Ole Nydahl's teachings

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Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 9:20 am

Hi all,

I'm opening this thread because I suggest we discuss the teachings of Ole Nydahl here - and only his teachings.

Can we please stay focused on this topic here and refrain from all other topics related to Ole Nydahl, such as the Karmapa affair and his role in it, his sexual conduct, and his political views on Islam. These topics are already discussed in other threads such as this

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=4190

and this

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=7407

and they usually lead to very hostile and polemic discussions.

For this thread I suggest we really stay with discussing his teachings and nothing else, and stay sober and refrain from the usual hostilities and polemics. Everything other than his teachings can be discussed elsewhere.

Since I'm the topic opener I will have to excuse myself in advance. I'm currently recovering from a burnout and I have only a limited amount of energy to participate in this discussion. I will not be able to reply to everything in detail and maybe I will only post something every two or three days. In fact I will not even attempt to reply to each and everything. All I want to do is to open this discussion and then we’ll see where it leads.

May I also suggest that we take our time and go through the topics one by one? Though it won’t be possible to do so in a strict sense I think it is best to at least try this strategy to avoid complete chaos.

Maybe we should first collect the topics and then decide with wich to start.
Last edited by ReasonAndRhyme on Fri May 18, 2012 9:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 9:23 am

Here is a list of points I think we should discuss:
  • His Phowa teachings
  • His take on Samayas
  • His translation of stong pa nyid as space instead of emptiness
  • And his translation of bde ba as joy instead of bliss
  • His take on pure view
  • His interpretation that having positive sense impressions is a form of accumulating good karma
  • Some of his teachings on ethic (like giving a student the advice to break somebody’s arm)
  • The student teacher relationship
  • How to deal with meditation experiences
  • His take on other Buddhist traditions
  • …and on the four Tibetan schools (like Gelugpa is for the confused ones, Nyingmapa for very proud people, Kagyupa for the greedy ones, Sakyapa I don’t remember)
  • His claim to be a tulku
  • His claim to be an emanation of Mahakala
  • His claim to be a terton
  • His claim to be a lama
And here is a link to an interesting post by dzoki with a collection of critical points:
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?p=40610#p40610
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 9:29 am

Before we start the discussion we should maybe wait for some input and see if somebody wants to add some other topics to the list.

:namaste:
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby Andrew108 » Fri May 18, 2012 10:16 am

O.k but you mean we debate his interpretations rather than his teachings. If he has his own teachings then I wouldn't be interested in debating that.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 10:19 am

Andrew108 wrote:O.k but you mean we debate his interpretations rather than his teachings. If he has his own teachings then I wouldn't be interested in debating that.


Could you elaborate on that? I don't understand this distinction between interpretations and teachings you're making.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby Andrew108 » Fri May 18, 2012 10:23 am

Well perhaps I'm being too pedantic. A teaching would be 'phowa' and this is a lineage teaching. An interpretation would be how to practice phowa and how to empower the practice and so on. Teachings within the kagyu lineage are distinct from interpretations about them. So I guess we would be talking about his interpretations. Yeah I'm being too pedantic.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 10:32 am

Maybe we're just not using these words in the same meaning. I've never heard these words used in the way you just described it. For me phowa would be a practice or a transmission, and an explanation about how to practice phowa would be a teaching, as well as an introductory lecture to Buddhism would be a teaching. I'm not using this word in a specified sense. Rather in a colloquial way.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby Andrew108 » Fri May 18, 2012 10:57 am

I'll choose one. The interpretation of emptiness as space.
If he is saying that space is empty and so emptiness is like that then this is an incorrect view. It's incorrect because it is saying emptiness as space has the defining characteristic 'space'; whereas emptiness is obviously empty of space as a defining characteristic.
The question then might be is space empty of defining characteristics? The answer to this is that space is dependently arisen in the sense that it is given characteristics like pervasive, vast, containing and so on and that these characteristics arise simultaneously with it. It doesn't exist or make sense by itself without defining characteristics and therefore it is not right to equate it with emptiness.

From Nagarjuna:
''Space can in no way exist
Prior to it's defining characteristics.
If space existed prior to its defining characteristics,
It would follow that space could exist
without defining characteristics.''

But that's the reasoning.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 11:12 am

OK, let's start with his translation of staong pa nyid as space instead of emptiness.

In addition to your philosophical argument I'd like to say:

Space is often used as a metaphor for emptiness, but it is not the same as emptiness. Likewise it is also given as an instruction to beginners to visualize that all phenomena dissolve into space when dissolving into emptiness. (At the beginning of the visualization practice.) But this is a simplification given to beginners who have neither a real experience of emptiness nor a theoretical understanding of emptiness.

It is, therefore, a provisional instruction, not the real deal. Ole however presents this simplification as if it were the real deal.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby mindyourmind » Fri May 18, 2012 11:17 am

ON has never bothered me either way, but I am a bit concerned to hear that he has "interpretations" of teachings. That always rings alarm bells for me.

Should he not simply have teachings, teachings which are in line with his tradition, as opposed to interpretations?

I am not seeking to criticize the man unnecessarily, I think there is enough of that, and I am very much in favour of strong "western" Buddhist teachers, I just need to make peace with that idea of his interpretations. I have never followed his teachings to any depth, so my question comes from possible ignorance.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 11:29 am

By using the word "interpretation" I didn't mean to imply that every interpretation is necessarily wrong. I'm really just using the words teaching and interpretation in a colloquial sense, in which you could also say "XYZ has delivered a really ingenious and authentic interpretation of Nagarjuna's MMK".
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby Rafael Maurin » Fri May 18, 2012 12:58 pm

[*] His Phowa teachings
His phowa teachings are from Longchen Nyinghtig - He is really good at that.
After 5 days course some 95 % of people usually have a sign of success...

[*] Some of his teachings on ethic (like giving a student the advice to break somebody’s arm)


Ole was reffering to the situation when, for instance someone wants to kill innocent people, and all the peacefull ways of preventing him to do so fail, then the only way is to break somebodys arm, to prevent killing ( I heard that explenation from Ole many times) It is in accord with Vajrayana precepts.


[*] His claim to be a tulku

In a way, we are all Tulkus - tulkus of our karma - but seriously, Ole never claimed to be a Tulku - as far as I know...

His claim to be an emanation of Mahakala

XVI Karmapa called him Mahakala - and Ole is sometimes telling this story but (as far as I know) he dont claim to be "emanation of Mahakala".

[*] His claim to be a terton

I never heard that...

[*] His claim to be a lama[/list]

here some clarification on the Lama title
http://www.lama-ole-nydahl.org/documents.htm
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby Andrew108 » Fri May 18, 2012 1:11 pm

Rafael. In terms of the Phowa what does success mean? Are we talking inserting a straw etc? I'm not intending to be critical but this isn't really the sign of 'success'.
Let me know if the signs of 'success' are different.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 1:31 pm

Hi Rafael,

I really think this discussion would be easier and more frutile if we went through the points one by one. But I already had a feeling in practice this would be unrealistic.

As to the phowa teachings Ole gives:

I have the impression there are mainly two points controversial about Ole's phowa teachings.

(1) The "Autopilot" thing

Ole teaches that if you have successfully participated in one of his phowa courses all you have to do is to freshen up your phowa three or four times a year, and then after your death your mind will automatically be transferred to the pure land of Amithaba. He says in the moment of death the “Autopilot” will set in. Tibetan Lamas however emphasise that this process of transferring your consciousness after death does not take place automatically, but instead it takes a hell lot of practice to prepare for this, and even then, if you die under traumatic circumstances like in an accident, you cannot take it for granted that you will have the required concentration to perform the phowa practice at the moment of death.

(2) The visualisation

I have taken part in a phowa course with Ole Nydahl in the late nineties. And I have also received several phowa transmissions from a high Nyingma Lama and I have attended a phowa course given by a Tibetan master of meditation of the Kagyupa lineage on the side of Karmapa Urgyen Trinley. In this course it was taught that there are two different kinds of visualization in the phowa practise: one you apply when you actually die, one you do when you’re preparing to die. The former and only the former includes that you visualize that your mind leaves your body and is “reborn” (or “lands”) inside a Lotus blossom in Amithaba’s pure land. While your body is still safe and sound and you’re only preparing for your death you are not supposed to apply this complete visualization, instead you are supposed to practice a simplified visualization where your mind does not leave your body.

In the phowa course I took with Ole in the late nineties however, Ole taught the visualization practice in which you visualize that your mind leaves your body, the one that according to the teachings I have received you’re only supposed to do when you’re actually dying. He taught this one as the preparation practice. Since in all other aspects the visualisation is exactly the same I believe the difference between the phowa according to the Longchen Nyingtik lineage and that in the tradition of Karma Chagme does not explain for the difference between Ole's teachings and that of a traditional Tibetan meditation master. If the visualisation that your mind leaves the body means a loss of energy and a damage to your system in the context of a Kagyu transmission, why should it be different when the very same visualisation takes place in the context of a Nyingma transmission?
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 1:41 pm

Rafael Maurin wrote:[*] Some of his teachings on ethic (like giving a student the advice to break somebody’s arm)


Ole was reffering to the situation when, for instance someone wants to kill innocent people, and all the peacefull ways of preventing him to do so fail, then the only way is to break somebodys arm, to prevent killing ( I heard that explenation from Ole many times) It is in accord with Vajrayana precepts.


No, he wasn't - not in the situation that I witnessed. In a teaching in about 1997 Ole was asked for advice by a student who said he was bullied at the workplace by a colleague. Ole's advice was he should break the other's arm. A murmur went through the crowd, Ole looked irritated for a moment, then he repeated what he had said.
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby Knotty Veneer » Fri May 18, 2012 1:56 pm

ReasonAndRhyme wrote:No, he wasn't - not in the situation that I witnessed. In a teaching in about 1997 Ole was asked for advice by a student who said he was bullied at the workplace by a colleague. Ole's advice was he should break the other's arm. A murmur went through the crowd, Ole looked irritated for a moment, then he repeated what he had said.


I hope he advised him to make sure there were no witnesses :P
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Fri May 18, 2012 2:12 pm

:rolling:
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby honestdboy » Sat May 19, 2012 6:34 am

Thank you for starting a thread on Teachings. That's much more interesting to read about than people judging Lama Ole's character.

Here is some good food for thought:

"When you see a fault in someone else, realize that it is your own fault you are seeing." ~ Diamond Sutra
:quoteunquote:
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Sat May 19, 2012 7:01 am

Allright, so in truth we are publicly reflecting on our own faults here. Nothing wrong with that, is it?

:tongue:
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Re: Ole Nydahl's teachings

Postby mindyourmind » Sat May 19, 2012 8:08 am

I don't really like ON, or find him inspiring, but that's ok, I can and do choose my own teachers.

What bothers me somewhat is that a lot of us Dharma students here in the West, especially of the Vajrayana stripe, continue to have two different sets of standards by which we judge these teachers.

A Tibetan lama can cause as much trouble as he wants to, but a Western lama (such as ON) must not do any of those same things. Trungpa and others, including some present day "Masters" and their antics are "enlightened" and "realized" and full of crazy wisdom, but ON is a charlatan, a fraud, not the real thing etc.

We should set high standards, maybe higher than what we are doing at present, but at the same time we must also be consistent.
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