Can I learn Vipassana meditation or other Buddhist meditation techniques like Shamatha on my own using books and online videos? This is because it is sometimes hard to find good genuine teachers. Or do I definitely need to seek a teacher?
According to my understanding you can learn and start meditation (Samatha or Vipassana) using books and online videos. Of course there are some meditation practices which will be better to learn with a real teacher. Apart form that specially when you have any practical questions or troubles with the meditation or the practice, it is really helpful to get some advice from an experienced teacher.
Further, when you learn by yourself make sure to refer some credible resource (books or online videos) as there are a lot of verities available nowadays. Hope this helps.
Introduction to Meditation: How To Meditate For me, I find these videos very helpful. There are many other videos that Bhante have on his site that talks about meditations. You can also down load book from this site as well. http://www.sirimangalo.org/teachings/how-to-meditate/
You can learn meditation with books and videos but it will be very difficult to find the truth and answers to your problems. So a better way is to find a teacher. Try to find a Sangha who teaches meditation. If you can't find one then try with books and others. Anyway my dear friends, never stop the meditation even if you can't find a teacher.
There is an order to meditate.
Sila is following precepts with at least five for considerable time(it depends on person). Without Sila, samatha cannot be mastered. If someone try to use Samatha without Sila, they will understand that they are just wasting their time with increasing the tension. But with Sila you can feel the real cool nature of Buddhism.
Samatha meditation has 40 categories.
Kasina - 10 Asuba - 10 Anussathi - 10 Brahma Wihara - 4 Arupa - 4 Ahara prathikula Sagna - 1 Chathu Dhathu Wawaththana - 1
Kasinas concentrate on physical characteristics like color, heat and light. Asubhas concentrate on dead human bodies Anussathis concentrate on reminding. Anapanasathi is reminding breath, Budhhanussathi is reminding characteristics of Lord Buddha, Kayagathasathi is concentrating about our body etc.. Brahma Viharas concentrates on Metta (friendliness with everyone), Karuna, Mudhitha and Upekka. others are not recommended without better knowledge.
You have to select one category according to your characteristics. After having a progress in samatha you can step in to Vipassana.
Vipassana meditation method is only included in Buddhism and first introduced by Lord Buddha. In this meditation method, we concentrates on three facts,
My dear friends, Anitya is the theory that says everything which is generated from a reason(s) will be destroyed due to the destruction of the reason.
If we make desire to objects(not only physical) that generated with a reason then we have to expect sadness after the destruction of the object due to the destruction of the reason (helped to exist of the object)
Think of how I love the shine of my car. Shine exist due to the paint and smoothness. If paint or smoothness are both gone, then shine will also disappear. Then because I loved the shine I will feel sad. Even when someone's car corroded completely I will not feel sad because I didn't like it.
With this logic Lord Buddha said that sad generates due to the craving towards something(Thanha) and not because of a God(s) or fate.
with this Lord Buddha has said there is no thing called a soul in us. instead we have a mind. The mind is not a thing that exist the same all the time. It is born, exist and dies very, very quickly. So there is a time that the mind doesn't exist. At the time there was not a measurement to describe about the speed of the mind.
Once a Arhat Bhikkhu make a example to a king; think about 12 carts filled with rice seeds. You arrange all the seeds in a single line one after another. Then you can count all the seeds. Sir, there are more minds in a time of blink born, exist and dies. There are one and only one mind exist at once. Due to the massive speed you feel it as a one single mind. When this mind takes signals from the body and send signals to the body you feel the whole process as a soul.
That's the process we are going to understand in Vipassana meditation. Then can you imagine the power of samadhi you need to maintain to understand that rapid changes? You can do it. The path is not simple. but it is not impossible.
No matter what else, it will come from within. If you can learn it at all, a path already exists that may be found even by accident.
Each and every possible teacher you might find would have to have an unbroken link back to the Original Teacher if it wasn't possible. And the Original Teacher had to learn from within.
Whether innumerable missteps might be avoided easier with a teacher is a different question, but even missteps can teach valuable lessons if you choose to learn.
I've attended courses run by my local Rigpa group - perhaps there is one near you that you can try out? http://www.rigpa.org/
I have also benefited greatly from the Headspace app https://www.headspace.com/ -- I think Andy is a great teacher for the on-line medium!
Hope this helps - good luck!