Teaching Dharma - Why?

  • Dharma Comarade
10 years 11 months ago #2483 by Dharma Comarade
Replied by Dharma Comarade on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?


"Why not? Haven't you ever figure out how to do something (fix the brakes on your car, cook a great quiche) and next day you just can't wait to recount how you did it, and help your brother/neighbor/friend do it next weekend?

-ona


Maybe I have experienced something like that but I didn't then set up a web site and a business and a marketing plan to promote myself as a quiche chef.

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10 years 11 months ago #2484 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
"So it's hard to get angry about."

But it is something to ponder. That's all I was intending by creating this topic. I also think messing with the mind in any way is different than fixing your car, although having non-functional brakes can kill ya!

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10 years 11 months ago #2485 by Ona Kiser
Replied by Ona Kiser on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Chris, what's the worst case scenario? Do you have some specific ones in mind?

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10 years 11 months ago #2486 by Jake St. Onge


Haven't you ever figure out how to do something (fix the brakes on your car, cook a great quiche) and next day you just can't wait to recount how you did it, and help your brother/neighbor/friend do it next weekend?
I don't think everyone who reaches out to teach is some kind of manipulative self-deluded bastard with a massive ego. I tend to think people generally have very good intentions, and act from a decent heart. Even when their acts harm others, I still think they tend to have good intentions, even if self-deluded. So it's hard to get angry about.



-ona


This is a good point though. This is exactly why I say it always has to come back to the student. A good student can learn from a bad teacher, well intentioned or not. A bad student might be able to learn from a great teacher. See, I told you I can be conservative. Personal responsibility :-)

But seriously--- people who want to set themselves up as teachers will, plain and simple. I think we've established there are myriad reasons why they might do so, and myriad reasons why the may appear to "succeed", in terms of attracting and retaining students. Many probably do it for many reasons at once. Haven't you ever figured out how to make a quiche, gone out and tried to help your friends do it out of simple enthusiasm, AND enjoyed the ego-strokes when everyone compliments your quiche baking skills?

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  • Dharma Comarade
10 years 11 months ago #2487 by Dharma Comarade
Replied by Dharma Comarade on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
I made a really good quiche once but everyone ate it up and then I lost the recipe.

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10 years 11 months ago #2488 by Ona Kiser
Replied by Ona Kiser on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
OMG I think I totally agree with you Jake. :D

The fact is, a (good?) student learns from everything. Every movement, interaction, person, place, thing, experience, perception is "fodder for the meditation machine" as my main teacher is fond of saying. And every (etc listed previously) is an expression of divine consciousness or whatever you want to call it. In another way, "every moment is equally worthy of mindfulness," as another teacher I spend occasional time with once had us ponder.

Now that said, I wouldn't be spouting dharma crap (see above) if I hadn't gone to those teachers and had them point things out that I would otherwise have wandered by without seeing or missed due to obsessing about something else. :)

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10 years 11 months ago #2489 by Ona Kiser
Replied by Ona Kiser on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
PS, I put "(good?)" there for a reason - because I don't know. What's a good student? Do I mean experienced students? Dedicated students? I have no idea. Your thoughts appreciated.

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10 years 11 months ago #2490 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
"Chris, what's the worst case scenario?"

Ona, I think one worst case example that happens but is not frequent is an incompetent teacher with little experience taking advantage of a student with serious issues that might be debilitating, and instead of telling that student to get help from a competent mental health professional just taking the student's money and ignoring the real need. Second -- the guru effect, folks getting into what amount to cults under the guise of being devotees of this or that guru. Third, an incompetent teacher just wasting other people's time and money.

All of those things happen, not all the time, of course, but enough to make me think about this issue.

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10 years 11 months ago #2491 by Kate Gowen
Replied by Kate Gowen on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?


PS, I put "(good?)" there for a reason - because I don't know. What's a good student? Do I mean experienced students? Dedicated students? I have no idea. Your thoughts appreciated.


-ona


A 'good' student is relentless, and cannot be denied learning from everyone and everything: W's 'pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.' [cf that bit about 'bad teachers' / good students, with special reference to W] A good student won't stop, won't quit-- there's no telling what will be useful in terms of specifics; but in general, the most useful teacher will be perceptive about the student and open to inspired improvisation-- more concerned with effectively communicating to the student than with being acknowledged by anyone for their brilliance, or correctness, or charisma. Turned at a slight angle-- a good teacher will not be seduced by the gratitude, or flattery, that students often offer up in lieu of slogging ahead with the change that their practice demands.

However, one sees a great deal more verbiage from 'goody two-shoes' students; and certainly, from a fair number of teachers who overestimate their abilities. This seems more characteristic of the self-anointed bereft of an ongoing relationship to their own teachers...

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10 years 11 months ago #2492 by Jake St. Onge


OMG I think I totally agree with you Jake. :D
The fact is, a (good?) student learns from everything. Every movement, interaction, person, place, thing, experience, perception is "fodder for the meditation machine" as my main teacher is fond of saying. And every (etc listed previously) is an expression of divine consciousness or whatever you want to call it. In another way, "every moment is equally worthy of mindfulness," as another teacher I spend occasional time with once had us ponder.
Now that said, I wouldn't be spouting dharma crap (see above) if I hadn't gone to those teachers and had them point things out that I would otherwise have wandered by without seeing or missed due to obsessing about something else. :)


-ona

hahaha :-) ... yes. And so there's one criteria for "good teacher" we've found: someone who brings out the "good" in the student. Because this (practice, life, realization) takes everything on some level, a total commitment. Or at least, the wisdom that you take is equal to the wisdom that you make, or something. You can't be a part-time practitioner and expect full-time fruits.

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10 years 11 months ago #2493 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
"... the most useful teacher will be perceptive about the student and open to inspired improvisation-- more concerned with effectively communicating to the student than with being acknowledged by anyone for their brilliance, or correctness, or charisma. Turned at a slight angle-- a good teacher will not be seduced by the gratitude, or flattery, that students often offer up in lieu of slogging ahead with the change that their practice demands."

I think that's going to be a fairly rare quality not normally found in those who might just throw up a "Dharma Teacher" page on the web. The words "vetting" "discipline" and "experience" come to mind here. These are qualities that aren't the product of attainment or long practice by itself. They're a combination of skill, some intuition and hard work.

(I'm sure I'm making all kinds of friends by saying this but I think it needs to be said and thought about, not dismissed lightly and not made fully the student's responsibility.)

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10 years 11 months ago #2494 by Jake St. Onge



A 'good' student is relentless, and cannot be denied learning from everyone and everything: W's 'pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.' [...] there's no telling what will be useful in terms of specifics; but in general, the most useful teacher will be perceptive about the student and open to inspired improvisation-- more concerned with effectively communicating to the student than with being acknowledged by anyone for their brilliance, or correctness, or charisma. Turned at a slight angle-- a good teacher will not be seduced by the gratitude, or flattery, that students often offer up in lieu of slogging ahead with the change that their practice demands.

-kategowen


Very. Nice.

That's the key to this whole thing for me, and I say this from experience, not from theory: whatever experience I have a hard time seeing as a learning experience, that's where I need to look, that's where I've really got an opportunity to learn. The sticking points. The obstacles. That's where I need to take a closer look. The shift from complacency/oblivion in this regard to manifesting at least a sincere intention to look at these murky areas is the single factor that made my practice really come alive, far more than any technique or even coaching. It was this shift in attitude. I need to remember this. It is allowing this attitude to eat and digest every last drop of every single moment that moves my practice forward.

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10 years 11 months ago #2495 by Ona Kiser
Replied by Ona Kiser on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
"This seems more characteristic of the self-anointed bereft of an ongoing relationship to their own teachers..."

Well, there's something useful. Every teacher learned from some other people. Often there is some indication of this on their website ("so and so studied with Guru X for 15 years, and has been asked to teach by him"). Or there might be testimonials from colleagues, saying how good a teacher so and so is. Or, in parallel, some teacher's websites will list their students who have been asked to teach. Those seem like pretty simple ways to check a teacher's references.

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10 years 11 months ago #2496 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
This seems to fit into this topic well enough. It's a long read (I have not read the entire thing yet myself) but it is, apparently, drawing the ire of some, Brad Warner, for example:

http://notwoo.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/the-new-improved-buddhist-council-now-with-more-enzymes-lather-and-added-vitamins/

Snippets:

"The question that keeps coming up for me is why this
has been organized in such an under-the-table sort of way. Should we not
celebrate this great meeting of minds as a step forward in Western convert
Buddhism? Should we not at least mention it a little earlier than a week before
it gets under way? Sure it may have been on the Institute’s calendar for some
months but a few lines on a tertiary webpage of some obscure retreat center is
hardly an announcement. Particularly since Shambhala Sun staff have been involved
in setting this up for years. Should we not also mention who is attending? By
not doing so makes the whole thing appear either irrelevant to the Maha sangha
in the West or somehow surreptitious. If it’s only to avoid inviting Brad
Warner or other non-traditional folk then that’s a rather insecure perspective
and frankly rather childish. One would
think that mature adults, particularly adult practitioners of Buddhism and even
more so teachers who take the moniker of “Elders” would be able to say “No” if
that was the necessary response to circumstances.




There’s a lot of these future of Western Buddhism meetings
and conferences going around these days. Buddhist Geeks is one that comes to
mind. There will be some presentations from around 2 dozen presenters and
participation is open to anyone who can afford a trip to Los Angeles, lodging,
conference fees etc. And with the technical skills of the Geeks folks quite
likely much of it will appear on the Internet for all to enjoy, learn from and
even criticize. Despite the oft repeated phrase of this group being about “the
emerging face of Buddhism”, the primarily upper class and dominant culture (aka
mostly white people) element and the Integral push that is well represented,
there’s not much about it that either excites me or gives me the vapors in any
sort of serious way. The one big reservation I have about it is with having
Jane McGonigal, gamification evangelist, included. I realize she had a book
that was all cutting edge a couple of months back so there’s a certain geekish
panache involved but I find her perspective not only unrelated to anything
having to do with Buddhism but rather antithetical to it. Do we really need
another layer of illusion woven atop of the Samsara we already know and love.
And just because someone meditates occasionally, that does not make them a
Buddhist any more than someone who changes a light bulb occasionally is an
electrician. I’ve read her book and am
finishing up reading her academic papers so an explanation of my objections to
what she preaches as well as the move togamification in general will be
forthcoming some time in the future."

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10 years 11 months ago #2497 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Here's how I found that stuff -- on Brad Warner's blog:

http://suicidegirlsblog.com/blog/brad-warners-hardcore-zen-uninvited-to-the-buddhist-party/

Snippet:

“Oh nice. A self-selected group of important Buddhists get together to decide what’s best for the rest of us. Gatherings like this worry me a lot. The intent is to create a unified sense of what Buddhism ought to be. It’s like trying to create a unified sense of what art ought to be. Very Soviet sounding to me.” This generated a lot of commentary and crosstalk that’s still going on even as I type this.

And this (!):

"While I am not really The Beatles of Buddhism — that would be the Dalai Lama — or even The Rolling Stones (Thich Nhat Hanh), I think I am arguably The Who or maybe The Kinks of Buddhism, at least in America. That is to say, by any measure I can come up with, I am well within the top 230 most popular and influential writer/teachers of contemporary Buddhism. I have four books out through two major publishing houses, and those are available in pretty much any Eastern Religions section in any bookstore anywhere in the country. I’ve even seen my books in airport bookstores. I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing. But it’s a fact.

So, without any inside information into the selection process for this event, I can say with complete certainty that the organizers are aware of my work. I wasn’t passed over merely because they didn’t know who I was or because I didn’t make the cut in terms of being recognized by the community. I think it’s safe to assume that I was at some point considered for being invited but then rejected. I wonder why."

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10 years 11 months ago #2498 by cruxdestruct
Replied by cruxdestruct on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Man, I really think Brad's been spiraling out these last few years. Unfortunately the whole ass-kicking punk-rock bodhisattva shtick has its own double edge.

I mean, if I read that last quote coming from some other pop culture writer, I would already think they were vain, a little deluded, and paranoid. Coming from a supposed expert dharma practitioner, it's just sad.

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10 years 11 months ago #2499 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
You need to read the whole blog to get the full gist of the thing.

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10 years 11 months ago #2500 by cruxdestruct
Replied by cruxdestruct on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Yeah, I read it. Frankly, one hears that 'I'm just concerned that a self-selected clique is going to have undue influence without fairly representing outside voices' from the bruised vanities of the uninvited all the time, in every context. It's the standard line. I mean, look, Noah Levine and Josh Korda are going to this thing. Josh mentioned this week that he was going to a big Buddhist teachers conference; the most prominent thing on his mind seemed to be that he was kind of apprehensive to be in a room with so many super laid-back West Coast types. If there is indeed some kind of Continental Congress aspect to this thing, he didn't mention it. But in any case, my point is that I can think of at least two tattooed punk rock freaks who are in attendance right now. So the objective concern, that voices are not being heard, can only be true in a realllly subtle way.

So what's left beside that? The fact that these people will emerge with some orthodoxy, some consensus that sands off interesting edges, that will be imposed on others? Brad admits himself he doesn't have any actual evidence that this is the point, aside from a general sense that that's just what happens at big industry conferences. So if that's just the nature of industry conferences, why get particularly upset about this one?

The post is trying to drive home this concept that the American Buddhist establishment is being close-minded, dogmatic, conservative, not punk rock enough by holding this particular conference, with this particular agenda and these particular attendees. But the ONLY actually factually notable thing I can see cited about it is that Brad Warner wasn't invited. Listen, for all I know he HAS pissed off the establishment. I'm sure he thinks it's because he's a non-conformist truth-teller. But through that entire post, I just keep seeing really flimsy veneers for a basic deeply wounded vanity that he's been coasting on for a good while now.

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10 years 11 months ago #2501 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Devil's Advocate position:

What if a bunch of big time, prominent dharma teachers are getting together in a secretive way to "set the agenda" for Buddhism in America, and plan to use their influence over the major Buddhist periodicals (Tricycle, etc.) to drive an agenda that they create in a conspiratorial manner?

Just askin' ....

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10 years 11 months ago #2502 by cruxdestruct
Replied by cruxdestruct on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
You mean like this? 'One of their retreats offers “nonsectarian universal wisdom for people of all backgrounds” so that’s perhaps the direction of the future of Buddhism. Mild, deodorized, mediocre, watered down, beige, tasteless and certainly not too challenging. And yes the “beige” has more than one meaning.'

I mean, obviously I don't really see why or how that could happen. But devil's advocate? The only way it would affect my practice is if they held down my teacher while he was there and lobotomized him.

The bulk of Western practice is so decentralized. We don't have creeds and articles of faith. We don't have loyalty oaths. So this imagined beige orthodoxy (and I must stress how ludicrous and self-serving I find the leap from the existence of this meeting to such a reductivist, bad-faith reading of these people's priorities) will not have very long tentacles, even if Tricycle becomes the official party mouthpiece. There's not a single one of my practitioner friends who reads Tricycle. The new Garrison Cabal would have to send their agents all the way to Thailand, to Chithurst, to Amaravati, and extract a vow of orthodoxy from the Ajahns whose talks I listen to.

If you wanted to continue your advocatus diabolism, you might say, well what about new practitioners, or people interested in the dharma? What about when somebody goes looking for their own path and the first google result is the official beige creed of the American Buddhist High Council? My answer is: it'd be more or less the same as it is now. Practitioners always have to fight against the stream. Sturgeon's law applies here: 90% of everything is crud. First you're born into Western society, and you have to fight to think there's something wrong. Then you fight to find Buddhism. But then once you find Buddhism, you still have to struggle to find a practice that suits you, you still have to struggle to find a good teacher, you still have to struggle to associate with diligent practitioners, and you still have to struggle with yourself every step of the way. These are all against the stream. The dharma is always there for people who are looking for it, and there's always a thousand 'dharma burgers', too. Gey gezunterheyt.

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10 years 11 months ago #2503 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Did you read the other blog article?

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10 years 11 months ago #2504 by cruxdestruct
Replied by cruxdestruct on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Yeah, whence my pull quote.

I mean, look, in response to the blog article in general: there's a reason that none of my practitioner friends read Tricycle. If that author just wants to rail against the forces of conservatism in Western Buddhism, I wish them all the luck in the world. I, of all people, have very little respect for any element of monoculture, mediocrity, or lowest-common-denominator thinking in my practice. You want to talk about pretentiousness, conservatism? Go nuts. I'm right there with you. But it's a good many bridges too far when you start intimating that Brad Warner has been purposefully excluded from this meeting—indeed, that its entire strategy of rollout and publicity was so secretive and sketchy just so that nobody would notice he wasn't invited (until it was too late!)—because of a conspiracy to unleash a new homogenized, boring Buddhism on the world. It's a conference. Conferences are usually at least 45% bullshit. All the fight-the-power trappings around that fact just make Brad look like someone who devotes far too much energy to how he is perceived on the international stage.

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10 years 11 months ago #2505 by Chris Marti
Replied by Chris Marti on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Feel free to tell us what you really think...

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10 years 11 months ago #2506 by Ona Kiser
Replied by Ona Kiser on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
"The bulk of Western practice is so decentralized. We don't have
creeds and articles of faith. We don't have loyalty oaths. So this
imagined beige orthodoxy (and I must stress how ludicrous and
self-serving I find the leap from the existence of this meeting to such a
reductivist, bad-faith reading of these people's priorities) will not
have very long tentacles, even if Tricycle becomes the official party
mouthpiece. ...you might say, well what
about new practitioners, or people interested in the dharma? What about
when somebody goes looking for their own path and the first google
result is the official beige creed of the American Buddhist High
Council? My answer is: it'd be more or less the same as it is now. ...The
dharma is always there for people who are looking for it, and there's
always a thousand 'dharma burgers', too. "

Said far better than I could. I agree 100%.

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  • Dharma Comarade
10 years 11 months ago #2507 by Dharma Comarade
Replied by Dharma Comarade on topic Teaching Dharma - Why?
Turns out Warner WAS invited to the big Budhhist teacher gathering:

http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/06/appologies-to-garrison-institute.html

He apologized here, and then reiterated his concerns about the meeting.

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