Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby anjali » Thu Oct 18, 2012 4:56 pm

tomamundsen wrote:Hi,

I'd like to discuss the topic of whether Westerners can actually be true Dharma practitioners. I have heard that His Holiness Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche said that Westerners don't have the knowledge or time to practice Dharma; the best we can hope for is to make connections with lamas and profound teachings.

The first question of semantics is obviously what constitutes a true Dharma practitioner in the sense that His Holiness is talking about here? For example, how many hours a day do Tibetans practice? How much textual studying must be done? Etc. Is it only a fantasy to think that 2 hours of practice every day makes me a Dharma practitioner?


Based on people I've observed whom I consider serious practitioners, as far as I can tell, it comes down to real intention to bring the Dharma into every aspect of daily life. It's not just about formal practice time. Perhaps a good working definition of a serious practitioner is how much of our daily life we bring onto the path.

I'm betting you are familiar the notion of meditation practice and post-mediation practice. When I first read Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche's work, Vivid Awareness: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar, it was just what I needed at the time to help me bring my practice into daily life off the cushion. He discusses in the text that the methods offered there are practices particularly suited for a busy lifestyle. Sure, I knew I was supposed to bring practice into daily life, but when reading Vivid Awareness things clicked on how to experientially do it. Now I don't worry so much about the time I spend in formal practice. Although, I do feel my sadhana flows more smoothly with a couple of hours a day of sitting time. With means and insight into how to bring the Dharma into every aspect of daily life, it's up to me to continue strengthening the intention to do so.
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby viniketa » Thu Oct 18, 2012 6:08 pm

:good:

Excellent!

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If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Oct 18, 2012 6:34 pm

It all comes down to how one defines practice. Here's a little something from Gampopa on practicing the paramita:
Whatever main practice you then do, make that part of your path through the six perfections. For example, if you give just one thing, that itself is generosity. Giving it in a gentle manner is wholesome conduct. Not generating an affliction, even if the beggar is ungrateful, is patience. Giving it quickly is dilligence. Offering the gift without being distracted from love, compassion and bodhicitta is meditation. Knowing that the recipient, the giver, the gift and the result are all just a dream or an illusion is wisdom. be certain that your main practice has the six perfections.
In the conclusion you seal the practice with complete objectlessness. In that way everything is taken onto the path, because everything ha the same nature, which is clarity and the lack of real existence.
Gampopa A String of Pearls
:namaste:
"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: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby username » Thu Oct 18, 2012 9:17 pm


"This Commentary on the Meaning of"The Continuously
Blossoming Lotus Rosary Assembly Palace" Called "The Light Rays of
the Youthful Sun" was composed at the request of many Chinese lamas;
Tamang Lama; many Bhutanese lamas; Lama Ngodrub of Western Tibet;
Lama Sonam of Northern Tibet, who is always scratching lice on the left
side of his head; Golok Lama Orgyen Thinley Kunkhyab, who is always
checking young beautiful women's faces and buttocks; and others who
abide on the profound path of yoga.

Also, this was written for those who were born to parents having Dharma, who
take joy in hearing the sound of Dharma, who are the sprouts of the family lineage,
my faithful Asian and Western children. Also, it is for those who have unshakable
faith in the one who is the essence of all Buddhas of the three times, the
great self-occurring supreme Vajra Master, the Lotus Guru and his Consort, and for those
who have blond hair, black hair, white hair, and those of the classes of gods,
nagas, rakshas, and others, including all the goddesses of the family that stay
here together. Always and for special pujas presenting actually arranged and
visualized clouds of wondrous offerings, this inscription of a canopy of
white clouds in the space of the blue heavens of the sky was written to fulfill
the requests of the previously mentioned vajra family and all male and
female practitioners.

As though the colorful Akanishtha Pureland of the Five Buddha Families
has reflected on earth, the fields and meadows are brilliant with color and
beautified by many lakes, lagoons, and pools. Of the five great continents of
this world, the continent named after the sound of falling fruit, Jambudvipa,
is the best of them all. Here in this northern land of America, during
the time that many inconceivable varieties of fruits such as apples, raspberries,
blueberries, and others ripen, this was written by me, Thinley Norbu,
at my home, Always Noble Joyful Park, Kunzang Gatsal. By pleasing the allencompassing
Victorious Ones of the Three Roots, may all those I have a
connection with, as well as all beings equal to the sky, purify the two obscurations,
fully perfect the two accumulations, and attain the Two Kayas."


- Dungsey Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar, pp. 283-284

Image


"I am very happy that whenever I come to Saranath, I can visit this school and meet so many
students. This is because we are about the same age, and we all have modern ways of thinking.
We speak different languages and come from different countries, so when we look at each other
it might seem like we are far apart, but I hope that we can see how we are the same in our
age and in having modern ways of thinking. That is why I pray that for my part, I will always
be able to support you and have affection for you."

- The 17th Karmapa:
http://the17thkarmapa.blogspot.tw/2012/ ... about.html

"Similarly, it is very hectic lifestyle in modern society due to the economic development.
When we are unhappy in a very busy life and a confused state of mind that also lead people
to taking one’s own life as we are not able to calm down. That is why, we have to be able
to find out its cause in the first place, as there are many causes, and think about its remedy.

According to the Buddhist teachings, we have to have faith in the nature of cause and
effect(karmic belief); to practice compassion and love is also important, but the most
important point is to practice the mediation of “Shamatha”(calm abiding),
the tranquil state of mind."

http://the17thkarmapa.blogspot.tw/2012/ ... ce-on.html

More Teachings by the 17th Karmapa:
http://the17thkarmapa.blogspot.tw/2012/ ... hings.html
Dzogchen masters I know say: 1)Buddhist religion essence is Dzogchen 2)Religions are positive by intent/fruit 3)Any method's OK unless: breaking Dzogchen vows, mixed as syncretic (Milanese Soup) 4)Don't join mandalas of opponents of Dalai Lama/Padmasambhava: False Deity inventors by encouraging victims 5)Don't debate Ati with others 6)Don't discuss Ati practices online 7) A master told his old disciple: no one's to discuss his teaching with some others on a former forum nor mention him. Publicity's OK, questions are asked from masters/set teachers in person/email/non-public forums~Best wishes
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Nemo » Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:16 am

Can Asians play basketball?
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Kunzang » Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:50 am

Nemo wrote:Can Asians play basketball?


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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Oct 19, 2012 3:51 am

tomamundsen wrote:Hi,

I'd like to discuss the topic of whether Westerners can actually be true Dharma practitioners. I have heard that His Holiness Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche said that Westerners don't have the knowledge or time to practice Dharma; the best we can hope for is to make connections with lamas and profound teachings.

The first question of semantics is obviously what constitutes a true Dharma practitioner in the sense that His Holiness is talking about here? For example, how many hours a day do Tibetans practice? How much textual studying must be done? Etc. Is it only a fantasy to think that 2 hours of practice every day makes me a Dharma practitioner?


I have heard just the opposite from some teachers, that westerners, laypersons (who are interested in dharma) take time to study, buy a lot of books and want to know everything about buddhism, and that in buddhist countries laypersons often just go to temples or look for teachers so they can get blessings, or pray for good luck and so forth and often have very little interest in pursuing dharma at any great depth, otherwise they become monks and nuns.

At the same time, I feel there is a misunderstanding about what is "practice". In one sense of the term, of course, it means ritual and meditation. And in vajrayana there are commitments. I understand that. But many years ago I was faced with being in a situation where spending any time at all doing that (after having spent many years doing a lot of hours a day doing that, even living for a year at a Buddhist center) was suddenly not an option. After my son was born, I rarely had time to sit and meditate, much less do anything else outwardly "buddhist". He never slept for more than an hour at a time! So, for two years neither did I. And when I did find time to meditate (on the rare occasions that he would take a nap) if i didn't fall asleep, I would be waiting for him to wake up again. So there wasn't really ever any focus. if you meditate with any kind of clock or timing device, it's like that last minute, when you know it is almost time to stop. Forget candles or bowls of water or burning incense with a toddler running around.

Sometimes singing a mantra would serve the double purpose of a lullaby, and I did read dharma books.
But that was about it.

So, the question became, "if you put all your buddhist stuff away, put away your bowls and incense and malas and sadhana texts...just shut all that buddhism away in a box..what does your "dharma practice" really look like?"

I think it has to be like your blood. It has to flow through your whole being. It has to. You may not even be aware of it unless something comes up to test it out. Then maybe it looks like patience, or compassion, or maybe not, depending. It may not be something anyone else can see, not like wearing a mala around your neck or wrist,
nothing to see except maybe the example you set in your behavior.

Now the years have gone by, the boy has grown up, and I am once again able to return to the "formal" practices, and i am very happy about that. It is true that we have a lot of distractions that keep us from dharma activity but in terms of practice, I think that happens more internally which has very little to do with east or west.
.
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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: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby deff » Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:46 am

:good:
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby ngodrup » Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:49 am

I thought I would add the advice of Sangyum Kamala Rinpoche to the mix.
Since she is an important Nyingma lineage holder and Lama, being a life-
long disciple of Dudjom Rinpoche and of Chatral Rinpoche (also his wife),
her comments in English to Americans might be significant.

"If you can do three years, good, three months, good, three weeks, three
hours, whatever.

I couldn't, I was too busy... my practice when I wake up, one hour,
at night, one hour, between work, busy, busy, busy."
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Dharmaswede » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:39 am

Since work is a major part of of life, I think it is a good idea to have a long term plan for how to leverage it in your Dharma practice.

1. I think it is beneficial to have a job that you rather directly can infuse with compassion, such as helping people.
2. Consider the possibility of downshifting, i.e. trading off income for time.
3. Getting a qualified job that increases your income opens up greater opportunities for being able to afford to travel to teachings, making donations etc.
4. Serious time management can really make a difference!

Jens
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby heart » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:56 am

ngodrup wrote:I thought I would add the advice of Sangyum Kamala Rinpoche to the mix.
Since she is an important Nyingma lineage holder and Lama, being a life-
long disciple of Dudjom Rinpoche and of Chatral Rinpoche (also his wife),
her comments in English to Americans might be significant.

"If you can do three years, good, three months, good, three weeks, three
hours, whatever.

I couldn't, I was too busy... my practice when I wake up, one hour,
at night, one hour, between work, busy, busy, busy."


Oh, come on, "whatever" covers what you do. I am sure you do three hours or even three days now and then to, right?


PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, the question became, "if you put all your buddhist stuff away, put away your bowls and incense and malas and sadhana texts...just shut all that buddhism away in a box..what does your "dharma practice" really look like?"


I know a Tibetan that done three-year retreat and lived his whole life in a monastery. He was quite an amazing person and teacher even though he was pretty young. Then he fell in love with a girl from America that had a famous Tibetan as her father and he run away from the monastery and married her. Lately I hear that he drinks a lot and started smoking, and someone even say he don't get along very well with his wife. My friend was not a Khenpo he was considered a good Dzogchen practitioner and teacher, I know because he taught me a lot.

So, your question have nothing to do with westerners in particular, it is valid for everyone.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:57 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I think it has to be like your blood. It has to flow through your whole being. It has to. You may not even be aware of it unless something comes up to test it out. Then maybe it looks like patience, or compassion, or maybe not, depending. It may not be something anyone else can see, not like wearing a mala around your neck or wrist, nothing to see except maybe the example you set in your behavior.
:twothumbsup:
"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: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby heart » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:58 am

Dharmaswede wrote:Since work is a major part of of life, I think it is a good idea to have a long term plan for how to leverage it in your Dharma practice.

1. I think it is beneficial to have a job that you rather directly can infuse with compassion, such as helping people.
2. Consider the possibility of downshifting, i.e. trading off income for time.
3. Getting a qualified job that increases your income opens up greater opportunities for being able to afford to travel to teachings, making donations etc.
4. Serious time management can really make a difference!

Jens


Yes, all true.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Oct 19, 2012 1:46 pm

Something I wanted to add before,
I often wonder how many "western buddhists" (converts?) really believe in the possibility of their own enlightenment.
How much of it is just intellectual philosophical identification?
What is often dismissed as the cultural superstitions of say, for example, Tibetans
may in fact be an outward expression of real conviction in the Dharma teachings.
Something that is often referred to in many religions as "childlike devotion".

Think of it this way--
if I told you that if you do such and such, that after some time you will be able to flap your arms and fly like a bird
you might be willing to look into it, maybe do some prescribed arm-flapping exercises or whatever, just to see if any feathers started to pop out from your elbows, but in your heart, would you really believe in something so unbelievable?
I kind of doubt it.

So, I think that this may be an obstacle for western students and may be what that lama was talking about.
Intellectually, we subscribe to the Buddhist philosophy
but can we really fly like the Buddha did?

I don't recall (it was a famous teacher) who said that if people really believed in the teachings as much as they think the do, they would drop everything else and devote their whole beings to Dharma. I am not prepared to do that! But I do constantly look at how much I actually believe in something that I have been dedicated to for more than half my life!
Sometimes i think I believe it more than actually do!
.
.
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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: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby heart » Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:17 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Something I wanted to add before,
I often wonder how many "western buddhists" (converts?) really believe in the possibility of their own enlightenment.
How much of it is just intellectual philosophical identification?
What is often dismissed as the cultural superstitions of say, for example, Tibetans
may in fact be an outward expression of real conviction in the Dharma teachings.
Something that is often referred to in many religions as "childlike devotion".

Think of it this way--
if I told you that if you do such and such, that after some time you will be able to flap your arms and fly like a bird
you might be willing to look into it, maybe do some prescribed arm-flapping exercises or whatever, just to see if any feathers started to pop out from your elbows, but in your heart, would you really believe in something so unbelievable?
I kind of doubt it.

So, I think that this may be an obstacle for western students and may be what that lama was talking about.
Intellectually, we subscribe to the Buddhist philosophy
but can we really fly like the Buddha did?

I don't recall (it was a famous teacher) who said that if people really believed in the teachings as much as they think the do, they would drop everything else and devote their whole beings to Dharma. I am not prepared to do that! But I do constantly look at how much I actually believe in something that I have been dedicated to for more than half my life!
Sometimes i think I believe it more than actually do!
.
.
.


Really doesn't matter what you think about others, the question is what you think about yourself. You certainly sound quite skeptic about your own capacity. I also must say that I have no idea how one "drop everything else" in this society that we live in, do you? Even monks and nuns have to provide for themselves and if you have no money you get no teachings and no empowerment's. It is a pipe dream in my opinion, the fact that some managed is the exception that proves the rule. I say this from experience.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:30 pm

A disjointed perhaps-perhaps-not related thought:

I wonder how many Tibetan monks (let alone actual ethnic Tibetan lay persons) actually complete ngondro? I've heard now from a couple of sources who are in a position to know that an enormous portion (of monks) do not.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Hickersonia » Fri Oct 19, 2012 3:14 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:So, the question became, "if you put all your buddhist stuff away, put away your bowls and incense and malas and sadhana texts...just shut all that buddhism away in a box..what does your "dharma practice" really look like?"

This is awesome. Seriously.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Yudron » Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:14 pm

ngodrup wrote:I thought I would add the advice of Sangyum Kamala Rinpoche to the mix.
Since she is an important Nyingma lineage holder and Lama, being a life-
long disciple of Dudjom Rinpoche and of Chatral Rinpoche (also his wife),
her comments in English to Americans might be significant.

"If you can do three years, good, three months, good, three weeks, three
hours, whatever.

I couldn't, I was too busy... my practice when I wake up, one hour,
at night, one hour, between work, busy, busy, busy."


Since the Khandro is the "root of activity," I like Lama Yeshe Wangmo's definition of a Dakini:

A Buddha who is always busy.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby tomamundsen » Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:37 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:A disjointed perhaps-perhaps-not related thought:

I wonder how many Tibetan monks (let alone actual ethnic Tibetan lay persons) actually complete ngondro? I've heard now from a couple of sources who are in a position to know that an enormous portion (of monks) do not.

Wow... If that's true, this is a real eye opener!
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby PorkChop » Fri Oct 19, 2012 6:53 pm

tomamundsen wrote:Wow... If that's true, this is a real eye opener!


I calculated and at 9 prostrations a day, I can complete the prostration part of ngondro in about 31 years if I stay perfect... :thumbsup:
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