More Trungpa talk

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More Trungpa talk

Postby Jikan » Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:17 pm

I've been reading and re-reading Chogyam Trungpa's books as part of a research project. I'd read them anyway, though, because they're just so good: incisive, hilarious, probing.

I'm interested also in the way Trungpa is received in recent years: it's easy to find those books very inexpensively used online, so I'm not so sure he's a bestseller anymore in the way HHDL is now, but at the same time he's become a canonical figure of authority that everyone with a line in the spiritual fishingpond wants to take him down. Example: the Ken Wilber people quoting a Zen teacher's comments on Trungpa:

http://integrallife.com/member/kmartins ... lain-crazy

Frankly, if you read The Myth of Freedom, you can find Trungpa anticipating Wilber's project and pulling the plug on it some years before Up From Eden. My point is that there's some incentive for sellers of contemporary spiritual commodities to marginalize Trungpa's critique of their ground. That's how I understand the above column. Even the comment that Trungpa was at least as enlightened as a certain swami (by what standards would such a claim make sense?).

I'd like to know what others think of this aspect of Trungpa's legacy. If no one's reading him, why is it necessary to bury him rhetorically or position him on the margin?
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby Jinzang » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:14 pm

Trungpa Rinpoche was integral to establishing Tibetan Buddhism in North America and founded the largest Tibetan Buddhist organization here. He wrote books that still sell well. His behavior was "colorful," to put it diplomatically. Of course people are going to talk about him and what he meant.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby AdmiralJim » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:25 pm

To be honest I don't really understand the point you are trying to make. Are you trying to say that he is merely being critisized in an attempt to marginalise his teachings, so that those very same writers can big up their own ideas? When it comes to trungpa and his books I find them very useful but at the same time I can't really condone how he behaved as a teacher.
It just reminds me of how people don't really take the advice they are willing to give out and this is just a common way that we as humans behave. It very much reminds me of Sangharakshita's (FWBO) comments about men being willing to open up to intimate friendships with other men, yet he is not willing to face up to his own homosexuality. Similiarly when it comes to Trungpa he talks a lot about materialism yet his students are often unwilling to admit the excesses he was guilty of himself like alcohol and attending very middle upper class parties in his early years - which is the background where he drew a lot of his personal students from.
I am not saying we should dismiss Trungpa but we should be able to ackowledge what really went on and how an admission of this doesn't in anyway relegate him to the sidelines but merely shows him as human and as a human he struggled very greatly against what are all trying to escape through our practice and this should act as a catalyst for our quest.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby justsit » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:26 pm

If a Rinpoche sits in front of a group of students and gives pointing out instructions, some people will "get it" and some won't.
Doesn't matter what method s/he uses, some will, some won't. Those who don't may get it later, or from someone else.

CTR's whole life, warts and all, was pointing out. Some get it, some don't. It's OK.

Just my opinion, of course.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby heart » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:58 pm

AdmiralJim wrote: Similiarly when it comes to Trungpa he talks a lot about materialism yet his students are often unwilling to admit the excesses he was guilty of himself like alcohol and attending very middle upper class parties in his early years - which is the background where he drew a lot of his personal students from.


Actually, he is not speaking of materialism, he is talking about spiritual materialism. You probably didn't read his books, right?

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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby AdmiralJim » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:24 pm

I did read his books, I think this is more to do with my opinion of what he was like as a person rather than what he taught.........if you disagree with that then fair enough.......and all forms of materialism are related.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby Jikan » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:38 pm

AdmiralJim wrote:To be honest I don't really understand the point you are trying to make. Are you trying to say that he is merely being critisized in an attempt to marginalise his teachings, so that those very same writers can big up their own ideas? When it comes to trungpa and his books I find them very useful but at the same time I can't really condone how he behaved as a teacher.
It just reminds me of how people don't really take the advice they are willing to give out and this is just a common way that we as humans behave. It very much reminds me of Sangharakshita's (FWBO) comments about men being willing to open up to intimate friendships with other men, yet he is not willing to face up to his own homosexuality. Similiarly when it comes to Trungpa he talks a lot about materialism yet his students are often unwilling to admit the excesses he was guilty of himself like alcohol and attending very middle upper class parties in his early years - which is the background where he drew a lot of his personal students from.
I am not saying we should dismiss Trungpa but we should be able to ackowledge what really went on and how an admission of this doesn't in anyway relegate him to the sidelines but merely shows him as human and as a human he struggled very greatly against what are all trying to escape through our practice and this should act as a catalyst for our quest.


I'm saying it's significant that contemporary writers of spirituality still find it necessary to put Trungpa in his place. And this is ironic, because Trungpa has a lot to teach them still.

I think "materialism" is probably the most abused concept (or perhaps the least specified) in Buddhist discussions. What do you mean by it?
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby heart » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:33 am

AdmiralJim wrote:I did read his books, I think this is more to do with my opinion of what he was like as a person rather than what he taught.........if you disagree with that then fair enough.......and all forms of materialism are related.


You probably have a limited experience with Tibetan Tulkus then. In Tibet they were a natural part of the aristocracy and so far I have never seen a Tulku be ashamed of living in high style. Poverty and a non-materialistic lifestyle is for monks/nuns and yogis/yoginis in general.

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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby tobes » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:19 am

I'm not really au fait with the fishpond of modern spirituality texts - so I have no idea to the extent that they might or might not be in some kind of dialectic with Trungpa.

But I do agree with your sense that Myth of Freedom has something important to say - a savage critique I suppose - of some of those movements.

It's really a great book; I often struggle to recommend Buddhist writing to non-Buddhists who express an interest, and Myth of Freedom is probably my regular go to text.

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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby Lingpupa » Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:52 am

I'd like to know what others think of this aspect of Trungpa's legacy. If no one's reading him, why is it necessary to bury him rhetorically or position him on the margin?


I do find this an interesting question – just why is it still felt necessary to go over the criticisms of Trungpa?

I, of course, can't look into the minds of others, but Jikan asked what others think, and I do have a thought to offer, and it is this: perhaps what rankles is not so much Trungpa himself, or even what people thought about him at the time, but the fact that there are still people who seem to think that those who are not taken in by Trungpa are somehow missing the point, failing to "get" some deep spiritual truth.

Trungpa himself, after all, has his own karma to deal with. Ironically, it does not seem to have brought much honour to his next incarnation from the organisation he left behind in the West. But the Trungpa we are talking about is long gone, and I think we can leave him to "rest in peace". (How do we express that sentiment in Buddhist terms, by the way?)

Egomaniacs are not uncommon. When they get into positions of power the results can be very unpleasant. This extends from dictators and emperors on through military commanders, politicians, captains of industry and banking, headmasters, teachers, priests and more. Not that all of these people are egomaniacs, of course. Leaving aside the more violent options available at the top of the list, the characteristic behaviour is well-known. Frequently it involves making people dance in attendance, making them wait, putting them in double-binds where they try to please the boss but are supposed to be honest about their feelings; unpredictable changes of plan; favouritism that is nevertheless volatile, with new favourites appearing unexpectedly and trusted lieutenants suddenly becoming persona non grata; the development of an "inner circle", guardians of the secrets, whatever they may be, all of them in fear of being ejected from that circle; expectations of particular behaviours, dress codes and tastes from the entourage; and of course, exploitation of the position of power to indulge the egomaniac's tastes for sex and drugs. A good, psychological gangster movie will pretty much give you the idea.

Obviously enough, Trungpa's behaviour has a certain consistency with the broad spectrum painted above. Now if somebody wants to say that in Trungpa's case there was something special going on, and that this behaviour was "enlightened" or even, heaven forfend, "crazy wisdom", I don't see that there is a problem. I have some good friends who say much the same about Sogyal Lakar. It's not a problem between us, even though they know that I don't share their view. On the other hand, one can come to the judgement that Trungpa was merely a clever, charismatic egomaniac who had the benefit of several years privileged education and training in the old Tibet.

What I suspect niggles at those who feel the need to still criticise Trungpa is that there are those who do not seem to be content with their admiration for him. Even now we find suggestions that those who take the second view are somehow inferior, in some way less "Buddhist" or at any rate not yet fit for the Vajrayana.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby Aemilius » Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:00 pm

Long ago in meditation I saw the 16. Gyalwa Karmapa with a body of golden colour. Then his golden body changed into Ken Wilber, and Ken Wilber with the same size and colour as Karmapa flowed out from Gyalwa Karmapa, and began to do the work of 16. Karmapa.

And yet I have to admit I have read very little of Ken Wilber's books or his articles. I know there are people who value him very much.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:51 pm

Lot's of people valued Shoko Asahara (and still do http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleph_(Buddhist_group) ) so that doesn't say much for peoples value systems nor does it say much about the object of value.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby mint » Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:36 pm

Jikan wrote:I'd like to know what others think of this aspect of Trungpa's legacy. If no one's reading him, why is it necessary to bury him rhetorically or position him on the margin?


For the similar reason that Pema Chodron has spent her life attempting to make his teachings more accessible to the general public.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby Stewart » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:59 pm

Aemilius wrote:Long ago in meditation I saw the 16. Gyalwa Karmapa with a body of golden colour. Then his golden body changed into Ken Wilber, and Ken Wilber with the same size and colour as Karmapa flowed out from Gyalwa Karmapa, and began to do the work of 16. Karmapa.

And yet I have to admit I have read very little of Ken Wilber's books or his articles. I know there are people who value him very much.


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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby AdmiralJim » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:27 pm

I, of course, can't look into the minds of others, but Jikan asked what others think, and I do have a thought to offer, and it is this: perhaps what rankles is not so much Trungpa himself, or even what people thought about him at the time, but the fact that there are still people who seem to think that those who are not taken in by Trungpa are somehow missing the point, failing to "get" some deep spiritual truth.

I relate to this sentiment completely - because my view differs from those who find Trungpa their cup of tea - I have be sworn at, called names and even a 'zealot' and even of never reading of any of his books - which I find completely ironic considering I have all his major works and am also considering ordaining in the Kagyu lineage and I have to say that if I ever have the privilege of teaching, I hope that I won't get put onto some sort of idealized pedestal, I want my students to argue and say I am wrong.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby heart » Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:02 pm

AdmiralJim wrote:
I, of course, can't look into the minds of others, but Jikan asked what others think, and I do have a thought to offer, and it is this: perhaps what rankles is not so much Trungpa himself, or even what people thought about him at the time, but the fact that there are still people who seem to think that those who are not taken in by Trungpa are somehow missing the point, failing to "get" some deep spiritual truth.

I relate to this sentiment completely - because my view differs from those who find Trungpa their cup of tea - I have be sworn at, called names and even a 'zealot' and even of never reading of any of his books - which I find completely ironic considering I have all his major works and am also considering ordaining in the Kagyu lineage and I have to say that if I ever have the privilege of teaching, I hope that I won't get put onto some sort of idealized pedestal, I want my students to argue and say I am wrong.


Well, if you read all his books, is it the teaching that bothers you or the teacher?

Also, I think it is a lot better if you find a teacher before ordaining. No disrespect intended.

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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby AdmiralJim » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:16 pm

Well, if you read all his books, is it the teaching that bothers you or the teacher?

Also, I think it is a lot better if you find a teacher before ordaining. No disrespect intended.

You presume quite a lot, first of all that I have never read any of his books and then that I don't have a teacher *sigh*. If anything I have quite a different perspective on spiritual materialism, I see a lot of it. I myself grew up in a poor family in the working class areas of Aberdeen and the majority of people who come to the dharma in the UK - I don't know why - come from more well off middle class or upper class backgrounds and something that struck me and still does - and this is just a generalization - there are lots of things that this group of wealthy people create as a 'problems', that would not ever occur to me as a problem, as they really have very little to complain about. I remember one particular person breaking her heart to me because she was going to have to sell her yacht and another woman who completely gave up her practice because things got a bit rocky and didn't like what the teacher had to say about it. This is a theme trungpa deals with very well in his books especially 'Cutting through spiritual materialism' in not opening yourself up to a painful process, he uses the metaphor of becoming 'naked' in public and to be honest while I think the advice is very relevant, I don't really feel it applies to me because just surviving was painful enough, something that I am grateful for when it comes to dharma, growing up with very little and facing homelessness - there is very little room for flowery pretense about the whole thing.
I am not however saying my experience is unique but I feel it has left me with far little obstacles to overcome when it comes to materialism, however it has left me with different obstacles as I find it very difficult to relate to other dharma practitioners on a personal level.
In answer to your question about whether the teaching or the teacher that bothers me, well given the previous paragraph it obviously it isn't the teaching as I see the value in it. Indeed it isn't even the teacher - it is the unwillingness of his students to acknowledge the incongruity between their actions and what he taught - you may not agree with it and that is fine but please don't think that I haven't put any thought into matter - we merely have a different put of view. If you want to push it a little further it is quite realistic to think that if some of his intimate circle of students were willing to engage in the honest painful process Trungpa often talks about and confronted him about him his alcohol abuse it is maybe possible that he could have been helped and a brilliant man may have been around a lot longer. Yes brilliant but enlightened I am afraid I can't see it.
I hope this clears up matters.
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby heart » Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:05 am

AdmiralJim wrote:
Well, if you read all his books, is it the teaching that bothers you or the teacher?

Also, I think it is a lot better if you find a teacher before ordaining. No disrespect intended.

You presume quite a lot, first of all that I have never read any of his books and then that I don't have a teacher *sigh*. If anything I have quite a different perspective on spiritual materialism, I see a lot of it. I myself grew up in a poor family in the working class areas of Aberdeen and the majority of people who come to the dharma in the UK - I don't know why - come from more well off middle class or upper class backgrounds and something that struck me and still does - and this is just a generalization - there are lots of things that this group of wealthy people create as a 'problems', that would not ever occur to me as a problem, as they really have very little to complain about. I remember one particular person breaking her heart to me because she was going to have to sell her yacht and another woman who completely gave up her practice because things got a bit rocky and didn't like what the teacher had to say about it. This is a theme trungpa deals with very well in his books especially 'Cutting through spiritual materialism' in not opening yourself up to a painful process, he uses the metaphor of becoming 'naked' in public and to be honest while I think the advice is very relevant, I don't really feel it applies to me because just surviving was painful enough, something that I am grateful for when it comes to dharma, growing up with very little and facing homelessness - there is very little room for flowery pretense about the whole thing.
I am not however saying my experience is unique but I feel it has left me with far little obstacles to overcome when it comes to materialism, however it has left me with different obstacles as I find it very difficult to relate to other dharma practitioners on a personal level.
In answer to your question about whether the teaching or the teacher that bothers me, well given the previous paragraph it obviously it isn't the teaching as I see the value in it. Indeed it isn't even the teacher - it is the unwillingness of his students to acknowledge the incongruity between their actions and what he taught - you may not agree with it and that is fine but please don't think that I haven't put any thought into matter - we merely have a different put of view. If you want to push it a little further it is quite realistic to think that if some of his intimate circle of students were willing to engage in the honest painful process Trungpa often talks about and confronted him about him his alcohol abuse it is maybe possible that he could have been helped and a brilliant man may have been around a lot longer. Yes brilliant but enlightened I am afraid I can't see it.
I hope this clears up matters.
J


Jim, I am not sure I understand. You say "the unwillingness of his students to acknowledge the incongruity between their actions and what he taught". Are you saying that you have experience of students of CTR behaving in ways that you find incongruous with CTR's teachings? You have problems with his students?

About ordination. You said you was "considering ordaining in the Kagyu lineage". That is normally what a person without a teacher would say or at least without a Tibetan teacher. When one ordains as a monk, it is according to the Vinaya, not according to Kagyu, Nyingma or whatever else. All schools in Tibet have the same Vinaya. Then normally you will take ordination from your teacher, or someone that he indicate that you should do it with, so there would never be any choosing of which school you want to follow. You are already following a school if you have a Tibetan teacher.

/magnus
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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby daelm » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:53 am

tobes wrote:I'm not really au fait with the fishpond of modern spirituality texts - so I have no idea to the extent that they might or might not be in some kind of dialectic with Trungpa.

But I do agree with your sense that Myth of Freedom has something important to say - a savage critique I suppose - of some of those movements.

It's really a great book; I often struggle to recommend Buddhist writing to non-Buddhists who express an interest, and Myth of Freedom is probably my regular go to text.

:anjali:


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Re: More Trungpa talk

Postby Aemilius » Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:00 am

samdrup wrote:
Aemilius wrote:Long ago in meditation I saw the 16. Gyalwa Karmapa with a body of golden colour. Then his golden body changed into Ken Wilber, and Ken Wilber with the same size and colour as Karmapa flowed out from Gyalwa Karmapa, and began to do the work of 16. Karmapa.

And yet I have to admit I have read very little of Ken Wilber's books or his articles. I know there are people who value him very much.


with all respect, that's not really meditation, is it? it's day dreaming.


My conscious mind would have never connected those two persons in any meaningful way!
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