A Little Respect Please-A Vajrayana Response to Justin Whitaker

A Buddhist blogger, and someone Japhy considers Vajrayana friendly, reached out to Japhy in response to his take on Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook update.

“Tricycle credited Justine for breaking the story. As a blogger, I’m happy for him.”

The only mentions Japhy has received in Tricycle, two, have been negative. Tricycle isn’t a fan of his.

“Somehow I have found the will to go on.”

Japhy is a work in progress, seven years in the making, and frankly, he will never be well received outside of his Vajrayana cohorts as a Buddhist.

“After launching a message board on MySpace, the Hate Club Buddhists declared me an enemy of Buddhism. Not much has changed over the years.”

Hate Club Buddhists insist that the burden of reconciling the Vajrayana to their Buddhism of hate, is Japhy’s and his cohorts to reconcile.

“Even Justin, who is Vajrayana friendly, expected me to justify the Vajrayana take on Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook update.”

Outside the Vajrayana, Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook update, has been taken to represent a Vajrayana code of conduct for social media.

“This is utterly ridiculous. That isn’t how the Vajrayana works.”

As Japhy pointed out to Justin, even if Dzongsar intended to promulgate a code of conduct for his encampment, it would only apply to that encampment.

“A perfect example of this is His Holiness the 17th Karmapa and his being a vegetarian.”

As head of the Karma Kagyu, it is his prerogative to dictate that his monastic encampment not serve meet.

“Khenpo Karthar has eaten meat for over eighty years. When the Karmapa said no more meat, as a Karma Kagyu monk, he stopped eating meat,”

Beyond this particular cohort and their encampment though, eating meat isn’t an issue for Japhy and his meat eating Karma Kagyu cohorts.

“Nothing in the Vajrayana is one size fits all.”

As a blogger of Buddhist Ethics, Justice welcomes someone stepping up and formulating a Social Media code of conduct.

“With all due respect to my fellow Buddhist blogger, that dog won’t hunt. Sometimes a Facebook update is just a Facebook update.”

If there was such a thing as Buddhist Ethics, Justin would respect Japhy and his Vajrayana cohorts in this regard.

“As initiates, Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook update, if it was a code of conduct, would concern us first and foremost.”

The fact of the matter is that Dzongsar Khyentse’s was responding to the actions of the people he friended back on Facebook. Nothing more.

“For instance, Dzongsar Khyentse’s 1600 member monastic encampment, has not been asked to abide by the dictates of Rinpoche’s Facebook update.”

Even if it applied to these specific cohorts, it would not apply beyond their particular encampment.

“In the Vajrayana, we come together as cohorts in our respective encampments, and pretty much do as we see fit as individual cohorts as members of our encampments.”

Japhy is perfectly okay with the uninitiated poking their noses in Vajrayana business. He’s all for transparency.

“We have nothing to hide as Buddhists. If you have a question, all you need to ask.”

As a Vajrayana Blogger though, a credible source on the subject of the Vajrayana in Social Media, neither Justin nor Tricycle reached out to Japhy for a Vajrayana response to Dzongsar Khyentse.

“This just blows my mind as a Vajrayana cohort. Buddhists simply refuse to allow us a place in the public square.”

Japhy thinks Justin is great, but unfortunately, he is pretty typical as a Buddhist in his bias against the Vajrayana.

“In the Vajrayana we take the first turning, and the second turning, refuge and Bodhicitta respectively, as the basis of everything we do.”

Instead of inquiring what this means for us, Justin wrote in his blog that Dzongsar Khyentse is wrong in saying Vajrayana is based on the Hinayana and Mahayana.

“So much for Buddhist Ethics. This is clearly biased against the Vajrayana.”

On Reddit when Japhy posts a link to Tinfoil Ushnisha it is routinely listed as controversial.

“A perfect example of Reddit’s bias against Vajrayana bloggers.”

Tinfoil Ushnisha is on the forefront of challenging the anti-Vajrayana status quo on the Internet.

“Hopefully, someday Reddit will see fit to not routinely label Tinfoil Ushnisha as controversial.”

It’s an uphill battle for Japhy and his Vajrayana cohorts online.

That Buddhist are so hateful in their bias against the Vajrayana is nothing new to Japhy.

“I’ve been dealing with this hatefulness since MySpace,”

Japhy has faith in Justin though.

“He’s good people. Reddit is probably a lost cause.”

Japhy recommends reading Justin’s post on Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook update on his “The American Buddhist Perspective” if this subject interests you.

“I’m chilling this morning over a cup of joe at Metropolis Coffee Company on Granville Avenue in Edgewater.”

It’s a mild day so Japhy is taking advantage of the January thaw here in Chicago.

Anyway, Japhy has embarrassed himself enough for one day. Karmapa Chenno!

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “A Little Respect Please-A Vajrayana Response to Justin Whitaker

  1. Many thanks for this, Mr Japhy.

    From where I sit, It looks like people in the Vajrayana world have largely had 3 responses to Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook update: 1) adoration, thanks, and “yes sir” (via hundreds of comments on his facebook page), 2) This is bad (you), and 3) Silence (from most everywhere else).

    Given the numbers, I assume the general response is closer to #1 than to yours. Perhaps other Vajrayana folks would like to chime in?

    In terms of the statement itself: he does address “Vajrayana Buddhists” – broadly. He doesn’t say, “guidelines to all my students or those people who follow me on facebook.” So I’m inclined to take his word that he would like all Vajrayana Buddhists to consider this. I noticed it first posted by a Nyingma monk and then by a Shambhala practitioner (on facebook) – and then went to the source myself. So it *seems* that he’s making a general case for the guidelines, and people in general are responding.

    You argue otherwise – that Vajrayana is about particular cohorts. This has truth, no doubt: there is a type of Buddhism for each individual Buddhist in the end. But, if there is a ‘high’ level Rinpoche speaking about Vajrayana (as a category) and people from various Vajrayana traditions apparently listening, then those who stand out in disagreement have to make a good case: summon evidence, gain a following, etc. If not, you are just a voice in the wilderness. You may be correct, but without the skillful means to help other see that, the rest will simply follow the Rinpoche or remain silent.

    So I hear what you’re saying. But I’d like to know if you speak just for yourself or for others and why (particularly, who in the community(ies) closest to Dzongsar Khyentse agree with you and why).

    • Facebook responses are no measure of how Dzongsar Khyentse’s folly is being received in the encampments.

      I’m afraid you have confused Rinpoche’s success as a popular Buddhist voice for his place in the Vajrayana.

      Given the emphasis that the Vajrayana places upon authority, it is imperative that there be very strict limits on this authority.

      Even the most popular Rinpoche has authority over no more than a very limited circle at best.

      Again, we are taking about the author of “What makes you not a Buddhist” and “Not for Happiness.”

      Obviously, Rinpoche likes to stir the pot.

      The proof is in the pudding.

      No encampment of cohorts abides by Rinpoche’s guidelines, not even his own encampment.

    • On what you said: “The bit about Theravada being a foundation for Vajrayana is a bit historically incorrect.”

      This is just a little dance people do on the Internet to avoid being called politically incorrect. The usual division is hinayana, mahayana, and vajrayana, but because the term hinayana offends some Theravadins (hina means inferior) they substitute Theravadin, though the two terms aren’t talking about the same thing. I personally use the term shravakayana to avoid hard feelings.

    • Silence does not mean the dominant view is #1. It just means that people are listening or not taking up a particular viewpoint or don’t even know that there is an issue.

      • I’m sure Justin accepts that comments posted to Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook are irrelevant to this discussion.

        • If the discussion is about Vajrayana practitioners responses in general to the “Code of Conduct” then the comments on facebook are relevant – to me at least. As are comments on Reddit, my blog, and elsewhere.

          I understand that not everyone will agree with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – that’s simple enough. And yes, as Jon points out, 1 in 10 or 20 comments on fb are questioning or negative. But the vast majority, especially going back to early ones, are very positive.

          In any case, it’s good to see that there is lively disagreement and debate. Keep it up! :)

          • As I read your blog, you asked if Dzongsar Khyentse’s Facebook update represented a code of conduct for me and my Vajrayana cohorts.

            Others most certainly read it otherwise, but this is how I read it.

            I’m sure you would agree that If you want the Vajrayana response to Rinpoche’s Facebook update, there is no substitute for asking a Vajrayana practitioner.

            This being the case with this thread, Facebook comments, in this regard, are obviously irrelevant to this discussion.

  2. I’m not sure you understand how Reddit works. It’s a social link site, where members vote links up or down. A controversial link is one with a lot of up AND down votes. You’re a polarizing figure and people feel strongly about you, It’s not some editor’s decision.

    • That It is the perfect medium for haters of the Vajrayana is obvious.

      It’s a matter of boundaries.

      To paraphrase from Terchen Barway Dorje, if it displeases you, leave it alone.

  3. I’ll blog on Khyentse at some point. I’ve listened to his videos often and know his sense of humor and “off the cuff” commentary on popular culture.

    I don’t agree with most of Khyentse’s view, but he does help me think about what is or isn’t sacred in my life. That’s a better instruction than creating guidelines. Otherwise, we are legalists.

    • For a moment, just imagine the implications of applying Rinpoche’s guidelines within a specific encampment.

      It would rip it to shreds in the blink of an eyes.

      A Vajrayana encampment is like a Mongul horde.

      We rarely agree about anything, and riot over the slightest disagreement.

      What holds us together is our devotion to the same Rinpoche.

      We behave out of the fierceness of our devotion.

      Absent this devotion, an encampment becomes like dust in the wind.

      • Well, not everyone is a fierce Mongol like you. Myself, I’m a vegetarian pacifist and the only thing that rouses me to anger is Ruby programmers spitting on Perl. Also, I have a hard time picturing Sean stripped to the waist with a sword slung over his back.

      • Jon

        On second thought, I have no intentions on responding to Rinpoche’s suggestions. Yes, he says they are “suggestions.” Justin, there are quite a few comments on his page disagreeing with him.

        Japhy, I do know Khenpo Karthar has stated that it is best not to talk about your practice with others except for those doing the same practices. I might say on the Internet that I do practice Khenpo Gangshar’s Mahamudra Instructions; I have received the transmission and teaching. Yet, I am not going to instruct a person or write about my limitations or breakthroughs. If anything, I might write a Milerapa style poem.

        You don’t speak about the specifics of our practice; I try not to either.

        Meanwhile, I don’t see social media lessening the power of Vajrayana whatsoever. I would not be on the path without social media, including looking at Mahakala and trying to understand the purpose.

        Also, I am tired of hearing the argument about how Vajrayana defines “Hinayana” versus the definition of Theravada. We are all on the same paths, and I’m not convinced Vajrayana is any quicker than the other paths. These ideas of Mahamudra exist in many forms, including Daoism, Chan Buddhism, and Sufi styles of meditation. If there all these so-called 84,000 instructions by the Buddha, then there is no need to argue about social media, for now there is a new path called Open Source Buddhism (my phrase).

        “Dharma is dharma.” 17th Karmapa

        Jon

  4. Warrenz

    Not entirely sure why some getting their panties in a bunch over this. DKR seems to be merely presenting advice with regarding conduct of vajrayana practitioners that is consistent with traditional requirements of those with tantric commitments – in particular no.7 of the 14 tantric root vows about not to disclose teaching to those who are “unripe” (see: http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/practice_material/vows/general_tantra/common_root_tantric_pledges.html)
    Also 3, 7 and 8 of the secondary tantric commitments (see: http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/practice_material/vows/general_tantra/secondary_tantric_pledges.html)

    All DKR seems to have done is frame these in relation to posting behavior on social media. He hasn’t made anything up here. If you are not a vajrayana practitioner then, what is says is not relevant to you. If you are, then it might be worth considering.

    • I’ve been with Khenpo Karthar for over thirty years.

      He has instructed me in every step of my practice over these years.

      The tantric vows as outlined in the Berzin Archives have never been invoked.

      The practices they are applicable to are not the practices any of us practice.

      • Warrenz

        My point is that DKR’s view is traditional – indeed conservative in this regard. If you believe that your teacher does not require you to follow these commitments, then you have no problem. My understanding is that the vows are relevant to anyone taking a tantric empowerment. I think the general point about being mindful about what you post about your dharma activities is valid at the very least – even if you do not feel you have to follow the advice to the letter.

        • If you can’t cite an example of a practice which the so-called Tantric Vows you read about apply, calling them traditional hardly supports your argument regarding their applicability in today’s Vajrayana.

  5. Warrenz

    Perhaps you missed what I said above:
    ” My understanding is that the vows are relevant to anyone taking a tantric empowerment.”
    Any practice that requires empowerment. All vajrayana practices – from ngondro thru completion stage.
    No disrespect but I can’t believe you’ve been around 30 years and never heard of the tantric vows/14 root downfalls.

    • I have on good authority, Bardor Tulku, that we need not concern ourselves with the restrictions you are referring to.

      My over thirty years with Khenpo Karthar support my position in this regard.

      I have never had a cohort that received an empowerment in which the Vajra Master has invoked the restrictions you speak of.

      Now, obviously, I am as old as dirt, so all I know of the Vajrayana was put in my ear personally by Khenpo Karthar.

      What I speak of here is but the experience of a senior Vajrayana cohort; if you prefer instead something you read somewhere, that doesn’t make it so.

  6. Warrenz

    My teacher (who also did long retreat under KK) has introduced these to me. And I’ve been around the Karma Kagyu for 20 or so years – so no newbie either and this is not just something I read. If you have been given a pass by your teacher, fair enough. My feeling though is that KK’s view on this is more likely to closer to DKR’s on what’s wise to post on social media than to yours. Maybe you could ask?
    Now that I think of it, I seem to remember Situ Rinpoche talking along similar lines to – I’ll have to dig that up.

    • I came up with four cohorts that went on to graduate from Karma Ling.

      One became a monk. One is apostate. One simply didn’t turn out. One is the current resident lama for my cohort, Lama Sean Jones.

      Citing an unnamed lama, I suspect a lama who is not a Vajra master, is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned.

      There is a “teacher” at a KTC who is instructing their students not to take empowerments from Bardor Tulku.

      This is contrary to the position of KTD, and most important, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.

      Please cite for me an empowerment you have received in which the Vajra master invoked the restrictions you believe to be applicable to us.

  7. Warrenz

    Sorry Japhy, I am not really interested in getting into a slanging match with you on this. If you don’t feel you are bound by the kind of think DKR says, that’s your business.

    • I’ll take that as confirmation that you have no personal knowledge of the subject of these so-called tantric vows.

      You brought the subject up, not I, so if you no longer wish to discuss it, I have no problem with letting this drop.

      Unless anyone has received an empowerment in which the Vajra master has invoked these so called Tantric Vows, we must therefore reject the assertion of their applicability to our discussion here.

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