Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 25, 2013 6:19 am

flavio81 wrote:"A terrigying feudal order", only if you believe certain accounts of life in Tibet. You know that there is a country called China with his own propaganda to justify their cruel invasion of Tibet.


I'm well aware of their line of thought on the matter, too. It differs greatly from the proponents in the west who think Tibet was a Shangri La in the heavens or something.


Well, but aren't you ordained ? You know... something achieved through an institution?


Nope. It is just between me and my preceptor plus the witness monks. We didn't have to ask for anybody's permission or sanction.
Last edited by Indrajala on Thu Jul 25, 2013 6:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 25, 2013 6:24 am

flavio81 wrote:Yes, you can memorize or read a scripture, but you will then interpret it in your own way, for good or for bad. While in Vajrayana the lineage system makes sure there is a teacher next to you that will clarify you the real meaning of and reasons behind every writing.


If you ask ten different lamas what they think something means you might get ten different answers. The same goes for any other form of Buddhism. Nobody has a monopoly on orthodoxy.

There's no need to be so idealistic. You also need to factor into your analysis the issue that Tibetans read translations of Indic texts which will inevitably be imperfect at times. They also introduced their own native ideas and practices into the fold, which is fine, but it will be divorced from the original Indian context.


Otherwise one becomes similar to an evangelical Christian reading his Bible and interpreting it in a way that suits his own tendencies, preconceptions, preferences, and aversions.


You think that doesn't happen in Buddhism? You think a modern Lama is actually telling you what a 10th century Nalanda monk would have said?

We need to be realistic. A good solid scholarly analysis of traditions will reveal that these things evolve and change over time. The way a Tibetan reads his text or makes his torma will differ from what an Indian master would have done (he probably didn't make an tormas incidentally).
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby flavio81 » Thu Jul 25, 2013 6:45 am

Indrajala wrote:
flavio81 wrote:Yes, you can memorize or read a scripture, but you will then interpret it in your own way, for good or for bad. While in Vajrayana the lineage system makes sure there is a teacher next to you that will clarify you the real meaning of and reasons behind every writing.


If you ask ten different lamas what they think something means you might get ten different answers.


Not so much, if they are in the same lineage and discussing the same teaching.

Indrajala wrote:There's no need to be so idealistic. You also need to factor into your analysis the issue that Tibetans read translations of Indic texts which will inevitably be imperfect at times. They also introduced their own native ideas and practices into the fold, which is fine, but it will be divorced from the original Indian context.


You choose to view them as "divorced from the original indian context", others consider them improved in effectiveness over them.
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby heart » Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:43 pm

Indrajala wrote:
heart wrote:There is no early canonical basis for receiving the Buddha's teachings by scriptures as you state above. Scriptures are nothing without living examples, making lineage and teachers vastly superior to your idea reading scriptures as a way of transmission of the Buddha's teaching.
/magnus


Nonsense. Oral transmission of teachings occurred for a little while and then they were put down in writing. That's different from lineage systems as they exist in, say, Tibetan Buddhism or Zen, where as a prerequisite for liberation you need a master to train you and tell you what to do. That's different from an elder simply reciting a teaching which you memorize for yourself.


Whatever text you have on whatever subject you choose in this world an expert with both practical and theoretical knowledge of the subject matter of the text will be something very helpful. Our western education system is based on this principal since the time of Platon. This is the essence of lineage and master, the continuation of the oral knowledge as well as the textual transmission. Your suggestion of reading scripture as the only necessary means for transmission of the Buddha's teaching is what is nonsense.

/magnus
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:50 pm

heart wrote: Your suggestion of reading scripture as the only necessary means for transmission of the Buddha's teaching is what is nonsense.

/magnus


You struck down a strawman there.

I'm saying scripture is sufficient for liberation. You don't absolutely need anyone's permission or guidance to achieve liberation. A pratyekabuddha illustrates this.
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:52 pm

Can we all please watch our language?

Thank you!
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Dealing With Desire

Postby heart » Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:33 pm

Indrajala wrote:
heart wrote: Your suggestion of reading scripture as the only necessary means for transmission of the Buddha's teaching is what is nonsense.

/magnus


You struck down a strawman there.

I'm saying scripture is sufficient for liberation. You don't absolutely need anyone's permission or guidance to achieve liberation. A pratyekabuddha illustrates this.


Scripture is not sufficient for liberation or even correct knowledge as any University in the world can tell you. Pratyekabuddhas have a teacher, the Buddha, in a previous life. They also appear in a world were no Buddha has appeared so they don't have any scriptures either.

/magnus
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby muni » Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:06 pm

Says the mouse climbing on the elephant to the flea: Oh hi there, you also take the taxi to the woods? Not at all says the flea, I don't travel around, I always lived here.

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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:42 pm

What is it to receive transmission from a lineage? It is to receive teachings. The same teachings can also be written down. Reading the sutras is receiving the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. Numerous Mahayana scriptures state that they are in and of themselves are authentic and sufficient sources of the Dharma. There are also sutras that describe the method to meet other buddhas and receive teachings from them. Sutras also teach how to attain different levels of enlightenment. What could be missing then?

Diamond Sutra (ch 8):

"Subhūti, all of the buddhas and all of their teachings of peerless perfect enlightenment spring forth from this sūtra."

Some passages from the Lotus Sutra (tr. Tsugunari Kubo and Akira Yuyama; BDK English Tripiṭaka Series, 2007):

If there are any sons or daughters of a virtuous family who preserve, recite, explain, and copy even a single line of the Lotus Sutra, or who pay homage to this sutra with various offerings of flowers, perfumes, necklaces, scented powders and ointments, burning incense, canopies, flags, banners, clothing, or music, or who honor it with their palms pressed together, such people should be respected by the entire world. They should be revered in the same way as the Tathāgata is revered. Know that these people are great bodhisattvas who are to attain highest, complete enlightenment. Out of their compassion for sentient beings they wish to be born among them in order to expound and explain the Lotus Sutra far and wide. How much more to be honored are those who completely preserve the entire sutra and pay homage to it with various offerings!
(ch 10)

Wherever this sutra is taught, read, recited, copied, or wherever it is to be found, one should build a seven-jeweled stupa of great height and width and richly ornamented. There is no need to put a relic inside. Why is this? Because the Tathāgata is already in it.
(ch 10)

Those sons and daughters of a virtuous family, who preserve and recite this sutra after my parinirvāṇa will attain good qualities like those mentioned above. You should know that such people have already set out for the terrace of enlightenment, are near to highest, complete enlightenment, and are seated under the bodhi tree.
(ch 17)

O Mahāsthāmaprāpta, know that this Lotus Sutra will greatly benefit the bodhisattva mahāsattvas and lead them to highest, complete enlightenment. For this reason, after the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa the bodhisattva mahāsattvas should always preserve, recite, explain, and copy this sutra.
(ch 20)

To sum up, in this sutra I have clearly revealed and taught all the teachings of the Tathāgata, all the transcendent powers of the Tathāgata, all the treasure houses of the hidden essence of the Tathāgata, and all the profound aspects of the Tathāgata. For this reason, after the pari nirvāṇa of the Tathāgata, you should wholeheartedly preserve, recite, explain, and copy it, and practice according to the teaching. Those who accept, recite, explain, and copy it, and practice according to the teaching, in whichever land they may be, in a place where the sutra abides—either in a garden, a forest, under a tree, in a monk’s chamber, in a layman’s house, in a palace, on a mountain, in a valley, or in the wilderness—in all of these places they should erect and pay homage to a monument. Why is this? Because you should know that these places are the terraces of enlightenment where all the buddhas have attained highest, complete enlightenment, where all the buddhas have turned the wheel of the Dharma, and where all the buddhas entered parinirvāṇa.
(ch 21)
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby heart » Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:52 pm

Astus wrote:What is it to receive transmission from a lineage? It is to receive teachings. The same teachings can also be written down. Reading the sutras is receiving the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. Numerous Mahayana scriptures state that they are in and of themselves are authentic and sufficient sources of the Dharma. There are also sutras that describe the method to meet other buddhas and receive teachings from them. Sutras also teach how to attain different levels of enlightenment. What could be missing then?


They are of course complete, it is we who are incomplete in knowledge and capacity. So with the help of someone with practical knowledge of the text we can develop our understanding and experience. This person don't need to be a Guru, just someone that knows more about the teaching than yourself. If you want to master it, you need a master.

/magnus
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 25, 2013 4:42 pm

heart wrote:If you want to master it, you need a master.


On the one hand, I think that people can read the sutras as they are. On the other, there are commentaries, written by various masters. I don't mean there is no use for a living teacher, however, receiving teachings on the Lotus Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, or practically any sutra, is quite difficult to come by in the West. And there aren't many commentaries translated either. Although it is understandable in light of the popular concept that one just needs to visit a Dharma centre and follow whatever the local leader says. Probably it takes monastics to establish a solid scriptural system as lay people are rarely interested in such things.
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby heart » Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:04 pm

Astus wrote:
heart wrote:If you want to master it, you need a master.


On the one hand, I think that people can read the sutras as they are. On the other, there are commentaries, written by various masters. I don't mean there is no use for a living teacher, however, receiving teachings on the Lotus Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, or practically any sutra, is quite difficult to come by in the West. And there aren't many commentaries translated either. Although it is understandable in light of the popular concept that one just needs to visit a Dharma centre and follow whatever the local leader says. Probably it takes monastics to establish a solid scriptural system as lay people are rarely interested in such things.


If you have the possibility Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche's Shedra in Kathmandu has these kind of studies. He just recently said he wanted to organize a study course on Bodhicharyavatara, Uttaratantra shastra and the Guhyagharba Tantra. Dzongsar Khyentse also have some programs like this, but I agree that there isn't so much. In depth teachings on source sutras and tantras are still pretty rare for lay people in the west.

Considering the high problem rate with the approach you mention above "visit a Dharma centre and follow whatever the local leader says" I do think reading books on Buddhism is very important.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby Dorje Shedrub » Thu Jul 25, 2013 9:45 pm

Humans are human, which is one reason to not forget the prerequisites of both student and master, as mentioned in Words of my Perfect Teacher.
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:36 pm

It is a shame, in my opinion, that there is not more available on the Sutras themselves. The Tibetan tradition seems to value the shastras over the sutras generally, perhaps because they summarize and explain the extensive doctrines contained in the Mahayana Canon, which is extremely vast. I for one would love to study the sutras themselves. I have heard HHDL give commentaries to the Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra, ironically these were requested by Taiwanese and Koreans respectively.
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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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby Astus » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:46 pm

JKhedrup wrote:The Tibetan tradition seems to value the shastras over the sutras generally, perhaps because they summarize and explain the extensive doctrines contained in the Mahayana Canon, which is extremely vast.


For that we might says that Tibetan and East Asian Buddhism are complementary as native Chinese schools are more focused on sutras.
"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)

“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; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby smcj » Fri Jul 26, 2013 7:34 pm

There's no early canonical basis for lineages or other arrangements for collective in-group identities.

What about the lineage of the Vinaya? Only monks with lineage can ordain other monks.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:52 am

smcj wrote:Only monks with lineage can ordain other monks.


That's not entirely true. There are a class of bhikṣus who become bhikṣus by virtue of their personal vows. The extant systems don't recognize this as legitimate any longer, but in the Buddha's day it happened.

But generally speaking you need ten pure bhikṣus to ordain a new bhikṣu. The ten must be pure in that they have confessed all their transgressions. If they withhold anything, then the ordination is supposed to be invalid.

So, in order for a new bhikṣu to really be part of the Vinaya lineage you technically need 25 centuries of ordinations being carried out by 100% pure bhikṣus. The modern Chinese Vinaya master Hongyi believed there were no more real bhikṣus in China any longer.

So, the technicalities don't work out so well when you think it. It does make you see, however, how Vinaya lineage is just a social construct. You become an accepted member of the group by virtue of party consent and privilege rather than what the book says.

The other issue is that there are multiple Vinaya systems and they all demonstrate a late period development. Some of it is clearly adapted to environmental circumstances (like discussing how furs can be worn, or even introducing Mahāyāna elements). Such lineages are just social constructs. They serve a function, sure, but I don't think they impart any kind of additional blessings.
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby smcj » Sat Jul 27, 2013 3:05 am

Such lineages are just social constructs. They serve a function, sure, but I don't think they impart any kind of additional blessings

I respect your right to your opinion on this. For reasons I'd rather not go into, I disagree.

Just out of curiosity, is this the same view as your preceptor?
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jul 27, 2013 3:11 am

smcj wrote:Just out of curiosity, is this the same view as your preceptor?


More or less.

There's some aspects of tradition that need to be followed and might as well be (I don't see anything wrong with having a preceptor and witnessing monks), but we need to recognize it is all just social conventions and nothing more.
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Re: Lineage and Individual Approaches to Practice

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Jul 27, 2013 3:54 pm

Actually in Geshe Sonam's vinaya teachings in France he mentioned that having the what are called the slob dpon snga or 5 Achariyas is connected with a very practical concern. I asked him this morning to explain that again. At first it was only Lord Buddha who performed the ordination procedure, but as the Sangha body grew larger this became problematic.
Many ordained monks did not have appropriate help when they fell sick or encountered obstacles finding food. Having a minimum of five people connected with the ordination meant there were more responsible elders they could turn to for support in such circumstances.
It was a also a measure to help maintain discipline. At least in his earthly manifestation, Lord Buddha could not be physically present at every place his monks gathered. Having 5 Achariyas meant that they could also be present at various places, observing the practice of the monks and helping them protect their morality and vows.
It also meant that there were more elders in the community who the students could go to with dharma questions, and if once Achariya was not able to answer another might well be able to.
In fact, it seems that it was a practical structure that helped delegate responsibility in the Sangha community.
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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