And now we arrive at the conclusion of this ‘intro series’. Reflecting on the 10 year journey towards the Dharma – beginning with a dream that led to establishing contact with two unique lineages (Jonang and Gelug), several excellent teachers and receiving two Vajrayana empowerments which have benefited my practice beyond calculation – my overall response is sheer gratitude and humility. The best way I know to honor my precious teachers is to keep up with my practice and to continue to cultivate a deeper connection to the teachings for the benefit of all beings.
In June of 2012 I lost my job. Finding myself unemployed in a job market that is less than favorable took some adjustment. However, there are several positive aspects to this situation. For example, deep down, when I was honest with myself, I really didn’t want to work where I was working anyway. I had an inner-conflict about it. It’s not that the actual job I did was anything particularly nefarious (I supported eCommerce), but I did realize that the aims, motives, practices and so forth of the company I worked for were truly in conflict with the rest of my life. You can say I became acutely aware of the principle of Right Livelihood.
The intervening period between 2007 and 2011 found me mostly on my own, attempting to put into practice in my daily life what I had learned up until that point from my teachers. My work schedule again interfered with me actually participating at the dharma centers I previously attended. However, my interest in the Dharma was not diminished. I kept up a rather vigorous study of Buddhism coupled with a not so vigorous – yet regular – dharma practice (e.g. the Vajrasattva sadhana, mindfulness practice, shamatha meditation, loving-kindness meditation). And while the tradition I embraced is Mahayana/Vajrayana in orientation, I also followed the examples of my teachers by studying Theravada as well – suttas (sutras) from the Pali Canon and so forth. I was taught that the Mahayana/Vajrayana tradition is actually rooted in the Theravada tradition and does not contradict these earlier and well respected teachings, but rather, that it is built off of them as a foundation and is inclusive of the venerated ‘Teaching of the Elders.’
I appreciate you bearing with me as I plug away at this ‘Intro Series’. I am almost through and then I can move on to other topics. I thought it might be helpful to get a better picture of where I am coming from by learning about some of my past experiences in relation to Buddhadharma. This was also a way to acknowledge who my teachers are. Since the period covered is about 10 years (2002 through 2012) I broke it up into several parts. There will probably be one or two more posts in this series.
Going forward I will attempt to continue frequent posts to this blog covering various aspects of the Dharma, my practice, reflections on teachings and other related subjects. A special thank you to those who are following Vajra Vehicle as well as to those who have liked some of the posts. I have found some interesting blogs in the process as well. I will be adding a new section on the right to include links to blogs I follow (in addition to the already existing ‘Links of Interest’). Readers of Vajra Vehicle may perhaps also find these other blogs to their liking. I will add more as I find them.
The daily sadhana provided a focus exactly at a time when I was adrift with my own attempts at dharma practice. The word ‘sadhana’ is Sanskrit and has been variously translated into English as, ‘practice, effort, discipline, effective means of accomplishment’ and several other terms. A sadhana is essentially a spiritual practice. One who performs sadhana is sometimes referred to as a ‘sadhaka’.
The spiritual crisis I mentioned in part 4 began to dissipate. I realized that yes indeed, Buddhadharma is pure, the various transmission lineages are pure, yet this does not mean that all Buddhists (including monks and Lamas) have been completely without kleshas (afflictions/obscurations). This is, of course, now blatantly obvious to me. It should have been back then too considering my understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the nature of samsara, yet my own kleshas were getting in the way.
I acted on the message I received in 2007 (i.e. ‘Go to the Gelug Temple’) in response to my prayers to H. H. Penam Rinpoche when I was experiencing a spiritual crisis after learning about the history between the Gelug and Jonang lineages that occurred back in the 17th century. Yet again, through the kindness and wisdom of this great Lama whom I have never met in person, I was skillfully guided on a path that led me towards more fully engaging in Dharma practice.
After visiting Dorje Ling Buddhist Center, attending several Green Tara pujas and receiving teachings from Khenpo Ngawang Dorjee (as described in part 3), I ceased going to the center for a time. There were issues with scheduling due to my job that conflicted with attending classes and/or other events. Yet I tried to process what I had already learned, to continue studying on my own, and to begin to make some effort toward Dharma practice.
It was due to the kindness of H.H. Penam Rinpoche that a dharma-gate was opened to me. As like any gate or door, its usefulness often includes having to walk through it. I read about certain feats that Yogis, Saints, Lamas and other rare beings can perform, and while I held open the possibility of such things, there was always a question in my mind of whether these were merely tales to inspire or if they could literally and actually be true. Now I know.
I ended part 1 of this intro series – after a very brief and incomplete background of some of the places I’ve been in regards to my spiritual path – with a question,
‘Where am I now?’
To better answer this question requires some further details about my past, and specifically, about my connection to the Dharma.