Impoverished Western Practitioners

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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:22 pm

I know it's from Andrew Cohen's magazine (not my favourite teacher). But since in the article HH Penor Rinpoche comments of this very topic I thought it was worthwhile to post it.http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/j18/penor.asp

Andrew Cohen: Rinpoche, many people in the West are becoming interested in the Buddha-dharma. You're a monk. And the Buddha himself was a monk. What are the virtues of monkhood for the spiritual aspirant?

PENOR RINPOCHE: In sutra, the Buddha taught that being a renunciate and becoming a monk will help one follow the spiritual path in a better way. First, one receives ordination and vows, and then one renounces the world and becomes a monk. With that as the basis for one's moral conduct, one will have a deeper and more firm understanding. One will have more power in the practice of the spiritual path. Being a renunciate monk is more powerful than just being a lay practitioner.

AC: The great nineteenth-century Tibetan Nyingma yogi Shabkar said, when speaking about the worldly life,

Meat, liquor, sense pleasures, worldly enjoyments—the best things of samsara are temporarily beguiling. Young brides in the full bloom of youth and beauty are expert at leading one astray. Therefore, even if you have as your companion a young daughter of the gods, have no attachment, have no desire. Why? Speaking generally, because all things of this world are without essence, impermanent, unreliable, and by their very nature lead to suffering. In particular, because domestic life is like a pit of fire, a cannibal island, a nest of poisonous snakes. Enjoying the entire array of samsaric perfections, wealth, and pleasures is like eating food mixed with poison, like licking honey on a razor blade, like the jewel on a snake's head: a single touch destroys.
Rinpoche, could you speak a little bit about the dangers of the worldly life and its pitfalls for the spiritual aspirant?

PR: It is said that if someone is attached to a minor pleasure or happiness, there is no way that person can attain a greater spiritual happiness or pleasure. In samsaric life, one is mainly influenced by the five afflicted minds of desire, hatred, anger, jealousy, and pride. And wherever there is affliction, whoever is influenced by those afflictions will naturally take rebirth in samsara endlessly. You see, there is no limit to samsara, even though there is also no essence to it.




and later in the same article:

AC: The Buddha said, "The blue-necked peacock which flies through the air never approaches the speed of the swan. Similarly, the householder can never resemble the monk who is endowed with the qualities of the sage, who meditates aloof in the jungle." Yet, an influential American Buddhist meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield, says in his new bestselling book, "The sacrifices of family are like those of any demanding monastery, offering exactly the same training in renunciation, patience, steadiness, and generosity." Could that really be true?

PR: It is not true. When you are in a household, in the worldly life, even if you have spiritual training, there is always more attachment. Being a householder and wanting to have liberation from the afflictions of mind is good. But that is very difficult within those kinds of conditions. Yet even if you are in a monastery, you still need all the training so that you can get rid of those defilements. But of course it still does not mean that only by entering a monastery you can be liberated.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Karma Dorje » Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:18 pm

JKhedrup wrote:For me, sweating it out in meditation in Thailand not having studied thoroughly was very frustrating. Now with the structure I have learned from Geshe Sonam and my other kind teachers, I am more effective on the practice side of things and have a better idea of how to meditate. It is also study that made it possible for me to fully comprehend and appreciate the teachings that HHDL gives, for example.


Not having full instruction on the practice one is doing is obviously not going to be very effective. What I meant is that one doesn't have to go through the entire shedra curriculum in order to be able to practice fully. Such things as debate may be very good for refining one's ability to communicate and demonstrate the dharma to others, but are quite useless when it comes to recognition and realization of the natural state. Large parts of the shedra curriculum could be condensed or dispensed with altogether by going to the essence of the teaching.

JKhedrup wrote:Padmasambhava as an enlightened being with a very specific task, born from a lotus et al I don't think I would categorize as a householder. One Nyingma lama friend in India reminded me also that one of his aspects was that of a fully ordained monk.
I am not sure if we could hold the others as examples either because for example Tilopa was already a realized being and Naropa a high capacity disciple, some say a holy being already. Also, the structure of ancient India (and to some extent modern India) allowed for spritual recluses and madmen. As weird as it might seem, I think the monastic paradigm would be more easily accepted in the West than the crazy fish-gut eating yogi paradigm.


Tilopa wasn't concerned with fitting in. In today's society, he might have been a panhandler living under a bridge somewhere. I think that one of the salient points of the mahasiddha movement in India was that regardless of circumstance, one can integrate the practice in daily life. A simple community of practitioners living closer to the land and sharing the workload could be a much more easily sustained model than monasteries, which in Tibet were funded by feudal lords. People in the West don't want feudalism transplanted by and large (look at the funding problems Shambala International has with their whole pretend royalty trip) and without feudal wealth distribution, it's very difficult to fund monasticism on the scale it occured in Tibet or India.

JKhedrup wrote:Even in the least monastic of the lineages, the monasteries were the treasure houses of knowledge and scholarship, and they in many ways made the activities of the great lay masters possible. That is why even lay lineages such as that of Minling Trichen Rinpoche had monasteries attached to them- because they realized the type of training possible in a monastery formed people capable of maintaining the practice and philosophical traditions of the monastery as well as providing ritual support.


No question about that. The question is, can we replicate this here? Look at the monastic traditions of other religions native to the West. Monasticism is in a likely terminal decline. It's hard to see Buddhism bucking this trend.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby pemachophel » Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:52 pm

It's not called the Kali Yuga for no reason.

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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby lama tsewang » Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:48 am

greetings please read my website: vancouvervinaya.org

I cant maintain the website , and I need help with that, so that maybe some others want to help me with making Dharma available to people and establishing a strong pracrice centre. I also have a friend in the Interior , a novice nun , whom I at first made as anagarika or Rabjung, she has a piece of land, she lives on Near Kamloops. And another nun in Kelowna, who needs a community. The website doesnt have my right e-mail address. Should i give my phone number ??


Anyway a centre where there are monastics , is not exclusuively for monks or nuns, it would be a centre of Dharma , where monks and nuns will hold the space and create a very good space for Dharma to happen. For this to happen beings have to trust . That last sentence was inspired in me by the words of an abbot of a small monastery near Lytton, a Canadian soto zen monk, my son, a Sramanera , lives at that place.

Please respond, this idea is what motivates all of my activities and is vital for the future of Dharma here Im in CANADA as you can see in BC.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby lama tsewang » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:48 pm

I'll try typing these thoughts out again.
I would like you to look at this website that was set up for me.
vancouvervinaya.org

It offers the use of a house in Vancouver, free of charge. Just read it and you'll understand . Are there any interested individuals?
Also over time this intention has grown much stronger, there are several female monastics in the interior of BC , who will help , with doing something about our state of affairs.
Also , if any competent people could help me with the website , I cant maintain it , because of the way its set up.
Contact me please

Tsewang
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby anjali » Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:21 pm

JKhedrup wrote:
PR: It is said that if someone is attached to a minor pleasure or happiness, there is no way that person can attain a greater spiritual happiness or pleasure.


This quote is a keeper, and oh so true.
All things are unworthy of clinging to (sabbe dhammā nâla abhinivesāyā). --Buddha
If there is clinging, you do not have the view. --Drakpa Gyaltsen
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby untxi » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:04 pm

one of the challenges to supporting both lay and monastic sangha in the west is that we consider them to be disjoint things. support monks and nuns to go and do their monk-and-nun-things over there-- support the lay people to do their lay-person-things over here. this is how we subtly cultivate attitudes such as... what is the use of supporting monastics? what good are they? what practice can lay people do? what practice can i do? and as we cultivate these subtle attitudes, the dichotomy becomes more and more solid until we start entertaining fantasies of monastic utopias and lay person utopias-- as if the spiritual needs and interests of the two groups need to be somehow quarantined from each other.

this is all just our own narrative.

most vajrayana sanghas in the west are small practice groups. having worked to support my sangha for some time, it has become obvious that what's most desperately needed isn't high lamas. it's somebody to hold the fort. to open the shrine and lead practice and discussion and study. to do marriages and other ceremonies. outreach: interviews, panel discussions and so on. i have always felt that it would be ideal to have monastics and lay people doing this together. i personally find my practice immensely supported by the presence of good and serious monks and nuns. i also find my practice immensely supported by the presence of serious lay practitioners-- but monastics and lay people practicing and studying together provides an exceptional richness.

perhaps if we can drop some of our narratives about different categories of practitioners, then we can find models of supporting everyone.

they have done this in other countries when it comes to different social issues. they have placed schools and elderly communities in close proximity to provide inter-generational support and understanding.

going down the road of a model of "impoverishment" is dangerous. if we have the precious human existence, we're not impoverished. perhaps instead of models of people supporting their practice in isolation, or models where the monasteries trickle down to the west to support practitioners-- perhaps with dialog and some clever insights into our culture(s) we can come up with models where western monastics and lay people co-support each other.

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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby lama tsewang » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:19 pm

what you have said , untzi is very good , . One of the major reasons why i talk about this is because i think very strongly that dharma has to be taught here by local people , otherwise it will never work.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Sara H » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:46 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:
Huseng wrote:Bear in mind to run a temple in India with foreign currencies is a lot cheaper than doing something equivalent in the USA. To build a giant monastery is likewise cheaper when materials, labour and such things are bought with donations of foreign currency.


I think Japhy’s complaint was more around the cost of being a practitioner in the West (courses, retreats etc). I have certainly noticed that Western monastics and others looking to practice full-time really do have a hard time financially. It seems they are expected to pay their own way often with no help from the lineage to which they belong.
I don’t know if the major lineages are as well-off as Japhy thinks but I agree to a large extent that poor Westerners do get a raw deal.


This is one of the reasons why I like the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (Soto Zen).

It pisses me off when I see people charging as much as they do for the Dharma.

And I have to admit, I have seen this a lot more in the Tibetan Lineages (Sadly.

It often seems like there is a fee for everything, but most especially for retreats and stuff.

I understand if someone can't afford to offer things for free for practical reasons, or and because their' Lay Sangha is not big enough yet to support it.

But at least once a year I think they should be offering something for free that is a retreat.

The Dharma is for everyone, not just for the super wealthy, or middle income Baby Boomers.

That, to my mind is one of the biggest remaining obstacles to getting Buddhism firmly established as a western practice, is making it available to people of all backgrounds and financial means.

When I first lived in Mt. Shasta I was a very poor college student.

I couldn't have afforded to go on retreats and study Buddhism as I did if they charged for it.

It quite literally changed my life.

Why can't other's do the same? (as the OBC)

It seems to my mind, that sometimes Western practice (especially with the Tibetans) is more geared toward mining Westerners of their money to support efforts in other countries, more than it is to support a sustainable practice here.

I've seen that a lot, and also in the still remaining tendency to promote Tibetan teachers (who can't speak English, or do it poorly) over passing the lineages down to more English practitioners, and teachers of Western decent.
There seems to be a real reluctance to do that.

What gives?


In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby pemachophel » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:05 pm

The original title of this thread has to do with impoverished Western practitioners. It's not just Westerners. One of the characteristics of this Kaliyuga is the continuous (and accelerating) decline of yang (wealth) energy in this world as a whole. Happily, in Vajrayana, we have ways of reversing this decline, both for ourselves and for others. Of course, giving charity is the most important, and there are tantric methods of giving charity which do no necessitate great physical wealth to begin with to accomplish. They only require time, energy, and the proper motivation. IME, some of the best for insuring an increase in yang/wealth energy are mandala offerings, daily chu-tor (water torma) offerings to Dzambhala, and sang-chod (smoke offerings) to the various gods and goddesses of wealth. One can also do yang-guk (hooking wealth) pujas and read the Maha Shri Sutra. (Maha Shri is an epithet for Lakshmi. You can find this sutra and its English translation at http://www.saraswatibhawan.org.) Doing Dzambhala, Vaisravana, and/or Kurukulle sadhanas are also very effective. Vajrayana has so many miraculous methods which allow us to directly change our circumstances. We just need to apply them. If done with proper motivation, sincerely, and with diligence, these things really do work.

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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby lama tsewang » Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:19 pm

i am a very old good friend of roshi benson, whoi is the prior here near vancouveer , on monday ill be going to their monastery outside of vancouver. my son a novice monk, lives there , they offered to train him.
the
o.b.c is greatly inspiring to me, they have a very large sangha , all run byu north american and european monks
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:14 pm

Sara H wrote:It seems to my mind, that sometimes Western practice (especially with the Tibetans) is more geared toward mining Westerners of their money to support efforts in other countries, more than it is to support a sustainable practice here.

I've seen that a lot, and also in the still remaining tendency to promote Tibetan teachers (who can't speak English, or do it poorly) over passing the lineages down to more English practitioners, and teachers of Western decent.
There seems to be a real reluctance to do that.

What gives?

In Gassho,
Sara H


Let's be fair to the Tibetan community-- without significant effort to create sustainable institutions for the exile community, traditional Tibetan culture is in real danger of disappearing. It's simply not the same situation as with Zen. Korea and Japan are first world countries. They don't need our money for their survival. However little we have here, I can assure you it is almost always more than what they have in India, Sikkim or Nepal.

There is a reluctance to pass on the lineage to more English practitioners both for cultural and practical reasons. The cultural reasons can't be defended. Practically though, there are not many Westerners that are qualified lineage holders. There are many that call themselves lamas or give themselves even more extravagant titles that simply have not put the years of retreat to warrant the title. There are many who have completed the three year retreat that are definitely not ordinary people but neither have they fully tamed their minds. The best are usually really quiet and private and nobody really hears much about them. Over time, we will have more and more lineage holders... but I think it is good to be a little cautious.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:17 pm

pemachophel wrote:The original title of this thread has to do with impoverished Western practitioners. It's not just Westerners. One of the characteristics of this Kaliyuga is the continuous (and accelerating) decline of yang (wealth) energy in this world as a whole. Happily, in Vajrayana, we have ways of reversing this decline, both for ourselves and for others. Of course, giving charity is the most important, and there are tantric methods of giving charity which do no necessitate great physical wealth to begin with to accomplish. They only require time, energy, and the proper motivation. IME, some of the best for insuring an increase in yang/wealth energy are mandala offerings, daily chu-tor (water torma) offerings to Dzambhala, and sang-chod (smoke offerings) to the various gods and goddesses of wealth. One can also do yang-guk (hooking wealth) pujas and read the Maha Shri Sutra. (Maha Shri is an epithet for Lakshmi. You can find this sutra and its English translation at http://www.saraswatibhawan.org.) Doing Dzambhala, Vaisravana, and/or Kurukulle sadhanas are also very effective. Vajrayana has so many miraculous methods which allow us to directly change our circumstances. We just need to apply them. If done with proper motivation, sincerely, and with diligence, these things really do work.

:namaste:


This is really, *really* good advice. We have an embarrassment of methods to correct problems with prosperity and personal magnetism. All they require is diligence, proper motivation and enthusiasm!

I really can't understand sitting on the beach of an island made out of jewels and complaining about how poor one is.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:53 pm

Let's be fair to the Tibetan community-- without significant effort to create sustainable institutions for the exile community, traditional Tibetan culture is in real danger of disappearing. It's simply not the same situation as with Zen. Korea and Japan are first world countries.



I agree that the situation of Tibetans as refugees is worthy of special consideration. The more I understand about the Tibetan language, the more clearly I see the importance of preserving institutions where transmission of the dharma is in the Tibetan language. The unique Himalayan cultures are a valuable resource to the world so making efforts to preserve them benefits us in the long run.

It seems to my mind, that sometimes Western practice (especially with the Tibetans) is more geared toward mining Westerners of their money to support efforts in other countries, more than it is to support a sustainable practice here.


While there are problems this statement is broad and unfair. I agree Vajrayana is behind in supporting monastics, but in other areas they are ahead of the other traditions. When you look for example at Tibetan-connected publishing outfits like Wisdom and Shambhala, they have done a huge service in terms of making qualified translations and commentaries from all the Buddhist traditions available in English.. If you look at what HH Dalai Lama does for the visibility and respect of Buddhism in the world, you see that all of us Buddhists in the West benefit from his work. I think you should do a little more research on the Tibetans before making sweeping generalizations.

i personally find my practice immensely supported by the presence of good and serious monks and nuns.


Thank you, untxi. Words of support for the Sangha from Western practitioners keep a little flicker of hope alive in my heart. I only wish others shared this view. In the meantime I just have to work on making myself as good a monk as possible. Fortunately due to my role as interpreter for a wonderful geshe, I have enough to survive and also basic health insurance. I realize though, that the situation of other Western Sangha is extremely difficult and this hurts me. People don't realize that when they say things like "we don't need sangha in the west" or "it is not relevant to our culture", it has a very real impact in reducing what little support and encouragement there is available.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Yudron » Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:55 pm

What I admire in the pure monks who I know is the real focus on the Mahayana, and especially the precious Bodhichitta. While no generalities can be made, the ngakpas tend to focus on the inner tantras, and perhaps sometimes not put in the years of study and practice in the Mahayana. So, they we can all enrich each other.

Lama Gonpo Tsetan, a Nyingma ngakpa, was the 20th century head of a ngakpa gompa on the campus of Labrang Tashi Khyil in Gansu, a large Gelug Monastery complex, was good friend with the monastary's abbot. When it came time for the monks to practice tantra, they went to the ngakpa gompa and studied with him. I assume the ngakpas studied Mahayana at the monastery, but I don't know. I find this kind of collaboration inspiring.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:58 pm

Yes we all need to support and respect eachother, recognizing the special roles that we have to play and how we are less without eachother.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Sara H » Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:28 am

Karma Dorje wrote:Let's be fair to the Tibetan community-- without significant effort to create sustainable institutions for the exile community, traditional Tibetan culture is in real danger of disappearing. It's simply not the same situation as with Zen. Korea and Japan are first world countries. They don't need our money for their survival. However little we have here, I can assure you it is almost always more than what they have in India, Sikkim or Nepal.

There is a reluctance to pass on the lineage to more English practitioners both for cultural and practical reasons. The cultural reasons can't be defended. Practically though, there are not many Westerners that are qualified lineage holders. There are many that call themselves lamas or give themselves even more extravagant titles that simply have not put the years of retreat to warrant the title. There are many who have completed the three year retreat that are definitely not ordinary people but neither have they fully tamed their minds. The best are usually really quiet and private and nobody really hears much about them. Over time, we will have more and more lineage holders... but I think it is good to be a little cautious.


I see what you are saying, and you are right, you make a good point about them not being an independent nation, however this is also a catch-22:
Practically though, there are not many Westerners that are qualified lineage holders. There are many that call themselves lamas or give themselves even more extravagant titles that simply have not put the years of retreat to warrant the title.


They can't get the experience because they don't have the retreat experience, and yet they can't go on the retreats because they don't have the money or the cost to do the retreats.

It's kindof circular.

It sets it up so Tibetan nationals can go on retreats and study full time, and yet the western Buddhist practitioners who may be helping to support them can't do the same.

It's pretty obvious that western practitioners, especially low income western practitioners are getting the short end of the stick.

They could charge a sliding scale or something based on income, if the felt the need to charge.

There are ways.


In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby pemachophel » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:57 pm

"They can't get the experience because they don't have the retreat experience, and yet they can't go on the retreats because they don't have the money or the cost to do the retreats."

The real hermitage is within our own heart-mind. One can be "in retreat" and yet our mind is busy in samsara. One can be seemingly busy in samsara and yet our mind is merged with the practice/the Guru's wisdom mind 24/7. The outer situation is not the key. It's the inner situation that divides between one being realized or an ordinary sentient being.

I have gone to many retreats and drubchen in America and Asia. In both places, during the breaks, I see most people rushing outside to eat, drink, and gossip, totally forgetting their pure vision. Those practitioners who truly devote their entire lives to the practice of Dharma, regardless of their ethnicity, place, or station in life, will eventually radiate the unmistakable glow of wisdom and compassion, and, sensing that, others will ask them for their help. That is how true Gurus are made, not some official ceremony or bestowal of some title.

IOW, if we want more Western Lamas, each of us needs to really carry the practice on the daily path of our lives. Money or no money, neither is an obstacle to realization if one wants it bad enough.

Just my two cents. Sorry if I'm totally off base here.

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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Odsal » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:03 pm

Retreats really don't have to cost much money. You can be poor and do retreats. There are ways to manage. Recently, I was in Alaska with camping gear and a few hundred dollars and did a three month retreat. I just went a couple of miles out of town and into the woods and set myself up. When I needed more food and water I walked to town and restocked. I have down similar back home. And I'm talking about a patch of forest behind a fricking fracking oil refinery in the suburbs. Work with what you got.
All that is really needed for a retreat is camping gear, water source and water purifier, big bag of rice and big bag of beans, ability to make fire and some woods deep enough to disappear into. Or a few hundred dollars and a grocery within walking distance, like I did when I was in Alaska. We can do our own retreats. Going through a Dharma center and paying a fee to participate isn't the only option. There are is no shortage of secluded places on the earth to go and do retreat by yourself. Beautiful places too. When I was in Alaska I was camping literally no more than two feet from the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean and a beautiful mountain range. There might even be a stretch of forest behind the grocery store or Mcdonalds in ones own town that could be used for retreat. If we are resourceful we can find ways to do it and do it on our own.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby wisdom » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:51 pm

I think its our fear of leaving a truly civilized and socialized situation that prevents us from seeing our options. In the texts I have read that mention retreat, usually the idea is that the more desolate the place, the better, living with the bare necessities. But we think that we still need central heat, a comfy bed, and food brought to us three times a day. We need to know that there is someone right down the way that can help us in a medical emergency. We don't want to relinquish our attachment to the safety and comfort of the life that we live. We are afraid of wild animals and insects. We are afraid of being truly alone with only ourselves, our practice and our thoughts to rely upon.

In that respect though, truly retreating is good practice because it prepares us for the reality of death. The situation we are in when we are all alone on a desolate mountain somewhere is the same situation we will be in as we lay dying, even if we are surrounded by people we might as well be alone on a mountain. At that point we have only ourselves and practice to rely upon.
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