If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

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If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Den » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:36 pm

Hello,
My name is Dennis and this is my first post on Dharma Wheel. Thank you to all who have previously posted and contributed to many of the begginner related posts here. I have been an avid reader of these earlier posts. I thought that I would approach my request for guidance from a slightly different perspective. I am proposing the following scenario in the hope that those of us who are new to Tibetan Buddhism can learn from those who have gone down the Dharma path before us. Drawing upon what you've learned and experienced to date, drawing upon your insight and hindsight, how would you proceed anew in 2012?
Yours appreciatively in the Dharma,
Den

If you were to "Begin all over again today," and commit to a comprehensive and serious study of Tibetan Buddhism today, How would you proceed? Would you, immediately relocate and join a specific community? Seek access to a specific Guru? As a layperson or as a nun or monk? Remember you are a begginner. Would charitable works be important to you or would you focus more on study, meditation/retreats or both? Are there communities/teachers who futures you see as especially bright and relevant in bringing the Dharma to the west and is this important to you? Finally, If for reasons of family or work you were unable to relocate, would you begin with online/homestudy classes from FPMT, Nalandabodhi, your choice, etc?
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:20 pm

The funny thing is that, after nearly 29 years, every day I feel like I am starting all over again.
Maybe not from scratch, maybe not as a beginner, but perhaps with absolutely no certainty about anything.
If I could go back and change anything, knowing what I know now,
yes, I would choose to keep my life as simple and as uncomplicated as possible,
so as to be able to devote more time to meditation, study, and practice.
In terms of advice, that would be it.
But you are always where you are mostly because of the choices that you have made,
and since there is no permanenet self, aren't we always starting over, constantly?
.
.
.
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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: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby lobster » Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:10 am

The funny thing is that, after nearly 29 years, every day I feel like I am starting all over again.


Seems about right.
We begin again, every day.
. . . to answer the question . . . read more, practice more . . . follow more . . . do more compassionate things etc.
Not rocket science. Change creates [wait for it . . . ] . . .
change . . .
See you in another 29 years . . . :woohoo:
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:44 am

Den wrote:
If you were to "Begin all over again today," and commit to a comprehensive and serious study of Tibetan Buddhism today, How would you proceed? Would you, immediately relocate and join a specific community? Seek access to a specific Guru? As a layperson or as a nun or monk? Remember you are a beginner. Would charitable works be important to you or would you focus more on study, meditation/retreats or both? Are there communities/teachers who futures you see as especially bright and relevant in bringing the Dharma to the west and is this important to you? Finally, If for reasons of family or work you were unable to relocate, would you begin with online/homestudy classes from FPMT, Nalandabodhi, your choice, etc?


I was very fortunate to be able to spend a little more than a year at a place in upstate New York. I cannot speak for other traditions, but owing to the importance of a student/teacher relationship in Vajrayana, if you ever have such and opportunity, do it!!! Aside from that, I think it is always good to make a connection with a teacher and a group, even if they do not, ultimately, end up being your teacher and group. There is a lot to learn not only about the teachings, but also about teachers and about how students of teachers interact with each other. As far as any particulars such as the things you mention, I think that at the top of your list, you should always be honest with yourself about your own motivations and needs. Don't talk yourself into buying shoes that don't fit. If you are always honest with yourself, you are half way there.
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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: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Terma » Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:19 am

So far a few good honest responses I think. :twothumbsup:

Many people would like to say "I would have done this, or "would have gone to this place" or "to see this teacher", but we don't understand our own karma so we have little choice but to be blown around by it as we are now. I always try to keep the rule of causes and conditions in mind and just go with the flow, though it is very hard to do most of the time. Just being reminded of that fact is quite helpful I think, as we normally don't keep that mode of thinking. We all have our own little lessons about ourselves that we have to learn on the way in order to move forward.

But this is my own view point because I was sort of thrust very quickly and immediately into Vajrayana through experience and not from an intellectual kind of way. My intellectual side has been trying to catch up ever since! haa haa...

But as for a few suggestions, I would really try to understand the nature of suffering (our dualistic minds) and work hard to be honest and build a great foundation for not only practice, but the motivation to practice. It will go a long way in the future.

:namaste:
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Den » Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:44 am

PadmaVonSamba,Lobster and Terma,
Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful responses.
I was not so much interested in a "what would you would have done differently in the past" more of a "what specifically would you pursue today, knowing what you do," scenario. My hope for with this thread was to create a forum for you'all to explore what specifically is vital/exciting to you today on your personal dharma paths, and with wisdom intact to see through begginer's eyes and plot your course. My thinking was that we begginers would indirectly benefit from your posts. Perhaps my initial post was a bit convoluted. Sorry for that.
I do look forward to your reponses and anything additional you wish to share.

Seems about right.
We begin again, every day.
. . . to answer the question . . . read more, practice more . . . follow more . . . do more compassionate things etc.
Not rocket science. Change creates [wait for it . . . ] . . .
change . . .


Lobster, flesh it out for me please, read more what? practice more what? follow more what? do you see what I am looking for?


Many people would like to say "I would have done this, or "would have gone to this place" or "to see this teacher", but we don't understand our own karma so we have little choice but to be blown around by it as we are now.


Terma, My question for you would be: What teacher do you want to see now and Why? What place would you like to visit now and why?

If I could go back and change anything, knowing what I know now,
yes, I would choose to keep my life as simple and as uncomplicated as possible,
so as to be able to devote more time to meditation, study, and practice.
In terms of advice, that would be it.
But you are always where you are mostly because of the choices that you have made,
and since there is no permanenet self, aren't we always starting over, constantly?


PadmaVonSamba, Thank you for your kind responses and for your many helpful posts.
Currently are there any organizations, teachers, retreats,or teachings that you personally feel drawn to or impress you?
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:16 am

In an ideal world, what would I have done?

Definitely would still choose to be a monk. But the evolution of education would go like this:

While in High school as before study the dharma with my teachers but be far more diligent about learning the Lam Rim and meditation. During the summer and weekends instead of wasting time attend as many Lam Rim and Vipassana retreats as possible. Take Asian languages as a language option in school rather than French.

Complete a BA. But instead of the irrelevant one I have now in English and Political Science, do a degree in East Asian studies with either classical Tibetan or Chinese as a language option, and study harder than I did during my years as a uni student (less partying).

Ordain as a monk in Sera but instead of staying on without strong colloquial Tibetan, immediately go to Dharamsala and do either the LRZTP translator's course there, or one of the better Tibetan courses in Nepal.

Then, study informally at Sera while attending as many teachings as possible with HH Dalai Lama and HH Karmapa. During visa runs take Vipassana courses in Burma or Thailand.

In terms of who I translate for now, I could not ask for a better teacher than Geshe Sonam. I only pray I can continue to work for him as interpreter for a very long time. In a perfect world, I would be able to continue translating for him and then do part time formal academic study leading to a Master's degree in Buddhist study and maybe even a PhD. Some might argue that this is a worldly aim for a monk- but with a PhD one can get grant money to translate texts and do research on Buddhism, thereby benefiting more beings.

I would also like to learn another Asian language really well, perhaps Chinese or Viet Namese (at the moment due to visa regs I am stuck studying Dutch!). This would allow me to bring Geshe la's teachings to more people, and also better understand other Buddhist traditions.

As the years pass, continue to serve Geshe la, but as he stated in his later years he would like to do long retreats, help him in the context of acting as retreat attendant. As I age but still have my faculties to a certain extent, I would like to honour HH Karmapa's advise to "eventually" do a one year retreat. And of course, as the end of life draws near, spend as much time as possible in formal meditation practice. (If I have enough merit for sponsors to support me in that).
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: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby lobster » Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:33 am

Lobster, flesh it out for me please, read more what? practice more what? follow more what? do you see what I am looking for?


I understand. :twothumbsup:

You should read what interests you. Not what interests me. Practice anything that interests you. You should follow any teaching that makes sense to you.

One book that is not Buddhist that I would recommend is 'Learning How to Learn', by Idries Shah.
I find the Buddhist Geeks are modern, pragmatic and experienced http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/

If you want specific books, read beginner books. If you want specific practices then learn walking or standing meditation. Follow a teacher of high reputation or whatever is convenient as a second choice. Start and end with your own innate intelligence. :smile:

That should keep you occupied for a few years :smile:
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Terma » Mon Nov 05, 2012 11:54 am

Den wrote:
Terma, My question for you would be: What teacher do you want to see now and Why? What place would you like to visit now and why?


I think I am in the right place for "me" at the moment. I have a teacher in whom I have faith in and feel a great and deep connection with so that would not change. I am practicing what my teacher has advised me to, so i would certainly not change that either because for myself at this point it is what I need, otherwise he would suggest something different :smile:

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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Nov 05, 2012 12:35 pm

I would have started Ngondro from day one!
: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: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Den » Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:59 am

Thank you all for posting your responses. My apologies for not reengaging this thread earlier, it has been a crazy week here in NY.
JKHedrup I especially want to thank you for helping me to see possiblilities beyond what I was prevoiusly thinking.
Best Wishes to you all.
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Yudron » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:28 am

I am completely happy with my life right now, and I feel -- in my own little way -- I am making the best of my current situation.

I know you are not looking for an "if I had to do it all over" thread, but it is hard not to go that way. I do hope to be born in a Buddhist family next time, in a good healthy flexible body, with ample wealth, and do three year retreat when I am in my teens in stead of my fifties, then continue my practice of the three inner tantras throughout my life, under my current lamas.

As it is, I hope to regain my energy, concentration, and determination to practice--which have been lagging a bit due to changing circumstances in my life. Also, to stay awake and present more often during the day. To really take all of the teachings I have received to heart, and be more humble, joyful, and simple. To be able to help sentient beings, somehow...
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby PorkChop » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:43 am

Yudron wrote:I am completely happy with my life right now, and I feel -- in my own little way -- I am making the best of my current situation.

I know you are not looking for an "if I had to do it all over" thread, but it is hard not to go that way. I do hope to be born in a Buddhist family next time, in a good healthy flexible body, with ample wealth, and do three year retreat when I am in my teens in stead of my fifties, then continue my practice of the three inner tantras throughout my life, under my current lamas.

As it is, I hope to regain my energy, concentration, and determination to practice--which have been lagging a bit due to changing circumstances in my life. Also, to stay awake and present more often during the day. To really take all of the teachings I have received to heart, and be more humble, joyful, and simple. To be able to help sentient beings, somehow...


:good:
Couldn't have said it any better myself :)
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Sherlock » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:53 am

Why would you want to be reborn here as a deluded being instead of making an aspiration to be reborn in a pure realm?
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby PorkChop » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:15 am

Sherlock wrote:Why would you want to be reborn here as a deluded being instead of making an aspiration to be reborn in a pure realm?


There are many levels at which to take this question.
As a board dealing with Mahayana/Vajrayan Buddhism, there is the assumption of the Bodhisattva ideal and the development of Bodhicitta, which strives for the liberation of all beings, including those here in the Saha world.
There is also the question of Pure Lands....
If one believes in the Lotus Sutra, one would have to accept that this IS the Pure Land of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Then there is the discussion of Pure Lands and whether one can return to the Saha world after achieving Enlightenment or other attainments in relation to the Bodhisattva path.
You also have to take into account peoples' own assessment of their relative merits and the fruits of their karma - whether they believe they can be reborn in a higher realm.

In other words, maybe people believe they can do the most good here and/or achieve higher levels of attainment here and if they feel they are ready to "move on".
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby tomamundsen » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:25 am

I've only been practicing Vajrayana for about a year now, so I am quite the newcomer. But, if I were to begin all over again today, I would put even more effort into ngondro and never miss a day. I would miss days all the time towards the beginning of my practice. I still miss days occasionally now, but very minimally so in comparison.
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby Sherlock » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:41 am

PorkChop wrote:
Sherlock wrote:Why would you want to be reborn here as a deluded being instead of making an aspiration to be reborn in a pure realm?


There are many levels at which to take this question.
As a board dealing with Mahayana/Vajrayan Buddhism, there is the assumption of the Bodhisattva ideal and the development of Bodhicitta, which strives for the liberation of all beings, including those here in the Saha world.
There is also the question of Pure Lands....
If one believes in the Lotus Sutra, one would have to accept that this IS the Pure Land of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Then there is the discussion of Pure Lands and whether one can return to the Saha world after achieving Enlightenment or other attainments in relation to the Bodhisattva path.
You also have to take into account peoples' own assessment of their relative merits and the fruits of their karma - whether they believe they can be reborn in a higher realm.

In other words, maybe people believe they can do the most good here and/or achieve higher levels of attainment here and if they feel they are ready to "move on".


If you are a deluded being on Earth the amount of good you can do is still quite limited. Of course while we live we should try to benefit other beings as much as possible, but for maximum effect, one should aim to be enlightened before one can help others.
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby jmlee369 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:22 am

I would think that getting as good a grounding in Lam Rim as possible before approaching anything else would be my strategy. To study the Lam Rim intensively and do some retreat on it would be ideal. If we're talking about other conditions beyond our control, I would have liked to be born in a family with enough wealth to make long term retreats and travel for teachings feasible even at a young age; right now, I feel like I would be able to attend a series of commentaries happening now and a retreat in December if money (and to a lesser degree, time) weren't a limitation. Toward that end, I feel that reciting Samantabhadra's King of Prayers will lay a good foundation for my next life.
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Re: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:47 am

Den,
You are too kind, no problem! It reminds me of this quote by Lama Yeshe:

Our problem is that inside us there’s a mind going, “Impossible, impossible, impossible. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” We have to banish that mind from this solar system. Anything is possible; everything is possible. Sometimes you feel that your dreams are impossible, but they’re not. Human beings have great potential; they can do anything. The power of the mind is incredible, limitless.


When it comes to dharma, everything is possible. So make big aspirations. And even if they don´t come to fruition in this life, if we collect merit, purify obscurations and dedicate strongly, we might be able to make it happen in our next life. The goal of Buddhist practice is a lofty one - if we make the imprints now, lifetime after lifetime we will get closer to becoming the practitioner we want to be!
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: If you were to "Begin all over again today"...

Postby heart » Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:35 pm

tomamundsen wrote:I've only been practicing Vajrayana for about a year now, so I am quite the newcomer. But, if I were to begin all over again today, I would put even more effort into ngondro and never miss a day. I would miss days all the time towards the beginning of my practice. I still miss days occasionally now, but very minimally so in comparison.


Very good, but remember that quality is much more important than quantity. Don't forget to try and rest for a while in the natural state after doing many prostrations or dorje sempa's, it is very helpful.

/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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