Dealing With Desire

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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:34 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Enjoyment of wine, meat, sexual partners and so on has never been discouraged in my spiritual tradition.
"Your" spiritual tradition or the spiritual tradition that you are currently practicing in? Not meaning to be a pedant or anything, but you just sound a little too Jim Jonesish when you make statements expressed in that manner! :tongue:


My spiritual tradition. I started out as a Vajrayāna practitioner in Sakya. The attitude towards these things in Sakya is not different in Dzogchen teachings. For example, one of the key creation stage practices for lay people in Sakya is called "The yoga of passion". Meat and alcohol are considered indispensable for Ganapujas, etc.
Last edited by Malcolm on Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:36 pm

Malcolm wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Enjoyment of wine, meat, sexual partners and so on has never been discouraged in my spiritual tradition.
"Your" spiritual tradition or the spiritual tradition that you are currently practicing in? Not meaning to be a pedant or anything, but you just sound a little too Jim Jonesish when you make statements expressed in that manner! :tongue:


My spiritual tradition. I started out as a Vajrayāna practitioner in Sakya. The attitude towards these things in Sakya is not different in Dzogchen teachings.
I think you completely missed my point, but anyway, it wasn't all that important...
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:49 pm

Malcolm wrote:Enjoyment of wine, meat, sexual partners and so on has never been discouraged in my spiritual tradition.


Sounds like quite a desirable arrangement.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby mandala » Fri Jun 07, 2013 2:49 pm

Saying - oh it's kali yuga.. degenerate times.. becoming ordained is too hard, let's get drunk and pick up some women and call it spiritual practice - is frankly the polluted state of mind the Buddha talked about.

Ditto for using 'you don't see many arhats around these days' as some kind of curious proof that there aren't highly realised practitioners about... well, of course you don't see them, that's your karma. That would be an indication to me that one needs to grow a pair and get serious about keeping vows and ethical living - not to simply declare it wouldn't work in the society we live in because there are so many desirous objects about.

No matter what the path, it all starts with renunciation. The Vajrayana approach to desire, without renunciation & bodhicitta, can just be hedonism.

It's true that ordination isn't for everyone, but clearly neither is revolving a life around sex, breeding and material trinkets.
The sangha is the measure of dharma in the world, to assume ordaining is irrelevant today is a fairly blase opinion.

In The Heaps of Jewels Sutra, Buddha said: “If all the beings in the universe were to become bodhisattvas as lay people, and they each offered a butter lamp as vast as a great ocean to a stupa containing the relics of all the [past] Buddhas, this would not equal even a fraction of the merit gained by a single ordained bodhisattva offering one butterlamp to the holy stupa.”
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:07 pm

mandala wrote:Saying - oh it's kali yuga.. degenerate times.. becoming ordained is too hard, let's get drunk and pick up some women and call it spiritual practice - is frankly the polluted state of mind the Buddha talked about.


Did I say that? No.

Ditto for using 'you don't see many arhats around these days' as some kind of curious proof that there aren't highly realised practitioners about... well, of course you don't see them, that's your karma. That would be an indication to me that one needs to grow a pair and get serious about keeping vows and ethical living - not to simply declare it wouldn't work in the society we live in because there are so many desirous objects about.


Did I say there were no highly realized people around? No, what I said was is that these days one does not encounter many arhats or first stage bodhisattvas practicing classical Mahāyāna. I have met four people who I am certain are/were genuinely realized people on the bhumis, above and beyond the idea that one should regard one's spiritual friend or guru as a buddha. I have met a few more than I am certain have cultivated at least strong heat on Vajrayāna path of application.

No matter what the path, it all starts with renunciation.


Of course, renunciation is the wish to be free from samsara. Some people assume that begins with giving up sense objects. However, that is a false assumption. There is no need to give up sense objects in order to be free of samsara.

The [ordained] sangha is the measure of dharma in the world...


Actually, it isn't. For example, the Buddha Sikhin was not ordained and never created a monastic Sangha. It may be the measure of Śakyamuni's monastic dispensation, but it is not the measure of Dharma in the world, though a lot of monastics have a vested interest in keeping people convinced that it is so.

In The Heaps of Jewels Sutra, Buddha said: “If all the beings in the universe were to become bodhisattvas as lay people, and they each offered a butter lamp as vast as a great ocean to a stupa containing the relics of all the [past] Buddhas, this would not equal even a fraction of the merit gained by a single ordained bodhisattva offering one butterlamp to the holy stupa.”


As I said, Mahāyāna is a path of renunciation in which monastic ordination is often valorized. However, I would rather achieve liberation swiftly than accumulate a lot of merit in an external fashion.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:09 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Enjoyment of wine, meat, sexual partners and so on has never been discouraged in my spiritual tradition.


Sounds like quite a desirable arrangement.


It is what it is. Some people don't like sex, meat and wine, other people do. There is a path of liberation for both. I personally think the path of the latter is more rapid than the path of the former, but that is just my opinion.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby MalaBeads » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:18 pm

Indrajala wrote:I fear some might assume that enjoyment of wine and women/men is not really problematic and instead think they see it all as bodhi while actively engaging in such sense pleasures in a way that proves detrimental.

You can outwardly say afflictions are bodhi, but how that reflects in your behaviour is another matter.


True enough. Its always possible to fool oneself. That's why it is SO important to know yourself.. You could almost say that knowing oneself is the preliminary of preliminaries. But this is the ideal, yes? You start where you are. It may be that lifetime after lifetime of practice, one does indeed find him or herself resting in bodhi. Who is to say?

The other thing to mention is that this journey, this path, is not linear. It is described in a linear fashion because thats how we think and understand. It is much more likely to be the case that in one lifetime you are a dzogchenpa, and the very next lifetime a dog. And next time, a monk with vows. And after that nobody in particular. And so on and so on. Linear is the conceptual approach that can be understood. But reality is not only linear.

My two cents.

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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby MalaBeads » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:21 pm

mandala wrote:Saying - oh it's kali yuga.. degenerate times.. becoming ordained is too hard, let's get drunk and pick up some women and call it spiritual practice - is frankly the polluted state of mind the Buddha talked about.


Did someone here say that? I don't think so.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby MalaBeads » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:24 pm

mandala wrote:No matter what the path, it all starts with renunciation. The Vajrayana approach to desire, without renunciation & bodhicitta, can just be hedonism.


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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:00 pm

I think one practical consideration overlooked in this discussion is that monasticism is economically efficient. Instead of having several households, you have a community living together with shared resources. The community also will ideally look after its own, so if you become ill, then there's always someone to look after you. On top of that communal living can be emotionally rewarding. Practice is up to the individual, but basic life concerns are readily taken care over through monastic arrangements. Not having children and relationships can free up a lot of time in life to focus on one's interests.

There's practical elements to monasticism that we can't overlook. Now, granted, monasticism is not necessarily renunciation, but it is a step in that direction.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:10 pm

Indrajala wrote:I think one practical consideration overlooked in this discussion is that monasticism is economically efficient. Instead of having several households, you have a community living together with shared resources. The community also will ideally look after its own, so if you become ill, then there's always someone to look after you. On top of that communal living can be emotionally rewarding. Practice is up to the individual, but basic life concerns are readily taken care over through monastic arrangements. Not having children and relationships can free up a lot of time in life to focus on one's interests.

There's practical elements to monasticism that we can't overlook. Now, granted, monasticism is not necessarily renunciation, but it is a step in that direction.


It can't be economically efficient.

Monastics, in Buddhadharma, by definition are dependent on others for everything. Monastics are forbidden to dig in the ground, so they cannot feed themselves. They are forbidden to handle money, so they really ought not work. In fact, monasticism, of the Buddhist variety, is pretty unsustainable.

In fact, the economic burden imposed by the enormous plethora of monastics in the early period of Śakyamuni's Dharma was one of the reasons Ashoka cracked down and assisted the Vaibhajyavadins in "defrocking" many thousands of monks. Having homeless mendicants creates a financial burden that most western communities are not interested in supporting and in reality, cannot support.

Support of the monastic community in Buddhadharma arises from the belief that one will accumulated merit by supporting monastics. There are simply not enough western Buddhists to effectively do so in the West. And frankly, most dana given by Westerners goes into gold for statues and stupas, not into the support of monastics.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:19 pm

Malcolm wrote:Monastics, in Buddhadharma, by definition are dependent on others for everything.


That's not how it works in real life though.

Monastics are forbidden to dig in the ground, so they cannot feed themselves. They are forbidden to handle money, so they really ought not work. In fact, monasticism, of the Buddhist variety, is pretty unsustainable.


Chan and Zen monasteries are well known for their agriculture. They sustained themselves in times of social upheaval and civil war when economic systems were in chaos.

Again, the issue with money is largely irrelevant. As we know most monastics nowadays use money, which is fiat currency anyway and has no relation to precious metals or gems.


Having homeless mendicants creates a financial burden that most western communities are not interested in supporting and in reality, cannot support.


I'm sure I don't have to point out to you that there are monks who grow their own food, cut their own firewood and generate their own income through various crafts.

Your criticism here is based on prescriptions in the Vinaya, many of which are ignored nowadays.

There is prescriptive and then there is descriptive.


And frankly, most dana given by Westerners goes into gold for statues and stupas, not into the support of monastics.


Maybe in Tibetan Buddhism that's the case, but that's not universal.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby mandala » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:29 pm

Malcolm wrote:
The [ordained] sangha is the measure of dharma in the world...


Actually, it isn't. For example, the Buddha Sikhin was not ordained and never created a monastic Sangha. It may be the measure of Śakyamuni's monastic dispensation, but it is not the measure of Dharma in the world, though a lot of monastics have a vested interest in keeping people convinced that it is so.


If it's good enough for old Sakyamuni Buddha, then it's good enough for me.. :tongue:
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:37 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Monastics, in Buddhadharma, by definition are dependent on others for everything.


That's not how it works in real life though.



Right, most monastics are religious professionals providing ecclesiastical services, which is not what Buddha intended for bhikṣus, etc. There were already brahmins for that.


Monastics are forbidden to dig in the ground, so they cannot feed themselves. They are forbidden to handle money, so they really ought not work. In fact, monasticism, of the Buddhist variety, is pretty unsustainable.


Chan and Zen monasteries are well known for their agriculture. They sustained themselves in times of social upheaval and civil war when economic systems were in chaos.


Bad example, especially in the case of Zen, where we know that virtually no "monks" fit the criteria of being considered bhikṣus. And in China, this kind of labor was done by novices who have no vow not to dig in the ground, not by senior bhikṣus.

Again, the issue with money is largely irrelevant. As we know most monastics nowadays use money, which is fiat currency anyway and has no relation to precious metals or gems.


The fact that money carries value is sufficient. There is no intrinsic value to gold, its value is also determined by fiat.

Having homeless mendicants creates a financial burden that most western communities are not interested in supporting and in reality, cannot support.


I'm sure I don't have to point out to you that there are monks who grow their own food, cut their own firewood and generate their own income through various crafts.


Christian monks, yes, not Buddhist monks.

Your criticism here is based on prescriptions in the Vinaya, many of which are ignored nowadays.


The Vinaya[s] is/are the only basis upon which someone can be considered a bhiḳsu or not. Their success as a bhikṣu depends largely on how successful they are at a) maintaining all of their vows and b) regularly reciting posadha. I would personally never support a monk who was not 100 percent committed to maintain all of their vows precisely. If they were, then I would support them. But because I have met virtually no monks in my tradition [Mulasarvastivada] who are so committed, I don't support them. And that is largely my point, it is very difficult to follow monastic vows precisely in this day and age. Since they all are Vajrayāna practitioners, it is better for them to be laypeople, in my opinion. It is not whether monks are good or bad, it is about whether Buddhaist monasticism can be maintained in a proper way, and I think that conditions for that are vanishing, both because of the qualities of the people seeking ordination and because of the qualities of the epoch -- which are both rather inferior, in my opinion -- though there are rare exceptions like HH Dalai Lama, Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche and so on.

And frankly, most dana given by Westerners goes into gold for statues and stupas, not into the support of monastics.


Maybe in Tibetan Buddhism that's the case, but that's not universal.


I was talking about Buddhadharma in the West. Of course, in Asia, there are large populations of monastics who extract a huge amount of money out of lay people for support.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby kirtu » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:00 pm

Malcolm wrote:
kirtu wrote:Why is Malcolm wrong wrt renunciation? He doesn’t just want people to shy away from the Path of Renunciation, he wants people to abandon entry into the monastic sangha as well. He has claimed in other conversations that people are more or less incapable of holding vows and thus the taking of vows sets people up for the cultivation of demerit instead of merit.


In fact they more or less are so incapable, which is why the Sakya hierarchs actively discourage people from seeking to ordain.


I'm somewhat surprised to hear this as there are several Western people who have ordained in the Sakya lineage. I think that some of these Westerners sell others a bit short and quote HE Dezhung Rinpoche's somewhat pessimistic remarks from ~26 years ago (something that Trungpa for one addressed).

If people are all fired up to become monks and nuns (mostly because they are having a fantasy that they will be able to practice more and better) ...


Come on - we shouldn't made unwarranted assumptions about others' motives.

Why is Malcolm wrong? He is wrong because as trainees in the Buddhadharma the very first step is to restrain one’s behavior and refrain from performing harmful actions. This protects other beings and yourself as well. It protects yourself by immediately accumulating merit and refraining from committing actions that create negative karma.


Whoever said I was advocating that people go out and harm sentient beings? Your point is wildly and completely off the mark.


I never said that you advocated harming beings. I said that you advocate dropping formally taking precepts. However the first purpose of the precepts is to restrain our wild behavior and then begin to restrain and retrain our wild minds.

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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:03 pm

Malcolm wrote:Right, most monastics are religious professional providing ecclesiastical services, which is not what Buddha intended for bhikṣus, etc. There were already brahmins for that.


History decided otherwise, especially when the traditional mendicant lifestyle became infeasible in some territories. You have Brahmanical literature which talks about what a bad omen it is when yellow robed monks show up. The long conflict between Buddhists and Brahmins, which the former lost, saw a need for landed monasticism.

Bad example, especially in the case of Zen, where we know that virtually no "monks" fit the criteria of being considered bhikṣus. And in China, this kind of labor was done by novices who have no vow not to dig in the ground, not by senior bhikṣus.


You clearly don't know what you're talking about, Malcolm. I think you're just playing the devil's advocate here, but I'll play along.

You fail to realize how uncommon the bhikṣu ordination was in some places in China. In the Tang dynasty there was open rejection of the Vinaya by monks, calling it a Hīnayāna teaching. Daoxuan, a noted scholar and advocate of the Vinaya, complained of Mahāyāna practitioners disregarding the Vinaya precepts:

    《四分律刪繁補闕行事鈔》卷2:「今時不知教者。多自毀傷云。此戒律所禁止。是聲聞之法。於我大乘棄同糞土。猶如黃葉木牛木馬誑止小兒。此之戒法亦復如是。誑汝聲聞子也。」(CBETA, T40, no. 1804, p. 49, b27-c1)

    In present times many of those who do not know the teachings destroy and injure themselves saying, "These Vinaya prohibitions are a śrāvaka teaching. In our Mahāyāna we toss it away just like dirty soil. Just like yellow leaves, a wooden cow or a wooden horse deceive a little child, these precept teachings are like this. They deceive you little śrāvaka!"


Later on full bhikṣu ordinations were restricted by the state. Until fairly recently there were not so many full bhikṣu-s in Chinese Buddhism. Modern authors sometimes lamented how earlier a lot of monks just had the tonsure and that's it.

In the case of Zen, a Zen monk in Kamakura Japan was a monk. He lived in a monastery, shaved his head and was expected to maintain celibacy. That's what we call a monk in English. They weren't legally defined as bhikṣu-s, but then in Japanese "bhikṣu" became a humble first person pronoun. Their own forms of monasticism developed based on environmental and social circumstances.



The fact that money carries value is sufficient. There is no intrinsic value to gold, its value is also determined by fiat.


There ain't no precepts against having fiat currency through a plastic card connected to a global banking network.


Christian monks, yes, not Buddhist monks.


You should visit Taiwan. They got full bhikṣu-s growing food.


The Vinaya[s] is/are the only basis upon which someone can be considered a bhiḳsu or not.


Bhikṣu just means beggar. There's a legal definition of the term, but you fail to recognize that the Buddha's first disciples and some other eminent followers were technically bhikṣu-s without having received any precepts at all (this is called a svagata bhikṣu in Vinaya jargon). The first disciples had no precepts because precepts only came to exist, at least as the story goes, because of incidents occurring that caused problems for the community.

The Vinaya system nevertheless is a later development and the fundamentalist interpretation of it, which you are pushing here to justify your lack of generosity towards monastics, was not the Buddha's intent at all. Even according to the orthodox story, he told Ananda to drop the minor rules. He's also on record starting that things could be adapted to foreign environments.

...it is about whether Buddhaist monasticism can be maintained in a proper way, and I think that conditions for that are vanishing, both because of the qualities of the people seeking ordination and because of the qualities of the epoch -- which are both rather inferior, in my opinion -- though there are rare exceptions like HH Dalai Lama, Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche and so on.


The "proper way" was devised by later monks in accordance with changing historical circumstances. There's nothing wrong with ignoring or simply cutting away rules and regulations which make no sense anymore (like having to smear your room with cow dung after having eaten garlic).
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Astus » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:46 pm

Malcolm wrote:You can find such statements in Mahāyāna sutras, but such statements do not constitute the path of Mahāyāna.


Do you mean that they teach one thing but practise another? The non-differentiation of samsara and nirvana exists in Mahayana from its early times. That view is part of the practice in both ethics and meditation. Chan and Tiantai are good examples.There are also sutras like the Samantabhadra Contemplation Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra and others where it is expressed in practical terms.

In Vajrayāna one does not transform afflictions. That is not what "path of transformation" means in Vajrayāna. You don't experience anger, for example, and then try to change it into the mirror-like wisdom.


Later you write:

The path of transformation means transforming our relationship with the world, sentient beings and our own body (through empowerment and sadhana) from an impure relationship into a pure relationship. The path of transformation involves taking the result as the path -- for Buddhas, sense objects are not toxic, they are not afflictive, they are pure goddesses. When sense objects and consciousnesses are purified through the process of sadhana, the afflictive power of sense objects is lessened, and the links between sensation and craving is weakened and finally severed. For example, we replace our sense of identity with a Buddha identity -- the so called "divine pride" which is the essence of the creation stage, etc. In the course of working with pure vision, it is necessary to engage sense objects in every different way, smells, colors, tastes, sounds, sights, and so on.


You change the view from attachment to objects to non-attachment to objects. This is no different from what Ajahn Chah said, or what you find in Mahayana. True, no colourful deities are involved in the process most of the time.

Further, we have to examine what is meant by "affliction" is bodhi.


It means that affliction (klesa) is empty, therefore there is nothing to reject or transform.

Perfect example of the path of renunciation in toto. I do not see at all how, for example, this relates in anyway to the path of transformation.


These are the five methods:

1. Switching from unskilful to skilful object.
2. Understanding the drawbacks.
3. Abandoning the unskilful.
4. Abandoning proliferation.
5. Strengthening awareness.

For instance, changing from unskilful to skilful is no different from changing from impure view to pure view. Abandoning the unskilful object itself or the following proliferation is simply letting it self-liberate. Are the objects rejected? No, only the attachment to them, otherwise arhats would be blind and deaf. The sensation stays, only grasping goes.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Malcolm » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:48 pm

kirtu wrote:
I'm somewhat surprised to hear this as there are several Western people who have ordained in the Sakya lineage. I think that some of these Westerners sell others a bit short and quote HE Dezhung Rinpoche's somewhat pessimistic remarks from ~26 years ago (something that Trungpa for one addressed).


There are a few, but not so many. And we will see how long they last.



I never said that you advocated harming beings. I said that you advocate dropping formally taking precepts.



Actually, I never said anything such thing. I said it was pointless to take ordination as a bhikṣu in this day and age. I never said that avoiding the ten non-virtues should be ignored (nor would I), I never suggested that people avoid receiving bodhisattva vows, etc.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:51 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Karma Dorje wrote:...are a means of letting go. If you take Mara as something external for you to fight against, all those practices are for naught.


I don't remember saying Mara is external and I am sure that even renunciates are aware of the fact that the object of renunciation is internal too.


Isn't there something a bit foolish and self-defeating about girding for war with oneself? Shakyamuni didn't take up arms against Mara.

The only "weapon" one needs is profound relaxation.

gregkavarnos wrote:Sorry for not being clearer:

EMPTINESS ARISING AS AN ENEMY
Lesson 70
When you look at the mind in order to investigate its true
nature and thereby discover that it does not really exist, you
might think, "Since all phenomena are nothing but emptiness,
what is the use of acting wholesomely with body, speech
and mind. Wholesome and harmful actions, as well as cause
and effect of actions, all this does not exist in the least:'
This grasping that there is nothing to reject or counteract is
called destructive talk...etc.
<snip>


I did not at any point suggest one should abandon wholesome actions or perform harmful actions, nor have I said that cause and effect do not exist in the least.
On the contrary, I have said that there is something more subtle to be done than just accepting and rejecting sense objects. As Tilopa said,

Appearances do not bind but attachments do. So, Naropa, cut off the attachments.


gregkavarnos wrote:This is from the book that my lama will be giving the transmission from, beginning this year!
Maybe it is not such a good idea to send me to the retreat? :tongue:


On the contrary! May you realize to the fullest extent this profound teaching!
"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."
~Arthur Carlson
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:55 pm

Sometimes it is more pragmatic for Centres to have monastics in certain roles, we are not always necessarily a burden!

For example, because I am a monk translator, I live in the centre and only have to take a small stipend. I know centres where the translators are laypeople and they have husbands/wives and children to support- so they need a bigger salary. If they live outside they need money for rent, if they live in the centre their partner needs a room too.

Even single translators in most cases need a bit of money to go on a date once in awhile, or buy some decent clothes.

Because I'm a monk I can live on a pittance, I am waaay cheaper than a layperson translator would be.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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