Thursday, September 30, 2010

Missionaries, Carpetbaggers, Highjackers, and Honkies: Dharma in the West

The mountains weren't high enough this morning, 
so the clouds came up with their own solution.

If you want to engage in quick and dirty, tactical persuasion of a target population, do an opinion poll, call a press conference, and massage the results.

It is done all the time, for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we call it public diplomacy, and other times we call it plain, old-fashioned spin doctoring. When we do it to sell toothpaste, we say that nine out of ten dentists agree, and call it truth in advertising.

Truth be known, it is all bullshit.

I see the technique has been practiced again quite recently -- by an organization funded with the proceeds from Big Oil, hustling to position itself in Big Media -- with one finding that purports to show Buddhists in America are not very well thought of by average Americans.

If they knew the whole truth, they would like us even less.

There was another, very shaky finding that suggests Buddhists in America are all middle-aged, deviant honkies, with post-graduate educations:
Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.
Perhaps this is because the pollsters only polled in the English language, and included precious few Asians in their survey. But, no mind, this article is not about polls.


This article is about Dharma in the West, and above is a link to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche adding his opinion, at a conference in France this summer. I suggest you stop now, and watch the video to its conclusion. I do not know how long it will remain available.

Which is a pity, because most of what follows is a response to what he says.

And, what he says is certainly nothing very new. In major part, he is discussing the tension between keeping Tibetan Buddhism alive in India and the Himalayan border polities, and transplanting Tibetan Buddhism to the West. He does not say this explicitly, but he certainly says it implicitly. In all events, please watch the clip and make up your own mind about what he says. I do not want to put words in the man's mouth.

What I want to do instead is examine the tension between missionaries, carpetbaggers, highjackers, and honkies.

The Missionaries.

In some ways it is a pity that Khyentse Rinpoche could not have walked with his grandfather,  Dudjom Rinpoche, as his grandfather walked the lands in America hewn by the Nyingma missionaries and pioneers. It is a pity he could not hear what his grandfather had to say when, for example, he visited Odiyan, in Northern California, or even Tashi Choling, in Southern Oregon. It is a pity he could not have traveled with the 16th Karmapa through America's Southwest. It is a pity he could not have accompanied Kalu Rinpoche on his tours of America.

Those of us who were there, who heard what was said, or who otherwise came into contemporary knowledge of such events, will recall that a bargain was struck.

The bargain was simple: if you trade your life, your treasure, your time and your belief, then there will be teachers who actually live here with you; teachers who are not mere academics, but are in fact fully realized masters, who will learn your language, and your ways, and together, you will build Dharma in the West.

You will be able to reach these teachers on the telephone if need be. You will know where they live, you will be able to come to them, and they will be able to come to you. If you've got a question, you can get an answer. Because, they will be trading their life, their treasure, their time and their belief to common purpose, just as you.

This bargain was fairly kept by both sides -- as best each could, and for as long as each could manage -- and what you see around you now, when you look around the West, is the product of that bargain.

Those were very good times. We were all young, in reasonable health, and we all had a lot of energy. We did not know very much about each other, but we were ready, willing, and able to learn. We had great lamas -- Tarthang Rinpoche, Trungpa Rinpoche -- and we were convinced of a great  and urgent mission. We didn't hold out much hope for personal accomplishment, but concentrated instead on what we considered our primary responsibility: the preservation of Tibetan Buddhism, before it crumbled to dust and blew away in the wind.

Whatever that entailed.

The Carpetbaggers.

In the 1980s, a lot of things changed. Karmapa died in 1981. Dudjom Rinpoche died in 1987. Trungpa Rinpoche died in 1987. Kalu Rinpoche died in 1989. So, in less than a decade, the landscape changed. I can say -- as a matter of direct, personal knowledge -- these teachers had a belief in the West. They had a stake in the West. They had a healthy, two-way street approach to the West. They had an investment in the West. You know -- they actually liked the West.

If you wanted to meet the Karmapa, it was easy. If you wanted to meet Dudjom Rinpoche, it was easy. He was happy to sit down and talk to you. If you wanted to meet Trungpa Rinpoche, there was no problem. If you wanted to meet Kalu Rinpoche, he would meet with you.  These were busy men, with enormous responsibilities, and the crowds they attracted were a whole lot bigger than the crowds you see now. But, the thing is, they made the time. If you tell people today that you knew this or that great lama, they think you are lying. They cannot conceive of seeing great lamas without buying a ticket, or doing business through some middleman.

Enter the carpetbaggers.

Nobody enjoys to hear the plain, unvarnished truth, but a few things happened in the 1980s that did not portend well for authentic presence. As mentioned above, key teachers began dying. The next thing to happen was the relaxation of immigration policies vis-a-vis Tibetans. In the 1960s and 1970s, visas for Tibetan lamas were not easy to obtain, and permanent resident status was really almost impossible. This started to relax ever so slightly in the late 1970s, and when Reagan came into office, new policies went into place. This was followed by the influx of individuals who -- and let us be very diplomatic and kind here -- were not quite as visionary as the teachers who were passing away.

Indeed, a well-worn Tibetan joke of the era goes something like this: "What does it take to be recognized as a Rinpoche these days? How about a red robe, a passport, a U.S. visa, and a white girl?"

The newcomers had been sitting in Asia, hearing wonderful stories about Gold Mountain, and to put it bluntly, they were coming not for the future, but for a piece of the pie. Suddenly, we began to see smash and grab lama tours -- a couple of days in this city, a couple of days in that city, empowerment here, empowerment there -- thank you very much, and drag all the booty back to the ship.

Not just the West, you know? Taiwan and Singapore fared no better.

The Highjackers.

Most people believe that alcohol is a strong addiction, or narcotic refinements like heroin. Gold is a stronger addiction than any of these. To gain more gold than the smash and grab tours allowed would require infrastructure -- it would require actual commitment.

Except, the smash and grab lamas were not willing to invest in infrastructure. They were not willing to make much of a commitment. Instead, they did what colonialists have done since time immemorial, and turned the issue of infrastructure over to compradores -- go-betweens, who could extract the gold and handle the cries and greivances of the native workers.

The compradores, in turn, did what compradores have done since time immemorial, and hijacked the ship.

Sheep-faced carpetbaggers returned to Asia and satisfied themselves with another layer of gilt, leaving guilt to the fox-eyed highjackers. Do you know? There are still a number of individuals in the West who actually believe they are part of something -- something that, upon close examination, does not really exist aside from a few rapidly fading pieces of cheap paper.

Here is my wand, I'll make you a wizard.

It was a lousy trade, you know?

The Honkies.

Most people do not understand that large organizations with committees, sub-committees, and raiding parties are not necessary. Tarthang Rinpoche started with three individuals, and developed a core of approximately thirty individuals. Around this, came a ever-fluctuating number of people, like the leaves of trees in seasons.

Great gestures were bestowed in great measure. Honkies are very resourceful, and can work wonders if they can be persuaded.

People have been trying to poach Tarthang Rinpoche's students ever since, not realizing it was not the students who worked the magic -- it was Tarthang Rinpoche. If you can emulate his qualities, then you will work magic too.

One has to have vision, you know?

If you burglar the world to build temples on shaky ground, in order to serve a dwindling constituency in proximate instability, what have you accomplished? When China uses its dams to shut off the sub-continent's water, what will happen? What is happening in Nepal right now? What is happening in Sikkim? Is the Karmapa free to travel? Are throngs of knowledge-seekers turning up at the temples built with foreign money?

Have native flowers blossomed, and spread their natural fragrance? Or, have you grafted invasive species, and imported heavy perfume?

If, on the other hand, you recognize -- and it is a cold recognition, like a bucket of very cold water, on a very cold day -- that the West enjoys political stability, a powerful framework of laws, and substantial security -- that there are numbers of people in the West, whether native or immigrant does not matter, who are interested in Dharma, who have a thirst for Dharma, and who are willing to give their all if one can only instill a sense of mission -- if you can recognize this, then why would you not invest your energy in the long run, as distinct from the short run?

These days, one often hears bitter mumbling about "Tibetan feudalism." One hears this all over the West -- this is not something strictly confined to America. It may surprise some Tibetans to learn that they are not particularly well regarded -- that fifty years on, the concept of "Tibetan refugee" does not jerk the tear it once did, and that the notion of an enlightened minority coming to civilize a barbarian majority just does not fly.

Nobody likes the high hat treatment, you know? People might put up with it for a while, but in the end, it works against you.

I hope we can replace that mumbling with open dialogue, and I hope we can replace dialogue with construction. I hope we can continue with the commitments we made to each other -- it now seems so long ago, but it is only 40 or 50 years -- and I hope we can keep working together to preserve what is left of Dharma as it was practiced in Tibet, and re-establish it within the secure borders of the West.

Still, I recognize that the nature of all compounded things is impermanence, and that the minds of all sentient beings are predictably fickle.

The operative word in the above sentence is "all," and I repeated it twice so maybe you can catch the drift.

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64 reader comments:

Malcolm Smith said...

Hi Tenpa:

Someone I know once asked Dezhung Tulku, who was undoubtedly one of the greatest Tibetan historian of his generation, why Buddhism was a success in Tibet. His reply was that Buddhism in Tibet was a failure.

The part he seem to have left out however, is that there were many successful Buddhists in Tibet, and by that I mean -- good practitioners despite the challenges posed by belonging to any worldly society.

This may seem like an arrogant thing to say -- but it is quite normal that most of the Buddhists in this country who are Tibetan Buddhists were born after the Second World War. Why? Well, it is because we were Buddhists in Tibet and the Himalayas, and through our own merit, took rebirth in a place that was more stable, politically, economically and so on.

Thus, there was and is no such a thing as an "introduction of Buddhism to the West." That premise is based on a fallacy that ignores the most salient fact of possessing a precious human birth -- we have such a birth because of our own merits that we created through our own devotion to Dharma in past lives. Tibetan Buddhism [as well as other forms of Buddhism] did not so much get introduced to the West as it followed those with the merit to receive Tibetan Buddhist [and other Buddhist] teachings.

Likewise, when people who have the merit to be Buddhists cease taking rebirth in this or that country, Buddhism ceases to exist in this or that country. This explains the situation of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oḍḍiyana, Shambhala, Khotan, and a hundred other now-extinct Buddhist principalities.

Now then, if by practicing "Dharma was it was practiced in Tibet" you mean gathering the two accumulations, practicing the three trainings, and generally achieving liberation and benefitting sentient beings, than that "Dharma as it was practiced in Tibet" will be successful where ever it may be.

But I think we can both agree that if "Dharma as it was practiced Tibet" is practiced in the fashion of the mercantilist enterprises of the large corporate monasteries -- that "Dharma" is bound to fail in the West as it failed in Tibet.

The Buddha, we must never forger, never left a lineage holder. He never proposed that anyone could have an authority greater than their own personal experience. The only reason he even left relics was to prevent a war from breaking out amongst jealously vying rival territories. We take refuge in the Guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, Dakinis and Dharmapalas -- not in the Ganden Phodrang, not in Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma, Gelug, Jonang, etc., or any other worldly administrative structure, even if tangentially connected with a Buddhist school.

In order for Buddhism to "succeed" in the West, we need to study well, and be kind to one another and thankful to those Gurus and teachers who have acted as agents to reconnect us to our path [this being the result of our own aspirations, as well as theirs] -- and never forget that we must not confuse worldly actions with Dharma actions; worldly aims with Dharma aims; the benefit of others with our own benefit; or non-virtuous actions with virtuous actions.

We need to make sure that what we take with us into the future is not the outer forms of an historical Dharma culture, but the inner core of Dharma practice. In that respect, Tibetan traditional culture, with its emphasis on clans, tribal hierarchy and regional affiliation, simply cannot be translated to the West. It won't work. Our socio-economics will not support it. We have no more business being involved in the struggle between the Chuzhi Gandrug faction and the TGIE than they have being involved in the clusterf&^% of American politics. In short, dressing up in Tibetan costumes and aping some Tibetan customs three or four times a year, even reciting prayers in phonetically transliterated Tibet is not Dharma. Sometimes Tibetan Buddhism scenes resemble something like a Tibetan chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
[cont]

Malcolm Smith said...

Hi Tenpa:

Someone I know once asked Dezhung Tulku, who was undoubtedly one of the greatest Tibetan historian of his generation, why Buddhism was a success in Tibet. His reply was that Buddhism in Tibet was a failure.

The part he seem to have left out however, is that there were many successful Buddhists in Tibet, and by that I mean -- good practitioners despite the challenges posed by belonging to any worldly society.

This may seem like an arrogant thing to say -- but it is quite normal that most of the Buddhists in this country who are Tibetan Buddhists were born after the Second World War. Why? Well, it is because we were Buddhists in Tibet and the Himalayas, and through our own merit, took rebirth in a place that was more stable, politically, economically and so on.

Thus, there was and is no such a thing as an "introduction of Buddhism to the West." That premise is based on a fallacy that ignores the most salient fact of possessing a precious human birth -- we have such a birth because of our own merits that we created through our own devotion to Dharma in past lives. Tibetan Buddhism [as well as other forms of Buddhism] did not so much get introduced to the West as it followed those with the merit to receive Tibetan Buddhist [and other Buddhist] teachings.

Likewise, when people who have the merit to be Buddhists cease taking rebirth in this or that country, Buddhism ceases to exist in this or that country. This explains the situation of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oḍḍiyana, Shambhala, Khotan, and a hundred other now-extinct Buddhist principalities.

Now then, if by practicing "Dharma was it was practiced in Tibet" you mean gathering the two accumulations, practicing the three trainings, and generally achieving liberation and benefitting sentient beings, than that "Dharma as it was practiced in Tibet" will be successful where ever it may be.

But I think we can both agree that if "Dharma as it was practiced Tibet" is practiced in the fashion of the mercantilist enterprises of the large corporate monasteries -- that "Dharma" is bound to fail in the West as it failed in Tibet.

The Buddha, we must never forger, never left a lineage holder. He never proposed that anyone could have an authority greater than their own personal experience. The only reason he even left relics was to prevent a war from breaking out amongst jealously vying rival territories. We take refuge in the Guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, Dakinis and Dharmapalas -- not in the Ganden Phodrang, not in Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma, Gelug, Jonang, etc., or any other worldly administrative structure, even if tangentially connected with a Buddhist school.

In order for Buddhism to "succeed" in the West, we need to study well, and be kind to one another and thankful to those Gurus and teachers who have acted as agents to reconnect us to our path [this being the result of our own aspirations, as well as theirs] -- and never forget that we must not confuse worldly actions with Dharma actions; worldly aims with Dharma aims; the benefit of others with our own benefit; or non-virtuous actions with virtuous actions.

We need to make sure that what we take with us into the future is not the outer forms of an historical Dharma culture, but the inner core of Dharma practice. In that respect, Tibetan traditional culture, with its emphasis on clans, tribal hierarchy and regional affiliation, simply cannot be translated to the West. It won't work. Our socio-economics will not support it. We have no more business being involved in the struggle between the Chuzhi Gandrug faction and the TGIE than they have being involved in the clusterf&^% of American politics. In short, dressing up in Tibetan costumes and aping some Tibetan customs three or four times a year, even reciting prayers in phonetically transliterated Tibet is not Dharma. Sometimes Tibetan Buddhism scenes resemble something like a Tibetan chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
[cont]

Sebastiaan said...

Well said Malcolm! I would add that although there were great masters who visited in the past there are similarly great masters who visit today. Every culture speaks to a long gone mythical golden age and the current age as degenerate. It happens intergenerationally as well. But these are the "Good Old Days", the connections we have with teachers are the ones we can / must use for our practice. This is our chance to practice with the teachings we have now.

Sorting the Dharma from the culture is one of our main tasks. This is ably assisted by the internet. Clarification of teachings can occur in a virtual environment. We are also in the luxurious position of being able to read or watch video teachings from various traditions and note how similar they actually are.

Of course transmission needs real teachers, that wont change, but I think we are in a golden age and those who follow will envy us.

Anonymous said...

All good points. To that I would add just do your practice and stop worrying about what others are doing or not doing in this country (USA). Are there not greater concerns in the world than the party we have going on here?

Apreciate your country for the freedoms that it does have at this time and work to make sure they stay that way for as long as possible. What about the fact that if you were sitting in Iran or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, you could not even think of just inviting a Buddhist teacher to your home to give a little meditation class for your friends? In many places you would simply be killed for trying to practice Buddhism or worse yet tell someone else about it. In many countries you would be arrested simply for having a blog like this - Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. for example.

Perhaps a map should be created that shows all the red zones on the planet where Lamas of any kind simply could not go at all ever - or if they did they would face arrest, torture, and worse.

Appreciate the moment we have now in the 21st Century to still practice truthful teachings with honesty and enthusiasm, largely left alone by the government and others. It is not that way for hundreds of millions of other humans in other places right now on this planet.

TENPA said...

The concluding two paragraphs of Malcolm's post...

"On the other hand, Tibetan culture -- like all cultures -- has enormous benefits to offer humans beings in the form of medicine, logic, philosophy, etc. These are amazing treasures that should be preserved for the benefit of humanity.

"But we must strike a balance -- Dharma first, culture second. Culture and our fascination with it, must not come at the expense of authentic Dharma. So, as we Buddhists in this life, past lives and future lives take up Dharma practice again and again, it is up to us that our Dharma practice does not become shamanism and sorcery, politics and patronage."

TENPA said...

Well, Malcolm, as you know, I have a soft spot for shamans, sorcerers, and yes, even politicians -- as the saying goes, it leaves one to marvel at the sort of men I used to drink with.

oOo said...

LoL

So it is said that the next wave is Democratic Buddhism, but democracies are still hierarchies. Albeit soft ones, with large middles. And when the pa this is and the guru that is and are buddhas and bodhisattva la's well refuge is refuge. Instruction is instruction, and unfailing observance of said instructions is the path, until one can discriminate the test from the instruction. Lots of fabulous teachers here in the US, very accessible, maybe not such a big wave though. Discretion is a good thing no?

Sounds like the white boys and white girls need to grow up. Stop throwing gold coins and themselves at red robes and start offering practice... maybe then the white girl will take the hat off the rinpoche and they can all do the mexican hat dance. lol...

SilentKnight said...

You make a convincing argument based on history and as I understand it all of what you say is true. I know a LOT of people are put off by the way most lama tours are handled these days and I know a LOT of people are upset that it has become difficult to get any meaningful face time with big teachers UNLESS you are a millionaire. So the Dharma has become a business and the evidence of that is all around us. That is the West for you.

Karma Phuntsok said...

Great blog and comments. :)

There is also building resentment, or dissatisfaction, in some elements of the Tibetan exile community about how teachings and access to various Lamas are handled in India and Nepal. It's certainly something that is often brought up by my Tibetan homestay "Dad" and friends on a weekly basis. I think it's partly due to emphasis certain Lamas, particularly HHDL, have put on actual personal practice, rather than the blind faith approach which was the most predominant in Tibetan cultural areas historically

My own experiences of Tibetan Buddhism in the West promted me to write the following on my own blog a while back:

http://icantcomeupwithawittyblogtitle.blogspot.com/2010/07/youre-not-your-lineage.html

od said...

That is some one else's Karma West. Face time with the Sakya(s) has not been hard to obtain nor with the heart sons of the 16th Karmapa. There are buddhas marauding as ordinary lamas if you have eyes to see. Best to offer your initial chunk of gold, silver, copper or iron and then do the practice with your heart and don't ask too many questions about your personal life, just let it come and go. I spoke with a translator of a very good Rinpoche and most people use the face time as psychotherapy. At least the millionaires are using it to not squander their merit. The mundane are merely wallowing in their suffering looking for a savior.

Garchen Rinpoche is very accessible and says his activity seat is here in Arizona. That is a wonderful accessible center. But how can some one like the Karmapa give face time to 20,000 people except in empowerment? Gar says jealousy is the worst and most subtle of the obscurations.

Now on a happy note: Land of the 1000 Buddhas in Montana! Things are growing here slowly and steadily, this is good.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=21205&id=110506465644118

Malcolm Smith said...

Most Tibetans never spent time with big teachers [and still don't unless they are rich aristocrats, merchants, important tulkus, political figures or movie stars], often seeing little more than their hands; and it was the same with Indian Tantric Gurus, if reports of mob scenes at Naropa darshans as reported by Nyan Lotsawa are to be trusted.

So things have just reverted to the norm.

Malcolm Smith said...

Anuttarartantra and Dzogchen don't work as state religions, and they don't really work well in large monastic structures either. So a democratic Buddhism may work fine for Vipassana, Zen, etc., but it will never work for Vajrayana.

The most durable structure for highest yoga tantra and especially Dzogchen is and has always been the gurukula i.e. guru family structure, decentralized, away from state authority, small scale, not involved in politics, etc.

Anonymous said...

Tibetan Buddhism is inherently hierarchical. Nature is hierarchical. Hierarchy is the natural order of things.

Just stop resisting the natural order.

Buddhism points out the non-equality of beings. At the same time we all have the inherent Buddha seed and we can slowly move higher until we reach the ultimate level.

"Have compassion for those below you, respect for those above you. This is all you need to know."

A great teacher of HH Karmapa told me this once.

Malcolm Smith said...

Buddhism points out the inherent equality of beings -- all beings in samsara are stuck on the same wheel. Occasionally, our number comes up and we are offered a brief chance to do something about it, called "precious human birth". Most don't do anything about it.

Mundane hierarchies, such as those in which Buddhism in Tibet have become ossified, are obstacles and do not promote liberation.

There is no moving higher to an ultimate level. There are three states: sentient being, buddha, and neither. Fundamentally, there is no difference at all between these three states-- they are all the same.


M

Anonymous said...

Lord Buddha was born a prince to a family with many servants.

Please explain logically how there is no difference between being a human, a Buddha, or neither.

The wheel itself is also not horizontal but Vertical. Human rebirth is the most auspicious for liberation, but it is taught that a God birth would be preferable to a hell being or hungry ghost birth. Even Gods can do something for dharma at times. Nagas are part animal, part God, for example, but some even took teachings from Shakyamuni Buddha. Nagas, Humans, and hell beings are not viewed as equal unless there is a logical discussion about this I am missing.

Part of the Western corruption of the dharma is actually a desire to make it say what it does not (removing Tibetan natural hierarchies for example would be part of this).

For example, to make it align with wishful thinking about certain political ideologies that are desired by many. However, it is what it is, and part of not corrupting it is to accept that for what Lord Buddha taught, and what the teachings actually say, not contorting it to what one wishes it said based on one's political and other ideas.

Lord Buddha was of course revered as not equal to the people who followed him. He had attained something that most of them had not of course. This is why he is revered. Yes, others have that potential, but they are not equal.

potential and actualization are not the same thing

Malcolm Smith said...

Western corruption of Dharma? Tibetan natural hierarchies?

Westerners cannot corrupt Dharma any more than Tibetans, Indians, Thais, Chinese and so on have already managed to do so. Why? Because we are no more afflicted [but no less afflicted] than Tibetans and so on.

There is nothing at all "natural" about Tibetan hierarchies -- they are conditioned, afflictive phenomena just like all other human endeavors apart from actually practicing the Buddhist path in and of itself. Since Tibetan natural hierarchies are just afflictive phenomena, I refuse to grant them any special status among afflictive phenomena. Afflictive phenomena are just afflictive phenomena, Anonymous.

There is no difference between buddhas and sentient beings apart from non-delusion and delusion. Buddhas and sentient beings have the same basis. Buddhas and sentient beings are made of the same stuff -- rig pa stuff.

The vertical axis upon which the six realms of samsara is erected as a) a conceptual construct and b) is the result of affliction. So you have just proven by my point. All sentient beings in samsara are the same since they are all equally afflicted. There is nothing better about being a god than a hell being since gods _inevitably_ wind up in hell realms.

Buddha's teachings about karma exclude the idea that birth, or any other sort of natural hierarchy, are to be used in establishing some people or group of people as better than or higher than others. This is included in Buddha's rejection of the caste system. True brahmins, said the Buddha, are not brahmins because of birth, but through their practice of virtue. In so saying, Buddha set off a revolution in India that completely destabilized Indian natural hierarchies for a millenia. And when those had become ossified around Buddhism as inevitably happens, the Vimalakirit Nirdesha was written, refuting the notion that women were inferior and incapable of liberation without taking rebirth as a man, and then five centuries later, Buddhist princes like Dombhi Heruka began taking women from the sudra caste as their consorts, again upsetting Indian natural hierarchies.

Upsetting natural hierarchies is something that Buddhas and Buddhists are pretty adept at doing. That because Buddhas know [and Buddhists used to know but often seem to forget] that so called natural hierarchies are bullshit. Buddha left home -- he saw that living like a king in samsara was bullshit (well, really, he was a petty tribal chief, but you know what the Buddhist romances say, prince and all that).

It is useless to talk of sugatagarbha on the one hand, and then talk of the necessity of natural hierarchies on the other. The consequence of sugatagarbha is that all the hierarchies that were invented by hinayanists and mahayanists were invalid.

M

Malcolm Smith said...

Western corruption of Dharma? Tibetan natural hierarchies?

Westerners cannot corrupt Dharma any more than Tibetans, Indians, Thais, Chinese and so on have already managed to do so. Why? Because we are no more afflicted [but no less afflicted] than Tibetans and so on.

There is nothing at all "natural" about Tibetan hierarchies -- they are conditioned, afflictive phenomena just like all other human endeavors apart from actually practicing the Buddhist path in and of itself. Since Tibetan natural hierarchies are just afflictive phenomena, I refuse to grant them any special status among afflictive phenomena. Afflictive phenomena are just afflictive phenomena, Anonymous.

There is no difference between buddhas and sentient beings apart from non-delusion and delusion. Buddhas and sentient beings have the same basis. Buddhas and sentient beings are made of the same stuff -- rig pa stuff.

The vertical axis upon which the six realms of samsara is erected as a) a conceptual construct and b) is the result of affliction. So you have just proven by my point. All sentient beings in samsara are the same since they are all equally afflicted. There is nothing better about being a god than a hell being since gods _inevitably_ wind up in hell realms.

cont...

Malcolm Smith said...

Buddha's teachings about karma exclude the idea that birth, or any other sort of natural hierarchy, are to be used in establishing some people or group of people as better than or higher than others. This is included in Buddha's rejection of the caste system. True brahmins, said the Buddha, are not brahmins because of birth, but through their practice of virtue. In so saying, Buddha set off a revolution in India that completely destabilized Indian natural hierarchies for a millenia. And when those had become ossified around Buddhism as inevitably happens, the Vimalakirit Nirdesha was written, refuting the notion that women were inferior and incapable of liberation without taking rebirth as a man, and then five centuries later, Buddhist princes like Dombhi Heruka began taking women from the sudra caste as their consorts, again upsetting Indian natural hierarchies.

Upsetting natural hierarchies is something that Buddhas and Buddhists are pretty adept at doing. That because Buddhas know [and Buddhists used to know but often seem to forget] that so called natural hierarchies are bullshit. Buddha left home -- he saw that living like a king in samsara was bullshit (well, really, he was a petty tribal chief, but you know what the Buddhist romances say, prince and all that).

It is useless to talk of sugatagarbha on the one hand, and then talk of the necessity of natural hierarchies on the other. The consequence of sugatagarbha is that all the hierarchies that were invented by hinayanists and mahayanists were invalid.

M

Malcolm Smith said...

"Nagas are part animal, part God, for example, but some even took teachings from Shakyamuni Buddha."

Nagas are strictly defined as animals, incidentally.

Stephen said...

Democracies are unstable because of the different opposing whims and fancies of the people. After what has happened to certain countries which replaced absolute monarchy with democracy, you'd wonder if democracy is really that great after all - and would wish for the return of absolute monarchy !

All sentients beings are equal because all of them possess the Buddha Nature and have the potential to realise Buddhahood. Otherwise, there cannot be equality in samsara.

Stephen said...

As for Bodhgaya, although the Sri Lankans have some control over it, it seems the Tibetan Buddhists are the ones who have been contributing significantly, with the all the pilgrimages over the years by the practitioners of Tibetan Buddhists. Is this true ?

Stephen said...

In the video, Rinpoche feared for Buddhism, Tibetan and otherwise, in the West, because there are many strange teachers, teachings and practices prowling about. By replacing any form of hierarchy within Tibetan Buddhism in particular and in Buddhism in general, with democracy of any kind, you must allow for all kinds of strange dubious characters, teachings and practices of all kinds. With some form of hierarchy, it would be easier to maintain some control and order. Otherwise, it's anything goes, and who's to say it cannot ?

Malcolm Smith said...

There have always been strange and dubious characters in Buddhism, beginning with the Buddha himself. He was strange and dubious to many people to which the early suttas bear witness.

Other strange and dubious characters include, but are not limited to, Garab Dorje, Padmasambhava, Vairocana, Virupa, Saraha, Dombhi Heruka, Milarepa, Longchenpa, Patrul Rinpoche, Dudjom Lingpa, the list is endless.

People seem to forget history -- Lha Lama Yeshe "Od wrote a whole book complaining about the strange and dubious practices of the Nyingmapas, Tibetans have been complaining about each others strange and dubious practices right up to the present day. Now they complain about strange and dubious practices supposedly being promulgated by Westerners -- who learned all this strange and dubious stuff from Tibetans, who learned it from Indians.

Buddhism is strange and dubious -- and rightly so.

M

ONyigMu said...

The previous buddha was a brahmin, the current a son of a king, and the future the good looking son of a merchant (this from the golden light sutra) hence the future element of democracy in Buddhism. He teaches one vow, do not kill.

Now as to inherent hierarchy... My lama who has kept 273 vows impeccably says that 'when a monk does not keep a vow they lose qualities upon enlightenment.' The all good and the ground are all and good, but it's qualities that train and benefit beings and there is a hierarchy there. Take Yeshe Tshyogal the Vajra Pani emanation of speech who obtained enlightenment at the 12th bhumi. Or Laughing Dorje is he 11 or 12 or ? It was crystal clear that there was a hierarchy among the Muni and his his students.

There is more to buddhism than dzogchen. Now Sakya Trizin was clear "no mixing other religions with this practice", and Gar Rinpoche told his mandala you can practice other religions with Rigpa. There are different levels to the wedding cake or so they say; one is chocolate, one can be white, one can even be strawberry.

I have seen teachings mixed with Christianity, with pride, with greed, with anger... and these are all prophesied by the Shakya Muni not as elements of the nature and path but as aspects of the extreme degeneracy of the age.

And ultimately they are only all at the level of ultimate truth in the union of mahamudra and dzogchen, but dharma bro I'm not here to argue that sore mahamudra point with you, ask the Sakya Pa when he is here next summer about the validity of the mahamudra blessing lineage, you may be surprised about the answer. Even among the heart sons of the prime buddha there is a display. Gar Rinpoche has very interesting stories about this.

Now for the myriad of us who are not in that union, we require imperialism albeit the new and improved constitutional monarchy type, still could be softened a bit. But some of the girls and boys don't respond well to soft. And that my dear is the structure of a family too, or at least a functional one.

Stephen said...

Malcolm, I agree with your post on dubious strange characters 100% ! And how to separate the genuine items from the fakes ???

Malcolm Smith said...

Dear ONyigMu:

Hierarchy means a "A form of government lead by a sacred ruler". Certainly in Buddhist countries the concept of a Dharmaraja, the ethical ruler, has been perverted into the notion of a sacred king. For example, in Central Tibet: several Dalai Lamas were murdered because of the "natural" hierarchy created by the great Fifth.

But the Buddha never set up anyone as a sacred ruler. He never set up any hierarchy -- not even in ordained sangha. To this day, one's rank is determined by how long one has been a bhikshu and nothing else. The only form of governance among bhikshus that was established by the Buddha was a consensus democracy among local sanghas. There was and is no central authority in Budhdism.

But this system became partially corrupted during the time of Ashoka when the Vibhajyavadins exercised their political influence to have other buddhist schools derobed -- complaining about the strange and dubious practices of proto-Mahayanists and others.

And in Vajrayana it is even more extreme -- there is no form of government at all -- just one's personal experience, one's relationship with one's guru, and one's relationship with one's vajra siblings. But this system also becomes corrupt when monarchial politics become involved in it [please examine the post Phagpa history of the Sakya rule over Tibet], and we have numerous examples in Tibetan history where people have used their relationships with their Gurus as excuses to go to war with other Buddhists.

There is a reason why Shambhala International wound up in Canada, and not the USA -- we don't much like kings here in the USA. Canadians love the Crown. We fought two wars to against the English Crown.

So I return to my thesis -- the Buddhist monastic sangha is already democratic -- it is built into Vinaya. Originally, anuttarayoga tantra, etc., was based on the Gurukula system, borrowed from the Shaivaites (ganapujas, chandali yoga, etc.)

These structures are sufficient for the furtherance of Buddhist aims without all the worldly politics of the four schools, Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma and Gelug. So let's just take the cream of the four schools, the Dharma, and leave their worldly politics where they belong-- with Tibetans.

M

Anonymous said...

I am white, not a Honkie which I find to be a very demeaning term and am offended by the use of it in this article. I am from the US, 60, female and Tibetan Buddhist.
The most distressing aspects of the influx of Buddhist teachers, from all sects, into the West has been the courting and fleecing of very vain Americans with too much money and too little sense. I have seen it happen right in front of me and I was very saddened by it. I have seen the prices of Buddhist objects go up 500% in ten years because of the market realizing that Americans have more money and will pay for enlightenment..Well not really getting it..I have watched as so-called Dharma teachers target silly Americans who think they can buy nirvana and look down on those of us who don't have those financial resources. It almost turned me away from Buddhism. When big name people like Richard Gere make Buddhism elitest it ruins the good intentions of average people like myself who doesn't have the money to travel to see HHDL or take expensive retreats to gain empowerements that I feel are just like buying a hat and t-shirt at a rock concert. Been there, done that, have the hat and t-shirt - bang I am ready for another enlightenment notch on my dharma badge list.

Malcolm Smith said...

Dear ONyigMu:

Hierarchy means a "A form of government lead by a sacred ruler". Certainly in Buddhist countries the concept of a Dharmaraja, the ethical ruler, has been perverted into the notion of a sacred king. For example, in Central Tibet: several Dalai Lamas were murdered because of the "natural" hierarchy created by the great Fifth.

But the Buddha never set up anyone as a sacred ruler. He never set up any hierarchy -- not even in the bhikshu sangha. To this day, one's rank is determined by how long one has been a bhikshu and nothing else. The only form of governance among bhikshus that was established by the Buddha was a consensus democracy among local sanghas. There was and is no central authority in Buddhism.

But this system became partially corrupted during the time of Ashoka when the Vibhajyavadins exerted their political influence with Ashoka to have other buddhist schools derobed -- complaining about the strange and dubious practices of proto-Mahayanists and others.

And in Vajrayana it is even more extreme -- there is no form of government at all -- just one's personal experience, one's relationship with one's guru, and one's relationship with one's vajra siblings. But this system also becomes corrupt when politics become involved in it [please examine the post-Phagpa history of the Sakya rule over Tibet, etc.]. We have numerous examples in Tibetan history where people have used their relationships with their Gurus as excuses to go to war with other Buddhists.

Malcolm Smith said...

I don't know about the rest of the West -- but monarchial Buddhism won't work in America [not that Buddhism in the US will ever amount to much more than an upper middle class form of escapist entertainment].

Shambhala International wound up in Canada, and not the USA -- we don't much like kings here in the USA. Canadians love the Crown. We fought two wars to against the English Crown.

So I return to my thesis -- the Buddhist monastic sangha is already democratic -- it is built into the Vinaya. Originally, anuttarayoga tantra, etc., was based on the Gurukula system, borrowed from, or perhaps co-evolved with, Shaivaite Tantra (ganapujas, chandali yoga, etc.).

These two structures are sufficient for the furtherance of Buddhist aims in West without all the worldly politics of the four schools, Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma and Gelug. So let's just take the cream of the four schools, the Dharma, and leave the dross of the four schools i.e. mundane politics, where it belongs i.e. with Tibetans.

M

TENPA said...

Dear Easily Offended White Person:

You haven't learned in sixty something years that you're going to read and hear things that challenge you?

Sorry things didn't turn out well.

Open up -- and try to develop a sense of humor.

Malcolm Smith said...

What I am getting out of this interchange is that sinister Tibetans court and fleece silly, vain, senseless Americans.

I object to this characterization, since it plays right into the infantilization of Americans, and other Westerners -- and it is unfair. It is also unfair to Tibetans, who are struggling for cultural survival in a hostile world and who often cannot see the distinction between Tibetan culture and Dharma.

For the most part, American Buddhists are well educated, sophisticated adults who make good decisions for themselves. It may be the case that Tibetan Buddhism has a larger load of people with severe personality disorders, but this has probably been true of Vajrayana all along -- both in India and Tibet.

We are all suffering beings in samsara. We are also all buddhas.

Garab Dorje said:

"Without the fuel of afflictions, the bonfire of wisdom could not burn."

We need to get comfortable with that.

Anonymous said...

Honkie was a Polish term somewhat derogatory somewhat a term of endearment... the blacks used it to jive them in the factories... it was originally in fun for most... but there are always a few...

Dechen said...

Malcolm,
Of course the Persians Caucasoids, Negaroids and Mongoloids’s of old world and new have perverted the divine King entirely. And there was rank among the muni's Sangha according to age and realization. Attendants are attendants no? Heart sons and daughters are sons and daughters? Not every one in muni’s Sangha instructed no? I see no change there. Some received Vajrayana others Vinyana. Hierarchy is implicit.


I know esteemed monks in Vajrayana/Dzogchen who have spent up to 10 years in solitary retreat, who may refer to their highest teacher before making certain actions or decisions. The Karmapa still defers to the Dali Lama and the Sakyapa. The state you refer to is absolute mastery and I keep reading references to how very few from this realm actually obtain that state. So for me its still pie in the sky and best to do as told: up with the view, down with the conduct.


And the Buddha does set up the sacred ruler. Read the Golden Light Sutra. But here we must discriminate between age and temporal aspect of age, according to the needs of beings therein. In the Golden age democracy (fat and happy imperialism) is more effortless, but in the blue Iron age even divine kings fall to their own discord (shackles of mad monarchy, deranged despotism, corrupt capitalism and sadistic social/communism).

I am vaguely familiar with an aspect of the history, how the Maiterya Tai Situ was prophesized to be the next ruler of Tibet and supposedly the Gelugpa schism did things like destroy all the Drikung Kagyu monasteries to obtain power. As well there is a Guru Rinpoche terma given out years ago by S. Trizen about the current Kagyu schism rearing its ugly head causing a lot of the trauma in the North (Ladahk). The cause of these uproars explained in the Gesar epic, being that Lotus Light was only able to get the malignant spirits and beings of Tibet to vow to Buddhism two times and not three.


I would still argue that democracy is imperialistic; an evolved form of feudalism and that argument is coming from having worked within its colloquial forms for more than two decades (half of that time with children). Capacity and hierarchy are synonyms at one level, but what often happens at the mundane level is that karmic connections override even capacity in this culture and I am sure in most others. In a Corporation there are clearly Kings and Princes who may fire me at will. Western school systems were more like democratic imperialistic families and if you were not right in their eyes, they marginalized you and made your life hell, do not release resources needed for you to perform and that is if they can not chase you off or fire you. Hell in the last school I was at they would have bomb threats, set you up on drug charges and even have you beaten on the side of the road, but these were the Gangster descendants of Cortez’s army…


Personally I think that civilization was brought to a mad world by divine Buddha rulers, family members, comrades and friends, and when the mad mimic the divine things get very strange indeed. Albeit this is how children learn, we mimic. Now you cannot get rid of hierarchy in the family, case in point our culture. This act of destroying the hierarchical family has destroyed the children, they do what they want and they make bad choices and follow the shop till you drop, sex, drugs and rock and roll pipers off the cliff. And medically you know where that leads to… even healing chod has a time loosening those embedded beasts.


Mu

Dechen said...

Malcolm,
Of course the Persians Caucasoids, Negaroids and Mongoloids’s of old world and new have perverted the divine King entirely. And there was rank among the muni's Sangha according to age and realization. Attendants are attendants no? Heart sons and daughters are sons and daughters? Not every one in muni’s Sangha instructed no? I see no change there. Some received Vajrayana others Vinyana. Hierarchy is implicit.


I know esteemed monks in Vajrayana/Dzogchen who have spent up to 10 years in solitary retreat, who may refer to their highest teacher before making certain actions or decisions. The Karmapa still defers to the Dali Lama and the Sakyapa. The state you refer to is absolute mastery and I keep reading references to how very few from this realm actually obtain that state. So for me its still pie in the sky and best to do as told: up with the view, down with the conduct.


And the Buddha does set up the sacred ruler. Read the Golden Light Sutra. But here we must discriminate between age and temporal aspect of age, according to the needs of beings therein. In the Golden age democracy (fat and happy imperialism) is more effortless, but in the blue Iron age even divine kings fall to their own discord (shackles of mad monarchy, deranged despotism, corrupt capitalism and sadistic social/communism).

I am vaguely familiar with an aspect of the history, how the Maiterya Tai Situ was prophesized to be the next ruler of Tibet and supposedly the Gelugpa schism did things like destroy all the Drikung Kagyu monasteries to obtain power. As well there is a Guru Rinpoche terma given out years ago by S. Trizen about the current Kagyu schism rearing its ugly head causing a lot of the trauma in the North (Ladahk). The cause of these uproars explained in the Gesar epic, being that Lotus Light was only able to get the malignant spirits and beings of Tibet to vow to Buddhism two times and not three.


I would still argue that democracy is imperialistic; an evolved form of feudalism and that argument is coming from having worked within its colloquial forms for more than two decades (half of that time with children). Capacity and hierarchy are synonyms at one level, but what often happens at the mundane level is that karmic connections override even capacity in this culture and I am sure in most others. In a Corporation there are clearly Kings and Princes who may fire me at will. Western school systems were more like democratic imperialistic families and if you were not right in their eyes, they marginalized you and made your life hell, do not release resources needed for you to perform and that is if they can not chase you off or fire you. Hell in the last school I was at they would have bomb threats, set you up on drug charges and even have you beaten on the side of the road, but these were the Gangster descendants of Cortez’s army…


Personally I think that civilization was brought to a mad world by divine Buddha rulers, family members, comrades and friends, and when the mad mimic the divine things get very strange indeed. Albeit this is how children learn, we mimic. Now you cannot get rid of hierarchy in the family, case in point our culture. This act of destroying the hierarchical family has destroyed the children, they do what they want and they make bad choices and follow the shop till you drop, sex, drugs and rock and roll pipers off the cliff. And medically you know where that leads to… even healing chod has a time loosening those embedded beasts.


Mu

Mu said...

Malcolm,
Of course the Persians Caucasoids, Negaroids and Mongoloids’s of old world and new have perverted the divine King entirely. And there was rank among the muni's Sangha according to age and realization. Attendants are attendants no? Heart sons and daughters are sons and daughters? Not every one in muni’s Sangha instructed no? I see no change there. Some received Vajrayana others Vinyana. Hierarchy is implicit.


I know esteemed monks in Vajrayana/Dzogchen who have spent up to 10 years in solitary retreat, who may refer to their highest teacher before making certain actions or decisions. The Karmapa still defers to the Dali Lama and the Sakyapa. The state you refer to is absolute mastery and I keep reading references to how very few from this realm actually obtain that state. So for me its still pie in the sky and best to do as told: up with the view, down with the conduct.


And the Buddha does set up the sacred ruler. Read the Golden Light Sutra. But here we must discriminate between age and temporal aspect of age, according to the needs of beings therein. In the Golden age democracy (fat and happy imperialism) is more effortless, but in the blue Iron age even divine kings fall to their own discord (shackles of mad monarchy, deranged despotism, corrupt capitalism and sadistic social/communism).

I am vaguely familiar with an aspect of the history, how the Maiterya Tai Situ was prophesized to be the next ruler of Tibet and supposedly the Gelugpa schism did things like destroy all the Drikung Kagyu monasteries to obtain power. As well there is a Guru Rinpoche terma given out years ago by S. Trizen about the current Kagyu schism rearing its ugly head causing a lot of the trauma in the North (Ladahk). The cause of these uproars explained in the Gesar epic, being that Lotus Light was only able to get the malignant spirits and beings of Tibet to vow to Buddhism two times and not three.

cont...

Dchen said...

cont.



I would still argue that democracy is imperialistic; an evolved form of feudalism and that argument is coming from having worked within its colloquial forms for more than two decades (half of that time with children). Capacity and hierarchy are synonyms at one level, but what often happens at the mundane level is that karmic connections override even capacity in this culture and I am sure in most others. In a Corporation there are clearly Kings and Princes who may fire me at will. Western school systems were more like democratic imperialistic families and if you were not right in their eyes, they marginalized you and made your life hell, do not release resources needed for you to perform and that is if they can not chase you off or fire you. Hell in the last school I was at they would have bomb threats, set you up on drug charges and even have you beaten on the side of the road, but these were the Gangster descendants of Cortez’s army…


Personally I think that civilization was brought to a mad world by divine Buddha rulers, family members, comrades and friends, and when the mad mimic the divine things get very strange indeed. Albeit this is how children learn, we mimic. Now you cannot get rid of hierarchy in the family, case in point our culture. This act of destroying the hierarchical family has destroyed the children, they do what they want and they make bad choices and follow the shop till you drop, sex, drugs and rock and roll pipers off the cliff. And medically you know where that leads to… even healing chod has a time loosening those embedded beasts.


Mu

Anonymous said...

Tibetan Buddhism is not a hippy den religion to be contorted to make the hippies happy! :-)

Abortion (one of many moral / virtue issues that could be discussed) is a good example of this. It's basically not discussed in the West during teachings often because half the donors who came to the teaching in order to feel cozy that they had found this new "alternative" religion would want to leave, or at least feel really uncomfortable.

Of course abortion is totally against anything remotely Buddhist. One wonders how Buddhists rationalize voting for someone who approves of abortion!

I happily agree that the only hierarchy should be based on virtue (yet this is still a form of natural hierarchy that will be represented in rebirth). Lama Tsong Khapa from my understanding taught against the Rinpoche system and stated that he would never be identified in the future. HH Dalai Lama has also said many things critical about it on many occasions and states basically the same thing that hierarchy is based on virtue. However, you made the point that hierarchy is inherent to Tibetan Buddhism as you admitted it - even it if it is by virtue alone. The virtue you mention would still determine good births, all the way to how beautiful the patient virtuous ones would be.

Tall people practiced morality (sila) in their previous lives! Another hierarchy - measured in meters or inches! Hierarchy is wonderful and good and reflected in birth, status, place in life, giftedness, Rinpoche status, Tulku status, virtuous monk status, yogi status, saint status, hiddden homeless saint status, businessperson saint wearing a suit patron philanthropist status, etc. etc. - their all in their perfect place in the hierarchy due to their past live's virtue and morality, patience, etc. - and this establishes the beautiful and praiseworthy Tibetan hierarchy of identifying some virtuous beautiful beings and placing them on a high precious jewelled seat with wondrous silks and brocades around them to help make the celebration even more inspiring and wonderful. Then, out of love and devotion for that being, one can even have the amazing merit to build a beautiful monastery to house him or her (such as the Potola, built from devotion and love, not oppression and feudalism as improperly stated by most academics in the West who haven't the first clue of the love and devotion of Tibetan Buddhists for their reincarnated teachers).

One can even then create a Stupa for that amazing high being after they depart.

By the way, I usually don't like to get into discussions like this as only high teachers very high on the hierarchical virtue food chain are where I take my spiritual food. I know very little and am very obscured.

Our precious now departed highly enlightened teacher who was part of the original 1959 generation who left Tibet, and spent most of his life in Tibet studying with the greatest masters said one time I remember, "Hippies, not so good. Hippy does not have anything to do with enlightenment."

Communists essentially destroyed Tibet. Lets not forget that little tidbit.

My point with the Hippy talk is simply that as someone from an area with a lot of hippy culture historically I understand the mindset and could even qualify for one myself. However, that does not make it right to let that karmic mind lens distort the object it is viewing: Tibetan Buddhism.

PS - Our highly learned and respected teacher also from Tibet and extremely well trained in India for decades said last night after this discussion on the internet following our usual practice(purely through his amazing clairvoyance), approximately "if you practice well, yes, you can become higher than other humans. On a higher level than other humans spiritually."

Anonymous said...

"American Buddhists are well educated" to this I quote a discussion one of Gar's students was having with a highly educated British Religious psychologist who was at a Chakrasamvara empowerment trying to come up with a new and improved Jungian classification (to fleece the masses with), this one based on devotion versus ?
You know instantaneous versus gradual...

In quote, in referring to the west "Our educational systems are ignorance, our entertainment systems are desire and our military based on aversion."

It was quite lovely to seem him go up on stage at the very end with a kata and absolute devotion to Gar Rinpoche, but of course he waited for the monastic disciplinarian Chetsang la to dance out of the auditorium with his entourage.

Malcolm Smith said...

Dechen:

No one was seated in the Buddha's sangha by virtue of realization -- only by length of time served as a bhikshu. A lay srotapanna still did not sit with Bhikshus. Why? Because they were not bhikshus, even though a part of the Arya Sangha.

But this is a function of merit generation -- the ordained sangha is supported by lay people for the purpose of generating merit. We don't automatically generate merit by becoming the vassals of kings or voting for presidents.

The ordering principle of samsara is merit/karma. That's it. There is no hierarchy involved. Just our own virtues and sins ripening as higher and lower births in the samsara. But remember, there isn't even a needle's tip of happiness in samsara, according to Maitreya Bodhisattva. So there is no use in propping up samsaric hierarchies, no use in arguing for higher and lower. All sentient beings are the same i.e. afflicted and suffering.

So I see little point in propping up the projections of human politics in the Dharma. All it does is confuse things.

You can't rank realization, since ordinary people cannot read minds, and realized people generally don't admit that they can.

So we are left with things as the Buddha left them -- ordained and lay people. And in Vajrayana, gurus and disciples.

The rest of it is all samsaric trappings and distraction.

M

Anonymous said...

Nagas are part god and part animal. This surprised me as well and I was initially confused by it, because one would think that beings are just one class or another, but this is not the case. It's not as simple as the drawing of realms on the wall at the monastery probably more for the people in the past who could not read. Please see Robert Beer's excellent and scholarly book on Tibetan Iconography or simply research it a bit. They are not only animals.

I saw one in Nagarjuna Lake in South India where many ruins important to Nagarjuna were moved to an island, and much else was submerged by a new dam.

Please keep the environment clean, and keep the waters pure, and streams crystal clear, and air fresh as Nagas do not like environmental destruction like plastic bags in the streams.

Please love the Nagas: recycle and support environmental awareness in India.

PS I think I read one time that Nagas disguised their smell with sandalwood and even appeared as human in order to attend a teaching by Shakyamuni Buddha. Does anyone know the actual story?

oh yeah, almost forgot, there are not just 6 realms of beings or whatever anyway. The hierarchies are infinite. Buddha Shakyamuni said over 2500 years ago that there are infinite living beings in infinite dimensions / realms. Not even just infinite planets / universes. Infinite realms / dimensions with sentience beyond what we can even imagine is the truth.

TENPA said...

Support your local klu

Malcolm Smith said...

"This act of destroying the hierarchical family has destroyed the children, they do what they want and they make bad choices and follow the shop till you drop, sex, drugs and rock and roll pipers off the cliff."

I don't agree with this assessment -- the problem with American families is the disappearance of the extended family and the rise of the so called "nuclear" family.

But even here, things are not that dire. I guess I just trust the basic mental factors that drive human beings -- the 22 positive mental factors with which all positive mental states in the desire realm are associated.

People, I believe, are fundamentally good and want to benefit others. When they do the opposite, it is my observation that they are usually not operating from their own center, but from some external authority to which they have submitted, wittingly or unwittingly.

Buddha said it best, when you have the Dharma, you are, in the end, an island, your own refuge, needing no other refuge. No hierarchy, human or divine, can trump that.

Malcolm Smith said...

I have researched it, thanks.

According to classical Indian sources such as Abhidharma and so on, Nagas are only animals, belonging the animal realm.

This established through debates about what beings, besides human beings, might be able to take vows. Nagas cannot be ordained as bhikshus because they are animals.

If you do a little more research, you will discover this to be the case.

Further, all sentient beings are included in the six realms. There really is no need to propose infinite numbers of classifications of sentient beings -- five or six is plenty.

M

Anonymous said...

I don't think anything said about hierarchy should be viewed as racist. Is that the reference to "klu"?

People of all races and types can rise spiritually, and nothing said should imply that in any way. This writer personally loves all beings of all kinds equally.

HH Dalai Lama said once that I heard that he may be reincarnated as an African Woman, for example.

Thanks for all the wonderful posts. I will no longer contribute here as I guesss it is interpreted as unwelcome ideas since they are different and not in conformity with the typical stuff. Good luck and sarva mangalam.

Robert Beer must be wrong then in his book on Nagas. :-) Peace and love to all of you! bye.

O said...

lol according to science humans belong to animal realm too!

6 Realms may be like middle-high school classification?

You disagree with my assessment of the children?
Go teach in the elementary, middle and high schools and speak to the teachers and the parents for a new view.

You see the majority of children have no skills stuck in third grade. My first 9th grade urban class and it was 50%... and I quote a third grade teacher "they are more concerned with sex drug and rock and roll than learning"

and a first grade teacher who has been teaching for 18 years "it is getting worse and worse they are writing notes to each other in first grade about having sex, about drugs..." no learning "they have no pencil, their mother is more concerned with her nails" and they are wearing the rock icons on their clothes, watching adult tv and listening to adult music. And a Native girl quoted her mother to me "there are many demons among the small ones right now."

I agree with your extended argument, but nuclear is also required and that really doesn't exist now that the mother works and if she has money the poor indentured illegal immigrant raises her children or in most cases its media driven entertainment babysitting...

Actually the extended family argument is akin to "please go raise my son in a monastery. And while your at it go teach for 8 months and maybe I will see you next year if I haven't flow off somewhere. And you know in your heart that this is not going to be exactly like that in America...


I was just reading an interview by Sakya Trizin where he said "the entire Sangha are still on the path" and their refuge is the Buddha. The Buddha is an island, simply put the other shore.

p.s. I have some Naga friends in human form (as discerned by the royal sakya court astrologer) who are wealth generating bodhisattvas, be nice to Nagas some still have fangs and they are helllllla upset about the environment right now

O said...

lol according to science humans belong to animal realm too!

6 Realms may be like middle-high school classification?

You disagree with my assessment of the children?
Go teach in the elementary, middle and high schools and speak to the teachers and the parents for a new view.

You see the majority of children have no skills stuck in third grade. My first 9th grade urban class and it was 50%... and I quote a third grade teacher "they are more concerned with sex drug and rock and roll than learning"

and a first grade teacher who has been teaching for 18 years "it is getting worse and worse they are writing notes to each other in first grade about having sex, about drugs..." no learning "they have no pencil, their mother is more concerned with her nails" and they are wearing the rock icons on their clothes, watching adult tv and listening to adult music. And a Native girl quoted her mother to me "there are many demons among the small ones right now."

I agree with your extended argument, but nuclear is also required and that really doesn't exist now that the mother works and if she has money the poor indentured illegal immigrant raises her children or in most cases its media driven entertainment babysitting...

Actually the extended family argument is akin to "please go raise my son in a monastery. And while your at it go teach for 8 months and maybe I will see you next year if I haven't flow off somewhere. And you know in your heart that this is not going to be exactly like that in America...


I was just reading an interview by Sakya Trizin where he said "the entire Sangha are still on the path" and their refuge is the Buddha. The Buddha is an island, simply put the other shore.

p.s. I have some Naga friends in human form (as discerned by the royal sakya court astrologer) who are wealth generating bodhisattvas, be nice to Nagas some still have fangs and they are helllllla upset about the environment right now

Anonymous said...

Tenpa, et. all: I am not an "easily offended person" and I find your dismissive comment not very Buddha like..I have been sexually abused, raped, beaten, homeless, and shunned because I am a Tibetan Buddhist. Hardly makes me easily offended. I just think name calling by anyone isn't Buddha like and is wrong. Some on this blog have said some very unusual things for Buddhists to say about people they don't know or won't know or dislike because they "think" they know them. I have seen everything from cults to Buddhists con people out of money and free will when I lived in California, so yes, I think Americans, not exclusively, want to "buy" into enlightenment without doing to the work. That's not just my theory, it's fact and I saw young people being used for sex and who knows what all to further agendas of "so-called" enlightened beings. I had friend robbed of her money and eventually her life chasing "enlightenment" in an accident that never should have happened..Karma, maybe, but she was fed a load of tripe and bought it all willingly. She was well educated. So were the Heaven's Gate people..Education doesn't equal "good reasoning or common sense." The Buddha said "don't believe everything I say, experience it yourself," (I am paraphrasing of course. Well, I live that way and I don't fall into taking anything at face value. So, please, don't say I am an "easily offended white person" because that's labelling and I thought Buddha didn't teach judgement of "castes." Of course, I may be wrong, but I am not labelling anyone with derogatory labels..Use the N word in public and see how that works for you. Respect my opinion as I repect yours, even if you and I don't agree. If you see a Buddha in your mirror you need glasses.

Malcolm Smith said...

"Another hierarchy..."

The results of karma do not form a hierarchy since they are strictly samsaric results.

Even the notion of Buddhas being "above" and sentient beings being "below" is strictly a result of karmic vision and is therefore just another form of afflictive thinking.

Some people are into the religion of Tibetan Buddhism. Other people are into the Dharma that came from Tibet. Choose wisely, because it is easy to confuse one for the other.

Intelligent Buddhists won't become culturally self-hating westerners, and won't idealize a golden age of Tibetan Buddhism.

They will take the Dharma that they are taught and practice it, and leave the other culturally irrelevant things behind.

TENPA said...

Dear Anonymous:

"I have been sexually abused, raped, beaten, homeless, and shunned because I am a Tibetan Buddhist."

You left out the alien abduction.

Get psychiatric help, and if you are still interested in seeking enlightenment for the benefit of others when the voices stop...

...then you can try again, because the nature of your expression right now seems like a rigid, white knuckle grip on victim culture.

TENPA said...

Dear Other Anonymous:

Last time I looked, "klu" was Tibetan for "naga."

And Bob Beer, bless him, makes that might clear on page 70 of the book you are quoting, so what gives?

You picking out the undigested corn, or what?

Anonymous said...

OK I was wrong then I thought "klu" was a reference to the KKK - see google if you google "klu"

I thought the hierarchical talk was causing someone to interpret it as rascist / supremacist. I guess it is a dharma trick with the world being my teacher and all things teaching me even through misunderstandings.

Helping all sentient beings regardless of hierarchy is the only important thing really. Just loving and caring for them spiritually and equally. Helping others spiritually truly is the most important part of our practice (bodhicitta).

Hierarchy is wonderful and colorful and good and I celebrate the diversity and beauty it creates amongst living beings.

Whether Nagas are animals or animals and gods is not really important, but I will look it up to see if I was wrong remembering it that way.

I wish you all the very best spiritual progress on your paths.

I listened to the purely clairvoyant teaching comment on this discussion from a digital recording by a great Tibetan master last night and he said that the blessing of meeting the true Lama in this life is accomplished if (excuse his broken English, he is Tibetan by training):

"so your no longer ordinary ordinary crazy person your far more better than the ordinary ordinary crazy people

your one level higher spiritually"

He wanted to say something about this discussion apparently and found it interesting enough to comment on... and encourage us to go forward with our practice.

Anonymous said...

I found the scholarly source of the apparent confusion on nagas being part animal and part god. Here is the exact definition of Naga given in Ian A. Baker's wonderful book, "The Dalai Lama's Secret Temple" on page 215 in the glossary: "Naga (klu). Powerful long-lived serpent-like beings who inhabit bodies of water and often guard great treasure. Nagas belong half to the animal realm and half to the god realm. They generally live in the form of snakes, but many can change into human form and they are often depicted as human from the waist up with a serpent's tail below. They are supposed to control the weather, especially rain."

Please ask Ian Baker where this comes from in the original Indian source materials.

By the way, this is a wonderful book, complete with a picture of the metallic flying UFO's that a previous incarnation of Padmasambhava flew through the sky in, that I saw in this temple behind the Potala (see page 41). One of the first UFO paintings, painted in the late 1600's depicting Padmasambhava flying in a flying saucer as Pema Obar.

Anonymous said...

Here is one suggestion on how to bring Dharma to the West:

Generate merit. "Heaps of merit" as the Buddha described it. Skies and clouds of merit.

Print and give sutras, translate Dharma texts, build stupas and monasteries, feed the hungry, the sangha and the animals, make offerings.

Give the merit away to all sentient beings to help them remove the afflictions of anger, desire and ignorance--for their enlightenment so that they may benefit others.

Repeat daily. Repeat hourly. Repeat.

Malcolm Smith said...

"Please ask Ian Baker where this comes from in the original Indian source materials."

Alak Kenkar Rinpoche's bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo (Great Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary) states the following:

"klu (nāgā): among the eight classes, a type of animal (dud 'gro) that lives in the water."

Baker, Beer and anyone else who asserts that nagas are anything other than animals are simply mistaken.

Geoff said...

What a wonderful thread of comments! It is just like being in a cremation ground filled with the howl of tormented and disturbed anonymous beings while listening to the profound words of the gathered siddhas.

How telling it is that it is the babbling fools who are promoting orthodoxy and hierarchy and the voices of sanity and reason that are pointing to the centerless sky as a model of human society.

Geoff said...

Note to Anonymous: The klu phone is ringing.

Anonymous said...

Are you not being a bit contradictory in denying hierarchy yet at the same time holding onto nagas as animals in the hierarchy like a hungry dog defending a bone! It's pretty clear by what the people have said that Tibetan sources are contradictory about their exact nature. Some old dictionary is now a fundamentalist font of truth now? Nagas probably defy human classification schemes like saying they neatly fit in the animal zone on the hierarchy.

Sky and liberation are beyond words but not for the vast majority of beings who are stuck down in samsaric reality. Your big ideas are ignoring the sentience stuck down in it as a great teacher once said.

Malcolm Smith said...

Traditional sources are not contradictory about the exact nature of nāgās.

The dictionary you are referring is not some "old" tibetan dictionary -- it is quite modern and was compiled by one of the greatest scholars of Tibetan nationality presently living. It is not a question of fundamentalism -- it is a question of basic definitions.

In any event, all that I was saying is that we do not need Tibetan hierarchies here in the USA. They don't have anything to do with the Dharma, as such.

My general point was that the hierarchies we observe in Tibetan Buddhism are samsaric hierarchies. As far as I am concerned we don't need them here in the USA or anywhere else in the West to preserve Vajrayana Buddhism. They are not intrinsic to Vajrayana Buddhism. The only relationship intrinsic to Vajrayana Buddhism is Guru/chela, master and disciple.

Second, the thrust of my other point is merely that since Buddhists are being reborn here in the West Buddhism is not being introduced to the West because Buddhists are already here. The USA is a central country and not a border country, as these things are defined in Vinaya.

Vajrayana Buddhism is not being taught here by kind missionaries trying to save our immortal souls from savage barbarism. Vajrayana Buddhism is being taught here because we want to reconnect with our past gurus and practices.

The West is the future of Buddhism (and English is the international language of Buddhism, much to the chagrin of Germans). Why? Because the West, for better or for worse, is spreading everywhere. Buddhism is an adaptable religion, or it has been up to now. If Buddhism can't adapt to Western Culture, Buddhism will be nothing more than a museum exhibit somewhere.

Malcolm Smith said...

Traditional sources are not contradictory about the exact nature of nāgās.

The dictionary you are referring is not some "old" tibetan dictionary -- it is quite modern and was compiled by one of the greatest scholars of Tibetan nationality presently living. It is not a question of fundamentalism -- it is a question of basic definitions.

In any event, all that I was saying is that we do not need Tibetan hierarchies here in the USA. They don't have anything to do with the Dharma, as such.

My general point was that the hierarchies we observe in Tibetan Buddhism are samsaric hierarchies. As far as I am concerned we don't need them here in the USA or anywhere else in the West to preserve Vajrayana Buddhism. They are not intrinsic to Vajrayana Buddhism. The only relationship intrinsic to Vajrayana Buddhism is Guru/chela, master and disciple.

Second, the thrust of my other point is merely that since Buddhists are being reborn here in the West Buddhism is not being introduced to the West because Buddhists are already here. The USA is a central country and not a border country, as these things are defined in Vinaya.

Vajrayana Buddhism is not being taught here by kind missionaries trying to save our immortal souls from savage barbarism. Vajrayana Buddhism is being taught here because we want to reconnect with our past gurus and practices.

The West is the future of Buddhism (and English is the international language of Buddhism, much to the chagrin of Germans). Why? Because the West, for better or for worse, is spreading everywhere. Buddhism is an adaptable religion, or it has been up to now. If Buddhism can't adapt to Western Culture, Buddhism will be nothing more than a museum exhibit somewhere.

Anonymous said...

That is a reasonable response re: hierarchy.

However, even the Guru / student relationship is completely based on hierarchy and isn’t the Tulku / Rinpoche, etc. hierarchies simply a way to simplify that beyond perhaps Geshe degrees and Ph.D.’s as possible other ways to identify “gifted” gurus?

And, this hierarchy discussion is simply interesting for those opposed to it to look at their minds in meditation and ask why is this hierarchy issue creating dissonance / concern / attention / friction?
Jealousy instead of rejoicing for those higher and perhaps who have been more virtuous in this and/or past lives?
None of this is directed at anyone in particular posting here at all.
Rejoicing in others’ merits. Heard that before?
Rejoicing for those above us on the path vs. being jealous of those above us in a myriad of ways (financially, spiritually,etc.)
And, for those below us we should have compassion, instead of pride, arrogance, elitism, etc.
Resentment in place of rejoicing creating friction in the mind? Discomfort with sociological systems we do not agree with because it is not politically convenient, and progressive enough as we wish life were?
Trying to take the suffering out of Samsara and make it equal for everyone only to make more suffering?
Buddha said samsara is like an ox cart with a wheel off balance. It is inherently a place of inequalities and off balance karmic results for living beings.

In regards to the simple ideas of realms and neat classifications like Nagas being animals. Does the fact that the Buddha did state in the scriptures (ask any scholar of the accepted scriptures in Tibetan Buddhism) that there are infinite realms / universes / life etc. mean that all of that infinite life in all the infinite realms fits in those neat little categories drawn in the lobby of monasteries for those who cannot read? Remember, most of history until now had a massive portion of the population who could not even read. Simple pictures were helpful back then.
I suspect Nagas are definitely not animals like the simple descriptions state (even if there is consistency in some old books), and that a blending or lifting of them to a more mystical and diverse level is appropriate. Ian Baker would then be correct.

Does point to the sky and mumbling something high sounding about Dzogchen, Mahamudra, or emptiness make all the paths and moral teachings irrelevant? Are those who do saying their done and have achieved the far shore?

This author respects all of you and wishes you well on your path. Tulku Anonymous signing out.

ONyingmu said...

talk about the sky is not the sky
calling people fools maybe crazy wisdom or just bad manners, maybe stains of both

there are countless children and adults on this planet right now to whom the sky is simply blue and cloudy and often stormy and unpredictable

none of this is of benefit to them, there are some who will benefit from the devotion of a loving or harsh family, some from a village, and many to whom it may take lives in a monastery constantly attending the relative nature of their lack of innate respect to the spiritual sons and daughters they emulate and there massive heaps of obscured thoughts and actions

being attached or adverse to rigpa/mahamudra sounds as destitute as being attached to bliss or samsara

oh to the sickness of attaching to nirvana, surely some monastic or home schooling guru has a cure for that... rofl


e ma ho! yo!

Anonymous said...

Did some thought and research. The 6 realms in the drawing of the 6 realms of existence are the classification for all the infinite realms of samsara. So, while there are infinite realms, dimensions, universes, etc. with infinite life, all of those infinite realms are found within the classifications of the 6 realms. Ordinary beings take birth in any of the infinite dimensions / realms within the 6 realm subdivision / organization due to some form of attachment / desire.

The interesting thing then is that while the 6 realm classifications sound simple, etc. given that they contain infinite dimensions and universes of infinite life, one can see how almost useless the human idea of "animal realm" for example even is (as it would presumably encompass infinite types of "animals" in infinite dimensions of life in forms we cannot even fathom, perhaps not material, etc. etc.).

Buddha loves all beings completely equally of course and therefore their place in those realms is irrelevant and all beings deserve equal respect as containing the Buddha seed.

then of course there is the vajrayana view of all beings encouraged as part of the practice of vajrayana...

on one level then at least the 6 realms are an overlay over a situation of infinite complexity and diversity. A simple classification system that often sounds childish, perhaps created as a way to deal with an infinite complexity.

those who speak do not know and those who know do not speak

I definitely do not know. Of course I recommend anyone interested in any of these subjects to consult qualified recognized gurus and authoritative texts of the words of the Buddha, not anonymous blog chatterings filled with my errors and little understanding... interesting chain of thoughts here though and thank you to the blog creator for all of your work and wonderful posts for a long time now

Malcolm Smith said...

BTW:

Peter Seegar said:

"It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with."

Nightprowlkitty said...

Late to the conversation, but have been reflecting on what you wrote here.

I think of Marpa and how he worked to gather gold to bring to India as an offering so he could receive the teachings. I recall a story where the guru (Naropa?) took his gold and flung it away.

Then he gave it back to Marpa after Marpa was no doubt shocked at the act.

So the gold was important and it was not important at all. I've always been confused about that, about offerings generally.

People pay a lot of money to teachers, to centers, all that. Some of them must have the same kind of devotion that Marpa had, though probably most don't.

Shantideva writes about making imaginary offerings, the one that sticks out most in my memory are the towels and garments he gives the deities after offering them baths. He knows they don't need anything from him but he makes the offerings with perfect sincerity.

Anyway, that's what your post brought to mind.