The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

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The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby David Chapman » Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:37 am

This is in reply to a thread about Aro from a couple of days ago. It closed before I saw it.

I write a site called "Approaching Aro" that may answer most questions. There's a "Controversy FAQ" there that might be particularly useful.

Here I'll answer some of the questions that arose in the closed thread, and pose a few new ones.

What does ngak'chang mean?


It means "master of mantra". It's a common Tibetan term, spelled sngags 'chang. You can find it in the Rangjung Yeshe Dictionary online, or probably any other Tibetan dictionary.

re: Aro in general: its fun to play dress-up!


Ordained Aro tantrikas wear traditional ngakpa robes. Those are not unique to Aro. They are an aspect of the non-monastic system called gos dkar lcang lo (pronounced gö-kar-chang-lo), which is most common in the Nyingma but actually found in all four Schools. You can find this in the Rangjung Yeshe online dictionary too. "Gos dkar" means "white robe" and "lcang lo" means "long hair".

Lots of non-Aro folks who dress that way, notably the ngakpa community in Repkong, Amdo. It was not well-known in the West until recently, but there are now many people, both Tibetans and white folks, teaching on it. One particular proponent is Dr Nida Chenagtsang (an ethnic Tibetan, from Repkong) of the Ngakmang Institute. You can see a picture on his page at:

http://shrifreedom.org/Tibetan%20Medici ... gtsang.htm

which shows a group of Tibetans in attire identical to that Aro wears.

Most Aro practitioners do not consider gos dkar lcang lo "fun". It's a pain in the posterior. It has an important religious function in non-monastic tantra lineages, however.

they dress up like that to do the exact opposite of what non-tantra lineages do.


This is pretty much correct...

Instead of dark robes they wear white which symbolizes death...


This is not correct. The white was originally natural, undyed cotton, which symbolizes the unaltered Natural State, i.e. Dzogchen. (Nothing to do with death! Usually white in Tantra symbolizes bodhicitta. Offhand, I can't recall its ever being symbolically associated with death, although obviously bones are white.) Nowadays the cotton is bleached, which makes hash of the symbolism but maybe looks nicer.

wear ridiculous hats, non-celibate, act vulgar... crazy wisdom type stuff


"Ridiculous" is a matter of perception, but I agree with you about that! However, the hats are again traditional within the Nyingma, and not specific to Aro (except in small details).

Like most ngakpas, most Aro practitioners are non-celibate. (Is there a problem with that?)

Vulgarity is strongly discouraged by the Aro Lamas. (We may fail to live up to that recommendation sometimes.)

None of us, including the Lamas, attempt "crazy wisdom". "Eccentric decency" is what we aspire to.

They're a bunch of fakes and this is widely known.


What does "fake" mean? There's a couple hundred of us, and we are real people. Fake what? In what way? How do you know?

And, who knows this? (As far as I can tell, this "knowledge" is confined to a handful of forum posters, formerly of e-Sangha, now here.)

Best wishes! I'm happy to answer any questions about Aro, as best I can.

David
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby asunthatneversets » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:12 am

David Chapman wrote:
Instead of dark robes they wear white which symbolizes death...


This is not correct. The white was originally natural, undyed cotton, which symbolizes the unaltered Natural State, i.e. Dzogchen. (Nothing to do with death! Usually white in Tantra symbolizes bodhicitta. Offhand, I can't recall its ever being symbolically associated with death, although obviously bones are white.) Nowadays the cotton is bleached, which makes hash of the symbolism but maybe looks nicer.

wear ridiculous hats, non-celibate, act vulgar... crazy wisdom type stuff


"Ridiculous" is a matter of perception, but I agree with you about that! However, the hats are again traditional within the Nyingma, and not specific to Aro (except in small details).

Like most ngakpas, most Aro practitioners are non-celibate. (Is there a problem with that?)

Vulgarity is strongly discouraged by the Aro Lamas. (We may fail to live up to that recommendation sometimes.)

None of us, including the Lamas, attempt "crazy wisdom". "Eccentric decency" is what we aspire to.


Best wishes! I'm happy to answer any questions about Aro, as best I can.

David


I was just told the white symbolized death from a friend, (who's root teacher is Ngakpa Chogyam) he may have just said that because traditionally in Indian culture i know they wrap their dead in white linen, maybe he was confusing the cultures customs?

"Ridiculous" is certainly a matter of perception! I only used that term to convey the severity in the contrast between the elements of their clothing compared to the non-tantric schools. I can't say i truly believe they're ridiculous... might be outlandish compared to little billy walking down the street with a SF Giants hat but again that's a matter of perception!

Is there a problem with being non-celibate? Maybe, if there was some type of virus which annihilated the population of the earth and the only three people left was myself, an Aro Lama and a pretty lady. And the cure for the virus was to have sex with the pretty lady, and whoever didn't get to her first was going to die... it might be a problem then.

A little vulgarity here and there doesn't hurt... everything in moderation.

Eccentric decency works for me!
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:27 am

:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:
. . . there they saw a rock! But it wasn't a rock . . .
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby heart » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:26 am

David Chapman wrote:
They're a bunch of fakes and this is widely known.


What does "fake" mean? There's a couple hundred of us, and we are real people. Fake what? In what way? How do you know?


Hi David,

I think the word fake here point to the fact that there have not been found a single evidence, in the form of Tibetan texts or Tibetan Lamas recollection, that Khyungchen Aro Lingma or her practices ever existed. Considering that she is said to have died 1923 this is highly suspicious.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Mr. G » Tue Jan 03, 2012 1:20 pm

heart wrote:
David Chapman wrote:
They're a bunch of fakes and this is widely known.


What does "fake" mean? There's a couple hundred of us, and we are real people. Fake what? In what way? How do you know?


Hi David,

I think the word fake here point to the fact that there have not been found a single evidence, in the form of Tibetan texts or Tibetan Lamas recollection, that Khyungchen Aro Lingma or her practices ever existed. Considering that she is said to have died 1923 this is highly suspicious.

/magnus


This^

And, who knows this? (As far as I can tell, this "knowledge" is confined to a handful of forum posters, formerly of e-Sangha, now here.)


Handful? No one has ever heard of Dilgo Khyentse or Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche recognizing Aro Gter outside of what Aro Gter has said. Nor have I heard of any major lineage holder recognizing the Aro Gter teachings as legitimate.

This forum would prefer meaningful discourse as opposed to discord, so please address the points made by members. If we feel this discussion is not heading towards any type of productive direction, we may regretfully have to lock this thread.
    How foolish you are,
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby dakini_boi » Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:37 pm

Mr. G wrote:Nor have I heard of any major lineage holder recognizing the Aro Gter teachings as legitimate.


http://approachingaro.org/support

2 of the lamas mentioned in the link above are still around, and could be consulted.
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Mr. G » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:36 pm

dakini_boi wrote:
Mr. G wrote:Nor have I heard of any major lineage holder recognizing the Aro Gter teachings as legitimate.


http://approachingaro.org/support

2 of the lamas mentioned in the link above are still around, and could be consulted.


Which one is a major lineage holder? Which one has confirmed that the Aro Gter lineage is authentic?
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    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Astus » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:42 pm

Lineage is one thing. But another important thing is proving one's doctrine based on the teachings of canonical scriptures. How is that in Aro gTer's case?
"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: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby David Chapman » Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:51 pm

asunthatneversets, maybe your friend knows something I don't... I've never heard that white=death symbolism, but it could be.

heart/magnus, Ah, yes, I see. I addressed that at http://approachingaro.org/did-aro-lingma-exist . Skepticism about the Aro history is entirely reasonable. However, for me (and other Aro students) the objective accuracy of the history is irrelevant to whether the lineage functions.

In this regard, it's important to realize that according to Western standards of objective history, many to most of the central Indo-Tibetan lineage figures are probably imaginary. There's no historical evidence, in objective Western terms, for the existence of Yeshe Tsogyal for instance; her story has been recovered only as terma, centuries after she died.

Mr. G, you are quite correct, no lineage holder has publicly and explicitly recognized the Aro terma as valid. It's up to individual to make up their minds what system to pursue, and for anyone who finds such official certification comforting, the Aro gTér is a poor choice.

Several important Nyingma Lamas have publicly and explicitly praised and endorsed Ngak'chang Rinpoche as a teacher, without commenting on the validity of the system he teaches. This is well-documented. Again, it's up to individuals to decide how important or relevant that endorsement is for them.
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby David Chapman » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:03 pm

Astus, I am reasonably familiar with Nyingma doctrines, having read well over a hundred books on the subject. That does not make me a serious scholar, but I'm not ignorant or a beginner. I've never found any contradictions between the Aro gTér and other Nyingma Dharma.

There's really nothing "weird" or particularly innovative in the Aro gTér. It's mainstream stuff. Not excitingly odd.

If there are particular Aro teachings you find doubtful, I may be able find passages in canonical texts that support them.

Unless there is sufficient interest, we may not need to go into detail. I'd suggest http://approachingaro.org/mainstream and http://approachingaro.org/duck-test as starting points; they cover the general theme of the mainstreamness of the Aro teachings, and look at a couple of particular cases that might be debatable.
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Astus » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:12 pm

Thanks David, I appreciate your approach to the matter. My question, however, was primarily for those who question the Aro gTer's validity. I am merely a curious bystander waiting for the outcome of this thread.
"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: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby heart » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:23 pm

David Chapman wrote:heart/magnus, Ah, yes, I see. I addressed that at http://approachingaro.org/did-aro-lingma-exist . Skepticism about the Aro history is entirely reasonable. However, for me (and other Aro students) the objective accuracy of the history is irrelevant to whether the lineage functions.

In this regard, it's important to realize that according to Western standards of objective history, many to most of the central Indo-Tibetan lineage figures are probably imaginary. There's no historical evidence, in objective Western terms, for the existence of Yeshe Tsogyal for instance; her story has been recovered only as terma, centuries after she died.


You think Yeshe Tsogyal is invented so then it is ok to invent someone called Aro Lingma , seriously? :smile:

Do you have any proof at all that some called Aro Lingma lived 1886 - 1923? An other terma from a reputable terton will be ok for me, I am a Nyingma and do have confidence in termas and tertons.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby heart » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:29 pm

David Chapman wrote:Astus, I am reasonably familiar with Nyingma doctrines, having read well over a hundred books on the subject. That does not make me a serious scholar, but I'm not ignorant or a beginner. I've never found any contradictions between the Aro gTér and other Nyingma Dharma.


Looking at this page http://approachingaro.org/no-cosmic-justice I seriously doubt you understand much about Nyingma, no matter how many books you read.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Mr. G » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:35 pm

Astus wrote:Thanks David, I appreciate your approach to the matter. My question, however, was primarily for those who question the Aro gTer's validity. I am merely a curious bystander waiting for the outcome of this thread.


Astus wrote:Lineage is one thing. But another important thing is proving one's doctrine based on the teachings of canonical scriptures. How is that in Aro gTer's case


Hi Astus,

As you know, termas were hidden by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal. The issue is if there is a dispute about the origin of the lineage, and the terma has not been authenticated, then one has to question the validity of the terma. If the terma is not valid, it won't liberate the person practicing it.
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Nemo » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:41 pm

I think the question is how is their behavior. Is their conduct virtuous? Compare them to a recognized Tulku like Alyce Zeoli or Seagal(Nyingma's equivalent of the crazy uncle no one talks about) who technically I should support being a student of Penor Rinpoche. The Supreme Head of the Nyingma school recognized these individuals. I have no stones to throw at unconventional Samaya keeping individuals.

I've known other Tulkus as well. Some are amazing. The most amazing practitioners I've ever known actually. Some are constantly afflicted by demons of disease or mental illness. Such is life in the darkening age of Kali Yuga.
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Mr. G » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:43 pm

David Chapman wrote:Mr. G, you are quite correct, no lineage holder has publicly and explicitly recognized the Aro terma as valid. It's up to individual to make up their minds what system to pursue, and for anyone who finds such official certification comforting, the Aro gTér is a poor choice.


Hi David,

I appreciate you taking the time to elaboarate. I understand your point of view.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby ngodrup » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:00 pm

I agree it is entirely reasonable to question the authenticity of any lineage.

I have written elsewhere that in my opinion it also appropriate to entertain
reasonable doubt around certainty that this tradition is inauthentic.

Given that Aro *could* be valid, it would be wrong to denigrate it, its
teachers, or practitioners. Best to leave the matter open ended unless
one has some personal investment.

Finally, maybe this point has been reached.
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Adamantine » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:03 pm

The fact is, as Nemo points towards, is that most tulkus are not necessarily "enlightened", and generally at best bodhisattvas on one of the bhumis...and can still fall from realization. . so just because one had realization up to a point in their previous life or even this life doesn't mean they couldn't or haven't fallen from that. Recognition of a tulku doesn't mean they are automatically qualified, just as a long-life prayer extolling qualities composed 20 years ago may not reflect the current state of the recipient.
We are left to ourselves to analyze potential gurus, and in the case of potential tertons, there is a convention for establishing their authenticity-- generally predictions in previous termas and the approval of lineage holders of already-authenticated termas.

None of this means that the teacher in question is not realized, or that Aro ter is not an authentic revelation. However, skepticism is healthy considering the outcome of following a false terma and an unrealized teacher. What would be more helpful than a student defending these things on questionable grounds such as "it doesn't matter if it is authentic, what is authentic? etc." Is having a single qualified elder lineage-holder of Nyingma tradition endorse the terma and the teacher of it, putting all questions, uncertainty, doubts, and dialogues about odd history and samaya issues to rest.

Until then, there are bound to be an endless number of skeptics. . .
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: The Aro gTér: some answers and questions

Postby Mr. G » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:10 pm

ngodrup wrote:Best to leave the matter open ended unless one has some personal investment.


Hi ngodrup,

However, every Dzogchen practitioner does have a personal investment. Does the potential student "gamble" on an unauthenticated terma, or do they practice termas that have been authenticated and recognized with the history of a lineage behind them. The personal investment is immense since one's liberation is at stake.
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