Style of teaching

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
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PadmaVonSamba
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Style of teaching

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Sat Mar 02, 2019 3:05 pm

I've noticed that there are two distinct ways that teachers give Buddhist teachings.

One way is to pretty much just go through a text line by line, explaining the context, the meaning of the terms being used, and so forth.
This is the experience I have had with my teachers. It's practically academic.

The other way is to (for lack of a better description) "deliver a sermon", bringing up all sorts of examples of daily life, or using hypothetical examples or anecdotes to explain the concepts found in a teaching. It's a style that is cozy, less formal.

I'm not sure if the first style is more traditional, and the second more of a manifestation of western culture.j

Of course, there are also teachers who don't even refer to a text, who just pick a problem and then basically say what the buddhist "solution" would be.

At least, this is something I seem to have noticed lately, as I have been taking in more online videos and podcasts.

Do you have a style preference? Do you find one way more useful?
Do you think one way is somewhat distorting?


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Sennin
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Re: Style of teaching

Post by Sennin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:21 am

I prefer when a teacher teaches from a text, line by line;
it allows me to feel more confident in the teachings.

On the other hand some of my most :idea: moments of understanding came through unelaborate teachings.
But at the same time, there is room for getting off track from the inital teachings when going the cozy route.
"One should always recite mantra, purifying the body."
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amanitamusc
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Re: Style of teaching

Post by amanitamusc » Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:48 am

Sennin wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:21 am
I prefer when a teacher teaches from a text, line by line;
it allows me to feel more confident in the teachings.

On the other hand some of my most :idea: moments of understanding came through unelaborate teachings.
But at the same time, there is room for getting off track from the inital teachings when going the cozy route.
A teacher who can teach the text in a line by line style and who can add commentary to
the teaching and gets through to everyone who hears it is a Buddha.

tingdzin
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Re: Style of teaching

Post by tingdzin » Mon Mar 04, 2019 6:49 am

There are different styles of teaching according to the teacher himself, the audience, the time, and the specific purpose. To take some oversimplified examples, if a teacher is teaching a group who know nothing of Buddhism, it may not be too skillful to go through a scripture line by line; a more general introduction into what meaning Buddhism might have in the lives of that particular group may be more useful. More committed students might get more from a more analytical and scholarly approach. Neither of these can be said to be "more traditional" or "more Western", inasmuch as a good teacher always allows for his audience's capacity and receptiveness. Podcasts and the like, aimed at mass audiences, tend necessarily to be aimed at a lowest common denominator of understanding, even if the topic itself is profound.

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Re: Style of teaching

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:40 am

The "talk" type teachings I've been to that had the most personal impact are of the spontaneous variety, literally I don't think the teacher even planned anything, he or she read the room, and just started flowing. Less like a sermon and more like a really powerful, life changing conversation, even if the listeners weren't actively talking much, there was an element of receptivity on the part of the teacher towards the audience that i'm not sure is utilized in the "by the book" style.

That said, there is something to be said for the organized, scholastic type. Having the right container of concepts for the teaching being poured out to you is important, and something which I think is often subconsciously poo-pooed in some Buddhist circles.

So I would say that while I gravitate towards the "cozy" variety, I have had some very important teachings in the other category, that I am glad I had.
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Sentient Light
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Re: Style of teaching

Post by Sentient Light » Wed Mar 06, 2019 11:44 pm

Thich Phap Hoa has some videos where he lectures in English, which may give you an idea of what I'm talking about, but specifically with his Vietnamese talks, he does a bit of both:

- he'll go through a text largely line-by-line, and like an academic, he'll bring up terms in Vietnamese, and what the original Sanskrit, Pali, or Gandhari term was, explaining its history, and how it applies to Buddhist doctrine overall, and where the Vietnamese might have misinterpreted something because of the etymology of our translation. Occasionally, he'll even bring up the English alternative term for an idea and explain that etymology.

- typically as he's doing this, he's inserting real-life scenarios as examples and metaphors of what he's discussing, and why these teachings are still relevant to contemporary life

I lean a little more academic, so I appreciate the rigor of keeping the Sanskrit nearby, and often the departures into history talks--I tend to get bored when there's a little too much conventional metaphor being employed--but I think that this strikes a good balance. I know he's popular among Vietnamese Americans/Canadians for the latter--being able to present the Buddhist teachings as they are relevant to the post-internet world and the challenges we face today, clearly and precisely and accessibly--but I really appreciate also the more academic dive into etymology and history, because at least in part.. because I'm not great at Vietnamese, so when he starts talking about the Sanskrit, it clues me into exactly what he's talking about, and expands my Vietnamese Buddhist vocabulary.

With my in-person teachers, they've almost always been more of the contemporary style, but there's still an approach of going through texts maybe not line-by-line, but section by section.
:buddha1: Nam mô A di đà Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Quan Thế Âm Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Đại Thế Chi Bồ Tát :bow:

:buddha1: Nam mô Bổn sư Thích ca mâu ni Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Di lặc Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Địa tạng vương Bồ tát :bow:

Shaku Kenshin
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Re: Style of teaching

Post by Shaku Kenshin » Thu Mar 07, 2019 11:08 am

I have encountered both styles here in Japan. The text analysis in an academic context and in study classes, the dharma talks mostly after services or other rituals in a temple.

Tata1
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Re: Style of teaching

Post by Tata1 » Thu Mar 07, 2019 4:17 pm

There is nothing western about the second approach as you can see for the many recordes pith instructions from great mahasiddhas of the past

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Grigoris
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Re: Style of teaching

Post by Grigoris » Thu Mar 07, 2019 6:58 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 3:05 pm
One way is to pretty much just go through a text line by line, explaining the context, the meaning of the terms being used, and so forth.
This is the experience I have had with my teachers. It's practically academic.

The other way is to (for lack of a better description) "deliver a sermon", bringing up all sorts of examples of daily life, or using hypothetical examples or anecdotes to explain the concepts found in a teaching. It's a style that is cozy, less formal.
My teacher tends to combine both: line by line explained/punctuated by personal/daily experiences.
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