Commenting on: After Buddhist Ethics
I think I agree with everything you said there!
Commenting on: Unclogging
Do you think it’s possible to have a teacherless tantric practice by taking psychoactive substances?
Do you think it’s possible to have a teacherless tantric practice by taking psychoactive substances?
I don’t know. My guess is no, but I don’t know enough about either psychedelics or tantra to be able to say.
On the other hand, it’s not clear that “tantra” is defined clearly enough for this to be a well-formed question. Whether something counts as tantra is inherently somewhat nebulous.
Some authorities say that the teacher-student relationship is the defining feature of tantra. Not just that it is pragmatically required to accomplish something else, but that it is the whole point.
Maybe it’s best to turn this around on you: what do you mean by “tantra,” and why? Why do you care? What do you hope “tantric” practice would do?
This question, about psychedelics as a means in tantra, comes up pretty regularly. I suspect a lot of people have tried. I don’t know of any clear successes, but maybe I’ve missed them.
Why does it seem plausible? Maybe the reasoning is that both involve “Wow, way out, cosmic, man!” non-ordinary experiences. But those are somewhat incidental for tantra. More a common, unnecessary side-effect than the point.
does one really need apprenticeship with formal training and an intensive mentor-student relationship?
does one really need apprenticeship with formal training and an intensive mentor-student relationship?
As far as we know, for architecture and trial lawyers, yes. Also, as far as we know, for tantra, yes. It’s possible that there are alternate approaches in each case, but no one has yet made that work.
<block quote>Maybe I killed it</block quote>
I don’t know if you intended the allusion, but as I was reading that I was thinking of Nietzsche’s “God is dead and we have killed him. Oh murderer of murderers” etc.
I’ve recently been reading Nagarjuna’s Middle Way, and it strikes me that it doesn’t have much to say about the philosophy of ethics. Lots of epistemology, but short on ethics.
My own prejudice is a feeling that it ought to have one. In Plato’s Euthypro, Socrates argues with Euthypro that doing what the Gods tell you isn’t going to cut it as an ethical theory. Although I might be something of a postmodern skeptic towards Plato’s overall project, the feeling that we ought to have justifications remains. ( “These fornicating monks are making the sangha look bad” seems to be the main justification behind much of the Vinaya).
There is possibly an ethical theory implicit somewhere in Machig Labdron, although not spelled out. To my modern taste, at least, once you’ve declared that there is no God and moved on to the practical details of how to make a flute out of a human thigh bone, there ought to be something somewhere that keeps your coreligionists within some kind of sane bounds…
In short: even if vajrayana didn’t traditionally have a philosophy of ethics, as modern people we feel we could do with obtaining one from somewhere.
These are excellent questions; thank you!
I think your central question may answer itself. What are you missing? Well, you could try doing the practices you suggested, and see what happens, as you said. Maybe they’ll be dramatically effective!
(I wouldn’t suggest that just anyone do them. Some people are emotionally fragile. You sound like you are probably pretty robust, in which case they are probably not significantly dangerous.)
Or, you could ask yourself what you guess would happen if you tried them. (What do you think would happen?)
My guess, for what it’s worth, is: not much. (I could be wrong!)
If you try them, and find that not much happens; or if you save yourself a few hours and don’t bother because it seems like not much will happen, then: yes, there’s something you are missing. (Either that or Tantra isn’t really a thing, which of course is a reasonable hypothesis until you’ve discovered something significant from it.)
So what are you missing? It’s not a secret, and I’m not trying to hide it. If I could tell you, I would. The reason I abandoned the project is that I can’t. I mean, I can’t; there are some people who can. That’s what a Tantric teacher is, and I’m not.
There’s nothing magical about that (in my opinion—the traditional view is that it is magical, but I don’t believe that). It’s something not many people can do, though. And in most cases, they have to be roundabout about it. It generally takes several years to get the point across.
That’s true for many disciplines; you don’t get to be an architect or trial lawyer by reading some blog posts and watching Khan Academy videos. You have to learn those things by apprenticeship.
The point of the “reinventing” series was not to teach Tantra, but to think out loud about how it could be adapted to modern (or meta-modern) culture. I never actually got to write about that, because I got side-tracked into explaining Tantric basics instead, which was a mistake. That basic explanation was never intended to give readers the tools to actually do Tantra, though. It was just conceptual background for the “reinventing” ideas, which I never got to.
Commenting on: Emptiness, form, and Dzogchen ethics
It seems to me you are primary a scholar of Buddhism, and by that surely a very smart and crafty one indeed. I am absolutely not able to climb on that montain of conclusions of yours; it is so far in height, and yet there is no ceiling. Reading the Sutras and philosophizing, abusing the intellect in search of thusness, there is only forgetfulness and confusion. To let go of the mind is to find the mind, said Dogen, thinking non-thinking. Of course, it may be fun, from time to time, to dip one toe into abhidharma. But after one moment, IT becomes phenomenology, a place for the intellect to dwell on, cut off from non-thinking, cut off from wisdom born out of suchness. In endless time, you may accumulate knowledge to compare, analyze and discern all things build on thought, but this montain of ideas will never be complete, but crumble and crush enlightenment.
Hi, I’ve been reading and re-reading your blog for many years, and it seriously influenced my understanding of Tantra and Buddhism in general. Thanks for that! But there’s something I still don’t understand. On the one hand, you provided a pretty straightforward definition of what tantra is supposed to be about, but on the other hand, you ended up saying that modern Buddhist tantra is probably impossible to implement and gave up on the whole project. And one of the reasons seems to be that in tantra you supposedly need to have a very special one-to-one relation with the teacher, which would be difficult to scale if tantra were to become a mass movement. You also said that you didn’t know any tantric practices that would make sense for someone with a modern worldview (except the windhorse practice, perhaps).
But it doesn’t seem difficult to invent some practices that don’t require a teacher and are in line with your definition: “Unclogging energy by uniting spaciousness and passion”. Say, start with practicing mindfulness/vipassana from whatever nice-Buddhism/renunciative Sutrayana tradition you are familiar with. That can give you some taste of emptiness. Then, put on your tantric attitude and ramp up your emotions. You may start with dropping something on your little toe. You may have some habitual reactions to your pain, but your familiarity with emptiness may help you realising that those reactions are just an option, not something you must do. Then watch porn and masturbate. Set up a timer, and whenever you hear it beep during your masturbation, stop and look at some pictures of dead bodies, and see how it makes you feel and react (you may need to use something else if you happen to be a necrophile!). Of course that’s not supposed to be a method to spoil your masturbation fun, just to go out of narrow perception that things must only go one way. If you then go back to your porn and continue your masturbation, that’s even better!
Then you can eat dinner, imagining that it’s human flesh. See how you react, and spontaneously decide if you want to react that way or not. In the end, take some intoxicants, ideally ones that make your feelings “go to eleven”. Remember that the intoxicant-induced state of mind will go away after some time (in other words, don’t fall into the trap of eternalism and keep in mind that it’s all empty), but don’t moderate yourself. If more intoxicants means more passion, then go for it!
Wouldn’t it be a modern Tantric practice? Tantric attitude? Check. Not nice? Check. Compatible with modern worldview? Check. Compatible with modern morality? Check. No Tibetan cultural artifacts? Check. Passion? Check. Spaciousness? Well, I guess this is the least obvious one, but assuming that the person has some background in Sutrayana-style meditation and some experience with emptiness, it’s possible to do all of the above with spaciousness, and on the top of it, have some fun or meta-fun in observing one’s own reactions.
Do you need a Tantric teacher to be able to practise that? I don’t think so. You may need a friend, someone you trust and who cares about you, who will tell you if you start harming yourself or others in some way. But your friend doesn’t even need to practise Tantra.
Of course, I’m not suggesting anyone should practise the specific things I described above, or that they are all there is to Tantra. It is just an example that inventing practices that are in line with your definition of Tantra seems easy.
What am I missing, then? Because if it was so simple, you would have just given an example or two of what people might practise. But you very clearly didn’t want to do that, and in the end you declared this whole project of reinventing Buddhist tantra a dead end.
Commenting on: David Chapman
Dear David. You’ve raised a very important topic (for me) about the time of “invention” of the Ngondro. I have a question. You claim that this set of practices was created around plus / minus - 1600. Please, give some source information to support this thesis. Thanks. (Aprops - it would be interesting, maybe some in some day create “timeline” - graphically showing the precise dates when the practices or the next stages of Buddhist philosophy were established. As a result, several other beliefs existing in the Buddhist subculture as “canon” ” could fall and would simply turn out to be false.)
Commenting on: Some preliminaries: ngöndro
I always love finding a new post from one of your sites in my feed reader; thanks again!
I’m reading thru the posts linked-to from the “Reinventing Buddhist Tantra” post and they’re all great too.
I do still feel like I’m waiting for juicy details about ‘how’ and ‘what’ is to be done with all of this, but then, like many times before, I think that maybe a big point (or the point) of all of the stuff about which you write is that there’s no real way for it not to be ‘left as an exercise for the reader’!
Oh, that’s very interesting! I knew some people who were doing that practice, but didn’t know that it officially counted as ngöndro.
So ideally someone would invent a ngöndro that efficiently induces emptiness, is well-suited to contemporary people, and is in the style of contemporary Buddhist tantra.
A historical tidbit on fairly recent innovation (within the last 25 years or so) in ngöndro: I know that Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpche got his students — or at least, some of them — to practice from his teachings on Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness as a ngöndro. PSME starts from sravaka view and then moves through some study/reflection/meditation on increasingly subtle views on emptiness until the student gets some sort of introduction to Clarity-Emptiness, and presumably arrives at a required the base; understanding/experience of emptiness. Whether that is a) effective and b) in the style of contemporary Buddhist tantra is a different matter, of course.
No, please. You shouldn’t feel stupid. The work you’re doing here is impeccable. The problem is not with you, it’s with superstition surrounding the subject, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid. There’s much light in your work. I’ve already said somewhere that I’d love to translate it into Portuguese and Spanish. You more compassionate than all the Aro gTer masters together, especially the lineage holders. You dare to FACE and speak the truth, no matter how it hurts.
The problem is with masters and students that value more the traditions, the techniques and/or the supernatural claims rather than the love and wisdom that should prevail. If people like Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil are more right than wrong, an era of material abundance is about to disclose. Maybe at that moment people will have more room for getting more clearly in touch with the goodness at their own hearts and care more for each other instead of doing potato-mouths and rolling their eyeballs because they’ve received some exclusive wang and we not.
If you allow me one suggestion, would be that you list and tell not third-hand past glories, but all you’ve seen in Vajra that really works, for you and others. Please, tell the happenings, even if you need to change names and use yourself a pen name, I don’t know. We just need to understand when and why you and Aro gTer are no more in the same vibe.
We need truth, love and wisdom. Not killer apps. However, we could be wrong about some supernatural claims. As I said in another comment, you should look for Phowa. You said nothing about it and I myself had some strange occurrences from it. The former Chagdud Tulku, when he taught it to me, said that this is the quickest practice in terms of result.
Maybe you could try to go deeper in your practice in many terms so you can hatch some shells that will enlighten your work here.
"The only way to teach is by example".
Yup. That’s why I abandoned this project, and feel stupid every time my brain insists on adding to it. I hope it somehow benefits someone somehow somewhen. Perhaps a future era will have better circumstances, and our third-hand stories of glories past, preserved in a web archive, will prove useful. Perhaps that era will come sooner than we expect.
“The only way to teach is by example”.
When talking about Guru Yoga, you summed up all points.
We don’t need technicalities. No matter how good your writings and your vision might be, the one single point is missing: a LIVING example of the result.
Nobody cares for systems anymore if they don’t lead to a really good result. Today there’s enough direct knowledge of Tibetans and other Asians to see where Tantra leads. After more than a millennium, all that is left from it are legends of better human beings.
The good examples are more than scarce: they’re almost inexistent.
Almost nobody will understand a mahasiddha such as Dombipa and very, very few are the lamas that were arrested for, let’s say, 20 years to emerge even more noble than before. Not to mention that they’re almost all gone to death, leaving only precarious inheritors.
The majority of lamas both from East & West are no more than regular human beings, with nothing to show rather than technicalities and theories they themselves have no real use for.
Before naturalizing Tantra values & techniques, you should worry to make Shunyata/Anatman more practical, to make it relevant. It seems to be the highest philosophical standpoint humankind achieved and yet most of the masters don’t display even the tiniest sign of it.
I don’t care if Vajra masters are this or that, if they received Owl or Fox dakini texts, when they don’t have the same compassion as, e.g., the Zen master Ejo Takata, the dare of leaving their cosy developed-world lives to come to poor & violent countries and teach without restraints not only Dharma, but practical things to make our lives better. I don’t care if all the masters I’ve learned technicalities from believe in hocus-pocus because the bogus from Vajra is no pair to real life, that is drowning us in poverty and injustices that no Dharma or religion can deal with.
How difficult is to see a Thang Tong Gyalpo in the world! All we see are lamas, geshes and Radical Dzokchen evangelists that have no sign of compassion, talking about creativity, but struggling to pay the bills of their own institutions or being so complicated and arrogant that they make it very difficult even if one wants to translate their translations into other languages.
As the great former Dudjom used to say, it’s all poop packed in silk. Vajra is already dead. Long live to the mahasiddhas!
Commenting on: Reinventing Buddhist Tantra: Annotated Table of Contents
Trying to naturalize Tantra/Dzogchen sometimes sounds too materialistic to me. Not in the way you treated materialism in your Meaningness materials.
Have you read “Waking Up” from Sam Harris? I might be wrong, but reducing mind to the brain kind of sounds extreme to me, but everyday experience seems to agree.
So, he might probably be right to leave aside Tulku Urgyen’s Dzogchen quotes of a state beyond birth and death… Or is there any experiential way that one might not reduce mind to the brain?
I’m not referring here to NDEs or OBEs that seem just eternalistic fantasies to me, but you never have anything to say about P’howa and Tummo practices. They seem to point to something more hyperspacial… I don’t know…
Thanks; I’ve fixed both links. “Link rot” is a problem; the half-life of the internet is about five years. I link Wikipedia heavily partly because it’s usually pretty good, but also because I’m reasonably confident it will still be there in… in… in 2030? That sounds like the distant future, but…
Commenting on: Pussy-dripping goddesses with chainsaws
Thank you very much! I have fixed the link.
For some reason when I click on the “I was a manic pixie dream girl” link above, it doesn’t work (ios, iphone)
This link does work though: https://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/06/i-was-manic-pixie-dream-girl#amp
Commenting on: A killer app for modern Vajrayana?
For anyone else who’s been fascinated by the tease in this post, I’ve recently read “Warrior-King of Shambhala”, and found in it some basic instructions for raising windhorse, though probably not the exact practice David refers to. Despite their simplicity, they’ve been surprisingly valuable to me already:
Generally, however, when we are in a depressed state simply feeling the ground beneath us, the space all around us, and uplifting our heads and shoulders and straightening our spine naturally arouses our windhorse.
The “I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl” article link seems to go to a dead link. The second Monty Python link (about Camelot) leads to a video that is not there anymore (ham & Jam, I think). I’m using iPhone Safari browser
I love this material. I read Reinventing Buddhist Tantra as a generalizable system to design attitudes and rituals to reshape and redefine aspects of atomized modern life.
It seems clear that rituals have emerged from necessity + materials at hand throughout history. Atomization + disruptive technology gives us an urgent need and opportunity to redesign almost everything about modern life. Starting from an attitude of participation instead of rejection seems sensible. Of course, creating a whole world of new rituals will be a lot of work! But your thoughts here can guide some of the work.
I’m delighted to find a blue book encyclopedia of Buddhism here that explains why those cars & trucks I test drove seemed to lead to more emptiness instead of happiness. Your honesty and clarity about Buddhism vehicles are two things that are impossible to find in the brochures ;)
Commenting on: Sutra, Tantra, and the modern worldview
[have you made any strides in the Nietzsche-Tantra comparison since you posted this?
[I’m sorry, no, I haven’t worked on that.]]
I’m also visiting this website from time to time in the hopes of finding some development of this line of thought. Very interesting!
Commenting on: Finding a teacher of modern Buddhist Tantra
Hi David, I wonder if you have new recommendations since the time you wrote this post?
David good morning from London. I am a student of Ngakma Mé-tsal and Naljorpa Ja’gyür. I wonder if we might exchange email addresses? I am a big fan of your writing and ideas across meaningness, vividness and Budhism for Vampires. My first introduction to your writing was via ‘Approaching Aro’ which Ngakma Mé-tsal recommends I read. I look forward to hearing from you and exchanging views and ideas on Fluidity etc.
Commenting on: Enlightenments beyond the Enlightenment
Gleig’s treatment of the Speculative Non-Buddhism project is not evenhanded. It’s outright polemical, but in a deceitful academic manner that places what I suspect are HER misgivings about the project in the mouths of others. She offers a lazy and superficial treatment of what she herself labels “The most theoretically sophisticated and sustained interrogation of Western Buddhism,” namely the SNB project. My response to her is here: https://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2019/03/08/ann-gleig-on-snb/
Could you tell me one specific link that doesn’t work, and tell me which operating system you are running on? Thank you!
Ok I use the normal Wordpress app and the links don’t work. I hope you can fix it. Your idea is very interesting
Commenting on: Modern Buddhism: Forged as anti-colonial weapon
Dear David, I love reading your articles, especially your vivid figurative explanation but you seem to overemphasize the concept of colonialism and postcolonialism, especially the impact of rationalism, Christianity and science upon certain forms of Buddhism while at the same time little attention is paid to the questions like how Buddhist teachings survive into modern times how other textual evidence can reflect or document sociocultural interactions at local, regional, and global levels that functioned over the past millennia to shape the way we meditated, the way we argued, the way we talked about the Buddha, and the way we crafted Buddhist teachings. For me, a lot of Buddhist teachings are not in line with the evolving knowledge you refer to as science. However, this does not necessarily mean that the said science is superior or accurate. Few hundreds years ago, the status of science is quite ridiculous, using Michel Foucault’s approach.
Buddhist worldview has been transcribed into varied ethno linguistic systems worldwide. However, its epistemology has never been watered down or totally altered, thanks to its strange or distinctive featuress. No matter how.. our human languages are limited in its semantic scope, thus failing to convey the true meanings and significances of most Buddhist thoughts and mental phenomena.
Throughout its history, Buddhism borrowed vocabulary of the interpretative communities it was introduced. For example, Thai Theravada Buddhism had been affected by Mon and Khmer worldviews before it was adopted in Ayutthaya as a mainstream faith. Entering the era of globalization, Buddhism was affected by the ongoing rationalism and other scientific discourses when those Buddhist communities in that part of the world started weaving various modern discourses and imaginations into their Buddhist texts. Having said that, Buddhist Laws of Nature, Eight Fold Noble Path, Triraksana, Paticasamupada are deemed as the core of its mainstream teachings while most cosmological accounts expressed in other Buddhist texts were added presumably in India and Lanka. This is part of my studies and personal observation since I read Thai and other subjects in relation to regional cultures and languages.
Commenting on: Developing ethical, social, and cognitive competence
I’m a music educator interested in how adult psychological development theory might apply to artistic development. Can anyone reply with advice, references, or the like? thanks
Oh, BTW, today I read a word you might like for this era that is coming: POST-NATURAL. (wink-wink)
Highly Esteemed Mr. David,
Superb! Congrats on going where no human has ever dared to go. This is what moves the wheels of civilization.
Two aspects that are essential for Vajrayana that I feel overlooked even by its so-called masters (as if it were possible to master life itself): (1) arts, mainly poetry and visual; and (2) humor.
Sufis, especially the Naqshbandi Afghan branch continued by the Shah brothers (and now by one of their descendants) have their Nasrudin short and enigmatic tales making use of humour to convey spiritual lessons that impact not only the intelect, but mainly the “heart” (where Vajrayana or Tibetans claim is mind’s root – v. esoteric anatomy).
As one can read in the Aro gTér materials, art is vastly stimulated.
How to bring those elements into play without losing its essence and without falling into mysticism?
Excellent to see new posts from you in this strange 2019 post-truth era. I’d love to translate your texts on naturalizing Tantra into Portuguese.
Radical Dzogchen exponents such as Dowman, Wilkinson and Peterson are doing what even the liberal Lamas couldn’t do, but many people that have not run in some way a more classical Vajra path seem to be misunderstanding it in 2 ways: (1) by confusing Maha Ati with Advaita and/or Zen; (2) by rejecting “lower” practices completely as dualistic poisons.
Forget about moving the hearts of any other teachers into your view. You’re the mind emanation for this and you need to find the speech and body emanations in order for such a Buddhist Tantrik “lineage” you envision to take root.
Even the most skeptic Radical Dzogchen teachers still have some hocus-pocus mentality
What might be killing Buddhism and other religions is the lack of inspirational figures: someone that really embodies the whole thing and is not just a theorist that, when put to test, is much like everyone else. I’ve found no teacher that really embodies completely what we need.
Maybe the next Tantric teacher won’t resemble anything Tibetan or even Asian and might even be a cyborg with an extra AI-powered brain.
Maybe we’d need and extraterrestrial Tantrika to really inspire us…
Apparently there is indeed a technical problem…
I tried half a dozen links in the iOS Wordpress app and they were fine.
Could you tell me which app you are using, and a specific link that fails? Thanks!
I get an error from inside the Wordpress app on all five links I tried to click on, but in the browser those links are fine.
Which links don’t work for you, specifically? They seem to work for me, but if there’s a tech issue, or some broken ones, I’d like to fix it.
Great post. You are in the right track but likely only 75% correct in all. That’s why you still seem to have some seemingly irreconcilable problems. But I love your efforts and the direction. However I really don’t feel that Buddhism is broken it does not need fixing we need the adjustment as practitioners. We need to find what it is that we need use it until we understand it then discard and move on.
Most of your links are invalid and won’t li k to the files.
Hello Mr. Chapman,
I have been reading your how to make Kangling.
I will be in need of a kangling relatively soon, as I will be engaging in practice connected with it.
Thank you for writing that page! Incredibly illuminating for how to make one yourself!
I am taking in different angles on how to acquire a kangling, from making one to buying one.
But I am not good with my hands, and I am trying to weigh the pros-and-cons of both.
If I decide to buy a human femur,
would you have any interest in being hired to make a kangling for me?
Thank you, kindly /\
Commenting on: Meanwhile, back at the charnel ground…
Very nice to see you back on the web!
I would so love to write more of the vampire romance! Partly because I would like to read it myself. (The whole thing is plotted out but it’s much more enjoyable to read the finished parts than the Excel spreadsheet that forms the outline of the unfinished parts.) Partly because writing it is also enjoyable. Partly because in order to write it I first have to spend about two weeks doing several hours a day of tantric meditation to get into the right headspace.
Unfortunately… I have run out of time. I get very little time to write (maybe 10% over the past five years), and I’m getting old and don’t have that many more years left. I feel a responsibility to write what will be most useful, rather than what I’d most enjoy.
I look forward to reading your monk smut :)
I do vaguely remember reading someone’s account of traveling in Thailand and staying in monasteries full of horny monks (every middle-class Thai teenager is supposed to spend a year being a monk, which is religiously a sham, just a social practice) and....