From Theravada to Tibetan

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun Aug 30, 2009 8:00 am

Hi Sherubtse,

First off, I apologize that it took a week for you to get a response to your post. I really had my hands full with offline issues this week and was not able to check in as much. As for the book you read, it sounds like a pretty unfortunate presentation of Vajrayana. Do you mind if I ask what book it is?

As for Mahayanas looking down on Theravadans, I honestly believe that this is an issue that varies according to the person. Speaking for myself, as a practitioner of Vajrayana, I have deep respect and reverence for the Teaching of the Elders. It is true, that long ago there was a schism in the Sangha and the Mahayanists began to emphasize bodhicitta as an essential element on the path to enlightenment. But my personal experience has been that I've found about an equal amount of prejudices on both sides of this. Some practitioners of Theravada don't have a very high opinion of the Mahayana traditions, and many some Mahayanists feel full of themselves or their traditions. Personally, I distance myself from people from any tradition who take up that sort of attitude.

So it is a shame that the author of the book you read presented Vajrayana ideas in such a light. It is true that within the context of receiving teachings from a guru, a student will be assured that s/he is on the swift path because it is the method path. But this would be in the context of receiving the Vajrayana teachings, and often meant to motivate students. Again, mileage may vary according to the teaching, the teacher, and the student.

As for guru worship, eek! As I mentioned, the Vajrayana is a method path. So we don't worship the guru. Rather, we do something called "Guru yoga" in which the guru/student relationship is used as a means to accomplish the goal. In the same way that Gotama Buddha is venerated, so is the guru in Vajrayana. But the word "worship" is definitely creepy! The guru in Vajrayana isn't worshiped any more than a rupa of the Buddha is worshiped by a Theravadan. The guru/student relationship is very important and it's impossible to practice vajrayana without a guru. But please understand that if it is a situation in which a person is being worshiped or a deity is being worshiped or anything like that, something has gone wrong.

This is why there is often great care taken to make sure that a student has a basic understanding of sunyata before taking on the actual tantric practices. Alexander Berzin wrote a lot about the guru/student relationship so you might want to give that a look.

In any case, I'm sorry to hear that you came in contact with a possibly poorly presented body of information like that. Should you take up an interest again in Tibetan Buddhism, I hope we can be of help to you in navigating the boatloads of information that's out there. And I hope that you find much joy and satisfaction in your current practice. Metta going out to you :)

Best wishes,
Drolma

sherubtse wrote:I am re-considering my exploration of Vajrayana, as I have read a an introductory book on the topic, which stressed some aspects that I don't at all like, viz.

1. The fact that Mahayanists really look down upon us Theravadans as inferior, and view our practice of Buddhism as an inferior way (with Mahayana, of course, being far superior).

2. The presence of guru worship / utter devotion to one's teacher, which seems to really allow for (encourages?) mis-use and abuse of this relationship.

Please forgive me if you have heard these things before. But for me, they come as a shock, and are really a "turn-off". :crying:

Best wishes,
Sherubtse
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun Aug 30, 2009 10:16 pm

Hi sherubtse,

One more thing that I really should have mentioned. I would definitely recommend visiting a dharma center in person before making any final decisions. Books can only take us so far, and authors have their opinions and views. There are plenty of authors who write about Tibetan Buddhism and Mahayana that I don't agree with.

But visiting a dharma center would give you a much better feel for what Tibetan Buddhism is like, and how the people are. And the teachers. Then you can form an opinion based on your own experience. Tibetan Buddhism is gaining a lot of popularity in the U.S. so I'm sure there's a center near you, and if you need any help finding a center I'm sure we can help you here. If you go and you don't like it, I have a feeling that it will be clear right away.

But I don't mean to push, and as I said, I have so much respect for people on the path of Theravada. I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to be a Theravadan practitioner but I knew right away when I found Buddhism that Vajrayana was going to be for me. And Theravada is your niche, kudos to you! Hopefully, even if you choose to stay just where you are, you'll visit Dharma Wheel so we can learn more about the Theravadan path.

Kind wishes,
Drolma
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby sherubtse » Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:35 pm

Many thanks indeed for your feedback, Ngawang Drolma.

The book that I read recently on Tibetan Budhism is called _Way of Tibetan Buddhism_ by Lama Jampa Thaye. As mentioned, it said some things that raised my ire. Perhaps you and the other members of this forum could suggest some excellent introductory books on the topic.

Yes, I agree that it is best to visit a dharma centre / temple and learn from them. I have been to a Kagyu temple here, and found it to be quite nice. The lama spoke very good English, and was quite lucid in his teachings. I found them to be of real benefit in helping me understand Mahayna & Vajrayana better. Having said that, the other members of the group ignored me. (As a former minister, I can honestly say that many Buddhist temples have **much** to learn from Christianity about making people feel welcome!)

There is something about Mahayana, esp. the Tibetan form, that is starting to really appeal to me. Although I am a dyed-in-the-wool Theravadan (and always will be), I am increasingly of the opinion that Mahayana has much to teach me. This is especially the case in ethics -- the Mahayanists seem to be much better in delineating the methods of how to live on a day-to-day basis.

I read Shantideva several weeks ago, and was quite impressed by what he has to say on just this topic. Are there any good commentaries on his work?

Although there is much in the Tibetan tradition that I dislike, I would nevertheless like to explore that tradition in order to learn more about their methods / strategies for dealing with life's problems.

Any help that you and the others could provide would be much appreciated!

Best wishes,
Sherubtse
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:14 am

Hi sherubtse,

How nice to hear that you still have an interest :) You sound like an open-minded person. That's a nice quality.

I'm not familiar with that book and I'm not very familiar with that Lama either. I took a quick look at his biography, and his teachers are very good. One of them is His Holiness Sakya Trinzin, the head of the Sakya school. So it's disappointing to see that his writings didn't reach you in a meaningful way. Or maybe it was meaningful but not very positive! Sometimes Tibetan Buddhism is very much like this. Some teachers will really reach you and others may not. We all have a unique experience in that way. I understand when you say you feel drawn. I felt like that too, very much. And I'm not exactly sure why, I just knew that there was something there that was very important for me.

That's great that you enjoyed Shantideva! I've found his writings to be really inspiring too. I would suggest any book written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama while you're starting this new journey. His style is awesome. He's very down-to-earth in the way he explains things, even really complex concepts. And his books usually put things into everyday sort of language so you can look around your world and see the truth in what he has to say. His teachings are very practical and approachable, but also very specific to Buddhist concepts. So that's a starting place for reading. You mentioned being interested in ethics, do you think you'd like to start there with the books?

That's really good that you found a Kagyu center! But sheesh, sorry to hear that the folks weren't very friendly there. Or rude, even. I would definitely encourage you to keep exploring if there are other groups in your area, so you can find a center where you feel comfortable. I used to meet with a Drikung Kagyu group and Gar Rinpoche was their main teacher. It was a very good experience and I liked Kagyu a lot. But there may be more in your area that you can check out.

If you're comfortable saying where you live (city/state) if you're in the U.S., maybe I could help you with that? And I can try to get more specific with the book suggestion too. I found it interesting what you said about Mahayana and ethics. I hadn't given it much thought until I read that remark, but I think I've made many changes in my approach to people and life since I've become a Buddhist in the Vajrayana tradition. Sakya, specifically. The transformations came around in subtle ways, which is probably why I hadn't considered it. But for me, it is definitely true, what you said about ethics. I was a decent person before, but there are some very profound, genuine changes for the better :)

Please keep us posted!

Best wishes,
Drolma

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Blue Garuda » Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:50 pm

Lama Jampa Thaye is a respected Sakyapa Lama, as far as I know:
http://www.dechen.org/teachers/index.html

His book: 'Rain of Clarity' may be a better read.

I found that something about the Dechen orgainisation did not appeal to me when I looked into this group for myself. The local teacher was a little strange, I found.

Shantideva is wonderful. Mahayana followere are sometimes accused of being less diligent becuase they think they have many lives ahead of them so why rush to make spiritual progress. This is a nonsense, well phrased by Shantideva: 'This is no time for sleep, you fool! ' He does not pull his punches.

I have also found the works of Je Tsongkhapa to be useful, and have yet to find them better explained and elaborated upon than in 'Joyful Path of Good Fortune' by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. He has just retired as head of the New Kadampa Tradition, and whilst some find the organisation is not to their liking, this book is widely praised.

There is a good translation of 'The Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life' by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, with an excellent commentary in another book of his, 'Meaningful to Behold'.

It may well be that the ideas you did not like in Lama Jampa's book may be pretty mainstream within the Vajrayana, so it may be worth asking about them to see if there are aspects of Vajrayana you may wish to avoid, which may also help choose suitable teachers and practices. ;)
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Sep 04, 2009 9:12 pm

Hi all,

I just want to write a quick blurb here. Because Sherubtse is exploring TB for the first time, I need to mention that there's some controversy surrounding Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

This has been addressed at so many websites at such length (for years), I strongly hope we don't delve into it here. But it's only right to mention. The TOS we have regarding the controversy and discussion of it is are pretty loose, so we can just use our common sense here as we discuss and continue to offer advise to Sherubtse.

Like I said, most importantly, there's tons and tons of info about it out there and hopefully we won't get into the details too much here :)

Thanks and best wishes to all,
Drolma

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Dazzle » Fri Sep 04, 2009 9:40 pm

sherubtse wrote:
I read Shantideva several weeks ago, and was quite impressed by what he has to say on just this topic. Are there any good commentaries on his work?



There's this online commentary which might be helpful, Sherubtse.

http://www.thubtenchodron.org/Commentar ... _life.html


There's also a sale price commentary from a good source here:

http://www.namsebangdzo.com/Way_of_Awak ... /13777.htm

Kind regards,

Dazzle
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:50 pm

Those look like goo commentaries. Thanks Dazzle!

Best,
Drolma

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:55 pm

upasaka wrote:Lama Jampa Thaye is a respected Sakyapa Lama, as far as I know:
http://www.dechen.org/teachers/index.html

His book: 'Rain of Clarity' may be a better read.

I found that something about the Dechen orgainisation did not appeal to me when I looked into this group for myself. The local teacher was a little strange, I found.

Shantideva is wonderful. Mahayana followere are sometimes accused of being less diligent becuase they think they have many lives ahead of them so why rush to make spiritual progress. This is a nonsense, well phrased by Shantideva: 'This is no time for sleep, you fool! ' He does not pull his punches.

It may well be that the ideas you did not like in Lama Jampa's book may be pretty mainstream within the Vajrayana, so it may be worth asking about them to see if there are aspects of Vajrayana you may wish to avoid, which may also help choose suitable teachers and practices. ;)


Hi Upasaka,

Its kind of embarrassing that I'm unfamiliar Lama Jampa Thaye (because I'm a Sakyapa). Thanks for filling in the blanks. Especially as far as identifying that his works are very mainstream. Given who his teachers are, that's what I would expect. So using his writings as a tool for for identifying the aspects of Vajrayana with which Sherubtse isn't comfortable right now sounds like a very good idea.

It is so true that Shantideva didn't pull any punches. Some people I've talked to said that when reading, they felt kind of intimidated by his words, like he couldn't possibly do as Shantideva suggested. But I felt all fired up after reading "The Way of the Bodhisattva." It was so inspiring to me!

Best,
Drolma

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Sep 05, 2009 7:06 am

Ngawang Drolma wrote:
upasaka wrote:Lama Jampa Thaye is a respected Sakyapa Lama, as far as I know:
http://www.dechen.org/teachers/index.html

His book: 'Rain of Clarity' may be a better read.

I found that something about the Dechen orgainisation did not appeal to me when I looked into this group for myself. The local teacher was a little strange, I found.

Shantideva is wonderful. Mahayana followere are sometimes accused of being less diligent becuase they think they have many lives ahead of them so why rush to make spiritual progress. This is a nonsense, well phrased by Shantideva: 'This is no time for sleep, you fool! ' He does not pull his punches.

It may well be that the ideas you did not like in Lama Jampa's book may be pretty mainstream within the Vajrayana, so it may be worth asking about them to see if there are aspects of Vajrayana you may wish to avoid, which may also help choose suitable teachers and practices. ;)


Hi Upasaka,

Its kind of embarrassing that I'm unfamiliar Lama Jampa Thaye (because I'm a Sakyapa). Thanks for filling in the blanks. Especially as far as identifying that his works are very mainstream. Given who his teachers are, that's what I would expect. So using his writings as a tool for for identifying the aspects of Vajrayana with which Sherubtse isn't comfortable right now sounds like a very good idea.

It is so true that Shantideva didn't pull any punches. Some people I've talked to said that when reading, they felt kind of intimidated by his words, like he couldn't possibly do as Shantideva suggested. But I felt all fired up after reading "The Way of the Bodhisattva." It was so inspiring to me!

Best,
Drolma

:namaste:


In terms of the books I recommended by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, there is no element of 'controversy' around them. To quote Wiki:
''Three of his published works contained forewords by previous Ganden Tripas and the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama contributed a foreword to Buddhism in the Tibetan Tradition, while Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche (who each held the position of Ganden Tripa) also provided forewords for his books Meaningful to Behold (which was dedicated to the long life of the Dalai Lama) and Clear Light of Bliss (which was dedicated to the late Trijang Rinpoche), respectively. ''

Any later controversy and schism involving HHDL was based around Tantra and Dharma Protectors, and is pretty irrelevant to a new student of TB. The NKT had TB (Gelug) as a foundation, its founder sharing the same root gurus as HHDL, but is free from connections to any TB school under the Dalai Lama. There is scandal around many Buddhist teachers, including Tibetans - I could make a list! To single out one group is unfair. ;)

Without Refuge, Renunciation and Compassion the Vajrayana is a waste of time. Whether Theravadan or a Vajrayana practitioner, we must first develop these qualities.

The Theravada is a good basis for such things, and I don't think there is much to choose in terms of teaching moral discipline. I'm not at all sure how the Vajrayana may be seen as presenting such things better, as its foundation relies on the same Dharma , but I have found it to be a good path to follow, and one which offers a logical path through Lam Rim and Lojong.

History will show most Buddhist groups have episodes of behaviour we may find distasteful and, as Buddhism spreads in the West, there will I am sure be more discomfort as the Dharma is presented to new cultures.

There is much misinterpretation of the 'worship' of gurus and Buddhas in Vajrayana, and it is important to begin from a stable foundation. The only Refuge which matters is that of the 3 Jewels, whatever skillful means we may use to convey it.

I've not heard of many who have taken the opposite path to the OP, from TB to Theravada, but my guess is that the cause would be either finding the teachings impenetrable, or the politics unbearable. ;)
Last edited by Blue Garuda on Sat Sep 05, 2009 9:07 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby muni » Sat Sep 05, 2009 7:51 am

Goodmorning dear people,
It is up to us to solidify lables and see differences. In that way no dependent origination, but things apart.

Or this life is just one life preceding many lives. We should not sacrifice so many lives due to illusionary well-being of the present time. This is only a thought.
Buy or not buy, feel free.

I mean whether we focus on differences and let our thoughts run in reaction on all what people say; it is all running and passing movie. Seen in that way the offered path in our life can florish. That is so joyful.
Equanimity is beyond all conceptual diversity in own mind.
With respect warmth to Theravada friends and all. _/\_
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sat Sep 05, 2009 11:01 am

upasaka wrote:In terms of the books I recommended by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, there is no element of 'controversy' around them. To quote Wiki:
''Three of his published works contained forewords by previous Ganden Tripas and the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama contributed a foreword to Buddhism in the Tibetan Tradition, while Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche (who each held the position of Ganden Tripa) also provided forewords for his books Meaningful to Behold (which was dedicated to the long life of the Dalai Lama) and Clear Light of Bliss (which was dedicated to the late Trijang Rinpoche), respectively. ''


Good to hear it :) Yes, I know there are books with forwards from HHDL in them.

Any later controversy and schism involving HHDL was based around Tantra and Dharma Protectors, and is pretty irrelevant to a new student of TB. The NKT had TB (Gelug) as a foundation, its founder sharing the same root gurus as HHDL, but is free from connections to any TB school under the Dalai Lama. There is scandal around many Buddhist teachers, including Tibetans - I could make a list! To single out one group is unfair. ;)


It is true that there are a lot of scandals. In fact we had a member recently who was wanting to talk about that a lot. Honestly though, I don't think I'm being unfair. I'm not censoring anything, and I would say the same about any controversial stuff. It's only fair to provide information to newcomers, and people can investigate if they wish. I think I'm a pretty fair-minded person in general. At least, that's the feedback I've often received, that I'm fair-minded. :)

But gosh, I have so little energy for any extended discussion of controversial stuff. It's sort of tiring and one of our recent members burned me out on it a lot. Scandals happen across the board, in all traditions, and yet TB catches a lot of slack about it. When there's so much more to focus on which is positive and good.

Without Refuge, Renunciation and Compassion the Vajrayana is a waste of time. Whether Theravadan or a Vajrayana practitioner, we must first develop these qualities.


I totally agree. And don't forget bodhicitta! ;)

he Theravada is a good basis for such things, and I don't think there is much to choose in terms of teaching moral discipline. I'm not at all sure how the Vajrayana may be seen as presenting such things better, as its foundation relies on the same Dharma , but I have found it to be a good path to follow, and one which offers a logical path through Lam Rim and Lojong.


It would be very difficult for me to compare too. But I suspect that sherubtse may be making reference to Bodhicitta and the Bodhisattva ideal.

History will show most Buddhist groups have episodes of behaviour we may find distasteful and, as Buddhism spreads in the West, there will I am sure be more discomfort as the Dharma is presented to new cultures.


Oh yes! It is true, but I like to focus on the more positive aspects. And I think I'm very fortunate, that my experiences has been really positive and free of discomfort.

There is much misinterpretation of the 'worship' of gurus and Buddhas in Vajrayana, and it is important to begin from a stable foundation. The only Refuge which matters is that of the 3 Jewels, whatever skillful means we may use to convey it.


You nailed it! Guru yoga is so often misunderstood. If guru worship or deity worship is taking place I think something has gone wrong. All of these methods have shunyata as a proper context.

I've not heard of many who have taken the opposite path to the OP, from TB to Theravada, but my guess is that the cause would be either finding the teachings impenetrable, or the politics unbearable. ;)


How true. I could imagine reasons why I might not consider making the switch if I was a Theravada student. But like I mentioned earlier in the thread, there was such a strong draw for me. For you too, I'd bet. I pursued the Vajrayana path with so mush vigor. Personally, I've found all of the methods I've learned in Vajrayana to be really useful. And the sadhanas are so precise and specific, they're so useful.

Okay, off for now before I fall asleep sitting. I hope my exhausted ramble made some sense.

Best,
Drolma

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby sherubtse » Sun Sep 06, 2009 12:25 pm

Thank you all very much for all of the help that you have given to me. (Ngawang Drolma has been especially helpful with her posts.) :thanks:

I will update you as time goes on regarding my progress (or lack thereof) in learning about Tibetan Buddhism.

With metta,
Sherubtse
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:28 pm

muni wrote:Goodmorning dear people,
It is up to us to solidify lables and see differences. In that way no dependent origination, but things apart.

Or this life is just one life preceding many lives. We should not sacrifice so many lives due to illusionary well-being of the present time. This is only a thought.
Buy or not buy, feel free.

I mean whether we focus on differences and let our thoughts run in reaction on all what people say; it is all running and passing movie. Seen in that way the offered path in our life can florish. That is so joyful.
Equanimity is beyond all conceptual diversity in own mind.
With respect warmth to Theravada friends and all. _/\_


:thumbsup:
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:29 pm

sherubtse wrote:Thank you all very much for all of the help that you have given to me. (Ngawang Drolma has been especially helpful with her posts.) :thanks:

I will update you as time goes on regarding my progress (or lack thereof) in learning about Tibetan Buddhism.

With metta,
Sherubtse


Wonderful, I hope you'll keep us posted :)

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:49 pm

This seems like the right place to post but apologies if not. My practice is almost entirely Theravada in terms of praxis and aspiration but I have practiced with and drawn much inspiration from the Vajrayana schools in the past. A lama here in NYC who is a member of the Sakya lineage and with whom I have had an interview is offering the refuges and since I have never formally taken them I have asked to receive them. I guess what I'm asking is if such a thing is unheard of or (possibly even) frowned upon. I don't expect that the ceremony will include taking refuge in devas, dhammapalas or anyone other than the Tisarana so I can't see much possibility for conflict. I would just appreciate any thoughts or observations from anyone. Metta.

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Chaz » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:45 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:This seems like the right place to post but apologies if not. My practice is almost entirely Theravada in terms of praxis and aspiration but I have practiced with and drawn much inspiration from the Vajrayana schools in the past. A lama here in NYC who is a member of the Sakya lineage and with whom I have had an interview is offering the refuges and since I have never formally taken them I have asked to receive them. I guess what I'm asking is if such a thing is unheard of or (possibly even) frowned upon. I don't expect that the ceremony will include taking refuge in devas, dhammapalas or anyone other than the Tisarana so I can't see much possibility for conflict. I would just appreciate any thoughts or observations from anyone. Metta.

Mike :anjali:



I can't speak to Refuge in the Sakya, being a Kagyupa myself, but I'm reasonably sure Refuge Vows will be in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Mine were. I don't think there is any inherent conflict in taking vows in the setting you describe. If you have issues with additional refuges, you should take that up with the person who will be the Preceptor for the vows ceremony.

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:58 pm

Chaz,

Thanks for the reply. Yes, I certainly need to clarify a few things before I proceed. Be well.

Metta :anjali: ,

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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Oct 30, 2009 4:37 am

Hi Mike,

I'm a Sakyapa, and unless this teacher is drastically different from mine, you'll be taking refuge in the triple gem. Congrats on that :thumbsup:

Best,
Drolma
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Re: From Theravada to Tibetan

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:39 pm

Drolma,

Thanks for the reassurance. Be well!

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