Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 08, 2009 2:30 am

Greetings Christopher:::,

christopher::: wrote:Anyway, I was asking in regards to the modern Western use of the term "Sangha" as well as the traditional approach and how the term was used by the Buddha. And wondering about differences that exist.


In the context of refuge in the Triple Gem (which was part of the theme of your original post), "Sangha" refers to the Noble Ariyan Sangha.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby siaophengyou » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:12 am

.......
Last edited by siaophengyou on Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:22 am

Greetings siaophengyou,

siaophengyou wrote:There's no due diligence, research, investigation and analysis involved in this, only faith and destiny.


Well, it's lucky you ended up where you did instead of with this fellow... (Mike Myers as the Love Guru)

Image

or this fellow... (David Koresh)

Image

or this fellow... (Ron L. Hubbard)

Image

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:50 am

Greetings,

Something I read at lunchtime from Ven K. Sri Dhammananda in his introductory text "How To Practice Buddhism".

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... ddhism.pdf

Faith alone cannot purify the mind to remove doubts so as to help us understand the truth. People can uphold a wrong belief without analyzing it or without having any sense of reasoning because they are afraid that if they do, they might lose their faith and thus also lose their chance to gain salvation.

The Buddha's advice on the other hand is, before accepting any belief as the truth, it is for us to study, investigate, practice and see the results for ourselves in the end. When we come to a conclusion after having made a thorough analytical investigation, we gain confidence in the truth, as we have satisfactorily verified it for ourselves. By realizing the truth ourselves, we naturally gain confidence. This is neither mere faith nor belief but realization. The Buddha's advice is neither to believe nor reject anything at first hand. As we have human minds to enable us to think soberly, we must therefore give a chance to our minds to think independently and understand things in the correct perspective.

We should not think that we just cannot understand. Some people who are very lazy to study a problem in depth, simply do not try to understand things as they really are and so seek the easy way out by just surrendering themselves to what the others say, because they have no self confidence in themsleves. A true Buddhist on the other hand has self-respect, knowing fully well that he is responsible for himself, his actions and his salvation. 'No one saves us but ourselves, the Buddha shows us the correct way'.


Strong words perhaps, but worth reflecting on.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:52 am

siaophengyou wrote:ich bin doch nicht blöd!


Dank zu einigen guten studien!

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:54 am

.
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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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:32 am

There's no due diligence, research, investigation and analysis involved in this, only faith and destiny.


Image

Pretty scary stuff...

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:33 am

The facial expressions say a lot.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby appicchato » Tue Sep 08, 2009 7:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:The facial expressions say a lot.


Don't they though...

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:35 am

Hi Retro
<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ybAUM7KoXco&hl=en&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ybAUM7KoXco&hl=en&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

Hi tilt & Bhante
if people are that cought up with being free to practice the way they want they should just practice the way they want instead of looking for approval.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Sep 08, 2009 2:19 pm

retrofuturist wrote:I disagree that it's a guide for finding a teacher... rather, it's a guide for finding an effective doctrine and discipline

There is a difference?
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:48 pm

Greetings Peter,

I think they're different.

Sometimes I give extreme examples to make a point... and I think a paccekabuddha would be a good example one here. Self-enlightened based on the Dhamma, but unwilling or unable to teach.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Ben » Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:08 pm

Hi Paul
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Peter,

I think they're different.

Sometimes I give extreme examples to make a point... and I think a paccekabuddha would be a good example one here. Self-enlightened based on the Dhamma, but unwilling or unable to teach.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I think you're drawing a very long bow by using a paccekabuddha as an example. They're in a completely different league and can only be compared with sammasambuddhas. Like sammasambuddhas, paccekabuddhas rediscover the dhamma only after it had been lost for aeons. So a paccekabuddha, unlike ourselves, does not have access to the recorded dhamma of a buddha or other dhammic literature. Another important difference between us and a paccekabuddha is that we have not developed our paramitas to the same extent that we can discover the dhamma on our own in a dhammic vaccuum.
Kind regards

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

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Sep 08, 2009 11:14 pm

Greetings Ben,

My point simply was that someone who satisfies this test from the Canki Sutta that Peter drew our attention to...

As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on delusion... His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not deluded. 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 deluded.


... has a good Dhamma and discipline, but is not necessarily by default a good teacher.

I think the disconnect between the two in the instance of a paccekabuddha in fact makes paccekabuddhas the perfect example to demonstrate this point to Peter, who was questioning whether there is a difference between the two.

I'm not suggesting that people try to invent their own Dhamma in the absence of one, or anything bizarre like that. That would be totally incongruent with everything I've said throughout this topic to date.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby pink_trike » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:40 am

zavk wrote:Dear friends,

What an interesting thread! I have been following the responses and I find myself agreeing with some aspects of both sides of the argument. If I may offer a slightly different perspective to open up the discussion...

As I was reading the posts, it dawned upon me that this very thread--such a discussion about whether a teacher or sangha or self-study is effective or not--is a unique phenomenon of contemporary (Western) Buddhism. Why do I say this?

Well, the Western encounter with Buddhism in the nineteenth century opened up ways of engaging with the Dhamma. The Western academy facilitated the translation and publication of texts, and in doing so, made the teachings widely available and intelligible to a range of audience. Buddhist historians have noted that the development of Western Buddhism has blurred the lines between the monastic and lay communities, such that teachings and practices that were once restricted to ordained Buddhists are now available to lay people. This historical development, in turn, raised questions about the boundaries of authority and expertise.

Yet, this historical development that has blurred the boundaries of authority and expertise is the very same development which has provided us with the abilities to now debate questions of authority and expertise. Produced and shaped by certain (historical, social, cultural) conditions, we are now trying to speak about these conditions--yet, all the while we are within these very conditions. It seems to me that we are, as it were, like fishes trying to argue with one another about how the sea is 'really like'!

What this suggests to me is that, regardless of what one's position is on the importance of teacher/sangha/self-study, one's position is already from the start contingent upon various circumstances. By recognising the conditionality of one's own position, we might then see that there is no one definitive way of approaching the dhamma that can be equally applied to all. In the presence of certain conditions, a student might find one approach beneficial. While in the absence of certain conditions, another student might find another approach beneficial. And conditions being conditions, are anicca and anatta.

My two cents...

Well said, Ed.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby zavk » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:42 am

Peter wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:I disagree that it's a guide for finding a teacher... rather, it's a guide for finding an effective doctrine and discipline, not dissimilar to that given in the Kalama Sutta to an equally non-Buddhist audience.

There is a difference?


Ah.... again I find myself agreeing to a certain extent with both perspectives. This actually coincides with something I've been looking into recently. So if I may play devil's advocate, I'd like to attempt to expand on Peter's suggestion that the search for a teacher and the search for effective doctrine and discipline are interrelated....

I have recently read and re-read Pali/Theravada scholar Stephen Evan's essay, '‘Doubting the Kalama Sutta: Epistemology, Ethics, and the ‘Sacred’’. This essay was mentioned in a earlier thread somewhere around here about the Kalama Sutta. Tilt was kind enough to send me a copy of the essay. I find it very engaging and it is definitely worth a read if you are interested. Anyway, in this essay Evans questions the usual epistemological reading of the Kalama Sutta that interprets the Buddha's advice solely as a treatise on rational-empirical inquiry. Let me copy and paste what I have written elsewhere:

Evans begins by re-examining existing translations of key terms in the sutta to argue that the uncertainty experienced by the Kalamas is a kind of 'indecisiveness' rather than what is usually interpreted as 'doubt'. Accordingly, he argues that the Kalamas were not really asking 'What teaching is true?' but 'Whose teaching is true?' In other words, the Kalamas were not merely seeking an effective doctrine but also an effective teacher. Evans further notes that pre-existing cosmological assumptions about religious practices were condensed into ‘Who?’ such that through this simple question the Kalamas were seeking advice on the right conduct that would bring spiritual wellbeing to themselves and others (Evans 2007: 96-97). So, through the question of ‘Who?’ the Kalamas were not only asking about objective knowledge but also addressing ethical concerns.

Evans then goes on to examine the criteria given by the Buddha for accepting/rejecting a teaching (i.e.: ‘... when you yourself know: “These things are bad/good ... blameable/not blameable ... are censured/praised by the wise ...’). The Pali word that is translated as 'things' here is dhamma. The word dhamma can mean 'doctrine', 'fundamental aspects of existence', and so forth. Evans argues that in this instance it is unlikely that dhamma or 'things' refers to 'doctrine' because another word vada had already been used at the start of the sutta to refer to the doctrines of other wandering holy men. 'Things' in this instance refers to 'fundamental mindstates and actions'.

This means that an epistemological reading of the passage would be overly narrow, for ‘it is not clear what it would mean to blame or censure statements. Neither is it clear how blame or censure would bear on their truth’ (Evans 2007: 103). He further adds that the Buddha does not in fact say that one should know whether the fundamental mindstates and actions are true or false, but whether they are wholesome or unwholesome. Evans (2007: 101) thus argues, ‘We would seem rather to be in the realm of ethics than of epistemology, and the Sutta would seem to offer a model of ethical reasoning, a method rather of determining the good than the true.’

Evans also notes how later in the sutta the Buddha admits, if only tacitly, that the doctrines of kamma and rebirth can never fully be known until one attains some level of enlightenment. The Buddha appears to be saying that epistemological inquiry can only go so far and that even if we cannot prove kamma and rebirth we could nevertheless experience a virtuous life as its own reward--again we see a movement from epistemology to ethics.

-----------------------------------------------

What Evans essay reminds us is that Buddhism emerged in a context in which what is true (epistemology) and what is good (ethics) were not sharply distinguished. When the Kalama Sutta is interpreted narrowly only in epistemological terms we are overlooking the interrelationships between ethics, epistemology and possibly other categories. Similarly, we might be overlooking this interrelationship when we try to separate 'effective doctrine/discipline' and 'effective teachers' into two distinctive spheres.

In light of Evans' arguments about the interrelationships between ethics and epistemology, I would suggest that when individuals choose to place their trust in a teacher, it does not necessarily mean that they are blindly following authority. For as Evans mentions, when deciding which teacher to follow we need to observe if their teachings lead us to wholesome or unwholesome mindstates and actions. To the extent that their teachings lead us to wholesome mindstates and actions, we might then conclude that the teacher and/or the doctrine and discipline are effective. Such a mode of evaluation does not require us to give up evaluation and critical analysis (study). However, it does recognise the limits of epistemological inquiry into doctrine and discipline and shift our attention instead to ethical grounds for evaluating doctrine and discipline.

(EDIT: Oh.... hi PT, good timing! :smile: )
Last edited by zavk on Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Ben » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:53 am

Great post, Ed!
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:47 am

retrofuturist wrote:
There's no due diligence, research, investigation and analysis involved in this, only faith and destiny.


Image

Pretty scary stuff...

Metta,
Retro. :)


Good one, Retro :)

:anjali:

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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby christopher::: » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:16 am

zavk wrote:
.. the Western encounter with Buddhism in the nineteenth century opened up ways of engaging with the Dhamma. The Western academy facilitated the translation and publication of texts, and in doing so, made the teachings widely available and intelligible to a range of audience. Buddhist historians have noted that the development of Western Buddhism has blurred the lines between the monastic and lay communities, such that teachings and practices that were once restricted to ordained Buddhists are now available to lay people. This historical development, in turn, raised questions about the boundaries of authority and expertise.

Yet, this historical development that has blurred the boundaries of authority and expertise is the very same development which has provided us with the abilities to now debate questions of authority and expertise. Produced and shaped by certain (historical, social, cultural) conditions, we are now trying to speak about these conditions--yet, all the while we are within these very conditions. It seems to me that we are, as it were, like fishes trying to argue with one another about how the sea is 'really like'!

What this suggests to me is that, regardless of what one's position is on the importance of teacher/sangha/self-study, one's position is already from the start contingent upon various circumstances. By recognising the conditionality of one's own position, we might then see that there is no one definitive way of approaching the dhamma that can be equally applied to all. In the presence of certain conditions, a student might find one approach beneficial. While in the absence of certain conditions, another student might find another approach beneficial. And conditions being conditions, are anicca and anatta.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

....Evans begins by re-examining existing translations of key terms in the sutta to argue that the uncertainty experienced by the Kalamas is a kind of 'indecisiveness' rather than what is usually interpreted as 'doubt'. Accordingly, he argues that the Kalamas were not really asking 'What teaching is true?' but 'Whose teaching is true?' In other words, the Kalamas were not merely seeking an effective doctrine but also an effective teacher. Evans further notes that pre-existing cosmological assumptions about religious practices were condensed into ‘Who?’ such that through this simple question the Kalamas were seeking advice on the right conduct that would bring spiritual wellbeing to themselves and others (Evans 2007: 96-97). So, through the question of ‘Who?’ the Kalamas were not only asking about objective knowledge but also addressing ethical concerns.

Evans then goes on to examine the criteria given by the Buddha for accepting/rejecting a teaching (i.e.: ‘... when you yourself know: “These things are bad/good ... blameable/not blameable ... are censured/praised by the wise ...’). The Pali word that is translated as 'things' here is dhamma. The word dhamma can mean 'doctrine', 'fundamental aspects of existence', and so forth. Evans argues that in this instance it is unlikely that dhamma or 'things' refers to 'doctrine' because another word vada had already been used at the start of the sutta to refer to the doctrines of other wandering holy men. 'Things' in this instance refers to 'fundamental mindstates and actions'.

This means that an epistemological reading of the passage would be overly narrow, for ‘it is not clear what it would mean to blame or censure statements. Neither is it clear how blame or censure would bear on their truth’ (Evans 2007: 103). He further adds that the Buddha does not in fact say that one should know whether the fundamental mindstates and actions are true or false, but whether they are wholesome or unwholesome. Evans (2007: 101) thus argues, ‘We would seem rather to be in the realm of ethics than of epistemology, and the Sutta would seem to offer a model of ethical reasoning, a method rather of determining the good than the true.’

Evans also notes how later in the sutta the Buddha admits, if only tacitly, that the doctrines of kamma and rebirth can never fully be known until one attains some level of enlightenment. The Buddha appears to be saying that epistemological inquiry can only go so far and that even if we cannot prove kamma and rebirth we could nevertheless experience a virtuous life as its own reward--again we see a movement from epistemology to ethics.

-----------------------------------------------

What Evans essay reminds us is that Buddhism emerged in a context in which what is true (epistemology) and what is good (ethics) were not sharply distinguished. When the Kalama Sutta is interpreted narrowly only in epistemological terms we are overlooking the interrelationships between ethics, epistemology and possibly other categories. Similarly, we might be overlooking this interrelationship when we try to separate 'effective doctrine/discipline' and 'effective teachers' into two distinctive spheres.

In light of Evans' arguments about the interrelationships between ethics and epistemology, I would suggest that when individuals choose to place their trust in a teacher, it does not necessarily mean that they are blindly following authority. For as Evans mentions, when deciding which teacher to follow we need to observe if their teachings lead us to wholesome or unwholesome mindstates and actions. To the extent that their teachings lead us to wholesome mindstates and actions, we might then conclude that the teacher and/or the doctrine and discipline are effective. Such a mode of evaluation does not require us to give up evaluation and critical analysis (study). However, it does recognise the limits of epistemological inquiry into doctrine and discipline and shift our attention instead to ethical grounds for evaluating doctrine and discipline.


You raise a lot of very interesting and important points, zavk.

:namaste:
"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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Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:49 am

Greetings zavk,

Evans begins by re-examining existing translations of key terms in the sutta to argue that the uncertainty experienced by the Kalamas is a kind of 'indecisiveness' rather than what is usually interpreted as 'doubt'. Accordingly, he argues that the Kalamas were not really asking 'What teaching is true?' but 'Whose teaching is true?' In other words, the Kalamas were not merely seeking an effective doctrine but also an effective teacher.


I'm not sure whether it's the same article or not, but I've also heard it speculated that the Kalamas did indeed want to know the "who?", but not so that they could take that "who" as a teacher, but so that they could maximise the returns on their dana, by giving to those who were the most enlightened (believing that the merit generated was proportional to the spiritual greatness of the recipient).

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)


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