Termas and Cultural Paradigms

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:32 am

Ukigumo wrote:Ultimately ethnicity is a separate variable from cultural paradigm. It is important to recognize this, both in the context of this particular discussion and how the development of Western Buddhism is understood.



One thing that comes to mind is how readily we can export one or the other (or both). For instance, in Japan a lot of the western intellectual paradigm is unquestionably present (secular thought, rationalism, a disenchanted world, a modern education system, etc...), yet a lot of the ethnic culture is still very much Japanese albeit with suit and tie.



The real dividing line in Western Buddhism, I would argue, is not between Asians and non-Asians. It's between those for whom Buddhism represents a rejection, or at the very least, a critique of, the Western cultural paradigm and those for whom Buddhism must be modified to fit their Western cultural paradigm.* In other words, the dividing line here is not a question of race or ethnicity, but of basic, background worldview and how Buddhism relates to that worldview.


This is a good observation.

Perhaps it might be a distinction between the "orthodox" and the new adapted models.

I still think though the former can exist within a western cultural sphere without having to become watered down or blatantly sanitized of disagreeable religious elements.

I often think how a lot of ancient Indic ideas, such as karma and rebirth, would not have been so alien to many ancient Greek and Roman thinkers. The European cultural sphere once was not so different from the Indic cultural sphere, and so it is from the roots of western civilization rather than the tips of its leaves that we find a lot of common ground with Indic Buddhism. Modern secularism, materialism and Christianity in general are so incompatible with Buddhism so as make meaningful bridges all but impossible to build. However, I do think if we go back into ancient western civilization from whence our western thought and civilization are based in, there is a lot of common ground and it is from there that bridges can be built.

Basically, a kind of western Buddhism based on Indic thought yet compatible with classical Hellenic/Roman thought might be what is best rather than inorganically adopting largely alien cultural paradigms.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:24 am

Sherlock wrote:This blog post by Rob Mayer might be relevant to the discussion.


Good article. Thanks for sharing. One point about it...

Anyone who has read much Tibetan literature will be familiar with one of its most salient differences to our own modern conventions: the ubiquitous verbatim repetition of phrases, sections, literary structures, and even entire chapters, across many different texts.


This is the same in the Chinese canon. You find whole sections of text uplifted and inserted into new texts without any citations. I found this to be the case especially in the commentary literature on bodhisattva precepts. Even Prince Shōtoku's famous commentary on the Lotus Sūtra (Jpn. Hokke Gi Sho 法華義疏) is largely copied from earlier material with some additional text added.

See here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangy%C5%8D_Gisho

I believe in those days the idea was really just one of "redigestion" rather than original composition. In fact as a point of modesty you don't claim to have new and improved or better ideas than your predecessors. This is strikingly different from our modern age where we believe in linear progress and make a pathological habit of trying to outdo our predecessors in everything.

... in any case believing in the literal truth of these events, Mt Meru cosmology or Kalacakra cosmology are not the main point of the teachings.


In religious thought, generally speaking, you don't outright reject canonical teachings, but simply interpret them. As I've said elsewhere, I don't think Mount Meru cosmology entirely represents the physical world. For one thing if there are immaterial gods living on Sumeru, it logically follows it is not a physical place. There is a similar line of thought in some Vedic thought as well.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:54 am

As a Western practitioner I bristle at the notion that rationalism is our de facto position unless we are rejecting it. This may be true of intellectuals and academics, but not of ordinary practitioners. I see no particular problem in Virupa stopping the sun in its tracks or Padmasambhava being born from a lotus. I find it kind of amusing for us to say "All of this is unreal" and then in the same breath say "But it is unreal in exactly this way that we 21st CE humans expect it to be". The world is far more wondrous than most of us give it credit for. Shoot, George Bush was elected to *two terms*! That's a lot harder for me to believe than any of these other stories and that was an ordeal I actually experienced firsthand.

Historical textual analysis may keep academics in grant money, but I don't think it does a damn thing for someone who is actually practicing. At least to me, what matters is that I can encounter a living tradition with realized masters that can pass on the teachings and bring it to fruition in my own mind. Most of what I practice is from terma teachings and these are not automatically accepted in Tibet. They needed to be validated by other great masters. You can read that in the lives of many masters that they were initially ridiculed. Those that practice the great terma cycles like the Long Chen Nyingthig, Nam Cho, etc. will all attest to the great power and blessing of these practices, and this emerges over time and with scrutiny.

Tantra is not for rationalists. Rationalists do poorly at it. Without devotion and trust in the teachings *as you receive them*, you might as well collect stamps or butterflies instead of empowerments. If Western rationalists want to come up with some dessicated "historically accurate" invention that they think is real Buddhism, they are welcome to it. I'll stick with a lineage of teachers that have validated the essence of the teachings in their own lives.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 01, 2013 12:10 pm

Karma Dorje wrote:As a Western practitioner I bristle at the notion that rationalism is our de facto position unless we are rejecting it.


Well, generally speaking, it is the default ideology of most if not all western states. It is the perspective from which scholarship of religion is done. Most educated folks in the English speaking world at least unconsciously follow it given their education.

I see no particular problem in Virupa stopping the sun in its tracks or Padmasambhava being born from a lotus.


Okay, but conventional reality is generally perceived more or less the same by ordinary (and healthy) human beings, and we generally do not witness the sun stopping or human infants being directly born from lotuses.


The world is far more wondrous than most of us give it credit for.


Sure, but there are different levels to the world. There is the coarse physical world of the earth orbiting around the sun (assuming heliocentrism), and we do not ever witness said orbit halting. There is more subtle levels to our reality such as the mental component, in which the sun can indeed halt, like in a dream or vision.


Historical textual analysis may keep academics in grant money, but I don't think it does a damn thing for someone who is actually practicing.


Historical textual analysis and Buddhist practice are not mutually exclusive. By proper discernment of textual strata and their histories we can come to informed judgements on various matters related to practice and more importantly the essential function of teachings rather than their symbolic representations.



Without devotion and trust in the teachings *as you receive them*, you might as well collect stamps or butterflies instead of empowerments.


If you insist on faith a prerequisite for initial practice, then you exclude a lot of people. Faith as it is has negative connotations in the English language at present. What you are talking about here could easily be called "blind faith", and that is disagreeable to a lot of people nowadays.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Kunga » Tue Jan 01, 2013 12:57 pm

As most treasures are decoded and expanded by their revealers into the liturgical, textual forms we know and use today can we not view the final product as the result of an enlightened being's realisation and skilful means - in the same way we might view 'mind treasures' or teachings revealed in 'pure vision', which exists even in schools which historically have *officially* rejected the terma tradition in the past? (Both these schools to some degree have incorporated major terma practices into their curricula nowadays, though.)

Historically, there seems to have been something of a terma industry in Tibet, with different, would-be tertons scrabbling around for 'treasures', discovering them, and then trying to market theirs as more viable than the discoveries of others and 'make it' in the 'Termasphere'. One cannot rule out that the system has been open to corruption, which is why I tend to view terma in terms of realisations that have born fruit in lamas' minds, which have arisen when the necessary causes and conditions have been present. If a teaching has come from a realised being's mindstream then there is no difference in its coming from Guru Rinpoche.

We could draw a parallel between this and certain Mahayana sutras which, clearly not coming from the historical Shakyamuni himself, have come from teachers with the same enlightened mind.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:27 pm

Huseng wrote:Okay, but conventional reality is generally perceived more or less the same by ordinary (and healthy) human beings, and we generally do not witness the sun stopping or human infants being directly born from lotuses.


That's why it is called "conventional". It is more-or-less shared experience, but that does not mean that it has some ontological verity. However, for siddhas this may be exactly what their experience is. They need not share our cognitive paradigm. This does not render what they experience symbolic. It may be very direct, yet entirely different.

Huseng wrote:, but there are different levels to the world. There is the coarse physical world of the earth orbiting around the sun (assuming heliocentrism), and we do not ever witness said orbit halting. There is more subtle levels to our reality such as the mental component, in which the sun can indeed halt, like in a dream or vision.


All of this is merely dream and vision. It is not one world as a layer cake. We only more or less share the same vision as those around us. This speaks to common causes and conditions and sensory apparatus but we do not encounter a single world but rather it is more like we are each in our own little movie theater watching the picture show of our own accumulating tendencies and cognitive capacities. Saying that the consensus opinion is fundamental doesn't follow at all. All we can say is that there is some consistency amongst a group of cognitive (seeming) entities.

Huseng wrote: textual analysis and Buddhist practice are not mutually exclusive. By proper discernment of textual strata and their histories we can come to informed judgements on various matters related to practice and more importantly the essential function of teachings rather than their symbolic representations.


This is exactly what I was saying is useless from the point of view of tantra. Textual strata have nothing to do with how one practices tantra. Practice is a matter of what one has received from a teacher and how to integrate it into daily life. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from situating a text in a particular context. If there is an extant instruction lineage, one will know how to apply the teaching. If there is no extant instruction lineage, the teaching is dead and useless. That's not to say that it may not be interesting to academics. It just has little usefulness to a vajrayana practitioner. Developing some "essential Vajrayana" apart from how we encounter it in situ is a fool's errand. Were we to develop it, it could not be transmitted as it merely a mental creation and an interpretation.

Huseng wrote: you insist on faith a prerequisite for initial practice, then you exclude a lot of people. Faith as it is has negative connotations in the English language at present. What you are talking about here could easily be called "blind faith", and that is disagreeable to a lot of people nowadays.


Why should I care in the least what has negative connotations in the English language ? Shraddha or faith is absolutely necessary for tantra. Without that, you can not accept that the tantras are buddhavacana. If people find it disagreeable, they should go elsewhere. Vajrayana is not an evangelical religion that needs to be concerned about whether its marketing message is palatable. Those who have cultivated the causes and conditions to meet with the vajrayana teachings will meet with them and understand them to the extent of their capacity. Those who do not, will not encounter them regardless of whether it is couched in rationalist terms.

Blind faith is to accept axioms that are ultimately unknowable. Confidence or trust is to accept the testimony of an authority you trust until such point as you can see the results from your own practice. There is a tremendous difference between the two. In any case, the project of rationalism is itself ultimately grounded in faith as you encounter the problem of proof before you get too far(i.e. every proof is faced with the requirement of proving that the proof is correct ad nauseum).
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:01 pm

Karma Dorje wrote:That's why it is called "conventional". It is more-or-less shared experience, but that does not mean that it has some ontological verity.


Sure it does. It is a mutually agreed upon ontological reality (i.e., conventional truth). For us ordinary beings we can agree that the laws of physics clearly entail that the sun rising and setting from our perspective on earth does not stop and that it has never been witnessed as having stopped.

You can't deny conventional reality. We ordinary beings spend most of our time with such a perspective. If you want to deny it you'll only appear silly and misguided.

However, for siddhas this may be exactly what their experience is. They need not share our cognitive paradigm. This does not render what they experience symbolic. It may be very direct, yet entirely different.


You can speculate about that, but unless you are a siddha it is just speculation. In any case, their perspective would presumably not be the common one shared by ordinary beings. In that sense what's the point speculating that in the distant past a siddha may or may not have witnessed the sun halting in the sky?

I really don't understand what the point of your arguments here is. You are demanding faith about something that is largely speculative and not so relevant. Is the acceptance of a sage halting the sun a mark of true faith, thus rendering the devotee a true practitioner? Is the mark of faith a sign of true devotion? Is it really important to liberation, or is it just identity politics?


All of this is merely dream and vision.


I agree, but for ordinary beings the laws of physics apply. The sun does not halt in the sky. It has never been witnessed. It cannot be inferred as possible. You might as well argue for the existence of rabbit horns and turtle fur.

Saying that the consensus opinion is fundamental doesn't follow at all.



Conventional reality is only provisionally established, but for understanding and realistic perspective it is fundamental. If you think otherwise, then the insane man hallucinating has an equally valid perspective as the rest of everyone else present who are not undergoing a psychotic episode. That is not a practical way of looking at things.


There is absolutely nothing to be gained from situating a text in a particular context.



So, understanding the late Indian cultural paradigm (like mandalas and so on) behind the text is utterly useless?



Why should I care in the least what has negative connotations in the English language ?



Do you know what upaya is? It is skilful and expedient to adapt to what people find culturally and intellectually acceptable. To do otherwise is to promote an elitist tradition or teaching that excludes people rather than including them. That's not Mahāyāna.


If people find it disagreeable, they should go elsewhere.



This is just elitist nonsense. You express neither compassion nor adaptability. Where's the bodhicitta and aspiration to help and embrace all beings?

Vajrayana is not an evangelical religion that needs to be concerned about whether its marketing message is palatable.




Again, elitism.


Those who have cultivated the causes and conditions to meet with the vajrayana teachings will meet with them and understand them to the extent of their capacity. Those who do not, will not encounter them regardless of whether it is couched in rationalist terms.



That's a rather fatalistic approach to teachings which are aimed at benefiting immeasurable beings, no? A good teacher will be able to skilfully answer the questions of a sceptical student, and do so benefiting them. To do otherwise would be to reject people and send them out the door for lack of immediate faith and acceptance.


Confidence or trust is to accept the testimony of an authority you trust until such point as you can see the results from your own practice.


Have you been able to halt the sun as of late?
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:20 pm

The subject of termas always makes me laugh for a number of reasons.

Termas are not a purely Tibetan "cultural" thing. Think about the Dead Sea scrolls for example. Think about the fact that people hid books and manuscripts during the period of Nazi rule so that they escaped destruction and could be brought to light again to "enlighten" people after the Nazis lost power. The original people that hid them may have been killed and the books and texts still remain hidden. If a couple of hundred years later somebody rennovated the house they were hidden in and came across them? Think of texts on herbalism and other magic that may have been hidden during the Inquisition inorder to protect them. It is not so dissimilar.

Okay, maybe the Dead Sea scrolls were not puposefully hidden, but you get the idea.

What is so hard to believe that Padmasambhava and other teachers stashed texts in caves either to store them for future use or just so they didn't have to carry them around with them?

Here in Greece people would stash all sorts of things (tools, blankets, lamps, etc...) in remote rural locations so that when they went back to work they wouldn't have to carry them again. If they stashed a bible or a prayer book what would be so strange about that? If it was "found" a couple of hundred years later? Ascetics in the Orthodox tradition would stash icons etc... in caves where they were practicing, and then these were miraculously discovered hundreds of years later. I've personally seen a few instances of them.

Take the Peace Vase project as another example. Hundreds of vases filled with precious substances, prayers, teachings and blessings being hidden all over the planet. Whay do think that is? A modern terma project, that's what that is. And if someday somebody found and opened one of those vases and saw texts written by teachers that lived 2-3 generations ago what would they say? It's irrational! It's unlikely! Surely it cannot be! etc...

That's what is happening in this thread.

Oh yeh of little faith and way too much intellectual analysis, things are infinitely more simple than they seem. :tongue:
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Jikan » Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:14 pm

Konchog1 wrote:I predict a "scripture only" orthodoxy movement for Theravada westerners and a logic driven Nalanda type Buddhism for Tibetan Buddhist westerners. E.g. instead of "this guru/lineage founder/sutra says this; therefore it is correct" it will be "this is correct because of a, b, and c; therefore this guru/lineage founder/sutra is correct. Thus, we should have faith in them."

I can see only benefit in both views.

As long as we practice more and materialism/new age interpretations don't increase in influence, everything will be fine.


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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Sherlock » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:45 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:The subject of termas always makes me laugh for a number of reasons.

Termas are not a purely Tibetan "cultural" thing. Think about the Dead Sea scrolls for example. Think about the fact that people hid books and manuscripts during the period of Nazi rule so that they escaped destruction and could be brought to light again to "enlighten" people after the Nazis lost power. The original people that hid them may have been killed and the books and texts still remain hidden. If a couple of hundred years later somebody rennovated the house they were hidden in and came across them? Think of texts on herbalism and other magic that may have been hidden during the Inquisition inorder to protect them. It is not so dissimilar.

Okay, maybe the Dead Sea scrolls were not puposefully hidden, but you get the idea.

What is so hard to believe that Padmasambhava and other teachers stashed texts in caves either to store them for future use or just so they didn't have to carry them around with them?

Here in Greece people would stash all sorts of things (tools, blankets, lamps, etc...) in remote rural locations so that when they went back to work they wouldn't have to carry them again. If they stashed a bible or a prayer book what would be so strange about that? If it was "found" a couple of hundred years later? Ascetics in the Orthodox tradition would stash icons etc... in caves where they were practicing, and then these were miraculously discovered hundreds of years later. I've personally seen a few instances of them.

Take the Peace Vase project as another example. Hundreds of vases filled with precious substances, prayers, teachings and blessings being hidden all over the planet. Whay do think that is? A modern terma project, that's what that is. And if someday somebody found and opened one of those vases and saw texts written by teachers that lived 2-3 generations ago what would they say? It's irrational! It's unlikely! Surely it cannot be! etc...

That's what is happening in this thread.

Oh yeh of little faith and way too much intellectual analysis, things are infinitely more simple than they seem. :tongue:
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While literally buried treasure teachings are probably the root of the terma tradition (c.f. how the Dzogchen tantras were hidden), most terma cycles from at least the time of Longchenpa seem to be revealed in ways more connected with a terton's mindstream -- through visionary experiences or even just a spontaneous arising of teachings.

At the coarse, mundane level, we can try to trace the layers of different influences on a given terma through textual analysis -- I don't think this necessarily means one is casting doubt on a terton's honesty or something like that. Thinking like that is another way that modern "rationalism" manifests in the idea of text ownership.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Yudron » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:35 pm

I spent an hour this morning starting to read an e-book version of Jacob Dalton's The Taming of the Demons, on my Nook. The questions that arose for me on starting to read it seem very related to this topic. Dalton here is talking about stories of taming of rudra and the rather central role the occupied in Tibetan Buddhism, and therefore in Tibetan society and politics. He addresses these topics from an academic outsider's perspective. This kind of approach is always interesting to me, because it takes the same terms and imagery and imbues them with meaning that we would never ascribe to them as practitioners.

We started this conversation talking about terma. As Malcolm used to point out, the terma tradition is essentially Nyingma, no matter what tradition the terton comes out of. The terton is a heroic figure in our Nyingma world, and thus far, usually male, based on the model of the Bodhisattva hero, and the tantric model--where the practitioner inhabits universes of symbols, deities, and mandalas that have vanquished, or are in the process of vanquishing a barrage of countervailing evil forces, personified as demons.

The terton bursts out of the pages of the tantric back story, in which the demons of Tibet were tamed by Guru Rinpoche, enough so that the Dharma could be established here. All tertons are tulkus, and most of them tulkus of one of Guru Rinpoche's main disciples... and they burst on the scene again when the genuine practice of the inner tantras is in peril for various reasons. Then, the perfect practice or teaching or power object directly from Guru Rinpoche for this specific place, time, and situation is released from its time capsule. A community of disciples grows up around the often charismatic, usually non-monastic, terton, and performs the revealed rituals and practices, and individual practioners perfect their internal practice of the terma and teachings.

It's a wonderful world to be a part of... so evocative, moving and interesting. That open, trusting, quality, and the sense of being held and supported by a one's heroic enlightened lama (with his connection to our lineage history), supercharges one's practice. It gives one courage and motivation to put a lot of energy and time into practice and imbues the practice itself with juice and power. If you take away this juiciness, you have unplugged the power cord of the Nyingma lineage.

There is no problem with reading books by these wonderful scholars who are looking the history of Tibetan and Indic Buddhism from the perspective of what can be verified historically and scientifically at this time, but I view that as entertainment or a side hobby... these "objective" viewpoints have no relevance to practice. How could they?

People in our tradition do years of retreat, or daily practice, in which they inhabit a whole world that is the mandala of the deity. For a Vajrakilaya practitioner, for example, at every moment rudra is being subjugated and a vast battle is underway. A practitioner of Guru Rinpoche is always taming the wild lands by means of suitable manifestations. The Saraswati practitioner is always by her milk ocean, tuned-in to vast omniscient wisdom and singing it to the world.

Do we take away her veena and say--you are a river that dried up centuries ago... get real, lady?

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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:45 pm

Huseng wrote:Sure it does. It is a mutually agreed upon ontological reality (i.e., conventional truth). For us ordinary beings we can agree that the laws of physics clearly entail that the sun rising and setting from our perspective on earth does not stop and that it has never been witnessed as having stopped. You can't deny conventional reality. We ordinary beings spend most of our time with such a perspective. If you want to deny it you'll only appear silly and misguided.


Here is why there is disagreement. Madhyamika thought rejects ontology as incoherent. What appears can not be captured by any of the four "corners" (It exists, it doesn't exist, it neither exists nor doesn't exist, it both exists and doesn't exist). Conventional truth is merely a designation for the experience of deluded beings. It is itself delusion and does not exist as it appears. You can project your models of "laws of physics" all you like, but they have nothing to do with anything absolutely or essentially real. In denying that conventional reality has any ontological verity I have some good company, Shakyamuni most famously gives the eight examples of illusion, but Rongzom sums the Vajrayana approach quite succinctly,

"Besides this delusion of sentient beings, there is nothing else which might be posited and shown. These phenomena, known as delusion, are all that there is." -Rongzom Chozang, Establishing Appearances as Divine

I would rather appear silly and misguided to ordinary beings than to my teachers or the exemplars of our tradition.

Huseng wrote:You can speculate about that, but unless you are a siddha it is just speculation. In any case, their perspective would presumably not be the common one shared by ordinary beings. In that sense what's the point speculating that in the distant past a siddha may or may not have witnessed the sun halting in the sky?


From your point of view, we must reject such assertions in the vajrayana that humans when they achieve siddhi can fly through the air unaided, because of your belief in some foundational "laws of physics". Basically, you want to reformulate the teachings based on your own 21st century preconceptions of scientific truth. I am not speculating about whether it can or can't happen. On the contrary, you are asserting that it is impossible and I am keeping the possibility open because I see no reason to be definitive about it. If one believes that all of space and time appear as a magical display within the sky of the enlightened nature, that the sun could stop in its tracks is not particularly hard for me to accept.

Huseng wrote:I really don't understand what the point of your arguments here is. You are demanding faith about something that is largely speculative and not so relevant. Is the acceptance of a sage halting the sun a mark of true faith, thus rendering the devotee a true practitioner? Is the mark of faith a sign of true devotion? Is it really important to liberation, or is it just identity politics?


I am not demanding anything. I have merely stated that the efficacy of tantra is based on practicing the teachings as they are presented, not as how you would like to revise them to be in line with your preconceptions. Whether the sun stopped in the sky or not is completely irrelevant to putting the teachings into practice. However, if one is always looking to change the teachings to accord with your current point of view, where do you stop? Better I think, to keep an open mind.

Huseng wrote:I agree, but for ordinary beings the laws of physics apply. The sun does not halt in the sky. It has never been witnessed. It cannot be inferred as possible. You might as well argue for the existence of rabbit horns and turtle fur.


You use "laws of physics" as a bludgeon, but what does it really mean? Our current understanding of phenomena? Do you really think this understanding is definitive for all time? Not so very long ago, we thought the world was flat. Try launching a Mars mission using Euclidian geometry. Laws of physics is ultimately a cipher for our current collective understanding and that is all. In a couple hundred years, what we consider the laws of physics will doubtless seem as quaint as the flat earth of the middle ages.

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Huseng wrote:Conventional reality is only provisionally established, but for understanding and realistic perspective it is fundamental. If you think otherwise, then the insane man hallucinating has an equally valid perspective as the rest of everyone else present who are not undergoing a psychotic episode. That is not a practical way of looking at things.


What does it mean "provisionally established"? To say that something is a mere convention means that it is *not* established-- it is merely agreed to nominally, for the sake of conversation. Conventional reality is delusion. Some delusions are shared, some are not. That does not give greater ontological weight to what is shared. It simply means that when talking about confusion, there are some things which are common amongst knowers of a certain capacity.

Huseng wrote:So, understanding the late Indian cultural paradigm (like mandalas and so on) behind the text is utterly useless?


From the point of view of practice, yes. Might be interesting as a hobby.

Huseng wrote:Do you know what upaya is? It is skilful and expedient to adapt to what people find culturally and intellectually acceptable. To do otherwise is to promote an elitist tradition or teaching that excludes people rather than including them. That's not Mahāyāna.


Yes, actually skillful means or upaya has always meant that realized bodhisattvas provide many, many different approaches to the teaching based on capacity. It has never before meant that academics and intellectuals revise the teachings to accord with their own preconceptions and peccadilloes or misguided sense of egalitarianism. You will notice that I have always stressed what the approach of Vajrayana is and *not* Buddhism as a whole. Vajrayana simply can not be revised in accordance with the wishes of intellectuals. If a vajrayana teaching lacks any one of empowerment, authorization or instruction it is for all intents useless. These are not the products of the thinking, judging mind.

Huseng wrote:This is just elitist nonsense. You express neither compassion nor adaptability. Where's the bodhicitta and aspiration to help and embrace all beings?


Spare me your outraged populism. If people do not accept the foundational premises of a system, they can't enter into it. See how far you get in medicine if you don't accept anatomy or as an aircraft engineer if you don't accept aerodynamics. There are many, many vehicles of the Dharma and we gain nothing by gutting one of them to accord with the pseudo-rationalist leanings of a few academicians.

Huseng wrote:That's a rather fatalistic approach to teachings which are aimed at benefiting immeasurable beings, no? A good teacher will be able to skilfully answer the questions of a sceptical student, and do so benefiting them. To do otherwise would be to reject people and send them out the door for lack of immediate faith and acceptance.


Of course a good teacher can skillfully answer the questions of a skeptical student. This is why traditionally the student and teacher are supposed to examine each other closely for a period of time. When one enters the door of empowerment, authorization and instruction into the Vajrayana teachings, it is assumed that the questions about the underlying premises of Vajrayana have already been answered. Vajrayana is not the *only* thing that might be taught, but for it to be efficacious certain underlying assumptions must be made. If someone is skeptical of these assumptions, then they may be given abhidharma teachings, sutra teachings, philosophy, etc. That's how upaya adjusts for differences in capacity.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:00 am

Karma Dorje wrote:Here is why there is disagreement. Madhyamika thought rejects ontology as incoherent.


Conventional reality, with the appropriate caveats understood, is not absolutely rejected. It lacks inherent existence, but it is conventionally or provisionally existent. It is dependently originated and hence is imputed to exist.

In conventional reality the sun rises and sets, and this does not stop unless some vast earth shattering cosmological event were to occur.

You're really just trying to support a baseless position. You're trying to prove that a mythological account in a hagiography really did occur and to believe in it is a mark of faith for those select few with the right conditions to practice your tradition.




You can project your models of "laws of physics" all you like, but they have nothing to do with anything absolutely or essentially real. In denying that conventional reality has any ontological verity I have some good company, Shakyamuni most famously gives the eight examples of illusion, but Rongzom sums the Vajrayana approach quite succinctly,


First of all, the laws of physics apply in the real world we're living in. They might not be as absolute as classical physics suggests, but for us ordinary beings they do apply. If you jump off a cliff it doesn't matter how much faith you have in supermundane abilities and beings, gravity will pull you down and you will be injured if not killed.

Again, if you want to talk about the absence of inherent existence in perceived phenomena, then we cannot make any assertions about anything really existing or occurring at all. That renders this discussion unnecessary. So there is no need to bring in Madhyamaka thought here. We're talking about conventional reality here.


I would rather appear silly and misguided to ordinary beings than to my teachers or the exemplars of our tradition.


Knock yourself out.




From your point of view, we must reject such assertions in the vajrayana that humans when they achieve siddhi can fly through the air unaided, because of your belief in some foundational "laws of physics".


You don't have to outright reject all such stories. You just need to say, "Well I've not seen anyone flying around outside of an aeroplane, so we'll just have to accept the story as a story and not take it beyond that."

In some texts you find people saying that fantastical tales are a kind of expedient means of getting people to practice and tame their own minds. That I think often applies in these fantastical accounts of past masters.

If you want to prove the laws of physics wrong, you'll have to demonstrate you can fly around on your own. Until such time you're talking about crows teeth and rabbit horns. Such things are not observed.


On the contrary, you are asserting that it is impossible and I am keeping the possibility open because I see no reason to be definitive about it.



Have you ever witnessed someone halting the orbit of the earth around the sun? Have you managed to do this yourself?




If one believes that all of space and time appear as a magical display within the sky of the enlightened nature, that the sun could stop in its tracks is not particularly hard for me to accept.


In conventional reality, which is what I've been talking about all this time, there are well documented laws concerning the movement of the earth around the sun (assuming heliocentrism again). At a deeper more subtle level such laws dissolve of course, but for we ordinary beings and the world we live in, those laws apply.



You use "laws of physics" as a bludgeon, but what does it really mean?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_physics

You know ... the observed rules by which the material part of reality operates. You can mathematically predict the outcome in many cases.




Not so very long ago, we thought the world was flat.



Speak for yourself. Plenty of ancients in the Hellenic and Indic worlds knew the earth was spherical.




Try launching a Mars mission using Euclidian geometry.


Well, even in Ptolemic astronomy the sun is still expected to rise and set without stopping. In its time it worked reasonably well for navigation and calenders. You could get an approximate estimate of where celestial bodies would be. However, things got updated as new knowledge was obtained and people moved on.


Laws of physics is ultimately a cipher for our current collective understanding and that is all.


Oh come on. If you jumped off a cliff in the 2nd century CE it was anticipated you'd fall to the ground just as it is now. We can explain the mechanics behind the fall in greater detail than ancient Roman thinkers could, but nevertheless people understood that there are clearly aspects of material reality with strict rules involved.


What does it mean "provisionally established"? To say that something is a mere convention means that it is *not* established-- it is merely agreed to nominally, for the sake of conversation.


Provisionally established = prajñapti-sat (btags pa las yod pa).

Everything in conventional reality is provisionally established, but it is empty of inherent existence and is only nominally real by virtue of an imputed existence. That doesn't mean however you get to dismiss laws concerning the material universe. Conventional beings are subject to conventional laws (like karma and gravity).


Conventional reality is delusion.


Sure, but if you jump off a cliff you will die. The delusion is quite real for us ordinary beings. If a yogi has a vision of the sun being halted that is one thing, but for the rest of us ordinary beings the sun rises and sets as it always does. If you wanted to really prove people back then witnessed the sun halting, you'd have to show me historical accounts of at least several people witnessing the sun halting in its tracks (Chinese history texts are a good start because they recorded major astronomical anomalies). However, I'm confident you won't find any such accounts of the sun all of a sudden stopping in the sky.




Vajrayana simply can not be revised in accordance with the wishes of intellectuals.



I'm not really saying that. I'm simply saying that you're pushing a baseless view about someone in the past actually literally stopping the sun in its tracks.






Spare me your outraged populism. If people do not accept the foundational premises of a system, they can't enter into it.



So, accepting that a human infant was really conceived from a lotus flower is absolutely foundational to doing Vajrayana?

What you're really getting at is a kind of emotionally charged unrealistic perspective of the world often found among religious people. I think moreover you're pushing a kind of elitism where you applaud yourself for having had the right causes and conditions to enter the Vajrayana path, and then display immediate dismissal to anyone lacking the same level of faith in fantastical stories. This is not healthy and moreover it is dangerous. It is cultish thinking to aggressively defend blatantly fantastical stories as literal truth, and then dismiss anyone who doubts you as lacking the same appropriate qualifications as you yourself indirectly profess to have.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Karma Dorje » Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:32 am

You're obviously not listening, Huseng. The foundational premise I am talking about is that the Guru is Buddha and that the teachings he or she gives are Dharma. In the context of practice of Vajrayana, that is not really up for discussion. How Padmasambhava appeared in the world is presented a certain way. Make of it what you will. I have absolutely no problem with mind manifesting directly in that manner, nor do I feel even the slightest desire to prove one way or another what the life of the historical personage of Padmsambhava was.

If you are going to continue to take my repeated statements that I am NOT going to make a definite statement on things as meaning that I am promoting faith claims rather than that I am going to keep an open mind about things and leave it in the realm of possibility, there is little point in continuing this conversation. You are welcome to hold onto some delusional reality where "ordinary beings" live separate from other realities where buddhas live and different laws apply. That makes less than no sense to me practically, experientially or philosophically.

You dislike faith, you admire rationalism and history and your ideal Buddhism is some sort of Positivist fantasy. I get that. Good luck with that. I'm sure you will have a most excellent academic career with that approach as it's all the rage in the Academy. However, dismissing practitioners as dangerous, cultish and unhealthy because they don't agree with your own (smug) point of view is hardly the Mahayana approach you so glibly chastise others with... Particularly when you have neither practical experience with the tradition under consideration nor agreement with its underlying principles, nor I might add even the slightest acquaintance with me as a person.

If this kind of aggressive over-intellectualization is what you consider the way forward for Buddhism, God help us all.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby icylake » Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:43 am





Here in Taiwan I recently said in passing with a group of well educated Buddhists that contemporary scholarship regards Mahāyāna texts as postdating the death of Śākyamuni. The room went silent and the topic was quickly changed. That doesn't fly well in this culture and I suspect it would be much the same with Tibetans as well.



not in Korea.. recently, the interest in theravadin buddhism and Nikkaya(not only Agama)are very strong now among the educated and young buddhists. their tendency is more like that of new western buddhists. they study abhidhamma in their groups, and attack mahayana buddhism and Jogye order. the response of Jogye order is quite reasonable. they established early buddhism institute a few years ago, and just completed traslation of Nikkaya in modern Korean version. to compromise with those theravadin inclined laities (they published their new version of modern Korean Nikkaya before 2years ago too). Jogye order seemed to be trying to grasp the authority of interpretation on Nikkaya in Korea.. all of discourses of buddhism in nowadays Korea tend to be related to Nikkaya. even zen-not only with Bodhi dharma and Huineng, but also with anecdotes found in Nikkaya). Tibetan buddhism itself is not so popular in Korea. even though quite a few is intereted in them, but they think that's another version of mahayana, simmilar to Zen(maybe that's because independent Zen practice is very vivid in Korea unlike Taiwan where pure land belief is the main practice). but Theravadin impact to the doctrine of Korean buddhism is quite strong now.
even newly revised traditional seminary course for monastics 2years ago including intensive study on Nikkayas(besides Aghama in Chinese version).

and what is more important is Nikkaya and Zen became the first gate for new, educated, young, male buddhists entering buddhism. unlike old type-aged women worshiping boddhisattvas-. many former Christians became through Nikkaya and Zen.(in Korea Christianity is decreasing now. the vital and humanistic aspects of Buddha appeared in Nikkayas gave many Christians more persuasive images of buddhism than mahayana buddhism did) so i think it's inevitable to consider Nikkaya seriously in East Asian mahayana countries.

globalization is really dreadful. :lol:
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:17 am

Karma Dorje wrote:You're obviously not listening, Huseng.


I well understand what you have said. You have stated your belief as follows:

I see no particular problem in Virupa stopping the sun in its tracks or Padmasambhava being born from a lotus.



You have defended these as literal and not allegorical truths. I have challenged you on this and you deflect my criticism by deferring to your own vision of Vajrayana and reality. I'm just an intellectual who doesn't understand Vajrayana and anyone who doubts these claims lack the appropriate conditions to enter said path. I think this is elitist and said why.



The foundational premise I am talking about is that the Guru is Buddha and that the teachings he or she gives are Dharma. In the context of practice of Vajrayana, that is not really up for discussion.



So, as a prerequisite sign of faith one must unquestionably accept that Padmasambhava was literally conceived from a lotus? Or that Virupa stopped the sun in its tracks despite no other human record detailing such an anomaly? Belief in the fantastical is necessary for rapid liberation from saṃsāra?

I think you need to answer these questions rather than saying such things are not up for discussion.



How Padmasambhava appeared in the world is presented a certain way. Make of it what you will.


His name might be an bahuvrīhi.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahuvrihi

That would entail he was not literally conceived from a lotus.



I have absolutely no problem with mind manifesting directly in that manner, nor do I feel even the slightest desire to prove one way or another what the life of the historical personage of Padmsambhava was.



You did state, however, you have no problem "in Virupa stopping the sun in its tracks or Padmasambhava being born from a lotus."

Many people would take issue with this for obvious reasons. You might say they lack the appropriate conditions to really engage in Vajrayana and enjoy its fruits, but then again that's just elitism speaking and moreover a kind of cultish approach to religion.



You dislike faith, you admire rationalism and history and your ideal Buddhism is some sort of Positivist fantasy. I get that.


I never stated such things. I'm saying prove your claims with some degree of evidence instead of saying that disbelievers are an inferior breed of practitioners lacking the requisite conditions to practice Vajrayana. Your reasoning above in respect to Madhyamaka doesn't cut the cake.


However, dismissing practitioners as dangerous, cultish and unhealthy because they don't agree with your own (smug) point of view is hardly the Mahayana approach you so glibly chastise others with... Particularly when you have neither practical experience with the tradition under consideration nor agreement with its underlying principles, nor I might add even the slightest acquaintance with me as a person.


As for you as a person, I have only been taking your statements at face value. I'm not extrapolating anything based on my knowledge of you personally (I know nothing of you really).

I am a practitioner and contrary to what some people here think, you can be a scholar and practitioner. Academia is not the bane of practice. Such anti-intellectual sentiments are not unexpected, though still unwarranted.

As to personal experience, Huseng's practice is secret and he doesn't feel compelled to discuss it on an internet forum.



If this kind of aggressive over-intellectualization is what you consider the way forward for Buddhism, God help us all.


So, questioning someone who claims someone stopped the sun in its tracks is an over-intellectualization?
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby muni » Wed Jan 02, 2013 9:49 am

Termas are revealing unapprehended nature while conceptual mind sees apprehended only, 'appearing' in unapprehended, but last one is not seen.
Termas are revealing by faith in unapprehended nature like it is, in seeing the Guru like that. No faith in fixated apprehended. All have Buddha nature/ are Buddha. Symbolic; we all are perfect diamonds, all of different shapes. Therefore so many apprehended approaches to reveal unapprehended nature.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby pemachophel » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:35 pm

Karma Dorje,

I feel the heat. Gimme some of what you're drinking.

:namaste:
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Yudron » Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:54 pm

Husung: The Dzogchen tradition does not have a dichotomy between relative and absolute truth. So there is something else besides Guru Rinpoche was "literally" conceived on a lotus versus definitely born from a woman's womb, lived a normal human lifespan and so forth. Phenomena are not viewed that way by serious practitioners in our tradition--and I'm not talking about mahasiddhas here--just us regular simple dedicated practitioners. We apply the view to everything, so there is a softening of the whole need to see things as this or that.

I know it is irritating if you want to pin things down.
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Re: Termas and Cultural Paradigms

Postby Silent Bob » Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:19 am

"You are all lotus-born." Trungpa Rinpoche
"All the sublime teachings, so profound--to throw away one and then grab yet another will not bear even a single fruit. Persevere, therefore, in simply one."
--Dudjom Rinpoche, "Nectar for the Hearts of Fortunate Disciples. Song No. 8"
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