Some brief background information on the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. A discussion on finding a path and teacher.
passage from article: The spiritual path has many challenges. There are many things we need to learn or develop… Like music and painting, most of us learn spiritual practice better with someone, rather, than, for instance, by reading a book. When we interact with an actual person, we have to give expression to what we have learned. It becomes alive in us in a way that book learning often does not.
How do I get rid of negative feelings and reactions? Do the efficacies of a teaching continue after a teacher is gone? If practice doesn’t change one’s reactions, can it change how you act? Coming to a crossroad in one’s practice. What is the boundary for sharing in relationships? Are guided meditations trying to control one’s experience? I don’t know how to respond when asked “How is your practice?” How can I forgive? How do I sit with physical pain? Are thoughts an ongoing reaction at the subconscious level? Are there Buddhist writings regarding the creative process?
Why distinct thoughts can feel like random, chaotic chatter the longer one practices. The dynamics of balance. Exploring teacher-student interactions under the client model. Working with the emotions of intolerance and hatred; desire, attachment, frustration and action; anger, sadness, and loneliness.
passage from article: Pawo Tsulak Trengwa, a Kagyu teacher who was the principal scholar of his time, wrote an extensive commentary on this topic, which I studied when I was in retreat. He excoriates the view that the first root downfall means absolute obedience to the guru. He is very explicit: you have to do everything your lama tells you only as it pertains to your spiritual practice. He says that the first root downfall doesn’t apply to how you live and function in the world.
Teaching as a role, not an identity; creating learning situations and deep listening; giving away positive virtues such as trust, generosity, etc.; distinguishing information and knowledge; learning how to learn; transmission; teaching as a shared aim relationship.
What is a sutra; nature of student-teacher relationship; history of Heart Sutra; taking apart established ways of interpreting life; different maps for different notions of self: 5 skandas, 12 sense fields, 18 elements, 12 links of interdependent origination, 4 noble truths, time.
Respect for, and service to, one’s teacher as expression of importance of one’s own spiritual practice; eastern and western perspectives on the teacher-student relationship; knowing when motivation for practice comes from presence and not patterned behavior; devotion and reverence towards one’s teacher as expression of one’s own emotional attitude toward spiritual practice; practice and persistence (the individual responsibilities of teachers and students); three ways to receive teaching. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 3.
The teacher-student relationship as origin of understanding; the importance of questions; experience as teacher; the four classifications of teachers; defining nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, and bodhisattva; ways to approach the mythic language of classical texts. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 3.
Recap of previous discussion on faith and belief from a perspective of how suffering is viewed in Christianity and Buddhism; students’s reports of what they experience when working with a teacher; what is the question for which “meeting a teacher” is the answer?; three reasons why a person needs a spiritual teacher: scripture, logic, simile; retranslating omniscience, merit, and purifying obscurations. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 3.
The rare combination of circumstances that allow for the opportunity to practice; students’ reports of experiences with faith and belief; defining faith (the willingness to open to whatever arises in experience) and belief (unchallengeable positions through which one filters experience); faith and experience; the three types of faith: trusting, longing, and clear; in what do we actually have faith?; trust the knowing; the ten factors that must be present for practice; the three types of motivation for practice. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 2. zebra
Participants share what each has learned on how to proceed with their practice. Included in this discussion are questions regarding how to know you are working the edge of practice as opposed to falling off the edge, how transmission between teacher and student works, and how to recognize patterns.
Translation Questions: ‘forget the conventional concerns’ (practice 4) and ‘ordinary gods’ (practice 7). Reflection Questions: What is a relationship, actually? (practices 4 and 5), How do we construct a world out of thoughts, feelings, and sensations? What is the relationship between teacher and student? (practice 6), What does ‘give up bad friends’ mean? How do you work with negativity? (practice 5), What does it mean to take refuge? (practice 7). Meditation Questions: How do you work with this material in your own practice? Buddhist ethics as a description of awakened behavior vs. a prescription for how you should behave. Translated text available on the website.
Q&A based on the students’ experience with direct awareness, simplified instruction in the five steps, common difficulties and how to work with them, connecting the three methods, how to use these in life, the student-teacher relationship, challenges in practice.
Questions on the student-teacher relationship, taking responsibility for one’s own practice, and how to practice effectively without depending on external conditions.
Questions regarding faith and compassion, balance in a guru-student relationship, the three types of faith and the three doors of freedom, questions from participants regarding this practice
Devotion reveals student’s internal material, difference between faith and belief, three types of faith and how they transform the three poisons, commentary on guru yoga and related prayer (text available on the website), questions from participants
Comments on the teacher-student relationship, the responsibilities of the teacher and student, methods that teachers use to reveal presence, provide instruction, and point out student’s internal material