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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:36 am 
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I went to some 'remote empowerments' a couple of years back. I don't want to say for which teaching group, but they are well-known and well-regarded. The idea was that at a specific time, a group would all assemble at someone's house, and the teaching, or empowerment, would be transmitted via Skype (or something similar) whilst the attendees went through the ceremony, assisted by some printed materials.

The content of the ceremony involved very complex visualizations. There was a preparatory session lasting about an hour which gave attendees the chance to rehearse the visualizations and follow along with the ceremony, along with providing some explanations of the symbolic content.

From the remarks and questions of the others in this group, I formed the view that many of them did not have a very good grasp of what you might call 'Buddhist fundamentals'. They were a really diverse group - a couple of teens, and others of various ages and backgrounds.

I found the whole experience rather perplexing. Maybe I'm a cynic, but I am sceptical of the efficacy of vicarious empowerment ceremonies. How are they supposed to work? Like a magic spell? I suppose my own attitude was clearly not conducive to receiving whatever benefits might accrue from such activities.

I do recognize the efficacy of ritual and liturgy, so I'm not completely sceptical. The last retreat I went on was Thai, and they customarily bow three times to the Triple Gem at each meditation. I have carried on that practice ever since, and I think it is really beneficial. (Mainly because us modern Westerners usually bow to nothing and no-one.) But I still like to have some kind of understanding of what I am doing or chanting. I didn't get the sense of that in those empowerment sessions I went to. So I didn't continue with that group.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:03 am 
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It's really good to study a general presentation on tantra about the various stages of empowerment and the significance of each part. Of course, it is good to have an empowerment first, before you study these things.

In the beginning I didn't understand much of what was going on either, but as I continued to study and practice, gradually I understood the significance of the various parts of the rituals.

Geshe Sonam explains the symbolism of the various stages of the initiation when he has time, which people told me they very much appreciated, but when time is short often lamas will just "jump in" to the ritual.

As a translator I also make an effort to give a translation before the first repetition of the various verses the people have to recite three times at different points in the ritual. I think when people understand the import of the words it can have more meaning. But I have attended several events where everything was recited in Tibetan, sometimes so fast the translator wouldn't have had time to do that even if they wanted to.

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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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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:13 am 
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jeeprs wrote:
I didn't get the sense of that in those empowerment sessions I went to. So I didn't continue with that group.

So this might be okay for you.
I think, if something is remarkable and important for us, it will touch us directly into the heart. As soon as this heart is not blocked.
The first empowerment i joined at my teachers place was completely inapprehensible for me. We recited long tibetean prayers and i didn't understand a single word. But when i attended the same ceremony two years later and put my focus on reading the translation - i was astonished to see that these wishes have become true in my life... Without knowing conciously that i have said them.
So how it functions i don't know - but for me it does apperently.

I'm very glad about this.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:18 am 
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To me it seems that the empowerments are teachings compressed into visual and verbal symbols in order to give an impression on the level of imagination, something that one can use for the practice once the meaning is known. It is somewhat like the short verses attached to longer teachings as memory aids, however, empowerment also has the elements of ritual giving emotional assurance that the practitioner can achieve high realisations and sets up a bond between teacher and disciple.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:33 am 
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Sure, I think that is quite true.

I hadn't meant to start a thread, the OP was a post I entered in another topic which the moderators have made a new thread. That is OK, it is an interesting topic. I was not meaning to be overly negative or critical in my post. It is more that I had doubts as to whether in the circumstances, the people attending could really assimilate and understand what they were hearing.

I think this is a lot about 'context', or, more to the point, lack of context. In a traditional setting, there is a context for such teachings. There is social recognition of the value of the teaching, and a social structure which validates and supports it. So the mentality of the participants is such that they instinctively relate to it. The situation in modern society is very different to that. People have a very different background, expectations, and understanding of life. So what it means to them is very hard to predict. I had the distinct impression that some of the participants were reading some very strange things into this ritual. One of them, from what I could pick up, really thought he was going to get magic powers, like the ability to become invisible. (Mind you, I could have misunderstood his remarks, as they were a bit incoherent. But nobody seemed to be paying much attention to what he was saying, and he seemed a bit addled to me.)

So I am not saying I think that these ceremonies are a bad thing. What troubled me was the lack of qualification of the participants. In the traditional culture, you would be talking to an audience who understood a lot about the context. I presume that for tantric visualization ceremonies, you would basically be addressing monastics who really lived the practice already. Here we have a casual audience, who have been attracted by word of mouth, living in our modern electronic culture, trying out all kinds of different ideas. One minute it's Tibetan Buddhism, the next - who knows? That is what concerned me.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:51 am 
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Quote:
So I am not saying I think that these ceremonies are a bad thing. What troubled me was the lack of qualification of the participants. In the traditional culture, you would be talking to an audience who understood a lot about the context.


It depends. I have attended empowerments with HHDL, for example, where many people from Tibet came to attend.

In a sense, they were not "qualified", many of them were traditional nomad people, in some cases barely literate. Due to the situation in Tibet many only had a rough idea about the basics of Buddhism.

But if faith was a qualifier, these people had it in spades- crossing over a dangerous border to receive the initiation, knowing full well they risked imprisonment by the Chinese authorities on their return.

In that way, you couldn't ask for people with higher qualifications.

Because of the depth to which Buddhism permeates the culture of Tibet, people are willing to attend teachings just for the bag chag- the imprint. Due to their unwavering faith in past and future lives, they are convinced that participating even if they don't understand in this life, creates the cause to be able to meet the teachings again and maybe understand something in the next life.

_________________
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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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:22 am 
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jeeprs wrote:
I found the whole experience rather perplexing. Maybe I'm a cynic, but I am sceptical of the efficacy of vicarious empowerment ceremonies. How are they supposed to work? Like a magic spell? I suppose my own attitude was clearly not conducive to receiving whatever benefits might accrue from such activities.


Empowerments are a spiritual ripening, usually in the form of a ritual involving meditation at some point. The spiritual ripening is an introduction by a master who has accomplished the practice on some level to a form of a Buddha, usually a Samboghakaya form of a Buddha, used in meditation or in practice. This form is used to eventually become a Buddha oneself. The empowerment also has a strong purification aspect and is designed to remove spiritual blockages for lack of a better term.

So fundamentally it is an introduction to, and experience of, your Buddhanature.

Empowerment is required before you can begin many practices, esp. of course deity yoga (experiencing yourself and all phenomena as Buddha phenomena) and certain teachings in Vajrayana Buddhism.

Kirt

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:37 am 
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jeeprs wrote:
The idea was that at a specific time, a group would all assemble at someone's house, and the teaching, or empowerment, would be transmitted via Skype (or something similar) whilst the attendees went through the ceremony, assisted by some printed materials.
Controversy #1

jeeprs wrote:
From the remarks and questions of the others in this group, I formed the view that many of them did not have a very good grasp of what you might call 'Buddhist fundamentals'. They were a really diverse group - a couple of teens, and others of various ages and backgrounds.
Controversy #2

You may find this interesting: http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... 61ba0d61e7

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-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 11:25 am 
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Yes, that is very much what I imagine the requirements must be like. I wouldn't consider myself a candidate without considerable preparation.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:40 pm 
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jeeprs wrote:
Yes, that is very much what I imagine the requirements must be like. I wouldn't consider myself a candidate without considerable preparation.


Anyone who is serious about Vajrayana as a spiritual path and has some basic intellectual understanding of emptiness and is motivated by compassion to relieve the sufferings of themselves and all beings by ultimately attaining Buddhahood is a candidate for empowerment. In some traditions and with some lamas a person must also have taken the Bodhisattva Vows (although this also depends on the empowerment - no one is getting turned away from a basic Avalokiteshvara or Tara empowerment because they haven't taken Bodhisattva Vows yet).

Kirt

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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:47 pm 
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Garchen Rinpoche, who gives empowerments through webcast, says that when you generate bodhicitta, that is the empowerment.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:15 pm 
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The only "official requirement" at any of the empowerments I have received thus far is refuge.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 11:26 pm 
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But you also have right aspiration. Presumably you're not engaged in it in order to attain magical powers.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:30 am 
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Quote:
The only "official requirement" at any of the empowerments I have received thus far is refuge


The lama didn't give bodhisattva vows, or maybe generating the aspiring bodhicitta?

_________________
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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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:34 am 
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Empowerments are often given to lots of unqualified people, it doesn't mean they receive the empowerment. Lots of people attend, but their views are so twisted they don't get the empowerment.

Isolate yourself from fair weather practitioners, you don't need friends that treat something so serious as a game. You can come back for them when you're strong enough to not be corrupted. That's my attitude now and I've avoided a lot of grief this way.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:05 am 
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JKhedrup wrote:
The lama didn't give bodhisattva vows...
Not unless they sneaked them in when everybody was not looking.
Quote:
...or maybe generating the aspiring bodhicitta?
Generating aspiring bodhicitta is something we do at the beginning of all practices, it's not really empowerment specific.
:namaste:

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:50 am 
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There is a verse that is commonly recited to generate aspiring bodhicitta in most jenangs and wangs near the beginning of the empowerment. Then the verse of actually taking the bodhisattva vows appears.
In the Gelug tradition a portion of the bodhisattvacaryavatara is used. I have never seen an initiation text that doesn't include those verses.

I am curious how different lamas do it because for example Geshe Sonam always insists that this verse is an integral part of the ritual. He says if people want to participate in the less heave jenangs or tsewangs (like White Tara) but not actually take the vows, the can generate the bodhisattva aspiration, but will not receive the full impact of the ceremony.

I know Lama Zopa Rinpoche sometimes for example excuses people from taking the actual Bodhisattva vows if they want to take the blessing as well.

I'm just interested in how it is being done these days. The traditional view AFAIK was that there was no tantra without Bodhisattva vows but of course in a non-Buddhist society in the West especially with well known teachers you might have different ways of accomodating people.

_________________
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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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:01 am 
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I've never "officially" taken Bodhisattva vows and have received many empowerments.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:07 am 
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Some of the benefits of tantric empowerments are...

1) being granted permission from a Dorje Lopön (Vajra Master) to practice the specific sadhana(s) associated with a particular tantra.

2) receiving an accurate description of the sadhana, and often of the cycle of tantra the sadhana is associated with.

3) receiving the transmission of (and instruction in) any related mantras, mudras, visualizations, etc. associated with the sadhana from someone who is both knowledgeable and attained in the practice (i.e. the Dorje Lopön).

4) taking the samayas (which will include Refuge and Bodhisattva vows and if the practice is part of the Yoga Tantra or Annuttara Yoga Tantra class, also the Tantric vows. This may be different with Nyingmapas and Dzogcehnpas. I do not know for sure. I am speaking here from a Jonangpa perspective, but I believe it is similar with Gelugpas, Sakyapas and Kagyupas as well)

There are many other aspects which could be indicated, and they are all important and beneficial, yet it seems that the primary significance of receiving an empowerment is to be able to subsequently engage in the associated sadhana for the benefit of all beings.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:46 am 
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I don't doubt any of that but the question I raised was about the efficacy of empowerments received via the Internet by modern urban people with little background in Buddhism. So the question is more about Buddhism in the modern world.

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