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I am keen on finding a teacher that is experienced in Samatha meditation. I have come to understand meditation as a skill to be practiced and developed over time. This practice is something I plan to take seriously and dedicate myself to, but have struggled to find local teachers. I am wondering if there are any known means of perhaps finding virtual teachers, or how those of you without access to a local sangha have taken this important step.

In seeking out a teacher I do have concerns about being misguided by someone that is not themselves an advanced meditator. I do strive towards the path to stream entry and I worry that in my inexperience I may lack the discernment to know when a teaching is solid or not. Any advice in this regard would be much appreciated as well.

It is worth noting that I am fond of the teachings of the Thai Forest Lineage but would not be closed off to welcoming teachings from other traditions :)

Thank you!

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  • Where are you located?
    – user21064
    Jun 8 at 0:10
  • I’m currently traveling and will be able to visit some monastic communities hopefully. But come the fall I will be in Vermont where there is a local sangha that has been out of commission due to the pandemic. There are no monastics there however so I am careful in seeking out teachers in that regard
    – Deck
    Jun 8 at 0:18
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FWIW, the simple fact that someone is a monastic does not mean they are an advanced meditator or even that they meditate. Where I am, we have loads of monasteries and Buddhist centers every one of which is staffed by monks. I don't think a single one of them do any actual sitting. Contrast that with my Zen lineage. We have, oh, five lay priests? I think the last monk in our tradition stateside was in the 70s. In contrast to the monastics in the area, however, our daily sitting practice runs at least an hour and half and up to five hours on the weekend.

The fact of the matter is that monk, nun, or some guy who manages a hardware, it store really doesn't matter who trains you. I would also argue that it doesn't even matter what tradition they come from. Look, you've got at least five years of consistent, daily practice before you start to make any real headway in samatha. In other words, you won't be working with the jhanas any time soon. You will, however, be working with your breath and just about any tradition can help you with that. More importantly, the group you start sitting with will help lay down the groundwork of your practice. I've been doing Zen for 15 years now, but I personally started sitting with Dhammakaya two years prior. Now, say what you want about that order, but they got me following my breath and sitting everyday. So many people fail to make it even that far in their practice...and for that, I'm eternally grateful to those guys. Don't worry about rarified states. They'll come. But only after you've put an effort into establishing the meditation habit.

If I were in your shoes, I'd go on an introductory jhana retreat at a place like Henepola Gunaratana's monastery in WV or one of the workshops that someone like Leigh Brasington runs throughout the country. Learn the basics from them. Next, I would find a local meditation community and sit with them regardless of what they practice. No one really has to know what you are doing on the cushion. The important part is to start sitting with people and to develop a consistent practice. Who knows? You might even find that the leader of the group knows what they're talking about and that you are actually more interested in, IDK, the Shingon esotericism they teach than you are in jhana work. If not, well, then go on other jhana retreats in a lineage that resonates with you. Retreats are a mandatory part of samatha practice anyway.

It should be obvious, but if you take anything away from this, my advice is to just start sitting. Don't worry about teachers, jhanas, or results. At this stage of the game, the act of getting your butt on the cushion every day is far more important than any of that.

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I would recommend Ven. Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw.

He teaches the entire Samatha and Vipassana path. One can choose to practice one of them or both, one after another. He also has several e-books that's highly recommened.

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