Tango with the Dancing Bear.

Via
on Mar 29, 2010
get elephant's newsletter

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).

Later.

Karmapa Chenno

Ryder Japhy

Bill Schwartz (@RyderJaphy on Twitter)


1,028 views

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com

Comments

71 Responses to “Tango with the Dancing Bear.”

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

  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

  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!

    yitd,
    khorwalung

  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.

  5. bastin says:

    You have a tip jar? About time.

  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 :)

  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!

  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!

    gurudas

  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:

    Offgrid,

    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.

    Bill

    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.

  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

  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:

    Mike,

    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).

    Bill

  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:

    Snowdrop,

    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.

    Bill

    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:

    Snowdrop,

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

    Bill

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

  22. bill schwartz says:

    John,

    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).

    Bill

  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.

    SHAMELESS PROMOTION OF FAVORITE RINPOCHE ALERT
    If one would like to sponsor a nun, one could do so via Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche's Himalayan Children's Fund…

  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:

    John,

    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.

    Bill

  26. Decidedly Fun says:

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

  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

Leave a Reply