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indefensible rejection of a valid path

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indefensible rejection of a valid path Steve Katona 3/7/11 10:09 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Ian And 3/8/11 1:42 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Daniel M. Ingram 3/8/11 1:55 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 3/8/11 9:52 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path fivebells . 3/8/11 3:30 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Bruno Loff 3/8/11 4:13 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Ona Kiser 3/8/11 9:42 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Sean Lindsay 3/8/11 10:41 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Jimi Patalano 3/8/11 10:20 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Ian And 3/8/11 11:27 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path . Jake . 3/9/11 5:54 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Jimi Patalano 3/9/11 2:29 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Jimi Patalano 3/9/11 2:38 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path This Good Self 3/10/11 5:37 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Jimi Patalano 3/10/11 4:56 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path fivebells . 3/9/11 5:42 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path . Jake . 3/9/11 5:57 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path fivebells . 3/9/11 6:11 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path . Jake . 3/9/11 11:09 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path fivebells . 3/9/11 12:07 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Julius P0pp 3/11/11 11:23 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Steve Katona 3/11/11 4:52 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Antonio Ramírez 3/11/11 11:59 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path fivebells . 3/12/11 12:03 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Jimi Patalano 3/12/11 2:53 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Ona Kiser 3/13/11 6:30 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Jimi Patalano 3/17/11 9:25 PM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Jimi Patalano 3/18/11 9:45 AM
RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path Steve Katona 3/19/11 4:48 PM
A slap up side the head is needed. Life has led me to a complete rejection of all things supernatural. Vipassana rings true by every test. Where there is dependence on substantive beings, powers, or forces that cannot be demonstrated I turn away. I cannot tell the difference between depending on Jesus or Padmasambhava. And yet, I read writings of people I have the deepest respect for that Tibetan Buddhism is valid and as rich and efficacious a path for attaining ultimate insight as the Buddhism that structures my practice. I don't know how to open my mind, drop my prejudice, listen and decide in each individual instance if I am seeing/hearing wisdom or more exoteric double talk. This practice I follow has led me to a knowing of my prejudice and unskillful turning away. What to do next? Any comments would be considered.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 1:42 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Steve Katona:
A slap up side the head is needed. Life has led me to a complete rejection of all things supernatural. Vipassana rings true by every test. Where there is dependence on substantive beings, powers, or forces that cannot be demonstrated I turn away. I cannot tell the difference between depending on Jesus or Padmasambhava. And yet, I read writings of people I have the deepest respect for that Tibetan Buddhism is valid and as rich and efficacious a path for attaining ultimate insight as the Buddhism that structures my practice.

The only power of insight (besides what Gotama taught in the discourses) that you can truly depend upon is your OWN. Welcome to the club! Been there, done that. And rejected it, same as you.

Coming from a Christian metaphysical background, I found what the Buddha had to teach in the discourses to be a breath of fresh air. Not only did it make sense and corroborate what I felt was true all along, it helped to encourage clear thinking as opposed to "mystical" thinking. Look up the word "mysticism" and find out what I'm saying.

mysticism - n. 1. the doctrines or beliefs of mystics; specif., the doctrine that it is possible to achieve communion with God through contemplation and love without the medium of human reason. 3. vague, obscure or confused thinking or belief. (emphasis added)

Have you ever known someone who could walk on water and heal the sick with impunity? Neither have I.

Steve Katona:

I don't know how to open my mind, drop my prejudice, listen and decide in each individual instance if I am seeing/hearing wisdom or more esoteric double talk. This practice I follow has led me to a knowing of my prejudice and unskillful turning away. What to do next? Any comments would be considered.

What you do next is look deeper into the process of paticca samuppada (dependent co-arising) and get to know and understand it inside out. I mean really get down there in the dirt and get it figured out, how the mind works.

Bhikkhu Bodhi published a book several years ago as a commentary on the Mahanidana Sutta (DN 15) The Great Discourse on Causation, The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries. I would recommend obtaining that book if possible. Failing that there is an abridged PDF of the book available for free download. This abridged edition doesn't contain some of the elements found in the published volume. (A link to the PDF book is found here.)

Carefully read Bodhi's Introduction and contemplate the concepts being explained. Seeing the relationship between nama rupa (name and form) and how it relates to "mystical thinking" should be very illuminating for you.

After this, find and read Bhikkhu Nanananda's book Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought. This should help seal the deal with regard to mystical thinking. This book deals with the mind's ability to create papanca (proliferating thought) and papanca-sanna-sankha or "concepts, reckonings, designations or linguistic conventions characterized by the prolific conceptualization of the mind." In other words: "What one feels, one perceives; what one perceives, one reasons about; what one reasons about, one proliferates conceptually." Nanananda's book is truly a revelation of knowledge and explanation with regard to what Gotama was truly getting at. You won't ever regret having read and understood this book.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 1:55 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Let's say you were an empiricist, a purely rational scientist, and you decided to simply test these two of many possible hypotheses:

1) noting the sensations that make up world second after second on intensive retreat for 16-20 hours per day for 2-4 weeks without stopping to do other things beyond sleeping leads to the stages of insight: yes or no?

2) developing strong concentration to the point that you could stay solidly with the meditation object with a relatively quiet mind for 1 hour without the mind wandering can lead to the jhanas: yes or no?

The empirical method would not be to reject them as they don't make sense to you now, but instead would require you to do the experiments. These have clear criteria, clear standards, clear instructions, are exceedingly simple and very testable hypothesis that the scientific method can easily prove or disprove by simply attempting to reproduce the experiments that others have already done.

Rational enough for you? Reasonable enough for you? What are you waiting for?

This is the path of science, first and foremost, the path of confirmation by seeing the results for yourself, the path of the pure empiricist, the path of pure investigation into whether or not these things work as advertised. Dismissing these hypothesis based on a priori assumptions is clearly not rational nor is it good science. How to you plead?

Daniel

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 3:30 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Steve Katona:
...I read writings of people I have the deepest respect for that Tibetan Buddhism is valid and as rich and efficacious a path for attaining ultimate insight as the Buddhism that structures my practice. This practice I follow has led me to a knowing of my prejudice and unskillful turning away.
Your prejudice regarding the mythology is well-placed, but it is possible to practice these things without accepting the mythology on an ontological level. You might check out the class Then and Now. It was for a bunch of students preparing to take the Bodhisattva vow in a Tibetan Buddhist context. The teacher takes the position that it is appropriate for modern practitioners to mine the mythology for its psychological content, and practice with it at that level. (In the first lesson, he explains his position more clearly than I can do in a single sentence.)

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 4:13 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
I used to reject mystical thinking out of prejudice, then I realized that I was prejudiced in that way and became more open to it again; this allowed me to get into meditation in the first place; keeping an open mind to everything I tried many different practices; I eventually came to separate the wheat from the chaff, and once again I find myself rejecting mystical thinking, this time in a more mature, non-feeling-based way.

As Daniel points out, it is also possible to have a scientific method for subjective experience. This is the wheat. If you are not careful to follow a scientific approach though, you can end up believing any sort of nonsense. This is the chaff.

The better the meditation technique, the more verifiable and reproducible the results, the less faith is needed.

The worst the meditation technique, the more you have confusing philosophies, varying accounts and stories to believe in.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 9:42 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
If it is not useful to you, can you not be indifferent to it rather than prejudiced/unskillful/conflicted?

If you are conflicted about it and wish you could prove it is either wise or stupid, I agree with Daniel and others - do some testing. If you practice x ritual for y days, exactly as described, do you get a result? Is the result useful to your practice? Might the result be somehow useful to other people's practices?

Personally I love the mystical stuff; you can explain something with math or an academic treatise, or express it with poetry or art... that doesn't make one form of expression/metaphor true and the other false, though depending on your tastes one may touch you in a way the others don't. Take that bias into account in my answer. ;)

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 9:52 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Let's say you were an empiricist, a purely rational scientist, and you decided to simply test these two of many possible hypotheses:

1) noting the sensations that make up world second after second on intensive retreat for 16-20 hours per day for 2-4 weeks without stopping to do other things beyond sleeping leads to the stages of insight: yes or no?

2) developing strong concentration to the point that you could stay solidly with the meditation object with a relatively quiet mind for 1 hour without the mind wandering can lead to the jhanas: yes or no?

The empirical method would not be to reject them as they don't make sense to you now, but instead would require you to do the experiments. These have clear criteria, clear standards, clear instructions, are exceedingly simple and very testable hypothesis that the scientific method can easily prove or disprove by simply attempting to reproduce the experiments that others have already done.

Rational enough for you? Reasonable enough for you? What are you waiting for?

This is the path of science, first and foremost, the path of confirmation by seeing the results for yourself, the path of the pure empiricist, the path of pure investigation into whether or not these things work as advertised. Dismissing these hypothesis based on a priori assumptions is clearly not rational nor is it good science. How to you plead?

Daniel


I think he is all for the techniques you mention. He's worried about his rejection of Tibetan Buddhism, which people he respects say is valid.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 10:41 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Two slightly related thoughts that may be of use:

(1) I've found metta practice can help me discover and release otherwise difficult-to-see aversion that I sometimes experience in vipassana practice. The fundamental kindness entailed in metta seems to soften my in-this-world vipassana-practicing mind in a way that I haven't fully been able to grok. I know that it works, but when I need to practice it, the mind doesn't really understand *how* it works. Curiously, after it's worked, the aversion seen and released, I have a better sense of *how* metta worked in that particular situation, though it isn't a sense that I can put into a nicely mechanical description.

(2) When I'm in Equanimity, I can see the arising and passing of formations. Sometimes, it's not difficult to see a step or two back from a particular formation that arises, enabling me to see the immediately prior cause/condition that allowed/enabled/caused that formation to arise. One of the causes/conditions that I sometimes perceive that give rise to a particular formation include archetypal images or mind-structures or relationships. I've no particular basis or inclination to believe in a metaphysical "collective unconscious." But I do credit and posit that the archetypal structures/formations that are part of my karma can shape the form and arrangement of currently-arising formations.

With that as background, the Tibetan deity/demon/visualization practices are easier for me to contextualize. The practices are ways of building mind-pathways that embed the structures of particularly-defined archetypes that can stand as the pre-causes/pre-conditions to the arising of some kinds of beneficial formations. Some of those archetypes can be as effectual as metta practice can illuminate previously-unseen aversions.

On a somewhat related note, the physical poses of yoga can similarly formulate existence in a way that enables particular, beneficial energy formations to arise. None of that is really magic, though it's easy to see how some folks make the jump to magical worldview thinking from those experiences.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 10:20 PM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Steve Katona:
A slap up side the head is needed. Life has led me to a complete rejection of all things supernatural. Vipassana rings true by every test. Where there is dependence on substantive beings, powers, or forces that cannot be demonstrated I turn away. I cannot tell the difference between depending on Jesus or Padmasambhava. And yet, I read writings of people I have the deepest respect for that Tibetan Buddhism is valid and as rich and efficacious a path for attaining ultimate insight as the Buddhism that structures my practice. I don't know how to open my mind, drop my prejudice, listen and decide in each individual instance if I am seeing/hearing wisdom or more exoteric double talk. This practice I follow has led me to a knowing of my prejudice and unskillful turning away. What to do next? Any comments would be considered.


Totally understand how you feel. Right now I'm studying Tibetan esoteric traditions (i.e. the supernatural stuff you can't make yourself take seriously) in a class.

The big thing about these traditions, as a whole, is that having a legitimate, personal teacher is absolutely indispensible. The teacher (lama, guru) is the central figure in Tibetan Buddhism, more important even than the historical Buddha. Without a teacher who is part of a legitimate lineage to personally, orally teach you how to use these "powerful" methods - the rituals, the mandalas, the mind transference, whatever - there's no point in trying them. It'd be like trying to launch a space shuttle by yourself without any training. You can mess around all you want in the control room, you're never gonna get the shuttle off the ground.

So my personal way of looking at it is this: "yeah, it seems pretty improbably, and it seems even contrary to other Buddhist teachings at times. But I can't really pass judgement on it until I try it out with an actual teacher, because without one, its a misrepresentation anyway".

So what you might read in a book, or whatever, that's only a small part of the story. These teachings are esoteric - by definition, the important parts, the parts that make them work, are kept a secret.

Helpful?

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/8/11 11:27 PM as a reply to Jimi Patalano.
Jimi Patalano:

So what you might read in a book, or whatever, that's only a small part of the story. These teachings are esoteric - by definition, the important parts, the parts that make them work, are kept a secret.

1. And you know this how? That they "work," that is. From personal experience? Or is this unsubstantiated opinion also?

2. "...are kept a secret." The Gotama of the Pali discourses did not teach with a "closed fist," translation: using "esoteric" teachings. He taught with an open hand, for all to see and to understand, right here and right now, for those with eyes to see.

3. Tibetan Buddhism has its foundation having been influenced by the indigenous Bon religion of Tibet, which is steeped in mysticism. This is likely the source/reason for the "esoteric" teaching it espouses.

4. By implying that Tibetan Buddhist lamas/tulkus/rinpoches etc. "know things that are kept secret," it would seem that this is being valued more than anything that Gotama knew and taught openly, and therefore is meant as a slight on the Buddha's knowledge and teaching. While this may not have been what you meant, it still remains as an implication.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/9/11 5:42 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Steve Katona:
...I read writings of people I have the deepest respect for that Tibetan Buddhism is valid and as rich and efficacious a path for attaining ultimate insight as the Buddhism that structures my practice. I don't know how to open my mind, drop my prejudice, listen and decide in each individual instance if I am seeing/hearing wisdom or more exoteric double talk. This practice I follow has led me to a knowing of my prejudice and unskillful turning away.
There is something strange about this question. It seems that you would like to trust the claims of people you respect more than your own reason and experience. Why is that?

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/9/11 5:54 AM as a reply to Ian And.
There are two meanings of "secret" that I've encountered in Tibetan Buddhism. One is the literal meaning: a visualization practice or mantra that is literally kept secret, only shared under specific conditions, etc. The other, and far more common in my experience, is the notion of the "self-secret", which means that a practice keeps itself secret from anyone who doesn't do it. Someone who just reads and thinks and talks about a practice can form any sorts of opinions or preconceptions about it that their mind is inclined to form.

Existentially, we have deep pre-conceptions about the nature of selfhood and the world, right? Much of the function of the teacher in Tibetan Buddhism as I've encountered it is to highlight and bring into question these deep presumptions through dialogue and teaching. This can certainly evoke insight, especially if one is practicing. Let's say you are doing prostrations every day. You are doing a practice that, whatever it's mythic justification, functions much like any other energy practice such as hatha yoga, tai chi, chi kung or so on. You are energizing and clearing your system of blockages, if you follow the instructions. Just as with Tai Chi, you need to have a certain mental disposition and attitude to get the best results. You'll get different results doing it with such an attitude and doing it with a "ho-hum, this is nonsense" attitude-- right? You are also cultivating the ability to be present in a sustained way-- concentration. Now, when you encounter a teaching that illuminates your presumptions about self-hood and so on through dialogue, reading or listening, it is coming into that context. So of course it can function to produce results.

Bottom line-- when you haven't engaged in a particular tradition on its own terms to some extent, then your mind will create whatever opinions it is inclined to, favorable or otherwise. Actually doing the practices is the antidote to this here as in other traditions. And one of those practices is relationship with a teacher(s), in that the teacher ideally functions as a sort of insight dialogue partner, bringing one's assumptions about selfhood and substantiality of the world into question, and can help direct one's inquiry on and off the cushion.

Now, entering into another whole cultural context is a tricky thing, as one must balance one's own cultural views and expectations with the new context, preferably without compartmentalizing but somehow digesting the elements which provoke cognitive dissonance.

In the west we grow up with a different view of tradition and authority, and (on the conscious level at least) place more trust in our own direct experience than in received "knowledge". The authoritarian elements of Tibetan Buddhism (and all traditional societies, perhaps) do not mesh with this, and one needs to be conscious of this dynamic and careful not to get into an "all or nothing" mindset which will lead to glossing over cognitive dissonance. One needs to digest whatever is useful, and have some criticality about the sociological and cultural dimensions of one's own mind as well as the teachers and communities one practices with.

So that's to say, have a sense of exploration and open mindedness, engage the concrete practices, maintain your criticallity and reflect on the significance of the practices in terms of your own experience with life in general and other practices. Then let tentative opinions form. Otherwise, one's mind will just come up with opinions based on prejudices in favor of, against, or indifferent to whatever it has no direct experience with.

I've practiced some in both Tibetan and Pragmatic Dharma contexts, and gotten results both ways. I would say somewhat different results, but compatible. But I find each camp's typical preconceived opinions of the other pretty absurd ;-)

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/9/11 5:57 AM as a reply to fivebells ..
Hmm, speaking for myself Fivebells, if I never trusted the opinions of those I respect at least provisionally, it would take me a lot longer in many cases to discover that my "own reason and experience" is sometimes quite unreasonable and inexperienced. ;-)

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/9/11 6:11 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
Whereas I've wasted a lot of time chasing down other people's claims, and gained a lot from skepticism regarding conventional wisdom. Just a question of what one's experienced to date, I suppose... emoticon

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/9/11 11:09 AM as a reply to fivebells ..
Ah yes, I see what you mean ;-) I don't find what we're saying to be mutually exclusive. But to the topic of the thread: it sounds like Steve Katona (correct me if I'm wrong Steve) has discovered an area in which aversion and pre-conceptions have masqueraded as knowledge, which is an often painful moment, but which can be a great opportunity to open one's mind. He may look into it more and decide that he still feels the same way, but at least his opinion will be based on less reactionary grounds.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/9/11 12:07 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Yes, it comes down to how "life has led to a complete rejection of the supernatural" and why he respects these proponents of Tibetan Buddhism so much that he thinks he should give their assertions regarding its supernatural aspects greater weight than his own contradictory life experience.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/9/11 2:29 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:

1. And you know this how? That they "work," that is. From personal experience? Or is this unsubstantiated opinion also?


I'm not personally vouching for whether or not they work, I'm just explaining why it's unfair to judge whether or not they do work without actually experiencing how they were meant to be practiced - i.e. with empowerment from a teacher.

Ian And:
2. "...are kept a secret." The Gotama of the Pali discourses did not teach with a "closed fist," translation: using "esoteric" teachings. He taught with an open hand, for all to see and to understand, right here and right now, for those with eyes to see.


Sure, but the Gotama of the Pali canon, just like all other records of what the Buddha taught, was filtered through the words of others. The teachings recorded in Pali were had already circulated for hundreds of years before they were written down in the form they kept them today. Obviously, they weren't written by Gotama, but by later followers of the oral teachings that had been transmitted by his time. Who knows which parts of the Pali canon originated from Gotama's mouth? Perhaps the teachings against a "closed fist" were inserted by sectarian follows to discredit people they saw as competitors - an atmosphere of competition between different schools was certainly prevalent by the time the Pali discourses were written down.

in addition, just because Gotama taught many things with an "open fist" to some, doesn't mean he didn't also transmit more powerful, esoteric teachings - it's all skillful means, anyway right? None of his teachings, not even the ones in the Pali canon, are "the thing itself"; they're just useful vehicles, that's all.

3. Tibetan Buddhism has its foundation having been influenced by the indigenous Bon religion of Tibet, which is steeped in mysticism. This is likely the source/reason for the "esoteric" teaching it espouses.


This is a common misconception, but it's totally false. The Bon religion of Tibet was not indigenous; it is a form of Buddhism. Bonpo consider their teachings to spring from a Buddha (I forget his name) who was supposedly enlightened long before Shakyamuni Buddha. Indeed, their is an indigenous religion of Tibet, whose aspects (local divinities, stuff like that) permeate Tibetan Buddhism and Bon alike, but this is absolutely not where the esoteric Buddhist teachings came from.

Esoteric Buddhism was introduced to Tibet from India. These esoteric traditions were already long established as a major part of Buddhist though in India when they were transmitted to Tibet in the 8th century. Vajrayana, Mantrayana, it all came from India, which is why it became so popular in Tibet: they considered India (at that time, before Buddhism there died out) to be the center of the religious world, and teachings from India had a stamp of authenticity. All this has been confirmed by scholars and can be checked by anyone with access to a library.

So like it or not, esoteric Buddhism has been a part of Buddhism since at least its first few centuries, and it originated in India, and may well have originated with the historical Buddha - there's no definitive evidence for or against this.

4. By implying that Tibetan Buddhist lamas/tulkus/rinpoches etc. "know things that are kept secret," it would seem that this is being valued more than anything that Gotama knew and taught openly, and therefore is meant as a slight on the Buddha's knowledge and teaching. While this may not have been what you meant, it still remains as an implication.


The implication is that these people, by virtue of protected oral tradition which has been carefully transmitted since from the Buddha himself, are privy to special, secret information which is only meant to be imparted to those who have been taught how to use it properly. Again, I'm not speaking from my own viewpoint here, I don't practice these traditions and I don't know any of the "secret stuff", I'm just trying to explain why it's unfair to judge an esoteric tradition based on what you can see of it from the "outside".

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/9/11 2:38 PM as a reply to Jimi Patalano.
And I don't mean to come off as sectarian or trying to push a belief in the supernatural on anybody - I'm just saying that you can believe what you want, but nobody can really "know" one way or the other about whether or not these practices work unless you try them with a real teacher.

And of course, doing them successfully also requires complete unshakeable faith in the teacher as a starting point, so it is kind of a Catch-22. If you don't believe in them in the first place, that is. If you do believe in them, it's straightforward, just find a teacher...

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/10/11 5:37 AM as a reply to Jimi Patalano.
I know for an absolute fact that information and energy can be transmitted form me to others, without eye contact and without touch....all that's required is to be in reasonably close physical proximity. I've proven it to my complete satisfaction.

I can induce jerky limb movements, eyelid fluttering, unusual 'mouthing' without words, in people who are fully conscious. It takes a good minute or so for me to get my mind blank (I use a fairly gross technique of "sheer force of will"). Some people don't respond, that's true, but in some people the reactions are quite extreme, to the degree that they look at me in amazement. Usually they're quite embarrassed by the way their body is responding. One day I will put a video up here to show you guys.

I've also used an 'invisibility' technique (see Patanjali sutras on siddhis) to get my way into a VIP-only section of a sports stadium, walking straight past 3 guards who were checking for tickets. There were two on one side and one on the other side of the gate, and no other patrons around to distract them. I walked straight back out after a few minutes, I just wanted to see if it was possible. I was stunned, and quite happy!

So for me it's not at all hard to imagine supernatural stuff like pre-cognition etc. might be possible.

EDIT: I've never had a teacher, and I have no 'attainments'. At best I have achieved access concentration, that's it. Can't get M&B or 1st jhana.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/10/11 4:56 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
I have no doubt. In many Eastern countries, the fact that such things are possible by harnessing the latent power of the mind and body is taken for granted. In Western cultures, we find this difficult to swallow, because as a culture we have no history of experimenting with the energetic forces inside the human body. In India and elsewhere such experimentation has been going on for thousands of years.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/11/11 11:23 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
There are different kinds of people: some act first, soe think first, some feel first. In India there are the paths of karma, jnana and bhakti yoga respectively (leaving out raja yoga for persons of will). Since every human has all three aspects, the fastest path is one that combines those three according to your constitution.

What ultimately matters is not the knowledge you attain, but how much you can manifest it. Can there be compassion without an act? For manifesting Dharma to the best of your ability, you _need_ to train not only your mind, but your heart and body also and integrate them, starting from the heart. Desire comes first, thoughts follow accordingly. The heart leads in a fully integrated personality (that does not mean you shouldn't use your mind well).

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/11/11 4:52 PM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Regarding my last post on needing a slap up side the head: I have not responded to anyone individually but have read all the replies several times and put the comments/suggestions/observations into the mix. The point is not that I want or don't want to have validation for my rejection of all things supernatural. The point is that I cannot take seriously (perhaps reject would be closer to candid) any practice that starts or depends on a belief and appeal to some thing no more real or provable than Jesus, Mary, and Joseph or the virgin birth or the bodily ascension out of the atmosphere of a human being.

Given this integral dependence on invisible forces, how could anything that follows from those practices be real and any results more than a near miss or near hit as a method worth considering. Yet I read and hear comments related to Tibetan Buddhism and other disciplines full with spirits and unperceivable entities and mumbo jumbo and talking to the air implying they are as valid a pursuit toward understanding as insight practice. This is my point.

I don’t have the time--69 years old with a transplanted liver and hep C virus eating it--to give several paths a fair trial. I have to filter the pool of options through something. I chose the 'is this believable test.' If something doesn’t pass the test then I leave it behind.

I am not making the mistake that some level of clarity is required in order to be comforted or nurtured or one’s burden lessened by beliefs that cannot take a bright light. Devotional practices make and have made countless beings lives more tolerable. But any practice that requires invisible intervention, that proposes to bend the laws of physics, that requires the surrender of one’s judgement is, finally, limited and probably bogus as a way to insight.

So reading a great deal on Dho about this topic and thinking and writing I have answered my own question. I’ll decide what I will cling to. I won’t care what others cling to. There can be beings with infallible povs just not on all subjects.

Ian And: noted, agree, I ordered the first book by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Thanks.

Daniel: I plead not guilty and a poor communicator. I am doing exactly what you suggest with the help of an experienced Mahasi Sayadaw method teacher--one you recommended, btw. My question is about how to move past reaction and on to response on subjects loaded with baggage in my mind. If supernatural is a part of the way then I am gone. It can lead to throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Beauman Claudiu said it well:
I think he is all for the techniques you mention. He's worried about his rejection of Tibetan Buddhism, which people he respects say is valid.

Fivebells: Worth looking into.

Bruno Loff: Working on that same response.

Ona Kiser: Trouble is that I am 69 yo with a liver transplant that is being eaten up by HCV and experiments are too time consuming. My goal is to be skillful and not prejudiced. That’s the question. If I knew how with a simple resolution then there would be no question. I appreciate your comments.

Sean Lindsay: Beginning metta practice, interestingly, is in the next week’s formal meditation menu. I practiced it Bhante Henepola Gunaturana style for several months several years ago but dropped it when the recurring thought that this was right up there with psychokinesis and the direct transmission “...from mind to mind” as in Zen. The clincher for the end of my metta practice was an experience at a Goenka retreat when S. N. Goenka asked--via VHS--for the metta of all the students. Don’t know if you know but the health of the British Royal Family is prayed for every Sunday all over the UK and countless other times in various places. A survey of their health shows them to have the same overall profiles as any other group matched for education and relative wealth. My current feeling as I begin the metta experiment is that I am conditioning my own thinking and programming a gentler and kinder response as a way of cultivating Right this or that. I do not expect any vibrations or energy to be transferred from this being to another. (this ought to start a flame??)

Jim Patalano: Helpful, yes. Will I try them, no. See above for a clue as to why. I am further disinclined regarding Tibetan practice by the ubiquity of Tibetan realized masters in the USA. I would guess it is similar in th EU. How much money do these guys make when they do an empowerment and what do you really come home with that would be more useful than being blessed by the Archbishop, the Pope, or Oral Roberts? Are there any realized Tibetan masters or designated incarnations of same left in any third world country without universal hot water?

I have run out of time and focus and want it to be clear that not responding to anyone is only a condition of that. This site is truly precious

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/11/11 11:59 PM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Hi Steve,

One item that helped me understand the plausibility of the Tibetan path, and its relationship to vipassana, is this video by Shinzen Young. Shinzen is pretty much a straight-up vipassana teacher, but got started in Shingon (a Japanese vajrayana lineage), so I trust him to know what he's talking about.

The video is "The "Secret" of Archetypal Deity Yoga"

YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WtPrOE1JSk

Another pragmatic view of Tibetan deity practice is presented in this article by Ken McLeod, "Imagine You're Enlightened". I particularly liked his description of "deity practice" with a deity called "the awake loser". Link: http://www.unfetteredmind.org/articles/imagine.php.

I find both Shinzen Young and Kenneth McLeod to be very much worth following.

Hope any of this is helpful,

Antonio

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/12/11 12:03 PM as a reply to Antonio Ramírez.
Yes, Ken McLeod is the author of the Then and Now talks I linked to earlier. He also has a series of talks, Guru, Deity, Protector which expands on the themes in his "Imagine You're Enlightened" article.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/12/11 2:53 PM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Steve Katona:
Regarding my last post on needing a slap up side the head: I have not responded to anyone individually but have read all the replies several times and put the comments/suggestions/observations into the mix. The point is not that I want or don't want to have validation for my rejection of all things supernatural. The point is that I cannot take seriously (perhaps reject would be closer to candid) any practice that starts or depends on a belief and appeal to some thing no more real or provable than Jesus, Mary, and Joseph or the virgin birth or the bodily ascension out of the atmosphere of a human being.


One thing I would point out is that its possible you're misunderstanding the role, in Vajrayana (for the sake of argument let's call it Tibetan Vajrayana since that's all I'm familiar with, and it's generally considered a pretty authentic reproduction of the older Indian Vajrayana) of what you call "the supernatural". Allow me to shed some light on a few trends. Hopefully you may find these allow you to more easily accept the legitimacy of such traditions:

First and foremost, a distinction must be made between lay practice and the practice of "seekers". For clarity, those of us at DhO fall into the latter - people actively seeking enlightenment, actively meditating, etc. Among the layity in Tibet, it is true, religious practice generally consists of not much more than turning "prayer wheels" while reciting the Manipadme mantra, the occasional fasting ritual or visualization ritual, and pilgrimages to holy sites. The main role of the layity in Tibetan Buddhism is to support the monastic community through charity (Tibetan monks don't beg). Besides this, their day-to-day religious practices, its true, basically focuses on the cult of Avalokitesvara, or Padmasambhava (who was actually a real historical figure, but obviously has accrued much apocryphal legend since his life in the 8th century). The people who engage in such practices, however, aren't really seeking enlightenment in any real way - their just trying to generate merit and practice a lifestyle that accords with the Dharma. The monks are supported financially because they are seen as doing the "hard work" or preserving traditions and practices that bring great spiritual benefit to all of Tibet. Among the layity, Buddhist beleifs exist side-by-side with cults of local protective divinities, who often are believed to reside in particular mountains, streams, valleys, or even specific bushes.

However, we're mostly concerned with the use of the supernatural in the practice of the "seekers" - those who have renounced wordly life and embarked on the path of the Bodhisattva, bound to seek enlightenment for the sake of all beings. It sounds like you may think that these people are trying to find Enlightenment simply by "asking for it" through devotional practices directed towards supernatural beings, who are supposed to then "bestow it" through magical forces, but this is not the case. The practitioner or the Vajrayana devotes himself not to any supernatural agent, but to his teacher. The reason is that the teacher, who has a deep understanding of enlightenment and of the Dharma, knows how to find the subtle psychological issues inside the practitioner's mind that is blocking his path to Enlightenment. The esoteric practices, then, are tailored to each individual, in order to free him from whatever might be hindering his practice, psychologically; naturally, this can't be done by the practitioner to himself, but it must come from someone much more learned and insightful (the teacher) who is able to see just what the practitioner needs and then give it to him. Lobsang P Lhalungpa says of the Vajrayana:

The fulfillment of a seeker's higher aspirations is not so much dependent on accumulating knowledge as on overcoming mental obstacles and gaining insight into the truth in oneself. For this, the guidance of an experienced teacher is a practical necessity. The role of a teacher in an esoteric path of self-tramsformation through meditation and action, such as Vajrayana, is even more important, because it is only after the initiatory empowerment and elucidating instructions and guidance have been given that the disciple can settle himself in the work ... In general, the Vajrayana training which Milarepa underwent seeks to respond to the varied psychological factors in different individuals and lead aspirants toward higher consciousness. It is thus a process of self-transformation.


Here is Carl Jung on the supernatural in Tibetan Buddhism:

Not only the "wrathful" but also the "peaceful" deities are conceived as sangsaric projections of the human psyche, an idea that seems all too obvious to the enlightened European, because it reminds him of his own banal simplifications. But though the European can easily explain away these deities as projections, he would be quite incapable of positing them at the same time as real. The Bardo Thodol can do that, because, in certain of its most essential metaphysical premises, it has the enlightened as well as the unenlightened European at a disadvantage. The ever-present, unspoken assumption of the Bardo Thodol is the anti-nominal character of all metaphysical assertions, and also the idea of the qualitative difference of the various levels of consciousness and of the metaphysical realities conditioned by them. The background of this unusual book is not the niggardly European "either-or," but a magnificently affirmative "both-and." This statement may appear objectionable to the Western philosopher, for the West loves clarity and unambiguity; consequently, one philosopher clings to the position, "God is," while another clings equally fervently to the negation, "God is not."


Furthermore, the Tibetan masters who ask for large sums of money for their teaching can also be seen as fitting into this method of preparing the would-be practitioner psychologically for his journey: if a man is not yet willing to part with large amounts of his worldly possesions for the sake of the Dharma, then he does not yet posses the dedication and single-minded will that is necessary to find True Enlightenment (also remember that in the Mahayana, generally, Nirvana and Enlightenment are different - the first is the cessation of suffering, but the latter is the further understanding of the universe to the point where one can use this knowledge to benefit innumerable beings throughout the universe).

If you're intrested in the role of the supernatural within spiritual traditions of self-transformation, I recommend you immerse yourself in the collected works of Jung, who wrote much on the use of symbolism and psychology in religion.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/13/11 6:30 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Steve, you said:

"But any practice that requires invisible intervention, that proposes to bend the laws of physics, that requires the surrender of one’s judgement is, finally, limited and probably bogus as a way to insight."

Perhaps a key phrase there is "requires the surrender of one's judgement." There is no particular reason you should pursue a mystical-type practice if you find it unappealing. But one part of such practices that is particularly relevant to those who do follow them is this surrender. Not just of ones judgement or belief in this or that worldview, but of ones ego, ideas about being in control, about being someone who is doing something, etc etc. That letting go is a very powerful practice.

Also previous poster's (sorry can't recall which) distinction between lay religious/devotional practice and the more complex understanding of the application of mystical/esoteric practices to a seeker's path are very valid, I think.

Of course, you should follow whatever path appeals to you. I agree with others you may find Shinzen quite interesting, especially with your health concerns (he does a lot of work with people who have health concerns, and also speaks openly about enlightenment, insight techniques, science and esoteric practices... a nice combination)...

Best of luck. emoticon

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/17/11 9:25 PM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Steve,

Here is some useful info about one example of seemingly supernatural entities within the Vajrayana tradition of India via Tibet. The emphasis is on how they function in real practice - especially notable is the distinction drawn between the exoteric and esoteric presentation of these beliefs. Of course these are just a few prime examples of the huge variety of these types of lists and concepts within the tibetan Vajrayana, but I thought they might help you reconcile the 'supernatural' forces that these traditions appeal to with your own fixed ideas of what practice should be.

They're taken from the endnotes of Lhalungpa's translation of The Life of Milarepa.

Dakas and Dakini's and the twenty-four energy centers of his vajra-like body There are three orders of dakinis in the Vajrayana tradition. Dakinis of the first order, otherwise described as 'spontaneously enlightened dakinis' (Lhenkye Khadroma), are usually depicted as yidams such as Vajrayogini, Tara, etc., arising from Sambhogakaya's power of unfoldment. The second order are invisible dakinis known as 'those who are born in the Heavenly Realms' (Schinkgkye Khadroma). Among them are emanations of dakinis of the first order and also others who have reached this level through their attainment. According to the apparent meaning given by the tradition, they function from the invisible heavenly realms that encompass twenty-four sacred places located in various parts of India and Tibet. According to the actual meaning, however, the dakinis represent the ultimate nature of all psychophysical forces within every human being who has within himself the corresponding 'twenty-four realms'.

The third order is comprised of those 'born of realization of mantra' (Ngakkye Khadroma). They are to be found among human beings who are either potential dakinis or who have reached various levels of inner realization through their own inborn understanding or through the stages of the Vajrayana path.

Incidentally, the diverse forms of yidams in both sexes depicted in esoteric iconography are only indications of Sambhogakaya's transformative power. The bewildering diversity of forms and their sex distinction cannot and must not be viewed as objective realities, for they are only a psychological expedient for communicating the great truth of interdependent relativity together with its inherent character of non-duality and ultimate emptiness. [emphasis added].


But, when reading the above, it's useful to keep in mind the Jung quote I posted above - be careful not to fall into the Western-mind trap of assuming an inherent contradiction between these entities (here, as a single example, the heavenly dakinis) either being considered real and extent, or merely psychological projections or metaphors. For Vajrayana masters, their is no such contradiction. Of course, keeping the Heart Sutra's "Emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness" in mind works just as well to avoid such misunderstandings.

There are many other examples I could give but hopefully this will serve to give you an idea of what's really going on here behind all the mumbo-jumbo, so to speak.

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/18/11 9:45 AM as a reply to Jimi Patalano.
Here is another totally golden passage from Lhalungpa, this time in the introduction to Milarepa rather than the endnotes. I think it really cuts to the heart of the issue and hopefully will help dispel your doubts about this particular vehicle:

This doctrine of Trikaya and Buddhist cosmology may help to dispel some of the confusion about the nature of the yidams, dakas, dakinis, guardian deities, the eight armies of gods and demons and other psycho-cosmological symbols that figure prominently in this text.

The masters of the Vajrayana tradition perceived the cosmic and meta-cosmic universe in the following way:

The endlessly vast material universe was characterized as the product of the incessant interplay and interpenetration of energies and matters in the unimaginably infinite realms of space. In the material universe nothing is static. Everything is in a constant, dynamic state of movement and flux. there are ultimately no frontiers to be seen or conceived of in the whole cosmic universe.

Similarly, the mental universe consists of spiritual, psychophysical or biological forces referred to as the six realms of the Wheel of Life. The armies of gods, demons, serpent gods and so on, and belief in the existence of a spirit heirarchy in general, stems from the pre-Buddhist Bon religion of Tibet*, which included a heirarchical cosmology corresponding in many respects to the common Buddhist conception of the six spheres of Samsara.

In the higher metaphysics of Buddhism, the material and mental universes are taken to exist only as pure concepts. The basic idea is that all phenomena, whether material or mental, are unreal, being merely the products of constantly shifting, interacting causes and energies [...] The so-called formless beings or spirits are not exceptions, since they too are said to posess inherent consciousness and energies.

But there is a third category of reality, which we might term 'meta-cosmic,' containing beings that exist and function as counter-cosmic movements in the sense that their actions runs counter to the absorption in the wheel of samsara of all beings in the six realms of the mental universe. These beings are the Enlightened Ones at their varying levels of illumination Bodhisattvas, yidams, dakas, dakinis, and guardian deities.

The yidams are symbolic manifestations and embodiments of Sambhogakaya. Even as dynamic energies of Enlightened consciousness, they are still to be understood as symbols in the sense that they exist as a means of transmission and communication at the highest levels of awareness. Evans-Wentz calls them 'tutelary deities.' Communication with them is not given to people automatically, but is the rare result of intensive practice in the discipline of the path. This confirms Buddhism's cardinal principle that liberation and enlightenment are to be earned and not given. The different forms of yidam assoociated with the practices of visualization and the transformation of energies are indeed a psycholgical device in the work of meditation. The yidams symbolize and actually represent the character, qualities, attributes, and powers of Enlightened Beings. As such, they are approached by the practicing initiate as a representation of the highest reality that is in himself and toward which he may strive. They are to be perceved neither as the Supreme Deity nor as supernatural agents. To the practicing initiate, their significance is as a reminder of his own undeveloped potentialities.

The guardian deities are regarded as secondary manifestations of Sambhogakaya. They are often described as emanations of Bodhisattvas.

As for the dakinis, [...] the term means literally 'she who moves through space.' Among the many interpretations of this term, the one that is perhaps most germane to our text is 'she who emjoys the expanse of Emptiness' - that is, who has attained higher illumination. Ina certain sense, the dakinis (and the dakas, their male counterparts) correspond to the yidams in that they are manifestations of the highest state of Enlightenment within both man and the universe. But the sense of their beauty or wrathfulness strongly suggests that their element of emotional relationship is fundamental. As one observer puts it, 'The lama is the Buddha outside oneself; the yidam is the Buddha within oneself; the dakinis are the Buddha as beloved.'

On the trans-cosmic scale of the realization, these beings of the third category are entrusted with the task of preserving the vast treasure of the esoteric teachings. On another scale, with the dakas and dakinis, they assist the yogin in fulfilling his highest spiritual aims, and thus symbolize the counter-cosmic movement in the whole of the universe. Here, the Vajrayana surpasses the Mahayana's profound concept of the ultimate unity of samsara and nirvana by positing as inherent in the structure of the universe forces which actually assist man in the work f harmonizing and unifying these two opposite movements within the realm of human consciousness.


Key here is the many levels of understanding applied to each type of supernatural entity: the exoteric representation as a real, outside agent; the esoteric or inner understanding as a projection of the psychological possibilities of the practitioner; and the 'trans-cosmic' understanding as forces "inherent in the structure of the universe" compassionately leading beings toward Enlightenment.

Also key is the emphasis on having to be initiated by a guru (lama) in order to fully understand the complex significance of these symbols and their function within actual meditative practice. To my mind there is nothing mysterious or suspicious about such a necessity of initiation; these symbols obviously have a great many layers of meaning and use, of which I'm sure the above explanation only scratches the surface. So not only would someone very knowledgeable be needed to explicate all these layers, but also, consider the possibility that trying to transmit or explain all the different layers of meaning outside of the esoteric traidition (e.g. through widely distributed written works or whatever) would encourage would-be yogins to try to use these concepts/symbols/techniques without the guidance of someone more experienced, and end up not using them in an efficient or beneficial way. The emphasis on initiation, and the need of a guru's empowerment in order to properly understand these concepts, may seem more understandable with this in mind.

By the way, Milarepa's biography is really great for cutting through the modern-day and otherwise secondary information or representations of Tibetan Buddhist practices. These representations, as it sounds like you've well realized, can often be contradictory and often come off as absurd or totally heretical from the perspective of other Buddhist traditions. They also tend to be somewhat adulterated by the chaos resulting from the last sixty years of Tibetan history.

Milarepa's story, in contrast, gives you an much more clear portrayal of the themes that inform Tibetan Buddhist thought and practice. It's also very authentic in that it is a very old story, central to Tibetan Buddhists as a whole and especially to the Kagyüpa.

These qualifications also hold for the 19th-century text The Words of My Perfect Teacher, which is a more straightforward manual for practice rather than a hero-icised semi-fictional hagiography like Milarepa. Both are also really enjoyable to read.

*It's not quite accurate to equate the established Bon religion (which arose around the same time as Buddhism in Tibet and almost functions as another school of Tibetan Buddhism) with what I've read one scholar call "the nameless religion" of Tibet. This refers to everything thatclearly doesn't originate from any type of Buddhism, but yet is still present in actual Tibetan religion (especial among the layity). The best example is the idea of local divinities associated with natural features such as mountains, valleys, or rivers, who must be pacified through both offerings and with the use of spiritual powers. But whatever.

[Edit 3/18 added some material and added boldface to quotation]

RE: indefensible rejection of a valid path
Answer
3/19/11 4:48 PM as a reply to Steve Katona.
This is off of subject but it springs from a little frustration with no response to a recent post of mine. At least in this thread I know there have been over 600 views. Please look at my post under miscellaneous and respond or offer direction to something if you are able. I am starting a count down of 10 weeks on 3/21. I certainly can make a plan of my own but if I really knew all I needed to know to move ahead then what needs to be done would be done. Thanks.