Lam Rim

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Lam Rim

Postby Epistemes » Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:51 pm

Thubten Chodron has a book with CD of guided meditations for lam rim entitled Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path. I'm questioning the potential value this book might have for me. I'm unfamiliar yet still slightly uncomfortable with guided meditations; they seem new agey due to my past experience with zazen, calm abiding and Centering Prayer (Christian) as archetypes of "correct" meditation, but I'm intrigued by the idea of checking (analytical) meditation because it seems like the type of meditation practiced by the Buddha, Sariputra, and other arahants. Of course, for that matter, any school could claim the Buddha practiced its model of meditation.

Ani Chodron states in the book that traditional methods like visipanna and calm abiding (and probably zazen) are good for short interims, but ultimately fail to produce long-term results in the practice of dharma. This seems pragmatically correct, but somehow, on some level with which I'm not quite familiar, this statement of hers could be disjointed since, to my limited knowledge, Theravadan, Zen, and some Tibetan practices rely upon these sole meditation techniques and advance far along the path of dharma.

While I understand the value of lam rim lies in its continuous development of a holistic, more compassionate heart and mind, I get the impression from her book that this is the correct way of meditation. Is she right? Is lam rim the only path that allows for steady, continuous improvement in the direction of the jhanas and ultimately the realization of emptiness and nirvana? I question that assertion, but I have very little basis for doing so aside from my zazen practice 12 years ago.

I'd be interested in hearing thoughts supporting her notion that lam rim with its emphasis upon analytical meditation is the correct method to truly reach realization and arguments against that notion, as well.
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Re: Lam Rim

Postby Chaz » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:34 pm

Epistemes wrote:Thubten Chodron has a book with CD of guided meditations for lam rim entitled Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path. I'm questioning the potential value this book might have for me. I'm unfamiliar yet still slightly uncomfortable with guided meditations; they seem new agey due to my past experience with zazen, calm abiding and Centering Prayer (Christian) as archetypes of "correct" meditation, but I'm intrigued by the idea of checking (analytical) meditation because it seems like the type of meditation practiced by the Buddha, Sariputra, and other arahants. Of course, for that matter, any school could claim the Buddha practiced its model of meditation.

Ani Chodron states in the book that traditional methods like visipanna and calm abiding (and probably zazen) are good for short interims, but ultimately fail to produce long-term results in the practice of dharma. This seems pragmatically correct, but somehow, on some level with which I'm not quite familiar, this statement of hers could be disjointed since, to my limited knowledge, Theravadan, Zen, and some Tibetan practices rely upon these sole meditation techniques and advance far along the path of dharma.

While I understand the value of lam rim lies in its continuous development of a holistic, more compassionate heart and mind, I get the impression from her book that this is the correct way of meditation. Is she right? Is lam rim the only path that allows for steady, continuous improvement in the direction of the jhanas and ultimately the realization of emptiness and nirvana? I question that assertion, but I have very little basis for doing so aside from my zazen practice 12 years ago.

I'd be interested in hearing thoughts supporting her notion that lam rim with its emphasis upon analytical meditation is the correct method to truly reach realization and arguments against that notion, as well.


welllllll.......

If, by saying "the correct method" you mean the only method, then you're unlikely to get a lot of contribution. Not everyone does lam Rim. Unless I'm mistaken Lam Rim is a Gelug practice and not everyone on this board is a Gelugpa.

I practice in the Kagyu lineage. I was taught Shamatha as my main meditation practice. I was taught that it is a "complete" practice - I need do nothing else. It pervades nearly every aspect of our practice. To say that it is "incorrect" relative to something taught in another lineage isn't likely to get much in the way of positive feedback.

Maybe you should have posted this in the Gelug forum.
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Re: Lam Rim

Postby Epistemes » Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:35 am

It doesn't matter.

Her methods are beyond my ability even though she claims to have penned this book and CD for "the beginner." The beginner what?--the beginner monk??

During a single session, the guided meditations include a 40 minute meditation on the Buddha (which includes prayers), an 18 minute breathing exercise and body scan, followed by a 10-20 minute analytic meditation. I'm currently doing good putting in 20 minutes a day - which excludes today since I'm so frustrated at all this malarkey.

I should go back to being a disaffected Catholic dissident - at least I knew what I was doing then. Or, if I didn't, someone told me what to do and I did it. "Recite 5 Hail Marys." I don't know why - but okay if it gets me salvation.
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Re: Lam Rim

Postby Chaz » Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:18 pm

Epistemes wrote:It doesn't matter.

Her methods are beyond my ability even though she claims to have penned this book and CD for "the beginner." The beginner what?--the beginner monk??

During a single session, the guided meditations include a 40 minute meditation on the Buddha (which includes prayers), an 18 minute breathing exercise and body scan, followed by a 10-20 minute analytic meditation. I'm currently doing good putting in 20 minutes a day - which excludes today since I'm so frustrated at all this malarkey.

I should go back to being a disaffected Catholic dissident - at least I knew what I was doing then. Or, if I didn't, someone told me what to do and I did it. "Recite 5 Hail Marys." I don't know why - but okay if it gets me salvation.



Well it could be that you've bitten off more than you can/should chew.

It could be you're not really ready for practice of that intensity.

20 minutes of practice a day is nothing to sneeze at. Maybe you should just stick to that?

Do you have a meditation/practice instructor to work with? I find a mentor such as that to be indispensible. They're particularly helpful when considering taking practice to another level - like going from 20 minutes / day of sitting practice to Lam Rim, Ngondro or something like that. My PI was extremely helpful as both guide and mentor in the year leading up to my beginning Ngondro with practice and study recommendations.
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Re: Lam Rim

Postby Epistemes » Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:15 pm

Chaz wrote:Well it could be that you've bitten off more than you can/should chew.

It could be you're not really ready for practice of that intensity.

20 minutes of practice a day is nothing to sneeze at. Maybe you should just stick to that?

Do you have a meditation/practice instructor to work with? I find a mentor such as that to be indispensible. They're particularly helpful when considering taking practice to another level - like going from 20 minutes / day of sitting practice to Lam Rim, Ngondro or something like that. My PI was extremely helpful as both guide and mentor in the year leading up to my beginning Ngondro with practice and study recommendations.


I think I've bitten off more than I can chew on a number of fronts. I'm trying too hard to form some identity as a Buddhist when all this started out as was an attempt to reconnect to something I held in great esteem and something I thought that I could rely on as a path towards truth.

I'm taking some steps backward. Going to get back to concentrating on my Tipitaka studies, reading the life of the Buddha and the Dhammapada, and listening to some lectures by Pema Chodron on Shamatha as my main meditation practice. I've got to concentrate on my foundation before I get further lost in the matrix of super-structure.

Less mind, just breathe.
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Re: Lam Rim

Postby Chaz » Fri Aug 26, 2011 5:12 pm

Epistemes wrote:I think I've bitten off more than I can chew on a number of fronts. I'm trying too hard to form some identity as a Buddhist


Don't try so hard. Be gentle with yourself. Don't worry about becoming something based on a concept of what you think a Buddhist is or should be. Rest.

when all this started out as was an attempt to reconnect to something I held in great esteem and something I thought that I could rely on as a path towards truth.


That's fine, but let go of your expectations.

I'm taking some steps backward.


No, not really. You're progressing on the path - a path comprised of both peaks and valleys.

Going to get back to concentrating on my Tipitaka studies, reading the life of the Buddha and the Dhammapada, and listening to some lectures by Pema Chodron on Shamatha as my main meditation practice.


That sounds good.
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Re: Lam Rim

Postby Karma K Sonam » Tue Aug 30, 2011 1:55 pm

Getting involved with dharma is like being a snake in a bamboo tube. You can't turn round and go back, you can only go forwards :D Lots and lots of teachers say keep it simple. There is a tendency to try to do different practices and until you are doing so many that you are doing none with any effect. At one point I was trying to do Tara, Ngondro, Chenrezig, shinay, reading, watching dvds of teachers. It was impossible as well as holding down a full time job and running a house! In fact it out me right off practising all together!

Reading your post you already know what to do, don't get caught up, just be ;)
don't forget to stop and smell the daisies.
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Re: Lam Rim

Postby Epistemes » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:23 pm

Karma K Sonam wrote:Getting involved with dharma is like being a snake in a bamboo tube. You can't turn round and go back, you can only go forwards :D Lots and lots of teachers say keep it simple. There is a tendency to try to do different practices and until you are doing so many that you are doing none with any effect. At one point I was trying to do Tara, Ngondro, Chenrezig, shinay, reading, watching dvds of teachers. It was impossible as well as holding down a full time job and running a house! In fact it out me right off practising all together!


I, too, have this tendency to try to do too much at once. Then I burn out quick.

I'm such a slow reader and I don't always have time for reading. Sometimes I think I made the wrong choices in going for Thich Nhat Hanh's "biography" of the Buddha and Bhikkhu Bodhi's "In The Words of The Buddha" since these are both Thailand-based, Theravada or semi-Theravada readings of Buddhism. I look forward to finishing these and starting some more Mahayana-based readings in the future. In good time, though.

Concerning Thubten Chodron's book on lam rim, I think I now understand that she wrote this book not for people interested in Buddhism like myself who are just starting to cultivate a regular meditation practice, but people who have practiced something like shamatha for years and are now ready to begin something more intense. Luckily amazon.com has a good returns service.

I am trying to practice shamatha now per Pema Chodron's instructions.
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