Yudron wrote:The main signs of accomplishment that are meaningful are increased faith and devotion, and increased compassion.
I'm completely with you regarding the increase of compassion, but I have to admit, I have some problems with the "increased faith and devotion" part. Here's why:
It seems quite reasonable to suppose that you already have to have at least some faith (and probably devotion as well) if you begin to follow whatever spiritual tradition, otherwise you most certainly won't start to follow it in the first place. Now, if your faith and devotion does not increase at least a little bit after engaging in this tradition for a longer period of time, I think it's very likely that you will stop following it at one point or another. Hence I guess it's also pretty reasonable to assume that almost every practitioner who stays committed to any spiritual tradition, tends to develop an increase of faith and devotion over time, even if the tradition is a completely bogus cult, otherwise he or she simply wouldn't do it.
Now, since we all know that there are a lot of people following a lot of differnt (and sometimes very dubious) traditions and practices, and many of them can develop very strong faith and devotion in it, I think it's a little problematic to assume that a certain practice or tradition really works, just because one develops this increase of faith and devotion. At least IMHO, there have to be some other, more concrete signs that a certain practice is working, otherwise chances are high that you're just fooling yourself by falling in the trap of blind faith and blind devotion.
BTW, I just started to read Jamgon Kongtrul's "Creation and Completion" book, and I was quite surprised to read the following right in the introduction part:"Kongtrul's discussion of creation-stage practice ends with a description of the signs of accomplishment, such as the deity arising effortlessly at all times and even being visible to others."
(emphasis added by me)
...well, IMO, these would be very concrete signs, not only for oneself, but for others as well. However, after reading this, I'm even more uncertain if I actually ever met any westerner who has accomplished kyerim, let alone dzogrim....
wayland wrote:that Vajrayana hasn't transitioned very well from it's original premise of 'a guru with a close circle of followers'. The guide would work closely with his disciples and give them exactly what they needed, when they needed it. A bit different from modern empowerments, often given to large gatherings by globe-trotting, transient masters.
This is exactly one of the reasons why I think its necessary in our times to engage in a reasonably open discussion regarding the progress and the experiences resulting from one's practice with more advanced fellow practitioners, because the traditional guru-student relationship often just isn't possible anymore.
Since the vajrayana has spread around the world, there are many things that just don't work in the traditional way any longer. For example, if you want to be near your Lama for an extended period of time and examine him and his teachings closely, chances are high that you have to follow him constantly all over the world -- something most people just can't afford to do. And btw, I know at least 2 guys who tried to do that for a while, but both of them told me that, despite the fact that they were following him from country to country, they had only very few chances to meet him in private, since due to his tight schedule, he was always very busy, or at least that's what they were told by the "inner circle" of his students. So, even if you can afford to travel along with your Lama, it doesn't guarantee that you can engage in a traditional guru-student relationship with him. And if you meet your Lama only once or twice every year, how are you supposed to examine him and his teachings closely? The rest of the year you could end up gathering every week or month with a couple of his students, practicing an ineffective (or maybe just wrongly applied) practice, while everyone in the group is thinking by himself that it's just him who doesn't make any progress at all. And that's just an unnecessary danger in my opinion, a danger which could easily be at least partially abolished if a Lama would encourage his students to share their experiences with each other, instead of urging them to follow the traditional way and to keep their experiences for themselves. I think this would not only have the effect of some kind of "checks and balances" regarding the teacher and the teachings, but more importantly, I'm sure it would be beneficial and encouraging for all the practitioners of a certain practice, especially the newer ones. Of course there is the danger that some people will just lie about their accomplishments, but still, it would be very encouraging if some older practitioners would come forth and tell the newer ones: "I have realized kyerim or dzogrim or trekchö or thögal, and this is how I did it, and these were the major problems and obstacles I had in achieving this." I mean, it's more than 50 years that the first Lamas came to the west to share their teachings, and more than 50 years that westerners are following these teachings. But how many stories do we know about westerners who accomplished any of these things? Almost none. Because neither they nor their Lamas are talking about it. So, just to play the devil's advocate: theoreticaly, it could be that we all are practicing things that will never lead us anywhere, without ever knowing it.