Finding a teacher

Michael Settle, modified 11 Years ago.

Finding a teacher

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/23/10 Recent Posts
How do I go about finding a teacher?
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Finding a teacher

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
That's too vague a question without more information. No one here knows who you are or what your proclivities are.

First, what kind of teacher are you looking for? That is, do you subscribe to any of the Buddhist traditions, i.e. Theravada (e.g. Thai Forest Tradition, Sri Lanka, Burmese Sayadaw tradition etc.), Mayayana (e.g. Zen, Tibetan, Pure Land etc.). Or did you just come upon Daniel's book and decide, "This looks interesting. I think I'll try it."

Second: where to you live? What state (if in the U.S.) or part of the world? This could have an influence on what recommendations you receive. There may be someplace in your backyard that you could look into.

Third: There are other message boards, depending on how you answer the above questions, that could be recommended where you may find a larger selection of choices when asking there.

But everything hinges on the first question. The short answer to your question is: you're going to have to do some personal research and decide from that which direction to head. That is, where you have the most trust in finding someone you can work with who is also interested in working with you.

Edit: Sorry. I went back to look at any previous posts you made and found some of the information I asked for above. Based on that, I may be able to provide some recommendations for you.

So, based on what I've read, you sound a lot like myself. You've bounced around a bit after bouncing off of Zen. If you are in general agreement about the Dharma (Dhamma) that the Buddha taught (meaning that you see the importance and efficacy of the path to the ending of suffering/dissatisfaction), then I would recommend, perhaps, gaining a bit more background in what the Buddha taught, as I found the same to be true as you did about Zen's approach to these matters, i.e. that "Zen is light on information; long on difficulty and what I thought of as cultural extravagance." Agreed! So. . .

First, get a good idea about what the Path is about by reading and contemplating (if you haven't already) Bhikkhu Bodhi's The Noble Eightfold Path, Way to the End of Suffering. This should help to establish in your mind what you are about to attempt to accomplish. It may also help provide some inspiration for your practice.

Second: It appears that you are presently open-minded about which tradition you might be interested in following. The Mahasi Sayadaw tradition that Daniel talks about is Theravadin. So, perhaps starting from that point, you can look in those circles for teachers and guides. There's a wide variety of teachers and traditions within the Theravada fold, so don't be fooled into thinking that they all teach in the same manner. Some emphasize this while others emphasize that. As far as meditation training is concerned, though, the Mahasi training is a good way to go because it emphasizes specific accomplishments in developing meditation skills. I believe Daniel gives some recommendations in his book about the teachers he studied with. You can start there for that.

If you are looking for a combination of meditation along with Dhamma learning, I would recommend Thanissaro Bhikkhu, who resides near San Diego in California. He comes from the Thai Forest Tradition, and many of his books and writings are online at accesstoinsight.org. He's very grounded and teaches with a simplicity that many find appealing. He is also a very learned meditation master.

Find a personality who appeals to you as a student, someone who embodies the kind of person you might like to be. This will entail spending some time around the candidates you come up with, which may run into some expense. I mention this only in order for you to keep in mind.

If money is a problem, there are no cost 10-day retreats within the S.N. Goenka organization that you can use to deepen your meditation skills. They teach in a similar way to the Mahasi tradition, so you won't be going too far astray with them. Many people use their retreats to do their own thing. Although a certain amount of adherence to their program is required. But that shouldn't be a problem. You can find an organization retreat near you by searching online. Many people have used this organization to help jump start their practice.

Good luck to you.
Michael Settle, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Finding a teacher

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/23/10 Recent Posts
Apologies for my post being light on information about me.

I am interested in the Theravada tradition. This is because Daniel says in his book that the tradition is friendlier towards gradual awakening. That seems to the way most people get it.

I've been off-cushion for a long time, and am just getting back into it. I'm sitting ( and walking) a couple of hours each day doing a noting practice in an attempt to gain "access concentration." I think I'm doing okay, but realize that I'm on a fool's errand without a teacher. Zen got weird, and I had no one to explain anything to me, so my trust level could be better. I think I have the faith and courage to trust a teacher, but I'll be a little picky getting started.

I live west of Philadelphia, in the suburbs. Any directional pointers in this direction would be greatly appreciated. I'm equi-distant to NY and DC.

I'm planning on a retreat near here with a teacher from the Barre Center in late October. She is of the Ajahn Chah group. There are a couple of groups around here. One looks like a "cash & carry" organization, i.e., they get paid, and insist on it, for every little thing. The other showed up in the literature from IMS at Barre, where I recently stopped on my way home from Canada. That's where the October retreat will be.

Thank you for your response.
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Finding a teacher

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Michael Settle:
I think I'm doing okay, but realize that I'm on a fool's errand without a teacher. Zen got weird, and I had no one to explain anything to me, so my trust level could be better. I think I have the faith and courage to trust a teacher, but I'll be a little picky getting started.

That sounds like a good approach and attitude.

Michael Settle:
I'm planning on a retreat near here with a teacher from the Barre Center in late October. She is of the Ajahn Chah group.

IMS is a fine group to be involved with in the northeast. Any of the teachers sponsored through that organization should be fine, as long as they meet with your approval. Thanissaro occasionally makes it up that way for retreats. Ajahn Chah is from the Thai Forest tradition, so you're in good hands from that respect.

Michael Settle:
I am interested in the Theravada tradition. This is because Daniel says in his book that the tradition is friendlier towards gradual awakening. That seems to [be] the way most people get it.

That's a good path to take, considering that you already have a background in Zen. I think you will be pleased with what you learn from this tradition. If you're able to get into reading any of the translated volumes of the Nikayas from the Pali canon, especially the Majjhima Nikaya, which covers a lot of instruction on meditation, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find. It will help fill in the gaps left by whatever brand of Zen you've been exposed to.

Reading and studying the discourses should help you to begin making sense of what was taught. I think Bhikkhu Bodhi is still resident at a monastery in New Jersey. Ironically, the monastery is named Bodhi Monastery. The Bhavana Society is in West Virginia, run by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana who is a well respected teacher, and who has published several popular books on meditation. There are also talks on audio at both the Bodhi site and Thanissaro's site, a good inexpensive way to supplement your reading. Bhikkhu Bodhi is a master at explaining the Dhamma and well worth reading and listening to. As is Thanissaro Bhikkhu who runs the Metta Forest Monastery.

That should give you a few personalities to check out.
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Colleen Godfrey, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Finding a teacher

Posts: 7 Join Date: 9/2/10 Recent Posts
Michael:

I've hunted around and found that I prefer teachers who offer a step-by-step analysis of my meditation practice. I recently met with Kenneth Folk via skype. I was pleased with the initial session and have beefed-up my noting skills and will definitely meet with Kenneth again. His website is excellent. Go to http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com for more information.

Warm regards,

Cul

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