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Buddhadharma : Winter 2005
winter 2005| 44 |buddhadharma actually sit down to meditate, driven by hope or fear, we may actually carry out the practice with a different aim in mind. Too often our primary motivation is to get through the present stage of practice and on to the next, with the idea that we are in the process of getting something for ourselves, in the way of practice credentials, social acceptance and prestige, approval of the teacher, or solving our problems and getting rid of our suffering. Of course, these kinds of things are always going to be somewhere in our minds, but if these are the primary moti- vations for practice, then the practice we are doing is not going to be authentic and is not going to lead to its intended results of openness, gentleness, and genuine care for others. Any practice that one is doing must also be appropriate to one’s stage of maturation and temperament. Practices are not commodities that nourish all consumers in the same way. At each stage in our maturation process, we need just the right catalyst to enable us to let go more, to abandon our current false identifications and self-serving attachments to “me.” For example, Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, is considered to be the highest Tibetan meditation, the end and epitome of all practice. There are many Western practitioners these days who have received Dzogchen teachings and are carrying out Dzogchen practices. Some of these folks have had some experi- ence with meditation, while others are at the very beginning of their practice. However, Dzogchen corresponds to a very advanced realization of egolessness and a very subtle and pro- found experience and surrender to the primordial emptiness of one’s being and one’s world. The Tibetan tradition has always affirmed that Dzogchen meditation does not become accessible to anyone until they have practiced for many, many years and have substantial retreat experience. It would seem that no mat- ter what teaching one receives, a significant and appropriate amount of preparation in the way of meditation and solitary retreat is generally necessary for people to be able to receive and carry out genuine Dzogchen instruction, even at the sim- plest levels. What is happening with Dzogchen is illustrative of a trend in the teaching of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Advanced prac- tices are being taken out of their traditional context, and prep- arations on the part of the practitioner that were considered essential in the past are no longer being required, or, in some cases, even recommended. In some sense, this trend is under- standable. The Tibetan tradition faces a vexing and perplexing dilemma: few Westerners – and nowadays few Tibetans – can carry out the transmissions in the traditional way, and there is the legitimate concern that these transmissions may die out. Certainly, the great teachers can and must make these kinds of adaptations for their students. But that sometimes leaves the impression that the traditional preparations are mere cultural window-dressing and serve no important function. Finally, a practitioner can be given the best practice in the world by an accomplished teacher, but if he or she doesn’t have the benefit of informed, steady, and effective mentoring, it is going to be difficult for that practice to lead to its intended fruition. Tibetan tradition holds – and I think with much good reason – that serious practitioners need a mentor who knows them well and can be a sounding board and guide for them on their journey. Alas, although there are some notable excep- tions, this kind of mentoring is difficult to come by in modern Western Buddhism. The Organizational Lineage The third type of lineage is the organizational or institutional lineage. A lineage holder in this sense is the person who of- ficially holds responsibility for maintaining the organizational and institutionalized forms of the tradition. As in the cases of the primordial and transmission lineages, we also find the insti- tutional lineage as a theme in Shakyamuni Buddha’s life, but in quite a different sense from that of the other kinds of lineage. According to the early texts, the Buddha not only declined to set up any centralized organization or bureaucracy for his lineage, he flatly refused to do so. When the Buddha was close to death, his cousin, Devadatta, suggested that he set up a single authority, a single head, to act as supreme authority to man- age and run the sangha. The Buddha explicitly and vigorously rejected this idea, saying that it would cause various problems for both individual practitioners and for the integral survival of his lineage as a whole. This goes along, of course, with the Buddha’s emphasis on developing the inner authority and the awakening of each practitioner through meditation practice. So what, then, are we to make of the development of Buddhism as a highly organized, institutionalized religion? Writing a century ago, the father of modern sociology, Max Weber, viewed the development of institutionalized Buddhism as a betrayal of the essential teaching of the Buddha. While (Facing page) Boden Sea, Uttwil, 1993 Black and white photograph hIRoshIsuGImoto/CouRtesyofsonnAbendGAlleRy