General Devotion Thread

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General Devotion Thread

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:44 pm

from a thread on abusive relations in Dharma communities:

PadmaVonSamba wrote:For the sake of moving this conversation forward a little, I am going to make a wild guess here,
that what shel is addressing is the issue of devotion,
specifically what is the nature of student devotion to a teacher, what does it actually mean,
and what sort of dangers exist within that context.

Since the actual topic of this thread is a request for comments on an article on
Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communities,
I suggest that a new thread be opened, by anyone who really wants to discuss
"Devotion To a Teacher - Potential Benefits and Dangers"
.
.
.


In think PadmaVonSamba is onto something here. Devotion is understood in different ways in different contexts. I'd like to know how you understand devotion and its role in Dharma practice.
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:57 pm

Hopefully this is not off topic - but I just happen to be reading Jamgon Kongtrul's first three books in his encyclopedia - how Buddhism came from India to Tibet. The first part is about Shakyamuni Buddha and is a reiteration of the various stories of Shakyamuni's devotion to various Buddha's over the course of his past live's.

Shakyamuni is said to have given flowers and other gifts to Buddha's whom he met in many lifetimes. The results from minor gifts was immense.

In our time, we may have an idealization of this archetype. However it is still valid to view a teacher as a pure, fully enlightened being. They are after all, a manifestation of the Dharma. But now we have to beware of some impure teachers. This happened too during Buddha's time - Anguilimala's teacher is that sort of example.

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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:11 pm

kirtu wrote: They are after all, a manifestation of the Dharma.

Yes, that is the whole point of devotion to a teacher,
and why that teacher was devoted to his teacher
all the way back.
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:34 pm

kirtu wrote:Hopefully this is not off topic - but I just happen to be reading Jamgon Kongtrul's first three books in his encyclopedia - how Buddhism came from India to Tibet. The first part is about Shakyamuni Buddha and is a reiteration of the various stories of Shakyamuni's devotion to various Buddha's over the course of his past live's.

Shakyamuni is said to have given flowers and other gifts to Buddha's whom he met in many lifetimes. The results from minor gifts was immense.

In our time, we may have an idealization of this archetype. However it is still valid to view a teacher as a pure, fully enlightened being. They are after all, a manifestation of the Dharma. But now we have to beware of some impure teachers. This happened too during Buddha's time - Anguilimala's teacher is that sort of example.

Kirt


Yes. This is a theme that comes up again and again in the Mahayana sutras.

I suppose it makes some sense to differentiate the different objects of devotion in Mahayana. I think all schools without exception encourage devotion to the Three Jewels (although the form of devotion and perhaps the meaning of the word varies). In Vajrayana, it's hardly unusual to be asked to consider the Guru as the union of the Three Jewels, and hence as an appropriate object of devotion and source of refuge.

which opens the question... what's the relation between devotion and refuge? does Buddhism make sense or even function in the absence of refuge? in the absence of an attitude of devotion toward the Three Jewels?
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:49 pm

Jikan wrote: does Buddhism make sense or even function in the absence of refuge?

I have heard it expressed this way...
Anyone can learn from the Dharma and benefit from it,
just as anyone can go to the market and buy vegetables.
The difference between taking refuge and not
is like the difference between buying vegetables at the market,
that someone else has grown,
and being able to grow them yourself.
.
.
.
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby PorkChop » Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:17 pm

Jikan wrote:what's the relation between devotion and refuge? does Buddhism make sense or even function in the absence of refuge? in the absence of an attitude of devotion toward the Three Jewels?


I think "devotion" tends to be a loaded word in the west, as does "faith"; especially for people interested in Buddhism, who tend to have a distaste for religion or the metaphysical in general. On one hand you've got the definitions of "devotion" as "commitment" and as "practice", on the other you've got the idea of "emotional worship". On one hand you've got the definitions of "faith" as "trust" or "confidence", on the other you've got the ideas of completely surrendering critical thinking capabilities and belief without proof. "Refuge" I think maybe has too soft a common perception of what it entails. The definition of "refuge" is "something that provides safety or shelter." I think some people may only perceive this in the sense of their time at a temple or dharma center and being in a safe environment.

Compounding the issue of the perception of "refuge" is how often people quote "take no refuge but yourselves" from the Nibbana Sutta in the Pali; a recommendation to a very specific audience of renunciates who'd received 1 on 1 instruction from the Buddha over the previous ~35 years. Similar quotes are also used to dismiss the ideas of devotion and ritual; which again were recommended to a very specific audience. I believe (could be wrong) that these quotes may have come to popularity as a result of the Sri Lankan debates with Christianity in the 1800s; thus jump-starting the idea of the "modern, rational Buddhist" (I've gotten this history from Peter Harvey's Intro to Buddhism book). The end result is that you have a bunch of people coming to Buddhism thinking it's nothing but rational science, disregard refuge altogether, are quick to dismiss any ritual they don't understand, look down on what you might call "ethnic Buddhism", and ridicule anything resembling devotion.

I don't think "ethnic Buddhism" is going anywhere anytime soon. On the other hand, "modern, rational Buddhism" has already posed some interesting questions to the traditional model of renunciates and laypeople: why renounce if rebirth is just metaphorical? why support the monks if there's no such thing as merit? why can't the attainments of lay people equal or surpass the renunciates? Obviously different approaches work for different individuals, otherwise we wouldn't be talking about 84,000 different Dharma doors. People will gravitate towards the approach that suits them best.
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:20 am

Very nice thread.

Of course bhakti in Vajrayana becomes guru yoga etc.

I think that human beings have this thirst for bhakti.
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby shel » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:59 am

Jikan wrote:what's the relation between devotion and refuge? does Buddhism make sense or even function in the absence of refuge? in the absence of an attitude of devotion toward the Three Jewels?


I'm more inclined to ask if Buddhism makes any sense in the absence of refuge in, and devotion toward, the Three Jewels. If it doesn't at least try to encompass a larger scope than the Three Jewels perhaps it isn't worth much.
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby Seishin » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:44 am

When I think of refuge I think of support for me. When I think of devotion I think of support for other. I think taking refuge in the Three Jewels is actually a bit of both. I don't see how it can be any other way. But like someone has already said, devotion is loaded in the west, I think because it's usually associated with blind faith and subservience. But one can be devoted to their child and not be subservient, if the devotion comes from compassion.

Gassho,
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:15 pm

The point of Dharma is liberation from suffering.
What was explained to me is that all beings look for liberation from suffering.
They want to be free from fear, danger, hunger, etc.
And ultimately, what all beings want is perfect liberation, perfect "happiness"
meaning that once they are free from suffering, there will not be a return to suffering.
But since beings rely on things which do not uproot the causes of suffering,
even if they get some relief, it is only temporary.
Relying on is also called taking refuge in.
In other words, usually people take, as objects of refuge, things such as money or possessions
thinking that these things will bring them perfect happiness.
but the money runs out, or they get bored with what they have acquired
and the suffering returns.
But Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma & Sangha,
because this path perfectly uproots the causes of suffering.
So, the issue isn't that Buddhism doesn't encompass more than this.
It teaches a lot about compassion and calming the mind, patience, generosity, kindness, ethical conduct, etc.
things which anyone can benefit from regardless of whether they take refuge in the three jewels or not.
In that respect, sure, it makes a lot of sense. Buddhism doesn't hold a monopoly on those things.
But if one still looks for the perfect cessation of suffering in things that don't uproot the causes of suffering,
even performing all those good activities will only bring temporary results.
.
.
.
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby Jnana » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:19 pm

shel wrote:
Jikan wrote:what's the relation between devotion and refuge? does Buddhism make sense or even function in the absence of refuge? in the absence of an attitude of devotion toward the Three Jewels?


I'm more inclined to ask if Buddhism makes any sense in the absence of refuge in, and devotion toward, the Three Jewels. If it doesn't at least try to encompass a larger scope than the Three Jewels perhaps it isn't worth much.

What isn't included in the dharma (second jewel)?
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby shel » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:04 pm

Jnana wrote:
shel wrote:
Jikan wrote:what's the relation between devotion and refuge? does Buddhism make sense or even function in the absence of refuge? in the absence of an attitude of devotion toward the Three Jewels?


I'm more inclined to ask if Buddhism makes any sense in the refuge in, and devotion toward, the Three Jewels. If it doesn't at least try to encompass a larger scope than the Three Jewels perhaps it isn't worth much.

What isn't included in the dharma (second jewel)?


How about things like God and an eternal soul? :tongue:
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:08 pm

Jikan wrote:which opens the question... what's the relation between devotion and refuge? does Buddhism make sense or even function in the absence of refuge? in the absence of an attitude of devotion toward the Three Jewels?


"Non-Buddhists and Buddhists are distinguished by taking refuge."
Jigten Sumgon Gonchig
Commentary:
"The Madhyamaka viewpoint, conduct, compassion, abandonment of clinging to a self,
The four seals that characterise the Dharma, etc, none of them mark a difference [for a being a Buddhist or not].
Accepting the Sakya Lord as one's teacher, taking refuge in the teaching
That dwelled in his mind and was proclaimed [by him],
[Taking refuge] in the sangha - through this the diffeence is marked, not by anything else."
Rigdzin Chokyi Dragpa the Lamp Dispelling the Darkness
"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
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby Andrew108 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:24 pm

The devotion aspect is linked to the wish to benefit beings; with the teacher as facilitator of that wish. I don't think it should be much more than that.
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby greentara » Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:26 pm

Devotion is where the mind is at. 'A lady devotee who lived nearby,
complained to the guru that she had not been able to come to His Hall, for fifteen days because she had to attend to relatives who had come to stay. He replied: 'That is good. It is better that you were
at home with your relatives and that your mind was here, then if you had been here and your mind had been thinking of them'
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby lighthearted » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:30 pm

Hello. This is my first post. I am new to Buddhist dharma.

greentara, enjoyed that teaching story. :smile:

PorkChop wrote:The definition of "refuge" is "something that provides safety or shelter."

Thank you for this. Reflecting now on my first dharma sitting, I realize that I experienced just this. That safety. Then, practicing at home, was able to emulate that nourishing safety. Allowing the practices deep into my heart, making way for a spontaneous unfolding of the "benefits" of practice.

Next week the lama of my center will be giving refuge before he travels for a few months. Devotion will be on my mind and in my heart in anticipation of the ceremony.

Best to all. _/\_ :heart:
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby Ayu » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:35 pm

lighthearted wrote:...
Thank you for this. Reflecting now on my first dharma sitting, I realize that I experienced just this. That safety. Then, practicing at home, was able to emulate that nourishing safety. Allowing the practices deep into my heart, making way for a spontaneous unfolding of the "benefits" of practice.

Next week the lama of my center will be giving refuge before he travels for a few months. Devotion will be on my mind and in my heart in anticipation of the ceremony.

Best to all. _/\_ :heart:

Hello and welcome. This is wonderful. You are right. :smile:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: General Devotion Thread

Postby lighthearted » Mon Apr 01, 2013 11:59 pm

Ayu wrote:Hello and welcome. This is wonderful. You are right. :smile:

Thank you for the welcome Ayu!
:namaste:
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