Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

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Veturgeir
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Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by Veturgeir » Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am

Hey all,

I have been practicing "Buddhism" for about three years now, mostly simple mindfulness meditation of the secular flavor and some chanting of Nembutsu and the Heart Sutra. I used to practice with a Jodo Shinshu affiliated temple occasionally, but even they were quite far from me. I've never formally taken refuge or precepts or had a teacher, so I'm quite new at proper lineaged Buddhism.

I've developed a keen interest in Tendai as a tradition for a variety of reasons, and I'd like to seek out a teacher to get my practice set on the right path. The problem is that I live in Western Pennsylvania; any Buddhist Sangha of any tradition is at least 30 minutes or 80 miles, and the nearest Tendai sangha is a five-hour drive from me. As a broke recent college grad with a beater of a car, it's not financially possible for me to attend regularly or even really make the trip more than once a year and even that is questionable.

I was wondering what others in a similar situation have done, and if anyone had any advice. I'd like to get started on advancing my practice and doing it correctly. I am ready to start on the path to taking refuge and the precepts properly, but geography seems to conspire against me.

Miroku
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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by Miroku » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:13 am

Veturgeir wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am
Hey all,

I have been practicing "Buddhism" for about three years now, mostly simple mindfulness meditation of the secular flavor and some chanting of Nembutsu and the Heart Sutra. I used to practice with a Jodo Shinshu affiliated temple occasionally, but even they were quite far from me. I've never formally taken refuge or precepts or had a teacher, so I'm quite new at proper lineaged Buddhism.

I've developed a keen interest in Tendai as a tradition for a variety of reasons, and I'd like to seek out a teacher to get my practice set on the right path. The problem is that I live in Western Pennsylvania; any Buddhist Sangha of any tradition is at least 30 minutes or 80 miles, and the nearest Tendai sangha is a five-hour drive from me. As a broke recent college grad with a beater of a car, it's not financially possible for me to attend regularly or even really make the trip more than once a year and even that is questionable.

I was wondering what others in a similar situation have done, and if anyone had any advice. I'd like to get started on advancing my practice and doing it correctly. I am ready to start on the path to taking refuge and the precepts properly, but geography seems to conspire against me.
Hey,

well there are three options. 1st maybe there are webcasts (kinda doubt it) or possibility of skype session and then you can joing through pc.
2nd you have to go there get transmissions and then practice on your own.
3rd you organize teachings where you are.

To me 5 hour trip doesn't sound so bad. I do that several times a year. But dunno how you have it in the US, this is lovely Europe. Andy my mum and free food waits at the end of the journey soo I am more willing to make it. :D

You can also take refuge at home for now. But that is at least according to tibetan tradition dunno tenda.
A boat delivers you to the other riverbank.
A needle stitches up your clothes.
A horse takes you where you want to go.
Bodhicitta will bring you to Buddhahood.

~ Khunu Lama Rinpoche

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Wayfarer
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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by Wayfarer » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:26 am

Veturgeir wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am
I'd like to get started on advancing my practice and doing it correctly. I am ready to start on the path to taking refuge and the precepts properly, but geography seems to conspire against me.
I wouldn’t take the geographical issue as a show-stopper. As mentioned, there are many online learning options available in today’s world. And you might only have to visit a centre once every couple of months, or a few times a year. Bottom line: don’t let it stop you.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sun Oct 21, 2018 1:14 pm

Veturgeir wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am
... The problem is that ... any Buddhist Sangha of any tradition is at least 30 minutes or 80 miles, and the nearest Tendai sangha is a five-hour drive from me. ... it's not financially possible for me to attend regularly or even really make the trip more than once a year ...

I was wondering what others in a similar situation have done, and if anyone had any advice. I'd like to get started on advancing my practice and doing it correctly. I am ready to start on the path to taking refuge and the precepts properly, but geography seems to conspire against me.
Your situation is not uncommon among DW members. A lot of us (including me) are here for similar reasons.
What I've done, FWIW, is explore my preferred school through reading and the occasional real-life event I can get to, practice with the most accessible, congenial local group/s I can find (these days, that's primarily my yoga centre), and use DW to maintain and extend my knowledge and spend time with like-minded people. A local group, of any kind, is important as a reality check and as encouragement.

You may find that a similar mix is the best you can manage at this stage of your life.

:namaste:
Kim

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kirtu
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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by kirtu » Sun Oct 21, 2018 1:34 pm

Veturgeir wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am
The problem is that I live in Western Pennsylvania; any Buddhist Sangha of any tradition is at least 30 minutes or 80 miles, and the nearest Tendai sangha is a five-hour drive from me. As a broke recent college grad with a beater of a car, it's not financially possible for me to attend regularly or even really make the trip more than once a year and even that is questionable.
Travel to Pittsburgh. Take Amtrak (or fly) to your destination (so ditch the car for most of the trip). Stay with Airbnb. You now have at least annual access to the sangha of your choice assuming that they are around NYC, DC, Philadelphia, Richmond, Cleveland or any major Mid-Atlantic city (and most East Coast destinations).

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:09 pm

Greetings, Veturgeir.
A sangha is important.
The usual advice is to supplicate the buddhas and bodhisattvas for help in finding your teacher and sangha.
In the meantime, you can always study the teachings, familiarize yourself with bodhicitta, and refine your behavior in daily life.

Additionally, practicing nembutsu is an excellent, completely safe method to pursue while on your own.
Master Chu-hung said something like, it is better to recite nianfo (nembutsu) quietly in a hall at home than to burn incense in temples far and wide.
If all else fails, you at least have this method in your life already :smile:

I also recommend reading Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life.
If you can root your thoughts, words, and actions in bodhicitta, you won't go astray.

Good luck!
namuamidabunamuamidabunamuamidabunamuamidabunamuamidabu

The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have unobstructed vision in all directions.
Everything is in their presence; and I stand in front of them. -- Shantideva

Free Pure Land Buddhism resources

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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by DGA » Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:49 pm

Veturgeir wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am
Hey all,

I have been practicing "Buddhism" for about three years now, mostly simple mindfulness meditation of the secular flavor and some chanting of Nembutsu and the Heart Sutra. I used to practice with a Jodo Shinshu affiliated temple occasionally, but even they were quite far from me. I've never formally taken refuge or precepts or had a teacher, so I'm quite new at proper lineaged Buddhism.

I've developed a keen interest in Tendai as a tradition for a variety of reasons, and I'd like to seek out a teacher to get my practice set on the right path. The problem is that I live in Western Pennsylvania; any Buddhist Sangha of any tradition is at least 30 minutes or 80 miles, and the nearest Tendai sangha is a five-hour drive from me. As a broke recent college grad with a beater of a car, it's not financially possible for me to attend regularly or even really make the trip more than once a year and even that is questionable.

I was wondering what others in a similar situation have done, and if anyone had any advice. I'd like to get started on advancing my practice and doing it correctly. I am ready to start on the path to taking refuge and the precepts properly, but geography seems to conspire against me.
Contact Tendai Buddhist Institute. By phone, if possible. Explain your situation. Tell Monshin sensei that you want to attend a weekend retreat, and make the best and most concrete plans you can to do it. Really commit and ask all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to support you in this endeavor. Recite the four bodhisattva vows as though you are saving your mother from death by fire. You can't fail.

Take a get-there-or-die-trying attitude, but do get your car checked out (brakes and steering at a minimum) before you go, because getting there is better than death on the highway.

Do it. You can do it!

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Seishin
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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by Seishin » Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:59 pm

Veturgeir wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am
Hey all,
.....
What exactly draws you to Tendai? What are you interested in learning? Knowing this will help us better help you

Veturgeir
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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by Veturgeir » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:48 am

Seishin wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:59 pm
Veturgeir wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am
Hey all,
.....
What exactly draws you to Tendai? What are you interested in learning? Knowing this will help us better help you
Primarily, the breadth of practices used. In Pure Land, we are encouraged to rely on Amida entirely and the Nembutsu specifically. The Nembutsu remains close to my heart and is still my primary practice, but I'm also interested in learning different styles of meditation. My old temple used to offer "Zen Shin sangha" services which focused on shinkantaza meditation and chanting the Heart Sutra even though the official teaching is that the Nembutsu is the only thing you should be doing and everything else clouds your faith in the Primal Vow, largely because Westerners like myself expect a Buddhist temple to offer meditation. Sadly, we no longer do so and even before they moved, we were only doing monthly memorial services for a long time.

I'm also interested in learning more about Yakushi Nyorai and practices associated with him, since I also fancy myself a healer. I work in mental health, and I'd like to learn more about praying and chanting his mantras. Having a statue of Yakushi as the gohonzon of a butsudan tends to get odd looks in a Pure Land temple, even being one of the few in the temple that keeps a butsudan.

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FromTheEarth
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Re: Practicing and Finding a Teacher when you live in the middle of nowhere

Post by FromTheEarth » Tue Oct 30, 2018 1:57 am

Veturgeir wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:48 am
Seishin wrote:
Wed Oct 24, 2018 7:59 pm
Veturgeir wrote:
Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:39 am
Hey all,
.....
What exactly draws you to Tendai? What are you interested in learning? Knowing this will help us better help you
Primarily, the breadth of practices used. In Pure Land, we are encouraged to rely on Amida entirely and the Nembutsu specifically. The Nembutsu remains close to my heart and is still my primary practice, but I'm also interested in learning different styles of meditation. My old temple used to offer "Zen Shin sangha" services which focused on shinkantaza meditation and chanting the Heart Sutra even though the official teaching is that the Nembutsu is the only thing you should be doing and everything else clouds your faith in the Primal Vow, largely because Westerners like myself expect a Buddhist temple to offer meditation. Sadly, we no longer do so and even before they moved, we were only doing monthly memorial services for a long time.

I'm also interested in learning more about Yakushi Nyorai and practices associated with him, since I also fancy myself a healer. I work in mental health, and I'd like to learn more about praying and chanting his mantras. Having a statue of Yakushi as the gohonzon of a butsudan tends to get odd looks in a Pure Land temple, even being one of the few in the temple that keeps a butsudan.
I may not be helpful regarding the main problems but from a Chinese Buddhist perspective, there is nothing strange about worshiping the Medicine Buddha when you are a devoted Pure Land practitioner. Part of the reason is that in the Medicine Buddha sutra, the Buddha explicitly mentions that hearing the Medicine Buddha's name and his vows is definitely conducive to your being reborn in Amitabha's Pure Land. The Medicine Buddha sutra has been propagated by prominent masters of different schools throughout the history of modern Chinese Buddhism, including the Pure Land leader Yin'guang. And among all the exegeses made by those masters, this benefit related to the rebirth in the Pure Land is always highlighted as the main reason why the Pure Land practitoners, as the majority of lay Chinese Buddhists that time, should include the Medicine Buddha into their routine worship/practice.
So although it might be rare to see the Medicine Buddha statute as the main one in a Pure Land temple (if this ever happens), it should not be a trouble if you do the practices personally. Also, I believe practices related to the Medicine Buddha may help remove the financial difficulties.
The last thing is, as a many-year practitioner of the Medicine Buddha's practices, unqualified as I am to give any spiritual advice, I would still strongly recommend you to read the Medicine Buddha sutra, closely and carefully, and recite it slowly for as many times as you can, instead of solely chanting his dharani. While you read the sutra, try to imagine that you are making the twelve vows. Supposedly, the closer one's aspirations are to those vows, the more powerful one's prayer to him would be.

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