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Yidams are they 'real'?

I read that a Rinpoche when asked if a Yidam (devotional Buddhist Deity) was asked if the deity was 'real', replied:
'She knows she is not real . . . '

Seems a good answer. How do you understand the use of Yidams? Delusional? No part of Buddha Dharma? A way to understanding archetypal qualities?

OM TARE TUTARE TARE SOHA
as we delusionists sometimes say . . .
zombiegirlJohnG

Comments

  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    I like that answer. I think it supports my view that they are similar to parables... only meant to teach a story or convey a message. Just my perspective though, of course.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited August 2013

    I like that answer. I think it supports my view that they are similar to parables... only meant to teach a story or convey a message. Just my perspective though, of course.

    I know a number of lamas who would disagree.
    They would say that the very question itself is posited on a misunderstanding.
    The first thing they would say is " define 'real' ".
    Then they would point to any basic Yogacara text and suggest a little homework.
    When Chogyal Namkhai Norbu was asked if Yidams are real he answered ' they are as real as you are '.
    Which might not be as straightforward a reply as it at first seems.
    This might be clearer if I put it like this .
    " They are as real as 'you' are. "
    Chrysalidlobster
  • TheEccentricTheEccentric South east, UK Veteran
    They are real like God, Faries and Santa but only in people's imagination.
  • Would the unreal zombie girl please stand up and all the deluded realists sit as their favourite delusion . . .

    To put it another way: Which stories are real? My favourite is the one about the three Yidams who walked into a bar (it was a special teaching visit) . . .
    Nobody saw them drinking, so of course they were fantasy deities . . . but boy could they drink . . . anyone know that story? Of course not, it is just made up of Nothing . . .
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    lobster said:

    I read that a Rinpoche when asked if a Yidam (devotional Buddhist Deity) was asked if the deity was 'real', replied:
    'She knows she is not real . . . '

    Lots of people I've met do regard them as "real". And anyway, what's the point of devotion to something one doesn't believe in - why bother?
  • I resemble that.....bwahahahhaha

  • Lots of people I've met do regard them as "real". And anyway, what's the point of devotion to something one doesn't believe in - why bother?

    Good to see you here Spiny :)
    Well . . . I don't believe you are a shark but your avatar represents a real person, just as a Yidam represents an abstract quality. How real and believable our relationship to that representation is up to us . . .

    So for example now that I know that @wratfuldeity looks like his avatar I will be praying he does not turn up behind the sofa, where I am quaking with real fear . . .
    :eek2:
  • They are real like God, Faries and Santa but only in people's imagination.

    Imagination is a powerful thing, for example when watching sport or thrillers we identify and sweat for real. If we think of a Yidam as an imaginary fairy or angel, then that is only part of the potential usage.

    Yidams can be very intense for those able to generate great imaginary forces, due to a lack of TV or cinema. Just as children get excited over Santa. In fact I still believe Santa exists in some multiverse, over the rainbow . . .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

    Imagine for example you were [insert fantasy of choice]. Through concentration, effort and continual efforts towards this fantasy self . . . it might begin to become true . . .

    One use of imagination . . .
    :)

  • I'll echo Citta's reply, they are real as "I" am. I'm a fantasy dreamt up by my brain, a fantasy that is self-reinforced through bodily interaction with my environment as well as a thought-based feedback loop. My self's existence is also reinforced by the interaction with other humans who also believe in they're own fantasy selves.

    A Yidam is simply one dreamt up by many people, that doesn't have a physical body to act as an anchor but instead exists as a meme, it's existence reinforced through the minds of an entire culture rather than the squishy biomass of an individual.
    CittalobsterFlorian
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited August 2013
    Precisely. The Yidams reality is no more and no less real than is mine or yours. In both cases we are talking about a provisional reality projected onto arising phenomena.
    Its not that the Yidam is 'real' and we are not. Just as it not that we are 'real' but the Yidam is not.
    The purpose of Creation and Completion ( the technical name for the Yidam practice ) is to see clearly the provisional nature of all that arises.
    ' We are dreaming ourselves into existence all day every day ' Chogyal Namkhai Norbu.
    lobsterzombiegirl
  • The difference is one of causality. Is there a reason to create delusions, as we may become enamoured with their 'reality'? Our existence remains, apart from the rainbow bodied, who imagine the self out of existence I take it? Are they then the original cause of the Yidamed?

    What fun. Ho ho ho. :clap:
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    edited August 2013
    Citta said:

    Precisely. The Yidams reality is no more and no less real than is mine or yours.

    I understand what you're saying, but when the Buddha was asked if the "I" exists, he was reticent to answer (this is from my course book) knowing how a simple 'yes' or 'no' can bring further confusion.

    But at a conventional level we do exist; conventionally it's correct that "I" impute an I onto my body and mind (a valid basis of imputation).

    But what's the valid basis of imputation for a Yidam? It seems to exist purely as a thought with no other basis than that. So wouldn't that be called an 'invalid basis of imputation', like the horns of a sky rabbit?

    lobster
  • Tosh said:


    I understand what you're saying, but when the Buddha was asked if the "I" exists, he was reticent to answer (this is from my course book) knowing how a simple 'yes' or 'no' can bring further confusion.

    But at a conventional level we do exist; conventionally it's correct that "I" impute an I onto my body and mind (a valid basis of imputation).

    But what's the valid basis of imputation for a Yidam? It seems to exist purely as a thought with no other basis than that. So wouldn't that be called an 'invalid basis of imputation', like the horns of a sky rabbit?

    You could look at it like this. The body creates an I to better assure it's own survival, the personality allows the body to interact with its environment in a way that non-personal organisms, like plants or insects, are incapable of. This I is valid because it generates results.
    A Yidam is an ideal. People create them as manifestations of perfect attributes, something you won't find on Earth not even in the best gurus. People look up to them, aspire to cultivate those attributes within themselves, in this way a Yidam is valid because, through it, results are generated.

    ToshmfranzdorflobsterSilouan
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    Chrysalid said:


    A Yidam is an ideal. People create them as manifestations of perfect attributes, something you won't find on Earth not even in the best gurus. People look up to them, aspire to cultivate those attributes within themselves, in this way a Yidam is valid because, through it, results are generated.

    Thank you. I know Christians who use Jesus in the same way.

    lobsterSilouan
  • Yidam is valid because, through it, results are generated.
    Valid but non existent. A bit like a projector and a film? When the projector is turned off the film is no more . . .
    The projector remains? Or is that only there as a projection?

    Are you perhaps suggesting that the body too is a projection? With no mind there is no corpse? That is not what has been implied?

    So a Yidam can be relegated into non existence by a snap of the fingers. However all the finger snapping, gnashing of teeth and general performance of the Yidam is Nothing . . .

    I gets it now, it is a form of dharma entertainment. Dharma drama to teach us principles of abstract ideals?
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited August 2013
    Tosh said:

    Chrysalid said:


    A Yidam is an ideal. People create them as manifestations of perfect attributes, something you won't find on Earth not even in the best gurus. People look up to them, aspire to cultivate those attributes within themselves, in this way a Yidam is valid because, through it, results are generated.

    Thank you. I know Christians who use Jesus in the same way.

    There is a book by Lama Thubten Yeshe called ' Silent Mind, Holy Mind ' which describes a practice ( with illustrations ) using Jesus as the Yidam.
    Chogyal Namkhai Norbu's quote could just as easily read;

    Q ) " Do Yidams exist ?"
    A ) " They exist to the extent that ' you ' do. "
  • ToshTosh Veteran
    It's been an interesting thread to read. I guess a teaching doesn't stand or fall on how real it actually is, but how effective the transformational effect is on us. It kinda reminds me to keep an open mind.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited August 2013
    ' Phenomenon have neither existence nor non-existence
    They are not both, nor are they neither.'

    From Madhyamika teachings.

    The rational mind has its limits here.
    Meditation is needed, under the instruction of a Guru.
    The whole Yidam system makes no sense when taken out of the context of a Guru/student relationship.
    Not because of a need for secrecy or a sense of exclusivism. But because that context is essential for its viablity.
    You will find that view to be universal among actual Guru Yoga practitioners.
    Not because they want to create an exclusive club , but because there are essential prerequisites that cant be sidestepped.
    Without those prerequisites it is like the difference between a text book that tells you all about a rose, with illustrations and diagrams, and a living rose.
    All this can be checked out on vajracakra.com.
    This isn't merely some bee in my bonnet.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    'PhenomenA have neither existence nor non-existence.
    They are not both, nor are they neither.'

    PhenomenON is singular.
    PhenomenA is plural.






















    I can't believe I just did that. :eek:
    lobsterhow
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    Thank you Federica..you are correct and I should not attempt to quote from memory. I thought I had learned that lesson. Doh.

    'Phenomena have neither existence nor non existence
    They are not both, nor are they neither '
  • I can't believe I just did that.
    :vimp:
    must be a projection of your idealising self or some such phenomena . . .
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    I have just checked and ' Silent Mind Holy Mind ' by Lama Thubten Yeshe is still available and is recommended to anyone with a Christian background.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Citta said:

    In both cases we are talking about a provisional reality projected onto arising phenomena.

    It sounds rather like believing in God.
    ;)
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    lobster said:

    How real and believable our relationship to that representation is up to us . . .

    Sure, but if we have little belief in the relationship, then it's not going to be of any use.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    lobster said:

    Is there a reason to create delusions, as we may become enamoured with their 'reality'?

    Some people seem to find it useful.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited August 2013

    Citta said:

    In both cases we are talking about a provisional reality projected onto arising phenomena.

    It sounds rather like believing in God.
    ;) </block quote


    Not from the Theistic pov it doesn't.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited August 2013

    lobster said:

    Is there a reason to create delusions, as we may become enamoured with their 'reality'?

    Some people seem to find it useful.
    Given that western Vajrayana students outnumber both western Theravadins and western Zennists put together ( check it out ) it seems that a lot of people find it useful.

    Not that it follows from that alone that it is a viable practice.

    ' delusions ' btw are by definition ideas not accepted within a particular culture at the time.
    Given that the idea of Yidams is normative within Vajrayana they are not delusions.
    If the question is 'if we can deliberately create a provisional reality is there a danger that we can become attached to that provisional reality ?'
    The answers is that without input from an experienced teacher yes, we may well be come attached .
    Any in -depth answer to the question ' do Yidams exist ' is only really answerable in terms of the Trikaya doctrine.
    Yidams exists as manifestations of the Sambhokaya. Not as manifestations of the Nirmanakaya.
    Which for those who do not know or do not accept the Trikaya doctrine is not particularly useful to know.
    caz
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    Sorry, I am trying ( and failing ) to multi-task, that should of course read ' Sambhogakaya '.
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    edited August 2013
    I know Christians who use Jesus in the same way.
    Thank you for mentioning that @tosh

    Most people in my own tradition aren't aware that there is a similarity there. That's not necessarily a negative thing, as they just go about practicing their faith.

    However, despite the similarity there are many differences in the approach, at least in my own tradition, as one doesn't recognize themselves as God or as the transcendent mind of Christ but as an image. A reflection, say of the moon on water, is not seen as the same as its archetype. One has the potential to grow in likeness by deification or theosis, as a portion of God but not as God, through participation in God's uncreated energies and not by nature. This growth in union would be movement towards well-being where the opposite would be movement towards non-being.
    lobsterTosh
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited August 2013
    Here is one of my old pages to show what is being generated . . . and some would say aligned with . . .
    http://web.archive.org/web/20060718135217/http://pages.britishlibrary.net/lobster/buddha/rinpoche.htm
  • I once heard Thrangu Rinpoche asked the same question. He said unequivocally that they were real. However as has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread and this was not asked of Rinpoche 'what is real?'.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Citta said:

    Citta said:

    In both cases we are talking about a provisional reality projected onto arising phenomena.

    It sounds rather like believing in God.
    ;)
    People think about relationship with God in different ways, some approaches seems similar to Yidams.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Citta said:


    Given that western Vajrayana students outnumber both western Theravadins and western Zennists put together ( check it out ) it seems that a lot of people find it useful.

    So are there figures available for the relative numbers in the different Buddhist traditions? I'd be interested to see them.
  • When Chogyal Namkhai Norbu was asked if Yidams are real he answered ' they are as real as you are '.
    Which might not be as straightforward a reply as it at first seems.
    Chogyal Namkhai Norbu is real?
    That will be news to his favourite Yidam. :thumbsup:
    Next you will be telling us these words do not exist . . . which of course is a delusion . . .
    Glad to hear you wish to engage in online conversation with your delusional reflection. Maybe it is time to make up your mind?

    Again.

    What fun. Not for 'you'? Ignorance is a Yidam we can not ignore? Then suffer we must . . . skilful or knot.

    :clap:
  • When I was in a special sangha they viewed them as only aspects of qualities, but now that I have changed sangha it seems to me they think that the yidams are real. They say that it is a special state that they live in which is not like gods or spirits. I think they are real! Why else would I cry from thinking of Chenrezig on a hard day and realize that he is the embodiment of everything. <3 Chenrezig is my future husband.
  • Well glad to hear you are getting married. Will there be cake?
    Yidams are real but they don't eat cake? Not so real . . .
    JoyfulGirl
  • lobster said:

    Well glad to hear you are getting married. Will there be cake?
    Yidams are real but they don't eat cake? Not so real . . .

    There will be skull-cake for vajrayogini!
    lobster
  • But nowadays there are people who say, “Oh, what a lot of bother! Deities and mantra, I hate all that. I’m just going to meditate.” And they sit there, and close their eyes, and that’s what they call practice. They say, “I just want to do effortless meditation.” But as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said, “Although there are people like that, I’ve not seen them gaining any sign of attainment.” http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Yidam

    Had to look it up to make sure I remembered the cultural practice correctly. No, Yidams are not "real" in that there is no actual disembodied spirit or demigod going to help you "get enlightened". And all I can say about the above attitude is that I needed a good chuckle this morning.

    The Buddha's Dharma is a pearl of great value that is often placed in an ornate box and wrapped with layers of pretty paper. Don't confuse the wrapping for the treasure. If you're Tibetan then do whatever your Teacher demands or find another practice. If you're following a Western Zen practice, then do whatever your Teacher demands. My old Teacher would shout and clap his hands if I asked him a nonsense question like "Is Enlightenment real?" and I'd probably deserve to be hit instead but he was a big softy.
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Cinorjer said:


    Had to look it up to make sure I remembered the cultural practice correctly. No, Yidams are not "real" in that there is no actual disembodied spirit or demigod going to help you "get enlightened". And all I can say about the above attitude is that I needed a good chuckle this morning.

    That comment seems rather patronising to people who work with Yidams.
  • CittaCitta Veteran

    Cinorjer said:


    Had to look it up to make sure I remembered the cultural practice correctly. No, Yidams are not "real" in that there is no actual disembodied spirit or demigod going to help you "get enlightened". And all I can say about the above attitude is that I needed a good chuckle this morning.

    That comment seems rather patronising to people who work with Yidams.
    Patronising and not correct.
    When Chogyal Namkhai Norbu said that Yidams are ' as real as you are ' he did not mean that they are less real. Just as he did not mean that they are more real.
    He meant that we AND they have provisional reality.
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited August 2013
    Sorry I don't mean to sound patronizing. I only meant to point out I'm not talking as one who follows that particular Tibetan practice or is very familiar with the teachings, so my opinion is personal and as an outsider to this mystical belief.

    As for patronizing, I suppose that is in the eye of the beholder. When you read the quote, I notice the attitude expressed by the Rinpoche that meditation only practices (such as my own Zen) don't attain anything, unlike Tibetan practice, didn't seem at all patronizing to you, did it?
    lobster
  • VictoriousVictorious Grim Veteran
    @lobster. You do realise that asking a Buddhist if anything at all, even a lobster, is real will result in as many answers as your question...lol.

  • CittaCitta Veteran
    Cinorjer said:

    Sorry I don't mean to sound patronizing. I only meant to point out I'm not talking as one who follows that particular Tibetan practice or is very familiar with the teachings, so my opinion is personal and as an outsider to this mystical belief.

    As for patronizing, I suppose that is in the eye of the beholder. When you read the quote, I notice the attitude expressed by the Rinpoche that meditation only practices (such as my own Zen) don't attain anything, unlike Tibetan practice, didn't seem at all patronizing to you, did it?

    I don't think he is referring to a 'meditation only' practise. That certainly occurs within the Vajrayana. Not all teachers advocate Guru Yoga to all practitioners.
    I think he was describing a kind of magical thinking that says that if you sit so, and straighten your back so, and become thought-free or attempt to. then some kind of magical transformation happens willy-nilly.
    And to be fair, to read some Buddhists one could be forgiven for assuming that is what they are saying...
  • Citta said:

    Cinorjer said:

    Sorry I don't mean to sound patronizing. I only meant to point out I'm not talking as one who follows that particular Tibetan practice or is very familiar with the teachings, so my opinion is personal and as an outsider to this mystical belief.

    As for patronizing, I suppose that is in the eye of the beholder. When you read the quote, I notice the attitude expressed by the Rinpoche that meditation only practices (such as my own Zen) don't attain anything, unlike Tibetan practice, didn't seem at all patronizing to you, did it?

    I don't think he is referring to a 'meditation only' practise. That certainly occurs within the Vajrayana. Not all teachers advocate Guru Yoga to all practitioners.
    I think he was describing a kind of magical thinking that says that if you sit so, and straighten your back so, and become thought-free or attempt to. then some kind of magical transformation happens willy-nilly.
    And to be fair, to read some Buddhists one could be forgiven for assuming that is what they are saying...
    Yeah, that's why I got a chuckle. I envisioned a crusty old monk, saying "Back in MY day the monks had to get up before dawn and practice yoga for four hours before they were allowed a drink of water! Nobody wants to work for their enlightenment anymore. Those young monks are too lazy!"

    I've copped the same attitude before.



  • @lobster. You do realise that asking a Buddhist if anything at all, even a lobster, is real will result in as many answers as your question...lol.

    Ain't it so though. We protect our idols when they are idle, we idle our time questioning the unanswerable . . .

    I always feel it is important we know what we once thought, what we think, what we might think and even for those few not bothered by discursive being, Yidams for example, it can't hurt . . .

    And people say samsara is a delusion
    - always good for a laugh as far as I know . . . :wave:
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    lobster said:


    And people say samsara is a delusion
    - always good for a laugh as far as I know . . . :wave:

    Yes, we're all deluded.;)
    But there are different ways of thinking about the goal of practice. On the one hand it's about insight into everyday experience, on the other it's about opening out to different "levels" of reality. For me the second approach is more inspiring but also more tenuous.
  • CittaCitta Veteran

    lobster said:


    And people say samsara is a delusion
    - always good for a laugh as far as I know . . . :wave:

    Yes, we're all deluded.;)
    But there are different ways of thinking about the goal of practice. On the one hand it's about insight into everyday experience, on the other it's about opening out to different "levels" of reality. For me the second approach is more inspiring but also more tenuous.
    But a little bird tells me that you had a recent experience which has given you pause for thought ?
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    Citta said:

    lobster said:


    And people say samsara is a delusion
    - always good for a laugh as far as I know . . . :wave:

    Yes, we're all deluded.;)
    But there are different ways of thinking about the goal of practice. On the one hand it's about insight into everyday experience, on the other it's about opening out to different "levels" of reality. For me the second approach is more inspiring but also more tenuous.
    But a little bird tells me that you had a recent experience which has given you pause for thought ?
    Yes - it was a reminder about the importance of keeping an open mind, and allowing for possibilities.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    A reminder from whom ? :)
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