Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby heart » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:19 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:A disjointed perhaps-perhaps-not related thought:

I wonder how many Tibetan monks (let alone actual ethnic Tibetan lay persons) actually complete ngondro? I've heard now from a couple of sources who are in a position to know that an enormous portion (of monks) do not.


I don't know if that is true. My friend, a Tibetan monk, told me about what the average monks personal practice is and although Ngondro is not a part of it they do practice a number of sadhanas and prayers every day. Then of course there is a lot of drubchens and other things going on at a monastery every year.

/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: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Yudron » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:39 pm

heart wrote:
Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:A disjointed perhaps-perhaps-not related thought:

I wonder how many Tibetan monks (let alone actual ethnic Tibetan lay persons) actually complete ngondro? I've heard now from a couple of sources who are in a position to know that an enormous portion (of monks) do not.


I don't know if that is true. My friend, a Tibetan monk, told me about what the average monks personal practice is and although Ngondro is not a part of it they do practice a number of sadhanas and prayers every day. Then of course there is a lot of drubchens and other things going on at a monastery every year.

/magnus


Well, MY monk friend said... that in the monastery he belongs to (one of the five Nyingma mother monasteries in exile) they have two, hour long, group pujas for the monks each day, and there is very little personal time to do ngondro during the busy day time schedule. Monks used to do it at night, but lack of electricity has reduced the number of monks who do personal accumulations after their scheduled ends in the evening. Few want to do it in the dark in their dorm. That's not a contradiction with what you are saying, Magnus, but the point is that monks there and lay people here have similar obstacles to personal practice.

I do group pujas like brushing my teeth... not because I enjoy it, but because it is necessary.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Yudron » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:41 pm

PorkChop wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:Wow... If that's true, this is a real eye opener!


I calculated and at 9 prostrations a day, I can complete the prostration part of ngondro in about 31 years if I stay perfect... :thumbsup:


... and you can take a little nap in between each prostration.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:52 pm

heart wrote: I also must say that I have no idea how one "drop everything else" in this society that we live in, do you? Even monks and nuns have to provide for themselves and if you have no money you get no teachings and no empowerment's. It is a pipe dream in my opinion, the fact that some managed is the exception that proves the rule. I say this from experience.


The context has to do with realization of a sense of great urgency and little opportunity.
If your house was burning down all around you and about to collapse, would you be able to drop everything you were doing and try to get out of that burning house? How easy or difficult would that be?
That is the analogy I have heard before.
I'm certainly no saint...I like the cozy little chunks of samsara that I've learned to cling to
so I am not preaching to you. I'm a hypocrite, for sure, but I am merely expressing that angle on things.

That might be what was meant by the suggestion
that westerners can't really (or perhaps can't very easily) practice dharma.
maybe it is harder for us to see that our house is on fire.
Maybe yes, maybe no,
or maybe I am too busy posting my opinions on a web forum to notice!
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby heart » Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:21 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
heart wrote: I also must say that I have no idea how one "drop everything else" in this society that we live in, do you? Even monks and nuns have to provide for themselves and if you have no money you get no teachings and no empowerment's. It is a pipe dream in my opinion, the fact that some managed is the exception that proves the rule. I say this from experience.


The context has to do with realization of a sense of great urgency and little opportunity.
If your house was burning down all around you and about to collapse, would you be able to drop everything you were doing and try to get out of that burning house? How easy or difficult would that be?
That is the analogy I have heard before.
I'm certainly no saint...I like the cozy little chunks of samsara that I've learned to cling to
so I am not preaching to you. I'm a hypocrite, for sure, but I am merely expressing that angle on things.

That might be what was meant by the suggestion
that westerners can't really (or perhaps can't very easily) practice dharma.
maybe it is harder for us to see that our house is on fire.
Maybe yes, maybe no,
or maybe I am too busy posting my opinions on a web forum to notice!
.
.
.


Seriously, I tried it, it just don't work like that.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Oct 19, 2012 9:15 pm

heart wrote:
Seriously, I tried it, it just don't work like that.

/magnus



tried what?
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Dharmaswede » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:06 am


Seriously, I tried it, it just don't work like that.

/magnus


For 99,9% of us – isn't "dropping everything" a metaphor for the psychospiritual transformation of attachment/detachment to non-attachment? That is, it's not about quitting your job and selling your house but rather change your priorities, beginning from the inside. Sure, you can turn that into self-delusion where you "can both eat the cake and have it", but the bottom line is how we relate to things and not necessarily what we have. In Vajrayana you transform the poison.

Who doesn't dream of having the perfect conditions for practice? That dream is for many of us a delusional pipe dream, but the drive behind it is very valuable we just have to be skillful in how we nurture and channel it.

Back to the original OP, I certainly think there are both Tibetan Lamas and Westerners who idealize Tibetans as practitioners and have lower expectations of Westerners. This influences what is being taught by the Lamas, and the level of confidence by the practitioners. That being said, certainly there are many, many wonderful examples of the opposite!

These are very tricky issues...

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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Dharmaswede » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:20 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:[what was meant by the suggestion
that westerners can't really (or perhaps can't very easily) practice dharma.
maybe it is harder for us to see that our house is on fire.
Maybe yes, maybe no,
or maybe I am too busy posting my opinions on a web forum to notice!
.
.
.


H.H. Menri Trizin 33rd (head of Bön) really appreciates Westerners who spend time, energy, and money to study and practice. Because we actually have a choice of whether we will sit in front of the television with a bowl of chips and a sixpack, or to meditate. There are monks who would much prefer that, to the monastery. I think he is right; there is a particular merit in that.

We might not be able to easily to turn our backs to our house when it burns, but we should rejoice that we at least get outside from time to time! Otherwise, I think it is very easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a "lousy Western practitioners"... Always try a little harder yes, but not push Dharma into another "must" on our endless todo-lists.

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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby heart » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:27 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
heart wrote:
Seriously, I tried it, it just don't work like that.

/magnus



tried what?


I lived only for Dharma, didn't care what work I had or how my circumstance were. It don't work, you have no money and lots of problems.Eventually I started to work with my circumstances instead, get some education and make an effort. My point is that if there are not special circumstances, say someone is sponsoring you in a three-year retreat, the "drop everything" actually doesn't mean anything at all, it is just a fantasy that keep you away from doing the best you can in your present circumstances.

/magnus
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby heart » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:38 am

Dharmaswede wrote:

Seriously, I tried it, it just don't work like that.

/magnus


For 99,9% of us – isn't "dropping everything" a metaphor for the psychospiritual transformation of attachment/detachment to non-attachment? That is, it's not about quitting your job and selling your house but rather change your priorities, beginning from the inside. Sure, you can turn that into self-delusion where you "can both eat the cake and have it", but the bottom line is how we relate to things and not necessarily what we have. In Vajrayana you transform the poison.

Who doesn't dream of having the perfect conditions for practice? That dream is for many of us a delusional pipe dream, but the drive behind it is very valuable we just have to be skillful in how we nurture and channel it.

Back to the original OP, I certainly think there are both Tibetan Lamas and Westerners who idealize Tibetans as practitioners and have lower expectations of Westerners. This influences what is being taught by the Lamas, and the level of confidence by the practitioners. That being said, certainly there are many, many wonderful examples of the opposite!

These are very tricky issues...

Jens



Yes, if we want perfect circumstances for practice we need to accumulate merit, a lot of merit. We can do that accumulation both on our pillows and while working with sentient beings in daily life. Then main point on the pillow is to go for quality practice, not quantity. The main point of the pillow is to be open and kind. This is certainly the same for westerners and asians.

/magnus
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:44 am

Dharmaswede wrote:Always try a little harder yes, but not push Dharma into another "must" on our endless todo-lists.
I can really sympathise with this statement!!! If Dharma practice is a chore and not a source of true joy then what are we doing? Okay, it is relatively important to cultivate positive habits since these are what will help us during all the bardo. It's always better to have generated positive, rather than negative, habits. At the same time though should practice be reduced to a habit? I can understand the logic to it, in martial arts we do the same thing, replace dangerous responses/habits with safer ones so that when we react we will react "properly". But is this really just what Dharma practice is about? Setting up behavioural responses?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Norden » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:59 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.


To be honest, no. Very few.
Generally Westerners by their nature not very spiritual. Caught too much in their thinking, even in daily life as well we can see they are developing only their brain intelligence. This is from my point of view. Most of them are not really understand what spiritual is and often they always depart or start from an 'academic mindset' approach and attitude.
Westerners are good at creating spacecraft, etc but not the other way around. No offence. But once again this is just my view.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby tomamundsen » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:40 am

heart wrote:Yes, if we want perfect circumstances for practice we need to accumulate merit, a lot of merit. We can do that accumulation both on our pillows and while working with sentient beings in daily life. Then main point on the pillow is to go for quality practice, not quantity. The main point of the pillow is to be open and kind. This is certainly the same for westerners and asians.

/magnus

:twothumbsup: :good:
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby tomamundsen » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:45 am

Norden 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.


To be honest, no. Very few.
Generally Westerners by their nature not very spiritual. Caught too much in their thinking, even in daily life as well we can see they are developing only their brain intelligence. This is from my point of view. Most of them are not really understand what spiritual is and often they always depart or start from an 'academic mindset' approach and attitude.
Westerners are good at creating spacecraft, etc but not the other way around. No offence. But once again this is just my view.

Westerners in general, sure; but we're obviously only talking about Vajrayana practitioners. I think it would be hard to find anyone from the West who has picked up Vajrayana that is not spiritual.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Dharmaswede » Sat Oct 20, 2012 11:50 am

gregkavarnos wrote: At the same time though should practice be reduced to a habit? I can understand the logic to it, in martial arts we do the same thing, replace dangerous responses/habits with safer ones so that when we react we will react "properly". But is this really just what Dharma practice is about? Setting up behavioural responses?
:namaste:


I wasn't very clear in my post. When our practice becomes contrived due to us not being open and present putting our heart into our practice, and when we just go through the motions and recite like parrots, then our practice will be reduced to mainly being an "adjustment of our behavioural responses". Still helpful, but obviously missing out on the immense potential of Vajrayana.

Magnus pointers on quality, openeness, kindness etc. are very helpful in counteracting precisely this.

(I know you know all this – much better so than me, just wanted to clarify myself.)

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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Zenda » Sat Oct 20, 2012 3:08 pm

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?


To echo what a few others have said here, I think that Westerners can certainly be true Dharma practitioners. HH Thinley Norbu Rinpoche spent a lot of time teaching Westerners, so surely, he didn't think we were hopeless.

It's so useless and unnecessary to erect even more obstacles to practice by setting up this idea (fantasy, really) that to be a "true" Dharma practitioner you have to practice for two hours a day, in some kind of idealized environment, etc. There are enough obstacles as it is. I happen to love this fantasy myself, and the advice I've gotten over and over is to just practice in the situation as it is. Just do it, I guess. Does this make me a true Dharma practitioner? Who knows, and who cares! :rolling:
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:54 pm

tomamundsen wrote:
Norden 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.


To be honest, no. Very few.
Generally Westerners by their nature not very spiritual. Caught too much in their thinking, even in daily life as well we can see they are developing only their brain intelligence. This is from my point of view. Most of them are not really understand what spiritual is and often they always depart or start from an 'academic mindset' approach and attitude.
Westerners are good at creating spacecraft, etc but not the other way around. No offence. But once again this is just my view.

Westerners in general, sure; but we're obviously only talking about Vajrayana practitioners. I think it would be hard to find anyone from the West who has picked up Vajrayana that is not spiritual.
What I've found is if you practice Vajrayana, never mind who or what you are, you have been practicing for several previous lifetimes. Regardless of the culture, we will find and practice the Buddhadharma. We ARE different from everyone around us. Inherently different.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

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Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby dzoki » Mon Oct 29, 2012 4:36 pm

I´d like to drop some 5 maybe 4 cents here.
Whether we can become serious practitioners or not depents on whether we really and honestly want to be free from suffering or not. Then there are different circumstances and situations we can have, we can be in a family situation having to take care of kids or be without kids but still having a demanding job etc. It is very well possible to practice even in bussy circumstances if we really want. So I´d say it boils down to the dedication and motivation.
If someone wishes to be a person who has a lot of free time and can practice in a retreat, they should be ready to accept difficulties. Being cold, eating little food, being poor, having low hygiene and being a looser (from the social point of view). But I can asure you that living with just possesions that you can carry on your back is the happiest life, despite all the problems. You are your own boss, you have no worries, no reason to get angry, no reason to be sad and you have all the time that the remainder of you life will afford you. So you can just practice and watch what is going on. You also learn to let go of things, one day you have a knife, the other day you have no knife, it is not bad, you just have less stuff to carry around :D
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Lhug-Pa » Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:47 pm

Hi Dzoki,

I agree with the main point of your post; however, the part about hygiene I don't necessarily agree with (although 'low' hygiene is relative, so maybe I don't know what you have in mind here).

Low hygiene can actually be bad for one's health. For example, by not brushing and flossing regularly, bacteria can actually affect ones brain and the arteries connected to the heart.


On the precepts of Inner Tantra, Tulku Thondup's Enlightened Journey wrote:"To afflict one's own five aggregates, which are the Buddha families. One should not abuse one's own body but take care of it."


Not to mention that if we're unhygienic/carry a stench, and if people find out that we're Dharma practitioners, they could be driven away from the Dharma if they see us as an example of what Dharma leads to. Of course for some people nothing is ever good enough; so if we're doing our best, and we still don't live up to their standards, then it's on them at that point.

So I'd say at least we ought to find a way to brush & floss regularly; and if one lives in the city, then try to shower a good few times a week. If one is on retreat in nature away from the city, then maybe frequency of bathing/showering isn't quite as important.

And again, 'low' is relative, so maybe I misinterpreted what you mean by 'low hygiene'.
Last edited by Lhug-Pa on Mon Oct 29, 2012 6:38 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:53 pm

I just can't imagine Drukpa Kunley brushing and flossing (or even washing) all that often. If at all!!! :smile:
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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