Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

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Boomerang
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Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Boomerang » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:41 am

Sometimes I read that you aren't supposed to reveal the yidam you practice. Other times I read biographies or watch YouTube videos of living people and they, well, reveal their yidam clear as day. I had a conversation with somebody today and they told the whole room what their main practice is. So, how does this work? Is this not revealing your yidam thing a matter of opinion? Is there a threshold after which it's okay to reveal it? Does it matter with some tantric practices but not others?

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by javier.espinoza.t » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:53 am

Boomerang wrote:Sometimes I read that you aren't supposed to reveal the yidam you practice. Other times I read biographies or watch YouTube videos of living people and they, well, reveal their yidam clear as day. I had a conversation with somebody today and they told the whole room what their main practice is. So, how does this work? Is this not revealing your yidam thing a matter of opinion? Is there a threshold after which it's okay to reveal it? Does it matter with some tantric practices but not others?
"samaya gya gya gya" -sacred pledge sealed sealed sealed- it means keep it secret, protect it, you are responsible then.

practices and related things i believe are in this category. i would have criteria about this.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by kirtu » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:22 am

Boomerang wrote:Sometimes I read that you aren't supposed to reveal the yidam you practice. Other times I read biographies or watch YouTube videos of living people and they, well, reveal their yidam clear as day. I had a conversation with somebody today and they told the whole room what their main practice is. So, how does this work? Is this not revealing your yidam thing a matter of opinion? Is there a threshold after which it's okay to reveal it? Does it matter with some tantric practices but not others?
You should not tell people your yidam. This should be kept secret. These things should not be "paraded" before the world. Almost every lama from whom I have taken teaching has said almost exactly the same thing on this issue.

Incredibly I was asked this question by a person I didn't know but was a practitioner in one of the lineages I practice in. I was taken aback and told her that this kind of question was inappropriate.

One lama has said over and over that keeping this secret helps develop power in the practice.

At any rate our yidam isn't like a fashion statement and there seems to be no reason to discuss it anyway.

However, we can ask questions about practices with people we really trust, who aren't lamas, but are ideally vaja siblings, if necessary. This should be done discretely as well. Even in this case we shouldn't advertise our yidam.

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Last edited by kirtu on Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by tingdzin » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:31 am

Strictly speaking, you are not supposed to reveal it. Some teachers like Dudjom Rinpoche never revealed their main yidam their whole life except to close disciples. Nowadays, a lot of people seem to do it, though. Maybe this is because they believe that no harm can be done in doing so (which is not true IMO), or maybe it is because of the general degradation of the Vajrayana (begun in Tibet but now racing forward at breakneck speed in the West). In any case, I would advise you not to reveal yours, and not even to talk about your personal Vajrayana practice except with vajra siblings. You cannot go wrong doing this.

CERTAINLY, talking about your personal practice publicly in front of a roomful of strangers, or for a camera, says (to me, at least) either 1) that your practice is so strong it cannot be harmed (possible in the case of some teachers), 2) you have a very mild and common yidam such as Tara, or, 3) more likely, that you don't have a clue about the inner meaning and proper practice of Vajrayana.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Boomerang » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:56 pm

Thank you for the answers everybody. The biographies I mentioned were about very serious practitioners, so I guess they were comfortable revealing their yidams because they knew they had non-degradable attainments.

I've been wondering about something else. Does the importance of secrecy not apply to Chod? I've read that sometimes people will practice Chod in an open place, and townspeople will watch them in hopes of receiving healing. You can watch videos on YouTube of people doing Chod, too.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Malcolm » Wed Mar 29, 2017 2:27 pm

Boomerang wrote:yidam
"Yi dam" means "promise," actually. Thus, if you are a Dzogchen practitioner, your promise is vidyā. If you say that you are a Dzogchen practitioner, you are essentially claiming that vidyā is your yidam. Everything else is secondary.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:53 pm

Malcolm wrote:"Yi dam" means "promise," actually.
Malcolm, isn't that word (much more rarely, but still sometimes) written and parsed as yid dam, and thus the "holy/sacred mind" that is realized as one with the deity (i.e. divine pride)? This comes up in commentaries, mostly, rather than in the sadhanas themselves.
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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by dzogchungpa » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:01 pm

tingdzin wrote:Some teachers like Dudjom Rinpoche never revealed their main yidam their whole life except to close disciples.
This is interesting, do you, or does anybody, happen to know what his main yidam was?
There is not only nothingness because there is always, and always can manifest. - Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Boomerang » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:21 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Boomerang wrote:yidam
"Yi dam" means "promise," actually. Thus, if you are a Dzogchen practitioner, your promise is vidyā. If you say that you are a Dzogchen practitioner, you are essentially claiming that vidyā is your yidam. Everything else is secondary.
So when a person on Dharmawheel says they practice Dzogchen they are openly claiming that vidyā is their yidam, and this doesn't break vows of secrecy like it would in Mahayoga or Highest Yoga Tantra? Is it only harmful when you talk about Dzogchen with the wrong person, such as a person with no interest in dharma?

Coincidentally, one of the aforementioned biographies was of your late guru, Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche. I wonder if the circumstances regarding secrecy were different or him, since he was constantly revealing his attainments by doing his job. What do you think?

Two other gurus who openly talk about deities they practice are Garchen Rinpoche and Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Is this a subtle way of saying, "I have attained siddhi, so there's nothing for me to lose by revealing this?" Or maybe it's okay for them to reveal those yidams because they aren't their main yidams?

On the other hand, Khandro Kunzang Dechen Chodron reveals her main practice on Saraswati Bhawan's website for anyone to see. She's a serious practitioner, so she must understand exactly what she's doing by revealing it.
Last edited by Boomerang on Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Malcolm » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:30 pm

Boomerang wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Boomerang wrote:yidam
"Yi dam" means "promise," actually. Thus, if you are a Dzogchen practitioner, your promise is vidyā. If you say that you are a Dzogchen practitioner, you are essentially claiming that vidyā is your yidam. Everything else is secondary.
So when a person on Dharmawheel says they practice Dzogchen they are openly claiming that vidyā is their yidam, and this doesn't break vows of secrecy like it would in Mahayoga or Highest Yoga Tantra? Is it only harmful when you talk about Dzogchen with the wrong person, such as a person with no interest in dharma?

Coincidentally, one of the aforementioned biographies was of your late guru, Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche. I wonder if the circumstances regarding secrecy were different or him, since he was constantly revealing his attainments by doing his job. What do you think?

Two other gurus who openly talk about deities they practice are Garchen Rinpoche and Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Is this a subtle way of saying, "I have attained siddhi, so there's nothing for me to lose by revealing this?" Or maybe it's okay for them to reveal those yidams because they aren't the main yidam?
Anytime you take an empowerment, you are making a commitment to that method of practice from now until awakening. That is essentially what a yidam is, i.e., a commitment to the path of awakening. The whole idea of "special yidams" is a bit of quasi theistic superstition. It does not matter who anyone's yidam is since the continuum of pristine consciousness of all yidams is the same.

People have karmic relations with this or that practice. But in reality, everyone in Mahāyāna has the same yidam: buddhahood.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Grigoris » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:33 pm

Boomerang wrote:So when a person on Dharmawheel says they practice Dzogchen they are openly claiming that vidyā is their yidam, and this doesn't break vows of secrecy like it would in Mahayoga or Highest Yoga Tantra?
Just because somebody claims they are practicing dzogchen doesn't mean they actually are. Maybe they just think they are, in which case no vidya and no yidam! :tongue:

What you could do is have a real yidam and a fake one so that when people ask you your yidam you tell them about your fake one and that way (smirking secretly from within about how you pulled the metaphysical wool over their eyes) you can answer their prying question AND maintain your samaya!
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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by PuerAzaelis » Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:09 pm

Kind of like telling someone you're having an affair to keep your marriage a secret.
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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Grigoris » Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:10 pm

PuerAzaelis wrote:Kind of like telling someone you're having an affair to keep your marriage a secret.
Great analogy! :smile:
"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: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by K Tsomo » Thu Mar 30, 2017 3:37 am

Malcolm wrote:
Boomerang wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
"Yi dam" means "promise," actually. Thus, if you are a Dzogchen practitioner, your promise is vidyā. If you say that you are a Dzogchen practitioner, you are essentially claiming that vidyā is your yidam. Everything else is secondary.
So when a person on Dharmawheel says they practice Dzogchen they are openly claiming that vidyā is their yidam, and this doesn't break vows of secrecy like it would in Mahayoga or Highest Yoga Tantra? Is it only harmful when you talk about Dzogchen with the wrong person, such as a person with no interest in dharma?

Coincidentally, one of the aforementioned biographies was of your late guru, Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche. I wonder if the circumstances regarding secrecy were different or him, since he was constantly revealing his attainments by doing his job. What do you think?

Two other gurus who openly talk about deities they practice are Garchen Rinpoche and Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Is this a subtle way of saying, "I have attained siddhi, so there's nothing for me to lose by revealing this?" Or maybe it's okay for them to reveal those yidams because they aren't the main yidam?
Anytime you take an empowerment, you are making a commitment to that method of practice from now until awakening. That is essentially what a yidam is, i.e., a commitment to the path of awakening. The whole idea of "special yidams" is a bit of quasi theistic superstition. It does not matter who anyone's yidam is since the continuum of pristine consciousness of all yidams is the same.

People have karmic relations with this or that practice. But in reality, everyone in Mahāyāna has the same yidam: buddhahood.
Very accurate! Thank you for reminding these!
:anjali:

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by tingdzin » Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:06 pm

Grigoris wrote:What you could do is have a real yidam and a fake one so that when people ask you your yidam you tell them about your fake one and that way (smirking secretly from within about how you pulled the metaphysical wool over their eyes) you can answer their prying question AND maintain your samaya!
;) I've done something like this, referring to a yidam practice that I do which is not my main yidam, when I didn't have an opportunity to go into the reasons for keeping yidams secret, but didn't wan't to hurt somebody's feelings by telling them it was not their business.
Boomerang wrote:Two other gurus who openly talk about deities they practice are Garchen Rinpoche and Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Is this a subtle way of saying, "I have attained siddhi, so there's nothing for me to lose by revealing this?" Or maybe it's okay for them to reveal those yidams because they aren't their main yidams?
Of course, the situation is not the same with truly advanced teachers -- they can do as they like, and no problems. Garchen R. and CHHN are open about such things, but Dudjom R. and Chatral R. were not -- every teacher follows his or her own way, and if the teachers are genuine, one cannot say one approach is mistaken and one is not.
Malcolm wrote:The whole idea of "special yidams" is a bit of quasi theistic superstition. It does not matter who anyone's yidam is since the continuum of pristine consciousness of all yidams is the same.
This is the highest viewpoint, but when one is just starting yidam practice, it might not be helpful to be too facile about the whole thing. There is the ever-present peril of over-intellectualizing one's practice.

As I said, if you do keep your Vajrayana practices secret, you can't go wrong.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Malcolm » Thu Mar 30, 2017 7:14 pm

tingdzin wrote:
This is the highest viewpoint, but when one is just starting yidam practice, it might not be helpful to be too facile about the whole thing. There is the ever-present peril of over-intellectualizing one's practice.

As I said, if you do keep your Vajrayana practices secret, you can't go wrong.
Sure, especially if your main practice is the mani mantra.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by mechashivaz » Mon Dec 17, 2018 11:48 pm

I've always thought to keep all Secret Mantrayana practice...secret. Is there a textual source citing keeping yidams and other practices secret?

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by kausalya » Tue Dec 18, 2018 2:45 am

From time to time, it's occurred to me that divulging more information than necessary about practice matters (but not enough so that they could ever understand it in context) breeds needless mistrust. For instance, a person may come to believe that a practitioner has perverse aspirations related to changing their identity, is being somehow untruthful, as if possessed by a demon, or is being miserly by withholding a secret that could benefit that person.

For practitioners like me, who can't guarantee what the results would be of talking, why not stay quiet?

(If pressed, though, I'd say Medicine Buddha. I couldn't get rid of that practice if I tried :tongue:)
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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Sherab » Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:04 am

Boomerang wrote:
Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:41 am
Sometimes I read that you aren't supposed to reveal the yidam you practice. Other times I read biographies or watch YouTube videos of living people and they, well, reveal their yidam clear as day. I had a conversation with somebody today and they told the whole room what their main practice is. So, how does this work? Is this not revealing your yidam thing a matter of opinion? Is there a threshold after which it's okay to reveal it? Does it matter with some tantric practices but not others?
What is the benefit (to your audience or yourself) of revealing your yidam? I don't see any. I see only downside.

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Re: Does it matter if you reveal your yidam?

Post by Jangchup Donden » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:54 am

Sherab wrote:
Tue Dec 18, 2018 10:04 am
Boomerang wrote:
Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:41 am
Sometimes I read that you aren't supposed to reveal the yidam you practice. Other times I read biographies or watch YouTube videos of living people and they, well, reveal their yidam clear as day. I had a conversation with somebody today and they told the whole room what their main practice is. So, how does this work? Is this not revealing your yidam thing a matter of opinion? Is there a threshold after which it's okay to reveal it? Does it matter with some tantric practices but not others?
What is the benefit (to your audience or yourself) of revealing your yidam? I don't see any. I see only downside.
How else are you going to let everyone know what a super awesome advanced yogi you are?

But in seriousness, I can *maybe* see a teacher letting a group of their students know to increase their devotion to that practice.

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