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Heartbeat
24 Jul 10, 13:57
Thank you for enabling me to have a voice on these pages. I am not familiar with posting stuff like this.

As a newcomer to this forum and a relative newcomer to Buddhist practice (For the past 4-5 years) I don't know much at all.

I welcome your feedback please...in particular from anyone who has come to a difficult stage in practice...or from women Buddhists who might be able to understand things from a female perspective.

My encounter with the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh...then the chance to study under a Zen Master in my own city, a couple of 8 day Zen retreats and a meeting with a Burmese Vipassana teacher moved me through a number of Theravada and Vipassana retreats in the past few years. The teachings sustained and supported me through a number of difficult life events. The death of my sister 11 months ago was accepted more easily because of my love for and faith in the dhamma.
My teacher, who I respect greatly, suggested a long retreat of 30 days which I embarked on for the whole month of April this year.
The retreat was difficult at times for my body as I am 63 and have some medical problems...but I was very happy and did not find the renunciation of home and family too difficult...Many insights came up.
In the last 5 days of the retreat my teacher became angry with my actions (though I am not really aware of what it was I did to displease him ..could have been a number of things).

In the dhamma talk session he called me a 'time waster' and repeated this criticism at the following session. At the interview session he was very angry and told me I 'was a long way from dhamma' and that no matter if I renounced my home for 50 days...years..I would never get anywhere. At the time I felt a flood of shame and stayed with the sensations...then that feeling passed rapidly and I went on with the moment by moment noting.

However, as the weeks have gone on I find I have a very tender heart. I feel confused. I have lots of thoughts coming up about being unworthy, failing, and of sadness and loss. My practice is not so full of joy. I am not sure of wanting to be with this teacher again.

I take responsibility for my current situation...I am aware the teacher gives the lesson the student needs at the time.

This teacher is fierce...mainly with the women yogis....and there is no opportunity to discuss my feelings with him.
In this town a teacher is a rare jewel. I was lucky enough to find the Dhamma and the teacher...but there is lots of suffering for me at the moment.
I will continue to meditate and sit with these feelings.

With metta

Aloka
24 Jul 10, 14:57
Hi Heartbeat, its good to hear from you and a warm welcome to the group. ;D

I'm sorry but I'm not clear which tradition it was that you did your month's retreat with. You spoke of a Zen teacher - is he the one who was angry with you, or was it the Burmese teacher ?

Could you be a little more specific about 'the number of things' you think might have displeased him, please? It sounds a little strange that a teacher would openly express anger with a student without any cause, especially if he said you were ''a long way from dhamma''.

Not knowing the details I can't really comment other than to say don't take it all too seriously, you can walk away at any time!

Try to remain gently relaxed with the freshness of the present moment, rather than dwelling on feelings of unworthiness and the past and so on - and just let it all go.

We can often be told "the teacher gives the lesson the student needs at the time"... but that isn't necessarily always the case, nor are all teachers ''rare jewels.''

We must be careful to still always use some wisdom and common sense when we surrender ourselves to others.


Kind regards,

Dazzle :hands:

Heartbeat
24 Jul 10, 15:30
Thank you Dazzle.
Sorry to be so unclear but it is complicated.
The teacher is a Sayadaw...Theravada from the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition.
I have been his student for nearly three years since moving from Zen to Vipassana.

What I did to cause his anger?
I think I did not stick to the rules of what could be shared in the interview and went a bit 'off track'.
His power of his response was such a shock to me. [I am usually restrained, disciplined and obedient - to a fault]

This master has been furious with other female yogis for example 'sitting the wrong way'.

However that is in the past.

Thank you for your comment.

Esho
24 Jul 10, 16:29
Hello Heartbeat dear,

I'm really sorry about your post and the way you tell how the teacher pretends to guide your practice. My experience with the Roshi that guides us into Zen practice is a one with absolute commitment with the particular needs of his sangha members. I'm into Soto Zen tradition and the personal interviews with my teacher, the "Daishin" is mostly about my feelings during zazen, the development of skills and the tangible results in my life. He is very strict at the moment of zazen and with the commitment with practice, satoris and kais but he would never bring personal opinions about a member in public.

I think that a teacher has to encourage your commitment and look after your meditation skills and feelings with meditation but never with such rudeness. Also he do not care about gender condition because what it is meant to develop is not subject to gender but to development of Right View.

As a humble opinion, consider if there is a chance to evaluate, by yourself, the possible change of teacher. From my personal point of view it is not good to be attached to a teacher in the way you are telling us. Teachers sometimes are rude but not in the way you have told us.

Consider that I have no experience with other teachers or traditions so I just can tell about the one with which I practice meditation. Maybe there are teachers like yours that use that means to encourage spiritual progress... but I really don't know. Maybe other members can give you a better advice...

With my very best wishes for you dear Heartbeat...

:hands:

Sobeh
24 Jul 10, 16:58
I had two immediate thoughts:


At the interview session he was very angry and told me I 'was a long way from dhamma'

This is ridiculous. He was angry? Then he had no business interviewing anyone but himself.


I am aware the teacher gives the lesson the student needs at the time.

No Sutta supports this odd belief. I recommend throwing this idea out altogether, and then seeing how you feel about the events.

Snowmelt
24 Jul 10, 17:02
The death of my sister 11 months ago was accepted more easily because of my love for and faith in the dhamma.

I am very sorry to hear about that, Heartbeat. I am very glad you have found some solace in the Dhamma.

Snowmelt
24 Jul 10, 17:09
If the teacher is not helping, then perhaps you should pursue the Dhamma elsewhere. It sounds to me that this might be something to try. One can always argue that the teacher is deliberately trying to teach you with his anger (even though I personally find this a bit far-fetched), but I have heard of many teachers who manage very well without this, and if it is not helping, then you have the choice of moving on. Are you the kind of person who does well with direct contact with people like this? I have had virtually none myself, having kept mostly to myself my whole life, except for necessary human contacts and close family. My contact with the Dhamma and other people interested in it has been almost exclusively via the Internet. It depends on what kind of person you are (or perhaps I should say, what you are used to).

Snowmelt
24 Jul 10, 17:20
Also, if you think the teacher is actually angry, rather than pretending to be angry for your benefit (which I find a little odd, anyway), then I would seriously consider looking elsewhere.

Your unhappy feelings can still be a positive. I know this may be "out there" for some people, but Ajahn Brahm has said that even if you are terminally ill, be grateful, because your illness is teaching you the Dhamma, teaching you how to transcend suffering. I myself have spent a huge amount of time and effort over my lifetime being afraid. Now I have come to the amazing conviction that I would actually be able to follow Ajahn Brahm's teaching in such a circumstance. I would suggest you try to think of your unhappy feelings as an unavoidable illness (though not terminal in this case!): they are not to be ignored, but neither are they to be dwelt on, given more weight, time and effort than necessary.

:hug:

Cobalt
25 Jul 10, 01:17
I am not sure of wanting to be with this teacher again.

I take responsibility for my current situation...I am aware the teacher gives the lesson the student needs at the time.

This teacher is fierce...mainly with the women yogis....and there is no opportunity to discuss my feelings with him.


You asked for feedback from a female perspective, so that's the main thing I can offer.

It sort of seems like this particular teacher has it in his head that women are wasting their time or his time, or whatever. It seems from your description like he is extremely negative about the work women do. If this impression is anywhere near the mark, I would say that you and he are probably not making the most of the situation by having him try and help you with anything. I'd say he's the one who needs help. If you feel like being his lesson in gender stuff, y'know, that's cool. But I doubt that you went to this guy to give him a valuable life lesson.

I'd say work on your own stuff, with somebody who can see you honestly and fairly enough to guide you, or alone. Doesn't the Dhammapada say that people should travel only with their equals or betters, and if not to travel alone? There's no companionship with a fool, and somebody who can't be fair with women shouldn't be left in a position to hinder your progress and personal work.

frank
25 Jul 10, 02:50
The teacher is a Sayadaw...Theravada from the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition.
Well said Cobalt.
Wonder if this is the same 'teacher' who gave me a hard time? I didn't take to the guy at all,but used it as a training tool. Think maybe the lesson to learn here is pay attention to what he says,but don't worry about the man. We all have our bits and pieces of rubbish,and maybe he's no exception.
The Retreats at this school are tough enough with about 12 hours a day sitting. I thought l was a reasonably experienced meditator,until l did a Retreat in Burma quite difficult...
Personally l feel that this approach to teaching,especially those fairly new to Retreats is harsh,not at all conducive to teaching Dhamma.

Snowmelt
25 Jul 10, 04:33
The Buddha himself did not resort to such "teaching methods" ... and that is all I need to know.

Heartbeat
26 Jul 10, 06:57
I made this, my first post a few days ago out of a sense of urgency...so now I want to say how much I appreciated your thoughtful responses

Thank you to Cobalt, Dazzle, Sobeh, Frank, Snowmelt and Kaarine Alejandra for your opinions and thoughts in response to the pain I was experiencing when I wrote of my post-retreat suffering.

I found it difficult to write as it seemed as if I was complaining. Also feel disloyal talking about a situation that is in the past and involves a member of the Sangha.

The variety of expressions echo my own thoughts.....sometimes this way...then...perhaps it is this way...can't believe my own thoughts...so back to the experiencing....back to the present moment...back to the breath... where everything is all-right. Everything changes. nothing stays the same. I am sure all of this is teaching me an important lesson. How to be patient. How to stay with difficult emotions. How I cling to the way I want things to be.

I remember my first retreat with this Sayadaw two years ago.
For every sitting bar one or two I had the most amazingly strong pain in the left side of my back.
I had a great meditation object. The pain was 9 out of ten...like pains of childbirth..the tears flowed with pain and I had waves of heat and then cold.
This pain when sitting lasted for five days. 4am to 10pm

The teacher instructed me to sit longer...1 and a half hours at a time instead of one. but it was relentless.
It would leave only when I stood up ...but three minutes into each sit it was back. I was exhausted.

I got to learn a lot about how my mind works...aversion, bargaining, rejecting..trading and finally giving in altogether...metta...just metta...inviting in the pain of the world.

Seem each retreat brings another deep learning.

with metta

Aloka
26 Jul 10, 07:15
The pain was 9 out of ten...like pains of childbirth..the tears flowed with pain and I had waves of heat and then cold.
This pain when sitting lasted for five days. 4am to 10pm

The teacher instructed me to sit longer...1 and a half hours at a time instead of one. but it was relentless.
It would leave only when I stood up ...but three minutes into each sit it was back. I was exhausted.


That sounds absolutely ridiculous to me! Why would anyone be expected to go through so much pain!

When I first learned meditation it was at 1 hr sessions where it was ok to move ones leg position if one got cramps and also ok for people with physical problems to sit in straight-backed chairs.

After that I was told by another teacher to just do 5 to 10 minutes twice daily by myself to begin with. That worked out well because I gradually extended the sessions as I became familiar with doing the meditation. No pain and punishment necessary ! ;D

Snowmelt
26 Jul 10, 07:28
This sounds like the kind of extreme discipline some forms of Buddhism (so I hear) consider desirable for strengthening the mind. Unfortunately, it also reminds me of the extreme self-punishment the Buddha subjected himself to for seven years before abandoning it in favour of the Middle Way. "If you tighten the string too much, it will snap." I am quite convinced that one can realise the goal without this kind of, forgive me, torture. Insight resulting from my own study and practice and the kindly compassion and metta of others are what has brought me to this point in my development.

halfcajun
26 Jul 10, 14:14
Dear Hearbeat:
Thank you for sharing your experiences with the BWB family. I'm sorry you went through them. I agree with the previous posters.


This is ridiculous. He was angry? Then he had no business interviewing anyone but himself.
Agreed. When a teacher uses anger as a tool in your spiritual guidance, I think he's wrapping his own character flaws, prejudices, etc. in a monk's robe and passing it off as supervision. I call it abuse.


There's no companionship with a fool, and somebody who can't be fair with women shouldn't be left in a position to hinder your progress and personal work.
There's no place for that kind of sexism in Buddhism.


That sounds absolutely ridiculous to me! Why would anyone be expected to go through so much pain!
Agreed.


Unfortunately, it also reminds me of the extreme self-punishment the Buddha subjected himself to for seven years before abandoning it in favour of the Middle Way. "If you tighten the string too much, it will snap."
Excellent point, Snowmelt.


The Buddha himself did not resort to such "teaching methods" ... and that is all I need to know.
Another reminder why we take Refuge. The Buddha's example in how he treated his students.

Heartbeat, please take care of yourself. Don't let anyone abuse you, hurt you, esp. in the name of spiritual growth!
Metta,
Bill

Cobalt
26 Jul 10, 15:44
Heartbeat, please take care of yourself. Don't let anyone abuse you, hurt you, esp. in the name of spiritual growth!


I definitely second this. Just because someone is a member of the sangha doesn't mean you aren't allowed to disapprove of anything they do, and it doesn't mean you have to submit to everything they seem to think will be good for you. Buddhist teachers are still only people, and no person should ever be in a position of such esteem and authority that they are above accountability or criticism.

You're not a bad person for complaining about a member of the sangha who pressured you to subject yourself to pain (which, frankly, is there so that your body can tell you something is wrong so that you can avoid hurting it), who doesn't seem able to be fair with female practitioners, and who apparently is giving students the idea that they must submit to anything and everything suggested without question.

Take care of yourself. If your sangha isn't interested in letting you do this very very basic thing, they are not your sangha; they're just other Buddhists.

Snowmelt
26 Jul 10, 17:35
Please forgive me if this is too personal, Heartbeat, but to some degree I have gained the impression that you are currently the kind of person who suffers in silence. If I am right, then I would say that you do not need to speak out if that is not the way your character leans, but you can definitely vote with your feet and find a gentle teacher.

Esho
27 Jul 10, 00:50
Thank you to Cobalt, Dazzle, Sobeh, Frank, Snowmelt and Kaarine Alejandra for your opinions and thoughts

Your wellcome Heartbeat dear...


For every sitting bar one or two I had the most amazingly strong pain in the left side of my back.
I had a great meditation object. The pain was 9 out of ten...like pains of childbirth..the tears flowed with pain and I had waves of heat and then cold.
This pain when sitting lasted for five days. 4am to 10pm

The teacher instructed me to sit longer...1 and a half hours at a time instead of one. but it was relentless.
It would leave only when I stood up ...but three minutes into each sit it was back. I was exhausted. :(

I don't know if this kind of teaching is correct but at least the experience I had at the seshin I did for a weekend I really enjoy zazen even when it lasted for 2 hours each period. We are allowed to stop any time we feel some pain and mostly if it is too intense. The posture in zazen should be in such a way that we can be enough comfortable so to keep going into Shi and Kan (concetration and observation). The idea of seshins are just to keep mindfulness as much as possible so to skill and discipline the mind and to bring that learning for our daily life...

;D

Heartbeat
27 Jul 10, 01:50
There has been much written and said about pain, the experience of pain in meditation. I would love to discuss this more but have to leave for work in a moment.

However, following the last comment from Cobalt, I was reminded of how surprised I was to find out about the number of rules governing the relationship of a monk with women [in the Theravada tradition at least].

It was made quite real to me on the long retreat.... something I had 'just noticed' on shorter retreats.

I was curious about a number of things I found on the long retreat.

Why did the men and women sit in different meditation halls?
Why did the men and women use separate doorways?
Interviews were usually divided - women's interviews in the morning...men in the afternoon...this alternated ..but if the day was cut short...the women lost their session.

There was also mention in talks of 'women's desire being 9 times stronger than that of a man'

When I got home wanted to find out about this by looking at monastic training so read 'The Bhikkhus Rules', A Guide for Laypeople, by Bhikku Ariyesako.

This explained the door entrances and much more.
Hadn't realised there is a rule that says 'Teaching more than six sentences of Dhamma to a woman, except in response to a question is an offence unless a knowledgeable man is present'

Interesting eh!
A bit difficult to digest.
But these are the rules a Theravada monk lives by and has been brought up with.
There are so many more rules that govern women...not accepting things from them..touching them..being alone with or driving in a car with a women.
The reasons for the rules being established in the first place are also explained in this short book.

Found a strong inner protest arose in me.

Women renunciants in Buddhism have to cope with all these rules. [Tenzin Palmo mentions her difficult path trough the male dominated heirachy in the Tibetan tradition]

Aloka
27 Jul 10, 05:08
Hi Heartbeat,

Lovely to hear from you again. It sounds as though you are now reflecting on a variety of different subjects.
As this is meant to be the beginners forum for those who are completely new to Buddhism to ask questions and discuss their beginners practice, perhaps you would like to start a discussion topic in General Buddhist Discussions such as 'The role of women in Buddhism' or a similar title - which could be an interesting debate !

If you haven't explored the website yet, we also have the Tea Room for general chat and a 'How was your week' thread there for everyone to contribute to if they wish.

(...and of course I would always encourage everyone to read the Code of Conduct carefully if they haven't done so already).


With kind thoughts and wishes,

Dazzle

clw_uk
27 Jul 10, 23:18
Hello friend


In the dhamma talk session he called me a 'time waster' and repeated this criticism at the following session. At the interview session he was very angry and told me I 'was a long way from dhamma' and that no matter if I renounced my home for 50 days...years..I would never get anywhere. At the time I felt a flood of shame and stayed with the sensations...then that feeling passed rapidly and I went on with the moment by moment noting.

I do not know the teacher but such words seem to harsh. However it can be a time for reflection. Reflect on the Dukkha that these remarks caused you. What is the cause of this dukkha? Investigate letting go. Use the four noble truths and you will be close to nibbana


However, as the weeks have gone on I find I have a very tender heart. I feel confused. I have lots of thoughts coming up about being unworthy, failing, and of sadness and loss. My practice is not so full of joy. I am not sure of wanting to be with this teacher again.

This is a chance to contemplate impermanence. Sometimes we are full of joy and enthusiasim for the path and then snap, we are confused and sad and maybe even disenchanted

As far as I know the path isnt about constant joy, neither is it constant pain. It is about wisdom and peace found in that wisdom. Joy comes and goes and so does pain, however dukkha does not need to arise and accompany them


My final advice would be to remember that, as Ajahn Chah said, everything teaches us Dhamma. Pain can teach of the nature of aversion, of how much patience and metta we have towards and object or person. Joy can teach us to see impermanence more clearly and the drawbacks of reveling in it


Use wisdom friend, walk the noble eight fold pathnin every experience then dukkha shall never arise and all will be cooled


metta friend

clw_uk
27 Jul 10, 23:32
I made this, my first post a few days ago out of a sense of urgency...so now I want to say how much I appreciated your thoughtful responses

Thank you to Cobalt, Dazzle, Sobeh, Frank, Snowmelt and Kaarine Alejandra for your opinions and thoughts in response to the pain I was experiencing when I wrote of my post-retreat suffering.

I found it difficult to write as it seemed as if I was complaining. Also feel disloyal talking about a situation that is in the past and involves a member of the Sangha.

The variety of expressions echo my own thoughts.....sometimes this way...then...perhaps it is this way...can't believe my own thoughts...so back to the experiencing....back to the present moment...back to the breath... where everything is all-right. Everything changes. nothing stays the same. I am sure all of this is teaching me an important lesson. How to be patient. How to stay with difficult emotions. How I cling to the way I want things to be.

I remember my first retreat with this Sayadaw two years ago.
For every sitting bar one or two I had the most amazingly strong pain in the left side of my back.
I had a great meditation object. The pain was 9 out of ten...like pains of childbirth..the tears flowed with pain and I had waves of heat and then cold.
This pain when sitting lasted for five days. 4am to 10pm

The teacher instructed me to sit longer...1 and a half hours at a time instead of one. but it was relentless.
It would leave only when I stood up ...but three minutes into each sit it was back. I was exhausted.

I got to learn a lot about how my mind works...aversion, bargaining, rejecting..trading and finally giving in altogether...metta...just metta...inviting in the pain of the world.

Seem each retreat brings another deep learning.

with metta




The Buddha tried self mortification and found such methods lacking. Instead there is the middle way between being to slack and to harsh. Your teacher should have known this making you sit through so much pain was clearly not a skillfull thing to do on his part as it obviously seems to have nudged you into self mortification


You know your own body and mind friend, when its to much its to much. Just like when its not enough and you know you can do more. This is wisdom, there is nothing wrong in this


metta

Esho
27 Jul 10, 23:32
As far as I know the path isnt about constant joy, neither is it constant pain. It is about wisdom and peace found in that wisdom. Joy comes and goes and so does pain, however dukkha does not need to arise and accompany them

I liked this... Thanks

:hug:

Aloka
28 Jul 10, 12:04
Use wisdom friend, walk the noble eight fold path in every experience then dukkha shall never arise and all will be cooled


Well said, Craig :hands:

jan
08 Aug 10, 12:35
Use wisdom friend, walk the noble eight fold path in every experience then dukkha shall never arise and all will be cooled


Well said, Craig :hands:





Heartbeat, please take care of yourself. Don't let anyone abuse you, hurt you, esp. in the name of spiritual growth!


I definitely second this. Just because someone is a member of the sangha doesn't mean you aren't allowed to disapprove of anything they do, and it doesn't mean you have to submit to everything they seem to think will be good for you. Buddhist teachers are still only people, and no person should ever be in a position of such esteem and authority that they are above accountability or criticism.

You're not a bad person for complaining about a member of the sangha who pressured you to subject yourself to pain (which, frankly, is there so that your body can tell you something is wrong so that you can avoid hurting it), who doesn't seem able to be fair with female practitioners, and who apparently is giving students the idea that they must submit to anything and everything suggested without question.

Take care of yourself. If your sangha isn't interested in letting you do this very very basic thing, they are not your sangha; they're just other Buddhists.


Hi Heartbeat, You have already received a lot of supportive and heartfelt feedback from sister and brother Buddhists, and taken it to heart. I think it is not the pain issues as such that some of us are concerned about, but probably more the way they are communicated. You should not feel rejected, that points to a lack of rapport in the relationship with your teacher. You have done a number of retreats now with various teachers, I understand, so is it possible for you to choose one that feels right? Perhaps not an unengaged approach, but one where you feel that honesty and openness, and care are valued?
Best wishes, Jan

Heartbeat
08 Aug 10, 14:34
Hi Heartbeat, You have already received a lot of supportive and heartfelt feedback from sister and brother Buddhists, and taken it to heart. I think it is not the pain issues as such that some of us are concerned about, but probably more the way they are communicated. You should not feel rejected, that points to a lack of rapport in the relationship with your teacher. You have done a number of retreats now with various teachers, I understand, so is it possible for you to choose one that feels right? Perhaps not an unengaged approach, but one where you feel that honesty and openness, and care are valued?
Best wishes, Jan


Thank you for this.

I am very grateful for the warmth and wisdom in the many supportive replies I have received.
[The many and varied comments expressing many ways to review and stay with - or to avoid the discomfort, echo the multiple opinions that my mind is also throwing out]

Through expressing my discomfort openly on this forum and by reflecting on the different views, the situation does not seem to be so 'solid' and daunting.

Amazing how much I am learning through this.
Even though it has been uncomfortable and I certainly felt I had been 'whacked' by a piece of 2x4. [an Australian expression?]
I know how much of the 'wanting mind' has been present for me.
So, much clinging.

So now there is a bit more room for calm, insight, wisdom and mindfulness.
The problem is not out there...it is going on in here right now.

There is need for me to make peace with an imperfect world.

I will keep open to fact that I don't always protect myself from harshness. I have a tendency to choose aloof, unapproachable teachers and then want them to be communicative.

Certainly - I will listen to your advice, contemplate, meditate and will wait and see....

Nothing can shake my trust in the Dharma.

Thank you all.
Metta