Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:36 am

"Believing in things that aren't there"
Doesn't that describe most of the "things" people believe in?

As for health problems, the most widespread issue that Buddhist practitioners face are lung/wind problems, which covers a variety of nervous conditions. I think is what they refer to in Japan as "Zen sickness," and it's pretty much caused by those that either push themselves or practice ina very forceful or tight way. But this has much less to do with secrecy, than it does the need for the guidance of a teacher who can notice and help you correct these kinds of deviations.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:21 am

yegyal wrote:"Believing in things that aren't there"
Doesn't that describe most of the "things" people believe in?


Yes, and that is the problem with introducing people to aspects of the teachings that they haven't built up to.
For example, over time one can truly grasp the illusory nature of phenomena
and there are many stories of lamas leaving their hand prints in stones, for example,
the same way that one would leave a hand print in wet cement.
But someone without a gradulally experiential understanding might just think,
"Everything is just an illusion, so if i jump off a cliff, I won't really get hurt,
plus I have a red string around my neck that I got from a lama I met once, so that will protect me"

And that person will probably survive the fall
but not the landing.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:42 am

Ya, the landing is the tough part.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:28 am

yegyal wrote:"Believing in things that aren't there"
Doesn't that describe most of the "things" people believe in?

As for health problems, the most widespread issue that Buddhist practitioners face are lung/wind problems, which covers a variety of nervous conditions. I think is what they refer to in Japan as "Zen sickness," and it's pretty much caused by those that either push themselves or practice ina very forceful or tight way. But this has much less to do with secrecy, than it does the need for the guidance of a teacher who can notice and help you correct these kinds of deviations.


I meant by things that are not there the misinterpretation of the teachings. Zen sickness is mistaking quiet and peace for enlightenment, or any other special experience one may have in meditation. It is like taking "bliss, clarity and non-thought" to be the nature of mind.

Can you specify "wind problems"?
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:14 pm

Wind problems refers to disorder or imbalance in the rlung or wind energy, which can result in a slew of nervous conditions. Tibetans just refer to this imbalance as "lung" and it's very common problem for people practicing in long retreat. If anybody as ever been to a Tibetan doctor and been given "sem de" (or happy mind) pills, this is for lung. However, somebody who is more familiar with Tibetan medicine could explain this much better than I can.

And a quick search turned up this site http://meditatorswindimbalance.org/ I'm not sure how reliable it is, but it will give you the basic idea.
Last edited by yegyal on Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:36 pm

yegyal,

You say nervous conditions. Is that a reference to actual bodily problems, or only to energetic issues? I mean, can you describe probable health related dangers in modern medical terms, or does it only exist in the old Indo-Tibetan view of the human body? I think this is a relevant question as far as the reason for secrecy goes, because if it can be shown that certain practices cause actual physical and/or mental damage to people, it'd require stricter control (similarly to psychotherapists and doctors).

After reading the About section on that site, I'd say such problems with trying too hard and doing the meditation wrong can occur with any type of practice. That is, Vajrayana doesn't require any special treatment in this case.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:56 pm

As I mentioned in a previous post, I don't think this should necessarily be counted among the reasons for secrecy as it's not something that exclusively plagues Vajrayana practitioners. But to try and answer your question, this is something that is specific to Indo-Tibetan medicine as lung is one of the three humors, along with bile and phlegm, that this system is based on. So you're not going to be able to put this into modern medical terms, but it is a very commonly diagnosed and treated by Tibetan doctors. But, again, I'm not suggesting that this is a reason for secrecy in terms of the Vajrayana, as much as it is an indicator of the need for proper training and guidance. So, sorry if I'm derailing the secrecy conversation, but I just wanted to point out that these are the kinds of health problems most commonly associated with Buddhist practitioners, at least in the Tibetan tradition.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Dharmaswede » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:45 pm

I have seen a couple of unstable individuals in Vajrayana. Although there was no way to judge what came first (where they attracted to Vajrayana because they were unstable, or did they become labile due to their involvement in Vajrayana?), I think I saw enough to think that their condition certainly was not improved by Tantric practices.

There are many layers and finer points to ponder upon when it comes to secrecy in Vajrayana, and there good examples of that in this thread. But to me it is just a given that not all practices are for everyone. Yidam is but one very straight forward example.

Best Regards,

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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby byamspa » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:31 am

I think if someone had been frank about all the cr*p that comes up with a solid meditation practise, i'd have been loathe to even start, much less keep it up for 20 yrs or so.

Its not a path for wimps, that is certain.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:48 am

byamspa wrote:I think if someone had been frank about all the cr*p that comes up with a solid meditation practise, i'd have been loathe to even start, much less keep it up for 20 yrs or so.

Its not a path for wimps, that is certain.
“My advice to you is not to undertake the spiritual path. It is too difficult, too long, and is too demanding. I suggest you ask for your money back, and go home. This is not a picnic. It is really going to ask everything of you. So, it is best not to begin. However, if you do begin, it is best to finish.”

-Chogyam Trungpa
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:52 am

This thread started with the question of the "historical" reason for secrecy in the Vajrayana and if that's the question, then you really have to go way back to the spread of the teachings in India and Tibet. However, it seems that some a more interested in justifications for why it should be kept secret now. And that's a different kind of discussion, but a very interesting one nonetheless. For me, I would say that tantra and secrecy go together like marriage and fidelity. Sure, not everybody that gets married is faithful, but those that aren't certainly undermine the sanctity of that relationship. On the other hand, it's a pledge you make when recieving certain teachings, as most of those that do practice in this tradition know that some things are more secret than others, and this usually based on the explicit command to keep them secret. And if you can't keep that pledge, then you really have no business requesting those teachings. If you break a confidentiality agreement in regular life there will be consequences, so why wouldn't you think the same thing applies on less mundane level. And then there is the idea of the benefit of keeping one's practice secret as an enhancing practice. One previous poster mentioned upaya, but I would take it a step further and call it upadesha, or a pith instruction. To illustrate this point, first imagine that you're given a teaching to make you humble and it works incredibly well. You used to be extremely arrogant and now you're not and you see all the benefits of being humbles and it's a whole new world for you. Do you think that there would be the slightest benefit in going around telling people how humble you have become? Wouldn't all you workd for just fly out the window, the moment you bragged about it? In the same way, vajra pride turns into regular pride pretty damn quick if you start to make a show of it.

Anyway, that's what I think. Just a few more pieces of the puzzle to add the ones that have already been put out there by the rest of you.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby byamspa » Tue Apr 30, 2013 2:09 am

Konchog1 wrote:
byamspa wrote:I think if someone had been frank about all the cr*p that comes up with a solid meditation practise, i'd have been loathe to even start, much less keep it up for 20 yrs or so.

Its not a path for wimps, that is certain.
“My advice to you is not to undertake the spiritual path. It is too difficult, too long, and is too demanding. I suggest you ask for your money back, and go home. This is not a picnic. It is really going to ask everything of you. So, it is best not to begin. However, if you do begin, it is best to finish.”

-Chogyam Trungpa


By the time I read that, it was too late! LOL....
Phenomenon, vast as space, dharmata is your base, arising and falling like ocean tide cycles, why do i cling to your illusion of unceasing changlessness?
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:26 pm

yegyal wrote:However, it seems that some a more interested in justifications for why it should be kept secret now. And that's a different kind of discussion, but a very interesting one nonetheless. For me, I would say that tantra and secrecy go together like marriage and fidelity. Sure, not everybody that gets married is faithful, but those that aren't certainly undermine the sanctity of that relationship. On the other hand, it's a pledge you make when recieving certain teachings, as most of those that do practice in this tradition know that some things are more secret than others, and this usually based on the explicit command to keep them secret. And if you can't keep that pledge, then you really have no business requesting those teachings. If you break a confidentiality agreement in regular life there will be consequences, so why wouldn't you think the same thing applies on less mundane level. And then there is the idea of the benefit of keeping one's practice secret as an enhancing practice. One previous poster mentioned upaya, but I would take it a step further and call it upadesha, or a pith instruction. To illustrate this point, first imagine that you're given a teaching to make you humble and it works incredibly well. You used to be extremely arrogant and now you're not and you see all the benefits of being humbles and it's a whole new world for you. Do you think that there would be the slightest benefit in going around telling people how humble you have become? Wouldn't all you workd for just fly out the window, the moment you bragged about it? In the same way, vajra pride turns into regular pride pretty damn quick if you start to make a show of it.

Those are reasonable justifications. And it's good when such things are kept secret. Nevertheless, in terms of dissemination there is very little that is secret about Tibetan Vajrayāna, and this even extends to most of the things that are considered to be more secret than others.

Related to this is the lack of vetting of potential candidates for entry into the teachings. Virtually anyone who can fog a mirror can get wangs, complete with lung and tri. And with this they can access what are considered restricted materials and further instruction.

By way of contrast, Japanese Shingon might be an example of a Vajrayāna tradition that has managed to maintain greater secrecy and discipline, with more restrictions on who can gain access. AFAIK this is the case even with regard to who can access or own ritual items such as vajra & bell.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:51 pm

byamspa wrote:I think if someone had been frank about all the cr*p that comes up with a solid meditation practise, i'd have been loathe to even start, much less keep it up for 20 yrs or so.
My lama warned me about it countless times, I just ignored his good advice! :smile: Actually truth is, I am really happy that I did ignore it.
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:59 pm

Jnana wrote:Related to this is the lack of vetting of potential candidates for entry into the teachings. Virtually anyone who can fog a mirror can get wangs, complete with lung and tri. And with this they can access what are considered restricted materials and further instruction.
Yes, well, yes and no. In the mandala I practice in it is true that anybody can receive the wang, but most times it is basically just for the blessing. My teachers are pretty hard core about things like Yidam and Dharmapala practices. I have only heard one mention ever of consort practices (for example), and it was in the context of "don't do it". We do not even have a freely available translation of our main Dharmapala practice in Greek. It was given to me by my lama under strict instructions not to make it publicly available (there's that secrecy again). One time I attached a picture of my home shrine in a thread here on Dharma Wheel and my lama almost had a fit. He "made" me have it removed.

So... I would be careful of painting everybody with the same brush.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:30 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:So... I would be careful of painting everybody with the same brush.

I wasn't trying to paint everybody with the same brush. There are differences among different Tibetan lineages and teachers. But if someone wants to receive a wangchen, etc., it's quite possible to find access with virtually no vetting or prior practice commitments.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby oldbob » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:33 pm

Astus wrote:
Pero wrote:Health problems. I'm not totally clear on the details as I haven't so far seen anything elaborating on it. As far as I remember my teacher just says one can become abnormal.


I've heard a few stories myself about people flipping out on meditation retreats, although there was no Tantra involved. Some Christians also believe that meditation makes you susceptible to demonic possession. And there are all sorts of mental and emotional problems one may face in meditation, although the worst I've seen was a few people crying or be frightened of some experiences. I'm not saying that one can't do harm with practices, but it sounds more like empty threats. As I see it, the worst thing that can happen when one is without an experienced guide is believing in things that are not there. Alas, without detailed and reliable information this is not a topic that can be explored.


:namaste: Astus all and ALL,

I just Googled "secret teachings" and over 4,500,000 hits were found. For "secret teachings in the Vajrayana", over 113,000 hits were found. Perhaps there are not so many secrets anymore.

People who are going to flip out, and who are harmful to themselves and others, exist in all communities, at all times. I have a great story about rescuing a guy who flipped out during my first ChNNR retreat in 1982. People present all sorts of mental health issues.

Whenever you do anything in this age, someone will misunderstand, you and mess it up. This just goes with the territory of DOING / PRESENTING anything, Vajrayana included. You have to expect this, allow for it and work with this.

In previous ages it was possible to restrict secret teachings to a limited audience. With the web, nothing is secret. Maybe the historical reasons for secrecy no longer apply.

Recognizing this, perhaps it is more responsible to explain, and put in context, all secret teaching and then expect common sense and peer pressure to control and limit harmful, or crazy making, behavior.

If you are teaching something, then you want to explain the proper cautions and possible dangers involved. When pursuing a spiritual path, it is really helpful to have a Teacher to guide you to avoid wasting time and to avoid any harmful path.

Certainly, seeking Teachings from only a recognized Master is one way to protect yourself, but then you are limiting yourself to the Teachings of that Master. Maybe this is a good thing.

If your goal is realization, then one path will do fine. If your goal is to "understand" everything then you need to collect all knowledge / Teachings and then have a way of cataloging it and working with it.

Perhaps these are different goals and different needs/rules for secrecy apply. An academic doing a cross cultural comparison has different rules than a Vajrayana initiate in retreat.

It is a complicated issue.

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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby MalaBeads » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:41 pm

OB,
for an old bozo, you make alot of sense.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:58 pm

oldbob wrote:Recognizing this, perhaps it is more responsible to explain, and put in context, all secret teaching and then expect common sense and peer pressure to control and limit harmful, or crazy making, behavior.


I can only agree with this. And just as in any Buddhist path, the majority wants to join a community and learn from teachers and experienced members. It is not easy to assume the correct meditation posture without some guidance, and that's even truer for the rest of the practices, although there are some very good meditation manuals too.
"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:09 pm

Secrecy does not apply only to the practices per se but to your practice.

For example: if you know what lineage I practice in then chances are you know the main protector of the lineage so if you want to mess with me (on a magical level) you will know what to avoid. But do you know my personal protector practice? If I am smart enough to keep it secret then chances are you won't know. You could make an educated guess (since almost all their practices are out there somewhere in cyber space) but you would still just be guessing. There are plently of practices (both wrathful and other) that are not freely available.

Now Tibet was a land of magic (both "black" and "white") and we don't live in Tibet. But here in Greece, for example, there are still magical practices. Local protectors still have animals sacrificed to them (albeit the rituals now have a Christian slant). There are plently of viable power places (even in the big cities), etc... Even the official Orthodox Church still has magical practices (and practices that you can only learn directly from a spiritual teacher). Buddhism is officially condemned by the Greek Orthodox Church as a heresy and there have even been instances of Buddhist practice centres being torched. So secrecy is actually quite important. The reasoning behind secrecy is still VERY apparent. Imagine what it is like for Buddhist practitioners in neighbouring Turkey. Even mainstream Islam was frowned upon in Turkey under the Kemalists and Sufism was impossible to practice openly (except as a tourist side show attraction) until recently.

Secrecy definitely has it's advantages.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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