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Learning and practicing the dhamma over the internet

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  • Learning and practicing the dhamma over the internet

    Dear Venerables,

    In order to learn and practice the Dhamma skilfully, I seem to have the impression floating around in my mind that to make any real progress, you have to be in close and regular contact with your teacher (ie, interact with them in person). I have been practicing Buddhism only through reading books, listening to talks on the internet (ie, the bswa website) and occasionally asking a question on this forum. I tend to feel that practicing at home in this way feels nice quite often, but in reality won't really amount to much. I've read in the past that correct devotion to your teacher is like the root of the whole practice and without having this established correctly, the tree won't grow. With this in mind, can I please ask firstly is this understanding considered correct and if so do you think it is possible to establish such a relationship with your dhamma teacher completely over the internet.

    Another way to look at this situation is that in order to learn an advanced skill in the world (such as to be a surgeon), it would be impossible to learn most of the skill required over the internet (ie, it is essential to have close and regular contact with your teachers in person at a University). But the dhamma is infinitely more subtle than this (and the mind blindingly influenced by disturbing emotions!) that what hope is there to get anywhere without having this regular contact with your teacher in person.

    Lastly, it would be great if one of the Ajahn's could address this issue in one of their talks as I haven't been able to find anything in the forums or by searching through the talks on the website (maybe Ajahn Brahm might by interested as it is something he hasn't talked about before?

    Many thanks and warm wishes,


  • #2
    Hi Michael,

    sorry for the late reply. (That's one downside of the internet compared to direct personal contact. )

    As far as I'm aware, the idea of having to completely devote yourself to a teacher is prevalent in some Tibetan traditions, but is not accepted in most other forms of Buddhism. Just before the Buddha died he told his disciples that from that point onward the dhamma (the teachings) were to be the teacher, not one specific person. And these teachings are more available now than ever. You can find them on the internet, and even read and compare many different translations. Also there are loads of books and articles written by modern writers. So in that respect the dhamma is more available than ever before too.

    And the practice of meditation is a very personal thing. Only you can see what is going on in your mind and only you can relate to it. It's not like surgery where the teaching surgeon can literally show you what to do and you can see it with your own eyes. You have to do it all yourself, really.

    True, it is helpful to practice with other people. But it's not necessary. In the Buddhist texts we find many monks asking the Buddha for a simple teaching and then going off to live on their own until they became enlightened. Though these stories may be a bit simplified, the idea is clear: we need to do the practice ourselves, and we don't need regular contact with teachers.

    So do not worry. Keep practicing! Perhaps occasionally when possible visit a teacher, but you don't have to move in with them.

    With kindness!


    • #3
      Thankyou Venerable Sunyo I appreciate your help.


      • #4
        I can totally agree to that. I too thought at first that it would be necessary to have a teacher near me. But there is so much to find online, and even here in the Netherlands a considerable part of the Pali Canon is translated. I guess there is even more to find in the English language.


        • #5
          This is a great inspiring advice. Thanks everyone who are part of it. Online helps people like me (living in Kerala State, India) to practice.


          • #6
            Oh my goodness, this is a great thread. I am a self-taught and practicing Buddhist as well. I, too, read where I really needed to have a teacher and be part of a Sangha (did I spell that right?) community to be a "real" Buddhist. I have cast around for a teacher and a community, but haven't found anything yet, but have been quite happy with my readings, meditation, listening to Ajahn Brahm, and so forth - other than feeling like I wasn't quite "authentic." That feeling was a bit like a thorn in my mind. Not anymore!


            • #7
              Oh my goodness, what a wonderful thread. I also am a self-taught Buddhist. I, too, have read where I really should have a teacher and be part of a Sangha (did I spell that correctly?) community. I have cast around for an in-person teacher and community, but haven’t found anything. I have always felt that I am not quite a “real” Buddhist or that I may be “doing it wrong.” Not so much anymore, after reading this post! I can remain quite happy with my personal meditation, studies, and listening to Ajahn Brahm.

              I am finding it very comforting having access to this community to have fellow Buddhists to talk to. My friends and family members are all supportive (if a bit perplexed) about my Buddhist beliefs so that is nice. But I cannot talk to them about things like this.


              • #8
                Beside all the advantages mentioned in this thread, if you had a teacher, how would you be able to tell it was a good one that really could help you further on your path? So, we have to trust ourselves, and have the trust that we are on the right track.



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