Validity of recorded empowerments

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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Norwegian » Sat May 03, 2014 8:52 am

Sherab Dorje,

Relax.

pensum is merely asking questions related to this issue, which is a very serious issue, as empowerments and Vajrayana is. The following question: "what makes these particular recordings unique, beyond him just proclaiming that they are, and how does he justify such a claim?" is important.

Look at what Khenpo Samdup of the Gar sangha wrote as part of his own description:

"Prior to my experience with Khenpo Munsel I had faith and devotion, but I was lacking understanding. And in order to grasp the profound meaning of the practices based on the pith instructions it is important to develop certainty with respect to the meaning of the teachings on The Middle Way. Now I knew that my practice of the Dharma had been based on blind faith, so from this point on I became especially interested in the study of Buddhist philosophy, and particularly the topics of Buddhist logic, reasoning, and the teachings of The Middle Way. I came to understand that through study and contemplation there arises a faith that’s based on reason."

Merely referring to Garchen Rinpoche, and saying "recorded empowerments are OK because he says so" might be seen as satisfactory to some, but to others this is merely blind faith, and has nothing to do with reason. There are people who would want to hear the explanation that is based upon reason. Because the tantras and their related commentaries clearly explain how empowerments work, and so it would be interesting to hear an explanation based upon this.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat May 03, 2014 9:00 am

I disagree. If pensum is not considering taking samaya with Garchen Rinpoche then what is the reason they are asking such detailed questions to the teacher? To save the poor ignorant fools that are considering it? To ensure the purity of Garchen Rinpoches actions? To save the holy Dharma from decline?

I am relaxed, this does not mean that I am incapable of considering "pensum" attitude somewhat disrespectful.

Calling Garchen Rinpoche to account? Doubting his intentions? By what authority?

I'll answer the last one: EGO.
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby heart » Sat May 03, 2014 9:12 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:
pensum wrote:Oh and T. Chokyi, one last question i forgot to include in my previous post: If a live stream or recording is valid without the physical blessings (vase, substances etc.), and time and distance are not a concern, then why can't someone receive the empowerment simply by reading the empowerment text itself? as it is essentially nothing more than a recording of the empowerment and at that a more direct one in being the direct record by the originator of the empowerment rather than an interpretive performance by someone usually several generations removed. So why does he or anyone bother going through the ritual other than for show, gathering disciples and to raise money?

And this would go for the lung as well, yet the very definition of a lung is to get the actual "living breathing scripture" so to speak, so how would that be possible from a recording? and if so then lungs aren't necessary at all as one could just read the text oneself. so, as the possibility of receiving a lung just by listening to a recording totally undermines this practice, why has it traditionally been said that one needs to get the lung?

In short, why specifically are the recordings of these empowerments valid yet not the recordings of any other empowerment ritual by any other lama? what makes these particular recordings unique, beyond him just proclaiming that they are, and how does he justify such a claim?

And with that i'll await answers to these most fundamental of questions before burdening you with any more. Cheers!
Dude, are you going to take online empowerments from Garchen Rinpoche? From recordings? Is he your guru or are you considering taking him on as a guru?

So who died and made you the grand inquisitor then?

I mean really, no respect at all!


I am pretty sure pensum means no harm or disrespect Greg. I have had the pleasure to meet him in real life and it would be very difficult to find a kinder or more intelligent person anywhere. I also don't see why you find his question so provoking. If you accept recorded empowerment's it would open up for all kind of new possibilities, like buying dvd's with various empowerment's and lungs. I am pretty sure you realize this. On the other hand if there is one person in this world that I would never suspect of wanting to degrade the Vajrayana teachings and that always seems to be acting from great compassion, that is Garchen Rinpoche. So, in my opinion I don't think anyone that posted in this thread mean disrespect or insult to Garchen Rinpoche.

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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Alfredo » Sat May 03, 2014 9:23 am

A few weeks ago I was watching a dharma teaching through streaming video. During the breaks I decided to review the parts I had missed, and then switch back to "live" mode. At one point I realized that I wasn't quite in "live" mode, but about five minutes behind. Of course, given the inherent constraints of the speed of sound and light, there will always be a delay.

I like the baptism analogy, which is close to my wedding analogy. (Note that both are Catholic sacraments.) Similarly, the Catholic teaching on Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, involves mystical assertions such as the Real Presence, while most Protestants see it merely as a commemorative ritual. Of course, arguments from analogy are weak, and there is no reason to think Buddhist empowerment is the same sort of thing, but these examples really do bring out the crucial issue that we seem to disagree about--namely, whether Buddhist empowerment involves "magic" (for want of a better word), or whether its existence is purely social. If empowerment is magic, then it makes sense to worry about various things that might affect its validity. On the other hand, if it is just a ritual--a symbol of commitment--then its validity is only a matter of acceptance by the group.

Returning to my wedding example, a "Catholic" view would distinguish between natural marriage, which is regulated by law and custom; and sacramental marriage, which is a matter of theology. The former is found in nearly all societies; the latter is limited to baptized Christians, who must further meet various preconditions and postconditions (such as consumation). Note that in both cases, it is possible for uncertainty to arise as to whether one is (validly) married, and disagreements periodically arise. In Taiwan, for example, an actor hosted a banquet with his girlfriend, who later claimed that it was a wedding banquet. In Texas, a couple exchanged "marriage vows" in bed, an act which was later declared by a court to be valid (when the woman filed for divorce, and the man claimed they were never married). In Egypt, a court found that an actor had accidentally divorced his wife (an actresss) by speaking the formula for divorce as part of a stage play. Disputes about whether a sacramental marriage has taken place may involve questions about the baptism of one of the parties, the priestly credentials of the officiant, the existence of prior marriages, etc.

Marriage at a distance (i.e., by proxy) is possible in some jurisdictions, and I am unaware of any serious conflict over the recognition of marriages so conducted. It is harder to think of an analogy for the issue of recorded transmissions.

At any rate, the analogy breaks down on a number of fundamental points. For example, marriage vows are given to couples (even in case of polygamy), while Buddhist empowerment is conferred upon individuals, yet establishes a bond between preceptor and initiate for which there is no marital analogue. (In any case, a wedding need not be performed by a married officiant--the bestowal of wedding vows, unlike ordination, does not follow the Indic model which assumes the necessity of disciplic lineage.) While it is entirely possible for a Buddhist to receive a valid empowerment without the knowledge of the empowering guru, it is difficult to imagine a valid wedding being conducted without the knowledge of both the bride and the groom! (Of course, one may assent "after the fact" to any such lapses.)

If there are rules governing the validity of Buddhist empowerments, from where do these rules arise? Were they established by Buddha, perhaps, or decided by the Buddhist community at some point? Or are they closer in status to universal laws, which are discovered rather than legislated?
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Sat May 03, 2014 11:47 am

JohnJ wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
My answer was clarifying that ChNN said he could not confer a full empowerment through the net and why he felt this was so.


I apologize for any redundant questions, and questions that are off topic from this thread, but since the teachings of ChNN were brought up again I'd like to make sure my understanding is clear.

By full empowerment, am I correct in understanding that you mean one that includes all 4 empowerments and has the necessary physical supports? Your answer earlier seemed to indicate that for students of the right capacity, direct introduction could suffice for their ripening, and so a full empowerment would not be necessary, while for students of lesser capacity a full empowerment is definitely necessary. Have I understood this correctly, according to the Dzogchen perspective and teachings of ChNN?

Is the central difference between a meaning empowerment and a full physical empowerment, according to ChNN, found in whether or not there are physical supports? If there is greater underlying difference, could you say a few words as to what that difference is? For instance, sometimes ChNN states that for many people a meaning empowerment can be much more important than a traditional empowerment, does this also have to do with one's capacity?

My questions centrally revolve around the meaning of the word 'full' in this explanation of empowerment, since I have never thought the teachings and path presented by ChNN was lacking, or "not full".

Thank you in advance for helping to clarify any misunderstandings that I might have on this issue.


A full empowerment generally takes two days (though it can all be done in one) and has an elaborate version of the vase empowerment, etc. Empowerments that do not have that are called "blessings" according to the new tantras and "meaning empowerments" according to the system of anuyoga because they do not have the preparation phase and the four empowerments are given symbolically.

The Garland of Pearls Tantra, one of the 17 Dzogchen tantras, maintains that for students of lesser capacity all four empowerments are necessary, while students of higher capacity or experience may require only direct introduction. The sgra thal gyur definitely states that empowerments are a necessary requirement and so on.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Sat May 03, 2014 11:53 am

Alfredo wrote:
If there are rules governing the validity of Buddhist empowerments, from where do these rules arise?


The tantras, of course.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Alfredo » Sat May 03, 2014 12:00 pm

And in those tantras, does the relevant Buddha or tutelary deity typically REVEAL rules which already exist, inherent in the structure of the universe, or ESTABLISH rules according to what would work best for sentient beings, or TRANSMIT rules which he/she received from some other source?
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Sat May 03, 2014 12:03 pm

heart wrote: So, in my opinion I don't think anyone that posted in this thread mean disrespect or insult to Garchen Rinpoche.


No, not at all.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Sat May 03, 2014 12:17 pm

Alfredo wrote:And in those tantras, does the relevant Buddha or tutelary deity typically REVEAL rules which already exist, inherent in the structure of the universe, or ESTABLISH rules according to what would work best for sentient beings, or TRANSMIT rules which he/she received from some other source?


The source of empowerments are the Buddha Vajradhara's wisdom, set down in words in the tantras. If someone is a person who has faith in Vajrayāna, it is hard to maintain that one has faith in Vajrayāna and yet disbelieves the verity of the basic texts of Vajrayānā.

For example, the Kalacakra tantra contains a chapter which explains empowerments in great detail.

Empowerments themselves are a method, working with causes and results, bases of purification, purifiers and results of purification which are taught in the tantras. Empowerment is a method, and it has certain procedures to ensure it is successful.

Secondly, there are the instructions of Mahāsiddhas like Naropa who have realized the result of the path, and who have written commentaries on empowerments, such as the Sekkhodesha, etc.

Then there are of course commentaries written by learned scholars on these things who nevertheless may not have realization and so on.

At base, the fundamental principle of an empowerment is to reverse samsaric dependent origination.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Alfredo » Sat May 03, 2014 1:21 pm

Must the tantras be accepted as literally true, in order for tantric Buddhism to make sense? Are there no legitimate disagreements, either among the various tantras, or in the case of the same tantra, from one commentary to another?
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Sat May 03, 2014 1:34 pm

Alfredo wrote:Are there no legitimate disagreements, either among the various tantras, or in the case of the same tantra, from one commentary to another?


Since the procedures for empowerment into HYT mandalas actually depend on yoga tantras such as the Sarvatathāgatatattvasamgraha, there is an unusual degree of conformity in methodology amongst the HYT tantras for how to give an empowerment into an HYT mandala.

We find very little controversy over the procedure for granting empowerments within the Indian texts themselves. Naturally, different empowerments all have their special features, but in general they all follow a fairly standard model.

There is a fair amount of controversy among Tibetans over what constituted a proper maturational rite; the Nyingmapas and Kagyus being on the loose side of things, the Sakyapas being on the strict side of things, Gelugpas somewhere in the middle. If you are interested in these debates, then you need to read Sapan's Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes and the responses to it by various Kagyu and Nyingma authors. You can also read Tsele Natshog Rangdrol book on empowerments, as well as what Kongtrul has to say on the subject.

But even where there is some debate amongst Tibetans over whether "blessings" (sbyin rlabs) as opposed to full empowerements (dbang skur) have the necessary features to properly introduce one into Vajrayāna, there was never any debate at all that one must properly receive some kind of empowerment in person from the guru in order to be considered someone who has received samaya.

And as you know, this would clearly exclude recorded empowerments from consideration.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Sat May 03, 2014 1:42 pm

Alfredo wrote:Must the tantras be accepted as literally true, in order for tantric Buddhism to make sense?


In order for the practice presented in Buddhist tantras to make sense, you must accept that one can achieve the result they promise by following the methods they prescribe. If you accept that, then in order to achieve those results, you must follow the methods they prescribe with faith in those methods.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby pensum » Sat May 03, 2014 1:51 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:I disagree. If pensum is not considering taking samaya with Garchen Rinpoche then what is the reason they are asking such detailed questions to the teacher? To save the poor ignorant fools that are considering it? To ensure the purity of Garchen Rinpoches actions? To save the holy Dharma from decline?
I am relaxed, this does not mean that I am incapable of considering "pensum" attitude somewhat disrespectful.
Calling Garchen Rinpoche to account? Doubting his intentions? By what authority?
I'll answer the last one: EGO.


I'm sorry you feel that way, Sherab Dorje, and that you have such a negative impression of me, particularly as i notice that you are a forum moderator, a job which requires cool detachment and reason. I have really done my best to respect everyone and all viewpoints, and i am disappointed that despite my best efforts i have failed and come across as disrespectful in any way whatsoever. The fact is i have tremendous respect for Garchen Rp. and sincerely hope that he and the khenpo can clarify the points that have been raised. If i didn't respect their opinion and wasn't genuinely interested i wouldn't waste either their time, T. Chokyi's time or my own. Kindly T. Chokyi has taken this all seriously enough to create the opportunity to clarify any doubts or questions with Garchen Rp. and his representatives themselves rather than just swirling about in our own doubt, confusion, false assumptions and misunderstanding. An opportunity to clarify things with a lama of the stature and wisdom of Garchen Rp. as well as a respected khenpo like Khenpo Samdrup who was also student of Khenpo Munsel, is rare, so i decided to take Chokyi up on his offer, fortunately he himself expressed gratitude for my questions.

Let me reiterate once again, the issue of empowerment is an extremely important one and not to be taken lightly, it is the very foundation of Vajrayana practice. As i have tried to stress from early on in this thread it is also a rather complex subject, involving many details and possible variations, so my questions are largely in regard to clarifying some of the particularities relevant to the specific case in order that we all might deepen our understanding. It is rather fortunate that we have an actual case to look into, rather than just deal with theoreticals and abstractions.

As Carl Sagan famously said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." And i can think of few claims more extraordinary than that one can authentically receive empowerment merely by watching a recording of one and all the further ramifications such a claim entails, so much more is required in this case than the simple statement "because my guru said so."

Blind faith is marvellous, but just as a blindman does not act as a guide along a treacherous mountain path, blind faith actually prevents one from guiding others along the path that leads out of the pit of samsara with its countless obstacles and pitfalls as subtle and dangerous as they are. The stakes here are high, this isn't something to be taken lightly but rather to be deeply investigated and pondered for we have all not only wallowed in the cesspool of ignorance far too long, but continue to drag countless others down with us.

(P.S. thanks to those of you who so kindly defended me)
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat May 03, 2014 2:39 pm

So from your reply am I to assume that you personally are considering taking an empowerment from a recording? No?

So what is your motivation behind grilling Garchen Rinpoche?

And why do you assume that I am lacking " cool detachment and reason"? Should I have assumed that you are personally considering taking an empowerment from a recording? Would that make me cooly detached and reasonable?

No, obviously, because the only people I see here doubting Garchen Rinpoche's actions are those that do not have him as a guru and will not watch the recordings to receive empowerment anyway.

From scripture it is obvious that one cannot receive empowerment except live and in person. Case closed. So any reply from Garchen Rinpoche will have to be assessed through the filter of faith, since reason has shown otherwise. Like it or lump it.

So you still want a reply from Garchen Rinpoche? Are you willing to "blindly' trust him?
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat May 03, 2014 2:46 pm

heart wrote:I am pretty sure pensum means no harm or disrespect Greg. I have had the pleasure to meet him in real life and it would be very difficult to find a kinder or more intelligent person anywhere.
Nice people have egos and are overcome by ignorance too. Not just us nasty folks! :tongue:
I also don't see why you find his question so provoking.
I don't find the questions provoking, I am calling into doubt the motivation behind the questions.
"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."
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Lhasa » Sat May 03, 2014 3:04 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:So from your reply am I to assume that you personally are considering taking an empowerment from a recording? No?

So what is your motivation behind grilling Garchen Rinpoche?

And why do you assume that I am lacking " cool detachment and reason"? Should I have assumed that you are personally considering taking an empowerment from a recording? Would that make me cooly detached and reasonable?

No, obviously, because the only people I see here doubting Garchen Rinpoche's actions are those that do not have him as a guru and will not watch the recordings to receive empowerment anyway.

From scripture it is obvious that one cannot receive empowerment except live and in person. Case closed. So any reply from Garchen Rinpoche will have to be assessed through the filter of faith, since reason has shown otherwise. Like it or lump it.

So you still want a reply from Garchen Rinpoche? Are you willing to "blindly' trust him?



:good:

When did 'tilting' at Vajra Masters become a wise thing to do? Aren't these the same folks
who are so afraid of vajra hell?
Thanks for drawing a line here, Greg.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat May 03, 2014 3:04 pm

pensum's alright, Greg.
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat May 03, 2014 3:07 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:pensum's alright, Greg.
I don't doubt it.
"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."
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby heart » Sat May 03, 2014 3:34 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:So from your reply am I to assume that you personally are considering taking an empowerment from a recording? No?

So what is your motivation behind grilling Garchen Rinpoche?

And why do you assume that I am lacking " cool detachment and reason"? Should I have assumed that you are personally considering taking an empowerment from a recording? Would that make me cooly detached and reasonable?

No, obviously, because the only people I see here doubting Garchen Rinpoche's actions are those that do not have him as a guru and will not watch the recordings to receive empowerment anyway.

From scripture it is obvious that one cannot receive empowerment except live and in person. Case closed. So any reply from Garchen Rinpoche will have to be assessed through the filter of faith, since reason has shown otherwise. Like it or lump it.

So you still want a reply from Garchen Rinpoche? Are you willing to "blindly' trust him?


I consider Garchen Rinpoche one of my masters and I have serious doubts about taking an empowerment from a recording. As a student of Garchen Rinpoche I also seriously doubt he would agree with the tone of your reply to pensum or that he would have any problem with people trying to understand how a recording can be a valid empowerment. But that is just me.

/magnus
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Re: Validity of recorded empowerments

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat May 03, 2014 3:40 pm

The tone of my reply?

According to scripture any empowerment that is not live is not valid.

According to Garchen Rinpoche even a recording is valid.

Is it so difficult to see?

Who is asking "why?" and why are they asking "why?"

If the answer is not ego then what is it?
"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."
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