Luke wrote:I realized that in addition to reading about other types of Buddhism, I should learn some more things about Vajrayana before I make a decision which tradition to follow.
In that case, I highly recommend reading the book Magic Dance by Thinley Norbu, as well as White Sail. And, specifically this interview with him: http://welcomingbuddhist.org/archives/124
I don't mean these as a pill to swallow, but as another perspective --of one of the great Dzogchen masters of our age, an incarnation of Longchenpa-- to consider in your search.
Here are a couple relevant excerpts that may be of interest:
Even though a root circumstance such as a seed exists, in order for its potential to become enlivened, it is necessary to depend on the contributing circumstances of fertilizer, warmth, water, and light. By depending on positive contributing circumstances such as listening to the Buddha’s teachings and praying to the Triple Gems, the root circumstance of Buddha-nature is revealed. Because mind is continuous, it is better to choose good habits that create positive contributing circumstances rather than to choose bad habits. That’s what practicing means.
Can you give up the belief in your own limited mind without the help of the guru?
If dualistic mind exists, how can it be given up? Unless one practices and meditates with a guide to enlightenment in a proper way, there is no method to give it up.
How can one give up one’s limited mind by oneself? Giving up dualistic mind is not like throwing away garbage, or as easy as just saying it from your lips. Even if you say it from your lips, since it is there, your grasping mind is not going to give it up.. Since dualistic mind has existed for countless lives, beings obviously have not had any power to give it up. That is why grasping mind exists, which continuously causes suffering.
If the guru is given up as a positive object, one cannot be liberated because one creates countless negative phenomena, which one then has no way to change toward positive phenomena. Logically, without being introduced to one’s Buddha-nature by sublime teachers and depending on their guidance, Buddha-nature cannot blossom.
Many Westerners ask why it is necessary to depend on a guide to enlightenment and to accumulate merit, since one’s own mind already has Buddha-nature. They think that they can recognize their Buddha-nature themselves and do not need to depend on a guru or teacher, but this is a misinterpretation. They don’t recognize that they are continuously remaining in ignorance, and that this idea will keep them closed in the dullness of darkness rather than let them open to light.
Is this resistance to surrender particular to our modern and scientific times?
Some modern people have this reluctance and resistance. Even though they don’t surrender in a spiritual way, they continuously surrender to their own wrong points of view, which prevents their enlightenment and interferes with even this life’s positive energy. As everyone knows, science is not always positive.
How many lives were lost from nuclear weapons, and how much energy was lost that could have gone toward the development of countries instead of their destruction? It is unnecessary to believe in developing only in a scientific way. It is also unnecessary to be against the idea of a spiritual path, because those who follow a spiritual path and develop spiritual qualities can help to create peace in the world.
Spiritual surrender is beneficial both materially and immaterially, at temporary and ultimate levels. There is a very big difference between the benefit of surrendering only to a reverse point of view and surrendering to sublime beings.
It is a mistake to think, as some people do, that there is more freedom if they surrender only to a nonspiritual point of view for their entire lives. This only makes them more and more bound, because there is no method to reach actual freedom. If one surrenders at a spiritual level as in ancient times, it always releases one from being bound.
In the West these days, though they have good intentions, parents’ main advice to children is:” You must be strong. You must have self-esteem. You must not lose your hold on yourself. You must stand on your own feet. Don’t depend on others.” Even at a worldly level, people naturally surrender to others, although they may think of themselves as self-sufficient.
If someone thinks he doesn’t depend on others, he is like a sick person who thinks he doesn’t have to go to a doctor because he can cure himself with poison, or like a poor person who says he doesn’t have to depend on richer people even though he has an empty wallet. Schoolteachers teach that being strong means not relying on others and being independent.
These are nihilist teachings that create the habit of being afraid of spiritual surrender to the Buddha or to the teacher because of being afraid of losing one’s self to God, or the Buddha, or the teacher, or any sublime being—but what self? Modern people are afraid of losing their own ordinary egos. What else do they have to lose but that?
When they refer to books and say, “See, we have our own Buddha-nature so we don’t have to depend on anyone else,” this is not proof of their realization. It is nihilist fear. Relying on someone else makes them think they are losing their identity, which is just their ordinary ego.
But the problem with preserving ordinary ego is that it makes people feel more and more fear and frustration. Because they don’t believe in anything, they do not have any method to purify this fear and frustration. That’s why it is so dangerous to make the misinterpretation that nothing needs to be done to recognize Buddha-nature, since it keeps people in the position of not knowing how to release themselves from suffering through developing the skillful means of spiritual methods that encourage its recognition.
Many people in the West now advocate depending on the collective wisdom of the sangha more, and diminishing the role of the teacher.
Westerners always like to create something new, whether or not it is beneficial. Doubt and cynicism are deep nihilist habits. Some people are hastily attracted to this kind of idea from their habit to revolt.
These people have a distorted idea of freedom, just as some people do who always think the government is suppressing them. they feel more comfortable being with normal, casual friends, girlfriends or boyfriends, instead of having to respect and worship a teacher. But this does not have anything to do with a pure spiritual level, including the intention to give up the ego in order to attain enlightenment.
Actually, whoever has this resistance habit or power-struggle habit is forgetting that a girlfriend can revolt against her boyfriend or a boyfriend can revolt against his girlfriend. Even members of a sangha who try to depend on their collective non-wisdom can be uncomfortable with each other directly or indirectly because of their own habit of negative reactions to others and being against others.
If they react negatively to teachers through reading and hearing that they should always respect them, it is sure that they will have collective negativity among themselves over the same issues of power, ego, and rebellion. Although they turn to a sangha, it does not mean their negative reactions to others are finished.
As everyone knows from the news, sometimes a girlfriend or wife has killed her boyfriend or husband, or a boyfriend or husband has killed his girlfriend or wife. Whoever has the habit of negative reaction, opposition, paranoia, and fear will not be able to release it by turning against teachers, even if they talk about the collective wisdom of the sangha. Because of their self-righteous egos, these people don’t want to respect teachers and gurus.
This attitude is endorsed by a society that has taught them not to respect others above themselves, but they must know that this is a sign of their fear. Their fear of losing themselves through respecting and worshiping a teacher means they don’t have a strong spiritual level of awareness.
"There have been negative experiences with teachers of all the Buddhist traditions, which have created doubt and cynicism. Doubt and cynicism are deep nihilist habits. They are not wonderful signs. Of course, I have heard stories many times about Westerners who have turned against and discarded their teachers, even though they have already taken refuge in them until they attain enlightenment, just as though they were squeezing out some toothpaste and then were throwing away the tube. They are foolish to think they have finished using the teacher and so can recant what they said they believed, because the spiritual qualities of a wisdom teacher are not like toothpaste and are not going to finish.
It is true that there is doubt and cynicism due to negative experiences, but that does not mean that these negative experiences come from a teacher or that a teacher is a false teacher. Whoever sees a wisdom teacher with doubt and cynicism through the distortion of his own personal negativity is a nihilist and does not have a spiritual view.
According to Buddhist tradition, one must introspect about whatever one sees in order to purify negative conception and increase positive phenomena to attain enlightenment. Whatever arises within one’s own mind, one has to look at one’s own mind and practice to diminish one’s own negativity rather than trying to diminish the role of the teacher.
That is spiritual. Whatever seems to be caused from outside of themselves is just a reflection of their own minds. these Westerners think that all that is negative or positive is only caused from outside of themselves. they materialize and externalize their experiences, never understanding the connection between outer and inner phenomena or interdependent phenomena, looking for explanations only from objects through extreme nihilist habit instead of from the subjective experience of their own minds.
That is why there is a problem for Westerners following actual Buddhist tradition. Because Westerners are often occupied with the habit of extroversion, they think spiritual qualities are supposed to be shown obviously and can only appear in particular aspects that fit their preconceptions.
Therefore everything is misjudged through lack of introspection and meditation, and they do not see the teacher as pure or dharma as pure due to projections of their own impure habit. This self-distorted perspective makes it difficult for them to increase spiritual qualities through the development of pure phenomena that can connect to actual wisdom.
I should also probably listen to my lama's audio teachings again to see if anything new resonates with me before I call it quits with him. This seems reasonable to me at least.
Yes, and of course at least discuss this with him directly. If he is an authentic guide he will respond exactly as needed.