Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

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Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Luke » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:10 pm

Like many people, I was sad to hear about the Shamarpa's recent death, but I really wonder if his heart attack could have been prevented if he had stayed more physically fit.

It's not just the late Shamarpa, but many other Buddhist teachers are in bad physical shape, as well. Many Buddhists see fitness as mere vanity, but maintaining a basic level of fitness can prevent many health problems and could very well help Buddhist teachers live longer lives so that they can benefit people with their teachings for longer periods of time.

Of course, one is often supposed to see one's lama/Buddhist teacher as being totally wise, so their students often turn a blind eye to the fact that they are in very bad shape. Perhaps some of their students feel that these lamas are doing such high-powered yogic exercises which are cleaning out their channels that they couldn't possibly benefit at all from a bit of jogging, but I am quite skeptical of this...

I think that there is no reason why young and middle-aged Buddhist teachers couldn't go jogging/swimming/biking/etc. 2 or 3 times a week for around 30 minutes. Really old ones could just walk.

As in so many areas, the Dalai Lama is setting a positive example and leading the way. According to his website, he goes for a walk every day. :twothumbsup:
http://www.dalailama.com/biography/a-routine-day" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

There's no need for Buddhist teachers to look like fitness models, but if more of them would take physical fitness more seriously, they might live longer lives and have more energy to benefit other beings.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby smcj » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:15 pm

I've got a photo of HHDL on a stationary bike by my altar--laughing as usual. :smile:
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:43 pm

Unless one has exceptional genetics, walking and eating moderately should be enough to keep one slim if practiced consistently.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Simon E. » Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:35 am

Should people mind their own business about other people's lifestyles and realise longevity is just one quality that is over egged by moderns ?
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Anders » Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:44 am

Simon E. wrote:longevity is just one quality that is over egged by moderns ?


Come now. Prayers for long life of one's guru is frequently encouraged in Buddhism. There are also practices for long life (frequently associated with "the buddha of long life", Amitabha) And outside of Buddhism, we've got the Daoist elixirs of immportality, the Philosopher's stone, etc.

If anything, longevity is a quality over egged through the ages.

I do agree with the 'minding one's own business' part though. "Should these people I am not in contact with do better?" is a bit on the gossipy side.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Simon E. » Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:16 am

I don't think the Longlife Prayers are a mechanism to nudge teachers into taking up jogging, Anders. :smile:

But I take your point. I just don't think that we can expect people from other cultures to share our fear -driven fear attachment to having a svelte shape or our denial of death...

Not until the day when Cosmo is required reading among Tibetans too..and they are all taking quizzes about how to spice up their sex lives...
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Luke » Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:37 am

Simon E. wrote:I don't think the Longlife Prayers are a mechanism to nudge teachers into taking up jogging, Anders. :smile:

They certainly don't seem to be. However, a more interesting question is whether a lama jogging a few times a week would do a lot more to prolong his or her life than any long-life prayers recited for him/her would.

A scientific study could be set up in which the lifespans of lamas who do not exercise but whose students recite long-life prayers for them is compared with the lifespans of lamas who do exercise but whose students do not recite long-life prayers for them. The comparison could be very interesting...

And anyway, exercise isn't solely the province of westerners. Shakyamuni Buddha did quite a bit of walking.

Anders wrote:I do agree with the 'minding one's own business' part though. "Should these people I am not in contact with do better?" is a bit on the gossipy side.

It is true that this topic can be interpreted as being rude and disrespectful--and this is exactly why it is never brought up!
But I feel that the health of Buddhist teachers is important enough to warrant a breach of etiquette in this case.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Simon E. » Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:59 am

I don't see it as rude or disrespectful Luke.

I think that this life is a dream state, a bridge, and that we should build neither houses nor gyms on it. :smile:

Which does not mean that we should neglect our bodies either...we need them for a while.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby kirtu » Tue Jul 01, 2014 5:20 pm

It is undeniable that exercise prolongs life and helps to reduce many disease occurrences. This is usually stated as "moderate exercise", etc. to get people who are not inclined to exercise to begin and stay with a regular habit of exercise.

However the benefits will vary widely from person to person. Jim Fixx, for example, (in)famously died at 52 while jogging. He was of course touted as a jogging advocate and was quite famous when he died suddenly and unexpectedly in the early 80's. What was not stated in most press reports was that Jim Fixx's father had died at 43, Jim Fixx didn't begin exercising until his mid-30's, was an obese smoker at the time he began and that he was probably genetically predisposed to an early death (from Dr. Cooper).

Most Tibetans I have spoken with on the subject seem to feel that the walking and prostrations that they do are sufficient exercise, when they think of exercise at all. Walking (traditionally done through kora) and prostrations are excellent exercises. Even though they are not practices as exercise one will still accrue the benefits. But the person has to keep doing them even as they age.

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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby catmoon » Sat Jul 05, 2014 7:10 am

This raises an image in my mind of Tsem Tulku being sent off to my Grade 8 gym teacher, Mr. Bell, for some training.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Alfredo » Mon Jul 07, 2014 4:22 am

I was just thinking something along those lines!
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Jikan » Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:14 pm

Long-life practice is serious business--it's taken seriously for a reason. For one thing, it takes a long time to train someone to become a capable practitioner, teacher, leader... so there's every incentive to keep that person from dying prematurely.

I hope I'm not taking a wrong turn by reminding everyone of the prediction Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche made (using a divination of Dorje Yudronma) for Shamar Rinpoche. It had been cited for a long time in regard to some controversial matters Shamar had been involved with. Significantly, the divination strongly advised Shamar to do long life practice well before middle-age.

I've been advised to look after my health carefully by more than one teacher--to engage seriously in long-life practices. And in the nearly twenty years I've been practicing, I've finally gotten myself to the point that I kind of like exercise. Some of it. I hope to live long enough to put to good use the little b it of knowledge I've gathered so far before I run out of time and opportunities.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby winstonsalem » Tue Jul 08, 2014 2:44 pm

yes, lots of teachers need to excercise and eat better. and maybe students can stop with the overfeeding.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby frank123 » Tue Jul 08, 2014 3:23 pm

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is in great shape.Apparently he runs marathons and lifts weights :twothumbsup:
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby amanitamusc » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:09 pm

There are systems of exercise in Tibetan Buddhism that not only have a profound effects on physical health
but are very helpful before a sitting practice.Yantra yoga,and Lonchenpas 21 movements is simple
and very powerful for your health and practice.I'm sure there are many others.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby pemachophel » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:28 pm

Physical exercise does not have to be a distraction from full-time Dharma practice. It is only a samsaric waste of time if one thinks it is. IME, with proper motivation and a little creativity, one can turn pretty much any physical exercise into a Dharmic activity.

First, one can think that one is exercising in order to maintain one's health and longevity so that one can work longer and more vigorously for the sake of sentient beings.

Secondly, depending on the physical activity one is doing, one can visualize/reframe that as a Dharmic activity. For instance, when walking, one can visualize his or her Guru, Yidam, or a stupa above and to the right of their right shoulder. Then every step can be imagined as circumambulation. By adding the repetition of mantra, one can make the time they are spending even more effective, engaging all three doors. When running, one can visualize his or her Guru, Buddha, Yidam above and in front of them. Then every step can be running towards Enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings. In that case, one can also imagine all sentient beings being pulled along in a huge wagon, crossing the fields of samsara and depositing them in nirvana. Similarly, when swimming, one can imagine pulling all sentient beings on a huge raft across the ocean of samsara to the shores of Liberation. Lifting weights, one can imagine lifting up all sentient beings out of their suffering and the lower realms, raising them to the upper realms and from the upper realms through the 10 Bodhisatva bhumis to Buddhahood. This whole process can be done with each repetition or progressively over a set of repetitions. Doing sit-ups, one can likewise imagine pulling up sentient beings out of their suffering and pain with each crunch forward. If you like to finish up a work-out session in a steam room, sauna, or hot tub, you can say Vajrasattvas, imagining the sweat pouring out as black liquid representing all one's sins and obscurations. Take a shower after exercising? One can similarly say Vajrasattvas, thinking that one is washing away all of one's own and all others' sins and obscurations. Putting back on your regular clothes? One can think that they are putting on the armor of the Victors and Their Sons (and Daughters) in order to work diligently and perseveringly for the sake of all beings. If you can also recognize that the doer, the doing, and the object of any and all this doing are all empty, one has earned both accumulations: the accumulation of merit and the accumulation of wisdom. Finally, dedicate this merit for the sake of universal Enlightenment and you have a the dampa sum, the three supremes or three perfect principles.

IOW, it's not the activity; it's the motivation and imagination that make something either a worldly or a Dharmic activity. Thus there's no reason to think one is wasting their precious dal-jor by "merely" doing exercise. This is the genius of Vajrayana.

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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Jikan » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:33 pm

Thanks for that post, pema choephel.

I'm in a rather peculiar position: my knees are shot from prostrations (some of them done foolishly, while injured), sitting in seiza & sankyo positions, and general wear and tear. But I can still run comfortably if I use good form and avoid gaining body mass above the waist. So do some running, but I visualize it as though I'm doing circumambulation. Always to my right is a Buddha or a stupa. On my lips is a mantra or the nembutsu, in rhythm with my footsteps so I don't lose the thread. It's simple and it feels right.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:56 pm

Aside from the insightful stuff that Pema Chopel posted, in terms of practicing Dharma, consistent exercise (along with other lifestyle choices, obviously) at least somewhat increases your likelihood of a life with fewer instances of stuff that reallyis likely distract from the Dharma, chronic health issues.

People like to point out the examples of healthy people who die at a young age, but these are obviously the exceptions, remaining active and getting exercise not only has a direct link to longevity..but maybe more important from a Dharma context, it has an effect on quality of life as one ages, which has to be a huge thing for practice.
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Re: Should Buddhist teachers get more exercise?

Postby kirtu » Tue Jul 08, 2014 10:34 pm

Jikan wrote: But I can still run comfortably if I use good form and avoid gaining body mass above the waist. So do some running, but I visualize it as though I'm doing circumambulation. Always to my right is a Buddha or a stupa. On my lips is a mantra or the nembutsu, in rhythm with my footsteps so I don't lose the thread. It's simple and it feels right.


That's how I have run most of the time since 1987 or so.

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