1 2 > 
 
   
 

Gurus, Religion, Dzogchen…

 
Kontra
 
Avatar
 
 
Kontra
Total Posts:  1
Joined  07-02-2016
 
 
 
07 February 2016 09:09
 

Hello,

i know things like these are posted over and over in this forum, but i still dont know what to make with Buddhist teachings and secular Spirituality.

I had in my teens, quite a decade ago, some “transcendental” moments, without religion, drugs and without thinking about religion and atheism. one time it was just a “perfect setting”, with my friends, in nature, it just came from nowhere. Suddently i felt one with my friends which i loved and one with my surroundings. I couldn’t make much about this experience and it lasted just a few minutes. Also it wasn’t some kind of a “life changer”, in fact i didn’t remember this moment for years

for one year now I started to read more and more about meditation, non-dualism, enlightenment, transcendence and so on. I also practice meditation regularly and walk through life with heightened appreciation for the moment.

Sams “Waking up” made me learning more about Dzogchen, which seems to be somewhat non-sectarian and rational to me. But my biggest point here is that it seems to be very, very hard to get practical information without being “in the club”.

I don’t mind the rituals, the ceremony or the chanting. Fine, doesn’t break my leg, could be a aesthetically beautiful experience. But sometimes something seems to be “a little off” when reading about it.

For example, there’s a passage in"Waking up” where Sam talks about Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche appearing in a dream of his and giving him some pointing-out instruction years before knowing this Guru.
So i read in a buddhist forum about it, and the acolytes make some condescending remarks about it, because Sam basically says, it was a dream about expectation to meet him. They said it’s unfortunate Sam didn’t realize the profundity of this “astral projection” or something in this direction.

This is not about Sam or his experience, it’s about the following: When middle-aged, asian men who i’ve never met and live thousands of miles away appear in my western european head, my conclusion isn’t that this guy is some kind of a Professor X from X-Men. This is the line i won’t cross and it weirds me out when reading about that. 

I agree a Tulku or an Arhat is an exceptional, highly respectable Person and i really think you can “feel” something when talking with someone like that.
But…. magic Hands-on Head empowerment transmission? “His Highness the Tulku xyz Rinpoche?” woah, easy, please don’t spoil useful and teachings that make sense with these strange musings about “radiating energy “.

So, it’s very hard to cherrypick good information out of religious swamp. I recently subscribed to Lama Suryen Das’ podcast and he sounds very reasonable. Except in the episodes where he talks about his old guru (who flies private jets) like he’s the magical flying head of the Wizard of Oz.

For example, i really, really want to know exactly what the pointing-out instruction is and how it works. is it a conversation? Is it an interview? is it meditating together? i would like to talk with a Dzogchen teacher/professional about this, but do you really have to have this incredibly intimate, ceremonial top-down relationship for years before getting to “the goods”? Again, i don’t doubt the sincerity that a good teacher deserves respect, but not like some kind of “godly figure”.

 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
07 February 2016 10:10
 

As far as “weird stuff” in “practice”, I think the problem is not whether or not it’s there, I think it’s getting attached to it in a rigid way (I like this, as, for the first time, the fact that many parts of my life have been kinda weird and chaotic is actually a benefit to me, where it usually makes me feel like an outsider. I learned a long time ago to shrug and say “WTF ever. So, that just happened I guess. When’s lunch?”) So I think that no matter who is doing it - staunch materialists or ‘woo’ types or whoever - the problem is in insisting on views based on culture and -in-group-ism and accepted norms vs. evidence. You can do that in either direction - not accepting something simply because it’s ‘weird’ and ‘everybody knows’ it can’t be true; or readily accepting new age type concepts simply because they’re ‘feel good’ and ‘all spiritual-type people know’ they’re true.


As to the specifics of Dzogchen, I don’t know a lot about it. But as with anything, I’d start by looking at resources in your area and asking around to see what different places are like, what their traditions and beliefs and such are. If you don’t mind my asking, what part of the country / which country do you live in? People may be able to give you better resources based on that.

 
 
Kontra
 
Avatar
 
 
Kontra
Total Posts:  1
Joined  07-02-2016
 
 
 
07 February 2016 11:19
 

I agree. I think it is a hard walk on a tightrope. I concede it can be helpful, useful and mentally beneficial to participate on a buddhist ceremony with gongs, chanting and a master laying hands on and such.
As a musician playing in front of thousands of people, i also know that people obey weirdest things in large groups and some “authority”, so to speak in front of them.
Since most Dzogchen practitioners make it explicit that you have to have a good teacher, it just strikes me a bit suspicious. I’m not even some stereotypical “cold” skeptic, i just have my bullshit-detector well oiled. I would change my mind immediately, though, when i receive a convincing explanation why ritual A and ceremony B are really necessary.

What also annoys me is that here’s really no good Dzogchen book, podcast, whatever out there, with simple instructions and clear explanations. In the other hand, dzogchen practitioners purport that it’s the simplest thing of the world. Maybe I just have to look around more. 

EDIT: I’m german.

[ Edited: 07 February 2016 17:22 by Kontra]
 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
07 February 2016 21:24
 
Kontra - 07 February 2016 11:19 AM

I agree. I think it is a hard walk on a tightrope. I concede it can be helpful, useful and mentally beneficial to participate on a buddhist ceremony with gongs, chanting and a master laying hands on and such.


Hmm. I have never experienced such a thing, but I find gongs inherently comical and I feel like you have to intone “I cast Satan out!!” in an ironic manner in any activity that involves “laying on of hands”, so ‘beneficial’ is probably a relative term. 

 

As a musician playing in front of thousands of people, i also know that people obey weirdest things in large groups and some “authority”, so to speak in front of them.


Oh cool, I was wondering about your screen name! That makes sense then.

 

Since most Dzogchen practitioners make it explicit that you have to have a good teacher, it just strikes me a bit suspicious. I’m not even some stereotypical “cold” skeptic, i just have my bullshit-detector well oiled. I would change my mind immediately, though, when i receive a convincing explanation why ritual A and ceremony B are really necessary.


Well, I will say, after I went on meditation retreat recently and then went to a yoga class, the teacher told us we could direct our gaze up or forward while we were in something like a locust pose, but we were also supposed to have our eyes closed, so I was like “What the heck, who the hell cares if you’re looking up or forward if your eyes are closed.” But, I think being rather sensitive from having just been on a retreat, I tried it and was like “Oooo, something does feel different when you move your eyes up vs. down”. Not just in the eyes, I mean, in the whole body. It made me understand what people mean when they talk about “energies” in yoga, although I’m not a huge fan of that particular terminology. But in terms of tactile-kinesthetic patterns? Yes, just looking up vs. looking forward changed a lot, even though I wasn’t looking at anything. So my guess is that rituals are like that. If there is a huge cultural divide and rituals don’t evoke the expected emotions for you then of course they won’t ‘work’, but I do think at an almost subconscious level there’s a lot that happens that we’re not aware of, and sometimes little sights, sounds, actions, movements, etc., that seem insignificant really can have significant effects. But again, I think you can judge the efficacy of that pretty quickly. If it doesn’t work for you it doesn’t work for you - maybe I’m wrong but I see no point in forcing it. I think rituals are often (not always, but often) highly sensitive to time, place, and culture.

 

What also annoys me is that here’s really no good Dzogchen book, podcast, whatever out there, with simple instructions and clear explanations. In the other hand, dzogchen practitioners purport that it’s the simplest thing of the world. Maybe I just have to look around more.

 


Yeah, I don’t know a great deal about it so sorry that I can’t help you there. I think the concepts behind Dzogchen are sort of the ultimate goal behind many other traditions, they’re just a bit more direct (for me, for example, the idea of trying to achieve some kind of conceptually empty, selfless state really doesn’t have any positive connotations, so I assume there’s little point in my going that route - for me and the conceptual framework I happen to have, the idea of growing compassion for other people speaks to me the most - but I think Dzogchen is supposed to be beyond all of those concepts.)

EDIT: I’m german.


Aw - most random side not ever, I have a bittersweet fondness for Germany, since Jacob Applebaum, who reminds me a lot of one of my favorite book characters (Paul Trout) lives there and is never coming back to the US. In my meditation, I think of him as a muse of sorts, except I can’t think of him too much or else I get kinda paranoid. But it’s cool that you live somewhat near him. Anyways, Germany seems like a very liberal sort of place where things like Dzogchen would flourish, no? Are there teachers near you that you could talk to?

[ Edited: 07 February 2016 21:27 by sojourner]
 
 
Hypersoup
 
Avatar
 
 
Hypersoup
Total Posts:  688
Joined  24-01-2013
 
 
 
26 March 2016 03:02
 
Kontra - 07 February 2016 09:09 AM

.

For example, i really, really want to know exactly what the pointing-out instruction is and how it works. is it a conversation? Is it an interview? is it meditating together? i would like to talk with a Dzogchen teacher/professional about this, but do you really have to have this incredibly intimate, ceremonial top-down relationship for years before getting to “the goods”? Again, i don’t doubt the sincerity that a good teacher deserves respect, but not like some kind of “godly figure”.

To wake up, stop thinking, breathe, eliminate the congestion, the spiralling needs to be elsewhere etc. Nor focus on needs to stay in one place.
see the Ogha-tarana Sutta….http://www.vipassana.co.uk/canon/samyutta/sn1-1.php

To wake up, if youre confused, direly in need of teachings etc, then ok, look for a teacher, but remember the “buddha mind” is not elsewhere. Its in your heart. Learn to control your thinking, your focus, thats budhism - mind control.

there comes a point, when your in the sacred grove, listening into the birds in vajra posture. There comes a point when asking the teacher misses the point.

Which subtle intuition, which version of inner peace shoud I go with?


No, you have to learn yourself. IIRC Buddha said ones not a salvation for others. The Dalai Lama says this, you have to be your own salvaiton.

 

[ Edited: 26 March 2016 03:07 by Hypersoup]
 
 
Hypersoup
 
Avatar
 
 
Hypersoup
Total Posts:  688
Joined  24-01-2013
 
 
 
26 March 2016 03:09
 

  Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche said:

  Profound and tranquil, free from complexity,

  Uncompounded luminous clarity,

  Beyond the mind of conceptual ideas;

  This is the depth of the mind of the Victorious Ones.

  In this there is not a thing to be removed,

  Nor anything that needs to be added.

  It is merely the immaculate

  Looking naturally at itself.

  —The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, p. 50

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FxIT48XNIc


If youre sitting , watching a stream, asking the stream “what are you thinking”, “is this the right focus”... nine times out of ten, this misses the point.


You are the stream (of consciousness).

Vasubandu and Asanga, they aught idealism, mind only buddhism. For me its a little solipsist. Only me, only the stream. Then the words “focus” , “conceptuual” etc… they drift away.

Initially “here” and “now” are useful directions, later on they become distractions and hinderances.

[ Edited: 26 March 2016 03:21 by Hypersoup]
 
 
margherita
 
Avatar
 
 
margherita
Total Posts:  2
Joined  25-06-2016
 
 
 
25 June 2016 14:45
 

You can’t really learn Dzogchen from a book, although books (or podcasts) are very helpful to begin to understand what it is and what it is not.  I think a reliable teacher is indispensable, especially because the pointing out instructions can only be given by him or her.  Why? Because the teacher can create an energy field that helps open some doors of our perception that normally are shut.  The teacher’s skill in communicating (verbally and not) is an indispensable element; but the teacher may be skilled, and yet the student does not get it.  The student must also have a sincere, strong (not superficial) interest and have some degree of spiritual maturation.  I say spiritual, not religious.

For people not inclined to take in the cultural trappings (such as rituals, prayers etc) from the East, a good Western teacher is Ken McLeod, who was thoroughly trained and authorized to teach by Kalu Rinpoche. He has a website called Unfettered Mind with tons of podcasts.  There are other legit, well trained and authorized teachers, several have been mentioned already elsewhere in this forum.  Note:  I believe having received the authorization to teach Dzogchen by a recognized and legitimate teacher is absolutely critical. There are too many self styled teachers, some quite dangerous b/c they can really mislead you; and having hung around Dzogchen for a long time does not per se qualify a person to teach.  (There are also a few, fortunately not many, authorized teachers who went astray or at the very least raised very legit doubts among their students because of unbecoming conduct).  The teacher’s ethics have to be beyond reproach.  He cannot be motivated by power, gains, or other mundane rewards. His intention to serve students in their spiritual growth must be pure.  Of course, as a student you cannot see through that on the spot, it can take years to verify you have entrusted your spiritual education to a worthy person.

It is naive and perhaps arrogant to believe “I can do it on my own, just tell me how”.  It’s like wanting to play Mozart on the violin, but you don’t know anything about music and refuse to take classes.

Some students feel a strong devotion for the teacher, some don’t because they are not devotional types, but a huge respect is absolutely necessary, and that builds over time. Some of these teachers are low key and others are very charismatic. 

I agree with another blogger who advised to study and practice mindfulness.  We all start with wild minds (and discover how very wild and unruly they are when we start meditating); being familiar with calming and focusing the mind will make you more receptive to Dzogchen. 

Good luck, I hope this is helpful

PS From someone who has been studying Dzogchen for 30+ years

 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
26 June 2016 08:25
 
margherita - 25 June 2016 02:45 PM

You can’t really learn Dzogchen from a book, although books (or podcasts) are very helpful to begin to understand what it is and what it is not.  I think a reliable teacher is indispensable, especially because the pointing out instructions can only be given by him or her.  Why? Because the teacher can create an energy field that helps open some doors of our perception that normally are shut.  The teacher’s skill in communicating (verbally and not) is an indispensable element; but the teacher may be skilled, and yet the student does not get it.  The student must also have a sincere, strong (not superficial) interest and have some degree of spiritual maturation.  I say spiritual, not religious.

For people not inclined to take in the cultural trappings (such as rituals, prayers etc) from the East, a good Western teacher is Ken McLeod, who was thoroughly trained and authorized to teach by Kalu Rinpoche. He has a website called Unfettered Mind with tons of podcasts.  There are other legit, well trained and authorized teachers, several have been mentioned already elsewhere in this forum.  Note:  I believe having received the authorization to teach Dzogchen by a recognized and legitimate teacher is absolutely critical. There are too many self styled teachers, some quite dangerous b/c they can really mislead you; and having hung around Dzogchen for a long time does not per se qualify a person to teach.  (There are also a few, fortunately not many, authorized teachers who went astray or at the very least raised very legit doubts among their students because of unbecoming conduct).  The teacher’s ethics have to be beyond reproach.  He cannot be motivated by power, gains, or other mundane rewards. His intention to serve students in their spiritual growth must be pure.  Of course, as a student you cannot see through that on the spot, it can take years to verify you have entrusted your spiritual education to a worthy person.

It is naive and perhaps arrogant to believe “I can do it on my own, just tell me how”.  It’s like wanting to play Mozart on the violin, but you don’t know anything about music and refuse to take classes.

Some students feel a strong devotion for the teacher, some don’t because they are not devotional types, but a huge respect is absolutely necessary, and that builds over time. Some of these teachers are low key and others are very charismatic. 

I agree with another blogger who advised to study and practice mindfulness.  We all start with wild minds (and discover how very wild and unruly they are when we start meditating); being familiar with calming and focusing the mind will make you more receptive to Dzogchen. 

Good luck, I hope this is helpful

PS From someone who has been studying Dzogchen for 30+ years


Yay, a Buddhism / spirituality post. I could talk about this stuff for hours. I don’t subscribe to any particular approach because I’ve decided that I am spiritually weird and I need the equivalent of a special needs teacher when it comes to spiritual development (At a personal level, I relate a bit better to descriptions from people like Sri Ramakrishna when it comes to experiences like spiritual ecstasy and such. However, for me, this is not such a healthy path as it can turn into what I see autistic children doing when they spin objects for hours screaming in delight and ignore everyone else. My own ‘stimmy’ brand of spirituality.) It seems to be more acceptable in Hindu (and related) traditions to see spirituality as going to your happy place and being an example of inner peace and joy by sitting there doing that. My Christian roots do not really allow for this “not going out and alleviating suffering” approach, though, so somewhere in Buddhism I find a happy medium. To that end, I see approaches like Dzogchen as similar to going to the gym - my first reaction to them is “No God no, noooooo, I have to rearrange my socks and contemplate a flower and think about whether or not I would look good with bangs, I’m too busy, nooooo, paying attention to things sucks I…. oh, ok, I’ve been on the treadmill for five minutes now, I guess it’s not that bad.”


Anyways, thanks for the post and good luck with your practice!

 
 
margherita
 
Avatar
 
 
margherita
Total Posts:  2
Joined  25-06-2016
 
 
 
26 June 2016 08:49
 

There are self absorbed (and deluded) people in every form of spirituality and religion.  Buddhism does not certainly win the title on that one. 

The practice’s main purpose is to overcome one’s own suffering and be a good human being,  The main point is not to harm others and to be responsible for yourself.

An interesting point of Buddhism, and why in part it’s receiving so much attention, is because neuroscience validates the benefits of mindfulness meditation (which is the foundation of all Buddhist practices).  Many Universities have done clinical studies that prove its benefits.  But it is also true that esoteric teachings can attract a larger-than-average proportion of people with psychological disturbances (at least acc. to a study done by Harvard in the 70’s). 

For me, the main attraction is sanity, not ecstasy.

 
burt
 
Avatar
 
 
burt
Total Posts:  15809
Joined  17-12-2006
 
 
 
26 June 2016 10:05
 
NL. - 26 June 2016 08:25 AM
margherita - 25 June 2016 02:45 PM

You can’t really learn Dzogchen from a book, although books (or podcasts) are very helpful to begin to understand what it is and what it is not.  I think a reliable teacher is indispensable, especially because the pointing out instructions can only be given by him or her.  Why? Because the teacher can create an energy field that helps open some doors of our perception that normally are shut.  The teacher’s skill in communicating (verbally and not) is an indispensable element; but the teacher may be skilled, and yet the student does not get it.  The student must also have a sincere, strong (not superficial) interest and have some degree of spiritual maturation.  I say spiritual, not religious.

For people not inclined to take in the cultural trappings (such as rituals, prayers etc) from the East, a good Western teacher is Ken McLeod, who was thoroughly trained and authorized to teach by Kalu Rinpoche. He has a website called Unfettered Mind with tons of podcasts.  There are other legit, well trained and authorized teachers, several have been mentioned already elsewhere in this forum.  Note:  I believe having received the authorization to teach Dzogchen by a recognized and legitimate teacher is absolutely critical. There are too many self styled teachers, some quite dangerous b/c they can really mislead you; and having hung around Dzogchen for a long time does not per se qualify a person to teach.  (There are also a few, fortunately not many, authorized teachers who went astray or at the very least raised very legit doubts among their students because of unbecoming conduct).  The teacher’s ethics have to be beyond reproach.  He cannot be motivated by power, gains, or other mundane rewards. His intention to serve students in their spiritual growth must be pure.  Of course, as a student you cannot see through that on the spot, it can take years to verify you have entrusted your spiritual education to a worthy person.

It is naive and perhaps arrogant to believe “I can do it on my own, just tell me how”.  It’s like wanting to play Mozart on the violin, but you don’t know anything about music and refuse to take classes.

Some students feel a strong devotion for the teacher, some don’t because they are not devotional types, but a huge respect is absolutely necessary, and that builds over time. Some of these teachers are low key and others are very charismatic. 

I agree with another blogger who advised to study and practice mindfulness.  We all start with wild minds (and discover how very wild and unruly they are when we start meditating); being familiar with calming and focusing the mind will make you more receptive to Dzogchen. 

Good luck, I hope this is helpful

PS From someone who has been studying Dzogchen for 30+ years


Yay, a Buddhism / spirituality post. I could talk about this stuff for hours. I don’t subscribe to any particular approach because I’ve decided that I am spiritually weird and I need the equivalent of a special needs teacher when it comes to spiritual development (At a personal level, I relate a bit better to descriptions from people like Sri Ramakrishna when it comes to experiences like spiritual ecstasy and such. However, for me, this is not such a healthy path as it can turn into what I see autistic children doing when they spin objects for hours screaming in delight and ignore everyone else. My own ‘stimmy’ brand of spirituality.) It seems to be more acceptable in Hindu (and related) traditions to see spirituality as going to your happy place and being an example of inner peace and joy by sitting there doing that. My Christian roots do not really allow for this “not going out and alleviating suffering” approach, though, so somewhere in Buddhism I find a happy medium. To that end, I see approaches like Dzogchen as similar to going to the gym - my first reaction to them is “No God no, noooooo, I have to rearrange my socks and contemplate a flower and think about whether or not I would look good with bangs, I’m too busy, nooooo, paying attention to things sucks I…. oh, ok, I’ve been on the treadmill for five minutes now, I guess it’s not that bad.”


Anyways, thanks for the post and good luck with your practice!

A real teacher is one who has been there and knows how to take others there as well. “Some believe that a teacher should manifest miracles and and display special powers. The real requirement of a teacher is that he or she is able to provide what the student needs.” Paraphrase of Idries Shah paraphrasing Ibn Arabi.

 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
26 June 2016 10:55
 
margherita - 26 June 2016 08:49 AM

The practice’s main purpose is to overcome one’s own suffering and be a good human being,  The main point is not to harm others and to be responsible for yourself.


Ha ha, well, this is my problem, I’m never satisfied. I grew up in a tight Christian Church where, upon exiting the service and going to the coffee room for cookies after church, I knew I was going to have to run a sort of gauntlet (I am quite socially anxious) of being checked on and asked about and fussed over and loved and scolded and so on. It was very sweet and for many probably would have been a great experience but for my super-introverted self I always wanted to go “Oh Christ on a cracker, there is too much togetherness happening here!! Make it stop!!”. Now, when I picture the archetypal sage-y Zen type sitting on a rock with their eyes closed being all like “Solve your own problems with your own inner wisdom. We are both walking our separate paths”, I kinda want to shove them off the damn rock and be like “Pay attention to me!!!”

 

For me, the main attraction is sanity, not ecstasy.


That’s the thing though. Everyone thinks their way of being is ‘sanity’.

 

burt - 26 June 2016 10:05 AM

A real teacher is one who has been there and knows how to take others there as well. “Some believe that a teacher should manifest miracles and and display special powers. The real requirement of a teacher is that he or she is able to provide what the student needs.” Paraphrase of Idries Shah paraphrasing Ibn Arabi.


I think this is a general truth in all situations. Quite frankly, I feel like I do the best with spiritual teachers who can bribe me with a better deal. There aren’t many things that can compete with my inner world but all the tired cliches about love (not romantic love, but actual, unattached love) are, I think, actually true.

 
 
MikeJ1950
 
Avatar
 
 
MikeJ1950
Total Posts:  1
Joined  14-07-2016
 
 
 
14 July 2016 10:21
 

Studying the history of, for example, the development of the dzogchen and mahamudra lineages will reveal the fluid, ever shifting creativity brought to devloping these teaching and practice vehicles.

Father Tiso has recently produced a good summary of early and later developments in dzogchen in his latest book that might be helpful.

 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
15 July 2016 22:34
 
MikeJ1950 - 14 July 2016 10:21 AM

Studying the history of, for example, the development of the dzogchen and mahamudra lineages will reveal the fluid, ever shifting creativity brought to devloping these teaching and practice vehicles.


I once heard a Buddhist teacher say that the present moment is ethereal and always changing, that you can never quite hold on to it. I tend more toward Harris’s attitude about the present “it is always now” moment - you actually couldn’t get rid of it if you tried. Wherever you go there it is. It occurs to me that fluidity and creativity are probably yet another perspective between these two.

 
 
Dzogchendropout
 
Avatar
 
 
Dzogchendropout
Total Posts:  2
Joined  27-10-2016
 
 
 
28 October 2016 02:48
 

I’d be incredibly cautious about Dzogchen as an entry point for a skeptic/atheist interested in Buddhism. No form of Buddhism is completely safe - they all involve altering the mind in some way but the Tibetan style is particularly dangerous. Dzogchen itself is a compelling and clear teaching but it comes from a tradition with more supernatural beliefs than any other religion I have met. Without the practitioner accepting some supernatural element I think Dzogchen practice could only be considered a type of vipassana with a degree of Tibetan/tantric woo. I spent 3 years in Nepal studying and attempting to practice such things (with a 50/50 faith if that) and saw plenty of intelligent doctors, scientists and academics who ‘went too far too quickly’ and were clearly developing serious mental health issues. Where the student is a skeptic and the teacher has a strong belief in the supernatural the process inevitably becomes one of bait and switch - the student is encouraged to believe they are being taught practical almost-scientific means to explore their own mind while the teacher is mostly hoping they develop a greater faith in the supernatural. The sad reality is that somebody who is habitually skeptical is more likely to develop an awareness of the politics, contradictions, sex scandals and other disturbing aspects of the Tibetan world than any truth it is trying to show them.
20 years of dipping in and out later, I have had to leave it all behind - the risk to my sanity seeming greater than the benefit of brief insights.
I have been open about my experience with my Tibetan teacher and he has encouraged me to follow a path that does not require faith in the supernatural. He has also told similarly minded people to do the same earlier in their Buddhist careers. It’s a lot easier to start with the basics (shamatha and vipassana) and build up. Starting with “advanced” teachings and falling back leaves you with a lot of fear and anxiety but it is a common trajectory for skeptics seeking a ‘science of the mind’.
http://www.thenakedmonk.com/ outlines these kind of issues a lot better than I can.

[ Edited: 28 October 2016 08:16 by Dzogchendropout]
 
sojourner
 
Avatar
 
 
sojourner
Total Posts:  5970
Joined  09-11-2012
 
 
 
28 October 2016 07:11
 
Dzogchendropout - 28 October 2016 02:48 AM

I’d be incredibly cautious about Dzogchen as an entry point for a skeptic/atheist interested in Buddhism. No form of Buddhism is completely safe - they all involve altering the mind in some way but the Tibetan style is particularly dangerous. Dzogchen itself is a compelling and clear teaching but it comes from a tradition with more supernatural beliefs than any other religion I have met. Without the practitioner accepting some supernatural element I think Dzogchen practice could only be considered a type of vipassana with a degree of Tibetan/tantric woo. I spent 3 years in Nepal studying and attempting to practice such things (with a 50/50 faith if that) and saw plenty of intelligent doctors, scientists and academics who ‘went too far too quickly’ and were clearly developing serious mental health issues. Where the student is a skeptic and the teacher has a strong belief in the supernatural the process inevitably becomes one of bait and switch - the student is encouraged to believe they are being taught practical almost-scientific means to explore their own mind while the teacher is mostly hoping they develop a greater faith in the supernatural. The sad reality is that somebody who is habitually skeptical is more likely to develop an awareness of the politics, contradictions, sex scandals and other disturbing aspects of the Tibetan world than any truth it is trying to show them.
20 years of dipping in and out later, I have had to leave it all behind - the risk to my sanity seeming greater than the benefit of brief insights.
I have been open about my experience with my Tibetan teacher and he has encouraged me to follow a path that does not require faith in the supernatural. He has also told similarly minded people to do the same earlier in their Buddhist careers. It’s a lot easier to start with the basics (Shamatha and Vipassana) and build up. Starting with “advanced” teachings and falling back leaves you with a lot of fear and anxiety but it is a common trajectory for skeptics seeking a ‘science of the mind’.
http://www.thenakedmonk.com/ outlines these kind of issues a lot better than I can.


That’s really interesting, I find myself wondering along similar lines sometimes myself, wondering about the logistics of engaging in a practice wherein the mechanism of action is largely an unknown. Thoughts though:


Do you think these intelligent, competent people were actually developing mental health problems, or there is a subtle process of reinforcement going on wherein the tendency is to want to confirm beliefs by having a a weird or unusual experience? I can see a case for both. People in solitary confinement certainly develop mental health problems pretty quickly (maybe they’re tapping into some deeper reality that looks like instability but at least what look like mental health problems to observers,) and there is a component of ‘solitary confinement’ in meditation. On the other hand, a part of me is skeptical about the claims of meditation affecting people that profoundly as well. To me this is a reverse way of implicitly starting from the premise that it is a really potent practice that one has to be super careful with. Maybe unless you’re ‘talking yourself into’ a ‘big’ response via suggestion, the most likely reaction to meditation from a non-biased practitioner with no expectations one way or the other is simply boredom and a desire to stretch after sitting on a zafu for a really long time, ha ha!


Again, I can see a good case for both. Solitary confinement is a potent example but I also see how strongly my mind can pull towards wanting something to ‘happen’ on retreat, wanting confirmation that this practice ‘does something’ (for the most part nothing major has ever happened - I get the lovey dovey giddy feeling people talk about after retreats, but never had some kind of ‘extraordinary’ experience).


(As an aside about my own practice, I am solidly on board with meditation as ‘brain training’ and very back and forth regarding how I feel about it as a metaphysical system.)

 
 
Dzogchendropout
 
Avatar
 
 
Dzogchendropout
Total Posts:  2
Joined  27-10-2016
 
 
 
28 October 2016 08:02
 

I am not about to begin an intellectual debate about something I have little experience of. I mostly studied without much practice. By it’s own accounts Tibetan tantra (and Dzogchen is regarded by it’s teachers as the pinnacle of tantra) can cause madness much faster than any other form of Buddhism. You can get better or worse but either will happen quickly. I am not a doctor or a neuroscientist or a successful Buddhist practitioner so I couldn’t identify if it is the cause or a contributing factor - this is simply anecdotal evidence. I am just somebody who has witnessed a fair few good, clever people go downhill quickly and would not feel wise, compassionate or happy letting similar people go blindly down the same route. You are unlikely to hear people who are sworn to secrecy (I can’t actually recall doing that) debate the bad points of their religion in an open forum but this can create a false perception of it’s efficacy. Commit to a secret path and don’t be surprised if there are some dark secrets. I am just wanting to offer some practical advice - make sure you do a gentle bit of Googling with regards the controversy, sectarianism, cults and sex scandals before you get involved rather than find out about it all gradually over the next 10 or 20 years - which can be very upsetting. I expect a rational person (especially one who isn’t sure if they believe any of this stuff anyway) would then be likely to see how a steady and gradual form of Buddhism suits them before diving in at the deep end. I could not say if seeing ones own mind ‘as it is’ is disturbing in itself - I am just saying that it is pretty much impossible to maintain a thoroughly skeptical/rational approach to achieving this realization if you attempt to adopt secret methods, with a largely supernatural component, from a culture that lets those believed to have realization to act completely contrary to moral norms. To try and do so will certainly give you some issues.

[ Edited: 28 October 2016 10:00 by Dzogchendropout]
 
 1 2 >