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I am a complete beginner who was looking for a good Buddhist guide for meditation. I discovered the book "The Mind Illuminated" by Culadasa and I thought I had found the grail: the shape of the guide seemed perfect to me. It is simple and clear, based on the anapanasati, up to the jhanas, step by step.

But I have just discovered the scandals surrounding Culadasa and now I totally doubt the quality of his teaching. I attach great importance to the morality of a teacher of these issues.

Where do I go from here? What do you recommend? Is there another guide as good in its form made by a recognized teacher, without scandals?

Thanks.

  • If I told you a fast river was dangerous and you shouldn't jump in it, but then you learned I lied on my taxes. Would you jump in the river? – Muuski Nov 13 at 20:16
  • I understand your argument, but morality (sila) is a basis of Buddhism. Isn't it a great risk to follow a teacher without a base? – Kalapa Nov 13 at 20:33
  • Would you follow other teachers blindly? – Muuski Nov 13 at 21:24
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"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."

Err... not literally...

The point of this quip is that attachment to a teacher is itself something that must be overcome. Even if you are lucky enough to meet a truly enlightened teacher, that teacher's enlightenment is his enlightenment, and you have to find your way to your own.

I'm not familiar with Culadasa or his issues, but a quick google search tells me he indulged in prostitutes and sex outside of marriage. It could be worse — he didn't seem to misuse the student/teacher relationship, as I've seen too many other teachers do — but it still displays some moral turpitude that shouldn't be ignored. Clearly he has a number of miles yet to walk on the path. That is his concern.

Your concern is whether his work advances you on your path. At this point you are not going to be able to see the path all the way to its end; what you want is something that will give you a reliable map for the next few miles, and when you get to the end of that you'll find something that takes you farther. If Culadasa's work feels 'right' to you, follow it for a while. He may have strayed off off his own map into the mire, but that doesn't mean his map is bad, it just means he lost his way.

Trust me, he spiritual path is littered with teachers who have become object lessons for their own teachings. It's ok to use them as guideposts, so long as you commit yourself to turn right where they turned wrong.

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Culadasa is a funny guy. So far all he does is

Overall, he is pretty disappointing, especially for an alleged sotappanna.

Anyway, Contrary to the people who follow vipassana meditation and ''pragmatic dhamma'' and end up getting completely lost, to the point of trying to mix their practice with Advaita, Mahamudra, Dzogchen and some other weird wrong views about ''the witness'', What you can do to go beyond is either stick to visuddhimagga, if you really want to, or just go back to the suttas, but the suttas are not super detailed, which is why people create commentaries and create their own view and try to pass that for the dhamma. The best you can do is to is lots of ''mindfulness and clear comprehension'', ie to remove ill-will and so on https://suttacentral.net/an10.51/en/bodhi in order to improve your mind,

“One should ask oneself: (1) ‘Am I often given to longing or without longing? (2) Am I often given to ill will or without ill will? (3) Am I often overcome by dullness and drowsiness or free from dullness and drowsiness? (4) Am I often restless or calm? (5) Am I often plagued by doubt or free from doubt? (6) Am I often angry or without anger? (7) Is my mind often defiled or undefiled? (8) Is my body often agitated or unagitated? (9) Am I often lazy or energetic? (10) Am I often unconcentrated or concentrated?’

“If, by such self-examination, a bhikkhu knows: ‘I am often given to longing, given to ill will, overcome by dullness and drowsiness, restless, plagued by doubt, angry, defiled in mind, agitated in body, lazy, and unconcentrated,’ he should put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to abandon those same bad unwholesome qualities. Just as one whose clothes or head had caught fire would put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to extinguish the fire on his clothes or head, so too that bhikkhu should put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to abandon those same bad unwholesome qualities.

after you memorize the path, ie this

“I say, bhikkhus, that (1) true knowledge and liberation have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for true knowledge and liberation? It should be said: (2) the seven factors of enlightenment. The seven factors of enlightenment, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the seven factors of enlightenment? It should be said: (3) the four establishments of mindfulness. The four establishments of mindfulness, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the four establishments of mindfulness? It should be said: (4) the three kinds of good conduct. The three kinds of good conduct, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for the three kinds of good conduct? It should be said: (5) restraint of the sense faculties. Restraint of the sense faculties, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for restraint of the sense faculties? It should be said: (6) mindfulness and clear comprehension. Mindfulness and clear comprehension, too, I say, have a nutriment; they are not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for mindfulness and clear comprehension? It should be said: (7) careful attention. Careful attention, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for careful attention? It should be said: (8) faith. Faith, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for faith? It should be said: (9) hearing the good Dhamma. Hearing the good Dhamma, too, I say, has a nutriment; it is not without nutriment. And what is the nutriment for hearing the good Dhamma? It should be said: (10) associating with good persons.

https://suttacentral.net/an10.61/en/bodhi

If you want to follow other bikkhus, people love ajahn brahm so https://www.youtube.com/user/AjahnBrahmRetreats/videos https://www.youtube.com/user/BuddhistSocietyWA/videos

  • The Visudhimmaga seems interesting but really complicated.... Thank you for your answer! – Kalapa Nov 14 at 10:43
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It seems as though you were following the method and not the man, and having some success with it. Don't make your practice about him continue on with what you were doing.

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His teaching seems awesome. Maybe find another beginning teacher and then come back to the Mind Illuminated. That way you won't have to battle doubt unnessisarily. There are a lot of teachers that are pretty much in harmony with his techniques. Here are a couple off the top of my head that I personally found very helpful:

Bhante Yuttadhammo has a succinct video series for beginners on Youtube called "how to meditate" and he also has it out in a free pdf download. Then he has a lot of videos about the Dhamma and videos with answers to questions meditators ask. They changed my life.

Venerable Sujiva has a free online book that is pretty beginner friendly yet goes very in depth called "The Tree of Wisdom (The River of No Return)" that reminds me of Culadasa's book a little bit. Venerable Sujiva isn't afraid to explore what may be of benifit from the western side of the world while being grounded in the traditional eastern approach.

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Its unlikely Culadasa ever knew what 'jhana' really was.

I recommend two books:

Buddhadasa Anapanasati Secrets of Life, which explains the progression of Anapanasati properly but doesn't really provide any compelling advice on how to practise (apart from very basic exercises or "skillful tricks", which are only for starters but not advanced).

Ajahn Brahm - The Jhanas, which provides compelling advice on how to practise using "letting go"; provides a clear picture of how advanced or lofty jhana is; but does not explain Anapanasati properly (due to what appears to be a deliberate doctrinal bias for doctrinal differentiation).

  • "Its unlikely Culadasa ever knew what 'jhana' really was." Why ? Thank you for the recommendations but I'm looking for practical advice for anapanasati and then jhanas – Kalapa Nov 14 at 10:39
  • I provided you with practical advice. – Dhammadhatu Nov 14 at 23:45
  • "Its unlikely Culadasa ever knew what 'jhana' really was." can you explain, please ? – Kalapa Nov 17 at 19:50
  • Jhana occurs due to a mental purity that has been developed & brings a pervasive bliss with which ordinary sexual desire will be dissolved. Even when not in jhana, if jhana has been reached, there will be no or very little sexual desire. If you personally (Kalapa) remain interested in sex then it is unlikely your mind can reach jhana. – Dhammadhatu Nov 17 at 20:32
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As a beginner, it can be very difficult to find which way to go. There are many teachers now and many nuances and subtle differences to the teachings. First, it might be nice to see what flavor of the Dharma you’re drawn to; Theravada, Mahayana or Vadrayana. Once that’s done, look around for the teacher you are drawn to. Sometimes they emphasize compassion or loving-kindness, others favor study and the deep philosophical underpinnings of the Path. Find out what really resonates with you.

I was lucky. I started when there were very few books and teachers. In the last 20 years, there has been an explosion so much so that finding even a quality beginner book can be difficult. I still find “Mindfulness in Plain English” quite good and “What the Buddha Taught” as a nice basis to stretch out from. While the teacher is important, getting the bones of the teaching will give you a guide on what to avoid and lead you away from folks that are suspect. Good luck!

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