Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:16 pm

kirtu wrote: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).

Hmm, it's possible that you're correct. Since I've never practiced these things, I can't really say. But I always thought that one had to go through all the lower tantra stuff and that to go directly to practicing HYT or Dzogchen just wasn't considered proper in Tibetan Buddhism. I guess I felt that it was best not to do Tibetan Buddhism at all, rather than to do it "improperly."

kirtu wrote: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).

That sounds very beautiful and pleasant, but it begs the question: does one really need a guru to realize the nature of mind?

Did the Zen master Bankei know nothing about the nature of mind?
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:17 pm

Luke wrote:does one really need a guru to realize the nature of mind?



No, but it's faster.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:41 pm

Another interesting related question is "Which mental illnesses are usually made worse by tantric Buddhist meditations and which mental illnesses do they usually make better?"

On Buddhist forums, I have heard stories about delusional people becoming even more delusional when exposed to tantric meditations and stories of mahasiddhas, but I haven't seen this first-hand, so I can't say.

On the positive side, I was once reading a book about therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder, and one of the exercises was some kind of calming, peaceful visualization with healing light, which makes me think that something like a Chenrezig sadhana might be similarly helpful to people who suffer from PTSD.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:53 pm

Luke wrote:Another interesting related question is "Which mental illnesses are usually made worse by tantric Buddhist meditations and which mental illnesses do they usually make better?"

On Buddhist forums, I have heard stories about delusional people becoming even more delusional when exposed to tantric meditations and stories of mahasiddhas, but I haven't seen this first-hand, so I can't say.

On the positive side, I was once reading a book about therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder, and one of the exercises was some kind of calming, peaceful visualization with healing light, which makes me think that something like a Chenrezig sadhana might be similarly helpful to people who suffer from PTSD.



There definitely seems to be a segment of people with interest in Vajrayana that are mostly attracted to the far end of mystical without reference to the core of Buddhism.. i'm sure some have mental health issues making this even worse, and some are just fixated on cool mystical experience. I don't think you can put that on Vajrayana though, you could look at various forms of Qigong, Yoga, Kabbalah, other non-Buddhist meditations and practices and you will find the same people, because those traditions offer similar types of mystical experience and have similar stories.

I guess the question there is what happens should those people actually join a Sangha or find a Tibetan teacher, conventionally at that point it can be put on Vajrayana..prior to that in a general sense it's just people doing what they do.

There are alot of cognitive therapy ideas that are pretty similar to some of the instructions for integrating with daily life in tantra, things like seeing all sounds as mantra etc.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:01 pm

Here's a great old post from Keith in another thread which I think is relevant:
KeithBC wrote:For people who thrive on complexity, the Tibetan tradition takes on the challenge and asks, How complex do you want it? For people who like things simple, the Zen tradition asks, How simple do you want it? If you find a tradition "too" anything, it may not be for you. However, don't be hasty about rejecting one. You may find that, like me, something clicks and you adapt to it. Now I kinda dig the over-the-top elaborateness of the Tibetan tradition. It's really a personal preference.

viewtopic.php?f=77&t=3556&p=30515&p30549#p30549
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 10:39 pm

I think it is only a stereotype that Tantra is complicated while Zen is simple. As already mentioned, there are many ways in Vajrayana that are simple and straightforward. On the other hand, if you have ever looked into a classic Zen work like the Blue Cliff Record, it is anything but simple.

Zen and Tantra (from "Dropping Ashes on the Buddha", p 79-80)

One evening, after a Dharma talk at the Boston Dharmadhatu, a student said to Seung Sahn Soen-sa, "At a recent seminar on Zen and Tantra, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche compared Zen to black and white and tantra to color. What do you think of this?"
Soen-sa smiled and said, "Which one do you prefer?"
(Laughter from the audience.)
The student shrugged his shoulders.
Soen-sa said, "What color is your shirt?"
"Red."
"You are attached to color."
The student hesitated for a few moments, then said,
"Maybe you are attached to black and white."
Soen-sa said, "The arrow has already passed downtown."
There was a long silence. "Do you understand?" (A few giggles.) "Okay, I will explain: The dog runs after the bone." There was another long nervous silence. "Okay, I will explain even more." (Loud laughter.) "When you are thinking, your mind and my mind are different. When you are not thinking, your mind and my mind are the same. Now tell me -when you are not thinking, is there color? Is there black and white? Not thinking, your mind is empty mind. Empty minds means cutting off all speech and words. Is there color then?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know? I hit you! Now do you understand?" (Laughter.) "In original mind there is no color, no black and white, no words, no Buddha, no Zen, no Tibetan Buddhism."
The student bowed and said, "Thank you."
Soen-sa said, "'Thank you? ' What do you mean by 'Thank you'?"
"Only 'Thank you.'"
Soen-sa laughed and said, "Only 'Thank you' is good. I hope that you soon understand your true self."
The student said, "I've begun."
"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 Luke » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:03 pm

Astus wrote:I think it is only a stereotype that Tantra is complicated while Zen is simple. As already mentioned, there are many ways in Vajrayana that are simple and straightforward. On the other hand, if you have ever looked into a classic Zen work like the Blue Cliff Record, it is anything but simple.

Zen and Tantra (from "Dropping Ashes on the Buddha", p 79-80)

AAH!! *pulls back from computer screen*

That was a very enlightening quote! It increased my respect for Seun Sahn.

But still, I would argue that Zen meditations are simpler than tantric meditations. However, talking about Zen can certainly be as complicated as talking about any other Buddhist tradition.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:19 pm

Luke wrote:
Astus wrote:I think it is only a stereotype that Tantra is complicated while Zen is simple. As already mentioned, there are many ways in Vajrayana that are simple and straightforward. On the other hand, if you have ever looked into a classic Zen work like the Blue Cliff Record, it is anything but simple.

Zen and Tantra (from "Dropping Ashes on the Buddha", p 79-80)

AAH!! *pulls back from computer screen*

That was a very enlightening quote! It increased my respect for Seun Sahn.

But still, I would argue that Zen meditations are simpler than tantric meditations. However, talking about Zen can certainly be as complicated as talking about any other Buddhist tradition.



I don't know that i'd call Zen uncomplicated, just (I think usually Soto -inspired?) minimalist Zazen. Ever done Oryoki? I found Oryoki ridiculously hard, i'm not sure i'd be able to do it even with alot of experience. In may ways practicing Zazen at a Zendo involves more rigidity than going to say do sutra practices at a Tibetan center. It's true that there's more ritual to most Tibetan practices, but bowing just so, walking just so etc. is a part of Zen. It definitely has the minimalist aesthetic thing, but i'm not entirely sure that makes it less complicated.

In addition, it seems like the structure that Zazen is sometimes taught in can be a blessing or curse depending on your inclinations..if you go somewhere as as person looking for detailed instruction, you will be disappointed at a least a few Zen places, where the whole point is just sitting without any real instruction. Then again..if this is what you need, just being forced to sit with your mind, then its' perfect.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:22 pm

Luke wrote:But still, I would argue that Zen meditations are simpler than tantric meditations. However, talking about Zen can certainly be as complicated as talking about any other Buddhist tradition.


If you were familiar with the full system of koan practice in Rinzai Zen you might reconsider that.

Very briefly:
Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Koan Practice - review by Vladimir K

Briefly (PDF):
Review of Zen Sand: The Book of Capping Phrases for Kōan Practice - by Jiang Wu

The complete introduction as in the book (PDF):
Capping-Phrase Practice in Japanese Rinzai Zen - by Victor Sogen Hori
"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 11:39 pm

Luke wrote:Hmm, it's possible that you're correct. Since I've never practiced these things, I can't really say. But I always thought that one had to go through all the lower tantra stuff and that to go directly to practicing HYT or Dzogchen just wasn't considered proper in Tibetan Buddhism. I guess I felt that it was best not to do Tibetan Buddhism at all, rather than to do it "improperly."


If you are willing to give up these concepts, then Dzogchen could be effective for you. If you think "I must do this, then that, and then these other things before I can practice Dzogchen" then perhaps its not for you. Either way its OK.

There is no real "proper", there are traditional ways many people go about it, and traditional ways that these things are often taught to most people. This is because most people are generally not prepared to understand the higher teachings, not because some tradition is limiting them from doing so. However, ultimately what you practice and why is based on your understanding and capacity, not solid, immutable ideas about what you must do first and next. Because of this variance in students understanding and capacity, there are teachings suited to every kind of being and mind.

Even if you think "But everyone does Ngondro, there is no avoiding that!", not everyone does the same Ngondro nor does everyone have the same understanding of it while they do it. You might think "But this Guru won't give me the highest Dzogchen teachings because its not traditional to do so" however that is still only your own understanding and capacity. Whether or not you practice Dzogchen has absolutely nothing to do with what you practice externally, and everything to do with your inner state and view. No Guru can limit your understanding, but they can help you increase it. If you understand Dzogchen, nobody can take that from you or tell you to stop, but if you don't nobody can force you to understand or make you do it either. All that can be done is to try to guide beings in the right direction, and beyond that its all on the student to grasp the meaning and reach realization on their own.

We make things as complex as we allow them to be, and things are often as complicated for us as we need them to be at that time based on our understanding and karma. In order to tame the mind, it can be necessary to engage in a lot of mental conceptualization and external ritual. However, in the being whose mind has been tamed, even the most elaborate complicated ritual is performed by them with the utmost simplicity internally, even if appearances indicate an elaborate and complicated procedure.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby kirtu » Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:18 am

Malcolm wrote:
Luke wrote:does one really need a guru to realize the nature of mind?



No, but it's faster.


Well yes actually. Even in Zen, Theravada and Pure Land, etc. Unless you are a Buddha of a dispensation.

The people who realize the nature of mind without a living guru are either found in legends or are Krishnamurti or worse (for his time and circumstance Krishnamurti was okay, but ...).

Kirt
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“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
Hevajra Tantra
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby kirtu » Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:39 am

Luke wrote:
kirtu wrote: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).

Hmm, it's possible that you're correct. Since I've never practiced these things, I can't really say. But I always thought that one had to go through all the lower tantra stuff and that to go directly to practicing HYT or Dzogchen just wasn't considered proper in Tibetan Buddhism. I guess I felt that it was best not to do Tibetan Buddhism at all, rather than to do it "improperly."


Oh no, HYT is introduced up-front in Nyingma and Sakya and is pretty close to up-front in Drikung Kagyu (my experience of Drikung is that it is up-front but this may not be the actual case). However in both Sakya and Nyingma (esp. Nyingma) HYT is the main thing (in Nyingma it is basically the only thing). I don't really know about Gelug or Bon but my impression in Gelug is that the meditation people are doing is at least Yogatantra and probably HYT. The point is that is is mostly meditation rather than performing extensive rituals. However in the Sarma schools in particular you will be taken through an extensive study of the Madhyamika view.

Nyingma Dzogchen is in fact "progressive" (one begins with a HYT practice but this is meditation centric - however in Nyingma these meditations can become somewhat complex). But there are some Dzogchen teachers who teach "Dzogchen First" (or Dzogchen (almost) Only). Like Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, although he is not the only one.

Luke wrote:
kirtu wrote: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).

That sounds very beautiful and pleasant, but it begs the question: does one really need a guru to realize the nature of mind?


Yes (see my more extensive response on this). BTW, did you need anyone to teach you how to eat healthily, to bath once or more a day, etc.? To toilet train yourself? Did you discover anything profound on your own? People need training for everything, except some mundane things after they have been well-trained. People do discover things on their own, usually math, sometimes in other disciplines. Most people do not. And people do not discover the nature of mind on their own. Did Krishnamurti, for example? Or David Koresh? There are many other examples.

Did the Zen master Bankei know nothing about the nature of mind?


Bankei did not discover Zen. Bankei rejected most things that people tried to pass on to him as received knowledge, esp. Confucism. Later he was taught zazen - he did not discover it on his own and he had been raised in a Buddhist environment consisting at least of exposure to Pure Land, Zen and Shingon. After sitting Bankei did indeed resolve the matter for himself. This is classic Zen. Aside from Shakyamuni Buddha, there are no self-made Zen masters. Zen masters are made because they found a teacher, sometimes even a bad teacher, who taught them practice. Once they got going some of them did extend practice forms, but even this is relatively rare.

Kirt
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“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
Hevajra Tantra
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Meido » Fri Aug 23, 2013 2:40 am

luke wrote:That sounds very beautiful and pleasant, but it begs the question: does one really need a guru to realize the nature of mind?


kirtu wrote:Bankei did not discover Zen. Bankei rejected most things that people tried to pass on to him as received knowledge, esp. Confucism. Later he was taught zazen - he did not discover it on his own and he had been raised in a Buddhist environment consisting at least of exposure to Pure Land, Zen and Shingon. After sitting Bankei did indeed resolve the matter for himself. This is classic Zen. Aside from Shakyamuni Buddha, there are no self-made Zen masters. Zen masters are made because they found a teacher, sometimes even a bad teacher, who taught them practice. Once they got going some of them did extend practice forms, but even this is relatively rare.


Bankei had several teachers.

Adding to Kirt's points, we might also recall that after his initial awakening Bankei still went looking for someone to confirm his experience [he found Dosha Chogen, who told him that he had indeed recognized his nature but had yet to clarify it...Bankei at first rejected this, but then realized Dosha was right and so stayed to practice under him for over a year].

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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby brendan » Fri Aug 23, 2013 2:55 am

kirtu wrote:
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.

Kirt


Apparently there are beings that have already achieved.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:27 am

Meido wrote:Bankei had several teachers.

Adding to Kirt's points, we might also recall that after his initial awakening Bankei still went looking for someone to confirm his experience [he found Dosha Chogen, who told him that he had indeed recognized his nature but had yet to clarify it...Bankei at first rejected this, but then realized Dosha was right and so stayed to practice under him for over a year].

~ Meido

Yes, of course. I never said that I thought that Zen could be learned without a teacher (although if I remember correctly, Astus believes this). I was just stating that it's not only Tibetan Buddhists who have realized the nature of mind.

But thank you very much for your explanation.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:53 am

wisdom wrote:If you are willing to give up these concepts, then Dzogchen could be effective for you. If you think "I must do this, then that, and then these other things before I can practice Dzogchen" then perhaps its not for you. Either way its OK.

Thanks for your deep and heartfelt response, wisdom.

I think I could drop all of these concepts in an instant if I found a lama who was willing to teach me the basics of mahamudra or dzogchen. However, I am tired of spending time and money on "the lama-hunting game" now. But if I have the right karma and this sort of lama "finds me," then maybe I would try it.

But I do have suspicions that I am just not cut out for Tibetan Buddhism at all. For example, except for the chapter on bodhichitta which I really enjoyed, I find the book "The Words of My Perfect Teacher" to be very boring and uninspiring. But this seems to be a book that one has to say is totally wonderful if one does Tibetan Buddhism. I liked The Jewel Ornament of Liberation and any stories of Gampopa's life much, much better. I always feel very warm-hearted about Gampopa. I feel that reading his teachings created a lot of the good karma which allowed me to experience so many interesting Buddhist things over the past 5 years. But *sigh* there is so much negative politics in the Kagyu school these days (Karmapa controversy, etc.).

And I really hated doing the Longchen Nyingthik ngondro. Are other ngondros really so different?

And I don't believe that reciting thousands of mantras is really of great benefit. But believing the opposite is a key belief in Tibetan Buddhism, isn't it?
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:16 am

People on this forum are compassionately showing me which of my opinions are incorrect, so I'll throw out another long-held opinion of mine:

It takes less training to be a Zen teacher than to be a Vajrayana teacher.

I would like to benefit other beings sometime in the future by teaching Buddhism. I feel that I'll never really understand Buddhist tantra comprehensively enough to be able to teach it in any beneficial way. But I feel that learning Zen is more doable for me.
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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 23, 2013 9:48 am

Meido wrote:Bankei had several teachers.

Adding to Kirt's points, we might also recall that after his initial awakening Bankei still went looking for someone to confirm his experience [he found Dosha Chogen, who told him that he had indeed recognized his nature but had yet to clarify it...Bankei at first rejected this, but then realized Dosha was right and so stayed to practice under him for over a year].


But he realised the unborn on his own and, although visited teachers, later rejected them. That is, he tried to find someone who could give him the teachings but failed. He tried to follow the traditional route but it didn't work. So, I go with Kirt on this, that while certainly Bankei had sources to learn about Zen - and he was an ordained monk - it was not the case that he found the right teacher eventually.

"I can see now, looking back to that meeting, that even Dosha's realization was less than complete. If only he were alive today, I could make him into a fine teacher. It's a great shame. He died too soon." (Waddell, p 47-48)
"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 retrofuturist » Fri Aug 23, 2013 1:19 pm

Greetings,

kirtu wrote:The people who realize the nature of mind without a living guru are either found in legends or are Krishnamurti or worse (for his time and circumstance Krishnamurti was okay, but ...).

Can't agree with you there, sorry.

Luke wrote:Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Me. 8-)

Maitri,
Retro. :)
Live in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes

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Re: Who SHOULDN'T practice Vajrayana?

Postby Meido » Fri Aug 23, 2013 2:56 pm

Astus wrote:But he realised the unborn on his own and, although visited teachers, later rejected them. That is, he tried to find someone who could give him the teachings but failed. He tried to follow the traditional route but it didn't work. So, I go with Kirt on this, that while certainly Bankei had sources to learn about Zen - and he was an ordained monk - it was not the case that he found the right teacher eventually.

"I can see now, looking back to that meeting, that even Dosha's realization was less than complete. If only he were alive today, I could make him into a fine teacher. It's a great shame. He died too soon." (Waddell, p 47-48)


I don't completely disagree with you, Astus. But the fact remains that his encounter and practice with Dosha were rather fortunate for him, as until that point he had thought that his initial recognition was itself sufficient. We should also recognize that his saying that Dosha's realization was lacking is somewhat standard Zen talk (students surpassing their teachers and all that). So to my ears it isn't at all a shocking thing to say.

Of course I would agree it is not the case that a teacher is always required for someone to have the initial experience of recognition, roots generally being unknown to us. There are many examples of this. I don't know of any examples of someone who clarified and integrated that awakening without any guidance at all, including Bankei.

Luke: Got it. Apologies, I had misunderstood your meaning.

Sorry to pull this non-Zen thread off topic for a moment.

~ Meido
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