Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Forum for discussion of Tibetan Buddhism. Questions specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
User avatar
Lhug-Pa
Posts: 1429
Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:58 pm

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Lhug-Pa » Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:59 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I just can't imagine Drukpa Kunley brushing and flossing (or even washing) all that often. If at all!!! :smile:
:namaste:


Haha true.

However we don't really know if he actually carried a stench a lot of the time or if his oral hygiene was actually poor enough to negatively effect his health.

So what I wrote still stands generally speaking.

By the way, I'm not one to give much importance to fulfilling the status quo, living up to society's expectations, etc. It's just that keeping ones body healthy (hence the reason for Yantra Yoga, etc.) is important, also as per the Tulku Thondup quote in my previous post. Although if we're really relaxing in Awareness of the Nature of Mind 24/7, then maybe our bodies will take care of themselves without us having to do anything externally. Until that point, perhaps we should do what we gotta, and try to eat clean (i.e. organic or non-GMO) food even if it's very little food, take good herbs or Chulen pills, practice Khrul Khor or at least get some exercise, etc.

:anjali:

dzoki
Posts: 331
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby dzoki » Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:12 pm

Lhug-Pa wrote: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.


Yeah, it is good to brush the teeth daily, gum infection can kill you.

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."


My teacher told me that this means not to harm one´s body deliberately, including not doing things that obviously are not good for your health such as smoking, taking drugs etc. When illness occurs, that is really manifestation of our karma. Then it depends, on what you want to do, here I mean retreat situation, obviously if you are working and living in society it is better to take care of the illness. But in carefree beggar situation, you can also sit with the illness. As my teacher said: "To a practitioner illness is an ornament. There is no problem, it is just experience. All experiences pleasant, unpleasant, they are just like ornaments." Sometimes it is better to let illness to manifest fully, because if you treat it, first you deprive yourself of opportunity to practice in unpleasant circumstances, which can enhance your practice and realisation and secondly you do not let that karma to purify fully.

Lhug-Pa wrote: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.


In retreat you don´t see many people, also if you don´t eat meat your bodily odor will be less intense. I meant this low hygiene thing for people who want to do a retreat whether in formal setting of a retreat center or on their own in some suitable place. City is not very conducive to retreat.

I think that the difficulties is what prevents people from taking up a life of a kusali. Our culture in general supports the idea that life must be only pleasant. Sickness is something totaly unwelcome and so is physical weakness, pain, old age etc. But all of these things come whether we want or not. And in retreat they do come a plenty. You get sick, you get also physicaly exhausted, you have pains, but this is actually good, it is a purification. A kusali type of practitioner should equally welcome all situations, bad or good. I think this is what we all should work on. I know several people who started a life of a retreatant but then left, when asked why, all of them say: "It was difficult." Of course it is difficult, everything is difficult in samsara, yet we go such legths to obtain living standards that any sickness or discomfort in retreat looks ridiculous in comparison to all those years of work that any regular person spends their life in.

User avatar
Lhug-Pa
Posts: 1429
Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:58 pm

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Lhug-Pa » Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:13 pm

dzoki wrote:Sometimes it is better to let illness to manifest fully, because if you treat it, first you deprive yourself of opportunity to practice in unpleasant circumstances, which can enhance your practice and realisation and secondly you do not let that karma to purify fully.


Sometimes, being the keyword here. Oftentimes, it would from what I understand be better to do a practice—combined with Ayurveda or Tibetan Medicine—that is specifically for sending back provocations; as it is said that many illness are due to provocations, and not only to one's own negative karma alone.

Also, wouldn't you say that purification can come more-so from Mantras and from the practice itself, rather than purification always having to manifest as sickness? For example in Longchenpa's Precious Treasury of Philosophical Systems, he wrote that Vajrayana really is the Path that has few difficulties and hardships. Of course each one's karma is different; so as they say, one's mileage may vary.


dzoki wrote:I meant this low hygiene thing for people who want to do a retreat whether in formal setting of a retreat center or on their own in some suitable place. City is not very conducive to retreat.


True. Although better to do it in the city than not at all, if necessary; which I'm quite sure you could agree with.


dzoki wrote:I think that the difficulties is what prevents people from taking up a life of a kusali. Our culture in general supports the idea that life must be only pleasant. Sickness is something totaly unwelcome and so is physical weakness, pain, old age etc. But all of these things come whether we want or not. And in retreat they do come a plenty. You get sick, you get also physicaly exhausted, you have pains, but this is actually good, it is a purification. A kusali type of practitioner should equally welcome all situations, bad or good. I think this is what we all should work on. I know several people who started a life of a retreatant but then left, when asked why, all of them say: "It was difficult." Of course it is difficult, everything is difficult in samsara, yet we go such legths to obtain living standards that any sickness or discomfort in retreat looks ridiculous in comparison to all those years of work that any regular person spends their life in.


Very true. Nonetheless, if someone is so sick or tired that they can't even sit up or stay awake despite their best efforts, then measures should be taken to at least be able to sit up and/or stay awake (Medicines, Teas, Sorig, Chulen, Dhutse, etc.).

Anyhow, your post is inspirational, and I agree with the essence of it. Thank you Dzoki, you wrote many things that helped to motivate me.

joy&peace
Posts: 632
Joined: Mon May 11, 2015 4:53 pm

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby joy&peace » Thu Oct 22, 2015 12:10 am

Very nice thread.
Namu-Amida-Butsu ; Namo Amituofo ; Namo Bhaisajya Guru ; Om Mani Peme Hum ; Om Ah Vajra Hum
Om Ah Hum Vajra Medicine Buddha Mantra <---Heart Sutra---> Green Tara Mantra Lotus Sutra One I Love, Jean Ritchie
Trust yourself, trust your heart, and you will have the truest guide.

fckw
Posts: 146
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:10 am

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby fckw » Thu Oct 22, 2015 9:53 pm

The claim behind the question is fascinating, because it reveals a latent - I don't want to call it racism, but - prejudice against Westerners. We could as well unmask the absurdity of this question by turning it around: Can Africans ever become good scientists? Can women ever become enlightened (like men)? Can Asians ever become real Christians? Yet, this argument is still too simplistic.
Digging a little deeper the question reveals more: a quasi-mythological belief among indeed many Western dharma practitioners that Tibetans are in any way more "spiritual" than, let's say, Mexicans. Or "Westerners" in general. (By the way, for many Chinese, Tibet is in the West.) Just because someone is wearing a robe and talking about religious practices doesn't mean by far that this is a spiritually advanced person or "the real deal". This is as true for Tibetans as it is for "Westerners" (whoever they might be, I haven't actually met any of them yet).

smcj
Posts: 4322
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby smcj » Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:12 pm

The claim behind the question is fascinating, because it reveals a latent - I don't want to call it racism, but - prejudice against Westerners.

What if the cultural preconditions we have on Dharma are obstacles? If so then, by definition, we have additional obstacles that Asians do not have. And if we refuse to let go of them (a.k.a. our attachments to a materialistic view) we defeat ourselves.

If that is indeed the case then it is incumbent upon us to dispel our prejudices against issues such as faith, seeing karma as moralistic, belief in physical rebirth, practicing meditation for this life only, etc. These are all carry-overs from our rejection of Judeo-Christian beliefs that may cripple our practice.

Just saying'...
My posts are for entertainment purposes only. Please don't take anything I say seriously unless you verify it with a real teacher first.

User avatar
Paul
Posts: 1726
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:12 pm

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Paul » Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:22 pm

fckw wrote:The claim behind the question is fascinating, because it reveals a latent - I don't want to call it racism, but - prejudice against Westerners.

Prejudice against someone because of their race is precisely racism.

smcj wrote:What if the cultural preconditions we have on Dharma are obstacles? If so then, by definition, we have additional obstacles that Asians do not have.

Do you think the average Asian, even the average Asian practitioner doesn't have a boat load of cultural misunderstandings of Dharma? Although I guess at least they won't be afflicted with some kind of ridiculous PC-based self-hatred. They've got that as an advantage at least.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal
the modern mind has become so limited and single-visioned that it has lost touch with normal perception - John Michell

DGA
Former staff member
Posts: 7432
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Contact:

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby DGA » Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:27 pm

Paul wrote:Do you think the average Asian, even the average Asian practitioner doesn't have a boat load of cultural misunderstandings of Dharma? Although I guess at least they won't be afflicted with some kind of ridiculous PC-based self-hatred. They've got that as an advantage at least.


or what may be worse, because it is more pervasive: the presumption of rational/modern superiority over the irrational and superstitious rituals and cultural trappings that occlude "real" Buddhist practice (so called "pre-modern" Buddhist beliefs that are indigenous to Asia). It's not accidental that S Batchelor and S Harris have readers.

This kind of attitude is legible here at DharmaWheel sometimes, too.

viewtopic.php?f=66&t=20432&view=unread#p307360

It's also contested.

viewtopic.php?f=59&t=20956&view=unread#p307428

and so on
DGA's PhD dissertation, a history of "mindfulness," is available here:

https://www.academia.edu/25482900/WHAT_ ... _OF_STRESS

User avatar
tomamundsen
Global Moderator
Posts: 1159
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby tomamundsen » Fri Oct 23, 2015 12:05 am

fckw wrote:The claim behind the question is fascinating, because it reveals a latent - I don't want to call it racism, but - prejudice against Westerners.


My assumption was that it is not really about race, but more about one's cultural and societal environment. The West simply has an entirely different cultural/societal infrastructure than what existed in "Old Tibet". For example, I think it is much harder for a Westerner to figure out how to do a 3-year retreat than it would be for someone in Old Tibet whose livelihood was not connected to a modern career where you need to keep your skills up-to-date with the marketplace.

Of course I could be wrong. People's life situations vary greatly. At any rate, since I originally posted this question, I'm now quite convinced that Westerners can indeed be Dharma practitioners. I consider myself as a Dharma practitioner. I think it might just take a bit more work than it would have in a different culture that is more directly related to Dharma culture.

User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Former staff member
Posts: 5342
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA
Contact:

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Oct 23, 2015 12:23 am

tomamundsen wrote:
fckw wrote:The claim behind the question is fascinating, because it reveals a latent - I don't want to call it racism, but - prejudice against Westerners.


My assumption was that it is not really about race, but more about one's cultural and societal environment. The West simply has an entirely different cultural/societal infrastructure than what existed in "Old Tibet". For example, I think it is much harder for a Westerner to figure out how to do a 3-year retreat than it would be for someone in Old Tibet whose livelihood was not connected to a modern career where you need to keep your skills up-to-date with the marketplace.

Of course I could be wrong. People's life situations vary greatly. At any rate, since I originally posted this question, I'm now quite convinced that Westerners can indeed be Dharma practitioners. I consider myself as a Dharma practitioner. I think it might just take a bit more work than it would have in a different culture that is more directly related to Dharma culture.


This makes the most sense to me. We have more conditioning to get over in certain areas I suppose.
May the ocean of lands be purified, the ocean of beings liberated, the ocean of Dharma realized,
and the ocean of wisdom fully attained. -The Aspiration of Samantabhadra

Arnoud
Posts: 617
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 7:19 pm

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Arnoud » Fri Oct 23, 2015 2:34 am

tomamundsen wrote:
fckw wrote:The claim behind the question is fascinating, because it reveals a latent - I don't want to call it racism, but - prejudice against Westerners.


My assumption was that it is not really about race, but more about one's cultural and societal environment. The West simply has an entirely different cultural/societal infrastructure than what existed in "Old Tibet". For example, I think it is much harder for a Westerner to figure out how to do a 3-year retreat than it would be for someone in Old Tibet whose livelihood was not connected to a modern career where you need to keep your skills up-to-date with the marketplace.

Of course I could be wrong. People's life situations vary greatly. At any rate, since I originally posted this question, I'm now quite convinced that Westerners can indeed be Dharma practitioners. I consider myself as a Dharma practitioner. I think it might just take a bit more work than it would have in a different culture that is more directly related to Dharma culture.


Still planning on that three year retreat?

User avatar
Adamantine
Former staff member
Posts: 3457
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:09 am
Location: Space is the Place

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Adamantine » Fri Oct 23, 2015 3:07 am

tomamundsen wrote:I think it is much harder for a Westerner to figure out how to do a 3-year retreat than it would be for someone in Old Tibet whose livelihood was not connected to a modern career where you need to keep your skills up-to-date with the marketplace.


Not just that, but having to explain a three-year gap in your resumé is also not easy for most careers, unless you are self-employed. And if you're self employed then in that three years it's likely you've lost your entire clientele. In India and Tibet, in general having done an extended meditation retreat would increase your status in the eyes of society, in most modern Western countries it would likely do the opposite. So there are certainly more contextual obstacles to full-time practice here. On another note, it seems that there is an increasing community of people with means offering support to western dharma students serious about retreat. I pray that this trend continues to grow and flourish. I also noticed that Traktung Khepa and his group have created quite an interesting model with a self-sustaining community business that allows for four months of retreat for the participants during the winter months: http://www.whitelotusfarms.com/about-us/our-story. It'd be great if more Dharma Centers in the West began similar initiatives, participating in sustainable livelihood options that enable months of annual retreat.
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha

User avatar
tomamundsen
Global Moderator
Posts: 1159
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:50 am
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby tomamundsen » Fri Oct 23, 2015 6:32 am

Arnoud wrote:Still planning on that three year retreat?


Yes, I am :)

I am 30 now. I plan to enter into retreat before I am 40. Ideally I will enter early enough to finish a 3-year retreat before I am 40.

My plan is to save up for a 4-year sabbatical. That way, when I get out of retreat, I will have a full year to re-integrate with society and work on my skills to find another job.

pael
Posts: 164
Joined: Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:49 pm

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby pael » Fri Oct 23, 2015 9:10 am

Is Europe part of Jambudvipa? Or Uttara-kuru? Only Jambudvipa people can get enlightened.
May all beings be free from suffering and causes of suffering

User avatar
Aemilius
Posts: 1850
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:44 am

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Aemilius » Fri Oct 23, 2015 9:36 am

All beings have the Buddha-nature, regardless of the continent they live on.
Uttara Kuru is actually South America. "North" means, in the ancient Buddhist geography, on the opposite side of the Earth's axis, which is in Antarctica or the North Pole.
svaha

tingdzin
Posts: 604
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:19 am

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby tingdzin » Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:34 am

I rejoice in your plan, Tom, and I am not wanting to dissuade you in the least when I advise you not to just jump into a three-year retreat with just anyone or any group. Have some connection with the lama, and try to be sure your fellow retreatants (if it is a group) have a genuine connection with Dharma and are not just after a title when they do the retreat. I have seen mentioned on this board more than a few cases of retreat going badly because of inadequate supervision or neuroses among the participants. In my view, if you could find a way to do it alone with a good lama's supervision, that would be best. Practicing as much as possible and learning a bit of Tibetan in the meantime could aid you considerably in this.

Again, the very best fortune to you in your aspiration, and don't let it cool.

smcj
Posts: 4322
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby smcj » Mon Oct 26, 2015 7:51 am

I heard second hand that Tsong R. (guru to FPMT founder Lama Yeshe) said while giving a Guhyasamaja initiation in India that the greatest living practitioner of that particular tantra was a western monk living in L.A.

But that was in the late '70s and I wasn't there, so that's just a rumor.
My posts are for entertainment purposes only. Please don't take anything I say seriously unless you verify it with a real teacher first.

Caodemarte
Posts: 367
Joined: Sat Apr 04, 2015 1:40 am

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Caodemarte » Mon Oct 26, 2015 8:00 pm

Comment: "The claim behind the question is fascinating, because it reveals a latent - I don't want to call it racism, but - prejudice against Westerners."

Response: "Prejudice against someone because of their race is precisely racism. "

Just a note the Westerners (a term used to refer to those who identity with the culture stemming from the Roman Empire, particularity the Western Empire) don't belong to one race or sub-race as we all part of the human race. So I would stick to the words prejudice or bigotry rather than use the term racism here. Let us not further lessen the impact of anti-racist speech by diluting its meaning, the way "Nazi" should be confined to actual Nazis ans not applied to the traffic warden.

smcj
Posts: 4322
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby smcj » Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:18 pm

In TB one of the teachings all four major schools have in common is the 4 Thought that Turn the Mind. The first of these four is "The Precious Human Rebirth". It lists the requirements for a "precious" rebirth, which is defined as a rebirth where one can practice Dharma effectively. The requirements include such things as not being a skeptic, believing in karma and rebirth, and having faith in the 3 Jewels.

Those are not racial requirements. Those are personal requirements. And if one's culture makes one feel resistant to cultivating those requirements on a personal level it is an additional obstacle to practice.

There is nothing "racial" about it.
My posts are for entertainment purposes only. Please don't take anything I say seriously unless you verify it with a real teacher first.

User avatar
Paul
Posts: 1726
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:12 pm

Re: Can Westerners REALLY be Dharma practitioners?

Postby Paul » Mon Oct 26, 2015 11:13 pm

Caodemarte wrote:Comment: "The claim behind the question is fascinating, because it reveals a latent - I don't want to call it racism, but - prejudice against Westerners."

Response: "Prejudice against someone because of their race is precisely racism. "

Just a note the Westerners (a term used to refer to those who identity with the culture stemming from the Roman Empire, particularity the Western Empire) don't belong to one race or sub-race as we all part of the human race. So I would stick to the words prejudice or bigotry rather than use the term racism here.


Westerner is usually just a lazy way of saying caucasian. Same with Eastern usually meaning someone who's either East Asian or Indian. Totally imprecise terms, really.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal
the modern mind has become so limited and single-visioned that it has lost touch with normal perception - John Michell


Return to “Tibetan Buddhism”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: crazy-man, heart, Karma_Yeshe, Lukeinaz, Majestic-12 [Bot], ngodrup, Norwegian, smcj, Yahoo [Bot] and 24 guests