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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 10 56 the luminous presence of the teacher. Even just basking in the inspiration that they’ve left me with as I encounter the words I’m reading is crucial. Buddhadharma: Anne mentioned the problem of finding enough time and the challenges of being householder yogis. How can tantra be made to work in this world today? larry mermelstein: I firmly believe that tantric practice is workable in the world we live in. If the Vajrayana actually began with King Indrabuti supplicating the Buddha for teach ings that would work for him as a king, who was not will ing or able to give up his worldliness and responsibilities, by definition that means the Vajrayana teachings ultimately are meant for householders. Our world is moving a lot faster than it probably was back in those days and so, yes, the stresses and complexities seem to be much greater than centuries ago. But so what? The very choicelessness of it is good for us. We have to do everything we can to incorporate the teachings on a continual basis in our lives, knowing full well that many of us may not have a lot of time for intense long retreat—though at times we might have some semblance of that. The teachings are geared to being applicable in our lives, as they are. It’s extremely work able. We have thousands of people currently engaged in that experiment in the West. Many of us, as Rinpoche was saying earlier, do experience the frustration of wanting it to be better, but that is the essence of path. dzogchen PonloP: The Buddha’s response to King Indrabuti’s request clearly indicates that the tantric path is meant primar ily for lay practitioners. In many of the mahasiddha stories, their families also begin to thoroughly engage in a Vajrayana practice. They manifest in many walks of life: as a carpen ter, bartender, or farmer like Marpa. Khenpo Rinpoche has taught that it is primarily a yogi tradition. Of course we can be monastic yogis, but in many ways these methods are more suitable for lay practitioners, lay yogis and yoginis. anne Klein: Even if we feel that tantra is a workable path for householder yogis and yoginis, we still need to work with time management. It helps if we can constantly reflect on what is meaningful in life, and how precious time is. That is an extremely significant ongoing support for practice. It refreshes us. In the end almost any amount of practice is going to be beneficial. It’s not all or nothing. There’s a blackandwhite thinking that can intrude. If I can’t be the next Milarepa, why bother? It’s always worthwhile to do what is possible and we need to get over the superstar, overachiever syndrome. by and large. There are constraints on the amount of time we have to practice. How much time is needed? Will a few short, intense retreats ever add up to what people were able to do in Tibet? That’s a huge question. larry mermelstein: Indeed, the cultural context is quite differ ent. And sometimes people have expectations about what kind of context is needed. For example, because of the importance of the guru–student relationship in Vajrayana, some students think they should be hanging out with their gurus. Yet we have something that is in a way parallel to that. We have so many books now that have been translated and commented on. These translations are careful and well researched. And the teachings, including video, audio, and written transcriptions of thousands of talks by various teachers—many have been compiled into books and manuals of instruction. Students in America today have an incredible wealth of ways of con templating and revisiting the instructions they received orally. Add to that the great support of the many sanghas in the West who feel they are treading the path together. While there are challenges, there are many riches that generations of students to come can be thankful for. dzogchen PonloP: I would like to add that being in the room with my teacher, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, and receiving teachings, or even just sitting there with him, is very powerful. Feeling connected with him in that way is vital, and an experience that goes beyond reading his books. Both are very important. Buddhadharma: The transmission quality is essential to Vajrayana. dzogchen PonloP: It certainly is for me. anne Klein: I don’t think I would have read any Buddhist books if not for the presence of my teachers, and the ability or the opportunity to discuss that with them. The books can be kind of tough, even in English. There’s something about It is true that the Vajrayana teaches about sudden awakening, but all of those teachings are based on the idea that our mind is primordially awake. That’s very different from instant gratification. —Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche (Facing page) Eight Forms of Padmasambhava: Dorje Drolo (detail) Tibet, 20th century Nyingma lineage ColleCtionofRubinMuseuMofaRt,iteMno.731(aCC.#p1998.22.4)