Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby heart » Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:23 am

tomamundsen wrote:Hi,

I'd like to discuss the topic of whether Westerners can actually be true Dharma practitioners. I have heard that His Holiness Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche said that Westerners don't have the knowledge or time to practice Dharma; the best we can hope for is to make connections with lamas and profound teachings.

The first question of semantics is obviously what constitutes a true Dharma practitioner in the sense that His Holiness is talking about here? For example, how many hours a day do Tibetans practice? How much textual studying must be done? Etc. Is it only a fantasy to think that 2 hours of practice every day makes me a Dharma practitioner?



Thinley Norbu had several incredibly serious western students that do a lot of retreat. I think the need to do retreats is the point of Thinley Norbus statement and most of us don't have the possibility to do long retreats because of the society we live in. It used to worry me a lot because I haven't had the circumstances, money or support to do long retreats. I tried in periods to do 4-5 hours of practice while working full time, it was quite difficult. Now, since many years, I do at least 2 hours a day, which seems to work pretty well with my circumstances. I think most people like me change the practice they do to often and I have found that if you don't do long retreats you have to work at your practice for a long time instead. I do now feel some results from the practices I spent 10-15 years on.
I think most Tibetan Ngakpas practice a couple of hours most days when they not are in retreat or doing drubchen. Some of that practice might be work, doing pujas for other people. They have a family and the daily hustle to make money to support themselves.
Sogyal Rinpoche has his home retreat with four hours of practice a day over a period of 6 years. Dzongsar Khyentse have something similar with 2 hours of practice over a period of 10 years. So today there are possibilities that didn't exist for me Tom, you should take a look at them.

/magnus
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:46 am

Yudron wrote:Tom,
I'm so happy to hear that you have aspirations for long term retreat in your thirties. I am praying that any obstacles will be removed for you.

:thumbsup:

Thank you!
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:02 pm

One thing Tibetans don't seem to have much of a problem with from the start is rebirth, karma, the lower realms, etc... whereas with a lot of westerners they're prone to be disbelieving from the beginning and even if they claim to believe in rebirth and so on, they might just say that but not actually really have conviction in it.

Robert Thurman in one of his podcasts related a story of how when he was a monk his teacher challenged him on this point. He said he finally had to admit that despite saying he believed in rebirth and enlightenment, it was still just a religious fantasy rather than being something he really had conviction and realistic certainty about, largely owing to his materialist education and background.

If you're really serious about karma and rebirth, for instance, you'll plan for it like you would your retirement. You see old Tibetan ladies doing this around the stupa in Boudha, Kathmandu. However, if you unconsciously feel such a thing as a future life is just a religious belief or fantasy, then you'll probably just plan for this life and that's it. Nothing past your retirement and funeral.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:52 pm

I reckon it's a silly question. Of course "Westerners" can REALLY be Dharma practitioners and 2 hours of formal practice is a day for a lay practitioner is probably WAY more than any "Easterner" practices. We should not be comparing oursleves to monks (and even Ngakpa, who are essentially lay CLERGY) but to lay followers of Buddhism. That way we will get a much more realistic idea of whether we are REALLY practitioners or not.
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Yudron » Wed Oct 17, 2012 5:17 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I reckon it's a silly question. Of course "Westerners" can REALLY be Dharma practitioners and 2 hours of formal practice is a day for a lay practitioner is probably WAY more than any "Easterner" practices. We should not be comparing oursleves to monks (and even Ngakpa, who are essentially lay CLERGY) but to lay followers of Buddhism. That way we will get a much more realistic idea of whether we are REALLY practitioners or not.
:namaste:


Actually, personal practice is not necessarily part of a typical monk's day.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Oct 17, 2012 5:45 pm

Huseng wrote:Robert Thurman in one of his podcasts related a story of how when he was a monk his teacher challenged him on this point.
...


The version of this story I heard recently had the quote "you're a Westerner, you don't think you have a mind" that made me laugh.

I'm wondering if American society being as crazy as it is, is the real reason why DT Suzuki said that Pure Land practice would take off here.
What I mean is, the "any time, any where" aspect of Pure Land mantra recitation would fit better into American's crazy lives than specific rituals requiring specific implements or locations.
Up until now, I thought he was more looking at Pure Land practice from the faith & devotion side of things - thinking we'd easily convert from a Judeo Christian God to Amitabha Buddha.

I really respect you guys if you can fit in 2 hours a day for practice.
During the week, I'm lucky if I can get in shrine maintenance & 9 prostrations for the Triple Gem in the morning; and *maybe* an hour or two at night.
While the morning ritual takes maybe 5 minutes & is pretty easy to stay consistent with; some evenings I don't even have 30 minutes to myself.
Ideally I'd like to be able to do prayers, mantra, and seated meditation sessions in the morning & evening.
I have a lot more time when it comes to studying - I have a lot of free time at work to either read eBooks or forums, I have a 45 minute commute each way to work where I listen to audio books, podcasts, sutra, mantra, songs, and/or other teachings.
Lam Rim group meets for a few hours on 1st and 3rd Saturdays.
TianTai temple has services on Sunday that run for a couple hours.

When it comes to pure Tibetan Buddhism, I love the teaching materials but the sheer amount of ritual is intimidating.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Oct 17, 2012 5:52 pm

Yudron wrote:Actually, personal practice is not necessarily part of a typical monk's day.
I think you understood the point I was trying to make?
:namaste:
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Pero » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:17 pm

Huseng wrote:One thing Tibetans don't seem to have much of a problem with from the start is rebirth, karma, the lower realms, etc... whereas with a lot of westerners they're prone to be disbelieving from the beginning and even if they claim to believe in rebirth and so on, they might just say that but not actually really have conviction in it.

Robert Thurman in one of his podcasts related a story of how when he was a monk his teacher challenged him on this point. He said he finally had to admit that despite saying he believed in rebirth and enlightenment, it was still just a religious fantasy rather than being something he really had conviction and realistic certainty about, largely owing to his materialist education and background.

And that is no different for any average Tibetan so the point is moot.
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Oct 17, 2012 9:56 pm

I strongly suggest to Westerners seriously interested in dharma practice, not to work to much. But to make good money. That means getting a professional license of some sort so that you can make your own hours. Having a boss makes thing tougher. If you can make good money working no more than five hours a day, then you have plenty of time to devote to dharma practice and family life. That means also you can live simple life and need few things. Get good bargains on food and such and definitely you can even practice 10 hours a day and still work. If you are young, maybe don't have children and that will free up a lot of time. That's my suggestion.

I usually practice between 5 and 8. Then I work between 8 and noon. Then I eat lunch and rest. Then I try to practice between 2 and 4, taking break betwen 4-5 to answer emails and return calls, then 5-8 practice. 8-10 relax, watch movie. Then sleeping.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby lobster » Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:59 am

not to work too much

That is one approach. Or work more and integrate ones practice, for example one could support ones favourite practitioner . . . :woohoo:
I notice Westerners with serious 30 year or more practices are now rerobing in plain clothes and providing teachers for us 20 minute a day slackers . . .
I want to have my cake and eat it or in dharma talk: Quality time . . . :twothumbsup:

. . . and now back to my serious practice of 'mindful jabbering' :popcorn:
For those doing puja, try and do an hour or two for me. You do the practice, I get the benefit. A win, win situation :namaste:
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby tomamundsen » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:27 am

lobster wrote:. . . and now back to my serious practice of 'mindful jabbering' :popcorn:

:rolling:
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Terma » Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:36 am

ngodrup wrote:
JKhedrup wrote:Good posting.
I agree with Deep Blue Hum. At first many of the Indian gurus were wary of the Tibetans and questioned whether they had the capacity for practice.
In the end, Tibetans became the preservers of the dharma when it began to disappear from the land of Bharat, modern-day India.

I think Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is correct to a certain degree- especially in the context of time.With our computers, I-phones and short attention spans, it is much more difficult to direct the mind to the practice of dharma. The Tibetans had the gift of a very simple and stark environment, with few distractions. The entire country eventually became saturated with dharma practice, and the culture was developed on the basis of Buddhism.

What are the reasons for thinking Westerners are capable, then? We have the Buddha-nature within us, along with a precious human rebirth and we have met the Holy Dharma. There are still a few qualified, realized teachers around. And from the Tantric point-of-view, we have the physical constituents necessary in our physical form to practice the transformative teachings.


Excellent post.
And, some of those great teachers, are passing on practices especially aimed at dark times like this with so many superficial distractions.


I decided to quote both posters here, as they were each excellent statements. The comparison earlier in the thread to the Indian Masters wondering whether the Tibetan's would be suitable vessels for dharma is a great one to our current situation. Though the situations were quite different in many ways, I still think there are some similarities.

I really do believe that we do have a lot of merit here in the West to have the kind of life that we do. But it is a double edged sword. JKedhrup hit it right in the head; we also have so many distractions, or rather the potential for so many distractions.

As Westerners, we have an abundance of great teachers available to us. But I do believe that is down to our karmic connections to find the "right teacher" for us. But when we do, many of these wonderful teachers give so many great teachings to us while holding very little back. I doubt they would do this unless they thought some may actually gain some real benefit. So I really think that it is up to us to put in the effort, keep good samaya, keep generating merit and the conditions for practice, develop some good bodhicitta and really try to repay our teachers' kindness. After all, they really do want us to achieve.

:namaste:
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby kirtu » Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:38 am

tomamundsen wrote:I'd like to discuss the topic of whether Westerners can actually be true Dharma practitioners. I have heard that His Holiness Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche said that Westerners don't have the knowledge or time to practice Dharma; the best we can hope for is to make connections with lamas and profound teachings.


Well you know he was an unconventional teacher ... however it is not entirely uncommon for Tibetan lamas to say that Westerners can mostly only make connections. This is not the case for all lamas however. HH Thinley Norbu's son for example and I believe HH Thinley Norbu's father ....

Is it only a fantasy to think that 2 hours of practice every day makes me a Dharma practitioner?


Why aren't you practising 24x7?

Kirt
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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby kirtu » Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:45 am

Tom wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:Hi,

I'd like to discuss the topic of whether Westerners can actually be true Dharma practitioners. I have heard that His Holiness Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche said that Westerners don't have the knowledge or time to practice Dharma; the best we can hope for is to make connections with lamas and profound teachings.

The first question of semantics is obviously what constitutes a true Dharma practitioner in the sense that His Holiness is talking about here? For example, how many hours a day do Tibetans practice? How much textual studying must be done? Etc. Is it only a fantasy to think that 2 hours of practice every day makes me a Dharma practitioner?


Maybe, the Indian Masters initially said the same thing about the Tibetans.


Well actually there is a story of Marpa and a companion taking teaching in India and one of the Indian masters flat out said Tibetans couldn't possibly practice Dharma.

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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:21 am

forgot to mention this in my initial post:
I can really only speak for Americans, but we tend to be an angry bunch who like a challenge.
When I hear that I can't do something, the martial artist in me says "yeah? watch me!"
Maybe he was trying to light a fire in our bellies, get us to call on that fierce Boddhisattva of action to kick ourselves into fervent practice.
I doubt he was trying to discourage, otherwise I don't think he'd waste his time.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby untxi » Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:34 pm

One of my root teachers, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, was pulled out of a traditional Drikung Kagyu three year retreat to defend his country in 1959. And he did just that, killing people in the process. He spent the next twenty years of his life in a Chinese prison, and it was in prison that he received the pith instructions of Kathok Khenpo Munsel, and it was in prison that he accomplished the Great Perfection. Garchen Rinpoche tells this story often, not for his sake, but for our own. He fell very far because of the circumstances of his place and time, and despite that, made the most of his precious human existence. We can do the same. The only thing we need is a connection to the teachings of a lama and great love for beings. It's really difficult to understand that we have that potential. We really need to internalize the four thoughts. That is what is difficult for Westerners--- internalizing the four thoughts.

tomamundsen wrote:Hi,

I'd like to discuss the topic of whether Westerners can actually be true Dharma practitioners. I have heard that His Holiness Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche said that Westerners don't have the knowledge or time to practice Dharma; the best we can hope for is to make connections with lamas and profound teachings.

The first question of semantics is obviously what constitutes a true Dharma practitioner in the sense that His Holiness is talking about here? For example, how many hours a day do Tibetans practice? How much textual studying must be done? Etc. Is it only a fantasy to think that 2 hours of practice every day makes me a Dharma practitioner?
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Sheila » Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:42 pm

tomamundsen wrote:I have heard that His Holiness Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche said that Westerners don't have the knowledge or time to practice Dharma; the best we can hope for is to make connections with lamas and profound teachings.


I doubt he meant it in an ethnic sense, but in the sense of anyone living the Western life. Obviously, when we hear "Westerner" we think "non-Tibetan" or something close; but I'm sure he'd see a Westernized Tibetan teenager as being in the same predicament.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby kirtu » Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:56 pm

Sheila wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:I have heard that His Holiness Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche said that Westerners don't have the knowledge or time to practice Dharma; the best we can hope for is to make connections with lamas and profound teachings.


but I'm sure he'd see a Westernized Tibetan teenager as being in the same predicament.


Except that they almost always have sincere devotion ....

Kirt
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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby MalaBeads » Thu Oct 18, 2012 4:39 pm

I'd like to respond a bit to the opening post with a reminder. Lamas, especially Vajrayana lamas, are always teaching in a particular time and place and context. We do them, and ourselves, a great disservice to think that what they say at a particular time and place, and to a particular group of people or an individual, is something that is an absolute and applies to all people, at all times, in all places.

You simply can't turn something a Vajrayana teacher says into an absolute slogan and wave it around as if it were true for all time.

I think your question is a sincere one, Tom, and I don't mean to jump on you. It's just a reminder of how this teaching is done.

Because this teaching is new to us in the west (at least in this form) we have a tendency to want to grasp what our teachers say as a measure (to ourselves) that we have "understood".

I understand less and less all the time. And maybe that's okay.

:namaste:
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Pero » Thu Oct 18, 2012 4:40 pm

untxi wrote:That is what is difficult for Westerners--- internalizing the four thoughts.

kirtu wrote:
Sheila wrote: but I'm sure he'd see a Westernized Tibetan teenager as being in the same predicament.

Except that they almost always have sincere devotion ....

I think this is complete and utter BS.
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
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