Welcome admin !

It is currently Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:43 pm
Pathway:  Board index General Buddhist Discussion Mahayana Buddhism

Don't practice without a teacher?

Discussion of general East-Asian Mahayana Buddhism, Sutras & Shastras.

Don't practice without a teacher?

Postby shel on Sun May 10, 2009 8:34 pm

"If you don't have a teacher, better not practice at all."

There's been some recent discussion about this and I'd like to understand the issue better. Practice with a teacher is obviously better, knowledge and skills are more quickly acquired with a teacher, whether it be learning to play the piano or quantum physics. Learning to play the piano and quantum physics can be learned on ones own however. It'll take longer to learn but there's no sense in not practicing or learning by yourself anyway. It may even result in new innovations, being that the learning is not constrained by known methods.

So what is the basis for this advice? I can only imagine that the basis for it is that Buddhist practice without a teacher can be dangerous in some way. Clearly it is not dangerous for everyone, the Buddha himself seemed to turn out alright. Assuming of course that he was the original enlightened one.

Maybe it is dangerous for mentally unstable folks? Is there a chance that Buddhist practice will make mentally unstable folks more unstable without a teacher? Of course, but then just about anything might have an unfavorable effect on such an individual without help.

Can anyone shed some light on this advice?


Ps: Happy mothers day!
If you've come here to help me you're wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is tied up with mine then let's work together. ~ Lilla Watson

The Hunger Project
User avatar
shel
 
Posts: 1559
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:06 am

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby fukasetsu on Sun May 10, 2009 9:17 pm

piper wrote:"If you don't have a teacher, better not practice at all."

Not a fixed position but an advice that can be given to certain people with certain conditions/circumstances.

Maybe it is dangerous for mentally unstable folks?


Yes my brother wanted to practise meditation but it brings out 'demons' he can't possibly handle and could only drive him mad. So I told him to find a teacher/temple or drop practise completely.
I think it was in the x-men 3 (?) movie where that same captain dude from the star dork movies build in some kind of filter or subconsciousstopper because one of the characters would like freaking decimate it all if the powers were unleashed, sort of a split personality thingy.

Ps: Happy mothers day![/quote]

Thanx, you too :)
Everyone for President!
User avatar
fukasetsu
 
Posts: 7259
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2009 12:17 am
Location: The Netherlands

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby genkaku on Sun May 10, 2009 9:36 pm

In a wider sense, I think everyone practices Buddhism all the time. But in the narrower sense, it is good to have good friends along the way, people who will inform and guide in nourishing ways.

A commercial artist I once knew -- a very successful guy -- was planning to send his son to art school. He himself had achieved his skills all by himself, but, he said, he didn't want his son to use up so much time and energy on the mistakes and failures.

With or without a formal teacher, we're all bound to make mistakes and take wrong turns. That's perhaps the best part of our training. But it's nice to have someone around to tell us to turn right even as we insist on turning left. :)

As fukasetsu points out, there is some care needed for those on shaky psychological ground...a need to address the shaky psyche and not worry so much about something called "Buddhism."

Just my two cents.
genkaku
 
Posts: 3847
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2009 2:24 am

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby Seona on Sun May 10, 2009 10:34 pm

This was a comment posted by Christopher in the other thread. I hope he doesn't mind that I am reposting it here. It is my hope that someone will respond with a thoughtful answer because I am very interested to know.

What does it mean to "practice" Zen Buddhism?

Clearly, one is not going to be able to work with koans or master shikantaza without a teacher. But the 8 fold path, reading books and teachings, sitting zazen, engaging activities mindfully, cultivating metta and patience - these are "practices" people can and do engage in, all over the world.

Is the dharma only transmitted by qualified teachers?

Certain Zen practices should not be done without a teacher, but Zen Buddhism is much broader then formal zazen and shikantaza instruction, isn't it?


Thank you.

:)

Seona
Love this moment, for this moment is your life.
User avatar
Seona
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:27 pm
Location: In my head, dreaming of the Yukon

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby shel on Sun May 10, 2009 10:44 pm

fukasetsu wrote:I think it was in the x-men 3 (?) movie where that same captain dude from the star dork movies build in some kind of filter or subconsciousstopper because one of the characters would like freaking decimate it all if the powers were unleashed, sort of a split personality thingy.

Hey Fukasetsu,

Sounds similar to a situation in an old sci-fi movie called Forbidden Planet. In the story an alien race had become so technologically advance that they developed a machine which would completely eliminate instrumentality. The giant machine gave them enormous power to control their environment with only their minds. Shortly after they turned on the machine they all destroyed themselves. The machine had empowered the id, and that lead to some nastiness.

Entertaining fiction aside, does this suggest in any way that unchecked Buddhist practice will generally result in empowering our baser instincts? If so, why would that be? I suppose the question requires clarification about just what qualifies as Buddhist practice. Genkaku suggests that in a wider sense everyone practices Buddhism all the time. Maybe he means that everyone practices paying attention and taking responsibility to some measure, or something like that.
If you've come here to help me you're wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is tied up with mine then let's work together. ~ Lilla Watson

The Hunger Project
User avatar
shel
 
Posts: 1559
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:06 am

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby shel on Sun May 10, 2009 10:52 pm

Seona wrote:[i]What does it mean to "practice" Zen Buddhism?

Clearly, one is not going to be able to work with koans or master shikantaza without a teacher. But the 8 fold path, reading books and teachings, sitting zazen, engaging activities mindfully, cultivating metta and patience - these are "practices" people can and do engage in, all over the world.

I think some people say that "real" Buddhist practice doesn't begin until you've had some kind of 'opening' experience. Though it seems to be the case that people have had opening experiences without instruction from a zen master...
If you've come here to help me you're wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is tied up with mine then let's work together. ~ Lilla Watson

The Hunger Project
User avatar
shel
 
Posts: 1559
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:06 am

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby Carol on Mon May 11, 2009 12:17 am

Indeed many people have opening experiences without practicing Zen or Buddhism ... sometimes it just happens spontaneously and that spurs the person to look into it more closely to try to understand what it was about ... and that can lead in many directions, from megalomania to very highly integrated realization.

I agree with Genkaku ... having someone who has been down the road and recognizes some of the wrong turns is very helpful.

There are many forms of Buddhism & nothing wrong with any of them that I can see. Zazen is just one form. But, when talking about practicing, I believe Dogen (who was quoted in the OP) was talking about practicing Shikantaza -- the form of Zazen he taught.

He was addressing monks ... and I really don't know what he meant in that situation.

Clearly many people benefit from practicing Zazen with or without a teacher. But it is easy to get lost and confused when studying the self/mind -- which is what Zazen is -- and as I said, very helpful to have a guide. The guide can only point the way. You have to do the practice, yourself. And some guides are better than others, or better for you than others. The old Chan Masters used to send each other students all the time, discerning who they thought the student would benefit from most.

:Namaste:
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
User avatar
Carol
 
Posts: 10326
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:52 am
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby Seona on Mon May 11, 2009 12:27 am

I definitely wouldn't dispute the importance of having a teacher. I've been studying/practicing Buddhism at a very basic level for almost a year now, as well as sitting zazen regularly. I know, for myself, that as time progresses, I often wish I had someone more knowledgeable to discuss things with. It would certainly be very helpful.

Seona
Love this moment, for this moment is your life.
User avatar
Seona
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:27 pm
Location: In my head, dreaming of the Yukon

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby shel on Mon May 11, 2009 1:08 am

Carol wrote:I believe Dogen (who was quoted in the OP) was talking about practicing Shikantaza -- the form of Zazen he taught.


Thanks for clarifying that, Carol.

I've gotten some good instruction in this form of practice but I could use more, I totally suck at it. Even so, I don't believe my meager efforts do harm or understand why it would be better that I not try at all.
If you've come here to help me you're wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is tied up with mine then let's work together. ~ Lilla Watson

The Hunger Project
User avatar
shel
 
Posts: 1559
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:06 am

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby Laura on Mon May 11, 2009 1:12 am

I'm curious about the quote. Does anyone know if this was addressed to a specific individual, or group of individuals, when originally stated? I think sometimes we take statements personally and out of context. "You" here may refer to some specific person or group and perhaps is better not generalized. Thoughts?
"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, ....The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand"

-- WB Yeats
User avatar
Laura
Local Moderator
 
Posts: 546
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2009 3:23 am
Location: Sacramento, CA

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby shel on Mon May 11, 2009 1:28 am

It could also be a bad translation, possibly.
If you've come here to help me you're wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is tied up with mine then let's work together. ~ Lilla Watson

The Hunger Project
User avatar
shel
 
Posts: 1559
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:06 am

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby Carol on Mon May 11, 2009 1:43 am

piper wrote:It could also be a bad translation, possibly.


Where did you find it? I think I saw it in another thread recently, but went to look for it and didn't see it.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
User avatar
Carol
 
Posts: 10326
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:52 am
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby Seona on Mon May 11, 2009 1:51 am

Carol wrote:
piper wrote:It could also be a bad translation, possibly.


Where did you find it? I think I saw it in another thread recently, but went to look for it and didn't see it.


I assume it's this comment from Nonin in the 'where's the master?' thread.

The word student implies that there is a teacher, and as Zen Master Dogen said, if you can't practice under the guidance of a true teacher, it's best not to practice at all.

Maybe he will see this discussion and clarify.

Seona
Last edited by Seona on Mon May 11, 2009 3:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
Love this moment, for this moment is your life.
User avatar
Seona
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 07, 2009 5:27 pm
Location: In my head, dreaming of the Yukon

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby christopher::: on Mon May 11, 2009 1:52 am

Rev. Nonin mentioned Dogen's statement in the thread, near the bottom of page one...

where's the master?


I think Carol's explanation makes good sense. We'd need a Dogen scholar, probably, to know for certain.

I lack a teacher, and definitely don't understand what "shikantaza" refers to.. and so my sitting practice has just been very basic. Since 1987, more often then not, i sit on my zafu each morning, for about 20 minutes.

The kids run around, the tv is often on in another room, my mind wanders. But i sit anyway, cause when i do the day goes better, when i dont my mind is more likely to get caught up in arising emotions and thought patterns.

I see every experience and person in my life as a potential teacher. I talk with teachers online, go to books written by respected teachers, and to more advanced dharma practioners, for advice and guidance.

I try to practice the dharma, as best i can, given my situation.

:<.<:
User avatar
christopher:::
Founding Member
 
Posts: 5208
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:25 am
Location: Fukuoka, Japan

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby fukasetsu on Mon May 11, 2009 2:00 am

piper wrote:
fukasetsu wrote:
Sounds similar to a situation in an old sci-fi movie called Forbidden Planet. In the story an alien race had become so technologically advance that they developed a machine which would completely eliminate instrumentality. The giant machine gave them enormous power to control their environment with only their minds. Shortly after they turned on the machine they all destroyed themselves. The machine had empowered the id, and that lead to some nastiness.

Sounds ace, I'll check it out.

does this suggest in any way that unchecked Buddhist practice will generally result in empowering our baser instincts?

Not sure what you mean specifically with basic instincts, but yeah Buddhist practise isn't about getting all bliss,happy and peacefull (nice side effect though) but usually when one starts it enables whatever karmic seeds to come to the surface in a myriad of ways(and a teacher is handy to not add or subtract anything to whatever arises,or perception) if that happens then naturally as a sort of karmic speeder so to speak, the conditions and circumstances which are necessary for effluents to take form can also rapidly change, so it depends on the individual, but usually it either enhances or can even put something on hold.
I suppose the question requires clarification about just what qualifies as Buddhist practice.

Pffff.. I'm not touching that one :)

Genkaku suggests that in a wider sense everyone practices Buddhism all the time.


"Tis an ill wind, that blows no mind." :)

~Robert Heinlein
Everyone for President!
User avatar
fukasetsu
 
Posts: 7259
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2009 12:17 am
Location: The Netherlands

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby keniz138 on Mon May 11, 2009 2:13 am

Brad Warner's take on that Dogen quote is that it was Dogen's opinion that is was best not to study "Buddhism" without a teacher, but that zazen was universally recommended for everyone.
keniz138
 
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:11 pm

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby shel on Mon May 11, 2009 2:16 am

Seona wrote:
Carol wrote:
piper wrote:It could also be a bad translation, possibly.


Where did you find it? I think I saw it in another thread recently, but went to look for it and didn't see it.


I assume it's this comment from Nonin in the 'where's the master?' thread, page 2.

The word student implies that there is a teacher, and as Zen Master Dogen said, if you can't practice under the guidance of a true teacher, it's best not to practice at all.

Maybe he will see this discussion and clarify.

Seona

That was it's origins, the exact words quoted in the OP are from Dan74 who was referring to what Nonin said, in case that makes any difference.

while looking for it just now I noticed that Chris asked Nonin for clarification but I couldn't find a response to the inquiry.
If you've come here to help me you're wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is tied up with mine then let's work together. ~ Lilla Watson

The Hunger Project
User avatar
shel
 
Posts: 1559
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:06 am

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby shel on Mon May 11, 2009 2:22 am

keniz138 wrote:Brad Warner's take on that Dogen quote is that it was Dogen's opinion that is was best not to study "Buddhism" without a teacher, but that zazen was universally recommended for everyone.


Wow, seems to be a wide range of interpretations. Carol just mentioned that her understanding is that Dogen was talking about shikantaza specifically.
If you've come here to help me you're wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is tied up with mine then let's work together. ~ Lilla Watson

The Hunger Project
User avatar
shel
 
Posts: 1559
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:06 am

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby Carol on Mon May 11, 2009 2:29 am

piper wrote:
keniz138 wrote:Brad Warner's take on that Dogen quote is that it was Dogen's opinion that is was best not to study "Buddhism" without a teacher, but that zazen was universally recommended for everyone.


Wow, seems to be a wide range of interpretations. Carol just mentioned that her understanding is that Dogen was talking about shikantaza specifically.


My "understanding" of what Dogen meant is worthless. I have not studied Dogen. I think I was ignorantly repeating what I thought I saw in the original thread where the quote came from. Outta know better than that!

:blah:
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
~Lankavatara Sutra
User avatar
Carol
 
Posts: 10326
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:52 am
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Re: Don't practice without a teacher

Postby fukasetsu on Mon May 11, 2009 2:33 am

Yeah and we're like 700+ year after the quote, many things are said according to the times and what in this case Dogen had seen around him.

Just like the 'Antichrist' in the bible was probably pointing to emperor Nero and is like totally not applicable now.
Everyone for President!
User avatar
fukasetsu
 
Posts: 7259
Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2009 12:17 am
Location: The Netherlands

Next

Return to Mahayana Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

 
RocketTheme Joomla Templates

Who is online

In total there are 2 users online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 2 guests (based on users active over the past 5 minutes)
Most users ever online was 157 on Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:44 am

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests