Tag Archives: Buddhism

Practice and all is coming? Western vs Eastern approach interview

An interesting discussion is going on in the Yahoo Ashtanga Group, where some practitioners encourage us to (respectfully?) question the contemporary yoga traditions as they are being “abused” by brahmins, claiming that Westerners have the advantage of being able to «go beyond dogmas».

I completely agree, everything should be questioned. Everything, including the questioning, intellectual mind, which is just another judgement that in the West we often hold to be the Ultimate Truth.

The point is, we are also conditioned by our culture, and as human beings we are not always aware of the dogmas our minds operate with, so how can we accuse other people with a different approach to learning/knowledge of not being able to surpass theirs?

In the first part of the yoga sutras, Patañjali explains that correct knowledge is direct, inferred or proven as factual (Y.S I.7). However, he also warns that verbal knowledge devoid of substance is vikalpa or imagination (Y.S I.9), and insists that truth-bearing knowledge is first-hand, intuitive knowledge (Y.S 1.49), different from the knowledge taken from books, memory or deduction.

This intuitive knowledge tends to be forgotten, undervalued, or directly despised in the West as superstition, blind faith, simply not valid, since it doesn’t come from inference. Isn’t that another dogma?

In this interview translated from drukpamexico.org, Tibetan buddhist teacher SS Gyalwang Drukpa throws some light on the difficulties Westerners experience along the spiritual path:

Q: How do you see the understanding of Tibetan Buddhism by Westerners, do you see any difference in the way it is comprehended and practiced in the West, compared to the Tibetans?

SS: I see a big difference between Western and Tibetan students. Now that I mix with very different kinds of people, I think that Westerners have a very peculiar way to start their spiritual life, very peculiar. There’s nothing wrong with it, it is just unique, very different from the Tibetan way.

Tibetans have a structure that is almost fanatic. They already have a path that’s been built by their cultural and spiritual ancestors, so it is already there. They don’t need to create it, to invent it, and that helps a lot. But the Western way is very interesting to me, because they have to create everything from A to Z. For this reason, they need to pay a lot of attention, they need to put a lot of effort into it to understand, they have to use their brains a lot, their intellect, and that’s what they’re doing, that’s what they’re fighting.

However, in terms of what is real, of the practice, I think that Westerners are still far behind. This is because they use their intellectual knowledge very well, they do the intellectual effort really well, that is the interesting part. But when it comes to experiential knowledge, they can barely do it. They have too much intellectual knowledge in their minds, which makes people go crazy.

It may be because too much intellectual knowledge makes people go crazy, or because your head becomes too big and you turn into an idiot. It is very easy to get carried away by stupidity, or by madness.

And it is not that holy madness: some people believe that when they go crazy like that it is because of that crazy wisdom, and it’s not like that. You know, in Tibetan Buddhism we usually talk about «holy madness» and then Westerners think «oh, this must be it». This is totally wrong, it is regular madness. This is the main issue in Buddhist societies, particularly in the West.

On the other hand, the way Western people understand is very good, very interesting, because they use their intelligence, their knowledge, their effort and their brains.

In our case in Tibet, we don’t really need to use our brain a lot, we only need devotion because the structure is already there. So anything the Guru, the Teacher says, you only need to follow. He’s already done all that previous hard work and he’s merely giving it to you. Whereas in the West, the Teacher gives it to you, but you need to work it really hard, this is they kind of society Westerners live in.

Q: So would you recommend that we focus more on faith and devotion and not only on the intellect?

SS: Yes, yes, this is what I always recommend, devotion is completely necessary. Devotion meaning clear understanding: you have to put yourself in a state of deep understanding, enter deeply that state of realization. Even if you don’t really know what realization is, try to get deeper into realization with your heart, rather than keeping it in you mind. Just put your heart into realization, and try to find something really deep there. Then you will obtain true compassion, true devotion, really easily. This will mantain a balance between intellectual and experiential knowledge.

Even if you don’t have much experience, it doesn’t matter, you have to experiment with it, try it out. Don’t just look at it, experience it. Try something and then you’ll know what it tastes like. Is it delicious, is it bitter? Does it have any taste at all? Or what?

When you try it you’ll know how to talk about it, you’ll know what to think about that particular thing. Otherwise, you’re just exposing everything, and you think you know everything. If you say: «This is yellow, this is white, this is red, this is beautiful or this is not» and you think you know everything and you haven’t even tried it, you haven’t even experienced it, that knowledge is only in your mind. That is the kind of knowledge that most Westerners have. Western students have a lot of knowledge because they’ve read thousands of books, they’ve listened to thousands of teachings and they know every corner of every teaching. Vajrayana, Mahayana, Hinduism, Christianism, Chatolicism, Judaism, EVERYTHING they know. That is fantastic. But they haven’t had the experience, they don’t really know anything!

So they doubt everything: «Er… I don’t know if this is sweet or not, someone told me it was sweet but I don’t know, it looks bitter to me, but I don’t know if it’s bitter…»

So take it, experience it, try it and you will know what it is. This is the factor that is lacking in Western societies.

___________________ end of the interview ____________________

Day in the life: Sex, suits, and enlightenment. Just another Guru.

from the ny post

Monk-y Business: Controversial NYC guru Michael Roach

Michael Roach, a controversial Buddhist monk, lost his “spiritual partner” to another man—and started partying and dressing in Armani suits. Now his flock is struggling to keep the faith.

[NY Post Page Six Magazine by Beth Landman]

Last November, Mia*, a comely thirtysomething yoga instructor at a studio downtown, got a strange phone call. Geshe Michael Roach, an ordained Buddhist monk and guru to many in the Union Square spirituality scene, was in town. He wanted to hang out that night with her and some of her other yogi friends, but he didn’t want to talk chakras or do vinyasas. He wanted to hit the clubs.

Later that evening, Mia met up with the 57-year-old monk at Cielo, a hip club in the Meatpacking District known for its house beats and tough velvet rope. He wasn’t wearing his usual flowing monastic robes. “It was the strangest thing,” recalls Mia. “He was in this Armani suit and with a model, and he was now saying that everyone should dress up”—strange indeed, given that thousands of years of tradition dictate that Buddhist monks live spartan, celibate lives.

With his heavily lined face and thin graying hair brushing his shoulders, the guru didn’t quite blend with the Cielo scene, though he did his best, boogying down with a young Chanel-clad Russian girl. Erin Vaughan, another yoga teacher there that night, was shocked. “He was on the dance floor, and there was nothing enlightened about it,” she says.

With an unorthodox approach to finding enlightenment—Geshe Michael encourages his followers to couple up with spiritual partners and never stray more than 30 feet from each other—he has always moved to his own beat. But after his own spiritual partner left him last summer for a younger man, he started to behave oddly, and now even some of his most loyal devotees are having trouble following his moves.  read full article

Buddhist Wannabe

8/4 note:  removed from youtube
watch at vodpod

 

11/19/10  it’s back

The Principal Teachings of Buddhism ~ Asian Classics Institute Course I

posted by seabean

Begins Wednesday, February 25th, 7:30-9pm, 12 weeks.

Je TsongkapaThis is the first in a series of Formal Study Courses that cover the basic core of information that a Geshe (Doctor of Philosophy) learns over 20 years at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.  The essence of the Six Great Books of Buddhism has been condensed into 18 ACI Formal Study Courses, which are designed as a a teacher training program.

Course 1:  The Principal Teachings of Buddhism, provides an overview of the entire Buddhist path and all subsequent Courses elaborate upon the ideas presented here.  It is based upon The Three Principal Paths (Lamtso Namsum) by Je Tsongkapa (1357-1419), with the commentary of Pabongka Rinpoche (1878-1941).  Topics  include: what is a qualified teacher, how to take a lama, what is Buddha nature, what is authentic Dharma, what are samsara and renunciation, the principles of karma, the problems of human life, bodhichitta and its benefits, how to generate bodhichitta, the two levels of reality, what is the correct view of emptiness according to each of the four schools of thought, and the relationship between karma and emptiness.

Teacher:  John Stilwell
Location:  The Three Jewels, NYC. 61 4th Avenue, 3rd Floor
Contact:  threejewels.nyc@gmail.com to register.  Registration is completely free, but donations are encouraged.

For more information about The Three Jewels NYC, visit www.threejewels.org.