Rules for Vajrayana group practice

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Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Zenda » Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:29 pm

Hi.

A quick question for the Vajrayana practitioners - what are the rules about group practice for Vajrayana? My local Shambhala center sometimes hosts a space for Vajrayana practitioners to get together and practice. Everyone does different practices and I asked if I could practice with them. Their rule is that only those who are practicing specific Shambhala sadhanas can practice together.

It made me curious - Is the general rule that if you practice with other Vajrayana students that you should practice in the same lineage or do the same practices? (I sometimes do "group" practice with a friend who does a Kagyu vajrayana practice while I do Nyingma one.) Is this something that varies based on the organization and teacher?

Thanks!
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Yudron » Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:00 pm

Zenda wrote:Hi.

A quick question for the Vajrayana practitioners - what are the rules about group practice for Vajrayana? My local Shambhala center sometimes hosts a space for Vajrayana practitioners to get together and practice. Everyone does different practices and I asked if I could practice with them. Their rule is that only those who are practicing specific Shambhala sadhanas can practice together.

It made me curious - Is the general rule that if you practice with other Vajrayana students that you should practice in the same lineage or do the same practices? (I sometimes do "group" practice with a friend who does a Kagyu vajrayana practice while I do Nyingma one.) Is this something that varies based on the organization and teacher?

Thanks!


Now, let me see if I've got this right. You are sitting in the same room reciting different sadhanas at the same time? I don't think there is a rule for that, because nobody does that.

If you are talking about another groups deity practices, the "rules" vary from lama to lama and tradition to tradition. Some lamas require people to have received the empowerment to do group tsogs with other people, some don't. Some sadhana practices in the Kagyu, as I understand it, are done only by people who are in or have completed three year retreat.

If you are talking about practicing Shambhala sadhanas with them, then it is entirely within the range of normal that you are not permitted without empowerment. Also, in the Shambhala terma system of Trungpa Rinpoche empowerment is only given after completion of a certain number of levels of Shambhala training--which is like a formalized way of saying you need to have done the equivalent of having taken refuge, generated bodhichitta and practiced Shamatha meditation for a good length of time beforehand. Again, that is conservative, but not out of the ordinary.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Silent Bob » Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:14 pm

The protocols at Shambhala centers seem always to be changing, but my understanding is that they still have a group Vajrayana practice three times a month; on Guru Rinpoche day, when Mipham's "Shower of Blessings" tsok is held for those who have the lung, and on the evenings of the new and full moon, when Trungpa Rinpoche's "Sadhana of Mahamudra" is recited. However, things in that mandala are so mutable that this information might easily be outdated. Other group practice occasions are strictly limited to those who have the empowerment, which is probably as it should be.

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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Zenda » Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:18 pm

Thanks Yudron. Yes, I'm familiar with the rules about who can practice what. I was more curious about Vajrayana practitiones practicing different sadhanas together. (I've done it with friends where we're all muttering together at th same time. Guess that isn't common...)
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Yudron » Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:46 pm

Zenda wrote:Thanks Yudron. Yes, I'm familiar with the rules about who can practice what. I was more curious about Vajrayana practitiones practicing different sadhanas together. (I've done it with friends where we're all muttering together at th same time. Guess that isn't common...)


No, I've never heard of anyone doing that but you. My lamas would think that was really strange, at best. But I have heard of sutras being read aloud concurrently as a public ceremony.

I'm hearing that you want companionship while doing your deity practice. Are you alone in practicing your sadhana in your area? It's traditional to get together with others and do the same tsog practice together twice a month or more. In the Nyingma Lineage Mipham's Shower of Blessing practice of Guru Rinpoche and Mandarava is commonly done because no one requires empowerment for it and it is short and simple.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby byamspa » Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:52 pm

One form of group practise in our sangha is silent meditation. During this silent time, one may see people using their malas very quietly, so its possible they are practising different things, but not so loudly that anyone nearby can hear them. Otherwise, we are all doing the same sadhana.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Zenda » Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:19 pm

Yudron wrote:
Zenda wrote:Thanks Yudron. Yes, I'm familiar with the rules about who can practice what. I was more curious about Vajrayana practitiones practicing different sadhanas together. (I've done it with friends where we're all muttering together at th same time. Guess that isn't common...)


No, I've never heard of anyone doing that but you. My lamas would think that was really strange, at best. But I have heard of sutras being read aloud concurrently as a public ceremony.

I'm hearing that you want companionship while doing your deity practice. Are you alone in practicing your sadhana in your area? It's traditional to get together with others and do the same tsog practice together twice a month or more. In the Nyingma Lineage Mipham's Shower of Blessing practice of Guru Rinpoche and Mandarava is commonly done because no one requires empowerment for it and it is short and simple.


I have no sangha in the area and have been told that I can't practice Shower of Blessings with the two groups here that so that because I received empowerment from a different teacher. It isn't a problem... I was just curious. Thank you so much!
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby byamspa » Thu Dec 27, 2012 10:52 pm

Zenda wrote:I have no sangha in the area and have been told that I can't practice Shower of Blessings with the two groups here that so that because I received empowerment from a different teacher. It isn't a problem... I was just curious. Thank you so much!


You could always hold it in your living room as a neutral ground and invite over a few sangha friends who might want to join you.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Zenda » Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:25 pm

byamspa wrote:
Zenda wrote:I have no sangha in the area and have been told that I can't practice Shower of Blessings with the two groups here that so that because I received empowerment from a different teacher. It isn't a problem... I was just curious. Thank you so much!


You could always hold it in your living room as a neutral ground and invite over a few sangha friends who might want to join you.


Nice idea, byamspa. Thanks!
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Yudron » Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:29 pm

Zenda wrote:
Yudron wrote:
Zenda wrote:Thanks Yudron. Yes, I'm familiar with the rules about who can practice what. I was more curious about Vajrayana practitiones practicing different sadhanas together. (I've done it with friends where we're all muttering together at th same time. Guess that isn't common...)


No, I've never heard of anyone doing that but you. My lamas would think that was really strange, at best. But I have heard of sutras being read aloud concurrently as a public ceremony.

I'm hearing that you want companionship while doing your deity practice. Are you alone in practicing your sadhana in your area? It's traditional to get together with others and do the same tsog practice together twice a month or more. In the Nyingma Lineage Mipham's Shower of Blessing practice of Guru Rinpoche and Mandarava is commonly done because no one requires empowerment for it and it is short and simple.


I have no sangha in the area and have been told that I can't practice Shower of Blessings with the two groups here that so that because I received empowerment from a different teacher. It isn't a problem... I was just curious. Thank you so much!


That's really weird--Dudjom Rinpoche assembled the tsog of SOB and -- as I understand it -- did not require empowerment at all for it. Certainly his eldest son did not. That's the beauty of it, it's an external guru yoga practice so everyone can do tsog together. Oh, well... you can't fight city hall, as they say.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Silent Bob » Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:39 pm

The temptation to say something snarky here about Shambhala's Practice & Study Politboro is almost too much, but I will refrain. :shrug:

Chris
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Zenda » Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:13 am

Thanks all again for your comments. I hope my comments did not imply any criticism or disrespect toward any group.

I hope folks who can practice with others realize how fortunate they are to have that support and knowledge.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Yudron » Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:53 am

Zenda wrote:Thanks all again for your comments. I hope my comments did not imply any criticism or disrespect toward any group. I'm still not sure I understand why it's weird to have Vajrayana practitioners practicing different things together. :shrug:

I hope folks who can practice with others realize how fortunate they are to have that support and knowledge.


Well, generally in deity practices are done in a group it is as though you are a deity chanting in a big choir made up of the deities of the same mandala. The the dorje loppon acts out the ritual of the story of the sadhana, through mantra and mudra, the umze conducts chanting and the instruments of the orchestra. The chopon represents the sangha and carries objects here and there in the shrine room at specific moments, working with the sacred substances and objects at the right moment to make the offerings and so forth. Whether elaborate or unelaborate, you are doing a specific ritual of a specific deity collaboratively.

That's why doing different sadhanas in the same room sounds like doing multiple operas or orchestral works simultaneously to me. Possible, but unpleasant.

Shower of Blessings, for example, in the form we practice it today, has a tsog--a ritual feast. This is a very exalted, meaningful and profound ritual practice that has elements of group confession of breakage of samaya, including with each other as vajra sisters and brother--it's poignant to do it together and pause to eat at the same time, and so forth.

I do appreciate that you're thinking outside the box. You are making me smile. But I don't think your going to get many signers-on for that.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby lama tsewang » Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:58 am

Actually , doing different sadhanas in the same shrine room at the same time is nothing unusual, at all.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Yudron » Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:18 am

lama tsewang wrote:Actually , doing different sadhanas in the same shrine room at the same time is nothing unusual, at all.
Tsewang


Really? Can you give an example--a drupchen perhaps?
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:15 am

Yudron wrote:Well, generally in deity practices are done in a group it is as though you are a deity chanting in a big choir made up of the deities of the same mandala. The the dorje loppon acts out the ritual of the story of the sadhana, through mantra and mudra, the umze conducts chanting and the instruments of the orchestra. The chopon represents the sangha and carries objects here and there in the shrine room at specific moments, working with the sacred substances and objects at the right moment to make the offerings and so forth. Whether elaborate or unelaborate, you are doing a specific ritual of a specific deity collaboratively.

That's why doing different sadhanas in the same room sounds like doing multiple operas or orchestral works simultaneously to me. Possible, but unpleasant.


If by "doing different sadhanas together" Zenda means doing more elaborate medium-length or long sadhanas complete with gek tor and setting of the sung khor, various breaks to play a few bars of ritual music with drums and all, and chopons flitting here and there throughout the shrine room participating in different sadhanas, I could see how that could be a bit too complex to be useful...

But if it were more like people doing the very unelaborate gyun khyer versions of different sadhanas, and they were doing it in soft enough voices that they wouldn't make it too hard for each other to concentrate, I would think the varied sounds emanating from such a group would be no more distracting than the sounds of little kids playing outside one's home, or the sounds of cars passing, or strong winds blowing, thunder, and so on. All would be grist for the pure perception mill, and perhaps it would be easier to perceive the sounds of other practitioners doing their sadhanas as the resonance of the deity's mantra than it would be to integrate the day to day sounds I mentioned above.

For me personally, I've only ever practiced the same sadhana in a group and I'd probably prefer it that way, but Zenda's idea still makes some sense to me.
Last edited by Pema Rigdzin on Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby lama tsewang » Fri Dec 28, 2012 7:18 am

if you have a large hall then several rituals could be done at the same time . I saw this at losar at the tra ling ghonpa in golok. i hhave a film of them doing about either 8 or 13 different drupchens simultaneously in large halls.
i was told that this is the normal practice at Kham Riwoche , daily

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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby byamspa » Fri Dec 28, 2012 2:54 pm

lama tsewang wrote:if you have a large hall then several rituals could be done at the same time . I saw this at losar at the tra ling ghonpa in golok. i hhave a film of them doing about either 8 or 13 different drupchens simultaneously in large halls.
i was told that this is the normal practice at Kham Riwoche , daily

tsewang


Sounds pretty cool. From someone who is usually practising by myself, or with very small groups, I can only imagine this. Is it possible to upload some of the footage? I would very much like to see it if possible, if not, no problem.
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Pero » Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:01 pm

Did Tibetans ever practice in groups? I mean if we discount drubchens and monasteries?
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Re: Rules for Vajrayana group practice

Postby Zenda » Sat Dec 29, 2012 2:27 am

I've only done unelaborate medium-length sadhanas in a group. The full-blown bells and whistles would be incredibly cacophonous... But maybe it would be a good test for our concentration abilities? Don't they say if you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained? ;) I kid...

As for RoB, I do it alone - feast too- or sometimes over Skype with friends. It isn't quite the same over Skype (given the connectivity issues and the flatness of the medium) but it's something. We haven't tried sadhana yet but that may be next. Why not. I'm getting to the point of thinking that using what's available is skillful, even if it is not traditional.

Again, my thanks to all for the info. It's nice to know that there is a precedent at Traling Gonpa. Thanks Lama Tsewang for that info. What a sight that must be.
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