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Missing a sangha

NamadaNamada Veteran
edited February 2015 in Buddhism Basics

Hi :)

I see many of you are following a teacher and a sanga located in your city,
but Is it nessesary? can you follow the path alone or do you need guidance from a teacher
and sangha?

Unfortunatly for me the nearest buddhist sangha are 4 hours from my town,
so Iam on my own, so to say hehe. In my town there are like 6 christians sekts and they
dont know much about buddhism, only that buddha was one guy with a big belly.

So I dont have any experience with a "live" sangha and a face to face teacher,
I guess there are many benefits...

Iam following the theravada tradition, I found this tradition most understandable, learning by reading dhamma and learning by doing (but just on my own) :)


  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Plenty of people do it alone. Different things work for different people.
    The nearest Buddhist centers are also 250 miles from me. However, someone happened to simply ask a monk to come here some time, and so he did. Now he comes here on a somewhat regular basis and keeps up with students via email or phone. So, don't assume just because you are a distance away there is no way to do it. Sometimes, you simply have to ask and maybe find some like-minded people who might be interested. In our 3000 person town, we average 30-50 people for retreats that might be a day or a week+.

    I personally would have a hard time, at this point, without a teacher and a sangha. Because he, and they, know me, they know how to answer questions in a way I can understand, and with guidance from our teacher. It just makes it easier for me. Not to mention the times when meditation is overwhelming or I run into obstacles, then I have people to ask and don't have to stumble along myself not knowing what advice to take because 30 different people online gave me 30 different answers, lol.

  • You can do it alone because you have Buddha nature or an open, clear, and sensitive mind. But it is a very lesser circumstance than being with a teacher. But even if you did have a teacher you would be asking yourself if you are close enough. Are you an inner student or further away. So no matter where you are you could be closer or farther from a teacher. Or you could get a better or worse teacher. But @karasti explained some reasons for a teacher. In the lam rim text I read a teacher is there to point out a method among others. The method: love to detach from peace, impermanence to detach from 'life', and notice suffering to detach from pleasure. The teacher gives the method to accomplish that.

  • I dont think I find many buddhist people in my town..
    then I need to knock on every door. There are some thai wifes, but I dont want to hang out with them.

    It would be nice to invite a monk in my home, thats little bit luxury maybe, do you pay him anything @karasti or he just come there free of charge?

    So @karasti you are making better progress with a teacher then without?

    and yes a teacher can also be a hindrance? (Just like a math teacher)

    Yes I agree @Jeffrey buddha nature are open, and with you everywhere even with or with out one teacher, its maybe lesser circumstance without a teacher, but I cant do so much about it I think.

  • OP, I don't think it's necessary. You can use us as your sangha. I've learned a lot from participating here; a lot about the sutras that I wouldn't have learned in a sangha, even. and a lot about teachings on rebirth, no-self, and other basic principles in Buddhism.

    For meditation instruction, there are a variety of videos available online, or you can order one from dharma organizations.

  • @Dakini. yes I found a lot of good info and help her at this online sangha :)

    There are tons of meditations instructions yes, so I think its important to stick with one tradition and not mix it up to much, then it can be very confusing.

  • @Namada said:> and yes a teacher can also be a hindrance? (Just like a math teacher)

    What I would recommend is spending some time with people more experienced with Buddhist practice, particularly seasoned meditators. That can make a lot of difference.

  • Yes, Spiny I would like to go to a retreat for one week or few days, I never been to a retreat before, so maybe its a lot to learn there from experienced meditatiors..

    For example here would be a great place :)

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran
    I'm don't feel I'm missing out without a sangha. Most questions I can find out an answer myself. :)

    A good teacher is useful, I go once a year to a retreat. I feel so far this is enough.

    In this day and age we can connect quickly with sangha and teachers through the internet.

    At the end of the day all the answers you need is within you.
  • @Namada said:> For example here would be a great place :)

    Yes, I've done retreats there, interesting place. You'd probably want to start with a weekend, but note they get booked up well in advance, up to 6 months ahead. I think it's about 6 miles outside Hemel Hempstead?
    Do you live in that area?

  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited February 2015

    No, I live in Norway ;) But I have never been in England so it would great to take a visit.
    There are retreats in Norway i guess, but not from thaiforest tradition, wich I prefer.

    Yes I can see its full booked most of the year.

    So you recomend this place?

    To take a flight with Raynair its not so expensive either, same cost as 1 hour taxi drive here in Norway :)

  • Yes, I think you'd enjoy it. Very early start though, and no meals after lunch though they did give us cheese and chocolate at tea time. I admit I took a secret stash of goodies to eat, very naughty but I think it's probably quite common.
    Where would you fly to in the UK? There might be other places to go on retreat.

  • So we will loose some weight as well hehe, I think I will survive, even if its up early in the morning.

    I will fly to London, and then I need to take a buss or something to go to the places i want, or maybe train, I havent planed so much jet. Do you know if there Are any good retreat centers near London, or outside of London?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited February 2015

    I was not the one who invited the monk to come up. We have a local guy who travels the world, and he heard about him from someone else, and ended up meeting up with him. After that, they spoke and decided to do a weekend retreat here. Yes, we pay for it but it is a suggested donation only to help with the expenses of travel. Our teacher brings a senior student with for help with some things and they stay with the hosts, so there are no hotel or food costs. Money taken in is not tracked, you just put what, if anything, you can afford into the bowl.

    We don't have many Buddhists here, either. Of our group, only a few of us have taken refuge vows. Most do not want to become Buddhist, at least not yet. But they are very interested in learning and we have great discussions as a group. So don't assume there aren't people you don't know of who might be interested. I was shocked, as this is a town I've lived in most of my life and I know pretty much all the families. Turns out, there is this huge "underground" group of people who share my thoughts and beliefs about a lot of things. I never knew they were here until I opened my eyes.

    Yes, I find it to be of more benefit to have a teacher than not. I spent the first year or so without a teacher and found it quite confusing and difficult. There was just too much for me to sift through. Some people enjoy doing that kind of stuff, but I don't. I prefer to have a plan of sorts with help from someone who has done it, or is also doing it. I personally find it invaluable. I most certainly appreciate this group and consider them part of my large sangha as well, but it is not the same as having a group of people you can hug, smile with, laugh with, cry with, share your joys and fears with. A group of people, and especially a teacher, who will show you tough love when you need it but they are never mean or presumptive and to the best of their ability, they are there to support you, and you them. It's much, much more than intellectual debate, and I find that type of support priceless to my practice. I am close with my family and have several very good friends. But again, it is different to have a spiritual family of shared beliefs.

  • If you're flying to London Amaravati might be the closest, it's north of London. Though would you be flying to Stanstead, Gatwick or Heathrow? I think Heathrow would be easiest in terms of in terms of the journey across London to the relevant mainline railway station, Kings Cross I think, but that'll be on the Amaravati website.

    There are quite a few Buddhist centres in and around London, but I'm not sure if any of them run regular retreats - you could google "Buddhist retreats in London" and see what you get.

    If it was me I'd do something in Norway, it would a lot easier and cheaper!

  • I will think about it, and yes it will be easier to do it Norway :) Anyway a travel to England would be fun, I will see what I gonna do!

    Maybe I just take a tent and run to the forest and take a lonely retreat, me and mother nature.

  • Better alone than not at all.

    Hope you find some spiritual company, though. And remember, one does not need to call themselves "Buddhist" to help you spiritually grow.
  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran
    @shadowleaver incredibly insightful. Thank you. I will remember this.
  • @Namada said:
    I will think about it, and yes it will be easier to do it Norway :) Anyway a travel to England would be fun, I will see what I gonna do!

    The Buddhist Society will be able to advise you what is available in England and possibly Norway.

    The Buddhist Society is run from Christmas Humphreys old house. Christmas was an early British Buddhist and Judge whose library was donated to Amaravati, which now houses a considerable and varied collection. The library was my preferred hang out when I was there . . .


  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited February 2015

    @lobster Thank you for the link, I can ask them if i dont find info by myself :) Libraries are alway interesting, its only buddhist literature or diffrent genre aswell?

    I am like a shark when iam at the libreray, cant stop looking for the perfect book, and the result its a painfull headache :)

    I guess you also have been at a retreat at Amaravati, if so was it a good (meditative) experience?

  • @Namada

    The library is very varied or was when I was there. Ajahn Sumedho, the Abbot at the time was chastising the nuns for reading Rumi, telling them they were not mystics. As the nuns were the only contingent developing genuine palpable insight, the advice was perhaps inappropriate . . .

    Most of the books on dharma are perfect transmission vehicles, so my question to the librarian was for the 'worst book on dharma'. I eventually found a rather paranoid effort from a monk, focussing on the 'Catholic conspiracy' to use the inter faith dialogue as a vehicle for an eventual conversion program . . . completely unskilful. However each finds their own reading.

    The label good/bad does not apply. It was useful. Maybe I will go again to check out the new temple. I loved meal times, silent and contemplative. I loved the early rising and discipline. The big walking meditation circle was wonderful.

    Amravarti sangha are in retreat till March. So get ready. Maybe visit some other places. Many available. For example you can stay in a maximum security cell at the converted terrorist court and prison of Jamyang, who have a smaller but fine library. B)
    That might not be your preferred tradition BUT wherever you start, you end up on your own, on a cushion . . .

    Loads of places in London, some in back gardens . . . <3

  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited February 2015

    @lobster Hehe, that was a great question to the liberian, "what is the worst book of "dharma"...
    I dont think she get this kind of question very often

    maximum security cell, sounds interesting, will I get out when I want?

    THere are so many options in England/London, I just live in a small town, with just some cows running around and few grosary stores,
    so i think its easy to get lost!

    Certanly I will take a trip over :)

  • @Namada said: > I guess you also have been at a retreat at Amaravati, if so was it a good (meditative) experience?

    I've done retreats there but I don't recall getting much instruction on meditation.

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    @Namada said:
    but not from thaiforest tradition, wich I prefer.

    Speaking of the Thai Forest tradition, does anyone know of any centers in the American southeast?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited March 2015

    @nakazcid I think the only actual centers are in CA (from what I can find) but there are Thai Buddhist centers in FL that may or may not meet your needs.
    If you look through the list, it will say "theravada-thai" and many have websites you could check into.
    The first one on the list, the Bodhi Tree Center is affiliated withe Abhayagiri, which is one of the Thai Forest centers in CA.

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    Thanks for looking that up for me @karasti, but sadly the closest of those centers is 450 miles away. Oh well. Guess I'll go read some Ajahn Brahm as consolation...

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    You can search by state, so if you are closer to GA for example, perhaps something nearer to there would be closer.

  • I live in Utah, yes the land of Mormons. They don't bother me and I normally find them really nice. Problem is, that creates a lot of issues when it comes to finding a Buddhist teacher or a Buddhist gathering.

    Me personally, I find it VERY difficult to practice on my own. Even if I happen to meditate on my own to sit here and be mindful and practice chants, I feel like I'm not getting the FULL effect I would with a group of people and someone leading the meditation. I find it difficult when you're new to the practices and you have no one to help guide you in right direction. When I was with a group, I was learned a lot and having fun and HEAVILY into it. When I started moving around I was alone and in new places and unfortunately, there were a lot of negativity not just from me, but from the people I worked with and it really killed what I was trying to accomplish/achieve.

    I've been really thinking about going to a Buddhist temple and stay there for a month or so (depending on how long you're allowed to stay, again I don't know) when my next furlough is supposed to happen.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited March 2015

    @Namada said:

    There are so many options in England/London, I just live in a small town, with just some cows running around and few grocery stores,
    so I think its easy to get lost!

    Certanly I will take a trip over :)

    Cows? Luxury. We dream of cows.

    However we do have cows . . . if you get homesick . . . for example some of the city farms may have resident or visiting bovines, they are also sometimes grazed near or in Richmond Park and the City of London has land in the outskirts where cows eat grass in 'Happy Valley'.

    You might also be interested in the 'cow house' on Hampstead Heath. The very wealthy female aristocrats used to show off their herd and dairy products in such buildings . . .

    Mu! Thus have I herd.

    Please realise that cyber sanghas exist, monks will teach by letter or email, that is their 'job' and why we feed and pamper them.

    maximum security cell, sounds interesting, will I get out when I want?

    :) Yes. Personally I feel that is too lenient but what do I know ;)

  • You were lucky!

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