Advaita, Buddhism Revisited

I’ve not blogged in a long time…so here is a very short post with a link to a forum discussion that follows several year’s prior discussion both on The Medhajournal and The Tao Bums regarding Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism.

To give some background information, the individual quoted in the Original Post of this thread is an american (or Westerner in general) by the name of Malcolm who was apparently legendary on Buddhism websites like Dharma-wheel etc and used the pseudonym of Namdrol (a Tibetan name).

In my previous discussions with the various buddhists on Taobums, I had advised them that when they have some experiential realizations, they will realize that the raft-eliminator they consider Buddhism to be is also merely just another raft (another arrow from Dr. Puligandla’s quiver that was spot on). Most of these looked up at Namdrol as being some kind of authority on Buddhism (and apparently Namdrol used to be militantly Buddhist, if there is such a thing possible).

http://www.thetaobums.com/index.php?/topic/24232-namdrols-apology-and-some-insight-on-rising-above-sectarianism/

Here are some excerpts —

 

Most people familiar with Buddhism, esp Tibetan Buddhism know the famous (or infamous Namdrol). He wrote an interesting post — link — and rendered an apology. Anyone who knows Malcolm, this is a complete and welcome change in attitude. He is a deep scholar and an accomplished Buddhist, so his words stem from years of study and practice, that probably resulted in his current reflection…some excerpts below that I found valuable

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We should be circumspect about criticizing others since that creates enemies in a concrete sense. I guess a large part of my present point of view has a lot to do with the sectarian arguments I have taken part in here on this board and E-sangha. Really, I feel very sad about that. We were all trying to do our best on E-Sangha — but I myself, and we together, admins and mods, made many mistakes.

I feel a little sad about what happened with Jax. Oh, I don’t agree with his approach or much of what he says, and I find it sad that he has positioned himself as a master when there are more qualified masters one can follow; but I feel a little sad that I was so harsh with him. It was unnecessary and disrespectful — so since you are reading this, “Sorry Jax, my bad”. That action of mine turned a person into an enemy. This is my fault. The same is true of the rest of what I have to say.

I also feel sad about my strong criticism of the Aro folks and Kirkpatrick. Of course that came about because I am a student of Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje (whose memory is dear to me– I was with him at the very end of his life — he showed me personally how a real yogi faces death). But in the end, given all the evil that is in the world today, what they are doing is not really harmful at all on any level. Actually, Kirkpatrick has a beautiful farm and tries to help people in Pemakod, etc. So this is a good thing. Chogyam has a ranch near Kalispell Montana and likes to dress up like a 1880’s cowboy. I am sure they have a lot of fun. To be honest, while we were all groaning, pissing and moaning about the Aro thing, they were largely ignoring us and having a blast, so who really lost in that exchange? 

I do feel sad for having criticized Lama Tsongkhapa’s point of view. This is the sectarian side of the Sakya school that I find distasteful. I also find it distasteful that we in the West just pick up and carry Tibetan polemics as if they are our own. This is a mistake.

I feel sad for having allowed Theravada people think that I feel their practice is inferior.

I am sorry about the whole Zen thing, the Jundo Cohen episode. I tried to handle that skillfully, but it was Indo-Tibetan sectarian bullshit on my part, even though my motive was to try and bring clarity about who was a monk and who was not.

I also feel sad about having indulged in Sakya polemics about Kagyu Mahāmudra.

There are probably many other things I should feel sad about in my online relations with others. But I can’t remember everything I said. So, my blanket apology is– If I said something upsetting to you that came from narrow-mindedness on my part, I am sorry”. So I have made a lot of mistakes. I am sorry that I hurt anyone.

I do not believe that anyone who is attached to a sectarian outlook, whether towards Buddhists or towards non-Buddhists can really be a fully integrated person. I do not beleive that such a person, be they a student of Dzgchen or “master”, has integrated the meaning of their primordial state completely.

All the conflicts in the world come about because of religion and ideology, whether political or economic. But Dzogchen is not based on ideology or belief, it is based on personal experience that is introduced by a master, someone who has integrated that knowledge into their life completely.

My personal goal in this life is to be as integrated as I can be. I have still have a lot of work to do on that score, but I am trying. That for me is the main point, in case anyone cares.

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As far as the ecumenical thing goes — I have come to the conclusion that Dzogchen is for all who are interested. Not a “Dzogchen without Buddhism” if you will. But I see no good reason why interested Hindus, Christians, Moslems, and so on cannot receive Dzogchen teachings and practice them. Dzogchen may have come from Buddhism, but as we see in Bon, Dzogchen is not just for Buddhists.

Dzogchen is for everyone who is interested to learn about it and then practice it. When someone comes to my teacher to learn Dzogchen, he never says “Now you must nominally become a Buddhist in order to study Dzogchen”. He says “In order to study and learn about Dzogchen you must receive direct introduction”, that is all.

The Buddha never said anywhere in the sutras “In order to study the Dharma, first you must take refuge”. The whole refuge thing has been turned into a game of religious politics. When people took refuge in the Buddha they did so merely out of their gradtitude for teachings they received. You can read about this in many places in the Pali canon.

These days, refuge has been turned into a badge, a tool for conversion. It has been turned into a ritual. But how many people change their name into something nice like Kunga Namdrol, or Padma Tsering, etc., etc., without changing anything in their hearts? Refuge ceremonies have just become an empty baptisms that people think are hugely important but actually change nothing. It is the same with bodhisattva vow ceremonies and also empowerments.

But in Dzogchen there is nothing to convert or change or alter. Buddhahood is an innate attribute of all sentient beings, so what is the point of “becoming a Buddhist?”

People like to say “Did you go for refuge? What is your Dharma name?”, “How long have you been a Buddhist?”, “Who is your refuge teacher?” , “Did you take bodhisattva vows?”, “Did you receive initiation?”, etc. None of this is the principle of Dzogchen teachings as I understand it. None of these things taken in and of themselves are bad, BTW,there is nothing wrong with having gone for refuge to the Three Jewels, created bodhicitta, taken initiation and so on. But it is better to penetrate to the essence of these things rather than just leave them as empty forms, which sadly today they mostly have become.

But the principle of entering Dzogchen teachings is none of the above. The principle of entering Dzogchen teachings is solely direct introduction. And my teacher, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, will give that to anyone who is interested in receiving the teachings of Dzogchen regardless of their race, color, creed, gender or gender orientation.

The principle of practicing Dzogchen teachings, according to my teacher, is integrating with your primordial state through Ati Guru Yoga and deepening your knowledge of that state through various kinds of practices. Anyone who is interested can do this without having to consider themselves a “Buddhist”.

As far as being open to non-Buddhist practices — it is the case that people who belong to other religions might become interested in Dzogchen teachings. I see no reason at all why they should give up those practices merely becauase they are interested in Dzogchen teachings. Granted, it is impossible to reconcile sacrificing animals with Dzogchen teachings, but apart from that, I do not see the problem. If some Christian is practicing Ati Guru Yoga, then they are practicing Dzogchen whether they consider themselves Buddhists or not.

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A Dzogchen pracitioner’s fundamental responsibility is to understand their own condition. They may use any and all useful methods from the nine-yānas, or even non-Buddhist traditons like hatha yoga to better integrate with their own state. There is no limitation on what a Dzogchen pracititioner can practice. We can study the Yoga Sutras for example, since they are interesting and have valuable advice on meditation practice. There are no limitations apart from those we impose on ourselves and others. The function of Dzogchen, Mahāmudra, Perfection of Wisdom is to transcend limitations, not to stay bound in them.

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Buddhism has become in many respects an ossified missionary religion primarily concerned with gaining converts and worshipping in nice houses. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like nice houses, but it seems to me that by and large nice houses have become more important than the Dharma they are supposed to house. All that is Buddhist is not necessarily Dharma. All that is Dharma is not necessarily Buddhist.

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Of course I am a Buddhist. But where I used to be a Buddhist before I was a Dzogchen practitioner, now it is other way around. This is not because of some intellectual trip. This is based on my practice of Buddhism and Dzogchen for 20+ years now.

I can see really clearly that we need to go beyond Buddhist provincialism. We even complain about sectarianism among Buddhists. We also war with each other about such things whose Karmapa is the real one; which is better, gzhan stong or rang stong; is yogacara as high as madhayamaka or not; is Theravada Hinayāna or not; is Mahāyāna or the tantras the real teaching of the Buddha or not. If we do not go beyond these kinds of petty intellectual differences, we will never survive as a species and we will continue to destroy ourselves.

In the end it honestly does not matter much whether we put our faith in Jesus, Krishna or Buddha. There is no perfect faith that leads to liberation. The only thing that leads to liberation is knowledge of our true condition. When we know that state, we don’t have need of faith since now we have certainty.

When we have overcome our own limitations regarding religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe, then we can work with any circumstances. If one is attached to some limitation, there is no way one can work well with circumstances. One can only work with circumstances by seeing what one’s limitations are.

When we overcome our limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe then we are more free. We are more free to celebrate life, sorrow at death, wonder at creation, we are more free to enjoy our lives and the lives of others.

When we overcome our limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe we are more free to celebrate the threatening “other”, to celebrate the beauty of human diversity and difference, which is the strength of our species.

When we overcome our limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe we are more free to act wisely, to cherish this beautiful planet we live on and all the richness of life, the plants, the animals, the rocks, minerals, oceans, mountains, rivers, and lakes it offers us.

When we overcome our limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe through knowing our own state through personal experience the universe and all the beings in it are revealed as an astonishing panoply of spheres of light and color, sound, lights and rays that has no boundary nor center.

When we overcome our limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe through knowing our own state just as it is, we have no need to ensure any creed, no need to confirm any ideology, no need to control anyone or anything — we can let the free be free as they have been all along whether they know it or not.

When we overcome our limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe thorugh direct and perfect knowledge of our own state, then, if we have the capacity, we can introduce others to their own state without regard to religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe.

If, for example, Dzogchen teachings are only for Buddhists, how can we ever hope to overcome our limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe? How can enforcing limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe ever be useful in the project of overcoming our limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe?

We must not consider the Dzogchen teachings as belonging to any religion, ideology, nation, class, race or tribe. Instead, as practitioners of Dzogchen, we should endeavor to overcome our personal limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe through knowing our real state just as it is. When we know our own state just as it is, we can engage with people wherever they are without ourselves throwing up any barriers of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe. So I suggest it is very important for Dzogchen practitioners, including myself, to overcome any limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe. We already have the means to do this — we simply need to will to do it. If we ground ourselves in the deep natural transformation that comes from recognizing and integrating with our primordial potentiality, then we can go beyond the limitations of religion, ideology, nation, class, race and tribe. By going beyond these limitations (as well as the limitations of conceptuality, imputation, paths, stages, realizations, attainments, buddhas and sentient beings) through recognizing our own innate state that is originally pure and naturally formed, we can move freely through the world and meet everyone and everthing from the authentic space of recognition of great original purity of all that is.

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