super new... any guidance?

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tonedef
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super new... any guidance?

Post by tonedef »

I have been wanting to practice Buddhism but I am overwhelmed about where to start. Mahayana appeals to me as does Zen, but what do I know? I'm really just blindly poking around in concepts and beliefs I know very little about. Looking for something I can read/study/enjoy at night in bed and something to provide guidance for a meditation practice I can do in the morning when I get up... I think.

Was thinking:
The Bodhicaryavatara
Finding the Still Point: A Beginner's Guide to Zen Meditation
avatamsaka3
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by avatamsaka3 »

I'm really just blindly poking around in concepts and beliefs I know very little about.
So you're like me then! :twothumbsup: We're all super new until we're masters.
Looking for something I can read/study/enjoy at night in bed and something to provide guidance for a meditation practice I can do in the morning when I get up... I think.
Try reading the Dhammapada. I recommend the translations by John Ross Carter, or the newer one by Daw Mya Tin. Avoid the other ones. Now, it won't give you a step-by-step guide to practice, but in my experience it's enjoyable and inspiring and beautiful poetry. Meditation is traditionally learned through a teacher who is compassionate (at least non-harming), not selfish, knowledgeable, and able to teach according to the needs and dispositions of the yogi. You can learn practices from books, but this will lack a lot of things that make the master-student relationship important. If you're intent on learning through reading, you can start by reading the Anapanasati Sutta (learn the first tetrad and practice).

Sticking more to Mahayana things, I can recommend Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's teachings highly. He's got an organization called Tergar that has different practice offerings you can try out. What I've found most helpful are his recent Q&A's and talks on meditation practice. In terms of reading material, two random suggestions: try reading a commentary on the Heart Sutra, or try reading the bio of a famous adept (like the recent bio of Tsongkhapa).

Was thinking: The Bodhicaryavatara
Two problems with this: there are some passages in there that might come across as a bit... challenging before bedtime. Also, do you know what the bodhisattva path is all about? Are you aware that it is not the comfortable and easy path?
Last edited by avatamsaka3 on Thu Dec 03, 2020 11:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Queequeg
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by Queequeg »

Find someone IRL.

The person does not need to be an actual teacher, but someone who has been practicing for a while at least and can help you obtain some real life grounding in the path. Obviously they need to be willing to be open to you - don't just accost someone who you find out is Buddhist. Just talk to them about the path. Get some sense of what Buddhism is like when it is lived by someone you've encountered in your daily life. Also, you need to make sure they're not a kook or a creep. Observe them - are they living ethically? Are they honest and friendly?

If you can find an actual qualified teacher, that's even better.

Take whatever advice you find on the internet with a grain of salt.

Here is a guide taught by the Buddha on making inquiries and how to approach a teacher. This is excerpted from the Canki Sutta (worth a read):

After first rejecting various ways that dogmas are claimed to be valid but that actually preclude open inquiry, a young seeker asks the Buddha what it means to "safeguard the truth".
"But to what extent, Master Gotama, is there the safeguarding of the truth? To what extent does one safeguard the truth? We ask Master Gotama about the safeguarding of the truth."

"If a person has conviction, his statement, 'This is my conviction,' safeguards the truth. But he doesn't yet come to the definite conclusion that 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless.' To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.
The young seeker then asks how one actually awakens to truth - this is where he gives instructions on finding a suitable teacher and how to approach them:
to what extent is there an awakening to the truth? To what extent does one awaken to the truth? We ask Master Gotama about awakening to the truth."

"There is the case, Bharadvaja, where a monk lives in dependence on a certain village or town. Then a householder or householder's son goes to him and observes him with regard to three mental qualities — qualities based on greed, qualities based on aversion, qualities based on delusion: 'Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on greed that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, "I know," while not knowing, or say, "I see," while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?' As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on greed... His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not greedy. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. This Dhamma can't easily be taught by a person who's greedy.

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on greed, he next observes him with regard to qualities based on aversion: 'Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on aversion that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, "I know," while not knowing, or say, "I see," while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?' As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on aversion... His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not aversive. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. This Dhamma can't easily be taught by a person who's aversive.

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on aversion, he next observes him with regard to qualities based on delusion: 'Are there in this venerable one any such qualities based on delusion that, with his mind overcome by these qualities, he might say, "I know," while not knowing, or say, "I see," while not seeing; or that he might urge another to act in a way that was for his/her long-term harm & pain?' As he observes him, he comes to know, 'There are in this venerable one no such qualities based on delusion... His bodily behavior & verbal behavior are those of one not deluded. And the Dhamma he teaches is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. This Dhamma can't easily be taught by a person who's deluded.

When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.

"To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is an awakening to the truth. To this extent one awakens to the truth. I describe this as an awakening to the truth. But it is not yet the final attainment of the truth.

"Yes, Master Gotama, to this extent there is an awakening to the truth. To this extent one awakens to the truth. We regard this as an awakening to the truth. But to what extent is there the final attainment of the truth? To what extent does one finally attain the truth? We ask Master Gotama about the final attainment of the truth."

"The cultivation, development, & pursuit of those very same qualities: to this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the final attainment of the truth. To this extent one finally attains the truth. I describe this as the final attainment of the truth."

"Yes, Master Gotama, to this extent there is the final attainment of the truth. To this extent one finally attains the truth. We regard this as the final attainment of the truth. But what quality is most helpful for the final attainment of the truth? We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for the final attainment of the truth."

"Exertion is most helpful for the final attainment of the truth, Bharadvaja. If one didn't make an exertion, one wouldn't finally attain the truth. Because one makes an exertion, one finally attains the truth. Therefore, exertion is most helpful for the final attainment of the truth."

"But what quality is most helpful for exertion? We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for exertion."

"Contemplating is most helpful for exertion, Bharadvaja. If one didn't contemplate, one wouldn't make an exertion. Because one contemplates, one makes an exertion. Therefore, contemplating is most helpful for exertion."

"But what quality is most helpful for contemplating?..."

"Being willing... If one weren't willing, one wouldn't contemplate..."

"But what quality is most helpful for being willing?..."

"Desire... If desire didn't arise, one wouldn't be willing..."

"But what quality is most helpful for desire?..."

"Coming to an agreement through pondering dhammas... If one didn't come to an agreement through pondering dhammas, desire wouldn't arise..."

"But what quality is most helpful for coming to an agreement through pondering dhammas?..."

"Penetrating the meaning... If one didn't penetrate the meaning, one wouldn't come to an agreement through pondering dhammas..."

"But what quality is most helpful for penetrating the meaning?..."

"Remembering the Dhamma... If one didn't remember the Dhamma, one wouldn't penetrate the meaning..."

"But what quality is most helpful for remembering the Dhamma?... "

"Hearing the Dhamma... If one didn't hear the Dhamma, one wouldn't remember the Dhamma..."

"But what quality is most helpful for hearing the Dhamma?... "

"Lending ear... If one didn't lend ear, one wouldn't hear the Dhamma..."

"But what quality is most helpful for lending ear?... "

"Growing close... If one didn't grow close, one wouldn't lend ear..."

"But what quality is most helpful for growing close?... "

"Visiting... If one didn't visit, one wouldn't grow close..."

"But what quality is most helpful for visiting? We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for visiting."

"Conviction is most helpful for visiting, Bharadvaja. If conviction [in a person] didn't arise, one wouldn't visit [that person]. Because conviction arises, one visits. Therefore, conviction is most helpful for visiting."
You are asking these questions in a discussion forum on Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, so depending on the tradition, teachers do not need to be renunciate monks or nuns. They can be "householders".
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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kirtu
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by kirtu »

tonedef wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 4:56 am I have been wanting to practice Buddhism but I am overwhelmed about where to start. Mahayana appeals to me as does Zen, but what do I know? I'm really just blindly poking around in concepts and beliefs I know very little about. Looking for something I can read/study/enjoy at night in bed and something to provide guidance for a meditation practice I can do in the morning when I get up... I think.

Was thinking:
The Bodhicaryavatara
Finding the Still Point: A Beginner's Guide to Zen Meditation

Dharmapada 14:183
Don't do evil,
Do good,
Purify your mind.
This is the teaching of all the Buddhas

Zen practice will help you practice all three verses directly. You need a teacher for Zen practice but you can begin just today just by following your breath.

Zen is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism BTW.

Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara is of course excellent. But most people will be lost without in depth study directly with a teacher. It's better (usually) to begin practice in some form an then study this (or most other, text's) initially (although different people are different and the first chapter is pretty straightforward).

Another practice would be to practice metta (lovingkindness) meditation or contemplation directly from the start.

Some people are uncomfortable with metta mediation because it is seen as coming from the Southern School. In fact it is a gem. But metta meditation is also found directly in the Mahayana schools. Usually this takes the form of the cultivation of the Four Brahmaviharas which in themselves guarantee a higher rebirth:

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness (lovingkindness)
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering (compassion)
May no being be be separated from sorrowless bliss (sympathetic joy)
May all beings live in equanimity, free from attachment and hatred to all beings (equanimity)

Many people recite/contemplate/meditate on these verses daily.

Then some people really like reading the sutras/suttas.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
avatamsaka3
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by avatamsaka3 »

If you want Zen (specifically Soto), read this:

https://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/li ... to_zen.pdf
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Hazel
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by Hazel »

Dropping my favorite podcast here as it's from a Soto Zen priestess https://zenstudiespodcast.com/ (personally I started from episode 1 and worked my way through as she explores the teachings systematically, but picking and choosing is great too).
SilenceMonkey
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by SilenceMonkey »

Definitely check out Mingyur Rinpoche's program Joy of Living. He's a world-renowned meditation teacher with a big heart and a sense of humor. And he really knows how to teach westerners.

https://tergar.org/programs/what-is-the-joy-of-living/
tonedef
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by tonedef »

avatamsaka3, Queequeg, and kirtu, thank you! This is most appreciated. I will take your advice. Glad I found this forum!
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FiveSkandhas
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by FiveSkandhas »

avatamsaka3 wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 11:15 am Try reading the Dhammapada.
:good:
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
tonedef
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by tonedef »

Oh, wow somehow I didn't see the other replies in here when I posted last. Thank you all, I really appreciate it!
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Könchok Chödrak
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by Könchok Chödrak »

I started with the Lotus Sutra and ended with the Lotus Sutra, a Sutra that I will never stop reading, and am an Eternal Votary of the Lotus Sutra. So I highly recommend you read the Lotus Sutra. It is the Highest Buddhist Teaching according to Nichiren Buddhists and closely mentioned to be as well by Gautama in it's pages and is very advanced, however it contains the key to full Enlightenment if that's what you are seeking. More information on it can be found in the Nichiren section of this forum.
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Ayu
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by Ayu »

tonedef wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 4:56 am I have been wanting to practice Buddhism but I am overwhelmed about where to start. Mahayana appeals to me as does Zen, but what do I know? I'm really just blindly poking around in concepts and beliefs I know very little about. Looking for something I can read/study/enjoy at night in bed and something to provide guidance for a meditation practice I can do in the morning when I get up... I think.

Was thinking:
The Bodhicaryavatara
Finding the Still Point: A Beginner's Guide to Zen Meditation
So, now you see, if you would follow all these advices thoroughly, you'd end up reading for years. Buddhism is too vast to agree on only one or two books for starting.

I think, one thing that nearly everybody can agree to is: stick to a meditation practice regularly (must not be longish) as a base simultaneously to reading. In best case you'll find some real people, non-sectarian, to socially support your practice. Some people to meditate together with.
And don't forget your inner supporting aspect, your gut feeling, your inner voice or guru or however you are going to name it.
For the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. :heart:
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dharmagoat
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by dharmagoat »

Practice meditation and kindness, the rest will follow.

Find a style of meditation that suits you. Further reading will support and strengthen your practice.

Guidance from a teacher is useful early on and will become necessary further along the way, depending on how far you wish to go.

I wish you all the best. Beginning buddhist practice need not be difficult, but it does require a certain degree of vigilance and sustained effort. I can assure you that it will prove worthwhile, whatever your level of commitment.
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by Crazywisdom »

Do like a bee that tastes the nectar of every flower in the meadow.
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Hazel
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by Hazel »

Crazywisdom wrote: Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:05 pm Do like a bee that tastes the nectar of every flower in the meadow.
It's worthwhile to do at least some casual research into organizations and how they've handled scandals and who the leadership are and what they're saying. But also realize there's a point where skepticism can take over one's practice. Learning the difference takes time. At least I hope it takes time, because I'm still trying to figure it out!

Crazywisdom's quote originally sent me into a flurry of research. There's a type of flower called "carrion flowers" that instead of attracting pollinators, smell of decaying flesh to attract other insects to perform pollination. Fun stuff! Some of them are absolutely gorgeous too.
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by karmanyingpo »

Hazel wrote: Tue Dec 08, 2020 9:31 pm
Crazywisdom wrote: Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:05 pm Do like a bee that tastes the nectar of every flower in the meadow.
It's worthwhile to do at least some casual research into organizations and how they've handled scandals and who the leadership are and what they're saying. But also realize there's a point where skepticism can take over one's practice. Learning the difference takes time. At least I hope it takes time, because I'm still trying to figure it out!

Crazywisdom's quote originally sent me into a flurry of research. There's a type of flower called "carrion flowers" that instead of attracting pollinators, smell of decaying flesh to attract other insects to perform pollination. Fun stuff! Some of them are absolutely gorgeous too.
IMO you are right. It takes discernment.
I am wondering if Crazywisdom used tasting nector as an analogy for trying out different teachers, or if he meant it as a comparison for looking into teachers? Maybe both?

KN
Crazywisdom
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Re: super new... any guidance?

Post by Crazywisdom »

Hazel wrote: Tue Dec 08, 2020 9:31 pm
Crazywisdom wrote: Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:05 pm Do like a bee that tastes the nectar of every flower in the meadow.
It's worthwhile to do at least some casual research into organizations and how they've handled scandals and who the leadership are and what they're saying. But also realize there's a point where skepticism can take over one's practice. Learning the difference takes time. At least I hope it takes time, because I'm still trying to figure it out!

Crazywisdom's quote originally sent me into a flurry of research. There's a type of flower called "carrion flowers" that instead of attracting pollinators, smell of decaying flesh to attract other insects to perform pollination. Fun stuff! Some of them are absolutely gorgeous too.
I didn't mean literally research flowers. Just pop in and out of places and see what fits your life.
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