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Daedelus1138
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« on: January 10, 2013, 12:25:04 AM »

What is the Orthodox attitude to things such as:

1) yoga, especially in the spiritual aspects that it is a way to harmonize the body and achieve union with God.  Yoga made me rethink the value of theism- I had really turned anti-theist for a while, and more of a quasi-Buddhist disposition to life, but I read the Panjatali's Yoga Sutra, which underlines some of the things in yoga, studied a bit of the ideas behind Hinduism in a bit more depth, and I saw how belief in a Creator could fit in with a search for inner peace, and how the Hindu religion has a fair number of its own saints and holy people.   It made me question the reverence that much of the anti-theist Buddhism gets in the west, perhaps for being more "rational" sounding due to its suppossed lack of supernaturalism.

   I was going through a tough period in my life, lots of emotional and physical pain, and I sought out yoga as a way to try to deal with the pain and regain some mental balance.  Once or twice I just felt myself being absorbed into everything and letting go.   However, it was short lived and I felt like something was often missing.     I also started feeling that the Hindu idea of God perhaps refered to something real, but it was ineffable just what it was, like floating between existence and non-existence.  Not quite a person, not quite a principle, not quite a metaphor, and not quite nothingness.

  One thing I found interesting in the Yoga Sutra is one of the precepts, that a yogi must practice forgiveness.  I  wondered how a belief in karma impacted ones belief that there was anything to forgive, but the more I studied Hinduism, the more I realized forgiveness is there, it is just subsumed by a general fatalism from karma.  Even with belief in karma, its still very possible to feel wronged and hurt, I discovered in the end. And to feel the need to cry out for justice.  Unfortunately, i don't think forgiveness is something that just comes easily, I think it requires faith in God's goodness.  And I wasn't ready yet, the toying with the Hindu belief in God was just toying with brief glimpses, not in my heart.

    Here was a Hindu prayer that was said often where I took my lessons, and I started to pray it every yoga session in the morning.  It is from the ancient Vedas, which Hindus believed were revealed by the gods to teach humans how to perform religion:

"Lord, lead me from darkness to light / From the unreal to the Real / From death to immortality / Om Shanti Shanti Shanti"
 (shanti means "peace")

  I still practice yoga postures because my physical therapist recommends them and gives me some instruction on what postures to do.  I'm neutral to the religious aspects now.  I think taking care of ones body can be important, though.

2) accupuncture.  I tried this several times with decent results for a mystery illness I had, which resulted in uneven hormones, fatigue, and cold hands and feet.   I became a believer in "qi" to a certain extent, and did qi gong with modest results, reading books on it and I practiced this years ago also under a Tai Qi teacher.  I still think there is some merit to these ideas.   But I don't think it's miraculous in the Christian sense.   However, I didn't find it spiritually fulfilling.  

3) reiki.  I had this done once, on advice from a sex therapist (as a good place to start to deal with some psychological issues).  it didn't involve sex but it did involve somebody placing their hands on my head, chest, and feet.  Nothing miraculous happened but it was a good experience being touched and feeling loved by somebody else, even more surprising it was comming from this big bearded guy who turned out to have been a drifting hippy years ago.  Everything about him seemed so gentle and peaceful.    Love was the main thing I felt, and warm hands, and I'm told this is often what people experience in Reiki.  Reiki is said to have come from a Japanese mystic, a lay Buddhist who was also curious about Christianity and the stories of Jesus performing healing miracles.  He went on an ascetic retreat and went to a sacred Shinto mountain and believed he received a healing power.  

  I'm not just looking for "official" opinions from clerics, if there are any, but also opinions from ordinary Orthodox Christians.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2013, 12:38:57 AM by Daedelus1138 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2013, 01:00:25 AM »

It's best to avoid non-Orthodox spirituality. Some forms of Eastern medicine are simply medial or homeopathy, however, there can be admixtures of non-Orthodox spirituality into these things.
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2013, 02:19:11 AM »

Dr. Christian Mangala, an Orthodox Christian convert from Hinduism, wrote a great article on the subject and how most of Yoga (especially the spiritual aspects) should be can be dangerous.

http://www.oodegr.com/english/empeiries/yoga_christian_faith.htm

A podcast of her interview with the "Illumined Heart" on Ancient Faith Radio:
http://ancientfaith.com/announcements/yoga_and_orthodox_christianity_are_they_compatible

Blessed Father Seraphim Rose, was outspoken about the spiritual harmfulness of the New Age movement. You may wish to read his book, "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future": http://www.amazon.com/Orthodoxy-Religion-Future-Seraphim-Rose/dp/188790400X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357798699&sr=8-1&keywords=orthodoxy+and+the+religion+of+the+future

My advice would be to AVOID all of those New Age practices, try to read more on Orthodox Christian spirituality, and most importantly: you should always seek the guidance of your priest. May Christ guide us all and have mercy on us!   
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2013, 02:25:49 AM »

Read Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future by Fr. Seraphim Rose--he answers all these questions.
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2013, 03:52:50 AM »

We had a discussion on reiki here.

The booklet An Orthodox Posture on Yoga is quite helpful. I've been a practitioner for over 25 years myself.

Acupuncture, like a lot of complementary medicine practices, can work well. Nothing inherently wrong with a different medical system, as long as it remains a medical system and doesn't try to intrude on your spiritual practice; which is up to particular practitioners.
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2013, 10:54:04 AM »

Dr. Christian Mangala, an Orthodox Christian convert from Hinduism, wrote a great article on the subject and how most of Yoga (especially the spiritual aspects) should be can be dangerous.  

http://www.oodegr.com/english/empeiries/yoga_christian_faith.htm

  

   That's interesting but I think some of what she says is a bit of not taking Hindu categories seriously.   Atman or "Self" in Hinduism doesn't necessarily imply an isolated, lone self.

  On a more pertinent note... how do Orthodox feel about Non-Orthodox Christian spirituality?  I am also considering the limitations of trying to only limit my spiritual life to the Orthodox faith in a civilization dominated by Protestants and Catholics, many of whom have written alot about spirituality.  It seems to me alot of what the Orthodox talk about is bound in Byzantine theological categories and when there is disagreement, it is due to not listening to other religious traditiotns categories sincerely.   As an example, many charismatic-influenced Christians would share alot in common with the Orthodox in terms of their actual sentiments and experiences, however the talk of theosis, energies, and so on are all foreign, and the Christian life is not necessarily summarized as "divinization" (the Protestants usually summarize it as "to know God and enjoy him forever".
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2013, 11:03:42 AM »

It made me question the reverence that much of the anti-theist Buddhism gets in the west, perhaps for being more "rational" sounding due to its suppossed lack of supernaturalism.
Westerners attracted to Buddhism often over-emphasize its "rational" aspects, to the extent of denying, or suppressing, the clearly "supernatural" aspects of Buddhism.
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2013, 11:12:43 AM »

Acupuncture isn't a religion, it's needles stuck at certain pressure points. It either works or doesn't work but doesn't matter if you "believe" in it or not. I got some last year after a knee injury; all I had to do was sit in a comfy chair for an hour with needles sticking out of me,  while I watched The Simpsons on my Kindle Fire. Helped a little. :-)
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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2013, 11:16:53 AM »

Dr. Christian Mangala, an Orthodox Christian convert from Hinduism, wrote a great article on the subject and how most of Yoga (especially the spiritual aspects) should be can be dangerous.  

http://www.oodegr.com/english/empeiries/yoga_christian_faith.htm

  

   That's interesting but I think some of what she says is a bit of not taking Hindu categories seriously.   Atman or "Self" in Hinduism doesn't necessarily imply an isolated, lone self.

  On a more pertinent note... how do Orthodox feel about Non-Orthodox Christian spirituality?  I am also considering the limitations of trying to only limit my spiritual life to the Orthodox faith in a civilization dominated by Protestants and Catholics, many of whom have written alot about spirituality.  It seems to me alot of what the Orthodox talk about is bound in Byzantine theological categories and when there is disagreement, it is due to not listening to other religious traditiotns categories sincerely.   As an example, many charismatic-influenced Christians would share alot in common with the Orthodox in terms of their actual sentiments and experiences, however the talk of theosis, energies, and so on are all foreign, and the Christian life is not necessarily summarized as "divinization" (the Protestants usually summarize it as "to know God and enjoy him forever".

I think intellectual comparisons of charismaticism and Orthodox might lead to such conclusions, but there is little common between the two in reality, especially if one looks at the spiritual reality. I think most non-Orthodox Christians aren't well qualified to see the differences in spiritual reality because they are things that can really only be observed through practice and experience of the Orthodox Faith, which cannot authentically be done without being an active member of the Church.
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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2013, 11:19:42 AM »

One thing I found interesting in the Yoga Sutra is one of the precepts, that a yogi must practice forgiveness.  I  wondered how a belief in karma impacted ones belief that there was anything to forgive, but the more I studied Hinduism, the more I realized forgiveness is there, it is just subsumed by a general fatalism from karma.  
The idea of karma is not really fatalistic (though, like anything, it can be misunderstood). "Karma" simply means "action", and each action has a "result", or "vipaka". As humans, we have the ability to choose our karmas/actions; there is nothing fatalistic about that. However, once we choose an action and do it, then certain vipakas/results will occur. Some might call that fatalistic, but it's no more fatalistic than the law of gravity. And, no matter what vipakas/results occur, one still has the freedom to change one's karmas/actions whenever one chooses -- though the ability to choose new, better karmas/actions may be made more difficult (but never impossible) depending upon one's past tendencies and habits
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« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2013, 01:38:32 PM »

Read Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future by Fr. Seraphim Rose--he answers all these questions.
That book should be read for its unintended humorous qualities.
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« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2013, 02:11:29 PM »

It made me question the reverence that much of the anti-theist Buddhism gets in the west, perhaps for being more "rational" sounding due to its suppossed lack of supernaturalism.
Westerners attracted to Buddhism often over-emphasize its "rational" aspects, to the extent of denying, or suppressing, the clearly "supernatural" aspects of Buddhism.

I would say that many westerners stress the "practical" aspects over the "supernatural" aspects. Some popular western teachers have studied under Theravada Buddhist masters from SE Asia, such as Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Lee, for instance, who also stress practice over book-learning, rationalizing, or supernatural concepts.  
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« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2013, 02:15:12 PM »

It made me question the reverence that much of the anti-theist Buddhism gets in the west, perhaps for being more "rational" sounding due to its suppossed lack of supernaturalism.
Westerners attracted to Buddhism often over-emphasize its "rational" aspects, to the extent of denying, or suppressing, the clearly "supernatural" aspects of Buddhism.

I would say that many westerners stress the "practical" aspects over the "supernatural" aspects. Some popular western teachers have studied under Theravada Buddhist masters from SE Asia, such as Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Lee, for instance, who also stress practice over book-learning, rationalizing, or supernatural concepts.  
True. I was including the practical as part of the rational (or 'reason-based').
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« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2013, 04:36:14 PM »

I would say that many westerners stress the "practical" aspects over the "supernatural" aspects. Some popular western teachers have studied under Theravada Buddhist masters from SE Asia, such as Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Lee, for instance, who also stress practice over book-learning, rationalizing, or supernatural concepts.  

    What I realized is that this pragmatic, self-help approach to Buddhism that there are philosophies like Stoicism that did this better, and alot more honestly.  At least the Stoics, like Seneca, admitted people are imperfect and prone to fail, so it is based on pragmatism, living a little better, not religious grandiosity about perfection, which often is used by the ego to short circuit the difficult work of healing the Jungian Shadow.     Sometimes the focus of this all borders on "spiritual masturbation" in fact; not all that satisfying even if it feels sort of like you are actually being spiritual.  I can't see this type of Buddhism appealing to anybody but a minority of Americans who are materially affluent.  It lacks the transfomative power of faith in something beyond the self.

   I gradually came to realize the Japanese Pure Land tradition of Buddhism, with its quasi-mystical quasi-theism, has alot more useful spiritual insights into reality, particularly because it consideres our "blind passions" so blinding that enlightenment is impossible for most of us on our own terms.  But it is a communal religion full of mythic imagery (in the true sense), like Christianity, not best practiced on ones own, and rare in many parts of the US.   Just as a Christian needs to see Christ living in their church and community, so a Pure Land Buddhist needs to encounter Amitabha in the world.  However, it did influence me to see many Christians have this idol of God as some being that needs to be a moralistic judge, and its quite ugly and un-liberating, but need not be the only way we think of a Higher Power.

  Tibetan Buddhism, on the other hand, views enlightenment as something very difficult to actually achieve.   No flashes of sudden enlightenment, no escaping the dark bit sof our psyche, just alot of hard work over aeons.  And it also emphasizes the need to have the heart in the right place, something I find absent in the more Zen-oriented traditions.  I found this true in my own spiritual searching, if your heart cannot be put in the right place, if its wounded, insight meditation does you little good except give you a laser-like focus on all the bitterness.
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« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2013, 04:44:58 PM »

At least the Stoics, like Seneca, admitted people are imperfect and prone to fail, so it is based on pragmatism, living a little better, not religious grandiosity about perfection
I think you'll find that the best Theravada teachers, like Ajahn Chah, likewise have little use for emphasizing "perfection".
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« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2013, 04:56:31 PM »

Read Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future by Fr. Seraphim Rose--he answers all these questions.
That book should be read for its unintended humorous qualities.

  I've had Fr. Seraphim Rose recommended to me in the past.  My impression of him, after reading him, is that his mindset is not flattering to Orthodoxy and he was still struggling with far too many "demons" in his psyche.  I have seen his fear-based mindset in many places, from certain Protestants, to Catholics, to Buddhists, and it is always repulsive.  Thankfully, I will not try not to judge Orthodoxy by Fr. Seraphim Rose's writings.   
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2013, 06:02:42 PM »

I would say that many westerners stress the "practical" aspects over the "supernatural" aspects. Some popular western teachers have studied under Theravada Buddhist masters from SE Asia, such as Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Lee, for instance, who also stress practice over book-learning, rationalizing, or supernatural concepts. 

    What I realized is that this pragmatic, self-help approach to Buddhism that there are philosophies like Stoicism that did this better, and alot more honestly.

The best of Stoic philosophy has been preserved in the Orthodox ascetic tradition. In fact, the Philokalia begins with a compilation from the writings of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius transmitted under the name of St. Anthony the Great. That's pseudoepigraphy at its best!   
 
 
I can't see this type of Buddhism appealing to anybody but a minority of Americans who are materially affluent.  It lacks the transfomative power of faith in something beyond the self.

Western Buddhism is not necessarily the real thing. It tends to become something like the "Buddhism without beliefs" Stephen Batchelor preaches. Native Buddhists believe in reincarnation, all sorts of deities (from the various coloured Taras of the Tibetans to the petty kitchen or mountain gods of the Koreans), boddhisatvas, dakinis, demons, hungry ghosts, hells, paradises, arhants, acharyas, lamas, rinpoches, tulkus, roshis, etc. etc.

 
The Japanese Pure Land tradition of Buddhism,

That's also imported from China, and naturalized in Japan, just like Ch'an Buddhism. The Pure Land Buddhists are the sola gratia Protestants of the Orient, while the Zen monks teach salvation by merit and personal effort (meditation practice). 

 
Tibetan Buddhism, on the other hand, views enlightenment as something very difficult to actually achieve.

They are the ones who preserved the Tantric traditions of pre-arian India. They're more like the Gnostics in Christianity: you could short-circuit your way to Nirvana, if you meet the right people and undergo some secret initiations and receive esoteric knowledge. Only they might have you sleep with them to get "enlightened".

The Theravadins would come closest to some sort of "Buddhist orthodoxy" ("the way of the elders"), but it's the 'small vehicle' - you can only hope for enlightenment if you become a monk or nun (in the latter case you probably need to be incarnated one more time as a male to actually have a shot at Nibbana). 
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« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2013, 04:43:03 AM »

 
Tibetan Buddhism, on the other hand, views enlightenment as something very difficult to actually achieve.

They are the ones who preserved the Tantric traditions of pre-arian India. They're more like the Gnostics in Christianity: you could short-circuit your way to Nirvana, if you meet the right people and undergo some secret initiations and receive esoteric knowledge. Only they might have you sleep with them to get "enlightened".

The Theravadins would come closest to some sort of "Buddhist orthodoxy" ("the way of the elders"), but it's the 'small vehicle' - you can only hope for enlightenment if you become a monk or nun (in the latter case you probably need to be incarnated one more time as a male to actually have a shot at Nibbana).  

As an ex-Tibetan Buddhist myself (I practised the Karma Kagyu school of Buddhism for a couple of years back at the end of the last century), I'd have to agree with Romaios and say that your impression of Tibetan Buddhism is exactly backwards. Theravada is the type of Buddhism that emphasises long cycles of reincarnation not Tibetan (Vajrayana) Buddhism. You certainly can have sudden enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism. The only thing that I would note in opposition to Romaios' post (which is generally accurate) is that you'd be quite unlikely to have to actually sleep with anyone. That physical side of Tantra tends to be eschewed in Buddhism (it's not entirely impossible though as there's a strong tradition of breaching morality for a greater purpose, which might include teaching another), but you certainly would be taught to meditate on the sexual act between various bodhisattvas as a wayof speeding up enlightenment. I was taught that myself by a number of lamas which included amongst them the (Indian) Karmapa.

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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2013, 07:21:36 AM »

The only thing that I would note in opposition to Romaios' post (which is generally accurate) is that you'd be quite unlikely to have to actually sleep with anyone.

Well, it's quite unlikely indeed if you're a male. If you're an attractive young female, your chances at sudden enlightenment via sexual intercourse with a rinpoche are greatly improved.

Chogyam Trungpa or, more recently, Sogyal Rinpoche are famous for bestowing such graces on many of their female disciples. 
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2013, 07:43:35 AM »

The only thing that I would note in opposition to Romaios' post (which is generally accurate) is that you'd be quite unlikely to have to actually sleep with anyone.

Well, it's quite unlikely indeed if you're a male. If you're an attractive young female, your chances at sudden enlightenment via sexual intercourse with a rinpoche are greatly improved.

Chogyam Trungpa or, more recently, Sogyal Rinpoche were famous for bestowing such graces on many of their female disciples. 

I did say its not impossible, just quite unlikely. There is no doubt that there is a strong tradition of breaching Buddhist morals for a greater good, as I said, and obviously this leads to opportunities for abuse (and unlike in many religions a 'legitimate' excuse for it). There's no doubt, though, that such things are not part of the normal experience for most people studying Buddhist Tantra.

James
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« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2013, 07:57:21 AM »

I did say its not impossible, just quite unlikely. There is no doubt that there is a strong tradition of breaching Buddhist morals for a greater good, as I said, and obviously this leads to opportunities for abuse (and unlike in many religions a 'legitimate' excuse for it). There's no doubt, though, that such things are not part of the normal experience for most people studying Buddhist Tantra.

The Dalai Lama was supposedly very annoyed with these peculiar (nevertheless traditional) means of enlightenment, so he suggested that such masters try other extra-ordinary yogic practices on themselves, such as amaroli or eating their own 'wisdom'. 
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« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2013, 08:23:06 AM »

I did say its not impossible, just quite unlikely. There is no doubt that there is a strong tradition of breaching Buddhist morals for a greater good, as I said, and obviously this leads to opportunities for abuse (and unlike in many religions a 'legitimate' excuse for it). There's no doubt, though, that such things are not part of the normal experience for most people studying Buddhist Tantra.

The Dalai Lama was supposedly very annoyed with these peculiar (nevertheless traditional) means of enlightenment, so he suggested that such masters try other extra-ordinary yogic practices on themselves, such as amaroli or eating their own 'wisdom'. 

Doesn't surprise me. Of course, contrary to the usual western misconceptions, the Dalai Lama is not the 'spiritual head of all Tibetan Buddhists' but only head of the Gelug school (as well as being traditional head of state for Tibet) and the two figures you mentioned were Kagyu and Nyingma, so there's no particular reason why they'd feel obliged to heed his suggestions. In terms of western misconceptions of their spiritual authority, the Dalai Lama and the Ecumenical Patriarch seem in broadly similar positions.

James
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« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2013, 10:10:02 AM »

The only thing that I would note in opposition to Romaios' post (which is generally accurate) is that you'd be quite unlikely to have to actually sleep with anyone.

Well, it's quite unlikely indeed if you're a male. If you're an attractive young female, your chances at sudden enlightenment via sexual intercourse with a rinpoche are greatly improved.

Chogyam Trungpa or, more recently, Sogyal Rinpoche are famous for bestowing such graces on many of their female disciples. 

Hearing about these sort of shenanigans was one of my main reasons for disillusionment with Tibetan Buddhism (I too was Karma Kagyu). This also cropped up a lot in Zen circles. There are of course many gurus or roshis who are not perverts, but everyone seems to have at least one in their lineage, and since lineage is so important that's a problem.
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« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2013, 10:14:34 AM »

I did say its not impossible, just quite unlikely. There is no doubt that there is a strong tradition of breaching Buddhist morals for a greater good, as I said, and obviously this leads to opportunities for abuse (and unlike in many religions a 'legitimate' excuse for it). There's no doubt, though, that such things are not part of the normal experience for most people studying Buddhist Tantra.

The Dalai Lama was supposedly very annoyed with these peculiar (nevertheless traditional) means of enlightenment, so he suggested that such masters try other extra-ordinary yogic practices on themselves, such as amaroli or eating their own 'wisdom'. 

Doesn't surprise me. Of course, contrary to the usual western misconceptions, the Dalai Lama is not the 'spiritual head of all Tibetan Buddhists' but only head of the Gelug school (as well as being traditional head of state for Tibet) and the two figures you mentioned were Kagyu and Nyingma, so there's no particular reason why they'd feel obliged to heed his suggestions. In terms of western misconceptions of their spiritual authority, the Dalai Lama and the Ecumenical Patriarch seem in broadly similar positions.

James

The Dalai Lama is technically not head of the Gelug school- he's their chief tulku, but the official head is an appointed position (the Ganden Tripa)
The Dalai Lama WAS the theocrat of Tibet, a position assumed not without a certain amount of violence. There are still bitter historic memories among the "red hats" of monasteries being forcibly converted to Gelug and abbots being executed. But it is this erstwhile political dominance that allowed the Dalai Lama to present himself as the head of all Tibetans.
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« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2013, 10:17:46 AM »


That's also imported from China, and naturalized in Japan, just like Ch'an Buddhism. The Pure Land Buddhists are the sola gratia Protestants of the Orient, while the Zen monks teach salvation by merit and personal effort (meditation practice). 

I would note that Chinese Buddhism never became as rigidly sectarian as Japanese Buddhism. Chinese Buddhists still tend to have the big-tent Mahayana view, and pure land, chan, and other practices are all seen as legitimate options within the general Buddhist tradition.
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« Reply #25 on: January 11, 2013, 10:31:47 AM »

I did say its not impossible, just quite unlikely. There is no doubt that there is a strong tradition of breaching Buddhist morals for a greater good, as I said, and obviously this leads to opportunities for abuse (and unlike in many religions a 'legitimate' excuse for it). There's no doubt, though, that such things are not part of the normal experience for most people studying Buddhist Tantra.

The Dalai Lama was supposedly very annoyed with these peculiar (nevertheless traditional) means of enlightenment, so he suggested that such masters try other extra-ordinary yogic practices on themselves, such as amaroli or eating their own 'wisdom'. 

Doesn't surprise me. Of course, contrary to the usual western misconceptions, the Dalai Lama is not the 'spiritual head of all Tibetan Buddhists' but only head of the Gelug school (as well as being traditional head of state for Tibet) and the two figures you mentioned were Kagyu and Nyingma, so there's no particular reason why they'd feel obliged to heed his suggestions. In terms of western misconceptions of their spiritual authority, the Dalai Lama and the Ecumenical Patriarch seem in broadly similar positions.

James

The Dalai Lama is technically not head of the Gelug school- he's their chief tulku, but the official head is an appointed position (the Ganden Tripa)

OK. You probably know better than me. I never was very interested in the Gelug school. The big inspirational figures for me coming into Tibetan Buddhism were Marpa and Milarepa, so Karma Kagyu was always the focus of my interest. Nonetheless, the Dalai Lama certainly has no spiritual authority in the other schools, which was the main point I was trying to make.

It's interesting to see you were Karma Kagyu too. Which side of the split did you come down on? 'Chinese' or 'Indian' Karmapa? I was, obviously, on the Indian side but in hind sight it seems to me that there were serious issues with both camps. I can't say I noticed at the time, though.

James
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« Reply #26 on: January 11, 2013, 10:41:28 AM »

I did say its not impossible, just quite unlikely. There is no doubt that there is a strong tradition of breaching Buddhist morals for a greater good, as I said, and obviously this leads to opportunities for abuse (and unlike in many religions a 'legitimate' excuse for it). There's no doubt, though, that such things are not part of the normal experience for most people studying Buddhist Tantra.

The Dalai Lama was supposedly very annoyed with these peculiar (nevertheless traditional) means of enlightenment, so he suggested that such masters try other extra-ordinary yogic practices on themselves, such as amaroli or eating their own 'wisdom'. 

Doesn't surprise me. Of course, contrary to the usual western misconceptions, the Dalai Lama is not the 'spiritual head of all Tibetan Buddhists' but only head of the Gelug school (as well as being traditional head of state for Tibet) and the two figures you mentioned were Kagyu and Nyingma, so there's no particular reason why they'd feel obliged to heed his suggestions. In terms of western misconceptions of their spiritual authority, the Dalai Lama and the Ecumenical Patriarch seem in broadly similar positions.

James

The Dalai Lama is technically not head of the Gelug school- he's their chief tulku, but the official head is an appointed position (the Ganden Tripa)

OK. You probably know better than me. I never was very interested in the Gelug school. The big inspirational figures for me coming into Tibetan Buddhism were Marpa and Milarepa, so Karma Kagyu was always the focus of my interest. Nonetheless, the Dalai Lama certainly has no spiritual authority in the other schools, which was the main point I was trying to make.

Perhaps because you were on the Shamarpa side, you didn't see as much of the adulation that I saw toward the Dalai Lama even by Kagyupas. What you say is of course true technically, but the Dalai Lama is still seen as an authority by many non-Gelukpas. Hence he was asked to weigh in on the Karmapa controversy. The Sharmarpa, quite rightly, pointed out that the Dalai Lama has no authority in Karma Kagyu lineage but that point seems to have been lost on the other side.

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It's interesting to see you were Karma Kagyu too. Which side of the split did you come down on? 'Chinese' or 'Indian' Karmapa? I was, obviously, on the Indian side but in hind sight it seems to me that there were serious issues with both camps. I can't say I noticed at the time, though.

I was on the Chinese side but the whole thing seemed increasingly ridiculous to me. If the Shamarpa and the Tai Situpa are both supposed to be enlightened, reincarnate masters, how could they be squabbling like politicians? There definitely was shady business going on, on both ends, it seemed to me, which made it very difficult for me to take the lineage seriously.
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« Reply #27 on: January 11, 2013, 11:16:44 AM »

If the Shamarpa and the Tai Situpa are both supposed to be enlightened, reincarnate masters, how could they be squabbling like politicians? There definitely was shady business going on, on both ends, it seemed to me, which made it very difficult for me to take the lineage seriously.

The whole tulku business is rather like being eligible for a certain office. Without monastic training and commitment from the individual, nothing may come out of it. Some tulkus immigrated to the West, married, had children, who were themselves declared to be incarnations, but these wouldn't care much for Buddhism at all and simply wanted to live ordinary lives. 

I was always intrigued by the frankness of the Dalai Lama who, when asked whether he is an incarnated Buddha, answers that he's first and foremost an ordinary Buddhist monk.   
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« Reply #28 on: January 11, 2013, 11:40:56 AM »

The best of Stoic philosophy has been preserved in the Orthodox ascetic tradition. In fact, the Philokalia begins with a compilation from the writings of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius transmitted under the name of St. Anthony the Great. That's pseudoepigraphy at its best!   

     My exposure as a catechumen was overwhelmingly emphasizing Orthodox asceticism as fasting and confession.  Neither of which the Stoics on the whole emphasized in their training.   

   I've settled on reading Stoic philosophy and reflecting on it, rather than practicing Buddhism, and I soon experienced a change in attitude, because I was no longer struggling with the ideals of Buddhism.   I have also, to a certain extent, started realizing the religious beliefs of Christianity, and philosophy, can be held in the same person in tension, as long as each is used as a different kind of consolation.
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« Reply #29 on: January 11, 2013, 11:52:13 AM »

The best of Stoic philosophy has been preserved in the Orthodox ascetic tradition. In fact, the Philokalia begins with a compilation from the writings of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius transmitted under the name of St. Anthony the Great. That's pseudoepigraphy at its best!   

     My exposure as a catechumen was overwhelmingly emphasizing Orthodox asceticism as fasting and confession.  Neither of which the Stoics on the whole emphasized in their training.   

   I've settled on reading Stoic philosophy and reflecting on it, rather than practicing Buddhism, and I soon experienced a change in attitude, because I was no longer struggling with the ideals of Buddhism.   I have also, to a certain extent, started realizing the religious beliefs of Christianity, and philosophy, can be held in the same person in tension, as long as each is used as a different kind of consolation.


You were an Orthodox catechumen?
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« Reply #30 on: January 11, 2013, 12:02:16 PM »

 My exposure as a catechumen was overwhelmingly emphasizing Orthodox asceticism as fasting and confession.  Neither of which the Stoics on the whole emphasized in their training. 

You may not find identical ascetic practices or spiritual exercises in Stoicism and Orthodoxy, but a similar understanding of vices and virtues, the ascetic ideal of ataraxia (equilibrium/freedom from the tyranny of passions), the relationship between master/elder and disciple (see for instance Seneca's letters to Lucilius), belief that all things are permeated, coordinated and maintained by the same universal Logos (impersonal for the Stoics, personal for the Christians) and so forth.     

 
 I've settled on reading Stoic philosophy and reflecting on it, rather than practicing Buddhism, and I soon experienced a change in attitude, because I was no longer struggling with the ideals of Buddhism.

Many would argue that Buddhism also has a lot in common with Stoicism - non-attachment, for one. I don't recall which (Stoic?) philosopher was advising one to remember, even whilst hugging his child and wife, that they don't belong to him and he will one day be imminently stripped of them. Now, where personal relationships are concerned Christianity has another understanding.    

 
I have also, to a certain extent, started realizing the religious beliefs of Christianity, and philosophy, can be held in the same person in tension, as long as each is used as a different kind of consolation.

Maybe Christianity has more to offer than therapy/consolation. I would hope it is more than a strategy to cope with the adversities of this world.
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« Reply #31 on: January 13, 2013, 11:46:04 PM »

Maybe Christianity has more to offer than therapy/consolation. I would hope it is more than a strategy to cope with the adversities of this world.

  I actually think this is my take on Christianity now, being as how I regard the ideals of theosis to be imperfectable, at least in this life, in this world- organized religion, even Orthodoxy, is far to open to spiritual abuse for anybody to approach their faults and the faults of others with anything but realism (not demanding sainthood of anyone, including oneself).  For much of Catholic and Protestant juridical views of salvation to be flawed at best, nonsensical at worst.  So I view it therapeuticly.  Of course, for something to be therapeutic, it must be true, and it is here I think a Christian life is grounded in the hope of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as an historical reality, because if true, it means that Jesus has transcended the verdict of what otherwise would have been history (an obscure, defeated Jewish rebel forgotten in time), where so many others have not... pointing to the authority of his words and his mission (it is here I might refer to N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg's "The Meaning of Jesus") and making him relevent beyond just mere religious platitudes and narratives of individual salvation and individual morality (I don't view how one can reduce the Christian life to "being a good person" or even "being holy").

  I'm not sure, frankly, this is at all compatible with Orthodox highly metaphysical views of salvation- I just view salvation as a life of forgiveness and grace in the face of an otherwise mysterious/absurd world  ("Before God, and with God, we live without God, in a godless world" - Dietrich Bonhoeffer).  But it is certainly inspiring for me nonthleless.  Maybe I belong in the Episcopalian/Anglican world after all.
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« Reply #32 on: January 13, 2013, 11:54:10 PM »

Do not want.
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« Reply #33 on: January 14, 2013, 01:01:58 AM »

The process of theosis will never end--that's exactly what's so great about it Smiley
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