Adamantine wrote:5 years invested is no small thing. I wonder how immersive you've been able be in your practice in this time. It's one thing to do a little practice for an hour or two a day. It's another to do a closed retreat for at least a week or two to get a real taste of the meaning and effect of the practice.
I have never done very long retreats, but I have done 5 to 7-day retreats before. I have also done some nyungnes.
Adamantine wrote:Similarly, it is good to make an aspiration to go to some of the powerfully magnetized holy places that sing with the enlightened energies of the great lineage masters. This will also really help you to resolve some doubts and understand cultural contexts.
Well, I have been to some holy places... but I can't really talk about it. I was on a very difficult trip with my lama... it kind of freaked me out... maybe I have some form of PTSD. It took me a long time to be able to remember details from the trip. I kind of blocked it out. I also can't remember much about my life before the trip. The situation in Tibet is very sad. Tibetan monks/nuns show great courage in the face of adversity every day there. I hope that the monks and nuns who were so kind to me are okay now...
Adamantine wrote:But a pilgrimage to a Buddhist country where the political situation isn't so difficult might feel quite different.
I have read some of their stuff. I like them. I also like Tsem Tulku Rinpoche. But right now, I feel compelled to at least visit the sanghas of non-Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. I especially want to try Soto Zen. Actually, my lama told me that my meditation posture is lousy, so if I improve it with the Zen Buddhists, I am, in an indirect way, following his instructions, and also I could make other Buddhist friends closer to where I live.
Adamantine wrote: However, if the question is of leaving the Guru and the tradition behind entirely versus continuing ngondro -then your teacher would probably prefer you to focus on a different practice.
That's an idea. One of these days, I will need to write to him to explain things, just out of courtesy if nothing else. But I am not sure about the value of practicing Vajrayana for a long time without completing ngondro and advancing. Zen is appealing to me because there is no advancement and nothing to grasp after: It's about letting go and letting things be as they already are and zillions of preliminaries aren't required in Zen in order to give oneself the gift of simplicity.
While it's theoretically possible to be a student of a lama and only to practice shamatha and basic pujas forever, in reality, other Vajrayana practioners will look down at such a person because the "higher" practices, or at least the desire to do them, is often what is respected. In Vajrayana, there is often the disease of always looking ahead to the next practices. It's often harder to appreciate the present while practicing Vajrayana.