sutta are easy to observe, and don't require expert knowledge.
qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion,

So that provides a useful initial filter that anyone can easily use.

The final set is, of course, more difficult, and would take more time, observation, and cross-checking:
qualities based on delusion


So a beginner is not being asked to assess whether the teacher is "correct". I think that this is an important point, because when one is learning something it is very difficult to assess whether a teacher is knowledgeable, and "second guessing" the teacher can be extremely counter-productive.

In hindsight, my Dhamma investigation started by using the first two criteria, and I'm sometimes surprised that relative beginners think that they can jump to the third and assess whether teacher X is correct or not.


Hypocrisy = Ignorance + Ego - Metta

I will explain if you don't understand.
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby ignobleone » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:44 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
ignobleone wrote:
(3) As a teacher myself (not of meditation!), I am well aware that some teachers of my subject are wrong in ways which a beginner can not be expected to be able to discern. The results of following such a teacher are typically that the student has to painfully unlearn misinformation or bad habits, and sometimes the effort is simply too great and they give up completely. That scenario, surely, is worth avoiding.

For this point I think you should distinguish between "the approach/way of teaching" and "what to teach". My question on the title is about "what to teach", whether the teacher teach right view or wrong view.

Okay ... but in practice they are hard to separate. For instance, the sequence of instruction is "the approach/way of teaching" and also "what to teach" in the short term. So is the choice of meditation techniques and subjects (if you browse the forum here you will find that many members have used many different techniques at different stages and for different reasons, but they haven't learned them all at once).
I think you have to go back to Mike's suggestions (Canki sutta and his follow-up).

Good luck!

Kim

You still don't get it. You and Mike are no different. If you read Canki sutta you'll find saddha is at the top among the most helpful quality. Without saddha and understanding it, Good luck!
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby Kamran » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:46 am

You might like the book "Saints and Psychopaths". An autobiographical account in looking for good meditation teachers.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/19649507/Sain ... sychopaths
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:41 am

ignobleone wrote: ...
You still don't get it. You and Mike are no different. If you read Canki sutta you'll find saddha is at the top among the most helpful quality. Without saddha and understanding it, Good luck!

ignobleone,
I think we do 'get it' but you don't, i.e. we understand exactly what we are saying but you have misunderstood or are not willing to accept it.
To try again, very simply: there are many correct, valuable styles of meditation (that's the 'what to teach') and innumerable correct, valuable ways to teach them (that's the 'how to teach').
That being so, the beginner's best way of assessing the teacher's qualities / qualifications is to patiently observe them (as the Canki Sutta says) and their students. If you do like what you observe, you will develop faith in them and be willing to follow their teaching with energy and commitment. If not, you won't - and you would be wasting your time if you started learning with them, anyway, (even if they actually were good teachers) because you wouldn't put your energy into the process.

:namaste:
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:54 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:That said, "don't assume that a teacher that didn't do it for you is incompetent," is still sound advice in a subject as personal as meditation.


I think one's experience of a Buddhist teacher is more subjective than that of a plumber or a mechanic, a plumber or a mechanic's job needs to conform to standards, as does a teacher teaching a curriculum.

If we consider a Buddhist teacher as someone is primarily for delivering facts and information, as I think most people on this thread are doing, then it's equally true and one can assess them based on the accuracy of those facts.

However to me a Buddhist teacher is primarily about delivering guidance, inspiration, and practical techniques, and less about facts and information, so from that point of view the teacher that has inspired and guided you or me might leave someone else cold, who's right? who's wrong? It's subjective and I wouldn't want to judge.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby ignobleone » Thu Oct 18, 2012 4:02 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:ignobleone,
I think we do 'get it' but you don't, i.e. we understand exactly what we are saying but you have misunderstood or are not willing to accept it.

Hi Kim,
You both don't 'get it' since you both have misunderstood, not me. I haven't delivered my main message, yet you both think as if I have nothing more to say. I used the title of the thread for an entry point to the discussion of my main message. We'll get into this.

To try again, very simply: there are many correct, valuable styles of meditation (that's the 'what to teach') and innumerable correct, valuable ways to teach them (that's the 'how to teach').

I don't know which ones you say correct. Since you agree with mikenz66, I suspect you don't know why they are correct or wrong. You won't know since you don't have the basis for knowing which one is correct. And the basis is tightly related to saddha (you may wonder why.) That's the main message I wanted to say.
Every time I tried to address this issue, there were always be people trying to against it. If they were involved in the discussion, they tend to stay away. They think talking about "correctness" is a taboo. Even they may think I'm a hypocrite, thinking I'm the one who is right. The fact is, that's not the case. I have the explanation, they're just too ignorant to listen and consider. If they're proven wrong, they don't care at all as if they've heard nothing. It shows they don't have saddha. All they have is just ignorance, with negative thinking towards other. Their anjali (icon) is fake.

That being so, the beginner's best way of assessing the teacher's qualities / qualifications is to patiently observe them (as the Canki Sutta says) and their students.

Now you follow what mikenz66 has started, categorizing people as beginner. I never categorize people in this forum into beginner, intermediate, expert, etc. Since I started this thread, I suppose you (and mikenz) categorize me as beginner. I have no problem with that. I just wonder how do you categorize me. You don't even know my background. I do know mikenz's background (he told me in one thread), and also have seen his comments all over the place. I have gauge his level of understanding, yet I prefer to remain silence, because I don't categorize people.

If you do like what you observe, you will develop faith in them and be willing to follow their teaching with energy and commitment. If not, you won't - and you would be wasting your time if you started learning with them, anyway, (even if they actually were good teachers) because you wouldn't put your energy into the process.

You suggest other to read Canki Sutta but you yourself clearly don't understand what it says.
1) It's not about whether you like what you observe, but whether the observed teacher is free from delusion.
2) If you don't have the basis for knowing whether the teacher is delusional, how come you agree with what you observe.

If you still don't get it all, it's reasonable for me to suspect your saddha is insufficient. Btw I can guess your background from your namaste icon.
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Re: How to assess meditation teacher quality/worthiness?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Oct 18, 2012 4:12 am

Greetings Ignobleone,

You've mentioned saddha a few times... aka faith/conviction - so what do you regard as the object of saddha?

A teacher? The Buddha? The Sangha? The Dhamma? All of the above?

... or faith/conviction in general?... or the experience of faith/conviction?

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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