Thread: Being One's Own Teacher

  1. #1

    Being One's Own Teacher

    "Being one's own teacher" - a short article by Gil Fronsdal.

    Please share your thoughts if you have read it all:

    http://www.insightmeditationcenter.o...s-own-teacher/



  2. #2
    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    It's much more complicated than this, I think, despite the fact that this is how the Kalama Sutta tends to get used.

    Notice how the message in that Sutta involves common human morality, and as such is not objectionable in and of itself. Religion, after all, gets its morality from humanity, not the other way around, and the Buddha is pointing this out. In this sense there's a level of self-direction in morality which is natural (but of course differences of opinion are also natural).

    Once one has a natural (i.e. bio-socialized) ethic in place, further problems will get defined & the ethic refined in various ways, and it's here that a certain pedagogical trust comes into play - and here the Kalamas did not actually receive advice! They simply trusted the Buddha's answer after hearing it, apparently judging for themselves. But the details of this amorphous, baseline human morality were & are up for discussion.

    With Xianity, for example, sin is an important variable alongside a strong faith in the absence of evidence, ritual comportment, and so on. With Early Buddhism, the problem is defined as dukkha, and the solution involves a particular set of practices.

    Now, notice how there isn't much going on in that Sutta that relates to the Dhamma; nothing about emptiness or the gradual path... none of these things are mentioned. So I think the OP gestures at a larger topic: what's the difference here between personal preference and the Buddhist value of "knowing and seeing for oneself"? The latter comes about through practices that one already trusts enough to engage with - one is NOT running about willy-nilly.

    So, what should one trust & try out? What is the role of confirmation bias and other errors of thinking? Does it take education & practice to accurately introspect? These are good questions, and people respond in unique ways...
    Last edited by daverupa; 28 Aug 16 at 13:22.

  3. #3
    Oops, i forgot to include a link to the Kalama sutta (AN 3.65) in #1.

    https://suttacentral.net/en/an3.65



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    Hi Daverupa

    Quote Originally Posted by daverupa View Post
    It's much more complicated than this, I think, despite the fact that this is how the Kalama Sutta tends to get used.
    I take it that "it's" refers to Buddhist practice ?

    Agreed that this is how the Sutta is used, although I think Gil has put over the need for an individual's need for discernment quite well

    Notice how the message in that Sutta involves common human morality, and as such is not objectionable in and of itself. Religion, after all, gets its morality from humanity, not the other way around, and the Buddha is pointing this out. In this sense there's a level of self-direction in morality which is natural (but of course differences of opinion are also natural).
    An interesting idea, I tend to agree with Gil's analysis that "Naive self-reliance can lead to as many problems as naive reliance on scriptures or teachers." I think "common human morality" is a lot like common sense, rare and often missing, if the history of most religions is observed


    Once one has a natural (i.e. bio-socialized) ethic in place, further problems will get defined & the ethic refined in various ways, and it's here that a certain pedagogical trust comes into play - and here the Kalamas did not actually receive advice! They simply trusted the Buddha's answer after hearing it, apparently judging for themselves. But the details of this amorphous, baseline human morality were & are up for discussion.
    I disagree, the kamala's did receive the advice to check teachings pragmatically against their own experience of the result of putting the teaching into practice against specific criteria, I do not think that is simply trusting trusting the Buddha, in fact trust is the opposite of the advice ?

    With Xianity, for example, sin is an important variable alongside a strong faith in the absence of evidence, ritual comportment, and so on. With Early Buddhism, the problem is defined as dukkha, and the solution involves a particular set of practices.

    Now, notice how there isn't much going on in that Sutta that relates to the Dhamma; nothing about emptiness or the gradual path... none of these things are mentioned. So I think the OP gestures at a larger topic: what's the difference here between personal preference and the Buddhist value of "knowing and seeing for oneself"? The latter comes about through practices that one already trusts enough to engage with - one is NOT running about willy-nilly.
    I think the Kalama's where skeptics, the Buddha's response was to offer a pragmatic teaching that brilliantly avoided metaphysical dispute, but gave them direction that if they followed they would be able to realize for themselves the benefit of practice, gaining confidence in the teachings they may well continue on the path of the Dhamma

    So, what should one trust & try out? What is the role of confirmation bias and other errors of thinking? Does it take education & practice to accurately introspect? These are good questions, and people respond in unique ways...
    In answer to what should one trust I think follow the logic of the sutta, honestly try embodying the teaching, there will be confirmation bias and errors of thinking, this is why developing mindfulness to truly see the affect of your actions on yourself and others helps to develop the necessary wisdom to progress on the path

    As Gil says "Ease in breathing might seem trivial. It is not. It is an important pre-condition to happiness and liberation. The more relaxed the breathing is the more sensitive we can become to subtleties of suffering and happiness. Because our inner life and psychology closely influence how we breathe, the quality of our breathing can reveal much about what is happening in the mind.

    The more easeful the breathing becomes, the more ease-filled is the mind. In contrast to spiritual teachings that are too abstract or distant to be experienced directly, a person can know whether he or she is breathing easily. And, as an alternative to complex analysis, a person can direct the mind toward attitudes and ways of being that bring greater ease and pleasure in breathing.

    Being guided by our breathing, we can learn a lot about what we should do and what we should let go of. In this way our own breath provides the direct experience that can help us be our own teachers."

  5. #5
    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    I take it that "it's" refers to Buddhist practice ?
    "It's" refers to being one's own teacher - this is a very complicated epistemological issue, it seems to me.

    I do not think that is simply trusting trusting the Buddha, in fact trust is the opposite of the advice ?
    Well, they did have enough trust to listen to his teaching - it formed a condition for their lending an open mind and an ear to what he was saying.

    My overall point was that different groups can decide different things with respect to un/wholesomeness; there will be no universally agreed-upon ethics that emerges from this process, there will be a lot of overlap & some stark contrasts. So, the ethics being championed here is the common human ethic, not a specific Dhammic ethic, not until we get to the part about the noble disciple:

    Thus, Kālāmas, when we said: ‘Come, Kālāmas, do not go by oral tradition … But when you know for yourselves: “These things are wholesome; these things are blameless; these things are praised by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to welfare and happiness,” then you should live in accordance with them,’ it is because of this that this was said.

    “Then, Kālāmas, that noble disciple... whose mind is in this way without enmity, without ill will, undefiled, and pure, has won four assurances in this very life.
    The underlined portion is, of course, very encouraging.
    Last edited by daverupa; 31 Aug 16 at 23:47.

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    Hi Daverupa

    Very true, I am sure that it is easy to self delude, it is also easy for charismatic people to delude others, so there is a "complicated epistemological issue"

    My hope is the underlined portion has a way of seeing through the issues if an honest approach of examining the results of teachings in your own experience.

    A little naive perhaps ? people cause so much stress by clinging on to what they perceive, but they would do that anyway in my experience

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