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Vajrayana Buddhism

Last post 07-06-2006, 3:54 PM by jackhschneider. 9 replies.
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  •  06-28-2006, 7:15 PM 599

    • perera is not online. Last active: 08-26-2006, 7:11 PM perera
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    Vajrayana Buddhism

    Hi All,

    I saw here that there is interest for a thread on Vajrayana Buddhism. Let's begin! And as we always like to encourage on our forums...

    "May the next thing you say (or write) come from your Highest Self"


    Nomali @ ISC
    Project Manager

    ~Save the Earth- it's the only planet with Chocolate!

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  •  06-28-2006, 9:28 PM 610 in reply to 599

    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    Nomali,

    My Highest Self says, "Thank you!"

    Namaste,

    Balder


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  06-29-2006, 8:59 AM 628 in reply to 599

    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    Hi Nomali, and thanks for starting the thread.

    I just created this really long post with lots of insights and questions, but then the forum logged me out when I tried to submit. I don't have time at the moment to go through it all again, so here's the pith:

    As we go through the process of adaptating a foreign wisdom tradition, are people asking themselves or others "What is cultural baggage and what do we really need from the lineages?"

    That kind of questioning leads to other considerations like "Who is qualified to make such a distinction?" and "What exactly is the 'baby' and what the 'bathwater'?"

    Personally, I am a Shambhalian, and have a great deal of devotion to Trungpa Rinpoche's mind and mandala. He already laid much groundwork for these kinds of questions, and my personal experience has led me to ask many more.

    Tibetan feudal culture is so thoroughly different from ours! What do you think about these issues?

    Cheers,

    Michael

     

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  •  06-29-2006, 11:24 AM 632 in reply to 628

    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    Michael,

    I'm sorry to hear you lost a long letter to the forum gremlins.  I hate it when that happens!

    I'm certainly very interested in your questions.  I am similar to you, in that I am also a student of a "modernized" form of Buddhist-like practice, started by a Tibetan visionary who saw the potential to transmit essential dharma teachings in a vehicle more compatible with a modern worldview.  I'm speaking of Tarthang Tulku's Time-Space-Knowledge vision (which he claims has Buddhist parallels, but which he also says stands on its own and should not be viewed as "disguised Buddhism"). 

    Over the years, I've studied with a number of Buddhist teachers, some in traditional contexts (vipassana, tantra, dzogchen), and some in more modern formulations (such as TSK).  I have read and appreciated Trungpa's Shambhala vision, and I find it similar in spirit to TSK: jettisoning certain elements of Buddhism that may justifiably be seen as cultural accretions, in favor of presenting a streamlined teaching that does not demand strict rituals, initiations, hierarchies, social codes and contracts, and so on.

    But having also studied with traditional Buddhist teachers, I see value and beauty in the traditional vehicles, which contain a great deal of depth and richness (even if some elements are initially jarring or disconcerting to someone with Western expectations).  So, I am not in a hurry to "replace" or rennovate Buddhism; I think there is value in experiencing as it has developed and found unique forms of expression in different cultures.  There is no doubt that it has continued to change and grow over the centuries, so we should not fear change now; and there is no doubt, in my opinion, that it is subject to certain cultural constraints and limitations, so we should not fear challenging some aspects of it.  I just don't think we should do it lightly, because of the danger that our modern presuppositions may make it difficult to see some aspects of these traditions clearly or accurately, and we may rashly misjudge and undervalue them.

    I confess that I have a hard time believing some aspects of the Tibetan Buddhist worldview.  I have never seen a dharma-preserving naga; the stories sound distinctly mythological to me.  And yet, I hesitate to write off or ignore any element which strikes me that way, having experienced some rather mysterious and inexplicable things in the presence of my teachers.  The mythological package may yet contain something valuable and true, which does not fit neatly inside modern or postmodern presuppositional boxes.

    These are a few of my thoughts at this time.  I have really appreciated the unique, creative contributions of visionary teachers such as Trungpa and Tarthang Tulku to Western society.  In a way, I believe that Shambhala and TSK teachings may be more flexible and amenable to "Integral" exploration and reassessment, having less historical "gravity" to them, than the traditional vehicles of Tantra, Mahamudra, or Dzogchen.  I also do not feel qualified, at this stage of my own practice and understanding, to pass judgment on or attempt to reorganize these venerable vehicles.  I would trust the efforts of accomplished masters in these areas, though.  Perhaps we will see more of this in coming years -- as we have already seen, in the flowering of the unique Shambhala and TSK visions.

    Best wishes,

    Balder


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  07-01-2006, 5:49 PM 727 in reply to 632

    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    arg... the gremlins got me too!!! Unless I posted somewhere else?

    Sad [:(]Crying [:'(]

    /\nyway....

    What I wanted to say, before I lost it, was...

    Balder, I loved what you were saying about Integral Preliminary Practices/Integral Ngondro over on IN. I like the idea of finding some more modern/relevant 'hooks' to get people interested in engaging in practices that are, actually, pretty demanding for a Westerner.

    The ecology/interdependance link is useful, certainly something modern/greens would be interested in, but my nagging reaction/bias is that I (and presumably others) often have a tendancy to simply replace or translate one idea with another. I think ecology is a good example of interdependence, a useful hook, and as "gateway drug" it is perfect.

    I'm loved the conversation between you and Stew... I'm kinda glad I wasn't there at the time because I think I would have diluted it... Anyway... Thanks for the Tulku quotes, my teacher explains things in a very similar way and it's encouraging to see this perenial wisdom reaching the West in such pristine condition... sure there are cultural add-ons in there, but there is definitely baby in that bathwater (or penicillin in that mouldy bread).

    You said: "A general question I have...is whether you think it would be worthwhile to build on the general principles and aims of ngondro and to develop something comparable for Integral training, or if such things should be left within their traditional religious contexts." 

    This feeds in to what sagemichael is saying above and... FWIW... I'm personally quite keen on keeping them within their rich and often ancient contexts, for lots of reasons, but first, and foremost, they've stood the test of time for a reason.

    Some people won't dig it, for sure, but I'm certainly not wise enough to synthesise the penecillin on my own and my constant worry would be dillution of the active ingredients or throwing away something just because it didn't fit or feel right. A lot of Buddha's teachings are challenging and provocative, if the teachings and teachers are not raising our hackles now and then then I don't think we can really be listening. Or we've got a serious case of Boomeritis and we think we already know exactly what Buddha is saying!!!

    AS IF!!!!!

    One example would be the assertion that "all living beings are our mothers". Now there is a great temptation to re-contextualise the statement, update it perhaps, or just leave it out. But it's radical and meaningful and the word of Buddha... and I'd always urge, and argue, for caution.

    Ditto 'future lives', 'the sufferings of lower realms' and (dare I say it?) 'hell'.

    "On the one hand, the ngondro (as I have just described it) cannot be divorced from the Buddhist worldview without doing violence to it or (very likely) watering it down.  On the other, if we are looking not so much at the specific contents of the ngondro, but more at the technology of the ngondro, we might be able to conceive of developing a similarly comprehensive form of training in an Integral context."


    This is crucial. I love Wilber's analogy of the mouldy bread and, until we are perfectly realised Buddha's ourselves I don't think we can avoid offering mouldy bread. The question is what tools and technology do we have to help us take the goodness out without harming the active ingredients and... what other methods/containers we can use to get the penicillin working for others.

    For me it's about faith in the teachings and passing them on in an unadaulterated way... as mouldy bread is better than crumbs.

    But, as you say, the technology is really interesting... I'd like to do 100,000 repetitions of "Everything is true, but partial" and see how I feel afterwards. I'd like to offer AQAL mandalas. I'd like to have Ken as one of my lineage Gurus. I already do include him in my 'field of merit' but please don't tell anyone :) And I'd like to prostrate to everyone in the Multiplex countless times.


    Sorry to mash-up the Ngondro and Vajrayana threads but they are intimately linked in my mind... perhaps I need to diferentiate and integrate rather than offer this fusionmess... but it's the best I can do right now.

    May this thread benefit all beings, may they taste the bliss of liberation.

    A HO MAHA SUKHA

    \/






    "May the sufferings and negativites of living beings ripen upon me,
    And may my happiness and virtue ripen upon them" - Nagarjuna
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  •  07-01-2006, 8:47 PM 732 in reply to 727

    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    Hi, V,

    Your comment:

    But, as you say, the technology is really interesting... I'd like to do 100,000 repetitions of "Everything is true, but partial" and see how I feel afterwards. I'd like to offer AQAL mandalas. I'd like to have Ken as one of my lineage Gurus. I already do include him in my 'field of merit' but please don't tell anyone :) And I'd like to prostrate to everyone in the Multiplex countless times.

    ...reminded me of a thread I started on the original Integral Naked forum. 

    http://integralnaked.org/forum/tm.asp?m=53816&p=3&tmode=1&smode=1&cookieCheck=884143583

    I can't get the formatting to allow me to use the title as a link.  It was called "Altar of Thanks."  It's a kind of "Integral Refuge Tree."  And yes, KW is included on it!

    I'll write more later; just wanted to include this link to what turned into a beautiful expression from many grateful hearts... In fact, I think I'm going to start one here as well... :)

    Best wishes,

    Balder

     


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  07-03-2006, 9:31 PM 825 in reply to 727

    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    V,

    I really dig your perspective on this thread. I want to respond to a particular point, though, where I'm not sure I agree with you.

    You wrote:

    "I'm personally quite keen on keeping them within their rich and often ancient contexts, for lots of reasons, but first, and foremost, they've stood the test of time for a reason."

    I wonder about that. It seems to me that Indian Buddhism changed significantly after being adopted in Tibet. Not the essence, to be sure, but much of the form. As one example, Indians did not have formal ngondro, and the evolutionary "stage conception" formula of hinayana, mahayana, and vajrayana seems to have been much less clear in the Indian tradition (the yanas were there, but not presented as progressive stages). I'm sure we could find many more examples.

    I think its beautiful in many respects the way vajrayana became so much more clarified in Tibet, and I also think that the reason it "stood the test of time" had more to do with the isolated nature of Tibet itself and its society.

    Now, in this time and place, we'll see change again. Will charnel ground symbolism continue to serve our growth in this world of sanitized death? Can professionals and householders do hundreds of thousands or repetitions of words and images born in a totally foreign context?

    For me, this is a very personal consideration, one that I am continually working with. I have little interest in Tibetan culture at this point, having gone through that period of romantic fascination, and I find myself asking constantly what's real about this stuff and what's not. In other words, what will serve my ILP and what will hold me back.

    Michael
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  •  07-05-2006, 1:06 PM 967 in reply to 825

    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    Hi, V,

    Sorry it's taken me awhile to respond.  I've had my fingers in too many forum pies lately.

    I just have a few comments about this question of "updating" Buddhism.  It's a tricky issue.  On the one hand, I agree with Michael that we should not assume that, just because the teachings have arisen and been preserved within a feudal social order, that the forms of practice that have developed in that context should therefore be taken as timelessly true or necessarily superior.  It is possible to defend such socio-cultural structures because of the challenge they pose to Western egos -- and they may certainly be engaged in that way, as skillful means -- but I do not think they are indispensable.  And they are probably changing as we speak.  For instance, as Buddhism gets more rooted in the West, and as modern Western(ized) women continue to enter the Vajrayana path, I expect some of the old, deep-rooted patriarchal patterns and prejudices will continue to shift and change -- perhaps significantly.  That would be a good thing. 

    I haven't read Wilber's writings on "Green Buddhism" and its problems, yet, but I expect that Green will bring some positive influences to Buddhism as well as the well-known pitfalls.  And the extreme plurality of modern culture invites other changes as well, as many historically isolated schools of Buddhism come into closer contact, and modern practitioners learn from teachers of many different traditions.  Joseph Goldstein writes of his early prejudices against Vajrayana, and of the boundary-stretching he was called to engage in as he struggled to make sense of claims which ran counter to his Theravadin beliefs.  He now has broadened his circle of understanding and is speaking of the arising of "One Dharma" in this new phase of Buddhism in the West.

    How conscious do we make this boundary-stretching and tradition-testing?  I think it is already happening naturally, as Buddhism seeks to find its place in a radically different culture, and as Westerners seek to "take on" Buddhism.  But an Integral practitioner may choose to approach these issues more deliberately.  With Vajrayogini, I do not feel I am personally qualified to suggest many "improvements" to Buddhist praxis, but I am interested in inquiring mindfully into these questions. 

    A related issue, as I see it, is the "tool-box mentality" of many Westerners.  We may relate to practices individually as tools, which can be picked up and used anywhere, regardless of context.   Is this true?  Are there dangers in this?  I do not see any inherent problem with creatively inquiring into and experimenting with novel forms of practice, or novel uses of traditional practices, but a casual disregard for context -- say, in the spirit of Boomer self-serving utilitarianism -- certainly runs a number of risks, and may cause any number of problems. 

    On Integral Naked, UnrulyJulie commented that she feared Vajrayana is especially likely to feed into or foster spiritual materialism, and of course Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche must have sensed this as well.  So, can we "experiment" with Buddhism, create new practices or "adjuncts" to the Ngondro (for example), reassess practices and teachings in light of IMP and Integral Post-metaphysics, without feeding or fostering spiritual materialism?

    Interested in your thoughts....

    Balder


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  07-06-2006, 12:30 AM 1008 in reply to 599

    • jackhschneider is not online. Last active: 08-22-2006, 4:01 PM jackhschneider
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    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    This is a very interesting topic.  I tend to try and let my integral practice and my Buddhist practice, Vajrayana or Mahayana or otherwise, inform each other.  For example, the holy secret of exchanging our self with others, which is exchanging the current object of our cherishing, ourselves, with others is a common Buddhist practice. A specific implementation of this is explained at the end of chapter 8 of Bodhisacharyavatara (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s way of Life).  In it Shantideva explains a meditation on how to take the mental space of someone who is lesser, equal to, or greater than ourselves.  This is clearly an example or subset of  using integral mathematics of primordial perspectives. 

    It feels awkward to bring up integral math with my fellow Buddhist who haven’t even heard the words “Ken Wilber”.  Anyway we are having enough trouble actually doing the meditations without adding the integral math to the mix.

    On the other hand, reading about integral math was pure nectar for me personally.  But I worry about the metaphysical underpinning of my practice which is not something I see all Buddhist practitioners doing. 

    So what we are talking about here is coming up with integrally informed practice based on integral theory and our Vajrayana practice.  But right now integral practices are springing up whether we want them to or not.    For instance post points, maybe 100,000 post points would be a Vajrayana inspired practice.

    Bliss and Emptiness,

    Jack

    P.S. I have taken to writing my responses in a separate editor and pasting them in the reply box so I can save them to re-paste incase there are technical problems.

     

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  •  07-06-2006, 3:54 PM 1059 in reply to 599

    • jackhschneider is not online. Last active: 08-22-2006, 4:01 PM jackhschneider
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    Re: Vajrayana Buddhism

    All, lets look at a way to view Vajrayana Buddhism from all 4 quadrants.

     

    UL- We can leave the practice just as it is.

    UR – We can measure the effect of the practice on the brain

    LR – We can develop the instruments to measure the effect on the brain

    LL – We can build a culture that combines all of the above

     

    UL- We can leave the practice just as it is.

    By this I mean don’t change the practice or adapt it to any kind of integral theory as has been suggested.  However we may want to classify levels of attainment and document them and get practitioners of various levels to participate.

     

    UR – We can measure the effect of the practice on the brain

    I am imagining taking data on physical changes in the brain and body that are manifested by the practice.  I know research is being done like this already but maybe not on Vajrayana practitioners.  It would be nice if we could document how practitioners’ brains change in the practice and correlate this to UL experiences.  Get research savvy people to participate. 

     

    LR – We can improve the instruments to measure the effect on the brain

    I am an electrical engineer and have always been interested in this kind of equipment, EKGs, EEGs, MRIs and such.  My guess is there is a lot of room for improvement and adaptation of existing equipment.  The simpler the method the better it will be.  Get engineers to participate.

     

    LL – We can build a culture that combines all of the above

    My experience is that the mindset of the electrical engineers, researchers, and practitioners is complementary but also different enough so that a new culture would have to be created for them all to work together. Get every one to participate together.

     

    Anyway this is a rough outline for a project that could bring Vajrayana Buddhism or any other UL discipline into the integral arena.

     

    I know people are already working on this.  I know Ken Wilber has an interesting Video with him hooked to an EEG.  I have also had good experiences with using heart rate biofeedback to measure my meditation states.

     

    What do you think?

    Bliss and emptiness,

    Jack

     

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