Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Indrajala » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:34 pm

If someone had received the full Mahavairocana empowerment (yoga-tantra) from a Tibetan master, would that entitle them to study and practice the Mahavairocana-associated materials as found in Tang Vajrayana (i.e., Shingon)?

This seems a bit ambiguous because all the traditions are supposed to have the same source, and the empowerment in Tibetan Buddhism ultimately covers all Mahavairocana associated practices, of which the Shingon ones would have to be included, no?
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Malcolm » Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:38 pm

Indrajala wrote:If someone had received the full Mahavairocana empowerment (yoga-tantra) from a Tibetan master, would that entitle them to study and practice the Mahavairocana-associated materials as found in Tang Vajrayana (i.e., Shingon)?

This seems a bit ambiguous because all the traditions are supposed to have the same source, and the empowerment in Tibetan Buddhism ultimately covers all Mahavairocana associated practices, of which the Shingon ones would have to be included, no?



Theoretically, but not necessarily, because the explanation and instruction lineage is completely different. Also the method of conferring the initiation might be quite different.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:35 am

Malcolm wrote:Theoretically, but not necessarily, because the explanation and instruction lineage is completely different. Also the method of conferring the initiation might be quite different.


Someone suggested that it is like the Kalacakra empowerment in that if you receive it you can study and practice anything related to Kalacakra. So, theoretically, it should be possible. It just seems rather unorthodox, but not necessarily wrong.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby yegyal » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:19 am

no, it doesn't work like that. If you wanted to practice Shingon you would need empowerment from a teacher in that tradition plus instructions and so forth. However, to get that empowerment you would need to be ordained within that tradition. So if one were to try and circumvent that requirement by getting an empowerment from a Tibetan lama and then trying to learn the Shingon practices from restricted texts, that would be decietful, to say the least, and not the way to go about practicing Vajrayana.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Malcolm » Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:19 am

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Theoretically, but not necessarily, because the explanation and instruction lineage is completely different. Also the method of conferring the initiation might be quite different.


Someone suggested that it is like the Kalacakra empowerment in that if you receive it you can study and practice anything related to Kalacakra. So, theoretically, it should be possible. It just seems rather unorthodox, but not necessarily wrong.


That is also not necessarily the case. For example, even you have received a general Kalacakra empowerment, you are not necessarily permitted to receive teachings on the Sadaṇgayoga teachings. Why? Because there are many levels of Kalacakra empowerments, outer, inner, secret, etc.

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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby jmlee369 » Fri Aug 09, 2013 5:27 am

I can't really answer the question, though the following may be of some interest: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 381&type=3
http://www.dalailama.com/news/post/764- ... nitiations
http://www.dalailama.com/news/post/765- ... mpowerment

It seems that the principal recipients were Shingon monks, and it might be interesting to hear their perspective. Is Rev. Eijo still online these days?
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby eijo » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:54 am



I received both HHDL's Yogatantra initiation and the follow-up teaching of two yogatantra sadhanas by Jhado Rinpoche at Koyasan University. It was clear from all parties that these were considered parallel and very complimentary practices, but that they had different transmission lineages and different developments, and different methods for abhiseka, and should be taken separately. Jhado Rinpoche in particular was very interested in the aspects of Yogatantra preserved in Shingon but forgotten in Tibet, as he put it. He took back to India with him a large amount of Shingon materials for study and comparison. Of course, there was great enthusiasm for studying a closely parallel Tibetan tradition among Shingon practitioners, and it was possible to gain some new perspectives and insights, to say the very least. But there were still numerous and significant differences. HHDL will continue with a Caryatantra initiation hopefully in the near future again at Koyasan.

If someone had received the full Mahavairocana empowerment (yoga-tantra) from a Tibetan master, would that entitle them to study and practice the Mahavairocana-associated materials as found in Tang Vajrayana (i.e., Shingon)?


I suppose that's a theoretical question. To answer theoretically, its not wise to seek shortcuts in Vajrayana. If you want to receive a teaching, you should seek out the teachers and follow what they say precisely. If you happened to find somewhere a genuine Shingon or Tendai (there are no teachers of "Tang Vajrayana" with a genuine lineage outside of those) who approved of such a plan to learn such practices with a Tibetan yogatantra initiation, then fine, no further comment. Needless to say, learning the practices exclusively from the written Tang texts and/or the Japanese practice manuals based on them will never work, because they are written specifically to foil such an approach.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:49 am

eijo wrote:I suppose that's a theoretical question. To answer theoretically, its not wise to seek shortcuts in Vajrayana.


Shortcuts are often taken nevertheless. Pujas are abbreviated and so forth. Things are removed or modified for expediency.

Still, even if a shortcut is taken, since the empowerment has been received, the practice is still legitimate, no?


Needless to say, learning the practices exclusively from the written Tang texts and/or the Japanese practice manuals based on them will never work, because they are written specifically to foil such an approach.


Really? Something like the 毘盧遮那五字真言修習儀軌 seems pretty clear on what you're supposed to do.

If you're referring to oral instructions that are passed down from generation to generation, I'm sceptical these instructions would actually reflect the original practice and oral commentary, supposing such a thing existed apart from the text from the start. Things change in transmission and translation.

You're suggesting that someone follow instructions precisely, but I know of Taiwanese people who know a bit of Japanese, or not much, and get the practices and empowerments from a Japanese ācārya. How accurate are the instructions going to be received and understood? You can easily see how things are modified and changed in the new Zhenyan in Taiwan, even when someone spent time at Koyasan for a year or two before returning.

Meanwhile a number of Tang texts tell you what you're supposed to do. You need the empowerment of course, but the instructions for practice are in the text.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:09 am

Malcolm wrote:That is also not necessarily the case. For example, even you have received a general Kalacakra empowerment, you are not necessarily permitted to receive teachings on the Sadaṇgayoga teachings. Why? Because there are many levels of Kalacakra empowerments, outer, inner, secret, etc.


Not necessarily sure, but what I'm asking about here is rather subjective and ambiguous. I've asked several experienced Vajrayana practitioners what they think and have gotten a number of differing opinions. Some say sure, others say no. It doesn't seem the texts I have in mind forbid it.

A few practice texts from Tibetan traditions just say you need the empowerment. Now the Tang practices presumably also require the Mahavairocana empowerment, though the one they employed was different from what you would get from a Tibetan master nowadays, but in essence they have the same source. Does the Tibetan Mahavairocana Yoga-tantra empowerment fulfil the empowerment requirement when doing a Mahavairocana practice from the Tang?

There really is no solid answer. I'm getting a lot of different answers, which is quite instructive.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby eijo » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:33 am

Your original question seemed to ask whether a Tibetan abhiseka would be seen as legitimate for further study under a Shingon or Tendai teacher. As I said, there is no single answer, and if the Shingon or Tendai teacher you find thinks it is legitimate, then its legitimate for that person. If another says no, then its no for that person.

Now it sounds almost like you are asking if that Tibetan abhiseka would allow you to teach yourself a Tang era sadhana. If you were asking that, the answer is an absolute no from the Shingon perspective. You can decide what to do on that basis yourself.

Indrajala wrote:Shortcuts are often taken nevertheless. Pujas are abbreviated and so forth. Things are removed or modified for expediency.

Still, even if a shortcut is taken, since the empowerment has been received, the practice is still legitimate, no?


The empowerment needs to be legitimate, and the practice needs to be received from a legitimate teacher of the same lineage. The teacher will explain how to abbreviate if necessary. You don't decide this, the teacher does. This is also from the Shingon perspective.

Indrajala wrote:Really? Something like the 毘盧遮那五字真言修習儀軌 seems pretty clear on what you're supposed to do.


Really.

It sounds almost like your intention is to form mudras you have never been shown by the teacher, visualize without details from the teacher, repeat mantras you have never heard from the teacher, and do other ritual actions learned from a text without a teacher.

There is much that is omitted in that text. And it is a caryatantra text, not yogatantra, so I don't know why you bring it up here.

Maybe you don't trust written commentary and oral traditions, and maybe they are somewhat fallible, but to me they are far closer to the intention of the original text than any free-floating imagination. That is also the Shingon understanding. You needn't agree since you are not part of that tradition.

Indrajala wrote:You're suggesting that someone follow instructions precisely, but I know of Taiwanese people who know a bit of Japanese, or not much, and get the practices and empowerments from a Japanese ācārya. How accurate are the instructions going to be received and understood? You can easily see how things are modified and changed in the new Zhenyan in Taiwan, even when someone spent time at Koyasan for a year or two before returning.


I don't see your point. They get it wrong (in my opinion) because they don't follow, or didn't receive, or didn't understand instructions. That's an unfortunate situation not worthy of emulating. The ideal is to get precise instructions and follow them.

Indrajala wrote:Meanwhile a number of Tang texts tell you what you're supposed to do. You need the empowerment of course, but the instructions for practice are in the text.


If you want to practice Vajrayana authentically, and you have received yogatantra abhiseka from a Tibetan master, the obvious and best thing to do is receive an appropriate Tibetan sadhana from that teacher or another in the same lineage. Why bother with Chinese texts when I personally know that Tibetans like Jhado Rinpoche have excellent practices for yogatantra? And vice versa.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 09, 2013 10:02 am

I'm no representative of any school, so I'm just sharing my thoughts on this.

Generally all practices have their own transmission. Even if abhiseka is not involved, such things as breath-meditation are taught differently by various masters and lineages. Learning breath-meditation from a Rinzai Zen teacher is not the same as the Tendai style (although related), not the same as it is taught in Burmese Theravada or the Thai Forest tradition. Knowing one form of breath-meditation doesn't mean you know all of them. Similarly, if you get one form of Vairocana empowerment it doesn't include all the other Vairocana related practices. Shingon and Tibetan Vajrayana are two distinct lineages and naturally they have various differences in their methods, so you can't presume that learning one includes the other.

From a personal point of view, everybody does whatever he likes. If you feel connected to Vairocana and you want to do practices that are found in Shingon nobody will stop you. If you make up your own Vairocana meditation, who can say it's all wrong? What you can't do, however, is to claim authority as if you were a specific Shingon or Sakyapa or XY school's lineage holder. Of course you can still say you are this or that kind of Shingon/Tantra master/yogi, whatnot, since that doesn't mean any actual lineage. But as long as you don't try to set up your own school and gather followers nobody will care, except if you start posing on the forum as some sort of authority figure (but that is again the position of a master).

So, if you want to follow the traditional, mainstream path, you need the necessary empowerments, teachers, etc. If you are content with your own interpretation, you are free to do as you like (i.e. the Buddhist police won't arrest you and burn you at the stake).
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby eijo » Fri Aug 09, 2013 10:13 am

Astus wrote:So, if you want to follow the traditional, mainstream path, you need the necessary empowerments, teachers, etc. If you are content with your own interpretation, you are free to do as you like (i.e. the Buddhist police won't arrest you and burn you at the stake).


Quite so.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:08 pm

Still, even if a shortcut is taken, since the empowerment has been received, the practice is still legitimate, no?


I can only answer from a Tibetan perspective. Generally, the lama during an empowerment will give a very specific commitment that will expected of the participants. These days in the Gelug tradition, the long or short Six Session Guru Yoga is usually the absolute minimum for a Highest Yoga Tantra empowerment, for example. Then, a master may impose additional commitments such as a long or short sadhana, and perhaps an approximation retreat. One would not take a "shortcut" in terms of completing these commitments.

For Yogatantra and Anuttarayogatantra, part of the initiation ritual involves taking and guarding the Tantric vows. The Bodhisattva vows are taken for initiations into all classes of tantra. Some teachers allow students to attend an Action tantra initiation (especially jenangs) with only the pledge of aspiring Bodhicitta, but they are not considered to have received the full initiation. My experience is that for Caryatantra most masters do not impose much of a commitment aside from the recitation of mantras and the bodhisattva vows.

When it comes to the actual practice of the deity, guidance is considered crucial at all junctures. Instruction will often be given in the form of a commentary on the sadhana. The text transmissions for the sadhana and associated mantras are also often given at this time. In order to qualify oneself to perform rituals like self initiation, one is required to do a mantra approximation retreat.

If you want to practice Vajrayana authentically, and you have received yogatantra abhiseka from a Tibetan master, the obvious and best thing to do is receive an appropriate Tibetan sadhana from that teacher or another in the same lineage. Why bother with Chinese texts when I personally know that Tibetans like Jhado Rinpoche have excellent practices for yogatantra? And vice versa.


This would seem to make sense. In terms of research I would say why not look at the texts of both of the traditions for comparison and perspective. But in terms of one's practice on the cushion, it would seem to be practical to practice what one had received in the empowerment ritual one attended. An undeniably important aspect of Vajrayana is transmission, from teacher to student. So if you received the initiation from HHST, it would make sense to recite the text of his tradition. Then, later on, as opportunities manifested, you could take the transmissions from other teachers if you felt it would enrich your practice, and have access to the various different texts and liturgies.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:43 pm

eijo wrote:Your original question seemed to ask whether a Tibetan abhiseka would be seen as legitimate for further study under a Shingon or Tendai teacher.


No, I'm more wondering if having the Tibetan empowerment makes doing associated practice texts from Tang China, with or without the teacher, legitimate.




Really.

It sounds almost like your intention is to...


No need to read into what I've stated here. I am talking about all this as a matter of theory. I have not stated I intend to go ahead with anything, so there is no need to say, "It sounds almost like your intention..."

It is just an interesting point of doctrine and cross-cultural potentialities that I want to explore.


...form mudras you have never been shown by the teacher, visualize without details from the teacher, repeat mantras you have never
heard from the teacher, and do other ritual actions learned from a text without a teacher


It begs the question if the mudras and details I'd be given from a teacher nowadays would be the same Amoghavajra used when he translated and taught the said text.



There is much that is omitted in that text. And it is a caryatantra text, not yogatantra, so I don't know why you bring it up here.


It is an example of a practice text.


I don't see your point. They get it wrong (in my opinion) because they don't follow, or didn't receive, or didn't understand instructions. That's an unfortunate situation not worthy of emulating. The ideal is to get precise instructions and follow them.


Funny one of the prominent Zhenyan teachers in Taiwan, who has revised a lot of material, told me in person he thinks what Koyasan is teaching nowadays isn't real Mijiao/Mikkyo.

I don't know what to make of that, but he has a sizeable following and the practices clearly work for him and his disciples.


If you want to practice Vajrayana authentically, and you have received yogatantra abhiseka from a Tibetan master, the obvious and best thing to do is receive an appropriate Tibetan sadhana from that teacher or another in the same lineage. Why bother with Chinese texts when I personally know that Tibetans like Jhado Rinpoche have excellent practices for yogatantra? And vice versa.


Thank you for pointing out the obvious course of optimal action.

However, what I'm asking really is a matter of theory and in my mind a good question given the cultural dynamics at work. Someone might ask why bother, but I like exploring possibilities.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:55 pm

JKhedrup wrote:So if you received the initiation from HHST, it would make sense to recite the text of his tradition. Then, later on, as opportunities manifested, you could take the transmissions from other teachers if you felt it would enrich your practice, and have access to the various different texts and liturgies.


This needs not be said, really. It is the obvious thing to do. I might even be pursuing this course of action, albeit hitherto unannounced.

What I'm asking here is theoretically if someone has the Tibetan empowerment can they do the practices as found in Tang Chinese Zhenyan texts. That is all.

I'm not saying my intention is to initiate anything at this point. I'm simply exploring possibilities.

Now that we have clarified that, we can set aside what Indrajala intends to do, and get back to the real question, rather than speculating on what my intentions or plans are.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:05 pm

Indrajala wrote:Funny one of the prominent Zhenyan teachers in Taiwan, who has revised a lot of material, told me in person he thinks what Koyasan is teaching nowadays isn't real Mijiao/Mikkyo.

I don't know what to make of that, but he has a sizeable following and the practices clearly work for him and his disciples.

However, what I'm asking really is a matter of theory and in my mind a good question given the cultural dynamics at work. Someone might ask why bother, but I like exploring possibilities.


In theory people give whatever explanation they like. In practice history decides which theories become generally accepted. "Tradition" only means that something survived for some time, it doesn't give it any authenticity.

Since the rules of Tantra require transmission you need to connect yourself in one way or another to a lineage. It's like Western Zen teachers who are nominally connected to this or that Japanese school but actually their teach is more or less modified. If that Mantra teacher in Taiwan has connection to Shingon but later changed this or that, the link to the original school remains but he ceases to be its representative.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:30 pm

What I'm asking here is theoretically if someone has the Tibetan empowerment can they do the practices as found in Tang Chinese Zhenyan texts. That is all.


Sorry then I wasn't clear on your question-wasn't trying to read into intention, only provide information. And I could only answer in generalities about how Tibetan practices are transmitted hoping that might be of some use to your questions. You will also find most practitioners of TB are not very well-versed in the particular class of tantra you are inquiring about, so like myself they might only be able to say "generally how things are transmitted is like this.."

I think this question about a Tibetan empowerment qualifying one to practice the Zhenyan texts would actually be very difficult for most Tibetan lamas to answer for one single reason. They don't read classical Chinese (for the most part) and probably have not been exposed to the Tang Chinese Zhenyan texts.

If as Rev. Eijo mentioned, Jhado Rinpoche took some of the texts (were they the Zhenyan ones?) then he may be in a position to answer your questions. Though again, I don't think he reads Chinese. If he has somehow managed to research these texts, then you could ask him this question as he would be in a good position to answer. If you are ever in Dharamsala, Jhado Rinpoche is actually pretty accessible, and may enjoy having such a conversation.

Until there is cross-translation of many of these materials questions such as this are not really answerable, IMO. That is why the translation of these important texts into a broadly understood medium like English is very important.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby Indrajala » Fri Aug 09, 2013 3:42 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Until there is cross-translation of many of these materials questions such as this are not really answerable, IMO. That is why the translation of these important texts into a broadly understood medium like English is very important.


That's a fair assessment.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby eijo » Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:25 pm

JKhedrup wrote:If as Rev. Eijo mentioned, Jhado Rinpoche took some of the texts (were they the Zhenyan ones?) then he may be in a position to answer your questions. Though again, I don't think he reads Chinese.


I personally gave him a copy of some of the Shingon manuals I translated into English, and he seemed quite excited to see them. He didn't want any Chinese materials because he said he couldn't read them. I also gave him an assortment of scholarly materials, but he was less impressed by them. He also took a number of mandalas and ritual items.
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Re: Mahavairocana empowerment applicability

Postby eijo » Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:36 pm

Indrajala wrote:
eijo wrote:Your original question seemed to ask whether a Tibetan abhiseka would be seen as legitimate for further study under a Shingon or Tendai teacher.


No, I'm more wondering if having the Tibetan empowerment makes doing associated practice texts from Tang China, with or without the teacher, legitimate.


In that case you already have my answer above:

Your original question seemed to ask whether a Tibetan abhiseka would be seen as legitimate for further study under a Shingon or Tendai teacher. As I said, there is no single answer, and if the Shingon or Tendai teacher you find thinks it is legitimate, then its legitimate for that person. If another says no, then its no for that person.


That concerns studying with a teacher.

For teaching yourself, the Shingon view would probably be no, self-teaching a sadhana in that way and at that level is inadvisable.

No one is stopping you from going ahead anyway, as Astus said.

You've never said what you mean by "legitimate", and a better answer would hinge on that.
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