What is samaya?

What is samaya?

Postby Inge » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:43 pm

Can somone please explain to me what exactly is samaya?
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby kirtu » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:58 pm

Samaya, damtsig (Tibetan), means rule, pledge or promise. There are different levels but samaya broadly proscribes or constrains and also channels actions of body, speech and mind. These are only in a tantric practice context. For example after a certain level of empowerment one might have accrued the samaya to never disparage women (as a gender) or to always actively engage in actions to benefit beings. There are different samayas but often people gloss them into a practice promise of a particular sadhana. In fact they are much more comprehensive and affect one's actions and esp. internal attitude for life.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"The way to solve problems in your life is to open your heart to others and think differently."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby Inge » Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:19 am

kirtu wrote:Samaya, damtsig (Tibetan), means rule, pledge or promise. There are different levels but samaya broadly proscribes or constrains and also channels actions of body, speech and mind. These are only in a tantric practice context. For example after a certain level of empowerment one might have accrued the samaya to never disparage women (as a gender) or to always actively engage in actions to benefit beings. There are different samayas but often people gloss them into a practice promise of a particular sadhana. In fact they are much more comprehensive and affect one's actions and esp. internal attitude for life.

Kirt


Rules are something that can be imposed by an external force, while a promise is something that comes from the inside. To me those are different things. Where does samaya come from? From an external source, or from an internal source? Are samayas objects of some sorts? Is it possible to find samaya within the organism of a being? Does it belong to any of the five aggregates?

Are samaya vows?
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:31 am

Inge wrote:Are samaya vows?


They are vows to follow the behavior that one voluntarily assumed as part of being initiated into a Buddha family or practice broadly speaking .

Are samayas objects of some sorts? Is it possible to find samaya within the organism of a being? Does it belong to any of the five aggregates?


They aren't objects. One doesn't find samaya within a being or as part of the five aggregates. So the teaching of the Vaihasika or Sautantrika view of vows being physical is not asserted in the Vajrayana.

However I would check Kongtrul's "Buddhist Ethics" to see what he says.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"The way to solve problems in your life is to open your heart to others and think differently."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:50 am

Briefly Kongtrul says on pg 257 in "Ethics" that samaya has ten meanings:

Samaya means sameness, stipulation,
Demonstrated conclusion, excellence,
Rule, repetition, detailed presentation,
Sign, occasion and language.


In the context of mantric pledges, samaya should be taken to mean a stipulation or a rule accepted with one's word of honor that is not to be transgressed, etc. If practitioners transgress pledges and do no restore them, the transgression becomes the root cause for their fall into the hell of Unceasing Torture or another hell, thus they are called downfalls.


And it goes on to explain the 14 root downfalls common to all Buddhist tantra. These should only be explained to you initially by a guru and really they shouldn't be discussed openly. But they can be glossed as "never for an instant loose Bodhicitta, always strengthen it and always honor the guru who gave you the initiation".

So by word of honor this means the most solemn promise possible. In texts it often says that one would keep this vow or promise even at the sake of one's eyes (so if you transgress this then the image is that you would loose your eyes - this is metaphorical) or at the cost of one's life (depending on the circumstances this isn't so metaphorical - so people take this literally in some circumstances - like being faced with a person who says give up the Dharma or die - historically people did die in some cases - HHDL has heard of similar things recently and has urged people to say that they give this or that up and live - but this is normally meant as a metaphor for the most serious promise one can make).

Kirt
Last edited by kirtu on Mon Mar 14, 2011 3:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"The way to solve problems in your life is to open your heart to others and think differently."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby gnegirl » Mon Mar 14, 2011 2:49 am

Its also a bond, a seal, a promise, a truth and a way..a way out of samsara.

i may just be a bit silly right now too... :)
"Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise." --Surangama Sutra

Phenomenon, vast as space, dharmata is your base, arising and falling like ocean tide cycles, why do i cling to your illusion of unceasing changlessness?
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby ground » Mon Mar 14, 2011 3:39 am

What you are describing does not appear to differ from the meaning of "vow". Both are voluntary.

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Re: What is samaya?

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 14, 2011 3:59 am

TMingyur wrote:What you are describing does not appear to differ from the meaning of "vow". Both are voluntary.


Samaya is a vow that is very, very serious because a transgression could be quite grave. An absolute intentional transgression could result in rebirth in a hell.

Kongtrul makes a distinction between conduct, vows and pledges but this goes on for many pages so really people need to investigate this for themselves.

On page 249 it says:

In some tantric systems, the term "vow" is used to denote the moral prescription for what to practice, and "pledge", the moral prescription for restraint.Others reverse the definitions, and yet others consider them to be synonymous.


and

The etymology of the {Tibetan] word sdom pa (vow), sambara [in Sanskrit], is "to bind." [In this context,] "vow" means to bind ordinary body, speech and mind, as well as their propensities, to the essence of enlightened body, speech, and mind * by special means and wisdom.


Study of samaya is for tantrikas and should be seriously undertaken first hand and with one's guru or teacher.

Kirt

*a tantric specific term is used and I have substituted the bolded phrase
Last edited by kirtu on Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"The way to solve problems in your life is to open your heart to others and think differently."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby ground » Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:03 am

kirtu wrote:
TMingyur wrote:What you are describing does not appear to differ from the meaning of "vow". Both are voluntary.


Samaya is a vow that is very, very serious because a transgression could be quite grave. An absolute intentional transgression could result in rebirth in a hell.

Kirt


Well it is said that the same holds true for some bodhisattva vow.

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Re: What is samaya?

Postby ground » Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:03 am

What is an "absolute intentional transgression"?
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:18 am

TMingyur wrote:What is an "absolute intentional transgression"?


One intentionally breaks a vow or engages in conduct that one knows will break a vow. Like if one hits a guru out of anger. If one says or thinks f this practice, I'm not doing it anymore, ever and then one really stops the practice or starts hating the practice or breaks bodhicitta by thinking "so what about all these beings - let them suffer". These would be quite severe but even then it has to be accompanied by several other factors like taking pleasure in one's action of breaking a vow.

Kirt
Last edited by kirtu on Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"The way to solve problems in your life is to open your heart to others and think differently."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby ground » Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:37 am

kirtu wrote:
TMingyur wrote:What is an "absolute intentional transgression"?


One intentionally breaks a vow or engages in conduct that one knows will break a vow. Like if one hits a guru out of anger. If one says or thinks f this practice, I'm not doing it anymore, ever and then one really stops the practice or starts hating the practice or breaks bodhicitta by thinking "so what about all these beings - let them suffer". These would be quite severe but even them it has to be accompanied by several other factors like taking pleasure in one's action of breaking a vow.

Kirt


Thanks.

But would you agree that what is called "samaya" has to be explicitly given by a preceptor and taken by a disciple/student - like a vow?
I am asking because sometimes it seems as if people are wondering about keeping samaya on the basis of just having attended some teaching without having been explained the samayas involved and without having explicitly and voluntarily taken them.

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Re: What is samaya?

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:11 am

TMingyur wrote:But would you agree that what is called "samaya" has to be explicitly given by a preceptor and taken by a disciple/student - like a vow?
I am asking because sometimes it seems as if people are wondering about keeping samaya on the basis of just having attended some teaching without having been explained the samayas involved and without having explicitly and voluntarily taken them.


Samaya is voluntarily assumed when one takes an empowerment. If one takes a particular empowerment then one automatically assumes the related samayas. Nowadays lamas make it easier on the student and summarize samaya but a person is still responsible to understand them and follow them as best they can. In Sakya once one takes specific HYT empowerments with teaching the samayas are explicitly covered (at least the common 14 are).

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"The way to solve problems in your life is to open your heart to others and think differently."
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:53 am

TMingyur wrote:
kirtu wrote:
TMingyur wrote:What is an "absolute intentional transgression"?


One intentionally breaks a vow or engages in conduct that one knows will break a vow. Like if one hits a guru out of anger. If one says or thinks f this practice, I'm not doing it anymore, ever and then one really stops the practice or starts hating the practice or breaks bodhicitta by thinking "so what about all these beings - let them suffer". These would be quite severe but even them it has to be accompanied by several other factors like taking pleasure in one's action of breaking a vow.

Kirt


Thanks.

But would you agree that what is called "samaya" has to be explicitly given by a preceptor and taken by a disciple/student - like a vow?
I am asking because sometimes it seems as if people are wondering about keeping samaya on the basis of just having attended some teaching without having been explained the samayas involved and without having explicitly and voluntarily taken them.

Kind regards


As Kirt has said, the way a HYT empowerment ceremony unfolds, one recites the vow to keep the vows of refuge, bodhicitta, and tantric samaya, and then one also vows again to uphold the samaya at the end of the ceremony. Receipt of the empowerment is conditional upon agreeing to uphold these commitments. One receives HYT empowerment in order to enable one to enter into the view, meditation, and conduct of Mantra so one can most quickly bring about the benefit of sentient beings. Since the samayas constitute the guidelines for effectively training in Mantra's view, meditation and conduct, not training in keeping them is tantamount to abandoning the path and sentient beings. So it's serious karma.

But people don't need to freak out about it because the training is necessarily gradual, the karmic weight for beginners is said to be relative to their knowledge of the samayas and their capacity to uphold them, and there are quite adequate methods to easily purify samaya daily with little time and hardship required. Also, most of the root samayas must be knowingly, purposely broken in order to be truly broken. In general, for the beginner it's pretty simple: respect your guru and follow his/her practice instructions earnestly; respect your vajra brothers and sisters and all beings and try to treat them well; don't abandon your training in love, compassion, and wisdom; don't go blabbing about tantric topics you're not qualified or authorized to divulge.
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby tashipaljor » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:21 pm

Dear dharma wheel Sangha, thanks for talking about about this.

My own root teacher seems to think that westerners have truly a hard time understanding the nebulous concept known as Samaya

At the same time, I think It seems pretty straight forward.

Samaya is purity of heart on a fundamental level, its our commitment to bodhicitta, our teachers, our fellow sangha and to the dharma.
It is like the lifeline between yourself and your guru, the meditational deity and the protectors, which allows for the blessings of the lineage to flow effortlessly.

This is a vajrayana concept so it must be related to within the context of such. Samaya is what allows for the 3 roots to work so well. Without it, your yidam (or meditation deity) is nothing but a drawing traced in water, and the protectors are just dogs barking outside... Furthermore the Guru becomes perceived as an ordinary being who really has no sense of accomplishment or liberation..


Samaya has a lot to do with pure perception meaning seeing things for what is really going on rather than a mere projection, It it is the life line that connects the whole sangha to each other, and allows the living wisdom of the Dharma to flow.


When samaya is broken then the blessings don't flow so easily and things can get very uncomfortable and intense...

Samaya is best kept through the continuity of practice. When the practice is happening every day, when bodhicitta is happening all the time, then samaya is held on a real basic level.

If you have committed to starting a practice and you aren't doing it then there is a basic sense of samaya breakage. Unless you never realized what you were getting yourself into in which case my lama says there is a little more leeway.


If you are interested in reading up on the topic of samaya, there is sooooo much reading out there. Mainly Jamgon Kongtrul's "Buddhist Ethics" book, which covers all three levels of buddhist vows, and also Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyal "Perfect Conduct"

and Sakya Panditas "A clear differentation of the three codes" which is more about polemical debates between the traditions but nonetheless very helfpul!

As for the various root and branch commitments, the explanations by Jamgon Kongtrul are very good!!

As aspiring vajrayana buddhist in this country it is really important that we be thinking about all of this very thoroughly so that we could do our part to help to establish and accomplish authentic tantric lineages in the western world...
"Nowadays the secret Mantrayana is no longer a secret... The real secret is bodhicitta" -Anyen Rinpoche

བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་མཆོག་རིན་པོ་ཆེ། །
མ་སྐྱེས་པ་རྣམས་སྐྱེ་གྱུར་ཅིག །
སྐྱེས་པ་ཉམས་པ་མེད་པ་དང༌།
གོང་ནས་གོང་དུ་འཕེལ་བར་ཤོག །
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Re: What is samaya?

Postby Karma_Yeshe » Wed Apr 01, 2015 9:48 pm

tashipaljor wrote:
As aspiring vajrayana buddhist in this country it is really important that we be thinking about all of this very thoroughly so that we could do our part to help to establish and accomplish authentic tantric lineages in the western world...


Describing your approach as being that careful, maybe you should think about having a tantric image as your avatar. Why do you show it? And which country do you refer to?
KY
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