The Search for a Teacher...

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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The Search for a Teacher...

Post by sraddha » Sun Jul 19, 2009 11:10 pm

What are some characteristics that someone should look for in a Buddhist meditation teacher? How is a beginner able to discern? ... erfine.htm

True and False Teachers
How do you know which teachers are for real and which are phonies? Many schools of Buddhism place great importance on lineage -- the teacher's teacher, the teacher's teacher's teacher, and so on, going back generations. Most schools of Buddhism only recognize teachers who have been authorized to teach either by that school's institutions or by another authorized teacher.

It's true that such authorization is no guarantee of quality. And not all unauthorized teachers are charlatans. But I would be very cautious about working with anyone who calls himself a "Buddhist" teacher but who has no association whatsoever with a recognized Buddhist lineage or institution. Such a teacher is almost certainly a fraud.

A few tips: Only the phonies claim to be "fully enlightened." Beware of teachers who ooze charisma and are worshiped by their students. The best teachers are the most ordinary ones. The true teachers are those who say they have nothing to give you.
For me, when I read about many of these teachers, they failed to inspire me when I read their books or their views...when reading any of their books, I thought, "gee, Buddha sure wasn't impressive" They were uncreative, uninspiring, made Buddha's teachings what they wanted Buddhism to be and it was always about them rather than the teachings. How could anyone make Maitri dry and cold??? But certainly, many of them did!

Teachers barely make mention of how Buddha as the refuge protects us from many mistakes that beginners are sure to make during meditation...but with faith in the Tatagatha established with the teachings as one's guide , determination and persistence, one can make this refuge alone one's teacher in learning meditation!

In my experience, any teacher who teaches Buddhist meditation without helping one establish faith in Buddha first, is a false teacher indeed!

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by genkaku » Wed Jul 22, 2009 9:23 pm

Dear Sraddha -- No one can teach Buddhism ... even those who talk day and night, page after page, and fill the air with more air.

Bad teachers, good teachers ... who in their right mind would distinguish this way? Just find a teacher who suits you and stop filling the air with air.

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by sraddha » Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:08 pm

Hi genkaku,

Good teachers are those who lead you towards the Dharmakaya, bad teachers are those who lead away from the Dharmakaya.

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by genkaku » Sat Jul 25, 2009 2:05 am

I suppose then that the only thing left to do, whether the teachers are good or bad, is to find out exactly what the Dharmakaya might be and then actualize it. Anything less would be nonsense, I imagine.

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by sraddha » Sat Jul 25, 2009 3:10 pm

genkaku wrote:I suppose then that the only thing left to do, whether the teachers are good or bad, is to find out exactly what the Dharmakaya might be and then actualize it.

Anything less would be nonsense, I imagine.
All mentation and imagination are the fabrication process that leads you around in Dependant Causation. :smile:

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by genkaku » Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:28 am

Saddles are wonderful, as they point out in Texas. But there is always the matter of the horse that goes under them. I guess if we follow the horseshit, we may luck out.

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by sraddha » Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:14 am

genkaku wrote:Saddles are wonderful, as they point out in Texas. But there is always the matter of the horse that goes under them. I guess if we follow the horseshit, we may luck out.
What's the horse and saddle in Buddhism? :smile:

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by dave » Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:29 pm

Hi Shaddha

Down, I have copied you some teachings, about the required necessary different qualities of teachers, I have received 2000-2005 in India.
So all about Buddhism is the Buddha-Dharma, the Dharma can be taught by qualified teachers.

Some basic conception about classification of a spiritual friend

The classification of the spiritual friend.
There are four different kinds of spiritual friends.
1) The first kind of spiritual friend is an ordinary human being. Somebody who has not attained the first level, like the bodhisattva-level, who is not liberated from Samsara, who is still practising on the path of accumulation and the path of junction. From the moment one starts on the practise to enlightenment, until enlightenment it is taught that there are five paths and ten bodhisattva-levels. The first two of the paths are the path of accumulation and the path of junction or path of unification. These two paths are as long as one is still practising in the world, as long as one has not attained any liberation or any level of realization. The third path is called the path of vision. This path is identical with the first level of realization, usually known as bodhisattva-level. From the second level until the tenth level, the path is called: the path of practise. The final path is the path of non learning, which is identical to buddhahood itself. In this classification of teachers the first kind is a person who is on the first or the second of the five paths.
2) The second kind of teacher is somebody who has attained a level of realization, that can be from the second to the tenth level.
3) The third kind of teacher is a Buddha in his Nirmanakaya form, which is like the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.
4) The fourth kind of teacher is Buddha in his Sambhogakaya form, at the pure Buddhafields.
Depending on one's own level, one needs a teacher accordingly. As beginners the first kind of teachers is needed, because one is not able to communicate with teachers like Buddha in his Nirmanakaya-form. Regarding the second kind of teachers, it is somebody who has attained a level from the second to the tenth bodhisattva-level, it means it is somebody who is not appearing as a human being. It is for instance Chenresig or Jampel Yang, like bodhisattvas on the tenth level, which one is able to see and communicate with and get instructions from. Because of that a disciple can not benefit from this kind of teacher until the disciple himself has reached the last level of the first path, called the path of accumulation. This path again is divided into different steps. When you begin you are on a low level, then you're on a medium level and then on a higher level. And again each of these steps has three levels.
The final step in the path of accumulation is the earliest time where one can have a chance of directly benefiting from teachers like Chenresig or Manjushri. The fourth kind of teacher, the Buddha in his Sambhogakaya form is meant in the way, that one oneself is born into the pure land of the Buddhas, and at that level one can receive direct teachings. In order to be able to meet teachers as the Nirmanakaya form of the Buddha, the disciple has to have attained the path of junction himself. To get a teacher of the fourth category, the student himself has to have attained the path of vision. He has to be able to be born in the pure land himself. Among these four kinds of teachers, the one that is most beneficial for us, is the first kind, the one who is an ordinary human being. As long as we are so obscured in our mind, as long as our disturbing emotions are so strong, we have to meet somebody whom we can see, we can hear, we can talk to, we can ask for teachings. We can follow the teachings according to what he says. Like this we can progress on the path and later on we can meet other teachers. Without the first kind of teachers we would not get anywhere.

3.3.1 The spiritual friend as a Buddha
Among the followers of Buddhism are those who assert that there is Sambhogakaya and there are those The ones who do not assert this are the Theravada followers.
The Mahayana vehicle asserts that there is Sambhogakaya. In the Mahayana the Sambhogakaya is explained as a result of having perfected the first three of the six Paramitas, which are 1.gnerousity 2. ethics 3.patience .
The result after enlightenment will be that one will automatically manifest in the Nirmanakaya and Sambhogakaya. Both together are called Formkaya.
The beings who need the teachings of the Buddha are of two kinds, the impure and the pure. For beings on an impure level the Buddha manifests in his Nirmanakaya form and for beings on the pure level, which means the Bodhisattvas, he manifests in the Sambhogakayaform. This means hat the Sambhogakaya is the pure manifestation or form. For beings in the impure world it is not possible to see the Buddha in his Sambhogakaya-form, it is only possible for beings who have already purified.
This pure Sambhogakaya-form of the Buddha means that the Buddha has 32 greater signs of perfection and 80 minor marks. It is continually there and not under change. The Buddha teaches in this form only the Mahayanadharma. His followers are beings who have already attained a level of realization. For beings who did not attain any level of realization it is not possible to meet the Buddha in Sambhogakaya-form.
For practitioners of Vajrayana: They should know, if they meditate on a Yidam, that this is the manifestation of the Buddha in his different aspects of the Sambhogakaya-form. Some of the Yidams have a pigface or an oxface and one might ask, how can that be the 80 minor marks and 32 greater signs of perfection? We should understand that these faces for example symbolise something. For instance Dorje Phagmo carries a pigshead on the top of her head. It symbolises ignorance and it shows us that we still have it and that Dorje Phagmo has overcome it. The Sambhogakaya-form is always the pure form and among of the four kinds of teachers the Sambhogakaya-teacher is the superior. The Buddha in his Nirmanakaya form appears in the impure world for impure beings. For instance Buddha Shakyamuni.
The qualities of the Nirmanakaya form of the Buddha are, that he has removed the two kinds of obscurations and he has fully developed or manifested the two kinds of wisdom.
The two kinds of obscurations are:
1) The obscuration holding us in Samsara, so we cannot get liberated.
2) The obscuration preventing us from seeing the nature of things.

1) 1.The first kind are different disturbing emotions, like desire, anger and stupidity and all thoughts and emotions related to them. There exist 6 root disturbing emotions and about 20 mixed disturbances. All of them together bind us to Samsara.
2) The obscurations of not knowing the nature of things means that one has the obscuration of a dualistic view. One sees the object and the subject as being different and one does not know the nature of the object or the subject. One claims to this dualistic concept. The Buddha has abandoned these two obscurations and he has this quality in both forms.
He has also developed the two kinds of wisdom.
1) The first kind of wisdom is to know how it is (How-It-Isness). This means to know exactly what is the nature of the object, of the subject and what is the nature of mind.
2) The second kind is the wisdom of diversity.(To-Know-What-Is-There).This is the wisdom to know exactly everything, how things are and how things happen in Samsara.
The difference between the Nirmanakaya form of the Buddha and his Sambhogakaya form is that his Nirmanakaya form is available for the ordinary beings. His followers are not only beings who have reached a level of realization, they can be all kinds of beings. Buddha teaches not only the Mahayana-vehicle but also the other vehicles.
3.3.2 The spiritual friend as a Bodhisattva on a high level
The third category of teacher was the one who has attained one of the levels from the first to the tenth level. His qualities depend on which level he has realised. Each of the realization-levels correspond to that, one has developed certain qualities. That is how they are categorized in different levels. That kind of teacher will have the qualities according to his level of realization.
If we meet teachers according to the Tibetan tradition, Tulkus which are reincarnations of Chenresig, Vairocana or Amithaba. Who ever the emanations are, we could think that we are meeting this kind of spiritual friend. That means that we have already developed, that we are at the highest level of the first path of accumulation or the path of junction. As we said yesterday the disciples were classified that way. But this is not the case. For instance there is a genuine Tulku, he is somebody who has attained a level of realisation. Due to his very strong compassion he lets himself be born into the impure world, which means he takes an ordinary body. So he comes into the category of a teacher for the ordinary beings. The disciple who meets this teacher will than see him according to his level, which means, if the disciple progresses on his path than he might see his teacher in a different way, not only as an ordinary being.
Ex.: When Gampopa came to Milarepa and stayed with him for three years he received the complete teachings. Milarepa then asked him to leave, to go to central Tibet and to practise what he had learned. He also said to him : „Right now you see me as somebody like an accomplished Yogi, that means somebody who is physically very poor but who has realization. But later when you come to the Gampomountain and you will have practised for many years, some changes will happen in your mind as a result of your practise. At that time you will see me having the qualities of the Buddha in his Nirmanakaya form. In the end you will see me as the Sambhogakaya-Buddha.“
That will happen if the teacher is true and the disciple makes the right progress.
3.3.3 The spiritual friend as a ordinary being
This kind of teacher is the one, who has been explained most elaborately by Gampopa in this text. The reason, why he goes so much into details is because this is the kind of teacher who is relevant for us. That is why it is also very important for us to know, how this teacher should be, what the actual characteristic of a qualified teacher is. The best kind of ordinary teacher has :
• 8 qualities
• 4 qualities
• 2 qualities minimum
The eight qualities are:
1) The first quality is that the teacher should be somebody who himself has taken the Bodhisattvavow and who is practising according to his promise, somebody who is not himself against the Bodhisattvatraining. What the Bodhisattvatraining exactly consists of will be explained later.
2) The second quality is that the teacher should be somebody who himself has received the teaching of the Bodhisattvapath and he has to be able to instruct the disciples in the Bodhisattvatraining.
3) The third quality is that he should have some experience and practise. These first three qualities refer to what kind of qualities a teacher should have developed in his mind. The next five refer to the qualities who are needed while he is teaching disciples.
4) The fourth quality is that he should only be concerned about how he can benefit his students while teaching. He should not think about how he can get money from the disciples, get a good name or control the students. He should only be motivated by the thought of benefiting others.
5) The fifth quality is that when he is teaching, he should have the capacity to teach with confidence, that he does not loose his courage and that he has the ability to give the complete teaching. This is referring especially to the teaching about the emptiness. He has to be able to transmit the teachings in a powerful way without being afraid of it.
6) The sixth quality is patience or acceptance. He should be able to take any kind of hardship in his function. If it is very cold, hot or if he is hungry, he should be able to take it and not let it disturb his activity. He should have the patience not to get tired of all kinds of questions he will be asked.
7) The seventh quality is motivation. He should never get tired of teaching others. If the disciples are quite impulsive or behaving in a bad way he should not give up or loose his motivation. Ex.: If some students do not like him or his work anymore, if they are criticizing him, it should not turn him away from teaching, instead he should put even more effort in improving his own teaching. This means especially if one has some disciples who turned against one, at that moment the teacher should not feel sad about it, but should make wishes and try to think that one would be able to help this person at an other time. If one is directly confronted one can have a discussion.
8) The eighth quality is that during the teachings one should only talk in a meaningful and straight way about what ever one is teaching, one should not waste the time by talking nonsense, but stick to the important teachings. He has to make sure that what he says has some effect on the students, that it will help them to understand what one is talking about.

The teacher with medium quality is the one with 4 qualities. These teachings are based on the Alankarika-Sutra.
1) The teacher himself should have studied a lot and know properly the different Mahayana texts and Sutras.
2) The teacher should be able to clarify doubts and questions of the students. He should have patience, be willing to listen to the questions of the students and have the capacity to give satisfying and in this way clarifying answers.
3) The teachings, lets say about the disadvantages of Samsara and the advantages of Nirvana, should not only be empty words. He should somehow have some understanding of what he is talking about and not just repeat the words without knowing what it means. The teacher himself also should live in accordance with what he teaches and not act totally different. His motivation should be only to benefit his students.
4) The teacher should be able to explain clearly about the relative and the ultimate teachings, the emptiness, and to transmit an understanding of what this means.
The teacher with the two qualities while teaching the Mahayana-path.
• He himself must have taken the bodhisattva-vow
• And have compassion to teach other beings
Basically he should know for himself what he teaches. If he teaches, for example, the Ngöndro, he should know the Ngöndro himself.
For the students it is important to examine his teacher to make sure that he is qualified, because if he is not, one risks to go the wrong way on the path. The student also should know about the background of the teacher, where he comes from and what he has done so far. The Lama always will say nice things and his pupils will always say nice things about him, so one has to check.
Example: In the 12th century Kublai Khan invited Sakya Pandita to come and to be his teacher. But for the first three years he did not ask him for teaching. He only kept him there, gave him food and treated him very nicely as his guest. He was kind of checking him. Then after three years he decided that he could be his teacher. Because of that function Sakya Pandita was the first Lama to get the position of king in Tibet. When the emperor finally came to Sakya Pandita and requested him to teach, he said: OK, but I have to examine you. So another three years Sakya Pandita examined, whether he was a proper student. After these six years it was established that Kublai Khan was the student and Sakya Pandita was his teacher. He gave him teachings. However, he did not live so long and before he died, he told the Kublai Khan, that Jamgon Pakpa, his nephew, should be his teacher. So Jamgon Pakpa became the king of Tibet.
Definitely one should examine the teacher or one might go a wrong way. One of the reasons that it is so important is that once you decided for a teacher, then you have to follow his Dharma instructions. You must listen to his teachings and practise what he is instructing you. Otherwise you won't get any results on your path.
A question might occur to some people who did not examine their teacher and then found out that he was not completely OK: What to do? If that is the case, then the best thing is to leave it in neutral. The student should not think that the teacher is bad or good, without judging too much one should leave it in neutral and keep a certain distance.
Example: Just when a bee has taken the honey from a flower then whatever he got he can use. In the same way: If we have received some Dharma teachings from a teacher and then find out that he is not acting according to the Dharma, something is not completely OK, then we should just leave it by that and keep a distance from him. But whatever Dharma we received, this is something beneficial and we can use it.

The means of attending
How to attend a qualified teacher. Acting according to these instructions will definitely help the student to develop quicker on the path. His qualities will develop.
There are three different ways of attending the teacher.
Through respect and service
Traditionally respect to the teacher is shown by prostrating to him before he gives Dharma teachings. If for instance the students are already present, as a sign of respect, they get up when the teacher comes in.
This is more a traditional and cultural thing. But what is not cultural and what is the most important is that one has mentally respect towards the teacher. And that one respectfully regards the teacher. This must be the attitude towards the teacher. Of course one has to be flexible with that and one should also know and see what kind of situation it is. Sometimes the Lama teaches in a huge hall somewhere in the world. If the teacher comes in and all the students jump up and start to prostrate, the other people who are not involved, might think that they descended from another planet. That would be more harmful than useful.
The Buddha himself tells directly that one should show respect according to where one is (country, tradition). So this is very relative.
For instance, even at the time of the Buddha there were different customs. In some parts of India it was respectful to let the most respectable person go first and the others followed. In other parts, the other people had to go in front of him. But what is not conditioned by customs and tradition is the mental attitude. There it is important to have respect.
Another thing that is not depending on culture is that the student need to feel that can never get enough teachings. When you have listened to teachings you should not think that you have heard enough. You should be always open to go deeper while receiving more teachings. But of course when the teacher is always teaching the same, it is OK if you think, I heard it before, so right now I do not have to hear it again.
Since the Buddha's teachings are so vast and so profound that not one single teacher can know everything. Then in order to get the information of Buddhist teachings, it is good to receive them from different teachers. If one teacher knows everything it is enough.
Example: There was a very high master and scholar in Tibet, Jamyang Khyentse in the 19th century who attended 150 teachers.
Through aspiration and veneration
The second aspect of the first way of attending the teacher is to serve him in the way that if he needs something (food, clothes, etc.), one can provide him with what can be helpful. One should be willing to do it whenever necessary.
Through practise and endeavour
If he is a fully qualified teacher the higher level one can see him, the better(as a Buddha or Bodhisattva). To trust his instructions and what he says. The consequence of having confidence in his words is to follow them. That means again to be sure to attain the result of following his words. The classical example is how Naropa followed his teacher Tilopa.
Receive the teachings from the teacher, study and learn, let him explain the Dharma, think about the meaning and clarify the questions with him. And when you are finally sure what it means, engage in meditation on what you learned.
Regarding the practice Milarepa is used as an example.
The benefit - as stated in the Gandavyuhasutra
To attend a qualified teacher in the right way will give a lot of positive results and benefit:
• You will not fall back into lower existences
• You will not get into bad company, not get a bad teacher or be influenced by negative people
• You become a qualified Mahayana disciple and do not end up in other vehicles
• You will for sure be able to attain a bodhisattva level and become a bodhisattva yourself.
source: my transcribed KIBI study, 2000-2005 India
Last edited by dave on Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by muni » Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:52 pm

Just a thought hopping here; one must be ready at the moment to recognize the teacher. Some wise and compassionate ones can appear (in a city, on a walk, on internet or whatever) but this appearance is not in accordance with our mood, idea.
Like that, teaching remains in front of a closed door.

I mean the search for the qualified teacher is in interaction with state of own mind stream.
Buddha said all is empty like my brain.
Let’s make a selfie!
Having meditated on love and compassion, I forgot the difference between myself and others. Yogi Milarepa.

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by sukhamanveti » Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:14 am

This helpful advice is compiled in the Lam Rim Chen Mo.

The characteristics of an excellent Mahayana teacher:

"Rely on a Mahayana teacher who is [ethically] disciplined, serene, thoroughly pacified;
Has good qualities surpassing those of the students; is energetic; has a wealth of scriptural knowledge;
Possesses loving concern; has thorough knowledge of reality and skill in instructing disciples;
And has abandoned dispiritedness [i.e., never tires of giving an explanation again and again]."
Maitreya, Mahayana-sutralamkara

"It is said that those who have not disciplined themselves have no basis for disciplining others. Therefore, gurus who intend to discipline others' minds must first be disciplined in their own. How should they have been disciplined?... The three precious trainings [ethics, meditation, and wisdom] are definitely such a way." Je Tsong Khapa, Lam Rim Chen Mo

"People degenerate by relying on those inferior to themselves...
By relying on those superior, they attain excellence..."*

The characteristics of an excellent student:

"It is said that one who is nonpartisan, intelligent, and diligent
Is a vessel for listening to the teachings.
The good qualities of the instructor do not appear otherwise..."
Aryadeva, Catuh-shataka

* In other words, it is the teacher who is wiser, more knowledgeable, more ethical, and more accomplished than you are who helps you to develop these qualities in yourself.
namo bhagavate śākyamunaye tathāgatāyārhate samyaksaṁbuddhāya | namaḥ sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyaḥ ||

"Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas love all beings in the world equally, as if each were their only child..." Buddhāvataṃsakamahāvaipulya Sūtra

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Re: The Search for a Teacher...

Post by spiritnoname » Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:30 am


I had a very bad experience, I took vows with someone who was not really qualified because they did not hold their vows and had huge gaps in their education, misinterpretations of even basic things, and broken samayas. They gave up Dharma in front of me though, so I'm out of that,.. I won't take vows with anyone so haphazardly again.

Anyways, 98% of lay Buddhist teachers I would say are not qualified at all, they don't even know what they're talking about, they're just yuppies.

Claiming your enlightened DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE UNENLIGHTENED, that is just ridiculous and stupid anyone would even say otherwise considering Buddha Shakyamuni and 1000's of Arhants claimed their enlightenment. There must be dozens of proclamations in the suttas, " I have done what had to be done, overcome what had to be overcome." These are lines that are repeated again and again by Arhants.

So thinking back on what I should have done,.. I should have been more critical and less hopeful. I ignored way too many warning signs and faults to the point that I feel I endangered my vows with other teachers being so reckless, all because I had so much hope, I thought if I was good enough I could overcome any faults of any teacher. Now to compensate I think I will be more critical of any potential Vajrayana teachers, try not to get my hopes up.

The main thing is just this,
Do they have something worth learning? Like ethics, meditation, sutta teaching?
Are they competent in their practice? Wouldn't ask a fat person how to diet.
Do they have a lineage for their teaching? Buddhism is called Buddhism for a reason, it comes from Buddha, not some yuppie selling self help cr@p.
And are they a good influence on you? Some guy might be a mahasiddha for all you know but if all their doing is talking shit and getting you to eat glass they're about as instructive to your liberation as three day old vomit, avoid them avoid them avoid them.

:coffee: Also you don't really know people until they've been tested by circumstance, if you don't have time to wait for a crisis you can try to push their buttons yourself and see if any neurosis come out.

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