Apech

Buddhist Magic and Why We Shouldn’t Cast It Aside

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Nice quotation.

I question the following bit...

 

3 hours ago, C T said:

indeed all of the phenomena of the entire so-called internal and external universe—are nothing other than false objectifications and solidifications of nondual awareness.

 

"Objectifications and solidifications of nondual awareness" may not be the full story, but this does not make them false.

They are our life experience and are very true for us in our current form of existence, dualistic or not.

I think it's more accurate and useful to refer to them as the display of the base rather than false.

To see them as false is the error, according to the dzogchen texts. 

 

The other point is that asking a Westerner, whose life up to this point has been devoid of any context to give the unseen world and beings meaning, to simply accept the rich and complex pantheon of Tibetan beings is a very tall order. It is likely to cause as much confusion and distracting complication as be supportive. We need to come to these things gradually and with the right frame of mind and heart and in our own time. The cultural context is important. As I alluded to earlier, Buddhism became what it is in part to let go of much of the Hindu cultural baggage. Why now grasp onto the Tibetan cultural baggage?

 

Lots of interesting questions and challenges to consider.

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*double post*

 

(could be a programming/software glitch going on. Clicked 'save' once, and this happened)

Edited by C T

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I think what the writer meant is to leave alone the non-dual awareness when realized, or when its arisings are profoundly & unmistakably felt (maybe 'grokked' would be a more apt term). The tendency or reflexive habit of grasping at the non-dual experience has to be abandoned because the actual work is to realise the habitual traits, in all their nuances and subtleties, that drives the grasping nature, rather than focus on the experience(s). Non-reactivity is what I think the writer alluded to when he suggested to avoid objectifying and solidifying said experience - maybe by 'false' he was referencing that which has been solidified or objectified. 

 

I fully concur with your thoughts here: 

Quote

The other point is that asking a Westerner, whose life up to this point has been devoid of any context to give the unseen world and beings meaning, to simply accept the rich and complex pantheon of Tibetan beings is a very tall order. It is likely to cause as much confusion and distracting complication as be supportive. We need to come to these things gradually and with the right frame of mind and heart and in our own time. The cultural context is important. As I alluded to earlier, Buddhism became what it is in part to let go of much of the Hindu cultural baggage. Why now grasp onto the Tibetan cultural baggage?

 

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40 minutes ago, steve said:

Nice quotation.

I question the following bit...

 

 

"Objectifications and solidifications of nondual awareness" may not be the full story, but this does not make them false.

They are our life experience and are very true for us in our current form of existence, dualistic or not.

I think it's more accurate and useful to refer to them as the display of the base rather than false.

To see them as false is the error, according to the dzogchen texts. 

 

The other point is that asking a Westerner, whose life up to this point has been devoid of any context to give the unseen world and beings meaning, to simply accept the rich and complex pantheon of Tibetan beings is a very tall order. It is likely to cause as much confusion and distracting complication as be supportive. We need to come to these things gradually and with the right frame of mind and heart and in our own time. The cultural context is important. As I alluded to earlier, Buddhism became what it is in part to let go of much of the Hindu cultural baggage. Why now grasp onto the Tibetan cultural baggage?

 

Lots of interesting questions and challenges to consider.

 

 

Steve,

 

I think the problem is that altering something like iconography and contextual beliefs and so on when you don't really understand it is dangerous and so it is better in the short term for us to adopt the traditional framing - when there are home grown western realised masters they may introduce new revelations but we are not ready yet.  I don't think it is something that people should agonise over though - just accept pro-tem and let it filter through.

 

 

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I would be curious as to what texts you are thinking of. 

 

RR does have a basis for "false" narrative. Most Dzogchen creation "myths" rely on ignorance. For example, Longchenpa states for instance:
 

Quote

 

2. The primordial nature of the mind
Is a spacious, sky-like state
Where primal wisdom is like sun and moon and stars.
And yet when there occurs within this womb of space—
The wondrous sphere of emptiness—
A state of ignorance, conceptualization, dualistic clinging,
The hallucinations of the three worlds
And the six migrations manifest
In the manner of a magical illusion.

...

 

4. Deluded mind and its habitual tendencies,
Phenomenal existence, the objects of the senses
And the three poisons that fixate on them—
All these occur because of ignorance.
Devoid of real existence, they all appear unceasingly.
They are like conjured apparitions.
From now on be convinced
That they are empty, false reflections.

 

 

https://www.shambhala.com/second-vajra-point-magical-illusion/

 

 

On 2/15/2021 at 6:06 AM, steve said:

I think it's more accurate and useful to refer to them as the display of the base rather than false.

To see them as false is the error, according to the dzogchen texts. 

 

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5 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

I would be curious as to what texts you are thinking of. 

 

The one that comes to mind is the 21 Nails -

 

Self-originated primordial wisdom is the base.

The five poisonous mental afflictions are the dynamic energy.

Chasing after them is the way you are deluded.

Viewing them as deficient is the error.

Leaving them as they are is the method.

Freeing them into vastness is the path.

Non-duality is the realization

 

 

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1 hour ago, steve said:

 

The one that comes to mind is the 21 Nails -

 

Self-originated primordial wisdom is the base.

The five poisonous mental afflictions are the dynamic energy.

Chasing after them is the way you are deluded.

Viewing them as deficient is the error.

Leaving them as they are is the method.

Freeing them into vastness is the path.

Non-duality is the realization

 

 

Wow does this resonate!

Adding to my library.  Thank you.

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Nice translation. Definitely better than Reynold's, IMHO. Is that from Brown? 

 

I don't see this contradicting Reggie Ray's article nor Longchenpa, personally. False typically means to me empty, but of course because things are empty, they are also pure. However, just because phenomenon are pure doesn't mean they aren't deceptive--- they do appear at times to be separate, solid, existing, etc. But this would be a result of one's ignorance rather than any inherent deficiency in phenomenon. 

 

2 hours ago, steve said:

 

The one that comes to mind is the 21 Nails -

 

Self-originated primordial wisdom is the base.

The five poisonous mental afflictions are the dynamic energy.

Chasing after them is the way you are deluded.

Viewing them as deficient is the error.

Leaving them as they are is the method.

Freeing them into vastness is the path.

Non-duality is the realization

 

 

 

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18 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

Nice translation. Definitely better than Reynold's, IMHO. Is that from Brown? 

 

I don't see this contradicting Reggie Ray's article nor Longchenpa, personally. False typically means to me empty, but of course because things are empty, they are also pure. However, just because phenomenon are pure doesn't mean they aren't deceptive--- they do appear at times to be separate, solid, existing, etc. But this would be a result of one's ignorance rather than any inherent deficiency in phenomenon. 

 

 

 

Excellent, always helpful when different teachings converge for us and don’t contradict each other. I can see your point and suspect you are correct regarding Reggie’s usage of “false.”

 

This translation was done by Kurt Kreutzer, as I recall. Brown’s translation is also excellent. His recent series of Bönpo publications has been wonderful. Jean Luc Achard has also translated the 21 Nails. He told me it was going to be published about 2 years ago... still waiting.

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1 hour ago, steve said:

Excellent, always helpful when different teachings converge for us and don’t contradict each other

 

Sorry, I am a questioner by nature. Please take no personal offense. :lol:

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3 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

 

Sorry, I am a questioner by nature. Please take no personal offense. :lol:

 

None taken

Can’t take this stuff too seriously if it’s all just empty!

:lol:

 

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7 hours ago, steve said:

 

The one that comes to mind is the 21 Nails -

 

Self-originated primordial wisdom is the base.

The five poisonous mental afflictions are the dynamic energy.

Chasing after them is the way you are deluded.

Viewing them as deficient is the error.

Leaving them as they are is the method.

Freeing them into vastness is the path.

Non-duality is the realization

 

 

 

 

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Whether you’re in Thailand, Bhutan, or Japan, there is a sense in which everyday Buddhism involves protective talismans, prosperity rituals, and incantations for summoning gods and spirits. You’ll probably see a lot more practical magic than meditation or philosophical study, which invites us to examine our preconceived notions about what “is” or “isn’t” really Buddhist.

(https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/buddhist-magic/)

 



Yeah, but no--I've read the four principle NIkayas.  The original teaching was about action (karmic action, action with circular consequence), and how such action ceases in the meditative states (first with regard to speech, then the body, and finally with regard to the mind).  

If I want to find my way back to spontaneous action, I could do worse than to distinguish inhalation from exhalation.

Talismans, rituals, and the invocation of gods was prohibited, the handling of money was prohibited.


 

Quote


Solutions for protecting harvests, pacifying threatening ogres, finding treasure, dealing with the loss of a child, resolving marital discord, and figuring out when to start a business venture were all within a Buddhist sorcerer’s repertoire. These are the kinds of professional services that magic users, or vidyadharas [“holders of magic”], offered their clients.
 



Ok, that's different from talismans, prosperity rituals, and incantations for summoning gods and spirits, IMHO.  Now we are talking about individuals who are able to channel their own psychic powers for the good of the community, not people looking to profit themselves or their temple from the exercise of such abilities.   

Recently finished a book about a Pomo healer who grew up near where I am living now:  "Mabel McKay", by Greg Sarris.  She talks about speaking to a healer who came to her as a hummingbird (and said he would be with her as soon as they released him from jail).  I believe this really happened.  Mabel was a talented healer.  I believe that the world of spirits that she could channel was real, but I don't believe it's connected with the original teachings of Gautama the Shakyan.  Guys in Tibet that could bound through the snow with enormous steps are reported in "Magic and Mystery in Tibet" (Alexandra David-Neel), and no doubt they were Buddhist, but that doesn't mean their ability was Buddhist magic.   Religious faith of any kind probably helps the healer to heal the sick, but faith is not the core of what's in those first four Nikayas, to me.  

I'm in awe of first people's healers, but why cite the popular desire to influence things apart from the karma of action, as Buddhist?




 

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3 hours ago, Mark Foote said:


....

I'm in awe of first people's healers, but why cite the popular desire to influence things apart from the karma of action, as Buddhist?




 

 

One of the early uses of the word karma = action was referring to ritual actions in Vedic ceremonies.  Many of the ceremonies were to bring about positive results which might include worldly aims such as success in war or a good marriage.  There are also Kriya Tantras which can also have practical uses.

 

Not sure what I'm saying here but I thought I'd say it anyway :)

 

 

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On 3/14/2021 at 6:14 PM, Apech said:

 

One of the early uses of the word karma = action was referring to ritual actions in Vedic ceremonies.  Many of the ceremonies were to bring about positive results which might include worldly aims such as success in war or a good marriage.  There are also Kriya Tantras which can also have practical uses.

 

Not sure what I'm saying here but I thought I'd say it anyway :)

 

 


You're right about that, Apech.  I suppose ritual magic has always been tied to a notion of cause and effect, the manipulation of objects and the sacrifice of worldly goods or lives in order to produce a particular worldly reward.  And the preservation of the civic and caste structure of the institution in power, through the inculcation of superstitious belief in the necessity of the performance of the ritual by a particular class of individual.

But putting politics in America aside for the moment... ha ha.

The notion of "making self-surrender the object of thought", and of states in which "determinate thought" in action of speech, body, and mind ceases, that I think is original in the teaching of the Gautamid.  That such states would also be conducive to the performance of supernatural feats and healings, I have no doubt, and yet the channeling of spirits and special abilities seems to have been a talent beyond most monks/nuns, even those like Sariputta who were acknowledged to have mastered the discipline.

It's amazing what normal lives some of the native healers have lived, while practicing miracles when called upon.  Faith is a part of what they do, and initiation plays heavily in the transmission of some skills, but only gifted individuals actually succeed in receiving the transmission of healing arts and perhaps some abilities.  Some Buddhist traditions lean heavily on transmission in the teaching, as well, but Gautama did not, so far as I can tell from the first four Nikayas. 

 

It's a peculiar mix, the traditions that claim to be Buddhist!



 

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6 hours ago, Mark Foote said:


You're right about that, Apech.  I suppose ritual magic has always been tied to a notion of cause and effect, the manipulation of objects and the sacrifice of worldly goods or lives in order to produce a particular worldly reward.  And the preservation of the civic and caste structure of the institution in power, through the inculcation of superstitious belief in the necessity of the performance of the ritual by a particular class of individual.

But putting politics in America aside for the moment... ha ha.

The notion of "making self-surrender the object of thought", and of states in which "determinate thought" in action of speech, body, and mind ceases, that I think is original in the teaching of the Gautamid.  That such states would also be conducive to the performance of supernatural feats and healings, I have no doubt, and yet the channeling of spirits and special abilities seems to have been a talent beyond most monks/nuns, even those like Sariputta who were acknowledged to have mastered the discipline.

It's amazing what normal lives some of the native healers have lived, while practicing miracles when called upon.  Faith is a part of what they do, and initiation plays heavily in the transmission of some skills, but only gifted individuals actually succeed in receiving the transmission of healing arts and perhaps some abilities.  Some Buddhist traditions lean heavily on transmission in the teaching, as well, but Gautama did not, so far as I can tell from the first four Nikayas. 

 

It's a peculiar mix, the traditions that claim to be Buddhist!



 

 

I think that siddhis naturally arise from shamatha style meditation.  Mostly I am talking about low level stuff like thinking of someone - then the phone rings and it's them.  The idea that samsara, the world, includes all kinds of beings, gods, demons and so on has always been a part of Buddhism but quite well suppressed  when it was being repacked for western rationalists.  But then again it is samsaric and so not something you would expect monks to get deeply involved with.  Magic tricks are specifically criticised ... but not denied in the sense of saying they don't work.

 

Yeah, Lamaism is all about the transmission - while it does not seem the same for Gautama (although you have to bear in mind there may have been sutra selection going on) - It is also said that sometimes the Buddha just had to turn up and thousands of arhats spontaneously became realised - his 'teaching' did not depend on 'teaching' in the sense of the spoken word or instruction - and this is a form of transmission.

 

Devotion to the Lama is all about 'pure perception' - this cannot depend on sensory or conceptual awareness - it only depends on something like intent - or if you like, just being there in that space occupied by buddha-nature.

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Just then, the phone rang...  :lol:

I have no doubt that a great deal can be transmitted without words.  Everybody in the dojo of my first judo teacher learned how to do the sweep, because that was my first judo teacher's throw.  He definitely taught it, along with all the other throws, but the fact that all of us learned it well enough to perform it in competition and students from other dojos did not, I think says something about the importance of what is transmitted outside of words.

But here's a story, from the sermon of the "Great Decease" (Maha-Parinibbana).  When Gautama died, Maha Kasyapa and a large group of monks were on the road some distance away.  Maha Kasyapa encountered an ascetic holding a Mandarava flower, which had bloomed and fallen out of season--the ascetic related to Maha Kasyapa that the Gautamid had died, and the trees that bore the flower had all bloomed out of season.  Maha Kasyapa proceeded to the town where Gautama's body was laid out on a pyre.  The townspeople had been unable to get the pyre to light, but after Maha Kasyapa circumabulated the pyre a few times and collected the Gautamid's bowl and robe, they were able to light the pyre.

And there you have it.  Silent transmission on the occasion of Gautama's display of a flower, just like in the Zen case (but not quite).  

How you learn things like making rain, bounding in giant steps through the snow, answering the phone before it rings--for some of these things, I think the physical presence of the teacher is probably necessary (and the individual must have miraculous talent to begin with).  
 




 

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On 4/19/2021 at 2:58 AM, rex said:

Another article on the subject: https://vajranatha.com/


I would take issue with this, from the above article:

"In the oldest narratives of the life of the historical Buddha in Ancient India, such as are found in the Vinaya, there are many accounts of the Buddha manifesting miraculous and magical powers."

The first four sermon collections in the Pali Canon I believe are considered to the most accurate representation of the historical teachings of Gautama the Shakyan.  There we find:

"It is because I perceive danger in the practice of mystic wonders, that I loathe, and abhor, and am ashamed thereof."

(Digha Nikaya XI Kevaddha Sutta, Pali Text Society DN Vol I pg 278;  online here:  https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html)

I believe Gautama said that the only miraculous power he exercised was the power to teach the dharma.  The author of this article says that's so and it's in the Kevaddha Sutta, but I can't find it right now:

https://digitalcommons.linfield.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1000&context=relsfac_pubs

Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure that in those first four books, there's an instance where Gautama asks Mogallana to stir things up a bit for the monks.  Mogallana obliges by using his big toe to create an earthquake.  


 

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Mark Foote said:

I believe Gautama said that the only miraculous power he exercised was the power to teach the dharma. 

As a rule of thumb I believe the Buddha was not in favor of displaying miraculous powers and disapproved of their use to gain converts. However there are stories of him demonstrating miraculous powers on occasion:

 

https://buddhaweekly.com/15-miracles-15-days-chotrul-duchen-day-buddhas-great-miracles-buddha-reluctant-use-miraculous-powers-displayed-15-miracles-help-correct-errors-six-prideful-teachers/

 

Some stories are from the Mahayana Cannon although the historical and doctrinal legitimacy of such sutras is debated between different adherents. This article discusses Buddha's miracles as found in the Pali Cannon:

 

https://www.academia.edu/5824084/Miracles_in_Indian_Buddhist_Narratives_and_Doctrine

Edited by rex
Formatting/typos

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Posted (edited)
On 4/30/2021 at 5:08 AM, rex said:


Some stories are from the Mahayana Cannon although the historical and doctrinal legitimacy of such sutras is debated between different adherents. This article discusses Buddha's miracles as found in the Pali Cannon:

 

https://www.academia.edu/5824084/Miracles_in_Indian_Buddhist_Narratives_and_Doctrine
 


I trust the first four collections of the Pali Canon, to be the closest we can come to the historical teachings.  The author of the article above also cites Kevaddha Sutta, and says:
 

"... the Buddha raises doubts about the efficacy of displaying superhuman powers to impress skeptical people. He then goes on to laud teaching of the dharma, apparently suggesting that it is the true miracle."


The author goes on:


"... the Kevaṭṭa sutta suggests that “magical powers” are ubiquitous, and thus their display does not necessarily prove the superiority or uniqueness of the Buddha and his message, as teaching the dharma seems to do."


I'm aware that Gautama listed out 6 miracles, things like diving through solid earth and walking on water, but he never displayed any of that (to my knowledge) in the first four collections of the sermons.  He does mention a practice for the development of psychic powers, to wit:
 

So he abides fully conscious of what is behind and what is in front.
As (he is conscious of what is) in front, so behind: as behind, so in front;
as below, so above: as above, so below:
as by day, so by night: as by night, so by day.
Thus with wits alert, with wits unhampered, he cultivates his mind to brilliancy.
 

(Sanyutta-Nikaya, text V 263, Pali Text Society volume 5 pg 235, ©Pali Text Society)

 

I offer what he had to say about that practice, along with my best guess filling in the blanks, here:


https://zenmudra.com/an-unauthorized-and-incomplete-guide-to-zazen-ten/

 

 

Edited by Mark Foote

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