Site overview

Contemporary Vajrayana is a construction zone

Vajrayana’s medieval culture is colliding with Western worldview. It remains to be seen what of it will survive, adapt or transform and what we will discard as no longer relevant. It is a construction zone and we can’t yet see which structures will remain, which we will erase, what we will build in the new clearings.

This site content is also constructive in a metamodern sense: there is, and can be, no grand narrative, but coherence remains important.  I will periodically update this page as new shapes, projects and themes emerge.

Here are some links to help navigate the content:

My most popular posts

My revelatory no-God experience involves mysticism, expansion of consciousness and a delinquent nonbinary eight-year-old.

Westerners can’t hack Vajrayana unpacks a misconception common in Tibetan Buddhism.

The limited language of the no-self: we’re stuck in a limited pattern of meditation-speak, one that centers around ideas of the self. Much meditation and the discourse surrounding it is tied up in the revelatory discovery that we don’t have a self.  There’s such a strong emphasis on this that it risks occluding other purposes; it narrows the potential results of meditation practice to one constrained, prescribed experience.

Not all Buddhism is about liberation from suffering

Living contradictions is a critical appraisal of contradictions inherent in Buddhist Sutrayana, the best known and most popular form of Buddhism in the world.

The Mind Illuminated, a journal

A series of posts in which I explore Culadasa’s ten-stage meditation system, The Mind Illuminated. I use notes from my meditation journal as starting points for commentary on the system. A recurring theme is the differences between concentrative and expansive meditations in practice and between Vajrayana and Sutrayana Buddhism.

To read through the series chronologically, start here and use the ‘next’ navigation link right at the bottom of each page, after the comments.

Journalling a staged path is the introductory page to the series.

Day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4 and days 14 to 16 are mostly unadulterated practice notes.

On day 5, I start some meta-systemic commentary and note a weird meditational side-effect.

Day 6 and day 8 include commentary on meditating with pain.

Day 7, day 9, day 10, day 11: differences between Vajrayana and Sutrayana.

Day 12: types of awareness.

Day 13 and day 19 include notes on distraction.

Days 17 and 18: commentary on the application of the sub-minds theory to meditation practice.

Day 19 has commentary about dissociative experience and day 20 touches on jhana states.

So far I’ve written one commentary page, about purity and impurity. I have a backlog of journal notes to post, then I will add some more commentary and analysis.

Podcasts

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Vajrayana, engineering and jiu jitsu is a conversation at the Deconstructing Yourself podcast, with Michael Taft. We discuss how Vajrayana styles of meditation differ from more commonplace methods of mindfulness and concentration. We use my commentary and series of journal posts on Culadasa’s  The Mind Illuminated to explore two contrasting systems. The podcast functions as an introduction to Vajrayana practice for curious meditators. We also discuss different approaches to understanding the Vajrayana mindset: adapting the principles and function of systems, like an engineer, or finding the space in physical combat, like a martial artist. If you prefer reading to listening, there is a full transcript of our conversation here.

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In Deconstructing Yourself: Evolving Ground, Jared Janes and I discuss our new project, Evolving Ground. We are building a community for contemporary Vajrayana practitioners, free from Tibetan cultural norms. Topics include: the failure of Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to Western culture, the importance of different worldviews in practice and an alternate language for meditators.

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Vajrayana Now: Sutra to Tantra is a conversation at the Stoa, with Jared Janes.
Meditation is often taught as detachment from emotions to achieve equanimity. Buddhist Tantra provides a different framework of reference, one of passionate engagement. To apply this framework, one learns to notice one’s personal, habitual dualism, the tendency to reduce contextual complexity to abstract, polarized preferences. In this session we discuss how to do that and how taking a different stance changes the attitude to meditation. I wrote a follow up page with a timeline and some notes.