Beginner Questions

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.
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GarudaXIX
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Beginner Questions

Postby GarudaXIX » Sat Feb 08, 2014 5:22 pm

As you might be able to tell I'm new to the boards and I have a couple of questions, that I hope you lovely people might be able to answer.

Firstly, how important is 'Lineage' in Theravada? Is there even such a concept? The seeming heavy reliance on it in other traditions has put me off them.

Secondly, how important is a physical Sangha? Because if it is, I'm kinda stuck, even not living in the 'middle of nowhere', there appears to be a distinct lack of Theravada Sangha's or even practitioners in my local and not so-local area. That or I'm rubbish with Google.

santa100
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Re: Beginner Questions

Postby santa100 » Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:00 pm

GarudaXIX wrote: Firstly, how important is 'Lineage' in Theravada? Is there even such a concept? The seeming heavy reliance on it in other traditions has put me off them.


Then the Blessed One said to Ven. Ananda, "Now, if it occurs to any of you — 'The teaching has lost its authority; we are without a Teacher' — do not view it in that way. Whatever Dhamma & Vinaya I have pointed out & formulated for you, that will be your Teacher when I am gone.~~ http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ~~


GarudaXIX wrote: ..Secondly, how important is a physical Sangha? Because if it is, I'm kinda stuck, even not living in the 'middle of nowhere', there appears to be a distinct lack of Theravada Sangha's or even practitioners in my local and not so-local area


..Then the Blessed One said to Ven. Ananda, "Ananda, the twin sal-trees are in full bloom, even though it's not the flowering season. They shower, strew, & sprinkle on the Tathagata's body in homage to him. Heavenly coral-tree blossoms are falling from the sky... Heavenly sandalwood powder is falling from the sky... Heavenly music is playing in the sky... Heavenly songs are sung in the sky, in homage to the Tathagata. But it is not to this extent that a Tathagata is worshipped, honored, respected, venerated, or paid homage to. Rather, the monk, nun, male lay follower, or female lay follower who keeps practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, who keeps practicing masterfully, who lives in accordance with the Dhamma: that is the person who worships, honors, respects, venerates, & pays homage to the Tathagata with the highest homage. So you should train yourselves: 'We will keep practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, we will keep practicing masterfully, we will live in accordance with the Dhamma.'[2] That's how you should train yourselves. ~~ http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html ~~

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Re: Beginner Questions

Postby culaavuso » Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:03 pm

In one use of the word 'lineage', Theravada is an ordination lineage. The other two ordination lineages are Mulasarvastivada and Dharmaguptaka. In another sense of the word, you might mean the exact relationships of individual teachers. These are important in the sense that each teacher tends to have their own style and their own emphasis with the teachings of the Dhamma, and it seems to be common that if you appreciate the teachings of a particular teacher you are likely to appreciate the teachings of their students or their teacher, as well.

I don't know where you are in the UK, but there are a number of monasteries in the UK listed at Forest Sangha Monasteries, which include:

Amaravati Monastery - U.K.
Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery - U.K.
Cittaviveka Monastery - U.K.
Forest Hermitage - U.K.
Hartridge Monastery - U.K.

Perhaps one of those will be close to you. If not, you can find a lot of teaching material provided for free online through those same communities.

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Re: Beginner Questions

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:12 pm

I suspect that you're rubbish with Google, because there are a lot of Theravāda groups in the UK.

Try the Buddhanet Directory or tell us where you live. I would be surprised if you have to travel more than 50 miles to find a Theravāda centre of some sort.

I think lineage is a significant problem, or rather the attachment to it is a problem. Most groups tend to be somewhat intolerant of those practising from other lineages. They place more importance in the founder of their own tradition, and forget that the Buddha is our teacher, and the Dhamma that he taught is a universal teaching.

A little more emphasis on learning than on practice alone can remove most of the intolerance of other traditions. It's still the case that “Birds of a feather flock together,” and most people like to belong to a group rather than to pursue a solitary path.
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GarudaXIX
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Re: Beginner Questions

Postby GarudaXIX » Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:42 pm

Thanks for the replies people.
Further research and improvement of my google-fu does indeed indicate that there is indeed Theravada groups, just within fifty miles.
Although that's further than I was hoping to travel, but, sacrifices and all that.

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Re: Beginner Questions

Postby Feathers » Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:03 pm

My (very general and subjective) impression is 'lineage' has almost a different meaning in Vajrayana and Zen (and is implemented in different ways in those two, as well) to what we might think of in Theravada. Yes, people might be impressed by connections to a certain teacher (e.g. Ajahn Smith studied under Ajahn Chah!) but my impression when reading up on Zen and Vajrayana was that lineage was almost mystical - it really really really mattered. If you hadn't come from a 'proper' lineage then you were kinda not to be trusted as a teacher/monk. The argument for this is that it helps protect against charlatans, as in theory it means anyone with authority has done a decent amount of training under a teacher who did a decent amount of training . . . and so on back to the dawn of time. The downsides can to be traditionalism, and cult of personality/teacher-worship (especially if you throw in a lineage of reincarnated tulkus as in Vajrayana)

Whereas in Theravada, ok you might ask what tradition a monk came from, or check out who he studied under, but the lack of a famous name in his training history wouldn't be enough to write him off. Equally, the mere fact of his having spent a few years in a famous monastery with a famous teacher probably won't make him an instant object of admiration/trust/worship.

For me the way lineage worked in Vajrayana was worrisome, individuals seemed to get huge power with no real way of ensuring they were suited to the responsibility, plus I'm not wild about identifying children as reincarnations and pushing them into being religious figures, so if it's the same sort of thing bothering you, I'd say you might feel comfortable with Theravada (at least as regards lineage anyway).


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