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TOPIC: The importance of a teacher

The importance of a teacher 11 Jan 2015 13:02 #97083

That Daniel Ingram quote was a great inspiration to me for a few years when I felt like I had nothing else. I do believe that the words therein, combined with discipline and no small amount of patience, can get one far (and seeing as this is a complete projection of my own experience, I would add that some experience with psychedelics and well as a lot of multi-day solo forays into the wilderness are also helpful).

That said I don't think anyone would discount the benefits of a personal relationship with a knowledgable, experienced, and qualified teacher. But therein lies the rub -- it's only very recently that such resources have become available to anyone with skype and a credit/debit card. It's so fascinating to consider that the past five years or so are such a small swath of human history.

My own experience with personal teachers cannot hold a candle to the helpfulness of MCTB, the gold mine that was Kenneth's old website, Rob Burbea talks on dharma seed, and the advice I have received from fellow practitioners here. In their own ways, Chris, Russell, Shargrol, Ona, Laurel, Jackson, Nikolai and others I am forgetting now have all been invaluable resources (and if you're reading this and saying "What is this guy talking about? I've never corresponded with him", rest assured that your practice journals have been inspiring and most helpful).

In terms of teachers, I've had problems with access to qualified instructors, as well as issues within traditions that make it difficult to transmit information. The one sangha I spent the most time with and felt a kinship with for a time cranked out Meditation Instructors like a small army, but it felt like most of these were just parroting the words of the guru, many had trouble maintaining their own daily practice, and any sort of results-oriented or milestone oriented questions were met with gentle pseudo-accusations of spiritual materialism. On retreats with other traditions, there's just not enough time of access to really get the specific information one needs.

That all said, I've never actually fired up the skype and taken advantage of what I know to be out there. Thus far, I've been able to progress on my own with the aid of fellow practitioners here, dharma talks, and the right texts. It's wonderful to know that if I ever find myself completely stuck or going off the rails, I live in a time where great instruction is a possibility.
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The importance of a teacher 16 Mar 2015 04:51 #98061

Jim wrote:
And then there's this:

"Be a light unto yourself! This means that the essential thing is practice. You do not need a teacher to tell you to practice with precise, every-second of the waking day mindfulness, direct perception of the Three Characteristics, and consistent technique, as you can remind yourself of this. You do not need someone else to tell you not to wallow in your psychological crap, as you can remember this yourself. You do not need a teacher to identify the stages of insight for you, as they tend to be obvious, occur in a very predictable sequence, and the instructions for dealing with them are essentially the same: keep practicing, notice each sensation come and go regardless of what it was...if you can remember and apply a very few key instructions, any reasonably good retreat center will do. The few minutes that you get every day or two with a teacher, no matter how good, will mean little if you can't remember and apply these simple instructions. Thus, internalize the dharma, keep your practice on track, use good teachers if you can find them, but above all, realize that responsibility for the quality and results of your own practice falls on you. This is not kindergarten...

...in general I feel that people need to do it for themselves. My book contains a staggering amount of practical information, as do many others, there are numerous places to do the kind of long-term practice that makes all this stuff clear to the person who does that practice. If you are looking outside for answers, the best answers you will get from the "outside" will send you back to your practice. Whatever brief interaction we have, it will be trivial in comparison to investigative practice done well, though clearly there are times when people (including me) benefit from good dharma exchanges..."

And whilst there is a lot of truth to Daniel Ingram's words here, I can think of a few contemporary people, who it seems benefitted immensely from the more traditional student-teacher relationship. At least, early on in their practice anyhow. I'm thinking of Thanissaro Bhikkhu - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko (who himself had a teacher in Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo). Then there's Ajahn Sumedho - Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Brahm - Ajahn Chah. Bound to be more good teachers out there, who themselves had good teachers.

I don't know much about Daniel's own teacher-student relationships. Maybe he never had any long term 1on1s with a particular individual. But, correct me if I'm wrong he does refer to Bill Hamilton as a big influence. Plus I read him say somewhere that when he was Anagami and on retreat at MBMC, Sayadaw U Pandita Jr pushed and prodded him a little help him over the line. Quite possible Daniel would have got there anyway sooner or later without any further encouragement from someone else.

If the Buddha had not arisen when he did, would all those beings who had "just a little dust in their eyes" have awoken by themselves?
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The importance of a teacher 16 Mar 2015 05:31 #98062

I just came across this thread today - thanks Teague - which is kinda neat because for some reason I've been thinking over the last couple of weeks how I could probably well do with the advice/guidance of a good teacher.
Wondering how to go about finding one.
Feel like I've been largely floundering over the last 13 years or so.

Bit like Teague, I starred out in the Goenka tradition where, as he says "they are lacking somewhat in the personal teacher department". Agreed.
Then, I moved towards the Mahasi noting after being recommended to read MCTB. Most of my instruction has been whilst on retreat in Thailand and more recently Burma, wherein you don't benefit from any ongoing guidance once you've left.
The only other advice has been through the DhO forums. And very recently here too.
The online forums are good but I'm still trying to get used to this form of communication.
Is it just me?
I must say, I do find it a bit strange sometimes conversing with someone who's probably half way round other side of the world and using a weird screen name and fancy Avatar picture. Sometimes I'm not even sure if they are male/female not that it should matter if what they have to say is useful and relevant.

Still though, I wonder how does anyone go about finding a suitable teacher in the more conventional sense. Meeting someone for real would be ideal of course (if your lucky enough to find someone in your local - London anyone? It's a pretty populous city so possible) but I guess Skype is the way these days....
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The importance of a teacher 16 Mar 2015 21:55 #98067

Russell wrote:
How many of you are using Linux right now to view this forum?

CentOS 7.
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The importance of a teacher 16 Mar 2015 21:57 #98068

Piers Mackeown wrote:
Still though, I wonder how does anyone go about finding a suitable teacher in the more conventional sense. Meeting someone for real would be ideal of course (if your lucky enough to find someone in your local - London anyone? It's a pretty populous city so possible) but I guess Skype is the way these days....

I greatly benefited from my Skype session with Kenneth. Long, long account here: http://spiritualawakening.ca/bc-christian-awakening.shtml I only had the one, but I think some people check in with him every few weeks, or even every week, if they're practicing intensively.
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The importance of a teacher 17 Mar 2015 19:52 #98075

Piers Mackeown wrote:
... Meeting someone for real would be ideal of course (if your lucky enough to find someone in your local - London anyone? It's a pretty populous city so possible) but I guess Skype is the way these days....

I can refer you to some friends in London who are serious pragmatic dharma practitioners. I think they have a meetup sometimes, and would know which retreats or teachers to recommend locally, if any (I don't know who they study with, or if they work with formal teachers, but they are sane, serious meditators).
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The importance of a teacher 17 Mar 2015 20:33 #98076

Neat Ona!
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The importance of a teacher 20 Mar 2015 13:00 #98099

Here's a peculiar view of the subject: you don't know the importance of a teacher until you're staring down the barrel of losing one. Then, it's not an abstract prospect to be debated; it's a visceral recognition. Chogyam Trungpa wrote vividly-- even before his brief encounters and roaring grief over Suzuki's death-- about the 'only father guru.' Something like T.S. Eliot with his "you are here to kneel where prayer has been valid." We need 'heroes,' figures in our lives worthy of our respect and gratitude, and even reverence. We need them to liberate our own capacities for these transformations.

Maybe that's a blue-collar description of "transmission."
Last Edit: 20 Mar 2015 13:01 by Kate Gowen. Reason: correct spelling
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