Author Topic: Thoughts about a practice group  (Read 1063 times)

Chaz

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Thoughts about a practice group
« on: September 16, 2020, 12:13:34 AM »
Since moving to South Carolina 3 years ago, I've been without a sangha for group practice.  Back in Denver they were commonplace - Zen, Shambhala, various Tibetan groups and so on offered programs that were compatible (hate to use that term) with my main practice.  Here, not so much.  There are a few groups nearby but for one reason or another, don't offer a practice container I'd be comfortable in.

I've been considering taking steps toward starting a practice group myself.

Teaching meditation presents a challenge.  I've been practicing Shamatha/Vipassna for 15 years.  I guess after all that time I could get a beginner started.  The problem I face is that in my practice lineage you have to have completed Ngondro and have the guru's permission/blessing after specific training.  Those prelims aren't gonna happen.  So if I abide by tradition, a local practice group ain't gonna happen unless somebody else does it and I doubt that will happen any time soon.

So, do I break with tradition and move ahead or wait.   Is it better to ask forgiveness than permission?

It may seem to be a simple thing, but believe me it is not.

Gibbon

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2020, 05:05:02 PM »
Just a quick note to share my thoughts.  I do not see an issue with starting a practice group, as long as you do not set yourself up as a teacher.  An example would be a student homework group where people just practice together and help each other.  The ones with more experience help those with less experience.  There may be others in your area needing such an opportunity, so you would be performing a service.   You already do this with helping maintain FreeSangha.

Lineage-related matters can be sorted out later.  If you have a strong drive to practice (and you certainly do), why not go for it?

Another option would be to see if the groups in your old area offer online meditation sessions, the times being what they are.

I'll be back in a couple of weeks and maybe then we can talk more.


Anemephistus

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2020, 02:36:42 AM »
I agree with Gibbon. Don't claim to be a teacher and be careful to be explicit about what exactly you know, have understanding of, and feel qualified to do.

Chaz

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2020, 09:50:21 PM »
Good advice from both of you.  Thx!

And you're very correct about how I present myself.  I have no credentials to teach meditation and I should make that very clear.  I have no way to get those credentials at present.  I do have more than 10 years of practice and would hope that counts for something.

Interestingly, I am empowered to give the "Lung" or reading transmission for Chenrezig and Tara practice.  In the Kagyu lineage if you have been given the Lung you may transmit it to others.  These are Kriya yoga practices and the Lung is optional, anyway. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with doing that.

food for thought

Gibbon

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2020, 06:34:53 PM »
Yes, definitely food for thought.  But giving people an opportunity to practice is a valuable service.

If I may ask, where do you stand with ngondro?

Chaz

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2020, 02:00:14 AM »
Yes, definitely food for thought.  But giving people an opportunity to practice is a valuable service.

If I may ask, where do you stand with ngondro?

I'm in a bad patch.  Health issues, a move to the Carolinas where Buddhists are rarer than Liberals, and a reassessment of the importance of Vajrayana practice in my life, has Ngondro on the back burner for now.



Gibbon

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2020, 09:28:58 PM »
I hear you, Chaz.  I had a bad patch, too, after I moved and my first teacher died.  That lasted for almost ten years, and being on FreeSangha really helped at that time.  Eventually, I connected with a sangha again which has required considerable travel. 

It is always good to go back to the foundations and training in vipassana/Theravadin traditions can be of much benefit.  Then, one can engage in Vajrayana again with more meaning.

I strongly recommend going on with the ngondro, even if there are some lineage issues now.  Ngondro is an extremely long-term investment in improving one's mindstream.  This is accumulation of merit and the more it is done the more it causes the outer teacher to manifest.  If prostrations are physically hard, Vajrasattva is really, really helpful.  Just do a little bit every day.

Now, look who is talking -- here in the Gelug, we are quite laid back when it comes to the ngondro, so I didn't take any of them seriously before.  Having to work extra hard now!

Respectfully,

Gibbon
« Last Edit: October 09, 2020, 10:34:47 PM by Gibbon »

MarasAndBuddhas

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2020, 10:05:13 PM »
i see all of your discussions, it makes me want to do a personal exploration of vajrayana buddhism, where is the best to start in terms of a book? I'm very familiar with the zen tradition, and a little familiar with theravada as these are centers that I practiced in back when people used to, ya know, gather...
When thoughts arise, then do all things arise. When thoughts vanish, then do all things vanish.

Chaz

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2020, 04:04:18 PM »
i see all of your discussions, it makes me want to do a personal exploration of vajrayana buddhism, where is the best to start in terms of a book? I'm very familiar with the zen tradition, and a little familiar with theravada as these are centers that I practiced in back when people used to, ya know, gather...

Reggie Ray's Books, "Secrets of the Vajra World" and "Indestrucible Truth" are the 2 best books I know of.

The best way to explore Vajrayana is to get involved on a practice level.  Become involved with a vajra lineage and be introduced that way.  Study and practice with an aim towards vajra practice from the ground up. 

For example I don't know a great deal about Vajrayana practice, because my practice hasn't reached that point, and may never.  That's fine.  Vajrayana is a practice and whatI know has been learned in the context of practice, which is the way, I think, it should be.  There are a lot of things in Vajrayana you won't find in books, because of the esoteric nature of the practice.  So, you have to practice and be guided.

MarasAndBuddhas

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2020, 05:10:15 PM »
i see all of your discussions, it makes me want to do a personal exploration of vajrayana buddhism, where is the best to start in terms of a book? I'm very familiar with the zen tradition, and a little familiar with theravada as these are centers that I practiced in back when people used to, ya know, gather...

Reggie Ray's Books, "Secrets of the Vajra World" and "Indestrucible Truth" are the 2 best books I know of.

The best way to explore Vajrayana is to get involved on a practice level.  Become involved with a vajra lineage and be introduced that way.  Study and practice with an aim towards vajra practice from the ground up. 

For example I don't know a great deal about Vajrayana practice, because my practice hasn't reached that point, and may never.  That's fine.  Vajrayana is a practice and whatI know has been learned in the context of practice, which is the way, I think, it should be.  There are a lot of things in Vajrayana you won't find in books, because of the esoteric nature of the practice.  So, you have to practice and be guided.

I come from a Zen practice lineage more or less because that's my experience, i learned how to meditate without hurting my legs through zen temples, an unforgettable experience. I don't really have a choice but to take that wherever i go, but now is a good time for me to branch out in methodology a little bit...which includes thinking about a buddhist practice through a different set of eyes.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2020, 05:14:34 PM by MarasAndBuddhas »
When thoughts arise, then do all things arise. When thoughts vanish, then do all things vanish.

Gibbon

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Re: Thoughts about a practice group
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2020, 06:30:18 PM »
Being a subset of Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana practice begins with the development of renunciation (in common with the Southern school) and bodhicitta.  It emphasizes a personal relationship with a teacher more than other schools (although they all do to some extent).

I recommend Introduction to Tantra by Lama Yeshe as a good introduction.

Here are three texts outlining the complete Tibetan Buddhist path, beginning with renunciation, bodhicitta, and ending with tantric practices:

Atisha's Lamp
http://www.lamrim.com/atishalamp/LampForThePath.PDF

Tsonkhapa's Three Principal Aspects of the Path
https://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/tsongkhapa/three-principal-aspects

Tsonkhapa's Foundation of All Good Qualities
https://www.lamayeshe.com/article/foundation-all-good-qualities

and a commentary on it
https://www.lamayeshe.com/article/commentary-foundation-all-good-qualities



 

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