Is the tulku system too exclusive?

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Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 07, 2013 5:33 pm

As non-Tibetan Tibetan Buddhists, do you ever feel the tulku system ethnically excludes you? I know there are western tulkus, but not really so many (several of them don't have good track records to date too).

At best you can really just watch from the sidelines as the top Tibetan clerics make their judgements and write letters announcing a new tulku has been found. The whole administrative process and top brass are dominated by a small echelon of Tibetan men. As patrons and practitioners, doesn't it ever feel like you're being excluded from your own religion which you are supposed to be part and parcel of?

I don't ask that to be provocative. I'm actually interested in knowing what people think. You pay for and practice religious traditions which don't really embrace you or your kind into the administrative fold (at least not yet, but it doesn't seem like it will happen anytime soon).
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Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Pero » Sun Dec 08, 2013 1:30 am

Indrajala wrote:At best you can really just watch from the sidelines as the top Tibetan clerics make their judgements and write letters announcing a new tulku has been found.

That's no different than how it is for the average Tibetan.

The whole administrative process and top brass are dominated by a small echelon of Tibetan men. As patrons and practitioners, doesn't it ever feel like you're being excluded from your own religion which you are supposed to be part and parcel of?

IMO, the tulku system is not an actual part of my "religion". It is more like some kind of religous political system. I don't doubt there are some true tulkus but I personally couldn't care less who recognized who, it means absolutely nothing.
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Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:02 am

Pero wrote:IMO, the tulku system is not an actual part of my "religion". It is more like some kind of religous political system. I don't doubt there are some true tulkus but I personally couldn't care less who recognized who, it means absolutely nothing.


Seconded. :good:
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby reddust » Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:29 am

I have had to sort through the cultural baggage that goes along with studying Buddhism, my first Buddhist teacher from Korea was so helpful, explaining Karma regarding his traditions problems in the Monastic Sangha dealing with the Japanese. That was my first lesson regarding Karma. When I decided to pick my tradition I wasn't too shocked about all the stuff that goes on in Tibetan Buddhism….I agree too :namaste:
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:16 am

Indrajala wrote:As non-Tibetan Tibetan Buddhists, do you ever feel the tulku system ethnically excludes you? I know there are western tulkus, but not really so many (several of them don't have good track records to date too).

At best you can really just watch from the sidelines as the top Tibetan clerics make their judgements and write letters announcing a new tulku has been found. The whole administrative process and top brass are dominated by a small echelon of Tibetan men. As patrons and practitioners, doesn't it ever feel like you're being excluded from your own religion which you are supposed to be part and parcel of?

I don't ask that to be provocative. I'm actually interested in knowing what people think. You pay for and practice religious traditions which don't really embrace you or your kind into the administrative fold (at least not yet, but it doesn't seem like it will happen anytime soon).


No more exclusive than the catholic church...
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby reddust » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:32 am

I've noticed no matter what Buddhist tradition Western Folk go into its not Western Buddhism. I'm okay with that right now. It's like learning a recipe, you follow the directions until you've perfected the dish. That's when you can make the dish your own. That's how I see the Dharma and me. For me, I don't want to run anything, I am happy doing dishes, sweeping floors and cleaning the toilets. But I know some really good Western Buddhist that are doing an awesome job getting Buddhism established here in the West.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 08, 2013 5:26 am

Pero wrote:IMO, the tulku system is not an actual part of my "religion". It is more like some kind of religous political system. I don't doubt there are some true tulkus but I personally couldn't care less who recognized who, it means absolutely nothing.


Yet much of your lineage leadership is presumably decided by men who were given the tulku title at birth, as decided by a group of people you have few connections with. Many exclusive resources are put into tulkus which, perhaps, part of your contributions go to.

But then I guess if you don't pay into the system, it isn't an issue. Also, it won't matter if your tradition in your home country is politically and financially autonomous.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 08, 2013 5:30 am

Malcolm wrote:No more exclusive than the catholic church...


Yes and no. There's never been a Japanese pope, but the Japanese Catholics at least have Japanese cardinals who have a say during the papal elections.

There's nothing comparable in Tibetan Buddhism as far as I know. When they go searching for a new tulku, do they consult any non-Tibetans, like the folks from Singapore or western countries? How about the western TB sangha?
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby smcj » Sun Dec 08, 2013 5:48 am

As non-Tibetan Tibetan Buddhists, do you ever feel the tulku system ethnically excludes you? I know there are western tulkus, but not really so many (several of them don't have good track records to date too).

No, not really. There have been plenty of western tulkus. The problem is that they don't want to play the role of 'tulku'. I've heard of maybe one that has tried to follow through on the training.

The Tibetan teachers I've been close to would love to pass the torch. It's just not happening yet as far as they can see.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Karma Dorje » Sun Dec 08, 2013 7:45 am

Indrajala wrote:The whole administrative process and top brass are dominated by a small echelon of Tibetan men. As patrons and practitioners, doesn't it ever feel like you're being excluded from your own religion which you are supposed to be part and parcel of?


If I wanted to be an administrator, I would join a western corporation or university. They pay better and have better benefits packages. Why would anyone want to do boring stuff like administrating a religion? Why would anyone care about getting kudos from such a structure? Better to take the teachings and run and practice them in the comfort of one's own home. I feel no desire to be part and parcel of anything. If I wanted to do that I would join the local chess club.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby smcj » Sun Dec 08, 2013 7:53 am

Karma Dorje wrote:
Indrajala wrote:The whole administrative process and top brass are dominated by a small echelon of Tibetan men. As patrons and practitioners, doesn't it ever feel like you're being excluded from your own religion which you are supposed to be part and parcel of?


If I wanted to be an administrator, I would join a western corporation or university. They pay better and have better benefits packages. Why would anyone want to do boring stuff like administrating a religion? Why would anyone care about getting kudos from such a structure? Better to take the teachings and run and practice them in the comfort of one's own home. I feel no desire to be part and parcel of anything. If I wanted to do that I would join the local chess club.

:good:
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:09 am

Tibetans themselves know that in many cases the system is not really "working" that well. But without tulkus fundraising, maintaining continuity and keeping students all become more difficult, so it is a catch-22.
Personally, if someone is a tulku it makes me more scrutinizing of their behaviour and knowledge, not less. I have seen to many tulkus ride the wave of their recognition but accomplish very little.
That being said, TB is not without exceptional tulkus- HHDL, HH Karmapa, HH Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche and Zong Yangsi come to mind. But when I say "exceptional" I really mean that- they stand out from the pack, they are not the norm.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:17 am

Karma Dorje wrote:
Indrajala wrote:The whole administrative process and top brass are dominated by a small echelon of Tibetan men. As patrons and practitioners, doesn't it ever feel like you're being excluded from your own religion which you are supposed to be part and parcel of?


If I wanted to be an administrator, I would join a western corporation or university. They pay better and have better benefits packages. Why would anyone want to do boring stuff like administrating a religion? Why would anyone care about getting kudos from such a structure? Better to take the teachings and run and practice them in the comfort of one's own home. I feel no desire to be part and parcel of anything. If I wanted to do that I would join the local chess club.


That's rather selfish. In the absence of administration, you wouldn't have the ability to "take the teachings and run and practice them in the comfort of one's own home".
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:06 am

I can understand where karma dorje is coming from. My physical isolation from the scene allows me to remain uninvolved in dharma politics and intrigue, I am 100% certain that it is an advantageous situation. I go in,receive teachings and then go off and practice them.

Getting back to the OP, LamaGiorgos once said to me: we are all tulkus.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby michaelb » Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:18 pm

Indrajala wrote:That's rather selfish. In the absence of administration, you wouldn't have the ability to "take the teachings and run and practice them in the comfort of one's own home".
How does that follow? You could just go and see your lama, make offerings, request teachings, get teachings, go home and practice them. Why does that require any admin? TB is based on a person's personal relationship with their lama. Who they choose as a lama is entirely up to them. They could choose a tulku or someone high in some monastic administration or not, but their administrative role is not pertinent to their role as a lama.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sun Dec 08, 2013 1:13 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Getting back to the OP, LamaGiorgos once said to me: we are all tulkus.


i think Chogyam Trungpa said that also.

also, i couldn't care less who chooses the tulkus. its not my concern. I'm interested in finding real masters, if the elite tibetan lamas find them easily by the tulku system, thats great. my refuge lama is a tulku, a real tulku and he is the most extraordinary lama i have met. the wisdom like a solid mountain is his presence with the warmth of love and compassion like a sun that radiates warmth that warms your heart without saying or doing anything, just his presence.

a question, do westerners have the skills, clairvoyance, visions, and karmic connection with the tulkus to be even able to recognize them. i dont think so.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 08, 2013 1:20 pm

michaelb wrote:
Indrajala wrote:That's rather selfish. In the absence of administration, you wouldn't have the ability to "take the teachings and run and practice them in the comfort of one's own home".
How does that follow? You could just go and see your lama, make offerings, request teachings, get teachings, go home and practice them. Why does that require any admin? TB is based on a person's personal relationship with their lama. Who they choose as a lama is entirely up to them. They could choose a tulku or someone high in some monastic administration or not, but their administrative role is not pertinent to their role as a lama.


We need to consider how Buddhist institutions operate. The Lamas I know all received some degree of education in an institutional setting, whether it be a simple gonpa or a full shedra program. All such facilities need to be built and maintained. There is also the need to dialog with state authorities and in some places see to taxation issues and so forth.

In the past and today, the process of cataloging, preserving and reproducing the canon depended on libraries and individuals trained for the task. This of course required funding and resources, which had to be acquired and distributed through some kind of administrative mechanism.

You can indeed just go to some teacher, receive the teachings and go home to practice them. However, there is a whole number of administrators in the background of any given Buddhist system which enable the whole machine to operate from representatives to monastic officials to simple librarians and xylographers. In the west you also have fundraisers who see to raising money for their centers, too. The folks organizing retreats and related facilities also do some degree of administration.

Ideally, an autonomous teacher could be trained and live their whole life free from an institution (which requires administration), but in actual practice this is seldom the case. The book you read, either in Tibetan or English, required administrators to make it possible.

There's a lot of work that goes into running the show. You may contribute as much or as little as you like.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 08, 2013 1:21 pm

KonchokZoepa wrote:a question, do westerners have the skills, clairvoyance, visions, and karmic connection with the tulkus to be even able to recognize them. i dont think so.


In my opinion this will be a great hindrance to the transmission of any form of Buddhism into the west: the belief that only Asian men basically can have advanced skills, clairvoyance, visions and suitable karmic connections.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Dec 08, 2013 1:31 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Pero wrote:IMO, the tulku system is not an actual part of my "religion". It is more like some kind of religous political system. I don't doubt there are some true tulkus but I personally couldn't care less who recognized who, it means absolutely nothing.


Yet much of your lineage leadership is presumably decided by men who were given the tulku title at birth, as decided by a group of people you have few connections with. Many exclusive resources are put into tulkus which, perhaps, part of your contributions go to.

But then I guess if you don't pay into the system, it isn't an issue. Also, it won't matter if your tradition in your home country is politically and financially autonomous.


Pero and i do not belong to a school grounded in the traditional tibetan monastic system. So it is not really an issue for us.
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Re: Is the tulku system too exclusive?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 08, 2013 1:36 pm

Malcolm wrote:Pero and i do not belong to a school grounded in the traditional tibetan monastic system. So it is not really an issue for us.


Understood.
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