Finding One's Yidam

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Finding One's Yidam

Postby Karma Jinpa » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:50 am

Was wondering what people have heard from their lamas in the various lineages about how one finds the yidam with whom they have a karmic connection. In general I've heard from my lamas that if one has a strong sense of connection or affinity with a particular deity, and it's not just superficial (i.e. based on color, etc.), then go ahead and practice that one. I don't know many people who've been able to participate in a big wangchen and had their guru empower them for whichever deity was indicated by where their flower fell on the mandala. Usually it's left up to us which empowerments to request for when a lama visits on a teaching tour.

What I've always seemed to struggle with---for lack of a better term---is how one reconciles their sense of connection with knowing they have the Samsaric, deluded monkey mind. How do we know that it's not just apophenia at play? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia :shrug:

And, of course, then there's the gentle prodding of history (also mentioned by my lamas) which indicates that many Tibetan practitioners simply take empowerment and practice whichever yidam is given in their area at the local monastery. Perhaps that makes the :quoteunquote: problem of finding a yidam among the host of deities a Western, First World problem since we have such different access to the various practices (and intimate interaction with the lamas, for that matter) than many practitioners in Asia, where it is more formalized and crowds lead to individuals being further removed...
"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, it happens that a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།
ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།


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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby heart » Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:02 am

Somewhere I read that Dzongsar Khyentse said that yidam we have a strong karmic connection with is the one that you get empowerment for over and over again, the one you can't avoid even if you want to and don't consider it very special. :smile:
Personally I think finding the root Guru is a lot more important than finding the yidam deity because anything you receive from someone that really gave you a taste of the natural state will be something very valuable. Like that story with Marpa and Naropa where Naropa manifest the yidam deity in the sky and ask Marpa to bow down to the one that is most important, Marpa bows to the yidam and was scolded by Naropa. In my own experience it takes a lot of time realize the which one is your yidam because it takes a lot of practice to get to the point where you can assess that. I remember asking Chokling Rinpoche what to do about feeling a little bored with practicing the same yidam year after year. He just said Oh,"you have to practice a lot more" and I felt like he just dismissed my question since I spent so many years practicing this yidam. Just the other day I remembered his answer and now I can tell you that Rinpoche's answer completely correct from my own experience.

/magnus
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby michaelb » Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:21 pm

It's tricky. You may want to do a practice because of superficial reasons (you just like the name, or the colour, etc.), or you may want to do it because it's the yidam your lama mainly teaches, or friends have recommended it or sung its praises in some way, or you may want to do it because you have heard it's the best yidam and better than all the others. But who's to say that these causes for you wanting to do it aren't signs of your karmic connection to it?

Generally the advice I have been given is to do the practice that I have the strongest most positive feeling towards. Has this feeling been shaped by superficial considerations, or what other people have said? Maybe. But what else can I go on? Should I wait for a dream or vision or something?
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:56 pm

In my case my teachers sent me to the HYT initiations the first time- because HHDL was giving it. It so happened that this first one I took from HHDL at the request of my teachers was the yidam I have felt the greatest affinity with since. Then, when I met Lama Zopa Rinpoche (who is one of my important teachers, though not main root guru), he gave me a list of three potential yidams, one of which was the one I had already received, and the second one I received the initiation for recently at Sera. The third is for a practice more common in the Sakya and Nyingma traditions so I am waiting awhile to receive it.

So short answer was it seems it was pointed out to me by my teachers, due to them sending me to that empowerment. Then a list of three potentials from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, of which this was one. Then through completing the approximation retreat and fire puja I began to feel closer, and develop a sort of relationship- then I began to feel intuitively that this was my "main" practice.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:43 am

Just start with one. You can switch later. The only problem is if you are always switching.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby Karma Jinpa » Sat Sep 21, 2013 4:30 am

Hopefully it's not the monkey mind jumping from tree to tree, deity to deity. I have come to realize I have more affinity for certain ones than I first recognize (which is also true of some of my most cherished gurus). For instance, when trying to identify which of the Dhyani families I most closely fit in with based on what Chögyam Trungpa had written on the subject, I found myself self-identifying with Vairochana and the Tathagata family. However, having gained a bit of perspective and taken a look at the various practices I hold, it seems that Amitabha and the Padma family are a closer match.

That said, all yidams are ultimately of the same nature and have completely realized the union of wisdom & compassion, so perhaps I'm fixating on something arbitrary due my mind wanting me to fit in a nice little slot that doesn't exist. From my academic work in Religion, including Vajrayana, I know deep down that there aren't really any solid categories and it's all more complex & fluid.

A weird realization I just had is that there are a handful of peaceful deities in Kriya tantra that call out to me, but as far as [semi-]wrathful deities go, only 2 are of any interest in HYT. And there's nothing in between. Curious...
"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, it happens that a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།
ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།


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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:02 am

Atisha famously said "Tibetans practice a hundred deities and accomplish none, whereas Indians practice one deity and accomplish them all".

But I don't think that applies to the beginning of Yidam practice, and to practices that complement each other.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby ngodrup » Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:44 am

Generally speaking, just like yo belong to whichever lineage your root lama does,
you typically will have the same yidam. If your Lama is a Phurba practitioner, guess
what you get to practice! If your Lama practices Chakrasamvara, guess what!

That's not always the case, but if your lineage doesn't have, say for example,
Guhyasamaja, you probably won't be practicing it. You might seek it out,
you might even be advised or encouraged to do so.

Most lineages emphasize one or two or three special deites-- the whole cycle or terma
is built around it-- even if there are hundreds in a particular lineage.
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby heart » Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:53 am

Karma Jinpa wrote:A weird realization I just had is that there are a handful of peaceful deities in Kriya tantra that call out to me, but as far as [semi-]wrathful deities go, only 2 are of any interest in HYT. And there's nothing in between. Curious...


The same deity often exist in various levels of Tantras so I might be a mistake to assign a deity to a certain level of Tantra, this is specially true in the Nyingma.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby Luke » Sat Sep 21, 2013 10:03 am

Sometimes the deity which is chosen for you at random is one you have a special connection with (according to Tibetan beliefs, at least).

Before I left China, a Tibetan Buddhist monk gave each member of my group a small thangka of a deity. It looked like he was just choosing rolled up thangkas at random from the big bag he had them in. He said that we had a special connection to the deity on the thangka we received.

I no longer practice Vajrayana, but this thangka is one of the few which I am not ready to give away yet...

At some Tibetan Buddhist empowerments there is that event in which a lama throws a flower at a picture of the five primordial buddhas and the buddha the flower lands on is the one which the group in attendance has the strongest connection to.

I don't know how significant these random choice events are though...
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby TaTa » Sat Sep 21, 2013 10:31 am

Luke wrote:At some Tibetan Buddhist empowerments there is that event in which a lama throws a flower at a picture of the five primordial buddhas and the buddha the flower lands on is the one which the group in attendance has the strongest connection to.


I think this is done in shingon also.
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby MalaBeads » Sat Sep 21, 2013 12:09 pm

TaTa wrote:
Luke wrote:At some Tibetan Buddhist empowerments there is that event in which a lama throws a flower at a picture of the five primordial buddhas and the buddha the flower lands on is the one which the group in attendance has the strongest connection to.


I think this is done in shingon also.


I've done a version of this - only not as a group. Each practitioner threw their own flower.
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby untxi » Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:14 pm

The proof is really in the practice. We're often exposed to quite a few empowermemts over time. It's a little difficult to try to divine up front what deity we should prqctice from some complex algebra of perceived connection. I find the real proof is in the practice. What really gets you on a cushion? What gets you doing a couple bum of mantras without a second thought? What practice gets you doing the practice enough to go back to the lama again and again with question? Or gets you reading books and.listening to teachings to practice more, deeper, better?

I asked all of my teachers this same question and the general response was: if you want to practice something, then practice it.

I don't think having a particular yidam doesn't neessarily mean you can't and.don't practice other things. If you're Gelug you'll practice Guhysamaja, if you're Sakya you'll practice Hevajra, If you're Kagyu Vajravarahj. At least at some point or for some part of your training. But if Tara is your deity, Tara is your deity.
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby Malcolm » Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:19 pm

Luke wrote:Sometimes the deity which is chosen for you at random is one you have a special connection with (according to Tibetan beliefs, at least).



This is a myth. I have been in Tibetan Buddhism for many, many years. Not once has any teacher every picked out a yidam for me to practice. Yes, it does happen sometimes, but it is not common.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby Malcolm » Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:21 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:
That said, all yidams are ultimately of the same nature and have completely realized the union of wisdom & compassion, so perhaps I'm fixating on something arbitrary due my mind wanting me to fit in a nice little slot that doesn't exist. From my academic work in Religion, including Vajrayana, I know deep down that there aren't really any solid categories and it's all more complex & fluid.
.


Yidams such as Jambhala and so on, other action deities (acton the sense of karma, not kriya) will not produce supreme siddhi.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby Malcolm » Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:22 pm

heart wrote:
Karma Jinpa wrote:A weird realization I just had is that there are a handful of peaceful deities in Kriya tantra that call out to me, but as far as [semi-]wrathful deities go, only 2 are of any interest in HYT. And there's nothing in between. Curious...


The same deity often exist in various levels of Tantras so I might be a mistake to assign a deity to a certain level of Tantra, this is specially true in the Nyingma.

/magnus


It is especially true universally in all four schools.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby heart » Sat Sep 21, 2013 3:08 pm

Malcolm wrote:
heart wrote:
Karma Jinpa wrote:A weird realization I just had is that there are a handful of peaceful deities in Kriya tantra that call out to me, but as far as [semi-]wrathful deities go, only 2 are of any interest in HYT. And there's nothing in between. Curious...


The same deity often exist in various levels of Tantras so I might be a mistake to assign a deity to a certain level of Tantra, this is specially true in the Nyingma.

/magnus


It is especially true universally in all four schools.


I suspected that but was not sure.

/magnus
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby Karma Jinpa » Sat Sep 21, 2013 4:25 pm

untxi wrote:The proof is really in the practice. We're often exposed to quite a few empowermemts over time. It's a little difficult to try to divine up front what deity we should prqctice from some complex algebra of perceived connection. I find the real proof is in the practice. What really gets you on a cushion? What gets you doing a couple bum of mantras without a second thought? What practice gets you doing the practice enough to go back to the lama again and again with question? Or gets you reading books and.listening to teachings to practice more, deeper, better?

I asked all of my teachers this same question and the general response was: if you want to practice something, then practice it.

I don't think having a particular yidam doesn't neessarily mean you can't and.don't practice other things. If you're Gelug you'll practice Guhysamaja, if you're Sakya you'll practice Hevajra, If you're Kagyu Vajravarahj. At least at some point or for some part of your training. But if Tara is your deity, Tara is your deity.


:good:

Very well said. And you're absolutely right; the point is to accomplish the deity, not just feel all tingly inside when you see a statue or thangka. There are a few that inspire my practice.

As for the main yidams in the different schools, did anyone's connection to a deity influence which lineage they got involved in? Personally, I identify as Ka-Nying, and I think Varahi was a strong reason I became involved in Kagyu. That, and most of the lamas I've received teachings from are Kagyupas.
"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, it happens that a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།
ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།


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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat Sep 21, 2013 4:56 pm

Malcolm wrote:I have been in Tibetan Buddhism for many, many years. Not once has any teacher every picked out a yidam for me to practice. Yes, it does happen sometimes, but it is not common.

Is there anything you can say about how you chose your yidam(s)?
ཨོཾ་མ་ཧཱ་ཤུནྱ་ཏཱ་ཛྙཱ་ན་བཛྲ་སྭཱ་བྷཱ་བ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔

The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
- Conze
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Re: Finding One's Yidam

Postby heart » Sat Sep 21, 2013 5:03 pm

Whatever yidam you practice, if you practice it like this it will become your Yidam;

Advice on Yidam Practice

by Khenpo Shenga

At times, chant the mantra while experiencing naturally arising rigpa, a state of wholeness, beyond change or fluctuation, in which all that appears and exists is equality, the pure realm of the dharmakāya.

At times, consider that the lama arises in the form of the yidam. In the confident assurance that the mandala, which is the great display of the Awesome Heruka, is, and always has been, spontaneously perfect, combine deity, mantra and reality itself. Through this, all that appears, all sounds and all thoughts arise as the naturally appearing pure realm of the wrathful deity.

At times, enhance the strength of your practice by meditating on referenceless and unbiased compassion.

Fulfil your commitments by offering tsok and tormas on auspicious days. Make offerings and recite praises to the dharmapālas regularly, and generate heartfelt commitment to the teachings and beings.

Take the oath-bound deities as your servants,
Assign tasks to the gods and demons of phenomenal existence,
Experience both happiness and suffering as the great equalness of single taste,
And blend all changing experience with the dharmakāya.

“I am the great and glorious Heruka!
My food is the life-force of living beings,
My seat, the three worlds and three planes of existence.
I am the Lama. I am the Yidam.
I am Samantabhadra, the mighty Vajradhāra.
Without me, in the time before me,
There was no saṃsāra, no transcendence.
Now, the phenomena of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa
Are all perfect within me, the great Heruka.
The blazing fire mountain is my realm.
The vīras and ḍākinīs are my retinue.
The Great Perfection is my Dharma.
I am the Heruka of equalness and perfection.”

At all times, such pride is necessary.

By Shenphenpa (Khenpo Shenga).

| Translated by Adam Pearcey, Rigpa Translations, 2013.


http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-mas ... e-on-yidam

/magnus
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