I must admit, I’m finding it hard to find a place to land re a specific tradition or physical sangha. And that can be frustrating and confusing, as I feel I need, or would like, some inspiration from a local Buddhist community, that I’ll be able to see and practice with, once this pandemic crisis is over.
Does anyone else experience this ? Sure, I’m likely seeking a perfection that probably doesn’t exist. I just wonder how people fare with solo practice, either by choice, or where they are very remote from other practitioners.
If you do practice solo, are you fusing the best bits of different traditions to form your own hybrid practice, or adhering to one path ?
The group I belong to (we meet every Monday evenings) is a mixed bunch,under the umbrella of Buddhism, some Mahayana Tibetan & Zen , Theravada , Secular, and some more of a New Age persuasion ...
The Dharma books we read and discuss come from all the different schools, traditions, sects of Buddhism, plus philosophy, science, psychology and other spiritual paths such as Hinduism, Sufism ...when it comes to other non-Buddhist spiritual teachings... the baby is never thrown out with the bath water there's always a lesson to be learnt...
The one thing we all have in common is the Dharma and how best to practice/incorporate it into our daily lives..
My practice is just sitting, (leaning towards the simplicity of Zen- always with the 4NTs & 8FP in mind- I guess secularism is also what I lean to ) and with the aim of taking the experiential knowledge gained from the cushion into daily life...(it's a work in progress)
I sit twice a day everyday come rain wind or shine ...Others in the group no doubt have their own practice, but from what I gather not all practice meditation every day, some may only sit on Mondays when we meet...
Hi @Alex - I can empathise. I was where you are a few years ago.
But I've been lucky enough to connect with a particular tradition (Theravadan) and a physical monastery (Thai Forest monastery an hour from home).
Having said that, I don't particularly follow a teacher from the monastery I attend. I have felt more of a connection with teachers from the same tradition overseas who have an online presence.
Each morning I chant and meditate for a while then try and be mindful throughout the day (I've set myself a challenge with regard to the hindrances i.e. for the next 30 minutes I will not allow anger to enter my mind regardless!!)
I'm not trying to court controversy (nor start an argument) but I have a strong conviction that the words in the Pali Canon are those spoken by the Buddha. And that rebirth, kamma and the 31 planes of existence are real.
IMHO, any tradition other than this is merely what the Buddha taught mixed with some other religion / practice. And that's cool if that's what people want to practice. None of my business...
So, as you can probably tell, a lot of my practice is faith based. I got sick and tired of asking questions that can't possibly be answered.
We don't have time to waste twiddling our thumbs any longer.....
So I haven't really answered your question apart from hopefully giving you a little nudge in the right direction. I'd suggest jumping on YouTube and listening to some different teachers to see who you connect with.
What communities do you have nearby that you can go to? Why not try them all and see which one feels most at home?
Whether or not a specific tradition or physical sangha is found,
the more immediate issue might be thinking that we should be comfortable when we are not, when most meditation practices are actually about allowing both comfort and discomfort to have their own unmolested arrivals, life and departures throughout our awareness.
Training within a Sangha offers a wider and often more intense range of practicing challenges than your likely to find on your own. Expect a Sangha to offer a potentially richer range of comfort & discomfort to practice within.
On the other side...
It is natural within a practice to eventually exchange our coarser worldly views for ones of a more refined spiritual nature. The changes in doing this are palatably experiential and often result in the development of new attachments that are less easy to discern.
On your own this can fool you into thinking that you're more detached from your delusions than you actually are, but life will soon enough disabuse you of this view.
Within a group, such developments often become identified as the reward for your tribal affiliation. Here, in order to move on, you now have both your own delusion as well as the tribal community belief to address which might come at the cost of your own tribal membership as well.
For many, this is their spiritual glass ceiling.
The closest I have been to a traditional sangha was the time I spent at the nearby Tibetan temple. I had a good time following various courses, but when they ended there was nothing to fill the void, the temple did pujas and courses but there wasn’t a regular meditation or discussion group. It wasn’t enough to keep me coming out there. Also I didn’t truly feel at home there, it was too ritualistic and too religious.
Finding a sangha can be difficult, I know one person who moved house in order to be close to his present sangha. The practical considerations, like how far away groups are and what other costs there are, are definitely something to keep in mind. It’s also a question of finding them... some national Buddhist unions keep online maps on which the locations of institutions and groups are shown. Finding these things out can take time.
In the end I did resort to a solo practice. I read quite a lot, I spend time on this forum and another, and I have a somewhat irregular meditation practice. I mix bits of Thai Forest Theravada, Thich Nhat Hanh and I have a real liking for Zen which has yet to develop. I enjoy a bit of Tao. I also listen to Osho’s lectures, often an hour a day.
But I believe that we are all individuals, seekers, and that adherence to a single tradition is good for a while but that it can die or become forced. I think the greatest favour you can do yourself is to learn to listen to your inner self, to recognise when you need something different. To try and find a path to peace and bliss, while guarding your joy, creativity, and spontaneity.
Really helpful observations, thank you all.
@kerome your 3rd paragraph sums up my practice and mix almost exactly.
@bunks Thank you my friend. I have Zen, Triratna, and Samatha meditation (derived from Theravada) close by, I’m sort of mixing the 3 at the moment. There is Kagyu also, but I’m wary of the Tibetan traditions, I’m not into rituals and deity worship etc., no more than I already am, anyway !
@Shoshin Your group sounds fairly similar to my TNH Plum Village Group, I love it, but there’s something more I want. Perhaps I’m actually sufficiently shallow that I need a bit of a Buddha Statue, incense, candles etc., so perhaps I’ll just do those myself at home. Maybe those things are just part of the whole thing that I feel that I’m missing, so it’s down to me to remove those attachments, or create that environment for me 🙏
It exists but it is a loan in the Purelands ...
The reality is we always meditate alone ... however as @how mentions a sangha has extra gem sparkles.
For a bit of ritual you can create a Sangha altar made of perfect Buddhas and stick it it on your head. Yep altar hats ... you heard it here first ... the must have for every fashionable advancement ... 🤪
Personally I am in Covid inspired solitary practice with only passing thoughts to keep me on the straight and crooked ... oops ...
I’m not surprised that you are having a hard time settling with that mix. Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I’ve always had my focus on just one tradition at a time, so even though I mix things there is something that I concentrate on.
It is a good thing that you have a choice of communities and can try a few things out. I myself would probably try to find a reasonably permissive group that was open to discussing a range of different literatures, but that is just me.
My advice would be to not be too hasty in trying to remove attachments. If you feel attracted to Buddha statues and incense then that is a good pointer to what you need at the moment. You could create a little altar at home, or you could try meditating in the Kagyu temple, they are likely to have lots of statues.
If it really is just an attachment to Buddha statues, then who knows? Maybe it will drop away on its own at the right time. But then I also still like the meditative feeling I get from a Buddha statue.
... and Zen there were Nun ...
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Thanks @lobster maybe see you there !
Well was there in my best zoomies at the right time, a bit early even
I was told I would be let into the meeting soon.
What was I meant to do? ... sit about waiting ... pah! I can do that on my own.
So I did.