In the Karma Kagyu is sitting meditation just for newbies and as such not necessary for more advanced practitioners?

My disciple doing sitting meditation and guru yoga this morning

A reader who has been reading my comments on the Internet going back to MySpace in 2006 had the following comment to share with the sangha in regards to the subject of habituating ourselves to that which has been pointed to us by our guru, the true nature of the mind, and the role of sitting meditation in the Karma Kagyu pedagogy today such as it is.

“If you can make something a habit through ritual, then it’s very easy to think you’ve mastered something. I think people like that instant gratification, that feeling of mastery. However, for a habit to be effective, there can’t be a deviation from the environment in which the habit was trained. I got up from the cushion one day and realized it really wasn’t going to help me.

My response.

“Thus the necessity of the guru in our practice to keep us honest.”

My earliest memory of deliberately sitting and watching my mind dates back to 7 year old me so I can’t imagine my ever not taking advantage of every opportunity in my life to do so.

To paraphrase my guru, 93 year old Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, I get to stop doing as such only after I die.

This isn’t to say that it never gets old for 58 year old me, it does.

Thus the importance of my guru yoga, my internalization of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s presence in my mind stream that I have habituated myself in relying upon to keep me honest over the course of our 36 years together as guru and disciple.

50 year old me never would have survived the widow maker in 2009 as I did, I sat down, folded my legs, adjusted my posture as I have done since I was 7 years old, and put my life in Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s hands, visualizing Amitabha while reciting Om Mani Padme Hung, just as he instructed me to do when I asked him how to die, a preoccupation of mine since my 40 year old father died of a heart attack in 1972.



Filed under Buddhism

11 responses to “In the Karma Kagyu is sitting meditation just for newbies and as such not necessary for more advanced practitioners?

  1. nikolas kaugon

    just sitting always remains essential and insightfull. call me a dzogchener.

  2. nikolas kaugon

    in addition how else would you meet the mice in your house?.(i was just telling a friend that when i lived above a restaurant in toronto the mice would sometimes crawl up on my shoulder while just sitting, or during dissolution in a puja)

  3. Sam

    Your disciple is awesome cute.

    600 year old Buddha resurfaces in China after being buried by the cultural revolution in water for decades.

  4. I actually enjoy the experience of sitting meditation. I find it peaceful and restful. I feel like I’ve taken a nap when I get up. I just noticed that as I watch my mind, it’s the same stuff over and over again and I asked myself why. And, I kind of decided that it was because I was only dealing with it while sitting and I needed to deal with it more as it happened. The cushion was making me aware, sure but it just wasn’t necessarily changing anything.

    I’m at a point, a point I’ve been at for quite awhile, where I feel like practice is escapism. I feel like the practice needs to follow me and be with me and I need to carry a “virtual” cushion. A cushion is just like anything else in my perception, an appearance of a cushion. Why am I confining that state of mind to that object? I almost feel like cushion practice is regression because it feels like avoidance. It feels like confession.

    I still recite mantras but, randomly, like sitting on the train. I still focus on the breath but, randomly, like when I’m listening to Trump. The cushion does not seem like a place to practice anymore for me. I don’t know what that means. I guess that means I’m not Buddhist. Maybe I’m still practicing or maybe I’m not but this seems to be where I am.

    • Sam

      Sitting, thinking “I’m practicing”
      Riding a bike thinking “I’m riding a bike”
      Making love thinking “I’m making love”
      Sneezing, thinking “I’m sneezing”
      Observing without labeling or judging -completely in the moment so to speak, I find complete satisfying rest without the need for anything else.
      Immersion, breathing, total satiety.

    • Kek

      Look into “mind training”. It is exactly what it sounds like you are looking for. There are many good books on the 7 points of mind training. Pema Chodron, B Alan Wallace are among western teachers who’ve taught it. It is basically a series of pithy slogans or sayings that you internalize to guide ethical behavior. Similar to Shantideva or numerous other teachings. The general idea is that you meditate on the cushion while practicing mind training as you go about your daily life. It may sound boring but is actually very meaty and liberating to practice.

  5. Sam

    I believe the mind training exercises are similar to affirmations. Mind as Buddhist teachings relate, is something different than habitation. Meditation as strengthening the ability to dwell in the true nature of mind – as the blog writer has already mentioned, is a different sort of habitation beyond simple psychological fixes or ethical training. Although mind training may be useful, it’s not the true nature of mind referred to by Buddhist teachers.
    The true nature of mind is usually pointed out through direct interaction with one aware of such, and not something bought from a book store.

    • Kek

      Lojong is pretty useful in our every day lives. If you want to cultivate stable meditation we have to learn how not to entangle ourselves in this karmic web of us versus them…me, mine. The little battles we engage in traffic at work or in relationships. So the mind training is a means of aligning our everyday consciousness with Buddha nature by derailing our normal habits of entanglement. Ethical training is extremely profound. It just doesn’t sound sexy. It sounded above like wenderwoman was feeling a disconnect between her meditation and daily life. Lojong is how you unify nature of mind and daily life. There were debates about it in the past. It’s easy to pretend we are doing something profound, it’s easy to deceive ourselves. I think examining our interactions with others is the best way of assessing our development, of seeing how free of ego clinging we are.

      • Yet the fact remains no real Karma Kagyu today speaks the practice.

        We instead speak of the true nature of the mind.

        Mind training is an obstacle to the realization of the true nature of the mind.

        It is not a path to liberation.

        And today no real Karma Kagyu speaks of anything less than a path to liberation.

        Not in Donald Trump’s America.

        • Kek

          If you are the only member of the Karma Kagyu then you have a point but plenty of other people who identify with that lineage do teach it. The vast majority of people are not at a point where they can dwell in mahamudra all of the time. Lojong are supplementary trainings that are helpful at enabling people to cultivate the fruition stage by defusing negative tendencies.

          • I am a Karma Kagyu lama who holds Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s lineage of Mahamudra which he received from Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and transmitted to me.

            I don’t identify with this lineage.

            I hold it.

            In this lineage as it has been entrusted to me by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche mind training is strictly prohibited.

            I know this because this is what Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche taught me.

            I was taught by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche that my negative tendencies are my wisdom and must be regarded as such always.

            It is no skin off my nose what you think of this.

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