Secrecy in Vajrayana

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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Zenda » Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:59 am

Yes, simple. Hope everyone is fortunate to have this situation. Feel free to delete this and previous posts. They aren't helpful.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Yudron » Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:04 am

Zenda wrote:Yes, simple. Hope everyone is fortunate to have this situation. Feel free to delete this and previous posts. They aren't helpful.


I think they are helpful, because new people may only know about famous lamas because of all the PR they generate.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby CrawfordHollow » Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:19 am

Well, I am not so sure that many folks, especially those writing and publishing books in the West, are actually abiding by the traditional rules of secrecy that come with Vajrayana. It is true that there is much you can find through google and the internet on just about anything from the Vajrayana, including full translations of sadhanas and such. I think that this type of spiritual marketplace atmosphere takes away from the integrity of the practices and the tradition. On the other hand, the situation that we have here in the West is far different than India and Tibet where these practices originated from. Our role as practitioners is evolving and some leeway must be made to compensate for the difference.

It is relatively easy to get empowerments, especially if you have the means to travel and can afford the price of retreat. It is not so easy to develop a super close bond with a guru and get the support that you may need to really go in depth with your practice. It is possible, but not easy by any means. I think that having the books and teachings available to us through modern media can be a great support when we can't have so much one on one time with our teachers. Still, the commitment and respect needed to take up Vajrayana practice is still just as necessary as it was centuries ago in the Himalayas. Take ngondro, for example. It still takes 100,000 plus of each practice to complete. This is just as challenging if not more so than it was for Tibetans. We are still sentient beings whos minds need to be tamed and purified. Vajrayana is still the most effective method (in my opinion), and we can't expect to change it too much if we want it to work. As Greg said, it all comes down to the guru.

I would like to see teachers do more to prepare their students for Vajrayana. Perhaps empowerments are given too freely, although this is certaintly not true with all teachers. If empowerments are to be given freely, I think the teacher should explain why secrecy and samaya is so important. When it comes down to it, Vajrayana is risky business. I guess I didn't offer up a very clear answer, but its a tough one. How is the Vajrayana to be transmitted in a modern culture? What, if any of the traditional boundaries should be allowed to be broken for the ease of us Westerners? Big questions, but I would say that it would be best, for our own karma and for the sake of our lineages, to stick to tradition as much as possible and keep secret what was once secret.

Troy
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:28 am

CrawfordHollow wrote:Well, I am not so sure that many folks, especially those writing and publishing books in the West, are actually abiding by the traditional rules of secrecy that come with Vajrayana. It is true that there is much you can find through google and the internet on just about anything from the Vajrayana, including full translations of sadhanas and such. I think that this type of spiritual marketplace atmosphere takes away from the integrity of the practices and the tradition. On the other hand, the situation that we have here in the West is far different than India and Tibet where these practices originated from. Our role as practitioners is evolving and some leeway must be made to compensate for the difference.

It is relatively easy to get empowerments, especially if you have the means to travel and can afford the price of retreat. It is not so easy to develop a super close bond with a guru and get the support that you may need to really go in depth with you practice. It is possible, but not easy by any means. I think that having the books and teachings available to us through modern media can be a great support when we can't have so much one on one time with our teachers. Still, the commitment and respect needed to take up Vajrayana practice is still just as necessary as it was centuries ago in the Himalayas. Take ngondro, for example. It still takes 100,000 plus of each practice to complete. This is just as challenging if not more so than it was for Tibetans. We are still sentient beings whos minds need to be tamed and purified. Vajrayana is still the most effective method (in my opinion), and we can't expect to change it too much if we want it to work. As Greg said, it all comes down to the guru.

I would like to see teachers do more to prepare their students for Vajrayana. Perhaps empowerments are given too freely, although this is certaintly not true with all teachers. If empowerments are to be given freely, I think the teacher should explain why secrecy and samaya is so important. When it comes down to it, Vajrayana is risky business. I guess I didn't offer up a very clear answer, but its a tough one. How is the Vajrayana to be transmitted in a modern culture? What, if any of the traditional boundaries should be allowed to be broken for the ease of us Westerners? Big questions, but I would say that it would be best, for our own karma and the sake of our lineages, to stick to tradition as much as possible and keep secret what was once secret.

Troy


I dunno, all I know is this board seems more secretive and restrictive than the Geshe, the Lama, or any of the students at my center, both of whom are about as bona fide as you can get to the best of my knowledge. On the other hand, I am sure there is plenty under the surface i'm not aware of.Truthfully had I walked into a place where people were given blanket discouragement to discuss their experiences with meditation, and practice was approached with this consistent aura of exclusivity I never even would have bothered giving the place a second thought. Rightly or wrongly, this kind of thing rubs me the wrong way, to many people that simply screams cult, true or not..I wonder if some teachers simply make the accommodation knowing that this will be so for a good chunk of people.

It strikes me that a part of the problem here is that our society is not good at making a distinction between something having a needed amount of exclusivity and secrecy, and simply being an excuse to take advantage of people. As the OP notes, there is no question at all that this sort of thing gets abused regularly, and that for sure is not unique to Buddhism or spirituality.

For sure there are things that one doesn't display, give away for free, or share with people that don't need to know them..but I can only assume that attempting to move beyond a certain level of secrecy and exclusivity simply would eventually just make for far fewer practitioners. Then again, I imagine the flipside is also true sometimes - the air of secrecy and mystery might attract some.

Well, I am not so sure that many folks, especially those writing and publishing books in the West, are actually abiding by the traditional rules of secrecy that come with Vajrayana.


Heh, well, plenty of people writing these books and making them available are also authorities on Vajrayana, seems top indicate that there is more than one approach out there to secrecy, unless i'm mistaken. Like anything, it's probably not a question of extremes.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Yudron » Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:58 am

Well, it sounds like you found a good match for you... a lama and sangha that don't "push your buttons" about this issue. That"s wonderful!
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:01 am

Yudron wrote:Well, it sounds like you found a good match for you... a lama and sangha that don't "push your buttons" about this issue. That"s wonderful!


I wouldn't mind if they did to some degree, after all I am there to have someone teach me something, and i'm willing to alter my behavior accordingly within certain limits. It's a teachers job to push buttons heh..

Wasn't trying to be critical of others, sorry.

I think the question about authors and availability might be an interesting one though....what do people think about the wide availability of Vajrayana in book etc. now..is this good, bad, both? FPMT for example has a huge amount of stuff available, but they still give the caveat that one needs empowerment etc. Does this relate at all to the other kind of secrecy, does it have an effect on it?
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby CrawfordHollow » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:42 am

I agree with where you are coming from Johnny D, although I think we may be talking about different things. For instance, the two books that you mentioned earlier, Thubten Chodron's Chenrezig book and the Mahamudra one don't actually divulge anything or much that would be considered off limits. I think FPMT does a good job in keeping certain texts or books off limits. Of course, there is a balance that needs to be met, as I was trying to express in my somewhat rambling post. The two books that you mentioned don't mention things like Tregcho/Thogal or Karmamudra or certain aspects of HYT/Mahayoga practice that would not be appropriate for the casual reader.

I think that the many books on Vajrayana out there are meant to be supports for one's practice that is to be used along side of a teacher's guidance. You can see this in the works of Gyatrul Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, for instance. I think that this is necessary for our modern age, and I see no harm in it. There are other authors, though that don't take such a balanced and respectful approach. This is especially true on the internet. I can understand your impression of arrogance and exclusivity, however, especially on the forum environment. We are, after all, just people- we all have our own afflictions. It is far easier to bash somebody's experience or questions over the internet than it is in person. I am personally very new to this forum thing, and I think that it carries its fair share of problems. However, this is not the same thing as maintaining the seal of secrecy that Vajrayana has carried with it for centuries. There are very good reasons for this, and I think that most of the authors that you may have in mind would agree with this.

The whole elitism thing is very unfortunate, in my opinion. It is very rampant here and on other forums. I won't name any names but the behavior I've seen come from some very well respected and experienced practitioners is pretty sickening. I don't know, its a tough thing to give a definitive answer to. You should ask some of the lamas at your local center about it. In the end, nobody should be discouraged from practicing Dharma. But if we are on the tantric path it is our responsibility to keep our samayas pure. If that means having a little discretion about what we say or do, then so be it.

Sorry again for all the rambling. I hope you don't think I'm being argumentative (or elitist). Good night to you all.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:06 am

I don't have an opinion on this matter yet, so I considered not posting. But, it might be beneficial for everyone to be talking about the same thing.

(7) Disclosing confidential teachings to those who are unripe

Confidential (secret) teachings concern actual specific generation (bskyed-rim) or complete stage (rdzogs-rim) practices for realizing voidness that are not shared in common with less advanced levels of practice. They include details of specific sadhanas and of techniques for actualizing a greatly blissful deep awareness of voidness with clear light mental activity. Those unripe for them are people who have not received the appropriate level of empowerment, whether or not they would have faith in these practices if they knew them. Explaining any of these unshared, confidential procedures in sufficient detail to someone whom we know fully well is unripe so that he or she has enough information to attempt the practice, and this person understands the instructions, constitutes the root downfall. The only exception is when there is a great need for explicit explanation, for example to help dispel misinformation and distorted, antagonistic views about tantra. Explaining general tantra theory in a scholarly manner, not sufficient for practice, is likewise not a root downfall. Nevertheless, it weakens the effectiveness of our tantric practice. There is no fault, however, in disclosing confidential teachings to interested observers during a tantric empowerment.

(12) Deterring those with faith

This refers to purposely discouraging people from a particular tantric practice in which they have faith and for which they are fit vessels, with proper empowerment and so forth. If we cause their wish to engage in this practice to end, this root downfall is complete. If they are not yet ready for such practice, however, there is no fault in outlining in a realistic manner what they must master first, even if it might seem daunting. Engaging others like this, taking them and their interests seriously rather than belittling them as incapable, actually boosts their self-confidence to forge ahead.

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/practice_material/vows/general_tantra/common_root_tantric_pledges.html

Indeed, the Tantras generally promise dire warnings against sharing the Tantra or its contents with others. I have yet to read prohibitions in the Tantras against speaking of other Tantric things. On the other hand, personal instructions generally say that merely sharing the name of one's Yidam with non-Vajra Siblings is a fault.

Perhaps there is a difference between a sharing secret information and cheapening one's practice. From personal experience, by knowing I can't discuss the elements of my practice, I value it more.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:16 am

Those quotes make absolute sense to me..

Kind of begs the question though, why are sadhanas so easy to find if they shouldn't be discussed lol!

Troy, don't worry..I get the importance of having a teacher, and vetting everything through them, (again, true for plenty outside of Vajrayana or even Buddhism generally), and understand that the material by these authors is not meant as a substitute.in fact, most authors seem to say that explicitly in their books. On the other hand, I can see no reason that some of these authors would even publish their work if they didn't expect the material to actually be used by practitioners rather than just academically studied. Does this violate some of the secrecy, or is secrecy more about personal experience than "technical" information?

After all, the two books I mention in the other thread are directly about meditation..one even contains a sadhana (if I remember). So while I know they do not want the books used as a "Do it yourself meditation guide" (and are pretty explicit in this), it does seem that they feel the information is of value beyond just casual perusal.

I do understand the secrecy, even simple practices can engage some things that might be difficult if people are not ready for them, or leave people with wrongheaded ideas...the whole public vibe just seems so contradictory to me in some ways, like here we are dicsussing secrecy of practices openly on an international, public forum. One would think real secrecy was never even doing that in the first place.. but I guess that's largely due to the world we live in making it hard to maintain such a level of secrecy or discretion without having to hide out in a cave or something.

Thanks for acknowledging my confusion!
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby CrawfordHollow » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:53 am

I can't reply in a very thorough way, I apologize. I manage a kitchen and I'm in the midst of a crazy weekend, gotta be up at 4:30 in the morning, way past my bedtime... Anyway. The sadhana that I believe that you are referring to is Chenrezig, no? Well, the Chenrezig sadhana as well as Green Tara and Medicine Buddha are kind of fair game. You really don't even need an empowerment to practice them (although some teachers may say differently) because it is also considered a sutra practice. So these books really aren't breaking any samaya. The mahamudra stuff I am really not too sure about. I know Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche has published a lot (and also has left a lot unpublished) that can be used and read by anyone although he suggests doing it under the guidance of a teacher.

Things start to get a little bit complicated when you deal with higher level practices from the inner tantras (I'm not saying mahamudra isn't high-level btw). So while there is no problem with somebody reading and benefiting from a book about Chenrezig or Medicing Buddha- or even certain vipashyana techniques found in Mahamudra- it would be totally inappropriate for somebody to pick up a book about Thogal or even Chod or say Dorje Drollo and think that they can start the practice without the empowerments and guidance of a teacher. Or tsok, or vajrakilya, or whatever else from the inner tantras. Just as it would not be appropiate for somebody who is initiated in those practices to start talking about them freely to those who are not. I do believe there is a need for those who are empowered to do Inner Tantra stuff to have access to teachings to support their practice. This is where their needs to be some regulation made on the side of the publishing company.

A good example of this is Jigme Lingpa's Yeshe Lama. The translations are out there, but it is super-restricted (and expensive as all hell!). I guess it comes down to what will benefit people and what will harm people. These standards may very well be changing. There has been a lot more made available to the general public by some very good teachers with very good intentions. So there is no magic formula. I guess what I am trying to say is that maybe we are talking about different things. OK, I got to find my bed now. Good night.


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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:55 am

Thanks very much, that was a valuable explanation for me.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:56 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Kind of begs the question though, why are sadhanas so easy to find if they shouldn't be discussed lol!



It all depends who's making them available. Typically Dharma centers and people with respect for the tradition do one of two things: (1) In the interest of making these things accessible to practitioners, they make them available on the honor system. They give a little blurb about the importance of receiving empowerment, transmission, and instructions from a qualified guru in order for it to work and expect people to honor that. Nowadays quite a few senior, widely-esteemed lamas have come to the conclusion that this type of release of some highest yoga tantra materials involves benefits to sincere practitioners that outweigh potential risks. (2) They make them available for sale online but require you to tell them who you received the empowerment, etc from, when, where, etc before they'll sell it to you. Again, this is on the honor system; one could theoretically lie if one knew enough about what to say in order to fool them and get them to sell you such and such book, but this would be a strange and pointless thing to do for obvious reasons.

There is also the fact that this material is self-secret, meaning that its meaning is only going to be apparent when one has received the appropriate transmissions and instructions and applied oneself in the practice within that context.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby muni » Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:43 am

Hello Nyima, not sure there is a need in sharing fleetings with guarantee (experiences). We can talk to the master as already said here. Masters only guide, 'talk' in order to awaken beings.

It is our own practice only, which is giving genuine certainty of the Buddha's teaching. So is told.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Jan 20, 2013 6:54 pm

The secrecy involved is not, well... Okay, let me give an example.

There are all sorts of books out there right? One can easily find, for example, (an incomplete translation of) The Candamaharosana Tantra free online. Now most people reading this tantra will freak out at what it says. Why? Because they do not have the key (the guru) to unlock the symbolism found in the text. Now, in the past, to avoid people freaking out the texts were kept secret and only made available by a teacher to the student that would be doing the practice. The student that would have had the symbolism explained to them. The student that would have received the empowerment to practice. The student that had direct and personal contact with the teacher. Blah, blah, blah...

Let's take another example, one based around sadhana texts. The entire Kagyu Ngondro (a full-blown tantric practice) sadhana is currently available for free download. So anybody can just download it and start (or at least believe that they are) practicing it. No teacher, no explanations, maybe they might have read Torch of Certainty, if they had the karma to come across it too, no nothing... Now ask anybody that has done or are doing the ngondro practices what they are like, and what they evoked, and you will get a whole range of the most gruesomely terrifying horror stories in combination with the calming effect of a childrens fairy tale. Without the support of the teacher one will either abandon the practice or get caught up in the experiences without really developing the main point of the practice.

Images? The same. In another thread I posted a picture of Sukkhasiddhi. There are two main ways in which she is depicted in Tibetan iconography: in one she is sitting calmly, making a mudra with her left hand and holding a kapala (gasp!) bowl in her right hand. In the other she is depicted "revealing the secret lotus". Now, I chose the first image. The second image was normally secret and only revealed after an explanation of the symbology was given. To avoid misinterpretation.

Take the tantra "The Sovereign All-Creating Mind, The Motherly Buddha". This is also freely available. Reading the text without the prerequisite background and explanations one would easily be lead to believe that it is describing an all-powerful (Buddhist) creator deity, which it is not.

SECRECY!

So secrecy is more a way to keep teachings from students until they are ready to receive them, thus avoiding misinterpretation by those exposed to them, and over-load for those not ready for them. The secrecy is not just there to protect the teachings and teacher (this is an important part of it too) but also to protect the student (and especially the non-student).
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Dharmaswede » Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:12 pm

To the great summary of reasons by Greg, I would like to add his:

To me it easily end up a bit like talking about therapy with others who go to therapy. You may learn something very valuable, but then you might also get profoundly confused by comparing your own work, signs, hangups etc. with the other. What looks identical on the surface, might be a mere reflection of something very different on a different level. I.e. fear of leaving the house does not have to be the symptom of social phobia, it could be paranoia or a number of other psychological issues. Also, I have found it very good for me to just focus on keeping up the practice and not think too much about others.

That being said, I too crave very much inspiration, lessons etc. from senior Western students (one of the reasons I am DW). But at this point I feel that it is better to have a little too much secrecy than too little. I try quench my thirst by paying attention to the conclusions and teachings of prominent Western practitioners (Berzin, McLeod etc.).

Very tricky issue!

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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby muni » Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:10 am

Nyima wrote:. Now, I get the whole thing about ego and spiritual materialism, however, at the same time, I think it would be beneficial sometimes to hear at least a little bit about the progress and the experiences that more advanced practitioners have made.



:anjali:


I think you cannot hear at least a bit about the progress and experiences from practicioners. You can hear that a lot. But to hear that from Teachers, is rare. I never heard this. Never a Master said: I have realizations, I know this and that.

The humility, warmth and amazing blessings........., and then I; the most important one as a stinky proud sh't.

May the Teachers help us and remain for our liberation. All of us, dear Nyima.

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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:06 pm

This is a question out of sincere curiosity. Is the secrecy of Vajrayana that it exists as well as about the practices of individuals and their progress? Properly one doesn't reveal a mantra given by a guru either. It is for the student only. So I can understand keeping the practices and one's sadhana and relationship with one's lama secret. But if keeping secrecy in the Vajrayana's very existence, how would one come to learn of it, that it is the path that is right for them? Or is secrecy of Vajrayana's existence not the issue? Or is this a totally nonsensical question? :emb:
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Knotty Veneer » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:22 pm

Secrecy - in addition to Greg's points - also means initiation is required and initiation means that the teacher is able to assess whether someone is suitable for the practice and willing to carry it out and not squander it.

The need for secrecy in recent times has been undermined in some cases by the need to preserve the tradition. An example in point is the movie The Yogis of Tibet which was made with the blessing of senior figures in the Drikung Kagyu lineage. This film shows some of the sprulkhor yoga exercises which previously has been considered extremely secret and only introduced in the the three-year retreat. While I understand the motivation for the making of film was to preserve the yogi tradition, I do wonder if showing these exercises generally will have beneficial effects.

I am sure that some flake will look at the movie and decide that they can do that on their own (along with their Egyptian paganism, Mayan Shamanism and ouija board studies) and injure themselves seriously trying to do vase breathing or jumping into the lotus position.
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby muni » Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:36 pm

Jainarayan wrote:This is a question out of sincere curiosity. Is the secrecy of Vajrayana that it exists as well as about the practices of individuals and their progress? Properly one doesn't reveal a mantra given by a guru either. It is for the student only. So I can understand keeping the practices and one's sadhana and relationship with one's lama secret. But if keeping secrecy in the Vajrayana's very existence, how would one come to learn of it, that it is the path that is right for them? Or is secrecy of Vajrayana's existence not the issue? Or is this a totally nonsensical question?

With respect, Jainarayan,

Everywhere are teaching texts, books, teachings/guidances on youtubes, which are not kept secret and which can invite us to look for a teacher. Maybe it is for own mindfulness and so out of respect and care for all regarding few particular practices, which can bring confusion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHLeG84ZdyY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH9ytQphlJw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxFjmjkeJXM

:smile:
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Re: Secrecy in Vajrayana

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:18 pm

OK, so there is a certain aspect of openness; a line that shouldn't be crossed in keeping certain aspects secret. It's not that Vajrayana exists, but rather what it entails that is to be kept under wraps, if I understand correctly. Thanks for the links, I'll give a look in a little while. :smile:
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