Still struggling...

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Re: Still struggling...

Postby anjali » Sat May 12, 2012 3:25 am

beautiful breath wrote:Hi All...and apologies for not responding - its been a busy week!

I still feel like we're skimming around the issue rather than answering it definitively. The two schools are so far apart in their approach so as to seem completely different. Simply put - Vajrayana does (however you dress it) fill the mind with more concepts, ideas Mantras Yantras etc...we know this - and without going into too much details (for obvious reasons) these are apparently tools for Tantra. But I maintain that sitting quietly after a few gentle prayers 'feels' more conducive to me.

So do it then I hear you say.

But then there's the carrot on the end of the Vajrayana stick...if you want to control your death and re-birth then you will have to practice this way. I dunno, I just find it all very confusing to the point where I have stopped doing anything at all to be frank.

I am scared that I may be averting my attention from massively important teachings and practices. But equally concerned that if I do immerse myself in them I may be adding more furniture into my prison cell rather than trying to escape!
BB


Hi BB. You mentioned spending time at a Thai-forest Theravada monastery in England. I'm guessing it is in the Ajahn Chah lineage? Are you attracted to him or his teachings? Have you looked into other teachers within the Theravada tradition? I found the collections of Ajahn Mahaboowa's dharma talks to be outstanding. I've spent some time at Abhayagiri, a California Theravada monastery in the Ajahn Chah lineage. Have to say, it was a nice experience. Also spent some time with the Chan/Pureland tradition at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas which is near Abhayagiri. Their Chan sessions were wonderful, but I learned that I am not attracted to ritualistic deity devotion at all.

You haven't mentioned what, if any, sitting practices you are doing within the Tibetan tradition you belong to. I'm sure you know that to sit quietly doesn't mean you have to abandon the Mahayana tradition, or even the Tibetan tradition. There are the Chan and Zen traditions, also there is Mahamudra sitting practices with Tibetan tradition. As I'm sure you already know, in addition to calm abiding you will need insight practices. Get your hands on any Mahamudra meditation manual, which always include both shamatha and vipashyana training. If you are interested, I can offer some suggestions. In addition, I would strongly urge you to find a meditation master (in whatever tradition you are comfortable with) to study under, if you can find someone you connect with.

I reached a point where I was feeling a need for simplicity in my practice. At one time I had so many different practices I began an earnest prayer/quest: "What is the one practice that yields the fruit of all practices?" I got an answer. Most of my old practices have significantly curtailed or been eliminated. Tenga Rinpoche, who recently passed on, once said, "If you can practice shamatha and vipashyana properly, then you do not need visualizations, because shamatha and vipashayana are the actual, the main, or ultimate practice of working with the mind itself in the completion stage." The key of course is proper practice. ;)

I'm sure others here have different perspectives. Which is ok. Sarva Mangalam.
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby beautiful breath » Mon May 14, 2012 12:17 pm

@anjali

Thanks for that...really interesting - particularly re Mahamudra and the essential crux of many tibetan practices being the same as Samatha and Vipassana....more for me to think about :)

But yes, please PM me with other info if you think it will help!

BB
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby anjali » Mon May 14, 2012 9:02 pm

beautiful breath wrote:@anjali

Thanks for that...really interesting - particularly re Mahamudra and the essential crux of many tibetan practices being the same as Samatha and Vipassana....more for me to think about :)

But yes, please PM me with other info if you think it will help!

BB


Ok. I'll send some info in PM. If you can find a copy of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's As It Is, Vol II, there is an outstanding chapter called Shamatha and Vipashyana that you might find interesting. You won't find this kind of perspective within the Theravada tradition.
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby Jamkar » Tue May 15, 2012 6:18 am

In Vajrayana, there are 2 main questions that practitioners are mad to ask themselves on their own practice

1) What am I practicing Dharma for? is it for my own happiness or for the benefit of others? If so, why cant i give up my own attachments for the benefit of others?

2) What do I hope to achieve with what I am doing and who is it for? Is it for my own benefit or for others?

If the answer is the former, the practice wont go far or it will fizzle.

If it is the latter, the practitioner will find himself being able to take on complex teachings and painful situations to further his or her own practice.
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby beautiful breath » Tue May 15, 2012 10:06 am

Sad thought it may seem, I have yet to meet a practitioner in any tradition that I am convinced has Boddhicitta as his main agenda.
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby beautiful breath » Tue May 15, 2012 10:08 am

...so the bottom line seems to be this; apart from Tibetan Buddhism that has its own unique take and the teachings of the Mahasiddhas - all traditions have at their heart Samatha and Vipassana. Once you sit and follow the breath (for example) your tradition is utterly of no consequence. Is this correct?
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue May 15, 2012 5:57 pm

No. Not apart, but including. Shamatha and Vipashyana also play a fundamental role in Tibetan schools. Aided with even more methods.
Why don't you get proper information from a qualified teacher? You seem to be totally in the dark about a lot of Vajrayana really is. No wonder you have so many misconceptions. Instead of analyzing Vajrayana, you spend your time criticizing the wrong ideas you have about it. It doesn't make much sense, does it? It's like me saying: "Well, you know, in fact I don't like chocolate because its bitter taste is really intolerable!". Perhaps I should first understand what is chocolate...
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby justsit » Tue May 15, 2012 8:25 pm

beautiful breath wrote:...so the bottom line seems to be this; apart from Tibetan Buddhism that has its own unique take and the teachings of the Mahasiddhas - all traditions have at their heart Samatha and Vipassana. Once you sit and follow the breath (for example) your tradition is utterly of no consequence. Is this correct?

No.
Here's a simplistic analogy:
Say you want to drive from New York to LA. You will have to look at different routes, decide what kind of car you like, etc.
If you decide to drive an RV and take the back roads, your trip experiences will be very different than if you pick a Ferrari and go hell-bent-for-leather down the Interstates. One will take longer, one is shorter; one requires fast driving skills and a good radar detector, the other needs good technical driving skills to get that RV in tight spaces. One way you get to see the sights, explore new vistas, meet the locals; the other, you skip the niceties and just get there. Each option has pluses and minuses. Of course, there are many variations on this theme, but you get my drift?

Yes, in all cases you are still driving a vehicle, you use gas, brakes and steering, you still go from NYC to LA - but there the similarities end. There are completely different dangers and opportunities, different challenges, etc.
So - the basic methods are the same, the details vary significantly. Does that make sense?

You really need to explore what kind of person you are and what style of learning (traveling!) works best for you.
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby Tara » Tue May 15, 2012 9:10 pm

justsit wrote:No.
Here's a simplistic analogy:
Say you want to drive from New York to LA. You will have to look at different routes, decide what kind of car you like, etc.
If you decide to drive an RV and take the back roads, your trip experiences will be very different than if you pick a Ferrari and go hell-bent-for-leather down the Interstates. One will take longer, one is shorter; one requires fast driving skills and a good radar detector, the other needs good technical driving skills to get that RV in tight spaces. One way you get to see the sights, explore new vistas, meet the locals; the other, you skip the niceties and just get there. Each option has pluses and minuses. Of course, there are many variations on this theme, but you get my drift?

Yes, in all cases you are still driving a vehicle, you use gas, brakes and steering, you still go from NYC to LA - but there the similarities end. There are completely different dangers and opportunities, different challenges, etc.
So - the basic methods are the same, the details vary significantly. Does that make sense?

You really need to explore what kind of person you are and what style of learning (traveling!) works best for you.


:good:

Regards,
Tara

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Maybe you collect a lot of important writings,
Major texts, personal instructions, private notes, whatever.
If you haven’t practiced, books won’t help you when you die.
Look at the mind – that’s my sincere advice.

**********************************************************
from Longchenpa's 30 Pieces of Sincere Advice

Mors certa — hora incerta
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby anjali » Wed May 16, 2012 12:17 am

Hi BB. Others here have given you excellent advice and perspective. For what it's worth I would like to add one additional perspective.

beautiful breath wrote:...so the bottom line seems to be this; apart from Tibetan Buddhism that has its own unique take and the teachings of the Mahasiddhas - all traditions have at their heart Samatha and Vipassana....

From a certain perspective your statement is correct. I once read that the goal of all practices is to give up all practices. In every tradition there are so many practices one can choose from, including traditional shamatha and vipashyana practices. However, when all practices are finally given up, shamatha and vipashyana are at the heart of all traditions when rightly viewed. How so? In an earlier posting to you, I mentioned the chapter, Shamatha and Vipashyana in Tulku Urgyen's book, As It Is, Vol II. Here is the essential quote from that chapter,

Dzogchen as well uses the words shamatha and vipashyana, but at that point, they do not refer to an outcome of practice. The Treasure of Dharmadhatu by Longchenpa says:

The original nature, totally free of all thoughts, is the ultimate shamatha.
Natural congnizance, spontaneously present like the radiant sun,
Is the vipashyana that is utterly uncontrived and naturally present.

I have found essentially this same view in Mahamudra.
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby Spirituality » Thu May 31, 2012 7:29 am

It seems to me you're struggling on various levels and they're hard to reconcile.

If you have as long a commitment to the Gelugpa lineage as you suggest, you must have studied the Lam Rim. Most of the Lam Rim is meditation topics that are in common with Hinayana Buddhism, so you can meditate at a Theravada school without any issues.

The only issue is the commitments you've taken on.

Tantra is only the fast path when there is Bodhicitta, so as long as you don't have that, never mind what others do, you're merely on the path training for tantra. In that case simply doing your commitments as quickly and simply as possible, or as quickly as you feel comfortable with, may be the way to go.

The rest of your meditation time can then be used in practicing in the Theravada style. There doesn't have to be as much of a conflict between the two as you suggest. As others have hinted: most of the Lam Rim consists of meditation topics in common with Theravada anyhow.

I'm stressing the commitments because you sound like you've lost faith in just about everything else. You don't feel anybody, presumably even your guru, has Bodhicitta, you don't believe in tantra as historical any more either.

However, if you break your commitments you're breaking faith with yourself and that is a very big deal. If however you don't have higher yoga commitments, then you don't even have to feel guilty about dropping whatever tantric practices you've been involved with. They're not working for you, you tried for a long time, so why not learn a simpler practice and clear the clutter a bit... Nothing wrong with that, and as long as you keep up trying to generate Bodhicitta morning and night, you're still a Mahayana Buddhist. You've merely chosen to go to a Theravada teacher for the time being. You may find that the four immeasurable thoughts, which are in common with Theravada, help you make Bodhicitta more real. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahmavihara

(sorry to but in on this thread as a newly, but I could not read the thread without giving my 2 cents)
Last edited by Spirituality on Thu May 31, 2012 8:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby Spirituality » Thu May 31, 2012 8:23 am

A few more points:

* Dzog Chen is actually a form of tantra, however it doesn't sound like the OP should go in that direction. She has an affinity with Theravada and should probably follow that inclination.
* most of us don't have full Bodhicitta. What we have is not the realization of Bodhicitta, but a wish to develop Bodhicitta. Wishing Bodhicitta it's called. That is also usually the level at which the bodhisattva vows are taken. My own teacher for instance shared recently that he has as his goal to develop the realization of Bodhicitta in this lifetime. That doesn't stop him from practicing, teaching, trying to be patient with his students etc. however, I do feel there is one person who has the full Bodhicitta realization: HH the Dalai Lama.
* It sounds in part like you (OP) had too high a set of expectations and are disappointed now that it turns out those expectations weren't realistic. This sort of thing is always hard to deal with. I hope you find a way of developing your practice in a direction that works for you without abandoning what's valuable from your practice so far.
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby JKhedrup » Thu May 31, 2012 9:05 am

Having had exposure to both the Vajrayana and Theravada traditions, (as well as shorter experience with two Chinese Mahayana communities), I can say that really I feel it comes down to what is better suited to the individual. The wonderful thing in Western Buddhism is that we have access to qualified (other side of the coin unfortunately: many unqualified) teachers from all the traditions. Both traditional Asian teachers, and , albeit slowly (especially in the Tibetan tradition) qualified Western teachers.

I struggled when I first got ordained at Sera to find a proper situation where I could live as a monk and study. I tried many times with visas and working to save money and was at a point of thinking it was nearly impossible. I was also finding (primarily due to lack of proficiency in Tibetan) the way of doing things very confusing and was in search of something direct and simpler(seemingly), a way to stay ordained and live a simple monk's life. This led me to Thailand and two years in Theravada monasteries. The training I received in Vinaya was a huge benefit. I did not have enough time in India to gain proficiency in the Tibetan language so I had access to very little training. I remain indebted to my Theravada teachers for what they offered. I hope to that my presence and work in the Thai/Lao communities in New Zealand went to repay that kindness a little.

The anapanasati practice that I learned from Thai and Sri Lankan bhikkhus is something that I still use today, to stabilize my mind and establish a foundation for all the other practices I do. I use anapanasati daily even now, especially when I am faced with difficult situations and the inevitable mental anguish that arises. I turn to the Pali canon occasionally, especially the stories of the original disciples of the Buddha, and find it a source of great comfort.

That being said, having started in the Tibetan tradition with Tibetan lamas as a teenager, I took the bodhisattva vows as well as various tantric pledges, and somehow my original orientation always stayed with me. Though I continued these Vajrayana practices as a Theravada monk and was kindly given the freedom to do so, there was no one to whom I could turn for guidance and help, especially with bodhicitta which was considered an unrealistic aim by the vast majority of THeravadan monks I encountered.

So when the opportunity to learn Tibetan in Dharamsala came, I jumped at the chance. And now I interpret for a wonderful Tibetan Geshe from Sera. With the language, I now have access to the culture and understand much of what once confused me. I am also able to better differentiate between the aspects of Tibetan Buddhism that are essential, and those that are primarily connected with the culture of Tibet. Many Tibetan lamas say I was fortunate to study with masters of mindfulness and Vinaya, while others are disturbed by my prolonged association with "Hinayanists". I am not too disturbed by this, because HH Dalai Lama for example, is focusing so much on building dialogue with the Theravadans, arranging more and more Vinaya conferences and teachings for the Thais in Dharamsala, etc.

Due to the kindness of the teacher I translate for, I have been able to develop my own ways of reconciling what I found to be the more difficult aspects of Vajrayana, for example reliance on the vajra guru. I am at peace with things that once troubled me and am able to function fully as a practitioner within Tibetan Buddhism. Geshe la also is very interested in Theravada, which helps, and I have translated dialogues for him with Theravada practitioners. So he has a better idea of the modern Sravakayana I think than many Tibetan teachers, who rely only on what the ancient texts tell them.

If I had to describe myself as a practitioner, I would say that I am primarily a Mahayana/Paramitayana gradualist, with daily cultivation of both Vajrayana generation stage practice and anapanasati. My primary resources at the moment are the Lam Rim and Bodhisattvacaryavatara. Although at times my experience in different traditions was confusing and even upsetting, I would not trade it for the world because I have an honest appreciation now for all that Buddhism offers. At the same time, to after so long have a stable orientation and the skills to function as a full time monastic doing dharma work for a Tibetan lama, is a huge blessing for which I am grateful.

I am not sure this will answer your questions but thought it might be helpful for you to hear from people with maybe similar thoughts/experiences.

love,
Khedrup
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu May 31, 2012 1:26 pm

It's great to see you here, Khedrup, btw. It's been a long time! :anjali:
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby JKhedrup » Thu May 31, 2012 3:01 pm

Thanks great to find a place where all my old e-sangha buddies hang out!
:twothumbsup:
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Jun 01, 2012 3:48 am

You are very welcome! :anjali:
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby LunaRoja » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:14 am

JKhedrup wrote:Thanks great to find a place where all my old e-sangha buddies hang out!
:twothumbsup:


Hi Khedrup,

I remember your posts from e-sangha. I am so happy to hear how you have blossomed as a monk and a practitioner. Your situation sounds wonderful. I hope you continue to keep us updated.

Kind Regards,

LR
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:36 am

Definitely my situation has stabilized, albeit slowly, and the obstacles of this year all sort of dissipated into a good situation. Somehow sticking it out paid off. But as far as developing as a practitioner, still loads of work to do on that. But being able to have daily interaction with a master (Geshe) I admire is an inspiration for which I feel deeply fortunate.
It is funny because karma is unfolding in strange ways all the time. If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would have this opportunity I would have laughed.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby beautiful breath » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:36 am

Thanks to everyone for your replies... particularly Khedrup for such a comprehensive one!
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Re: Still struggling...

Postby Steveyboy » Sun Sep 23, 2012 10:34 am

Historically speaking, the Tantric doctrine was apparently the last to emerge after the formation of the Mahayana tradition and the Theravaden doctrine, which was the first. Some historians and certain scholars use that as a basis to doubt that Tantra was ever taught by the Buddha. However, in the Tantric tradition, it was believed that Buddha Shakyamuni manifested in the appearance of Vajradhara Buddha at places like Mount Kailash and so forth to teach Tantra to an elite group of students. Due to the nature of these teachings, it was not written down until much later on. Hence, the lineage did stem from the Buddha, who appeared in the form of Vajradhara.

As for those who find rainbow body and all the magical feats achieved by the Great Mahasiddhas a little too airy-fairy. Well, you have not seen what real Tibetan Lamas do not like to talk about it especially with the special abilities that is cultivated using Tantra. The Tibetan Lamas do not brag about what they can do but they prefer practitioners to focus upon the teachings instead. These feats are real and can be accomplished in Tantra but they are not the reason for practice.
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