A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

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tomdzogchen27
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A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by tomdzogchen27 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:58 am

Hi there,

I am aware that there are many practices that require from specific empowerments, face-to-face teaching/transmission and a relationship with your guru. But I also heard the Dalai Lama say that now was an age where "secrecy was over". I know that a lot of these teachings are available nowadays through videos, books, online courses, etc.

With platforms such as the Wisdom Experience, which has thousands of hours worth of material (including advanced Dzogchen teachings) and with the existence of forums, extensive Q&A's online on all sorts of topics, facebook groups, and so on, do you believe that we are approaching an age where you will be able to receive teachings without the need of a personal relationship with a guru, or do you believe this model is absolutely necessary for Tibetan Buddhism to keep on going? I am asking this for mainly for 2 reasons:

1. I am currently following Tergar's model, with Mingyur Rinpoche, who I like and admire. But the need for retreats that are way more expensive than I can manage makes it hard to receive advanced teachings.
2. I find Alan Wallace to be mindblowing. His way of teaching inspires me deeply and I would like to start following him, but I wouldn't be able to form a personal relationship or receive guidance from him, which I do receive from time to time in the case of Tergar instructors.

In all honesty, I wonder if I am just being too picky and I should just stick with what is available at the moment. Thank you in advance for sharing your views.

Kind regards,
Tomás

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justsit
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by justsit » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:11 pm

I can't speak to all Tibetan schools, but the Kagyu is known as "the ear-whispered" lineage. My understanding is that there are teachings that are not written on paper anywhere and only passed on via direct oral transmission from the guru. So books, Internet, whatever, will not ever provide full information unless there are major changes within the lineage.

Re: expensive teachings. I suppose it depends on how much you want those particular teachings, and how important it is to you to make a karmic connection with a particular teacher. There are students who go into debt and travel crazy distances to attend some events. Study what you have, do whatever you can to make merit and accrue good karma, sometimes figurative doors then open more easily.

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:21 pm

Man, good question.

I'll sum up my experiences on it like this:

#1 Listen to whatever a teacher says about their own teachings in regards to secrecy. This is very important, if a teacher says to treat the teachings in this or that way, you need to do that with those teachings, full stop.

#2 Secrecy is more about discretion and circumstance than outright rules. A really subtle sense of discretion is necessary here.

#3 A personal relationship may not be necessary, but devotion definitely is, in fact it's integral to the Vajrayana path. IMO people put too much emphasis on being able to polish the Lamas shoes. If this is one's situation, all the better, I deeply value the couple of more personal relationships I have with my teachers, but we should not look a gift horse in the mouth and reject precious opportunities simply because we can't go eat McDonalds with the Lama or whatever. I never met my root Guru, but am quite sure he is my root Guru. I would have jumped at the chance of course. The point is, when our Karma presents us an opportunity, we shouldn't squander because it doesn't fit some preconceived criteria or doesn't seem "good enough". On the other hand, we shouldn't be complacent either. We should be willing to seek out the answer to our own questions an be responsible for our own practice though, if anything is changing it is this: we cannot rely on institutions to do our practice or thinking for us any more.

#4 The Allan Wallace classes on Wisdom are indeed fantastic, it makes me inspired to take actual teachings with him if I can ever make it happen.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Malcolm
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by Malcolm » Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:53 pm

tomdzogchen27 wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:58 am

But the need for retreats that are way more expensive than I can manage makes it hard to receive advanced teachings.
Then, you should accumulate merit by practicing Ngondro. Your inability to receive higher teachings means one of two things: you do not have a karmic cause and condition to meet the teachers you want to meet; or two, you have not accumulated enough merit to meet them. Of the two obstacles, the former is impossible to overcome, but latter problem can be overcome easily with purification and gathering merit (i.e. vajrasattva and mandala offerings).

tomdzogchen27
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by tomdzogchen27 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:54 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:21 pm

#1 Listen to whatever a teacher says about their own teachings in regards to secrecy. This is very important, if a teacher says to treat the teachings in this or that way, you need to do that with those teachings, full stop.
Funny enough, the "full stop" actually helps to understand better. I completely agree on this. I started to do some sutra Mahamudra practice from Loch Kelly, but had quite a few weird experiences that were very unpleasant. I believe it was probably due to not enough basic practice in terms of Shamatha, loving-kindness, Vypashana, etc. and also not receiving these teachings directly from a teacher.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:21 pm

#3 We should be willing to seek out the answer to our own questions an be responsible for our own practice though, if anything is changing it is this: we cannot rely on institutions to do our practice or thinking for us any more.
I feel a lot of resistance on this topic. I suffer from anxiety and sometimes it becomes very hard to tolerate uncertainty. Sometimes I look at these posts after I write them and I wonder... isn't this just you looking for reassurance of some sort? I know that, in the end, expecting institutions to make decisions for us is a sort of "prison".
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:21 pm

#4 The Allan Wallace classes on Wisdom are indeed fantastic, it makes me inspired to take actual teachings with him if I can ever make it happen.
Nice to hear! I wrote to Wisdom to know when another cycle of full access would open up. I would like to start with the course on Emotional Balance and move on from there.

I also wanted to add that, since I mentioned that I suffer from anxiety, I am already doing therapy and am a psychologist myself.

tomdzogchen27
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by tomdzogchen27 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:57 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:53 pm

Then, you should accumulate merit by practicing Ngondro. Your inability to receive higher teachings means one of two things: you do not have a karmic cause and condition to meet the teachers you want to meet; or two, you have not accumulated enough merit to meet them. Of the two obstacles, the former is impossible to overcome, but latter problem can be overcome easily with purification and gathering merit (i.e. vajrasattva and mandala offerings).
I will definitely take this into account, thank you Malcolm!

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed Feb 26, 2020 9:41 pm

tomdzogchen27 wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:54 pm


I feel a lot of resistance on this topic. I suffer from anxiety and sometimes it becomes very hard to tolerate uncertainty. Sometimes I look at these posts after I write them and I wonder... isn't this just you looking for reassurance of some sort? I know that, in the end, expecting institutions to make decisions for us is a sort of "prison".
This is again just my own experience, but I think we often look to threads like this validate experience in a way they can't. I used to really struggle over these questions (still do a little) until the right teacher answered most of them for me. On the rare occasion that I have a specific question that can't just be bounced off peers, I have a couple of in person teachers and acquaintances that will help me with nagging questions. I really think that for me, this is enough. The answer is usually experiential, you sort feel your question has been answered, rather it being a fully conceptual thing. That's maybe a simplistic way of describing it, but the best I can do.

In fact, I am the kind of person that could get engaged in some very unhealthy dynamics in a more traditional Guru-Disciple relationship, or at least what is usually presented as traditional. The other thing I would say is never hesitate to email teachers etc. when they give out their information for this purpose. Some of the best help I've gotten has simply been asking direct questions to teachers and receiving emails. It sounds too good to be true, but sometimes it's as simple as that.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Lingpupa
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by Lingpupa » Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:07 am

I think we need to be careful about the whole concept of "secrecy". In vajrayana culture it means something much broader than merely "nobody else is supposed to know". That may be included, but it is not the whole point, perhaps even not the main point. One way to think about it might be to say that it is like "intimate", but on an even deeper level. The reason you don't talk about it is, at least in part, similar to the reason most people don't talk in detail about what they get up to in bed with their partner. People probably know that they are partners, and have an idea what goes on - that's not secret in the simple sense of the word. But if one of them blabs about the details to all and sundry it suggests that there may not be too much love happening.
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by Tata1 » Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:14 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:53 pm
tomdzogchen27 wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:58 am

But the need for retreats that are way more expensive than I can manage makes it hard to receive advanced teachings.
Then, you should accumulate merit by practicing Ngondro. Your inability to receive higher teachings means one of two things: you do not have a karmic cause and condition to meet the teachers you want to meet; or two, you have not accumulated enough merit to meet them. Of the two obstacles, the former is impossible to overcome, but latter problem can be overcome easily with purification and gathering merit (i.e. vajrasattva and mandala offerings).
Would trondu do the job?

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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by Tata1 » Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:15 pm

tomdzogchen27 wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:58 am
Hi there,

I am aware that there are many practices that require from specific empowerments, face-to-face teaching/transmission and a relationship with your guru. But I also heard the Dalai Lama say that now was an age where "secrecy was over". I know that a lot of these teachings are available nowadays through videos, books, online courses, etc.

With platforms such as the Wisdom Experience, which has thousands of hours worth of material (including advanced Dzogchen teachings) and with the existence of forums, extensive Q&A's online on all sorts of topics, facebook groups, and so on, do you believe that we are approaching an age where you will be able to receive teachings without the need of a personal relationship with a guru, or do you believe this model is absolutely necessary for Tibetan Buddhism to keep on going? I am asking this for mainly for 2 reasons:

1. I am currently following Tergar's model, with Mingyur Rinpoche, who I like and admire. But the need for retreats that are way more expensive than I can manage makes it hard to receive advanced teachings.
2. I find Alan Wallace to be mindblowing. His way of teaching inspires me deeply and I would like to start following him, but I wouldn't be able to form a personal relationship or receive guidance from him, which I do receive from time to time in the case of Tergar instructors.

In all honesty, I wonder if I am just being too picky and I should just stick with what is available at the moment. Thank you in advance for sharing your views.

Kind regards,
Tomás
If your aspiration is pure also dont be shy about asking scholarships

Malcolm
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by Malcolm » Thu Feb 27, 2020 3:49 pm

Tata1 wrote:
Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:14 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 6:53 pm
tomdzogchen27 wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:58 am

But the need for retreats that are way more expensive than I can manage makes it hard to receive advanced teachings.
Then, you should accumulate merit by practicing Ngondro. Your inability to receive higher teachings means one of two things: you do not have a karmic cause and condition to meet the teachers you want to meet; or two, you have not accumulated enough merit to meet them. Of the two obstacles, the former is impossible to overcome, but latter problem can be overcome easily with purification and gathering merit (i.e. vajrasattva and mandala offerings).
Would trondu do the job?
That depends on the person.

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javier.espinoza.t
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by javier.espinoza.t » Sat Feb 29, 2020 3:59 pm

tomdzogchen27 wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 11:58 am
...
do you believe that we are approaching an age where you will be able to receive teachings without the need of a personal relationship with a guru, or do you believe this model is absolutely necessary for Tibetan Buddhism to keep on going?
...


is misortune to practice without a teacher. you can try, but just a little slip will cause one to go astray. not to say to degenerate in a new age stuff...

you need to see, from first hand, practical example from someone who already walked the path (realized vision, meditation, behaviour). if you don't, afterward when you finally begin to seriously study and practice, the result will be just an intellectual excersise and ritual performance.

hopefully you find a perfect teacher and spend a time around him/her, receive method, and then depart. that is sufficient.

in my opinion, if you are not very capable and yet spend too much time around a realized master, you are at the risk of ignore him/her, and become materialistic, to say, like considering him/her as a precious posession and not a precious master. and that leads to disputes for having his/her attention, exploitation, unnecessary discussion... etc.

you must treasure each second you spend with a realized teacher. it's a worth. but for your own good, of sentient beings, and your teacher's dharma, take the middle approach in this matter, so benefits goes at maximum for everyone.

such relationship is necessary, in my opinion, for receiving teachings. masters do know exactly what is going on, so if you are diligent and reaponsible you won't be a waste of effort, and a teaching according to your need will come. and this last point is really important to me.

yes, a master is paramount.

Simon E.
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by Simon E. » Sat Feb 29, 2020 4:05 pm

Lingpupa wrote:
Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:07 am
I think we need to be careful about the whole concept of "secrecy". In vajrayana culture it means something much broader than merely "nobody else is supposed to know". That may be included, but it is not the whole point, perhaps even not the main point. One way to think about it might be to say that it is like "intimate", but on an even deeper level. The reason you don't talk about it is, at least in part, similar to the reason most people don't talk in detail about what they get up to in bed with their partner. People probably know that they are partners, and have an idea what goes on - that's not secret in the simple sense of the word. But if one of them blabs about the details to all and sundry it suggests that there may not be too much love happening.
Very good points. I was going to post something similar but this covers the points I was going to make.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Sat Feb 29, 2020 4:16 pm

Another aspect of “secrecy” is that it’s like medical school. Anyone is welcome to try to go to medical school and learn brain surgery, but for someone to just go to a medical bookstore and buy a book on brain surgery and try to practice it on their own would be very dangerous.
And if you just show up at a medical school, no, they won’t let you sign up for brain surgery classes on your first day.

So, people shouldn’t think that Tibetan Buddhism automatically excludes anyone. I think is a common misconception when people think of ‘secret practice’ or ‘secret mantra’ like it’s a secret Masonic handshake or something. Vajrayana practice is open to everyone, however all the teachings exist within a particular context and without the context they can be misunderstood or misinterpreted easily, and the symbolism can be misunderstood as easily as thinking that Christians simply worship a Roman torture device.
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Re: A question about secrecy within Tibetan Buddhism

Post by 明安 Myoan » Sat Feb 29, 2020 6:11 pm

Lingpupa wrote:
Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:07 am
I think we need to be careful about the whole concept of "secrecy". In vajrayana culture it means something much broader than merely "nobody else is supposed to know". That may be included, but it is not the whole point, perhaps even not the main point. One way to think about it might be to say that it is like "intimate", but on an even deeper level. The reason you don't talk about it is, at least in part, similar to the reason most people don't talk in detail about what they get up to in bed with their partner. People probably know that they are partners, and have an idea what goes on - that's not secret in the simple sense of the word. But if one of them blabs about the details to all and sundry it suggests that there may not be too much love happening.
:good: Thirded.
I think this is great advice in general.
Secrecy can support privacy, which guards against immodesty and potential obstacles related to others' praise or blame.
"'This Dhamma is for one who is modest, not for one who is self-aggrandizing.' Thus was it said. With reference to what was it said? There is the case where a monk, being modest, doesn't want it to be known that 'He is modest.' Being content, he doesn't want it to be known that 'He is content.' Being reclusive, he doesn't want it to be known that 'He is reclusive.' His persistence being aroused, he doesn't want it to be known that 'His persistence is aroused.' His mindfulness being established, he doesn't want it to be known that 'His mindfulness is established.' His mind being centered, he doesn't want it to be known that 'His mind is centered.' Being endowed with discernment, he doesn't want it to be known that 'He is endowed with discernment.' Enjoying non-objectification, he doesn't want it to be known that 'He is enjoying non-objectification.'"
— AN 8.30
(source)
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

The Fundamental Vow [of Amitabha Buddha] is just for such people as woodcutters and grassgatherers, vegetable pickers, drawers of water and the like, illiterate folk who merely recite the Buddha's name wholeheartedly, confident that as a result of saying "Namu Amida Butsu" they will be born into the western land. -- Master Hōnen

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