Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

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Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby J-Bird » Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:17 pm

Thought I would encourage a discussion the progress of Vajrayana (Specifically Tibetan Vajrayana) in the west.
It seems like there could be a justifiable concern that the explosion of interest in Tibetan buddhism seen in the last 50 years is now on the decline. I have noticed that many practitioners, while staying with the path, have moved over to other traditions, or have adopted more secular manifestations of traditional Tibetan lineages.

What do you think?
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:48 pm

J-Bird wrote:Thought I would encourage a discussion the progress of Vajrayana (Specifically Tibetan Vajrayana) in the west.
It seems like there could be a justifiable concern that the explosion of interest in Tibetan buddhism seen in the last 50 years is now on the decline. I have noticed that many practitioners, while staying with the path, have moved over to other traditions, or have adopted more secular manifestations of traditional Tibetan lineages.

What do you think?


There are few properly funded Tibetan monasteries in western countries.

That indeed means that it is in the hands of the laity who can and do lose interest in Vajrayana.

It is somewhat fashionable at the moment, but in a decade or two, will it be thriving?

It remains to be seen.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:10 pm

It seems (just my impression) to be very healthy and growing faster in the UK than other forms of Buddhism.

Critical to this 'stickability' will be:

- The Dalai Lama's legacy and his succession

- The 'quality asssurance' aspect - proper foundation through Sutrayana, Bodhichitta etc. to ensure that those in a rush to engage in Tantra don't start too soon and then drop it because of lack of progress or boredom, or engage in degenerate practices.

It's hard to bundle up Vajrayana into a single entity, but I think it would be a mistake for schools to dilute their practices in order that westerners can access a watered down version. To me, that would not be acceptable, but I know some lamas who think otherwise and are less demanding with their western disciples than I would be! LOL :)
For me, I would want westerners to be expected to study and practice as rigorously as they would if being taught in Tibet or India.

An interesting example of Theravadan practice in the UK is the Aukana Trust which teaches in a manner very true to its origins but has rejected 'cultural accretions' as far as possible. Maybe there is a message here for TB: http://www.aukana.org.uk/

I rejoice in having found a guru who seems to embody that delicate balance. :)
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby ground » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:01 am

J-Bird wrote:Thought I would encourage a discussion the progress of Vajrayana (Specifically Tibetan Vajrayana) in the west.
It seems like there could be a justifiable concern that the explosion of interest in Tibetan buddhism seen in the last 50 years is now on the decline. I have noticed that many practitioners, while staying with the path, have moved over to other traditions, or have adopted more secular manifestations of traditional Tibetan lineages.

What do you think?


I think that laypeople are attracted to Vajrayana because it appears so different in comparison to sutra buddhism which teaches all that renunciation stuff which is not liked by laypeople.
However I think that genuine Vajrayana practice is not compatible with a worldly life of today, i.e. it is not possible to "enter into it" as a beginner who lives a regular laylife. Therefore I consider the fact that laypeople are attracted to Vajrayana to be an instance of delusion.

It is a matter of time that people who started Vajrayana based on delusion will become aware of this delusion and then move on to other paths.

Kind regards
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:51 am

I think it's perfectly possible for laypeople living a worldly life to gain tantric realisations and it's precisely for this that Buddha taught Tantra in the first place. Obviously it's not possible to gain realisations by having a worldly attitude, but it's possible to have a normal life and practice tantra, there's no contradiction.

Buddha taught that we can transform all our worldly pleasures into the spiritual path and even in these spiritually degenerate time the practices of Heruka Tantra are very powerful.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:28 am

TMingyur wrote:
J-Bird wrote:Thought I would encourage a discussion the progress of Vajrayana (Specifically Tibetan Vajrayana) in the west.
It seems like there could be a justifiable concern that the explosion of interest in Tibetan buddhism seen in the last 50 years is now on the decline. I have noticed that many practitioners, while staying with the path, have moved over to other traditions, or have adopted more secular manifestations of traditional Tibetan lineages.

What do you think?


I think that laypeople are attracted to Vajrayana because it appears so different in comparison to sutra buddhism which teaches all that renunciation stuff which is not liked by laypeople.
However I think that genuine Vajrayana practice is not compatible with a worldly life of today, i.e. it is not possible to "enter into it" as a beginner who lives a regular laylife. Therefore I consider the fact that laypeople are attracted to Vajrayana to be an instance of delusion.

It is a matter of time that people who started Vajrayana based on delusion will become aware of this delusion and then move on to other paths.

Kind regards


I agree that nobody should enter Vajrayana as a beginner. I only know of one Vajrayana TB offshoot, as opposed to a TB tradition, where lay beginners can start with Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments and practice - a palpable nonsense in terms of the prerequisites of having studied sutrayana, developed renunciation, developed bodhichitta, tranquil abiding, understanding of emptiness etc.

You are absolutely correct in that it is an easy 'sale' to make to gullibe westerners, with the inherent dangers that it will lead to degenerate behaviour. For a few it becomes a living hell which they dare not leave due to superstitious fears, as 'reliance' shifts from the 3 Jewels to the teacher, and motivation may become sexual or fearful of wrathful beings they must propitiate. This I have observed.

It must lead to so much disappointment - like giving a kid the present of a toy robot but giving them no batteries. ;)
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Sun Jan 23, 2011 3:40 pm

Yeshe wrote:I agree that nobody should enter Vajrayana as a beginner. I only know of one Vajrayana TB offshoot, as opposed to a TB tradition, where lay beginners can start with Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments and practice - a palpable nonsense in terms of the prerequisites of having studied sutrayana, developed renunciation, developed bodhichitta, tranquil abiding, understanding of emptiness etc.

You are absolutely correct in that it is an easy 'sale' to make to gullibe westerners, with the inherent dangers that it will lead to degenerate behaviour. For a few it becomes a living hell which they dare not leave due to superstitious fears, as 'reliance' shifts from the 3 Jewels to the teacher, and motivation may become sexual or fearful of wrathful beings they must propitiate. This I have observed.

It must lead to so much disappointment - like giving a kid the present of a toy robot but giving them no batteries. ;)]


I agree that Tantra is not for beginners; without a thorough grounding in the three principal aspects of renunciation, bodhichitta and especially the wisdom realizing emptiness, Tantra doesn't even make any sense. Tantra accomplishes the goals of sutra, so without sutra, it's like firing an arrow without knowing where the target is - pretty senseless.

I think there are two extremes - giving Highest Yoga Tantra teachings and empowerments to beginners who are not properly grounded in Sutra practices, and making Highest Yoga Tantra so secret, mysterious and inacessible that everyone feels it's too advanced and is never encouraged to take empowerments and receive teachings. We must remember that Tantra is the ONLY direct path to enlightenment, so not to make it available to others would be harming sentient beings; however, on the other hand, encouraging complete beginners to practice without a solid foundation in moral discipline and without correctly understanding the nature, function and commitments of Tantra is wrong too.

As usual, the Middle Way is the answer! :smile: Skilful means.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Pero » Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:16 pm

TMingyur wrote:Therefore I consider the fact that laypeople are attracted to Vajrayana to be an instance of delusion.

It is a matter of time that people who started Vajrayana based on delusion will become aware of this delusion and then move on to other paths.


What you say makes no sense at all. You yourself started Vajrayana based on delusion, as has everyone else. If people weren't deluded there'd be no need for Vajrayana or Buddhism in general.

Frankly you guys sound a little like you sit on a high horse...
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby ground » Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:29 pm

Pero wrote:
TMingyur wrote:Therefore I consider the fact that laypeople are attracted to Vajrayana to be an instance of delusion.

It is a matter of time that people who started Vajrayana based on delusion will become aware of this delusion and then move on to other paths.


What you say makes no sense at all. You yourself started Vajrayana based on delusion, as has everyone else. If people weren't deluded there'd be no need for Vajrayana or Buddhism in general.

Frankly you guys sound a little like you sit on a high horse...


I may be deluded but I did not start Vajrayana path. And I am not sure whether I will start Vajrayana path in the future. I think I will not.

A little bit of mantra and visualization certainly is not the Vajrayana path. Sutrayana is of more benefit currently because I consider perfect renunciation and ethics of utmost importance.

Actually I am sort of opposed to the "Guru exaggeration" which is characteristic of Vajrayana path.

This does not mean that I reject the Vajrayana path. It just means that it is not my cup of tea currently. However reading about it (views) I find inspiring every now and then.


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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Sun Jan 23, 2011 7:08 pm

Talking about inspiration, from the Root Tantra of Heruka and Vajrayogini:

You should never abandon Highest Yoga Tantra
But realise that it has inconceivable meaning
And is the very essence of Buddhadharma.

also:

The good fortune of Heruka Tantra practice
Will be extremely hard to find in the future -
Thus you should not waste the opportunity you have now.

and

Just as fire quickly destroys objects,
The recitations and meditation of Heruka and Vajrayogini
Quickly destroy suffering.

Good luck to everyone on the path :buddha1:
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sun Jan 23, 2011 7:39 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Yeshe wrote:I agree that nobody should enter Vajrayana as a beginner. I only know of one Vajrayana TB offshoot, as opposed to a TB tradition, where lay beginners can start with Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments and practice - a palpable nonsense in terms of the prerequisites of having studied sutrayana, developed renunciation, developed bodhichitta, tranquil abiding, understanding of emptiness etc.

You are absolutely correct in that it is an easy 'sale' to make to gullibe westerners, with the inherent dangers that it will lead to degenerate behaviour. For a few it becomes a living hell which they dare not leave due to superstitious fears, as 'reliance' shifts from the 3 Jewels to the teacher, and motivation may become sexual or fearful of wrathful beings they must propitiate. This I have observed.

It must lead to so much disappointment - like giving a kid the present of a toy robot but giving them no batteries. ;)]


I agree that Tantra is not for beginners; without a thorough grounding in the three principal aspects of renunciation, bodhichitta and especially the wisdom realizing emptiness, Tantra doesn't even make any sense. Tantra accomplishes the goals of sutra, so without sutra, it's like firing an arrow without knowing where the target is - pretty senseless.

I think there are two extremes - giving Highest Yoga Tantra teachings and empowerments to beginners who are not properly grounded in Sutra practices, and making Highest Yoga Tantra so secret, mysterious and inacessible that everyone feels it's too advanced and is never encouraged to take empowerments and receive teachings. We must remember that Tantra is the ONLY direct path to enlightenment, so not to make it available to others would be harming sentient beings; however, on the other hand, encouraging complete beginners to practice without a solid foundation in moral discipline and without correctly understanding the nature, function and commitments of Tantra is wrong too.

As usual, the Middle Way is the answer! :smile: Skilful means.



I think we agree on this. :)

I think teachers must be proactive in advising their students on the timing of these things. There are many initiations available these days at all levels and in 'my perfect world' I would like to see all teachers advising students individually on the 'who what where how when and why' of Vajrayana.

I think of those who turn up at a mass initiation and accept the practice commitments etc. without really understanding. I feel so sad when they are unprepared and miss out on what could be one of the most important experiences of their lives. Instead, I would rather rejoice that their experience of the Vajrayana is well-guided and blissful. :)
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Rael » Sun Jan 23, 2011 8:07 pm

The Tulku who taught me and initiated me used to say from time to time that He thought Zen meditation was maybe a better choice of practices for the west.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:00 pm

Rael wrote:The Tulku who taught me and initiated me used to say from time to time that He thought Zen meditation was maybe a better choice of practices for the west.



I would need to know more about Shikantaza (and Shobogenzo scripture?) to compare it with Mahamudra practice as a generality. To do that with some credibility I would need to have experienced each and made some progress in each I guess - but would that be useful?

The little I do know leads me to suggest that each path will appeal to different westerners according to their karma and disposition, and progress in each may be similarly diverse.

I don't think one can generalise about the West or what will be most suitable - too many variables.

I wonder what 'cultural accretions' a Western Vajrayana will attract. Will some Christian, Hopi, Celtic, Norse etc. creep in? More interestingly, did it do so much earlier - Greek maybe?
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Rael » Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:26 am

Yeshe wrote:
Rael wrote:The Tulku who taught me and initiated me used to say from time to time that He thought Zen meditation was maybe a better choice of practices for the west.



I would need to know more about Shikantaza (and Shobogenzo scripture?) to compare it with Mahamudra practice as a generality. To do that with some credibility I would need to have experienced each and made some progress in each I guess - but would that be useful?

The little I do know leads me to suggest that each path will appeal to different westerners according to their karma and disposition, and progress in each may be similarly diverse.

I don't think one can generalise about the West or what will be most suitable - too many variables.

I wonder what 'cultural accretions' a Western Vajrayana will attract. Will some Christian, Hopi, Celtic, Norse etc. creep in? More interestingly, did it do so much earlier - Greek maybe?



Well if you really want to practice Vajrayana there comes a point where it's all you are going to do 24/7 for years to complete the completion stage.

Now this is not saying that doing Vajrayana has no benefit. I really benefited from it and it did indeed help me.

for a lot a people visualization mediation is imposable.

Where as Visappassana and Zen is more affording to their day.

Vajrayana is a total commitment. there are vows , and certain obligations one makes......and in most cases i know like me, breaks eventually...

Just a note on the Tulku...He said that Zen was more suited for western people not as an edict but as a second thought sort of thing. sometimes he just felt Vajrayana was not for the west en masse as it is dealt with.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby zerwe » Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:59 am

I think that with that there are enough monastic institutions that have survived and great efforts are being made to ensure that lineages will continue to survive in good hands. So, with that the Vajrayana will survive and remain accessible for some time to come. And with that in place there will always be practitioners who enter into the vehicle western and otherwise.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby ground » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:46 am

Rael wrote:Where as Visappassana and Zen is more affording to their day.

Vajrayana is a total commitment.

This is how it appears to me too, "total commitment" mainly meaning "breaking with worldly rules and obligations".


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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Rael » Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:23 am

TMingyur wrote:
Rael wrote:Where as Visappassana and Zen is more affording to their day.

Vajrayana is a total commitment.

This is how it appears mainly meaning "breaking with worldly rules and obligations".


Kind regards


How so>
you vow to do something with this worldly body.

you transform this worldly body into something still remaining in this worldly body in this world.

the rules are given to you in this world and are done and carried out in this world.

Your going to use your accomplishment in this world..
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby ground » Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:30 am

I am not talking about the state of realization but about entering the Vajrayana path.

And I say that you have to "break with worldly rules and obligations" in order to enter it.

Otherwise there is just delusion. This is my conviction.

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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Jan 24, 2011 11:23 am

Rael wrote:
Well if you really want to practice Vajrayana there comes a point where it's all you are going to do 24/7 for years to complete the completion stage.

Now this is not saying that doing Vajrayana has no benefit. I really benefited from it and it did indeed help me.

for a lot a people visualization mediation is imposable.

Where as Visappassana and Zen is more affording to their day.

Vajrayana is a total commitment. there are vows , and certain obligations one makes......and in most cases i know like me, breaks eventually...

Just a note on the Tulku...He said that Zen was more suited for western people not as an edict but as a second thought sort of thing. sometimes he just felt Vajrayana was not for the west en masse as it is dealt with.


I don't think there is yet a school which will suit everyone in the West.

I can't totally agree the distinction between those following Vajrayana in India, in Tibet, in Japan or in England. If your Tulku was in any of these places, why would one place be harder for him to practice than another? We have plenty of Geshes in the West, and the Dalai Lama travels extensively. We have Westerners who are Geshes.

Most of the obstructions to practice are matters of atttude and 'reality' within the mind. I'll give an extreme example:

Once one has entered the mandala of the Yidam, even 24/7, the only change is internal. You still eat, wash the dishes, poo and pee. Such everyday activities are still performed in monasteries by Vajrayana practitioners. What matters is the reality the practitiioner is experiencing, not the external reality others see.

The elephant in the room is the attitude that 'Hinayana' is a mindset which describes 'lower' or 'easier' practices. Vipassana would then perhaps wrongly be seen as 'HInayana' and something for those who in this life are not advanced enough to progress to the Vajrayana. This is wrong thinking, as Vajrayana is simply another path for the expression of the mind of Compassion, involving tranquil abiding etc. in the attempt to 'see things as they really are'.

I'm not sure that the vows are a problem either, and we should remember that Tantric Vows are traditionally taken by lay, non-celibate practitioners who are Tibetan Lamas living family life, as well as by monastics. The practice commitments are compatible with daily life, and it is likely that Western society could adapt to the daily practices in the way they now do with Muslim daily practices.

So I still think Vajrayana will 'stick' as long as people don't rush things. :)
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) : Will it stick ?

Postby Astus » Mon Jan 24, 2011 12:26 pm

"After observing this movement for 30 years, my conclusion is that Vajrayana is not really suitable for most people in both the West and in Asia, including Tibet. You cannot generalize, of course. There are certainly exceptions, but in most cases it is not suitable."
Shamar Rinpoche in "An Answer to a Question Raised about Bodhi Path - Why the Bodhi Path Centers I organized are not Vajrayana?", 06.07.10 - http://www.shamarpa.org

It is a valid point to make a distinction between Tibetan Buddhism and Vajrayana. I think there are lot of publications on Tibetan Buddhism, and it is still developing and growing, that generally speaking Tibetan Buddhism is now an important and significant part of Western Buddhism. How much of that is Vajrayana is a good question. For instance, I don't see tantras getting translated, only a few are available (not counting short 1-10 pages texts used internally by communities). And even those major ones translated (can think of only 3 now - Hevajra, Guhyagarbha, Cakrasamvara) they're done mainly with scholarly purposes (which is not a problem in itself, imo). So, while teachers are happy to share Dharma with the people, who spreads Vajrayana on all levels? Are there Western Vajra-masters?
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