I live in Dickinson, North Dakota USA and I am wanting to follow Buddha but have no one to teach me or to ask questions to. I has wondering if there is anyway to get in to contact with a Theravada Buddhist Monk to help guide me down my path? I have checked my local library and online for books but nothing comes up helpful.
If you are looking for a place to ask questions about Buddhism (or to read through the many questions that have already been answered); this is a good place to do that. Our format is that anyone who believes they have the answer to a question may submit that answer for your consideration. So questions will be answered by both monastic and lay people of various traditions. If you are looking for an answer from a specific tradition, simple tag your question as you've done above.
Among the many questions that have already been answered on this site are community wikis such as this list of introductory books. Another online resource is this video wiki created by a Buddhism.SE moderator and frequent contributor, Venerable Yuttadhammo. Hundreds of questions and answers in video form are included here. For local resources here is a short list of Theravada centers in your area. Once you've had a chance to check these resources, if you have additional questions, please feel free to submit them! Our New User Welcome gives some tips on how to best use this site. Best wishes!
The Theravada spirit has always been the emphasis on the "teaching" over a teacher. A common analogy is that the teaching is like the US Constitution while the teachers are like the US presidents. Presidents come and go, and might say different things at different times, but the Constitution is always there, consistent, and timeless. There're many great web sites with detailed info. about the Theravada teaching, the most popular are: accesstoinsight.org, suttacentral.net, budsas.org/ebud/ebidx.htm, palikanon.com. The introductory section of accesstoinsight.org is particularly helpful and I'd strongly recommend you check it out if you haven't. Good luck..
Unless there's someone who's a very good teacher at a local temple, meeting with a monk regularly may not be the easiest or best way to go about it.
My suggestion is to find one or more good teachers that you can relate to, wherever they are in the world, and take a retreat with them. This will teach you enough to practice on your own. A local practice centre can be found just about anywhere, and if you develop ties with them, they will be a great motivation to practice.
Well known Theravada Retreat Centres in the USA:
- Abhayagiri Forest Monastery, California
- Bhavana Society, West Virginia
- Vipassana Meditation Center, U Bha Khin/Goenka
Some teachers and books have a study group or practice community that meets regularly online. For example,
"What the Buddha Taught" is one of the best out there to get started. http://www.amazon.com/What-Buddha-Taught-Expanded-Dhammapada/dp/0802130313
Free PDF seems to be available at http://www.dhammaweb.net/books/Dr_Walpola_Rahula_What_the_Buddha_Taught.pdf
Bhante Gunaratana's "Mindfulness in Plain English" is a good place to start in getting a meditation practice going and on track. He is abbot at the Bhavana Society forest monastery in West Virginia and at age 88 still leads retreats.
In addition, I would like to recommend you to follow Ven. Ajahn Brahmawamso's YouTube channel and read his publications. It is an easy method for new converts to understand the basic concepts in buddhism in an easy way.
Books are the way to go. There is simply no substitute.
I recommend Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha to develop a pragmatic Theravadin perspective with an "American" bite to it. It also educates you on how to evaluate other traditions.