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Question is in the title.

I was wondering about the benefits of practicing with a teacher vs. practicing alone.

By alone i mean when one has a great deal of time to practice and no worldly responsibilities such as a marriage, children, being the owner of a car, house, flat etc. meaning that one can then spend a lot of time on studying and practicing the dhamma.

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    Lanka, this is a dhamma talk Venerable Yuttadhammo gave last evening that discusses four things a meditation teacher does for their students; but which students can also do for themselves if they are sufficiently aware of their mind states. I think it may be interesting to you. meditation.sirimangalo.org/live/20150704_0059_livestream.mp3 – Robin111 Jul 4 '15 at 11:02
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If one has found a good teacher who is willing to teach, nothing like it. Unfortunately, good teachers are rare, and most wander alone.

It's like climbing a mountain without a guide. Sometimes we get lost, wander around a lot, maybe learn a lot of things in the process, but also get hurt by falling down. Most times the learning is not really essential to climbing the mountain, it can sometimes feel like it is impossible to continue, and other times one can think, "I have come so far, I can't turn back now".

In the modern age with so many dharma books and teachers online, one may not always need a direct teacher. However, one can get confused with a multitude of approaches and schools.

It's a risk, but it also protects from getting locked into a dogma or school. This can happen to anyone who finds a teacher or school at an early age and never encounters other ideas. The Dalai Lama (in his book "Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together") has said that until he visited the Theosophical society in Chennai and met people of other faiths, he was pretty certain only Buddhism had all the answers, and every other approach was wrong.

Ultimately we make do with what we have. We don't abandon our practice merely because we can't find a good teacher, we do it the best way we can.

If we accumulate merit by helping others it will lead to better guides, books and teachers - dharma will find us.

  • Thank you for this answer. I like the rock-climbing analogy. – Lanka Jun 25 '15 at 11:29
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    Chogyam Trungpa said that the spiritual path is like swallowing a porcupine: once you start, you have to eat the whole thing. Another advice was: "Better not to begin. Once begun, better to finish." – user2341 Jun 27 '15 at 13:07
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Practising alone will give you better experience and better overview, Practising under teacher will be helpful initially I believe, But later on at some point or other you will need to practise alone.

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There are different personality types according to Buddhism. Basically three good types and three bad types although each person is a mixture. Different personalities need different meditation techniques. A teacher can find what your personality is and provide you with the relevant method of meditation. Further some types of meditation need the supervision of a teacher. So having a teacher is better. But you can practice Loving Kindness and Buddhanussathi etc. on your own.

  • Hello and welcome to Buddhism.SE. We've put together some information to help you get started here. – Robin111 Jun 28 '15 at 12:37
  • Assumed reference for the above mentioned character types at The Visuddhimagga Chapter 3 - The Taking of a Meditation Subject, #74, page 96. (This refers to Samatha meditation though.) – Robin111 Jun 28 '15 at 12:39
  • Thank you for the help! I am not sure of the limitations of the analysis, but most of the Samatha Meditation becomes Vipassana when you think using Anithya Dukka Anathma (Impermanent, Unsatisfying and uncontrollable). I have not done although, they are very advanced states. buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/3547/… . A thread on Samatha and Vipassana. Have a look on Yutthadamma Bhikkus answer please! – seeker Jul 4 '15 at 4:42

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