Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby kc2dpt » Mon May 04, 2009 1:35 pm

Dan74 wrote:
I view vajrayana as mostly unnecessary and potentially dangerous, but most vajrayana Buddhism still has at root the noble truths, noble path, dependent arising, anatta, and self-effort.

the quote above would have some justification if you have crossed to the other shore and have helped others do likewise without vajrayana methods.

This seems to me a silly thing to say, Dan. One does not have to cross to the other shore to have formed a justified opinion that a particular set of practices seem to be unnecessary and potentially dangerous. For example, the Dalai Lama has repeatedly called Shungden practices unnecessary and potentially dangerous and he has also repeated denied having crossed to the other shore.

Since some teachings of Mahayana were not taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago we can justifiably conclude they are unnecessary. Since we see these teachings lead some people into unwholesome behavior we can justifiably conclude they are potentially dangerous.

One doesn't need to have crossed to the other shore to see these things.

That said, Mahayana teachings are clearly helpful and beneficial to many many people and should not be dismissed lightly.


Dan74 wrote:Simply because people dismiss a venerable tradition which have produced wonderful enlightened teachers whose compassion exceeds anything you or I can imagine. This attitude hurts the person him/herself.

Again, this seems to me a very silly thing to say, not to mention sanctimonious and self-righteous. Are you really asserting that picking any tradition other than Vajrayana hurts oneself? :|
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 04, 2009 2:03 pm

Peter wrote:
Dan74 wrote:
I view vajrayana as mostly unnecessary and potentially dangerous, but most vajrayana Buddhism still has at root the noble truths, noble path, dependent arising, anatta, and self-effort.

the quote above would have some justification if you have crossed to the other shore and have helped others do likewise without vajrayana methods.

This seems to me a silly thing to say, Dan. One does not have to cross to the other shore to have formed a justified opinion that a particular set of practices seem to be unnecessary and potentially dangerous. For example, the Dalai Lama has repeatedly called Shungden practices unnecessary and potentially dangerous and he has also repeated denied having crossed to the other shore.

This is not a relevant example. Shugden practice is propitiating a spirit - nothing to do with Buddhism at all. Vajrayana tantric practices are squarely aimed at liberation from delusion.

Since some teachings of Mahayana were not taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago we can justifiably conclude they are unnecessary. Since we see these teachings lead some people into unwholesome behavior we can justifiably conclude they are potentially dangerous.

I don't know for a fact what exactly was and was not taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago, but assuming that some teachings came later, this certainly doesn't make them unnecessary. In the sense that to the Buddha's audience some teachings took first priority and to Chinese, Tibetan etc other skillful means may be necessary to achieve the same aims. Some awakened very early in the Buddha's career. Does that make his subsequent teachings unnecessary?

As for being dangerous, anapanasati can be dangerous. Goenka's vipassana can be dangerous. If misapplied. So this is saying nothing. The statement about Vajrayana being unnecessary and potentially dangerous comes across as simply a sectarian slur showing disrespect and a lack of understanding.
That said, Mahayana teachings are clearly helpful and beneficial to many many people and should not be dismissed lightly.


And perhaps, not at all.
Peter wrote:
Dan74 wrote:Simply because people dismiss a venerable tradition which have produced wonderful enlightened teachers whose compassion exceeds anything you or I can imagine. This attitude hurts the person him/herself.

Again, this seems to me a very silly thing to say, not to mention sanctimonious and self-righteous. Are you really asserting that picking any tradition other than Vajrayana hurts oneself? :|

I said:
Dan wrote:people dismiss a venerable tradition which have produced wonderful enlightened teachers whose compassion exceeds anything you or I can imagine. This attitude hurts the person him/herself.


Of course I did not mean "that picking any tradition other than Vajrayana hurts oneself." I am not a Vajrayana practitioner myself. It is the dismissive attitude that is harmful.

It is my unfortunate karma to have to stand up to it. :cry:

I am off to bed.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon May 04, 2009 2:05 pm

What I'm hearing from Dan is also a reminder that harsh words can harm the speaker even more than the listener.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby christopher::: » Mon May 04, 2009 3:56 pm

Hi guys. The original question was: "Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?"

So far it sounds like very few Theravada practitioners have answered yes. On the other hand, perhaps if we asked "Has the perspective of certain Mahayana texts or teachers ever been useful to you?" we'd get a more positive response, from many here.

I could be wrong. It's just a hunch.

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"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Mon May 04, 2009 5:31 pm

Yes, Zen (Seon) teachers are human beings and all that that entails. It is unfortunate but I suspect probably not confined to the Zen tradition. What is not correct is to paint everyone with the same brush. The Buddha's immediate disciples had their failings too.


Of course there were early Buddhists who did bad things. The difference is, they were expected to recognize this. The teacher having sexual indiscretions with the student is not at issue for me; it's the matter of excusing this by trying to claim that one's enlightened status somehow made it acceptable.

I have no idea what you are talking about here. This is not my experience of Zen, nor something I found in reading classical Zen stories. No crazy wisdom there. Only compassion coupled with deep insight.


No Zen crazy wisdom? I don't even know what to say. Western Zen especially is practically a crazy wisdom clearinghouse.

Simply because people dismiss a venerable tradition which have produced wonderful enlightened teachers whose compassion exceeds anything you or I can imagine. This attitude hurts the person him/herself.


Gee, thanks for the concern Dan. Cos I'm sure you really are just worried about me harming myself.

I don't know about Osel


That would be Trungpa's succesor, who gave several people HIV/AIDS because he was under the belief that his advanced tantras would prevent him from transferring it. Oops! His own teacher liked the shaggin a bit too. And forceably stripping people. And drinking so much it nearly killed him on a couple occasions. But just because the Buddha said not to do all this stuff doesn't mean a Buddhist shouldn't, I guess. Skillful means works in mysterious ways!

It is my unfortunate karma to have to stand up to it.


Yeah, and your medal will be here any day now. Seriously, listen to yourself here.

This is not a relevant example. Shugden practice is propitiating a spirit - nothing to do with Buddhism at all. Vajrayana tantric practices are squarely aimed at liberation from delusion.


Yeah, like sexing up young girls in mountain temples, fire rituals, and all that stuff. It's wrong and sectarian to dismiss that, but it's okay to be critical of Shugden practitioners.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby kc2dpt » Mon May 04, 2009 5:37 pm

Dan74 wrote:The statement about Vajrayana being unnecessary and potentially dangerous comes across as simply a sectarian slur showing disrespect and a lack of understanding.

I agree it can come across that way. Frankly I think some of the fault lies with the question, though, rather than the answer. If one asks a person to comment on another tradition, one should be prepared to receive some negative opinions. Likewise, one should know that any negative opinion offered will inevitably cause offense.

Dan wrote:Of course I did not mean "that picking any tradition other than Vajrayana hurts oneself." I am not a Vajrayana practitioner myself. It is the dismissive attitude that is harmful.

You are not a Vajrayana practitioner... yet you are aware there is such a thing as Vajrayana teachings. Doesn't that mean you have dismissed those teachings as unnecessary? You hear a teaching... and you either accept it or dismiss it, yes?

When you criticize someone for dismissing Vajrayana, it certainly sounds like you are saying everyone must accept Vajrayana, that anyone who does not accept Vajrayana hurts themselves. That's what it sounds like to me.

We must be careful if we want to offer a critical opinion.
We also must be careful if we want to offer a critical opinion of someone who gives a critical opinion.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Mon May 04, 2009 5:50 pm

Here, I'll try to be as simple and direct as possible. I'll even play the "some of my best friends are..." card. And yep, some of my best friends are vajrayana types. Yeah, for real. And they know my views on it and while they respectfully disagree, I've never had one of them tell me "Stop it, you're hurting yourself by not uncritically loving my tradition!"

Oh, and also, I've seen the practice screw a lot of them up over time. Emphasis shifts more from trying to gain liberation from suffering to all kinds of concerns with esoteric stuff like empowerments and such. Which, incidentally, I have seen with my own eyes Tibetan monks selling to people they'd never met for money. The extreme lineage politics and guru worship just make it that much more intense.

Yes, most forms of meditation can lead to some problems but, let's get real, the potential for misuse of anapanasati pales in comparison to the potential to get screwed up by Tantra. Which is probably why the historical Buddha, as far as we have any evidence, didn't teach such practices and even openly called many methods popular in that practice useless or heretical. The Buddha specifically said that there was no esoteric doctrine, which was a revolutionary view in his time and place. Not a mystical teaching for the elite, but a practical teaching that almost anyone could follow to some extent. To me "Esoteric Buddhism" is an oxymoron.

I am NOT saying that Mahayana or even Vajrayana are evil or anything like that. I have been inspired by, and still respect, many Mahayana teachers. But I do think that it entails practices that are irrelevant to the goal at best and actively subvert it at worst. To adhere to the Theravada viewpoint by definition means that you do not believe in the total validity of the Mahayana viewpoint, and to adhere to the vajrayana viewpoint means (according to everyone I know anyway) that full enlightenment is impossible without vajrayana. When we demand that other people say things that they clearly don't believe, it's hypocritical and more to the point dishonest. Let us instead be willing to hear each other out, respecting opposing views enough to accept that the other person has them without invoking phony compassion to cover our own biases.
"We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception."
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon May 04, 2009 6:48 pm

christopher::: wrote:Hi guys. The original question was: "Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?"

So far it sounds like very few Theravada practitioners have answered yes. On the other hand, perhaps if we asked "Has the perspective of certain Mahayana texts or teachers ever been useful to you?" we'd get a more positive response, from many here.

I could be wrong. It's just a hunch.

:namaste:

i think youre on to something. also just what is a mahayana perspective?
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon May 04, 2009 8:27 pm

just what is a mahayana perspective


I see an opportunity to plug Dharma Wheel.
There's lots of Mahayana perspectives there.

:D
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby kc2dpt » Mon May 04, 2009 9:56 pm

Mexicali wrote:Let us instead be willing to hear each other out, respecting opposing views enough to accept that the other person has them without invoking phony compassion to cover our own biases.

I agree. True compassion is acknowledging and accepting our differences, not pretending those differences doesn't exist.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 04, 2009 11:45 pm

Peter wrote:
Dan74 wrote:The statement about Vajrayana being unnecessary and potentially dangerous comes across as simply a sectarian slur showing disrespect and a lack of understanding.

I agree it can come across that way. Frankly I think some of the fault lies with the question, though, rather than the answer. If one asks a person to comment on another tradition, one should be prepared to receive some negative opinions. Likewise, one should know that any negative opinion offered will inevitably cause offense.


Peter, I think I've made it clear that I have no problem with criticism. I welcome criticism. It can be very valuable.

What is not valuable but is in fact harmful is an unsubstantiated dismissal of an entire tradition.

Are there too many shades of grey here, or am I just not putting this across clearly?

Peter wrote:
Dan wrote:Of course I did not mean "that picking any tradition other than Vajrayana hurts oneself." I am not a Vajrayana practitioner myself. It is the dismissive attitude that is harmful.

You are not a Vajrayana practitioner... yet you are aware there is such a thing as Vajrayana teachings. Doesn't that mean you have dismissed those teachings as unnecessary? You hear a teaching... and you either accept it or dismiss it, yes?

No of course not. Is there no room in your world between accepting and dismissing?

We have to choose. To practice vajrayana, you have to find a teacher etc. I practice Zen (Seon) and I have a Seon teacher. But I do that without confidently asserting that practicing vajrayana would just be a waste of time. Instead I have deep respect for all sincere practitioners and appreciation for the clever skillful means vajrayana has developed for overcoming delusion. But my knowledge of it is very very limited.

Peter wrote:When you criticize someone for dismissing Vajrayana, it certainly sounds like you are saying everyone must accept Vajrayana, that anyone who does not accept Vajrayana hurts themselves. That's what it sounds like to me.


Again, only if you have "either with us or against us", "either must accept or dismiss" kind of thinking.

I would do the same if people were dismissing Theravada. In fact I would do the same if people were dismissing Christianity, since many people have developed further in their compassion and wisdom than most (if not all) of us here through following that tradition . Even though I do not believe that it can lead to Buddhahood in this lifetime.

Peter wrote:We must be careful if we want to offer a critical opinion.
We also must be careful if we want to offer a critical opinion of someone who gives a critical opinion.

[/quote]

My approach is to try to be thoughtful and respectful and tone the language down for the purpose of having a productive discussion. Which seems to translate to silliness, phoney compassion, sanctimoniousness and being passive-agressive with some people. You do not know me, and making these hasty personal judgments only reflects on you. To use the Buddha's words: these presents were unasked for, so I am afraid you will have to keep them.

In any case, the original question has been answered, although as Christopher had noted, it could've been asked more skillfully.

Thank you.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon May 04, 2009 11:53 pm

Greetings Peter, Dan, all,

Peter wrote:Since some teachings of Mahayana were not taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago we can justifiably conclude they are unnecessary. Since we see these teachings lead some people into unwholesome behavior we can justifiably conclude they are potentially dangerous.

One doesn't need to have crossed to the other shore to see these things.


But if one had crossed to the other shore and seen such things, they might explain it something like this...

SN 56.31: Simsapa Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Mexicali » Tue May 05, 2009 12:23 am

My approach is to try to be thoughtful and respectful and tone the language down for the purpose of having a productive discussion. Which seems to translate to silliness, phoney compassion, sanctimoniousness and being passive-agressive with some people. You do not know me, and making these hasty personal judgments only reflects on you. To use the Buddha's words: these presents were unasked for, so I am afraid you will have to keep them.


Wow. [EDIT: Ad-hominem attack removed... please argue the point, not the person - Retro.]

P.S. I have no problem dismissing Christianity, because it makes no sense whatsoever. You either accept something is true or you don't, or you say you don't know. You can't just accept everything as valid or nothing has any meaning anymore. To accept one proposition is often to necessarily reject another. Maybe you'll figure that out one day. And maybe you'll learn to address actual arguments without insincere concerns that people are "harming themselves" by disagreeing with you (very similar language to that used by cult leaders, incidentally).

Be well. :anjali:
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Avery » Wed May 06, 2009 12:16 am

On the subject of Zen, which I'm seeing some people cite as more useful than Vajrayana/Shingon or Pure Land, I would respond with what Sumanasara Mahathero pointed out to me: Dogen and other Zen masters wanted to return to the truth of Buddhism, but they did not have access to the true dhamma in the Tipitaka, only the corruptions of the Chinese texts. I think this led directly to the current state of Zen in Japan. Certainly Buddhism could not have degraded into ancestor worship if the monks were following the full vinaya.
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Wed May 06, 2009 2:30 am

Avery wrote:On the subject of Zen, which I'm seeing some people cite as more useful than Vajrayana/Shingon or Pure Land, I would respond with what Sumanasara Mahathero pointed out to me: Dogen and other Zen masters wanted to return to the truth of Buddhism, but they did not have access to the true dhamma in the Tipitaka, only the corruptions of the Chinese texts. I think this led directly to the current state of Zen in Japan. Certainly Buddhism could not have degraded into ancestor worship if the monks were following the full vinaya.


Hi Avery :anjali:

I am not sure who referred to Zen as being more useful than other schools.

As to what Sumanasara Mahathero said, if he really said that, I think he must've been misinformed. Firstly as to Dogen's intention, secondly as to true dhamma not present in Mahayana texts, and thirdly as to the supposed "chinese corruption" of the Chinese Agamas.

Here's a quote from Dharmajim who I believe is a member of this forum and is more scholarly than me:

I agree that it is really unfortunate that none of the Sarvastivada Agamas have been translated into English. I consider that greatest lack in available material in English (or other western languages) at this time. The Sarvastivada were the dominant school of Indian Buddhism for many centuries. Almost all Indian commentary (with the exception of Buddhaghosha) is based on the Sarvastivada Canon. Because we only have the Pali Canon available in English, our perception of Indian Buddhism is distorted because there is a tendency to regard the Pali Canon as "most ancient", and somehow normative for Indian Buddhism. I don't think that historically holds up.

When it comes to Chinese Buddhism there are a number of Chinese Buddhist views that are rooted in Sarvastivada, but differ from the Theravada. What I have noticed is that people tend to regard these Chinese Buddhist views as "Chinese accretions", when actually they are thoroughly orthodox, Sarvastivada interpretations, right from India. This, no doubt, will take a long time for the west to absorb, but the first step it to be aware of this lack in our knowledge.


Lastly, besides Japan, Zen is present as Chan in China and Taiwan, as Seon in Korean and as Tien in Vietnam. In none of these places has Buddhism "degraded into ancestor worship" as you said. Rather ancestor worship had already been a strong part of the culture prior to Buddhism.

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dhammanando » Wed May 06, 2009 5:24 am

Hi Avery,

On the subject of Zen, which I'm seeing some people cite as more useful than Vajrayana/Shingon or Pure Land, I would respond with what Sumanasara Mahathero pointed out to me: Dogen and other Zen masters wanted to return to the truth of Buddhism, but they did not have access to the true dhamma in the Tipitaka, only the corruptions of the Chinese texts.


The Chinese and Japanese had the Āgama sūtras, which roughly correspond to the first four Nikāyas of the Pali Sutta Piṭaka, and they had a Vinaya which resembles the Pali Vinaya quite closely (much more so than, say, the Mūlasarvastivāda Vinaya followed in Tibet). Dōgen seems to have been exceptionally well-read in these texts, for he is constantly quoting from them or making allusions to teachings contained in them.

The actual causes of the decline of celibate monasticism in Japanese Buddhism are a matter of public record. They are largely (though not entirely) of a political sort and have nothing to do with any supposed ignorance of early Buddhist teachings.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Avery » Wed May 06, 2009 7:38 pm

Thanks for informing me. I am aware of the Agamas but I did not know Dogen was so familiar with them. My knowledge of Dogen is limited to Fukanzazengi and Instructions to the Cook-- you give me incentive to read more of his writings. :namaste:
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed May 06, 2009 9:16 pm

I like open-ended questions. For example, "In what ways have Mahayana perspectives been useful to you?"

Or similarly, we could take this thread in a positive direction and now ask:

To our Dhamma Wheel members who practice Mahayana, in what ways have Theravadan teachings/teachers been useful to you?
It's just a thought.

:buddha2:
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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby Dan74 » Thu May 07, 2009 3:13 am

To our Dhamma Wheel members who practice Mahayana, in what ways have Theravadan teachings/teachers been useful to you? It's just a thought.


Thank you for this, Drolma! Looking forward to your reply to your own question...

As for me, I have found both the teachings and teachers very useful. The usefulness I guess is limited only by my ability to absorb and put into practice.

In the prison where I go as a chaplain, I tend to share basic Theravada as I understand it. Cultivating mindfulness in everyday situations when they are challenged by a pretty hostile environment, the workings of dependent origination and kamma in our lives (what has brought them there), grasping and aversion, the illusion of self and reification of "me", the body, personality, emotions, possessions, etc and letting go. We talk about the Noble Eightfold Path quite a lot and how to integrate it into our lives. We've also listened to some Ajahn Brahm's talks.

It's been a great lesson to me and has grounded my practice a lot more, stripping the BS and fansy intellectual notions away.
These were entirely my own and neither a fault of the teacher nor tradition which is 100% Dhamma/Dharma as I see it.

I also have a Theravadin friend and both discussions and meditation practice with her, have been really good. As I see it, it is all there in the Tipitaka, but some of us also need and appreciate the compassionate means and pointers devised by later masters to help us realize what the Buddha was getting at. The Buddha was addressing a particular audience, an audience that was not only culturally different but had perhaps a lot less mental garbage than most of us here. But there may still be those who can cross to the other shore with his words as guidance and inspiration. In any case I believe it is a lot more about sincerity and dedication of the practitioner than the specific school (s)he practices in.

May we all do our very best!

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Re: Is Mahayana perspective useful for Theravada practitioners?

Postby pink_trike » Thu May 07, 2009 3:53 am

Mexicali wrote:No Zen crazy wisdom? I don't even know what to say. Western Zen especially is practically a crazy wisdom clearinghouse.


Really? Where? Are you a Western Zen practitioner? I'm not, but I lived around the corner from the San Francisco Zen Center for many years, sat there regularly, attended ceremonies, and socialized extensively with the sangha. A drier, more serious bunch of practitioners would be very difficult to find anywhere. I'd be very interested in hearing from you examples of where this crazy wisdom is manifesting, and what your definition of "crazy wisdom" is in the context of this Western Zen "crazy wisdom clearinghouse" that you apparently have personal experience of.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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