Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

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Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:11 pm

Understandably lots of people who practice Vajrayana think it's the best thing ever, but even the Dalai Lama admits that Tibetan Buddhism isn't the best religion for everybody.

So what types of people do you think would dislike practicing Vajrayana the most?


As for me, I'm a bit obsessive about details, so I found it very frustrating to practice tantric meditations which had so many details and I hated the feeling of never being entirely confident that I was practicing them correctly. I could ask lamas questions, but still I was never very confident about my practice. All the complicated details were very distracting for me. ("Who is this guy in the deity's retinue? What's the meaning of this mantra? What's the meaning of this term? etc.)

I also disliked having to read Tibetan texs while simultaneously thinking of the meaning in English while simultaneously visualizing the right things while simultaneously thinking of the meaning of each of the visualized things. It's like trying to compose a symphony in your mind alone. It's very challenging, for people like me, just plain frustrating.

Of course, sometimes I'd get deep into the mantra parts and have nice meditation experiences, but then it would be back to the spiritual sweatshop of the Tibetan text. I often didn't find my practice enjoyable or meaningful, and it took me forever to memorize even a few lines of Tibetan.

So people who get distracted by many details might not enjoy Tibetan Buddhism, since it is just overflowing with many different terms and symbols which each have specific meanings. Not everyone wants to put up with this complication. It can be more stressful than relaxing.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:17 pm

And I feel that saying "Vajrayana is the highest vehicle, so why don't you want to practice it?" is kind of like saying "Stephen Hawking is the smartest man in the world, so why don't you want to talk to him every day?" Well, to be honest not everyone is on that level, and simply not everyone finds practicing Vajrayana or talking to Stephen Hawking enjoyable.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:25 pm

Another aspect of Vajrayana which some people may not like is the guru devotion aspect.

Being around people who are always eager to throw themselves on their faces for their lama and who are always scurrying around to get him just the right teas and tasty treats and to make sure that they have arranged every detail in the precise way that will make him/her happy might be annoying for some people.

I understand that all of this can be a good way for the students to create good karma and is part of the tantric Indian tradition, but for some westerners, all of this is just too strange.

Years ago, I had the fantasy of acting very Tibetan, but now I realize that I really don't want to be Tibetan at all. Many of the lamas I have met inside and outside of Tibet have been very kind and amazing, but their world is simply not my world...
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Aug 22, 2013 1:43 pm

If you say you want to practice Vajrayana, you should ask yourself why.

Is it the promise of quick power and attainments that attracts you?

If you are attracted to power, what does that say about your own personality and desires?
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby kirtu » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:07 pm

Indrajala wrote:Is it the promise of quick power and attainments that attracts you?

If you are attracted to power, what does that say about your own personality and desires?


It says that we want to perfect generosity, bring a decisive end to material poverty and want for all beings and cure the diseases of all beings, esp. their spiritual illnesses.

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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:12 pm

kirtu wrote:It says that we want to perfect generosity, bring a decisive end to material poverty and want for all beings and cure the diseases of all beings, esp. their spiritual illnesses.

Kirt


Ideally, but my observations would indicate otherwise.

People who are attracted to power often lack power over some part of their own lives.

That maybe helps to explain why a lot of people who openly self-identify with Vajrayana display a lot of personal problems and mental instability. That's my experience anyway.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby kirtu » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:28 pm

Luke wrote:, so I found it very frustrating to practice tantric meditations which had so many details


Hi Luke - because you don't like complications, in general you should be practicing highest yoga tantra or Dzogchen. because they were made for exactly that (people who don't like complications).

People who don't like complications shouldn't practice the lower tantras. To some extent that's a problem because most of ngondro is really lower tantra practice (except Guru Yoga, Vajrasattva and Phowa, etc. - refuge and bodhicitta and mandala offering are basically lower tantra practices in form because they can be complex and most people do find them ascetic in some sense of having to do the prostrations and make the mandala offering).

However for many people, even HYT is complex. So probably you should only practice Dzogchen. However that also means you must trust the guru and like meditation (all the Dzogchen only people will jump in at this point "ungt-oh, Dzogchen is *NOT* meditation, etc. - it's not doing something contrived, etc. , it's simple and all your delusions dissolve into the nature of mind like writing in water, etc. - that's true but for most people it still takes effort because we are severely spiritually polluted and overwhelmed by distractions).

Luke wrote:I also disliked having to read Tibetan texs while simultaneously thinking of the meaning in English while simultaneously visualizing the right things while simultaneously thinking of the meaning of each of the visualized things


That's a problem still. This situation will be slowly ameliorated but somethings cannot be translated. Technically anything other than mantra can be translated. Say that to a Nyingma lama and probably they will start to scowl a bit. They esp., but also lamas of all schools assert that some things have been especially blessed and should be done in Tibetan (or Sanskrit even although the last time I heard about that was with a story of the previous Dezhung Rinpoche and his teacher).

In general Dzogchen, Sakya, Drikung Kagyu, some Karma Kagyu and then some Gelug (FPMT) have basically rendered more of their sadhanas in western languages. In my experience Nyingma has somewhat but my Nyingma experiences are centered on one lineage (and they are translating sadhanas but the translation is more for understanding than practice).

Luke wrote:other aspect of Vajrayana which some people may not like is the guru devotion aspect.


Sure. As Andreas Kretschmar says in "Born to Serve" "What might the guru do with us?" It's a fear for some and not entirely unfounded although most gurus are really only interested in serving their students and freeing them.

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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:48 pm

People who have no trust in the teachings. People unwilling to, or incapable of, following a qualified teacher. People who can't keep a promise or a secret.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:06 pm

Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana? People that don't want to practice Vajrayana! It's not like anybody is pointing a gun at your head or anything...
"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."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Simon E. » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:09 pm

yegyal wrote:People who have no trust in the teachings. People unwilling to, or incapable of, following a qualified teacher. People who can't keep a promise or a secret.



This.

:namaste:
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby M.G. » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:14 pm

Speaking as an ex-Vajrayanist, I'd say one shouldn't practice Vajrayana if other practices will benefit one more.

If one were to ask me how one knows whether or not Vajrayana is the path that most benefits a particular person, I'd have to say that there is no absolute test. In my observation, it can take years for spiritual cultivators to recognize which practices actually help them.
Last edited by M.G. on Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:30 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana? People that don't want to practice Vajrayana! It's not like anybody is pointing a gun at your head or anything...


:good:
"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: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby philji » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:49 pm

No one should study and practice vajrayana without an indepth study and practice of the preliminaries...These were the traditional route and include the foundations of Hinayana and Mahayana..without this its all a bit shaky......The four mind changings are the route towards a stable practice.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby anjali » Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:25 pm

Luke wrote:So what types of people do you think would dislike practicing Vajrayana the most?
...
So people who get distracted by many details might not enjoy Tibetan Buddhism, since it is just overflowing with many different terms and symbols which each have specific meanings. Not everyone wants to put up with this complication. It can be more stressful than relaxing.


Luke, a lot of people have already given you some very good answers. What I will say is probably just reiterating what others have said. There are ways to get around the complications.

  • Practice a short, or concise, sadhana of the chosen deity.
  • Also, as others have mentioned, more sadhanas are being translated into English and your lama may give approval to practice in English--with the exception of the deity's mantra.
  • Focus less on mechanics--although that is of course necessary at the beginning, and more on arousing devotion and opening the heart to the qualities of the deity. For example, a person can be a technically flawless musician, but, unless the musician is "playing with heart", the whole performance is just flat and lifeless.
In the end, as someone else said, it comes down to having confidence in the practice. It may be that you would have more confidence in another approach such as Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Zen, Chan, Pure Land or...?
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  • 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
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Hickersonia » Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:33 pm

Simon E. wrote:
yegyal wrote:People who have no trust in the teachings. People unwilling to, or incapable of, following a qualified teacher. People who can't keep a promise or a secret.

This.:

Perhaps then this could be amended to include: "People who believe that the teachings were never intended to be secret at all."

Not trying to start an argument -- just adding another qualifier that might answer the original prompt.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:53 pm

Hickersonia wrote:
Simon E. wrote:
yegyal wrote:People who have no trust in the teachings. People unwilling to, or incapable of, following a qualified teacher. People who can't keep a promise or a secret.

This.:

Perhaps then this could be amended to include: "People who believe that the teachings were never intended to be secret at all."

Not trying to start an argument -- just adding another qualifier that might answer the original prompt.



The funny thing is, most of the things that in Vajrayāna which are secret (cakras, nadis, vāyus, asanas, bandhas, praṇāyamas, mantras, agnihotra, mandalas, abhisheka etc.) have been practiced and taught openly for millennia by Hindus.

It makes you wonder if the secrecy advocated in the Buddhist tantras is not so much about being secret as it is "Hey guys, this Hindu yoga stuff is freaking awesome, but if our Buddhist compatriots get wind of how effective this stuff is a) they won't believe us b) they will consider us heretics no matter how much we insist our view is grounded in Buddhadharma".
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 5:13 pm

Malcolm wrote:It makes you wonder if the secrecy advocated in the Buddhist tantras is not so much about being secret as it is "Hey guys, this Hindu yoga stuff is freaking awesome, but if our Buddhist compatriots get wind of how effective this stuff is a) they won't believe us b) they will consider us heretics no matter how much we insist our view is grounded in Buddhadharma".


And that gives another group of who shouldn't practice Vajrayana. Those who don't believe in ("transcendent") energy and related ideas.
"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: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby wisdom » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:26 pm

Those who don't have at least bodhicitta in aspiration.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:58 pm

Astus wrote:
Malcolm wrote:It makes you wonder if the secrecy advocated in the Buddhist tantras is not so much about being secret as it is "Hey guys, this Hindu yoga stuff is freaking awesome, but if our Buddhist compatriots get wind of how effective this stuff is a) they won't believe us b) they will consider us heretics no matter how much we insist our view is grounded in Buddhadharma".


And that gives another group of who shouldn't practice Vajrayana. Those who don't believe in ("transcendent") energy and related ideas.


Well, to put it more simply -- people who do not believe in Ayurvedic anatomy and physiology, even that which is discussed in various Mahāyāna sutras.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:56 pm

Luke wrote:As for me, I'm a bit obsessive about details, so I found it very frustrating to practice tantric meditations which had so many details and I hated the feeling of never being entirely confident that I was practicing them correctly. I could ask lamas questions, but still I was never very confident about my practice. All the complicated details were very distracting for me. ("Who is this guy in the deity's retinue? What's the meaning of this mantra? What's the meaning of this term? etc.)
“I must stress here that visualize does not mean you should try to paint a picture of the refuge tree in your mind; that would be impossible. Visualization is very like thinking about the person who is closest to you in this life-your mother, for example. Try imagining her standing in front of you right now. As you do so, I’m quite sure you are not thinking about the exact shape of her ear. Or whether or not her toes curl. Or how many moles she has on her back. In fact, that kind of detail has probably never even occurred to you. At the same time, I am equally sure that you have created a strong sense of your mother in your mind and that you are completely confident it really is her. This is how you should visualize the objects of refuge, and the confidence you feel in your visualization is of utmost importance.”
-Not for Happiness pg. 103-104

Luke wrote:Being around people who are always eager to throw themselves on their faces for their lama and who are always scurrying around to get him just the right teas and tasty treats and to make sure that they have arranged every detail in the precise way that will make him/her happy might be annoying for some people.
That's just people being silly. Lamas often recommend the 50 Stanzas on Guru Devotion as the manual on Guru Devotion, but they rarely explicitly state that that's it. Nothing more than what is stated in the text needs to be done. If the Guru is a Buddha, he has no need or want for praise, stuff, service, etc.

Often nowadays people enjoy playing the disciple game. But that has nothing to do with Guru Devotion.

But I agree, I understand that the complexity of most TB rituals is why a lot of people prefer Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Zen, etc. Also, personally I hate reciting the Tibetan text for the same reason that you said.

EDIT

"it is very important to be able to differentiate clearly between the essence of tantra and the cultural forms in which it is currently wrapped. What I mean by this is that there is no benefit in a Westerner's pretending to look or act like a Tibetan, or any other Asian for that matter. Learning to say prayers in a foreign language, for instance, is not in itself the way to fulfill our highest human potential; there is nothing of transcending value to be gained from substituting one set of cultural conventions for another. People whose practice remains on this superficial level end up with nothing but confusion, not knowing who they are or what they should do."
-Introduction to Tantra pg. 15
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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."

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