Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

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KiwiNFLFan
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Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Wed May 15, 2019 2:37 pm

This may seem a dumb question, but do Bodhisattvas, Dharma Protectors, non-historical Buddhas like Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha actually "exist"? What I mean is, is there an actual being called Avalokiteshvara out there somewhere, presumably in a non-corporeal form, who listens to the cries of the world and helps those who call upon Him/Her? Or are they simply archetypes, or a way of focusing our own mental energy so that we are the one who brings about the result of what we prayed to Avalokiteshvara for?

I've heard some western Shin Buddhists claim that Amitabha is a real Buddha but is a "symbol of the Dharmakaya" or something nebulous like that. This has resulted in certain groups and temples that call themselves "true Shin Buddhists". But is such an interpretation common in East Asia, or is it solely a result of Pure Land Buddhism encountering Western skepticism/secularism?

Also, does this vary across schools of Mahayana Buddhism? Are some schools more likely to say that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are real, while others are not? I remember an SGI friend in New Zealand saying that the Bodhisattvas in the Lotus Sutra are somehow symbolic and not real, but I can't remember exactly what he said so I'm not sure.

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Astus » Wed May 15, 2019 3:11 pm

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 2:37 pm
do Bodhisattvas, Dharma Protectors, non-historical Buddhas like Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha actually "exist"?
Yes, although calling them "non-historical" is questionable.
What I mean is, is there an actual being called Avalokiteshvara out there somewhere, presumably in a non-corporeal form, who listens to the cries of the world and helps those who call upon Him/Her?
Yes, but only beings in the formless realms have no body.
Also, does this vary across schools of Mahayana Buddhism? Are some schools more likely to say that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are real, while others are not?
People accustomed to a materialist view have trouble dealing with some basic parts of Buddhism. Nevertheless, even if somebody cannot yet accept a different view and needs think of them as symbols, just by appreciating the symbolism there is a connection.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

Simon E.
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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Simon E. » Wed May 15, 2019 3:57 pm

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 2:37 pm
This may seem a dumb question, but do Bodhisattvas, Dharma Protectors, non-historical Buddhas like Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha actually "exist"? What I mean is, is there an actual being called Avalokiteshvara out there somewhere, presumably in a non-corporeal form, who listens to the cries of the world and helps those who call upon Him/Her? Or are they simply archetypes, or a way of focusing our own mental energy so that we are the one who brings about the result of what we prayed to Avalokiteshvara for?

I've heard some western Shin Buddhists claim that Amitabha is a real Buddha but is a "symbol of the Dharmakaya" or something nebulous like that. This has resulted in certain groups and temples that call themselves "true Shin Buddhists". But is such an interpretation common in East Asia, or is it solely a result of Pure Land Buddhism encountering Western skepticism/secularism?

Also, does this vary across schools of Mahayana Buddhism? Are some schools more likely to say that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are real, while others are not? I remember an SGI friend in New Zealand saying that the Bodhisattvas in the Lotus Sutra are somehow symbolic and not real, but I can't remember exactly what he said so I'm not sure.
I think your apostrophes around the word “exist” points to the fact that you have intuited the answer in general terms.
I think we want to avoid both a secularist and a fundamentalist view here. :smile:
I was present when someone asked this question of Chime Rinpoche.
“They are as real as you are” he replied.
His answer was much more ambiguous than it might at first appear.
I know nothing. This is not false modesty.

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by SunWuKong » Wed May 15, 2019 4:54 pm

Some people consider these to be just like religious baggage, akin to a tendency towards theism. I suppose one could argue that Bodhisattvas like Avalokitesvara, Kuan Yin, Kannon aren't "real" but who is to say "arhats" are real either? Or that a "historical Buddha" is real? Maybe everything is just a misguided misinterpretation. What one can prove, as a certainty, is very little indeed. So maybe you either blindly follow the teacher, or follow what works for you, I tend towards the latter. I would think that profound stillness and silence, if one can, resolves questions. If Liberation itself is not first.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by smcj » Wed May 15, 2019 6:23 pm

Some people consider these to be just like religious baggage, akin to a tendency towards theism.
Personally I argue that resistance to acceptance of the reality (as opposed to “existence”) of Sambogakaya buddhas is our baggage.

I guess it depends on your perspective.
1. No traditional Buddhist sect, Tibetan or otherwise, considers deities to be fictional. (DW post/Seeker242)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post/by ?)
4. Shentong] is the completely pure system that,
Through mainly teaching the luminous aspect of the mind, holds that the fruitions--kayas and wisdoms--exist on their own accord. (Karmapa XIII)

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Sentient Light » Wed May 15, 2019 6:25 pm

I can give you a personal anecdote I've shared a few times. It may be nothing at all, but it remains in my mind the most significant spiritual experience(s) of my life.

Despite being raised in a Pure Land/Thien environment, I did not believe in Amitabha for much of my life. I liked Pure Land recitation practices because they were familiar, but I always took a materialist bent to mind-only doctrines. Then my great grandmother--the woman who raised me--passed away in 2014. We went to her funeral, which was a powerful experience in and of itself, and then life resumed. During the 49 day interim, we're supposed to cultivate merit and dedicate it to my grandmother, which my family... well, we did it on weekends. But anyway, I wasn't keeping track of how much time was passing, because my family wasn't that devout.

One night, I had a dream, easily more vivid than any dream I've ever had in my life, and all my senses were telling me this experience was more "real", more "solid", than waking life. I was floating through a fog of purple clouds, and then earth and water appeared below me from horizon to horizon. I think there was a river or a waterfall, and the rest was just a forest of trees. In the center, towering high above the trees, was a golden Buddha standing tall. He stretched out his hand and I flew down to his palm--I was scarcely larger than the ridges of his fingerprints--and he looked down at me and smiled. Then I woke up, and I had a text from my mom telling me it was my grandmother's 49 day ceremony and to come home that morning.

So I think, whatever it means to exist, Amitabha surely exists. Because I was not aware it was the 49th day when I had that dream, and I didn't even believe Amitabha existed before that happened, and it seems to be pretty clearly that I was being given a message to pass on to the rest of my family: my grandmother has been reborn in Sukhavati.
:buddha1: Nam mô A di đà Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Quan Thế Âm Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Đại Thế Chi Bồ Tát :bow:

:buddha1: Nam mô Bổn sư Thích ca mâu ni Phật :buddha1:
:bow: Nam mô Di lặc Bồ tát :bow:
:bow: Nam mô Địa tạng vương Bồ tát :bow:

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by smcj » Wed May 15, 2019 6:29 pm

....and it seems to be pretty clearly that I was being given a message to pass on to the rest of my family: my grandmother has been reborn in Sukhavati.
:bow: to your grandmother.
1. No traditional Buddhist sect, Tibetan or otherwise, considers deities to be fictional. (DW post/Seeker242)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post/by ?)
4. Shentong] is the completely pure system that,
Through mainly teaching the luminous aspect of the mind, holds that the fruitions--kayas and wisdoms--exist on their own accord. (Karmapa XIII)

joy&peace
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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by joy&peace » Thu May 16, 2019 12:59 am

Yes. Pretty good question as it gets us talking about it. Faith and belief are important questions. Should we have it? How much? And in what? Pretty important. Check out Shinran's writing on it.

'No-doubt mind' is fascinating.
("Of the various interpretations by Shinran, his psychological interpretation defines Faith as 'No-doubt mind,' 'Un-double-mindedness,' 'One Mind,' or 'Single-heartedness.'")
http://www.nembutsu.info/standard/nature_faith.htm

Faith is esp. important in Pure Land because it is based on Amida's vow.

Shinran understands it as "three minds,"
Sincere mind, then, is the mind that is the seed of sincerity, the kernel of truth. It is therefore altogether free of doubt. Entrusting is the mind full of truth, reality, and sincerity, the mind of ultimacy, accomplishment, reliance, and reverence; the mind of aspiration, desire, discernment, and distinctness; the mind of happiness, joy, and gladness. It is therefore altogether free of doubt. Aspiration for birth is the mind of desire and wish, the mind of awakening, knowing, completion, and establishment. Thus, these three minds are all true and real and completely free of doubt. Because they are free of doubt, they are the mind that is single.

Such are the literal meanings of these characters. You should consider them carefully.

Further, to consider the three minds, the first is sincere mind. This is the true and real mind that perfectly embodies and fully possesses the Tathagata’s consummate virtues. Amida Tathagata gives to all these true and real virtues [of sincere mind]; this is the significance of the Name being the essence of sincere mind. By contrast, the sentient beings of the ten quarters are utterly evil and defiled and completely lack a mind of purity. Being false and poisoned, they lack a true and real mind. Thus, for the Tathagata, when performing practices as a bodhisattva in the stage leading to Buddhahood, there was not a single moment – not an instant – in his endeavor in the three modes of action when his heart was not pure, true, and real. The Tathagata directs this pure, true mind to all sentient beings.

The Larger Sutra states:

No thought of greed, anger, or harmfulness arose in his mind; he cherished no impulse of greed, anger, or harmfulness. He did not cling to objects of perception – color, sound, smell, taste. Abounding in perseverance, he gave no thought to the suffering to be endured. He was content with few desires, and without greed, anger, and folly.
Always tranquil in a state of samadhi, he possessed wisdom that knew no impediment. He was free of all thought of falsity or deception. Gentle in countenance and loving in speech, he perceived people’s thoughts and was attentive to them. He was full of courage and vigor, and being resolute in his acts, knew no fatigue. Seeking solely that which was pure and undefiled, he brought benefit to all beings. He revered the three treasures and served his teachers and elders. He fulfilled all the various kinds of practices, embellishing himself with great adornments, and brought all sentient beings to the attainment of virtues.

From these sacred words we know clearly that this first mind is the Tathagata’s sincere mind, pure and vast. It is “true and real mind.” Because sincere mind is none other than the mind of great compassion, it is completely free of doubt.

Second is entrusting. The essence of entrusting is none other than the true and real mind. But the multitudes of beings in their bondage – foolish beings in defilement – completely lack pure shinjin, shinjin that is true and real. Because of this, it is hard to encounter the true and real virtue, hard to realize entrusting that is pure. Hence, as is explained in Shan-tao’s commentary, thoughts of desire arise constantly to defile any goodness of heart; the flames of anger and hatred in the mind consume the dharma-treasure. Even if one strives to the utmost with body and mind through the twelve periods of the day and night, and however importunate one’s action and practice may be, as though sweeping fire away from one’s head, it must all be called poisoned good acts, or empty, transitory, and false practices. It cannot be called true, real, and sincere action. Though one may direct the merit of such poisoned good toward birth in the Pure Land, it is of no avail. Why? Because when the Tathagata was performing practices as a bodhisattva, every single moment – every single instant – was filled with his practices in the three modes of action performed with a true and real mind. Hence, they were completely free of doubt. And the Tathagata directs this joyful trust that is pure, true, and real to all sentient beings.
The passage on the fulfillment of the Primal Vow in the sutra states:

All sentient beings, as they hear the Name, realize even one thought-moment of shinjin and joy….

With these sacred words we know clearly that this second mind – because of the Primal Vow – is entrusting that is pure, true, real, and perfect. It is shinjin. Shinjin, because it is none other than the mind of great compassion, is altogether free of doubt.

Third is the aspiration for birth. The essence of aspiration for birth is none other than pure, true, and real shinjin. But foolish beings transmigrating in samsara – multitudes passing many lives through long kalpas – lack the pure mind of directing merits toward attaining enlightenment and toward all beings, the true and real mind of directing merit. Thus, while the Tathagata was performing practices as a bodhisattva in the stage leading to Buddhahood, there was not a single moment – not an instant – in his endeavor in the three modes of action when he did not realize the mind of great compassion, taking the directing of his virtue to beings as foremost. Hence the Tathagata directs this pure, true, and real mind of aspiration for birth to all sentient beings.
The passage on the fulfillment of the Primal Vow in the sutra states:

[Through being] directed to them from Amida’s sincere mind, and aspiring to be born in that land, they then attain birth and dwell in the stage of non-retrogression.

With these sacred words we know clearly that this third mind arises as the call by which the great compassion of the Tathagata summons all sentient beings. The aspiration for birth that is great compassion – this is true directing of virtue.

Since these three minds are all directed to beings by the mind of great compassion they are pure, true, and real, and completely free of doubt. Hence they are the mind that is single.
http://shinranworks.com/the-major-expos ... d-answers/
Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate bodhi svaha

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Thu May 16, 2019 4:51 am

Astus wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 3:11 pm
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 2:37 pm
do Bodhisattvas, Dharma Protectors, non-historical Buddhas like Amitabha and the Medicine Buddha actually "exist"?
Yes, although calling them "non-historical" is questionable.
What I mean is, is there an actual being called Avalokiteshvara out there somewhere, presumably in a non-corporeal form, who listens to the cries of the world and helps those who call upon Him/Her?
Yes, but only beings in the formless realms have no body.
Also, does this vary across schools of Mahayana Buddhism? Are some schools more likely to say that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are real, while others are not?
People accustomed to a materialist view have trouble dealing with some basic parts of Buddhism. Nevertheless, even if somebody cannot yet accept a different view and needs think of them as symbols, just by appreciating the symbolism there is a connection.
By 'non-historical', I meant that they don't appear in the history of this current age. Dharmakara Bodhisattva, who became Amitabha Buddha, lived over 60 billion years ago, before the Big Bang, so there won't be any record of Him existing as a real person in this current age. Rev. Kasahara Taijun states in this video that Amitabha is not a historical person.

So if only beings in the formless realms have no body, then do Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Ksitigarbha etc have some form of body, even if it isn't the flesh and blood body of a human being?

The reason I asked about different schools is because I listened to a Dharma talk by a Buddhist in America who practices a form of Korean Buddhism called Won Buddhism (Circle Buddhism). He was talking about the Heart Sutra and sunyata, and said that Avalokiteshvara is the symbol or "emoji" of compassion. But then Won Buddhism doesn't practice praying to Bodhisattvas or Buddhas.

Also, is it okay for Mahayana Buddhists to pray to Buddhas/Bodhisattvas for help with day-to-day problems, the way Christians or Hindus pray to their God(s)?

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by smcj » Thu May 16, 2019 5:40 am

Also, is it okay for Mahayana Buddhists to pray to Buddhas/Bodhisattvas for help with day-to-day problems, the way Christians or Hindus pray to their God(s)?
Green Tara is specifically appropriate for this type of prayer.
1. No traditional Buddhist sect, Tibetan or otherwise, considers deities to be fictional. (DW post/Seeker242)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post/by ?)
4. Shentong] is the completely pure system that,
Through mainly teaching the luminous aspect of the mind, holds that the fruitions--kayas and wisdoms--exist on their own accord. (Karmapa XIII)

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Astus
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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Astus » Thu May 16, 2019 8:04 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 4:51 am
So if only beings in the formless realms have no body, then do Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Ksitigarbha etc have some form of body, even if it isn't the flesh and blood body of a human being?
Bodhisattvas, similarly to other beings, are reborn in the three realms. The difference between the rebirth of noble (awakened) and ordinary beings is that the former is not driven by afflictions but by compassion and vows.
Also, is it okay for Mahayana Buddhists to pray to Buddhas/Bodhisattvas for help with day-to-day problems, the way Christians or Hindus pray to their God(s)?
Of course.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Simon E. » Thu May 16, 2019 8:25 am

Astus wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 8:04 am
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 4:51 am
So if only beings in the formless realms have no body, then do Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Ksitigarbha etc have some form of body, even if it isn't the flesh and blood body of a human being?
Bodhisattvas, similarly to other beings, are reborn in the three realms. The difference between the rebirth of noble (awakened) and ordinary beings is that the former is not driven by afflictions but by compassion and vows.
Also, is it okay for Mahayana Buddhists to pray to Buddhas/Bodhisattvas for help with day-to-day problems, the way Christians or Hindus pray to their God(s)?
Of course.
This is not inaccurate, but is a literalist interpretation and is not taught by all Vajrayana teachers.Including some who are seen as being by and large “traditional”. But if the mythos serves as a skilful means for you...then why not?
I know nothing. This is not false modesty.

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Astus
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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Astus » Thu May 16, 2019 10:21 am

£$&^@ wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 8:25 am
is a literalist interpretation and is not taught by all Vajrayana teachers.
What part is not taught? That bodhisattvas are born in samsara, that the birth of arya bodhisattvas is different from ordinary beings, or that it is OK to pray to them?
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Simon E. » Thu May 16, 2019 10:38 am

I think I have made my views clear. :smile:
I know nothing. This is not false modesty.

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by seeker242 » Thu May 16, 2019 11:54 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 4:51 am

I listened to a Dharma talk by a Buddhist in America who practices a form of Korean Buddhism called Won Buddhism (Circle Buddhism). He was talking about the Heart Sutra and sunyata, and said that Avalokiteshvara is the symbol or "emoji" of compassion. But then Won Buddhism doesn't practice praying to Bodhisattvas or Buddhas.
That does not have to be the case. Just because something is a symbol, doesn't mean it's not real. Avalokiteshvara being the symbol of compassion does not mean that Avalokiteshvara is not real, just like Martin Luther Kind being a symbol of civil rights, does not mean Martin Luther king is not real. Avalokiteshvara is considered to be both real, as well as a symbol of compassion.
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Simon E. » Thu May 16, 2019 12:27 pm

Which brings us back to a definition of “real”.

To quote Chime Rinpoche once more “ they are as real as you are”. Which from one perspective is not very “real” at all.

I think we need to avoid saying that Avalokiteshvara (for example) is MORE real than we are. To do so skirts dangerously close to something more akin to Hindudharma than to Buddhadharma,
I know nothing. This is not false modesty.

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Dechen Norbu » Thu May 16, 2019 1:07 pm

All kinds of problems start when we assume there's a reality out there that exists on its own and we're just here observing it, having no participatory role in it.

How were things before we observed them? How were things if we take space, time and matter as absolutes? How are things without US?
How were things under a God like view? By knowing His Creation, we shall know Him. That's how science started.
Then God got dumped. Yet, his Creation remained, with us looking at it. This is realism.

So yes, under a certain mode of inquiry, all that science uncovers is true. However, under the inquiry of an enlightened mind, 2500 years ago, reality WAS different.
Knower, process of knowing and known. All three. You take one out, the others make no sense.

This is why it is said in the Mahayana that reality is like a dream. This is why in Dzogchen, from rigpa's perspective, reality is a dream. Not from sentient beings perspective. All appearances form from karma and the karma we share allows the appearances we share to be interdependent, like a shared dream, different from the dreams we create while asleep, them too arising from karmic imprints stored in substrate consciousness, but subjective, monodependent instead of interdependent.

While this is known just intellectually, it borders insanity. It can be accepted or rejected.
Listening, contemplating and meditating serve to make this lived, direct knowledge, wisdom through insight. This is the only goal of Dharma. All the rest comes with it.
Last edited by Dechen Norbu on Thu May 16, 2019 1:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Simon E. » Thu May 16, 2019 1:18 pm

Aye.
I know nothing. This is not false modesty.

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by smcj » Thu May 16, 2019 1:36 pm

When it is said that a deity “is the nature of your mind” I think it important to emphasize that “the nature of your mind” is something initially hidden or unknown to us. Therefore the deity, for all intents and purposes, seems foreign, “other”. It is outside our present experience. We should not retreat into the mistaken safety (false refuge) of believing that it fits into what is already familiar to us.

In the lower tantras the deity is clearly outside. However even so the benefits of such practices are inside. The analogy I’ve heard is that the deity is the light switch but you are the lightbulb. Who wouldn’t want to flip that switch?
1. No traditional Buddhist sect, Tibetan or otherwise, considers deities to be fictional. (DW post/Seeker242)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post/by ?)
4. Shentong] is the completely pure system that,
Through mainly teaching the luminous aspect of the mind, holds that the fruitions--kayas and wisdoms--exist on their own accord. (Karmapa XIII)

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Re: Do Bodhisattvas and non-historical Buddhas "exist"?

Post by Dechen Norbu » Thu May 16, 2019 2:04 pm

smcj wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 1:36 pm
When it is said that a deity “is the nature of your mind” I think it important to emphasize that “the nature of your mind” is something initially hidden or unknown to us. Therefore the deity, for all intents and purposes, seems foreign, “other”. It is outside our present experience. We should not retreat into the mistaken safety (false refuge) of believing that it fits into what is already familiar to us.

In the lower tantras the deity is clearly outside. However even so the benefits of such practices are inside. The analogy I’ve heard is that the deity is the light switch but you are the lightbulb. Who wouldn’t want to flip that switch?
The reason for that is that the practitioner lacks meditative stability and insight into emptiness, so all he can do is visualize the deity outside. If he starts practicing generation/ completion without these pre requisites, he will have to develop them during the generation stage, which is hard. Possible? Yes, no question. Done many times? That too. Feasible in a typical western (ized) way of life? Unlikely.
The essence of the generation stage is to recognize all appearances as the deity, all sounds as the mantra, and all thoughts as the dharmakaya. Recognizing, not pretending. Otherwise it's just like sprinkling a turd with icing sugar and calling it a delicious chocolate cake. It's not. It's a turd with a topping. So, if the practitioner doesn't have significant inside into emptiness or stability to keep effortlessly a continuous visualization of the deities and the mandala, how can he dissolve into emptiness, arise as the deity out of emptiness and generate the mandala, if his vision is completely impure? That would amount to forcing his self perception of a sentient being to be equated to a buddha and his superficial fabrication of pure vision to actual pure vision, the same as calling a dressed turd chocolate cake. So, to immature practitioners or those endowed with less capabilites, the practice of lower tantras is actually much more beneficial. Although the switch is outside, the bulb is the practitioner. Very cool analogy.

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