Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system?

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby shel » Sun Feb 24, 2013 1:19 am

rob h wrote:Sorry if this offends anyone, but I've been taught to question and will continue to until I no longer need to.


You've been taught well. :smile:

Don't really need a teacher to learn much of anything, but it can make learning something quicker and easier. Learning from a teacher is not all good though, because not all teachers are good teachers, and any particular curriculum can be constraining and limit development.

Regarding the issue of pushing the need for a teacher and control, yes, I agree this happens. It happens because meaning is very important to a religion and people have a tendency to try controlling what is important or valuable. The meaning of a religious tradition could be blurred (and lose meaning) if people began practicing it, or something like it, on their own. There is also the more practical fact that if people stopped showing up at the temple and offering their support it would not be able to sustain itself. Because of these dynamics Buddhist teachers can become more like brand managers, trying to always maintain the integrity or appearance of their brand, rather than teach what is true or real. Brand management of this kind is counterproductive, ultimately, because false brands always fail.
shel
 
Posts: 1350
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby rob h » Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:02 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:But whenever I see him, I still try to throw hard questions at him,
and he still throws harder answers back at me.
You just can't get that without a teacher.
So, don't deprive yourself of that opportunity, should it arise.


That's really cool, and one of the best incentives to actually hope I find a decent teacher at some point I think, cheers!

And shel, yeah, some of what you say there is what I was probably aiming towards with my first post, but I didn't feel right just coming out with it I guess. Maybe memories of being at E-Sangha and people getting into so many arguments back there made me think I didn't really want to open up a can of worms or something so I skirted around it and just hinted maybe.

But it's also cool, because now I'm starting to remember more of why it's probably important to have tradition, teachers, and even a control system of some degree. It just seems like if we didn't have any of these things, we could seriously risk losing track of what the real teachings are, having lines of teachers that are connected to the awakened ones of the past and present, and also just a basic watering down of what Buddhism actually is if there's not as many genuine teachers around to keep focus. Maybe Buddhism without the whole organisation behind it would just turn into some new-agey muddle of bits and pieces of what the real teachings actually are in the not-too-distant future and then we'd really be in a mess trying to wake up.

So even though I can clearly see that everything isn't perfect, maybe I should just be grateful that the "control system" that keeps the sutras and teachings intact is still here for us to learn from today. It would be cool if there was more acceptance that yes, people can learn on their own, and can be given more support to do that in a better way, but maybe things like that are really going against the idea of safeguarding the teachings and the teachers via the whole organisation, so that's possibly something for the future.

I'm not sure what actually possessed me to make the thread anyway, maybe it was partly that Mara had got me to participate in a wind-up session, (Maybe this emoticon sums that thought up : :stirthepot: ) but I guess I also just wanted to see what type of answers would end up arriving. Maybe I'm just making up for my lack of a teacher and need people to talk to from time to time about these things too, but if that's the case I'll be more straight forward next time and just try to ask what's on my mind more.


One last thing for now :

It's clear that most Buddhists go along with the idea that you need a teacher to help you through tough phases during meditating, but is it possible that some type of thorough guide that lists as many of the pitfalls and solutions that can arise during meditation would be able to at least help in some fashion with that? And to follow that, is that maybe what texts/sutras like the Abhidharma tried to do in the past? Saying that though those texts are obviously really heavy, and checking through all the possible different experiences and problems seems like a maddening idea to say the least. Maybe it really is just easier to have a teacher to help with that, but it's still interesting to wonder what type of texts some teachers/meditators could come up with if that was possible to some degree. (I'm not saying any text would be perfect or even anywhere near as good as a teacher, just as a helpful guide for those without one. It'd probably be pretty dense though with quite a few lists!) But also, yeah, you then run the risk of people getting seriously attached to words, lists, concepts, texts, and so on, and then mistaking the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself quite a lot more. Maybe a slap around the head from a teacher is just needed from time to time, lol. (even if it is mostly a metaphorical one.)

Anyway, I'm honestly starting to think I've about used up all my "without a teacher" and "control system" questions and problems, and have even kind of come full-circle and am actually seeing why it's there in the first place, so thanks for all the help and also putting up with me from the first post, when the responses could've probably been a lot harsher than they were. :namaste:
"A 'position', Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with." - MN 72
User avatar
rob h
 
Posts: 189
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:52 pm

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:36 am

rob h wrote:It's clear that most Buddhists go along with the idea that you need a teacher to help you through tough phases during meditating, but is it possible that some type of thorough guide that lists as many of the pitfalls and solutions that can arise during meditation would be able to at least help in some fashion with that? And to follow that, is that maybe what texts/sutras like the Abhidharma tried to do in the past? Saying that though those texts are obviously really heavy, and checking through all the possible different experiences and problems seems like a maddening idea to say the least.
You said it! Not only is it maddening but it is impossible for a single book to fit all human experience into it. There are meditation manuals out there but normally they are written for teachers (ie people with experience of the subject) in order to be able to better assist students or as basic outlines for students that have already learnt the techniques from a teacher but need a reminder on some detail.

For example: this year one of my teachers will begin a seven year course (two week retreat a year) for us on the book "Mahamudra: The Ocean of True Meaning". The book is a "thorough guide that lists as many of the pitfalls and solutions..." which takes you from "The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind Towards Dharma" all the way to Mahamudra. But you know what? You need a teacher to explain it to you. You need a teacher to explain the guide. Sounds weird? See if you can track down the book and give it a read. While reading it write down any questions that may arise and once the list is finished ask yourself: "who's going to answer my questions for me?" :smile:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 7940
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 24, 2013 3:06 pm

rob h wrote: I'm honestly starting to think I've about used up all my "without a teacher" and "control system" questions

These are important questions.
The funny thing is,
the moment you ask someone (besides yourself),
"Why do I need advice from somebody else?"
you have just answered your own question!

Thanks for bringing it up.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 24, 2013 3:11 pm

These are important questions. I think we'd do well to consider what kind of "need" the need for a teacher is. Need like I need a cup of coffee in the morning? Like my uncle Louie needed a beer in the morning? That's a different need from the need to learn things about myself that I can't see without someone else's perspective (for instance).

Related thread:

viewtopic.php?f=69&t=11900
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4319
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby Astus » Sun Feb 24, 2013 3:14 pm

One interesting idea I see coming up again and again that is supposed to prove that people need a teacher is that we ordinary humans are incapable of seeing what is actually going on in our mind, therefore we need another person to tell us and correct it. I think this is a popular belief influenced by the scientific idea of objective observation and psychological views originating from that. But as Chekawa's mind training (lojong) text says: "Of the two witnesses uphold the principle one", i.e. you know best what goes on in your mind. It doesn't mean we can't cheat ourselves, but part of the practice is learning to see clearly.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4127
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 24, 2013 3:27 pm

Astus wrote: It doesn't mean we can't cheat ourselves, but part of the practice is learning to see clearly.


That's an important point. One of the characteristics of beginners especially is that they don't see clearly. Can someone who does not see clearly learn how to do so without an external agent arranging the situation?
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4319
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby seeker242 » Sun Feb 24, 2013 3:36 pm

My zen teacher says things like this "nothing that I can say can help you!" That sounds right up your alley, ha!
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
User avatar
seeker242
 
Posts: 648
Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:50 pm
Location: South Florida, USA

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby Astus » Sun Feb 24, 2013 3:49 pm

Jikan wrote:That's an important point. One of the characteristics of beginners especially is that they don't see clearly. Can someone who does not see clearly learn how to do so without an external agent arranging the situation?


Unless you are living together 24/7 no person can give a better assessment of your behaviour than yourself, not to mention all the emotions and thoughts that don't show on one's face. It is usually when we are with others that strong and weak feelings surface, that's why Dharma friendship is very useful. On the other hand, people can be perfect critics of themselves up to the level of self-loathing and narcissism, and the problem comes from using the wrong list of critical psychological attributes. So Buddhism gives many descriptions of the good (kusala) and bad (akusala) qualities (dharma). The Shakyamuni himself, before his awakening, practised with dividing thoughts to these two kinds (MN 19).
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4127
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 24, 2013 4:15 pm

Astus wrote:
Jikan wrote:That's an important point. One of the characteristics of beginners especially is that they don't see clearly. Can someone who does not see clearly learn how to do so without an external agent arranging the situation?


Unless you are living together 24/7 no person can give a better assessment of your behaviour than yourself, not to mention all the emotions and thoughts that don't show on one's face. It is usually when we are with others that strong and weak feelings surface, that's why Dharma friendship is very useful. On the other hand, people can be perfect critics of themselves up to the level of self-loathing and narcissism, and the problem comes from using the wrong list of critical psychological attributes. So Buddhism gives many descriptions of the good (kusala) and bad (akusala) qualities (dharma). The Shakyamuni himself, before his awakening, practised with dividing thoughts to these two kinds (MN 19).


I think this is a good argument for practicing with others, particularly with people who are themselves stable in practice. Peter Hershock's description of this kind of practice has much value in my opinion:

a view of the family will stand in significant opposition to the interpretation of enlightenment as a peak and private experience; to the reduction (Buddhist) teachings to texts; and to the belief that it is on the basis of valorizing individuality and equality that we are best able to realize satisfyingly human community. Hopefully, it will also encourage us to question our own prejudices for minimally defining family and community in objective and institutional terms rather than in terms of dramatically exemplary or virtuosic relationships


full article here:
http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethi ... iberation/
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4319
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby Matt J » Sun Feb 24, 2013 4:47 pm

In fact, this is the basis of teaching the dharma. If we could come up with it ourselves, then we wouldn't need a teaching to help us realize the insights. Our mind habits can be very deep and far reaching. Unless and until we are placed in certain circumstances to see these habits, they will largely remain invisible.

Typically, I've found that those who find that teachers are not necessary have never worked with one (or at least a good one).

Astus wrote:One interesting idea I see coming up again and again that is supposed to prove that people need a teacher is that we ordinary humans are incapable of seeing what is actually going on in our mind, therefore we need another person to tell us and correct it. I think this is a popular belief influenced by the scientific idea of objective observation and psychological views originating from that. But as Chekawa's mind training (lojong) text says: "Of the two witnesses uphold the principle one", i.e. you know best what goes on in your mind. It doesn't mean we can't cheat ourselves, but part of the practice is learning to see clearly.
The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming

http://zenanddao.blogspot.com/
User avatar
Matt J
 
Posts: 169
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:29 am

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Feb 24, 2013 5:12 pm

Astus wrote:Unless you are living together 24/7 no person can give a better assessment of your behaviour than yourself, not to mention all the emotions and thoughts that don't show on one's face.
I tend more towards disagreement than agreement regarding your point. It seems to overlook that incredibly powerful role of habit on ones behaviour. Example: One day a friend of mine "confessed" that when he used to see me walk up and down the main street of the town I was living (before he was my friend) he was afraid of me because I constantly had an angry scowl plastered on my face. I was never aware of this behaviour.

Another example: I love to curse. It comes simply and naturally to me, a habit I picked up during years of working with Australian homeless youth. I rarely noticed the degree to which I swear until it was pointed out to me. Now I try to be mindful of my speech. If it hadn't been pointed out to me...
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 7940
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 24, 2013 6:11 pm

Astus wrote:One interesting idea I see coming up again and again that is supposed to prove that people need a teacher is that we ordinary humans are incapable of seeing what is actually going on in our mind


The thing is, it's true.
But, teachers are ordinary people too.
If you can see what's going on in your own mind
you don't need a teacher.
You don't need Buddhism.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby rob h » Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:01 pm

Finally got a few hours sleep! Feels good that my mind has some type of natural balance again...

Good to see the thread still has things to think about. One thing after reading the recent posts that came to mind is that teachers are important because we basically have somewhere around the average lifespan to wake up enough, and then be able to help others if we can do that. We're basically on a short timer, so although many of us could probably wake up eventually, the teacher helps us do it to a decent degree so that we have the time to still do something worthwhile if we're fortunate enough to have that happen. If we didn't have teachers who spend their time trying to help others on their own paths, then maybe hardly any of us would have the insight to help anywhere near as much as we could've done. We could instead just be increasingly thrown back into the round of rebirth with limited insight and also increasing the risk of having a bad incarnation and sending ourselves backwards for the next time we're here.

Trying to meditate alone has made me aware of that increasingly. I can sit here and say "I'll try a teacher next year." Or "I'll try one in 6 months." But if I don't act on it soon maybe my time will have run out for this life. How can I be sure I'll even be here in 6 months to finally go out and get a teacher? How can I be sure in 6 months I won't just say "Maybe another 6 months"? So there's the complacency from delusion and also the sense of urgency that arrives with that limited time we have. I could maybe carry on like I am but if I do finally get a decent enough understanding somewhere down the line, maybe I'll be dead a few weeks later! That would be a serious waste of all the years I've tried "Going it alone," something that could just be down to my own ego, (wanting to "Do it myself.") and also the poison of aversion which stops me from wanting to work with a teacher.

So even though we maybe can eventually see most of our own faults, or maybe even all of them eventually, the limited time we have seems to make that a big problem without the teacher. Someone to help us find a decent enough pace and also help us have the added confidence, benefits of their knowledge, experience, and so on.

And we're not often honest with ourselves by the looks of it, we'll try to patch over faults and allow blind spots in awareness to continue in several areas, whereas a teacher doesn't have that problem and can just point things straight out. That's one thing I've found a decent bit, and I usually try my best to be honest. (I have to without a teacher!) It's often not honest enough though, due to the good old ego, not wanting to step out of the comfort zone, and so on.
"A 'position', Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with." - MN 72
User avatar
rob h
 
Posts: 189
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:52 pm

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby dorjeshonnu » Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:06 pm

you need conduct, study, discussion, concentration, and insight

a teacher can check your conduct
a teacher can direct your study
a teacher can inform your discussion
a teacher can organize your concentration
a teacher can validate your insights

not every teacher can do every thing

sometimes a community
can maintain teachings
originated by a teacher
dorjeshonnu
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2012 4:38 pm

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby rob h » Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:19 pm

Have just messaged the International Zen Association about joining a group, and hopefully finding a teacher too. Am bored of wondering about this now and want to get it sorted.
"A 'position', Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with." - MN 72
User avatar
rob h
 
Posts: 189
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:52 pm

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby futerko » Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:52 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Astus wrote:One interesting idea I see coming up again and again that is supposed to prove that people need a teacher is that we ordinary humans are incapable of seeing what is actually going on in our mind


The thing is, it's true.
But, teachers are ordinary people too.
If you can see what's going on in your own mind
you don't need a teacher.
You don't need Buddhism.
.
.
.
I suspect there is more to this - the idea of what is in our mind is actually to be seen in our concept of the "other". In psychoanalysis this is called transference where our motivation is premised upon the belief that the Master possesses a special knowledge which would give us the solution to our problems. Gradually this gets deconstructed, so working with "mind" is actually working with our concept of the other in relation to the self, and in regard to a certain type of knowing.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
User avatar
futerko
 
Posts: 993
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2012 5:58 am

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:28 am

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Everyone needs a teacher at some point, and as the old saying goes, I have found in my life that at some very crucial times, teachers appeared. There is huge variation between personality types, kinds of aspirations, and levels of involvement. I certainly think for formally studying subjects like Tantra, a teacher is completely indispensable. ("Don't try this at home".) But I think you can practice mindfulness meditation under your own tutelage, and do Buddhist studies. It helps a lot to have a sangha to relate to, and teachers you can ask things. But I don't agree that any and all need to be supervised constantly by a teacher.
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1430
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby tobes » Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:48 am

I think there is a definitely a paradox involved in needing a teacher - it this:

How do you know that the teacher is teaching you what you need spiritually?

How do you know that the teaching is true?

You are the only 'thing' that can answer those questions. When I say "you" I mean: your understanding, your intuition, your reasoning, your experience.

So the paradox is: why grant an external teacher with some kind of spiritual authority, when it is in fact your own understanding which has all the authority in that relationship?

If it you must accept blindly everything the teacher says or does, then yes, that is some kind of mind control.

If you are able to critically and openly evaluate everything the teacher says and does, then your fidelity is actually to that critical and open evaluation.

:anjali:
User avatar
tobes
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 987
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:02 am

Re: Is the idea of "needing" a teacher just a control system

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:57 am

I think the spiritual master is different from the teacher of a skill or profession. The spiritual teacher embodies the principle which he or she teaches in such a way as to communicate it beyond the verbal level. Also such a teacher can see things in the student, that the student themselves can't see. Of course this doesn't mean there are not bogus spiritual masters or that it is not something which can be abused. But I nevertheless believe there are genuine spiritual masters.
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1430
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

PreviousNext

Return to Open Dharma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: duckfiasco, JKhedrup, Johnny Dangerous, Sammytwp, smcj and 15 guests

>