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Attainment as Qualification to Teach? - Dhamma Wheel

Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.
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AdvaitaJ
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Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:50 am

Greetings all,

I've recently discovered that one of the people from whom I've most enjoyed learning the dhamma has definitely not attained stream entry. I wasn't seeking to learn their level of attainment (or lack thereof), it was just casually mentioned during a recent dhamma talk. I now find that I'm thinking about this when I listen to other dhamma talks by this person.

To the point, should a teacher at least be someone suspected to be Sotapanna? Am I wrong to allow this unrequested knowledge of their lack of attainment to affect my view of the person as a teacher? I certainly feel I've learned a lot from their talks, but now I wonder if my time might not have been better invested listening to a teacher "a bit further along the path". Comments? Guidance?

AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai

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jcsuperstar
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:31 am

i know it wouldnt bother me, as long as theyre "a bit further along the path" than i am.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:35 am

well the suttas do mention this and from memory I elieve they need to beon the path, stream entry or above to teach what is dhamma as dhamma etc, ithout straying into teaching what is not dhamma as dhamma etc although how do you know they are not just trying to put you off the scent?


He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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retrofuturist
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:57 am

Greetings AdvaitaJ,

You could listen to Dhamma Talks from the Buddha... he wasn't just a stream-entrant, he was The Arahant!

The Buddha is cool 8-)

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sutta.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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poto
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby poto » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:25 am

If somebody is a Sotapanna, then surely they are well qualified to teach Dhamma. However, I do not think that stream entry is required to teach Dhamma. Many people including many monastics lack attainments, yet they are still able to teach the Dhamma effectively and benefit many.

If you no longer feel comfortable learning from a particular teacher, perhaps finding another teacher would benefit you. Or as Retro suggested, you could study the Buddha's teachings directly.

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:38 am

Five qualities (thoughts, in a teacher) for teaching Dhamma:

1. I will speak step-by-step
2. I will speak explaining the sequence of cause and effect
3. I will speak out of compassion
4. I will speak not for the purpose of material reward
5. I will speak without hurting myself or others

(from Anguttara Nikaya 5.159)

It is difficult to know what a teacher's attainments are (if any) and even if they report a certain stage they could be mistaken. Some may even have a calm and good disposition, but could be faking it while in public. In private they might be a different person. The best way to really know them is when living with them for an extended time, which the Buddha mentions in one discourse.

One thing that is a turn-off for me is when a teacher (usually a lay one) charges exorbitant fees for Dhamma programs (see #4 above) or routinely mentions other specific teachers for the point of disparaging them (see #3 and #5 above).
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David N. Snyder
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:48 am

Three essential qualities in one who teaches Dhamma:

1. The teacher is able to penetrate the letter and spirit of the teachings
2. The one hears is able to do so too
3. Both teacher and listener are able to do both of these

(from Majjhima Nikaya 137, Digha Nikaya 12)

"Penetrating the letter and spirit" is a little vague, but I suppose could imply some attainment. Certainly a teacher should be at least knowledgeable about the Dhamma.
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Ben
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Ben » Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:59 am

Dear AJ
Ummm....personally, and maybe this is just me, but I would be very cautious with any teacher claiming this or that attainment.
Within traditional Buddhist cultures in Southeast Asia, a lay person declaring they have a particular attainment invites scrutiny. And of course, it is a breach of vinaya for a monastic to indicate their attainment to a lay person. My experience has been that one indicator that a person has attained is their humility.
Anyway, they're just my thoughts.
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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cooran
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby cooran » Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:47 am

---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Tex
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Tex » Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:21 pm

Aren't monks prohibited in the Vinaya from discussing their attainments with the laity?

If this is correct, wouldn't it be impossible to seek out only monks with particular levels of attainment to learn from?

I've always wondered if this was among the reasons for that rule -- if monks disclosed their attainments, surely all or most of the laity would flock to learn from the ones who have reached sotapanna or beyond, and they might miss out on a chance to learn from a monk who has not yet reached sotapanna but whose teaching style might be better suited to their learning style.
"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- Heraclitus

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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby meindzai » Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:06 pm


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AdvaitaJ
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:49 am

The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai

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AdvaitaJ
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby AdvaitaJ » Fri Nov 20, 2009 1:16 am

All,

Thanks for the quick responses.

I would almost certainly be skeptical of anyone who publicly claimed any level of attainment so I can't imagine ever "knowing" about a teacher.

The issue for me is that I now know the opposite. This means that despite years and years of practice and having been ordained in SE Asia, this particular teacher may have missed something along the way and could unintentionally cause my practice to likewise not progress as it might. I am not elderly, but none of us has time to waste! It's probably a poor analogy, but would you want to take pilot lessons from someone who hasn't got their own pilot license?

Regards: AdvaitaJ
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Li Bai

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Cittasanto
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:30 am



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Ben
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby Ben » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:00 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

User avatar
David N. Snyder
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:07 am

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cooran
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby cooran » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:00 am

---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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mikenz66
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 20, 2009 7:22 am


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catmoon
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby catmoon » Fri Nov 20, 2009 8:13 am

Attainments are not a problem - unless you surpass your teacher!

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Attainment as Qualification to Teach?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:42 pm

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