Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

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escavetta
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Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by escavetta » Mon Jul 24, 2017 6:55 am

Greetings. I am searching to find the path that is a skillful means for my condition, as I have this feeling like I crave learning (mostly via reading), but have not begun a practice. My stumbling blocks are: my habits are an analytical mind (rather than emotional or devotional), lots of anxiety (social/approval/failure), and general confusion when weighing decisions (which is preventing me from choosing 1 path). I've studied basic Buddhism (Theravada) and general Mahayana, with some short attempts at practicing zazen and Shamata, but I have recently been exposed to Tibetan Buddhism and thinking that its structured approach might help me. However, I feel like I need to select a lineage/school now - I feel drawn to Kagyu or Nyingma, although I have uncertainty why... From what I've read, they are 80% similar, but kagyu emphasises meditation first, sakya and geluk emphasise study, and nyingma emphasise guru devotion.

I'm curious how others have made that first step to selecting a lineage to study/follow?

Which could be more suited to a person who is often 'stuck in their head' due to anxiety issues, or does this matter if the preliminary practices all help get through that?

With thanks in advance!
May all sentient beings be free from suffering.

Miroku
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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by Miroku » Mon Jul 24, 2017 11:00 am

Go with what feels right for you.
I for example received my first teachings from Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche because he was available (via webcast) and I read his books and trusted him as a teacher. Don't go for a lineage go for the teacher! Great lineages have bad teachers, but great teachers have also a very good and stable lineage behind them. :D

Look around, try some local dharma centres and for the time being it wouldnt hurt if you did some basic meditations like 4 mind turnings, basic shamatha to stabilize and maybe take refuge or read sutra or practice 35 confession buddhas. Maybe that will help for the beginning.

Also Kagyu puts strong emphasis on devotion and nyingma on meditation. If you feel drawn in that direction then look around if there are some kagyu/nyingma lamas or centers. :) Maybe try this http://levekunst.com/calling-the-guru-from-afar/.

Sorry that my response is so weird. I had a lot of coffee and my mind is racing too fast for me to catch :lol:
Child, if you are not hypocritical and out of control, that is conduct.
~ Padampa Sangye

You say such clever things to people, but you do not apply them to yourself.
The faults within you are the ones to be exposed.
~ Padampa Sangye

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Wayfarer
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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Jul 24, 2017 11:32 am

HI Escavetta, and welcome to DharmaWheel.

It can be difficult to find a school that you really want to be part of. Maybe, start with what's in your area, what is physically available. Nowadays there's an enormous amount of published information on Dharma available, so it's possible to read a lot about it in the abstract, but I think there are elements or perspectives which really benefit from contact with other practitioners.

SO I would encourage you to look at Dharma centres in your vicinity - hopefully, there are some - and simply go along to some of their talks, meditation sessions, or other events. That would be as good a starting point as any.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by Jeff H » Mon Jul 24, 2017 4:37 pm

I have no idea how to advise someone to choose a tradition. But I share your over-analytical approach to things in general, so I can say that, for me, a structured introduction provided an necessary overview.

For that, I found Geshe Tashi Tsering's Foundations of Buddhist Thought online course through Jamyang Centre to be invaluable. It's a Gelug presentation that nevertheless clearly lays out the essential elements of Tibetan Buddhism.

If you can't afford to take the 2-year course, all six texts are available and you could read them on your own. (I'd personally recommend taking them in the order the 4-month course modules are given: Four Noble Truths; The Two Truths; Buddhist Psychology; Bodhicitta; Emptiness; and Tantra.)

My second piece of advice would be to just get started somewhere and apply yourself. Things are likely to fall into place as you go.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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escavetta
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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by escavetta » Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:28 pm

Miroku wrote:Go with what feels right for you.
I for example received my first teachings from Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche because he was available (via webcast) and I read his books and trusted him as a teacher. Don't go for a lineage go for the teacher! Great lineages have bad teachers, but great teachers have also a very good and stable lineage behind them. :D

Look around, try some local dharma centres and for the time being it wouldnt hurt if you did some basic meditations like 4 mind turnings, basic shamatha to stabilize and maybe take refuge or read sutra or practice 35 confession buddhas. Maybe that will help for the beginning.
Thank you so much for your thoughts and ideas, Miroku! Where I live in Thailand, there are a couple of English language groups, mainly Theravada. Vipassana and Shambala. Perhaps when I move back to North America (eventually), I will have more options to visit in person. :) You definitely inspired me to listen to some of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche's dharma talks, and other teachers rather than try to think it out logically. Thank you much. :namaste:

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escavetta
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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by escavetta » Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:40 pm

Wayfarer wrote:HI Escavetta, and welcome to DharmaWheel.
I would encourage you to look at Dharma centres in your vicinity - hopefully, there are some - and simply go along to some of their talks, meditation sessions, or other events. That would be as good a starting point as any.
Thank you for the welcome! I may need to travel outside of my current city (Bangkok) to find additional English language Mahayana/Vajrayana centres and teachers. In the meanwhile I've been approaching my study mainly via reading, listening to online talks, and making puja at the Thai temples here. Thank you for your thoughts! :namaste:

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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by kirtu » Mon Jul 24, 2017 6:42 pm

escavetta wrote:
I'm curious how others have made that first step to selecting a lineage to study/follow?
This is mostly determined by what is available to you by circumstance and what you feel drawn toward. The best is if you can meet a teacher of any lineage that is right for you.

In Thailand there is Tibetan Buddhism in Bangkok. Maybe now in some other places. However it appears that you are from or will move back to the SF/Bay Area. The Bay Area has all the Buddhism in the world basically so you will have a smörgåsbord laid out for you. If you are going to be in Thailand for < 2 years then I personally would just pursue studying Thai Buddhism (so to be clear, this is not just Theravadin Buddhism, but I am suggesting studying the reliable schools). This will provide you with a solid basis in Buddhism. If you can also travel a bit during this time I would suggest a trip to Japan for exposure to the Japanese schools or to Korea. Then back in the Bay Area you can see what appeals to you (more like, you can make a connection with a good teacher).

Since you are there, if you have the time and money hopefully you can make a short pilgrimage to India, esp. to Bodhgaya.
Which could be more suited to a person who is often 'stuck in their head' due to anxiety issues, or does this matter if the preliminary practices all help get through that?
It depends generally but Metta meditation is probably best. This would usually be the same in Tibetan Buddhism with compassion meditation of various kinds but esp. meditation on Avalokiteshvara.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth."
Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche

Fortyeightvows
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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by Fortyeightvows » Tue Jul 25, 2017 1:44 am

escavetta wrote: in Thailand
Find yourself a good Luang Por!

Anonymous X
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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by Anonymous X » Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:58 am

escavetta wrote: Which could be more suited to a person who is often 'stuck in their head' due to anxiety issues, or does this matter if the preliminary practices all help get through that?
Muay Thai might be suitable for one who is inwardly facing. :shrug:
Nothing wrong with basic Vipassana practice. It can help you relax and center your energy. Plenty of Wats here to help you.

Punya
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Re: Still a beginner... Thoughts on choosing a path

Post by Punya » Tue Jul 25, 2017 9:19 pm

There are many teachings and online study programs available these days, if you are not able to attend a centre in person.

Just to name a few, you could investigate these Tibetan websites and teachers: Tergar (Mingyur Rinpoche), Mangala Shri Bhuti (Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche), Nalanda Bodhi (Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche), Samye Dharma (Phakchok Rinpoche), Shedrub (Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche), Siddhartha's Intent (Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche).

I can also recommend the Foundation of Buddhist Thought course, which is not just suitable for Gelugpa students.

Best wishes for your journey.
We abide nowhere. We possess nothing.
~Chatral Rinpoche

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