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Devotional Practices
Answer
2/5/18 6:30 AM
Dear Dharma Overgrounders

a quick search of the forums for the term "devotion" brought up only three hits.

Are devotional practices not considered useful?

Or are they considered cheesy or objectionable because they are associated with religious rites and ritual, or deities, or unpleasant memories from childhood or adolescence?

Do they not fit well with into the three trainings? I place them in the training in morality, being that they concern the I and Thou relationship.

Who here is engaged in some form of devotion? What can you tell about it?

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
Answer
2/5/18 10:55 AM as a reply to Cino.
I just thing you are just in the wrong spot.  I believe that Loving God is actually the fastest way out, but you have to believe to want to do it.   If you believe and lean into that love, what can stop you?  In the end, duality needs to be seen through so I would focus on surrendering to God's love rather than actively trying to create love to give to God.  

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/5/18 10:57 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
I do not really do devotion, but I find  the music of Bob and Rita Marley and Krishna Das put my mind in the right frame. 

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/5/18 7:22 PM as a reply to Cino.
Bhakti is a beautiful practice. I have always felt drawn towards the bhakti / metta path, because of a deep love of nature and other sentient beings. Have a look at the works of Amma, Neem Karoli Baba and Ram Dass.

Current contemplative science research is taking a turn towards compassion, which is telling. E.g. Stanford Uni

Bhakti can be applied in a secular way. E.g. https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/bhakti-yoga-love-devotion-relationship


"Many modern bhakti yogis believe that "the guru" can be found in all things. Bhakti, then, becomes a state of mind, a consciousness that involves embracing the Beloved—in whatever form that takes. San Francisco yoga teacher Rusty Wells calls his style of yoga "Bhakti Flow." To him, the definition of bhakti yoga can get unnecessarily complicated: "What I've always understood is that it's a simple way to embrace the Beloved, the Divine, God, or the connection to other sentient beings on this planet," he says. He often begins class by encouraging students to offer their effort, compassion, and sense of devotion to someone in their life who is struggling or suffering.Sherman, who also relies on a contemporary interpretation of bhakti, aims to inspire the practice of devotion in her students. "Everyone shares the experience of love, but it looks different for every person," she says. "Some people fall madly in love with different aspects of nature; for others, it's a way of dancing or speaking poetically. It can look like so many different things. I don't try to determine what that is for somebody, but just by teaching from that place of love inside me, my hope is that people feel welcome to find that place inside themselves."

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/6/18 1:19 AM as a reply to Cino.
I suspect most of those hits have been me asking the same things. I’m very drawn to christian devotion while at the same time having a tendency to doubt. My main practice is breath+mantra+devotion and at the start of sessions I remind myself of the devoted christians I know who have had kundalini awakenings and have shaktipat abilities, which means they are at least further beyond on the path than me in MCTB terms. So even if my God is false, it seems like devotion works for many people.

I find the ”God models” part of MCTB disturbing, even though I do believe that Christ is litterary ”the Way, the Truth and Life” and thus omnipresent. It seems to subtly disqualify a path where devotion is the main practice, which is what, like almost all traditions but theravada recommend... 

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/6/18 3:22 AM as a reply to Pål R.
I am following this with great interest - how can we develop Devotion correctly? I think what Seth says about believing is called Faith in Christianity and it does seem to be rooted in some deep truth of which I am unsure of. Is it true that Faith can be built to full strength and thus have great transformative powers - to the extent of non-dual realization or purification of fetters or both?

Devotion: I read/hear that it is mostly driven by fear/self-benefits and if so, it becomes counter-intuitive?

RE: Theravada - it may be said in the scriptures - dismissing rites and rituals. But have a look at South East Asia - all you see is devotion on the contrary and little attention is garnered on the last 2 Trainings... emoticon

Edit: Is the Pope enlightened? <- This sounds very wrong. Is he MCTB Path 4 already?

RE: Devotional Practices
Answer
2/6/18 3:42 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
I just thing you are just in the wrong spot. I believe that Loving God is actually the fastest way out, but you have to believe to want to do it. If you believe and lean into that love, what can stop you?

I imagine that belief in God as a prerequisite to devotion could be off-putting for people who were  coerced to profess such belief at some point in their lives.

seth tapper:
In the end, duality needs to be seen through so I would focus on surrendering to God's love rather than actively trying to create love to give to God.  


That makes sense to me. Thank you for spelling it out like that!

A search for surrender here on the forums yields many hits.

Surrender to the love of the beloved sounds a lot more appealing than surrender to the three characteristics.

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
Answer
2/6/18 3:56 AM as a reply to Anna L.
Anna L:
Bhakti is a beautiful practice. I have always felt drawn towards the bhakti / metta path, because of a deep love of nature and other sentient beings.


Thanks you for pointing out the connection between metta and devotion. I was not aware of this before. I had mentally filed away the brahmaviharas alongside other states of mind, not unlike the jhanas.

Can you share something about your bhakti practice?

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
Answer
2/6/18 5:15 AM as a reply to Pål R.
Pål R:
I find the ”God models” part of MCTB disturbing, even though I do believe that Christ is litterary ”the Way, the Truth and Life” and thus omnipresent. It seems to subtly disqualify a path where devotion is the main practice, which is what, like almost all traditions but theravada recommend... 


Do you mean this chapter MCTB The God Models?

This chapter seems to talk about how to do insight practice in the framework of theistic religion. I think is is an excellent chapter, and I can also see how it is disturbing because it seems to say that believers in God are "doing it (insight practice) wrong".

With my question about devotional practice, I was not asking about a different way of doing insight practice. I am interested in devotion in its own right.

Maybe I should tell something about my own devotional practice, but I am reluctant because I don't want to get into discussions on how it could be harnessed for insight purposes, or concentration purposes. This is also why I decided to post it into the "morality / third training" forum.

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/6/18 5:46 AM as a reply to Cino.
Daniel seems to not even consider the possibility of love of God+concentration in itself leading to insight, which many traditions claim...

RE: Devotional Practices
Answer
2/6/18 6:00 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
I am following this with great interest - how can we develop Devotion correctly? I think what Seth says about believing is called Faith in Christianity and it does seem to be rooted in some deep truth of which I am unsure of. Is it true that Faith can be built to full strength and thus have great transformative powers - to the extent of non-dual realization or purification of fetters or both?


Faith plays a role in the Theravada fetter model.

In devotion seen as a "morality/daily life" practice, rather than a "wisdom/insight" one, I am not sure faith would be such an important factor. As Anna wrote, one can be devoted to tangible things, so abstract faith does not seem required.

What is your take on devotion? Is it another form of insight practice?

Yilun Ong:
Devotion: I read/hear that it is mostly driven by fear/self-benefits and if so, it becomes counter-intuitive?


Isn't that a challenge in any relationship, though? But it is not a good reason not to have relationships, I think.

Yilun Ong:
Edit: Is the Pope enlightened? <- This sounds very wrong. Is he MCTB Path 4 already?


I have no idea. I am not a Catholic Christian. If he is the object of one's devotion, it would play a role maybe. He seems a decent enough person to hold the office, from the very few things I hear about him.

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/6/18 7:16 AM as a reply to Pål R.
Pål R:
Daniel seems to not even consider the possibility of love of God+concentration in itself leading to insight, which many traditions claim...


Actually he does, but you are right, he is not exactly advocating it.

Here his his take on God-based insight practice:

MCTB:
if you believe that you are trying to see God, and you believe that all creation is a manifestation not just created by God, but in fact is God, then you are back to basic insight practices: seeing the sensate world exactly as it is, because there you will find ultimate reality, or “God”, if you want to call it that.


A more enthusiastic way of putting it would perhaps be: If you believe that you are trying to see God, and you believe that everything you perceive is God addressing you, then you will want to pay very close attention not to miss any one of these communications from God. This is very good insight practice, and it is being taught as "centering prayer" among other names.

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
Answer
2/7/18 1:30 AM as a reply to Cino.
Hi Cino, 

Well, I don't believe in God, as in an "entity" who created us. However, I do believe in some form of universal source energy that connects everything, and I feel an incredible sense of devotion to that - whatever "it" is that keeps my heart beating. I find that to be a wonderous and miraculous thing. So I guess I feel a sense of devotion to life itself. For me this manifests most tangibly in an appreciation of nature and an appreciation of the most basic things that I'm able to do - walk; breathe; see; hear; think; feel. To me these are gifts. 

So my practice for some years now has been to notice these things, pay attention to them and feel grateful for them. While I don't follow any particular religious rites or rituals, I live a ritualised life. To me this means taking nothing for granted and giving thanks for all the positive experiences and pleasures. Taking the time to mentally give thanks for food before a meal ... for beautiful weather ... for a good workout ... for a comfortable place to sleep ... for modern medicine!

I also really enjoy reading the works of Neem Karoli Baba, Paramahansa Yogananda and Sri Ramakrishna

At times I have listened to audio guided meditations by Sharon Salzberg

And finally, I have a devotional practice with my dogs and my garden! With my dogs, I am very conscious of the fact that my personal choice IS their life. They rely on me to love them and care for them and provide the most enriching experience for them that I can. I see them as representing every animal or child on earth who is dependent on us to care for them. Similar thing with my garden - taking care of the plants, weeding, paying attention to whether they need water (I'm actually not that great at this! haha).

I am a Western householder, so these methods have all worked very well for me and have produced positive results emoticon

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 1:34 AM as a reply to Cino.
Cino:
Maybe I should tell something about my own devotional practice, but I am reluctant because I don't want to get into discussions on how it could be harnessed for insight purposes, or concentration purposes. This is also why I decided to post it into the "morality / third training" forum.

- Cino

Yes, please share - would be interested to hear about your own devotional practice emoticon

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 1:41 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
Is it true that Faith can be built to full strength and thus have great transformative powers - to the extent of non-dual realization or purification of fetters or both?


Absolutely - look at Ramakrishna, Neem Karoli Baba, Yogananda and other Hindu saints. 

However, there is debate as to whether what the realised saints in the Hindu tradition experience (true self/pure consciousness) is phenomenologically the same as what Buddhist arahats experience (no-self/emptiness). Given that both concepts are essentially ineffable/indescribable, they may be pointing towards the same thing but there's no definitive answer.

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 4:43 AM as a reply to Cino.
Came across this book. Page 44 & 45 speak to the role of devotion in Buddhism. 

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=mldcAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA45&lpg=PA45&dq=bhatti+buddhism&source=bl&ots=hyLX1mETQn&sig=AfFUWHBTlWyZn-OhLb58f8gUNso&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj0vdzTzJPZAhXoxFQKHbmCACwQ6AEwB3oECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=bhatti%20buddhism&f=false

Great topic by the way - it’s re-ignited my curiosity re how concepts of devotion and the “divine” fit in with a pragmatic Dharma approach ... 

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 8:39 AM as a reply to Anna L.
Just came across this old interview with Bernadette Roberts: https://realization.org/p/bernadette-roberts/bodian.roberts-interview.html

Excerpt:
As I see it, without a personal God, the Buddhist must have a much stronger faith in the “unconditioned and unbegotten” than is required of the Christian contemplative, who experiences the passage as a divine doing, and in no way a self-doing.
She also had some very interesting things to say about the distinction between ego loss and no-self. Excerpt:
Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless stale of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond.

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 11:25 AM as a reply to Anna L.
Anna L:
Yes, please share - would be interested to hear about your own devotional practice emoticon


To me, devotion is a virtuous relationship with the unknown. Rather than turning away from what I do not know, I adore it with an eagerness to get to know it.

Getting involved in a relationship comes with questions of conduct. I hold myself accountable to certain standards and duties in this relationship of devotion, regular acts of worship in an appropriate manner and setting, a specific prayer at a set time every day. This sounds very dry and ritualistic, and yet it is anything but that, it has the intimacy and familiarity of a relationship that goes back a very long time.

I love the dance of opposites, of tautology and paradox, and its creative expression in poetry. I recite verses out of love, without purpose, aim, or goal

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 11:34 AM as a reply to Anna L.
Anna L:

Great topic by the way - it’s re-ignited my curiosity re how concepts of devotion and the “divine” fit in with a pragmatic Dharma approach ... 


Pragmatic devotion! That is so beautifully jarring, so earnestly devoted to utilitarian demands... emoticon

Thank you for this lovely sparkling gem; I will guard and treasure it on my way out into the winter darkness tonight.

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 11:41 AM as a reply to Ward Law.
Ward Law:
Just came across this old interview with Bernadette Roberts: https://realization.org/p/bernadette-roberts/bodian.roberts-interview.html

Excerpt:
As I see it, without a personal God, the Buddhist must have a much stronger faith in the “unconditioned and unbegotten” than is required of the Christian contemplative, who experiences the passage as a divine doing, and in no way a self-doing.
She also had some very interesting things to say about the distinction between ego loss and no-self. Excerpt:
Unfortunately, what most Buddhist authors define as the no-self experience is actually the no-ego experience. The cessation of clinging, craving, desire, the passions, etc., and the ensuing state of imperturbable peace and joy articulates the egoless stale of oneness; it does not, however, articulate the no-self experience or the dimension beyond.


So maybe Buddhism was just not her thing.

Since so many here have brought up the subject of faith in a thread about devotion: What is the implied connection between these?

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
Answer
2/7/18 12:37 PM as a reply to Cino.
To me, devotion is a virtuous relationship with the unknown. Rather than turning away from what I do not know, I adore it with an eagerness to get to know it.”

i love this! Yes, for me too there is also an element of embracing the mystery of the unknown. And a surrender to that mystery, and to what cannot be understood intellectually. 

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 2:39 PM as a reply to Anna L.
In my view - the human mind is made up of the content of the meaning processing mind and the content of the heart.  Those feelings of love that lay beyond meaning.   Buddhism is a path towards letting go of all the made up meaning that occupies the meaning processing system and you are left with only the feelings that lay beyond meaning, e.g. love.  You may ask yourself, is this my beautiful love or is it universal or is it God or what? 

In my view, once meaning has been seen through there is only This.  But there is Love because it is beyond meaning,  so This is actually, for real, love- though love is too limiting a word.  Once could call This God if one wanted. 

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/7/18 3:37 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
In my view - the human mind is made up of the content of the meaning processing mind and the content of the heart.  Those feelings of love that lay beyond meaning.   Buddhism is a path towards letting go of all the made up meaning that occupies the meaning probeacessing system and you are left with only the feelings that lay beyond meaning, e.g. love.  You may ask yourself, is this my beautiful love or is it universal or is it God or what? 

In my view, once meaning has been seen through there is only This.  But there is Love because it is beyond meaning,  so This is actually, for real, love- though love is too limiting a word.  Once could call This God if one wanted. 

Beautiful ☺️

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/8/18 2:42 AM as a reply to Cino.
Hi Cino,

I'm doing devotional practises. To me, they are about surrendering to the guidance of something that represents the ultimate goal. Now, what are goal and what does surrender mean? I've seen that some people have a funky way of understanding surrendering. Like it's some contempt for your own self, or trying to take the easy way out of life, like throwing yourself melodramatically to the flames for somebody to cath you. To me, surrender is more like something I read and really liked:

"In fact, direct seeing, fierce honesty, is the surrender."

Surrendering is the dropping of of all the crap that you're holding onto. Surrendering is just being. Surrendering is not expecting anything. It's staying with the natural state. It's learning to accept and not alter. When I do devotional practices, I accept the presence of something that exceeds my current capacities and I ask them to help me in my journey to be like them. There's no point in trying to understand this in the scientific or materialistic level. I don't know if I devote to anything concrete, some being really being there, or a myth or whatever. It's beside the point. Sometimes I can clearly feel something, like a presence or a blessing or a clarification of my entire cosmos, a warmth. I have no intention or subjecting this experience under any sort of lame pseudoscientific scrutiny. It is what it is.
 

RE: Devotional Practices
Answer
2/9/18 10:42 AM as a reply to Anna L.
Hi Anna

Anna L:

And finally, I have a devotional practice with my dogs and my garden! With my dogs, I am very conscious of the fact that my personal choice IS their life. They rely on me to love them and care for them and provide the most enriching experience for them that I can. I see them as representing every animal or child on earth who is dependent on us to care for them. Similar thing with my garden - taking care of the plants, weeding, paying attention to whether they need water (I'm actually not that great at this! haha).


Dogs are wonderful!

Thank your for sharing about your practice.

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/9/18 10:45 AM as a reply to Jehanne S Peacock.
Jehanne S Peacock:
"In fact, direct seeing, fierce honesty, is the surrender." 


I like how you point out how surrender and devotion go hand in hand.

- Cino

RE: Devotional Practices
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2/9/18 10:50 AM as a reply to Cino.
This page from a Theravad site contains a section on worship: The Divine Mantra.

RE: Devotional Practices
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4/9/18 7:57 AM as a reply to Cino.
Cino:

Since so many here have brought up the subject of faith in a thread about devotion: What is the implied connection between these?


To me it seems one cannot have true devotion without faith. And faith cannot be considered proper if it is blind or stupid faith. It has to come from earnest willingness to be truthfull and embrace being.

It is at this point where words fail me... From here onwards it is an inner experience for me.

RE: Devotional Practices
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4/9/18 9:59 AM as a reply to Jehanne S Peacock.

Hi,

Two years ago I was in a Computer Gaming Aaddict Anonymus online program that helped me a lot. They use the A.A model and it mainly work what they call High Power.

High Power, God, whatever it is..is where you put your faith and trust, something more bigger than you, something you can feel comfortable and take off all the weight you have and surrender to it.

In these online meetings some people have faith in Christian God, some others just in the concept High Power and they do their interpertation, for some ppl was universal love, universal energy, for others was an silent and loving entity that help them (like an angel ) for others was just the community of ppl. High power was not the main topic of the meetings but at sometimes was a topic and and important part of the twelve steps of recovery.

For me, what I liked to feel-think was an universal love-energy mixed with some kind of entity that was me but more evolved, This kind of entity can see past-`present-future at the same time and he can only feel pure love and compassion becouse where I am right know, with my struggles, fears, insecuritys he already been there, becouse he is my evolved me, so he exactly knows how I feel, becouse he felt it. So this bring a lot of empathy and compassion.


I did a picture of it on day full of inspiration :



Also in the proces of conecting with my High Power I had really powerfull dreams that lead me to change a lot of patrons, habits and belif system, not religious or political, core belif system of how I am, and how I understand myself. I have drew this dreams I will upload them if you want hehe. I was in a powerfull healing process that change myself, I also get inspired to started to study really deep how emotions-mind work etc

One of the main practice I was doing was really conected to day to day things, so before I did something, like study, start cooking, work, take a bath etc I stoped and put an intention to conect to my High Power and I was doing this to the benefit of all beings, I usually close my eyes and put my hands looking up and was open to feel the presence/love/compasion of this High Power.

The most powerfull thing I did was when I was at work. I worked muffin factory, very no-thinking job, just puting boxes in a pallet for 8 hours. So I spend like 7 hours just blessing and feeling love with the boxes I was touching and conecting with that High Power at the same time, wishing that this muffins can arrive good and the kids or anyone that going to eat it can enjoy it with joy and happiness...well... the waves of joy and love, the openness of the heart  I was feeling at some point was so intense and big that I needed to really stop, becouse was not eable to function correctly my whole body was tremble with cold, warm, electrical sensations, my tears fell spontaneously without control. They fired me, lol no, joking haha.

So, yes conecting with a High Power can be a really powerfull. I feel I heal a lot of psychological stuff and I had my energys more integrated, more in peace and kind with my self. But If we are talking about insights of ultimate reality...I didnt have it for direct expirence of high power. I had becouse I was working also on observing my emotions and mental process ( didnt know any about buddhist practices at time, I just felt inspired to do it, and did on my way) just trying to understand, observe and feel all the resenment, anger, sadness I had inside. At the end I saw this emotions was just a little part of me, that I was more bigger than this, that my life was conditioned by this feelings and was not worth it, then I can feel sadness but also I can feel my feet planted on the ground, the wind caressing my face, and the sun gently warming my skin, wonderfull times and the end of chapter of my life. 


RE: Devotional Practices
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4/11/18 7:07 AM as a reply to Jordi.
That was a beautiful story of your experience with devotional and metta practices, Jordi. Are you still doing the same? I have saved the picture you drew - it is beautiful. Please upload them or email to me if you do not mind? ongyeeloon (at) gmail 

Wishing you Happiness! emoticon

RE: Devotional Practices
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4/25/18 8:13 AM as a reply to Jordi.
Thanks for sharing that, Jordi.