Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Moderator: Tibetan Buddhism moderators

Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri May 10, 2013 9:03 pm

Polling for people's experiences in Sanghas throughout the western world.

This is my context:

I came from a very strict, very traditional Gonpa where the teacher believes very much in the importance of adherence to all of the Genyan vows in addition to the vows of refuge and bodhicitta. He's realistic--he knows most of the students there still drink, etc. but he does not and ideally thinks, like you'll read in many texts that Chang (beer) kills the root of liberation (among other things).

It's also a very costume+and+props Sangha where we're expected to wear Ngakpa or even monastic robes, have all the bells, dorjes, damarus, prayer wheels, cymbals, tormas, etc. even though nobody (including our teacher) is Tibetan. This in mind I only really keep the first three of the Genyan vows very strictly. So I always felt weird wearing a traditional Ngakpa outfit. I know Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said the vinaya says anybody who's taken the Refuge vows is allowed to wear monastic robes, but I still felt like I was putting on airs.

My question is this: what, in y'alls experience and among your teachers, what qualifies a lay practitioner of the dharma? What does that look like in the Berlin or Glasgow or San Francisco of today?

Aside from vices of drinking and smoking and all those common questions you can find discussions and teachers talking about all over the place, part of my concern is that in the East, if you were a householder that meant you had a household. Wife/Husband/Kids (And yaks). That's not gonna happen for me. Nor for many Western students of the Dharma. Nor do I or many others have the ready option of a thriving and vast monastic culture (nor am I ready or able to become a monastic).

What's that been like for those of you who've experienced it? What, if anything, have teachers you know said about it?
User avatar
Nilasarasvati
 
Posts: 428
Joined: Tue May 07, 2013 3:08 am
Location: Trāyastriṃśa. Just kidding. What a cool sanksrit word, huh?

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby conebeckham » Fri May 10, 2013 11:36 pm

I'm not sure what to say. I don't think I'm a Naljorpa--maybe this directed toward those who think they are.

I do consider myself a Lay Practitioner, though...with a household and kids (no yaks, though). :smile:

At the centers I've gone to, here in the SF Bay Area, most of us wear western clothing most of the time, with maybe a Zen (white, or maroon). But some folks have completed 3 year retreat, and they wear robes with the Zentra (striped Zen)--that's the "uniform" for 3 year retreat grads, who guess I'd call Yogis, even if they are lay. There are a few monks, too, westerners, with vows, and with the monastic robes.

During "retreats"--at home, or at centers--I will wear the lower skirt (Shamgyur, not monastic Shentab) and dharma colored shirts, usually with a white zen. Sometimes a maroon zen. I was told to do this by my Lama, in acknowledgement of the practices I've done as part of a retreat program he instituted. If it's just a visit for a puja, though, it may just be a zen, or not even that.

I've heard there is one center here in Northern CA that has most people wearing robes during retreats, regardless of their "qualifications."

I drink sometimes. No other intoxicants, no smoking, and I maintain the other lay vows as best I can. I eat meat, except during Saga Dawa when I'm veggie for a month. I also play, and listen to, music, and I even may dance on occasion! Sometimes, I take vows for a few days at a time, esp. in retreats, and Nyung Nes of course, etc.

Does that answer your question? Ultimately, I think it boils down not to what you wear....it's about a daily practice, and a lifestyle of moderation.
May any merit generated by on-line discussion
Be dedicated to the Ultimate Benefit of All Sentient Beings.
User avatar
conebeckham
 
Posts: 2651
Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:49 pm
Location: Bay Area, CA, USA

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby kirtu » Sat May 11, 2013 12:04 am

The Dharma is not dress-up. Has a zen or a shentab performed a miracle? Has a zen rescued anyone from samsara (perhaps ....)?

IMV if your lama has not told you to wear something you shouldn't.

But renunciation and vows are essential. Buddhists are practicing, vow keeping, internally looking people.

Who's a real yogi? That's a good question.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4368
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby Tsultrim T. » Sat May 11, 2013 12:58 am

This is an interesting discussion and I think Kirt's response is very true, it is best to do what your Lama instructed. Some are more strict about the "uniform" than others so best to follow the protocol of your Sangha. As for what qualifies for being a Naljorpa, I think it basically boils down to who maintains the view regardless of the clothes they wear or their particular lifestyle. I think too most true Naljorpas would be too humble to speak about their experiences, especially in public, so it is best to investigate and then just trust your Lama. Having said that, at least in Nyingma, it seems common that having taken a full empowerment is generally the basic qualification for wearing lay Dharma clothes (the standards and extensiveness of which seem to be different from center to center). Also from personal experience, I prefer to not wear any Dharma clothes (unless I absolutely have to), since time and again it seems to only serve to reinforce the ego and I have had too many bad experiences with "holier than thou" practitioners in full regalia. :spy:
User avatar
Tsultrim T.
 
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:59 am

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby ngodrup » Sat May 11, 2013 1:11 am

Well, I'm in a very traditional ngakpa sangha-- mixed western and and Tibetan.
My lama told me point blank to a question I asked about uncut hair, as I had a
profession where suit wearing was typical, that it's not about hair length.
But I grew it out when in grad school and just left it. Most of us wear
whatever is appropriate for our career, except in the shrine room. I asked
my lama about this and he said: "Better not to brag by wearing ornaments
that say 'I'm the highest kind of Dharma practitioner' or otherwise bring
disrepute to the Sangha by being seen wearing robes in Bars." General vows
are kinda simple really-- don't harm as much as possible, benefit as much as possible,
and try to keep pure view as much as possible. And other people's behavior is none
of my business. Eat meat and drink a glass of wine as appropriate, don't smoke,
earn an honest wage and practice as much as possible. What else is there?
ngodrup
 
Posts: 554
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:58 pm

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby Yeti » Sat May 11, 2013 1:24 am

Many different teacher give different instructions, but if you are part of a particular sangha with a certain teacher and there are codes of attire associated with group practice, retreats, etc, then I think you need to follow and understand that approach, ask why you are doing it, I would think mostly there would be good reason and base to do that training with certain teachers.

I came across a Dharma friend wearing white ngakpa robes in Boudhnath, I at first thought he was tripping out, but then he told me his teacher had told him to wear this attire. That completely changes the landscape too me.

I think that if you follow a Shechen (HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche) there will be primary importance put on your three vows. The teachings I have heard from these lamas is that without your vows there is no basis for practice. Wearing the robes is not so monastic, but HHDKR I heard said that anyone who has the refuge vow ( and the basic five vows ) can wear the red robes.

I did 1/2 a 3yr under HHDKR in France (before HHDKR instructed me to leave due to ill health). We were encouraged to wear robes at all times, but many of us just reverted to loose casual clothing in our own huts and outside. But we had to wear robes in group morning and evening practice in the main gompa. Many of us wore track pants and the like underneath, but if HHDKR or Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche came to the retreat we could only wear robes formally and properly out of respect, with no track pants or the like. This was done as a sign of respect.

I think it's a mindfulness practice. It reminds one of the vows and teachings one has adopted. So I think basically it is used to invoke a sense of mindfulness in oneself to encompass and embody the discipline of practice.

I few years back I was not able to attend the teachings by one of the Shechen tulkus, but I rang him up, and one of the first things he said was that he was so happy to see two of the senior students attending teachings and empowerments in their ngakpa zen. I don't wear mine in public, because unlike my two vajra brothers, my practice is not up to the standard of the robe like them. These two have their long hair, and they both do a pretty thorough set of daily practices, including retreats and the like, but in daily life there's not that much, if anything that distinguishes them from the rest of society.

One ngakpa told me that if there are five or more students in a group at teachings of HH Dalai Lama He usually makes an enquiry about them (as he is genuinely interested).

At the same time there are people who I feel wear such robes as a show, but that is just petty illusion on my part if they are following the instructions of their lama.

I don't know if any of this has anything to do with who or what is a real naljor, I'm just putting in my 2c worth to both try to be respectful and also have an open mind about it.
"When a Dzogchen Yogi hears Shakyamuni Buddha turning the Wheel of the Dharma of the Four Noble Truths he hears Samathabhadra proclaiming the most profound Dzogpachenpo." - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
Yeti
 
Posts: 136
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:30 pm

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby sdw » Sat May 11, 2013 1:56 am

In my sangha those who have taken ngak'phang vows are instructed to wear robes when on retreat or attending teachings & practices. It is emphasized that when wearing the robes we are representing the tradition so it would not be appropriate to engage in behavior that would reflect badly on it (like drunkenness, vulgarity, or undignified behavior in general). Although I don't know if it was intended that way, robe-wearing serves as a practice of awareness & circumspection. For example, it would not be appropriate to sprawl on the floor while wearing this costume. One becomes aware of oneself as a visible example of a practitioner & this generally causes people to clean up their act.

Whyever couldn't there be real yogis in the West? Yogis are serious practitioners who are not monastics, that's all. In addition to householders with yaks & families there have always been yogis & yoginis who were either itinerant or lived alone & devoted their lives to practice.

By the way, the word 'lay' does not actually mean non-monastic. It means not ordained or not part of the clergy. If one has taken vows as a ngakpa one cannot be considered 'lay'.


Shardröl
sdw
 
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:05 pm

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby byamspa » Sat May 11, 2013 2:36 pm

I wear mine as I was instructed when I asked about it. I still feel a bit uncomfortable in my robes because I don't feel sometimes i'm really able to live up to all they represent. But i aspire to do that. I also prefer to blend into the background and that bright white and red zen sorta makes that impossible.

They definitely make me aware of my own comportment and state of mind. That right there is enough to keep the practise up I think.

And hey, it takes out the whole 'what do i pack to wear to retreat' question which is a nice side-effect. Its pretty easy to pack a bunch of white shirts, a couple white or maroon chupas and skirts, and one long piece of cloth that could be used as an emergency table cloth if you didn't know any better, or a super-hero cape.... just kidding :)

And i'll admit to enjoying a nice Fransizkaner or cabernet sauvignon on occasion... usually with dinner where i know the alcohol will not affect me as much.
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?
User avatar
byamspa
 
Posts: 152
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:13 pm
Location: Waponi Woo

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby Yeti » Sun May 12, 2013 1:14 am

I feel it is good to request instruction from your teacher on anything you do. For instance, I've seen some people (with the best of intention) purchase Dharma robes to wear for practice. But when they put on the lower skirt (Shamgyur/Shentab) they do so like you would put on a pair of trousers. I was taught that one never steps into these robes like that, but instead one puts them on by pulling them over ones head. This is done in respect for what the robes represent. Then there are certain ways of folding them, etc.

I don't put my zen on the floor or the like and try to treat it as a representation of the Dharma. To me it's all to do with training my mind (because my mind does need training), so I can train to reflect on what Dharma items represent. Hopefully it caries over into the next life time.

I know of lamas who will not even put newspaper or anything of printed form on the floor, or the like, because they say the written words represent the conveyance of knowledge so that must be respected, the media itself needs to be respected. It's amazing to learn how some beings train their perception.
"When a Dzogchen Yogi hears Shakyamuni Buddha turning the Wheel of the Dharma of the Four Noble Truths he hears Samathabhadra proclaiming the most profound Dzogpachenpo." - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
Yeti
 
Posts: 136
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:30 pm

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby randomseb » Sun May 12, 2013 5:14 am

This, it would appear to me, would depend on one's attachment to samsara, and the trappings involved in the form structure of the religion therein.. Ultimately, it's all about mind, so none of these things actually matter, unless of course, you need these constant reminders to retain your focus on the path..
Disclaimer: If I have posted about something, then I obviously have no idea what I am talking about!
User avatar
randomseb
 
Posts: 243
Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:12 am

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby MaitriYNOD » Sun May 12, 2013 6:37 am

I feel as though I have met westerners who are qualified to be called a Naljorpa, regardless of what they are wearing. More and more I am seeing the contention about the ability of Westerners to practice and achieve accomplishment as useless. The Buddha's teachings are just as effective for us as anyone else. Of course we have to go through a process of figuring out how best to apply them to our personal circumstances, but so does everybody, whether they're Tibetan, Thai, or Canadian. Self-doubt is a kind of laziness by some accounts. /rant.

Sorry if I went off topic.
I am a lustful, angry dullard with no power of realization. Do not put anything I say into practice without first confirming it with a qualified teacher.
MaitriYNOD
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Mar 08, 2013 5:03 am

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby Yeti » Sun May 12, 2013 9:10 am

randomseb wrote:This, it would appear to me, would depend on one's attachment to samsara, and the trappings involved in the form structure of the religion therein.. Ultimately, it's all about mind, so none of these things actually matter, unless of course, you need these constant reminders to retain your focus on the path..

I don't disagree with this, but the difference is if it is under instruction and mindfulness training of your teacher, then it becomes a different matter.
"When a Dzogchen Yogi hears Shakyamuni Buddha turning the Wheel of the Dharma of the Four Noble Truths he hears Samathabhadra proclaiming the most profound Dzogpachenpo." - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
Yeti
 
Posts: 136
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:30 pm

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun May 12, 2013 10:15 am

randomseb wrote:Ultimately, it's all about mind, so none of these things actually matter...
Actually, it is just as valid to say: Ultimately, it's all about mind, so ALL of these things actually matter since (the "things") are also nothing else but mind. ;)

My teacher gave me a lay teachers "bathrobe" to wear, with a zen, when teaching, but I don't. I find it tweaks my pride too much. Under the "worst" circumstances I'll wear a zen.
"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."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9267
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby pemachophel » Sun May 12, 2013 7:34 pm

Nilasaraswati,

Your two original questions were:

1. What qualifies a lay practitioner of the dharma?

2. What does that look like in the Berlin or Glasgow or San Francisco of today?

In answer to your first question, a lay practitioner of the Dharma, i.e., an upasaka or upasika, is anyone who has taken Refuge, with or without ge-nyen vows (as opposed to Refuge vows which everyone who has taken Refuge is expected to keep).

In answer to your second question, that doesn't necessarily look like anything special from the outside, whether in Kathmandu or Dharamsala, Berlin or San Francisco. However, if you are a member of a specific sangha, and more particularly a Vajrayana sangha, then the Teacher may recommend or require any of a range of (Dharma) costumes and personal grooming/hair options. In this case, the main thing is following the Teacher's instructions. What is recommended or required in one sangha may be quite contrary to the norms and practices of another. That being said, it's extremely important to find a Teacher you can feel real trust and devotion to and also to ask questions so that you understand what you are doing and why. If you're serious about practicing the Dharma, don't just choose a (Vajrayana) Teacher because of proximity. The stakes are way, way too high for that.

From the description of your sangha, say hi to Jerry from Bob. (Just a guess)

:namaste:
Pema Chophel པདྨ་ཆོས་འཕེལ
pemachophel
 
Posts: 564
Joined: Sat Dec 25, 2010 9:19 pm
Location: Lafayette, CO

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby heart » Sun May 12, 2013 8:16 pm

pemachophel wrote: That being said, it's extremely important to find a Teacher you can feel real trust and devotion to and also to ask questions so that you understand what you are doing and why. If you're serious about practicing the Dharma, don't just choose a (Vajrayana) Teacher because of proximity. The stakes are way, way too high for that.


As always you are hitting the spot Bob.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
User avatar
heart
 
Posts: 3080
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 1:55 pm

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby Nilasarasvati » Sun May 12, 2013 11:10 pm

Well, well, Bob Flaws your intuition is really good! :D
I would say hello but I moved from SLC a couple months ago. I believe his 65th birthday was a couple weeks ago. I wish him incredible longevity.

Yes I guess I was just curious about different people's experiences. This thread has confirmed most of my assumptions...and left bare some of my deeper curiosity about people living outside of traditional family and gender systems. I didn't say so explicitly but part of my question is this: traditional teachers might say to young people: get married or join the monastery. ASAP.

Neither of those are an option, what do you do? Who's experienc(ed/ing) this?
User avatar
Nilasarasvati
 
Posts: 428
Joined: Tue May 07, 2013 3:08 am
Location: Trāyastriṃśa. Just kidding. What a cool sanksrit word, huh?

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby ngodrup » Mon May 13, 2013 3:09 am

In response to your last question,
there are certainly a significant number
of fags and dykes in my Sangha and quite
a few of us have received go kar chang lo.
What I would say, is our queer-folk are not
very 'fabulous,' in the sense that we blend in
to the larger Sangha, are fairly low key, don't
draw attention to ourselves, are not dramatic.
We pretty much go about our lives and that
includes a fair amount of formal and informal
practice.
ngodrup
 
Posts: 554
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:58 pm

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby Nilasarasvati » Mon May 13, 2013 3:47 am

Thank you for using no uncertain terms, ngodrup :mrgreen:
Except I did have to look up go kar chang lo.
User avatar
Nilasarasvati
 
Posts: 428
Joined: Tue May 07, 2013 3:08 am
Location: Trāyastriṃśa. Just kidding. What a cool sanksrit word, huh?

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby conebeckham » Mon May 13, 2013 5:25 pm

Pemachopel and Ngodrup both have added great value to this thread. Excellent!
May any merit generated by on-line discussion
Be dedicated to the Ultimate Benefit of All Sentient Beings.
User avatar
conebeckham
 
Posts: 2651
Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:49 pm
Location: Bay Area, CA, USA

Re: Are there Really Naljor in the west?

Postby randomseb » Mon May 13, 2013 6:51 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
randomseb wrote:Ultimately, it's all about mind, so none of these things actually matter...
Actually, it is just as valid to say: Ultimately, it's all about mind, so ALL of these things actually matter since (the "things") are also nothing else but mind. ;)

My teacher gave me a lay teachers "bathrobe" to wear, with a zen, when teaching, but I don't. I find it tweaks my pride too much. Under the "worst" circumstances I'll wear a zen.


Hehe yes exactly.. I received my robe and zen yesterday, as well as being shown how to set it properly for the kagyu lineage, with the warning that the teacher will often point at us and say something like "look at these guys walking around in their fancy robes, aren't they silly?"

:rolling:

I'll wear it because I think it's very silly to dress up and put on a show of ritual and chanting for visitors, when it's all contrived illusion.. to counter-act my pride

:cheers:
Disclaimer: If I have posted about something, then I obviously have no idea what I am talking about!
User avatar
randomseb
 
Posts: 243
Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:12 am


Return to Nyingma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests

>