Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Padme » Sun Mar 20, 2011 11:42 pm

LastLegend (or anyone):

I was just on Buddhanet reading about Dependent Origin. Maybe you can answer a question for me, because I'm confused:

At the bottom of the list of 12 Links of Dependent Arising, it states this:

**The Theravada tradition uses it to explain the arising of sufferings; that all composite existence is without substantiality. This doctrine is then used the basis for the negation of self.

**In the Mahayana, condition arising is further interpreted to validate the unreality of existence by reason of its relativity.


It actually goes on to interpret other schools, but I just chose these two as common examples. I don't understand the difference between the above Theravada and Mahayana views? Theravada says "all composite existence is without substantiality" and Mahayana says "the unreality of existence by reason of its relativity". What's the difference here? It sounds like different wording of the same opinion.
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 21, 2011 12:45 am

Padme wrote:LastLegend (or anyone):

I was just on Buddhanet reading about Dependent Origin. Maybe you can answer a question for me, because I'm confused:

At the bottom of the list of 12 Links of Dependent Arising, it states this:

**The Theravada tradition uses it to explain the arising of sufferings; that all composite existence is without substantiality. This doctrine is then used the basis for the negation of self.

**In the Mahayana, condition arising is further interpreted to validate the unreality of existence by reason of its relativity.


It actually goes on to interpret other schools, but I just chose these two as common examples. I don't understand the difference between the above Theravada and Mahayana views? Theravada says "all composite existence is without substantiality" and Mahayana says "the unreality of existence by reason of its relativity". What's the difference here? It sounds like different wording of the same opinion.


Lets look at rice for example. A rice seed needs soil, water, sunlight, and temperature to germinate. Soil, water, sunlight, and temperature are called conditions. Without one of these conditions, the seed will not germinate, and there will be no rice grass. For example, if you put the seed on the table, it will not germinate for it lacks of these conditions. When these conditions are no longer together for example aging, there will be no rice grass anymore. When the rice grows old and eventually no longer able to suck the water and absorb the sunlight, the rice will wilt and eventually fall apart to become dust. The condition arising and falling also happen at the subtle level which our human eyes cannot detect; this is the effect of aging at subtle level.

Another example is the body. The body is composed from 4 elements of earth, water, wind, and fire. Without any of these, the body is not sustained and therefore will die [conditions no longer together]. Without taking in earth (food), the body will die. Without taking in water, the body will die. Without fire or temperature to regulate the body, the body will die. Lastly very important, without wind or one breath of air, the body will die. When we grow very old that we can't no longer take in food, water, air, and strength to keep the body warm, the body will die as these conditions are no longer together.

Don't get caught up with vocabularies even in Pali or Sanskrit...understanding the message is important here.

If you read something over and over and over again, you will understand the message that the author tries to portray. The same goes for sutras, just read over and over again you don't have to think or analyze. Let the meaning come to you. The point here is you are not using you thinking to understand things, you are using your non-discriminatory mind to understand. In other words, concentrate on reading sutras or anything without being distracted by thinking. It is just like meditation while you are reading. So use concentration to read. Some people read and stop to analyze thus only getting one part but missing the whole picture. Non-discriminatory mind is able to tell if something is not right for when it is without distraction of thinking, it is objective. Concentration leads to pure mind/wisdom...this is true even for an hour or two to concentrate on reading. It is not the same as blindly accepting what you read. In other words, use a clear mind to read. I hope I am making sense.
Last edited by LastLegend on Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Padme » Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:11 am

LastLegend wrote:
Padme wrote:LastLegend (or anyone):

I was just on Buddhanet reading about Dependent Origin. Maybe you can answer a question for me, because I'm confused:

At the bottom of the list of 12 Links of Dependent Arising, it states this:

**The Theravada tradition uses it to explain the arising of sufferings; that all composite existence is without substantiality. This doctrine is then used the basis for the negation of self.

**In the Mahayana, condition arising is further interpreted to validate the unreality of existence by reason of its relativity.


It actually goes on to interpret other schools, but I just chose these two as common examples. I don't understand the difference between the above Theravada and Mahayana views? Theravada says "all composite existence is without substantiality" and Mahayana says "the unreality of existence by reason of its relativity". What's the difference here? It sounds like different wording of the same opinion.


Lets look at rice for example. A rice seed needs soil, water, sunlight, and temperature to germinate. Soil, water, sunlight, and temperature are called conditions. Without one of these conditions, the seed will not germinate, and there will be no rice grass. For example, if you put the seed on the table, it will not germinate for it lacks of these conditions. When these conditions are no longer together for example aging, there will be no rice grass anymore. When the rice grows old and eventually no longer able to suck the water and absorb the sunlight, the rice will wilt and eventually fall apart to become dust. The condition arising and falling also happen at the subtle level which our human eyes cannot detect; this is the effect of aging at subtle level.

Another example is the body. The body is composed from 4 elements of earth, water, wind, and fire. Without any of these, the body is not sustained and therefore will die [conditions no longer together]. Without taking in earth (food), the body will die. Without taking in water, the body will die. Without fire or temperature to regulate the body, the body will die. Lastly very important, without wind or one breath of air, the body will die. When we grow very old that we can't no longer take in food, water, air, and strength to keep the body warm, the body will die as these conditions are no longer together.


That was a very good description, and thank you. But what I don't understand is the difference between the Theravada and Mahayana interpretations of this. The part I put in bold was written as if to say "Here's how each of the following traditions interpret the 12 Links of Dependent Arising..." but to me, the interpretations between the two schools seem the same. You were saying when I understand these things, the school/path for me will be clear. Now, I've only read it lightly, so I hardly have a "deep understanding" of it yet, but I don't see the differences in how to two schools I mentioned view the Dependent Arising. Unless I completely misunderstood your explanation, and if so I apologize. But I just don't see a difference on how the two schools view this.
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:32 am

That was a very good description, and thank you. But what I don't understand is the difference between the Theravada and Mahayana interpretations of this. The part I put in bold was written as if to say "Here's how each of the following traditions interpret the 12 Links of Dependent Arising..." but to me, the interpretations between the two schools seem the same. You were saying when I understand these things, the school/path for me will be clear. Now, I've only read it lightly, so I hardly have a "deep understanding" of it yet, but I don't see the differences in how to two schools I mentioned view the Dependent Arising. Unless I completely misunderstood your explanation, and if so I apologize. But I just don't see a difference on how the two schools view this.


You are right that the interpretations are same. How can they be different when 12 Conditional Factors were taught by Buddha? Just different ways of saying it in different expressions. The essence of something is able to express itself in different forms or expressions. So it is not rigid to a form...this applying to being dogmatic also. So you were able to recognize that the interpretations are the same. If they are not the same, we would have a problem right. Is this not deep understanding?

A flower is 'beautiful' is relative and an attachment without seeing that this flower was brought together by conditions and will become dust when conditions are no longer together. Grasping on to this flower and trying to become its owner is suffering for the flower is not owned by anything as it will become dust any time...Buddha Nature is permanent while anything else that is subject to change is not. The polluted Buddha Nature is called self (also impermanent as thoughts come and go (arising and falling/birth and death) continuously). Grasping on to self is suffering as pre-distinction of there is self there is other, losing and gaining, right and wrong, benefits for me versus benefits for others, mine is superior versus yours is inferior, etc.

Don't get caught up with vocabularies even in Pali or Sanskrit...understanding the message is important here.

If you read something over and over and over again, you will understand the message that the author tries to portray. The same goes for sutras, just read over and over again you don't have to think or analyze. Let the meaning come to you. The point here is you are not using your thinking to understand things, you are using your non-discriminatory mind to understand. In other words, concentrate on reading sutras or anything without being distracted by thinking. It is just like meditation while you are reading. So use concentration to read. Some people read and stop to analyze thus only getting one part but missing the whole picture. Non-discriminatory mind is able to tell if something is not right for when it is without distraction of thinking, it is objective. Concentration leads to pure mind/wisdom...this is true even for an hour or two to concentrate on reading. It is not the same as blindly accepting what you read. In other words, use a clear mind to read. I hope I am making sense.
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Padme » Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:57 am

Thanks LL, maybe I'm understanding more than I thought. And yes, you made perfect sense about the reading and not over-analyzing it. I have done both. I have read and tried very hard to pick it apart, make sure I understand it, etc. Then other times I have read with a more relaxed, less rigid approach and find that I understand things better that way. So I will definitely be mindful to try and not over-analyze when I read.

You said "How can they be different when 12 Conditional Factors were taught by Buddha?" I agree that this should be the case, but I do read about some differences, such as Theravada not believing in "buddha-nature", etc. This confuses me, because as you pointed out earlier, how can there be such a drastic difference from the same original teacher?

And yes, the Pali and Sanskrit vocabulary variations are somewhat frustrating. My only fear is using the wrong term in buddhist circles and looking like an idiot, although I do know that the message is the same.
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:30 am

Padme wrote:Thanks LL, maybe I'm understand more than I thought. And yes, you made perfect sense about the reading and not over-analyzing it. I have done both. I have read and tried very hard to pick it apart, make sure I understand it, etc. Then other times I have read with a more relaxed, less rigid approach and find that I understand things better that way. So I will definitely be mindful to try and not over-analyze when I read.

You said "How can they be different when 12 Conditional Factors were taught by Buddha?" I agree that this should be the case, but I do read about some differences, such as Theravada not believing in "buddha-nature", etc. This confuses me, because as you pointed out earlier, how can there be such a drastic difference from the same original teacher?

And yes, the Pali and Sanskrit vocabulary variations are somewhat frustrating. My only fear is using the wrong term in buddhist circles and looking like an idiot, although I do know that the message is the same.


About Buddha Nature...It is also called citta (mind) in Theravada. Where is mind? Ahh of course not that small to be inside the body or outside of the body. Also, in 12 Conditional Factors what came with ignorance? If that is not Buddha Nature, then what is it? So mind here is Buddha Nature and not the thinking mind (6th consciousness). So mind and Buddha Nature use interchangeably. Everything is in Buddha Nature or mind, and nothing is outside of it. You can call it infinite. If they don't believe in Buddha Nature, why do they even practice Buddhism? To cultivate what? What is hidden beneath that self if not Buddha Nature? Without Buddha Nature, we would be like a rock.

Just remember to practice because most don't lol
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Padme » Mon Mar 21, 2011 5:13 am

LastLegend wrote:
Padme wrote:Thanks LL, maybe I'm understand more than I thought. And yes, you made perfect sense about the reading and not over-analyzing it. I have done both. I have read and tried very hard to pick it apart, make sure I understand it, etc. Then other times I have read with a more relaxed, less rigid approach and find that I understand things better that way. So I will definitely be mindful to try and not over-analyze when I read.

You said "How can they be different when 12 Conditional Factors were taught by Buddha?" I agree that this should be the case, but I do read about some differences, such as Theravada not believing in "buddha-nature", etc. This confuses me, because as you pointed out earlier, how can there be such a drastic difference from the same original teacher?

And yes, the Pali and Sanskrit vocabulary variations are somewhat frustrating. My only fear is using the wrong term in buddhist circles and looking like an idiot, although I do know that the message is the same.


About Buddha Nature...It is also called citta (mind) in Theravada. Where is mind? Ahh of course not that small to be inside the body or outside of the body. Also, in 12 Conditional Factors what came with ignorance? If that is not Buddha Nature, then what is it? So mind here is Buddha Nature and not the thinking mind (6th consciousness). So mind and Buddha Nature use interchangeably. Everything is in Buddha Nature or mind, and nothing is outside of it. You can call it infinite. If they don't believe in Buddha Nature, why do they even practice Buddhism? To cultivate what? What is hidden beneath that self if not Buddha Nature? Without Buddha Nature, we would be like a rock.

Just remember to practice because most don't lol


I agree with you wholeheartedly about Buddha-nature and citta and if Buddha nature is not underneath, then what is? Totally agree.

Now as far as remembering to practice, funny you say that. Because I posted in The Tibetan thread asking about mantras, rituals, 'prayers', meditations, different ways I can practice other than the obvious 8-fold path living, etc. Some people gave good suggestions, but others said I should NOT be practicing without a teacher. Well, I don't have access to a teacher, I live on a remote mountain in the middle of nowhere and there are no sanghas, teachers or groups near me. So I'm on my own. Some said I shouldn't practice without a teacher, which surprised me, and I honestly don't agree with that.

So, I am TRYING to practice, but am trying to figure out exactly what "practicing" entails. Hope that all made sense!
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Madeliaette » Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:21 am

2 points....
If you read something over and over and over again, you will understand the message that the author tries to portray. The same goes for sutras, just read over and over again you don't have to think or analyze. Let the meaning come to you. The point here is you are not using you thinking to understand things, you are using your non-discriminatory mind to understand. In other words, concentrate on reading sutras or anything without being distracted by thinking. It is just like meditation while you are reading. So use concentration to read. Some people read and stop to analyze thus only getting one part but missing the whole picture. Non-discriminatory mind is able to tell if something is not right for when it is without distraction of thinking, it is objective. Concentration leads to pure mind/wisdom...this is true even for an hour or two to concentrate on reading. It is not the same as blindly accepting what you read. In other words, use a clear mind to read. I hope I am making sense.

That ties in with my own experience. I find that when i used to have lots of spare time, I would lie down with a book for a few hours and be able to read it on a level where I could acess understanding of the message. If this did not work, I would usually find understanding when i woke up after sleeping straight after. It was actually one way I was able to reach that quieter level that I call the 'know mind' where the 'think mind' stays silent for a time - and you just know the meaning without thinking it out.

As for practice without a teacher, I think it depends on what practice you are working with. Some practices need a teacher and some do not. For example, you obviously do a lot of reading - where the book is the teacher. There are many forms of 'teacher', not just the conventional humand form, I have found. I have learned from various 'teachers' - my own former life has given me access to what I had previously learned, pigeons have taught me compassion and love, the ACI courses I mentioned before have taught me much that has filled in the gaps, books I can get into and find meaning from - not only questioning my best friend, attending talks by HHDL, internal guidance, and studying Shantideva with an official Rinpoche.
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:30 am

Padme wrote:I agree with you wholeheartedly about Buddha-nature and citta and if Buddha nature is not underneath, then what is? Totally agree.

Now as far as remembering to practice, funny you say that. Because I posted in The Tibetan thread asking about mantras, rituals, 'prayers', meditations, different ways I can practice other than the obvious 8-fold path living, etc. Some people gave good suggestions, but others said I should NOT be practicing without a teacher. Well, I don't have access to a teacher, I live on a remote mountain in the middle of nowhere and there are no sanghas, teachers or groups near me. So I'm on my own. Some said I shouldn't practice without a teacher, which surprised me, and I honestly don't agree with that.

So, I am TRYING to practice, but am trying to figure out exactly what "practicing" entails. Hope that all made sense!


I cannot be a help to you in the area of practice for I don't practice Tibetan Tantra. If you are sincerely requesting Buddha or Bodhishavatta for a teacher, one will come in your way.

I practice Pure Land which is saying/repeating Namo Amitabha in my head. Pure Land can be tantric also for one can say Namo Amitabha with mouth in a sitting position or any position or anytime anywhere while mind visualizing Amitabha. This practice is easy and not risky for Namo Amitabha is a very powerful mantra that no harms can touch the practitioner during practice. And there are benefitial changes in one's life from practicing Pure Land.

So the issue with no teacher is the risk that involved in practicing. So it is important to get the transmission from a teacher first, then you can practice on your own. But please don't be discouraged. I am sure you can practice on your own but what you experience will be different from that with transmission. In the meantime, try Namo Amitabha.

Madeliaette wrote:That ties in with my own experience. I find that when i used to have lots of spare time, I would lie down with a book for a few hours and be able to read it on a level where I could acess understanding of the message. If this did not work, I would usually find understanding when i woke up after sleeping straight after. It was actually one way I was able to reach that quieter level that I call the 'know mind' where the 'think mind' stays silent for a time - and you just know the meaning without thinking it out.

As for practice without a teacher, I think it depends on what practice you are working with. Some practices need a teacher and some do not. For example, you obviously do a lot of reading - where the book is the teacher. There are many forms of 'teacher', not just the conventional humand form, I have found. I have learned from various 'teachers' - my own former life has given me access to what I had previously learned, pigeons have taught me compassion and love, the ACI courses I mentioned before have taught me much that has filled in the gaps, books I can get into and find meaning from - not only questioning my best friend, attending talks by HHDL, internal guidance, and studying Shantideva with an official Rinpoche.


Also works for listening
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 21, 2011 5:14 pm

LastLegend wrote:I cannot be a help to you in the area of practice for I don't practice Tibetan Tantra. If you are sincerely requesting Buddha or Bodhishavatta for a teacher, one will come in your way.

I practice Pure Land which is saying/repeating Namo Amitabha in my head. Pure Land can be tantric also for one can say Namo Amitabha with mouth in a sitting position or any position or anytime anywhere while mind visualizing Amitabha. This practice is easy and not risky for Namo Amitabha is a very powerful mantra that no harms can touch the practitioner during practice. And there are benefitial changes in one's life from practicing Pure Land.

So the issue with no teacher is the risk that involved in practicing. So it is important to get the transmission from a teacher first, then you can practice on your own. But please don't be discouraged. I am sure you can practice on your own but what you experience will be different from that with transmission. In the meantime, try Namo Amitabha.


This is generally good advice, but a small correction is in order: Pure Land practice as you describe it here isn't tantric, even though it involves visualization and chanting. No teacher, no samaya and no abhisheka (empowerment) means no tantra.

That said, nembutsu practice can be very helpful for beginners. This is how I introduce it to my sangha... not the last word on Pure Land practice, surely, but an OK place to start:

http://dctendai.blogspot.com/2010/08/ne ... e-can.html

hope that helps.
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:01 pm

Jikan wrote:
LastLegend wrote:I cannot be a help to you in the area of practice for I don't practice Tibetan Tantra. If you are sincerely requesting Buddha or Bodhishavatta for a teacher, one will come in your way.

I practice Pure Land which is saying/repeating Namo Amitabha in my head. Pure Land can be tantric also for one can say Namo Amitabha with mouth in a sitting position or any position or anytime anywhere while mind visualizing Amitabha. This practice is easy and not risky for Namo Amitabha is a very powerful mantra that no harms can touch the practitioner during practice. And there are benefitial changes in one's life from practicing Pure Land.

So the issue with no teacher is the risk that involved in practicing. So it is important to get the transmission from a teacher first, then you can practice on your own. But please don't be discouraged. I am sure you can practice on your own but what you experience will be different from that with transmission. In the meantime, try Namo Amitabha.


This is generally good advice, but a small correction is in order: Pure Land practice as you describe it here isn't tantric, even though it involves visualization and chanting. No teacher, no samaya and no abhisheka (empowerment) means no tantra.

That said, nembutsu practice can be very helpful for beginners. This is how I introduce it to my sangha... not the last word on Pure Land practice, surely, but an OK place to start:

http://dctendai.blogspot.com/2010/08/ne ... e-can.html

hope that helps.


Technically yes...it is not gonna be like Tantra Tantra in a traditional sense but Namo Amitabha is a very powerful mantra and it can be done in a Tantric manner except without needing to have a teacher for there is nothing to be transmissed.
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:10 pm

I agree that nembutsu is a profound practice. And I agree there's an element of transmission involved. I recite it as "namu amidabu" (Tendai-style) and use it as a mantra much as a Tibetan practitioner might use OM MANI PEME HUNG: an all-purpose method. I encourage my little group in DC to practice it.

My only point is that it's not a tantric practice in the sense any school of Tantric Buddhism (Tendai, Shingon, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Jonang or Gelug) would recognize as tantric.

This conversation also comes up in Ch'an/Zen contexts. Is koan practice tantric? Well, it has some of the elements of tantra, but not all of them. That's not to say it's certainly powerful and effective practice for many, however. It works. Nembutsu is like that. It's a powerful practice that works. I think it works because it's a method devised by beings with pure vision, so to speak. It works because it relies on one's inherent potential to become awakened, which is identical in nature to the enlightened mind of the Buddha.

And here's the bigger picture point for Padme, since this thread is supposed to be helping him or her out: it would help to understand what is meant by Buddha-nature in this context. If you want to understand the underlying logic behind Mahayana practices, diverse as they are, it would help a lot to understand this key concept, the basis for practice. A good place to start is The Awakening of Faith (trans. Yoshido Hakeda).

For LastLegend: always good to meet a Pure Land person who brings a tantric attitude to bear on Amitabha practice. :cheers:
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:26 pm

Jikan wrote:I agree that nembutsu is a profound practice. And I agree there's an element of transmission involved. I recite it as "namu amidabu" (Tendai-style) and use it as a mantra much as a Tibetan practitioner might use OM MANI PEME HUNG: an all-purpose method. I encourage my little group in DC to practice it.

My only point is that it's not a tantric practice in the sense any school of Tantric Buddhism (Tendai, Shingon, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Jonang or Gelug) would recognize as tantric.

This conversation also comes up in Ch'an/Zen contexts. Is koan practice tantric? Well, it has some of the elements of tantra, but not all of them. That's not to say it's certainly powerful and effective practice for many, however. It works. Nembutsu is like that. It's a powerful practice that works. I think it works because it's a method devised by beings with pure vision, so to speak. It works because it relies on one's inherent potential to become awakened, which is identical in nature to the enlightened mind of the Buddha.

And here's the bigger picture point for Padme, since this thread is supposed to be helping him or her out: it would help to understand what is meant by Buddha-nature in this context. If you want to understand the underlying logic behind Mahayana practices, diverse as they are, it would help a lot to understand this key concept, the basis for practice. A good place to start is The Awakening of Faith (trans. Yoshido Hakeda).

For LastLegend: always good to meet a Pure Land person who brings a tantric attitude to bear on Amitabha practice. :cheers:


Thank for your opinion
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:22 pm

Here are English Translation of Sutras
http://www.quangduc.com/menu2.html
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:56 pm

You're welcome LastLegend, but the question of what is and what is not tantra isn't exactly a matter of opinion in Buddhism. Rather than turn this into a threadjack, I posted a separate thread on this matter here for us to use:

viewtopic.php?f=77&t=3587
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Re: Can't Seem To Find Direction... Advice?

Postby Adamantine » Tue Mar 22, 2011 12:47 am

In terms of understanding Buddha Nature
I just can't emphasize enough what a treasure
those uttaratantra teachings with Dzongsar Khyentse
Rinpoche are that I previously linked to.
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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