Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Moderator: Tibetan Buddhism moderators

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:15 pm

gregkavarnos wrote: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.

Yes, but this intolerance would apply to exoteric Buddhism and esoteric Buddhism alike, would it not?
Jnana
 
Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:58 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:20 pm

I was making a point about the advantages of the practice of secrecy "in general".
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Former staff member
 
Posts: 10289
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:35 pm

Two reasons for maintaining secrecy in the Vajrayāna that are applicable across historical periods and cultures:

(1) because it is undertaken as a commitment on the part of the student, and
(2) because there are certain vajrayāna practices that can have negative karmic consequences if incorrectly engaged in.
Jnana
 
Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:58 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:12 pm

Wow! You guys have already posted so many fascinating perspectives on this issue!

May all your practices be free of obstacles! :anjali:


yegyal wrote: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.

This is very true, but isn't there also the possibility that secrecy could cause some people to become more arrogant? (i.e. "Hey, I was worthy enough to be let into this secret club. Wow, I'm just so much better than average people!")

But I suppose that numerous pitfalls are always possible, and this is why lamas need to be around to correct mistakes in students' attitudes and views.
User avatar
Luke
 
Posts: 1727
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:04 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:52 pm

Jnana wrote:Two reasons for maintaining secrecy in the Vajrayāna that are applicable across historical periods and cultures:

(1) because it is undertaken as a commitment on the part of the student, and
(2) because there are certain vajrayāna practices that can have negative karmic consequences if incorrectly engaged in.


Point one is actually saying that "it is secret because it is secret". Point two may be applied to non-vajrayana practices 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)
User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4204
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:11 pm

Astus wrote:Point two may be applied to non-vajrayana practices too.

The potential risk of serious negative karmic consequences increases significantly when venturing outside of exoteric orthopraxy.

Astus wrote:Point one is actually saying that "it is secret because it is secret".

The first point is a consequence of the second one. Because of the risks, one agrees to a commitment of secrecy. If a prospective candidate isn't willing to agree to the commitments then they shouldn't proceed.
Jnana
 
Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:58 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:18 pm

Jnana wrote:The potential risk of serious negative karmic consequences increases significantly when venturing outside of exoteric orthopraxy.


How so? Can you give some examples?
"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)
User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4204
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:28 pm

Astus wrote:How so? Can you give some examples?

Drinking alcohol would be one example. Sexual yogas would be another. The potential for negative consequences are far greater than if one maintains the lay precepts or the monastic discipline without engaging in such activities.
Jnana
 
Posts: 1106
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:58 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:59 pm

Jnana wrote:Drinking alcohol would be one example. Sexual yogas would be another. The potential for negative consequences are far greater than if one maintains the lay precepts or the monastic discipline without engaging in such activities.


I see your point. Still, there are a few Mahayana sutras that give complete freedom to bodhisattvas in the name of emptiness and compassion, and there are Zen stories for instance that are as transgressive as those from Vajrayana. Although none of them constitutes a part of actual training.
"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)
User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4204
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Wed May 01, 2013 2:38 am

Jnana wrote:
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.


This is a very good point Jnana, because culture plays a major role in all this. But I would argue that Tibetan or Himalayan Buddhist culture does have strict secrecy and discipline in regards to the teachings. Yes, vajrayana is practiced very openly in these communities, but people know the difference between attending an empowerment for the blessing and receiving one so that you can practice the deity. If somebody wants to study a text they bring it to a teacher and request explanation. In other words, there's a thousand years of tradition at work and they know that in order to participate in that you must go through the proper channels. And those of us that come from non-Buddhist cultures for the most part don't know this. This is something we have to learn and that can take years. And yes, it's very easy to attend empowerments or listen to a lama give incredibly profound "secret" teachings, but just because you paid your money at the door and are physically present doesn't mean that you're a suitable vessel that can make use of them. On the other hand, secrecy is being lifted on once highly restricted teachings and there are reasons for this, but I think it's a mistake to assume that certain things aren't still very secret.
yegyal
 
Posts: 158
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:02 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby plwk » Wed May 01, 2013 9:00 am

AFAIK this is the case even with regard to who can access or own ritual items such as vajra & bell.
Some years back, in a puja, I met someone who had an unusual set of bell and vajra that looks like the one used in Shingon and asked him if it was Japanese and he said yes and told me that he got it as a bargain price at an antique store and it looks just like this

But I would argue that Tibetan or Himalayan Buddhist culture does have strict secrecy and discipline in regards to the teachings.
I am not sure if this statement reflects the general conditions these days. For instance, there's a Tibetan Buddhist org in my country that shall not be named which has an open huge statue of Vajrayogini in their gompa and the 'BAM' syllable on top of their gompa roof top, which I thought in the old days, such images are kept away from sight and known only to the initiated...
Yes, vajrayana is practiced very openly in these communities, but people know the difference between attending an empowerment for the blessing and receiving one so that you can practice the deity.
From my experience, no. There is a trend here as I observed from many is like as if these empowerments are like 'spiritual candy' given out and taken without a thought of what it entails. In my interviewing with those I know privately and asking if they remember anything taught or on what they have taken or why, mostly I get answers like 'Oh! It's just a blessing', 'I don't intend to practice it' and as you say it's mostly a case of but just because you paid your money at the door and are physically present doesn't mean that you're a suitable vessel that can make use of them or perhaps to add another one to one's resume of empowerments?
plwk
 
Posts: 2777
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:41 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Pero » Wed May 01, 2013 7:13 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.

Threats? That is funny. They are warnings. Of course people can do whatever they like, it's not like someone can stop them. They can jump of their roofs at home too. Seeing things that are not there can ruin your life and put you in a mental institution. So it sounds pretty bad to me.

Anyway, in the end, none of you seem to be able to give any good reason against secrecy.
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
- Shabkar
Pero
 
Posts: 1850
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:54 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Wed May 01, 2013 9:45 pm

Pero wrote:Anyway, in the end, none of you seem to be able to give any good reason against secrecy.


Against? We could explore that area too, although so far it was about examining the reasons for the secrecy, as that is one of the things that makes Vajrayana different from all the other methods in Buddhism that are not secret at all.
"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)
User avatar
Astus
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4204
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:22 pm
Location: Budapest

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Konchog1 » Wed May 01, 2013 10:02 pm

Astus wrote: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.
If you try to do [Completion Stage practices] without proper preparation-which means a thorough grounding in the graduated path-and without a stable deity practice, you will lose your mind. I mean that quite literally. You really need to know what you are doing; otherwise all sorts of things can start to happen. If the energies move into a wrong area, moving them back again is incredibly difficult. There are many mediators who have gone completely crazy because that have not followed the practices correctly or tried to take shortcuts.
-Tantra by Geshe Tashi Tsering pg. 117
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-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
User avatar
Konchog1
 
Posts: 1355
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:30 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Pero » Wed May 01, 2013 10:27 pm

Astus wrote:
Pero wrote:Anyway, in the end, none of you seem to be able to give any good reason against secrecy.


Against? We could explore that area too, although so far it was about examining the reasons for the secrecy, as that is one of the things that makes Vajrayana different from all the other methods in Buddhism that are not secret at all.

Duh, right, sorry.
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
- Shabkar
Pero
 
Posts: 1850
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:54 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Thu May 02, 2013 12:37 am

Konchog1 wrote:
Astus wrote: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.
If you try to do [Completion Stage practices] without proper preparation-which means a thorough grounding in the graduated path-and without a stable deity practice, you will lose your mind. I mean that quite literally. You really need to know what you are doing; otherwise all sorts of things can start to happen. If the energies move into a wrong area, moving them back again is incredibly difficult. There are many mediators who have gone completely crazy because that have not followed the practices correctly or tried to take shortcuts.
-Tantra by Geshe Tashi Tsering pg. 117


Is this the main argument against CHNN''s approach?
Sherab Rigdrol
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:07 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Konchog1 » Thu May 02, 2013 2:36 am

Sherab Rigdrol wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:
Astus wrote: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.
If you try to do [Completion Stage practices] without proper preparation-which means a thorough grounding in the graduated path-and without a stable deity practice, you will lose your mind. I mean that quite literally. You really need to know what you are doing; otherwise all sorts of things can start to happen. If the energies move into a wrong area, moving them back again is incredibly difficult. There are many mediators who have gone completely crazy because that have not followed the practices correctly or tried to take shortcuts.
-Tantra by Geshe Tashi Tsering pg. 117


Is this the main argument against CHNN''s approach?
I am not familiar with CHNN. But he doesn't teach the Completion Stage right?
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-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
User avatar
Konchog1
 
Posts: 1355
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:30 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 3:39 am

yegyal wrote:This is a very good point Jnana, because culture plays a major role in all this. But I would argue that Tibetan or Himalayan Buddhist culture does have strict secrecy and discipline in regards to the teachings.


I've never had that impression.

You can go to Nepal or come to India and get any teaching you want if you ask around. There are plenty of Lamas out there who make a living from acting as a guru for secret teachings. In fact, it is easy to find a Lama who gives empowerments for a specific practice you have in mind. Everyone will know that he is the local expert in said field. There is nothing secret about it. The texts are easily obtained one way or another.

If there is money to be made, then discipline is easily lost to opportunism. You can get a Lama to go to a foreign country, pay for their expenses and then ask for any teaching you want. Where is the discipline when you are basically hiring a guy to give empowerments?


And those of us that come from non-Buddhist cultures for the most part don't know this. This is something we have to learn and that can take years. And yes, it's very easy to attend empowerments or listen to a lama give incredibly profound "secret" teachings, but just because you paid your money at the door and are physically present doesn't mean that you're a suitable vessel that can make use of them.



Such an inferiority complex doesn't help anyone. It is contrived humility. If you think native Buddhist cultures somehow get things right and practice better, you need only look at how dysfunctional and feudal a lot of extant Buddhist cultures are to realize otherwise. This isn't limited to Tibetan Buddhism, either. Look at how screwed up things can get in places like Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

In other words, you don't have to kowtow to foreign cultures and raise them above yourself. That's just orientalism at work.
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5986
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Taiwan

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Thu May 02, 2013 4:14 am

Again, I think it's a mistake to assume that you would even know about the things that are actually kept secret. And just because some "make a living acting as gurus for secret teachings" doesn't mean that reputable teachers aren't more guarded about these things. Or that some reputable teachers do give out what used to be secret teachings, and they usually have their reasons for doing this. But it's completely naive to think that everything is available for a price.
And yes if you can read Tibetan, you can buy most restricted texts, but that doesn't mean you'll understand them or be able to put them into practice without bring them to a teacher, which is what I meant by the proper channels. And I wasn't suggesting that Tibetans are somehow inherently better than the rest of us, though if I did, wouldn't that be the opposite of orientalism? What I was suggesting that those that grow up in Buddhist communities tend to know what they're getting involved in and how to go about receiving teachings and so forth. This is would apply just as much to an American with Buddhist parents as any Asian Buddhists. Though I do think that so-called Western Buddhist communities being still in their infancy have a lot to learn from their Asian counterparts.
yegyal
 
Posts: 158
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:02 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 5:05 am

In respect to the OP, one historical reason for secrecy was the fact that Buddhism came to exist in hostile surroundings where it was violently oppressed. The Brahmans actively persecuted Buddhist communities, which is why Buddhism in the later centuries was erased from much of central India and ended up surviving in places like Orissa and Bengal before being wiped out for good.

Initially before monastic adoption of tantric practices, altars were built of disposable cow dung, the location of which was not to be revealed to outsiders. There was a real good reason for this because if the powers that be found out there could have been terrible consequences.
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5986
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Taiwan

PreviousNext

Return to Tibetan Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Tanaduk, xabir and 12 guests

>