What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplishing

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What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplishing

Postby Jikan » Tue Oct 22, 2013 6:48 pm

In recent threads here on Chinese Buddhism, Pure Land practice, and celibacy, there has been a recurring set of assumptions regarding what sorts of capacities laypersons have in practicing Dharma. On occasion, it has been implied or stated directly that authentic Dharma practice is incompatible with the householder's lifestyle. I'd like to know where DW members fall on this question, and to consider these varying arguments on their merits.

In the interest of fairness I will answer my own question too. Here 'tis: I think there are 84,000 Dharma-doors available for a reason. There are infinite openings into the Dharma because there are infinite different configurations of despair, confusion, aggression, &c. The Dharma accomodates itself to each of us in this way. Some of these are celibate paths; some of them are not. I'm thankful that we have inherited such a diverse diffusion of practices such that *anyone* with any kind of capacity can at least get a foot in the door and thereby get both feet on the path.

All of which is to say that I think monastics and laypersons are practicing Dharma authentically insofar as they are practicing at all. And I rejoice in their practice.

Your thoughts?
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby KonchokZoepa » Tue Oct 22, 2013 6:57 pm

my personal experience is that in vajrayana and mahayana the accomplishment of shamatha is neglected greatly. and held as unimportant to practice.
what i have read and more over how i personally feel about this is that shamatha is necessity if you want liberation or accomplish higher practices of vajrayana.

but there are practices for every capacity like you said, and that is great. so everyone can practice and move towards liberation, but if youre in a rush and want to really achieve liberation during this lifetime, then maybe doing retreats or spending some years as a monk or the whole lifetime could be necessary or helpful. for some people. of course this does not apply to all. so i cant generalize. this is how i feel it is for me, so i can only speak from my experience.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby invisiblediamond » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:03 pm

Vajrayana and Dzogchen are especially suited to lay practitioners.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby Simon E. » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:08 pm

invisiblediamond wrote:Vajrayana and Dzogchen are especially suited to lay practitioners.

Indeed.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby KonchokZoepa » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:25 pm

you still need shamatha to accomplish higher vajrayana practices, and that is usually ignored and overlooked.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby KonchokZoepa » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:29 pm

and i could imagine that shamatha is useful accomplishment in dzogchen also. the natural state will remain only as a glimpse, glimpse , glimpse , glimpse since the mind is restless and thus not able to concentrate.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:30 pm

KonchokZoepa wrote:you still need shamatha to accomplish higher vajrayana practices, and that is usually ignored and overlooked.


What does that have to do with what practices laypeople can accomplish?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby conebeckham » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:33 pm

Vajrayana practices include methods of Samatha. They just may not look like "silent sitting," what many people would consider the "classic meditation."

But that's beside the point of the thread, I guess.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby smcj » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:47 pm

Let us back up a second and remember that Dharma practice is usually said to be a multi-lifetime project. That being the case, nobody knows how much practice they have done in previous lives, so nobody knows how close to the goal they really are. Think of it like a marathon, only some people seemingly get to start at the 10 mile mark, some people seemingly are starting at the 20 mile mark, and some people are seemingly starting with the finish line in sight. They are actually just picking up where they left off int their last life.

So some "lowly householder" may sit down to do some Chenrezig practice and get startling results in a very short time. Or somebody else may be a monk and have lots of obstacles. It depends completely on individual karma.

So the person that gets results quickly has still done the work, only it was in a previous life. In fact, for people that doubt the idea of reincarnation, that can be used as an indication for the validity of it.

That being said, there is an advantage to being able to spend almost all of your time in practice. Whether householder or monk, the more time you spend the quicker you cover whatever distance is remaining. So as a generalization it could be said that the householder's progress will be slower, depending on how he is able to manage his time. Remember that Marpa was a householder.
Last edited by smcj on Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:57 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby KonchokZoepa » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:51 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
KonchokZoepa wrote:you still need shamatha to accomplish higher vajrayana practices, and that is usually ignored and overlooked.


What does that have to do with what practices laypeople can accomplish?



it has to do with the the topic '' what laypeople can accomplish '' since the topic here is also ''practices'' and some practices require some ''preliminary necessities'' like accomplishment of shamatha in example on the path of sutra mahamudra. so i think it is part of the topic what lay people can accomplish in the sense that im bringing up the requirements for some practices and talking about the reality of some vajrayana practices. and thus some of those practices are not suited for lay people very well since they have not accomplished shamatha.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:59 pm

Jikan wrote:Your thoughts?


It's not as black and white as people are making it seem. Asking whether it's still feasible for a lay practitioner to reach any stage of an arya-pudgala/ariya-puggala (http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Ariya-puggala), in modern society, is another question altogether.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby Jikan » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:20 pm

smcj wrote:That being said, there is an advantage to being able to spend almost all of your time in practice. Whether householder or monk, the more time you spend the quicker you cover whatever distance is remaining. So as a generalization it could be said that the householder's progress will be slower, depending on how he is able to manage his time. Remember that Marpa was a householder.


I think this is a spot-on point.

As a practical matter, do laypersons or monastics have more time available for practice? I really don't know if it's possible to generalize about these.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby KonchokZoepa » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:26 pm

im not at work but i spend my time in laziness and procrastination, and i like the solitude so living in the modern world is not the best environment. allthough its good practice, allthough difficult.

so that being said, its pretty much hard to generalize anyones situation. i guess it depends so much on the individual what level they are at.

i know people who are quite advanced and work a lot in normal job and have a family. and i know people who live a normal life and practice and are beginners. and people who live a lay life but dont work and are very accomplished. so it depends on so many factors. but basically i dont see that if the conditinos are right any reason why a lay person could not achieve liberation or enlightenment.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:33 pm

This article references, from the Pali canon, the number of lay practitioners who reached any of these 4 stages:

http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Lay_arahant
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby Punya » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:51 pm

smcj wrote:That being said, there is an advantage to being able to spend almost all of your time in practice. Whether householder or monk, the more time you spend the quicker you cover whatever distance is remaining. So as a generalization it could be said that the householder's progress will be slower, depending on how he is able to manage his time. Remember that Marpa was a householder.


I agree. Whether you are or ordained or a layperson you can spend a lot of time being an administrator, fund raiser or whatever. The important thing is how much time you are able to put into practice, and I would say especially in retreat situations ie minimising distractions.

I'm not sure how much it relates to the topic we're discussing KonchokZoepa, but my two main teachers were close students of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and they, following his advice, put a lot of emphasis on shamatha as the means of achieving a stable mind in which insight can occur. They sponsor/conduct shamatha/vipassana retreats in Australia. But there does seem to be an attitude amongst Vajrayana students, even within the sangha, that this is kindergarten stuff and not a desirable focus for retreat.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby conebeckham » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:56 pm

When Vajrayana practitioners sit down to do Creation stage practice, they are involved in Samatha.

In particular, most deity yoga systems include a "Clear Appearance" practice, which consists of placing the mind on visualized objects or aspects of the deity. For example, the Third eye of Hevajra in the forehead. Or the seed syllable in the heart.

These are samatha methods, no less than watching one's breath, or staring at a pebble in front of oneself.

Vajrayana is skillful means.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby KonchokZoepa » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:58 pm

this may work for some people but i think that most westerns mind are not really that interested in some third eye in deity's fourhead or a seed syllable in the heart that they could develop 4 hours of single pointed concentration.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby conebeckham » Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:04 pm

Ok, but Vajrayana practice does not require "Four Hours of Single Pointed concentration." In any case, those I've met and practiced with find these methods to be more effective in calming the mind and bringing about concentration than staring at a pebble, or counting one's breath. But there are 84,000 Dharma doors, eh?

Talking about accomplishing samatha is an interesting topic, too. Samatha is a means to an end. It is also a potential pitfall. Concentration, and ability to re-focus, are important tools, but they can also lead to rebirth in formless realms, etc. and can be a hindrance. I firmly believe laypeople can accomplish a requisite, workable samatha--using Vajrayana methods.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:04 pm

KonchokZoepa wrote:this may work for some people but i think that most westerns mind are not really that interested in some third eye in deity's fourhead or a seed syllable in the heart that they could develop 4 hours of single pointed concentration.


Anything can be an object of concentration, self as deity, front generalization, seed syllable, visualizing tigle, mantra, whatever, that is not different from Shamatha.

in fact, you can find books on shamatha that reccomend such practices as shamatha, lol.

When I got to talk to one of my teachers about this (shamatha vs, sadhana etc.), he told me that Chenrezig sadhana represents a complete practice, and includes Shamatha. I realize there might be differences of opinion of course.

There's some truth to the thing about westerners, but I think it's mainly that so many people are conditioned to freak out about anything remotely spiritual, so the very idea of visualizing deities etc. bothers them, thus they are simply more comfortable with focus on the breath etc. Less to do with one or the other "working better", and more to do with the fact that one is simply to out there for many people to consider at first.

I like visualizing stuff that is visually pleasing, rather than trying to focus on breath etc. so much, because it simply works better for me, I can actually concentrate better. Literally two practices of Chenrezig when I started I experienced deep concentration than in years of Zazen..so I think it depends entirely on the person. Same for sadhana involving music, that brings on almost immediate clarity and focus for me, I imagine for some it's the opposite and it would drive them crazy.

Anyway on the OP, I don't understand the fuss really, seen so many doctrinaire answers on here about how lay life involves all these distractions that need to be dispensed with. I've read the Pali Canon too, but my life is what it is...so whatever can be achieved, simply talking about it's disadvantages isn't real fruitful.

Even the Pali Canon with it's emphasis on renunciation mentions things like minfulness of the triple gem as a practice for householders, so obviously, someone thought lay practice was worthwhile.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:18 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: What sort of practice are laypeople capable of accomplis

Postby KonchokZoepa » Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:11 pm

personally i find very difficult to create single pointed concentration or silence ( for four hours ) without disturbance, doing normal deity yoga.

mind tends to be naturally quite and concentrated for me during my sadhana self generation and visualization but it doesnt last very long. maybe i should do the self generation a longer time period.

sorry :offtopic:
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