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Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential? - Dhamma Wheel

Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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christopher:::
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Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby christopher::: » Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:13 am

A good teacher is an absolute blessing, I don't doubt that. Those fortunate enough to have found a teacher they can work with in 3D are very lucky. But the 3 jewels are Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, not Buddha, Dharma, Teacher....

What was Buddha's view about the importance of having a teacher to work with one-on-one, vs the support of a sangha? For a layperson practitioner, is the support of a sangha more important then having a teacher, are they equally important or is a relationship with a teacher more essential?

How does the Theravadin tradition view this?

:group:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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mikenz66
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:22 am

What do you mean by Sangha, Chistopher? To me it means either the ordained monks and nuns or the noble disciples. Since my teachers are members of the ordained Sangha your question vanishes...

Here is something from one of the Thai Forest teachers:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... legem.html

There is, of course, a modern use of the word "Sangha" to refer to a group of practitioners, who may or may not include your teacher...

Metta
Mike

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christopher:::
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby christopher::: » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:52 am

"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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zavk
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby zavk » Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:05 am

Hi Christopher and friends

Here is what Charles Prebish has to say about the development of the term 'sangha' in pages of his book Luminous passage: the practice and study of Buddhism in America.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:17 am


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Ben
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Ben » Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:56 am

Hi Christopher
I like what Mike said.
But with regards to myself - I've had the same teacher since I took refuge the first time 24 years ago. While I havent seen my teacher in about 20 years, I still derive benefit from continuing to practice as per his instructions and attend retreats organised along his guidelines. I've also found that as I have progressed and my knowledge increased, my reliance on the teacher has lessened. For me personally, having a teacher, being able to concentrate on the instructions of one teacher, was crucial for me in the beginning.
As regards to the value of a sangha (community of practitioners), I think it is invaluable in providing support to individual practitioners. I mean, have a look at Dhamma Wheel which operates as a virtual sangha and the support it provides its members in lieu of a teacher or real-world sangha.
Kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Cittasanto
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:10 am



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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christopher:::
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby christopher::: » Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:21 am

Thank you Ben, Mike, Manapa and zavk,

Yes, i also find the "college professor" and "good friends" models helpful, with the virtual sangha of fellow practitioners to be essential. Which was in part where my question came from. Until the day comes (hopefully) where i connect with a specific teacher, as Ben has, i've gained a lot over the past 25+ years from meditating on my own, as well as from the teachings of a wide range of Buddhist teachers (past and present), as transmitted in audios and books.

I've needed that kind of detailed "instructional" input, but in terms of continuous back-and-forth assistance its the community of fellow dharma practitioners that i've interacted with online-- especially those who are further along in their practice then myself- that has been something new, something very crucial, which i did not have prior to 2005....

:group:

P.S. No offense, but what may seem pointless to you, Manapa, was simply not yet clear to moi. We're all at different points on the learning curve.

:heart:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Dan74
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Dan74 » Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:51 am

Are there any living or dead respected Theravada masters who had not done some intensive practice with a teacher?

From where I stand, it seems that just about everyone is bound to benefit immensely from working with a realized (read: deeply insightful) teacher. Conversely, practicing with little or no guidance from a one-to-one interaction with a realized teacher, is bound to get just about everyone stuck, stagnating and/or going down the wrong path.
Simply because the momentum of wrong thought is so strong, the delusion so deep, the tricks of the self so effective that we do need a teacher at least to inspire us to practice, to hold up the mirror and to help cut through the BS.

I guess this view is not going to be popular here, but of course it's just a view.

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Cittasanto
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Sep 06, 2009 12:23 pm

Last edited by Cittasanto on Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.


He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby genkaku » Sun Sep 06, 2009 1:09 pm

Teacher.
Sangha.
Another play-in-the-sandbox dichotomy.

When I asked my teacher once what a "teacher" was, he swept up the fairy tales this way: "Except for me, everything is the teacher."
Smile just one smile




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David N. Snyder
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Sep 06, 2009 3:33 pm

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Sep 06, 2009 8:17 pm

- Peter


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David N. Snyder
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:11 pm

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:29 pm

- Peter


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Dan74
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Dan74 » Mon Sep 07, 2009 1:00 am

If you want to become a neurosurgeon, or even a good potter, you are not likely to just buy a bunch of books and study them, possibly with some other people and occasionally asking an expert a question or two and hearing a talk. And yet, with Buddhadamma, which is arguably the most subtle and intricate of all disciplines some of us think they can make real progress like this.

Why?

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Ben
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Ben » Mon Sep 07, 2009 1:38 am

Hi Dan
People's circumstances are diffeent, as I am sure you'll agree.
I really take my hat off to people like Retro, and many of our members here, who have been able to navigate the plethora of views and approaches and enticements of samsara and teach themselves meditation and engage in practice with nothing but their own interest, determination, print, audio or video instruction and the goodwill and encouragement of friends and like-minded people at places like Dhamma Wheel. I think it says something about their paramitas.
Metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Sep 07, 2009 1:52 am

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christopher:::
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby christopher::: » Mon Sep 07, 2009 3:44 am

I agree with Ben and David. A teacher is a blessing, without a doubt... a good teacher. And if the dhamma were like neurosurgery or law, one needs to sit directly at the foot of a master, or masters, and learn from them, intensively. But with art, sports or music- while instruction is needed along the way- many do indeed make great strides on their own, or with the support of peers. I've seen this with my eldest son with baseball, and with my youngest son, with drawing. Andy's brilliant with a pencil or pen because of all the time and effort he's put in. I've coached him, but very minimally. The main thing i've said, almost like a parrot, is "Keep practicing..! You can do this. If you can't draw something well, try again, observe what you are doing carefully and keep drawing!"

:group:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Dan74
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Dan74 » Mon Sep 07, 2009 4:43 am

Ben's post above is uncontroversial - he is simply saying that some people don't have access to a teacher and they can still make progress on the own (sometimes). Good on them!

As for the analogies above (I've opened a Pandora's box of bad analogies it seems) all I can say is that while everything is and can be a teacher, in practice most of us find ourselves repeating the same mistakes over and over again. That there were so many arahat's in the Buddha's time speaks for itself - a great teacher is of great help.

Sure, we have to practice hard, no one can take the steps for us. Sure thinking "I need an enlightened teacher" can be a hindrance. Relying on the teacher to make it all work can be a hindrance. But not recognizing the limitations of our deluded minds guiding our way out of the delusion is a great hindrance, in my opinion.

In the East where Buddhism came from, no one serious about a spiritual path would underestimate the importance of the right guide. No one here is yet to cite any examples of great Theravada teachers who had not done an apprenticeship with another great teacher. The Buddha had a few, Huineng the Sixth Patriarch of Zen did not seem to have done much time with teachers, although historical accounts are unreliable. But if such cases existed, they were few and far in between.

Of course we can try and practice on our own. And we make more or less progress depending on our wholesome roots, our kamma. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that this is the best way to practice. It may be all we can do under the limitations of family, job, etc, but it's not the best.

That's all I am saying.

_/|\_

PS Chris, even in Art, great masters of the Renaissance were invariably apprenticed to other masters where they learnt both the basics and the secrets, as well as being inspired and initiated into their lineage. Of course we don't need all that now.
Last edited by Dan74 on Mon Sep 07, 2009 5:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
_/|\_


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