Comments on “Why I should shut up”

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Sengchen Dra-tsal 2012-04-27

I am a jazz improvisor and so I feel I can make some comment on the relevant point you make above.

It is certainly true that “faking” a standard (that is an actual term), which is to say - playing the rule-defined chords for a song, or perhaps mechanistically applying rule-defined chord progressions and scales to “improvising” on it, is one method of performing which is principally concerned with the perfection of “right harmony” and “right rhythm” in such a way that would simulate an actual improvisation. To the listener, they might hear an enlightened sounding interpretation of a song, but not realize that it was the mere indication of the proverbial music-school harmonic meat grinder.

Alternatively, there is a state of being in which the improvisation plays the improvisor. That is how it is spoken of. I wouldn’t want to get into the neurophysiology of behavior, nor much less into the questions of free will and determinism, but if you are a free improvisor, that is your experience of it - an experience of spontaneous presence and communication.

Finally, if these seem like utterly different and unrelated experiences, the musician that experiences some form of totality or completion, finds that these two approaches have “one taste”. Mundanely, yes - what you are able to “spontaneously” free improvise is programmed, as it were, into your fingers and dexterity through the years of faking standards. But if there weren’t the Miles Davis and John Coltrane’s of the world to freely extend the language of improvisation (from their years of faking standards), then there wouldn’t be students learning to fake those novel linguistic contrivances in their sophomoric renditions of the “thus have I heard” sounds of their inspirational examples.

So even mundanely the two experiences engulf and interpenetrate each other so much so that together - they could be considered an utterly complete expression of Jazz entailing an inseparability of lineage, devotion and spontaneous presence.

By all means don’t shut up. I think being nobody - if you really mean that, uniquely qualifies someone to talk about a yana whose base is the experience of emptiness. It’s just more likely that what comes out won’t sound like a reified modernization of tantric formulae, and might sound somewhat more like whatever a “nobody” might actually say (which only another “nobody” could recognize as the authentic expression of finding the presence awareness of that which moves in Mind)

Duff 2012-04-27

Many, if not most improvisational jazz pioneers did not in fact learn the basics, for instance that of reading music, or classical technique. They were too busy jamming and being wildly creative. I think the same can be said for the maha-siddhas.

mriramos 2012-04-27

re: “Tantra is much easier to understand, and much easier to explain, than Dzogchen.”
Not sure I agree with you on that one. I would say it’s easier to practice, than Dzogchen, but equally difficult to understand and explain.
So why do you think it’s easier to understand and explain?

aesop1 2012-04-27

I like your approach.

David Chapman 2012-04-28

@ Seng-chen, Duff — thank you very much for that about jazz improv! Unfortunately, I suffer from Severe Rhythm Deficiency Disorder, so I cannot speak about musical performance from personal experience!

@ Mri — Tantra has an elegant intellectual structure. Dzogchen has some intellectual content, too, but much less, and the experiential prerequisites are much stiffer. With Dzogchen, there’s not much to say; and either people get it or they don’t. Mostly all you can communicate is enthusiasm—unless you are far more accomplished than me!

I think tantra is only hard to understand because it is usually taught badly, by people who don’t understand it. (See my impolite remarks about “mediocre export Tibetanism” in the next post.) As a body of conceptual material, it has a straightforward logic, which makes perfect sense. But that is rarely explained. Western academics often do a much better job than Tibetan lamas.

rafaelroldan 2016-10-24

David, you are being contradictory in at least two points:

(1) “I’m nobody” – somewhere else you say that you’re not qualified because you don’t want, but if you really didn’t want, you would not bother to write all this stuff (not to mention the readings you had to do to prepare yourself) and would not mention in the post “No Cosmic Justice” (at another blog of yours) that you expect that even really evil people be in paradise (an affirmation that seems to demonstrate a very big heart… Or is it just ballyhoo?)

(2) If you don’t consider modern values the Ultimate Truth, why bothering with modernizing Tantra? For me it seems that even though humanity developed a lot of technology, we’re still in the caves regarding human behavior. For you, living in UK, it may not be obvious, but for those like me, not so lucky, who live in “Third World” countries where civilization varnish is even thinner than in the “First World”, I see that there’s not much to do to modernize Tantra.

You give very good hints at it and the gTértöns from 19th and 20th centuries also did their jobs well. However, I think one should not try so much to twist Tantra to the point of breaking it apart. Instead, persons should be looking for ways to improve their selves and their world. Because, in the end, if here-&-now is all we’ve, the emptiness of self and the cheat-chat that we are already enlightened would do no real good.

As Guru Rinpoche said, “my path has the highest view as the sky and the finest conduct as the finest dough”.

So, I think you could take this endeavor in a harder way and benefit more people by engaging as a teacher!


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