Mahamudra in the Modern World

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Mahamudra in the Modern World

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Nov 02, 2015 12:01 am

Thank you for posting this.
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RobertoKhorviano
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Re: Mahamudra in the Modern World

Post by RobertoKhorviano » Mon Nov 09, 2015 9:21 pm

You're welcome.

Anyhow I thought I'll contribute to this discussion some more. I focus on CHNNR and DC but I've been observing Reggie for a while, some of my friends work with his programs and personally I even use some of his techniques and teachings as a supplement. I'm a Dharma newbie so obviously... to anyone encouraged with this post... take this with a grain of salt, please. The techniques that he shares are simple yet very powerful and even early on can produce effects that might be mind-blowing for people with materialistic outlook (for example he says that the heart as an organ has access to information outside the usual frame of reference, and working with it in a somatic way can greatly benefit one's practice of Compassion and Loving Kindness - based on working with his heart opening protocol I can vouch for that). His focus on the somatic work is very good and adresses the issue of people being unbalanced and leaning towards the mind while neglecting the body.

I've noticed that a lot of critique of him appears to be simply baseless:

- For example if one actually listens to his teachings then it's quite clear that he talks about reincarnation and karma and doesn't stray from the presentation of Buddhadharma of these topics.

- I've also noticed that people criticise him for teaching pseudo-Vajrayana without the Guru aspect and all that. That is also not true. In every one of his programs (like Mahamudra for the Modern World, the Tantric Consort etc.), especially at the end, he makes the point of saying that people should treat such a program only as a kind of preparation/Ngondro and that actual journey requires working closely with a Teacher and he suggests that people should look for one. Teaching many advanced things in open way is nothing new nowadays. Also he has many publicly available programs but as far as I know he doesn't discuss Yidam practices or things like Fire Puja in those - seems to be pretty secret about them - yet to my knowledge he teaches these to many of his seasoned students.

- I've noticed that people criticise him for teaching what they deem his imagined version of Vajrayana or Mahamudra and taking it out of the Buddhadharma context. Again this seems to be false. In his publicly available programs he teaches some core aspects of the Hinayana and Mahayana level and requires all people willing to work with him personally to go through a course that resembles CHNNR's SMS or the Shambala Training. The course has levels where people are encouraged to work strictly on Hinayana or Mahayana level practises respecively. He also says that there is no Vajrayana without the Mahayana motivation and that there is no Mahayana without the Hinayana basis and without this basis any desire to help others is just a big egotrip. He teaches the 6 Paramitas (and ocassionaly all 10) in the context of Mahayana etc. His students take the Refuge Vow and the Bodhisattva Vow... Anyhow people interested in this figure (also in criticising him) should look at the outline of the Dharma Ocean training. Here: http://www.dharmaocean.org/meditation/t ... -the-path/ .

- Many people consider him a bit new-agey. Well he is pretty keen on discipline , criticises wishful thinking and actually strips many fantasies that people might have about Dharma (for example saying that taking the Bodhisattva Vow is giving up the rights to your life, or that Dharma is not self-help but actually is designed so that it will completely shatter your samsaric life and undermine your egotrips, that it's not about making you a cheerful idiot but rather about facing the hard facts of suffering and seeing how screwed up we are - pretty strong statements, not even a bit new-agey). He requires his students to do solitary retreats etc.

- People say that he is dismissive of the Asian-Buddhism. Not at all. He just says that Western people shouldn't dress in Tibetan robes and sing liturgies in Tibetan to practice Dharma and shouldn't act like all Tibetan lamas are saints. His critique is aimed at the already existing issue of importing Dharma to the West without making us all into Asians. The whole issue to me looks also like Reggie trying to counter the current of many lamas being xenophobic and treating Westerners like children without really undersanding where the Westerners are coming from. It's the same issue that surrounded the controversies behind the teachings of CTR. Ray also considers Tibetan Vajrayana to be actually pretty sutric in its official presentations. But apart from that he not only holds Chogyam Trungpa but also Masters like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche or Thrangu Rinpoche in great esteem.

- He is criticised for not being part of the Tibetan Buddhist traditional system like the Kagyu school or something. Well Dzogchen Community could be criticised in the same manner.

And he is bashed for the split between Dharma Ocean and Shambala. Dunno much about this. I have one friend who was a practitioner in Shambala at that time (now the friend only works with DC) and says that the schism was very friendly and that Reggie went to Sakyong for a blessing. Anyone knows more?

His message seems to be consistent with Trungpa's teachings. He even uses similar figures of speech often. He's pretty unorthodox in many regards but that's his advantage... not weakness. Many people on this forum talk about Dzogchen teachings transcending cultural trappings in the future, the Dharma spreading to all of our globe... but then go ape-shit at the slightest attempt to be a little less traditional in presenting the Dharma. Also Ray's Teacher Chogyam Trungpa had well-known issues with Tibetan hierarchy and one of Trungpa's teachers (Gangshar) also was controversial among his peers for giving Mahamudra instructions to peasants. So dr Ray seems to be upholding the lineage xD I find this unorthodoxy not threateaning to the core aspects of Dharma (the Dharma) but being helpful in getting through to many Westerners and wouldn't ever consider him to be of the same category as guys like Stephen Batchelor. Actually Reggie Ray seems like a good Teacher to recommend to people who are in love with the likes of Batchelor because he might make them interested in actual Buddhadharma. I like to recommend him to people who I know won't find Dzogchen Community appealing. To people who are looking for some meaning in their lives... but who just no necessarily want to become Buddhists in the traditional sense (here Buddhism =/= Buddhadharma). He's even good to recommend to people who want to just try some meditation - he provides the tools for people who want only that and I've personally observed many guys who were initially chasing after experiences who have been transformed by Reggie's teachings and have developed some renounciation of Samsara (and I know one who got interested in CHNNR's Teachings in the process). So his unique style makes it a kind of partisan-Dharma x) And well - he both can use a very simple, clear American English to present his message but at the same time he can use this brilliant, sophisticated language of academia. To his credit I'd add that he shares is heart with his students and shares his personal experience and his own shortcomings (even invites his students to criticise him openly), is good about indenftifying obstacles that people have and is very good at reading people.

And well - yes he's not a Buddhist purist in the sense that he to large extent acknowledges non-Buddhist traditions as valid paths (though he criticises Protestant mentality, the notion of original sin as damaging to society and one best combated with the notion of Basic Goodness, also criticises Christians for wanting to help people and being wannabe-bodhisattvwas without having the insights of Hinayana). I can see how that might be a problem for many.

In the end this post might look like me playing devil's advocate here. Might be. I'm looking forward to any critique of Reggie and I'm interested in how this discussion might unfold.

Also - a quote of his which adresses his controversial side:
...part of our generosity is not being uptight, rigid Buddhists. Now this may and often does come as a dissapointing step in the Path because many of us have spent years reading these Dharma books (...) and you can go into any situation, and you can see your family or (...) talk to a class or whatever. And you know the language, you know the concepts, you know how to present it, you understand Buddhism and now in some sense you have to actually let all of that go, and you have to have confidence that Dharma is in you enough so you can use other people's language and not be trapped by your way of looking at things. (...)if you're going to make bridges to other people, you have to extend and you have to be willing to read situations and see how you're going to get through to somebody else. As a good Hinayana practitioner it's okay to be dogmatic and somewhat doctrinal and somewhat rigid, that's ok. But when you enter the Mahayana Path you have to really be willing to be incredibly flexible. Your Dharma Brothers and Sisters will criticise you because of what you do. If you're not criticised by your more conservative Brothers and Sisters then you're probably not extending yourself enough. You're probably playing it safe and that's not generosity.

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Re: Mahamudra in the Modern World

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:17 pm

I'm not sure what my full opinion of him is, but:

1) I too have found some of his stuff quite valuable - Touching Enlightenment was a fantastic read, and valuable to my practice.

2) Anyone who thinks he is a secular Buddhist, denies reincarnation, etc. simply isn't very familiar with his writings, as simply reading Indestructible Truth or one of his other books would get rid of that notion right away. He may not have a 'traditional' presentation, but as far as I can tell, he is "traditional" (maybe 'serious' is a better word) in some fairly important ways. He is Trungpa's student after all, i'm not sure what people expect.
- Many people consider him a bit new-agey.
I think this is a function of how he writes/talks, rather than the deeper content of what he is saying..I couldn't stand the first few pages of Touching Enlightenment as I found his style kind of cloying and new agey..over time I realize the book was important enough that my discomfort at his new-agey language was probably worth getting past.

That said, I've noticed that often some people gravitate towards a fully "modern" way of speaking and presentation, and others gravitate towards something fully traditional, personally I think that sometimes Buddhist teachers say the same things in radically different ways, but it's always easier to criticize style than anything else.
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