Dharma etiquette – the little things

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Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Punya » Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:15 pm

I know we’re having the big discussion about secrecy and vajrayana but what about the little things? Do some of you struggle with dharma etiquette like I do?

While most of us probably know shrine room stuff like removing your shoes, not pointing your feet at the altar, not walking over dharma books and prostrating to the teacher but what about other things? It seems like I am forever blundering about breaking the unwritten rules because I simply don’t know of their existence. I'm guessing some etiquette may be different in different traditions but let’s make a list and share experiences/blunders.

One thing that immediately comes to mind for me, is going to my first empowerment and offering the Vajrayana master something meant for him personally (it was something naturopathic as I was worried about his health), accompanied by a particularly “cheesy” card. I only found out later it is normal practice to offer money directed towards the furtherment of the dharma or something that means a great deal to you that you are giving up as a heartfelt offering.
Last edited by Punya on Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:22 pm

being fairly new, I don't know half the rules. I don't feel guilty or worry about it though, if I do something wrong then hopefully the teacher or senior students will tell me, and if they don't...I won't even know I did it wrong, so why worry?

I haven't been to an empowerment yet, I have to admit the idea of blundering does make me a little apprehensive, but I will try to approach it the same way, always just keep my intentions and motivations where they should be, even if my knowledge itself falls short.
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:29 pm

Punya, as your intentions seems very good I wouldn't worry too much. I'd like to make another observation,though.

I wonder if the people who act as the "dharma police" and intimidate newcomers don't incur more negative karma than someone who from lack of familiarity breaks the etiquette a bit. Just my observation after 17 years in dharma centres- the same stories seem to repeat themselves.

People should also be aware how they explain the rules. If something is done with a whisper and a smile , maybe you keep a newcomer interested in Buddhism. If the correction is done is a disdainful or intimidating way, maybe you turn someone away from the dharma.

First impressions count for a lot.
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: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:51 am

JKhedrup wrote:If something is done with a whisper and a smile , maybe you keep a newcomer interested in Buddhism. If the correction is done is a disdainful or intimidating way, maybe you turn someone away from the dharma.


I was in a similar situation. I once committed a minor faux pas my first time at temple. I used the wrong hand to receive something (I cupped left over right, it should be cupped right over left). The pundit whispered "no, no, other hand" and smiled. I said "oops!" :emb: switched hands and he smiled again. If a big deal was made of it, I probably would never have returned.

First impressions count for a lot.


Indeed they do. ;)
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flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:30 am

I don't see a compelling reason to recreate petty social conventions in foreign countries. Is it really necessary in a western country?

I mean if people are polite and not acting foolishly (like talking during a lecture), then what's the big deal? The dharma police should be told to knock it off. Social conventions are all subjective and vary from culture to culture. If you're not Tibetan in a Tibetan gonpa, why insist on recreating Tibetan social norms in your western dharma center?
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby dakini_boi » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:37 am

Punya wrote:offering the Vajrayana master something meant for him personally (it was something naturopathic as I was worried about his health)


what a wonderful offering, nothing wrong with that at all
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 7:39 am

Lol, I once gave Garchen Rinpoche a copy of Tintin in Tibet.
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby MrDistracted » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:28 am

I think it makes most teachers' day when someone makes it to them before they've been stifled by the dharma cops and have had a whole lot of insecurities projected on them.
It might surprise those who take it upon themselves to correct others, but good teachers are generally fond of open and sincere communication...
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:37 am

I agree. People who do this are often more concerned about asserting their authority in the centre than really teaching others etiquette.

Also it is indeed worth pondering whether all the social customs from Tibet need to be imported. Certain things related to the refuge vows, like respecting texts and so forth are worth preserving, but other specifically cultural things not related to helping us keep our precepts are not necessarily useful.

One Tibetan lama who was traveling the West lamented to me that he never got to understand Westerners because they were trying to "act Tibetan" around him. He told me even to have an open conversation with people in the centres was difficult because of over-the-top devotion. I wonder if this is the experience of other masters.
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: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Ayu » Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:35 am

I offered Honey and Flowers to my teacher when i came to take refuge. For me it was like a symbolic gesture.
He looked "Not amused" and i thought i did something wrong.
But now after some years i found out that he always makes a very serious face if the issue is serious. Now i think he just wanted to show me that it was one of the most serious moments in my life - so he had no interest in honey and flowers. :smile:

A real "no-go" is to have a mobile ringing in the lecture a lama is giving. I was criticized about that and I took that to heart. Mobile off in the lecture!!!
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby muni » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:27 am

Etiquette is habitual tool to decrease coarser habits, or so...

Oops, dominating fellows is not what I understood how practices are developping. The advanced insightful 'ones' their action is through genuine warmth as aspect of insight. Then learned etiquette is having not much use anymore, naturally behaviour is spontaneous. Etiquette can help till equanimity is 'seen'.


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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Seishin » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:27 pm

I tend to agree with Huseng here. But for me it's difficult to know when I'm throwing out the water or the baby (so to speak)

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Huseng wrote:I don't see a compelling reason to recreate petty social conventions in foreign countries. Is it really necessary in a western country?

I mean if people are polite and not acting foolishly (like talking during a lecture), then what's the big deal? The dharma police should be told to knock it off. Social conventions are all subjective and vary from culture to culture. If you're not Tibetan in a Tibetan gonpa, why insist on recreating Tibetan social norms in your western dharma center?
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby dude » Fri Jan 25, 2013 7:09 pm

Local customs and traditions of etiquette have nothing to do with the Buddha's teachings.
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jan 25, 2013 7:17 pm

This is true in many respects. At the same time, the culture prevalent in India at the time of Lord Buddha's teachings is connected with some of his discourses, how could it not be? That is why many of the Vinaya rules to a modern audience may seem a bit odd.
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: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby dude » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:08 pm

Of course, and to presume that it was the Buddha's intention that such customs should be observed by practicing Buddhists in other countries or other times would be absurd.
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Punya » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:26 pm

Thank you for the good advice and kind comments. I obviously needed a little reminder about intention. And I hope Garchen Rinpoche enjoyed Tintin. :smile:
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
~Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:38 pm

dude wrote:... to presume that it was the Buddha's intention that such customs should be observed by practicing Buddhists in other countries or other times would be absurd.

Um, I presume by "such customs" you can't mean the Pratimoksha vows.

Another term for Buddhism is dharmavinaya. Eventually, numerous different Vinayas arose in Buddhism, based upon geographical or cultural differences and the different Buddhist schools that developed. Three of these are still in use. The Vinayas are the same in substance and have only minor differences.
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Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:39 pm

A strange thing that has happened is in some dharma centres people were enforcing rules because they thought it was Tibetan tradition and showed respect to the lamas.

But when I asked Geshe Sonam about it he had never heard of such a custom, and found it rather strange. Thinking perhaps it was a regional thing (Geshe la is from Khams), I asked a lama I know from the Lhasa region. He had also never heard of it.

As I researched the situation it turned out that a neurosis a long term volunteer had had regarding how incense should be offered had become "the rule" as people believed for some reason it was a lama's instruction.

I found the whole thing rather amusing!
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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Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:41 pm

Um, I presume by "such customs" you can't mean the Pratimoksha vows.


I don't think that is what he meant. At least, I hope it isn't. During degenerate times things are difficult enough as it is without the bridle of the praktimoksha!
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
JKhedrup
 
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Dharma etiquette – the little things

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:56 pm

JKhedrup wrote:During degenerate times things are difficult enough as it is without the bridle of the praktimoksha!


Certainly Venerable, but on the contrary I wanted to point out that those battling to keep the Vinaya have served the Dharma for thousands of years, and it "should be observed by practicing Buddhists in other countries or other times" by those who have chosen to do it.

If that is what was meant.

I apologize if I'm confused.

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