I'm seeking a meditation/dharma teacher to help strengthen my practice, once I find one and establish some relationship what is the proper way to request becoming their student. I'm interested in The etiquette for lay or monastic. Also where I am there is not a strong community of practice what suggestions if any does anyone have about online teachers/instruction? (Hazards/cautions) if the relationship has to be long distance what steps can I take to make it more beneficial?
Once you find the right teacher, your search for one is over, and there is no need of thinking about how you should approach him or her, as this will happen like that of a reflex action. The big question is how to find this right teacher. This is because a person needs to be fully established in this path in coming to one of the path factors above that of a stream entrant but this person can present a completely different image to others.
Therefore, it is very difficult to know another person. It is difficult to know whether a person is in the correct path or not, or whether you can place your trust or not, whether you will get into trouble by sharing your experiences with that person or not. It is a great relief if we knew how to understand a person whether that person is a person of integrity or a person of no integrity. It is far greater relief if we have such a person in our life to share our experiences with.
But if you take the trouble to learn the Dhamma contained in the original scriptures to some extent, whether it is from books or online, you will be in a better position to know how to identify ‘a person of integrity’ and ‘a person of no integrity’. In Sappurisa sutta of Anguttara nikaya the Lord Buddha explains how to identify ‘a person of integrity’ and ‘a person of no integrity’. Here, the Buddha explains ‘a person of integrity’ and ‘a person of no integrity’ can be identified by their qualities.
This, however, is where the tricky part is: You can't be a fair judge of another person's integrity until you've developed some of your own. This is probably the most uncomfortable truth of all, for it requires that you accept responsibility for your judgments. If you want to test other people's potential for good guidance, you must pass a few tests yourself. Again, it's like listening to a pianist. The better you are as a pianist, the better your ability to judge the other person's playing.
Before teaching the Dhamma, the Buddha would expect certain thing from one: Respect, generosity, patient and the willingness to virtue, before then teaching about the Devas and good dwellings in the world, the disadvantage and if possible followed till here, the Four Noble Truth.
Knowing that many of you might have access to his teachings, my person tries to give a practical teacher for each step. If you do not have the right people next to you, living the talk, although you might have access to the words, you might not succeed: but sometimes, better than searching for the perfect teacher, is to look for one that helps you right where you are stuck for now.
So if, after wise reflecting, you find out that you have authority problems, seek for somebody able to tame you, friends who practice paying respect with body and speech and learn that, till you are able to give gratitude rise.
So here are some bits of advice for the foundations, to gain enough right view, to be able to be considered worthy for sacrifies, and if having the feeling that you are not worthy at all out of wrong self-estimate, just go on and serve and help around and for a person you believe that he represents good attributes and has wisdom.
Don't search for people who you estimate as lower or equal in regard of good virtues, as you would like to when you look for a friend; but look for someone you really can develop "love", a certain kind of fear and respect, people who are able to dominate you and tame you; while at the same time, be sure that they do not depend on you even a little, whether materially nor immaterially. A paid teacher is no teacher at all; a honor-needing teacher is never a high teacher. A teacher accepting you as his disciple for not just giving you as as possible leave, is not free of defilements.
Wherever you are able for now, start to give: for your consumer attitude will never bring you to the Dhamma, how ever much merits you might have, how ever much access to information you have, you might stay as poor as you are and live a live of a hungry ghost again and again, when not turning to give at first place and practice that on and on.
All you estimate as not grasp-worthy, painful, annoying for now and not praising generosity, service for inferior and going forth, all this are you many teacher you should work with.
Only if one wisely prepares one step by step to be possible be tamed and cuts of all his ways out of this prison of practice, can estimate good teachers (inwardly and outwardly) and success in liberation.
If one seeks for liberation before taking on this prison or other ways around, there is no way to success, even all possible control in this world.
Upasika Nina van Gorkum wrote some words on The Greatest Blessings, the Mangala Sutta, which also explains well the Steps to be fulfilled to get the highest gift of teaching and being able to take and penetrate it.
At the end a short list of duties in regard of teacher, be they lay people or ascetics:
- (i) by rising from the seat in salutation,
- (ii) by attending on him,
- (iii) by eagerness to learn,
- (iv) by personal service,
(v) by respectful attention while receiving instructions.
(i) by lovable deeds,
- (ii) by lovable words,
- (iii) by lovable thoughts,
- (iv) by keeping open house to them,
- (v) by supplying their material needs.
An extended version of the answer you find here: [Q&A] Proper way to ask a teacher to become their student (Sadhu for spelling, grammer layout edits)
(Note: this is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purposes or other wordily gain.)
Kammatthanagahananiddesa (chapter 3 of visuddhimagga page 81) and mahakhandhaka in vinaya mahavagga pali, are the best concluded answers.
I don't have the best translated link of them in my hand. I'm sorry.