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InsightLA?
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6/21/11 12:32 PM
Hey all,

I'm in Los Angeles and trying to find a good place to study vipassana. I went to a nearby Buddhist Vihara a few times for their group sits, which was cool, but they seem to not so much be into actual, intensive guidance or instruction. So I took a look at the Insight LA website, but it's very much the sort of thing Daniel mentions in MCTB that is a psychology-Buddhism hybrid, which seems totally lame to me, imo. But has anyone had any experience with it? Are the classes and retreats actually worthwhile?

Thanks!
morgan

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 12:43 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Morgan Taylor:
Hey all,

I'm in Los Angeles and trying to find a good place to study vipassana. I went to a nearby Buddhist Vihara a few times for their group sits, which was cool, but they seem to not so much be into actual, intensive guidance or instruction. So I took a look at the Insight LA website, but it's very much the sort of thing Daniel mentions in MCTB that is a psychology-Buddhism hybrid, which seems totally lame to me, imo. But has anyone had any experience with it? Are the classes and retreats actually worthwhile?

Thanks!
morgan


I do believe that you will be in very good company at InsightLA. Vince Horn, of Buddhist Geeks, is a teacher there, me thinks.You can contact him via his two websites.



http://www.vincenthorn.com/

http://www.pragmaticdharma.com/

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 12:58 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
He is also doing a class starting mid-july:

Pragmatic Dharma class

You can also find him on facebook.

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 1:54 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
I do believe that you will be in very good company at InsightLA. Vince Horn, of Buddhist Geeks, is a teacher there, me thinks.You can contact him via his two websites.


I took a look at his websites, and I gotta say I'm a bit troubled by someone who charges $/hour for their "services" instead of on a donation basis (which not only Vince Horn does, but InsightLA, too, albeit on a sliding scale sometimes). I frankly think it's kinda shady. Maybe this is too idealist or dogmatic of me, but I guess I've just been convinced of the whole "dhamma is the greatest gift" thing--that teaching others is not just a benefit to the student, but a benefit to the teacher, the bodhisattva vow, etc. I'm a member of a 12-step program, which also has a strong foundation in service and giving back, so I guess it's what I'm used to or feel is ideal. (I'm sure you guys have discussed this issue on some other thread, so sorry to hijack my own thread a bit.)

But I guess y'all don't have a problem with this. Why not? Have you found great benefit in paying people to help you on your path--even more so than just reading and practicing on your own?

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 2:36 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Hey Morgan,

I actually live in Los Angeles, but haven't been to InsightLA. One of my friends I met through DhO - Constance Casey - knows Trudy Goodman who teaches there and has spoken very well of her. Perhaps you could PM Constance for more info?

I've been to Against The Stream, which has spots in Santa Monica and the Silver Lake area. From my experience, they aren't too keen on talking about maps and attainments in the style common on DhO, but they do teach vipassana and have a bit of a "rebel" spirit going on - the founder has kind of a punk edge to him. Sometimes they have really good guest facilitators, like Thanissaro Bhikkhu of Access to Insight. Their weekly community sits are dana only and their daylong weekend events are pretty cheap when they have them. And, of other benefit to what you're looking for - they seem to have a very strong community for people in 12-step programs, such as a weekly sit geared directly towards that and many of the teachers overall have followed 12-step programs and teach at other places about recovery & meditation.

Hope this helps,
Stephany

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 3:02 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Hi Steph!

Good to e-meet a fellow Los Angelean. emoticon

I took a look at Against the Stream several months ago and was turned off by its faux-punk, "meditating is cool!" sort of attitude, but it sounds like I could stand to let go of my prejudice a bit and check it out. ;)

-morgan

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 3:38 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Morgan Taylor:
I took a look at his websites, and I gotta say I'm a bit troubled by someone who charges $/hour for their "services" instead of on a donation basis (which not only Vince Horn does, but InsightLA, too, albeit on a sliding scale sometimes). I frankly think it's kinda shady. Maybe this is too idealist or dogmatic of me, but I guess I've just been convinced of the whole "dhamma is the greatest gift" thing--that teaching others is not just a benefit to the student, but a benefit to the teacher, the bodhisattva vow, etc. I'm a member of a 12-step program, which also has a strong foundation in service and giving back, so I guess it's what I'm used to or feel is ideal. (I'm sure you guys have discussed this issue on some other thread, so sorry to hijack my own thread a bit.)

But I guess y'all don't have a problem with this. Why not? Have you found great benefit in paying people to help you on your path--even more so than just reading and practicing on your own?


i figure if your goal is X, and there is a person who is knowledgeable about X and good at teaching it, there isn't something fundamentally wrong with paying them to teach you about it. if you can read + do it on your own, using the freely-offered help of others, then do so. if you think you need a personal teacher and you find one that is knowledgeable and doesn't charge anything, go for it. if you think you need a personal teacher and you can't find a free one but you find a knowledgeable one that does charge, that seems fine to me.

the dangers of charging seem mainly to be that the teacher might dumb down their instruction to reach more people, or maybe might drag out how much they teach you each session so that there are more sessions, or might not offer good advice if it goes against their tradition since that might mean they will be less attractive to you as a teacher.

to counter 1 and 2 - if the sessions seem useful to you, and you see that other people w/ that teacher have success (e.g. i heard a number that the enlightenment-rate in zen monasteries was like 0.5% - not so good!), go for it. to counter 3 - that happens to some extent even if the teacher isn't charging anything. use your judgement i suppose.

dhamma is the greatest gift and all, but ya still gotta pay the bills..

*Knock Knock Knock*
Enlightened Person: Enter and be at peace.
Rent Collector: Yes, hi Mr. Person, you seem to have not paid rent in three months... we have to do something about this.
EP: There is no doer, only doing.
RC: Erm, yes, but to continue living in this building you must pay the rent!
EP: Your desires are causing you much suffering. Why do you desire that the rent be paid?
RC: Ok, this is ridiculous. Something has got to change.
EP: Change comes from within.

etc...

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 4:02 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Morgan Taylor:
Hi Steph!

Good to e-meet a fellow Los Angelean. emoticon

I took a look at Against the Stream several months ago and was turned off by its faux-punk, "meditating is cool!" sort of attitude, but it sounds like I could stand to let go of my prejudice a bit and check it out. ;)

-morgan


LOL. Yeah, like I said it's not necessarily the most technical place like you find around here.. One teacher I met at one of their events named George Haas, I talked about A&P and kundalini stuff with, though. He's also familiar with MCTB. I used to go to the community sit night on Wednesday in Santa Monica. It was a waaayyy smaller, more intimate group so there was always a chance at the end of the sit for a once around the room for each to share what happened in their sit or latest practice experiences to get feedback. Some meditators still did the talking about "my mind just won't stop wandering" or "I'm having this daily life issue", but I was persistent about sharing more technical issues and they were receptive to that. Honestly, just feel free to throw your ideas out there and see what happens. Why not just go into a meeting and talk about the types of sensations you're experiencing and where your attention wave is and 3 characteristics? I viewed it more as a community available to supplement my home-based independent daily practice - and threw out the idea that I had to adhere to what everyone else was talking about.

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 6:07 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
(e.g. i heard a number that the enlightenment-rate in zen monasteries was like 0.5% - not so good!)


Wow!! That sounds right, actually, but still!!! This is the sort of wondrousness, to me, that comes with Western science colliding with Buddhism: getting to look at exactly how effective different techniques are. It'd be fantastic to compare that rate from all the different traditions.

Or.... it is Zen.... maybe 50% are enlightened, but only 0.5% will admit it? ;)


Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
dhamma is the greatest gift and all, but ya still gotta pay the bills..

*Knock Knock Knock*
Enlightened Person: Enter and be at peace.
Rent Collector: Yes, hi Mr. Person, you seem to have not paid rent in three months... we have to do something about this.
EP: There is no doer, only doing.
RC: Erm, yes, but to continue living in this building you must pay the rent!
EP: Your desires are causing you much suffering. Why do you desire that the rent be paid?
RC: Ok, this is ridiculous. Something has got to change.
EP: Change comes from within.

etc...


LOLOLOL. I know, but that's why I think it's best for dhamma teachers to either be lay people with regular jobs (like sponsors in 12-step programs) or homeless monks (like Buddha). It's not that I think it interferes with the quality of instruction; I just find it sort of unethical. I guess I just think there are some things that are best not to pay for. Like sex. ;)

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
6/21/11 6:11 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
LOL. Yeah, like I said it's not necessarily the most technical place like you find around here.. One teacher I met at one of their events named George Haas, I talked about A&P and kundalini stuff with, though. He's also familiar with MCTB. I used to go to the community sit night on Wednesday in Santa Monica. It was a waaayyy smaller, more intimate group so there was always a chance at the end of the sit for a once around the room for each to share what happened in their sit or latest practice experiences to get feedback. Some meditators still did the talking about "my mind just won't stop wandering" or "I'm having this daily life issue", but I was persistent about sharing more technical issues and they were receptive to that. Honestly, just feel free to throw your ideas out there and see what happens. Why not just go into a meeting and talk about the types of sensations you're experiencing and where your attention wave is and 3 characteristics? I viewed it more as a community available to supplement my home-based independent daily practice - and threw out the idea that I had to adhere to what everyone else was talking about.


Cool, sounds like it couldn't hurt, at the very least. emoticon Thanks!

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
9/1/11 10:04 AM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Morgan Taylor:
Nikolai .:
I do believe that you will be in very good company at InsightLA. Vince Horn, of Buddhist Geeks, is a teacher there, me thinks.You can contact him via his two websites.


I took a look at his websites, and I gotta say I'm a bit troubled by someone who charges $/hour for their "services" instead of on a donation basis (which not only Vince Horn does, but InsightLA, too, albeit on a sliding scale sometimes). I frankly think it's kinda shady. Maybe this is too idealist or dogmatic of me, but I guess I've just been convinced of the whole "dhamma is the greatest gift" thing--that teaching others is not just a benefit to the student, but a benefit to the teacher, the bodhisattva vow, etc. I'm a member of a 12-step program, which also has a strong foundation in service and giving back, so I guess it's what I'm used to or feel is ideal. (I'm sure you guys have discussed this issue on some other thread, so sorry to hijack my own thread a bit.)

But I guess y'all don't have a problem with this. Why not? Have you found great benefit in paying people to help you on your path--even more so than just reading and practicing on your own?


Hi Morgan,

I have to say this is one of the most common areas of disagreement in Western Buddhism. And I understand the general sentiment--which I do happen to find can be both naive and dogmatic--that dharma should be free. The cool thing is that if by dharma we mean the potential and actualization of realization, that is free. But if by dharma we mean the instruction, the time spent supporting each other, the space and materials used to support one's exploration of dharma, etc. that is far from free and has never been free. The Buddha was bankrolled by wealthy merchants and kings (how do you think he got a sweet spot to teach in at the mango grove that most of the sutta's mention?). Gandhi was bankrolled to the tune of millions upon millions. Lets not be naive on this very basic, and common sense point--that which is scarce is never free.

Basically people's time is a scare resource, and because of that I feel completely comfortable charging for my time in helping people with their process of realization and meditative mastery. And I feel confident doing so because I'm also fairly good at it, have a high success rate at helping people wake up (much higher than %0.5), and see many people who were once struggling start to make genuine progress through the states and stages of the path. Actually, as I've started teaching I wish I had had a way to work with someone in the way that I'm working with others. I got to talk to Daniel and Kenneth quite a bit, and I really appreciate that, but it wasn't very structured, or practice-oriented (in the sense that we'd actually practice together, as opposed to talking about practice), and the boundaries of our relationship weren't that clear. For me, and others may be different, I would have preferred paying them for their time and knowing what I could count on. And as one poster mentioned above, if you can find as good of instruction from someone else who doesn't charge (because they are bankrolled some other way), or you can do it on your own, more power to you! If however, you are someone who can both afford it (I charge a much lower rate than therapists do) and feel like it would be helpful (as many do), I don't see what the big deal is... :-)

As for InsightLA, Trudy is a fantastic teacher, incredibly deep, and the space there is quite nice. I often lead classes and groups there (some of which are free ;-), so if you're in the area I'd love to meet you in person sometime.

Best,

-Vincent

P.S. - Just so it's abundantly clear, I really appreciated Daniel and Kenneth's time and energy. Kenneth went on to charge for his time, and as Daniel has mentioned elsewhere he gives away his time for free, but because of his profession, he doesn't have a whole lot of free time. These are different choices, and both are completely respectable from where I'm standing. emoticon

RE: InsightLA?
Answer
10/25/11 1:21 PM as a reply to Vincent Horn.
Hi Vincent,

I came across an article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu that speaks to this issue. Here are a few highlights:


***

“How can I ever repay you for your teaching?”

Good meditation teachers often hear this question from their students, and the best answer I know for it is one that my teacher, Ajaan Fuang, gave every time:

“By being intent on practicing.”

Each time he gave this answer, I was struck by how noble and gracious it was. And it wasn't just a formality. He never tried to find opportunities to pressure his students for donations. Even when our monastery was poor, he never acted poor, never tried to take advantage of their gratitude and trust. This was a refreshing change from some of my previous experiences with run-of-the-mill village and city monks who were quick to drop hints about their need for donations from even stray or casual visitors.

Eventually I learned that Ajaan Fuang's behavior is common throughout the Forest Tradition. It's based on a passage in the Pali Canon where the Buddha on his deathbed states that the highest homage to him is not material homage, but the homage of practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma. In other words, the best way to repay a teacher is to take the Dhamma to heart and to practice it in a way that fulfills his or her compassionate purpose in teaching it. I was proud to be part of a tradition where the inner wealth of this noble idea was actually lived — where, as Ajaan Fuang often put it, we weren't reduced to hirelings, and the act of teaching the Dhamma was purely a gift.

So I was saddened when, on my return to America, I had my first encounters with the dana talk: the talk on giving and generosity that often comes at the end of a retreat. The context of the talk — and often the content — makes clear that it's not a disinterested exercise. It's aimed at generating gifts for the teacher or the organization sponsoring the retreat, and it places the burden of responsibility on the retreatants to ensure that future retreats can occur. The language of the talk is often smooth and encouraging, but when contrasted with Ajaan Fuang's answer, I found the sheer fact of the talk ill-mannered and demeaning. If the organizers and teachers really trusted the retreatants' good-heartedness, they wouldn't be giving the talk at all. To make matters worse, the typical dana talk — along with its companion, the meditation-center fundraising letter — often cites the example of how monks and nuns are supported in Asia as justification for how dana is treated here in the West. But they're taking as their example the worst of the monks, and not the best.

I understand the reasoning behind the talk. Lay teachers here aspire to the ideal of teaching for free, but they still need to eat. And, unlike the monastics of Asia, they don't have a long-standing tradition of dana to fall back on. So the dana talk was devised as a means for establishing a culture of dana in a Western context. But as so often is the case when new customs are devised for Western Buddhism, the question is whether the dana talk skillfully translates Buddhist principles into the Western context or seriously distorts them. The best way to answer this question is to take a close look at those principles in their original context....

When asked where a gift should be given, [the Buddha] stated simply, “Wherever the mind feels inspired.” In other words — aside from repaying one's debt to one's parents — there is no obligation to give. This means that the choice to give is an act of true freedom, and thus the perfect place to start the path to total release....

He defined dana not simply as material gifts. The practice of the precepts, he said, was also a type of dana — the gift of universal safety, protecting all beings from the harm of one's unskillful actions — as was the act of teaching the Dhamma....

For the donors...if they want to feel glad, inspired, and gratified at their gift, they should not see the gift as payment for personal services rendered by individual monks or nuns. That would turn the gift into wages, and deprive it of its emotional power. Instead, they'd be wise to look for trustworthy recipients: people who are training — or have trained — their minds to be cleaned and undefiled....

The responsibilities of the recipients, however, are even more stringent. To ensure that the donor feels glad before giving, monks and nuns are forbidden from pressuring the donor in any way. Except when ill or in situations where the donor has invited them to ask, they cannot ask for anything beyond the barest emergency necessities. They are not even allowed to give hints about what they'd like to receive. When asked where a prospective gift should be given, they are told to follow the Buddha's example and say, “Give wherever your gift would be used, or would be well-cared for, or would last long, or wherever your mind feels inspired.” This conveys a sense of trust in the donor's discernment — which in itself is a gift that gladdens the donor's mind....

The teacher, meanwhile, must make sure not to regard the act of teaching as a repayment of a debt. After all, monks and nuns repay their debt to their lay donors by trying to rid their minds of greed, aversion, and delusion. They are in no way obligated to teach, which means that the act of teaching is a gift free and clear. In addition, the Buddha insisted that the Dhamma be taught without expectation of material reward. When he was once offered a “teacher's fee” for his teaching, he refused to accept it and told the donor to throw it away. He also established the precedent that when a monastic teaches the rewards of generosity, the teaching is given after a gift has been given, not before, so that the stain of hinting won't sully what's said.

All of these principles assume a high level of nobility and restraint on both sides of the equation, which is why people tried to find ways around them even while the Buddha was alive. The origin stories to the monastic discipline — the tales portraying the misbehavior that led the Buddha to formulate rules for the monks and nuns — often tell of monastics whose gift of Dhamma came with strings attached, and of lay people who gladly pulled those strings to get what they wanted out of the monastics: personal favors served with an ingratiating smile. The Buddha's steady persistence in formulating rules to cut these strings shows how determined he was that the principle of Dhamma as a genuinely free gift not be an idle ideal. He wanted it to influence the way people actually behaved.

He never gave an extended explanation of why the act of teaching should always be a gift, but he did state in general terms that when his code of conduct became corrupt over time, that would corrupt the Dhamma as well. And in the case of the etiquette of generosity, this principle has been borne out frequently throughout Buddhist history....

***

The full article can be found at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/nostringsattached.html.

metta,
Morgan