Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Moderator: Tibetan Buddhism moderators

Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue May 21, 2013 10:20 pm

Hello All,

I'm currently doing the Dharma Path program with the Kagyu lineage of Lama Norlha. Iam pretty much Theravadin when it comes to doctrine but, as should be obvious, am open to experimentation when it comes to praxis. The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind are readily accessible to me s well as the insturctions for tonglen (which is the main reason for my interest in the teachings of the lineage). There are, however two componenets of the program with which I am having some difficulty: that of the Vajrasattva and of the Chenresig practices. My question is this: with no proof that either of these ever existed historically and with no mention of them to be found in the Pali Canon how do you, as practitionersjustify for yourselves there existence? Further, how do you recite sadhanas in which Chenresig is elevated to a position above the Lord Buddha? Both of these seem like deal breakers to me but I want to get some intelligent replies from people who have practiced in this way.

Please forgive me if I have offended anyone and I hope to hear back. May the devas protect you!
Khalil Bodhi
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 10:09 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 21, 2013 10:35 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Hello All,

I'm currently doing the Dharma Path program with the Kagyu lineage of Lama Norlha. Iam pretty much Theravadin when it comes to doctrine but, as should be obvious, am open to experimentation when it comes to praxis. The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind are readily accessible to me s well as the insturctions for tonglen (which is the main reason for my interest in the teachings of the lineage). There are, however two componenets of the program with which I am having some difficulty: that of the Vajrasattva and of the Chenresig practices. My question is this: with no proof that either of these ever existed historically and with no mention of them to be found in the Pali Canon how do you, as practitionersjustify for yourselves there existence? Further, how do you recite sadhanas in which Chenresig is elevated to a position above the Lord Buddha? Both of these seem like deal breakers to me but I want to get some intelligent replies from people who have practiced in this way.

Please forgive me if I have offended anyone and I hope to hear back. May the devas protect you!


Well, I won't attempt to answer any of the more complex questions about what Chenrezig actually is, but I will say that most of the Sadhanas even are pretty clear on the idea that (among other) Chenrezig is embodiment of the enlightened activity of all Buddhas of the three times, the union of emptiness and appearance, etc. not some dude. I don't feel qualified to answer in any more detail on definitive ontological questions, and I don't have the background to.. but you question extends to a ton of Mahayana practices, and there are decent explanations of what the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas actually are scattered all over, usually relating somehow to the Three Bodies. Obviously, Mahayana does not rely on historical existence of it's various mythological figures. So yeah, this is not a Vajrayana question only, but applies to Mahayana Sutra as well.

I am certain someone with more knowledge will chime in here something doctrinally correct.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2148
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Konchog1 » Tue May 21, 2013 10:39 pm

with no proof that either of these ever existed historically

There's no proof for Devas either

and with no mention of them to be found in the Pali Canon how do you, as practitionersjustify for yourselves there existence?
Simple, the Pali Canon is NOT the closest to the original words of the Buddha.

Further, how do you recite sadhanas in which Chenresig is elevated to a position above the Lord Buddha?
They're equal. All Buddhas are.
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: 1225
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:30 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Nilasarasvati » Tue May 21, 2013 10:49 pm

It's hard to justify from a Theravada perspective. If you try to do that, I would reckon you'd be fudging it at best.

The way we justify their "existence" is complicated. Contrary to Konchog, I think what you mean is "textually did they exist?" I.E. they are not mentioned before a certain date long after the compilation of the tripitaka. As for the Pali being closest to the "actual words of the Buddha" or not...that seems like a sectarian can of worms that I think is irrelevant.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche says about the Heart Sutra "the buddha never spoke this with his mouth." The Mahayana sutras are an emanation of the Buddha, not a tape-recorded documentary. You could not go back with a video camera and record the delivery of the Avatamsaka Sutra or something--it's not a historical event. It's a psychic, mythopoeic, spiritual one.

In the view of the Madhyamika philosophy the Tibetan tradition is rooted in, things (all phenomena, let alone deities) are beyond existing, nonexistence, neither existing nor not existing, or both existing and not existing. So in practicing a deity you should not think it is a truly existing God out there somewhere, separate from yourself. Nor should you think it's just in your imagination.

I think the idea of a thoughtform can send you in the right direction. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulpa These two deities you're asking about are not Tulpas, but it gives you the idea of how visualized deities are thought of in the Tibetan tradition: they are emanations with no inherent existence on their own. The appear solely as a skillful means to liberate sentient beings from delusion. They are in no way separate from the Tathagata, or seen alternately, they are Tathagatas in their own right who have emanated into our world through the teachings and blessings of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Furthermore you can think of Avalokitesvara the embodiment of the compassion (maha karuna) of the Buddha. He does exist in Theravada art of Sri Lanka, I know that for certain--he's just seen as the kind of pretty arm-candy of the Buddha along with Manjusri, and the arhats are considered the true heirs of the Buddha's teaching.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche says all of Buddhist practice is just a trick. It's an endlessly elaborate or singularly simple, depending on what you wish, but it's just a trick. The teachings are all deceptive because of our own delusion; once we realize, the tricks disappear. The vehicle is abandoned. We're done.

These two deities are some of the best tricks in the Vajrayana.
User avatar
Nilasarasvati
 
Posts: 428
Joined: Tue May 07, 2013 3:08 am
Location: Trāyastriṃśa. Just kidding. What a cool sanksrit word, huh?

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue May 21, 2013 10:52 pm

Thank you both for your replies.

@Konchog1 I figured someone would try to assert that the Pali Canon is the closest to the Lord Buddha's teachings but even if you take the Agamas you still don't get any mention of Avalokiteshvara. I guess, because of my faith in the Sutta-pitaka I take the existence of devas as part of the package but I certainly don't worship or take refuge in them. Nonetheless, I appreciate your points. Thank you.
Khalil Bodhi
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 10:09 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Tue May 21, 2013 10:54 pm

@Nilasarasvati
Thank you for your reply. It will take me some time to digest all that you wrote but it provides me with other avenues of possible understandings. Maha-metta! :anjali:
Khalil Bodhi
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 10:09 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby dakini_boi » Wed May 22, 2013 12:08 am

Good answer, Nilasarasvati!

I would like to add - Khalil Bodhi, do you understand the concept of Sambhogakaya? These deities are not justified by their historical reality - rather, they are justified by the realization of the sages who revealed their teachings, and through the experience of the lineage of yogis who do their practice (that includes you, if you receive empowerment!).

So, I can understand where you are coming from - here would be my advice. Since you seem to have an open mind, and your karma has connected you with this lineage, perhaps try to do some Chenrezig or Vajrasattva practice for which empowerment isn't required. See if it has any value for you. If you find that it does, it will be through your experience that you will understand it, not through logic.
dakini_boi
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:02 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed May 22, 2013 10:04 am

dakini_boi wrote:Good answer, Nilasarasvati!

I would like to add - Khalil Bodhi, do you understand the concept of Sambhogakaya? These deities are not justified by their historical reality - rather, they are justified by the realization of the sages who revealed their teachings, and through the experience of the lineage of yogis who do their practice (that includes you, if you receive empowerment!).

So, I can understand where you are coming from - here would be my advice. Since you seem to have an open mind, and your karma has connected you with this lineage, perhaps try to do some Chenrezig or Vajrasattva practice for which empowerment isn't required. See if it has any value for you. If you find that it does, it will be through your experience that you will understand it, not through logic.


Thank you for this. I'm not actually very familiar with the idea of Sambhogakaya so I will have to look into it. Mettaya!
Khalil Bodhi
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 10:09 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby zerwe » Wed May 22, 2013 4:03 pm

This is an area where I don't have enough knowledge, but I have heard the explanation that the deities and Shakyamuni are of all of one "taste."
I have heard two primary explanations of how this relationship. A sort of
"All is the one, one is the all" description, if you will. So, some seem to assert that the deities are
extensions of Shakyamuni and others that the deities are like cells of Shakyamuni. This may not
be accurate, but I like to imagine that conceptually this is far beyond our current comprehension and
that the compassionate activity of all the Buddhas or one Buddha is so vast that it can manifest in many forms
and Chenresig is just one embodiment of this aspect of enlightened activity?
Shaun :namaste:
zerwe
 
Posts: 209
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:25 am
Location: North Carolina

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby anjali » Wed May 22, 2013 4:09 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:There are, however two componenets of the program with which I am having some difficulty: that of the Vajrasattva and of the Chenresig practices. My question is this: with no proof that either of these ever existed historically and with no mention of them to be found in the Pali Canon how do you, as practitionersjustify for yourselves there existence? Further, how do you recite sadhanas in which Chenresig is elevated to a position above the Lord Buddha? Both of these seem like deal breakers to me but I want to get some intelligent replies from people who have practiced in this way.

I was wondering, do you subscribe to the function of Vajrasatta practice? Take a look at this discussion by Alexander Berzin: Vajrasattva Purification: The Basics. Not sure what you are learning about Vajrasattva practice, but you should be aware that it is a purification practice. From the link,
“Purification of karma” is actually an abbreviated way of saying “purification of karmic aftermath.” In this context, “purification” means eliminating the possibility of our experiencing the karmic results that would come about from the ripening of these aftermaths.

Only Mahayana asserts the possibility of purification of karma before it finishes ripening. According to the Hinayana schools, all our karmic aftermaths must ripen, even if only into the experience of a very minor result, before we pass away in the lifetime in which we become liberated as an arhat or enlightened as a Buddha.

As a Theravada practitioner, do you subscribe to the view that future karma can be eradicated prior to it's fruition (the seeds of karma can be roasted)?
  • The object of the game is to go on playing it. --John Von Neumann
  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
anjali
 
Posts: 280
Joined: Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:33 pm

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed May 22, 2013 5:05 pm

anjali wrote:
Khalil Bodhi wrote:There are, however two componenets of the program with which I am having some difficulty: that of the Vajrasattva and of the Chenresig practices. My question is this: with no proof that either of these ever existed historically and with no mention of them to be found in the Pali Canon how do you, as practitionersjustify for yourselves there existence? Further, how do you recite sadhanas in which Chenresig is elevated to a position above the Lord Buddha? Both of these seem like deal breakers to me but I want to get some intelligent replies from people who have practiced in this way.

I was wondering, do you subscribe to the function of Vajrasatta practice? Take a look at this discussion by Alexander Berzin: Vajrasattva Purification: The Basics. Not sure what you are learning about Vajrasattva practice, but you should be aware that it is a purification practice. From the link,
“Purification of karma” is actually an abbreviated way of saying “purification of karmic aftermath.” In this context, “purification” means eliminating the possibility of our experiencing the karmic results that would come about from the ripening of these aftermaths.

Only Mahayana asserts the possibility of purification of karma before it finishes ripening. According to the Hinayana schools, all our karmic aftermaths must ripen, even if only into the experience of a very minor result, before we pass away in the lifetime in which we become liberated as an arhat or enlightened as a Buddha.

As a Theravada practitioner, do you subscribe to the view that future karma can be eradicated prior to it's fruition (the seeds of karma can be roasted)?


Good question. From the suttas we see that even Maha-mogallana had to face the results of his past kamma so I suppose I don't subscribe to the Mahayana view. Maybe I'm just barking up the wrong tree but I am interested enough in the Mahyana/Vajrayana brahma vihara practices to see how far I can take this path. :anjali:
Khalil Bodhi
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 10:09 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Anders » Wed May 22, 2013 5:30 pm

There are two ways of going about it.

One is to acquire siddhis and see for yourself. Actually, Avalokiteshvara is probably the mahasattva most frequently associated with 'miraculous' activity, both great and small - Sincere practise and devotion could easily yield some sort of dream visitation, auspicious coincidence, etc.

The other is to ask yourself how much faith you have in the sages who have professed to his existence over the ages. As a Mahayana practitioner, that box is perhaps easier to check than a Theravada one.

I am not so sure what all this has to do with Ontology though. But just as a sidetrek, a little discourse on ontology and mahasattvas as told by Ajahn Amaro:

    The capacity we have to commit ourselves sincerely to something and simultaneously to see through it is something we find difficult to exercise in the West. We tend to be extremists. Either we grab onto something and identify with it or we think it is meaningless and reject it, since it’s not real anyway. So the Middle Way is not necessarily a comfortable one for us. The Middle Way is the simultaneous holding of the conventional truth and the ultimate truth, and seeing that the one does not contradict or belie the other.

    There is a story I am reminded of that happened at a Buddhist conference in Europe. A Tibetan lama was there, and a member of the audience was an extremely serious German student. The rinpoche had been teaching visualizations of Tara and the puja to the 21 Taras.

    During the course of this teaching, this student, with great sincerity, put his hands together and asked the question: “Rinpoche, Rinpoche, I have zis big doubt. You see, all day we do the puja to the 21 Tara and, you know, I am very committed to zis practice. I vant to do everything right. But I have zis doubt: Tara, does she exist or does she not? Really Rinpoche, is she zhere or not? If she is zhere, I can have a full heart. But if she’s not zhere, zen I don’t vant to do zhe puja. So please, Rinpoche, once and for all, tell us, does she exist or does she not?”

    The lama closed his eyes for a while, then smiled and replied, “She knows she is not real.”

    It is not recorded how the student responded.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
User avatar
Anders
 
Posts: 651
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Anders » Wed May 22, 2013 5:35 pm

Re purification: I am not aware of the concept of purification, other than parinirvana, that can totally eradicate karma, in the nikayas. There is however the concept of diluting karma - Ie, that by increasing insight and merit, negative karma may come to fruition but it can be diluted so much that it is heartly felt at all, like a teaspoon of salt into a huge pool of fresh water. The stream-entrant having totally cut off animal and hell rebirth is a good example of this. A practitioner who might have had karma for that doesn't eradicate it by stream-entry, but he does dilute it so much the effect will be much much less.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
User avatar
Anders
 
Posts: 651
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed May 22, 2013 6:54 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Hello All, There are, however two componenets of the program with which I am having some difficulty: that of the Vajrasattva and of the Chenresig practices. My question is this: with no proof that either of these ever existed historically and with no mention of them to be found in the Pali Canon how do you, as practitioners justify for yourselves there existence?


Are you asking how do you know that they are just as real as you are?
First, establish what it is that makes you think that there is a you,
which has what you are calling existence if that's sort of, you know,
the standard that you are going by,
and then work from there.

What you may find is that as you conjure (kangjur?) up and dissolve these visualizations
you start to see that likewise, your own "reality" is in fact
little more than a visualization that you have dreamed up
(and a very believable one at that)
and are in the process of dissolving.

For me, I can vouch for Chenrezig based on personal experience.
But I have never met that other guy.

You might try meditating on Chenrezig,
then ask him your question
and see what he says.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Konchog1 » Wed May 22, 2013 7:10 pm

zerwe wrote:This is an area where I don't have enough knowledge, but I have heard the explanation that the deities and Shakyamuni are of all of one "taste."
I have heard two primary explanations of how this relationship. A sort of
"All is the one, one is the all" description, if you will. So, some seem to assert that the deities are
extensions of Shakyamuni and others that the deities are like cells of Shakyamuni. This may not
be accurate, but I like to imagine that conceptually this is far beyond our current comprehension and
that the compassionate activity of all the Buddhas or one Buddha is so vast that it can manifest in many forms
and Chenresig is just one embodiment of this aspect of enlightened activity?
Shaun :namaste:
My understanding is that the Buddhas are both one and many at the same time. They are all of the same essence but manifest in infinite forms.

There is no difference between Shakyamuni and Avalokiteshvara except in practice.
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: 1225
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:30 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed May 22, 2013 7:15 pm

What has been preserved as the Pali Cannon was not written down until a century after the words in it were spoken, and then, some 5000 miles south of where they were spoken, and in a language which was not spoken. This doesn't mean it isn't accurate, but, as vast as it is, conceivably does not contain every teaching given in 40 some years. Also, India was then, as it is today, full of sadhus, yogis, and holy men of all types. My understanding is that The Buddha gave teachings to many different kinds of people based on their own types of understanding. I would be very surprised if that did not include what we now call "Vajrayana".
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby heart » Wed May 22, 2013 8:01 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:What has been preserved as the Pali Cannon was not written down until a century after the words in it were spoken, and then, some 5000 miles south of where they were spoken, and in a language which was not spoken. This doesn't mean it isn't accurate, but, as vast as it is, conceivably does not contain every teaching given in 40 some years. Also, India was then, as it is today, full of sadhus, yogis, and holy men of all types. My understanding is that The Buddha gave teachings to many different kinds of people based on their own types of understanding. I would be very surprised if that did not include what we now call "Vajrayana".


On top of that there is a rumor online among scholars that the first Buddhist text to be printed (or reproduced in several copies) was Mahayana text.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
User avatar
heart
 
Posts: 2935
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 1:55 pm

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby ngodrup » Wed May 22, 2013 8:42 pm

Give it a fair try and see what happens.

If you recite 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras,
you may find that you understand sutras in ways
you didn't before. That would be evidence for
purification of the mind. Or, try several nyungnes--
eight is a traditional number. Again, see what happens
to your mind.

The thing to appreciate is that although it might look
like a ritual, or kind of worship, it is actually a meditation
that engages body, speech and mind simultaneously. Therefore,
it is very powerful. If you apply your vipassana skills and observe
your mind while you try on the "experience" of being a Buddha--
you are experimenting in the crucible of your own mind. You
will find out for yourself whether such practice has ontological
value.
ngodrup
 
Posts: 477
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:58 pm

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed May 22, 2013 8:43 pm

Maybe a relevant quote from Bokar Rincpoche's Chenrezig: Lord of Love -

"External and internal are misleading distinctions that ultimately do not make sense. When appearances and the mind arise in the pure knowledge of emptiness-clarity, this is the mind of the great Compassionate One. this is the great Compassionate One himself.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2148
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Chenresig - Ontological Dilemmas

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed May 22, 2013 9:18 pm

heart wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:What has been preserved as the Pali Cannon was not written down until a century after the words in it were spoken, and then, some 5000 miles south of where they were spoken, and in a language which was not spoken. This doesn't mean it isn't accurate, but, as vast as it is, conceivably does not contain every teaching given in 40 some years. Also, India was then, as it is today, full of sadhus, yogis, and holy men of all types. My understanding is that The Buddha gave teachings to many different kinds of people based on their own types of understanding. I would be very surprised if that did not include what we now call "Vajrayana".


On top of that there is a rumor online among scholars that the first Buddhist text to be printed (or reproduced in several copies) was Mahayana text.

/magnus


Diamond Sutra, printed on hemp, in China.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Next

Return to Kagyu

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

>