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Hi friends, a question, with some preface:

 

I started to develop an interest in Dzogchen a little more than a year ago. I'd been doing silent, objectless meditation for some time, and being without any teacher I was starting to worry if I was falling into what Chan masters sometimes refer to as a "cavern with ghosts," i.e. oblivion without illumination. I realized that Dzogchen offered more of a structure than I was able to find in books of Zen, Taoist medication (Golden Flower) or even apophatic prayer (Plotinus, Dionysus, Eckart, etc).

 

Now I don't want to get into a long debate about whether/ to what degree Dzogchen leads to the same thing as the other traditions (I've seen enough of that on DW). Suffice it to say that I'm reasonably confident that it leads to where I want to go, being, according to its own view, not only the essence of Buddhadharma but also the essence of all religion/spiritual traditions.

 

I had and have no interest in going through ngondro or otherwise getting involved in the structures and hierarchies of Tibetan Buddhism. I really just want a "nondual" contemplative practice that is detailed enough to provide decent guidelines for practice, but free from religious dogma. 

 

This is why I was happy to find out about ChNNR, who gave webcasts of the Direct Introduction, but didn't require formal "conversion" to Buddhism or samathas other than to maintain the View.  And he was reportedly accessible without expecting or desiring "worshippers." 

 

Unfortunately, I was not aware of him until after his very last webcasts and before he passed away (sometime in July or August 2018). I'm not aware that the Dzogchen Community has appointed anyone to take on his role, and in any case my feelings towards that organization are somewhat ambivalent. With ChNNR gone, I'm uninclined to get involved with it.

 

So the question is, are there any other Dzogchen (or Mahamudra) teachers who follow a similar perspective to ChNNR in offering DI via webcast and enabling practitioners to just follow the teachings without formal conversion/memberships/vows?

 

Does anyone have recommendations? At this point I'm almost inclined to just get started and throw myself on the mercy of Heaven (as it were) as I feel this is rather holding me back. 

I would also be interested in hearing about alternative pathways via other traditions that I may have missed (in Taoism, for interest), i.e. accessible nondual meditative traditions or teachers that are not dependent upon taking a confessional perspective, cumbrous rules or arbitrary obedience, but which aim to lead the student to the essence of all traditions.

 

Many thanks I'm advance!

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You have a brave & noble vision.

Hope its enough to guide you towards that which you are hoping to achieve.  

 

I've been trying to be a steady Dzogchen student since 96. Over the years, I have met numerous teachers, yogis, and adepts who are neither teacher nor yogi, and they have ALL shared the same emphasis on the vital importance of some sort of support practice (Ngondro - preliminaries) to really pound the foundation in order to dissolve old habitual physical and mental gaits that, if allowed to remain, will hinder one's speed towards ultimate fruition, which, quintessentially means the gradual onset of permanent equipoise. 

 

Establishing the taste of what exactly the View is in Dzogchen is pretty simple and straightforward, while losing that View to old habitual patterns is just as easy and effortless. Without wanting to sound preachy, I'll end by saying that there is essentially no dividing line between Dzogchen and Ngondro. The practitioner who can attain fruition without cultivating the 2 types of bodhicitta (thru Ngondro) is rare indeed. I strongly believe even Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche could not have attained his Dzogchen mastery without having had grounding as a Ngondro novice.

 

My intention is not to debate whether Ngondro can or cannot be dispensed with. For those who feel that the support of Ngondro can be put aside and still maintain the View with prolonged ease, then more power to them. As for me, Ngondro and the View is inseparably entwined and integral to lengthier periods of resting in that space of equipoise. 

 

Wishing you the very best on your journey.  

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Hi Radix,

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is a Bön Dzogchen teacher whose approach is similar to that of Choegyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. He was close friends with Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, who was the first person to invite him to teach in the West.

 

While he offers a traditional path for those who want it, he mostly teaches in a more progressive format. He requires no conversion, obligation, ngondro, or vows. He travels the world constantly teaching retreats but also has a vibrant online presence you can follow for free. He will soon be launching a "cyber-sangha" webpage to support the online community. 

 

I would suggest you check out his Facebook page where he offers free Dzogchen teachings on a regular basis. While his teachings often touch on other topics, like mantras (esp 3 Heart Mantras of Bön), tantric practices (dream and sleep yoga, tummo, tsa lung, etc...); his core teaching and practice always comes back to Dzogchen. Also check his organization's website (https://ligmincha.org/) and a learning resource that offers both free and paid online workshops (https://www.ligminchalearning.com/). The free workshops entitled Starting a Meditation Practice Parts 1&2 are a great introduction to his core teachings. 

 

I've been following Rinpoche's teachings for about 8 years both in person and online. I've gotten to know him well and I can say that he walks the walk. Not only does he teach the Dharma, he lives it. He is no longer a monastic. He has a wife and child and his secular life experience and time spent in the West gives him deep insight into the needs of secular Western students. My own experience has been extremely positive with Rinpoche himself as well as the Bön community. 

 

Best of luck to you.

Steve

 

Here is a sample teaching derived from the 21 Nails, a Dzogchen teaching describing the Natural State from 21 varied perspectives:

 

 

 

 

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@CT: Many thanks for the thoughtful and sincere response. I do understand your perspective. I just can't see myself fitting into the whole traditional track like that. I think, however, that in general the traditional way works for many people and hence I certainly respect your position.

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@Steve:

Ah yes! I have heard and read many great things about Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche! I was actually looking at his Facebook page the other day, as well as his website. I was indeed thinking that this might be a way to go. However, I'm really confused, because on the website you linked to, it says:

 

"NOTE: It is essential to study and practice the chapters of the Experiential Transmission in sequence. Therefore, the ngöndro is a prerequisite for continuing the teachings of the Experiential Transmission."

https://ligmincha.org/practice/

 

I noticed this about a week ago when I first saw his site, and hence I gave it up because it looked like I would have to get into the whole traditional track with ngondro and five years of tantric Bonpo training, etc.

 

I've been following my own path for several years now and, although I don't have a very high estimation of my abilities, I'm not new to meditation. If I could find something homologous to the Great Perfection in the West I would seek it there, since I am a Westerner and in terms of temperament more inclined towards Hermeticism and Neo-Platonism. Alas these traditions are not longer "living", hence while one can certainly benefit for the vast written corpus, the pure contemplative teachings are no longer passed down in a living tradition. This is the dilemma of so may of us in the West! But Dzogchen, according to its own understanding of itself, is THE primordial wisdom tradition. I don't necessarily understand this literally, insomuch as it has a form of its own, but I would say that it IS a direct and pure reflection of the "primordial tradition." Hence, at least theoretically it should be able to exist completely independently or within any socio-cultural context, as a "secret" doctrine that illuminates everything else.

 

Anyway, you seem to be saying that TWR makes exceptions. If this is so, that is good news indeed!

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There's this work by Randall Studstill: The Unity of Mystical Traditions: The Transformation of Consciousness in Tibetan and German Mysticism that I think will interest you (assuming you haven't yet come across it). 

 

Overview: "The book supports an ecumenical theory of mysticism through a comparative analysis of Tibetan Dzogchen and German mysticism. Using a systems model of consciousness as an interpretive framework, it shows how the distinct doctrines and practices of these two traditions function in parallel, equally transformative ways."

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24 minutes ago, Radix said:

@Steve:

Ah yes! I have heard and read many great things about Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche! I was actually looking at his Facebook page the other day, as well as his website. I was indeed thinking that this might be a way to go. However, I'm really confused, because on the website you linked to, it says:

 

"NOTE: It is essential to study and practice the chapters of the Experiential Transmission in sequence. Therefore, the ngöndro is a prerequisite for continuing the teachings of the Experiential Transmission."

https://ligmincha.org/practice/

 

I noticed this about a week ago when I first saw his site, and hence I gave it up because it looked like I would have to get into the whole traditional track with ngondro and five years of tantric Bonpo training, etc.

This note is specifically directed specifically to those who want to participate in the teaching cycle of the Zhangzhung Nyengyüd he gives at Serenity Ridge. It is a 5 year cycle offered in the winter each year. The cycle just finished on the first of this year. This coming winter retreat will be a silent week of Dzogchen practice with very little teaching, open to anyone. The cycle will probably start again in December 2020. The traditional path is an amazing experience but, like you say, not for everyone. There is no mandatory tantric Bönpo training even for those who study the full ZZNG cycle. Rinpoche offers little in the way of traditional tantric teachings. The traditional approach is not the only way he presents Dzogchen teachings. 

 

24 minutes ago, Radix said:

've been following my own path for several years now and, although I don't have a very high estimation of my abilities, I'm not new to meditation. If I could find something homologous to the Great Perfection in the West I would seek it there, since I am a Westerner and in terms of temperament more inclined towards Hermeticism and Neo-Platonism. Alas these traditions are not longer "living", hence while one can certainly benefit for the vast written corpus, the pure contemplative teachings are no longer passed down in a living tradition. This is the dilemma of so may of us in the West! But Dzogchen, according to its own understanding of itself, is THE primordial wisdom tradition. I don't necessarily understand this literally, insomuch as it has a form of its own, but I would say that it IS a direct and pure reflection of the "primordial tradition." Hence, at least theoretically it should be able to exist completely independently or within any socio-cultural context, as a "secret" doctrine that illuminates everything else.

I appreciate your perspective and I agree with you that the very purity of the practice and view allows it to be adapted and adopted with minimal socio-cultural context. That is precisely what Rinpoche is doing with his teaching approach. When Dzogchen is referred to in Bön as "THE primordial wisdom tradition" it is in the context of comparing it to the other 8 vehicles in Bön. It is considered the highest simply because the Dzogchen view is the least dependent on any conceptual constructs and thus closest to "truth" as compared to the views of the other paths.

 

24 minutes ago, Radix said:

Anyway, you seem to be saying that TWR makes exceptions. If this is so, that is good news indeed!

Yes, most of his teachings are independent of the traditional path. I would suggest you watch a few of his free online talks or get your feet wet using the Starting a Meditation Practice workshops on Ligmincha Learning. Many of his talks are collected at oceanofwisdom.org. It's not yet well catalogued but a great resource. A good place to start is with any of his teachings on the 3 Doors - this is the core of his Dzogchen practice  approach.

 

 

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2 hours ago, C T said:

There's this work by Randall Studstill: The Unity of Mystical Traditions: The Transformation of Consciousness in Tibetan and German Mysticism that I think will interest you (assuming you haven't yet come across it). 

 

Overview: "The book supports an ecumenical theory of mysticism through a comparative analysis of Tibetan Dzogchen and German mysticism. Using a systems model of consciousness as an interpretive framework, it shows how the distinct doctrines and practices of these two traditions function in parallel, equally transformative ways."

Oh yes, I'm definitely interested in this! I'm presuming that by "German mysticism," what is meant is the Rhineland Mystics, Eckhart, Tauler, et al? I will see if I can get ahold of this at my university....

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Hi Radix,

 

I think the translation of ngondro as 'preliminary' is a bit misleading even if it is technically accurate.  I am studying Mahamudra and doing the Kagyu ngondro (incredibly slowly :) ).  It is not the case that you have to complete the ngondro before doing mahamudra meditation.  It is more that the ngondro create a kind of environment in which the practice can prosper, grow and bear fruit.  It may be that you never finish - although obviously you should aim to - but the whole thing - ordinary preliminaries, extraordinary prelims, guru yoga, mahamudra are a kind of seamless vehicle which carries you forward and not a kind of series of tests or badges.

 

I accept that you don't want all the trappings of Tibetan etiquette and culture - and I don't blame you, I'm not a big fan myself, but I kind of accept it as being there - but I think its important to say that there are a number of teachers around (depending on where you live of course) and what you should look for is someone (a teacher) with whom you feel a connection - to do that you really need to drop any preconditions about what you like and what you don't like - you can't change the dharma to what you want or accept if you see what I mean.

 

 

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Hi Apech,

Thanks for your post. 

 

I certainly see your point and I appreciate your perspective--and nothing that I say here should be read as a refutation or belittlement of that perspective. I just feel I've been "ruined" in that regard. Ten years ago, had such an opportunity arisen, and had I been informed enough then to recognize Buddhism as a path leading "up the mountain," I would probably have plunged onto the path of Ngondro with zeal, as offering a clear and systematic method. However, over the years I've become so jaded and disillusioned with spiritual institutions of all sorts (both through negative personal experience and a whole lot of observation and reflection) that I simply don't think I'd be capable of committing to a Ngondro practice, to say nothing of a specific lineage, tradition, religion or guru. I know all this might sound like stereotypical Western anti-authoritarianism, but really I feel nothing but rejoicing for those who can find their way in these things. I know there is also a lot of good in the traditional institutions and really wonderful people within them. I don't discredit them in any absolute sense, especially for those they benefit, and I realize that every soul is coming from a different place, with different needs, biases, experiences and points of view; but in my case, I know myself well enough to realize it would be pointless to follow that really normative traditional way.

 

I suppose I'm grasping to my biases, and that's a fair enough point. But I also feel I've "earned" my biases. I've been involved in 2 or 3 different spiritual traditions during my life (Buddhist and non-Buddhist). There was a time when I gleefully immersed myself in outward practices (prostrations, litanies, chanting, devotion to the teacher, etc). I eventually found these things, in my own case, to be another form of grasping, or else an attempt to "polish a brick."

 

Over time the outward practices have dropped away little by little, but the thing that remains constant is the silent meditation practice. I have approached this from different angles of view, but as much as I can tell it really transcends any particular tradition in itself. I still utilize various outward things from time to time, but merely as "supports for meditation," or out or habit, no longer as a main part of the path. In a way, it leaves a void, since ritual, liturgy and spiritual forms have a refreshing beauty of their own, but increasingly I feel that I must simply be silent and listen--as well as purify the subtle body (hence the newfound Qigong interest). These are the two main things for me now, maybe adding the contemplation of symbolism and scriptures. Anything else I may bring in is secondary or even tertiary. 

 

 I do believe that, as I have heard, in reality all of Buddhadharma arises from Dzogchen, not the other way around. This is a profound statement, and has nothing to do with any kind of historicism. I would (personally) universalize this to say that all spiritual traditions arise from that of which Dzogchen is a direct ray: the primordial Wisdom without a name.

 

What I love about Dzogchen (and Zen, and "contemplative" Taoism) is that--at least theoretically--it can itself serve as this pure vehicle of contemplation, while providing complete freedom to utilize the "skillful means" as one deems expedient for the sake of the liberation of suffering beings. In practice, however, I have found Dzogchen, Mahamudra, and Ch'an/Zen to be surrounded by formidable structures of institutionalization and traditional gatekeepers. And politics, pedantry, formalism,  and narrow vision.

 

None of this is new anywhere, of course. I certainly appreciate the argument that it is the very institutions which insure these traditions against being lost or desecrated. I'm not advocating a generalized revolution by any means! And samsara after all is samsara. Still, in individual cases a transcending of all this may be more expedient than otherwise.

 

Put it this way: I think that if I were, through destiny or karma, to meet a guru whom I just really felt understood me on a deep level and who I believed didn't want to "own" me--whether for himself or on behalf of whatever tradition s/he was representing--then I might be more open to Ngondro or whatever specifics they required for the sake of training. It's just that I've been burned in the past. On paper, such preliminaries, in whatever tradition, look perfect. But so many times, it seems, these preliminaries are just levied automatically as a sort of "one-size-fits-all" spiritual path where individual needs and "issues" are not taken into sufficient account. Sometimes they bear fruit, sometimes they do not.

 

And so the only one I can say that I really "trust" anymore is that "still small voice" inside. Usually, it's very still, and very small, but I've nevertheless become increasingly able to trust this voice when I do hear it, especially in its cautions, whereas 15 years ago I would have said, "According to everyone important in the tradition, this or that practice is the one way to go if you want to achieve this."

 

Anyway, I apologise for these long essays I seem to have been writing. I do appreciate having the opportunity to reflect on this with real living people, which is largely why I wanted to join thedaobums! Thanks to everyone who has shared so far. I have truly found all of your insights helpful 🙏

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@Radix 

 

Your 'long essay' is very clear and I understand a bit better where you are coming from.

 

I doubt very much that any ritual or ceremony such as ngondro will get you anywhere if it is indeed just a ritual.  The irony is that that I 'belong' to a Buddhist group which stresses the orthodox - while I myself am congenitally unable to practice things by wrote and without putting in a lot of effort to understand what I am doing and why.  Hence why I said I'm doing ngondro very slowly (currently in a stop phase :) ).   I am also very divergent in my interests and often wander off on the byways to study other systems like Daoism and even Hermeticism and Ancient Egypt.   So I wasn't trying to promote some kind of conformity or adherence to gatekeeping but rather perhaps for seeing those same things from your own point of view and getting value from them.

 

I wish you well and urge you, as you seem already to do, to be true to your own values because in the end that is what counts.

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I'm still not sure if the purpose of Ngondro is properly understood by the OP. 

Its very possible to practice it without obeisance to any particular lineage or teacher. 

I'm doing it, but I've cut all ties with the root teacher that I started out with. 

No samayas broken, as far as I'm concerned cos he was an utter hypocrite and a predator. 

No bitterness on my part - I remain faithful to the practice despite the weakness that came up. 

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1 hour ago, C T said:

I'm still not sure if the purpose of Ngondro is properly understood by the OP. 

Its very possible to practice it without obeisance to any particular lineage or teacher. 

I'm doing it, but I've cut all ties with the root teacher that I started out with. 

No samayas broken, as far as I'm concerned cos he was an utter hypocrite and a predator. 

No bitterness on my part - I remain faithful to the practice despite the weakness that came up. 

 

 

I'm curious - what are you going to do for the guru-yoga stage?  Don't answer if you don't care to of course.

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, Apech said:

 

 

I'm curious - what are you going to do for the guru-yoga stage?  Don't answer if you don't care to of course.

 

Work with the original and only authentic guru, Buddha Shakyamuni, or Guru Rinpoche, with whom I have strong affinity with. All the gurus are after all emanations of Buddha Shakyamuni, so its really not an issue. 

Edited by C T
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Apech, thanks for your reply. I hope I didn't come across as implying that anyone here was acting as a "gatekeeper." To the contrary, you and everyone elseon this thread has been extremely courteous to me, and helpful, unlike some of the responses I have come across in various "Dzogchen wars" on other forums. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, C T said:

 

Work with the original and only authentic guru, Buddha Shakyamuni, or Guru Rinpoche, with whom I have strong affinity with. All the gurus are after all emanations of Buddha Shakyamuni, so its really not an issue. 

Wow, that's  extremely interesting! I had the same question and Apech beat me to it. Curiously enough, I had actually considered something similar to this long ago--i.e. I had considered taking Avalokitesvara or Amitabha as the guru (for both of whom I also have great affinity). But I gave it up as impossible in the sense that it would be entirely "unofficial," hence unacknowledged. I don't really care one way or another about official acknowledgement, yet something held me back, as it seemed so out of the ordinary and I questioned whether or not following the impulse would just be capricious. Is this something that can actually be done, then?

 

NB: I'm not doubting you or challenging you--the ins and outs of TB can be overwhelming and hard to grasp in their intricacies, conditions, absolutes and exceptions. So I'd genuinely be interested in hearing more about how you go about this, ie what your practice looks like, and how you plan to take it forward. (Of course I'd understand if this is something you'd prefer to keep private.)

Edited by Radix
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I mean, lets take pure perception as an actual experience or manifestation, and not a theoretical premise: 

Some folks think pure perception means seeing the lama as perfect, and some schools actually sell that notion as truth. Which is disappointing. 

 

So, what does pure perception actually entail? In my understanding, it means going beyond the mundane into the very heart of enlightenment itself, which is that essentially there is a non-dual order to the myriad forms, where these are seen to arise out of ignorance, which then leads to being captivated by distractive habits, which then leads to grasping, which then propels samsara.

 

By knowing how to trace the steps back to that original, self-perfected union of form & emptiness, one arrives ultimately at the view of equanimity, that is, thru gaining confidence in the view of recognising the primordial state: that all things are fundamentally without opposites. When this becomes an experiential understanding, then dualistic thought will resolve itself, and the state of equanimous poise arise spontaneously out of that resolution. To get there, practice is essential. Guided Practice is likened to having a proper GPS in place that enables some sort of protection against incidental detours and dead-ends. Without this GPS its like having a boat but no propeller, or having a propeller and vessel, but an inadequate operator who does not have the necessary navigation skills, or one who has had no guidance on how to calibrate the scales adequately. 

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It can be difficult for the right circumstances and opportunities to come together to get transmission.  A combination of aspiration and altruism may tip the balance in your favour. Perhaps check out the teachings on ‘Calling the Lama from Afar’.

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Posted (edited)

CT, I really like how you describe this. Very refreshing and wise. One of the things that I like about Ch'an/Zen is that the outward practices are often described in a similarly esoteric manner--as in the Platform Sutra where Huineng talks about the refuge vows. I don't get this impression much in the Tibetan context, curiously, which I suppose makes sense when dealing with more "Sutra level" or gradual practices. The problem with Zen is, unless you're training in a school or under a master, the nature of the "path" can seem highly paradoxical and difficult to understand at all, although the view is certainly sublime.

Edited by Radix
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Posted (edited)

The issue with paths is that they need to be taken on their own. I think there is a fine line between finding a path that fits you, and trying to fit a path into one's preconceived concepts. Buddhist meditation practices, at least according to my teachers (inc ChNNR), developed within a Buddhist framework. That means a strong emphasis on emptiness and not self, which can be subtle and quite difficult. So difficult that the Buddha almost didn't even teach. 

 

ChNNR did have a lot of respect for Bon Dzogchen. He also had a lot of respect for Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who has at least three sons who carry on his style. Arranged from most to least traditional, they are Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.  In addition to TWR, you may want to check these teachers out. Chokyi Nyima allegedly did a webcast pointing out last year, but I did not receive it. The other two require in person pointing out. I actually think if you are serious about this, it is better to get pointing out in person in a retreat setting. I also cannot explain it, but there does seem to be something transmitted by taking a formal empowerment in a Buddhist tradition. 

 

If you have an established Platonic outlook, I think there may be issues down the road if you try to reconcile Plato with Buddha. The closest thing you find in ancient Greece to a Buddhist outlook in Pyrrhonism. As far as I know, Pyrrhonism formed the basis for Skepticism, which pretty much overtook Plato's academy in its later years and forced neo-Platonism out. 

 

However, Buddhist and Hindu Tantra developed around the same time and area, and took off in separate directions. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of realized teachers who teach non-dual Shaiva Tantra, but there are some and they may be worth checking out. The most accessible non-dual tradition from the Indian matrix that is still alive, outside of Buddhism, is probably Advaita Vedanta. If you are at all interested in Advaita, you can start at home with the large body of videos by Swami Sarvapriyananda. 

 

 

 

On 8/21/2019 at 11:18 AM, Radix said:

 

I've been following my own path for several years now and, although I don't have a very high estimation of my abilities, I'm not new to meditation. If I could find something homologous to the Great Perfection in the West I would seek it there, since I am a Westerner and in terms of temperament more inclined towards Hermeticism and Neo-Platonism. Alas these traditions are not longer "living", hence while one can certainly benefit for the vast written corpus, the pure contemplative teachings are no longer passed down in a living tradition. This is the dilemma of so may of us in the West! But Dzogchen, according to its own understanding of itself, is THE primordial wisdom tradition. I don't necessarily understand this literally, insomuch as it has a form of its own, but I would say that it IS a direct and pure reflection of the "primordial tradition." Hence, at least theoretically it should be able to exist completely independently or within any socio-cultural context, as a "secret" doctrine that illuminates everything else.

 

Edited by forestofemptiness
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12 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

The issue with paths is that they need to be taken on their own. I think there is a fine line between finding a path that fits you, and trying to fit a path into one's preconceived concepts. Buddhist meditation practices, at least according to my teachers (inc ChNNR), developed within a Buddhist framework. That means a strong emphasis on emptiness and not self, which can be subtle and quite difficult. So difficult that the Buddha almost didn't even teach. 

 

ChNNR did have a lot of respect for Bon Dzogchen. He also had a lot of respect for Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who has at least three sons who carry on his style. Arranged from most to least traditional, they are Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.  In addition to TWR, you may want to check these teachers out. Chokyi Nyima allegedly did a webcast pointing out last year, but I did not receive it. The other two require in person pointing out. I actually think if you are serious about this, it is better to get pointing out in person in a retreat setting. I also cannot explain it, but there does seem to be something transmitted by taking a formal empowerment in a Buddhist tradition. 

 

If you have an established Platonic outlook, I think there may be issues down the road if you try to reconcile Plato with Buddha. The closest thing you find in ancient Greece to a Buddhist outlook in Pyrrhonism. As far as I know, Pyrrhonism formed the basis for Skepticism, which pretty much overtook Plato's academy in its later years and forced neo-Platonism out. 

 

However, Buddhist and Hindu Tantra developed around the same time and area, and took off in separate directions. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of realized teachers who teach non-dual Shaiva Tantra, but there are some and they may be worth checking out. The most accessible non-dual tradition from the Indian matrix that is still alive, outside of Buddhism, is probably Advaita Vedanta. If you are at all interested in Advaita, you can start at home with the large body of videos by Swami Sarvapriyananda. 

 

 

 

 

A good resource for Non-dual Shaiva tradition would be http://www.anuttaratrikakula.org/

IINM he is the person responsible for the translation of the Shiva Sutras by Swami Lakshman Joo, considered to be the last  fully realized Master of Kashmir Shaivism. 

 

If OP is interested, send me a PM and I'll try to connect you with some KS folks I know. 

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Hi forestofemptiness, thanks for your very helpful and insightful post 🙏 I can't really argue with you in terms of what's best, in a general sense at least. No doubt receiving any teachings live is the ideal. The question of reconciling traditions doesn't really bother me, shocking as that may sound. I just see different upayas, some more, some less direct, each dealing with different needs and conditions. Conceptually, at least, while I am sensible of differences on a discursive level (i.e. the question of atman/anatman), I'm can't say I believe that ultimately Taoism, KS, Advaita and the Mahayana/Dzogchen don't all point to the same (no)thing. I can relate to them all in different ways. Perhaps KS is the most sublime in my understanding (I've studied it a bit, but find the teachings mostly out or reach besides a few primary texts).  Possibly the "view" of Neoplatonism is somewhat lower than the above mentioned traditions. Of course, all this is only my personal opinion, based on intuition and my own reasonably well-informed meditation on the teachings. Debates on these issues will never be definitive or satisfactory to all parties (there are HUGE debate threads about these issues, for instance, on Dharmawheel, going on for page after page and utterly exhausting).

 

I'm really only interested in practice at this point, to get beyond a certain "blockage" in my path. It's a question of praxis for me, not really metaphysics. I do like Advaita (that's what started me on the whole metaphysical bent years ago) though I feel closer to East Asian Buddhism due to the Bodhisattva ideal and the general tone of universal compassion and almost limitless "ways in" for all types of people. In any case, I appreciate the feedback!

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Posted (edited)

OK, well, after going in mental circles about this for a few days, I've come to the conclusion that CT and Apech just may be onto something regarding the Ngondro. What I mean is that, when I posted my initial query, I'd been having a sense of being "blocked" for some time--both at the level of meditation and also in my etheric/subtle body. I wanted to find a way into more advanced meditation teaching: this was difficult because, a.) I live in a country (for work) where teachers are apparently unavailable; b.) I live in a country where Skype, the great technological blessing of isolated spiritual seekers, is blocked (!) The Mahamudra and Dzogchen teachings are accessible and available in written form (plenty of ebooks, YouTube videos, etc), but intimately bound up with the whole structure of Tibetan Buddhism, with its hierarchies, institutions, procedures, etc,  which due to past involvement in another large traditional system makes me more than a bit nervous. Still, I decided to give a shout out here to see if I could get some suggestions.

 

Now, CT and Apech advocated ngondro as a way of suitably "preparing the vessel" to receive and embody the higher teachings. At first, my instinct was to "run away! run away!" (as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) but over the past few days their words have stuck with me.

Maybe I'm overthinking this?

 

After going back and reading through a few ngondro texts as a refresher, what I realized is that what is included in the ngondro is a powerful--nay, a mighty--program or inner purification and transformation. It's also high spiritual theurgy/magic! I mentioned that I was worried about my subtle body--well, the ngondro is a medicine for this, as is clear as day to see for anyone who has studied yoga (Patanjali) or alchemy. Also the guru yoga, as I know from previous experience with Naqshbandi sufism (which has an almost identical practice), is powerful and real. Last but not least, the practice of ngondro would enable me to actively cultivate bodhicitta every day, and this is extremely important to me.

 

I'm more comfortable with Western symbolism, but I'm a universalist at heart and as long as I wasn't required to actually "reject" anything that is important to me, I think this is something that may in fact be quite beneficial for me, worthwhile in itself and apart from any question of Dzogchen. Maybe if I just focus on the practice, work on myself and stay far away from any and all contentious debates on DW or elsewhere on the interwebs, things might just work out....

 

I still feel that probably any lama I approach with this would turn me away due to my lack of absolute devotion to Buddhism in itself as the sole possible route, but my better judgement told me that I should at least try--then I would know at least know, right? So I think what I will do now is to write to a lama and ask for his blessing to begin a ngondro text, and to be as completely open and transparent about my reservations, qualms, hangups, and motivations as possible, so as to give him every opportunity to turn me away if necessary. Then I will know where I stand. 

 

Anyway, I figure I will start with TWR and perhaps Ringu Tulku, of whom I am fond. It would have been nice to be able to receive the Dzogchen ngondro from ChNNR, but alas. If anyone has other suggestions, please let me know. (CT and Apech, which traditions do you guys follow?)

 

 

 

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I follow Karma Kagyu - aligned to the Sharma Karmapa (not the other one :) ).

 

Where do you live that Skype is banned - can't you use a VPN? or Tor?

 

I go in Dharmawheel a little bit - I find it very conformist and conventional.

 

 

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Apech:

Where do you live that Skype is banned - can't you use a VPN? or Tor?

 

Dubai. I've never tried either of those, but I'm reluctant to for various reasons....

 

I go in Dharmawheel a little bit - I find it very conformist and conventional.

 

That's been my experience as well. There definitely is a lot of benefit and knowledge there, and I've learned a ton of things which I probably could never have learned elsewhere; but some of the conversations there, specifically in the Vajrayana forum, are hardly more elevating than you'd find in a stereotypical Literalist/Fundamentalist Church.

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