Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby PeterB » Sat Sep 12, 2009 5:12 pm

christopher::: wrote: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:

What I wote was my own attempt to address your points here :thumbsup:

But I appear to have misunderstood...

:anjali:
PeterB
 
Posts: 3903
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby christopher::: » Sat Sep 12, 2009 10:45 pm

There was nothing wrong with anything you said, Peter. It was just that its not good for me to spend too much time at the computer at a single stretch, or to think my illusory self has to always respond immediately to every post aimed in my direction. Its a troublesome habit i've been trying to address. My local world calls, was calling, when we were talking a few hours ago. Wife, children, dish washing, meditation cushion, pillow, bed (in that order)...

It was already past midnight by then.

Your friendship has been a blessing, and your views frequently quite insightful.

((( :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
User avatar
christopher:::
 
Posts: 1323
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 12:56 am

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Sep 13, 2009 1:54 am

christopher::: wrote:Well, yes of course, Sangha is essential. And from Sangha we find teachers, without which we are not going to be able to learn key methods, get ourselves going properly. Like learning to drive a car, or tune and play a guitar. We need guidance, an advanced practitioner observing, guiding, right by our side...

Yes, because it's so easy to be deluded about what one is doing...
christopher::: wrote:I agree 100% about the social support of a Sangha, how crucial that is. It's just a question of how much one-to-one hands on guidance may be needed, and for how long. I do wonder sometimes about a kind of dependency relationship some people get into, with a sense of pride developing for being a student of so-and-so, belonging to the so-and-so school, etc... On the fast track! An elite system, special... There's a danger there...

This is a bit of a straw man argument, isn't it? Do you actually know people in real life who have this problem? Do you think it would something that would happen to you?
christopher::: wrote:But also a great potential benefit, if one's teacher is really gifted, does teach a method that works, is truly guiding students skillfully- as the Buddha did- so that they learn how to apply the wisdom. Doesnt it really depend on the person, the teacher, motivation, karma, life situations?

I think you are veering to an extreme here. A teacher doesn't have to be gifted, or famous, or whatever. They just have to be reasonably good. The couple of primary long-term monastic teachers that I have had are not famous, and I suspect that there are thousands of others out there of similar skill level. I've done short workshops or retreats with more famous monks, which is nice, and stimulating, but I don't have any particular urge to seek out the "best teacher in the world". A good, local, accessible teacher is, for me, more useful than a "superstar" because they know me, and can challenge me more specifically.

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10396
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby christopher::: » Sun Sep 13, 2009 2:52 am

mikenz66 wrote:A teacher doesn't have to be gifted, or famous, or whatever. They just have to be reasonably good. The couple of primary long-term monastic teachers that I have had are not famous, and I suspect that there are thousands of others out there of similar skill level. I've done short workshops or retreats with more famous monks, which is nice, and stimulating, but I don't have any particular urge to seek out the "best teacher in the world". A good, local, accessible teacher is, for me, more useful than a "superstar" because they know me, and can challenge me more specifically.



Well said, Mike. I totally agree. I was kind of trying to say something similar, but stumbled a bit.

It was late last night when i was posting, overstretching with un-needed examples, building straw arguments... I was making reference to people i've bumped into online elsewhere, no one here. But some things i said would have been better off edited out.

I'm thinking i need to set a time, like perhaps 10 or 11pm, after which i don't even come near the computer.

:computerproblem:
"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
User avatar
christopher:::
 
Posts: 1323
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 12:56 am

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby piper » Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:28 am

mikenz66 wrote:
christopher::: wrote:Well, yes of course, Sangha is essential. And from Sangha we find teachers, without which we are not going to be able to learn key methods, get ourselves going properly. Like learning to drive a car, or tune and play a guitar. We need guidance, an advanced practitioner observing, guiding, right by our side...

Yes, because it's so easy to be deluded about what one is doing...

If I may butt in, I was thinking about this today. If it is so easy then might not a teacher also falter in this way and compound the problem. If it is not so easy to delude oneself, say for example that it is easy to tell if you're stressed or basically suffering, then isn't the teacher overkill, or at least not really serving that particular service. And if you were to count on someone else to keep you on the straight and narrow for too long, wouldn't that weaken your own ability to do it yourself?
piper
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:45 pm

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:37 am

I am not sure where this quote is from but I know it is Ajahn Chah.

he said as a teacher he is like a man watching blind men walking down a path trying to stay in the middle, it is his job as the one with sight to shout left a little or right a little to keep them on the path and not fall of it

it is from memory so I do appologise if it isnt exact or close to the quote, but I feel the essence is there!
basically the teacher isn't telling anyone to do or not to do anything they are there to give advice when it is needed, the teacher can not walk the students path nor can they do anything but give some advice, it is still the students job to see if the advice is good or not, and walk the path.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5751
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:10 am

Here is the Ajahn Chah Quote:
http://nirvanahappens.com/A%20Still%20F ... rt%205.htm
Go Left, Go Right

A Western monk at WatBa Pong became frustrated by the difficulties of practice and the detailed and seemingly arbitrary rules of conduct the monks had to follow. He began to criticize other monks for sloppy practice and to doubt the wisdom of Achaan Chah's teaching. At one point, he went to Achaan Chah and complained, noting that even Achaan Chah himself was inconsistent and seemed often to contradict him self in an unenlightened way.

Achaan Chah just laughed and pointed out how much the monk was suffering by trying to judge others around him. Then he explained that his way of teaching is very simple: "It is as though I see people walking down a road I know well. To them the way may be unclear. I look up and see someone about to fall into a ditch on the right-hand side of the road, so I call out to him, 'Go left, go left' Similarly, if I see another person about to fall into a ditch on the left, I call out, 'Go right, go right!' That is the extent of my teaching. Whatever extreme you get caught in, whatever you get attached to, I say, 'Let go of that too.' Let go on the left, let go on the right. Come back to the center, and you will arrive at the true Dharma. "

This, and various other stories about, and quotes from, Ajahn Chah show how dangerous it is to pick one of his quotes (such as the perennial: "The Dhamma of the Buddha is not found in books") and think of it as "Ajahn Chah's opinion". Ajahn Tiradhammo often says somthing along the lines of: Ajahn Chah didn't have opinions, there was just wisdom applying itself to the current situation.

And that's the great thing about a real-life teacher. As in the Ajahn Chah quote above they can see where you are having problems and tell you to stop doing dumb stuff...

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10396
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:50 am

Hi Mike thanks for the exact quote!
one thing though, the same could be said for quoting anything, or anyone! even the Suttas.
quotes are chosen, not necesarily for the reason the person said or wrote something but because it emphasises a point.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5751
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Sep 16, 2009 3:43 am

Manapa wrote:...the same could be said for quoting anything, or anyone! even the Suttas.
quotes are chosen, not necesarily for the reason the person said or wrote something but because it emphasises a point.

That is of course true, but in the Suttas there is quite a lot of consistency. At least in advice to particular types of people - the advice to monks is rather different from the advice to lay people.

And in Ajahn Chah's case this "left/right" thing can often be understood if you know a little about the background. For example, as I recall, one of the transcribed talks where he said that the Dhamma can't be found in books was addressed to someone who was an expert on Abhidhamma. On the other hand, he had Ajahn Brahm study Pali and do translations of parts of the Vinaya. It's likely that he had studied quite a lot in his several years as a monastic before he went off on his wanderings in 1946 so I would take his "no books" statements with a grain of salt.

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10396
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:03 am

This is true every monk would need to study to some degree in order to know the teachings, but as with the Book quote it may not of been said because the monk was an Abhiddhamma expert but because his understanding of the Dhamma wasn't becomming refined because he relied on the books, instead of using them as a tool, his Dhamma unlike the Buddhas came from Books.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5751
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:39 am

Manapa wrote:... his Dhamma unlike the Buddhas came from Books.

Yes but don't forget that our Dhamma comes from the Buddha via either books or personal instruction...

Not having developed the paramis that the Buddha had, it is not possible to do it on our own...

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10396
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Sanghamitta » Wed Sep 16, 2009 8:11 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Manapa wrote:...the same could be said for quoting anything, or anyone! even the Suttas.
quotes are chosen, not necesarily for the reason the person said or wrote something but because it emphasises a point.

That is of course true, but in the Suttas there is quite a lot of consistency. At least in advice to particular types of people - the advice to monks is rather different from the advice to lay people.

And in Ajahn Chah's case this "left/right" thing can often be understood if you know a little about the background. For example, as I recall, one of the transcribed talks where he said that the Dhamma can't be found in books was addressed to someone who was an expert on Abhidhamma. On the other hand, he had Ajahn Brahm study Pali and do translations of parts of the Vinaya. It's likely that he had studied quite a lot in his several years as a monastic before he went off on his wanderings in 1946 so I would take his "no books" statements with a grain of salt.
Metta
Mike


You are quite right Mike66. When Luang Por Chahs remarks were widely reproduced he became concerned that they were being taken out of context by those who did not care for Sutta study etc. So he sought to redress the balance with analogies like the " left right " example above. He himself had a very thorough grasp of the Tripitaka, as does Luang Por Sumedho..

There are still some of us who were around when Luang Por addressed this issue, but who are not yet so decrepit that we forget what he said... :smile:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
Sanghamitta
 
Posts: 1614
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:21 am
Location: By the River Thames near London.

Re: Sangha or Teacher: Which is Most Essential?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:13 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Manapa wrote:... his Dhamma unlike the Buddhas came from Books.

Yes but don't forget that our Dhamma comes from the Buddha via either books or personal instruction...

Not having developed the paramis that the Buddha had, it is not possible to do it on our own...

Metta
Mike


That is why Kalyanamittas are the whole of the path.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
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."
User avatar
Cittasanto
 
Posts: 5751
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:31 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Previous

Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bakmoon, Exabot [Bot], ftw, Nicolas and 2 guests