SuttaCentral

Online Teachers and Communities for Solitary Practioners

In one sense, I am very lucky as a solitary practioner. Birken Monastery is a 2-hour drive away. When we are not in a time of pandemic, that means I can hope to visit for a couple of week-long retreats each year (budget, job, and family obligations permitting), and maybe add a couple of day visits. I have deep gratitude that Birken and Ajahn Sona are so close.

At the same time, I’ve heard Ajahn Sona say that Birken gets about 1,000 visitors a year. I’m not going to build an ongoing teacher-student relationship.

Also, I don’t know anyone in my personal life who is Buddhist, and there are no centers of any Buddhist tradition in town, let alone Theravada.

Are there online sanghas to join? With an ajahn to guide a student’s development and practice? Are there forums with the amazing quality of this one that focus primarily on practice?

Forgive me if my questions are lacking understanding of basic principles of how this works. :slightly_smiling_face: What I’m looking for is a place like SuttaCentral that focuses on practice.

Thank you.

Please feel free to move this to Q & A if appropriate. I put it in Watercooler because I was thinking of it being a more general discussion of online groups and resources for solitary practioners.

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Hi JimInBC,

Perhaps you should not overthink the statistics. If you are on a retreat with a teacher you will build a relationship. There are several teachers who, at various times, I saw every year or two, but who I still learned a lot from. [For example, Canadian Ajahn Tiradhammo, who lived in New Zealand for a few years, but is now in Australia, I believe.]

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Thank you! That’s very helpful. :heart:

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I know a few people in BC who have said the same thing. I keep saying y’all should start a ‘meetup’

I agree with Mike about forming a relationship with a teacher. At Dhammasara we have many more than a thousand visitors a year and yet there are people who we know and care about even if they don’t visit so often. If you are genuinely interested in a relationship with a teacher then don’t second guess yourself.

On and off I have been part of an online community called Student of the Path, started by @Bhikkhu_Jayasara. It is mostly a group of lay practitioners who support each other in there practice. Discussions on sila and meditation are the mainstay but there are also weekly sutta discussions with @Charlotteannun. The community is on an app called Discord. I think it’s invite only these days, but I can find out how to get an invite if you are interested.

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I find that volunteering is a great way to build connections. Even if they aren’t advertising volunteer opportunities, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t use help. It may be worth asking. Gardening, cleaning, driving, website management, anything you’re able to do.
You get to practice generosity and the monastery gets your help. And you might find more opportunities to speak to a teacher if you’re a volunteer as opposed to a visitor. It’s a win-win-win situation.

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Thank you, @Pasanna! I would be interested! :heart:

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That’s a great idea, @jjakobson77! :heart:

Once they open up after Covid I will start volunteering. I know there are always projects going on there.

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Greetings Friend @JimInBC!

Online is definitely OK! My own journey has been online only since the very beginning (I work in the Middle East :grin:) - I started with googling for advice during a time of personal difficulty and encountered Ajahn Brahm on YouTube! ( :pray: :pray: :pray:)

Binge watching Ajahn Brahm’s Dhamma talks helped me tremendously. Then I discovered the Friday night meditations on the BSWA channel. I was hooked! Further inquiry led me to Dhamma talks and guided meditations by Ajahn Brahmali, Bhante Sujato, Ajahn Amaro, Ajahn Jayasaro, Ajahn Sona, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu and a host of others - YouTube will soon figure out what you’re interested in!

Other good sources of Dhamma talks I have come across include audio dharma, Dharma seed (wide variety of teachers - searchable) and Dhamma talks (talks by Thanissaro Bhikkhu).

You will definitely want to read the discourses/ writings of Lum por Chah and Lum por Buddhadasa at some stage in your journey!

Lots of good dhamma resources are directly available on the websites of monasteries such as BSWA or Amravati. Some good online Dhamma book repositories include Buddhanet ebooks, and the buddhist library.

PureDhamma.net is a useful (though sometimes a bit unorthodox/ controversial) site to get an understanding of various Pali words/ Dhamma concepts.

My first forum was BSWA’s Dhammaloka - it has an “Ask a monastic” section, if you need some specific advice. Other forums are Dhamma wheel (quite mainstream), dharmaoverground (often radical), PureDhamma (often whacky), new buddhist, Free Sangha or even Reddit!

For introductory courses to Buddhism you can try our very own Ven Khemarato’s Github Buddhist University or Buddha Net.

If you’re looking for a full fledged online community you could try Secular Buddhist Association, Insight Meditation center, Wildmind or the Barre Center. (You might sometimes be required to make donations here!)

If you’re more into the Burmese/ Vipassana flavours then check out PureDhamma.org for the Sayadaw method or look at dhamma.org and pariyatti for the SN Goenka method.

There will be times when you run into doubts and controversies. That’s part of the process of learning, isn’t it? If you get too confused, you can always fall back on the gem in your backyard - Birken! With access to dyed in the wool monastics like Ajahn Sona, what more could you possibly need? :slightly_smiling_face:

Above all remember the Buddha’s advice -

Please, don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority, don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think ‘The ascetic is our respected teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to harm and suffering’, then you should give them up.

With Metta :pray: :smiley: :pray:

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Thank you, @faujidoc1! That’s a wonderful collection of resources! :heart:

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