Myth in Buddhism

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 10:26 am

mirage wrote:I am not very familiar with situation in Zen, but maybe because it one of the precious few ways to deal with numerous charlatans and crazies who appear out of nowhere proclaiming themselves to be enlightened teachers? Who can judge if a particular person is qualified to teach? His own teacher. How do we know this teacher is qualified himself? Supposedly because it was confirmed by his own teacher, and so on back to Buddha. I find this idea very attractive, even though it might not always work exactly that way in practice. But it is at least some insurance.


Since the lineage of confirming and authorising a teacher is broken, the transmission is given based on several reasons and not always connected to the receiver's inner realisation, and there are several examples of correctly transmitted teachers abusing the naive belief in transmission itself, it does not work as an guarantee for quality. Yes, people want to feel safe, but it's a false belief based on an illusion. On the other hand, if instead of blindly accepting the myth of transmission, they would take the time to actually study and contemplate the teachings and assess a teacher by his knowledge and behaviour, that could be a lot safer. In fact, both knowledge and behaviour are relatively easy to measure. As for those who believe that "enlightenment" is the single qualifying factor, that's a very narrow and simple view, especially when they have no idea what enlightenment is.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Nikolay » Thu Apr 18, 2013 10:34 am

Astus wrote:there are several examples of correctly transmitted teachers abusing the naive belief in transmission itselt

There are negative examples for everything, since it is samsara we are dealing with, and there are no perfect sure-fire solutions for anything. I, for one, would never follow a guru whose qualification was not confirmed by his teacher, who in turn belongs to a recognised lineage. Then I would try to examine his conduct, his knowledge, etc. But I know that I can be fooled, so I take precautions. It is not a guarantee, but it is a start, and it would make me trust that person more.

On the other hand, if he was democratically elected in some way, it would probably make me trust him less.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 10:53 am

mirage wrote:There are negative examples for everything, since it is samsara we are dealing with, and there are no perfect sure-fire solutions for anything. I, for one, would never follow a guru whose qualification was not confirmed by his teacher, who in turn belongs to a recognised lineage.


How do you confirm a lineage? I show you three lineage tables, full of Chinese names. Can you tell which one is genuine and which one is fake? By the way, are you saying that you'd never study under any of these teachers, or the Deshimaru followers?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:01 am

plwk wrote:So huseng, what do you think of the above mummy from Guangdong's Nan Hua Si? I recall having a conversation with Astus over the above.
Would you know whether anyone has even remotely tried to challenge the real life Ch'an Sanghas in China and abroad over the authenticity of Huineng and this mummy like the Turin Shroud? I am open to honest answers and the truth.


I don't know of anyone of note challenging them.

But then for their purposes having these things becomes a component of their institutions. It draws people and money in.

It is like Foguangshan which built an enormous stupa for a purported Buddha tooth complete with high class shopping mall (there's a Starbucks inside) and large parking lot suitable for plenty of tourist buses:

Image

It is expected to draw in a lot of visitors. Inside the stupa complex itself on the left-hand side is a gift shop which illustrates at least one function of the project.

I was told it was built partly as a way of securing income after their chief Ven. Xingyun passes away. When their charismatic figure passes away they anticipate a drop in donations which would potentially severely hamper their operations and rapid expansion. The tooth itself is said to have been brought out of Tibet by Kunga Dorje Rinpoche, though claims of relics of course are historically common enough (like wood off the cross).

So, like mummies other kinds of relics are used to rapidly further institutions. It is a common phenomenon throughout history actually. New Buddhist organizations are doing the same thing more or less.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Nikolay » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:07 am

Astus wrote:How do you confirm a lineage? I show you three lineage tables, full of Chinese names. Can you tell which one is genuine and which one is fake? By the way, are you saying that you'd never study under any of these teachers, or the Deshimaru followers?

As I said, I am not familiar with situation in Zen, and those names in your post are all equally unfamiliar to me (well, I've heard about Ven. Shengyan, I guess). I am not dealing in absolutes here, stating that unless I am 100% sure that a particular lineage was never broken and leads directly to Buddha Shakyamuni I will not study under a teacher. How can I ever verify this myself? This would be unrealistic. Let us say that If I can trace the lineage reliably to one of the "big name" masters that are universally respected within the tradition as highly realized beings, then I will be content enough not to dig further.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:31 am

mirage wrote:Let us say that If I can trace the lineage reliably to one of the "big name" masters that are universally respected within the tradition as highly realized beings, then I will be content enough not to dig further.


That is, you would never study under for example Tsongkhapa, who had several teachers, but eventually established his own version of Buddhism for what he couldn't provide any predecessors? And any teacher who have received only visionary-mental transmissions or claimed reincarnation of a once famous person are all out of question (e.g. Asanga, Tilopa, Jigme Lingpa)? Not that there were no other orthodox teachers of the time within established communities, still, many outstanding masters were special because they came up with a new way of teaching and did not follow the existing methods.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:57 am

Astus wrote:there are several examples of correctly transmitted teachers abusing the naive belief in transmission itselt


Please identify five.
.
.
.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 12:30 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Astus wrote:there are several examples of correctly transmitted teachers abusing the naive belief in transmission itselt


Please identify five.
.
.
.


Known major cases (note that these are all outstanding teachers with large number of followers):

Taizan Maezumi, founder of Zen Center of Los Angeles and others
Seung Sahn, founder of Kwan Um Zen School
Joshu Sasaki, founder of Mount Baldy Zen Center
Daining Katagiri, founder of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center
Eido Shimano, founder of Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji and New York Zendo Shobo-Ji
Richard Baker, heir of Shunryu Suzuki
Dennis Merzel, heir of Bernard Glassman
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 12:32 pm

From the topic: The Source of What: Who Transmits What?

"Without fully and finally letting go one’s self-with-form, there can be no transmission — even if one has received innumerable transmission certificates from various lineages. The basis and source of transmission in Zen is the awakening to one’s selfless self. And this emerges precisely from the dropping away of self, once and for all. Remember the character I wrote on the board? That’s it. No one transmits anything to anyone; in other words, shin or kokoro transmits kokoro to kokoro by way of kokoro. That’s all."

The Source of What: Who Transmits What? (PDF) by Jeff Shore is a wonderful summary of the issue that combines both the Zen and the scholarly view.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PorkChop » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:28 pm

Jnana wrote:
PorkChop wrote:So you would consider an example of Buddhist ecumenicism that did not include the 8th point?

I'm generally willing to consider many things. But as I've already said, it's kinda important to acknowledge what is acceptable to all parties concerned. Ven. Walpola Rahula rewrote a version of the nine points in 1981, including reference to the Ekayāna ideal and specifically mentioning the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra. Of course, this raises concerns from different quarters for a number of reasons, but that's part of the territory when it comes to attempting to engage in inter-tradition dialogue.


Added the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra to my reading list (as if it wasn't big enough already). Thanks for that. :)

Jnana wrote:Historical criticism relates to notions concerning mythology and the historical development of Buddhist ideas. For example, the assertion that the Mahāyāna developed from earlier mythological hagiographies (Jātakas, Avadānas, etc.), and that the early Mahāyāna communities existed on the margins of mainstream communities, and that ideas about the bodhisattvayāna were slowly absorbed into different mainstream Buddhist schools over the course of centuries, and so on.


Point taken... I do however think that Mahāyāna theory was largely influenced by very early doctrinal positions taken by the Mahāsāṅghikas. Thus, there were many who's thinking would have been consistent with much of Mahāyāna thought but wouldn't have considered themselves such. Of course, if we're going to go by sheer numbers, then maybe we should be more friendly towards the doctrines of the Sammitīyans (Pudgalavādins)...
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Nikolay » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:32 pm

Astus wrote:That is, you would never study under for example Tsongkhapa, who had several teachers, but eventually established his own version of Buddhism for what he couldn't provide any predecessors? And any teacher who have received only visionary-mental transmissions or claimed reincarnation of a once famous person are all out of question (e.g. Asanga, Tilopa, Jigme Lingpa)? Not that there were no other orthodox teachers of the time within established communities, still, many outstanding masters were special because they came up with a new way of teaching and did not follow the existing methods.

Tsongkhapa had several teachers from recognised lineages, who confirmed his qualification. That is enough. Same goes for Jigme Lingpa. I most definitely accept terma teachings, but I wouldn't accept such claims from just anyone. It's a person's qualification/degree of realization that need verifying, not the exact content of their teaching.
Any modern teacher that received (or, to be more correct, claimed to receive) exclusively visionary-mental transmissions would be approached by me with extreme caution, if approached at all.
Karma Dorje wrote:What strikes me about this conversation with regards to power structures is that we are not stopping to consider whether democratic ideals themselves are simply a competing myth.

I am frankly not very impressed with democracy-- I am much more comfortable with monarchy. I don't believe that any fool without education should make decisions for the whole. I am much more comfortable with educated people, or in this case realized people, deciding for the community who best exemplifies the lineage.

Democracy can work pretty well in secular politics, but I doubt it can work in religion, because, frankly, democratically elected leaders tend to be horrible people. The more ruthless, two-faced and populist a person is, the more empty promises he makes, the more likely is he to get elected. In politics this is pretty much expected, and a system of checks and counterweights is in place to limit the abuses of power and force the elected leaders to take community interests into consideration. In spiritual matters, this is hardly sufficient.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:47 pm

mirage wrote:It's a person's qualification/degree of realization that need verifying, not the exact content of their teaching.


And this is where I disagree. As one of the four reliances states: "Rely on the message of the teacher, not on his personality"

And Ven. Shengyan says (Zen Wisdom, p. 27-28),

QUESTION:

How does an ordinary practitioner recognize a false master?

SHIH-FU:

The most important thing in recognizing masters is to be able to judge whether they have a correct view of Buddhadharma. If their views of the Dharma are correct, then even if their behavior reveals some weaknesses, they should not be considered false masters. On the other hand, if teachers do not have a correct view of the Dharma, they cannot be considered authentic or virtuous masters.

Of course, this presupposes that the person making the judgment has some understanding of correct Dharma. Without an understanding of the Dharma, there is no way a practitioner can tell if a teacher is genuine or false.

Beyond this, there are some basic criteria that can be used in assessing masters. First, consider their causes and conditions. In other words, their actions should be based on a foundation of emptiness; there should be no attachment in what they do. Second, consider their causes and consequences, or karma. The sense of emptiness that guides the actions of virtuous masters (causes and conditions) should accord with their karma (causes and consequences). That is to say, their actions need to be guided by a sense of responsibility. They should, at all times, be clearly aware of the consequences of their actions. Thus, there is an intimate relationship between responsibility and non-attachment.

These, then, are the marks of virtuous masters: they have a correct view of the Dharma, their actions reveal no attachment and they have a clear sense of responsibility.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:02 pm

Astus wrote:
mirage wrote:Let us say that If I can trace the lineage reliably to one of the "big name" masters that are universally respected within the tradition as highly realized beings, then I will be content enough not to dig further.


That is, you would never study under for example Tsongkhapa, who had several teachers, but eventually established his own version of Buddhism for what he couldn't provide any predecessors?
Hmm, I'm not quite sure I agree with you here. There is a lineage in the Gelug. It's just very complex. In Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand it says that the lineage starts with Shakyamuni and splits into lineages headed by Maitreya and Manjushri. These lineages are combined by Atisha and after Dromtonpa, splits into three headed by Gampopa, Potowa and Chaen Ngawa. These lineages are combined by Lord Tsongkhapa and continue in a straight line from there.

EDIT

It's seems that this thread is sliding into a false dilemma fallacy. It IS possible to have a lineage and still need to question a teacher's qualifications. This is what 50 Stanzas says.
Last edited by Konchog1 on Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Nikolay » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:04 pm

Astus wrote:
mirage wrote:It's a person's qualification/degree of realization that need verifying, not the exact content of their teaching.


And this is where I disagree. As one of the four reliances states: "Rely on the message of the teacher, not on his personality"

It is relatively easy to give correct-sounding teachings, especially if people assume you know what you are talking about (which is generally the case). Of course if what a teacher is saying clearly contradicts Dharma, then it is reasonable to be suspicious. But this alone is not enough to distinguish a real teacher from a fraud. I certainly don't mean that lineage is the only criterion for me. It is one of several necessary criteria.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:01 pm

Konchog1 wrote:Hmm, I'm not quite sure I agree with you here. There is a lineage in the Gelug. It's just very complex. In Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand it says that the lineage starts with Shakyamuni and splits into lineages headed by Maitreya and Manjushri. These lineages are combined by Atisha and after Dromtonpa, splits into three headed by Gampopa, Potowa and Chaen Ngawa. These lineages are combined by Lord Tsongkhapa and continue in a straight line from there.


Practically any Buddhist who studied from different teachers can come up with a lineage, and all monks have an ordination lineage plus the Dharma lineage of their upadhyaya. In this sense there is nothing special about a lineage except for one difference. The nobility keeps record of their ancestors while ordinary people don't, however, everyone equally have ancestors going back to the unknown past. Similarly, in Buddhism there are those who claim to belong the a lineage - something that actually copies royal bloodlines, at least in Zen - and there are those who don't have such a record of their teachers' teachers. And what is the reason for showing a special ancestry? Not to insure the validity of their teachings but simply to raise themselves above the rest.

Can we say that only those with a lineage are enlightened? If so, Buddhism works only for a very few people, it is not an efficient teaching. However, if we say that there are many people who truly benefit from the teachings, distinguishing a few by a lineage is not about realisation or greatness but a claim for superiority (at least in the case of Zen).
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:06 pm

mirage wrote:It is relatively easy to give correct-sounding teachings, especially if people assume you know what you are talking about (which is generally the case). Of course if what a teacher is saying clearly contradicts Dharma, then it is reasonable to be suspicious. But this alone is not enough to distinguish a real teacher from a fraud. I certainly don't mean that lineage is the only criterion for me. It is one of several necessary criteria.


Correct sounding and correct are not exactly the same. A teacher who teaches correct Dharma is a proper teacher. And besides giving correct teachings what else can a teacher do? They obviously don't make people magically enlightened because they have received magic powers from their own teachers. The only thing anyone can get from a teacher is a teaching. So, what difference does a lineage make?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Nikolay » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:38 pm

Astus wrote:
mirage wrote:It is relatively easy to give correct-sounding teachings, especially if people assume you know what you are talking about (which is generally the case). Of course if what a teacher is saying clearly contradicts Dharma, then it is reasonable to be suspicious. But this alone is not enough to distinguish a real teacher from a fraud. I certainly don't mean that lineage is the only criterion for me. It is one of several necessary criteria.


Correct sounding and correct are not exactly the same. A teacher who teaches correct Dharma is a proper teacher. And besides giving correct teachings what else can a teacher do? They obviously don't make people magically enlightened because they have received magic powers from their own teachers. The only thing anyone can get from a teacher is a teaching. So, what difference does a lineage make?

Simple: I do not consider my ability to distinguish a correct teaching from a correct sounding teaching to be infallible. If it was infallible, I probably woundn't need any teachings at all.

Furthermore, the very act of receiving a teaching personally is important. There is a common saying that repeating a mantra without having received it personally from a teacher is like trying to squeeze some oil out of a handful of sand.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 9:57 pm

mirage wrote:Simple: I do not consider my ability to distinguish a correct teaching from a correct sounding teaching to be infallible. If it was infallible, I probably woundn't need any teachings at all.

Furthermore, the very act of receiving a teaching personally is important. There is a common saying that repeating a mantra without having received it personally from a teacher is like trying to squeeze some oil out of a handful of sand.


The correct teachings are defined in the Buddhist canon, the Buddha himself taught them.

Zongmi wrote (Zongmi on Chan, p. 112):

"The sutras are like an inked marking string, serving as a model by which to establish the false and the correct. The inked marking string is not the skill itself; a skillful craftsman must use the string as a standard. The sutras and treatises are not Chan; one who transmits Chan must use the sutras and treatises as a norm."

And Yongming wrote (Conception of Chan in the Zongjing Lu, p. 248, 258):

"People develop understanding through texts. When people forget about the Buddha’s message, one safeguards the minds of beginners on the basis of [texts]. Whoever understands the teaching through the corpus of Buddhist writings will not create a mind and realm of objects in opposition to each other, but will realize the mind of the Buddha directly. What error is there in this?"

"Moreover, if one wants to investigate the Buddha-vehicle, one will read extensively from the treasure storehouse [i.e., Buddhist scriptures]. Each and every [scripture] forces one to understand the truth about one’s own self; utterance after utterance causes one to mysteriously unite with true mind. One simply should not grasp onto written texts as the highest meaning, forming [artificial] views according to the words. One should directly seek out the message written down in the corpus of Buddhist scriptures, tacitly uniting with the truth that is inherently implicit. At that point, the wisdom that does not depend on any teacher reveals itself, and the way of heavenly truth is no longer obscure."

Now, I'm not saying that teachers are unnecessary. There is a great value of someone who has studied, contemplated and practised the teachings, who has experience in the Dharma and compassion to teach it. However, there is nothing new a Buddhist teacher can say that are not already in the sutras. He can rephrase it for the student, give examples, etc., but the content is the same, just as the intention and the effect. A maths or a language teacher can't come up with new rules, he can only explain again and again until the student understands. A Dharma teacher has to do the same. In fact, even the sutras repeat the same things over and over.

So, what difference does it make if I hear a mantra from a teacher, from a friend, from a stranger or from the radio? The words are the same. What else is a mantra other than words? And I can ask the same about all the teachings there are in Buddhism.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:02 am

Astus wrote:So, what difference does it make if I hear a mantra from a teacher, from a friend, from a stranger or from the radio? The words are the same. What else is a mantra other than words? And I can ask the same about all the teachings there are in Buddhism.


According to the understanding of Vajrayana, mantra is an intention and a energetic pattern that is transmitted from the guru to the student. it has nothing to do with ordinary language and can't be "learned" from books. You are entirely welcome to put this to the test and see if you can achieve the results of the mantra just by reading a book and practicing it. Of course you may not know the meaning or the details of how to practice as these are typically oral instructions. You also may not know what the signs of accomplishment are, for the same reason. You also will likely not recognize the pitfalls as you practice either, or have any methods to deal with them. But hey, knock yourself out.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 19, 2013 4:39 am

Karma Dorje wrote:I am frankly not very impressed with democracy-- I am much more comfortable with monarchy. I don't believe that any fool without education should make decisions for the whole. I am much more comfortable with educated people, or in this case realized people, deciding for the community who best exemplifies the lineage.


What works in national politics may not work at the ground level and vice-versa.

One system will not be universally applicable to all scenarios, nor will it necessarily be the optimal system forever.

Basically, at a community level of religious practitioners, having elected leadership might be preferable to appointed titles given for life.

That doesn't necessarily entail democracy as the optimal system at the national level of course.
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