Deities

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Re: Deities

Postby Nighthawk » Sun Sep 30, 2012 8:20 pm

catmoon wrote:
Nighthawk wrote:How is it that these dieties are perceivable to someone on high bhumi stages but also for the average joe who only has faith in them?


This phenomenon occurs in all religions. The Catholics see Jesus and saints and angels, the Muslims see Mohammed, the Hindus see Shiva, the Mormons talk to Joseph Smith and he talks to angels who deliver golden plates written with divine messages, and those without belief see UFOs and get abducted.

Very true. Having said that, do you believe the visions of Buddhas experienced by advanced meditators to be fabrications of the mind?
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Re: Deities

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Sep 30, 2012 9:52 pm

Nighthawk wrote:
Very true. Having said that, do you believe the visions of Buddhas experienced by advanced meditators to be fabrications of the mind?


Please explain "fabrications of the mind' as opposed to "not fabrications of the mind"

Thank you.
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Re: Deities

Postby PorkChop » Mon Oct 01, 2012 1:16 am

Disclaimer: I'm still brand spanking new to all this stuff. As a total noob, I've had some difficulties with the concept of the Deities (actually, any of the super natural beings).
When it comes to the idea of a particular supernatural "being" (Deity, Boddhisattva, Buddha, etc) being a projection of aspects of ourselves; while I understand the concept, I still have some difficulties.

In the first case of super natural beings as external entities; I think it may just take time or an experience that opens me up.

In the second case of a projection of something internal; while I can wrap my head around the idea of Chenrezig/Avalokiteshvara as the projection of pure compassion, the idea of 'jam dpal dbyangs/Manjushri as the projection of pure wisdom, and the idea of Channa Dorje/Vajrapani as the projection of a Buddha's power; I still feel like those names & images are very foreign.
I sometimes wonder about the possibility of adopting more familiar names & images, ones that I can identify with more - either people still living that embody those qualities, or images/myths I'm more familiar with...

I don't mean to be disrespectful by bring this up, but I do feel that a more familiar image might hit me at a deeper level...
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Re: Deities

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:02 am

PorkChop wrote:When it comes to the idea of a particular supernatural "being" (Deity, Boddhisattva, Buddha, etc) being a projection of aspects of ourselves; while I understand the concept, I still have some difficulties.


I think this is a very good thing to discuss. It represents a real issue that a lot of 'westerners' have, pardon my gross generalization.

It occurs to me, something to consider, is that if the question comes down to whether a yidam is a projection of my mind or is it an independent being, a being who existed even before I was born, then...

if it "exists" outside of the limits of what I can conceive, then how would I possibly know it when I meet one?

To illustrate, consider the artist's representation of, say, Chenrezik, which is always rendered in male form to Tibetan canonical proportions and set guidelines so that you know you are looking at a picture of Chenrezik and not Amitayus or some other fellow. Or, consider the same persona as Kuan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion, a representation in female form. Both are Avalokitesvara. But Kuan Yin, more popular in China and Japan, is seated or standing wearing billowing robes, whatever. So, we begin with some idea of "what the deity is supposed to look like", even if, depending on the cultural reference, there is no resemblance.

So, no matter what form a deity might actually assume even if they "really existed", unless they assume the shape we are expecting to see, we will not recognize that yidam.

So, regardless of whether you think yidams are just imagined personifications of the true and enlightened nature of one's mind, or an actual cognizant beings who might be living next door, as long as you are regarding the whole situation as having to be one way or the other, this calculating mind cannot grasp the reality of the yidam. As long as you are trying to figure it out "dualistically" you can never see the "oneness".

I was talking to a group of students and i asked them, "how many people have ever seen a painting of Jesus Christ?" and of course everybody raised their hands. then i asked, "who here can tell me what Christ looked like?" and all of the hands went down. How strange! But the point is, even for people who believe in God, what they believe never exceeds what they imagine. So, unless you let go of the "is it real or made up" context, "real or not" doesn't matter because you will only see what you imagine anyway. And if Chenrezik manifests as a chair for you to sit down on, you will only see the chair because in your mind Chenrezik is not upholstered.

(By the way, when I say "you" i don't mean you specifically, I mean anyone in general).

In another recent thread (pure land) the question came up, if so many people have been reborn in dewachen and can come back here to help sentient beings trapped in samsara, why don't we see them all over the place? And it's sort of the same thing. What do you expect them to look like? Is there a method for "Bodhisattva profiling"? No, I don't think so!!!

So, when we talk about yidams being "real" or just constructs of the imagination, we need to remember that this "real" we are referring to is itself a construct of our imaginations.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Deities

Postby Nighthawk » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:13 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Nighthawk wrote:
Very true. Having said that, do you believe the visions of Buddhas experienced by advanced meditators to be fabrications of the mind?


Please explain "fabrications of the mind' as opposed to "not fabrications of the mind"

Thank you.
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Fabrications of the mind meaning hallucinations.
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Re: Deities

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Oct 01, 2012 5:18 am

Nighthawk wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Nighthawk wrote:
Very true. Having said that, do you believe the visions of Buddhas experienced by advanced meditators to be fabrications of the mind?


Please explain "fabrications of the mind' as opposed to "not fabrications of the mind"

Thank you.
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Fabrications of the mind meaning hallucinations.



I understand what you mean generally (having enjoyed many hallucinatory experiences in my younger days)
but in the context of buddhism, in which our ordinary perceptions by which we tend to solidify experience are regarded as projections of the mind, the "arising" of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to meditators is usually regarded as clarity of mind, rather than just another hallucination. So, it's like that saying, "if you see Buddha on the road, kill him". If a solid appearance of Buddha suddenly shows up at your door, then you are dreaming. However, I have known of a few situations where a meditator has "asked" a yidam for an explanation or some other sort of direction and, as if the yidam is talking to the meditator, the answer comes in a totally unexpected way.

For example, concerning doubts about his progress, a person meditated on the yidam (chenrezik) with these doubts and as though the yidam was talking to him, an explanation was given that relieved his doubts. it was explained that just as we usually look at the blossom of a flower as being important, from "the flower's point of view", the blossom is a short-lived event and that rather it is the roots, the part that nobody ever sees, that the flower would be concerned with, and that in this way one should regard assessing the quality of one's practice. The part that you see is always changing, but the roots of one's practice, how well they are grounded and nourished, the part we what we don't see, is even more important. So, after "hearing" this the person didn't have those doubts any more.

Now, you can easily say that this is just something that the mediator came up with, that maybe he had recently been looking at flowers or gardening or something, and that such an analogy just came to him. That is a perfectly reasonable. That is how analogies occur. But the point isn't really whether Chenrezik was on the other end of the line and picked up the meditation phone and talked to him or not.

The point is that at a finer level of awareness, there is no difference between the mind of a Buddha and the mind of an "ordinary" person. Everyone has that essential potential for realization, otherwise there would be no point in trying. That essential mind is limitless. So, you cannot exactly say that yidams are hallucinations. They are real, but not in any limited sense.

It's like asking whether or not you can put the sky into a drinking glass. One might say, no, of course not. The sky is infinite and the drinking glass is very small. But on the other hand, the sky is already filling the glass. There is really no point where the sky cuts off. The sky already extends all the way down to the drinking glass. So, you can also say yes, you can put the sky into a drinking glass.

Perhaps the question isn't so much about real vs. imaginary as it is about infinite vs. finite.

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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Deities

Postby viniketa » Mon Oct 01, 2012 5:36 am

Nighthawk wrote:Fabrications of the mind meaning hallucinations.


Equating concepts developed through Buddhist philosophy and meditation with Western psychiatric/psychological terms can lead to profound misunderstanding. In Buddhist philosophical terminology, there are terms for both "correct" and "incorrect" 'fabrications of the mind'.

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Re: Deities

Postby lobster » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:08 am

and those without belief see UFOs and get abducted.
:rolling:

Become yidams. More fun.
Failing that, become a Buddha . . .
. . . instructions available . . . :reading:
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Re: Deities

Postby heart » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:19 am

lobster wrote:
and those without belief see UFOs and get abducted.
:rolling:

Become yidams. More fun.
Failing that, become a Buddha . . .
. . . instructions available . . . :reading:


Yidams are Buddhas.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
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Re: Deities

Postby Dechen Norbu » Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:05 pm

PorkChop wrote:
I don't mean to be disrespectful by bring this up, but I do feel that a more familiar image might hit me at a deeper level...

You can do that. You don't need to visualize deities as they are depicted by Tibetans. The position, ornaments and so on have a useful meaning, so these are good to remember because of what they convey. But the actual aspect should be livelier, prettier, more luminous, with movement and so on. It must mean something to you. You are imagining a symbol. Do so in a way that leads you to the desired purpose of imagining that symbol. Do the best you can to bring about the best image you can imagine, Hollywood big budget movie style if necessary. But while at it, try to keep focused in the aim of the practice. Whatever manifestation of the Sambhogakaya, great practitioners have, it surely goes well beyond the depictions you see in thangkas, status and other imagery available.
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Re: Deities

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:56 pm

IMHO: "As if" in fact is the basic nature. We are all "projections" or "fictions" or "fabrications" of each other.
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Re: Deities

Postby PorkChop » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:44 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:You can do that. You don't need to visualize deities as they are depicted by Tibetans. The position, ornaments and so on have a useful meaning, so these are good to remember because of what they convey. But the actual aspect should be livelier, prettier, more luminous, with movement and so on. It must mean something to you. You are imagining a symbol. Do so in a way that leads you to the desired purpose of imagining that symbol. Do the best you can to bring about the best image you can imagine, Hollywood big budget movie style if necessary. But while at it, try to keep focused in the aim of the practice. Whatever manifestation of the Sambhogakaya, great practitioners have, it surely goes well beyond the depictions you see in thangkas, status and other imagery available.


That helps. Thank you very much. :)
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Re: Deities

Postby futerko » Mon Oct 01, 2012 4:54 pm

PorkChop wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:You can do that. You don't need to visualize deities as they are depicted by Tibetans. The position, ornaments and so on have a useful meaning, so these are good to remember because of what they convey. But the actual aspect should be livelier, prettier, more luminous, with movement and so on. It must mean something to you. You are imagining a symbol. Do so in a way that leads you to the desired purpose of imagining that symbol. Do the best you can to bring about the best image you can imagine, Hollywood big budget movie style if necessary. But while at it, try to keep focused in the aim of the practice. Whatever manifestation of the Sambhogakaya, great practitioners have, it surely goes well beyond the depictions you see in thangkas, status and other imagery available.


That helps. Thank you very much. :)


Good advice, but be sure to maintain the purity of your visualisation (i.e. without importing any cultural baggage)
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: Deities

Postby tomamundsen » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:32 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
PorkChop wrote:
I don't mean to be disrespectful by bring this up, but I do feel that a more familiar image might hit me at a deeper level...

You can do that. You don't need to visualize deities as they are depicted by Tibetans. The position, ornaments and so on have a useful meaning, so these are good to remember because of what they convey. But the actual aspect should be livelier, prettier, more luminous, with movement and so on. It must mean something to you. You are imagining a symbol. Do so in a way that leads you to the desired purpose of imagining that symbol. Do the best you can to bring about the best image you can imagine, Hollywood big budget movie style if necessary. But while at it, try to keep focused in the aim of the practice. Whatever manifestation of the Sambhogakaya, great practitioners have, it surely goes well beyond the depictions you see in thangkas, status and other imagery available.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche (DJKR) advises not to use visualizations of anything other than the traditional yidams without guidance from a lama. Every ornament, color, etc. is there for a particular symbolic reason.
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Re: Deities

Postby PorkChop » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:44 pm

tomamundsen wrote:Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche (DJKR) advises not to use visualizations of anything other than the traditional yidams without guidance from a lama. Every ornament, color, etc. is there for a particular symbolic reason.


screw it... i'm just going to study lam rim, read sutra, and do some basic meditation until i get a guru to teach me that stuff (local lam rim group is student-lead). :)
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Re: Deities

Postby Dechen Norbu » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:24 pm

futerko wrote:
PorkChop wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:You can do that. You don't need to visualize deities as they are depicted by Tibetans. The position, ornaments and so on have a useful meaning, so these are good to remember because of what they convey. But the actual aspect should be livelier, prettier, more luminous, with movement and so on. It must mean something to you. You are imagining a symbol. Do so in a way that leads you to the desired purpose of imagining that symbol. Do the best you can to bring about the best image you can imagine, Hollywood big budget movie style if necessary. But while at it, try to keep focused in the aim of the practice. Whatever manifestation of the Sambhogakaya, great practitioners have, it surely goes well beyond the depictions you see in thangkas, status and other imagery available.


That helps. Thank you very much. :)


Good advice, but be sure to maintain the purity of your visualisation (i.e. without importing any cultural baggage)

Well, Tibetan depictions of deities are loaded with cultural baggage. Do you really think Tara wears Tibetan style ornaments? If a present day westerner Mahasiddha represented Tara, you can bet she would look a lot better that she usually does in Tibetan thangkas.
Of course putting her a pair of shades is probably going too far, but I think he got the meaning. Or so I hope. Btw, this advice was given by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, so it has some bone backing it up. I'm not making this up on my own, although the teachings I received would allow me to reach the same conclusion even without DKR's suggestion. ;)
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Re: Deities

Postby Dechen Norbu » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:29 pm

tomamundsen wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:
PorkChop wrote:
I don't mean to be disrespectful by bring this up, but I do feel that a more familiar image might hit me at a deeper level...

You can do that. You don't need to visualize deities as they are depicted by Tibetans. The position, ornaments and so on have a useful meaning, so these are good to remember because of what they convey. But the actual aspect should be livelier, prettier, more luminous, with movement and so on. It must mean something to you. You are imagining a symbol. Do so in a way that leads you to the desired purpose of imagining that symbol. Do the best you can to bring about the best image you can imagine, Hollywood big budget movie style if necessary. But while at it, try to keep focused in the aim of the practice. Whatever manifestation of the Sambhogakaya, great practitioners have, it surely goes well beyond the depictions you see in thangkas, status and other imagery available.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche (DJKR) advises not to use visualizations of anything other than the traditional yidams without guidance from a lama. Every ornament, color, etc. is there for a particular symbolic reason.

People need to be careful not to end up propitiating worldly spirits by mistake, that's all.
You do a visualization of a traditional yidam with particular ornaments, but that same yidam doesn't need to look asian, much less like in a thangka or wear asian ornaments. The meaning must be there for a particular reason, but that's it. Believing otherwise is plain foolish as sambhogakaya manifestations don't have nationalities or ethnicity of any sort.
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Re: Deities

Postby futerko » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:58 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote: The meaning must be there for a particular reason, but that's it. Believing otherwise is plain foolish as sambhogakaya manifestations don't have nationalities or ethnicity of any sort.


Yes, this is what I meant by "baggage". Symbolism without identifications rather than any specific content.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: Deities

Postby tomamundsen » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:00 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:People need to be careful not to end up propitiating worldly spirits by mistake, that's all.
You do a visualization of a traditional yidam with particular ornaments, but that same yidam doesn't need to look asian, much less like in a thangka or wear asian ornaments. The meaning must be there for a particular reason, but that's it. Believing otherwise is plain foolish as sambhogakaya manifestations don't have nationalities or ethnicity of any sort.


It seems like his point is about maintaining all of the symbolism of the deities. The Tibetan ornaments are significant because they each represent something in particular. The same can be said as to the numbers of faces, appendages, etc. He particularly says it's not OK to visualize, for example, Guru Rinpoche holding a laptop and walkman instead of a vajra and kapala.

For reference, the teaching I'm talking about comes from his Longchen Nyinthik Practice Manual, pages 42-43.
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Re: Deities

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Oct 02, 2012 12:56 am

Of course. I read that manual too. That's why I said putting a pair of shades in Tara would be going too far. Ornaments have a goal. And they don't spoil the visualization either. Most are pretty cool in fact, even the weirder ones.
One can and should give life to visualizations and, if possible, do a better job than artists did in their thangkas. I believe a similar comment was recorded in a video or something too. Can't say which one though.
No worries about giving deities a better (or fiercer if that's the case) look. They must look alive and the intended visualization should match the description. So if, for instance, a certain visualization is supposed to arouse you, or if a deity is young and beautiful, I'm sure the kind of traditional depictions won't serve that purpose. The same goes for wrathful manifestations and so on. Just keep common sense and know when one is already deviating and practice becomes noneffective.
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