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A question on learning methods and commitment

KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest?Europe Veteran

So I have been following a Tibetan Buddhist course and while I was reading up on the notes on the Tantra section we have recently done I was doing a little googling... for example Kriya Tantra seems to be a term used in the Nyingma school, where they divide the lore into 3's, as well as a term in the Gelug school where my course comes from and they use divisions into 4's. The whole Wikipedia page redirects to Outer Tantras based on a Nyingma narrative.

How can anyone keep it all straight? My head nearly exploded. I mean if you study from books I guess it is simple, you just get books from just your tradition and hope it is mostly consistent, but any kind of Internet-supported study is going to run into these kinds of difficulties. You end up becoming a scholar of Buddhism, while my whole approach to the religion to date is kind of based on cherry-picking books and teachings from what I can find.

Have you all reached a point where you had to commit to a school or even a specific teacher and say, "this is where I get my stuff?" And learn mostly from books and teaching sessions thereafter?

Comments

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    I have grudgingly gravitated around Tibetan sanghas, @Kerome, precisely because of all these rather complicated minutiae.
    I began with a Gelug monk, then made a stint with a Dzogchen sangha.
    I went through different ceremonies and initiations, enjoyed them deeply... but deep down they seem to me to be very peripheral to Gautama Buddha's actual teaching.

    Tibetan schools have always struck me as the Catholics of Buddhism, with all this ritual and ceremonial display.

    But then, it must be because I am a Theravadan at heart.
    Theravadan books keep Buddhism so much simpler.
    🐉💞

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Yeah it's true, the initiations are very crucial to making progress through the whole system. I was watching a YouTube video about a Khyentse Rinpoche, who seemed to have been a key figure a few decades ago and even HHDL showed up to say what important transmissions he had had from this man.

    Initiations are another thing that are putting me off following Tibetan Buddhism much deeper, they seem so elitist and unnecessarily restrictive, if you look at what others are doing.

    Thanks @DhammaDragon that makes a few things clearer ❤️

    DhammaDragon
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    I read plenty of Tibetan bibliography, but all in all, there is not much consistency among all the Schools, in my very humble opinion.
    I read them for the reams of wisdom but can't always see the macropicture.
    I gather like isolated nuggets of wisdom, whereas in Theravada and Zen, I see the general unifying thread.

    And it's no criticism, since I do love and garner things from all different schools of Buddhism.
    But yes, it's probably better to stick to the bibliography provided by your sangha, rather than surfing the net for information, @Kerome
    🐉💞

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @kerome -- I imagine that everyone who's serious about their Buddhism eventually hits the wall that reads "put up or shut up."

    My training was largely in Zen (though I do count Trungpa Rinpoche as a serious teacher of mine based on a three-minute encounter). But I'm probably not the one to comment here. In Zen, the answer always seems to circle back to "sit down and shut up." I had a lot of books once, but I gave them away ... if books could fix what ailed me, I figured I could go to a library. But I realize that Tibetan practice is involved in text and ritual, so I hope you find your way through the maze.

    Best wishes.

    Shoshinlobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    edited May 19

    Such studies are not meant to be casual studies done from youtube and internet reading, that is why. Some people within the traditions have feared that the information will be lost because so few monastics are going those routes. The fear of those teachings being lost has motivated some to write books and put it out there. But that is not how those things were taught in the past, and most teachers do not like that it is happening because those advanced teachings require a deep relationship between the student and teacher so that the teacher can verify the student is ready for them.

    They (advanced teachings) mostly all lead to the same place, but with different vehicles. It doesn't matter if you take the van, the bus or the bike to the trailhead, but each offers a very different experience along the way.

    If one thinks they can simply read books and online resources and become an expert on something as complex as tantra or vajrayana, I think most people are going to find it doesn't work. Because the written word and translation of something that was meant to be a deep relationship just does not work well. People without the foundation that is taught before you are allowed to delve into those advanced topics with a teacher lack much of what is required to even understand it as a result.

    My teacher is a Nyingma Vajarayana teacher. It's extremely complex and deep stuff. The path to even being allowed to receive those teachings from him is many years long for most people.

    That said, I've found that Trungpa's ocean of dharma series on tantra is probably one of the most comprehensive and carefully written ones out there. But it falls in line with my teacher's teaching because Trungpa had a base in Nyingma. There are some teachers who have reluctantly decided to put their advanced teachings out there in order to attempt to combat what they perceive as the bad information. But a student with no guidance from a teacher is never going to know the difference.

    I choose not to delve into other tantric resources without checking with my teacher first. I'm sure there is other information out there I might find useful, but it is more important to me to maintain my relationship with my teacher and my trust in his teaching. I chose him to be my teacher and he accepted that responsibility. So I trust him and have no desire to confuse myself. The stuff I learn is confusing enough as it is, and that is with a teacher and whole Sangha to ask questions of.

    DhammaDragon
  • ZeroZero Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Have you all reached a point where you had to commit to a school or even a specific teacher and say, "this is where I get my stuff?" And learn mostly from books and teaching sessions thereafter?

    It's challenging as I'm not so sure that information is an object as such, capable of being obtained from another source as with a physical object - for it to have any meaning, it has to be processed and recreated by the mind within whatever construct is already being perpetuated - to that extent, I wonder where I get my stuff... what's in, what's out and even so, is whatever is in, the same as when it was out...?
    I think in terms of commitment, it's a commitment to myself... to the experience that is happening now.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    The fact that the topic was Tantra and a quite advanced teaching was incidental, I don't have that much interest in the esoteric side of Buddhism.

    I'm generally more concerned by the diversification of sources. That you can't pick up say a book by Ajahn Chah and expect the teachings to be helpful if you happen to follow Tibetan Buddhism's Gelug school. That one Buddhism is not the other Buddhism, but that you are forced to investigate and pick one, more or less. The whole approach is fundamentally different.

    Finding a teacher is a whole different ballgame from what things seem to be like in the US. There are not many who are even full ordained monks here in the Netherlands, so finding someone who has enough knowledge and practical experience is quite difficult. Per head of population there are nearly 3x as many Buddhists in the us than here, that probably has something to do with it.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I live in a town of 3000 people, so my teacher is 250 miles away, lol.

    Only the foundation of Buddhism carries through all of Theraveda, Mahayana and Vajrayana schools. Beyond the foundation, things vary a lot. I don't think one can expect to be able to learn, digest, and make use of everything in all of those parts of Buddhism. Even within one of those, there are multiple different paths. They have different aims, in general though. Very generally speaking, Theravada is based strictly on what Buddha himself taught and the focus is usually to obtain liberation for oneself, to stop the cycle of rebirth. Mahayana focuses on the Bodhisattva path and vows whereas Vajrayana focuses on kind of the express route to liberation but via complex practices. I'm sure you know that, but that is why someone who is practicing Theravada specifically is unlikely to get much help in either Mahayana or Vajrayana texts because the sightline is different. You can still find useful wisdom in all of those things, of course. It's just much more difficult to parse out in Vajrayana because it is not so much a collection of teachings like the sutras are, but more so very specific to the teacher and lineage.

    Truthfully, Vajrayana chose me more so than me choosing it. I was at a point in my practice that the more I went in any direction the more confused and frustrated I got. I was at a standstill until I met my teacher, who was invited here by a local man for a weekend retreat. After meeting and speaking with him, I was pretty sure I want him to be my teacher. My only other option was to travel regularly the 250 miles (each way) which simply is not possible for me to do. My state has one of the biggest Tibetan populations in the US, so Tibetan teachers are easier to find. Other types of Buddhism, not as much. Like Thai Forest tradition, Plum Village etc, none of that is remotely near me. So if I wanted a teacher, my choices were limited. It turned out I was ok with that.

    lobsterKerome
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @Kerome said: Have you all reached a point where you had to commit to a school or even a specific teacher and say, "this is where I get my stuff?" And learn mostly from books and teaching sessions thereafter?

    I spent a long time exploring different Buddhist schools, and it can be a confusing and frustrating process. At times nobody seems to agree about anything, and there is much to be taken on trust. On the other hand I have found it useful to get a sense of the big picture, and to understand that Buddhism is very diverse and pluralistic, much like Hinduism.

    I have had problems with this from the very beginning, and ended up taking the approach of "take a broad sample of the basics from everywhere where you can find quality, even if it takes a year". So I have been mixing things like Thich Nhat Hanh's lectures on YouTube and book The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching with the Theravadan Complete Teachings of Ajahn Chah and a bunch of Tibetan Gelug courses and discourses from my closest centre.

    But now I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that once you get beyond the basics, you are better off sticking with one approach, rather than filling your mind with a confusion of pluralism. Each major stream seems to have at least one or two amazing teachers, although I connect more with say Thich Nhat Hanh then Pema Chodron.

    I found Tibetan Buddhism too complicated, with too many bells and whistles, and talking in Klingon Tibetan was rather weird. I found Zen Buddhism too cryptic, and at times rather pretentious. I didn't like the Mahayana obsession with size, or the Vajyrana obsession with speed, and I got bored with the self-promoting rhetoric from some of these schools.
    Theravada was a reasonable compromise for me, and these days I have a very simple approach to practice, it is just satipatthana.

    It's good to see some plain talking. I agree with much of what you say, and especially that Tibetan and Mahayana in general has some rather skewed teaching in its text, it seems to try and push you in certain directions - "it's all going to take a long time, lots of learning, no practice before initiation, best to aim to be a bodhisattva, generate conviction to take everyone with you".

    Study and rote-learning on trust are often the enemy of insight and testing-the-teaching, becoming just a scholar of Buddhism does not attract me very much. Any tradition that focusses on them doesn't sound like it's right for me.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I'm not sure where you got the idea that it's all study and rote-learning? At least for me, that is not how it is at all. I actually study far less than most people I know as there is an intense focus on practice rather than study. I could probably tell you the names of 5 sutras. We simply do not cover them much because the focus is on practice. It's definitely not for everyone, but remember that your perception having learned via the internet isn't necessarily a good representation of what it is. The only obsessions I have experienced are by some students who get a little crazy, but that is their problem and not a problem of the teachings. It is their misunderstanding that leads to crazy behaviors. Those kind of misunderstandings are exactly what result from not having a teacher to explain such things. I realize of course not everyone has access to a teacher or wants a teacher in those areas of Buddhism. A person certainly isn't going to engage a teacher in every aspect before they choose what works for them, lol.

    I just wish people could determine what works for them without putting down other people's practices. It doesn't matter to me what anyone else chooses, but it leaves one thinking that their fellow forum members think less of them based on your perception of their practice. Our perception is the problem, not the practice/teaching. We all have things that work or don't work for us and we choose accordingly. But I try not to put down other people's choices in the process, I guess. I hate poetry but I don't call it confusing and pretentious. I eat meat but I don't call vegans weird. I don't understand calculus but the problem isn't math. None of those subjects is the problem. My understanding (or lack thereof) and perception of it is. So I don't feel a need to negatively label things that aren't part of my life.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited May 20

    Well, playing Devil's Advocate here, I don't think @Kerome was necessarily intending to sound as if he was criticising the traditions or teachings. If they were really that bad and incomprehensible, there would be far fewer followers...! I think from what he said he was speaking from his own perspective of understanding... His final sentence, ..."Doesn't sound like it's right for me." seems to maybe acknowledge the unspoken follower ..."But I guess it works well for others."
    (Just substitute 'for' for 'to' and the whole sentence changes intention!)

    It's absolutely right to state that you, @Karasti, are extremely fair and measured in your comments. I get the distinct impression you meticulously consider the inference and weight of your words, that is undoubtedly true. But to assume that a decision to not adhere to a particular school of thought, or a comment that implies a difficulty with a tradition's Dogma, need not necessarily be a statement holding that School - or those who follow it - up to question. It may simply actually BE an acknowledgement that the fit is not right, and the decision is to not go with it.

    I appreciate that maybe clarification is in order, but allow for that clarification... seek an explanation, rather than defending a point that in fact, may not require defending.

    And by the way, I'm absolutely certain I too have been "guilty" of this, in the past.... <3

    karastiHozan
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    It certainly wasn't meant to be a comment on anyone else's choices :anguished: merely that what I've encountered with the Tibetan Gelugpa's doesn't look like it's going to suit me well. I tried it, it was interesting and useful, but sometimes you find things that in the long run are not a good fit.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    edited May 20

    I don't think it was your comments so much @Kerome but more @SpinyNorman. Also, it was probably too early for me and if I had waited until later in the day it probably wouldn't have rubbed me the wrong way, because it doesn't now, lol. Apparently it was an overly sensitive morning for me. It's certain no skin off my hide if people don't like Tibetan Buddhism. I don't blame them, it is very different and can be difficult and isn't for everyone. It just feels sometimes like comments about a tradition carry forward to practitioners of those traditions, which of course is my issue and no one else's. I'm sorry for being overly sensitive about it, I should have waited to comment.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    And there's me, jumping to conclusions with regard to whom your remarks were addressed.

    Presumptuous of me.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    The Gelug school of TB is very scholarly and philosophical, while the Nyigma and Kagyu are schools are much more practice oriented.

    Roger Jackson, the retired Asian religion professor who teaches once a month at the monastery I attend has said that the practice schools criticize the Gelugs for being too intellectual and not putting things into practice, while the Gelugs criticize them for not knowing what it is they are putting into practice.

    I'm just saying TB is far from being a monolith in its approach.

    Kerome
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 20

    @Kerome said:
    So I have been following a Tibetan Buddhist course and while I was reading up on the notes on the Tantra section we have recently done I was doing a little googling... for example Kriya Tantra seems to be a term used in the Nyingma school, where they divide the lore into 3's, as well as a term in the Gelug school where my course comes from and they use divisions into 4's. The whole Wikipedia page redirects to Outer Tantras based on a Nyingma narrative.

    How can anyone keep it all straight? My head nearly exploded. I mean if you study from books I guess it is simple, you just get books from just your tradition and hope it is mostly consistent, but any kind of Internet-supported study is going to run into these kinds of difficulties. You end up becoming a scholar of Buddhism, while my whole approach to the religion to date is kind of based on cherry-picking books and teachings from what I can find.

    Have you all reached a point where you had to commit to a school or even a specific teacher and say, "this is where I get my stuff?" And learn mostly from books and teaching sessions thereafter?

    OP, what stage are you at with your Buddhism? Are you past the introductory stage? This sounds like much too much info, too detailed. It sounds more like something that would come up in an advanced university course on TB. How do people keep it straight? Nobody even goes there--learning the hair-splitting differences between the sects, and all. It sounds like you've wandered off into a tangent, and are getting overwhelmed.

    What are you looking for, for reading material? Have you committed to a sect or school yet? Are you in a TB tradition? If so, read books relevant to that tradition. Those should get into philosophical topics relevant to that tradition, rather than a comparison between sects. Have you received the Lam Rim teachings yet? If not, that would be a good place to start. Those are fundamental to all 4 sects. It's a lot of material; normally it takes 6 months to a year of weekly teachings to cover it all. That should keep you busy.

    Kerome
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Have you all reached a point where you had to commit to a school or even a specific teacher and say, "this is where I get my stuff?" And learn mostly from books and teaching sessions thereafter?

    What you think of as a school and teacher may change. It did for me. I rarely read from books, the Internet has sufficient information. I have not seen my teacher in years.

    Many groups/schools incorporate Buddhist teachings whilst following completely different traditions. Just as Tantra or Zen incorporate teachings from other religions (Hinduism and Taoism in those two cases).

    I feel your question is Buddhist teacher/school related and therefore the question is, 'what is useful?' A school may appear open, or expect commitment over lifetimes [lobster tries not to laugh], may offer social, psychological or emotional support, indoctrination, stimulation etc. What is required is transformation from ignorance to wisdom. The ignorant always feel they are very close to being wise. The wise are aware of their ignorance ...

    What's the plan?

    Kerome
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    We haz wisnorance! Ignordom?

    federicalobster
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited May 21

    @Dakini said:

    @Kerome said:
    So I have been following a Tibetan Buddhist course and while I was reading up on the notes on the Tantra section we have recently done I was doing a little googling... for example Kriya Tantra seems to be a term used in the Nyingma school, where they divide the lore into 3's, as well as a term in the Gelug school where my course comes from and they use divisions into 4's. The whole Wikipedia page redirects to Outer Tantras based on a Nyingma narrative.

    How can anyone keep it all straight? My head nearly exploded. I mean if you study from books I guess it is simple, you just get books from just your tradition and hope it is mostly consistent, but any kind of Internet-supported study is going to run into these kinds of difficulties. You end up becoming a scholar of Buddhism, while my whole approach to the religion to date is kind of based on cherry-picking books and teachings from what I can find.

    Have you all reached a point where you had to commit to a school or even a specific teacher and say, "this is where I get my stuff?" And learn mostly from books and teaching sessions thereafter?

    OP, what stage are you at with your Buddhism? Are you past the introductory stage? This sounds like much too much info, too detailed. It sounds more like something that would come up in an advanced university course on TB. How do people keep it straight? Nobody even goes there--learning the hair-splitting differences between the sects, and all. It sounds like you've wandered off into a tangent, and are getting overwhelmed.

    I'm just finishing off my exploration of the basics. I feel I have a good grip on the overview of the core concepts and categories, largely thanks to the basics course I have been following at the Tibetan Gelug centre nearby over the past year and a half, and TNH's book The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. The course took a quite rigorous, scholastic approach, which was quite a contrast with some other sources.

    What are you looking for, for reading material? Have you committed to a sect or school yet? Are you in a TB tradition? If so, read books relevant to that tradition. Those should get into philosophical topics relevant to that tradition, rather than a comparison between sects. Have you received the Lam Rim teachings yet? If not, that would be a good place to start. Those are fundamental to all 4 sects. It's a lot of material; normally it takes 6 months to a year of weekly teachings to cover it all. That should keep you busy.

    I'm currently considering where to go for further development, and perhaps a teacher. I've not committed to a sect or school as yet.

    Starting on a Tibetan Lam Rim would certainly take some time, and "keep me busy". But I would like things to get more practical rather than more scholastic. Developing further mindfulness and concentration, and learning to meditate more effectively would be nice. We will have to see what's available locally... luckily Amsterdam is not far away, and as a cosmopolitan city with several million people there is a pretty broad choice there.

    Up to now I've become more aware of the various states my mind is in, when just awake, when reading or writing, when watching tv and even some insight into what it does while sleeping. But there is much further still to go in terms of awareness. And I'm running into limitations, it is like spreading too little butter on too much toast... when I try to stay aware of more things I lose focus on some of them.

    lobster
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited May 21

    @person said:> I'm just saying TB is far from being a monolith in its approach.

    Sure, there are actually quite a number of "Tibetan" schools and a great deal of variation between them. The same applies to other broad categories we might use, like "Zen" or "Theravada". We can really only talk about our personal experience but there is a tendency to generalise. I've been involved with six different Buddhist schools over the years, including Tibetan, Zen and Theravada. I've also explored Paganism and Quakerism, and dabbled in Hinduism. It's been interesting!

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited May 21

    @Kerome said:>
    But now I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that once you get beyond the basics, you are better off sticking with one approach, rather than filling your mind with a confusion of pluralism. Each major stream seems to have at least one or two amazing teachers, although I connect more with say Thich Nhat Hanh then Pema Chodron.

    I tend to agree, and have found that mixing and matching different schools/ approaches can get quite confusing ( I started off with Triratna so I speak from experience here! ).

    Having said that, I also think it is valuable to practice with different schools and explore different approaches, both inside and outside the Buddhist arena. Problems can arise when people stick rigidly with one approach, there can be an insularity, a narrowing of perspective. Opportunities for development can also be missed, since it isn't one size fits all, and there could be other approaches out there that work better for us.

    And how do we choose what school to practice with? In my experience it is often rather hit and miss, and I don't think most Buddhists research the options thoroughly. Maybe we go to the nearest group, maybe we get involved with a particular group because we know somebody who is already involved, maybe we stick with a particular group because we like the people, whatever.

    lobsterHozanDhammaDragonperson
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited May 21

    @lobster said:

    Have you all reached a point where you had to commit to a school or even a specific teacher and say, "this is where I get my stuff?" And learn mostly from books and teaching sessions thereafter?

    What you think of as a school and teacher may change. It did for me. I rarely read from books, the Internet has sufficient information. I have not seen my teacher in years.

    Interesting, and quite possible. But as I believe I mentioned, there are certain inherent difficulties with learning a large body of information just from the Internet.

    I feel your question is Buddhist teacher/school related and therefore the question is, 'what is useful?' A school may appear open, or expect commitment over lifetimes [lobster tries not to laugh], may offer social, psychological or emotional support, indoctrination, stimulation etc. What is required is transformation from ignorance to wisdom. The ignorant always feel they are very close to being wise. The wise are aware of their ignorance ...

    What's the plan?

    Well spotted :) The underlying idea is that following one particular school's program will ultimately prove more beneficial, lead to a greater advance in Buddhist development, than gathering up the scattering of knowledge from the Internet.

    Certainly the Gelug course did a good job of providing an overview, which I believe is key to a thorough understanding, and those things are important to me. But a thorough understanding from the Gelug perspective involves lots of categories, hidden Mahayanist admonishments, and a de-emphasis of practice (at least for beginners).

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Developing further mindfulness and concentration, and learning to meditate more effectively would be nice.

    Sounds like a useful plan. <3
    I feel @SpinyNorman advice was apt. There is a common theme in Buddhist formal practice (meditation is formal mindfulness, that needs concentrated but not too tight awareness). You have some experiences and practice methods and will find what suits your temperament. As you progress and even the enlightened deepen realisation, whatever the 'perfected moment' zen bodhis say, your needs will change and emerge ...

    You have options, try them out ...
    One day you will be a Jedi :3

    The force is with me and I am with the force

    Kerome
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I have found that over a period of time, I am set enough with my teacher's "educational plan" to explore other teachers and not get so confused. The internet is another thing for me because it's so hard to discern what is good information. Not that teachers are perfect either, of course. But at least they have had, usually, many years or decades of training in what they are teaching. As opposed to having no idea what the qualifications are of the people who write for about.com, lol, which is where I initially started gaining information when I was a practicing Wiccan years ago.

    For example, we will have a year long resident monk in my town starting this month. He was a student of Trungpa's but he wasn't his main teacher. He lives in Nepal and has for many years, but is an American. My teacher and he have met and are familiar with each other but they don't agree on everything. But I do plan on using this opportunity of having a Lama next door for a year compared to only seeing my teacher once a year. But he is also Nyingma so the information and practice is very similar, but the approach is what is different. I adore my teacher but he doesn't like to rock the boat and sometimes avoids saying what should be said to avoid potentially offending people. While the Lama is kind of a no-holds-barred sort who isn't afraid to tell you what you need to hear. I do not plan on taking the Lama as a teacher, if only because he lives in Nepal most of the time and is impossible to contact. He does not maintain any sort of Sangha and I find it valuable - more than a teacher even-is having the support network and people to bounce experiences and questions off of. But I'm not going to miss the chance to spend ample time with a teacher that left me with a lot to consider in the brief time I spent with him before.

    Anyhow, I don't think that having a teacher has to mean you give up on the rest of the Buddhist teachings. But you need to be confident in where you are and have a direction (for me anyhow) to feel ok branching out but staying centered and on track with your own goals.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 21

    OP, I'm still not clear on your orientation; did you choose a Gelug center for your beginner study because you want to be in TB, or did you choose it just because it was handy, it was conveniently-located or something, but you're not committed to any Buddhist "school" yet? Because in what you describe as a "basics" course, they went way beyond the basics, and are giving you a lot of TB trivia, which is confusing you. That material isn't part of a "basics" course, normally.

    The purpose of mindfulness is mainly to check your motivation for choosing the actions you choose, to ensure you're not acting out of ego, and therefore possibly making a bad decision that might harm others or work against you. And also in a general way, to ensure that you're working toward your goals, and making the most of life. It's not really necessary to be mindful, i.e. to observe yourself, when ordering your coffee, reading the newspaper or riding the bus. I'm wondering if you might be overdoing it. If by "mindful", you mean "present" and focused, that's a different thing.

    How is your meditation practice? If you're having trouble calming your mind and staying focused, proper breathing technique can help resolve that. Have you learned a breathing technique? It calms the mind, switching the nervous system from sympathetic to para-sympathetic. If you're not having a problem with racing thoughts, then the next step is building the ability to stay focused for longer times. (5 minutes, say, to 10, to 20 minutes, gradually over time.)

    I don't see why you couldn't pick up a book by Ajahn Chah, and also read something introductory by Thich Nhat Hanh, say, or something from the Lam Rim. At this preliminary stage, any source should be discussing compassion, non-attachment, perhaps philosophical concepts like emptiness or dependent origination, no-self, etc. If you've already been introduced to the basic concepts, then you may have done enough study for now. Personally, I don't think Buddhism is something you study, once you understand the basic principles; it's something you do, something you live.

    Perhaps now is a good time to step back, and develop your meditation practice, while being mindful to practice kindness and patience with people in everyday life. The Eightfold Path (right motivation, right speech, etc.) and developing your attention in meditation are enough to work on for most beginners. Maybe you're over-reaching. Are you a Buddhist over-achiever? :lol:

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited May 21

    Lol, well I picked the Gelug Tibetan Buddhists because they are close by, and not expensive. I'm quite widely read and informed - have tried a lot of stuff from YouTube and books - so you could say I've left the basics behind, and I did know the 'basics course' was a rather advanced and studious basics course. But I think it was a good thing to take on, exactly because it went into quite a bit of depth.

    But things like the 5 precepts and a good chunk of the Eightfold Path came for free with my lifestyle and personality. So I can start to focus on some of the things where I am not so strong, like the exact techniques of meditation.

    I don't think I'm over-reaching, but I have reached the end of the beginning :lol:

    lobster
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran
    edited May 21

    I always haunted Tibetan sanghas because they are the best represented in my area.

    At the same time, I nourished myself on bibiliography from all schools, to have a broader gist of the scope of Buddhadharma.

    After years of mix-match and trial-and-error, my heart is not altogether with Tibetan schools.

    I do practise lamrin and lojong meditation and keep including Tibetan bibliography in my reading, but find Theravadan, even Chan and Zen, closer to the Buddha's original teaching.
    The Tibetan emphasis on rituals and initiations seems to me to defy the appeal to apply one's logic as found on the older suttas.
    At the same time, it does provides some scope for the magical and the spiritual where Theravadan could seem too dry or rational.
    Like drawing and colour in painting.
    I appreciate the differences, but personally envisage joining a Theravadan or Zen sangha in the future.

    KeromeHozan
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @DhammaDragon said:
    At the same time, it does provides some scope for the magical and the spiritual where Theravadan could seem too dry or rational.

    Yes, I have found that the Theravada approach can be rather dry and unimaginative, and at times too inward-looking.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Dakini said: Personally, I don't think Buddhism is something you study, once you understand the basic principles; it's something you do, something you live.

    I broadly agree but I think there are caveats. One is that the "basic principles" are not necessarily that basic, another is that practice - what we do - varies significantly according to the school.

    lobster
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