Dealing With Desire

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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:31 am

Karma Dorje wrote:Then why did you accept precepts and undergo formal ordination?


Well, that's how Buddhism nowadays recognizes you as a monk, though I don't think this is necessary actually in order to really be a śramaṇa (precepts don't make you a śramaṇa anymore than the robes would), but nevertheless it is a social convention and construct that enough institutions believe is necessary in order to make it a bureaucratic necessity. If I apply to go to a conference as a sangha member they'll ask, "Who is your preceptor and please give us the details." Some might even ask for an ordination certificate.

In other words, if someone showed up displaying a degree of lucid wisdom and, while displaying outwardly the appearance of a śramaṇa, announced themselves a monk without having received any formal precepts, I would treat them as a monk. Such unorthodox persons of course are rare nowadays and those who would actually go forward like would be on the fringes of Buddhist society.

You might think they're crazy, but then plenty of orthodox monastics don't display great emotional and mental stability either.


I am struggling to understand how taking vows you have no intention to keep is not simply lying.


Where did I say I'm not holding my vows? I said I don't think formal vows are really necessary in order to be a śramaṇa. In essence being a monk is just a social convention, but it is useful nevertheless.

That being said, however, if you study the Vinaya (which I encourage you to do if you haven't) you'll see quite clearly that certain conventions can be dismissed where necessary. As I noted above, the Mahīśāsaka Vinaya quotes the Buddha as stating, "Even if it be something I have prohibited, if it is not considered pure [conduct] in other lands, then it all should not be adopted. Even if it is not something I have prohibited, if something must be carried out in other lands, then it all must be carried out."

This is why your stated concern isn't really a problem.

Technically you're not supposed to eat garlic, but where I come from abstaining from garlic is not considered pure or impure. It makes no sense to people as the aroma isn't considered offensive as it was in ancient Indian culture. So, as the Buddha advised we can do away with certain minor rules.

What seems to be repeatedly overlooked is that these are rules for a community, not just a single person that decides to renovate


Outside of Chinese Buddhism, nobody seems to object much to garlic in the cooking.

There's the wording of the law and then the spirit of the law.

If you study the Vinaya and travel around the Buddhist world a bit as I have you see how all this unfolds in real life on the ground. There's the prescriptive and the descriptive. The only difference is that I'm pointing it all out and proposing modifications to be made as necessary rather than adhering to archaic sets of rules that the Buddha was fine with us changing or dropping as needed.

If the sangha as a group decide that certain rules can be overlooked because they are minor and no longer relevant, that's much different than a single person picking and choosing.


Some people are just individualistic and anarchist at heart. Non-conformist. :roll:

That being said, there are of course major components to traditional renunciate practice that are non-negotiable from a purely technical point of view. Celibacy is required because if you want to master the dhyāna-s, then abstaining from impure actions of body, speech and mind is required. If you accept this, then you'll be celibate by virtue of it being required for mastery of dhyāna rather than to merely uphold an institutionalized rule. If you have some wisdom, then you'll naturally not want to steal, harm others or lie.

This, I feel, is the spirit of the śramaṇa path: abstaining from unwholesome and undignified conduct out of a desire for liberation, rather than to safeguard institutional precepts.

Of course in larger communities with a lot of immature youth and/or untamed sentient beings present, you'll need some kind of policy and expectations, but then that is an internal matter rather than a pan-Buddhist concern. In practice it is actually like this, too. Things are never so binary and black & white.


Does your preceptor share your view of the vows as you express it here?


Pretty much.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby spot dawa » Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:02 am

Astus wrote:Has any modern bhikshu/ni tried to actually live from begging? I mean, homeless people can manage somehow, why not a few bald people too?


Yes. There are three American Theravadan monks living on alms rounds in Oregon. Only three, but if it is working then it can be made to work elsewhere I would think. Clearly their discipline is critical in order to maintain support, but they seem to be doing it:

http://northwestdharma.org/nw-dharma-news-wp/2012/06/hermitage/
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby MalaBeads » Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:42 am

spot dawa wrote:
Astus wrote:Has any modern bhikshu/ni tried to actually live from begging? I mean, homeless people can manage somehow, why not a few bald people too?


Yes. There are three American Theravadan monks living on alms rounds in Oregon. Only three, but if it is working then it can be made to work elsewhere I would think. Clearly their discipline is critical in order to maintain support, but they seem to be doing it:

http://northwestdharma.org/nw-dharma-news-wp/2012/06/hermitage/


:namaste:

Thank you. I did not know about this.

Simply incredible.

Achaan Chah's merit seems to only grow.

:namaste:
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:46 am

Malcolm wrote:It is obvious that renunciate paths (as opposed to the general dissatisfaction with samsara) are less possible then before. Actually, it is easier to be dissatisfied with samsara now, but it is much less easy to do something about it.
I disagree. Given the current proliferation of Dharma in the West and the willingness for people to engage with spiritual traditions outside of the Judeao-Christian framework (especially after the 1960's) I would say that for westerners it is now actually easier to "do something about it".

Another point that I do not understand: you seem totally opposed to the alteration (mainly removal of irrelevant rules) of the Vinaya code, yet you are happy to see the changes (mainly additions) imposed on monastics; changes which were made during the historical course of the development of the Vinaya. Why? Given you accept changes in the form of additions why do you not accept subtractions (or modifications)? What makes this even stranger is that your current teacher is actually quite opposed to ossification and very much in support of development,innovation and modificiation. Is this purposeful reticence on your behalf? I ask this because (for example) a monastic living in a Western urban environment will be unable to procure cow dung and urine to purify their dwelling after eating garlic, so maybe changing the clause so that the monastic can use air freshener wouldn't be a tragic loss to the Vinaya transmission (or count as a downfall)? Otherwise, it seems to me, that you are purposefully setting up the system for failure.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:43 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Malcolm wrote:It is obvious that renunciate paths (as opposed to the general dissatisfaction with samsara) are less possible then before. Actually, it is easier to be dissatisfied with samsara now, but it is much less easy to do something about it.
I disagree. Given the current proliferation of Dharma in the West and the willingness for people to engage with spiritual traditions outside of the Judeao-Christian framework (especially after the 1960's) I would say that for westerners it is now actually easier to "do something about it".


Dharma might be proliferating in Europe and Russia, in the US it has become a little bit moribund, its growth has slowed markedly.

Another point that I do not understand: you seem totally opposed to the alteration (mainly removal of irrelevant rules) of the Vinaya code, yet you are happy to see the changes (mainly additions) imposed on monastics; changes which were made during the historical course of the development of the Vinaya. Why?


At a certain point, the pratimokṣa was settled. It was clearly settled after Buddha's famous statement. We don't know exactly when. Nevertheless, we have the pratimokṣa we do. Elsewhere I noted that a monastic Sangha is not vital to the survival of the Dharma since Sikhin, for example, had no monastic Sanagha. Many Buddhas had/have/will have retinues, but no Sangha of monks.

Given you accept changes in the form of additions why do you not accept subtractions (or modifications)? What makes this even stranger is that your current teacher is actually quite opposed to ossification and very much in support of development,innovation and modificiation. Is this purposeful reticence on your behalf?


My current teacher is the most conservative Dzogchen teacher alive, actually. He is even more conservative than Chatral Sangye Dorje. Why? Because he teaches Dzogchen that way Garab Dorje said to teach Dzogchen, not the way Tibetan Lamas say to teach Dzogchen.

I ask this because (for example) a monastic living in a Western urban environment will be unable to procure cow dung and urine to purify their dwelling after eating garlic, so maybe changing the clause so that the monastic can use air freshener wouldn't be a tragic loss to the Vinaya transmission (or count as a downfall)? Otherwise, it seems to me, that you are purposefully setting up the system for failure.


It is a question of being intelligent -- one can understand that having eaten garlic, one needs to mask the odor. One infers intention and use one's intelligence. The downfall is not failing to use cowdung, it is consuming garlic.

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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:49 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
They were rules set down by the Buddha. They should be respected and preserved, not tossed away out of convenience.



We should not overlook statements like the following as found in the Mahīśāsaka Vinaya which states, "Even if it be something I have prohibited, if it is not considered pure [conduct] in other lands, then it all should not be adopted. Even if it is not something I have prohibited, if something must be carried out in other lands, then it all must be carried out.'"



In many places being celibate is considered very strange and weird. So are you saying Buddhist monks should abandon celibacy in such places?

M
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:51 pm

Malcolm wrote:At a certain point, the pratimokṣa was settled.


That's not entirely true. The Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya as translated by Yijing during the Tang displays explicit Mahāyāna elements: mention of the Mahāyāna path in contrast to that of the śrāvaka-s, buddhas in the plural and bodhisattvas. This is significant because it demonstrates, at least around Nalanda where it came from, the Vinaya was fair game for revision, even centuries after the main Vinaya texts were supposed to have been settled.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:57 pm

Malcolm wrote:In many places being celibate is considered very strange and weird. So are you saying Buddhist monks should abandon celibacy in such places?

M


No, because, as I said above, liberation via renunciation requires celibacy. You cannot transcend the kāma-dhātu via dhyāna without abandoning kāma, which requires abstaining from sense desires, most importantly sexual activities and thoughts. This is to say nothing of reaching the rūpa-dhātu and ārūpya-dhātu, both of which much be reached and transcended via conventional dhyāna. Even just the first dhyāna requires abandonment of sense desires. How much more so the other three?

This is why I said the expectation of celibacy is non-negotiable, so to speak. Celibacy and the traditional śramaṇa path go hand in hand.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:05 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:At a certain point, the pratimokṣa was settled.


That's not entirely true. The Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya as translated by Yijing during the Tang displays explicit Mahāyāna elements: mention of the Mahāyāna path in contrast to that of the śrāvaka-s, buddhas in the plural and bodhisattvas. This is significant because it demonstrates, at least around Nalanda where it came from, the Vinaya was fair game for revision, even centuries after the main Vinaya texts were supposed to have been settled.


The pratimokṣa was settled. Commentaries on it may not have been, and the supporting texts may have been expanded.

Gunaprabha's Vinaya sutra is really the basis for the MS vinaya as it is practiced today.

This Vinaya, as it stands in the bka' 'gyur displays no such references AFAIK.

Of course texts change, since they are not fixed in stone, and are modified to reflect the interest of their readers. It is not surprising there are Mahāyāna elements in some Vinaya recensions somewhere, since there were a lot of monks of Mahāyāna persuasion.

We have not addressed the issue, thus far, of the Bodhisattva pratimokṣa, which in my view is the primary valid basis for modifying one's pratimokṣa vows.

But I really do not share your view that monks ought to just ignore vows they think are unnecessary. Monks depend on lay people. Monastic comportment was designed as much to discipline monks as it was to make lay people comfortable with monks so they would support them.

I expect monks that I support to follow Vinaya. Otherwise, I have no interest in supporting them, either in spirit or financially.

M
Last edited by Malcolm on Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:07 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:In many places being celibate is considered very strange and weird. So are you saying Buddhist monks should abandon celibacy in such places?

M


No, because, as I said above, liberation via renunciation requires celibacy. You cannot transcend the kāma-dhātu via dhyāna without abandoning kāma, which requires abstaining from sense desires, most importantly sexual activities and thoughts. This is to say nothing of reaching the rūpa-dhātu and ārūpya-dhātu, both of which much be reached and transcended via conventional dhyāna. Even just the first dhyāna requires abandonment of sense desires. How much more so the other three?

This is why I said the expectation of celibacy is non-negotiable, so to speak. Celibacy and the traditional śramaṇa path go hand in hand.


You see, your example does not really work.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:26 pm

Malcolm wrote:Elsewhere I noted that a monastic Sangha is not vital to the survival of the Dharma since Sikhin, for example, had no monastic Sanagha. Many Buddhas had/have/will have retinues, but no Sangha of monks.
It's kind of irrelevant what past or future Buddhas will or will not do. The current Buddha of this world system has a Sangha of monastics, like it or lump it.
My current teacher is the most conservative Dzogchen teacher alive, actually. He is even more conservative than Chatral Sangye Dorje. Why? Because he teaches Dzogchen that way Garab Dorje said to teach Dzogchen, not the way Tibetan Lamas say to teach Dzogchen.
Yeah, well, ahem... onto the next point...
It is a question of being intelligent -- one can understand that having eaten garlic, one needs to mask the odor. One infers intention and use one's intelligence.
Wait a second, a few posts ago you were going to town on Ven Indrajala saying that if he didn't stick to the rules exactly as they are laid down then he was contravening them and not a proper monastic and now you say that one has to use ones intelligence in regard to the rules. So which is it to be?
The downfall is not failing to use cowdung, it is consuming garlic.
Not in the specific instance, because the rule to use the dung and piss was in regards to what one must do after using garlic as a medicine. But now we are digressing.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:36 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Wait a second, a few posts ago you were going to town on Ven Indrajala saying that if he didn't stick to the rules exactly as they are laid down then he was contravening them and not a proper monastic and now you say that one has to use ones intelligence in regard to the rules. So which is it to be?


I did not do the former. Where Jeff and I disagree is that over whether the basic rules of monastics can be altered. I don't think so.

If you don't want to follow all the rules of a Bhikṣu as best as you can -- then don't become a bhikṣu, that is what I am saying. Indrajala is basically saying that he feels that the only ordination that is necessary is the śramanera or novice ordination. He is also saying Vinaya should be revised to reflect that.

There is certainly an avenue for people to only receive the dge tshul ordination. Many very high lamas only ordain up to that level, for example. But I don't think the Vinaya rules should be revised, and it is unlikely they will be in Theravada and Mulasarvastivada since that would require a council of Vinayadharas and I just don't think it will happen (as it shouldn't).
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:18 pm

Malcolm wrote:Mahāyāna does not just exist as a teaching on ultimate truth.


Mahayana encompasses all teachings there are. However, the main path is the bodhisattva path as the practice of the six paramitas. Practising the paramitas requires insight into emptiness, that is the way emphasised by the prajnaparamita texts and others. Also, in Chan the first thing one needs is to see the nature of mind, practically the same thing as realising emptiness. Practising only on the level of everyday truth is good for accumulating worldly merit, but that's only the path of "humans and gods" and not even the sravakayana.

The path of renunciation suggests, in both Nikaya schools as well as Mahāyāna, that phenomena are to removed -- and this is generally accomplished with vows. For example, monks remove the phenomena of others genitals; they remove the phenomena of handling precious things. More importantly, the abandonment of sense objects is seen as a condition for development of samadhi in both Nikāya Buddhism and Mahāyana.


Yes, vows are useful. At the same time, if you look at the Skill in Means Sutra, the Definitive Vinaya sutra (in the Ratnakuta), or the Vimalakirti Sutra, it is an important quality of bodhisattvas to roam freely in samsara and liberate beings. Vimalakirti himself is a great example here. You may say then this is only the result of the path, however, as I write above, this is the path of the paramitas.

nothing of the sort. The citation you provide is no different than the peacock eating poisoned plants metaphor...


You said,

But common Mahāyāna offers no methods for ordinary persons to take sense objects in to the path. How do ordinary Mahāyāna practitioners practice? For the most part their practice is no different than that of non-Mahāyāna Buddhists. i.e. śīla, samadhi and prajñā.


And for that was my response quoting the Vimalakirti sutra about differentiating the sravaka and the bodhisattva path, and that the afflictions are not rejected but they are actually required. In this case I have not said that it represents the view that the afflictions equal enlightenment, although they are not completely different either. Zhanran in his commentary (T38n1778_p0683c26-28) on the section explains that the five aggregates become nirvana, like ice turns into water. It is in the commentary on chapter 4 where Zhiyi mentions regarding Vimalakirti's discussion with Maitreya how affliction is no different from bodhi (T38n1777_p0530c17-22). Since it is the 8th chapter that describes a rather common approach, as you have said, I don't see your above comment justified.

You don't change afflictions, you train in pure vision. By slowly transforming your vision, since ordinary vision is caused by afflictions which generate concepts, counteract that with sadhana practice, completion stage etc.
You use afflictions just as they are, but by changing how you relate to the world, by transforming your world, slowly you realize the state of Mahāmudra without giving anything up at all.


With establishing prajnaparamita as the correct view there is nothing to improve or get rid of. As it says in chapter 22 in PP8000, purification means simply the extent one uses prajnaparamita. To this you may say that this is again the ultimate view, and that in order to reach that one has to follow a sravaka-style practice by renouncing the world, etc. As I see it, to hop on the Great Vehicle, one needs prajnaparamita (ch. 1, PP8000).

The training on the path of transformation is with pure vision, correct view, and the application of visualisation, etc., therefore while it may be said that afflictions are left just as they are, affliction is something where there is impure vision. So once there is pure vision, it serves as an antidote. Being afflicted is one view of the world, being unafflicted is another. This is how prajnaparamita is a universal solution for all defilements, because it removes the root of the problem.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:51 pm

With establishing prajnaparamita as the correct view there is nothing to improve or get rid of. As it says in chapter 22 in PP8000, purification means simply the extent one uses prajnaparamita. To this you may say that this is again the ultimate view, and that in order to reach that one has to follow a sravaka-style practice by renouncing the world, etc.


Ultimately once the wisdrom realizing emptiness is achieved this is true. But in order to realize emptiness one requires a substantial amount of merit which is why we need an integrative path that integrates method and wisdrom. Also, from a Mahayana POV Sravakas and so forth have realized selflessness but due to their not cultivating the method side of the path they are not able to achieve the final goal of full enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:55 pm

Dharma might be proliferating in Europe and Russia, in the US it has become a little bit moribund, its growth has slowed markedly.


Having been away from North America for nearly 9 years I am a bit out of touch, but have also heard this from dharma friends in Canada and the USA. With a few exceptions (Maitripa Institute, Amaravati, Garchen Centre etc.) most of the centres are not attracting much new blood.

What do you think the reason is for this, and is Europe bound to face the same problems 10 years down the road?
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Jnana » Mon Jun 10, 2013 3:05 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Having been away from North America for nearly 9 years I am a bit out of touch, but have also heard this from dharma friends in Canada and the USA. With a few exceptions (Maitripa Institute, Amaravati, Garchen Centre etc.) most of the centres are not attracting much new blood.

This may be the case for urban lay dharma centers, but in Canada at least, there are now more monasteries than there were 10 years ago, and the number of ordained monastics at Gampo Abbey has increased significantly in the past decade.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jun 10, 2013 3:22 pm

Malcolm wrote:The pratimokṣa was settled. Commentaries on it may not have been, and the supporting texts may have been expanded.


If the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya in Yijing's time had Mahāyāna elements in it, then clearly at some point probably after the 5th or 6th century substantial modifications had been made to a key Vinaya pratimokṣa text. He had gone to India, leaving China in 671 and returning in 695, so his translation is reliable and possibly from a source text he brought back with him. This isn't a commentary or supporting text. It even has the Buddha talking about "transforming beings with bodhisattva practices", which is a substantial doctrinal modification to a Vinaya text!

So, no, it was not settled.


But I really do not share your view that monks ought to just ignore vows they think are unnecessary. Monks depend on lay people. Monastic comportment was designed as much to discipline monks as it was to make lay people comfortable with monks so they would support them.


As I pointed out above, the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya records that the first precept the Buddha established for the bhikṣus was the precept against sex. The Buddha was in Vaiśālī five years after his enlightenment. It was the fifth half-moon of winter on the twelfth day when after eating he sat eastward with a man's half-shadow and he established the precept for the elder Yaśa Kalandaka Putra.


Therefore if you accept the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya as legitimate, then you must concede that in fact at one point there were Buddhist bhikṣu-s with no precepts. If you accept that a bhikṣu can in fact exist (or did exist) without precepts, then your point in this whole discussion about precepts being an immutable requirement for bhikṣu-hood is challenged.

I would further add that if bhikṣu-s did at least exist before without precepts, why couldn't they again? In ancient Magadha there were common expectations laid upon śramaṇa-s, such as celibacy, abstaining from alcohol, not coming into contact with the opposite sex, being abstemious, etc. These qualities were adopted by other śramaṇa communities like the Jains as well.

So, it begs the question, if we had community expectations rather than institutionalized rules, as once existed in Magadha, why could we not have this again? Or, if a śramaṇa did not have a formal ordination yet behaved in a dignified and benevolent way, not still consider him or her a real monk?




I expect monks that I support to follow Vinaya. Otherwise, I have no interest in supporting them, either in spirit or financially.


According to your ideas above, the Buddha's first disciples were just bald laymen pretending to be bhikṣu-s.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:05 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Ultimately once the wisdrom realizing emptiness is achieved this is true. But in order to realize emptiness one requires a substantial amount of merit which is why we need an integrative path that integrates method and wisdrom. Also, from a Mahayana POV Sravakas and so forth have realized selflessness but due to their not cultivating the method side of the path they are not able to achieve the final goal of full enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings.


Saying that one needs merit to realise emptiness is equal to saying the requirement for good karma. Meeting with the Dharma, with Mahayana, with teachers, etc. is already the sign of merit. And as the sutras say, not becoming frightened of emptiness is the sign of a mind ready for realisation. Charity, repentance, morality, meditation and studying are all beneficial, however, to see emptiness one has to actually look at it (paraphrasing the Zen motto of "direct pointing" and "seeing nature"). Thrangu Rinpoche likes to say (e.g. Essentials of Mahamudra, p. 166-167) that the difference between sutrayana (madhyamaka) and vajrayana (mahamudra) is that the former uses analysis, inference while the latter uses direct perception. My small objection is that such a definition is true only where common Mahayana is reduced to a theoretical background. The sutras themselves are very practical, at least that's how many of them were intended to be used.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
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“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
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Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:07 pm

What do you mean by 'realizing emptiness', Astus?
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:17 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:What do you mean by 'realizing emptiness', Astus?


To see that no appearance has a self(-nature), attaining the view that is free from the extremes. Just the usual.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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