A different look at Guru Yoga

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smcj
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A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by smcj » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:39 am

Having thrashed it out with DJKR's version of Guru Yoga, here's Ringu Tulku's (Kagyu) commentary on it. It's quite different as you'll see.

From: "THE NGÖNDRO: Foundation Practices of Mahamudra" by Ringu Tulku, starting on p.87:
The attitude one encounters most frequently is that of people placing themselves under the domination of the guru, viewing their guru as their master and themselves as his or her slave. They do whatever the guru tells them to and, as they generally expect gurus to be quite unpredictable and strange, they are not surprised to be asked to do lots of funny thing, through which they are convinced they will progress and ultimately become like their guru. This is not a healthy attitude, but perhaps understandable!
ibid
Guru Yoga should be viewed as different from the actual guru/student relationship. We practice Guru Yoga as an ideal because it is a practice, an exercise. The guru/student relationship is something else. I don't mean that you should not have faith in your guru. It is good to have faith in our guru, but with an open mind and open eyes.
I like the differentiation between the practice and the relationship. He does mention that a fully enlightened guru would be a special circumstance that is highly unlikely.
p.90
If you are absolute sure that the guru is a completely enlightened being, that whatever he/she says is right, whatever he/she asks you to do is good for yourself and good for everybody, if you have no doubt about that, then of course you will fell devotion. It is natural. But otherwise, you may not. If you do not do something the guru tells you to, you do not break any vow. The Dalai Lama usually says that if our guru tells us to do something, and we thing it is not the right thing for us, we may tell him. I think that is right. There is no breach of samaya. I am not giving my own opinion; I am actually quoting from the texts.
I'm not sure about Ringu Tulku's background. I've only seen him speak once. He spoke in English that's as good as mine. I like some of his books. But I'm pretty sure he's a well established Karma Kagyupa.

He goes on about the nature of devotion, which we've touched on, but no the nature of faith. I can quote some more if people like it.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by smcj » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:40 am

More fun stuff.
p.97
When the guru dies, the relationship remains the same. From the Buddhist point of view, when the guru dies, it is believed that the gurus power becomes even stronger, and if he has very good students, they then become like him. There are lots of stories illustrating how student, one, two or many, are transformed after their guru's death. The guru's blessings do not disappear with him.
(formatting mine)

So evidently "blessings", whatever they are, are not ended by the death of the guru.

p.92
Of course there is a relationship. It is a heart relationship and therefore there is a certain element of emotion in it. I do not agree at all with a kind of professional relationship, I mean completely without emotions.
ibid
Sometimes people are too dependent on their guru. Not only in the West, sometimes also in the East. They ask his advice on everything, like what kind of color they should paint their bathroom, and so on. This is not necessary. The guru's job is to try to teach his student how to actually stand on his/her own feet, to be independent as much as possible, to try to understand the Dharma and know how to practice by themselves.
p.92
Guru Yoga is a training to awaken the inner guru. Through our devotion to the outer guru, through his teachings and the practice of Guru Yoga, we come to realize the inner guru. This is a practice of devotion, of merging and of being, through which we learn how to be without concepts. We learn how to open up completely and how to surrender our ego. Through it, we can broaden ourselves, make ourselves non dual, so that we can experientially see, meet our inner guru or our inner light.
Last edited by smcj on Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:07 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by jkarlins » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:45 am

Thank you, that's a really interesting take on the matter.

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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by smcj » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:58 am

Yeah. I like his presentation on things. I've only seen him speak once but I was favorably impressed. He seems like a class act. There are some YouTube videos on him.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by jkarlins » Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:07 am

My two experiences with him were small, but I have his book on Gampopa, that's one. It's good, I go back to it every once in a while.

I also used to frequent NYC Shambhala center. I'd stop by all the time. One time I stopped by on a weekend and he was giving a teaching. I hadn't known. Doors to the shrine room were closed, the class was going, and I just came in, made some tea maybe, practiced for a few minutes in a separate room. The presence in that building was incredible. So much warmth and energy, just mind blowing. I'll always remember that. I didn't see him, I just felt it. Since then I've felt a connection to him.

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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by gb9810 » Thu Nov 09, 2017 6:08 am

thank you smcj for sharing these (and for continuing some of the very helpful discussions under a previous thread):
smcj wrote:
Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:40 am
Guru Yoga is a training to awaken the inner guru. Through our devotion to the outer guru, through his teachings and the practice of Guru Yoga, we come to realize the inner guru. This is a practice of devotion, of merging and of being, through which we learn how to be without concepts. We learn how to open up completely and how to surrender our ego. Through it, we can broaden ourselves, make ourselves non dual, so that we can experientially see, meet our inner guru or our inner light.
Amen, or E-ma, to that.. (likely due to my confirmation bias :)
and here's a video to that effect https://www.dropbox.com/s/t2fzheh9g1287 ... 6.mp4?dl=0
(I am not sure how to embed it properly, and may remove it soon. But hope some of you will enjoy it in the mean time)

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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by smcj » Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:14 am

Who was that in the video?
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by gb9810 » Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:19 am

smcj wrote:
Thu Nov 09, 2017 7:14 am
Who was that in the video?
KTGR: http://www.ktgrinpoche.org/

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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by Lingpupa » Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:19 am

I've seen Ringu Tulku quite often, and in a number of places, though not recently. A superb teacher, and as far as I know totally free from scandal. I did have a female friend who also knew him well and rather hoped that she could get scandalous with him, but he was not one to go down that road.

He was one of the students at the short lived Young Lamas' Home School of which Freda Bedi was the guiding energy. There is a film somewhere, one of those about Tibet, the exile etc., where you can see him as a little boy!

So thanks for those extracts - good to hear from an authoritative source, especially at this time (nowhaddameen).
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by florin » Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:47 am

And what is the other perspective that Ringu tulku's is different from ?
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by MalaBeads » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:19 pm

I think smcj means to contrast ringo tulku's gy with djkr's. (Although the I could be wrong, please speak up if I am, smcj)
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by MalaBeads » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:34 pm

It's no wonder that the lamas tell you to stick to only one teacher. These guys don't agree on very much apparently. It certainly was simpler in old Tibet. Your parents "surrendered" you to a local monastery and you learned that way, end of story. You didn't have any say in this because you were so young. And now fast forward to the "west" where people are older, think for themselves and "read the NY Times" (i.e. have critical and analytically developed faculties) Big problems! Unless you are of course one of those people who just goes along with everything (of which there are more than a few in the "west" ( ha,ha, in the "east" too but that's another problem). Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by Nyedrag Yeshe » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:11 pm

Maybe this attitude is a reflex of romanticization and mystification of the figure of Guru by western culture? Maybe with roots in the old and new literature maybe (like the stories of Mahasiddhas, and western occult writers)? Guru devotion is still in the process to become a proper institution in western religious culture, this may explain in some odd attitudes.

Plus Tibetan Lamas and Gurus are a rare commodity in the west, while in Tibet your Guru might be a common folk from the local monastery or the village Nagpa that you know from childhood. You don't usually meet your teacher much after years listening about crazy wisdom and supernatural siddhis! Even these subjects being a part of Tibetan mainstream culture.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by Karinos » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:36 pm

smcj wrote: I'm not sure about Ringu Tulku's background. I've only seen him speak once. He spoke in English that's as good as mine. I like some of his books. But I'm pretty sure he's a well established Karma Kagyupa.

Short bio:

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist Master of the Kagyu Order. He was trained in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism under many great masters such as HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and HH Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche. He took his formal education at Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok and Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, Varanasi, India and has served as Professor of Tibetology in Sikkim for 17 years. His doctoral thesis was on the Ecumenical Movement in Tibet.

Since 1990 he has been traveling and teaching Buddhism and meditation at more than 50 Universities, Institutes and Buddhist Centres in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and Asia. He also participates in various interfaith dialogues. He authored several books on Buddhism as well as some children’s books both in Tibetan and European languages.

He founded Bodhicharya (www.bodhicharya.org ), an international organization that coordinates the worldwide activities to preserve and transmit Buddhist teachings, to promote inter-cultural dialogues and educational & social projects. He also founded Rigul Trust which supports his projects in his birthplace, Rigul, Tibet (www.rigultrust.org ).

Rinpoche is the Official Representative of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa for Europe and the Founder of Karmapa Foundation Europe (www.karmapafoundation.eu).

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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by smcj » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:54 pm

MalaBeads wrote:
Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:19 pm
I think smcj means to contrast ringo tulku's gy with djkr's. (Although the I could be wrong, please speak up if I am, smcj)
You've got it right.
These guys don't agree on very much apparently.
Certainly the tone is different.

But Ringu Tulku is speaking about accepted norms among lamas in Tibet. DJKR was writing in response to a disastrous situation that resulted from a perversion of the same principles. DJKR only briefly refers to accepted norms in his long post:
DJKR wrote:I have to say that none of the gurus from whom I received initiations and teachings ever abused me financially, sexually, physically or emotionally. But I must admit, I also assumed that they would never do such a thing—which was wrong of me.
If DJKR had written about the teacher/student relationship within the scope of accepted norms, how his own experiences have played out, would it have sounded so different than Ringu Tulku's? (Maybe not, since DJKR is confrontational stylistically to begin with.) Or if Ringu Tulku had written about extreme circumstances, what would he have said?

I suspect that part of Trungpa's legacy is that we have low expectations as to a guru's behavior. And since the lamas have some defilements, the opportunity for abusing naive westerners has been unrestrained, and the principles of Guru Yoga can be corrupted into cult-like abuses. As DJKR points out, the current drama is useful in that it is putting the young lamas in India on notice that they won't be able to get away with this type of thing.

As I've said elsewhere, I think that in the U.S. the legal system will take care of the problem. We sue each other a lot. (I'm not so sure about how it will go in France.) Institutions will not be able to tolerate their leaders creating endless lawsuits. Guru Yoga principles will not be admissible in court as legal loopholes. Effectively the conduct of the teachers will be forced into acceptable norms by the larger society. The way I understand it, that will more or less bring it back into what were the acceptable norms among lamas to begin with.

That's all good. But just as DJKR could assume that his teachers would not abuse him, he still understood the underlying principles. Hopefully that fundamental understanding will be maintained here as well--without being tested by ***holes.
Last edited by smcj on Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by MalaBeads » Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:04 pm

Thank you for your participation, smcj.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by MalaBeads » Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:06 pm

I have to say that I did find it difficult to sort out exactly what djkr was saying.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by smcj » Thu Nov 09, 2017 5:19 pm

I believe it was confusing because DJKR was trying to threading a needle. He had to reaffirm the GY principles while allowing for the Sogyal situation to be excluded from those principles. Why he chose to do it in heavily weighted hypotheticals rather than just denouncing Sogyal I suspect was a Tibetan thing. It ended up confusing people (in my reading of it).

If you look at HHDL’s video about all this you’ll notice HHDL acknowledges that Sogyal is a friend, thus maintaining any personal loyalty they may have had. Maybe DJKR also felt he had some personal loyalty line that he could not cross. But all that is just a guess of mine.

In reaffirming the GY principles DJKR seems to have highlighted the mutually incompatible ethnocentrism between western secular and GY/pure view models. That’s something worth contemplating.
Last edited by smcj on Thu Nov 09, 2017 5:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Nov 09, 2017 5:22 pm

I like what I heave read from Ringu Tulku a lot.


There is a difference between someone advocating real devotion and connection to the Outer Guru, and someone advocating for devotion to the Outer Guru as basically an obligatory institutional thing, whatever else they want to claim it is. Once it turns from an experience of the individual state of Guru yoga to the one where you are supposed to reinforce cultural and institutional norms by showing fealty and somehow that is the practice...then I ain't interested, and I can tell the difference.

I'm sure some will claim there's no difference, but I haven't even been around that long and I believe I can sufficiently grok which teachers are advocating which.
rather than just denouncing Sogyal I suspect was a Tibetan thing. It ended up confusing people (in my reading of it).
It's called saving face. One of the things that makes Mingyur Rinpoches and HHDL responses to the Sogyal thing impressive is that they have to step outside their own institutional culture to engage in open talk about abuse and scandal of authority figures. I.e. they are willing to give priority to the practice and welfare of individuals over what might be said to the the institutional end of Guru Yoga. To me that indicates someone who is trying to put the essence of the teachings out there.

Other teachers decided the Sogyal situation was a place to repeat the strictures of the institution of Guru Yoga. I don't fault them on some deep ethical level, I believe they are all doing what they think is best, but this is one place where I default to my own cultures norms - whatever the downsides of supposedly decadent, liberal Western culture, our openness about discussing scandal honestly is vastly preferable to "scandal management through tradition", which is IMO what DJKR's response amounted to, among other things.
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Re: A different look at Guru Yoga

Post by MalaBeads » Thu Nov 09, 2017 6:33 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote: I like what I heave read from Ringu Tulku a lot.

Ditto.
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