torstai 17. tammikuuta 2019

Wanted: More Buddhist Professionals By Karl Brunnhölzl

Wanted: More Buddhist Professionals

By Karl Brunnhölzl

“The transmission of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism to the West only began about fifty years ago. So it is too early to draw a final comparison between this process and the transmission of Buddhism from India to Tibet, which took place over many centuries. Still, it seems timely to ask ourselves where we stand now.
In the past, Indian and Tibetan masters devoted their entire lives to transmitting the vast body of Indian Buddhist teachings and practices. Most were monastics, and it was their sole job to study and practice the Dharma. Usually they were supported by sponsors. Yet even with these favorable conditions, it took some five hundred years to accomplish the full transmission of three-yana Buddhism to Tibet.

The complete transmission on a Tibetan lineage includes the full curriculum of a monastic college, all the practices that are cultivated in long-term retreats, and a wealth of liturgical and ritual details. This is a difficult and highly demanding task, even in the East, with its great number of monastic full-time teachers. In the West, it is much more difficult.

Most Western Buddhists, including teachers and translators, are not monastics and have a regular day job. Many have studied with excellent Tibetan teachers, but only a few have had the opportunity to immerse themselves in a Tibetan lineage with a depth that is even close to what many Tibetan teachers do.
So it is no understatement to say that most of us are “hobby Buddhists” or “amateur Buddhists” who try to cram some Dharma into our already more than busy lives. Of course many people are quite content with that kind of engagement, and that’s fine. But if our goal is a full transmission of the three-yana lineages transmitted in Tibetan Buddhism, then what we need are more “Buddhist professionals.” These are Westerners, who, like their Asian counterparts, have the ability, time, interest, and support to make the study and practice of an entire Buddhist tradition that main focus of their lives.

Despite the efforts of dedicated Westerners who have studied and practiced for many years with Tibetan masters, the best we can say is that so far only bits and pieces of some Tibetan schools have been transmitted to Western Buddhists. And even this foundation is not very stable because of what seems to be the lack of a new generation of Western translators and teachers.
Why do we find ourselves in this situation?

(1) First, many Western Buddhists are ignorant of haw vast the teachings and practices of even a single lineage are and therefore believe that what they now know and practice as Tibetan Buddhism is pretty much all there is to it. For example, Tibetan Buddhism is typically understood as just Vajrayana Buddhism, but Tibetan lineages include extensive and very significant parts of what is taught in the Nikaya traditions and the sutra-based Mahayana tradition. Of course, not all students have to know and practice everything. But Western teachers, potentially even lineage holders, need to have a complete overview of what is available in a given tradition, and at least some experience of it, in order to properly guide students in accordance with their individual mind-sets and abilities.

(2) Second, there are hardly any institutions in the West where aspiring teachers and translators can receive systematic and comprehensive training. This training process—be it in study or practice—takes many years to complete, sometimes even decades, and it can require learning a foreign language, and at times, highly technical language.

(3) Third, even if someone is willing to put in the time and effort needed for such an endeavor, there is virtually no financial support available for it. I have seen a significant number of young and talented translators, scholars, and teachers stop their training in order to focus on making a living. The common Asian tradition of funding promising sangha members so they can eventually become teachers is far from being adopted in the West. Unlike Asian lay practitioners, it appears Westerners primarily want to use their financial resources to study and practice themselves rather than sponsor someone else who could receive a more full-fledged training and be able to benefit many people in return.

(4) Fourth, there is a lack of emotional support for Western teachers. Even though most Westerners say they want some Western form of Buddhism, there is a widespread (though often unspoken) bias in favor of Tibetan teachers over Western ones. To gain at least some recognition, Western teachers usually have to work harder, deliver better teachings, and have better conduct than Tibetan teachers. The unlimited authority of Tibetan teachers is often accepted without question by Western students, regardless of their actual qualifications. In contrast, even Western teachers with higher qualifications than some Tibetans are not readily accepted. When it comes to Western teachers, it’s not uncommon for students to think, “I know at least as much—or more—than this person.”
I urge practitioners to consider the necessity, role, and benefit of Western Buddhist professionals, and to understand what it takes for such people to manifest and flourish. Without them, the emergence of a self-sufficient and comprehensive three-yana Buddhist lineage in the West seems quite unlikely.”

Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly
Fall 2013

tiistai 15. tammikuuta 2019

Rushen, Part 1: Spontaneous Origins of Yoga, Tantra and Art

Rushen, Part 1:
Spontaneous Origins of Yoga,
Tantra and Art

First watch this fine presentation by Mr. Igor Kufayev, where he discusses Spontaneous Origins of Yoga.

This phenomena of spontaneous physical movement is known by names such as kundalini kriya, kriya or Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). It is very common and happens to many people, whether they know what it is or not. In Open Heart, as well as in traditional dzogchen, it is called rushen. Rushen means to separate between confusion (samsara) and liberation (nirvana). This basically means to recognise one's true nature.

Traditionally, rushen is taught in the following way: Think of various kinds of beings of the six realms, as taught in buddhism, and then in a spontaneous and playful fashion, without planning it, start acting out these beings. You might begin to act like a scared animal or angry demon, for example, and by doing so shed a lot of psychological and physical tensions.

In Open Heart we basically do the same thing. I encourage students to let it all come out spontaneously, without any planning. When they are new to the exercise, they usually start with small and shy movements but when they get out of their heads, the natural stress release mechanism takes over and they start shaking, trembling and moving in dramatic ways, often combined with moaning, grunting, laughing or yelling sounds. Rushen movements expand to different areas of the body or encompass the whole body, several muscle groups, at once. In the beginning it is chaotic, just like samsara, but eventually it starts to sort itself out.

In the short video, Mr. Kufayev discusses how spontaneous movements can develop to yogic postures and breathing exercises, which are known as pranayama.

To add to this, rushen can develop into
tai chi, chi gong, dances of different kinds, including temple dance, as practiced in buddhism, hinduism and shintoism. Also, if the student is a tantric practitioner, mudras (hand gestures) and mantras (sacred sounds and vocalisations) can come out. From there visions of oneself as a guru or as a specific deity, any of those one is familiar with or others, can take place. All of this can happen spontaneously, without no planning or conscious effort whatsoever.

This indicates how thorough this exercise is. One can sort out one's confusion through rushen, reveal the sacred aspects of one's own mind (deities), while expressing it externally through dance and song. This is what it rushen means, to go beyond the six realms and actualize one's wakeful nature. 

- Kim Katami, 15.1.2019
Open Heart Sangha

Siddhas Without Religion

Siddhas Without Religion

The figures found in these lists are generally acknowledged to be “Buddhists.” Certainly, the legends surrounding them and the words attributed to them have influenced countless Buddhists in India, Nepal, and Tibet for a thousand years; but in their original setting, it is not always easy to separate them out—whether in terms of terminology, rhetoric, or practice—from similar figures in non-Buddhist, especially “Hindu” traditions. They seem quite closely related to Shaivite ascetics like the Pasupatas and Kapalikas; tantrikas like the Kashmiri Shaivas and Bengali Shaktas; or the wonder-working Nath siddhas and Rasa siddhas. More broadly, there are general similarities between ideas and practices found in Buddhist siddha writings and those of other Indian yogic and ascetic communities—from such “textualized” movements as those reflected in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali and the Samnyasa Upanishad to such seemingly timeless and “unwritten” groups as the Nagas, Kanphatas, and Aghoras. Nor can their possible connections with similar sorts of groups in, for instance, Persia, central Asia, or China be overlooked; the resonance, and possible historical connections, between Indian siddhas and Chinese Chan masters or Taoist immortals suggest an especially intriguing, if uncertain, path for further research.

What is more, it is entirely possible that, as suggested long ago by Agehanada Bharati, most of the siddhas actually were pre- or nonsectarian wandering yogins, who appropriated various religious terms without intending to promote a particular religion—yet willy-nilly were appropriated by those very sectarian traditions that they resisted or ignored.

From Tantric Treasures by Roger R. Jackson

Compelling Charm of A Tantric

Compelling Charm of A Tantric

A thousand years ago or more, a solitary yogin walks out of the Bengali jungle just after sundown and sits cross-legged under the canopy of a village banyan tree. He is dressed in little more than a loincloth. His beard and mustache are unkempt, and his long, matted hair is tied up in a bun. He carries a mendicant’s staff and a double-headed hand drum. His eyes shine in the torchlight. His reputation has preceded him, and an audience quickly gathers at his feet, mostly young village men but some women, too. They’ve heard that he mocks the elders, teaches a way to live freely in the world, and sometimes will perform a miracle, like turning base metals into gold or flying through the sky. Older men cast suspicious glances from the edge of the crowd. They’ve heard that he’s a dropout from the monastic university, lives near a cremation ground with a low-caste woman, participates in debauched rites, works at a low-class occupation if he works at all, and is out to subvert the social and religious order.

The silence of evening is broken by the barking of dogs, the lowing of cattle, and the screeching of birds; the scent and haze of home fires fills the air. When his audience has settled down, the man starts slowly to beat out a rhythm on his drum, and then he begins to sing. His voice is untrained and his melodies rough, but his lyrics are sharp and aphoristic. In rhyming verses, using words from the common tongue, he celebrates the ecstasy of enlightened awareness and the free-roaming life, while mocking the pretensions of ritualists, scholars, contemplatives, ascetics, and anyone who claims that realization can be found anywhere but within oneself. His words are simple, but his meanings complex and full of paradox. He sings of the sky and stars and sea, of animals and plants, of husbands and wives and kings and commoners, but in ways that seem to point below the surface. He says the mind is pure but that we have to do without it; he suggests we can live sensuously in the world but warns against the traps of pleasure; he damns obsession with religious rites but hints at mystical practices of his own; he rails against experts of every sort but venerates his guru without reserve. When he is finished, he gets up, turns his back to the crowd, and walks back alone into the jungle.

The next morning, the village work resumes as it always does, but now some of the young people, and the old men, too, find that they’ve got the yogin’s songs stuck in their heads, a phrase here, a rhyme there, which they try to puzzle out. At odd moments during the day, and even more so at night, they find their thoughts turning to the jungle, to truths that might be discovered beyond the village clearing, to the sound of that strange troubadour’s voice, the rhythm of his drum, the look in his eyes.

From Tantric Treasures by Roger R. Jackson

maanantai 14. tammikuuta 2019

Ken McLeod & The Meaning of Scriptures

Ken McLeod
& The Meaning of Scriptures

Ken: there is a huge amount of mystification. If you read the mahayana sutras, they’re wonderful. They’re beautiful. They’re elaborate, and they leave you the impression that you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being really awake. [Laughter] Right?

Student: The Heart Sutra.

Ken: The Heart Sutra is relatively innocuous, try the Avatamsaka Sutra. It goes on and on and on. Even the Diamond Sutras are intimidating that way.

But when you get to the core experiences they describe, the picture is different. For instance, how many of you know the four stages of arhatship? Stream winner, once returner, no returner and arhat. Right?

Student: Very intimidating. [Laughing]

Ken: Yeah, except that what in the blazes does this mean? Okay. What’s a stream winner? Now it’s someone who—and if you read the formal descriptions—and you feel like “well you know, maybe twenty-five lifetimes if I work absolutely consistently. I don’t do anything else. I never earn a cent in my life. I just meditate all the time maybe I’ll just get there.” Like that, right?

Well, those wonderful descriptions are a poetic expression of how much people valued these things, so they, they blew it up tremendously. So what is a stream winner? A stream winner is a person who has had a sufficiently powerful or strong experience of emptiness that they can’t go back to being the same way. It’s something which screws up the system so you can’t go back. Now you’re on the path. You are in the stream. No? So when you’ve developed a level of attention, you have that experience. Then you’re a stream winner.

What’s a once returner? A once returner is a person whose level of attention is sufficiently high so that when a reactive process comes up, they are caught by it for a moment (one life) [snaps fingers] and then they return to wakefulness.
When a reactive process arises in a no returner, it just comes and goes. They aren’t caught by it. They don’t have to return. They stay in wakefulness.
Buried in this highly metaphorical language you have simple and accessible experiences expressed in code. These experiences are very accessible to all of us. The fact that they are seen as way out there, well, that’s poetry.

Student: But they are taken literally by some. [Chuckles] Some of my teachers anyway!

Ken: Actually some in the group here. [Laughter] Well, there was this student of Zen who had a very, very deep experience at one point. And the circumstances were such that he couldn’t go to any teacher and recount his experience and have it reflected back, which is actually a important aspect. So in lieu of that, I think he picked up the Diamond Sutra. And said to himself, “If I can read this and understand it without having a single thought then I think I am probably on the right track.” And that’s what he did. It was all completely clear to him. 
So when you have had certain experiences then you see what the poetry is actually pointing to. Now eastern teachers––many of them, almost all of them––they learned and were trained in this highly metaphorical way of expression. At the same time because they are in traditional societies, they don’t take it literally. They understand and know it as metaphor. Though they don’t talk about it as metaphor. It’s not the way one does things in a traditional society.

We’re in and have been brought up in a modern society. Modern society is characterized by the use of rational processes, particularly at times, in which you take everything literally. When you’re reading an account of a scientific experiment you’re paying attention to every word that’s being very clearly expressed because you want to reconstruct that experiment to see if you can do it yourself. So you take everything absolutely literally. But when we bring that literalness to this highly metaphorical thing the result is disastrous!

I’ll give you an example. I ran into this with a psychologist one time in a conversation. And it’s exactly this conversation. And he said “Well give me an example.” I said, “In Tibetan Buddhism you regard your teacher as buddha.” And he immediately said, “Oh, so he’s infallible.” So I said, “No.” That’s a perfect example of modern literal rational processes being applied to metaphorical imagery or mythic language really.

When you say you regard your teacher as a buddha, as Buddha, it describes the way that you regard a teacher as how you experience awakening mind; how you would want to live that way. It doesn’t say anything about being [unclear], but it says a great deal about, is your relationship with that person. And the role of that relationship in your spiritual process. It’s a huge difference in talking about a person as being [unclear]. Not the same thing at all. And those kinds of mistakes are being made all over the place.

sunnuntai 13. tammikuuta 2019

Chatral Rinpoche & Hindu Deities

Chatral Rinpoche & Hindu Deities

"One instance of the manner in which Rinpoche could be unconventional, and which most people would not have been aware, prior to his passing away, caused many some surprise. This only emerged when the family compound in Parping (Nepal) was opened to the public. On the walls of the Lhakhang, which had been built inside the compound, were painted the Hindu deities of Shiva with his consort Parvati. On the left side of the shrine; Krishna with his consort Radha and their entourages along with various other representations of this kind. Directly in front of the temple entrance, and housed in its own separate building, a Shiva lingam (hindu symbol) of generous proportions.
To some traditional Buddhists, this would seem like a grave eccentricity in the Lama and something quite inexplicable.
However, Rinpoche had gone beyond the narrowness of needing to confine himself solely to the accepted and traditional Tibetan Buddhist pantheon. He saw no conflict of interests. What these images represent is an expression of ‘energy’ in its many and varied forms and this ‘energy’ is universal."

Account by Lyse Lauren, close disciple of Chatral Rinpoche

lauantai 12. tammikuuta 2019

Awakening & Psychological Growth

Awakening & Psychological Growth

From Awakening & Psychological Growth by Michael Taft,

"Waking up will not solve your psychological issues—which unfortunately is exactly what most people think it will do and are looking for. It will not automatically make you nicer, or make other people like you more. It won’t solve your depression, your obsession, or your narcissism."

In buddhism, awakening in general, is defined as familiarisation with the empty or selfless nature of mind. It is true that little familiarisation leaves much of the self-based terrain alive and this can and does lead to mistakes and problems, even scandals and traumas, unfortunately. It is little or too little familiarisation (or too little awakening) that is the problem here, not that buddhism, as a philosophy, wouldn't work or "go all the way". I am a fan of Western psychology but I do think that if taught and applied correctly, buddha dharma doesn't require support from it. Having said that, I don't recommend stubbornly sitting (sticking with one's chosen method of dharma) with one's problems if there is no indication of both awakening and psychological growth.

Buddhist methods vary and teachers' understanding of their own methods and ability to pass it on varies greatly. Even something very basic, like the meditative exercise of following of the breath or the meaning of taking refuge, can be taught very differently, which affects how the students learn and internalise it. The differences in learning can be vast depending on the method and the teacher, even if the theory is the same. Someone can be a teacher from a highly considered tradition, such as vajrayana, but be a poor practitioner and not much of a teacher, while a dedicated practitioner and skilled enough teacher from a lower vehicle can make his or her students advance and transform significantly. On the other hand, a vajrayana teacher, who is familiar with the natural state and sees into the underlying principles of practices, can make his or her students progress very fast. So, the questions of method as well as pedagogy are very important, as is the level or depth of the teacher's awakening.

To have use for dharma teachings, one has to acknowledge one's own confusion, or suffering caused by a sense of me-ness. Without this discontent one has no need or motivation for practice, and doesn't see the point of it either. On the other hand if one acknowledges one's confusion, and immaturity because of that, it feeds one's motivation to practice for one's own liberation for the sake of all beings, as it is taught in mahayana. But if you get your belly full from one or two shifts, possibly become a teacher, or a worshipped guru who has comfortable life with money and services, your growth stops there. It stops the moment you become satisfied. More importantly you only understand a fraction of what buddhism points to with emptiness or nature of mind. While anyone with one or few shifts can understand something of emptiness, only a fully awakened one, a buddha, really knows it. This leads to a whole another discussion but I'll try to stick with the topic.

The Heart Sutra states, "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form". Confused self-based (samsaric) mind is realised to be empty of self. "There is no one here! Woohoo!". Once this realisation expands to cover most of one's mind, one's training takes a different turn, that of becoming a human being again, instead of remaining as transparent, colourless and formless emptiness. The thing is that emotions don't go away or stop with realisation of emptiness but instead of them causing selfing, they become expression of the natural state. Because one has solid ground in the empty nature of mind, emotions and expressing them becomes an embodiment of one's awakening. It is OK to feel hurt, vulnerable and angry, that is the training here and really it is all part of the same training as before. In this way, one becomes healed as a human, instead of remaining a human-shaped non-human who has no self or emotions. This is, of course, if one has human traumas. Not all do but I think many attracted to dharma or spiritual teachings do, because once again you need suffer to have use for dharma.

But I think that in many cases there simply isn't enough familiarisation with the natural state, i.e. insight is insufficient, to get to the stage of emotional healing.

Hope this is useful.

- Kim