The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

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The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby Jangchup Donden » Wed Jan 27, 2010 8:53 am

Just in case anyone missed this, I've found it to be a wonderful teaching:

http://kunzang.org/kplblog/2010/01/23/t ... tradition/

best wishes,
--Travis
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby ronnewmexico » Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:29 pm

Thanks a very nice article, it is.

This is true to my opinion as stated, from the article...." Even if someone were a mahapandita, who knew absolutely everything there was to know about Buddhism in terms of facts and terminology, without devotion it would not be possible for him or her to achieve the fruition of this path."

Gampopa was a very interesting teacher.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby ground » Thu Jan 28, 2010 5:42 am

"Guru" is a thought. "Importance" is a thought.

The six types of beings are the results of thoughts.

:anjali:
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby Jangchup Donden » Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:16 am

TMingyur wrote:"Guru" is a thought. "Importance" is a thought.

The six types of beings are the results of thoughts.

:anjali:


Not really. The six types of beings are the result of ignorance. Thoughts can either be seen with ignorance or without ignorance, as they are actually emptiness. If thoughts are seen and acted on with ignorance, they'll cause karma, future thoughts and kleshas. If thoughts are seen without ignorance, as they actually are, as emptiness, there isn't the resulting karma, etc.

If you want to see things as they really are quickly so you can really benefit sentient beings, you need to practice Vajrayana, and to do that you need a Guru.
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby ground » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:45 am

Jangchup Donden wrote:
TMingyur wrote:"Guru" is a thought. "Importance" is a thought.

The six types of beings are the results of thoughts.

:anjali:


Not really. The six types of beings are the result of ignorance. Thoughts can either be seen with ignorance or without ignorance, as they are actually emptiness. If thoughts are seen and acted on with ignorance, they'll cause karma, future thoughts and kleshas. If thoughts are seen without ignorance, as they actually are, as emptiness, there isn't the resulting karma, etc.

"Not really" can refer to "phenomena without analysing their mode of existence" or to "phenomena analysing their mode of existence".
Since you started with "Not really" but actually you did not contradict what I posted but you merely elaborated I have to conclude that your "Not really" referred to "phenomena analysing their mode of existence". But my applying words and terminology is not meant to indicate the mode of existence of the phenomena I am talking about. So your "Not really" appears to be misplaced.

Jangchup Donden wrote:If you want to see things as they really are quickly so you can really benefit sentient beings, you need to practice Vajrayana, and to do that you need a Guru.

Vajrayana has helped me very much. And it has helped me very quickly indeed. I cannot confirm that the help for me will be for the benefit of other beings without simply repeating "correct" tenets so I'll leave it at that. When I say "vajrayana" I am of course referring to vajrayanists and teachers and Guru. Actually their immeasurable kindness cannot be repaid.

As to "Guru": Once the Guru is met he is immediately left behind without there being any feeling of separation. If I would add something to this I would be lying. But what is a lie for me is not necessarily a lie for someone else.

:namaste:
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby Jangchup Donden » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:08 pm

TMingyur wrote:
Jangchup Donden wrote:
TMingyur wrote:"Guru" is a thought. "Importance" is a thought.

The six types of beings are the results of thoughts.

:anjali:


Not really. The six types of beings are the result of ignorance. Thoughts can either be seen with ignorance or without ignorance, as they are actually emptiness. If thoughts are seen and acted on with ignorance, they'll cause karma, future thoughts and kleshas. If thoughts are seen without ignorance, as they actually are, as emptiness, there isn't the resulting karma, etc.

"Not really" can refer to "phenomena without analysing their mode of existence" or to "phenomena analysing their mode of existence".
Since you started with "Not really" but actually you did not contradict what I posted but you merely elaborated I have to conclude that your "Not really" referred to "phenomena analysing their mode of existence". But my applying words and terminology is not meant to indicate the mode of existence of the phenomena I am talking about. So your "Not really" appears to be misplaced.


My not really was to your comment saying that the six types of beings are the results of thoughts. This is incorrect, at least as far as I know in regards to how Buddhist karma has been explained to me.

Your post also had a hint of "thoughts are bad" or "thoughts are to be abandoned" because they're the cause of samsara (the 6 types of beings). Which is also incorrect, at least as how Buddhism has been represented to me.

So I may have misunderstood you, but those were the points I was trying to bring up.
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby ground » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:21 am

Jangchup Donden wrote:My not really was to your comment saying that the six types of beings are the results of thoughts. This is incorrect, at least as far as I know in regards to how Buddhist karma has been explained to me.

I see. Perhaps I should explain my understanding of "thought" which may make clear why I considered "thought" and "karma" identical in the context above.
"karma" is directed activity which may entail "fruits" if it meets appropriate conditions (the main ones being afflictions) later.
According to what I have been taught "karma" is mentally based, which may be in contrast to smaller vehicle views that consider e.g. mere physical action being "karma". "mentally based" is the first mark that links "thought" to "karma".
"thought" in my understanding is any directed mental constructive activity ("directed" being the second mark). "constructive" meaning "adding something to mere/naked direct sense perception". Therefore "thought" does not only refer to mental activity based on terms of language ("labeling") but also to mental activity of imaginations (e.g. creating generic images) which both may be habitual directed activity. "generic image" here does also refer to "generic meaning" and is not necessarily resticted to visual images.
In this context: When is "thought" to be considered identical to karma? In each case it is "thought" intermingled with the first link of the 12 links of dependent origination.

Jangchup Donden wrote:Your post also had a hint of "thoughts are bad" or "thoughts are to be abandoned" because they're the cause of samsara (the 6 types of beings). Which is also incorrect, at least as how Buddhism has been represented to me.

This is the consequnce of brief statements without elaborations: These leave much "room" for filling felt gaps by creative thought. I know this phenomenon from my own experience and consider a good practice to try to restrict one's thought about the meaning of other's posts to merely what is expressed with words and leave everything that has not been said open. This is somehow difficult because we tend to habitually jump to conclusions which are but our own fabrications.
Since I am a follower of the view of "valid cognition" it is unacceptable for me to reject "thought".

Jangchup Donden wrote:So I may have misunderstood you, but those were the points I was trying to bring up.

No problem. The good thing about "communication" is that it may be used (at least to try) to resolve miunderstandings.

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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby Jangchup Donden » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:14 am

TMingyur wrote:I see. Perhaps I should explain my understanding of "thought" which may make clear why I considered "thought" and "karma" identical in the context above.
"karma" is directed activity which may entail "fruits" if it meets appropriate conditions (the main ones being afflictions) later.
According to what I have been taught "karma" is mentally based, which may be in contrast to smaller vehicle views that consider e.g. mere physical action being "karma". "mentally based" is the first mark that links "thought" to "karma".
"thought" in my understanding is any directed mental constructive activity ("directed" being the second mark). "constructive" meaning "adding something to mere/naked direct sense perception". Therefore "thought" does not only refer to mental activity based on terms of language ("labeling") but also to mental activity of imaginations (e.g. creating generic images) which both may be habitual directed activity. "generic image" here does also refer to "generic meaning" and is not necessarily resticted to visual images.
In this context: When is "thought" to be considered identical to karma? In each case it is "thought" intermingled with the first link of the 12 links of dependent origination.


When I read these paragraphs with all the quotes, I couldn't help but get an image of Stephen Colbert saying out loud and making silly quotation gestures with his hands, lol. :P

If you studied dependent origination, you'll see that thought is up the chain of things a bit. Wikipedia's discussion on [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratītyasamutpāda]dependent origination[/url] is actually fairly decent:

With Ignorance as condition, Mental Formations arise
With Mental Formations as condition, Consciousness arises
With Consciousness as condition, Name and Form arise
With Name & Form as condition, Sense Gates arise
With Sense Gates as condition, Contact arises
With Contact as condition, Feeling arises
With Feeling as condition, Craving arises
With Craving as condition, Clinging arises
With Clinging as condition, Becoming arises
With Becoming as a condition, Birth arises
With Birth as condition, Aging and Dying arise

I think what most people think of as thought is probably much closer to name and form, than it is to mental formations, especially considering that name and form arise predicated on consciousness.

If you've read the Visuddhimagga there's actually a really good discussion about how the links circle around back to each other in the section on abhidharma. It's not like it's one big circle but there are a bunch of cycles within it all.

Of course, this is not Vajrayana, but rather Theravada/Hinayana (apologies to any Theravadins here for using the H-word) so it's not quite the same view as what's presented by Tibetan Buddhism.

So anyways, after rambling a bit, back to:

TMingyur wrote:In this context: When is "thought" to be considered identical to karma? In each case it is "thought" intermingled with the first link of the 12 links of dependent origination.


According to Hinayana, thought is not considered to be identical to karma. Here I think karma more describes the process of cause and effect that drives the links of depending origination. So thought is the result of karma as it's produced through dependent origination. In this view, Ignorance is the root cause of thought (however, the later links can circle around back and cause more thought as well, which in turn causes more turning of the later links and so on and so forth). The links of dependent origination circle back on themselves, which is why samsara is so hard to break out of, it keeps building on and reinforcing itself.

According to Vajrayana I think the presentation is a bit different. Hinayana is just looking for a release of suffering, realizing selflessness -- so in this sense, if you stop producing mental formations then you don't have the rest of the cycle of dependent origination and you don't suffer. In Vajrayana we're trying to quickly achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. If we have no way of interacting with beings in samsara, we have no way to help them. So the solution here is to realize the nature of all things (emptiness), as opposed to just the self. In that way we can abide between samsara and nirvana and benefit beings. Here again, thought isn't identical to karma, however thought can have karmic results if it arises based on ignorance and is acted upon based on ignorance. If thought arises and is seen as it is (emptiness), and acted upon based on wisdom (the emptiness of that thought and the emptiness of the action) then there may be result of it but there's no suffering as the results are also seen as emptiness.
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby ground » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:00 am

Jangchup Donden wrote:When I read these paragraphs with all the quotes, I couldn't help but get an image of Stephen Colbert saying out loud and making silly quotation gestures with his hands, lol. :P

quotation marks I use to emphasize the labelling aspect, i.e. the nominal existence of phenomena referred by means of labels but of course these should then be applied to all words and selective application is sort of arbitrary.
As to your image: Imagination is an integral part of vajrayana. :tongue:

Jangchup Donden wrote:Of course, this is not Vajrayana, but rather Theravada/Hinayana (apologies to any Theravadins here for using the H-word) so it's not quite the same view as what's presented by Tibetan Buddhism.

Well actually I am writing from a Mahayana perspective because vajrayana IMO is not accessible to reason and what is not accessible to reason can not be used to ground statements on without indulging in what may appear to others as ungrounded assertions.


Jangchup Donden wrote:
TMingyur wrote:In this context: When is "thought" to be considered identical to karma? In each case it is "thought" intermingled with the first link of the 12 links of dependent origination.


According to Hinayana, thought is not considered to be identical to karma.

But according to Mahayana karma is mental. And as a matter of fact thought is mental. And I have given the context in which I consider thought to be karma. "Context" means conditional statement and is thus opposed to "general statement" and opposed to meaning "inherently identical".

Jangchup Donden wrote:According to Hinayana, thought is not considered to be identical to karma. Here I think karma more describes the process of cause and effect that drives the links of depending origination. So thought is the result of karma as it's produced through dependent origination. In this view, Ignorance is the root cause of thought (however, the later links can circle around back and cause more thought as well, which in turn causes more turning of the later links and so on and so forth). The links of dependent origination circle back on themselves, which is why samsara is so hard to break out of, it keeps building on and reinforcing itself.

This may be true for what you may call "hinayana" (perspective) which I do not know and actually I am assuming there being a broad variety of so called "hinayana" perspectives. Since I am referring to the Mahayana perspective I have been taught I do not comment on your statements about "hinayana".

Jangchup Donden wrote:According to Vajrayana I think the presentation is a bit different.

IMO Vajrayana has no presentation of the 12 links at all. But common Mahayana has which is the one of the pali canon.

Jangchup Donden wrote:In Vajrayana we're trying to quickly achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. If we have no way of interacting with beings in samsara, we have no way to help them.

This is the sort of faith statements typical for vajrayana. One cannot really debate this because one cannot really debate faith in view (or view based on faith). Negatively speaking one could say that this view (i.e. not being able to interact before buddhahood) serves as apology for not doing anything beyond vajrayana practice and ease one's mind with faith but this would mean to bring vajrayana attitude in relationship to selfish hinayana attitude which of course is not my intention here. But I am just shedding light on a possible aspect to provide "material" for critical reflection.

Jangchup Donden wrote:So the solution here is to realize the nature of all things (emptiness), as opposed to just the self. In that way we can abide between samsara and nirvana and benefit beings. ...

This is faith statement not specific for vajrayana but for Mahayana.

Jangchup Donden wrote:If thought arises and is seen as it is (emptiness), and acted upon based on wisdom (the emptiness of that thought and the emptiness of the action) then there may be result of it but there's no suffering as the results are also seen as emptiness.

This "emptiness view" is not specific vajrayana and if there is wisdom then that precludes results because then there is no ignorance. It is not that the results are seen as empty which prevents suffering but because there is no result once the afflications (ignorance) have been eradicated. Seeing the results as empty is actually dialectical sutra practice on the paths where the two truths have not been fully integrated, i.e. the afflictions not eradicated.

Jangchup Donden wrote:Here again, thought isn't identical to karma, however thought can have karmic results if it arises based on ignorance and is acted upon based on ignorance.

If something has "karmic results" then one may expect it to be "karma" (in the sense of directed activity). So "thought" or "thinking" being an activity, is karma if it arises based on ignorance which is exactly what I have written in my other post above. Actually I have written "intermingled with ignorance" exactly because one cannot interprete the 12 links being strictly consecutive.

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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby Jangchup Donden » Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:29 am

TMingyur wrote:
Jangchup Donden wrote:Of course, this is not Vajrayana, but rather Theravada/Hinayana (apologies to any Theravadins here for using the H-word) so it's not quite the same view as what's presented by Tibetan Buddhism.

Well actually I am writing from a Mahayana perspective because vajrayana IMO is not accessible to reason and what is not accessible to reason can not be used to ground statements on without indulging in what may appear to others as ungrounded assertions.


That's true. Vajrayana is just special Mahayana.


TMingyur wrote:But according to Mahayana karma is mental. And as a matter of fact thought is mental. And I have given the context in which I consider thought to be karma. "Context" means conditional statement and is thus opposed to "general statement" and opposed to meaning "inherently identical".


Actually, only according to yogacara, the mind only school, is everything considered mental. Madhyamaka takes this farther stating that everything, including karma, thoughts, even time, has 'no intrinsic, independent reality apart from the causes and conditions from which they arise.' Quoted because that's what's in the article.



TMingyur wrote:
Jangchup Donden wrote:In Vajrayana we're trying to quickly achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. If we have no way of interacting with beings in samsara, we have no way to help them.

This is the sort of faith statements typical for vajrayana. One cannot really debate this because one cannot really debate faith in view (or view based on faith). Negatively speaking one could say that this view (i.e. not being able to interact before buddhahood) serves as apology for not doing anything beyond vajrayana practice and ease one's mind with faith but this would mean to bring vajrayana attitude in relationship to selfish hinayana attitude which of course is not my intention here. But I am just shedding light on a possible aspect to provide "material" for critical reflection.


I don't see how this is a faith statement. The whole point of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism is to become a Buddha for the benefit of sentient beings. This is what differentiates it from Hinayana -- the great intention to achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of beings.

TMingyur wrote:If something has "karmic results" then one may expect it to be "karma" (in the sense of directed activity). So "thought" or "thinking" being an activity, is karma if it arises based on ignorance which is exactly what I have written in my other post above. Actually I have written "intermingled with ignorance" exactly because one cannot interprete the 12 links being strictly consecutive.


Saying they're intermingled has the connotation that they're the same thing, where at least as it's presented in dependent origination, one is the cause for the other. I might be splitting hairs here but I think there's subtle but important difference.

Thought is not karma. Karma is the workings of cause and effect. Thought may have karmic results, and likewise thought may be the result of karma. They're not the same thing however.
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby ground » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:28 am

Jangchup Donden wrote:
TMingyur wrote:But according to Mahayana karma is mental. And as a matter of fact thought is mental. And I have given the context in which I consider thought to be karma. "Context" means conditional statement and is thus opposed to "general statement" and opposed to meaning "inherently identical".


Actually, only according to yogacara, the mind only school, is everything considered mental.

Well yes but I did not say that "everything is mental" but that according to Mahayana "karma" is mental, i.e. of mental character. This means that e.g. in the case of a physical action it is not the physical action that is karma but the mental concomittant phenomena like e.g. motivations. In contrast to this smaller vehicle may view the physical action as such being karma. This explains the more "rigid" interpretation of ethical conduct in smaller vehicles and the more "contextual" interpretation in Mahayana.


Jangchup Donden wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
Jangchup Donden wrote:In Vajrayana we're trying to quickly achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. If we have no way of interacting with beings in samsara, we have no way to help them.

This is the sort of faith statements typical for vajrayana. One cannot really debate this because one cannot really debate faith in view (or view based on faith). Negatively speaking one could say that this view (i.e. not being able to interact before buddhahood) serves as apology for not doing anything beyond vajrayana practice and ease one's mind with faith but this would mean to bring vajrayana attitude in relationship to selfish hinayana attitude which of course is not my intention here. But I am just shedding light on a possible aspect to provide "material" for critical reflection.


I don't see how this is a faith statement. The whole point of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism is to become a Buddha for the benefit of sentient beings. This is what differentiates it from Hinayana -- the great intention to achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of beings.

Well that there is something like "buddhahood" is faith because it cannot be established by reason without taking scripture as evidence. The same holds true for specific hinayana tenets as well.
And in this context of faith there is the faith that vajrayana may somehow provide "quicker" access to this goal.
"Faith" refers to terms and the asserted phenomena these terms are asserted to point at that do not have a direct experiential correlate in the five senses and thus cannot be conventionally verified. In this way the concepts manifested by these terms are but mere thought contructs based on faith in scripture.
Therefore I say that such kind of statements cannot be debated because either one has faith or not.

Jangchup Donden wrote:
TMingyur wrote:If something has "karmic results" then one may expect it to be "karma" (in the sense of directed activity). So "thought" or "thinking" being an activity, is karma if it arises based on ignorance which is exactly what I have written in my other post above. Actually I have written "intermingled with ignorance" exactly because one cannot interprete the 12 links being strictly consecutive.


Saying they're intermingled has the connotation that they're the same thing, where at least as it's presented in dependent origination, one is the cause for the other. I might be splitting hairs here but I think there's subtle but important difference.

Now you are drifting into the "inherently the same" or "inherently the other" thinking but both positions are invalid. So let's simply remain in the sphere of conventional linguistic practices.
In this context according to my understanding the connotation of "intermingled" is "intimately mixed but not identical". So the meaning you are projecting is not my meaning intended. If you would project interdependence instead then I would agree. Why? Beecause ignorance manifests "mentally" and thought is "mental" and insofar as thought is "influenced by" or "based on" ignorance it reinforces ignorance.

Jangchup Donden wrote:Thought is not karma. Karma is the workings of cause and effect. Thought may have karmic results, and likewise thought may be the result of karma. They're not the same thing however.

Although I have repeatedly explained you still keep ignoring that my statement "thought is karma" is made in the context of
1. karma is interpreted as being mental in Mahayana (s above)
2. thought is mental.
3. karma is directed actitivity (general buddhist understanding assumed) in the sense that this "directedness" is based on ignorance (or "influenced by").

If you do not accept the context describing the conditions of my statement and insist on speaking only "universally" about the concepts "thought" and "karma" then we do not share a common ground on which to communicate about these.

Consider e.g. the case that thought is not-directed (towards a conceived goal appearing "real"), is "pure" thought, without deluded projection, without investing the objects of thought with inherent existence. Such a kind of thought (not "based on" or "influenced by" ignorance) I would not consider to be "karma".

But we may also conclude this with simply agreeing that we do not agree. No problem.

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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby muni » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:25 am

Yes Jangchup, Guru is not merely a simple thought.
There are the qualities. The Guru is offering these qualities in equality, love. When we make any connection and genuine devotion is present, the confidence in the teaching is started much deeper than any text can do. The compassion and wisdom melt in our being and clarity arise for us. Struggling to remain on the path is getting less chance, as just remember that boundless kindness is enough to discern winds and emotions by coarse mind and wisdom.
He-she is the Relative Teacher who shows the "Inner Teacher".
Then it is up to us.
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Re: The Importance of the Guru in the Vajrayana Tradition

Postby Virgo » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:17 am

The Guru is the heart of the path.
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