"Free Belief Buddhism"

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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Adamantine » Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:39 am

Chaz wrote: I'll be asking permission to begin Ngondro practice in the Spring. I don't think my beliefs will be questioned at that time, either. You think they should? If people shouldn't take Refuge if their beliefs aren't in line with some doctrine, then they shouldn't be allowed to take them in the first place. They should be quizzed for orthodoxy. Did you have to submit to such a quiz when you took Refuge? Do you think it right that people should be forced to submit to such an examination?


I doubt your beliefs will be questioned Chaz, however usually a teacher will assume you have made diligent efforts at study and reflection of the basic tenets of Buddhism before you take these deeper and deeper steps into the tradition. When you take refuge in the Dharma, this is ultimately in your own primordial wisdom mind, but relatively it is in the teachings of the Buddha as it passes down to us in unbroken lineage and written in the sutras and tantras. Many of these directly or indirectly refer to transmigration and rebirth. There is very good reason for this. By taking refuge, you are also taking refuge in this. It would be more beneficial to try to understand why it is important, why it is an essential aspect of Dharma, of reality- then to simply doubt it out of habitual deference to a scientific-materialist tendency in our culture at this time. You've said that you believe in rebirth, but that you don't think it's very important and part of that sense of it being unimportant is your own teachers not making it much of a focus in your course of study. Well if you have not yet begun Ngondro yet, perhaps this is why. When you receive more advanced and deeper teachings eventually in Mahayoga (Vajrayana), you will inevitably end up receiving teachings on the six Bardos of existence, and then rebirth will be a main point of focus. I don't know what Ngondro text you will be using, but usually in the Ngondros I am familiar with, transmigration is also a point of contemplation. I am fairly confident after some extensive period of seriously practicing the Ngondro, your feelings about the importance of rebirth will probably shift dramatically. Best of wishes with your practice, BTW. Ngondro is a profound and wonderful commitment. May it benefit all.

Sarwa Mangalam!
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Chaz » Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:54 pm

Adamantine wrote:
Chaz wrote: I'll be asking permission to begin Ngondro practice in the Spring. I don't think my beliefs will be questioned at that time, either. You think they should? If people shouldn't take Refuge if their beliefs aren't in line with some doctrine, then they shouldn't be allowed to take them in the first place. They should be quizzed for orthodoxy. Did you have to submit to such a quiz when you took Refuge? Do you think it right that people should be forced to submit to such an examination?


I doubt your beliefs will be questioned Chaz, however usually a teacher will assume you have made diligent efforts at study and reflection of the basic tenets of Buddhism before you take these deeper and deeper steps into the tradition. When you take refuge in the Dharma, this is ultimately in your own primordial wisdom mind, but relatively it is in the teachings of the Buddha as it passes down to us in unbroken lineage and written in the sutras and tantras. Many of these directly or indirectly refer to transmigration and rebirth. There is very good reason for this. By taking refuge, you are also taking refuge in this. It would be more beneficial to try to understand why it is important, why it is an essential aspect of Dharma, of reality- then to simply doubt it out of habitual deference to a scientific-materialist tendency in our culture at this time. You've said that you believe in rebirth, but that you don't think it's very important and part of that sense of it being unimportant is your own teachers not making it much of a focus in your course of study. Well if you have not yet begun Ngondro yet, perhaps this is why. When you receive more advanced and deeper teachings eventually in Mahayoga (Vajrayana), you will inevitably end up receiving teachings on the six Bardos of existence, and then rebirth will be a main point of focus. I don't know what Ngondro text you will be using, but usually in the Ngondros I am familiar with, transmigration is also a point of contemplation. I am fairly confident after some extensive period of seriously practicing the Ngondro, your feelings about the importance of rebirth will probably shift dramatically. Best of wishes with your practice, BTW. Ngondro is a profound and wonderful commitment. May it benefit all.

Sarwa Mangalam!



Thanks!!! This stage of my Path is getting a bit exciting. I should be getting the lung and texts for practice in the next couple weeks. Then it begins. I've been looking forward to this for a few years now and it's very cool seeing all finally come together.

I think you may misunderstand me in regards to my "belief" in rebirth. For me, personally, Buddhism without rebirth doesn't make any sense at all. It's a foregone conclusion. I came to Buddhism with a basic belief in rebirth/reincarnation already. Bringing that "belief" to the path wasn't any sort of problem for me. However, we shouldn't be so naive as to think it will be that way for everyone.

For many in the West, beliefs in things like rebirth are very difficult to work with. Because it involves belief, I don't think being pushy about rebirth with such people is particularly skillfull. Better to focus the student on more important matters, such as practice and study and leave beliefs to sort themselves out naturally. Even if they don't, so what? It should not be allowed to discourage a practitioner. If a student has no capacity for such belief, there's nothing that can be done about it. Noone has ever achieved enlightenment by virtue of their beliefs. Enlightenment is achieved through practice. Belief is not practice - it and practice are two different things. So, in my way of thinking on this, a belief in rebirth, karma or any other difficult subject should be way down the list of what's important. As the student grows in the Dharma and practice, beliefs will change as you so correctly point out. Through practice the student's confidence in the Dharma grows and beliefs will change accordingly. A wise teacher realizes this and teaches accordingly.
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Adamantine » Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:33 am

Chaz wrote:Thanks!!! This stage of my Path is getting a bit exciting. I should be getting the lung and texts for practice in the next couple weeks. Then it begins. I've been looking forward to this for a few years now and it's very cool seeing all finally come together.


:twothumbsup:

I think you may misunderstand me in regards to my "belief" in rebirth. For me, personally, Buddhism without rebirth doesn't make any sense at all. It's a foregone conclusion. I came to Buddhism with a basic belief in rebirth/reincarnation already. Bringing that "belief" to the path wasn't any sort of problem for me. However, we shouldn't be so naive as to think it will be that way for everyone.


Yeah I wouldn't think it would be that way for everyone, but I do think there were plenty of nihilistic schools of thought at the time of Shayamuni and other great lineage masters of Dharma since him-- and they didn't cave into catering the presentation of the teachings to fit into the limitations of these other views. Of course, one can skillfully decide to focus on direct experiential things such as mindfulness or shamatha meditation-- working with the mind directly as a skillful method when students include those who may have many preconceived judgments about something like rebirth. However, presenting the teachings and explicitly declaring that you can have a Buddhism without transmigration-- or even that it is unimportant or unnecessary-- I do think this is problematic.

For many in the West, beliefs in things like rebirth are very difficult to work with. Because it involves belief, I don't think being pushy about rebirth with such people is particularly skillfull. [snip] Enlightenment is achieved through practice. Belief is not practice - it and practice are two different things.


Just because it may be challenging to our habitual view-- how we were brought up-- either with a predominance of Eternalism (theistic religion such as Christianity) or Nihilism (scientific materialism) this should not prevent teachers of Dharma from presenting the teachings of transmigration. Buddhism is the middle way, beyond the extremes of Eternalism and Nihilism. One can certainly inch one's students away from the edge of these extremes.. but karma does not really function without transmigration, and without karma there is no accumulation of merit, which is what a huge part of our practice is devoted to. It is a delicate thing to understand -- but I highly recommend Thinley Norbu Rinpoche's writings on the subject. Definitely read his epic Cascading Waterfall of Nectar, a commentary on Ngondro. But before that, I'd recommend reading Magic Dance, and then White Sail. Wisdom comes not just from practicing alone, but from being steadily guided towards the correct View by one's teacher.


Through practice the student's confidence in the Dharma grows and beliefs will change accordingly. A wise teacher realizes this and teaches accordingly.


Through practice, and study, and contemplation. One needs to be an empty vessel, without holes in it, they say, to be able to listen to a Dharma teaching and it to penetrate in any way. If the students in question are coming to a teaching as full vessels-- their beliefs are already established-- then they will not get anything out of the teachings anyway. This is why beginning students are often instructed with this metaphor as one of the first teachings.
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Chaz » Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:19 am

Adamantine wrote:
Through practice the student's confidence in the Dharma grows and beliefs will change accordingly. A wise teacher realizes this and teaches accordingly.


Through practice, and study, and contemplation. One needs to be an empty vessel, without holes in it, they say, to be able to listen to a Dharma teaching and it to penetrate in any way. If the students in question are coming to a teaching as full vessels-- their beliefs are already established-- then they will not get anything out of the teachings anyway. This is why beginning students are often instructed with this metaphor as one of the first teachings.



I love that. The image of the "empty vessel" is so potent.

My teacher says the Dharma is like pure water. It can be poured into any vessel, will assume that shape but remain what it is; essentially unchanged. It follows that the nothing can be added if the vessel is full.

This is so true with people, study and practice.

It suddenly occurs to me that the trick, if there is one, is to remain empty?

A different way of looking at it would be the idea of "genuine devotion". This has followed me around for years. I first encountered the term in the Kagyu Mahamudra Lineage Supplication:

Devotion is the head of meditation as is taught.
The guru opens the gate to the treasury of oral instructions.
To this meditator who continually supplicates him,
Grant your blessing that genuine devotion is born in me.


Some years later when I joined my current Sangha, I recieved a book of recommend teaching from teachers important in our lineage. One was a poem by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche entitled "Profound Essential Points": One verse reads:

If one does not see [the dharmakaya guru],
Open the eye of genuine devotion with the golden spoon of oral instruction and look
[You will see that] the guru and oneself are beyond meeting and parting.


Genuine Devotion again. It occured to me that this was important, but I wasn't entirely sure what "genuine devotion" was or meant. I figured it didn't mean being some kind of obsequeous parasite, but what it did mean escaped me.

Shortly after that I had an interview with Ponlop Rinpoche. He was a student of DKR, so I asked Rinpoche what His Holiness meant by that. He answered, "An Open Heart".

Since then "genuine devotion" has appeared in my study repeatedly and especially recently.

I think that Genuine Devotion/Open Heart/Empty Vessel are all the same thing. I'm really glad you brought that up. I think it will be very helpful over the next couple years.
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Adamantine » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:13 am

Chaz wrote:
Adamantine wrote:
Through practice the student's confidence in the Dharma grows and beliefs will change accordingly. A wise teacher realizes this and teaches accordingly.


Through practice, and study, and contemplation. One needs to be an empty vessel, without holes in it, they say, to be able to listen to a Dharma teaching and it to penetrate in any way. If the students in question are coming to a teaching as full vessels-- their beliefs are already established-- then they will not get anything out of the teachings anyway. This is why beginning students are often instructed with this metaphor as one of the first teachings.



I love that. The image of the "empty vessel" is so potent.

My teacher says the Dharma is like pure water. It can be poured into any vessel, will assume that shape but remain what it is; essentially unchanged. It follows that the nothing can be added if the vessel is full.

This is so true with people, study and practice.

It suddenly occurs to me that the trick, if there is one, is to remain empty?

A different way of looking at it would be the idea of "genuine devotion". This has followed me around for years. I first encountered the term in the Kagyu Mahamudra Lineage Supplication:

Devotion is the head of meditation as is taught.
The guru opens the gate to the treasury of oral instructions.
To this meditator who continually supplicates him,
Grant your blessing that genuine devotion is born in me.


Some years later when I joined my current Sangha, I recieved a book of recommend teaching from teachers important in our lineage. One was a poem by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche entitled "Profound Essential Points": One verse reads:

If one does not see [the dharmakaya guru],
Open the eye of genuine devotion with the golden spoon of oral instruction and look
[You will see that] the guru and oneself are beyond meeting and parting.


Genuine Devotion again. It occured to me that this was important, but I wasn't entirely sure what "genuine devotion" was or meant. I figured it didn't mean being some kind of obsequeous parasite, but what it did mean escaped me.

Shortly after that I had an interview with Ponlop Rinpoche. He was a student of DKR, so I asked Rinpoche what His Holiness meant by that. He answered, "An Open Heart".

Since then "genuine devotion" has appeared in my study repeatedly and especially recently.

I think that Genuine Devotion/Open Heart/Empty Vessel are all the same thing. I'm really glad you brought that up. I think it will be very helpful over the next couple years.


:namaste: :good:

Yes! It really is so soo important, especially in the lineages of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. That's what these wild stories of Guru devotion between Naropa and Tilopa, or Milarepa and Marpa are all pointing us towards.
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Jikan » Wed May 04, 2011 4:21 pm

I'm bumping this thread because I think it moves the "agnostic" angle at Batchelor into a productive direction: to the matter of how one can be a good student of Dharma.
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby adinatha » Fri May 06, 2011 10:28 pm

In the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha, recorded in the Pariyanavagga, the Buddha explicitly mentions his practice of not having *any* views. A view of a deity and a view of no deity are two views that the Buddha does not have. So buddhism is non-theistic in the sense that there is no view of a creator god. It is not non-theistic in the sense that it doesn't assert the non-existence of deities. Buddhism does not assert deities arising naturally from elements. Buddhism realizes the total illusion and misperception of existence.
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Kyosan » Fri May 06, 2011 11:06 pm

adinatha wrote:In the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha, recorded in the Pariyanavagga, the Buddha explicitly mentions his practice of not having *any* views. A view of a deity and a view of no deity are two views that the Buddha does not have. So buddhism is non-theistic in the sense that there is no view of a creator god. It is not non-theistic in the sense that it doesn't assert the non-existence of deities. Buddhism does not assert deities arising naturally from elements. Buddhism realizes the total illusion and misperception of existence.

Buddhism will still be Buddhism whether deities exist or not.
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby adinatha » Fri May 06, 2011 11:18 pm

Kyosan wrote:
adinatha wrote:In the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha, recorded in the Pariyanavagga, the Buddha explicitly mentions his practice of not having *any* views. A view of a deity and a view of no deity are two views that the Buddha does not have. So buddhism is non-theistic in the sense that there is no view of a creator god. It is not non-theistic in the sense that it doesn't assert the non-existence of deities. Buddhism does not assert deities arising naturally from elements. Buddhism realizes the total illusion and misperception of existence.

Buddhism will still be Buddhism whether deities exist or not.


You've summed up what I was trying to say beautifully.
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Luke » Fri May 06, 2011 11:58 pm

Well, some people just aren't ready for serious Dharma yet, and we must have patience and compassion for them. Getting angry at them doesn't solve anything. Adversaries teach us about ourselves.
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Re: "Free Belief Buddhism"

Postby Tara » Sat May 07, 2011 2:24 am

Topic temporarily locked.

Topic reopened. Some posts have been deleted.

POLITE REMINDER

Please refrain from making ad homs in posts. All members are requested to refer to the ToS which everyone agreed to abide by when signing up to become a member of Dharma Wheel. viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3591

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