Monopoly of awakening
There is one thing about traditional Tibetan buddhism and dzogchen, that I have exceedingly hard time to appreciate. It is the monopolistic aspect of their tradition.
Oath of secrecy
Vajrayana, as Tibetan buddhism is known, is usually sealed with an oath of secrecy (samaya) which the student is required to take before receiving teachings. This means that the student who has received any sort of teachings from his teacher (lama) cannot tell or share with others what he has learned. If the student does this, it is seen as a violation towards the guru, guru's lineage and the teachings concerned. It is said that by breaking samaya, one goes to hell realms etc. It gets medieval pretty quickly.
Myself being an unorthodox, nonsectarian teacher of both tantra and ati yoga (dzogchen) I appreciate the aspect of secrecy to some extent. It is a fact that empowerments of tantric deities or mind-to-mind transmissions, also known as ”direct introduction” in dzogchen cannot be validly delivered by a person who has no thorough understanding, know-how and personal experience of the teachings concerned. One has to be an expert to be able to deliver these things.
However, to me it seems that the way how vajrayana-students, both eastern and western, are bound with an oath of secrecy regarding the teachings they have received, is an exaggeration. The way how it is applied sucks. Big time. Secrecy is clearly an element that prevents dharma-teachings from really taking fire and hence people of the society at large remain in dualistic ignorance.
Does buddhism deliver?
Sometime ago I heard Tenzin Palmo, a widely respected Western Tibetan buddhist nun and lama, say with a frustrated tone*,
”It would be nice if someone would come along and find a method by which people could awaken. Even the Buddha could't do that”.
*See the video here.
It is striking to hear this from a true yogini with lifelong practice who is a specialist of the buddhist tradition. Her tradition is the spiritual tradition of the world that is supposed to help people awaken. In my view buddhism, out of all religions has the greatest potential for waking people up... but it isn't happening.
There are many reasons for this, out of which oath of secrecy is one. It is a problem because it prevents from various enlightening techniques from being shared openly for the benefit of many. Only lamas and those who are initiated in specific traditions, have access to these teachings that are meant for every one, the whole humanity, not only to a priviledged few.
Tibetan buddhism being an old establishment, and largely a monastic one, it is clear that there is a motive of self-preservation, money and power there. No religion is above these human traits. What commonly happens when men in robes get together, and too comfortable without much responsibilities is that their dharma becomes diluted, watery. Nowadays, Tibetan buddhism, including the one which has been and is being imported to the Western world is like a pale ghost of dharma. There have lineages, temples, philosophies and the whole external show going on but rarely do lamas and rinpoches know first hand what emptiness etc. really means. There is no juice there. Largely, it isn't much different from what the Christian church has to offer. Many people buy into it, including westerners with high education but evidently endowed with only little of common sense.
I say this because I keep getting regular emails from people all around the world who for some time bought what their lamas, (who are often young men with buddhist academic degrees, without much or none experience of meditation, living very comfortable lives supported and served by their parishioners), kept telling them by reading books aloud.
This has been warned by gurus and masters through the whole human history. Never be fooled by titles, reputations, robes, fancy speeches or other externals. Judge a teacher by how his teachings actually work. Don't buy a pig in a poke.
Awakening and the two part formula
About two years ago when I was asked by a friend to help him awaken, I spontaneously came up with what now is called as the ”two part formula”. Over 95% of people who committed to use it as the basis of their existential analysis, got irreversibly awakened.
I have written about this extensively at the Open Heart-blog. There is also the free Awake!-ebook available at the Open Heart-website and YouTube-videos, if you are not familiar with the topic. Please look into it, if you haven't yet.
So, 65 people (out of 67 in total) got awakened with this formula, most in one-on-one guidance given by a teacher. Personally having spent years and doing literally tens of thousands of hours of various practices to get awakened, while not managing to do that, I think that this is very significant. The formula works. In some cases even without a dialoque with a teacher.
It works like a Swiss watch with anyone who has recognised his existential dilemma and has enough commitment to see thought it. As it works so well, I'd presume that it will, within some time frame, become a sort of a worldwide standard as a technique facilitating the awakening of people.
I wish to make clear is that this two part formula is not my property, my invention or trademarked by the Open Heart-method. I simply remembered it from my previous life.
It is free for everyone to use, to both seekers and teachers. Feel free to make it your own! Use it well.
Awakening and Tibetan dzogchen
After I had used the two part formula with about 15 people, I read from a dzogchen-book that these two principles, 1. I-less awareness and 2. I-based mode are used in a dzogchen tradition as a preliminary practice to generate awakening. As I forgot which book it was, I've tried to find a traditional dzogchen-reference about it. I just wanted to know if there is a real connection there, other than my past life memories.
An acquaintant, practitioner of Tibetan dzogchen and a student of Namkhai Norbu, wrote me:
”There are practices that are nearly identical to... "self-inquiry", in the practice of khordas rushan (korde rushen). But I'm a fairly hard-line traditionalist when it comes to practices and transmission and cannot discuss the specifics of rushan here.”
He admits that in their tradition, they have practices for separating (rushen) illusion (samsara) from reality (nirvana), that is concerned with the sense of self or me-ness, as is done also in vedanta-style self-inquiry. However, he stops from saying more by his oath of secrecy. With all respect, considering the topic and it's universal importance to all men, the otah of secrecy does not seem rational to me.
A better and more to the point reference about awakening as it is taught in Tibetan mahamudra and dzogchen, popped up when I was listening to a recording* by Daniel P. Brown, the author of the book ”Pointing out the Great Way”:
”Now bring to mind your usual sense of self, your personal identity. You can evoke this and use it as an object of reflection. For example I would evoke Dan, Danness, and look squarely at Danness. The thing about self-presentation is that you can evoke it and you can observe it... So evoke your sense of self and observe it. Notice any personal characteristics you associate with that sense of self. Familiarise yourself with the target of your search... And now take your awareness... And let your awareness roam thought the regions of your body. See if you can find any thing in itself, any independently existing thing that is that personal identity, anywhere in the field of bodily experience. You have to actively search... And the more you search anything independently existing, any thing in itself, the more what you search for will be seen from your awareness as unfindable. Emptiness practice... is in the unfindability of the target... If you think you find the independent basis for that sense of self, if you find any thing that's substantial, roam around in that area and break it down to smaller units of analysis... OK, now evoke your sense of self, your personal identity once again... Familiarize yourself with the target of the search. Evoke your personal identity and notice any personal characteristics you associate with that sense of self... Now, take your awareness and let it roam through mental content. Do you find any independently existing thing that is that self?... As you continue to search at some point there is a shift in your basis of operation. What remains right here is the awareness itself, no longer obscured by the empty construction of the personal identity. You open up to the level of awareness that is cleaned up of the cloud of self. And you start operating from that instead of operating out of self-mode.”
*The recording can be found from this page, under: ”Meditation on Insight Training or ”Emptiness”.
This is the only recording that I've come across (in addition to those offered by Open Heart) which quickly but in reasonable clear way says what one should do to get awakened. It is better than most instructions out there. It is essentially the same as the two part formula.
Because of the way it is guided (pedagogy), a beginner without any exposure to what is being instructed will probably have difficulty understanding what Brown is talking about, and may not be able to apply the practice. In order to get the instruction properly, you'd have to join a retreat with him and they cost quite a bit of money. Anyway, for Brown's guided meditation to be public like that, him being a traditionalist bound by oath of secrecy regarding the practices, I think it's good they made it available.
To clarify what Brown is instructing people to do to gain insight of emptiness, is precisely what is being instructed with the two part formula, which is availabel in clear and understandable instructions.
What I say are not the words of a buddha, fully awakened one. I am well aware of my immaturity as a yogi and as a teacher. But with all love and respect, neither are correct the words of many gurus out there. There is a need to burst some widely believed and practiced bubbles.
My motive for writing another critical text about the problems in the world of dharma today, is because I think that proper spiritual instructions should be available to all people. I hope from my heart that the humanity as large will someday be significantly more aware than it is now, even though various teachings have been around, kept in vaults, for hundreds and hundreds of years. It simply is not correct or fair to speak of ”compassion towards all beings” while holding to the medieval attitude of dharma monopoly.
May all beings be free!
- Kim Katami, 20.6.2016.