This is a rather difficult subject as (from a relative point of view) there are so many cultural hangups, fanaticism and blind faith in ancient tradition, lack of true spiritual insights, lack of grounded realizations and mutual respect out there, and since I am involved in teaching Vajrayana by choice (meaning, appointed by no religious establishment), I will take this opportunity to express a few notions, ever so gently.
Some thoughts expressed below might be perceived as sacrilegious especially if you are a true believer, following some orthodox religion or tradition.
I mean no disrespect; and truth, sincerity, and freedom are very important to me.
These words are not meant as a validation of any existing tradition or teacher. Needless to say, all of this is just my current subjective perception conditioned by what I call common sense (which, in my case, applies only to me).
Whom to follow and why?
Let us perform a thought experiment:
you have a spiritual teacher, who is widely recognized and was appointed as, the living incarnation of some famous teacher from the past. He gives you empowerments, instructions, and spiritual guidance.
Then, one day, just out of the blue, he hits you hard with his fist.
What do you do?
And after some time, he invites you to his private chambers and asks you to give him oral sex.
Do you decline or go down to your knees?
Whom do you follow, the great spiritual teacher or that little voice in your head that whispers to you that none of this is simply OK?
Do you respect yourself enough to say NO?
Or, do you deny your freedom of choice and just bend over?
Reality of abuse
As strange as it might sound, similar scenarios do happen, and not just in the imagination of a thought experiment.
People really are physically and sexually abused, all in the name of spiritual advancement.
This article speaks openly about such abuses:
<longer pause for your reading of the article>
Have you read the article entirely?
How do you feel?
More info on the subject of abuse in spiritual communities (new pages open up):
– Can a cult stop being a cult? >>
– The Belief at the Root of Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism >>
– Tibetan Buddhist Tulku Privilege – a Cultural Clash >>
– Who is it that’s Damaging Tibetan Buddhism? >>
Possible causes for abusive behavior
It is my observation that in some theocratic traditions (theocracy: relating to or denoting a system of government in which priests/monks rule in the name of divinity), there is no clarity regarding what an individual in power may and may not do, and anything is allowed.
An individual in power in this context translates to an appointed ‘spiritual master’ that may or may not possess the inner realizations, compassion, and wisdom to be a teacher in the first place.
So, where does this lack of clarity come from?
In my humble opinion and according to my observations as a layman, from a tradition and culture that doesn’t really honor and support individuality and freedom of choice.
For example, years ago, I was still a bit naive, and I was astonished to hear and see an unnamed highly respected spiritual teacher (not the one pointed at in the above article, by the way) openly stating that he had no choice but to “become” a spiritual master. He was taken from his parents at the age of five and trained against his will.
Surely a five-year-old child has no capacity to decide whether or not he wants to become a spiritual master. Heh, had such a drama happened here in the West, you would have been arrested for child abduction, and rightly so.
Moreover, the spiritual master under discussion also shares that for years while he was “trained” he had no real toys to play with, no compassionate support, and de facto grew up in an environment that condones beating, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse of children.
And this abused child, now all “grown-up”, is sharing his ‘wisdom and compassion’ and teaching others how to be free.
Am I the only one that perceives this as completely counter-intuitive, to say the least?
Such abuse in the early years of a child cannot but leave emotional and psychological scars, no matter what…
It is not surprising that the same spiritual teacher claims:
“…once you have completely and soberly surrendered, you may not interpret certain manifestations and activities of the guru as the abuse of power. If you want to be fully enlightened, you can’t worry about abuse.“
From where I stand, the above statement is complete nonsense and only shows how ungrounded and disconnected from real personal compassion such an approach actually is…
I truly hope you are not one of his students…
Maybe such practices in bringing up children and training them to become spiritual masters (by appointing them and without respecting and hearing their personal inclinations in the first place) might work in some underdeveloped feudal society where superstition and lack of basic human rights are normative, but in a world where I live in, such practices are, how shall I put this gently, well, downright destructive and very, very far from spiritual and compassionate life Buddhism advocates (in my opinion).
And what world do I live in?
I live in a world where freedom of choice is sacred. In this world, superstition has no place and intelligent and informed decisions are as common as sunshine.
I live in a world where education is readily available and sciences like cognitive neuroscience, neurobiology, humanistic, transpersonal, and developmental psychology and powerful tools like NVC (nonviolent communication) are employed to further develop the potential for human wellbeing and ultimate spiritual freedom.
In this world, there is no need to force the spiritual awakening and there is plenty of time to gradually and thoroughly experience every single stage of identity development. There is no need to suppress anything or idealize something or someone else.
In this world, spirituality does not overpower the personal life, transcendence is not more important than profane, and embracing everyday notions with compassion is all-important. No need to deny my emotional and bodily needs or the needs of others.
I also live in a world where respect for a child’s feelings, emotional needs, and integrity is of paramount importance. Love, respect, and warmth are at the center of this world, maybe not always shining, but very important nonetheless.
In this world, questioning spiritual or any other authorities is most welcome. There is no place for idiot compassion, blind faith, deification and there is no need to suppress my own intellect and capacity for decision making. Quite the opposite: not bowing down to some authority and thinking with one’s own head is as natural as breathing and is in fact encouraged. Clearly, independence and freedom are very important in this world.
Individuality is respected and responsibility for one’s own life, personal growth, and spiritual awakening is quite pleasing in the world I live in.
On a more personal note, I embrace assuming responsibility fully as no one, not even my Spiritual Master, a Mahasiddha, can do anything instead of me.
I am supported as I am, and there is no need to beat me or abuse me in any way to make me wiser (which is impossible anyway – nothing from the outside can give us wisdom, for true insights only come from within).
And in this world, there is no need to become someone better, more spiritual in the future. No, in my world, supported by my Spiritual Master, what I perceive now as my current state of awareness is quite welcome, for this (my current state of awareness) is where true transformation can take place from the inside.
Unethical conduct, obvious ego-trip, and harsh abuse of power (documented in this video >>) have no place whatsoever in the world I live in, and it never ever will.
Also, I do not need suffering to wake me up; I do not need others to abuse me, nor enemies to “contribute” to the development of my compassion (!).
In my world, normal relationships and everyday life do that. A loving relationship with my lovely daughter does that. Suffering is pointless (to me) and yields no progress at all (as far as I can see). Progress is a choice, far removed from any “outside” influence.
Hmm. At first glance, the world I am describing might seem quite trivial and not at all spiritual (from some theocratic point of view maybe). Non-dual states of awareness, anatta, and sunyata insights, entering samadhi and sambodhi at will, “visiting” Pure Lands, completion stage, etc., however, are a completely normal state of daily affairs in this world.
Also, I live in a world where Spiritual Master (not someone abused in childhood and later on appointed as a teacher by some religious authority) has since 1993 uttered not even one single harsh word and has supported my freedom of choice completely.
I remember at the beginning of my relationship with Him I was insecure, powerless to live as I desired in my heart, and very lonely. I needed to belong, to be a part of something bigger than my fucked up little personal life.
I was able to notice, however, how much He has given me already. And in a moment of genuine openness, I asked Him: “Master, what do You want me to do now? I will do anything You ask of me.”
And He said:
“Every breath you take,
every move you make,
I will be watching you…”
And He has kept His promise throughout the years. Mahavatar Babaji (see the photo) is always here with me, supporting my free will, showering me with blessings and lovingly embracing everything.
This is a completely different approach from the abusive one, isn’t it? It is the so-called power-with, not a power-over relationship. For me, that is the only viable way of progress.
Abuse NOT welcome here
I admit I do not know enough about the history or anthropology of the aforementioned tradition and culture to make any kind of reasonable conclusion…
…what I do know, however, is that in the Lineage and spiritual tradition I belong to (which is Mahamudra in essence, streaming from an immortal Mahasiddha), abuse of any kind is neither welcomed nor needed.
Personal development and spiritual awakening really happen when it is a choice and the road I travel on (and I try to make that abundantly clear to my students as well) is the one that is paved with freedom of choice and joyful effort.
What about you?
What road do you travel on?
In general, people say, ‘We are following Dharma”, and speak of it as a kind of religion created by Buddha Shakyamuni.
That is not a correct point of view.
Buddha never created any kind of school or religion.
Buddha was a totally enlightened being, someone beyond our limited point of view.
The teaching of the Buddha is to have presence in that knowledge.”
~ Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
Arya-mangalaloka-Tara, Tara Auspiciously Shining (Bkra shis snang ba’i Sgrol ma), who grants prosperity and brings about auspicious circumstances
Homage to her, whose crescent-moon tiara
And jeweled ornaments sparkle brilliantly,
Who from Amitabha atop her vast stream of hair,
Floods forth immense rays of light.
On a double lotus and moon, from A appears Yellow Tara with one face and eight arms. The right hands hold trident, hook, vajra and sword. The left hands hold a jewel at the heart, hook, club and flask. The lord of the type is Vairocana.
She is gold, and we praise her crown ornaments. From her crescent moon crown ornament, white light radiates and eliminates sickness, suffering, sorrow, poverty, and depression. Then yellow light radiates from her crown ornament and performs the action of increasing. It enhances sentient beings’ life span, positive potential, wisdom, and good qualities.
From the small Amitabha on Tara’s crown, light streams to all sentient beings, purifying their negative karma and inspiring them to gain Dharma realizations.
om tare tuttare ture mangalam swaha
Iconography by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.
21 Taras by Indian artist VV Sarpar.
“According to Tantra, one of the most powerful purifications is meditations on Vajrasattva. Recite the mantra of Vajrasattva, the 100-syllable mantra. If you don’t have initiation, you can say the mantra, no problem, you can visualize Vajrasattva in front of you. [Or] Above your crown, as well.’
— H.E. Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
The Four Opponent Powers
Beyond the perfection of a practice involving all three of Body, Speech and Mind, Varjasattva practice also includes the profound “Four Opponent Powers”:
– The Power of Dependence: Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
– The Power of Regret: recalling all of our negative actions in the past motivated by ignorance, attachment or aversion.
– The Power of Remedy: the mantra and visualization and mental focus on purification.
– The Power of Restraint: or undertaking to refrain from creating negative karma (actions) in the future.
Vajrasattva Heruka Mantra
oṃ sri vajra heruka
dṛḍho me bhava
sutoṣyo me bhava
supoṣyo me bhava
anurakto me bhava
sarvasiddhiṃ me prayaccha
sarvakarmasu ca me
cittaṃ śreyaḥ kuru
ha ha ha ha hoḥ
bhagavan vajra heruka
mā me muñca heruka
Oṃ. Vajrasattva Heruka keep your samaya.
As Heruka, remain near me.
Be steadfast towards me.
Be very pleased with me.
Be completely satisfied with me.
Be loving to me.
Grant me all accomplishments.
In all actions, make me mind pure and virtuous. Hūṃ. Ha ha ha ha hoḥ.
O Blessed One, Vajra-nature of all the Tathāgatas, do not abandon me.
Be of vajra-nature, O great Samaya-being, āḥ.
How can Vajrasattva Heruka Buddha purify?
“Whatever manifestations of realms, palaces and forms there are, peaceful and wrathful deities, they do not exist on a gross level. They are forms of shunyata endowed with all the supreme qualities. Therefore, they are known as possessing the aspect of being without self-nature. The minds of those buddhas are completely filled with the wisdom of unchanging non-dual bliss emptiness. Therefore, they are known as possessing the aspect of union. Their body, speech, and mind are eternally filled with the taste of great bliss, free from increase and decrease. Therefore, they are known as possessing the aspect of great bliss.”
– Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Sanskrit with extensive English translation:
oṃ sri Vajra Heruka
The most excellent exclamation of praise, the qualities of Buddha’s holy body, speech, and mind; all that is precious and auspicious. Vajrasattva, you whose wisdom is inseparable bliss-emptiness,
And whose pledge must not be transgressed, lead me along the path you took to enlightenment,
Make me abide close to your holy vajra mind,
dṛḍho me bhava
Please grant me a firm and stable realization of the ultimate nature of phenomena,
sutoṣyo me bhava
Please grant me the blessing of being extremely pleased and satisfied with me,
supoṣyo me bhava
Bless me with the nature of well-developed great bliss,
anurakto me bhava
Bless me with the nature of love that leads me to your state,
sarvasiddhiṃ me prayaccha
Please grant me all-powerful attainments,
sarvakarmasu ca me cittaṃ śreyaḥ kuru
Please grant me all virtuous actions and your glorious qualities,
Seed syllable of the vajra holy mind, the heart essence and seed syllable of Vajrasattva,
ha ha ha ha hoḥ
Seed syllables of the four immeasurables, the four empowerments, the four joys, the four kayas, and the five wisdoms,
bhagavan vajra heruka
You, who are the vajra of all who have destroyed every obscuration, of all who have attained all realizations, of all who have passed beyond suffering, and of all who have realized emptiness and know things just as they are,
mā me muñca
Do not abandon me,
Grant me the nature of indestructible union, the realization of your vajra nature,
You, the great pledge being with the holy vajra mind,
Syllable of uniting in non-duality.
DILGO KHYENTSE RINPOCHE
Whatever meditation or reflection you have done, it will never be wasted. The benefit it brings will be present in your mindstream at the time of your death and will help you be reborn in a place where the Dharma flourishes, near an authentic spiritual teacher.
Life after life, you will evolve from a mediocre into an average practitioner, and from an average practitioner into an excellent one. The essence of learning is the reflection, and the essence of reflection is meditation.
As you go deeper and deeper into the meaning of the teachings, the wondrous qualities of the Dharma will become ever clearer, like the sun appearing ever brighter the higher you fly.
The sign that you have fully assimilated your learning of the Dharma is that you become peaceful by nature. The sign that you have assimilated your meditation is that you are free of obscuring emotions.
As learning leads to reflection and reflection transforms into meditation, your eagerness for the deluded activities of this life will relax, and you will yearn for the Dharma instead.
Anything you do that is in accord with the Dharma, however small or trivial it may seem, will be beneficial. As the Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish says:
Do not take lightly small good deeds,
Believing they can hardly help;
For drops of water one by one
In time can fill a giant pot.
Similarly, even if you practice only for an hour a day with faith and inspiration, good qualities will steadily increase. Regular practice makes it easy to transform your mind. From seeing only relative truth, you will eventually reach a profound certainty in the meaning of absolute truth.
The main hindrance to the growth of such qualities is a distraction. Distraction can occur in every single moment. If you let time flow pointlessly by, at the time of death you will regret that you have not practiced the Dharma. But by then it will be too late, and your regret will not help at all.
Now is the time to go to a secluded place and put the instructions you have received from your teacher into practice. Each instant of your life will then become precious and meaningful, leading you further away from samsara and closer to liberation.
***The Heart of Compassion
Arya Jjagadvashi Tara, Tara Summoner of Being
Homage to her who can summon forth
The assembly of all earth’s protectors.
By the wrathful quake of the HUNG in her frown,
She completely liberates all destitute beings.
On a lotus and sun seat, from HA appears Black Tara, very fierce. Her right-hand holds a hook that summons the eight planets, her left a hook that dispels misfortune. She is in the alidha posture. The lord of the type is Ratnasambhava.
Her specialty is to increase enjoyments and wealth and eliminate poverty. This can bring about success in business and improve health.
Here Tara is praised because she can activate the ten directional protectors, the “local protectors.” These protectors are inclined toward virtue and are leaders of other spirits. To activate them to do their various activities, she radiates light with hooks on the end of each beam. The hooks bring back the protectors, and she orders them to do beneficial work in the world. They naturally respond to her and listen to her instructions.
om tare tuttare ture vasudharini swaha
Iconography by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.
21 Taras by Indian artist VV Sapar.
Sources: Khyentse Foundation.
Listen here, Palgyi Senge,
my eminent noble son!
All phenomena of samsara and nirvana are your own mind,
And do not appear apart from this mind —
Devoid of a self-nature,
beyond thought, word, and description.
Don’t accept the pleasant or reject the awful,
don’t affirm or deny,
Make no preferences,
But remain vividly awake
in the state of unfabricated naturalness!
By remaining like this, the sign of progress is that
your body, speech and mind
Feel free and easy,
beyond the confines of pleasure and pain.
That is the moment of
understanding the awakened state!
– Vajra Guru
Compassion is the most important on the path of Vajrayana (and possibly on the various other paths to complete freedom as well). And yet, there is compassion and there is compassion…
This is a rather delicate topic, so lets thread gently.
In my opinion and indeed experience, normal everyday experiences cannot really be separated from the spiritual quest for freedom. Even in monasteries, there are personal relationships present and personal relationships come really a lot of room and opportunities for respect, understanding, and, unfortunately, abuse, deception, and lies.
Below we can see quotes that clearly express the need for discrimination, clarity, and common sense. If people had exercised their common sense, there would have been much fewer abuses in everyday relationships, monasteries, and Guru-disciple relationships these days all over our world.
When I reflect on these topics, slight sadness appears in my heart. I wish we would live in a world where non-violence, mutual respect, and acknowledgment of inherent human freedoms would be present everywhere, spontaneously. Unfortunately, we are not living in such a world (well, I’m not).
There are situations where gentleness, non-violence, and respect simply isn’t enough. Sometimes, expressing boundaries and firm NO! result in much much more benefit than meek “idiot compassion”.
“…The third near enemy of compassion is idiot compassion.
This is when we avoid conflict and protect our good image by being kind when we should definitely say “no.” Compassion doesn’t only imply trying to be good. When we find ourselves in an aggressive relationship, we need to set clear boundaries.
The kindest thing we can do for everyone concerned is to know when to say “enough.” Many people use Buddhist ideals to justify self-debasement. In the name of not shutting our heart, we let people walk all over us.
It is said that in order not to break our vow of compassion we have to learn when to stop aggression and draw the line. There are times when the only way to bring down barriers is to set boundaries….”
– Pema Chödron
(from the book “The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times”)
I have seen this so many times in life and also in private psychotherapy practice! Generally speaking, most people who might consider themselves very spiritually advanced, can’t say no even to the abusive parent or manipulative partner. And many cannot stop giving off themselves to the point of physical and emotional burn-down. What kind of spirituality is that?
It takes a really advanced stage of spiritual development to creatively use abusive people and to bring their negativeness onto the path, otherwise, it is only a drama. It is definitely easier to be “spiritual” than to be a happy human. Spiritual in this context, of course, means the new age touchy-feely we-are-all-one BS.
If one cannot or does not want to take care of oneself (here on this Earth), no one will, unfortunately:
“…Compassion isn’t complete if it doesn’t include yourself.”
– The Buddha
There is so much at stake when it comes to real and thorough spiritual development. And being all mushy and yielding is simply not enough. One has to take a firm stance. And indeed, in these times, it is easier to attain spiritual states than live courageously and with self-compassion in life here on Earth.
My Spiritual Master articulates this even more directly:
“…The theory of non-violence has spoiled the mind and courage of people today. I am for fighting; fighting against the evil and crime everywhere, which should no longer be tolerated…
…I don’t want this non- violence. The people preach non-violence, but instead, they make water out of their blood. I want to wake up the sense of true humanity. With great difficulty, you get this human body. I want brave and courageous people. A man must have great courage…
I am against non-violence that makes a human being a coward. Fight for Truth! To face life, you must have great courage every day!
Everyone must be courageous, facing the difficulties of life with bravery! Cowardly people are like dead people!
I want a world of brave and courageous people…”
– Mahavatar Babaji
Even H.H. Dalai Lama shares His thoughts on this all-important topic:
“Non-violence means cooperation when it is possible and resistance when it is not.”
If one can’t exhibit a funny “mudra” clearly seen performed by Tantric Master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (seen below) in certain circumstances, maybe there is still more room for spiritual (and personal) development.
What do YOU think?
The everyday practice of Dzogchen is simply to develop a complete carefree acceptance, an openness to all situations without limit.
We should realize openness as the playground of our emotions and relate to people without artificiality, manipulation or strategy.
We should experience everything totally, never withdrawing into ourselves as a marmot hides in its hole. This practice releases tremendous energy which is usually constricted by the process of maintaining fixed reference points. Referentiality is the process by which we retreat from the direct experience of everyday life.
Being present in the moment may initially trigger fear. But by welcoming the sensation of fear with complete openness, we cut through the barriers created by habitual emotional patterns.
When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we should develop the feeling of opening ourselves out completely to the entire universe. We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the mask of self-protection.
We shouldn’t make a division in our meditation between perception and field of perception.
We shouldn’t become like a cat watching a mouse.
We should realize that the purpose of meditation is not to go “deeply into ourselves” or withdraw from the world. Practice should be free and non-conceptual, unconstrained by introspection and concentration.
Vast unoriginated self-luminous wisdom space is the ground of being – the beginning and the end of confusion. The presence of awareness in the primordial state has no bias toward enlightenment or non-enlightenment. This ground of being which is known as the pure or original mind is the source from which all phenomena arise. It is known as the great mother, as the womb of potentiality in which all things arise and dissolve in natural self-perfectness and absolute spontaneity.
All aspects of the phenomena are completely clear and lucid. The whole universe is open and unobstructed – everything is mutually interpenetrating.
Seeing all things as naked, clear and free from obscurations, there is nothing to attain or realize. The nature of phenomena appears naturally and is naturally present in time-transcending awareness. Everything is naturally perfect just as it is. All phenomena appear in their uniqueness as part of the continually changing pattern. These patterns are vibrant with meaning and significance at every moment, yet there is no significance to attach to such meanings beyond the moment in which they present themselves.
The everyday practice of Dzogchen is just everyday life itself. Since the undeveloped state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any special way or attempt to attain anything above and beyond what you actually are. There should be no feeling of striving to reach some “amazing goal” or “advanced state.”
To strive for such a state is a neurosis which only conditions us and serves to obstruct the free flow of Mind. We should also avoid thinking of ourselves as worthless persons – we are naturally free and unconditioned. We are intrinsically enlightened and lack nothing.
When engaging in meditation practice, we should feel it to be as natural as eating, breathing and defecating. It should not become a specialized or formal event, bloated with seriousness and solemnity. We should realize that meditation transcends effort, practice, aims, goals and the duality of liberation and non-liberation. Meditation is always ideal; there is no need to correct anything. Since everything that arises is simply the play of mind as such, there is no unsatisfactory meditation and no need to judge thoughts as good or bad.
Therefore we should simply sit. Simply stay in your own place, in your own condition just as it is. Forgetting self-conscious feelings, we do not have to think “I am meditating.” Our practice should be without effort, without strain, without attempts to control or force and without trying to become “peaceful.”
If we find that we are disturbing ourselves in any of these ways, we stop meditating and simply rest or relax for a while. Then we resume our meditation.
If we have “interesting experiences” either during or after meditation, we should avoid making anything special of them. To spend time thinking about experiences is simply a distraction and an attempt to become unnatural. These experiences are simply signs of practice and should be regarded as transient events. We should not attempt to re-experience them because to do so only serves to distort the natural spontaneity of mind.
All phenomena are completely new and fresh, absolutely unique and entirely free from all concepts of past, present, and future. They are experienced in timelessness.
The continual stream of new discovery, revelation, and inspiration which arises at every moment is the manifestation of our clarity. We should learn to see everyday life as mandala – the luminous fringes of experience which radiate spontaneously from the empty nature of our being. The aspects of our mandala are the day-to-day objects of our life experience moving in the dance or play of the universe. By this symbolism, the inner teacher reveals the profound and ultimate significance of being. Therefore we should be natural and spontaneous, accepting and learning from everything. This enables us to see the ironic and amusing side of events that usually irritate us.
In meditation we can see through the illusion of past, present, and future – our experience becomes the continuity of nowness. The past is only an unreliable memory held in the present. The future is only a projection of our present conceptions. The present itself vanishes as soon as we try to grasp it. So why bother with attempting to establish an illusion of solid ground?
We should free ourselves from our past memories and preconceptions of meditation. Each moment of meditation is completely unique and full of potentiality. In such moments, we will be incapable of judging our meditation in terms of past experience, dry theory or hollow rhetoric.
Simply plunging directly into meditation in the moment now, with our whole being, free from hesitation, boredom or excitement, is enlightenment.
This is the dance of the five elements in which matter is a symbol of energy and energy a symbol of emptiness. We are a symbol of our own enlightenment. With no effort or practice whatsoever, liberation or enlightenment is already here.
– Excerpts from Dzogchen Practice in Everyday Life by H. H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche