Finding a Buddhist Teacher with good qualities

Venerable Thubten Chodron talks about what good qualities a spiritual teacher should have.

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More Thubten Chodron & Sravasti Abbey Videos…

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Illness and Death as Natural

Here is an interesting excerpt from a teaching that Lama Yeshe gave about seeing death as natural, which allows one to relax. He mentions:

So check up now. Wisdom is unemotional in nature. Fear of illness, impermanence and death is emotional; that’s why you cry. That’s why you can’t sleep. You think, “I’m going to die tomorrow,” and your stupid, relative emotions pump you up and push you so that you can’t sleep. True understanding wisdom sees illness and death as natural, so there’s no emotional nervousness upon hearing about impermanence and death.

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Buddhist perspective of planning a beneficial parenthood

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, in this interesting transcript, explains how and why having a long term parenting strategy can help make their child’s life meaningful. An excerpt:

Parents need to learn how to take care of their children properly. Whether you are a mother or father, or even if you are not a parent but are involved in taking care of children, your attitude should be the very same: you should consider those children to be your main object of practice or meditation. Since you spend so many years of your life with them, it is important to make them the focus of your Dharma practice. But, by saying this, I am not suggesting that everyone have children! My point is that if you are planning to have children, you should be really careful and, before having children, learn how to make their lives as beneficial as possible. Of course, there is still no guarantee that everything will work out; your children will have their own karma. But, because children spend so much time with their parents, you can potentially have an enormous influence on them. Therefore, parents have a huge responsibility. Unfortunately, most people don’t think about this and so don’t plan what they are going to do with that new life after giving birth to it. Instead they tend to think that having children will be pure bliss, without a single problem, like a wonderful dream come true.

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Living as a western monastic

In this interesting article, Venerble Thuben Chodron outlines the differences in living conditions for monastics in an asian setting and monastics in a western setting, and the particular set of challenges that western monastics face. She mentions:

Tibetans grow up with Buddhism and monastics. They know what the life of a monastic entails and when they ordain, they are welcomed into a monastery where they live with monastic relatives and others who are from the same area of Tibet as they are. While Tibetan monastics in general are not rich, the senior monastics take care of the juniors, providing them with room, board, and teachings, and together they share the experience of living in community.

The situation for Western monastics is considerably different. There are very few monasteries where they can stay in the West. They may live in a Dharma center, in which case they often spend long hours doing volunteer work building the center or planning activities for the lay people. They usually do not receive special training as monastics because the Dharma centers are designed principally for lay people. Tibetan monastics are sponsored at Dharma centers and receive offerings and stipends, most of which they send to support their disciples in India and Tibet. However, many Western monastics have to work at jobs in the city in order to support themselves as some Dharma centers ask the monastics to pay in addition to volunteering their services. They do not have time to study and practice the Dharma, which inhibits their ability to serve the lay people by teaching and setting a good example. Keeping their vows is very difficult for those who must work in the city, and many do not survive as monastics.

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Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in the West

In an interesting interview with Roger Jackson, Buddhist professor and teacher, he talks about his experience of teaching Dharma to different groups in the west. He mentions:

In centers I mostly keep to the tradition. Most of my Dharma center teaching is working through Indian Buddhist texts with American Dharma students at Gyuto Wheel of Dharma Monastery in Minneapolis. From Geshe Sopa, I learned the value of teaching directly from texts, so I present the text more or less as a geshe would—though I’m far from being a geshe!

A college or university is different. I teach by topic, and assign readings from various sources. Above all, I don’t teach “Dharma.” I help students understand Buddhism from an academic point of view. That includes the ideas from great texts, but from multiple perspectives rather than a single authority. In a typical class, I spend a few weeks on philosophy, making sure people know about the four noble truths, emptiness, the bodhisattva path, and so forth, but then I take them into areas like anthropology, sociology and cultural studies. For instance, we will investigate what Buddhism looks like on the ground in Sri Lanka or Tibet. And then we might examine a difficult ethical issue from a Buddhist perspective.

Regarding what has changed since the 1960s, he mentions:

Gelug centers have mostly stayed quite traditional. They still focus on lamrim, for example, without much Westernization. Students sometimes want more meditation, but that’s an adjustment Gelug centers haven’t always made. One result is a steady trickle of Gelug students going to Nyingma teachers to learn Dzogchen. John MakranskyAnne Klein, and B. Alan Wallaceare prominent examples. So that’s one issue to consider. Another is how centers can serve both ordinary people and more serious practitioners. Mingyur Rinpoche, a Kagyu-Nyingma master, has created two tracks in his Tergar organization: one for busy lay people with a secular orientation, and the second for those who want to do a more “Buddhist” practice. His Holiness the Dalai Lama also stresses basic teachings for secular people, and more intense practice for those so inclined. I wonder if Gelug organizations should consider creating different tracks as well.

Click here to read more from the interview