Tango with the Dancing Bear.

Via on Mar 29, 2010

Ryder Japhy as Dancing Bear

If it displeases you, leave it alone. Terchen Barway Dorje

I’m having a hard time getting this article past my wife, the editor. I suppose my tone is spoiling for a fight.

It’s times like these that I find myself discovering a whole new level of appreciation for the teachings of the whispered lineage.

Every week I do my best to engage my little audience here (either Karma Kagyu or sympathetic enough to consider a lineage-holder-based transmission of the dharma).

But as inevitably as mud beckons an eight-year-old boy come the first mild day of spring after a winter stuck indoors, I can’t resist messing with people.

Someone gets hurt, or offended, or simply doesn’t take a shine to me, and the trolls come out (love my trolls: like hitting pay dirt, it never gets old for me).

I readily admit that I am who I am, and not much has changed over the past half-century of my life since I took refuge, I’m afraid.

No surprise then that Taming the Wolf author Greg Stone (conflict resolution consultant) is so pissed at me (thank you Greg for making me so popular).

Call me whatever you like, the dancing bear a favorite (an interesting approach to conflict resolution): like Atisha taught, I’ll keep you in my mind.

More than a few here can distinguish between the swan song of a Karma Kagyu and the siren song of someone making it up as he goes along, and I write for those more than a few.

Like the 17th Karmapa said, we aren’t looking for converts to our lineage, so step off or step up; it makes no difference to me (both equally empty as far as I’m concerned).

As Terchen Barway Dorje (1836-1918) sang, “cast praise and disrespect to the winds.” My path is clear, regardless of whichever you choose.

All of my life I’ve had awkward encounters with people who can’t deal with me personally, or with the dharma of lineage holders (and, therefore, I must be a fraud).

It’s a bit like the government of Sri Lanka using Buddhism to justify suppressing the freedom of expression (there’s some dharma involved but it’s mostly personal).

I can’t speak for my readers, but I get a kick whenever trolls pop up calling me names (as if I actually cared what they think—this old bastard too far gone to care).

First it begins with talk of ego as if my beloved trolls would want to live in a world in which nobody has an ego.

In the seventies we had a problem with cults during the New Age epidemic before teachers such as Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche arrived to instruct us.

You always knew you were dealing with a cult when you began to feel your self-esteem being undermined.

At first they are nice but then they really begin to rag on you, going on about your ego and how it would so much easier if you didn’t have one.

It’s called psychology, and as Traleg Rinpoche has noted, whenever some cult goes off the deep end there’s always a psychologist leading the way.

We have no need for such nonsense as Buddhists unless our audience is made up of a bunch of shrinks in search of a deeper understanding of the mind.

“There’s nothing that needs to be discarded or abandoned and nothing that needs to be cultivated or added onto,” according to Kyabgon Traleg Rinpoche.

That’s always been my approach and the approach of every Karma Kagyu lineage holder from whom I’ve ever received the dharma.

Last appointment, my cardiologist called me the poster child for severe congestive heart failure (having lived to tell of the hell I’ve been through the past year).

In truth when he asked how I was doing all I could say was “I’m alive but I have no life” (which prompted his remarking how amazing it is that I’m even alive).

I credit the blessings of all of the ripening empowerments I’ve ever received from lineage holders (and their pointing-out instructions) for surviving it all.

If I didn’t have my ego, if I wasn’t who I am and didn’t have complete confidence in everything I’ve been taught by my teachers, I don’t know what I’d do.

In the end, as Barway Dorje sang in his day, “there are no words here meant to irritate anyone.” Step up or step off; the choice is yours.

Either way I’m more than glad to be a bear dancing for your amusement (writing about my life and times as a Karma Kagyu for my friend Waylon).

All I ask is that instead of spitting in my tip jar, make your voice heard politely and respectfully (and enjoy the conversation here that I hope I’m responsible for starting).


Karmapa Chenno

Ryder Japhy

Bill Schwartz (@RyderJaphy on Twitter)

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71 Responses to “Tango with the Dancing Bear.”

  1. You…spoiling for a (respectful) fight!

    • bill schwartz says:


      I love both my supporters and detractors equally: the trolls run up the comment numbers (make the noise) that allows others to know there is something going on here. I trust any Karma Kagyu to recognize their own and shut me down if I wander from the teachings of the lineage.


  2. mike says:

    I know nothing of lineages or, hell, about buddhism at all if you want to get down into it. Having come to buddhism a few years ago I’m just now getting to a point where I can come close to understanding basic verses in the diamond sutra. The upside is I have no bad habits or preconceived notions. I think that in this moment and in this time we are what the universe is. The sooner we understand that there is no us seperate from the tree over there, the sooner “we” will all be a lot better off.

    At least, that’s how I see it. I think I’m right.

    For the record, the last time I saw a dancing bear, it was wearing a red hat, not a brown/grey one like you :) haha. I kid

    • bill schwartz says:


      If you have no bad habits or preconceived notions how are you a Buddhist? To be a Buddhist one must turn to it. Once you turn to it, you spend your life working with your bad habits and preconceived notions.

      You might want to begin with the notion that we are what the universe is (which has nothing to do with Buddhism but with rainbows and unicorn fabulism).


      • Mike says:

        I do not have to tell you this, but you are correct. My analogy was a poor one, which needed an explanation and some back story. Since my thought projecting skills are lacking… I’ll work on that.

        When I first started taking guitar lessons, I was open to everything the teacher had to share. He asked, “how long have you been playing the guitar” to which I replied about 10 minutes (the length of time I was in the lesson). He said good, then I have no bad habits – that I didn’t have the thought that I knew better than he as to how to play the guitar.

        So I try come here with no ego, no thought that I know better than someone else. I try to accept the teachings and lessons as they are shared, in whatever format they are shared with me – from stern rebuke (your reply) to educational pieces posted.

        As I try to let go of the ego (which my ego is HUGE), the idea of self or the idea of an eternal self, I do recognize my (numerous) imperfections. Like practicing the guitar, I try to practice the lessons taught.

        Thank you for your time.

        • bill schwartz says:


          As Yongey Mingyur says, "letting go is not giving up" and I suggest that you never would have picked up an axe in the first place if you didn't think there was a guitar hero somewhere in you.

          On the cushion studying the progressive stages of meditation on emptiness (a favorite teaching of mine) you look for the self in the aggregates even though we know there is no such self to be found.

          That doesn't make self, or ego, a bad thing for the fact that it is merely a figment of our imagination and not something truly existent (nothing is such in Buddhism.

          The world would grind to a halt and we would all die if not for our wit and will to not just survive but to thrive as however we deem fit to.

          I'm down with the benefits of being lost in the moment of being creative whether we are talking about fixing toilets or playing guitar but that's a blessing we all can enjoy simply by being in the moment.

          But just as the world doesn't stand still as we await our moment neither does the mind and what was fine for us one moment does nothing for us in the next.


          • Mike says:

            Been thinking on this.

            Do you happen to know someone in the Atlanta area willing to help teach?

            @namoric (on twitter)

  3. khorwalung says:

    while i usually find conversations involving more than one buddhist and topic of ego(lessness) uncompelling, as i have watched this one, i found myself wondering how many folks on either side of the debate are speaking from the ground of practice of the lots of ass-on-the-cushion shamatha and vipashyana sort.

    i would guess not many. but i am a skeptical guy and hear strong claims of any sort – ego is good or bad, this lineage or that is the only real deal, reality comes in only two flavors and so forth – as the workings of untamed minds rather than songs of realization. i imagine that means i need to spend more time practicing, too, doesn’t it?

    enjoy your dance, my friend!


  4. TimmyMac says:

    I have no idea what you're like as a person, and I don't know enough to know about your Buddhist credentials, but I am extremely jealous of your ability to grow a sweet beard.

    • bill schwartz says:


      I've been getting it trimmed every 6-8 weeks by a friend that owns a salon (she keeps wanting to shave it off) but I'm thinking of just letting it grow despite her protests.


  5. bastin says:

    You have a tip jar? About time.

    • bill schwartz says:


      Probably should have a tip jar to pay my mounting medical bills (and this is with health insurance) so I'm not far from truly needing one.


  6. Elize says:

    I know very little about Buddhism & lineage, but I really respect how you keep it real and have no fear. I enjoy reading your posts- thanks & keep it up. And the dance :)

    • bill schwartz says:


      For me the past two months writing for Waylon it has been all about the discussion that follows the article that I find so rewarding (my audience is small but not afraid of a good discussion).

      My part is minimal as the person that starts the ball rolling here and the true fearless ones are the people that step up and make their voices heard and join the conversation instead of lurking in the shadows.


  7. Nice use of imagery for a dancing bear. This is why I started reading – for stuff like the room / lights / nature of objects w/in the room.

    Nicely done again!

    • bill schwartz says:


      I'm a KTD Karma Kagyu all my life but in my heart (by inclination) also I'm a life long admirer of the great wandering Yogi Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche whom I first crossed paths with in 1985 here in Chicago.

      I was ready by then (thought I was done at 26 years old) when Rinpoche rolled into town and blew the walls off of any idea of being a "Serious Dharma Practitioner" and have been a Dancing Bear ever since.


      • Moacadiechick says:

        Sigh. As a young Dharma sprout, I had the chance to see Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche many years ago at Dorje Denma Ling but missed it. I guess I didn't quite understand at the time what a fountain of realisation he is. And now he is in Nepal. I can only hope to gain some of his blessings through my wonderful teacher, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche!

        • acadiechick says:

          (sorry, previous post was submitted prematurely by my cat walking on the keyboard)

          Thanks again Bill for sharing your throughts! Much appreciated!


        • bill schwartz says:


          Meeting Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche was the turning point for me as a dharma practitioner (taking nothing away from Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche).

          I was feeling somewhat burned out by 1985 after going full bore since taking refuge in 1981 and needed someone to show me the way forward.

          As someone married with children I wasn't going to get a chance to get to do the three year retreat any time soon and was desperately in need of inspiration which KTGR provided in abundance.


  8. As one who who is no stranger to the disparaging remarks of others (especially, it seems, from sectarian Tibetan Buddhists in the West, while Eastern lamas and their students have long treated me with the respect due to a simple, imperfect, loud and unabashedly non-traditional monastic), I can only offer words of encouragement and profound gratitude, Bill.

    I reocognise the importance of lineage for many, and agree that it can be an effective means of ensuring that one is receiving an accurate transmission of the teaching. However, in the West, we have seen remarkable events in which numerous individuals with no formal training were declared to be tulkus or lamas, by reputable high lamas from Tibet… only to later find that these same sects were churning out so-called monks at a breakneck pace, with no more than (perhaps) a summer retreat as their formation and training. (Interestingly, it's usually these very sects who have the audacity to claim that I am "running around dressed in religious costume", because I hold lineage in both the Buddhist and Christ dharma.)

    I've (very recently, and months later than I wish) reached a point at which I find it no longer reasonable or necessary to respond to such vitriolic and sophomoric persons, Bill. It serves no purpose, other than to feed the trolls.

    I thank you for your continued teaching, and presence; hold you in my heart and pujas; and am honoured to count you among the sages who grace my day and give me insight, strength, encouragement, and an occasional good laugh.

    And now, like a lightening rod that I am, I must recommend that the simplest response my heart calls out regarding your detractors, perhaps in a vernacular that some may find ill-suited to an abbot, but nonetheless honest: "F*ck 'em!"

    Namaste and much love, Bro!


    • bill schwartz says:


      Somebody has to feed the trolls and offering them up my flesh on a daily basis online is like a weekly Chod practice (allowing them to hack away at their own shadow cast by my turning on the night light.

      They are like scared little children afraid of the dark room and startled even more by the night light worth of dharma I have to offer so I include them in my daily Tonglen visualization practice.

      There is always room for haters and detractors in my dharma practice (like a breath of fresh air to a closed stuffy room of self-satisfaction) so take strength from their weakness my friend.


  9. Dear Bill,
    ["All of my life I’ve had awkward encounters with people who can’t deal with me personally, or with the dharma of lineage holders (and, therefore, I must be a fraud).]

    [It’s a bit like the government of Sri Lanka using Buddhism to justify suppressing the freedom of expression (there’s some dharma involved but it’s mostly personal).]

    The title of those stories, "Sarah Malini Perera Arrested For Offending Buddhists' in Sri Lanka is laughable. As usual when one looks at the surface of matters they only see the what they want to see, and that is for those who misunderstand Buddhism to see it as ugly and blameworthy. Should one investigate further one might discover the truth and motive of the arrested author. The BBC reports that she was arrested for participating in 'anti-state' activities, which is quiet different than being arrested for offending the practice of a particular faith. http://bit.ly/bZ4DSJ

    Sarah Malini Perera is an expatriate of Sri Lanka who converted to Islam from Buddhism. Just as I would not consider the words of Buddha explained by a New Age cult as being the true meaning or understanding that the Buddha intended, the books by Perera also hold no relevance whatsoever to the truth of Buddhism. It is a converts opinion of a faith she didn't like nor properly understand. Considering she printed her book only in Sinhala, the people who account for about 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population, and titled her book "From Darkness Into Light," she meant to offend the Buddhist population.

    Undoubtedly Ms. Perara's books will not not serve her likely intended purpose- which is to convert Buddhists into Muslims, a RARE occurance for citizens who remain living in Sri Lanka to do.

  10. bill schwartz says:


    Who cleans up the unicorn poop or does the rainbow absorb it like a green version of Heaven? You obviously have seen the finger pointing to the moon of wisdom but your comment tells me nothing of you which is what I care about.

    You have found the moon in the sky and wherever you go can look within your mind and see its reflection in your mind, that's no small accomplishment, but that's just finding the switch to the light in a dark room.


    PS Appreciate the comment from someone I follow on Twitter because although we may not agree with each other I like to have the benefit of as many different opinions in my ear as possible.

    Karmapa Chenno

  11. We do the Buddha thang in different ways, but I always admire your perspective. Bowing in respect.

    • bill schwartz says:


      All people (even if I disagree with their approach to the dharma) are welcome to share their experiences with me as long as like Khandro Rinpoche says "Don't give me the book answer! I've read all the books!"

      We all have our own experience and enlightenment is not to be found outside of this very same realm of every day existence (our path is our goal, and our goal is our path) so everyone has something to share and contribute here.


  12. Dear Bill,

    ["All of my life I’ve had awkward encounters with people who can’t deal with me personally, or with the dharma of lineage holders (and, therefore, I must be a fraud).]
    [It’s a bit like the government of Sri Lanka using Buddhism to justify suppressing the freedom of expression (there’s some dharma involved but it’s mostly personal).]

    The title of those stories, "Sarah Malini Perera Arrested For Offending Buddhists' in Sri Lanka is laughable. As usual when one looks at the surface of matters they only see what they want to see, and that is for those who misunderstand Buddhism to see it as ugly and blameworthy. Should one investigate further one might discover the truth and motive of the arrested author. The BBC reports that she was arrested for participating in 'anti-state' activities which is quiet different than being arrested for offending the practice of a particular faith. http://bit.ly/bZ4DSJ

    Sarah Malini Perera is an expatriate of Sri Lanka who converted to Islam from Buddhism. Just as I would not consider the words of Buddha explained by a New Age cult as being the true meaning or understanding that the Buddha intended, the books by Perera also hold no relevance whatsoever to the truth of Buddhism. It is a converts opinion of a faith she didn't like nor properly understand. Considering she printed her book only in Sinhala, the people who account for about 70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population, and titled her book "From Darkness Into Light," she meant to offend the Buddhist population. I don't think it's unrealistic to say that Ms. Perera intended to upset the majority of the Sri Lankan population, and therefore make all those untrained in taming the mind look themselves like a right wing controlling faction. Undoubtedly Ms. Perara's books will not not serve her likely intended purpose- which is to convert Buddhists into Muslims, a RARE occurrence for citizens who remain living in Sri Lanka to do.

    The ego is involved when New Age Buddhists put their own spin on the Buddha's true teachings as well and it's usually done for the financial profit of the false teacher. This is the meaning of Spiritual Materialism.

  13. sdaniels_57 says:

    "…dualism is not a "character flaw" or defect. It's a complex survival mechanism deeply rooted in the structure and function of the brain–which, along with other mechanisms, can be changed through experience." ~ Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

    • bill schwartz says:


      Long time reader of mine since MySpace days you know what I like, and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, well he's at the top of my list of favorite Karma Kagyu lineage holders.

      When he was here last spring he coyly responded to my question regarding the MidWest and Chicago in particular with "I shall have all my students build an 80ft crystal stupa in Minneapolis."

      But before everyone began reaching for their wallets (to either hang onto them or open them up varied cushion to cushion), laughed at our shock, "just kidding" he giggled.

      The entire weekend with him was just one big pointing out exercise for me personally which served me so well when I later had my heart attack and the blessing of his dharma was so fresh in my mind.


  14. snowdrop says:

    There still is an original Buddhism in India — rare crazy men Buddhists — or so I am told. But I guess I'm just not ready for this level of discourse. I can't seem to grasp what I am supposed to learn, chew over, digest. I should probably go read a book or sit. keep on keeping on, all.

  15. snowdrop says:

    There is original RARE crazy man Buddhist in India I am told.didn't say India is full of Buddhists.

    "As with anything in life it all comes down to wanting it and getting over the fact that you need someone that has what you want and going about the process of giving it up to you. "

    lineage? check! books? check! teachers? Check! Rinpoches? check! Sangha — check! cushion? check! Online discourse? check!

    Guess I'll keep coming back for whatever "works" for me…

  16. bill schwartz says:


    Did a little looking around your neck of the woods and Dorje Ling, Buddhist Center Atlanta Georgia, looks like it might be worth scoping out their scene.

    Anybody in Atlanta Georgia have any connections there don't be shy please.

    What caught my eye with Dorje Ling was that they appear to have at least one teacher who either lives there or visits frequently (and that they're Jonangpas which is way cool).


  17. You forgot your mala, magazine subscription, tickets to expensive weeklong retreat, and limited edition "Siddartha" Air Force Ones.

    I would write a whole article about dharma trinkets if I didn't own so many of them myself….

  18. bill schwartz says:


    I have this image of you and your super sensitive ego detector hovering over your lap top crackling like a Geiger counter whenever you read anything I write and I love you for it.


    PS Which of us has a more real perception of the other? You are free to enjoy your imagination and I to enjoy mine (there are water-moons as Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche would sing with more self-existence than these impressions.

  19. snowdrop says:

    LOL! shrine with beeswax candles, torma, puja table, crystal ball, custom made thangka, life-size Chenrezig statue, OM tea cozy, gold colored offering bowls, hand-stitched zen, embroidered teaching case, prayer flags from Dharamsala, east meets west wind chimes, katas, dog eared " "Day in the Life of a Buddhist Practitioner," Samadhi cushion sets, Japanese incense and I-Pad with speaker set and full set of Karmapa in America teaching DVDs.

    what did I forget?

  20. bill schwartz says:


    You must be a demon at the souvenir table during teaching breaks.


    • snowdrop says:


      • bill schwartz says:


        The first time I ever travelled for a dharma teaching in my entire life was in 2008 when my wife and I spent our last penny in our savings to fly to Seattle to see the 17th Karmapa.

        I wanted something to remember what was a trip of a lifetime for me and I braved the souvenir table at the last moment Sunday afternoon and it was a terrifying experience for me.

        I was fortunate in being a big man that looked more like the vendors than like the mosh pit of spiritual "types" waving their credit cards and was waved to the front of the line.

        It is unlikely that I will ever have the funds to ever travel again to see a dharma teaching (even with health insurance the out of pocket is killing us).

        If that is your experience of the Karma Kagyu (put it on my Visa card!!!!) that is something I'm glad to have but once having to have to experience as a dharma practitioner.


  21. Literally LOL at this.
    I think you covered it.

    • snowdrop says:

      Thanks for laughing at my post, John, because you obviously understood it in the way it was offered. I could have gone on and on leafing through the Samadhi cushion catalog.

  22. bill schwartz says:


    But has Snowdrop sponsored a nun (and or nunnery) in either India or Nepal? Then I can declare winner (who get's to pick up Waylon's bar tab).


    • snowdrop says:

      No. But I sponsored a nun in Boston who was sponsoring a nun in nepal.

      • bill schwartz says:


        Was she a nun in Boston living in a monastery or as Khandro Rinpoche calls a Western "lone wolf" monastic for whom the robes are simply a fashion statement?


  23. Bar tab? Waylon? Look at that big "New Belgium" at the bottom of the page. I heard they comp him by the truckload – he drinks IPA for breakfast – or so the legend goes.

    If one would like to sponsor a nun, one could do so via Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche's Himalayan Children's Fund…

    • bill schwartz says:


      I imagine Waylon to be someone like myself in my younger days never had to pay for a drink (bartenders always assumed I was with the band).

      The only difference being he drinks for free being a great guy and I drank because of my size and my butt-ugly look that made me look like someones muscle.


  24. By the way – when I said "too polite to mention" – I did not mean this is unmentionable / not up for discussion. It should read that I'm too polite to mention it to the two Venerables at the dharma center.

    I recently listened to some teachings HH Dalai Lama gave at Bodh Gaya and he was saying that he was in conversation with Theravada monks recently and they were very surprised to learn that Tibetan monks followed vinaya vows regarding conduct! I'm glad that so many traditions attended HHK16 however.

  25. bill schwartz says:


    That's what I think of when someone being sectarian (plain old fashioned ignorant) and not what so many mistake my pride in being Karma Kagyu being.

    Our teachers make costume changes in the Ri-me tradition depending on the subject they are teaching (Honey were did I leave my red pointy hat) so I understand Non-sectarianism.

    I loved living among the squalor of Uptown in the 1980's, the pimps, corner boys, whores, gangsters and the random Theravada monk out for a smoke away from his Elders.


  26. Decidedly Fun says:

    The comment about "New Age Buddhists" by Tina Marie was right on the mark.

    • bill schwartz says:


      Are their still "New Age Buddhists" running about like in the 1980's when my boomer generation figured out they could make a good living off their "Hippy Trail" days smoking hashish and hanging out in some ashram?


      PS love your online handle

    • bill schwartz says:


      I responded to your comment earlier this afternoon but "intense debate" lost the comment so this is just a second take, your comment still worth responded to a second time.

      As I asked before (lost by Intense Debate) is there such a thing as "New Age Buddhism" anymore?

      For me "New Age" refers to that moment in the 1980's when my generation (baby boomers) discovered they could cash in on their hashish fueled "Hippy Trail" days.


  27. […] doesn’t mean Buddhists don’t have egos or that we’re supposed to be egoless (a common misconception among people more interested in […]

  28. arcof tern says:

    To me, it seems like you are struggling. But, you already know who you are. You shouldn’t worry. You will live out your days on earth. I read your article…and I’m always looking at some angle. And, this is process in me is just silliness, I think. It is difficult for me to read a sentence…and the skip down to the next one, after a double space, while reading your text. I guess I just like the flow of continuous writing, and I am not adverse to paragraphs. I hope you find what you need. I admire your search. I think I’ve found my path, but I am travelling it. I’m a Christian. Well, I hope you are strong and productive and happy.
    arcof tern

  29. bill schwartz says:


    The dancing bear is just giving you a hug my friend (part of the Tango) just want you to share your experience of joy at looking down at your cup of tea and finding the moon's reflection.

    Your comment is nothing you need to back peddle or rephrase but something to dance into and celebrate as part of the art of holding a conversation online with a total stranger.

    Enjoy, take a turn, full circle, and end up just as you began safe and sound (I know well the dharma of rainbows and unicorns because there are people I've danced with whom think the dharma to be so).


    PS and I love them just as they are even though we agree about nothing as it pertains to the dharma.

    “Like an old man watching children at play, we need to see through our own seriousness.” Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

  30. bill schwartz says:


    I know absolutely nothing but interested in your thoughts on the subject. How did you come to this path?


  31. bill schwartz says:

    Tina Marie,

    First time I tried to post your comment it disappeared while second time tried without web link and website to see if that might be problem.

    I've just had trouble with Theravada converts online and their be mindful or else approach to the dharma so I'm biased against the government of Shri Lanka regardless of the facts.


  32. Tina Marie Stinnett says:

    Hey Bill,

    Please forgive me, my intention wasn't to attack you but I fear my comment did come across that way. In the fewest words possible my opinion is that I see Ms. Perera as a pariah, just the way I see New Age Buddhists.

  33. Locally, there are two Sri Lankan monks who lead a small sangha and teach vipassana classes to the general public. From speaking with them, their favorite part of the U.S. is freedom from having to be "political".

    I'm too polite to mention the Christian-belief-structure-with-Buddhist-trappings that you mention above (I'm more of a dancing kitten I suppose) – but there is probably a point here that Buddhism is a state religion and when religion is an apparatus of state – nice things are often not the result.

    To be fair, that same idea holds true for Tibet – unfortunately it was never Shangri-la and there were plenty of rainbows but no unicorns dancing beneath them.

  34. Tina Marie Stinnett says:

    Hey Bill,

    I have no reference for understanding Theravada Buddhism except for from my master's website where he explains in short the Theravadan path: http://www.phakchokrinpoche.org/lineage.htm
    The Theravada Lineage

    "Following his enlightenment at Bodhgaya in India, the Buddha first taught at Sarnath, near modern Varanasi. These teachings—covering topics such as suffering, its cause, its cessation, and the path to cessation (the Four Noble Truths); interdependence; self-liberation from suffering; and so on—comprise the First Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma.

    At one time, more than twenty different schools focused on these teachings, but today only the Theravada lineage (found in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia, and Vietnam) survives as an independent philosophical school."

    I can see how one might perceive this as more Christian-like with their focus on suffering. I further asked a friend of mine, another Buddhist about it, and he said: "Theravada is the Buddha teachings which is more human-based with sharp teachings. The teachings are based on what Buddha said. Buddha was a historic man who attained enlightenment. His teachings don't talk about the supernatural but instead focus more on how he gained enlightenment."

    We need to keep an open mind and remember "For the Multitude of Sentient Beings, a Variety of Skillful Means Are Shown," or else we run the risk of seeming as stupid and ignorant Vajrayana practioners. With an authentic lineage holder and proper texts, Theravadan is an authentic Buddhist school.

  35. Shunyata Kharg says:


    I feel privileged to be on the receiving end of your attempts at writing. I truly hope that everybody that has ever loved you, your wife, your children, your grandchildren and your friends (dharma and otherwise) has the opportunity to read what you are writing here.

    I cannot begin to imagine what your life must have turned into after that fateful night. Each person’s suffering seems to me to be so intimate and personal, pushing so many hidden away and private buttons even unknown to the sufferer herself, to be virtually incompressible to another.

    But we all suffer, as the Buddha so rightly perceived. Compared to the loss of a father as a young adolescent, what I have suffered would seem almost trivial in comparison, as a story, but possibly as an internal event wouldn’t be a million miles away from where you were. And so the same could be said for us all.

    Externalizing these demons, these figments of our mind, has got to be one of the best ways of using them in our dharma practice. And doing so in public amplifies by a hundred-fold the merit, an increase only matched by the level of courage required to do so. But then you and I know that you have nothing to lose. Yet again, I will accuse you of being a very fortunate man for being able to live, even for a few years, in that state of being.

    I’ve got “The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa” sitting in front of me, and I know that Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche uses Milarepa’s songs of realization in his teachings. Garma C.C. Chang will tell you that the entirety of the vajrayana path is encapsulated in his teachings. No need to tell you that the tantric aspect of Milarepa’s songs goes right over my head, but then the identicality of Mind and Prana is the fundamental theorem of Tantrism, right? As far as Mind goes, seeing is believing.

    Amor et Pax,


  36. Shunyata Kharg says:


    It seems to me that Milarepa practiced a very wide range of vajrayana techniques, including the Six Yogas of Naropa. Do you know much about these, Bill? I see that just about all Tibetan Lamas know the Yoga of Inner Heat (gtum-mo), as I think that it is this which enables them to wear such little clothing during even the coldest of weather.

    From what I understand, and please correct me if I’m wrong, these Six Yogas are also called the practice of dzogrim, otherwise known as Tantric Mahamudra. Tantric Mahamudra, I read, is one of the three types of Mahamudra, the other two being “Mahamudra of the sutra system” and “Essence Mahamudra (ngo bo'i phyag rgya chenpo)”. So, from this point of view, maybe we could say that the Tantric aspects of Milarepa’s songs form part of the wider practice of Mahamudra itself. What do you think?

    My understanding is that the “big blue book” focuses just about exclusively on Essence Mahamudra, as just about all the other books I’ve read on the subject. I have one book on my shelf, in fact, which I have yet to read which is written by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and is called “Mahamudra Tantra” (http://www.tharpa.com/us/book-Mahamudra.Tantra-59… ). Do you know this book? I would be very interested to hear what experience you have of Tantric Mahamudra!


  37. John Morrison says:

    Glenn Mullin has a fairly recent book about the Six Yogas of Naropa published by Snow Lion that you might be interested in reading. It has translations of commentaries from Tilopa, Naropa, Tsonkhapa, and the First Panchen Lama.

    I bought it recently, but haven't read it yet – thought you might be interested though.

  38. Shunyata Kharg says:

    Great, many thanks John for the recommendation!

    As a man of your experience with Mahamudra, would you be so kind as to give me some sort of indication as to how much "Tantric Mahamudra" you've been taught relative to "Essence Mahamudra"?

  39. John Morrison says:

    I know basically nothing of them – besides intellectually. I'm not the most accomplished of students and have never been on a retreat of any substantial length – which would be the time for refining techniques like the Yoga of Inner Heat, I assume. I will defer this to Bill as I'm sure he knows more than I.

  40. Shunyata Kharg says:


    You’ve made me chuckle too. If I had been able to read a book of any period of my life before I had lived it, I most probably would also have done my best to avoid it! And I would have greatly missed out too.

    So, so much for Inner Heat! That’s a funny story. Just as well I wasn’t planning on hanging around in summer clothes in the winter any time soon (anyway, I can already generate plenty of “Inner Heat” mountain biking up and down the mountains around here)!

    Thank you very much for the two book recommendations, one of which has come up in conversation between us before. You can be sure that I will read that one, at some stage.

    Mercifully, during a rather critical period of my youth, the closest I got to anything meaningful was Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan, so I was also lucky in not ruining a great text for my future self. I was trying to think how I would describe my reading of the “big blue book”. It’s almost a self-replicating assembly manual. That is to say that I read it, very slowly, followed the instructions for a few days, and continued. After a while a kind of structure began constructing itself between my mind and the spaces between the words, a structure which enabled me to understand the text more clearly so reinforcing the crystal framework itself. When sufficiently developed, I found that it could bear my weight, that it didn’t need the support of the book, and I found that I could climb up it. Absolutely incredible, I’d never, ever experienced anything of the sort before.

    Frankly, Bill, my only ambition is peace. I guess I’ve been all the way around the houses with the various texts I’ve read just to find the two or three books that have this profoundly peace-constructing capability, but reading around the houses is a tough habit to break too. It can become just another distraction, like the TV, the Internet and all the rest of the time we spend trying to entertain ourselves. But then there’s reading, watching the TV, twittering etc. and then there’s doing these things with awareness, with mindfulness. As part of the practice. And this is the absolute perfection of Mahamudra. It’s like Martini in the ads of the 1970’s … any time, any place, anywhere.

    Amor et Pax,


  41. bill schwartz says:


    Although any peace that can be constructed will be impermanent and thus only lead to suffering we can experience the peace we all desire to experience.

    It's there in that which ails us when we own that which arises in our mind as our own creation and not something to be rid of.


  42. bill schwartz says:


    So you're done? About time. For future reference the comment listing your trinkets collected as a dharma practitioner (assuming I had the same) was when you lost all credibility here.


  43. snowdrop says:

    May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you be free. May you live with ease.

  44. bill schwartz says:


    LOL, bite me.


  45. acadiechick says:

    Dear Bill,

    Thanks for the comment! I am just learning here as I go and really appreciate the discussions ensued by your articles. I admit very openly that I am probably not half as learned as you are or many of the excellent commenters here and so all that is left to do for me is ¨just let go, and go where no mind goes¨.

    Monique :-)

  46. amy says:

    dear bill, I think when people give you a hard time about your ego, they are not talking about the ego we all have and need. I think they're saying you come off arrogant. I'm just guessing. Also choosing not to weigh in on that myself.

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