The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 7


The Mind Illuminated, Stage 3, p. 100

These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my seventh day of practice in the system. For an introduction to this project, see this page. Occasionally I will post-edit the journal. Any post-editing is [in square brackets like this].

Stage 3 introduces a technique of analysing the breath. Analysis is a practice method found in Buddhist Sutrayana. It’s peculiarly fitting to the Sutric path because of its observing, inquiring nature. Sutrayana is dualist: it intentionally creates a division between an observer and an observed, to better understand the nature of the world. To do this, Sutra employs concept-concsiousness as method. Eventually the path leads to the experiential discovery of the illusion of the duality and the experience of ‘no-self’.

Vajrayana methods are non-analytic. The discovery mode is almost entirely through expanding the repertoire of experience. To do this Vajrayana employs sense-field-awareness as method. Concept-consciousness is regarded as one of the senses and treated in the same light. Vajryana method changes one’s experience of the sense-fields, initially by  remaining uninvolved. Once one has stablized uninvolvement, all the sense-fields are regarded as method: they become the ground for transformation.

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The Mind Illuminated, a journal: Day 6


These are reflective notes on my experience of practicing Culadasa’s 10 stage meditation system. The notes in this post are from my sixth day of practice in the system. For an introduction to this project, see this page. Occasionally I will post-edit the journal. Any post editing is [in square brackets like this].

My notes in the margin above on ignoring pain: pain is regarded, and thus worked with, differently in different Buddhist meditation lineages. In Sutric lineages, physical pain reflects human conditioning (the karmic cycle of samsara by which we condition our perception and response), which we are working to overcome. In Vajrayana, pain reflects the human condition (how we find ourselves, the qualities which make us human beings), which we are learning to engage with more skilfully. There are no guarantees in Buddhism historically that our experience will be positive or that our lives will be happy, regardless of our level of accomplishment.

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Brain dumps vs. coherence


from XKCD

I spend most of my waking hours working. After work, I prioritise physical training and practice. Sometimes I have an idea for a blog post here and sketch out a rough draft, then don’t find the time to write it up into cogent, well-presented form. I have 21 such drafts now. I like to think carefully about the presentation of ideas, make sure that I’ve researched them well and that they’re clearly articulated.

A meticulous approach seems important because my view of Buddhism, and of Tantric practice, is somewhat non-conformist.  Expressing ideas that run contrary to contemporary mainstream assumptions – even when they draw on historical precedent – requires care and consideration.

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What can this blog do?

There are many Vajrayana traditions and they can appear quite different. The point of this site is to facilitate understanding of Vajrayana as a field, the general principles upon which it is based, and its contemporary function in the world. My priors are that Vajrayana offers something distinct from other Buddhisms, that it is well-suited to flourish in a variety of forms outside its traditional cultural context.

I am not an expert in all Vajrayana; quite the contrary. I have gone into depth in one approach. It is likely that, if you find Vajrayana a good fit, you will do so too. The vision I have for Vajrayana Now is that it will become a stepping-stone for potential tantrikas (people who practice Vajrayana). It’ll be quite a wide, flat stepping stone, one that you can hang around on before deciding which direction to step, hop or jump next. And you can always come back to it and splash out in a different direction if you like.

Here are some ideas for topics the site might cover:

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Accessing Vajrayana

At the Buddhist Geeks conference last weekend we had an unplugged Vajrayana get-together.  ‘Unplugged’ is the BGeeks’ term for participant convened breakout sessions. Conference goers suggest themes they’d like to discuss and spend the afternoons in small groups mulling over those topics. It’s a great idea. Some of the most memorable moments of the two conferences I attended were from unplugged conversations.

The unplugged Vajrayana attendees were remarkably varied. There were several long-termers, people who had studied and practiced for between ten and twenty years in depth in one tradition with one primary teacher. They included students of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, Reggie Ray, Sogyal Rinpoche and Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen.* Some had taken vows of samaya* about as hard-core Vajrayana as you can get. There were also some self-declared newbies, with little or no experience but lots of interest. And there were some in the middle, who had spent some years practicing in one lineage – Shambhala, for example – or were checking out different teachers.

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