Author Topic: Going it alone?  (Read 4561 times)

Offline Dharmakara

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Going it alone?
« on: October 15, 2014, 03:08:57 pm »
Do you have a meditation practice and follow the Buddhist teachings, but don’t belong to a Buddhist community, or sangha, and don’t have a Buddhist teacher? If so, you’re part of a growing community of unaffiliated Buddhists.

Below you will find a special collection of articles from the Spring 2010 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, offering guidance and support to those who are “going it alone” from prominent Buddhist teachers in the West: Sylvia Boorstein, Norman Fischer, Gaylon Ferguson, Barry Magid, Judy Lief and Lew Richmond. As Norman Fischer points out in his introduction, if you are unaffiliated, you are certainly not alone.

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Introduction: Buddhism’s New Pioneers
by Norman Fischer

It’s possible that most Western Buddhists are “unaffiliated.” That is, they practice alone or in small informal groups not listed in the phone book or on the web. There is therefore no record, no official trace, of their activity. They practice off the books.

If you’re unaffiliated, maybe you became interested in Buddhism through reading, or in school, or maybe you met a Buddhist practitioner whose approach to life intrigued you. Perhaps you traveled in Asia. Chances are you are unaffiliated because you can’t find a Buddhist center nearby. But I suspect that many unaffiliated practitioners do live near Buddhist centers but don’t want to go to them because they don’t like “organized religion.” This may be due to a bad experience in the past, perhaps in childhood, or because of a strongly held opinion that organized religion is always bad, on principle.

read more >>> http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/web-archive/2010/6/1/buddhisms-new-pioneers.html

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Teachings: Get Ready to Dive In
by Judy Lief

Thanks to the efforts of translators, practitioners, and scholars, we have access to an abundance of magazines, journals, books, articles, videos, podcasts, and websites about Buddhism in all its diverse forms. Different Buddhist schools emphasize different aspects of the tradition and have varying guidelines regarding the proper balance of study and practice. And when it comes to study, different schools of Buddhism focus on completely different primary texts and commentaries.

Practitioners studying within a particular sangha may follow a customary curriculum, and be guided in their studies by teachers within their community. But for the independent practitioner, there is no clear roadmap. The sheer volume of material to study can be overwhelming, and so can figuring out where to start. So it is probably best to begin at the beginning—with yourself.

read more >>> http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/web-archive/2010/6/1/teachings-get-ready-to-dive-in.html

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Practice: You Can’t Do It Wrong
by Barry Magid

Zen master Dogen (1200–1253) said that zazen was not a meditation technique but was instead the dharma gate of enjoyment and ease. Yet how often we stray from that reminder, especially when we are sitting alone.

A technique is something we can do right or wrong, well or badly. True practice is about being grounded in a place free from these dichotomies. So we need to frame our practice in such a way that we do not get lost in dualisms of right or wrong, progress or the lack of it.

read more >>> http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/web-archive/2010/6/1/practice-you-cant-do-it-wrong.html

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Community: Extending the View of Sangha
by Gaylon Ferguson

We are human beings walking a path of liberation, and the value of community is linked to our fundamental humanity. As Suzuki Roshi said, “Buddhanature is just another name for our human nature.” As human beings, we are strongly affected by those around us: we share in their joys and sorrows, and we look at what is happening in our immediate environment and feel discouraged or inspired. Nowadays, evolutionary scientists tell us we are “hardwired” as social beings; it is human nature to be influenced by our association with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, the communities we work and live in. The English word “influenza” comes from the same root, and the view here is that awakening is positively contagious: we catch each other’s wisdom and compassion, because wakeful examples resonate so strongly with our own innate nature.

read more >>> http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/web-archive/2010/6/1/community-extending-the-view-of-sangha.html

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Mentors: Spiritual Friends Help Guide the Way
by Sylvia Boorstein

Two of my most significant ongoing practice opportunities are dedicated commitments with friends who live time zones away and whom I rarely meet in person. My friends are teachers, as I am, but in both cases we are not trying to teach each other. Rather we are friends learning together.

The Buddha emphasized the importance of spiritual friendship. is said that Ananda, one of his principal disciples, asked, “Is it true, Lord, that noble friends are half of the holy life?” The Buddha is said to have responded, “No, Ananda. It’s not true. Noble friends are the whole of the holy life.”

read more >>> http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/web-archive/2010/6/1/mentors-spiritual-friends-help-guide-the-way.html

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What If? Guidelines for Choosing a Teacher
by Lewis Richmond

You may be perfectly content to study and practice the dharma on your own, without a Buddhist teacher or community. But the time may come when you feel that isn’t enough, and you decide you want to seek one out. If that happens, how do you go about finding a teacher (and by extension, a community) that’s right for you?

It’s important to know that the wisdom you’re seeking is already within you. It guides your spiritual search, and is the reason you are already on the path. So to some extent you can rely on your own instincts and intuition to help you.

read more >>> http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/web-archive/2010/6/1/what-if-guidelines-for-choosing-a-teacher.html

« Last Edit: October 15, 2014, 03:14:19 pm by Dharmakara, Reason: formatting »

Offline summer moon

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2014, 12:45:25 pm »
Thank you for this topic, the link and the articles. I had figured I was the only solo explorer of Mahayana Buddhism. Now I know that unaffiliated Buddhists are themselves a movement.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2014, 12:03:55 am »
Hi Summer Moon and welcome to Free Sangha.

It's good to hear that the thread is serving its intended purpose --- there's been quite a few discussions in regard to the topic, but no resource section for practitioners who are actually going it alone, so it seemed more than appropriate to provide such a resource.

There's also another article I've mentioned a few times before, The Lone Buddhists, by Piya Tan:

http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/RB50-Lone-Buddhists-120404.pdf

By the way, if anyone knows of other resources, please feel free to add them to this thread.

Offline falconbrother

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2014, 05:25:43 pm »
I have been studying alone for over a decade.  I live in the South where Buddhist are as rare as hen's teeth. 

I once heard a Buddhist speaker speak about how far so many Buddhist organizations, Sangha's had gone from what he thought was the intentions of the Buddha himself.  He said that the Buddha taught that people should free themselves from all kinds of concepts about reality.  But, that much of the Buddhist religion had just created more layers of conceptual ideas to crawl through.  So, as much as I would enjoy a Buddhist community, I think, there's not much to choose from.  The good news is that it forces me (sort of - in a manner of speaking) do the work myself and not lay back and be hand fed. 

I read a huge, and I do mean, huge stack of books.  Then, after a few years came to the conclusion that I would have to stop reading and sit in meditation, seek enlightenment (which is a word about a thing that doesn't exist).  I think I have done pretty well (who ever "I" is).  I have experienced in very profound ways the illusion of my reality and my ideas about the I = me+my story.  I have experienced the truth of emptiness and the interdependent existence of all things or the ways in which we conceptualize things as being which are only mental/egoic concepts.  I have experienced the emptiness behind the concepts and found this to be an extremely deep well that my third dimensional paradigm struggles with. 

My major influences are: Shunryu Suzuki, Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, His Holiness the Dali Lama, Adyashanti, Alan Watts, etc..     

Offline mf

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2015, 05:01:57 pm »
I think it's good to start out alone.  Reading and meditating will unravel your thoughts until you have your first awakening (transcending thought because it's been intellectually unraveled).

Once this has happened though, you need a teacher.  You will go off the deep end believing whatever silliness re-appears in your mind because hey - it worked!  You got enlightened!  However, this is just the very beginning.

Teachers who are further along will guide you much more rapidly.  After initial enlightenment, there is not much more to learn from books - the transmission and deepening is beyond mind.  Don't trust 'transmission' from your imagination.

Offline Radiant946

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2015, 07:24:11 pm »
I am so glad I found FreeSangha. I am actually going it alone right now studying buddhism.  It's not by choice, but there isn't a sangha near me. I thought it wasnt acceptable to study on my own, but I see it is. I have great books and literature that I am studying, but I see there is a wealth of information here, too, and help for beginners.

Offline question everything

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2015, 06:10:22 am »
Hi Radiant,

 I have made the same choice,and appreciate the help given on FreeSangha, I look forward to reading your thoughts.
" Better than a thousand useless words is one useful word, hearing which one attains peace."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.08.budd.html

Offline KarmaDrakpaYeshe

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2016, 08:57:14 pm »
If you are serious about Buddhism then try to find a sangha. You always need friends, and that is the same in Buddhism. Even if they are not of the exact same views or lineage that doesnt matter. At least they are a lot closer to it than your average people and will probably still support your practice. Buddha intended his monks to live together and not separate for a reason. It is very important on the path long term to have support, people to encourage you and pick you up when you fall. A supportive atmosphere is difficult to cultivate on your own in this modern age.

But I feel you are asking this question because of a lack of support. If that is the case as long as you are sincere you can still practice. But I don't think I could have taught myself how to meditate adequately. I tried on my own for years, but it was only when I went to a true retreat that taught me how to truly do it with success. People have mixed feelings about vipassana, but they have free centers throughout the world, and I would say they are the most realistic way to get involved in real meditation for most people.

 There is a responder above from the carolinas. I once met someone from the carolinas who described himself as a hidden yogi due to the intolerance there and lack of sangha. But he is wrong to think he is without a sangha, he has found one on here :). At least some kind of contact I would think is essential. Even great yogis who go into retreat have their teachers forever in their minds, they often describe being surrounded by supporting deities and long dead lineage masters in a very real way. 

I personally have experienced the blessings of living among true sangha members. It was an unequalled asset I could not say enough good things about. It may be hard to find this, but I know a lot of people who have gone all the way around the world to find it and aren't the least bit sorry. Not saying you have to do that, but if buddhism is important to you I really recommend being somewhere that there is a group that at least meets on a regular basis. I was without that for years, and was recently blessed to find it again. I had forgotten how wonderful that is.

Offline apb123

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2016, 01:31:02 pm »
I have been "going it alone" for 20 years.

There are no communities near me.

Offline whale

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2016, 12:04:41 pm »
I'm alone as well. I used to go to a center but now have a family.  I don't think smaller centers have the capacity for drop offs or child care.   Some say Buddha's son Rāhula was named "impediment" and "fetter", and when you have children it all make sense.  at lease my ideal of self has been obliterated.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2016, 04:46:16 pm »
Suggestion:  Find a monastic community online and invite Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis to come visit with you and share your presence in the local community by showing them around your village, town or city.  Take them shopping and or perhaps invite them to consider starting a community (sangha) in your region.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2016, 04:12:17 am »
What a great conversation. In a nutshell it sums up both the advantages and problems of exploring life as a Buddhist in the West. We have access to the great wisdom of the ages, and the entire internet to play with, but we still come up against traditions which have developed in many different ways, and which are embedded in many different cultures. Going it alone allows you to make up your mind what all this means for you, but it can't beat being with a real person, someone to teach you and talk with you face to face.

The experience of meditation is different too. meditating by yourself is important and, ultimately, how you achieve what you want to, but it's not like meditating with a group of like-minded people. A whole different experience. Maybe there isn't a Buddhist group near you, but could you meet up with people who just want to meditate together?

I think that too much Buddhist material is caught up with translations from traditions, cultures and times which have their own, usually untranslatable, jargon. Suitable English words just don't exist, or come with their own culture laden meanings. Many traditions are, understandably, built around what has worked for special individuals in the past, but ignores the needs of each individual. The Buddha was said to be an expert in tailoring what he said to each individual, allowing them to make progress according to their needs.

What we in the West can offer is to work on what it means to practice Buddhism and meditation in the West, calling on, but not being delineated by, the great traditions of the past. I've been working on it since I retired, and I'm sure there are lots of other people out there doing the same.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2016, 05:45:58 am »
Quote
stillpointdancer wrote:  "What we in the West can offer is to work on what it means to practice Buddhism and meditation in the West, calling on, but not being delineated by, the great traditions of the past. I've been working on it since I retired, and I'm sure there are lots of other people out there doing the same."


My understanding is that the goal, leading to enlightenment, is not meditation, but to attain a degree of mindfulness, which allows us to recognize that all experiences of body and mind are empty of any self.  This happens naturally over the time of our individual practices.  Practicing Vipassana and Samatha meditation works together to bring us to this state of awareness:  "I feel anger, anger is not me;  I feel an itch, the itch is not me; I am thinking, the thoughts are not me;  I am writing with an intention to communicate an idea, the intention is not me;  I am aging and my body is deteriorating, my body is not me, I am celebrating a birthday, but my age is not me"  You know what you are experiencing in the moment, you are experiencing it of body and/or of mind.  None of these is me.  Once we become aware of this reality and remain mindful of this reality, we have entered the stream.

source:   http://www.freesangha.com/forums/Smileys/default/wheel.gif
« Last Edit: June 28, 2016, 02:46:12 pm by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline whale

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2016, 09:04:28 am »
Good ideal "Ron-the-Elder". perhaps a call out on meetup.com. 

Offline Zen

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Re: Going it alone?
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2016, 05:23:10 pm »
I am also in the deep south and don't see many Buddhists. I tend to like Buddhism and Daoism because, unlike the very dogmatic and impractical Abrahamic religions, the Buddhist, Daoist, and Zen paths are more of a practical and nondogmatic path towards enlightenment. I doubt the concept of rebirth, but rebirth is much more realistic and probable than reincarnation. The way I've heard rebirth decribed is like using one flame to start a new flame--different flames, but having a connection. I could see this, but I try to stay scientific in my approach, and as such, I need to evidence to fully approve the concept of rebirth. Otherwise, I decided to start zazen.

I am lucky to have met 2 other buddhists and we are meeting one a week in a tiny, makeshift sangha. I wish it was bigger and that we could meet more often, as once a week is a long time to wait between meetups, and I like sharing my experiences. Then again, the three of us are all fairly inexperienced lay people, so it could be better...

 


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