Struggling with practice

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Struggling with practice

Postby Nikolay » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:00 pm

This thread was inspired by "Has anyone left Vajrayana?" thread by Luke (viewtopic.php?f=34&t=12539). My problems are a bit similar but still different, probably because I am a far less experienced practitioner than Luke. And I am coming to somewhat different conclusions.

Wall of text incoming!

From the very beginning of my interest in Buddhism, I was torn on which path should I take. Eventually I decided to be practical and check what Dharma centers and events are actually available for me to attend. This narrowed my choice to Zen and Tibetan schools. I went with the second one, and I do not regret the choice.

I was attracted to Tibetan Buddhism for a number of reasons. First, since I had a long interest in philosophy, I love its scholarly orientation. Having an extensive literature of philosophical treatises and commentaries to read, analyse and evaluate is wonderful. I need to understand what exactly am I doing, what is the goal, and how these things are moving me towards it. The "gradual path" teachings also resonated strongly with me, since I have always preferred the "slow and sure" approach to things, where I can reliably check my progress on each stage before moving to the next one. And since I practised yoga and was interested in spiritual teachings and mysticism overall, Tantra also interested me. Also, I have found Tibetan teachers overall to be more informal then East Asian ones, somehow more friendly towards Westerners and less keen on details of discipline and conduct.

Still, there are many problems. From the very beginning, Tibetan aesthetics and cultural trappings fell flat with me. For example, I find the concept of deities and the ideas they represent very inspiring, but I just cannot connect with the way they are depicted (and the way I am supposed to visualize them). Many Westerners are turned off by the very idea of deities and other "supernatural" stuff, but this was never a problem for me. I abandoned my materialism for purely Western philosophical reasons long before becoming a Buddhist, so I can easily accept such things as metaphysically possible. My problems are with representation. I watch videos of some ceremonies, and while I understand on philosophical level what is happening and why, I wouldn't be able to really participate in anything like this. It is just too different, too "alien" for me, I did not grow up with this and my brain would just shut down with awkwardness and embarrassment. It is the same with my daily practice. I'm unable to force myself to say those Tibetan words aloud to an empty room, so I whisper them under my breath. I can't visualize anything, much less the images that feel strange, uninspiring and overly detailed. Again, I understand the reasons behind all this, but still.

Also, I am hopeless with sadhanas. I can never get everything in the right order, all instructions always feel incomplete for me, and, as I said, I couldn't visualize anything to save my life. They take huge amounts of time too, and in the end I feel that I fumbled everything and accomplished nothing.
Oh, did I mention that samayas and stuff make me feel neurotic? Now I did. Maybe I'm not karmically ready for Tantra?

I have looked at other traditions. Buddhism for me is pretty much all about bodhicitta, so I ruled out Theravada almost immediately. I do love some of their teachings, and studying the Pali Canon more deeply is forever on my to-do list.

Zen has a lot of things going for it. First, Japanese culture resonates with me an order of magnitude better than Tibetan. Second, I love the minimalist aesthetics. Third, the practice looks perfect for someone like me: just sit and meditate quietly. Unfortunately, there are problems here too, massive problems. Essentially, I do not like Zen's minimalistic approach when it extends from aesthetics to doctrine and practice. I do not like the anti-intellectual tone I see in many teachings. I do not feel that one practice is enough for everything and everyone. I also do not like the emphasis Zen puts on discipline. And, frankly, I do not like the effect Zen seems to have on many people I meet on forums and in real life (not all Zen people, by any means! But many people). In my opinion, they grow irrational and intellectually shallow. They feel that things like teachings on ethics, which I consider to be of crucial importance, are somehow beneath them, because it's "just concepts and clinging", and so on. Many discard karma and rebirth as "irrelevant to their practice", which is pure nonsense for me. The current state of Zen in the West is testament to this tendency.

So, where does this leave me? I am still doing my daily practice. I take refuge, dedicate merit and such, because I feel it is important, but I would feel better if I could do it in my own language. I do a short Vajrasatttva visualisation and recite his mantra, because I find the purifying effect very tangible and effective. I recite Green Tara's mantra and sometimes Praise to 21 Taras, because I feel a certain connection with her, and also because Green Tara is the only deity I got an empowerment for. I practice shamatha, which actually feels like the most important part of my practice, and I finally found instructions that seem to "do it" for me (from Alan Wallace - "Stilling the Mind"). I read a lot of books, mostly Tibetan, but many from East Asian Buddhism too.

On one level I do identify as a "Tibetan Buddhist", but on other I do not think I can limit myself like that. Teachers from all traditions are warning against mixing practices, but I don't think it will be possible for me in the long run to simply accept Tibetan practices and discard everything else. I feel like I have to build for myself a "core" of Buddhism, the philosophy behind it that is independent of any cultural trappings, and then, building on that basis, use practices that work for me, in whatever aesthetic that works for me.
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:03 pm

How long have you been practicing Vajrayana?
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:03 pm

Don't worry about it.
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Nikolay » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:10 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:How long have you been practicing Vajrayana?

About a year.
PadmaVonSamba wrote:Don't worry about it.

I don't really worry too much. My qualms more or less boil down to two things:
1)I feel that I probably won't be able to do the more complex Vajrayana practices because the outer side leaves me feeling awkward. Basically I can't connect to most Tibetan cultural stuff.
2)I do not want to let go of things I grew to love in other schools of Buddhism.
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Luke » Fri Apr 26, 2013 2:45 pm

mirage wrote:I don't really worry too much. My qualms more or less boil down to two things:
1)I feel that I probably won't be able to do the more complex Vajrayana practices because the outer side leaves me feeling awkward. Basically I can't connect to most Tibetan cultural stuff.

First of all, do you have a lama and/or practice group who you can see regularly? This can help a lot. Admittedly, some of my own problems came from the fact that I live in a different country than my lama does, so I couldn't get as much instructions and feedback as his other students. Seeing your lama seldomly can also work, but you have to be trying really, really hard to get things right, and it's also very tough to find out when you see your lama that you've been doing things wrong for a whole year! lol

You "feel that"? This is basically a prediction about the future, so keep impermanence in my mind. The future is hard to predict. I thought I was going to love Vajrayana, but I turned out not to be so enthusiastic about most of it. You could be the opposite. What feels awkward for you now could very well feel normal and natural to you later on. For example, I live in Hungary, and Hungarian sounded like a mysterious alien code when I first arrived here, but now I'm quite used to the sound of it and I actually miss the language when I visit other countries. So don't sell yourself short and underestimate your own personal potential for growth... you have buddha-nature like all the rest of us, after all! :D I am nothing special. I just went to many lamas' teachings, meditations, retreats, and empowerments for about 5 years.

On the other hand, if you feel really strong aversion to all Tibetan things, then maybe your analysis of your feelings is correct...

And don't expect to be good at tantric meditations right from the beginning! For most people, it takes a lot of work to become proficient at them and doing a retreat in which you focus on one tantric meditation is very helpful (and is probably why Tibetan Buddhist emphasize the importance of retreats so much). Even short retreats can be very helpful. The only sadhana I can perform somewhat adequately is a Medicine Buddha sadhana which I attended a 5-day retreat for in which we practiced the sadhana twice a day every day.

There are also special techniques to develop your powers of visualization which the more advanced Vajrayana practitioners here can probably tell you more about. One is to spend a lot of time staring at an image of the deity which is the yidam in your sadhana and try to close your eyes and still see it clearly. If you can't, you open them and remind yourself of some more of the details. Other members can probably explain this stuff better.

mirage wrote:2)I do not want to let go of things I grew to love in other schools of Buddhism.

You don't need to! Although most lamas will want you to make Tibetan Buddhist meditations your main practices, there's no reason why you can't study or practice other types of Buddhism. And you can certainly attend the teachings of Buddhist teachers from other sects even if you practice Tibetan Buddhism. Look at how many different types of Buddhism the Dalai Lama knows about! (All of them! :D )

Although if you find Tibetan Buddhism to be much more of a burden to you than an aid (like I do now), then that's something different...
If you're not sure whether it's more good or more bad for you, then take more time to evaluate it.

mirage wrote:Zen has a lot of things going for it. First, Japanese culture resonates with me an order of magnitude better than Tibetan. Second, I love the minimalist aesthetics. Third, the practice looks perfect for someone like me: just sit and meditate quietly. Unfortunately, there are problems here too, massive problems. Essentially, I do not like Zen's minimalistic approach when it extends from aesthetics to doctrine and practice.

Hmm... Have you ever considered Shingon or Tendai? If you are into some esoteric Buddhism, but want the Japanese version, then there you go! I really do hope that Shingon and Tendai spread more throughout the west. I think many westerners would really enjoy their teachings and practices!

I think this is the book that Ven. Eijo who is a westerner who is a Shingon priest recommends:
http://www.amazon.com/Kukai-His-Major-W ... ords=kukai

mirage wrote:Essentially, I do not like Zen's minimalistic approach when it extends from aesthetics to doctrine and practice. I do not like the anti-intellectual tone I see in many teachings. I do not feel that one practice is enough for everything and everyone. I also do not like the emphasis Zen puts on discipline. And, frankly, I do not like the effect Zen seems to have on many people I meet on forums and in real life (not all Zen people, by any means! But many people). In my opinion, they grow irrational and intellectually shallow. They feel that things like teachings on ethics, which I consider to be of crucial importance, are somehow beneath them, because it's "just concepts and clinging", and so on. Many discard karma and rebirth as "irrelevant to their practice", which is pure nonsense for me. The current state of Zen in the West is testament to this tendency.

Yes, I also really dislike these tendencies, but I am hoping that my local Zen groups here in Europe are not as much like that. I am inspired by the intelligent Zen/Chan Buddhists who post here, such as Astus and Ven. Huifeng.

Anyway, best of luck to you!
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Nikolay » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:01 pm

First of all, do you have a lama and/or practice group who you can see regularly?

No, unfortunately this is impossible for me. Several times a year is currently best I can hope for. I know I sound like someone who barely begun any practice and cannot even know what is right or what is wrong for him because he is not familiar with practice enough, but I really gave this a lot of thought, even in the years before taking Refuge.
On the other hand, if you feel really strong aversion to all Tibetan things, then maybe your analysis of your feelings is correct...

I don't have an aversion to Tibetan things, really. I suppose I would get similar feelings from ritual side of pretty much any religion. Though some things do bother me. It's difficult to explain without going into minute detail which is pretty much irrelevant for anyone but myself.
Have you ever considered Shingon or Tendai?

I have, and I have a great interest in these schools, but I feel I should stay realistic. I would have to travel overseas each time I want to see a teacher. And I have a sneaking suspicion that their rituals would give me pretty much the same feeling. If I ever meet a Tendai or Shingon teacher I will definitely try to ask for some teachings from them, but I do not wish to "abandon" Tibetan Buddhism. A lot of things about it are quite dear to me.

Best luck to you too!
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Luke » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:32 pm

Well, then does your sangha have forum or a page on a social networking website? That could be a very helpful way for you to chat with your sangha members, express your concerns, ask questions, get answers, and get inspiration.

And have you considered the many online teachings/transmissions of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu? (What some other members here tried to recommend to me.) I've never seen him, but you might happen to like his style. He seems quite popular and beloved by his students. Also, his world-wide communtiy of students seem like they are quite enthusiastic and supportive, but again, I have no direct experience of this.
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Nikolay » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:55 pm

Luke wrote:Well, then does your sangha have forum or a page on a social networking website? That could be a very helpful way for you to chat with your sangha members, express your concerns, ask questions, get answers, and get inspiration.

Forum is pretty much dead, I asked a question there once, and it was never answered. Not sure about the social networks.
Luke wrote:And have you considered the many online teachings/transmissions of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu? (What some other members here tried to recommend to me.) I've never seen him, but you might happen to like his style. He seems quite popular and beloved by his students. Also, his world-wide communtiy of students seem like they are quite enthusiastic and supportive, but again, I have no direct experience of this.

I know it works for many people, but I can't help but be sceptical about online transmissions. I once considered watching a translation to get a direct introduction, since I am interested in Dzogchen teachings, but then I realized I was probably just falling into the common trap of thinking that higher-level teachings will solve my problems. It's not like I don't have enough things to practice, I'm still struggling with shamatha!
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Luke » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:39 pm

mirage wrote:
Luke wrote:And have you considered the many online teachings/transmissions of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu? (What some other members here tried to recommend to me.) I've never seen him, but you might happen to like his style. He seems quite popular and beloved by his students. Also, his world-wide communtiy of students seem like they are quite enthusiastic and supportive, but again, I have no direct experience of this.

I know it works for many people, but I can't help but be sceptical about online transmissions. I once considered watching a translation to get a direct introduction, since I am interested in Dzogchen teachings, but then I realized I was probably just falling into the common trap of thinking that higher-level teachings will solve my problems. It's not like I don't have enough things to practice, I'm still struggling with shamatha!

hehe. So we think the same way! That was a very "non-me" answer I gave. I have also had the same reservations (although whether they are justified or not, I'm not sure).

Okay, so I'll give you the "me" answers which I held back in my own thread: I've always felt some attraction to the Drikung Kagyu. Specifically, the Drikung Kagyu master who has always given me the most inspiration is Drubwang Konchok Norbu Rinpoche (although unfortunately, he died before I knew about him). Perhaps his videos and teachings will inspire you.



The Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism also has some interesting teachings. They are basically Kalachakra specialists. Perhaps you will find them interesting.
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Nikolay » Sat Apr 27, 2013 2:51 pm

Luke:

Thank you. I can't say I'm dissatisfied in any way with teachings of my particular school as opposed to any other Tibetan schools or lineages. My doubts are more... general, so to say.
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Luke » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:40 pm

mirage wrote:Luke:

Thank you. I can't say I'm dissatisfied in any way with teachings of my particular school as opposed to any other Tibetan schools or lineages. My doubts are more... general, so to say.

Well, I guess my point was that maybe if you find a lama (living or historical) who inspires you enough, then maybe you will be able to focus on that and perhaps be able to ignore most of the details which bother you.
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby ground » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:03 pm

mirage wrote:On one level I do identify as a "Tibetan Buddhist", but on other I do not think I can limit myself like that. Teachers from all traditions are warning against mixing practices, but I don't think it will be possible for me in the long run to simply accept Tibetan practices and discard everything else. I feel like I have to build for myself a "core" of Buddhism, the philosophy behind it that is independent of any cultural trappings, and then, building on that basis, use practices that work for me, in whatever aesthetic that works for me.

Rely on your wisdom. You can be confident that you will find out what is beneficial. But be honest to yourself and do not cling to ideas just for the purpose of having something to cling to. Watch out for afflictions and cultivate an open heart. :sage:
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Nikolay » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:58 pm

I also have to admit that I have deeply troubling thoughts about my faith. "Faith" is not a popular word in some Buddhist circles, but I can't see how else you could call it. Is my faith genuine, or maybe my interest and my commitment to Buddhism is just role-playing? Will I be able to sustain it and will it sustain me if some tragedy strikes, or when I grow old, or when it is time for me to die? Or will my mind simply fall back to atheism, or to some half-understood Christian ideas, or to some superstition? Too many questions :shrug:
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Luke » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:43 pm

mirage wrote:I don't have an aversion to Tibetan things, really. I suppose I would get similar feelings from ritual side of pretty much any religion. Though some things do bother me. It's difficult to explain without going into minute detail which is pretty much irrelevant for anyone but myself.

Well, I don't know... maybe you should go into more detail what you mean exactly. I'm surprised that you haven't gotten more replies here. Perhaps this is because a lot of people are confused what you're looking for exactly...

Let's see if I understand you correctly:
1) You feel strongly attracted to Tibetan Buddhism and don't want to switch to another Buddhist tradition.
2) You don't like reciting texts in Tibetan
3) You're not so comfortable with the traditional depictions of Tibetan deities.

Because of #1, then keep reading/learning about Tibetan Buddhism until you find an approach to/view of Vajrayana that is comfortable/makes sense to you.

Because of #2, you could find English translations of pujas and sadhanas and practice those. I know such things exist. You could also find a lama who isn't against you reciting things in English (I'm not sure if any are really against it, although they might prefer to use the Tibetan at public practices in their centers).

And is #2, because of some sort of shyness that you have? You said, "I am unable to force myself to say those Tibetan words aloud to an empty room, so I whisper them under my breath." That sounds like extreme shyness to me! Perhaps you could research ways of overcoming shyness in general?

Maybe just practice "letting go" for once and stop worrying! Yell "Sangye!" ("buddha" in Tibetan) many times when you're alone. Is that so bad? Why are you embarrassed if there's no one to listen? Don't worry about it, dude/dudette! lol

mirage wrote:I also have to admit that I have deeply troubling thoughts about my faith. "Faith" is not a popular word in some Buddhist circles, but I can't see how else you could call it. Is my faith genuine, or maybe my interest and my commitment to Buddhism is just role-playing? Will I be able to sustain it and will it sustain me if some tragedy strikes, or when I grow old, or when it is time for me to die? Or will my mind simply fall back to atheism, or to some half-understood Christian ideas, or to some superstition? Too many questions :shrug:

I hope that more experienced practitioners of Vajrayana here will give you their opinions and advice, but since few people have yet, I'll give you my ideas.

I think that real faith arises slowly. Part of faith comes from wisdom, specifically from understanding the practices and teachings of Vajrayana. Have you read any lam-rim texts? They might give you helpful background information. I know that the Dalai Lama has given teachings about Atisha's lam-rim text and about Tsongkhapa's lam-rim text. I don't know which Tibetan Buddhist tradition you practice.

Another part of faith is trusting your lama. I guess whether you will feel this way will become obvious over time as you spend more time with your lama.

I think it's also good to hang out with other Buddhists periodically if you can, even if they practice a different tradition. This could give you some feeling of "community" ("sangha" is the third gem in the Triple Gem after all...) which is important to having an identity as a Buddhist westerner. I think that I have isolating myself too much and that I should hang out with more Buddhists again. It's nice to help other sanghas occasionally, if possible.

Good luck! :smile:
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Luke » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:03 pm

Another suggestion: Practice shinay and lojong meditations if you can't connect with deity practices. Lojong especially can be great and might give you a way to deal with your negative emotions (fear, etc.).

And in Vajrayana, there is also the view that the five poisons are inherently the five widsoms. Other people here will know more about this, but here are two interesting links:

http://dpr.info/media/www.DPR.info%20-% ... Wisdom.pdf
http://www.samyeling.org/index/the-5-bu ... ies-talk-3
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:06 pm

I was going to post this, but I thought it might be misunderstood as arrogant, so I decided not to. Then I thought "what the heck".

It sounds to me like 1. You don't know that guilt doesn't exist in Buddhism. Only shame does. Shame is 'I did something bad'. Guilt is 'I did something bad and therefore I'm a bad person'. So don't become obsessed with Samaya.
2. You either lack the karma for Tantra or are obscured. So add the Four Powers to your daily practice and focus on what you do enjoy: the Lam Rim.

After all, as Phakongkha Rinpoche repeatedly says in Liberation in the Palm of your Hand, without Bodhicitta and the other things taught in the Lam Rim, success in Tantra is impossible.

Power of Regret
Acknowledgement you've done something you shouldn't have.

Power of the Remedy
Reciting Sutras (particularity the Confession chapter from the Sutra of Golden Light), mediating upon Emptiness, making images, bowing before them and so forth.

Power of the Determination
Determination never to commit the act again, even at the cost of one's life.

Power of the Object
Going for refuge to the Three Jewels and relying on them to protect your vow.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:38 pm

mirage wrote:I don't really worry too much. My qualms more or less boil down to two things:
1)I feel that I probably won't be able to do the more complex Vajrayana practices because the outer side leaves me feeling awkward. Basically I can't connect to most Tibetan cultural stuff.
2)I do not want to let go of things I grew to love in other schools of Buddhism.


I will tell you experience, not that it is the right solution for you,
but just because it might relate somehow to what I think you are saying.
I started doing Ngondro, about 20 years ago.
My teacher never suggested this to me. All the other buddhists I knew were doing it,
and I thought maybe it was something I was "supposed" to do.
I told my teacher i was going to do this. His response was nonverbal. he just sort of shrugged,
like, "okay, whatever".
So, I did 11,000 full prostrations and this brought me to the realization
that I was not connecting to any of it at all, as far as I could tell.
I mean, it just wasn't real. Not sincere. It was pretentious, if anything.
10.999 times I thought I was really into it.
At 11,000 I realized that "the chemistry just wasn't there" as they say about relationships sometimes.
So, we split up. Not me and my teacher, but me and Ngondro practice.
Now, 20 years later, I have begun to do prostrations again.
Now, I am connecting to it.
If I may say so, doing prostrations now feels like total freedom,
like diving into cool water each time, into that pond with the tree in the middle of it.
Like diving into refuge. The connection to it makes sense now.
Of course, these are all sensations that come and go. No point in clinging to them as real.
Let go, and keep going, as they say.

Tibetans paintings were created by Tibetan painters.
What you paint in your own mind, only you can see.

That's why you have to be totally honest with yourself. Completely.
If you aren't, it will catch up to you. You can't fool yourself forever.
There are a lot of pretenders in Dharma.
You shouldn't feel obliged to become one of them.
.
.
.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Punya » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:50 am

:good: Thank you for the above post PadmaVonSamba, it's very encouraging. When I'm doing prostrations now I'll try to think of myself as making the aspiration to understanding the true meaning of doing them. This would seem to apply to all our practice mirage.
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
~Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Nikolay » Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:53 am

Lots of wonderful advice, thank you very much! I will try to clarify some points.

Luke wrote:Well, I don't know... maybe you should go into more detail what you mean exactly. I'm surprised that you haven't gotten more replies here. Perhaps this is because a lot of people are confused what you're looking for exactly...
Let's see if I understand you correctly:
1) You feel strongly attracted to Tibetan Buddhism and don't want to switch to another Buddhist tradition.

Hard to explain, but essentially I can't say that I am attracted to Tibetan Buddhism as such more than I am attracted to certain other traditions. Rather, (from my admittedly limited point of view) I feel that there are specific areas in which each tradition excels, in which it has more to offer me than the rest. For example, I find Tibetan philosophy, scholarship, commentaries and such to be unmatched in their scope, detail and depth. Also, many texts and corresponding practices, like lamrim and lojong are very profound and useful. So, I really don't like the thought that if I switch to a different tradition, for example Tendai, which I am very much attracted to, all these things will cease to be relevant to my new practice and I'll have to leave them all behind.
Luke wrote:2) You don't like reciting texts in Tibetan

I don't like reciting texts in any language, but reciting in language that I do not understand is even worse because I feel that it is even less useful, because the meaning of words is not leaving any imprints in my mind.
Luke wrote:3) You're not so comfortable with the traditional depictions of Tibetan deities.

Well, yes. I am comfortable with the narrative behind the image, but I cannot connect to the image, cannot be inspired by it. I keep thinking that if a bodhisattva would appear before me, he/she would skilfully choose a different form, the one that would resonate with me and not with some ancient Indian or Tibetan person.
Luke wrote:And is #2, because of some sort of shyness that you have? You said, "I am unable to force myself to say those Tibetan words aloud to an empty room, so I whisper them under my breath." That sounds like extreme shyness to me! Perhaps you could research ways of overcoming shyness in general?
Maybe just practice "letting go" for once and stop worrying! Yell "Sangye!" ("buddha" in Tibetan) many times when you're alone. Is that so bad? Why are you embarrassed if there's no one to listen? Don't worry about it, dude/dudette! lol

I've never thought about myself as being extremely shy - reserved, yes, but not really that shy. No problems with public speaking, for example. I come from a non-religious background, I never went to a church or prayed in my entire life, and the very act of verbally addressing someone who is physically not there feels extremely weird for me. I am unable to feel devotion or anything like that if there is that feeling in my head, like "What are you doing, speaking aloud to no one, lol!" :rolling: I would probably have same issues reciting poetry or foreign language exercises, though.
Luke wrote:I think that real faith arises slowly. Part of faith comes from wisdom, specifically from understanding the practices and teachings of Vajrayana. Have you read any lam-rim texts? They might give you helpful background information. I know that the Dalai Lama has given teachings about Atisha's lam-rim text and about Tsongkhapa's lam-rim text. I don't know which Tibetan Buddhist tradition you practice.

Nyingma tradition, but I do own Tsongkhapa's Lamrim, and also Patrul Rinpoche's Words of My Perfect Teacher. I have also read Gampopa's lamrim, and the Nyingma one called "Jeweled Ladder". They are inspiring in many ways, but the do presuppose some beliefs and cultural background that I do not originally have, like rebirth and Triple Universe cosmology. I accept these things on an intellectual level, of course, but again, I wonder how deep my convictions are.
Luke wrote:Another part of faith is trusting your lama. I guess whether you will feel this way will become obvious over time as you spend more time with your lama.
I think it's also good to hang out with other Buddhists periodically if you can, even if they practice a different tradition. This could give you some feeling of "community" ("sangha" is the third gem in the Triple Gem after all...) which is important to having an identity as a Buddhist westerner. I think that I have isolating myself too much and that I should hang out with more Buddhists again. It's nice to help other sanghas occasionally, if possible.

Here, unfortunately, circumstances outside my control make it difficult. My lama visits my country only once in a year, so it is rather difficult to have much contact. And the only active sangha in my city, as far as I know, is Ole Nydahl's Diamond Way, which I am... not very attracted to.
Nikolay
 
Posts: 166
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Re: Struggling with practice

Postby Nikolay » Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:00 am

PadmaVonSamba:

Thank you for sharing your advice. "Pretending" is something I am very keen to avoid, because I realize how easy it is to fall into a "Buddhist" role, surround myself with thankas, books, malas and such, and then, after a couple of years, to discover that it was just an infatuation with mysterious and exotic, an ego trip, adult role-playing. Which is why I am wary of throwing myself into practice, and locking myself into a fixed role, becoming emotionally attached to it.
Nikolay
 
Posts: 166
Joined: Sun May 13, 2012 2:11 pm

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