Question for Esoteric Buddhists

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Yuren
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Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Yuren » Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:28 am

This is for Esoteric Buddhists, those of you who follow Vajrayana, be it Tibetan or Shingon or other sects. In your school there are secret Dharma teachings that only the initiated can receive from a Guru. My question is, how does your tradition interpret these passages from the Nikayas:

Three things shine openly, not in secret. What three? The orb of the moon, the orb of the sun and the Dhamma and discipline taught by the Tathàgata (Anguttara Nikaya I. 283).

I have proclaimed the Dhamma without any idea of a hidden and open teaching. I do not have the closed fist of the teacher who holds anything back (Digha Nikaya II. 100).

Thanks.

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Grigoris » Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:34 am

You are a Vajrayana practitioner Yuren?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Yuren
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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Yuren » Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:35 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:You are a Vajrayana practitioner Yuren?
Why do you ask?

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Grigoris » Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:45 am

To ascertain your motivation/intention for asking the question and to gauge your level of understanding of the Vajrayana in order to answer you properly.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

Alfredo
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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Alfredo » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:21 pm

Oh come on, humor him.

The truth is, the Pali canon is not much read in traditional Mahayana circles. If some lama were shown this text, he might explain it as an example of upaya (skillful means), i.e. the principle that the Buddha taught lower teachings for the benefit of those who were not ready for the higher ones.

The fact that the Pali canon would refer to supposedly secret teachings, if only to reject them, indicates that there were in fact ancient traditions of "esoteric" Buddhism, as you put it.
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Andrew108
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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Andrew108 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:26 pm

Yes as Alfredo said. Some teachings are kept secret because perhaps the students would freak out and start quoting doctrine. Teachings such as there is no cause and effect. No Buddhahood. No path. Those types of teachings.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Mkoll » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:28 pm

Yuren wrote:
Sherab Dorje wrote:You are a Vajrayana practitioner Yuren?
Why do you ask?
Yuren says "your tradition" in his first post so one would assume he doesn't practice "your tradition" but "his tradition". If he does in fact practice Vajrayana, then he would be disingenuous in using those words.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Andrew108 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:33 pm

Mkoll wrote:
Yuren wrote:
Sherab Dorje wrote:You are a Vajrayana practitioner Yuren?
Why do you ask?
Yuren says "your tradition" in his first post so one would assume he doesn't practice "your tradition" but "his tradition". If he does in fact practice Vajrayana, then he would be disingenuous in using those words.
Chill out. Let him ask.
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Grigoris » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:35 pm

Mkoll wrote:
Yuren wrote:
Sherab Dorje wrote:You are a Vajrayana practitioner Yuren?
Why do you ask?
Yuren says "your tradition" in his first post so one would assume he doesn't practice "your tradition" but "his tradition". If he does in fact practice Vajrayana, then he would be disingenuous in using those words.
Not really, they could be a Shinto practitioner posting in the Tibetan Buddhist section of the forum looking for a TB explanation of the passages.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Mkoll » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:37 pm

Touched a nerve have I, Andrew?

:popcorn:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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ratna
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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by ratna » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:42 pm

Yuren wrote: I have proclaimed the Dhamma without any idea of a hidden and open teaching. I do not have the closed fist of the teacher who holds anything back (Digha Nikaya II. 100).
From the Abhaya Sutta in the Pali Canon:
[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."
Here, the Buddha describes situations (2 and 3) in which he would avoid giving certain teachings to certain people or on certain occasions. This doesn't only concern esoteric teachings -- teachings on emptiness, for example, frightened the Arhats, as described in the Mahayana Sutras. So, not holding anything back clearly doesn't mean that he would have taught everything to every disciple.

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Yuren » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:57 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:To ascertain your motivation/intention for asking the question and to gauge your level of understanding of the Vajrayana in order to answer you properly.
Makes sense. Thank you for explaining. I am not a Vajrayana practitioner. I study Mahayana mostly. That's what I'm most familiar with. My motivation for the thread is a desire to understand your tradition better.

I find that the best way to understand traditions is to compare them to the early stuff, to what's in the Nikayas.

(I'm not implying the Nikayas are the only true and original Buddhism. Not at all. It's just a kind of a base, a foundation. To point the differences seems to be a good first step towards understanding.)

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Yuren » Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:09 pm

ratna wrote:
Yuren wrote: I have proclaimed the Dhamma without any idea of a hidden and open teaching. I do not have the closed fist of the teacher who holds anything back (Digha Nikaya II. 100).
From the Abhaya Sutta in the Pali Canon:
[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."
Here, the Buddha describes situations (2 and 3) in which he would avoid giving certain teachings to certain people or on certain occasions. This doesn't only concern esoteric teachings -- teachings on emptiness, for example, frightened the Arhats, as described in the Mahayana Sutras. So, not holding anything back clearly doesn't mean that he would have taught everything to every disciple.
But is holding back the same as denying something?

For instance, Buddha left some questions unanswered: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_unanswered_questions" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Leaving something unanswered seems like a more skillful way ... especially if you're going to reveal it later, to some other (more advanced?) folks.

For instance, when the Buddha is asked about the existence of self in the Pali Canon, he remains silent. In my original quotes though, the Buddha doesn't remain silent. He explicitly says there is no open and secret. And that he has no secret Dharma. And that the Dharma is open and available to everyone. - This is what I'm struggling with. Again, I'm not trying to provoke or create controversy. I just want to understand how you Vajrayana folks deal with this apparent inconsistency.

I hope it's not wrong or inappropriate to ask about this. Google didn't help me find a good answer.

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by ratna » Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:15 pm

Yuren wrote: For instance, when the Buddha is asked about the existence of self in the Pali Canon, he remains silent. In my original quotes though, the Buddha doesn't remain silent. He explicitly says there is no open and secret. And that he has no secret Dharma.

This is what I'm struggling with.
My point is that, as the quote from the Abhaya Sutta shows, the Teacher wouldn't necessarily teach everything to everyone, but to each according to his capacity. If, for example, a person would not be receptive to the teaching of the four foundations of mindfulness, He would teach something else, such as loving-kindness (as e.g. to the Kalamas). That doesn't mean he "held back" the teachings on mindfulness or kept them "secret", just that they were not the most beneficial teachings for the person. Similarly, common Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings were in fact not held back or kept secret from the appropriate recipients. Hence, there is no contradiction.

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Mkoll » Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:31 pm

ratna wrote:My point is that, as the quote from the Abhaya Sutta shows, the Teacher wouldn't necessarily teach everything to everyone, but to each according to his capacity. If, for example, a person would not be receptive to the teaching of the four foundations of mindfulness, He would teach something else, such as loving-kindness (as e.g. to the Kalamas). That doesn't mean he "held back" the teachings on mindfulness or kept them "secret", just that they were not the most beneficial teachings for the person. Similarly, common Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings were in fact not held back or kept secret from the appropriate recipients. Hence, there is no contradiction.
Who were those recipients according to tradition?
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by DGA » Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:31 pm

Different schools will give different scriptural & doctrinal bases for the use of esoteric methods (whether all these are "Vajrayana" is not something everyone agrees on). In Tendai-shu, of course, everything returns to the Lotus Sutra, which also has a few things to say about skillful means & how to relate to those who are committed to the shravaka path.

relevant:
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 37&start=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by ratna » Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:33 pm

Mkoll wrote:Who were those recipients according to tradition?
The requester and audience of the teachings are described at the beginning of every Sutra and Tantra.

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by dzogchungpa » Thu Jul 10, 2014 2:55 pm

ratna wrote:
Mkoll wrote:Who were those recipients according to tradition?
The requester and audience of the teachings are described at the beginning of every Sutra and Tantra.
An example from the Guhyasamaja:
Thus have I heard: once the Blessed One was dwelling in the vagina of the Vajra Consort of the Essence of the Body, Speech and Mind of all the Tathagatas. With him were Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas as many as the specks of dust in the Sumeru Mountains of Buddha-lands entirely beyond expression -- the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas Vajra Samaya, Vajra Body, Vajra Speech, Vajra Mind, Vajra Samadhi, Vajra Victory, Vaja Earth, Vajra Water, Vajra Fire, Vajra Air , Vajra Space, Vajra Form, Vajra Sound, Vajra Smell, Vajra Taste, Vajra Touch, Vajra Thought and so on, as many as the specks of dust in the Sumeru Mountains of Buddha-lands entirely beyond expression; and Tathagatas pervading the realm of space -- the Tathagatas Vajra Aksobhya, Vajra Vairocana, Vajra Ratnaketu, Vajra Amitabha, Vajra Amoghasiddhi and so on, pervading the whole realm of space, all together, so that the whole realm of space completely filled with Tathagatas appeared like a sesamum-seed.
(Fremantle translation)
Everything is divided
Nothing is complete
Everything looks impressive
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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Grigoris » Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:17 pm

Let's say you are a high school physics student. Would you have access to the CERN facilities? Let's say you did have access to the CERN facilities and you even had a users manual, without the help of the scientists at CERN and the staff would you be able to use the machinery or even begin to make heads or tails of the manual? And even if you were to get it started, what do you think would happen?

That is how secrecy works in the Vajrayana too.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Question for Esoteric Buddhists

Post by Konchog1 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 6:18 pm

Two possibilities

1. Shakyamuni is referring to Theravada teachings

or

2. Tantra is not held back. Ask and you're taught. My reading of the passage is that the Buddha is saying he doesn't know something and not teach it.
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