Posted by Tim C. (126.96.36.199) on April 21, 2000 at 03:53:27:
In Reply to: In Defense of The Teacher-less "not really buddhists" Buddhists posted by Rochelle on April 19, 2000 at 13:38:34:
Dear Rochelle and others:
I share you sentiments regarding this common problem many people in this country who are interested in puruing the Buddhist path face--this unavailability of a local sangha as well as teachers. I have just recently found this website, so I cannot address the discouraging comments which were made regarding the practitioners who have no sangha or teacher (in the physical sense). However, by reading your posting (along with the follow up postings) I believe I have a good idea of what was said or implied, with regards to being given refuge as being the true determinant of who is and who is not a practitioner. I myself have read of these attitudes, and I likewise found such a notion to be quite discouraging. But, I do agree with you and believe that one does not neccessarily need a spiritual master and sangha (locally) to walk along the path.
At the same time, in defense of the teachings and teachers who do hold such an opinion, I do not believe their intent is to discourage individuals or to criticize individuals, but to warn individuals. As with anything in life, when you are out on your own you are going to make mistakes at times. Sometimes our mistakes are not immediately obvious, and we persist in making these same mistakes time and time again. I think the great value in the teacher as well as the sangha (which a discussion forum such as this certainly is) is that you do have someone whom you can go to and ask questions--specifically, when you just are not able to find the answers which you seek. I personally think that availability of such resources is of great value and should not be taken for granted--nor should others be criticized or discouraged because such resources are not available. Again, in defense of such views, remeber that monks and nuns (in the Mahayana school) have taken vows which more or less say that the monks and nuns will look at fellow sentient beings as being their children--love and care for sentient beings like a mother or father does with his or her children. As a mother, I am sure it will be difficult at times to let go of your child--let your child go out into the world without worrying about your child making the wrong decisions and getting in to trouble in one way or another. The monk, the nun, the buddha, and the bodhisattva all look at sentient beings in the same way--they share our suffering, and they wish to help free us from the endless cycle of suffering. Basically what I am saying is that such a notion of one needing a sangha and a master to be a Buddhist is not intended to discourage others, but to disuade those who have the opportunity to have sangha and a teacher from deciding against utilizing these resources, to "just wing it." And, I do think this is important for many here in the West. Lama Soygal Rinpoche compares our (the West's) spiritual and religious practices to a supermarket mentality--where we walk through and just choose those things which are either convenient, easy, and not too difficult...just picking and choosing. I think that the Spiritual Masters of the Buddhist world, worry a great deal about people and want to be able to assist practitioners in their paths. I believe that is the true intention of such comments which are saying that one needs to take refuge with a monk and be a sangha member to be a Buddhist.
However, the reality of the matter is that sangha and spiritual masters (in the physical sense) are not always accessible in this country. That means we are not neccessarily just disregarding these aspects of the teachings, or not taking advantage of the available resources, but because we have no other rational option and are left without sangha or a spiritual master (in the physical sense) and with only our texts. I think the tendency is for those who have no sangha or master to stray from the path and get lost--in your case, however, I do not think this is the case (nor the case for the others who posted under your initial posting). Keep your head up, do not let negative emotions arise within you regarding those who seemingly discourage you on your path, and one day when (or if) you have the opportunity to study with a teacher, don't take that opportunity for granted. Take care.
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