Does Vajrasattva exist?

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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby smcj » Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:28 am

dzogchungpa wrote:Well, I don't know. Is that really what the tradition says?

The previous Kalu R. was pretty orthodox, so although I may not have been able to manage an exact word-for-word quote, what I wrote was close enough to what he said so that I think it is pretty reliable as representing the school. While he was alive he was one of the senior lamas for the Karma Kagyu, as well as being the lineage head for the Shangpa Kagyu.

Everything after that I premised by saying it was my own opinion. However in my own defense, that opinion was formed from a number of interactions and discussions with various teachers. My understanding is that the Shentong position (to which Kalu R. subscribed) says that the non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is free from contrivances, also called adventitious defilements. The Wisdom Mind is real. The samsaric mind has that authenticity as a basis, yet obscures it with the dross of our emotionality, habits, intellectual limitations, and karma. So our experience is contrived, superficial, inauthentic, artificial, etc. So in that context the deities would be, as R. said, pure expressions of the Wisdom Mind, whereas we are impure expressions.

But it is still just my opinion.
Last edited by smcj on Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:47 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Oct 11, 2013 6:40 am

In regards to levels of reality I don't know if the following is helpful but it might be. Basically it is a depiction of the notion of 'levels of reality' according to different spiritual and religious traditions:

Image

From an Amazon customer review of Huston Smith's Forgotten Truth: The Common Core of the World's Religions:

There are "levels of being" such that the more real is also the more valuable; these levels appear in both the "external" and the "internal" worlds, "higher" levels of reality without corresponding to "deeper" levels of reality within. On the very lowest level is the material/physical world, which depends for its existence on the higher levels. On the very highest/deepest level is the Infinite or Absolute.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:57 am

Image

That is a fascinating chart.
And my first thought is, 'why is Buddhism always automatically placed into the category of religion?"
So, then I had to think about what it is that defines religion,
what makes it different from what we call a materialist viewpoint,
and I think it is that religion, or spirituality perhaps,
asserts that another sort of reality can be experienced besides the one we would generally call our everyday experience.
It could be called a higher level, or a deeper level or whatever.
What you call it doesn't matter in so far as it is different from the usual experience.
At least, this is how my materialist friends define it
and is why they lump Buddhism into the same category as the other belief systems shown in this chart.

However, i would suggest that what the Buddha taught is, in fact, observable in this world,
and that specifically what he taught,
what that other reality, that higher, or deeper level of experience really amounts to
is the experience of the mind when freed from, specifically,
the suffering that arises from the attachment to the solidified view of a 'self'.
This is the basis of the four noble truths.

What that chart illustrates is that various belief systems have starting and ending points
beginning with the easily observable experience, where one is at the moment
and a not-so-easily observable experience that one might aspire to.
But, because the body is not a permanent self
and the ever-changing stream of thoughts is not a permanent self,
there is no reason, other than clinging to the habits associated with
a belief in a permanent self
there is no reason why what the Buddha taught is not attainable in the next moment.

So, if we ask "Does Vajrasattva exist?"
that question implies a vialble comparison between vajrasattva
and the reality of the person asking the question.
in other words, "is Vajrasattva as real as I am?"
But Buddhist understanding of no-self undermines this question from the beginning.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat Oct 12, 2013 1:12 am

I'm kind of intrigued by the placement of apsaras between Sambhogakya and Nirmanakaya in the Buddhism sector.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat Oct 12, 2013 1:20 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, if we ask "Does Vajrasattva exist?"
that question implies a vialble comparison between vajrasattva
and the reality of the person asking the question.
in other words, "is Vajrasattva as real as I am?"
But Buddhist understanding of no-self undermines this question from the beginning.

Well, I don't think any Buddhist school, except possibly Dzogchen, denies that beings are real or exist in some way, if only as a conventional truth or whatever. The OP was concerned with whether Vajrasattva is taken to be real or exist in the same way, by the traditions that refer to him.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:32 am

PadmaVonSambha wrote: That is a fascinating chart.


Glad you found it interesting. I found it here.


PadmaVonSambha wrote: And my first thought is, 'why is Buddhism always automatically placed into the category of religion?"


Good question. 'Dharma' and 'religion' can be distinguished. They overlap and have some common meanings, but I think they're also recognisably different. There's quite a good web essay on it here. I think 'religion' is the nearest word in English, but it comes with quite a lot of cultural baggage that Buddhists don't necessarily want.

PadmaVonSambha wrote: However, i would suggest that what the Buddha taught is, in fact, observable in this world,
and that specifically what he taught,
what that other reality, that higher, or deeper level of experience really amounts to
is the experience of the mind when freed from, specifically,
the suffering that arises from the attachment to the solidified view of a 'self'.
This is the basis of the four noble truths.


Observable, yes - but 'in this world'? I'm not sure about that. It is said in many places in the early tradition that 'the Dharma I have perceived is deep, difficult to fathom, subtle, perceivable only by the wise'. The Buddha himself is said to have seen through the whole principle of 'dependent origination' and is no longer bound by it, and accordingly, 'knower of worlds' and 'surpassing the world'. We certainly start to observe it 'in this world' but in some important sense it also points beyond it.

With regards to 'exist' - that word is not really a very good word, or rather, it has limitations in regard to deep questions like this. The Sanskrit word sat (which is the root of Vajrasattva) is often translated as 'existence' but really it means something more like 'being-ness' or 'is-ness'. It is not simply 'something which exists' in the sense that other things do.

You will notice in various places in Buddhist literature, references to the idea of 'neither existing nor not existing'. I think that is the Buddhist way of pointing out that the higher truths can't be conceived in such terms as existence or non-existence. The level of real being - hard to find words for it - is something relative to which such ideas as 'existing' or 'non-existing' are defined. It is, in other words, beyond conceptual notions of existence and non-existence, beyond or beneath conceptual categories.

I'm sure all of this is explained in various Buddhist philosophical texts, but it is hard to translate the ideas into current English, because it is such a different worldview.

These are all deep questions of course, but that is because of the nature of the topic.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby smcj » Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:04 am

in other words, "is Vajrasattva as real as I am?"

Or, as I opined earlier, maybe he's more real than we are.

Here is something written by Kunga R., a Sakya lama that was the abbot of a monastery that was devoted to Vajrayogini practice:

"When the yogin is able to visualize his personal deity to the point where the visualization seems to have a life of its own, and when he is able to see his environment as divine, he then practices the "divine pride" of direct identification of his own body and mind with those of his personal deity.

When the reality of the apparent world has been overshadowed by the intensity of his visualization, the yogin then enter the completion phase...


From "Drinking the Mountain Stream", which are more stories and songs of Milarepa.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Nov 01, 2013 6:08 pm

Just read this last night, in "Vajra Wisdom: Deity Practice in Tibetan Buddhism", from "The Compendium of Oral Instructions" by Kunkyen Tenpe Nyima :

Meditating with the belief that peaceful deities exist, in their own right, will cause you to be reborn as a god in the form realm, while meditating on wrathful ones with this belief will cause you to end up like the yogi in India who, after practicing Vajrabhairava, grew fangs and developed a layer of nine boils in the form of nine heads.

http://preview.tinyurl.com/kev7be3
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby heart » Fri Nov 01, 2013 6:14 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:Just read this last night, in "Vajra Wisdom: Deity Practice in Tibetan Buddhism", from "The Compendium of Oral Instructions" by Kunkyen Tenpe Nyima :

Meditating with the belief that peaceful deities exist, in their own right, will cause you to be reborn as a god in the form realm, while meditating on wrathful ones with this belief will cause you to end up like the yogi in India who, after practicing Vajrabhairava, grew fangs and developed a layer of nine boils in the form of nine heads.

http://preview.tinyurl.com/kev7be3


"deities exist, in their own right" is the key here.

/magnus
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Nov 01, 2013 6:15 pm

Yes, that's what I started this thread for, to find out if the deities are considered to exist in their own right.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby heart » Fri Nov 01, 2013 6:50 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:Yes, that's what I started this thread for, to find out if the deities are considered to exist in their own right.


That isn't how you put it. You can say Samboghakaya exist or don't exist, but it is never "in its own right".

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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby smcj » Fri Nov 01, 2013 6:53 pm

heart wrote:
dzogchungpa wrote:Just read this last night, in "Vajra Wisdom: Deity Practice in Tibetan Buddhism", from "The Compendium of Oral Instructions" by Kunkyen Tenpe Nyima :
Meditating with the belief that peaceful deities exist, in their own right, will cause you to be reborn as a god in the form realm, while meditating on wrathful ones with this belief will cause you to end up like the yogi in India who, after practicing Vajrabhairava, grew fangs and developed a layer of nine boils in the form of nine heads.

http://preview.tinyurl.com/kev7be3

"deities exist, in their own right" is the key here.

A couple paragraphs down in the link just provided it says:

The specific purpose of this practice is to call out to the wisdom deities, just as a person will naturally come closer if you call out his or her name. The Condensed Realization states:

The deity is like a companion that you search for in order to accomplish a given task. The mantra is like calling out to someone, saying, "Her, my friend…"

Since the two quotes are close together in the same book, I assume the author did not see them as contradictory.

I'm told that the way things 'exist' (or not) on the quantum level is unimaginable. Yet that quantum level is very much here as we experience the macro level, and there is no contradiction. I think we might want to start using that as an analogy for how things 'exist' (or not) on the dharmadhatu level. What it means for something to 'exist' cannot be imagined, yet is very much here as we experience the samsara level, and there is no contradiction.

I recently saw a video on QM that said, on the quantum level, particles like protons don't really 'exist', that they are better described as a series of events. That just happens to come close to my (current/subject to revision) understanding of emptiness; everything, including ourselves, are verbs, not nouns. But then again I tend to oversimplify. Like I said, it is probably unimaginable.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Nov 01, 2013 7:55 pm

heart wrote:
dzogchungpa wrote:Yes, that's what I started this thread for, to find out if the deities are considered to exist in their own right.


That isn't how you put it. You can say Samboghakaya exist or don't exist, but it is never "in its own right".

/magnus

Well, the way I worded it was "Does Vajrasattva exist?", so I left it a little vague. At any rate, the quote above from Tenpe Nyima seems relevant to what was on my mind. The quote from Tsoknyi Rinpoche I provided in the OP, especially this part:
There is a real Buddha Vajrasattva presiding right now over his own buddhafield.

does seem to indicate a view that Vajrasattva exists "in his own right".
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby heart » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:24 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
There is a real Buddha Vajrasattva presiding right now over his own buddhafield.

does seem to indicate a view that Vajrasattva exists "in his own right".


Not at all. Just because Vajrasattva presides over his own Buddhafield it doesn't follow that he "exist in his own right".
You might feel that this is a to subtle distinction to make, but nevertheless that subtlety is the nature of the Samboghakaya. Samboghakaya is the expression of Dharmakaya, it has nothing to do with delusion.

/magnus
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:38 pm

heart wrote:Just because Vajrasattva presides over his own Buddhafield it doesn't follow that he "exist in his own right".
You might feel that this is a to subtle distinction to make, but nevertheless that subtlety is the nature of the Samboghakaya. Samboghakaya is the expression of Dharmakaya, it has nothing to do with delusion.

Well, I'll admit that I don't really understand what is meant by 'Sambhogakaya".
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby heart » Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:03 am

dzogchungpa wrote:
heart wrote:Just because Vajrasattva presides over his own Buddhafield it doesn't follow that he "exist in his own right".
You might feel that this is a to subtle distinction to make, but nevertheless that subtlety is the nature of the Samboghakaya. Samboghakaya is the expression of Dharmakaya, it has nothing to do with delusion.

Well, I'll admit that I don't really understand what is meant by 'Sambhogakaya".


I don't blame you, it is difficult.

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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Nov 03, 2013 4:39 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:Yes, that's what I started this thread for, to find out if the deities are considered to exist in their own right.

They are not self existent.
they are non-self existent.

The term, "exist", from a buddhist perspective, is problematic when used in the ordinary sense
in which one thinks about themselves as 'existing' and then compares other things to that.
It can only refer to an inherent, self- arising,
not relying on conditions or divisible components.

So, when you refer to Vajrasattva, or any deity in a way that isolates them in this manner
you end up having to redefine all sorts of contexts and meanings
until the ordinary notion of 'exist' doesn't really apply any more.

Much the same way that time and space are redefined by quantum physics,
Vajrasattva exists
but not in any way that one would ordinarily regard as existing.
It is a kind of existing as seen from the perspective of infinity
rather than from the perspective of finity, which is how we generally see things.

This is why the visualization practices are set up the way they are,
with generation and completion stages, dissolving the visualization, and so on.

When you take visualizations as real,
you run the risk of regarding the one visualizing as being real as well.
When that happens, you miss seeing the real reality of the visualization, of the deity.

Saying they "exist" actually brings them down a notch.
It's like pouring color into clear water in order to see the water.
The water was already there, but now
You just end up seeing the color.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby dzogchungpa » Sun Nov 03, 2013 4:44 pm

Well, I'll admit that I don't really understand what "exist" means.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby smcj » Sun Nov 03, 2013 6:53 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:Well, I'll admit that I don't really understand what "exist" means.

Something that is "inherently self-existent" would be 1: manifest, 2: eternal/inviolate, and 3: self-sufficient/independent. (imo)

The world we see does indeed satisfy criteria 1: manifest, but everything in it is impermanent and interdependent. Thus you can say it "exists" (if you like) but still lacks "inherent self-existence", which is what the Sutrayana investigation is looking for.

**************************************************************************************************************************

As a footnote, the next issue is, "What about non-manifest phenomena?", like the ultimate nature of one's own mind, and of course, deities like Vajrasattva. Since they do not satisfy criteria 1: manifest, you can say that they also lack "inherent self-existence".

I will leave it at that.
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Re: Does Vajrasattva exist?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Nov 03, 2013 10:57 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:Well, I'll admit that I don't really understand what "exist" means.


The point is this: Buddhism establishes that there is nothing that one can truly regard as a self. Aside from the constantly changing mass of bones and flesh one carries around, any notion of a "me" is a product of the imagination...a projection of mind.

So, Vajrasattva must then be regarded as either more real ( existent ), or equally real, or less real than whatever experience of that "me".

If we assert that Vajrasattva (or any deity) is a cognitive entity, residing in a Buddha-realm, or whatever, then we have to say that such a being exists more than, less than, or equal to our own existence, all the while keeping in mind that our own existence is something which we can establish as illusory.

So, if no "you" is real, then how real is any being that "you" can imagine?
Since your own being ( "self" ) is something you imagine...
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