Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Faith in the Teacher & Progress

If you are sincere and want learn the true Dhamma, you have to first built up your store of merits or conditions that will support you towards that aspiration. Follow the basic practices like observing your sila (precepts), perform dana (be it monetary or with your time and energy to help others) and take time to meditate. Then, constantly make the aspiration to be able to find a good teacher.

By the fact that you're naturally inclined towards the Dhamma, means that you've most likely acquired that understanding from your previous birth. This is especially when you have been brought up in a non Buddhist country and have not been totally exposed to the teachings of the Buddha when young- then one day, when you chance upon a potrait or some writings or perhaps your friend talk to you about it, you felt drawn to the teachings. In my travels to Thailand, I've met a number of foreigners who were drawn to the Dhamma, so much so that they were willing to make the journey to Thailand, sometimes alone to learn from great teachers like Luangta.

Each one of us has affinity with certain teachers. With the right teacher, you can progress very fast in meditation because you seemed to understand what the teacher had said. A real teacher who guides you to walk the path should be endowed with the knowledge to understand your heart, your affinity and past kamma. These teachers are rare and far between but with sincere aspiration, you will meet and come across one. Always judge for yourself if the teachings are effective by putting the teachings to practice.

I would like to relay a personal experience of mine- I have always been practicising walking meditation as thought to me by a yogi- by repeating "Bud" when I step my left foot forward and "dho" when I step my right foot forward. After a while of practicing that, I started feeling dizzy when I was doing the meditation. It came to a time when I felt I wanted to topple and lose my balance. One day, I was with a nun and I asked her why I was losing my balance. She said, "I don't understand why many people want to do walking meditation that way to try to develop concentration. There is not enough sati (mindfulness), that is why you wanted to topple. Instead of repeating the meditation word "Buddho" with your walking, can you please do it with your breath? Breathing in, you mentally recite "Bud" and breathing out, you recite "dho". "

I decided to try what she had said- initially, it was hard because I was so accustomed to reciting Buddho with my pacing that my mind automatically go back to my left (Bud) and right (dho). When I told her, she asked me to be patient and do it slowly- when I am not mindful and forget to look at the breath, she said it's ok, just bring your mind back. I did and within a few days of practicing, I could see that I no longer had the sensation that I wanted to lose balance or topple during walking meditation (congkom). I reported this to her and she was pleased that I was willing to follow her advise. It is not that I've not meditated before- in fact, I've meditated for years under very good teachers. But somehow, our affinity were not the same- so the methods that worked for these teachers (other monks and nun) were not working well for me.

After this simple instruction, I no longer had to struggle a lot with walking meditation- previously, I had to force and force myself just to sustain more than an hour of continous walking meditation. But I realised that by being mindful of the in-out breath, I was able to maintain better mindfulness and concentration and hence the walking was no longer a 'chore' or a torture where my lower back, shoulders and legs hurt.

If you do come across a teacher who has compassion and is able to teach you skills that enable you to progress in your meditation, please treasure the teacher and have faith to learn under him/her. You may not built up the trust overnight but that's okay-but by virtue that you are seeking guidance under a teacher, have a little faith and respect for the teacher.

Observe whether the methods given by the teacher helps your meditation to progress- and turn you into a better and happier person on the inside? Is the teacher able to clear your doubts to your satisfaction?

If yes, have faith and follow the teacher's teaching. If the teacher asks you to walk in total darkness even when you are terrified of ghosts, do it. You have to remember that you are fighting against kilesas piled higher than a mountain. Your body, your kilesas is going to fight you, is going to whisper tempting words and try to dissuade you so that you will give up and go back to worldly pleasures. It's too hard, they say. Your paramis are not enough, they say. Why not give up now and just make the aspiration to continue in your next life- they say. These are the constant whisperings of the kilesas.

Your paramis are enough for now- if not, you will not be able to take the plane and make it to the meditation practice. Of course the practice is going to be hard- when you have been giving in to your sensual desires and pleasures, now you are practicing restraint and sila- of course it's not easy. Don't wait for next life- you may not be able to find any good teachers then- you can't even be sure if you are going to be reborn in a realm where you can comprehend the Dhamma. So do it this life- whatever you can and to the best of your abilities.

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