Friday, January 11, 2013

Limping toward nirvana

I've been thinking about writing something about the IDP's Year-Long Immersion and Instructor Training  program since early December, when the early application deadline was approaching, but I wasn't sure what I could say. I was a graduate of the first iteration of the program, in 2011. (Originally, it was called the Buddhist Teacher/ Meditation Facilitator Training; my inner 12-year-old delighted in the idea of being a certified MF, but the name changed quietly during the year.)

I did not enter the program expecting to become a teacher. I was looking for a way to deepen my study of Buddhism, and this program appealed to me for a lot of reasons.

2011 was a transformative year. The IDP training was part of that, but I also did a two-week retreat with Lance Brunner, a fabulously kind and creative teacher; was a head oryoki server during that program, and did several weekend retreats in the Shambhala Sacred Path program. All of those things worked with other things, the warp and the woof of life and study.

Now I lead meditation and Buddhist groups. I don't really look at it as teaching -- I see it as sharing information that I've learned from studying and inviting people to explore how that works in their lives. Maybe that's possible because my groups are small. I don't live in New York, and to study and practice with people on a regular basis is difficult. Leading these groups gives me a chance to develop live sangha.

The Buddha said that you are your own best teacher. He told his followers not to take anything he said on faith but to try it for themselves and see if it was useful on the path toward the transformation of suffering.

And that's what the IDP program does -- help you find ways to teach the dharma, to yourself or others; in a class setting or through art, music, dance, blogging, or simply being at peace with yourself in a chaotic world.

Stephen Schettini is a former Catholic and Buddhist monk whose post on religion and righteousness on his blog, The Naked Monk, question life's big answers; expose yourself to doubt, caught my interest, partly because of this discussion on the IDP blog about the teacher training program

Schettini writes:
In Tibetan Buddhism, one’s teacher never gets angry or befuddled. Rather, he ‘manifests wrath,’ meaning that he puts on a show of anger because you need shock treatment, or silence because you’re unable to process the truth. You cannot be part of the community and question his motives. ‘The Path’ is itself code for steering clear of creative acts of discovery. When I eventually acted on the realization that I should find my own way or lose all self-respect, my connection to the community was severed. I was still there; I hadn’t yet even disrobed, but I was excluded from the circle of trust.
Buddhism, he says, was no different from the Catholic church is shutting down questions or challenges to its dogma.

Eventually, he writes, he went outside the organizations and back to study the lives of Jesus Christ and the Buddha. What he found were inspirational examples.
Buddhism was a crutch when I was psychically lame. The tools and the community healed me sufficiently that when the time came I was able to leap from my ivory tower and go on my way. Luckily, I landed on my feet. To ascribe it to destiny or karma is to retreat, pretending I have an explanation when all I have is a code word.
That's his story. It makes valid points, as does the IDP blog post. The Buddha -- who was reluctant to teach in the first place -- didn't set out to create Buddhism. I think he'd endorse using the path he laid out to find your own wisdom. But the path requires you to keep checking in, to see if your wisdom comes from your buddhanature or from dogma, and that's the value of it.

You will get something all your own out of the training. Intrigued? The application deadline is Tuesday, Jan. 15.


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