May 7, 2010

Buddhists love to say, “Everything is impermanent.” So why is tradition so important in Buddhism? ~ Linda Lewis

I asked my mom to explain why there were legitimate grounds for objecting to the removal of a sacred painting from the Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center, when everyone in Buddhist community loves to say, “Everything’s impermanent!” Which is true.

She mentioned ‘tantra,’ or thread, and I asked her to write it up.

Here’s her answer, in full. ~ed.

Tibetan gyu-d but the “d” isn’t really pronounced means thread, continuity, lineage, tantra.

As in Ka-gyud, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s “Kagyu” Buddhist school or lineage—but of course he was also Rimé (unbiased lineage) and started the Shambhala lineage in the West.

From the most absolute level, gyud refers to the continuity of awareness. Our basic awake good nature is always present, it’s everywhere. Similar to how some Christians talk about God—it’s not external. It’s not internal, for that matter, either.

Actually, it was the first question I ever asked Rinpoche. It was at the Crazy Wisdom Seminar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in ’72 and I went up to him after the talk and asked him what tantra was. I had only been a closet Buddhist, studying Hinayana and Mahayana Dharma up until that moment, and was lost in his presentation of Padmasambhava’s “tantra.” [In Tibetan Buddhism, there are three “turnings” of the wheel of Dharma, or truth—the first two are Hinayana, Mahayana, and the third is Vajrayana or tantra. Padmasambhava was the great Indian Buddhist who first brought Buddhism to Tibet ~ed.].

But most of Trungpa Rinpoche’s students present already seemed to know the meaning.  I felt like a very shy “newbie” and well, I think the story was written up in Chronicles ages ago.

Click image to go to Chronicles:

Yeah, from the Hinayana point of view everything is impermanent and change is a given. But then that makes things like human birth and Dharma even more precious.

From the Mahayana point of view, there is nothing that has a self-entity…if you break time or particles down you can never find a unique moment or, well, even quarks have strings. And it goes on an on. But this discovery of empty-entityless phenomena is not emptiness—see my last lojong article, as Buddha Nature, basic goodness pervades everything.

Thus form is important—and that’s why Trungpa Rinpoche valued ikebana and oryoki and spent time making shrine design for the West (no butter lamps, simplified, use glass and photos in frames).

And then in the Vajrayana there is gyud, tantra, the continuity. We remember the lineage, which in the Kagyud tradition begins with Vajradhara and continues through the Karmapas to this day. It’s worth appreciating that and maintaining that connection.

I don’t know why things cannot be added without things like the Vajradhara thangka being taken away. I don’t think there’s any way for this Rigden thangka to be as empowered as that Vajradhara.

~ Linda Lewis

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