Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

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Ngawang Drolma
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Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

Post by Ngawang Drolma »

What do the various titles of the Mahayana Traditions mean? (ie- Geshe, Rinpoche, Lama, Venerable)

"Geshe" refers to a certain level of monastic and philosophical training. It
is traditionally received after approximately 25 years of full-time intensive
study at one of the great monasteries. It is similar to someone getting a
"ph.d." level of study and accomplishment, although it is much more than that.
There are also different levels of Geshe. For example, a "Lharampa Geshe"
graduated with great honors and was among the top of his class. It is
primarily a title referring to academic excellence and degree of training in
the Buddhist philosophical texts.

"Rinpoche" means "precious" and refers to someone who in their last life
attained such a high degree of mastery that they did not have to take any more
rebirths. However, out of their compassion for others, they took another birth
at will - or rather took a human form - in order to teach others. Hence, they
are "precious" because they returned to show us how to do it ourselves.

"Venerable" is a term for those who are ordained. Any monk or nun is
traditionally referred to as "venerable". It is simply a term of respect for
those who have chosen the monastic life and have taken it upon themselves to
preserve the teachings in this way.

"Lama" means literally "heavy with qualities". It is a title which implies
that the person who is the referent of this term has demonstrated spiritual
qualities and the ability to lead others in their spiritual life and path.
There are some Tibetan Buddhist traditions where you can "earn" the title
"lama" after doing a certain amount of retreat and study. In other traditions,
one must earn the title "lama" by way of demonstrating their qualities over
the years - or because they have been recognized clearly as a "Rinpoche" - and
then are a "lama" by definition!
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Re: Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

Post by catmoon »

I suppose tulku should be defined in the original post too.
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Re: Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

Post by Huifeng »

Excellent description of the situation in Chinese Buddhism. I would only add one comment, that I don't find it all that appropriate for all lay Buddhists to refer to monastics as "acarya" or "shifu". I think that these should only be applied when that monastic is actually their own "acarya" (so might as well just say "laoshi" / "teacher") or their preceptor (as "shifu").
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Re: Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

Post by mettafou »

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Re: Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

Post by Dexing »

I don't know why. It's pretty common practice as stated in the book to address any monastic as "master" (shifu) and refer to oneself as "disciple" (dizi) toward them even if you don't have such a direct relationship with them. In that instance, you do. For example, if asking a monastic to explain something you would say; "请师父为弟子开示". I also address various monastics as shifu just in passing.

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Re: Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

Post by Bodhi »

I addressed all the monastics at Buddha Mind and other affiliates as well as Shifu, it just means master. I find it appropriate to do so, because I wouldn't know any other way to address them with utmost respect. Either way they are my Meditation masters, they also give Dharma lectures and are like guidance to my cultivation. I also address other masters who aren't really my master.

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Wherever you are, that is where the mind should be. Always be mindful, and be your own master. This is true freedom. - Grand Master Wei Chueh
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Re: Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Was dipping into Ven Sheng Yen's PDF book on Orthodox Chinese Buddhism and noticed pages 18-19 are missing." onclick=";return false;
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Re: Various titles in Mahayana Buddhism

Post by White Lotus »

:namaste: Wise ones, perhaps it may seem innapropriate for me to refer to people as Noble, but if it is understood that i see everyone as a Buddha, perhaps then this is understood. I feel foolish doing this sometimes... what will people think?! daft as brush! no doubt, but it is just my personal style. no impropriety nor disrespect meant.

please correct me if this is offensive or improper.

best wishes,

White Lotus.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.

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