perjantai 23. elokuuta 2019

Culadasa John Yates: Sutrayana ”doesn't go far enough”

Culadasa John Yates:
Sutrayana ”doesn't go far enough”

See this video from July 2019: https://youtu.be/X7brJ8qrLBo?t=3404


In the video Culadasa John Yates, a veteran of 50 years of practice and one of the most respected teachers of buddhist meditation in the West, discusses The Mind Illuminated, his own version of buddhist sutrayana meditations, and states that it "doesn't go far enough", despite of insight and awakening that the method produces. This lecture was given about a month before he was fired or himself left his own Dharma Treasure organisation due to allegations of misconduct in the forms of lying and extramarital sexual affairs.

Although Culadasa's bio says that together with his hinayana lineage, he also has vajrayana lineage, I have never seen or found a reference that would state that he is a tantric
practitioner or that he would teach tantra. If you know that my information lacks in this regard, please correct me. I have sought this bit of information for few years but never found it. In some webcasts he has mentioned vajrayana in general but I have never seen him talk about tantric practices in the sense that it was something that he and his students were actively involved with.

In the video he says that he has gone through buddhist meditation training and that, despite of some illumination, "buddhist meditation traditions" (in plural) have severe deficiencies. He goes on to say that combination of shamanism and buddhism would tap what his practices have left untapped. In this connection, he also mentions Tibetan buddhism and Bon-tradition. That he doesn't mention his own vajrayana teachings or practices, adds to my belief that, despite of his lineage, he is not a vajrayana practitioner or teacher of it.



Culadasa John Yates

To my knowledge, Culadasa is a practitioner of sutrayana, so I cannot take his statement about the deficiency of all buddhist tradition
s seriously. I am aware that buddhism in general and Tibetan vajrayana in particular has all kinds of problems but in general based on my own observations vajrayana practitioners go farther in their practice than practitioners of sutrayana. I leave scholars, academics and doctors of buddhism entirely out of this. In terms of bhumi analysis (OHBM) it can be clearly seen that tantrics have more bhumis open and perfected, or in common terms have more clarity and purity than sutrayana practitioners do. By saying this I do not deny the benefits of sutrayana, neither in mahayana nor in hinayana, because I know from my own experience that sutra practice reaps benefits. However, in my experience as well as Culadasa's, sutrayana leaves a lot of the psyche into the shadow. It just "doesn't go far enough". For this reason I have discussed the greater benefits of tantric practice.

The problem is that sutric meditation practice is built on one's own effort, energy and ability of attention which in the present samsaric condition are very limited. On the other hand , tantric deities that are archetypes of the enlightened mind cannot but reveal all the nooks and corners of the mind or psyche, leaving nothing hidden. This is the potential of tantric practice but like I said it needs to be practiced correctly. Some ex-Tibetan buddhists, like Stephen Batchelor, have not understood this so they have renounced tantra.

Culadasa,
"As you progress on the paths of awakening, the changes of you recognising them (parts of our pscyhe) as something that needs to be purified, diminishes.".

It is such a strange thing to say but at least he is honest. This precisely is Culadasa's testimony of the insufficiency of his long sutric practice that according to his experience, he is no longer able to find the very inner obstructions and habits that lead him to behave in unethical and destructive ways.




May All Beings Be Free,



-Kim Katami, 23.8.2019
Open Heart Sangha,
www.en.openheart.fi









maanantai 19. elokuuta 2019

Have All Beings Been Our Mothers?

Have All Beings Been Our Mothers?

When a practitioner, who personally knows and practices on behalf of ill, dying or dead person, it has the power to move mountains of karma and health issues. Things can really change through personal connection. Can you think of a bigger favour to someone you know?

In Tibet it is customary to think that all sentient beings have at some point been our mothers. Lately I've been thinking about my human ancestors from both of mine parental lineages and last week did some calculations.

I, like everyone else, have two parents. My parents both have two parents, so including their parents, I have 4 grandparents. My 4 grandparents have altogether 8 parents of their own, which means that consequentially, I am genetically and karmically connected to these 8 ancestors. If I go further back in history up to 10 generations, it adds up to 1024 ancestors. I am genetically and karmically an heir to all these 1024 people, most of who I have no idea who they have been, what they did or where they lived. According to the definition of familial generation, which according to Wikipedia is 25-30 years, people 10 generations before me lived about 250-300 years ago. In 20 generations, the number of ancestors increases up o over a million, 1 048 576 to be exact. They lived roughly about 500-600 years back, in 1400-1500's. With 30 generations, the number of ancestors goes over a billion, to 1 073 741 824 and they lived roughly 800 years ago. That's a staggering number. In less than thousand years, which is a really short time in greater time frame, we've had over 1 billion ancestors, whose genes we have and to whose karma we are connected to. In three more generations (33), the number goes up to 8 billion which is the number of current popuation on Earth. The further back we go in time, the bigger the number of ancestors gets. Already one million ancestors is difficult if not impossible to comprehend. 
 
By Yayoi Kusama

To me the idea that my body and to some extent also my mind is directly related to countless people that I never met and do not know anything about, is a bewildering idea. My body, its constitution and health, is a cause of endless amount of ancestors, even beyond the scope of homo sapiens sapiens, which is our current species. It goes directly, without a gap, all the way back to apes and more primitive animals. Our ancestors are numberless, just like all sentient beings are numberless, as often recited in bodhisattva prayers.

All of our ancestors, beyond one, two or three generations, are of course long gone. They have left the bodies they used to pass on our genes and according to the buddhist theory of transmigration, as samsaric beings went on to take rebirth in all possible forms according to their karma. Maybe some of them were practitioners and attained something meaningful. Maybe one or two of them even attained buddhahood but by looking at the condition of the present spiritual state of human kind, it is safe to assume that the vast majority of them did not attain liberation. Anyhow, through this simple logic we can realise our connection to numberless beings and in this light, the Tibetan idea that all beings have been our mothers at some point, no longer sounds so abstract or silly anymore. I have been your mother, you have been my mother, your neighbour has been your mother, as well as mine, and so on. Our connection to everyone else does not come only through being citizens of Planet Earth at present time but through all these ancestors and the continuous engine of transmigration. It is a massive system... It is both funny and tragical to think that most of us from beginningless time, have had and keep having the same problems. We just keep going round and round, some as bodhisattvas and buddhas, some as samsaric beings.

Prayers said by practitioners who have personal connection to someone or a group of people, weigh more in the scale than prayers said by strangers. It is so because of stronger karmic, energetic or emotional connection between the two parties. What if we started praying and practicing on behalf of all those ancestors to whom we are actually connected to through our bloodline? Each of us has the capability to tune in and feel the presence of all those people and pray for them, for example, chanting Guru Rinpoche's name or the Refuge for them. In my experience this is an immensely touching and fulfilling practice of wisdom and compassion that really changes destinies by removing immense mountains of karma.

-Kim Katami, 19.8.2019
Open Heart Sangha,


sunnuntai 18. elokuuta 2019

Emptiness of Self and Phenomena in the Forms of Space and Time

Emptiness of Self and Phenomena in the Forms of Space and Time

I was listening to an interview of Leigh Brasington, an American practitioner and teacher of buddhist meditation who has background in theravada buddhism as well as dzogchen.

In the interview (https://youtu.be/o9xP28pzQAA?t=4808) he briefly discusses concepts of space and time as forms of self-delusion. I have discussed about this on many occasions but just as a reminder, felt like writing a short note.

Emptiness of Space:
From 3-D to Zero-D

Self or me, in all of its forms and expressions, is located both in time and space. Our sense of me-ness is located in three-dimensional, 3-D, space. It is easy to see how our physical body is a three-dimensional object existing in three-dimensional physical space. In the same manner, as all of our self-based confusion is in our mind, mind objects of various kinds also come and go in the same way, appearing and disappearing in three-dimensional mind space. These two bodies, physical and energetic or mind, are the two most obvious bodies we have but then there is a third body which for sentient beings is mostly hidden and unknown. This unfamiliarity (marigpa) is the root cause of our confusion and suffering. That is the body of knowing awareness or rigpa. My understanding of the three kayas is that these three in the order given above are: nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya and dharmakaya.

Bhumis

In Open Heart-style of vajrayana buddhist practice we use Open Heart Bhumi Model as our path map. In my experience, the question about the space-aspect of awareness is solved with the opening of the 11th bhumi. At this point, after 11 major shifts, rigpa becomes one's default mode of being and the confusion between three-dimensional mind and zero-dimensional rigpa-awareness is clarified. There is no way one could be confused about 3-D and 0-D after this, unless momentarily during dark night. This stage also makes one understand about the difference between mindfulness or concentration-based and awareness-based training paradigms. I have talked about this here, for example.

Dynamic Concentration

Traditional concentration practices operate under the laws and functions of the energetic body and all types of concentration practices from zen-style samadhi to theravadan jhanas happen within the samsaric mind, not beyond it. Dynamic Concentration, on the other hand, with its explosive power, cuts through all and any layers of the samsaric mind and consequentially, leaves no other option than for rigpa-awareness to show up. There is no other option that the self-recognition of it which is done by no one.

The reason why Open Heart-practitioners have so many shifts in perception so quickly is mostly because of Dynamic Concentration. Dynamic Concentration does not work on the terms set up by samsaric mind and because of this the most foundational of our bodies can be recognised so effectively through this exercise. My second book, What's Next? On Post-Awakening Practice, describes this and the process in detail through practitioners' written accounts and photographs. It even works for people who use it apart from tantric practice, as you can read here.

So, the confusion of space goes with the opening of mahasiddha bhumis. After this the self-invested concept of existence in space ceases to be a cause of confusion.

Emptiness of Time:
From 3-D to Zero-D

In my experience, emptiness of time, came with the perfection of the 7th bhumi. Prior to this event, perfection of the 7th bhumi, I hadn't given much thought to time or the idea of passing of time, although through glimpsing of the natural state I had seen countless times how different the experience of it was in comparison to the usual mind or self that exists in time and space. But conceptually I hadn't contemplated it.

So, in my practice, Open Heart Yoga mainly, I had this shift, similar to bhumi openings and other bhumi perfections, and for a moment I had to conceptualize what was it that I had un-conceptualized. Then I realized that the perception or idea of time was no longer the same it was before. The flavour of this insight was not any different than any of the previous insights into the emptiness of self and phenomena. It was just a part of my deeply ingrained self, in the form of existing in time, that was no longer there and again the living experience was fuller than it was before.

Thank you,
-Kim Katami
Open Heart Sangha,





maanantai 12. elokuuta 2019

Transmission - Heart Of All Buddhism

Transmission - Heart Of All Buddhism

 

In this text, I will discuss the topic of transmission in buddhism, particularly from the point of view of dzogchen but also sutra and tantra. I was inspired to write this after I read Tahlia Newland's blog entitled, Can you get a Dzogchen Transmission from an Unrealised Teacher?.

Since 2017, Mrs. Newland has discussed abuse and problems in Tibetan buddhism, especially those related to Sogyal Lakar (Sogyal Rinpoche) and his Rigpa-organisation. Her above linked text discusses dzogchen practice in very much the same way I have in many blogs and talks, so I felt like offering my take on these essential questions that do not concern only dzogchen but are to all forms of buddhism, and other approaches. For full presentation by Mrs. Newland, I recommend reading her original text. Questions presented here are from her text. 

 

Comment: I would like to begin my comments by expressing my deep sympathies to abuse victims of Sogyal Lakar and his former followers. I wish that all involved may heal from their traumas quickly, for liberation of all sentient beings.

 

My own experiences cannot be compared to those accounted in the letter by Sogyal's senior students but I have also experienced psychological abuse as a student of a certain person, who had authentic lineage of tantra. I have not talked about this publicly, nor mentioned the name of this abusive guru. Despite of my relatively short association with this person, in 2007-2009, as a practitioner with no first hand experience of insight and high respect towards gurus and their traditions, I was psychologically abused badly enough for me to experience high anxiety, stress and fear for several months. I could speak about this extensively but here it is sufficient to say that it was highly unpleasant. Later, I understood that I found my way out because of my commitment to ethics of dharma, namely honesty and non-harming, as well as because of Bodhisattva Vows. 

 

Positive side of my experience as abuse victim was that it completely shattered by blind faith towards traditions and their authorisations. Until then I believed in all kinds of nonsense from this yogi and other sources such as books. I believed in what I now see as unproved miracles and fairytales. I thought very highly of dharma heirs, titles and traditions; all the external prestige, but due to these events, it all came down. I no longer blindly believed anything about dharma and I started to think for myself. I could say that these negative events, set my feet on the path of pragmatic dharma and has had a huge impact on my work as the founder and head teacher of Open Heart Sangha. 

 

I wasn't happy when the outbreak happened but I am happy about it now because it brought me to a place as a practitioner and as a teacher, where I wouldn't be without it.

Question: Can you get a Dzogchen Transmission from an Unrealised Teacher?


Comment: To answer this question, we first need to understand some basics about meditative experience and especially those of spiritual transmissions. I will first discuss blessings and transmissions from the perspective of sutra, tantra and dzogchen which, according to buddhist teaching, all are valid ways to attain buddhahood.


Sutric Practice


Blessings and transmissions are all over spiritual, yogic or dharmic practices. All spiritual paths have the element of transmission in one form or the other. All buddhists paths do too, even if they don't discuss them. What do I mean with blessings or energetic charge in the context of sutric buddhism? With blessings and transmissions I refer to a very basic element in buddhist practice that I have witnessed in all buddhist events that I have ever gone to.

In sutrayana, regardless of vehicle, blessings come through daily prayers. Daily prayers; such as mantras, dharanis or sutras, have a hidden aspect to them, which is the energy or blessing that the prayers carry. Refuge prayers, where Three Jewels are mentioned, as well as Bodhicitta prayers and Dedication of Merit all carry tremendous charges. The energetic side of prayers makes the air become thick with blessings wherever they are practiced. It is also very much the case with chanting the names of lineage masters.

All buddhist prayers carry blessings and since all buddhism is based on the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, everytime prayers are exercised, it offers practitioners an opportunity to receive them, to be used for practice.
This is a gift offered by the buddhist tradition, founded by Shakyamuni Buddha and followed by numerous dharma ancestors. While I have witnessed this energetic aspect of practice in the practice of all yanas of buddhism, with only one brief exception, I have never seen it be pointed out by teachers. For several years now, whenever I have joined teachings, I have witnessed the charge without people noticing and connecting to it.

If the experiential energy of blessings is pointed out, then it can be effectively used for practice. However, in most connections the charge is never discussed about, verbally described or pointed out. Consequentially, this prevents students from getting and using it.
It is important to understand that blessings through basic buddhist prayers are available to everyone anywhere. They are not kept away from practitioners, except by one's ignorance of it. This aspect of buddhist practice is hidden but completely out in the open for anyone to receive. Unfortunately very few teachers discuss blessings or transmissions properly and because of this, blessings that could be received and experienced in one's own body, mind and heart, go unnoticed and are unused.

If practitioners of sutrayana began to recognise and absorb the blessings of their prayers, it would make their practice more effective and enjoyable. We would see more psychological change and openness of mind in practitioners who adopted this way of practice.


Tantric Practice


Tantric practice is typically marked by energywork in the form of mantras, breathing exercises and visualisations. Tantric practice also typically discusses energy centers and energy channels of the energy body which is nonphysical. Myself, often when explaining tantra to beginners simply describe it as ”energywork”.

Tantric lamas give empowerments of different deities, practices or texts. At the event of empowerment, the lama says prayers, such as those mentioned above and generates a charge through whatever mantras, visualizations and mudras that are connected with the particular practice. Even if tantra is all about energywork and energetic experiences, which are based on the same principles of shamatha and vipashyana meditations known in sutrayana, I have never heard but one lama briefly point out blessings and the energetic aspect of empowerments or tantric practices.

Do the students then receive the empowerment of the deity? Although they don't consciously recognise the charge, their subconscious mind receives it. This means that recognition of the deity, which is an archetype of the natural state, does not happen at the moment of empowerment. Through practice on one's own, one gradually gains the recognition.

What I have observed as a vajrayana teacher, is that if blessings and transmissions are discussed and pointed out for the students from the beginning, it makes the progress of the student much quicker than without it. Riding the energy of buddhas and bodhisattvas, also makes one's practice very enjoyable and fulfilling because consciously recognising, receiving and experiencing the energy of Guru or Deity is a very pleasant and enlightening experience.

As silly as it sounds, all that is needed to fix the problem of the energy not being recognised is just to begin to become aware of it and stay with it in meditation. Just feel it.


Dzogchen Practice


The main practice of a dzogchen practitioner, is to return to the recognition of the natural state, remain in it and let whatever emotional or psychological issues arise and self-integrate into the natural state. This is the dzogchen way of practicing shamatha and vipashyana, or in Tibetan, shi-ne and lhak-tong.

As Garab Dorje has defined in his Three Statements, dzogchen path begins with the teacher pointing out the natural state for the student. This simply means that the teacher remains in the recognition of the natural state and shares it with her or his student, so that she or he can recognise her or his own natural state, know oneself as an enlightened buddha. This is what empowerment means in dzogchen. Here, the student is required to understand that she or he needs to receive the pointing out, just like blessings could be received by practitioners of sutra and tantra. If the student doesn't know this, it is very likely that she will keep missing it many times, even if the pointing out is given by a great teacher. This can be understood through the below quoted example, narrated by Lama Pema Chophel:

A few months ago, one of my teachers told a story about a well-known khenpo. This is relatively contemporary, like in the last 20-30 years. Sorry, I forget the khenpo's name. This Khenpo had received pointing out instructions many times from many great Dzogchen Gurus. He had also received the oral transmission and commentary for numerous Dzogchen texts which he had studied assiduously. However, after many years he still hadn't "decided on one thing." It could be this or it could be that. Maybe it's like this; maybe it's like that. Finally he was at his wits end and he went to yet another Guru where he broke down and cried, sobbing uncontrollably. Explaining to the Guru his situation, the Guru suggested that they say some Vajrasattva mantras together. Then they sat in meditation and suddenly certainty dawned in the mind of the Khenpo.”
 
As it was mentioned above, buddhism teaches that there are three paths to full enlightenment. These are sutra, tantra and dzogchen, also known as the path of atiyoga. Now, as I have explained, each of these vehicles have the component of blessing or transmission in them.

In their quality, blessings of sutric prayers are not different from those of tantra because the Three Jewels and Bodhicitta are the body, mind and energy of the buddhas. In the same way, tantric practices of deities and mandalas are not different from pointing out given in dzogchen. Each of these paths deal with the very same principle of buddhanature of all sentient beings, including mine and yours. From this point of view, even if it is missed by most, all of buddhism is abound with pointing out of the natural state.

Finally, it needs to be said that even if practitioner has the know-how to recognise and feel blessings, transmissions and empowerments, they are not necessarily able to recognise the full scope of it. We need to understand that even if buddhanature can be momentarily glimpsed and we can have insights or shifts that stay with us, the experience of buddhanature is something that has tremendous scope, flavour and depth. Even with one shift of perception (bhumi opening), we can see buddanature and even though it is same for all, the experience of it is very different to someone who has had many major shifts and established rigpa as one's default state. This description is very fitting. Through a keyhole we can see the view on the other side of the door in some extent but if we remove the whole door, the view becomes much better seen. And further, if we remove the whole house around us, again we see the view in a very different than through a keyhole or without the door.

In this way, in the best of knowledge, I have clarified the meaning of blessing and transmission in buddhist vehicles, including dzogchen.


Perspective of Open Heart


In terms of Open Heart-teachings, one will not come to certainty of one's natural state until one has had 11 bhumi openings or major shifts. This is what Garab Dorje means with his second statement. At this stage, natural state becomes one's default mode and whatever is left of karmas and samskaras, are then integrated back into one's true body. Over third of our present sangha has reached this stage. When one has opened all bhumis and perfected several of them, certainty about one's existence as empty awareness embodied and expressed through one's bodymind, is how one lives. This is Garab Dorje's third stage. After certainty is gained, one keeps practicing until every bit of one's mind is merged with the natural state. This is how one becomes completely free.

The original question was: Can you get a Dzogchen Transmission from an Unrealised Teacher?

Basically, no. Pointing out of the nature of mind can only be given by someone who is familiar with that state. Therefore, someone who is unrealised or unfamiliar with the natural state does not abide in that state and hence, can neither pass it to others. Considering Garab Dorje's three vital points, someone who has not only recognised knowing awareness or rigpa, but also has unshakable confidence in it, who has no uncertainty about her or his buddhanature, can transmit the mind of great perfection to others, although then again it is questionable if the receiver gets it.

It needs to be understood that dzogchen transmission is not just any energetic transmission. Those who do not understand this and who have no yogic finesse, can easily confuse gross or even samsaric energies and think that they have received and recognised the state of great perfection, when they in fact haven't. It is necessary to understand that buddhist transmissions and enlightened energies have immense depth and delicacy that cannot be perceived if one's mind is gross and clouded, even if all sentient beings have buddhanature. Dzogchen transmission is all about subtlety.

Although generally in Tibetan vajrayana energies of deities are clean and pure, and therefore lead to buddhahood, sometimes even leaders make mistakes and deities that have been made part of the method, later need to be banned. I am mentioning this just to point out that to gain certainty of practices and transmissions, one needs to undergo indepth training.


Is There A Way To Measure Someone's Realisation?
- Open Heart Bhumi Model

In the question there appears the term unrealised. In general, the level of realisation of dharma teachers is a highly interesting topic for me.

I have discussed the levels of realisation of buddhist leaders publically and in retrospect I have regretted that because not all were as ready to ask this quite central question, like Mrs. Newland and her dharma friends as ex-members and students of Sogyal Lakar are. Few years ago, when I published my studies of the levels of realisation of various buddhist leaders, I was harshly critisized, simply because few were willing to consider the possibility that well known buddhist leaders might not be as highly realised as it is generally believed.

Nevertheless, in Open Heart Sangha, we still use the so called Open Heart Bhumi Model as our path map and as well as a meter of progress in our practice. I have written a book about it which is available for free so I won't discuss it in detail here.

Central to Open Heart Bhumi Model is the so called bhumi analysis. This is the act of measuring one's own or someone else's stage of attainment or bhumi. Bhumi analyses can be done in person or through photographs. For someone who is proficient in the art of bhumi analysis it makes no difference whether the person is present in person or if the analysis is conducted through a photo. Tuning into one's own or someone elses bhumi centers, that pop open along the degrees of emptiness insight, are sensed through subtle perception. After several hundred training analyses one begins to see and sense whether bhumis are open or closed, i.e. whether or not the recipient has had any, little or a lot of emptiness insight. After few thousands analyses one knows how OHBM works and can trust one's reading skills.

Question: The big issue, however, is the dzogchen teachings because doesn’t a dzogchen teacher have to have some realisation before he can introduce a student to the nature of their mind?

Comment: Above I have discussed the subtlety of dzogchen transmission in relation to the comprehensiveness of emptiness realisation or the lack of it. I would say that the minimum requirement for giving a dzogchen transmission would be to have 11 bhumis (1-11) open. At the opening of 11th bhumi, rigpa becomes stable, and although it's rainbow like palette of colours is not yet perceived, the knowing quality of awareness is stable. Prior to this it comes and goes. Based on countless bhumi analyses, I can say that the majority of those who teach dzogchen and have authorisation in their lineage, do not meet this requirement.

Question: Could Sogyal, through his devotion for his masters, have had the blessing even without the realisation?

Comment: My answer is affirmative. Many lamas do not teach from their own realisation but from the blessings of their lineages that are always invoked in the beginning of teachings. In my understanding, this was also the case with Chogyam Trungpa who sometimes gave splendid teachings and transmission with great clarity (support from his lineage) but was an addict and abusive monster (his own lack of realisation) at others.

Question: Isn’t devotion a prime key to transmission in dzogchen?

Comment: No, it isn't. This is kind of black and white but devotion and rapturous tears belong to the world of a practitioner, not to that of a vajra master. Mrs. Newland writes that, ”Before he gave dzogchen teachings, Sogyal stared at the images of his masters, his eyes moist with devotion, hands in prayer position. He aroused his devotion and taught from that state.”. This means that Sogyal made himself a channel for the blessings of his teachers and lineage to flow through him. Whether he knew or not, he was channeling his lineage, just like Trungpa did. However, I do not believe that dzogchen transmission can be channeled from past masters without the lama her- or himself being in that state because a nonpractitioner or someone who has low level of attainment, is unable to recognise the subtlety of it. Lesser states of attainment can be channeled and transmitted. This is done by many teachers of buddhism and hinduism.

Question: Was it really the nature of mind? How do we check whether or not we got the ‘real thing’?

Comment: As I have discussed the criteria of dzogchen transmissions, i.e. pointing out the nature of mind and receiving of it, I doubt students could get it without a solid foundation of emptiness insight. An example of this is narrated in the story about the khenpo above.

I do not know which practices Sogyal taught but I would assume that as a nyingma-teacher he taught semdzins, such as A and Phet. If his students learned these practices and exercised them, then the probability of correct recognition, as well as bhumi openings, are more likely.

Question: Yes, the religion says we’re supposed to get a ‘lung’ or oral transmission in order to unlock the power of such texts, but is that really so important?

Comment: Yes, empowerments for texts and deities are important because through the empowerment, the practice in whatever form it may be, reveals the mind of a buddha in the place of one's samsaric mind. However, again, if the charge, is never properly recognised and felt, there is not much use in getting the lung or reading the text. In this case it is all very superficial and therefore, ineffective.

Question: Or is it just another way to keep the gurus employed? Isn’t reading it slowly aloud in your own language better than hearing it raced through at a frantic speed in a language you don’t understand?

Comment: I am of the opinion that the Tibetan vajrayana puts too much emphasis on the role of the lama and that the lama is given so much power that the students do not seem to have much independence. While I think that spiritual mentors and especially mahasiddha gurus are indispensable on the path, vajrayana cannot be effectively taught to masses through big organisations. See Mr. Brad Warner's take on this. I do think that the Tibetan system, like all established religions, are good at keeping their lamas employed even when they are not needed or if they are useless.

Regarding the way of practice, I did a fair share of fast recitation in my days of Zen, chanting in a language that I couldn't understand and without knowing that I was actually chanting. In Zen, there are no reading empowerments, so recitation of texts is seen just as a mean to develop concentration.

While I think that fast recitation can be good to balance slow recitation, I do not see much point in chanting in language one doesn't understand. However, if the foreign text has been learned through empowerment, then the charge gives it a different spin. If the inner energetic meaning is recognised, then it is correct practice. This of course doesn't mean texts in languages other than Tibetan or Japanese couldn't be empowered.


About Dirty Faces


Open Heart Bhumi Model enables us to see how high or low someone's attainment is. With the knowledge and skill of it, we can learn to see beyond words, descriptions, resumes, ceremonies and titles, which are usually the first things that catch the attention of the seeker. I think OHBM is an immense gift for the whole culture of dharma, buddhist or otherwise.

One thing that one learns through doing bhumi analyses is to discriminate between samsaric or dirty and nirvanic or pure energies. For this reason, learning to do bhumi analyses is also a way to see if someone, despite of her or his formal credentials, is a pure hearted practitioner, a charlatan or possibly even an abusive guru. I have thought of publishing my analysis of known abusers, such as Sogyal, Norlha, Namkha, Sasaki, Shimano and others because their faces are marked by dirtiness, arrogance, suppression, selfishness and egoistic power, rather than clarity, equanimity, light, compassion and kindness.

Bhumi analysis not only helps us to see into the mind of past masters but also into the minds of our contemporaries. Needless to say, through establishing Open Heart Bhumi Model and training many dharma teachers and meditators in its use, would be highly useful and beneficial for themselves to better understand their own practice, for example, in the question of dzogchen transmission, but also to seekers who by default should be eligible to truly authentic guidance, given by actually realised teachers, rather than people who have no experience of reality.

Thank you for reading,
May All Beings Be Free,

- Kim Katami, 12th of August 2019,
Open Heart Sangha,





perjantai 9. elokuuta 2019

Losing Faith In Buddhist Tradition

Losing Faith In Buddhist Tradition

I have always thought of buddhist tradition as a solid and reliable source of information leading to experiential wisdom. I've had this deep conviction about it since I came across it. I realize that I've kept this belief subconsciously up until today. At the same time seeing all the problems and faults in traditions, I realize that I don't have that trust at all anymore. It is the exact opposite. It is a peculiar feeling, finding that one's beliefs aren't even nearly the same they used to be. My trust towards the Three Jewels and my Guru is as unshakable as always.

I have spent years examining buddhism and its practices, and found few key problems that prevents the tradition from being a tradition of experiential wisdom. In this blog and in my talks I have talked about this in great extent. To clarify my point, I specifically refer to lack of wisdom and insight among living buddhists. I think that buddhism, in all of its vehicles (skt. yana), have mostly become established religion, exactly like different branches of christianity, drained from any real meaning. Millions of followers are lead by leaders with little or no insight at all. It didn't work in the past, it doesn't work now and it never will in the future.

The potential is immense in terms of written sutras and tantras but the outcome is very little in terms of actual emptiness realization. Even Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, a pioneer and heavyweight of Tibetan buddhism, admitted that Shakyamuni Buddha failed to establish a system that would quarantee awakening for it's followers. I've discussed poor pedagogy, irrelevant practices, poorly understood practices, lack of theoretical understanding and other points extensively. In my view, there is absolutely no point doing practices that do not generate insight but because of religious beliefs, many stick with it for years and decades. If we compared growth of buddhist meditators to human babies, it is like the buddhist community never even become toddlers. They remain helpless like newborn babies without insight; thinking, seeing and acting in divided ways. Without emptiness insight and the vision of equality arising from therein, there cannot be compassionate action that would lead us to peace and harmony as a whole.

I always looked at practice as a way to change the hurtful and shortsighted habits of the human kind but this will not change if we keep thinking in terms of ”us and them”, or even in terms of the ”planet and us”. If our eye of wisdom is shut, we are screwed like the rest of numberless sentient beings who transmigrate the six realms, just causing harm and hurt for themselves and others.

It is so easy to forget that we are not here to stay. By living our lives and going about our careers, relationships and achievements, we forget that we are not here to stay. Then one day we get ill, get old or die, and that's it. What will be the worth of our efforts when the moment of death arrives? When we leave our human bodies all we can take with us is our memories and emotional impressions. Will we go with a clear mind or will we still keep feeling our hurts? Those who have the fortunate connection to dharma, can choose, so we are priviledged.

It all boils down to knowing ourselves as unborn and undying, timeless being that is full of love and kindness. As buddhas we are free, always in balance and this love pours out as acts of kindness like monsoon pours water. This is who we are and this is what emptiness meditation leads to. So, if you practice, do it properly.

-Kim Katami, 9th of August 2019
Open Heart Sangha,




torstai 8. elokuuta 2019

Becoming Vajrasattva, Practitioner's Account

Becoming Vajrasattva,
Practitioner's Account

The following is written by Ben, Open Heart-practitioner who describes his experiences with Vajrasattva-practice, one of the tantric preliminary practices described in Open Heart Preliminary Practices-book.


Preamble

 

All of us have a yard, a small plot of land in our name. It is a place that collects many things. And sometimes we forget to tend to this yard, allowing it to become overgrown with numerous weeds.
Broken promises, lies, cringey and regretful moments of the past, half-finished projects, habitual beliefs, all sorts of energetic dead ends can become tied up in this inner field. 
Tantra and Bodhicitta remind me of the activity of the farmer. Cultivating fruit with its roots in the deep grounded soil. So when we decide to take ourselves upon this tantric bodhicitta-farmer path, we need to start with a solid plot of land with which to raise our crops.
This is where the Vajrasattva practice comes in. Toss the energetic dead ends in the trash, uproot the weeds, and till the soil until its hidden fresh nutrients are brought to the surface. Creating fertile soil. 
In this sense, I can understand why repeating the Vajrasattva mantra 10,000 times is a preliminary exercise. It prepares the practitioner with a fertile soil ground upon which to start sewing the seeds of and tending to their practice. At the same time, there is nothing to improve upon the basic ground that the Vajrasattva practice reveals. 
 
One way of visualization for Vajrasattva practice.

The Practice

 
The technique is touched upon in the Preliminaries book. After receiving the Vajrasattva practice empowerment from Kim Rinpoche, I chose to repeat 324 mantras per day while visualizing myself as Vajrasattva and then rest in his basic indestructible purity. The 10,000 repetitions were completed in 31 days. Aside from accomplishing what I have described above, this practice also gave me an insight into some of the technology behind tantric practice. 
Vajrasattva embodies the basic indestructible purity of all Buddhas. This basic purity is within us all, always. But due to our own mental-emotional-physical wounds and scars, it can be difficult for us to experientially realize this for ourselves. A sutric approach would be working hard at this project over time. Examining yourself, noticing all the different patterns of confusion, practicing various meditations, and trying to heal while rediscovering your stainless naturalness. 
The tantric is approach is different. It says, “Okay you feel so shitty about yourself that in this instant you cannot feel your own indestructible purity. No problem. Instead you’re going to dissolve and reform as Vajrasattva for a little while. And as Vajrasattva, the very embodiment of the diamond-like purity of all buddhas, you can feel what that purity is like.” And thus you effectively take a shortcut. Instead of undergoing the illusion of change during the sutric route, you undergo the illusion of becoming Vajrasattva. Both bring you to basic purity but in different ways and in different timelines. 
Of course as this whole practice is unfolding, it is having an effect on your karmic and energy bodies. That is the purifying effect. So it both reveals the knowing of purity even as it has purifying activity. 

Results

 
I began the practice the week after my 4th bhumi opening. It really helped digest and move through the dark night elements that followed the opening. Being in contact with primordial purity even as all that stirred up shit swirled around and through the mind-body was massively beneficial by keeping me oriented even as the loss of previous imprints created disorientation. If anything, it emphasized that which was reliable and constant regardless of the rhythm of bhumi openings and dark nights. 
During that month of practice, I also had my 5th and 6th bhumi openings. 
From the very beginning, the practice reminded me of what it felt like to be a child. There is a freshness, a whole-someness, an effervescent wakefulness. Like getting out of a swimming pool on a beautiful summer day. 
I felt that the Vajrasattva practice did a lot with my energy body too. The space of my arms, head, torso and legs began feeling seamless and non-divided. 
And with all of this also arose a sense of pride. Not in a boastful way but in a grateful way, a non-self-referencing way. Nothing held back or hidden, wearing naked simple presence. 

Conclusions

 

I am truly grateful for the empowerment and the opportunity to have done this practice. It is clear that I will continue to engage Vajrasattva in deity yoga in my spiritual practice. 
I expect this to be helpful in a variety of circumstances.
  1. Post-bhumi openings. I will likely do a few days of 3x108 Vajrasattva mantras after each opening to help with the transition.
  2. Liberating tied up energies. Sometimes we begin things we don’t finish, whether that be due to a change in direction or a lack of commitment. Instead of allowing those energetic intentions to linger out there half-baked, Vajrasattva practice will help free up those energetic dead ends. 
  3. Letting go of past transgressions. When we’ve done something wrong, much of the focus often goes to how to fix it externally. And rightly so. But that can also mean we might neglect to move on internally and the memory still causes us to cringe and contract. Vajrasattva practice will help to forgive as surrender and it is probably why it was used to mend broken vows. 
And I am sure more applications will become clear along the way.

Solidifying Bodhicitta

Solidifying Bodhicitta

Cultivation of bodhicitta, or the heartmind of enlightenment, happens in stages. In the beginning it might be completely artificial, just saying the prayers without meaning them because one doesn't yet feel it. One doesn't get it in the beginning because one does not have much understanding of reality but it changes with practice, like everything does. Through efforts towards greater clarity and peace of mind within oneself, even doing lip service of prayers of compassion leads to accumulation of experiences which in turn brings about transformation. Then we begin to say those prayers and thinking all sentient beings with some care and concern, with some personal involvement. Through reflection of one's and others' inner state*, our world view begins to change and we actually begin to care for others. It doesn't necessarily mean that we come to like people, because people are not easy to like, but we become concerned where the whole human operation is heading towards. We realize the value of dharma for humans and all sentient beings and understand how deeply screwed we all are. From there arises compassion and it is curious that it does. It does because under all the bullshit and deceit, shines basic goodness, (tib. kuntuzangpo). The truth of our being is positive and life-affirming, not negative and life-denying. So, after some time, we start feeling something, a bit compassionate. Bodhicitta keeps growing like a sapling, getting bigger and bigger year by year.


Something that I have observed in my students who have opened all their bhumis, who therefore have no need to search for knowing awareness or rigpa, is that for many of them it takes a while after the shifts to display compassion. Even when one has a direct and constant connection to the buddha within, it apparently takes time for the dynamic aspect of it, bodhicitta, to grow on the person. At one point I was actually very worried about this because many students had opened their bhumis but I wasn't seeing any initiative and action for the existential wellfare of others. They just bathed in their own clarity and bliss. I spent sleepless nights over this. I was stressed whether I had created some sort of a perverted path that lead to clear awareness but is not compassionate, for that'd be awful. Without compassion, Open Heart would not be a path to great accomplishment, that is, mahasiddhi or buddhahood. But then, to my great relief, they became more active and started showing their concern. Colour returned on my face! 
 
Avalokiteshvara - Bodhisattva of Compassion. The name literally means "The Lord who hears the cries from below".

When I started practicing I didn't have all the toys and know-how my students have, so my path was largely just relying on bodhicitta and letting that lead me. Nevertheless, it appears that with or without shifts in perception (bhumi openings), bodhicitta takes time to develop. Stabilizing rigpa is one thing, something very meaningful to any sentient being and on top of that, becoming one with bodhicitta is another. It ensures correct direction of one's practice until full enlightenment is attained. What does becoming one with bodhicitta mean?

As sentient beings we are tied to our self-centered views and thoughts. From there we start loosening the knots of me, me, me and begin to think in terms of us all, us all, us all. That can be scary in the beginning. ”What do you mean 'taking the suffering of others into my heart'!? Fuck that! No! I don't want that!” Despite of initial self-based reactions such as panic, we come to see that it works, if we have had enough of confusion. Those who are ready, i.e. have merit, take their practice like ancient masters have, very seriously. This puts us inside a machine of sorts that takes us beyond duration and location. By going through our pain tirelessly like a warrior, we reach the other shore that is beyond and better than all states and achievements. Para sam gate bodhi svaha - gone completely beyond to reach natural perfection.

In this process, we become unified with compassion. Our mind starts thinking in ways that are aligned with the very message of ”may all beings be free” and ”I vow to liberate all sentient beings”. Our mind becomes united with bodhicitta, which means that it becomes the heartmind of enlightenment. We become that and when we do, we embody the fully enlightened potential we all have.

When we take the Bodhisattva Vow, it puts us into this engine that peels off the layers of self-confusion bit by bit. This can be scary and unpleasant at times. When the samsaric pus comes out, it hurts and stinks for a moment but in the long run gets better.

That we can exercise, contemplate, pray, chant, act and meditate on bodhisattvic compassion is the greatest gift given by the buddha within. I highly recommend receiving it. I am not aware of a better way of solving internal and external conflicts, and since the world is burning, this is the time when it is needed the most.

-Kim Katami, 8th of August 2019
Open Heart Sangha

See also Playlist of Bodhicitta workshops at YouTube.










keskiviikko 7. elokuuta 2019

Jarin herääminen

Jarin herääminen

Seuraava dialogi käytiin elokuussa 2019, ”Jarin” (nimi muutettu) kanssa.

Jari:
Hei. Haluaisin osallistua Heräämisohjaukseen. Vähän taustaa itsestäni: Olen 34-vuotias mies. Viime vuosina etenkin työelämään liittyvä stressi on saanut minut tutustumaan Eckhart Tollen opetuksiin sekä muihinkin vastaavan tyyppisiin henkisiin opetuksiin.
Olen joskus ennenkin eksinyt netissä Open Heart-sivustolle ja kokeillut Kaksiosaista ohjetta, mutta silloin en huomannut sillä suurempaa vaikutusta. Viime lauantaina se palautui mieleeni ja menin Open Heart-sivustolle lukemaan ohjeita ja e-kirjaa. Päätin kokeilla kohtia 1 ja 2, ensin itsenäisesti, sitten Youtube-videon kanssa.
Tämän jälkeen minulla on ollut poikkeuksellisen vapautunut ja rento olotila, enkä onnistunut kadottamaan sitä tänään töissäkään. Näyttäisi, että ajatukset ja tunteet nousevat samalla tavalla kuin ennenkin, mutta heti "savujen hälvettyä", olotila on taas tyyni. Pitkän stressikauden jälkeen tämä tuntuu hyvin kummalliselta.
Jotta en alkaisi kuvittelemaan omiani tilanteestani, niin päätin ottaa sinuun yhteyttä. Miten kannattaa edetä?

Kim:
Mukava kun pitkästä aikaa joku kirjoittelee Suomestakin.
Kertoisitko miltä kokemusmaailma ja ajatus minästä nyt tuntuu? Ja miltä minä-affirmaatio tuntuu?
Kyllähän tuo vähän heräämiseltä vaikuttaa. Voisin katsoa kuvasi tässä kohtaa. Laita tulemaan. Ohjeet kuvaa varten löydät täältä.

Jari:
Ollessani vapaa-ajalla - tai tilanteessa, jossa minua ei haasteta millään tavalla - olotila on pääasiassa rauhallinen, levollinen, usein jopa riemuisa. Silloin kun haastetaan, olen rauhallisempi ja rennompi kuin aiemmin vastaavissa tilanteissa. Kun pudotin tänään kännykän jalkakäytävälle ja osat levisivät ympäriinsä, minä vain rauhallisesti keräsin ne, enkä häpeillyt ohikulkijoiden katseita. Normaalisti siitä olisi riittänyt häpeiltävää ja mielessä kerrattavaa ainakin pariksi tunniksi.
Aiemmin minulla on ollut vapaa-ajallakin taipumuksena murehtia ja projisoida esimerkiksi seuraavan päivän työasioita tai kerrata mielessä jotain, mitä olisi tänään pitänyt tehdä eri tavalla. Tämä taipumus on ollut kateissa viimeiset 3-4 päivää. Vaikuttaa siltä, että alitajunnastani on romahtanut pois jokin rakennelma, joka on sitä ylläpitänyt. Arkipäiväisiin tapahtumiin liittyvät ajatukset ja tunteet nousevat samalla tavalla kuin ennenkin, mutta en reagoi niihin yhtä voimakkaasti, enkä jälkeenpäin kertaile asioita mielessäni niin paljon kuin ennen.
Toki kyllä minulla on edelleen minään liittyviä ajatuksia ja reaktioita, tässäkin viestissä olen käyttänyt minä-sanaa jo monta kertaa. Ajattelen edelleen melko paljon turhuuksia ja mieleni on turhankin innoissani tästä "uudesta olotilasta". Minään liittyvä taakka on kuitenkin kevyempi kuin ennen.
Minä-affirmaatiolla en saa aikaiseksi kovinkaan kummoista minä-tunteen vahvistumista. Ensimmäisessä moodissa sisäisen kehon skannailu tuntuu aina hyvin miellyttävältä, minkä jälkeen minä-affirmointi, jos se jotain vaikuttaa, niin tuntuu lähinnä vahvistavan ensimmäisen vaiheen tunnetta.
Kim:
(Valokuvien analysoinnin jälkeen)
Kiitos kuvauksesta ja kuvista. Herääminen on tapahtunut. Tämä on selvä homma, ei epäilystäkään.

Sinulla on jo selvä käsitys tapahtuneesta muutoksesta. Tulevina päivinä ja viikkoina se tulee vielä tutummaksi ja sitä kautta ymmärrät paremmin mitä herääminen on ja mitä se ei ole. Se mitä se ei ole, voikin olla mielenkiintoista varsinkin jos olet saanut heräämisestä lennokkaan ja epärealistisen kuvan.

Lukaise What's Next-kirjani, jos vaan englanti sujuu. Se kertoo Open Heart Bhumi Modelista, joka on meidän harjoitustapamme maastokartta (engl. path map). Herääminen on ns. 1. bhumin avautuminen. Tämän jälkeen on vielä liuta heräämisiä jo heränneen mielen sisällä kunnes ns. mielen luonnon tai tietoisen mielen tila vakiintuu. Se tapahtuu 11. bhumin avautuessa. Tämä kaikki on selitetty kirjassa yksityiskohtaisesti.

Jos olet kiinnostunut jatkoharjoituksista niin suosittelen Open Heart Joogaa. Siitä löytyy jotain tietoa suomenkielisiltä sivuilta mutta niitä ei ole päivitetty vähään aikaan. Englanninkieliseltä löytyy enemmän. Elokuun lopulla on mahdollista oppia OH-joogaa netin kautta seuraavan kerran, pvm löytyy kalenterista.

Onnittelut vielä! Se kävi sinulta helposti. Jotkut puurtavat viikkokausia.