Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

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Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby tomamundsen » Tue Aug 21, 2012 10:03 pm

I'm reading through Masters of Meditation and Miracles: Lives of the Great Buddhist Masters of India and Tibet. It is a collection of biographies of masters from the Longchen Nyingthig lineage. I am noticing a trend of asceticism among the LN masters. Jigme Lingpa in particular comes to mind, and it seems that anyone that received his teachings admired his asceticism and followed that path.

My question is, why are they practicing asceticism after the Buddha advocated a "middle way" between asceticism and hedonism?
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Osho » Tue Aug 21, 2012 10:26 pm

A drunkard was passing through a graveyard and he saw a beautiful tomb made of pure white marble. He looked at the tomb, looked at the name on it. The tomb was that of the famous Rothschild family. He laughed and said, "These Rothschilds, they know how to live!"

Beats me Tom, all this celibacy and asceticism business. Why deny life?
Only middle way possible has to be in and through the world not in some bolt hole hiding from it.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Nemo » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:20 pm

It wasn't asceticism.

It was the luxury of freedom from useless bullshit.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Osho » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:52 pm

Life, Nature, Love, Beauty, Laughter?
How very sad.
:-(
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:06 am

Nemo wrote:It wasn't asceticism.

It was the luxury of freedom from useless bullshit.

I don't consider food to be useless. We're talking about people starving themselves that they literally cannot take more than four steps at a time without having to lie down in severe pain.

Also, the author, Tulku Thondup, certainly uses the word asceticism.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Osho » Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:16 am

Chaps in India go to all sorts of body denying lengths. One fellow has stood on one leg for years. Christian ascetics likewise. Columba reportedly enjoyed little better than to stand up to his neck in icy water for hours at a time whilst reciting his office.
The whole self incarceration and world denial implicit in monasticism is simply another facet.
Self loathing or masochism the psychologists might deem it.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Aug 22, 2012 2:37 am

Osho wrote:A drunkard was passing through a graveyard and he saw a beautiful tomb made of pure white marble. He looked at the tomb, looked at the name on it. The tomb was that of the famous Rothschild family. He laughed and said, "These Rothschilds, they know how to live!"

Beats me Tom, all this celibacy and asceticism business. Why deny life?
Only middle way possible has to be in and through the world not in some bolt hole hiding from it.
One of our teachers said...
'If you want to see perfectly dead men and yet still alive go to the monks and the monasteries. They are not alive: they are so afraid of life, so afraid of nature, that they have suppressed it everywhere'.

HTH

I will have to politely disagree. I don't see a problem with celibacy and monasticism. I don't consider that asceticism. I consider starving yourself to the point where your only nourishment for weeks comes from boiling a yak bone and drinking the water. Or these practices of standing on one leg for years, etc. Those seem to be the kind of things that Shakyamuni was teaching his monks to avoid.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Jnana » Wed Aug 22, 2012 3:17 am

Osho wrote:One of our teachers said...
'If you want to see perfectly dead men and yet still alive go to the monks and the monasteries. They are not alive: they are so afraid of life, so afraid of nature, that they have suppressed it everywhere'.

Your teacher was mistaken.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby oushi » Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:46 am

Jnana wrote:
Osho wrote:One of our teachers said...
'If you want to see perfectly dead men and yet still alive go to the monks and the monasteries. They are not alive: they are so afraid of life, so afraid of nature, that they have suppressed it everywhere'.

Your teacher was mistaken.

Or a Zen teacher.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Jnana » Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:57 am

oushi wrote:
Jnana wrote:
Osho wrote:One of our teachers said...
'If you want to see perfectly dead men and yet still alive go to the monks and the monasteries. They are not alive: they are so afraid of life, so afraid of nature, that they have suppressed it everywhere'.

Your teacher was mistaken.

Or a Zen teacher.

It doesn't matter what kind of teacher s/he claims to be. It's still a ridiculous characterization that doesn't at all describe the monks and nuns that I've known.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Indrajala » Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:38 am

Jnana wrote:It doesn't matter what kind of teacher s/he claims to be. It's still a ridiculous characterization that doesn't at all describe the monks and nuns that I've known.


It also qualifies as slandering the sangha.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Tilopa » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:27 am

Osho sounds disturbingly like Osho.
Last edited by Tilopa on Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Tilopa » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:35 am

tomamundsen wrote: I will have to politely disagree. I don't see a problem with celibacy and monasticism. I don't consider that asceticism.

You're right, it's not although a hedonist might see it otherwise.

I consider starving yourself to the point where your only nourishment for weeks comes from boiling a yak bone and drinking the water.

Sounds ascetic but accomplished yogis don't always need coarse food, or in some cases, any food at all.

Or these practices of standing on one leg for years, etc. Those seem to be the kind of things that Shakyamuni was teaching his monks to avoid.

He did, they should. Some Hindu sadhus think this type of thing has spiritual value.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:05 am

Tilopa wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:
I consider starving yourself to the point where your only nourishment for weeks comes from boiling a yak bone and drinking the water.

Sounds ascetic but accomplished yogis don't always need coarse food, or in some cases, any food at all.

Yea, I can understand that. But in the case of these biographies, malnutrition was causing them serious health problems.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Malcolm » Wed Aug 22, 2012 1:29 pm

Jnana wrote:It doesn't matter what kind of teacher s/he claims to be. It's still a ridiculous characterization that doesn't at all describe the monks and nuns that I've known.


This is the whole statement by Rajneesh, and it has nothing to do with Bhiḳṣus, actually:

The more cultured and civilised the more dead. If you want to see perfectly dead men and yet still alive go to the monks in the monasteries, go to the priests in the churches, the Pope in the Vatican. They are not alive – they are so afraid of life, so afraid of nature that they have suppressed it from everywhere. They are already in their graves. You can paint the grave, you can even make a marble grave, very valuable – but the man inside is dead.

He is talking about Christian monasticism. Now, it still may not be an accurate statement, but nevertheless, the origin of the statement is in the contect of a discussion of Chang Tzu.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Nemo » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:38 pm

The asceticism you speak of was a pretty normal life for early monks. Homeless guys, wearing corpse rags who only ate whatever they could scrounge by begging once a day. What you call extremely ascetic is really not that bad compared to a stressful job and marriage to a difficult partner. Buddha ate a single grain of rice a day during his asceticism. There are degrees and a simpler life is not as scary as you think once you try it.

Masters who went hungry would often blame poor Karma for their predicament. They felt a few hunger pangs but felt that was a small price to pay for a life of leisure to practice and a mind that became like a wish fulfilling jewel.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Jnana » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:57 am

Malcolm wrote:He is talking about Christian monasticism. Now, it still may not be an accurate statement, but nevertheless, the origin of the statement is in the contect of a discussion of Chang Tzu.

Yes, well, it's still an inaccurate, ridiculous characterization.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Jnana » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:58 am

tomamundsen wrote:My question is, why are they practicing asceticism after the Buddha advocated a "middle way" between asceticism and hedonism?

Asceticism includes a spectrum of disciplines, practices, and vows related to abstinence from worldly pleasures. The Buddha's middle way avoids the extremes of attachment to indulgence in sensual pleasure (kāmasukhallikānuyoga) and attachment to self-mortification (ātmakilamathānuyoga). Self-mortification involves various extreme types of asceticism. Buddhist monastic discipline on the other hand, is a moderate kind of asceticism. And even within mainstream Buddhism there were a number of austere practices that were allowed. Indeed, a number of Mahāyāna sūtras advise bodhisattvas to abandon the householder lifestyle and resort to the wilderness. Some sūtras explain these austerities in detail. Sūtra passages praising wilderness seclusion were still being quoted by Śāntideva and Vimalamitra in the 8th century, and it seems that this ideal was still highly regarded in Tibet.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby tomamundsen » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:44 am

Jnana wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:My question is, why are they practicing asceticism after the Buddha advocated a "middle way" between asceticism and hedonism?

Asceticism includes a spectrum of disciplines, practices, and vows related to abstinence from worldly pleasures. The Buddha's middle way avoids the extremes of attachment to indulgence in sensual pleasure (kāmasukhallikānuyoga) and attachment to self-mortification (ātmakilamathānuyoga). Self-mortification involves various extreme types of asceticism. Buddhist monastic discipline on the other hand, is a moderate kind of asceticism. And even within mainstream Buddhism there were a number of austere practices that were allowed. Indeed, a number of Mahāyāna sūtras advise bodhisattvas to abandon the householder lifestyle and resort to the wilderness. Some sūtras explain these austerities in detail. Sūtra passages praising wilderness seclusion were still being quoted by Śāntideva and Vimalamitra in the 8th century, and it seems that this ideal was still highly regarded in Tibet.

Thank you, Jnana. This was very informative and well written.
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Re: Asceticism in TB and "The Middle Way"

Postby Tiger » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:48 pm

One of Buddha's foremost disciples, Mahakashyapa, was an ascetic who did not shave his head and who practiced Dhutanga while roaming around in the forests surviving on fruits. So I suppose Buddha was not opposed to asceticism.

He was opposed to Self mortification which is a different thing altogether and this was understood to be in reference to the disciples of Niganthas. Stuff like sleeping on a bed of nails, inflicting pain on your body (like some Christians and Muslims do). This is what is extreme.
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