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teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?

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I have found the "hardcore" teaching style advocated by Daniel to be most useful to me. And, I strongly believe that whatever "enlightened people/meditation masters" achieved, can be argued for and described in the contemporary language and references as well.

If nothing else, it is hard to dispute that training one's attention and perception is useful for one's life no matter what one does. I certainly can derive the need for my training in these skills from my life experiences complemented by some pragmatic reading in science.

(Why would I need to know anything about Buddhist teachings when I want to train basic brain functions? I do not need to know suttas to understand that being more attentive and perceptive can be of huge benefit - and that maybe being very skilled in these areas can lead to something very interesting. - but please do not get sidetracked by this note :-) 

To borrow a quote from MCTB2 : "One side of me very much wants to write something that is purely secular, utterly devoid of any explicit reference to any ancient frameworks, totally scrubbed of anything religious, and free of any term that is in any way alien to the predominant linguistic sensibilities in the area of the world where I reside. Were this book free from those terms, I naively imagine that it could serve as a general textbook in schools and for scientific study without raising any red flags related to its religious and spiritual references."

  1. Have somebody actually already written a book like that? (In my opinion The Mind Illuminated comes pretty close. A lot in his book is already quite "scrubbed of anything religious", even though Yates himself clearly is a Buddhist 
  2. Can you point me to other teachers with an intelligent "hardcore" style like D. Ingram, and maybe K. Folk (have not tried his consultations yet)? (I have recently been on a week long retreat with Ch. Titmuss, and my observation is that nowadays his teaching style is very much on the soft side. He used most of the time in his talks to talk about politics, environment, psychology, buddhism, etc. In one on one talks with him, I barely managed to talk about my practice as he asked me about my experience with an another tibetan teacher, and my work with anxiety. Which was not something I cared about too much. 30 out of 30 other retreatants used their time to talk publicaly in group about their life issues and psychology. This is not to knock anybody down, we all have our psychological trips at different times. And also I am not saying Titmuss is a "bad teacher". It just seems to me he has different goals, approach to what I need. It's simply my observation.)
I understand that most skilled teachers have "more styles" in them, and they just teach with a style most people relate to. (I can imagine that "hardcore" training in attention and perception is not the most people friendly approach.)

      3. But where are teachers/communities/retreats where this simple focus on training of attention and perception is a standard? (and I do not need to specially ask for it or explain to anybody why I have no need to talk about my psychological stuff or what I think about buddhism/dharma during the time I decided to devote to training of fundamental mental faculties)

I'm pretty sure you can't do much better than Vincent Horn (who Kenneth Folk teaches with periodically):

RE: teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?
6/2/19 10:06 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thank you Chris. I see that V. Horn is also from the Bill Hamilton/D. Ingram/K. Folk "lineage". 

So are we saying these teachers are as "hardcore dharma" as it gets?

It's hard for me to imagine that there are no teachers or books by now in the west that would teach in a "purely secular, utterly devoid of any explicit reference to any ancient frameworks, totally scrubbed of anything religious, and free of any term that is in any way alien to the predominant linguistic sensibilities in the area of the world where I reside."


So you have two needs:

1) Secular. For this, I would recomment Shinzen's system. Certainly more tradition-independent than MCTB and TMI, both of which are very Buddhist texts.

2) Hardcore. This part is rather ambigous. What does that mean for you?

- Is suggesting people to do four-hour strong determination sits every day in every retreat 'hardcore'?

- Is using linear maps of awakening and practicing in a very goal-oriented manner 'hardcore'?

- Is making specific claims to attainment 'hardcore'?

- Is doing regular all-night sits to induce sleep deprivation 'hardcore'?

Do notice that Daniel's approach to practice is not hardcore based on 50% of these criteria. So what is it that you found beneficial or appealing in MCTB exactly?

RE: teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?
6/4/19 5:19 AM as a reply to neko.
Hi Neko,

Word "hardcore" is used as D. Ingram often uses his concept of "core teachings of the Buddha". (It has little to do with how long one sits.)

Word "secular" is kind of ambiguous (for many people it just means non-monastic), so I will describe in a bit more detail what would be a good teacher/retreat style for me - and it is simple. 
  • a good teacher would be a pragmatic agnostic with deep personal knowledge of training techniques in attention/concentration and perception/peripheral awareness
  • teacher would be highly skilled in (or at least knowledgable of) techniques from several mystic traditions, but also from other fields where expectional attention and awareness is needed (think pilots, sports, warriors, etc.)
  • if the person is a follower of Buddha dharma (or other mystic tradition), he/she would stay focused in his talks on the details of meditation techniques not not general dharma, not social commentary, not relationships, not psychological issues of participants, not his/her politcal or enviromental agenda
The last retreat I went to bordered on false advertising :-) The retreat was advertised as "An insight meditation retreat" where "This classical Vipassana retreat will include comprehensive meditation instructions in Vipassana (Insight) meditation"And it was with a very senior Western secular teacher who is enlightened according to his peers. The "comprehensive meditation instructions" in that week long retreat could fit on a A4, and were the very definition of elementary, and instead he talked about all the other stuff.

Strangely (to me)...everybody seemed to be very much happy with that, so I guess I am the one who does not undestand what "comprehensive meditation instructions" mean today.

Metaphorically, this training was supposed to be training in shooting 3-pointers (basketball reference ; ), and instead of the detailed instructions on how to get better at that particular skill (again, as advertised) I got some general information about how a ball is kind of round and kind of rolling, that playing sport is generally a good idea, and that basketball might be a really good sport : )
  • I need a teacher where does it vice-versa - 90% of time dedicated insttructions in technique with all the nuanses according to stage of a persons development and then maybe 10% about other stuff. And I really would not mind this 90% being a 100%
  • You could imagine somebody like Culadasa explaining you the detailed techniques from TMI in person in retreat. That would be good enough (even though still not ideal - btw. does anybody know how Tucker Peck teaches in retreats?)

Jan, I hear what you are saying about retreats. It always seemed very strange to me that dharma teachers often seem to ignore the fact that people have been on retreat in their dharma talks. Why don't they talk about the kinds of problems that might be showing up on day 1, ay 2, day 3? That would be much more helpful than generic stuff... an especially not the social/political stuff. Ugh!

Anyway,I though this might be useful as someone who trained with a few pragmatic teachers... For what it's worth, it is very very rare for a teacher to go into the nuances of technique, even pragmatic dharma teachers, because in theory, the techniques of meditation are very simple: pay attention, fully experience, notice where there is resistance, notice what the resistance feels like, and fully experience that resistance. And also because the whole point of meditation is to have a bunch of problems and then investigate the nature of those problems. 

Typically when you work with a pragmatic teacher (I'm not going to recommend any particular teachers, but everyone I've worked with is well-known and can be found with basic pragmatic dharma, personalized meditation googling), you schedule "check-ins" every week or two ot three (the better meditator you are, the longer between check-ins). During the week, let's say, you practice daily and do the best you can. Then when you meet, you describe how the week went and any particular problem you might be having. A lot of the time the teacher will say  "that sounds like good practice" and remind you about basic meditation instructions. Many times problems come from forgetting to do the basic instructions in the heat of a "bad" meditation. Sometimes they give encouragement, but they can also be kind of cold..

But then the most important thing happens after you have had a problem for a while yet continue to practice... only then will the teacher point out something very sublte, some kind of habit or resistance you have but never noticed, and here's the important thing: you needed to have the problem for a while for it to become noticable.

So my experience is that working with a good teacher is very much like an traditional apprenticeship -- you don't get a lot of hand-holding but you do get good advice when it's appropriate. But a lot of the time, it's you trying to figure it out on your own --- which actually trains you to be independent and own your practice. A teacher that tries to be helpful all the time creates a horrible dependency in their students, which is just about the worst possible thing for a meditator..

Meditation practice is like shooting free-throws -- it involves a lot of very simple actions, it's very clear when things are going through the hoop or not, and when they are not, you need to do more free-throws and "feel" your way to a better shot. No teacher can give you the feel.  But every so often, a teacher/coach will mention something simple "you need to soften your hand" or "don't tense your forehead" and it's only because you have done so many free-throws that those simple suggestions actually make a difference. 

To me there are a few real benefits in working with a teacher:

* owning your practice - you have to contact them, work with them, and decide if it is worth it. You have to take the steps to research, choose, work with a teacher for a while, and decide if it is worth it. You might have to say "nope, this isn't working for me. I have to end working with this guy". or "dang, she is really good. I can tell. I just need to trust this gal for three months try to practice exactly as she says". You cant turn off your critical thinking . It keeps you in the role of being responsible for yourself. 

* understanding "good fit" - the teacher will also decide if they think they can work with you. They know that a mis-match in interests and approach will simply waste both people's time.  You can learn a lot by being interviewed and rejected by a teacher. This often happens.

* accountablity.- it sucks to have a skype call and say you blew off practice for a few days in the previous week. For most people, this makes you practice more consistently.

* they help you adjust your practice or use a new practice that fits your interests, goals, and the types of problem you have. The worst teachers will force you to do their technique and assume any problem you have is because you are a bad student. The best teachers have a variety to suggest and if there isn't a good match, they may say "it's not worth it for you to train with me anymore. but you might want to check out..." -- they recognize there are thousands of ways to approach meditation.

* they normalize the difficult and wierd stuff that happens during meditation practice and during life as a meditator ("yeah, I had that problem for six months, it passed." "yeah, having images of eyes looking at you when you close your own eyes is strange," "yeah, it can be really blissful sometimes", etc.) 

* and lastly, they force you to work on your own problems -- the sign of a good teacher is they keep you struggling but interested. A bad teacher will spoon feed you intellectual answers or give you too many practice instructions. All of us have to (productively) struggle through meditation, the struggle is where we learn about how we create our own suffering. If a student isn't willing to struggle a little, traditional meditation probably isn't the best practice for them.

No matter what, meditation is going to be a struggle. A teacher can never take that away (and shouldn't). But it should be a productive struggle.

Hope this helps in some way..

Yeah, Christopher Titmuss seems to have gone down a weird road where he is in fact sometimes leading debate clubs in meditation centres. (This is not a joke. I've seen it. lol. Haven't participated though.) That he is more interested in politics than meditation seems to me not surprising after opening a random book he wrote and then wondering why he's going on and on about men who don't pay enough attention to their house wives. ... ???

Anyway, I think you just had bad luck. In my experience, most traditional teachers will talk about the details of your practice (as shargrol describes), sometimes without using Buddhist terms although it's clear that they know those very well.

I don't think there's any benefit to teachers who avoid buddhist terms. Seems to me like a marketing trick where you probably don't get anything better, but be prepared to pay extra...

Also I don't think anyone has figured out how to do dharma talks that actually keep being interesting after having heard a bunch of them.
Possible solution: go to meditation centres without dharma talks (standard in ajahn tong school) or simply don't attend.

RE: teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?
6/5/19 10:45 AM as a reply to Raving Rhubarb.
ad. Christopher Titmuss

To be clear. I am not saying Chris is not a good teacher. I am just saying that he should think about changing his retreat descriptions :-)

He is a very experienced teacher who has been teaching for at least 40 years, and I am sure he is capable to teach in many different ways, and he must have his reasons for teaching this way now. I am guessing that he believes that by mixing in politics and environmentalism and other issues he cares about, he is actually benefiting more people than he would otherwise. (Also, hes said that, a lot of people on that retreat has been following him for years, and they have been asking him for relationship and life advice for years, so he might have been teaching in a way that was useful for most of the people in the room.) "Vipassana" instructions were given a junior teacher that was teaching with him.

As for having discussions groups during retreat, I really would not mind them...if they were about the techniques.

That retreat actually made me think about what format of retreat would be more useful form but I think I will leave it for a different thread.

RE: teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?
6/5/19 11:57 AM as a reply to Jan.
I can warmly recommend Michael Taft, but he is terribly expensive. Sometimes there are scolarships available for ten sessions with him, but he doesn’t have any right now. If you can afford it and are willing to invest a considerable sum of money, I think he’s probably one of the best. He’s the only one-on-one teacher I have had, though, so I have nothing to compare with. I just know that he was good at finding my strengths, supporting what was missing in my practice, and making practice fun. He is very professional, knows his stuff and also has a good sense of humor.

Hi Jan,

I am nothing if not a nitpicky twat. I am not sure if you will take my pointing out the contradictions in what you are looking for as a service or a distraction, but here goes.

Jan Pavuk:

Word "hardcore" is used as D. Ingram often uses his concept of "core teachings of the Buddha". (It has little to do with how long one sits.)

Not sure that that is how Daniel uses the word "hardcore", or whether it is a good definition to begin with, but if that is how you define the word, I will play along for the discussion at hand.

The problem with this definition is that different people have very different ideas about what Gautama originally taught. Scholars agree that the majority of the Pali Canon was written by other people than Gautama, and tend to disagree on what exactly in the Pali Canon is originally his teaching. So there is no way of knowing what the core teachings of the Buddha actually were... although Daniel's interpretation is extremely useful in practice, much of what he talks about is not in the Pali Canon. (And, again, much of what is in the Pali Canon is not Gautama's original teachings anyway.)

There is also obviously a contradiction between the fact that you say that you want something that is "the core teachings of the Buddha", and the passage that you quoted from MCTB, which says "purely secular, utterly devoid of any explicit reference to any ancient frameworks, totally scrubbed of anything religious, and free of any term that is in any way alien to the predominant linguistic sensibilities in the area of the world where I reside".

Jan Pavuk:
  • a good teacher would be a pragmatic agnostic with deep personal knowledge of training techniques in attention/concentration and perception/peripheral awareness
  • teacher would be highly skilled in (or at least knowledgable of) techniques from several mystic traditions, but also from other fields where expectional attention and awareness is needed (think pilots, sports, warriors, etc.)

  • So, TMI. That distinction between attention and peripheral awareness, and the emphasis on that, is a (very interesting and useful) innovation by Culadasa. It is not in the Pali Canon. It is not a bad thing (just like it is not a bad thing that MCTB is probably not actually the original teachings of the Buddha).

    Also, you are probably aware of the very deep disagreements between Daniel and Culadasa on the ñanas and what the Buddha originally taught.

    So I guess that the TL;DR is that if you want to practice the Buddha's Original Teachings™, you will need to become a scholar of Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, and Buddhist philology, read the old texts, and come to your own conclusions about what those were, which will most likely be "we don't know". It sounds like a big detour to me.

    RE: teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?
    6/6/19 4:10 AM as a reply to neko.
    Plenty of good perspectives on the questions have been presented here.

    I think most important is owning your own practice, realizing that you will not find your ideal teacher, making 95% of your emphasis on what you do and 5% on what anyone else says, learning and practicing the basics well (as they truly are the key), and projecting out as little as possible.

    Christopher Titmuss is political: Has been for a very, very long time. He was hyperpolitical when I was on retreat with him in the mid-90's. He does like discussion. Still, I very much appreciated him as a teacher. He is Thai Forest, which is pretty non-mappy, and, while he knows the maps, he isn't likely to go there. Still, his emphasis on immediate experience is a golden antidote to the shadow sides of the maps. However, if he isn't a good fit, then there it is.

    Seriously, for most people these days, I recommend Bhante Gunaratana's Mindfulness in Plain English, which, while simple, is the sort of simple thing that, if you could get people to actually practice it well, would make things go very well. Combine that with his The Path of Serenity and Insight, and you have something very useful that also is very old-school textual and scholarly. Add in a bit of Nyanatiloka's The Buddha's Path to Deliverance, and you have even more teachings that are as "authentic" as you are going to get these days. Add in Practical Insight Meditation to get the Mahasi component. If you can't practice well from the information found in those sources, there is something deeper going on, and you need to figure out what that is.

    Also, look at what you really want from a teacher, and most of it will be about confirmation of what you will have already read, friendship, validation, social connection, and the like. I get that the serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin we get from interactions feels good and are motivating. However, a very good teacher is a very expensive way to get those things, sort of like paying a neurosurgeon to be your friend. See if you can cultivate other dharma friendships, as good ones can be of more value than many teachers.

    Yes, good teachers can help, but pay careful attention to the subtle ways you wish to stay in some intermediate zone of competence, some long-term spiritual adolescence, and ask yourself why.

    Might read up on attachment styles while you are at it, as there is probably some explanatory and normalizing gold there.

    Best wishes and practice well,


    RE: teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?
    6/6/19 9:21 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
    Oh, yes, if you just want to train in something that will produce powerful results, and just want to follow instructions respectfully and not argue with the teachers, talk map theory, or have them be your friends, just go on a Mahasi retreat at some good center (MCMB, Pantidarama, Panditarama Lumbini, Tathagata, one of the Thai Mahasi Centers, etc.) and do the practice as prescribed all day long and simply report the results of your practice without any dharma terms at all or maps and don't piss them off.

    RE: teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?
    6/20/19 4:55 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
    ad Buddhadharma) thank you for listing out the essentials books for "hardcore" practice and quality Mahasi-style retreat centers where to practice it. This is very useful.

    But, a good teacher according to my standards does not necessarily needs to teach "authentic" Siddharta's teachings. Why would you have to? Sidhdharta's core teachings are observations - everything is causally interdependent, all implications of that, and also human's capability to observe the part of this process that concerns him/herself, and it's implications. Furthermore, many still argue what he said or did not say about the actual meditation technique which enable to observe that.

    It's interesting for me to find out that there is probably no modern Western school of attention training, that would take the intelectual undestanding of causality, and it's implications (I believe scientific consensus these days is there is no fully "free will"), and combine it with the understanding that attention and mindfulness can be trained. And develop it's own training methods unencumbered by the Easter religious and cultural traditions. Then train it until they would arrive where Siddharta and others arrived.

    Anyway, all the more reason to respect what Sid did. (does not really matter whether he really was the first one ; ) And equally so, many after him who kept this core message alive by example up until today, so I can see it's possible for me too). 

    ad Christopher )

    I just want to make myself clearer. I do not mind him being political. I am very glad he is political and engaged. Both humanity, and all the sentient beings need more people like him. And I do support many of his ideas.

    What I am not happy about is that he was teaching general morality during what was labeled as a comprehensive Vipassana retreat. He said virtually nothing about Vipassana during more than 7 hours of his talks, and just a tiny bit more when I asked him during my one on one. And I do not have the impression that this was an exception. There seemed to be implicit understanding among all that this "mindfulness based stress reduction program" is what they expected from a somthing called vipassana retreat.

    Also Gaia House seems to be more focused these lately on MBSR than vipassana - judging by their program.

    So I guess, it's a better approach these days to do an individual retreat with access to a senior teacher. And I still need to go check Satipayana in Wales with Bhante Bodhidhamma. It seems to be one of very last places where to practice proper Mahasi style in Europe.

    ad spiritual adolesence and holding hands  : )

    This is a good point in general.It made me reflect. I did hang out a lot with a Tibetan devotional guru yoga crowd a lot in past 3 years. At the same time, a good point like this also shows a need for a good teacher. I will look for balance.

    RE: teachers/retreats with similar style to D. Ingram's teaching?
    6/20/19 4:41 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
    Thank you for this Linda. I looked up Michael and it was very useful to me. Especially his interviews with other teachers. It's a great source. 

    Could you elaborate more how he was able to help you advance your practice?