Author Topic: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows  (Read 3032 times)

Offline SoCalGuy

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Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« on: January 25, 2018, 06:58:12 pm »
Greetings.
Over a decade ago I had studied Buddhism for about six years, and took vows all the way to HYT, taking HYT Empowerments. I loved the practice, but the group I was a part of became too cultish for me (sorry, I can't think of any other way to say that), and there was a major theological issue that put them at odds with the rest of the Tibetan Buddhist community at large. I don't want to name the group, and I am not here to bash them, but you can all probably figure out what I am talking about. Anyway, it caused a great deal of confusion and I ended up Buddhism leaving all together. I also broke my vows since I left the faith.

I am looking at returning to Buddhism, and would like to take up my HYT practice again with a different group/guru... and there is one near where I live.

Part of my original group's practice is to give the Lay Pratimoksha all at once, and I have since found out this is NOT the traditional way of doing it.. that you choose which ones you feel you can honor - which seems FAR better on many levles. I, however, took all five (because we had to) and have since broke them.

My questions are these:
Are my old vows void if I take a new guru?
Am I allowed to retake the Lay Pratimoksha vows and select the ones I feel I can keep (instead of taking all 5 at once) before advancing to my HYT practice?

As you can imagine, this entire process has been difficult for me, but I would like to get back on track with a proper guru.

Any personal stories from people who have experienced similar would be appreciated. I obviously am going to discuss this with a new lama, but would love feedback from this group.

Thanks for your feedback : )

« Last Edit: January 25, 2018, 10:40:10 pm by SoCalGuy »

Offline Empty13

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Re: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2018, 08:27:24 pm »
I am new myself to practicing Tibetan Buddhism, though have practiced other Mahayana traditions, and would encourage anyone with a situation like yours to consult a teacher, or multiple teachers and Sangha so you can get direct and more personal assistance regarding your past involvement and spiritual progress/path. I know if someone asked me something similar regarding Soto/Rinzai, I would highly recommend the same sort of advice. I sincerely hope you find a teacher and Sangha that both fits your goals and abilities, and benefits you highly, as I think any that are appropriate should do so. Hopefully some other more experienced Vajrayana practitioners can give you more detailed direction. :)

Offline Chaz

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Re: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2018, 10:19:24 am »
My questions are these:
Are my old vows void if I take a new guru?

No.  Youy should be able to hope right in.  Some Tibetan lineages don't require precept vows.  I've never heard of anyone re-taking the vows as once taken they rae considered binding and irreversible. 

It may be that you'll be advised to not concern yourself in those matters.

Use this as a cautionary lesson:  to be very, very careful about the vows you take.


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Am I allowed to retake the Lay Pratimoksha vows and select the ones I feel I can keep (instead of taking all 5 at once) before advancing to my HYT practice?

I'm sure it depends on the lineage but if you go outside the Gelug family of lineage, you'll find a somewhat different approach to HYT.  In the Kagyu lineage, for example, yogic tantra isn't allowed for those who haven't taken Bodhisattva vows and then only Kryia Yogas such as Tara, Chenrezig, etc (Sadanha without Abishieka) and higher tantras reserved for those who have completed Ngondro practice.

Quote
As you can imagine, this entire process has been difficult for me, but I would like to get back on track with a proper guru.

Good luck!

Offline Gibbon

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Re: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2018, 09:01:56 am »
Are my old vows void if I take a new guru?

Am I allowed to retake the Lay Pratimoksha vows and select the ones I feel I can keep (instead of taking all 5 at once) before advancing to my HYT practice?

Coming from the Gelug perspective, here are my thoughts:

Your vows are not void.  Pratimoksha vows are taken for the entirety of this life.  Bodhisattva vows, if you have them, are taken for eternity until you reach enlightenment.  I am not sure if you can return one or more Pratimoksha vows, but I doubt it.  Vinaya (monastic) vows can be returned if they were kept well.

The Pratimoksha vows are the absolute minimum to Buddhist practice and are generally taken at the same time as refuge.  To enter the Mahayana path, you also need the Bodhisattva vows. 

Tantric vows are the next level.  It is better to start with Kriya or other lower-level tantra before proceeding to HYT.  Before beginning any tantric practice, you need to spend a significant amount of time studying Lam Rim. Unlike in Kagyu, preliminary practices in the Gelug school are not required to be completed before beginning tantra, you can do them simultaneously (but they should not be skipped or overlooked).

You will definitely want to discuss all this with your new teacher. 

Best wishes,

Gibbon

Offline Zen44

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Re: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2019, 03:46:29 pm »
I have never met this group, . . But would not mind following a Teacher.
Dzogchen Teachings

Offline paracelsus

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Re: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2019, 09:11:09 pm »

There seem to be differing views on this topic. My penny’s worth is:

The many traditions have different methods and they all have to encourage a high level of sincere engagement by the practitioner in order to work effectively. In order to do this some use the threat of dire consequences such as interminable hell and suffering (just as the Catholic church does) to prompt fear driven effort. This can also serve to terrify followers into loyalty to gurus who may not be worthy or into practices which are really just the creation of internal fantasies which may have nothing much to do with the Buddha’s teaching.

The proper understanding, I believe, is that vows and precepts are a necessary training method rather than a sacred rite. They signal a sincere intention.  Following them prepares the mind and adjusts it to generate the awakening factors and to defeat the hinderances. They are not owed to a guru or lineage or even to some external buddha. They are for you alone, and your response to their lapse is up to you. If you fear and panic because some teacher says you are going to hell or can’t re-commence your practice, you may well find yourself in a hellish frame of mind, that is, until you treat yourself with compassion and come back to your practice, when you’ll soon enough regain the happiness of following the Way.

Anyone who tells you that a lapse in keeping the vows or taking a “holiday” from practice is an irreversible failing is not teaching in accordance with the Buddha’s intended meaning. :om:

Offline Chaz

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Re: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2019, 05:18:41 am »

There seem to be differing views on this topic. My penny’s worth is:

The many traditions have different methods and they all have to encourage a high level of sincere engagement by the practitioner in order to work effectively. In order to do this some use the threat of dire consequences such as interminable hell and suffering (just as the Catholic church does) to prompt fear driven effort.

Can you tell us which traditions use fear in that way?

Quote
This can also serve to terrify followers into loyalty to gurus who may not be worthy or into practices which are really just the creation of internal fantasies which may have nothing much to do with the Buddha’s teaching.

Who are the gurus?

Quote
The proper understanding, I believe, is that vows and precepts are a necessary training method rather than a sacred rite.

They are both, actually....

 They signal a sincere intention.  Following them prepares the mind and adjusts it to generate the awakening factors and to defeat the hinderances. They are not owed to a guru or lineage or even to some external buddha. They are for you alone, and your response to their lapse is up to you. If you fear and panic because some teacher says you are going to hell or can’t re-commence your practice, you may well find yourself in a hellish frame of mind, that is, until you treat yourself with compassion and come back to your practice, when you’ll soon enough regain the happiness of following the Way.

Quote
Anyone who tells you that a lapse in keeping the vows or taking a “holiday” from practice is an irreversible failing

Actually it's true.  You can't go back.  Once the karma is established, it can't be undone.  You can only move forward.  You cant "undo" karma.  That said,  there's nothing to fear.

Offline paracelsus

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Re: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2019, 03:03:37 pm »
To answer Chaz's comments to my previous post:

There seem to be differing views on this topic. My penny’s worth is:

The many traditions have different methods and they all have to encourage a high level of sincere engagement by the practitioner in order to work effectively. In order to do this some use the threat of dire consequences such as interminable hell and suffering (just as the Catholic church does) to prompt fear driven effort.


Chaz "Can you tell us which traditions use fear in that way?"

All the traditions which use the preliminary practices involving contemplation of the hell realms etc. I’m not saying it is necessarily a bad thing in all circumstances but is potentially a lever for power over a person.

This can also serve to terrify followers into loyalty to gurus who may not be worthy or into practices which are really just the creation of internal fantasies which may have nothing much to do with the Buddha’s teaching.

Chaz "Who are the gurus?"

It is a common practice in some guru cults, not specifically buddhist, where a follower is too afraid to leave a teacher. I think it is important for anyone with doubts to have a fearless exit from what they might feel to be a damaging situation (without undergoing a trauma which leads to their giving up practice).

The proper understanding, I believe, is that vows and precepts are a necessary training method rather than a sacred rite.

Chaz "They are both, actually…."

This depends on whether you require metaphysics to support your practice. Personally, I remove such dependencies in order to observe clearly what is. It is important enough without putting a “sacred” tag on it.
They (vows) signal a sincere intention.  Following them prepares the mind and adjusts it to generate the awakening factors and to defeat the hinderances. They are not owed to a guru or lineage or even to some external buddha. They are for you alone, and your response to their lapse is up to you. If you fear and panic because some teacher says you are going to hell or can’t re-commence your practice, you may well find yourself in a hellish frame of mind, that is, until you treat yourself with compassion and come back to your practice, when you’ll soon enough regain the happiness of following the Way.”

Anyone who tells you that a lapse in keeping the vows or taking a “holiday” from practice is an irreversible failing

Chaz "Actually it's true.  You can't go back.  Once the karma is established, it can't be undone.  You can only move forward.  You cant "undo" karma.  That said,  there's nothing to fear."

No, we can’t “go back”, the Buddha reputedly said: “Reality is a concatenation and nothing but a concatenation …” (a sequential development) but we can defuse, disempower or escape the effect of past karmic deeds. That is why we sit, etc, to attain liberation, potentially in this life.

If we were not able to “undo” karma, and since we have supposedly been creating “bad karma” from time without beginning (as some traditions assert) there could logically be no escape, and all this sitting around meditating and being good would have to be continued until time without end, through interminable hells, before liberation could occur. Basically, "liberation" would be a cult fantasy, which I don't believe it is.

So how then can we skip the interminable future hell, reach the end of  “time without end” and step into a liberated future? By being in the interminable present, is how, and making that present one adorned with the wholesome states rather than with the unwholesome ones.

For example, by following the instructions in texts such as the Ānāpānasatti sutta, or the Satipatthāna Sutta through which we truly discover what “life” is on the most fundamental level, begin to understand the purpose of Buddha’s teaching for this life, now, on this planet, and reap the reward of becoming less the habitual self under the sway of past karma and more the free consciousness which is implied by the term liberation. Obviously the definition of liberation, consciousness, nirvana is fraught with intellectual interpretations, but it is the opposite of being a confined "self" subject to the domination of greed, lust, and ignorance.

There is an excellent practice guide for the Satipatthāna meditation by Analayo:  “Satipatthāna Meditation. A practice Guide” (Wisdom Publications) which gives a clear impression of the purpose of the practice and how it will work to lead the practitioner to awakening.

The purpose of my comments on this post is to reassure people practicing the Way that it can be very simple and doesn’t require a lot of the cultural packaging in which it is often wrapped. Even though this can be of great interest and support, it shouldn’t become a distraction from the basics. In other words: what you do now, how you are motivated at this moment and the next is of paramount importance.

Possibly.

 :om:






Offline paracelsus

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Re: Returning to Buddhism after leaving - questions about vows
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2019, 01:13:42 pm »
Apologies, a correction to my comment above: ".... subject to the domination of: Greed, Hatred, and Ignorance."

 :om:

 


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