Vajrayana Questions

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Vajrayana Questions

Postby Panda » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:47 pm

Greetings All,

My spiritual path has come to an abrupt change in the last month and left me at the doorstep of the Vajrayana, and I need some guidance. I'd like to explain my situation a bit.

I discovered Dharma several years ago, although I was interested in Shaiva/Shakta Hindu dharma. After a couple years of general practice, I found a guru and took initiation into a shakta tantrik lineage from Bengal. For quite a while, I worked within this stream. In January of this year, I went on pilgrimage to Bengal. I returned a month later having made progress in my sadhanas and really feeling integrity with them.

However, upon returning home, a controversy rocked our lineage. I do not wish to speak ill about someone who gave me initiation, but suffice it to say that low-born and ill-spoken words were said both by my Guru and my Paramguru (who is still alive, and had authorized my guru to initiate) to each other and about each other. Accusations of in-authenticity were made on both sides and many of the initiates, not just myself, were left very confused.

At the end of the day, my guru.. decided to renounce his lineage and stand alone. He said that anyone who wanted to leave could say thanks and leave on good terms. I'm not one to doubt a dharma master, especially after having grown accustomed to seeing him as Mahakala himself, but the fact that he transgressed his own teacher gave me uncomfortable notions. I (and many other sadhakas) picked up and left, unable to overcome the doubts that our teacher had himself violated samaya. Going to my param-guru could have been an option in this situation, except that the ecclesiastical bickering and childishness was present on his side, as well. The whole situation was a mess, and many of the sadhakas are now without a lineage. Moreover, my guru made it clear that any sadhanas we recieved from him had been 'pinned' (kilaya) and could not be used without repercussion if we chose to leave. And so I am left without master and without sadhana at the point in my life in which I felt I had gone the deepest in my sadhanas.

I could continue to search within the Hindu tradition, but I've had the nagging feeling for a year or two now that Buddhist tantra is better organized, more orthodox (in the literal sense and the good sense of the term), and produces better results in terms of realized practitioners - but I had a master at the time, and leaving would have been counterproductive and even harmful. But as a free agent, I now need to explore that nagging feeling. I'm acclimating myself to the shift in philosophy and culture between the two tantras, and in all likelyhood, I will take refuge vows in the near future and start from the ground up again.

However, I have a whole host of questions.

I am deeply worried that even though my guru said that we could leave, I violated samaya in doing so (even though it is my opinion that he himself violated samaya by leaving his teacher.) I can't rid my conscience of this. A vajrayani told me that even if I had broken my vows in doing so, preliminary Vajrasattva practice would fix this. Is this indeed true?

Secondly - my sadhanas up until this point were wrathful in nature (Mahakala/Mahakali sadhanas) that involved offering oneself to the deity-form via and being torn apart as sacrifice, which was then followed by deity yoga (among other things.) In india, I did these sadhanas nightly in cremation grounds. These works felt natural to me and I reached a deep integrity with them. As such, becoming a Chodpa seems like the best option for me to continue my work within a more structured and less schismatic context. I realize that one cannot jump right into Vajrayana and come out a Chodpa, even if one has done similar work in another tradition (I highly doubt that the "classes transfer", to make an analogy), but it's the practice that I would like to undertake eventually, I think. Where does one start in finding a lama who would understand my situation? I'm more than willing to start with preliminaries and ''prove myself", I just don't have any idea where to start with those preliminaries.

Any help would be greatly appreciated, I am coming to this from a point of sincerity in my heart and need guidance.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Blue Garuda » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:23 pm

If your Guru is a samaya-breaker and has released you, I don't think you need to be overly concerned and should try to feel compassionate and grateful.

There is Chod in several lineages - you may find that, maybe after obtaining an Highest Yoga Tantra empowerment, you will be able to build on the charnel ground practices you have already experienced. Indeed, I know very few Buddhists who have entered a charnel ground, let alone practised in one. :)

Unless you break samaya or commit an act which is a major downfall, your Guru is surely unfair in preventing you from practising sadhanas for which you have received transmission.

The nub of this, to me, is that you need to find a suitable Guru to advise you and help you move your practice along.

I know Chod within the Ganden (Gelugpa) tradition, but I think you will benefit from some research. In addition to the major schools, you may find the Jonang interesting:

http://greatmiddleway.wordpress.com/gre ... -buddhism/
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Tilopa » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:36 pm

Panda wrote:I am deeply worried that even though my guru said that we could leave, I violated samaya in doing so.

Absolutely not. On the contrary you are following his advice.

Where does one start in finding a lama who would understand my situation?

Great masters are in abundance if you know where to look. Where are you now?

I'm more than willing to start with preliminaries and ''prove myself", I just don't have any idea where to start with those preliminaries.

In the Tibetan tradition there are common and uncommon preliminaries. The former involves developing an understanding of the Buddhist world view.
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... harma.html

The latter involves practices of purification and accumulation: http://www.thubtenchodron.org/PrayersAn ... actice.htm

You might also appreciate my advice here: viewtopic.php?f=40&t=7599&p=90402#p90402 [/quote]
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Panda » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:41 pm

Thank you so much for your reply. I'm trying to think of my original guru in positive and grateful terms; and I will probably keep my old lineage on my altar and pay them respects for bringing me to where I am now, at least.

I also thought it was suspect for the sadhanas to be pinnned for anyone who leaves, even on good terms - he announced that prior to me leaving, and it added a somewhat "greedy" note to the whole mess, which further complicated things and sealed my resolve to leave and find a new master. I won't be doing those works, though, regardless, as I will find a new teacher and move in the current that they present to me.

I'm looking forward to getting to the point that I can build on my charnel ground experience, no matter how long it takes to get back there. In hindu tantra we knew our path by the word "virachara" - the hero's path; so there's a sort of "do or die" aspect to my thinking about all of this. Have to step up and get this done (for me, and for others.)

On a side note - the Hindu Tara is known as Ugratara (Fearsome Tara) or MahaChina-Tara, Tara from China. My great-great-grandfather guru was a great Tara devotee in her wrathful/mahachina form... do you know anything about the corralation between wrathful hindu tara (i.e. MahaChina Tara) and the Tara of the Vajrayana? If the link is there (and it's implied by Mahachina, I think) then I think I've already got a foot in the door, here...


edit: Tilopa, I'm in the southern tip of Indiana, Evansville is the town name.
I will explore these links further tonight, I must go to work.

Thanks to everyone. Really.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Tilopa » Fri Mar 23, 2012 9:43 am

Panda wrote: On a side note - the Hindu Tara is known as Ugratara (Fearsome Tara) or MahaChina-Tara, Tara from China. My great-great-grandfather guru was a great Tara devotee in her wrathful/mahachina form... do you know anything about the corralation between wrathful hindu tara (i.e. MahaChina Tara) and the Tara of the Vajrayana? If the link is there (and it's implied by Mahachina, I think) then I think I've already got a foot in the door, here...

Some Indians also worship the peaceful aspect of Tara in the form of Taradevi and her mantra is the same as in the Tibetan tradition: om tare tuttare ture soha.

Tilopa, I'm in the southern tip of Indiana, Evansville is the town name.

Maybe this will help: http://www.snowlionpub.com/pages/CIN.html otherwise google is your friend. There's hundreds of centres in the USA representing all four Tibetan traditions but if you happen upon a Gelugpa centre in your area make sure it follows the advice of HH the Dalai Lama regarding suitable practices. Not all of them do and there's some really weird shit going on that you definitely want to avoid.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby DarwidHalim » Fri Mar 23, 2012 9:57 am

There is a very critical difference between Hinduism and Buddhism. Although they share many of similar things such as karma, past life, etc., the understanding of mamma for example is really difference.

Some of Hindu lineage say that your result of karma is fixed. Buddhism doesn't accept this idea.

The pinnacle of difference is in the teaching of emptiness. For Hindu, that teaching is non sense.

But for Buddhism, that is the highest teaching.

When you go to Buddhist tantra, all of the realization is aiming at the realization of emptiness.

Although you can change your lineage to Buddhist tantra, does the teaching of Buddhism make sense to you?

You can have a difference set of sadhana in Buddhism, you can chant difference things, but if the philosophy doesn't make sense to you, all of practices are also no use.

People from Hinduism think Buddhism is actually Hindu. I have many Indian friends who told me that. They think the philosophy is the same, just because in Buddhism there is also karma, past life, samsara, etc.

However, the difference is actually really huge.

What is your view about Buddhist teaching? Make sense to you or not? How do you compare it with Hinduism?
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Panda » Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:13 pm

We've got a Kagyu practice here in town and I'm meaning to check them out this saturday. As for the "weird shit", you mean Dorje Shugden, right? Avoiding that one like the plague..

Darwid, Hinduism is broader than Buddhism and has so many strands and sub-sets, including dualist traditions, so I can understand your concern. However, my particular subset (Bengali kaula/aghora) is very close to the Vajrayana.

I don't for a second believe entirely that one's karma is fixed. Certain tantric kriyas can change that.

As for emptiness, what I was taught and what I've found in my sadhanas is what Vajrayana would call "shentong." You may be familiar.

However, if this is not true, then I am open to a Lama showing me the truth. My interest is in true orthodoxy, not clinging to this or that conception of doxa.

Quick question to everyone about "practices" and if they translate into tibetan buddhism - I know the idea of prana/winds/lung exists. Is "kumbak" i.e. prana-holding still a thing in this tantra variant?
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:28 pm

Panda wrote:On a side note - the Hindu Tara is known as Ugratara (Fearsome Tara) or MahaChina-Tara, Tara from China. My great-great-grandfather guru was a great Tara devotee in her wrathful/mahachina form... do you know anything about the corralation between wrathful hindu tara (i.e. MahaChina Tara) and the Tara of the Vajrayana? If the link is there (and it's implied by Mahachina, I think) then I think I've already got a foot in the door, here...
Green Tara manifests in twenty one forms. Some of them are wrathful. Usually however most people practice Green Tara (protection and wishes), White Tara (long life and wishes), and Red Tara (Attract things to you)

As for Emptiness, I highly recommend the book Emptiness by Tashi Tsering. It's heavily Madhyamaka so keep that in mind. The core of the book is a commentary on the Chandrakirti's chariot argument http://www.nonduality.com/goode6.htm
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Tilopa » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:39 pm

Panda wrote:We've got a Kagyu practice here in town and I'm meaning to check them out this saturday. As for the "weird shit", you mean -------------------right? Avoiding that one like the plague.

Good. Yes and good again.
I know the idea of prana/winds/lung exists. Is "kumbak" i.e. prana-holding still a thing in this tantra variant?

Holding is only part of it but yes it's the heart of highest yoga tantra and according to this system enlightenment is not possible without it.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Panda » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:51 am

Hello all -

Need some help understanding something. Does one progress through kriya, charya etc tantras before reaching highest yoga tantra, or does one simply do ngondro and then take an empowerment into highest yoga tantra if the Lama deems fit? I'm not asking because I'd prefer one or the other, I just want to get an understanding of how the tradition operates. (Is Ngondro grouped in with kriya/charya? I'm so confused...)

Secondly - are the Ngakpas a school unto themselves, or are they a type of practioner who may then belong to one of the four major schools?

Thanks! Trying to make sense of the curves and lineaments of this tradition so that I may enter into it formally.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Kilaya. » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:36 pm

It all depends on the teacher. Some Lamas will expect you to finish Ngondro before any HYT sadhanas, some won't. I'm not giving you the famous "go ask your Lama" advice here, but this really depends on which teacher and school you get in touch with. As for Kriya Tantra sadhanas like Green Tara or Chenrezi, they usually don't require an initation, you can do them after you receive the necessary instructions from a teacher.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby dakini_boi » Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:05 am

Panda wrote:Hello all -

Need some help understanding something. Does one progress through kriya, charya etc tantras before reaching highest yoga tantra, or does one simply do ngondro and then take an empowerment into highest yoga tantra if the Lama deems fit? I'm not asking because I'd prefer one or the other, I just want to get an understanding of how the tradition operates. (Is Ngondro grouped in with kriya/charya? I'm so confused...)

Secondly - are the Ngakpas a school unto themselves, or are they a type of practioner who may then belong to one of the four major schools?

Thanks! Trying to make sense of the curves and lineaments of this tradition so that I may enter into it formally.


Ngondro itself is a complete path and contains all 9 yanas (at least in Nyingma - I don't know about the other schools). If you look at the structure of a ngondro text, you will see how it progresses the yanas: the "four thoughts" and refuge are hinayana, bodhicitta is mahayana, mandala offerings & vajrasattva are outer tantra (if there is self-visualization as vajrasattva, that would also qualify as HYT), guru yoga is HYT & dzogchen. From what I've seen, usually if the teacher requires ngondro, you will go straight to HYT afterwards.

Ngakpas can be in any school. They are mostly associated with Nyingma, which has a special ordination for them.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Panda » Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:02 am

Thank you for the clarification. How would you define an Ngakpa? From what I've read about them (very little), they sound reminiscent of the kaula tradition in indian dharma - neither lay nor monastic, simply tantric.
Are there chod empowerments in Nyingma?
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Kilaya. » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:24 am

Panda wrote:We've got a Kagyu practice here in town and I'm meaning to check them out this saturday.


How was your visit to the Kagyu group?
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby dakini_boi » Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:46 am

Panda wrote:Thank you for the clarification. How would you define an Ngakpa? From what I've read about them (very little), they sound reminiscent of the kaula tradition in indian dharma - neither lay nor monastic, simply tantric.
Are there chod empowerments in Nyingma?


Yes, sounds about right. Here's some good info about ngakpas:

http://www.snowlionpub.com/pages/N76_1.html

http://saraswatibhawan.org/an-historic- ... long-hair/


Yes, all schools of TB have chod empowerments.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Blue Garuda » Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:09 am

dakini_boi wrote:
Panda wrote:Thank you for the clarification. How would you define an Ngakpa? From what I've read about them (very little), they sound reminiscent of the kaula tradition in indian dharma - neither lay nor monastic, simply tantric.
Are there chod empowerments in Nyingma?


Yes, sounds about right. Here's some good info about ngakpas:

http://www.snowlionpub.com/pages/N76_1.html

http://saraswatibhawan.org/an-historic- ... long-hair/


Yes, all schools of TB have chod empowerments.


From the first link:

''JC: Yes, these days many Westerners look like ngakpas.

KSR: Tibetans don't try to look like ngakpas. That is the difference: If you really follow those samayas you are a great practitioner and nobody can see it from the outside. On the other hand those who cannot follow anything but wear the clothes, it is nothing but costumes and emblems that they hold. Everything goes the opposite way if you really cannot hold the samayas.''

There are indeed Westerners in one organisation here in the UK who seem to have a lot of fun dressing up and calling themselves nGagpa. Maybe they should let their mums have the bedsheets back. :)
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Panda » Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:56 pm

Kilaya. wrote:
Panda wrote:We've got a Kagyu practice here in town and I'm meaning to check them out this saturday.


How was your visit to the Kagyu group?


Interrupted by covering someone else's shift at my job, sadly. I try to always remember that "Making others happy is the Dharma" from the life if milarepa, but it only seems to lead me to working other people's shifts at work. lol.
I asked off for this saturday and recieved the day off, so I'm definitely going. It's Dakpa Kagyu, but I don't know enough to know the differences between that and Karma Kagyu.
I imagine any counter with authentic vajrayana is a fruitful one at this point.

Currently reading John Powers' introduction to tibetan buddhism. Will probably read something more aimed at potential sadhaks after this. Any recommendations?

Viz ngakpas, I can see how people may take the title and make something out of it that just suits their ego. Seems like so many people want to come to tantra from a point of worldly pride, a point of "look how special I am", or some sort of fetishism for dark/wrathful practices. I'm used to seeing it and it still bugs the crap out of me. Regardless, I asked because I'm genuinely curious about that tradition - I came from a Kaula tradition prior to coming here, so the ideal of "socially fringe tantrik householder" feels 'native.

At this point my general perception is that I feel as though I understand decently the heart-contents of Vajrayana, but the traditional and cultural surroundings of it are something I have yet to fully penetrate. Working on that, of course.

I feel very alienated due to not having a nightly sadhana practice due to my guru putting things under kilaya. Can anyone advise mantra or sadhana work I could do in the meantime that does not require empowerment, just so that I can keep my practice schedule on track?

Thanks again, everyone. :D

edit: for those who are concerned about my understandings of emptiness etc, I've done a lot of reading about it and it doesn't sound alien at all to how I was already taught to consider things. My guru was found of making recourse to vajrayana teachers and sometimes to zen teachers, so I've always had a fruitful interchange between buddha dharma and kaula dharma. A few days ago I took refuge vows thrice verbally alone by myself - I realize it's not the same as taking them with a Lama and that I still need to do that, but the opportunity has not presented itself.
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Mr. G » Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:10 pm

Panda wrote:Currently reading John Powers' introduction to tibetan buddhism. Will probably read something more aimed at potential sadhaks after this. Any recommendations?


You may find this thread quite helpful:

What are some "must have" books?

I recommend "The Crystal And The Way Of Light"

Can anyone advise mantra or sadhana work I could do in the meantime that does not require empowerment, just so that I can keep my practice schedule on track?


Avalokiteshvara:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/79774816/Sign ... Recitation
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Lhug-Pa » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:20 am

Panda wrote:On a side note - the Hindu Tara is known as Ugratara (Fearsome Tara) or MahaChina-Tara, Tara from China. My great-great-grandfather guru was a great Tara devotee in her wrathful/mahachina form... do you know anything about the corralation between wrathful hindu tara (i.e. MahaChina Tara) and the Tara of the Vajrayana? If the link is there (and it's implied by Mahachina, I think) then I think I've already got a foot in the door, here...


Chinnamunda


Master Mason Godfrey Higgins wrote:"Thus, for several thousand years after the wars of the Maha-barat ceased by the union of the Linga and Ioni, until the Christian æra, whence the system began to be lost, we hear of scarcely any religious wars."


:anjali:
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Re: Vajrayana Questions

Postby Konchog1 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:15 am

Panda wrote:I feel very alienated due to not having a nightly sadhana practice due to my guru putting things under kilaya. Can anyone advise mantra or sadhana work I could do in the meantime that does not require empowerment, just so that I can keep my practice schedule on track?
Green Tara's mantra (Om Tare Tutare Ture Svaha) and the 21 Praises

I prefer Chaz's version viewtopic.php?f=40&t=2748
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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