Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:32 am

kirtu wrote:I was apparently not clear enough. Highest yoga tantra is absent in Tendai and I'm pretty sure in Shingon as highest yoga tantra was a later development from India and developed after the transmission from India to China.


In the 9th century we might say that what Kukai and other figures like Saicho and Ennin transmitted was sufficiently complete given the time period. To say it was incomplete would be simply anachronistic. How can you have transmissions that have not yet emerged into the world?



China does have a different focus wrt early Abhidharma and Vinaya. Nontheless the claim is correct that Tibetan Buddhism is the only form of Buddhism that has preserved all three yanas with full tantra/mantrayana.


It doesn't have a good chunk of Abhidharma and Āgamma literature. Hence one of them yānas is a bit lacking.

My point is really to demonstrate that some Tibetans, or Tibetan Buddhism in general, defines itself as a caretaker of a complete transmission of Indian Buddhism, despite the fact this is easily contested and moreover refuted. Still, it is part of the Tibetan national identity.

It is useful to push such propaganda because it justifies acquisition of resources to preserve Tibetan culture, which in turn ensures certain parties and their associated members have access to resources they otherwise wouldn't have. If large numbers of westerners hadn't bought the aforementioned myth, Tibetan Buddhism would not have gained so much money and resources from foreign benefactors, and they'd be a lot poorer. Plenty of people simply believe that Tibetan Buddhism is the best extant heir to Indian Buddhism and they give their money and time accordingly.

If Tibetan leaders actually gave an honest scholarly interpretation, they would undermine themselves by basically saying that Theravada and East Asian forms of Buddhism also have their respective features and qualities which Tibetan Buddhism simply lacks, and that there might actually be some merit to supporting those developments as well.

Communities work by defining how they themselves are different and in many cases superior to outsiders. It works well in a religious context because you need to convince benefactors why you're worth support as opposed to another sect or religion.

I personally try to see through propaganda. Don't believe everything you hear.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Monsoon » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:58 am

In my somewhat low-brow opinion I think that there is no mileage in attempting to apportion blame on the PRC for their invasion and annexation of Tibet. After all, they did it with deliberate intent and the outcome is more or less what they wanted. As far as they are concerned there is no blame to lay. They are responsible for the current situation, but not necessarily to blame.

On Tibet, history and the present view I cannot help but consider that we in the West are perpetuating the Shangri-La mythos because it is, for some unfathomable reason (at least to me), expedient for our governments to do so. Frankly I get a bit sick and tired of the constant holier-than-everyone-else attitude that people so often attribute to Tibet and its people. And I mean that in the nicest way as I am sure most people, anywhere, are pretty decent at heart. It's just that it has been one huge media circus, and it shows no signs of letting up.

Ultimately when such issues become so intensely polarised it is damn near impossible to have a meaningful dialogue around it, especially when it comes to proposing ways forward.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:20 am

Monsoon wrote:On Tibet, history and the present view I cannot help but consider that we in the West are perpetuating the Shangri-La mythos because it is, for some unfathomable reason (at least to me), expedient for our governments to do so.


Old Cold War thinking. Anything to condemn communists.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby yegyal » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:40 am

Indrajala wrote:I personally try to see through propaganda. Don't believe everything you hear.


So where , when, and from whom are you hearing all this "propaganda"? Please be specific.
And keep in mind that for every shred of pro-Tibet propaganda you dig up, you can just as easily find anti-Tibetan propaganda funded directly by the PRC. In Nepal they set up a shop in the tourist area of Kathmandu called "China's Tibet" that is basically a propaganda kiosk. Or next time you see an article mentioning Tibet on the internet, on Yahoo news for instance, scroll down and check out the comments section and read the endless onslaught of negative anti-Tibetan posts from the paid posters known as the 50 cent army. The Chinese have accused the "Dalai clique" of being behind every instance of civil unrest on Tibetan plateau over the last half a decade. They say he's secretly behind the recent spat of self-immolations, and even tried to link him to the Tokyo subway gas attack back in the 90's. All of this despite the fact that the Tibetan communities of India and Nepal are constantly under surveillance by Chinese spies, none of which have produced even the slightest shred of evidence to support their claims. Though I'm sure you see through this endless onslought of propaganda, but you should acknowledge it when you talk about Tibetan propaganda, because this is the extreme corner that Tibetan's rights advocates have found themselves painted into trying to fight fire with fire.

However, I doubt many of us are that politically involved with the Tibetan issue, as the relative lack of backlash to starting a thread that essentially trivializes the tragic loss of millions of Tibetan lives and irreparable damage to its culture and religious traditions can attest. As for actual Tibetan historians, I really don't think somebody like Tsering Shakya is a propagandist, though I'm not sure that I can say the same for Goldstein, whose been working for the PRC for some years now.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 6:02 am

yegyal wrote:So where , when, and from whom are you hearing all this "propaganda"? Please be specific.


Propaganda is defined as information that is spread in support of a certain cause. A lot of what goes for common sense in Tibetan Buddhism, such as the aforementioned idea that Tibetans are the caretakers of Indian Buddhism, is tied in with political interests, ethnic identities and nationalism. It benefits them to have foreigners believe it all, too, because it gives just cause to materially support the preservation of Tibetan culture and the pro-Tibet lobby.

I've seen how this unfolds in real life. Cultural preservation is directly tied in with the Tibetan lobby. You have spirituality and mysticism mixed in with social activism, which is understandably quite appealing to a lot of liberal westerners who maybe feel guilty at a deep level about their own culture's part in past (and present) cultural genocide.


And keep in mind that for every shred of pro-Tibet propaganda you dig up, you can just as easily find anti-Tibetan propaganda funded directly by the PRC.


I think the PRC version of history is extremely warped and not done very convincingly, but then they don't have to do much because nobody is going to touch China over Tibet anymore. That time has past.


In Nepal they set up a shop in the tourist area of Kathmandu called "China's Tibet" that is basically a propaganda kiosk.


That bookshop in Thammel is lame and always empty. The kids working there place racing games on the PC and sometimes there's no staff even inside the shop!



Though I'm sure you see through this endless onslought of propaganda, but you should acknowledge it when you talk about Tibetan propaganda, because this is the extreme corner that Tibetan's rights advocates have found themselves painted into trying to fight fire with fire.


Actually it goes back even before the PRC takeover of Tibet.

When Tibet declared itself independent, it defined itself as a religious country and thus had to define themselves clearly with a certain type of Buddhism tied to their ethnic identity.


However, I doubt many of us are that politically involved with the Tibetan issue, as the relative lack of backlash to starting a thread that essentially trivializes the tragic loss of millions of Tibetan lives and irreparable damage to its culture and religious traditions can attest.


You need to reread this thread. Nobody is trivializing the loss of life.



As for actual Tibetan historians, I really don't think somebody like Tsering Shakya is a propagandist, though I'm not sure that I can say the same for Goldstein, whose been working for the PRC for some years now.



I've heard stories about the Vatican paying Buddhist scholars to undermine Brahman dominance in India.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby yegyal » Wed Jun 05, 2013 6:15 am

Indrajala wrote:
yegyal wrote:So where , when, and from whom are you hearing all this "propaganda"? Please be specific.


Propaganda is defined as information that is spread in support of a certain cause. A lot of what goes for common sense in Tibetan Buddhism, such as the aforementioned idea that Tibetans are the caretakers of Indian Buddhism, is tied in with political interests, ethnic identities and nationalism. It benefits them to have foreigners believe it all, too, because it gives just cause to materially support the preservation of Tibetan culture and the pro-Tibet lobby.

I've seen how this unfolds in real life. Cultural preservation is directly tied in with the Tibetan lobby. You have spirituality and mysticism mixed in with social activism, which is understandably quite appealing to a lot of liberal westerners who maybe feel guilty at a deep level about their own culture's part in past (and present) cultural genocide.



That's not what I call specific, nor does a definition of propaganda and some vague reference to a nondescript Tibetan lobby answer my question at all.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 6:17 am

yegyal wrote:That's not what I call specific, nor does a definition of propaganda and some vague reference to a nondescript Tibetan lobby answer my question at all.


The stated belief you hear from Tibetan Buddhists, both Tibetans and westerners, that Tibet is the sole caretaker of a complete transmission of Indian Buddhism, which is incomparable with respect to other ethnic developments of Buddhism, is propaganda that serves political as much as religious interests.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Sherlock » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:28 pm

Tibetan Buddhism has indeed preserved most of Indian Buddhism as it was practised in its final centuries. If you don't think those teachings are any more valuable than those preserved in other regions then of course you are perfectly justified in your criticisms. The Tibetans really only carried on the Indian arguments about the value of Vajrayana.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:23 pm

Indrajala wrote:
My point is really to demonstrate that some Tibetans, or Tibetan Buddhism in general, defines itself as a caretaker of a complete transmission of Indian Buddhism, despite the fact this is easily contested and moreover refuted. Still, it is part of the Tibetan national identity.



Tibetan Buddhism contains the complete path for awakening for every single conceivable layer of the development of Buddhism in Buddhist history, Hīnayāna, Mahāyāna and Mantrayāna (including a few developments, such as Dzogchen that do not at all exist outside of Tibetan Buddhism). That is what is meant by "complete".

No one intends by complete that Tibetans translated every Indian text. We know this because the record of eminent translators mention that there were many sutras, tantras, and so on that were not translated in Tibetan, such as the Kalacakra in 500,00 lines; The Hevajra Tantra in 500,00 lines, and so on. So obviously, Tibetans themselves are aware that they did not manage to translate every text. But what they were able to bring to Tibet was a complete path path covering all three yānas (as defined from a 8th--10th century Indian Vajrayāna perspective). Yes, of course, we all known including Tibetans, that Tibetan Buddhism was a snapshot of late medieval Indian Buddhist culture during its decline phase.

Further, Merely bringing Abhidharmakosha, Abhisamaya-alaṃkara and one Tantra say, Kalacakra, would constitute a complete transmission of Indian Buddhism.

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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:19 pm

Malcolm wrote:Tibetan Buddhism contains the complete path for awakening for every single conceivable layer of the development of Buddhism in Buddhist history, Hīnayāna, Mahāyāna and Mantrayāna (including a few developments, such as Dzogchen that do not at all exist outside of Tibetan Buddhism). That is what is meant by "complete".


The issue is that some Tibetan Buddhists claim themselves as the only ones with a truly complete path.

Kirtu's statement above is illustrative:

Their mostly accurate claim is that Tibet was the only place where the Sravaka, Mahayana and Vajrayana teachers were kept and practiced.



Some use this to prop up their identity and worth as Tibetans or related sympathizers. It has a political function.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Jikan » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:21 pm

Indrajala wrote:I've heard stories about the Vatican paying Buddhist scholars to undermine Brahman dominance in India.


Entirely plausible: the Vatican would spend its resources on doctrinal & ideological matters in stead of, say, social welfare programs, which may well be more convincing to everyday people.

Malcolm wrote:Tibetan Buddhism contains the complete path for awakening for every single conceivable layer of the development of Buddhism in Buddhist history, Hīnayāna, Mahāyāna and Mantrayāna (including a few developments, such as Dzogchen that do not at all exist outside of Tibetan Buddhism). That is what is meant by "complete".

[...]

Buddhadharma is a path, not a bunch of books.

:good: The whole thing is good, really, but I would like to particularly highlight these well-spoken comments.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Jikan » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:23 pm

Indrajala wrote:The issue is that some Tibetan Buddhists claim themselves as the only ones with a truly complete path.


That's a problem for those who take such a position, not for the tradition itself. Analogy: a Yankees fan may claim that only Yankees fans truly understand baseball in a well-rounded way. That reflects a poor understanding on that fan, not on the Yankees as an organization.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:41 pm

Jikan wrote:That's a problem for those who take such a position, not for the tradition itself. Analogy: a Yankees fan may claim that only Yankees fans truly understand baseball in a well-rounded way. That reflects a poor understanding on that fan, not on the Yankees as an organization.


However, there are political implications that must be recognized and understood. By claiming to be the only real complete path, as described above, they identify their uniqueness and cause for cultural and religious preservation. I don't think this is planned as such, but human organizations tend to try and gain cultural capital which is exchangeable for other kinds of capital, like cold hard money. The Tibetan cause has a lot of cultural capital in this respect, which is why they can invest so heavily in building massive monasteries and other institutions with foreign support. Enough people feel this funding is warranted given the uniqueness of Tibetan Buddhism; the message that it is the only complete path gets them even more cultural and spiritual capitals.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I would do the same if I was Tibetan. Do you want to be a destitute ethnic minority in India living in hovels and refugee camps? Probably not. The Tibetans have a lot of foreign support from donations to free native ESL teachers teaching the poor Tibetans an economically useful language, the reasons for which are tied to this idea of the uniqueness of Tibetan Buddhism and the value it claims it alone possesses (how many people volunteer to teach English to Burmese or Afghani refugees?). This clearly has political and economic aspects. It isn't entirely a matter of doctrine.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:43 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Tibetan Buddhism contains the complete path for awakening for every single conceivable layer of the development of Buddhism in Buddhist history, Hīnayāna, Mahāyāna and Mantrayāna (including a few developments, such as Dzogchen that do not at all exist outside of Tibetan Buddhism). That is what is meant by "complete".


The issue is that some Tibetan Buddhists claim themselves as the only ones with a truly complete path.


The fact that virtually all late Indian Vajrayāna tantras and transmissions, as well as late Mahayāna developments such as the Abhisamaya-alaṃkara tradition, etc., are absent everywhere but in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia means that no other tradition has all paths taught in India. Thus, the statement can be read as a true statement. It does not mean that other Mahayana traditions do not present a complete path to Buddhahood, it just means that in Tibetan Buddhism one has available all paths that have ever been taught under the rubric of "Buddhism". That cannot be said of any other tradition. It is a simple fact.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:56 pm

Malcolm wrote:The fact that virtually all late Indian Vajrayāna tantras and transmissions, as well as late Mahayāna developments such as the Abhisamaya-alaṃkara tradition, etc., are absent everywhere but in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia means that no other tradition has all paths taught in India. Thus, the statement can be read as a true statement.


"All paths" as late Indian Vajrayāna and Mahayāna excludes other core components which make up a "complete system of Buddhism". Tibetan Buddhism doesn't have a Dharmagupta Vinaya lineage. It has the one Vinaya lineage, sure, but not the alternative paths that were available in India. This same applies for bodhisattva precept lineages and presumably some of the divination and astrology practices as found in East Asia that originate from India.

Basically I don't see the point to constantly hammering on about how TB is so unique and special. Is late period Indian Vajrayāna so much better than what Shingon and Taimitsu in East Asia acquired and developed? The developments in India are not necessarily going to be superior to what unfolded in, say, Shingon or even other native schools like Chan.

I often find Tibetan Buddhists like to claim the superiority of their practices in contrast to lesser teachings and practices (not you specifically Malcolm), yet very few demonstrate the qualities which they claim their practices rapidly develop. It isn't just westerners, either. Just the other week a Bhutanese monk told me to my face he thinks my meditation is basically Hīnayāna and that he has a superior Vajrayāna method.

There's something of a superiority complex tied to a lot of Tibetan Buddhism.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:03 pm

Dear Venerable Indrajala, what I do not understand is why you suddenly have this beef with Tibetan Buddhism (or Tibetan religious politics, to be more accurate)?

What exactly is it about the situation that makes you personally feel that it is an issue that must be spoken against/about?

What possible impact on your life, as a Mahayana monk, does Tibetan religious politics have?

Surely, all the talk is just hot air, so what effect could that possibly have on your practice?
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:25 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Dear Venerable Indrajala, what I do not understand is why you suddenly have this beef with Tibetan Buddhism (or Tibetan religious politics, to be more accurate)?


I'm just expressing my thoughts. If we were to talk about Buddhism in Taiwan or Japan I'd have equally critical thoughts.


What exactly is it about the situation that makes you personally feel that it is an issue that must be spoken against/about?


This is an open forum where anything within reason can be discussed. As a scholar and Buddhist monk I find the intermingling of politics and religion to be fascinating to understanding human nature. I think discerning the inner workings of Tibetan Buddhism, which I do participate in to a limited extent, is also useful in seeing how their claims of rapidly producing enlightened beings matches up against the reality which I observe. I recently was talking to a French nun about just this issue. She was talking about all the realized beings she believes exists in her lineage, so I asked her how that works in light of institutional problems. It was a tough question, but worth asking.


Surely, all the talk is just hot air, so what effect could that possibly have on your practice?


The more I become familiar with Tibetan Buddhism and all its politics, the more discerning I become when looking for teachings and so forth. All the institutional politics and negative things I see and hear about makes me wonder where all the purportedly realized beings are. I've met some wonderful Lamas of course. I had a private empowerment in Kathmandu a few months ago from one. He's not an eminent figure. As far as I know he's not involved in politics either. He's, at least in my eyes, the real deal. Not all wrapped up in the eight worldly dharmas. Really devoted to practice and his students.

So, contrary to your assertion here, it does have consequences to my practice. Let's not jump to conclusions about my practice or lack thereof.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:26 pm

The superiority of HYT is a traditional idea, stated and repeated in the related Tantras, commentaries, and treatises. I don't think all proponents of the superiority of HYT/TB have any other motivation than repeating what they've been taught. Some, maybe many people could have the motivation for money, fame, etc. But not all.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:32 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:What possible impact on your life, as a Mahayana monk...


What exactly does "Mahāyāna monk" mean? Is this in contrast to a Vajrayāna monk? If so, this is again one of those Tibetan Buddhist distinctions that are projected onto others who may not recognize them. That's really unfair, like calling a bhikkhu a Hīnayāna monk. He wouldn't call himself that.

I tend to think of myself more as a śramaṇa. There's really no need to identify with terms so heavily.
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Re: Government of Pre-PRC Tibet

Postby Malcolm » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:43 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:The fact that virtually all late Indian Vajrayāna tantras and transmissions, as well as late Mahayāna developments such as the Abhisamaya-alaṃkara tradition, etc., are absent everywhere but in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia means that no other tradition has all paths taught in India. Thus, the statement can be read as a true statement.


"All paths" as late Indian Vajrayāna and Mahayāna excludes other core components which make up a "complete system of Buddhism". Tibetan Buddhism doesn't have a Dharmagupta Vinaya lineage. It has the one Vinaya lineage, sure, but not the alternative paths that were available in India.



It has a Vinaya lineage, it doesn't need more than one. Dharmagupta Vinaya is not different than Mulsarvastivada in its intention. The path of Vinaya in all "eighteen" schools is the same path. There are not different Vinaya paths.

This same applies for bodhisattva precept lineages


Tibetan Buddhism as two bodhisattva vow lineages...so are you going to now argue that Chinese Buddhism has a less complete Mahāyāna system since it only has one bodhisattva precept lineage? It seems you must since you fault Tibetan Buddhism for only maintaining one Vinaya lineage. In reality, the intention of bodhisattva precepts are the same whether concise (Nagarjuna's lineage) or elaborate (Asanga and Chinese system).

and presumably some of the divination and astrology practices as found in East Asia that originate from India.


These things are not paths. And Pramaṇā as well as other things never found much footing in the Sino-sphere.

Is late period Indian Vajrayāna so much better than what Shingon and Taimitsu in East Asia acquired and developed? The developments in India are not necessarily going to be superior to what unfolded in, say, Shingon or even other native schools like Chan.


You really do not want me to answer that question. But yes, frankly, Anuttarayoga tantra is intrinsically more profound than Yogatantra, which, by itself, is already profound. I encourage you to receive abhiśeka and practice and study Vajrayāna. All you have to lose is a few more lifetimes on the path.

I often find Tibetan Buddhists like to claim the superiority of their practices in contrast to lesser teachings and practices (not you specifically Malcolm), yet very few demonstrate the qualities which they claim their practices rapidly develop.


All I can say then is that you have not met any mahāsiddhas. Or if you have, you were like Sunakṣatra and could not perceive their qualities.

There's something of a superiority complex tied to a lot of Tibetan Buddhism.


There is a lot of triumphalism in Buddhism in general, as religions go, it is very triumphalist.
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