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7 minutes ago, virtue said:

 

What do you conceptualize as tantra?

 

For me it's simply anything that skillfully accesses blessings of the enlightened mind-stream(s) and arouses the practitioner's body-mind to facilitate particular functions pertaining to awareness development. In this view all praying to Buddhas, visualization of Buddhas and their Pure Lands, related mantras, chanting names of the Buddhas, and so forth are indivorceably tantric practices even before the helpful attunements given by possible empowerments.

 

Hey Virtue... welcome back :) 

 

Using the term 'non-tantric' refers to the outer aspect of Chenrezig practice that is considered 'open' and informal. The inner path (loosely exemplified as visualizing Chenrezig rising from the heart chakra to the crown) and the innermost path (visualizing oneself as Chenrezig), being more formalized, would be the tantric elements I was referring to.

 

I'm not aware that a Chenrezig empowerment is a prerequisite even at the latter stages of the innermost path, unlike, for example, the yidams of anuttarayoga tantra... Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, Vajrayogini (mother tantras), or Yamantaka and Guhyasamaja (father tantras), which are all off limits without empowerments, even at the generation stages. I'm open to correction on this. 

 

I don't believe Chenrezig is classified under either of the above tantric family of deities. Again, open to correction. 

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@C T Thank you for your friendly greeting and taking time to explain.

 

I seem to have much less technical and more experiential definition of tantra in comparison, which can be summarized as follows:

 

Tantra is a very neat manner of getting to know ourselves without the "hassle"(*) of relaxing into the non-grasping wisdom exactly right from the get-go and let all the energetic and karmic knots unfold from this abiding spontaneously.

 

This is something I need to keep in mind when I see others writing about tantra and not presume there is perfect harmony.

 

(*) Certainly so for many contemporary people.

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Posted (edited)
36 minutes ago, virtue said:

Tantra is a very neat manner of getting to know ourselves without the "hassle"(*) of relaxing into the non-grasping wisdom exactly right from the get-go and let all the energetic and karmic knots unfold from this abiding spontaneously.

 

What did you mean by "getting to know ourselves" in the context of tantra? Thats an interesting perspective, and not one I hear often. I'd rather not second guess, so an expansion on that would be appreciated. And... why did you regard relaxing into the natural state (non grasping wisdom, as you said) to be a hassle? Another very interesting observation indeed. :) 

 

Edited by C T
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Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, C T said:

What did you mean by "getting to know ourselves" in the context of tantra? Thats an interesting perspective, and not one I hear often. I'd rather not second guess, so an expansion on that would be appreciated. And... why did you regard relaxing into the natural state (non grasping wisdom, as you said) to be a hassle? Another very interesting observation indeed. :)

 

The context of tantra doesn't deviate from the proper Buddhist outset for me in any way. My motivation is to uncover the real me behind all this confusion and stop being a fake. Tantra, in my experience, provides an invaluable support in terms of energy and mind's clarity for realizing open awareness, non-self, compassion, and all these relevant doctrinal tangents that the Buddhist practice and its end-point are supposed to embody. The Buddhahood of perfect awareness, as far as I understand, is getting to know reality and ourselves as we spontaneously and truly are without any fetters mistaken for personal identity.

 

My own condition, and I am not the only one with these types of struggles, when starting Buddhist training has been to deal with illness and distress, which has undermined tuning into proper relaxation and sensitivity. Teachers themselves have often proved to be a liability, not because of lack of skill necessarily, but because shared time is limited and in-depth student-teacher relationships would take more than week long mass seminars to properly allow for personal issues to be probed. (Admittedly, my commitment and uncertainty about who to take as a long-term teacher have been obstacles here.) I also have struggled a lot with having the confidence and certainty when assessing my own success with gaining insight and dzogchen style meditations, in contrast to which tantric methods have always felt assuring and simply easy. Tantra and the help directly given by Buddhas allows an instant peek into what life beyond these personal limitations could offer.

Edited by virtue
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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

I don't. I'm sure that's probably the most correct way of practicing though. Do you practice in this way?

 

I've always struggled with deity visualisations, it seems to require a certain stability of mind perhaps from a foundation of mindfulness meditation. Sometimes I see Medicine Buddha during the mantra practice buy it's only a vague outline, like a shape underwater beneath a disturbed surface. 

 

It's interesting you say that because I never really tried to do visualisations while doing mantras but lately Catholic imagery pops in my head even though I've never been Catholic. Images like statues and cathedrals and such things.

Edited by dmattwads

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, dmattwads said:

 

It's interesting you say that because I never really tried to do visualisations while doing mantras but lately Catholic imagery pops in my head even though I've never been Catholic. Images like statues and cathedrals and such things.

 

I've always wondered whether pure lands and buddhas manifest differently to people based on their cultural background. Whether sukhavati would appear to Westerners like Christian depictions of heaven? And the people appear more like Greco-Roman depictions of gods.

 

I always find it strange how Avalokitesvara is depicted completely differently in China as compared to Tibet (of course some say that Guan Yin is effectively Tara, but I don't agree with that)

Edited by Vajra Fist
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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

I've always wondered whether pure lands and buddhas manifest differently to people based on their cultural background. Whether sukhavati would appear to Westerners like Christian depictions of heaven? And the people appear more like Greco-Roman depictions of gods.

 

I always find it strange how Avalokitesvara is depicted completely differently in China as compared to Tibet (of course some say that Guan Yin is effectively Tara, but I don't agree with that)

 

I believe they do (manifest differently to people based on their cultural background.) 

Thats why the Tibetan iconography (of enlightened beings) literally contains tens of thousands of images. 

This is to cater for all levels/types of archetypal resonances that practitioners can tap into. 

Traditionalists will probably disagree, but thats okay. My teacher disagrees with all static/fixated premises. 

She said it doesn't make sense to deaden the mind by imposing restrictions when the main purpose of practice is to release the mind gently into its empty nature. Ultimately, freedom is to be free of extremes, and if this is the goal, then one must recognize that what teachers provide as tools for practice are simply that.... expedients for maturing the practice. If a practitioner insists that a mandala has to be this way or that, and that its wrong to include, for eg, Jesus Christ (and other non-Buddhist archetypes) within the mandala, then the whole purpose of the practice is missed. 

 

Not only will Sukhavati manifest differently to Westerners -

in essence, it should manifest uniquely to each practitioner's karmic path. 

For example, a Buddhist practitioner's mandala may be imbued with symbols of the swastika and other auspicious symbols, whereas a Christian who adopts vajrayana practice is free to work with auspicious Christian symbols when creating his/her mandala. Or not. If they are not ready to manifest such a mandala to enhance their journey towards enlightenment, thats fine too. 

 

Any particular reason why you do not agree with the idea that Guan Yin and Tara share the same representations? 

Edited by C T

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Although I believe that the rhythmic repetition of sounds is a valuable exercise for the brain functions, it's completely outside of my personal experiences to be able to either meet the specific divine being of the chanted mantra or to cultivate the spiritual qualities of the heart solely by the mantra practice.

 

The mani doesn't create compassion in my heart, the manjushri mantra doesn't generate wisdom and have no effect on my memory, the Hare Krishna doesn't produce detachment from material desires, etc... 

There are visualizations to get those results, but one can really use any mantras or no mantras at all. There are a few accounts of accomplished masters who weren't able to pronounce the mantras correctly, so the sound vibration myth is somehow exaggerated. 

 

My conclusion is that out of a portion of true benefit from training the mind with a mantra, hundreds of superstitions came forth and passed down through the centuries.

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@Vajra Fist
Hey, I would not look at those mantras as fighting each other or anything like that. Both Mani and Medicine Buddha mantras are here for us to get enlightened. Just like Amitabha practice. Especially Mani is good "side dish" to chanting Amitabha's name as Avalokiteshvara is Amitabha's direct student and he also helps beings get into Dewachen. 
 

 

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

I've always wondered whether pure lands and buddhas manifest differently to people based on their cultural background. Whether sukhavati would appear to Westerners like Christian depictions of heaven? And the people appear more like Greco-Roman depictions of gods.

 

I always find it strange how Avalokitesvara is depicted completely differently in China as compared to Tibet (of course some say that Guan Yin is effectively Tara, but I don't agree with that)

 

 

I thought about that too. It makes me think about the lotus sutra and the use of expedient means to reach various people various ways.

Edited by dmattwads

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On 5/10/2020 at 2:35 PM, Vajra Fist said:

 

Honestly I'm a bit torn. I like practicing the Mani and the Medicine Buddha mantras, I have got a lot of benefits (better health, a carefree life, and a job with double the salary). According to a reading from Eric Isen yesterday:

 

"Very powerful opening of the first chakra and stimulation of kundalini up the spine working on opening all the chakras to the very top and clearing the brain."

 

While I'm getting these life benefits, I feel like what happens after death is a blank spot. While some Vajrayana teachers have said that the Mani can lead to rebirth in the pure land, there doesn't seem to be any sutra passages that back that up (please correct me if I'm wrong, I last read the Kāraṇḍavyūha sutra a long time ago).

 

Also, Medicine Buddha sutra suggests that he will aid practitioners in getting rebirth in sukhavati, but it seems to be for exceptional people only (again, correct me if I'm wrong).

 

I read this from Honen today:

 

"Nembutsu is the practice taught in the essential vow of Amida Buddha. Other religious practices, such as observing the precepts, reciting a sutra, chanting dharani, and meditation on the noumenal aspects of reality, are not prescribed in the essential vow. For this reason, one who aspires for birth in the Pure Land must recite nembutsu first. It is acceptable for one to further perform other practices in addition to nembutsu, if one wishes. But, undoubtedly, nembutsu taught in the essential vow is sufficient in itself for birth in the Pure Land.

 

"Master Shan-tao taught that those who only observe practices other than nembutsu while desiring birth in the Pure Land will not achieve birth in the Pure Land. The sole practice of nembutsu is the karmic cause for the certain attainment of birth in the Pure Land."

 

Annoyingly, Eric told me that while I can practice the nembutsu with Medicine Buddha, there appears to be an energetic conflict when I practice all three. 

 

Also, replacing my all mantra practices with nembutsu doesn't seem to be as effective:

 

"Pretty good. Lot of purification of spinal nadis. Nowhere near the benefits of what you are doing now."

 

It would be easy to say that take everything Eric says with a pinch of salt. He's not a Buddhist and he's been wrong before. But I think he's spot on with the bit about purification of spinal nadis. When I practiced the 1000 recitations I had a really bad tension headache that came from my upper back and shoulders - ie. the spine. 

 

That said, Eric might only be seeing the short term effect from nembutsu practice. When he looks at my practice now, he's looking at something I've been practicing for year or two, so I might be further along.

 

I might have created a false dichotomy, but I feel like I'm faced with two choices:

 

1) a practice that generates a ton of merit, which translates into spiritual growth and material benefits, but does not guarantee me liberation from samsara.

 

2) a practice that might not offer so many life benefits in the short term, but offers peace of mind that comes from a guaranteed path to buddhahood.

 

I'm veering towards the second. It might be the harder path, but I think it's the better path.

I believe it would be ok to stick with the mani mantra for your goal of taking birth in Sukhavati if that is your preference. Just make sure you vow to go there and dedicate your merits towards that end.

 

If i remember correctly in the Karandavyuha sutra it mentions that just hearing the sutra results in going to sukhavati let alone dedicatedly reciting the mani mantra. It does mention being born in one of Avalokitesvara's pores which would serve the same function as being born in sukhavati. 

 

In the book Journey to Realms Beyond Death by delog Dawa Drolma, it describes her visit to Avalokitesvara's Pure realm where she received teachings. It states that those who see me, think of me, recite the essence mantra(mani), etc in a state of rapture will be taken to sukhavati upon death and to have no doubts about this. It is also stated to always keep in mind that all forms are Avalokitesvara, all sounds as the mani, the absence of any conceptual reference point as the uncontrived realm of bodhicitta, and ro always recite the mani. That alone is all that is required. 

 

That being said i too grappled with sticking with the mani or switching to nianfo. I noticed a lot of good results from the mani in my everyday life. But like you my goal is to reach sukhavati and make whatever spiritual progress i can in this life. For me for whatever reason it was getting harder and harder to stick to. Maybe i was on the verge of a big breakthrough. I dont know. 

 

If you are continuing to get good results from the mani and medicine buddha i think you should consider sticking to it. It is possible that the nembutsu works at a subtler level than he is able to pick up. If in doubt ask to be shown the correct path. Hope this helps

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On 5/10/2020 at 3:44 PM, C T said:

Im just curious and have a question for mantra practitioners - Where does related visualization practices fit into your routine? 

 

Haven't seen it mentioned, unless it was somehow missed. 

 

I do not do any direct visualizations. I try to maintain the perception of deity, mantra, wisdom. All things arising as Amitabha and the pureland. By trying to maintain that vision all things appear as the pureland. Also see all things as reciting the mantra or buddha name with you. The world will appear as a prayer wheel. I am far from being able to maintain this perception but in moments of clarity that is the way it is seen and what i aim for. 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
41 minutes ago, Who.am.i said:

I believe it would be ok to stick with the mani mantra for your goal of taking birth in Sukhavati if that is your preference. Just make sure you vow to go there and dedicate your merits towards that end.

 

If i remember correctly in the Karandavyuha sutra it mentions that just hearing the sutra results in going to sukhavati let alone dedicatedly reciting the mani mantra. It does mention being born in one of Avalokitesvara's pores which would serve the same function as being born in sukhavati. 

 

In the book Journey to Realms Beyond Death by delog Dawa Drolma, it describes her visit to Avalokitesvara's Pure realm where she received teachings. It states that those who see me, think of me, recite the essence mantra(mani), etc in a state of rapture will be taken to sukhavati upon death and to have no doubts about this. It is also stated to always keep in mind that all forms are Avalokitesvara, all sounds as the mani, the absence of any conceptual reference point as the uncontrived realm of bodhicitta, and ro always recite the mani. That alone is all that is required. 

 

That being said i too grappled with sticking with the mani or switching to nianfo. I noticed a lot of good results from the mani in my everyday life. But like you my goal is to reach sukhavati and make whatever spiritual progress i can in this life. For me for whatever reason it was getting harder and harder to stick to. Maybe i was on the verge of a big breakthrough. I dont know. 

 

If you are continuing to get good results from the mani and medicine buddha i think you should consider sticking to it. It is possible that the nembutsu works at a subtler level than he is able to pick up. If in doubt ask to be shown the correct path. Hope this helps

 

 

Thank you for your post, and also @Miroku too. I have the book by Dawa Drolma, and it is a fantastic read. It's been a few years so I'll give it another look.

 

I've always suspected the requirements are somewhat higher for those who recite the Mani and Medicine Buddha mantras and seek rebirth in sukhavati. Maybe the difference between self and other power, when compared to the nembutsu. Could be just a false impression though.

 

Both sutras also speak of gaining fortunate rebirth in samsara in the next lives as a result of practice, which is less desirable by far than entering the pure land.

 

Do you practice the Mani too or other mantras @Who.am.i? Or is your practice exclusively the nianfo? How many recitations do you aim for a day?

 

 

Edited by Vajra Fist

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On 12/05/2020 at 5:09 AM, C T said:

Any particular reason why you do not agree with the idea that Guan Yin and Tara share the same representations? 

 

There's an excellent book by John Blofield about Guan Yin, where he weighs this theory and the evidence for and against. I can't remember the reasons why off the top of my head but I remember being swayed by his argument that they were seperate deities. Another one for me to reread again.

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Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, Vajra Fist said:

I've always suspected the requirements are somewhat higher for those who recite the Mani and Medicine Buddha mantras and seek rebirth in sukhavati. Maybe the difference between self and other power, when compared to the nembutsu. Could be just a false impression though.

I have that impression as well. But it could be as you said, a false one. One that i have not been able to shake. Thus i use Amituofo as my constant companion. 

 

I agree that rebirth in Sukhavati is by far the preferred result over even taking very fortunate rebirths in samsara. As you will be forever free from samsara. Although once you have received sufficient training it is possible to go back to help as many as possible. 

 

I still practice other mantras and dharanis when i feel moved to. Many times i find that when i do use other mantras i will encounter someone who may be in need of the energy of that mantra. Others i still practice with are the mani, medicine buddha, padmasambhavas mantra, thousand armed Avalokitesvara dharani, and the rebirth dharani. 

 

I do not count or have a number i aim for. What i aim for is continuous repetition so therefore no need to count. Constant as the ticking of a clock. Of course life intervenes but that is the goal. Most is mental or diamond recitation. I do out loud when i am able. 

 

I have found the use of Amituofo to be nearly effortless now where its always there and i just have to tune in to it. I was never able to reach that point with the mani. 

Edited by Who.am.i
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On 13/05/2020 at 10:17 PM, Who.am.i said:

I have that impression as well. But it could be as you said, a false one. One that i have not been able to shake. Thus i use Amituofo as my constant companion. 

 

I agree that rebirth in Sukhavati is by far the preferred result over even taking very fortunate rebirths in samsara. As you will be forever free from samsara. Although once you have received sufficient training it is possible to go back to help as many as possible. 

 

I still practice other mantras and dharanis when i feel moved to. Many times i find that when i do use other mantras i will encounter someone who may be in need of the energy of that mantra. Others i still practice with are the mani, medicine buddha, padmasambhavas mantra, thousand armed Avalokitesvara dharani, and the rebirth dharani. 

 

I do not count or have a number i aim for. What i aim for is continuous repetition so therefore no need to count. Constant as the ticking of a clock. Of course life intervenes but that is the goal. Most is mental or diamond recitation. I do out loud when i am able. 

 

I have found the use of Amituofo to be nearly effortless now where its always there and i just have to tune in to it. I was never able to reach that point with the mani. 

 

Just wanted to say thanks for your advice. I've been practicing pure land exclusively for the past week and it definitely feels like a step up, and perhaps that is reason enough to doubt Eric on this.

 

I tried 'Amituofu' for a couple of days before falling back into the familiar territory of the Japanese 'Namu Amida Bu'. Although I find the Chinese version easier to recall during my daily life, for some reason I worry about whether my mental or verbal pronunciation of the tonal Chinese is correct. Of course I imagine it shouldn't matter, but it still raises questions for me when there shouldn't be questions at all.

 

I'm more confident about the Japanese, although it's a bit more clunky to recall throughout the day. How long did it take for you to reach the point where the nianfo constantly springs to mind throughout your day?

 

 

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21 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:


Just wanted to say thanks for your advice. I've been practicing pure land exclusively for the past week and it definitely feels like a step up

 

 

I would be curious if you don't mind sharing some of your experiences so far with this?

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1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

 

I would be curious if you don't mind sharing some of your experiences so far with this?

 

Very early days, but tranquility and a distinctive feeling of connection with a benevolent higher power. Something I didn't have with the other mantras despite many years of practice. 

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23 minutes ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

Very early days, but tranquility and a distinctive feeling of connection with a benevolent higher power. Something I didn't have with the other mantras despite many years of practice. 

 

Interesting 🤔

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25 minutes ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

Very early days, but tranquility and a distinctive feeling of connection with a benevolent higher power. Something I didn't have with the other mantras despite many years of practice. 

 

just out of curiosity if you ever experimented with prayers to any of the Christian deities or saints? I ask because I've been experimenting like me but I don't think they make me feel very good.

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Posted (edited)
30 minutes ago, dmattwads said:

 

just out of curiosity if you ever experimented with prayers to any of the Christian deities or saints? I ask because I've been experimenting like me but I don't think they make me feel very good.

 

I was raised a Catholic. When I was younger I felt like someone was listening, but later not so much. Eric Isen said the Virgin Mary is one of the divine beings who is looking over me (he's from the oneness movement so he believes in something called a personal divine). But honestly I feel like the Christian tradition is a broken one. 

 

Rightly or wrongly, I've always thought you can tell a lot about a tradition by looking at its followers. Christianity displays this pretty clearly. It's also part of the reason I've been turned off by Nichiren, when you can see the behaviour of the SGI who share the same method. Of course Ive never practiced it so I am probably completely wrong about that. 

 

 

Edited by Vajra Fist

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32 minutes ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

I was raised a Catholic. When I was younger I felt like someone was listening, but later not so much. Eric Isen said the Virgin Mary is one of the divine beings who is looking over me (he's from the oneness movement so he believes in something called a personal divine). But honestly I feel like the Christian tradition is a broken one. 

 

Rightly or wrongly, I've always thought you can tell a lot about a tradition by looking at its followers. Christianity displays this pretty clearly. It's also part of the reason I've been turned off by Nichiren, when you can see the behaviour of the SGI who share the same method. Of course Ive never practiced it so I am probably completely wrong about that. 

 

 

Quite a few highly realized masters identified Mother Mary as one of many emanations of Tara. They should be basically the same principle. This is mostly a fun fact really. I wont start praying to Mary. :D

Speaking of the continuous chanting technique it actually reminds me of some pure land teachings and I think it is actually mentioned as one of the forms of chanting. Also I think it can be linked to breath and etc. It is a very versatile practice. Have you read some of the practice manuals?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

I was raised a Catholic. When I was younger I felt like someone was listening, but later not so much. Eric Isen said the Virgin Mary is one of the divine beings who is looking over me (he's from the oneness movement so he believes in something called a personal divine). But honestly I feel like the Christian tradition is a broken one. 

 

Rightly or wrongly, I've always thought you can tell a lot about a tradition by looking at its followers. Christianity displays this pretty clearly. It's also part of the reason I've been turned off by Nichiren, when you can see the behaviour of the SGI who share the same method. Of course Ive never practiced it so I am probably completely wrong about that. 

 

 

 

Well I think SGI is a fairly recent development in Nichiren Buddhism and definitely doesn't represent the whole thing or even most of the history of it.

 

The reason I was asking about Christian and Catholic stuff is because lately I've been experimenting with praying to some of the saints and the rosary and such but I had a weird experience earlier today where I started feeling physically sick from it like clammy shaky hands nausea very pessimistic ECT... It was very strange I didn't start feeling better until I started doing some Buddhist chanting. Primarily Nam myoho renge Kyo and the zhunti mantra.

Edited by dmattwads

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Miroku said:

Have you read some of the practice manuals?

 

Yes a few over the years but it's probably time to reacquaint myself. There's also a reputable shin temple near me in London that I might pop along to at some stage. 

 

1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

Well I think SGI is a fairly recent development in Nichiren Buddhism and definitely doesn't represent the whole thing or even most of the history of it.

 

You're spot on here, my apologies. 

 

1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

I started feeling physically sick from it like clammy shaky hands nausea very pessimistic ECT...

 

This could be a few different things. I've had something similar before where I was trying to learn several types of qigong at once, later found out people call it energy sickness.

 

Could be that, or just that the Christian practice is a kind of contrary energy to what you've been doing before. Normally if you start a completely new system you go through a period of adjustment where all the stuff from your previous practices is removed from your body. I've had this in the past where I've gone through a period of vomiting when starting a new qigong. Thankfully the teacher was able to explain it. It went away pretty fast. 

Edited by Vajra Fist
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2 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

 

Yes a few over the years but it's probably time to reacquaint myself. There's also a reputable shin temple near me in London that I might pop along to at some stage. 

 

 

You're spot on here, my apologies. 

 

 

This could be a few different things. I've had something similar before where I was trying to learn several types of qigong at once, later found out people call it energy sickness.

 

Could be that, or just that the Christian practice is a kind of contrary energy to what you've been doing before. Normally if you start a completely new system you go through a period of adjustment where all the stuff from your previous practices is removed from your body. I've had this in the past where I've gone through a period of vomiting when starting a new qigong. Thankfully the teacher was able to explain it. It went away pretty fast. 

 

Interesting 🤔

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