From Mahayana to Theravada

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Dharmasherab
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Dharmasherab »

Taro,

As an addendum I want to say this. Its something I should have mentioned earlier in that first post I made on this thread, but it surfaced into my mind a few moments ago.

You will find in Vajrayana communities that the word 'enlightened' gets used very easily, partly because of the Guru Yoga culture where a practitioner is supposed to visualise that their teacher is enlightened as well as to see him or her as the embodiment of the 3 Jewels. The problem I found with this was that the one's who miss out on the method aspect of this and take it as absolute truth they uncriticially assume that their masters are fully enlightened. Therefore as a consequence of this, the word enlightenment has become sort of a throw away word among Vajrayana communities where if you try to reason with some of these practitioners you will become victimised especially from the really devout followers.

In Theravada sanghas you will very rarely hear the word enlightened being used next to a name of a teacher. Among monastics, as part of the monastic disciplinary code of Theravada, it is an offence to broadcast your spiritual attainments. If one claims to be Enlightened knowing that he is not, then this is a disrobing offence where the offender will have to step down from Bhikkhu (Gelong) to either Samanera (Getshul) or go back to being a lay person.

This is not to say that Theravada is less effective than Vajrayana in helping people becoming Enlightened. There are Theravada teachers even in recent years who were thought to be Enlightened. Its just that the word 'Enlightened' does not get casually thrown around in Theravada communities.
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StrivingforMonkhood
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by StrivingforMonkhood »

Dharmasherab wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:15 pm Taro,

As an addendum I want to say this. Its something I should have mentioned earlier in that first post I made on this thread, but it surfaced into my mind a few moments ago.

You will find in Vajrayana communities that the word 'enlightened' gets used very easily, partly because of the Guru Yoga culture where a practitioner is supposed to visualise that their teacher is enlightened as well as to see him or her as the embodiment of the 3 Jewels. The problem I found with this was that the one's who miss out on the method aspect of this and take it as absolute truth they uncriticially assume that their masters are fully enlightened. Therefore as a consequence of this, the word enlightenment has become sort of a throw away word among Vajrayana communities where if you try to reason with some of these practitioners you will become victimised especially from the really devout followers.

In Theravada sanghas you will very rarely hear the word enlightened being used next to a name of a teacher. Among monastics, as part of the monastic disciplinary code of Theravada, it is an offence to broadcast your spiritual attainments. If one claims to be Enlightened knowing that he is not, then this is a disrobing offence where the offender will have to step down from Bhikkhu (Gelong) to either Samanera (Getshul) or go back to being a lay person.

This is not to say that Theravada is less effective than Vajrayana in helping people becoming Enlightened. There are Theravada teachers even in recent years who were thought to be Enlightened. Its just that the word 'Enlightened' does not get casually thrown around in Theravada communities.

I understand where you are coming from.

The guru/teacher relationship is sometimes problematic in Vajrayana. There is no question about that. That said, these lineages have their gems not seen in Theravada. Some of the most beautiful and profound teachings on emptiness have been written by Tibetan Buddhist teachers.

What draws me to Theravada Buddhism is the emphasis on morality. That's not to say that other schools of Buddhism don't stress morality, but it has just been my experience. Morality is the basis on which build our practice. I think this gets downplayed a little in the other schools. Of course, morality is not enough to be enlightened - far from it.

I know a little about Zen/Chan/Seon, and I find them most beautiful as well. Their simplicity is profound in helping one see that enlightenment is already in us. Also, their teachers bring more individualism to the path through the use of "just sitting" and pondering "koans" (simple sayings which help us to become instantly aware without reading books are investigations during meditation).

What I said is said somewhat out of ignorance. What I am saying could be gibberish. These are just my opinions.

Please take care.

Peace and enlightenment.
May we all fulfill our deepest wish for happiness

We are already Buddha
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StrivingforMonkhood
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by StrivingforMonkhood »

Dharmasherab wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 1:15 pm Taro,

As an addendum I want to say this. Its something I should have mentioned earlier in that first post I made on this thread, but it surfaced into my mind a few moments ago.

You will find in Vajrayana communities that the word 'enlightened' gets used very easily, partly because of the Guru Yoga culture where a practitioner is supposed to visualise that their teacher is enlightened as well as to see him or her as the embodiment of the 3 Jewels. The problem I found with this was that the one's who miss out on the method aspect of this and take it as absolute truth they uncriticially assume that their masters are fully enlightened. Therefore as a consequence of this, the word enlightenment has become sort of a throw away word among Vajrayana communities where if you try to reason with some of these practitioners you will become victimised especially from the really devout followers.

In Theravada sanghas you will very rarely hear the word enlightened being used next to a name of a teacher. Among monastics, as part of the monastic disciplinary code of Theravada, it is an offence to broadcast your spiritual attainments. If one claims to be Enlightened knowing that he is not, then this is a disrobing offence where the offender will have to step down from Bhikkhu (Gelong) to either Samanera (Getshul) or go back to being a lay person.

This is not to say that Theravada is less effective than Vajrayana in helping people becoming Enlightened. There are Theravada teachers even in recent years who were thought to be Enlightened. Its just that the word 'Enlightened' does not get casually thrown around in Theravada communities.
Hello, dear friend.

Do you have experience with Zen/Chan/Seon, the other Mahayana branch? It has it gems for sure.

I don't like to compare to say which is better, but there are differences, and that needs discussing at times. Which path for you depends on your personality, culture, life experience, etc. All proper schools lead to enlightenment.

I was drawn to Theravada because it really emphasizes the importance of the foundation of morality on which to build your practice. Morality is essential for enlightenment. This may get downplayed a bit more in other traditions (I could be wrong). It is all about investigation of ultimate reality through vipassana, using the Buddha's teachings (Dhammapada, etc.). There is less emphasis on teacher/student relationship. There is less talk about supernatural phenomena, but it doesn't get much discussing until you get into higher levels. Emptiness could get more emphasis in beginner's Theravada.

Vajrayana is however very powerful in that uses visual meditations (mind is sky; the beautiful void, etc). It also has the most beautiful teachings on emptiness I have ever heard, leaving in my tears. None of it is conflict with Theravada. However, the guru/student relationship can get too much, and become a hindrance. Also, the deities are what you visualize yourself as to become more enlightened -- not real deities (well, there are Tibetan Buddhists who believe in real deities, but that is for another topic).

The Zen/Chan/Seon traditions emphasize profound simplicity and logic/paradoxes. They are the most mysterious of all the schools because paradoxes we see in koans (little stories, sayings, etc). I think morality could be bit more emphasized in these traditions, but that is just my opinion. Teacher relationships are not emphasized until very advanced. Little in way of texts save Dogen's text, basic Dharma teachings, etc. There is always, though, individualistic focus. No goal is emphasized, which is great; and we are already Buddha - we just have to find it. Great aesthetics, too, as we see in Zen gardens. We have profound emphasis on silence and cleanliness (cluttered environment is a cluttered mind).

Again, just my two cents. Don't take me too seriously as I am mostly ignorant.

Peace and enlightenment. :namaste:
May we all fulfill our deepest wish for happiness

We are already Buddha
48vows
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by 48vows »

Kim OHara wrote: Thu Aug 06, 2020 10:59 am The forum isn't as good as a real community in some ways but it's a lot better than nothing.
I'm not sure thats not true.

but maybe it would depend on the forum I guess.

sentinel wrote: Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:59 am My understanding is Mahayana & Vajrayana has Theravada as it basis in practicing before one could really start practicing the Mahayana or even Vajrayana path .
This is something that mahayana & vajrayana people say - but in it doesn't happen in practice.
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Kim OHara
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Kim OHara »

48vows wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:16 am ...
sentinel wrote: Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:59 am My understanding is Mahayana & Vajrayana has Theravada as it basis in practicing before one could really start practicing the Mahayana or even Vajrayana path .
This is something that mahayana & vajrayana people say - but in it doesn't happen in practice.
That's true. It's a bit like saying that Latin is the basis of Italian - it's true but it's hardly relevant, since it's so far down in the background.

:namaste:
Kim
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StrivingforMonkhood
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by StrivingforMonkhood »

Comparing is never wholesome.

The forum is useful to me, and to many others. I have learned a lot.

The Sangha can support you, but only you can find enlightenment. Others cannot do it for you.


:namaste:
May we all fulfill our deepest wish for happiness

We are already Buddha
Pulsar
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Pulsar »

Coëmgenu wrote
I understand Venerable Amaro does double-duty as a Theravadin bhikkhu and a Dzogchenpa (a kind of Tantrika).
Pretty interesting, I listened to the talk by Ven. Sumedo posted by SarathW elsewhere... a curious discussion goes on there. I think most of the misunderstandings are due to the words used by Sumedo, and the way they are misunderstood by classical Theravadins.
Theravada and Mahayana (Tibetan leaning towards honest Tantric meditation) use different terms to imply say nibbana.
Ven. Sumedo uses terms that resonates more with Tibetan Buddhism, or maybe Zen. I found the talk to be very agreeable, since I am familiar with such jargon.
Thank you for that comment.
with love :candle:
Last edited by Pulsar on Thu Nov 12, 2020 8:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Dan74
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Dan74 »

I think the reason that Ajahn Sumedho sounds like a Zen master sometimes, is because his is primarily a practice tradition. So he is being practical and trying to provide some pointers.

But it is not Zen, in the sense that his lineage has its specific methods that are Theravadan. Whether they arrive at the same realisation as the Zen masters, I couldn't say, but my sense is that there is a great deal in common there. Most Mahayanists would say "no", because

1. they don't have the Bodhisattva vowa
2. they lack the complete understanding of emptiness

But I have my doubts.
_/|\_
Pulsar
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Pulsar »

Dan74 wrote
I think the reason that Ajahn Sumedho sounds like a Zen master sometimes, is because his is primarily a practice tradition. So he is being practical and trying to provide some pointers.
Thank you.
But it is not Zen, in the sense that his lineage has its specific methods that are Theravadan. Whether they arrive at the same realisation as the Zen masters, I couldn't say, but my sense is that there is a great deal in common there. Most Mahayanists would say "no", because
Can anyone define what ZEN is? I read Christmas Humphreys Zen book... After the reading you emerge thinking he is talking of the ultimate Dhyana (Zen means Dhyana). In Thearavadin lang. it would be Samma Samadi.
But the problem with modern Zen is, it makes it appear as if all this hifalutin stuff appears out of nowhere, no path, no Buddha, sort of thing, which is pure baloney. And then there is a caveat.
Some sects of Mahayana (or is it all) makes one think one needs a guru to get there. Obviously it is because the final meditation is not presented with the ladder to get there.
So some who train via ZEN (for instance Ajahn Sona) after the Zen training returns to Theravada or Pali canon in order to learn the basics, 8-fold path diligently.
The one issue with Ven. Sumedho's presentation was when the questioner asked him "How did you get there?" He says it is via the
Gateless Gate or Pathless Path
Now we all know these are words used in Mahayana. The issue is so complicated. Ven Sumedho in the same talk also mentioned the Four Noble Truths which obviously includes the 8-fold path.
And we all know he has practiced this, based on his scholarly work.
So I feel his use of the words Gateless Gate or Pathless Path was kind of misleading to the die hard
classical Theravadin.
What are your thoughts? will appreciate hearing from you.
With love :candle:
Dan74
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Dan74 »

Pulsar wrote: Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:50 pm Dan74 wrote
I think the reason that Ajahn Sumedho sounds like a Zen master sometimes, is because his is primarily a practice tradition. So he is being practical and trying to provide some pointers.
Thank you.
But it is not Zen, in the sense that his lineage has its specific methods that are Theravadan. Whether they arrive at the same realisation as the Zen masters, I couldn't say, but my sense is that there is a great deal in common there. Most Mahayanists would say "no", because
Can anyone define what ZEN is? I read Christmas Humphreys Zen book... After the reading you emerge thinking he is talking of the ultimate Dhyana (Zen means Dhyana). In Thearavadin lang. it would be Samma Samadi.
But the problem with modern Zen is, it makes it appear as if all this hifalutin stuff appears out of nowhere, no path, no Buddha, sort of thing, which is pure baloney. And then there is a caveat.
Some sects of Mahayana (or is it all) makes one think one needs a guru to get there. Obviously it is because the final meditation is not presented with the ladder to get there.
So some who train via ZEN (for instance Ajahn Sona) after the Zen training returns to Theravada or Pali canon in order to learn the basics, 8-fold path diligently.
The one issue with Ven. Sumedho's presentation was when the questioner asked him "How did you get there?" He says it is via the
Gateless Gate or Pathless Path
Now we all know these are words used in Mahayana. The issue is so complicated. Ven Sumedho in the same talk also mentioned the Four Noble Truths which obviously includes the 8-fold path.
And we all know he has practiced this, based on his scholarly work.
So I feel his use of the words Gateless Gate or Pathless Path was kind of misleading to the die hard
classical Theravadin.
What are your thoughts? will appreciate hearing from you.
With love :candle:
I wouldn't presume to define Zen, but according to Bodhidharma, it is not dependent on words, and points directly at the Original Mind, ie Nibbana. Zen teachers are meant to embody realisation and point it out with skilful means, appropriate to the student, through words-actions, their entire being in that moment is a beacon of realisation, and some rare ones are always like that.

Every lineage varies somewhat and there are of course some differences between Soto and Rinzai within Japanese Zen.

I have practiced Seon (Korean Zen) since 2003 and done probably well over a dozen retreats, but I'm still very much a beginner, so take it with a grain of salt.

Having also done one short Rinzai retreat and a Chan retreat, it seems to me that there is a great deal of similarity across the various Zen traditions. Teachers focus on the mind here and now, rather than theory, so it's a very immediate and hands-on tradition. Lots of meditation, sitting and walking, work as meditation, breath/body work, some chanting and prostrations, koans in some form or another, as a tool to break through the conceptual to the immediacy of this moment. Some teachers have an extensive toolkit of practices, others are relatively simple and may just point out the same practice over and over until the person begins to get it.

When I heard Ajahn Sumedho speak (he came to the Uni where I worked some years ago) he was also very immediate in his teachings. I recall him saying, "just put it all down". Five words, but a very powerful teaching.
_/|\_
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StrivingforMonkhood
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by StrivingforMonkhood »

Dan74 wrote: Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:43 pmI wouldn't presume to define Zen, but according to Bodhidharma, it is not dependent on words, and points directly at the Original Mind, ie Nibbana. Zen teachers are meant to embody realisation and point it out with skilful means, appropriate to the student, through words-actions, their entire being in that moment is a beacon of realisation, and some rare ones are always like that.

Every lineage varies somewhat and there are of course some differences between Soto and Rinzai within Japanese Zen.

I have practiced Seon (Korean Zen) since 2003 and done probably well over a dozen retreats, but I'm still very much a beginner, so take it with a grain of salt.

Having also done one short Rinzai retreat and a Chan retreat, it seems to me that there is a great deal of similarity across the various Zen traditions. Teachers focus on the mind here and now, rather than theory, so it's a very immediate and hands-on tradition. Lots of meditation, sitting and walking, work as meditation, breath/body work, some chanting and prostrations, koans in some form or another, as a tool to break through the conceptual to the immediacy of this moment. Some teachers have an extensive toolkit of practices, others are relatively simple and may just point out the same practice over and over until the person begins to get it.

When I heard Ajahn Sumedho speak (he came to the Uni where I worked some years ago) he was also very immediate in his teachings. I recall him saying, "just put it all down". Five words, but a very powerful teaching.
Good post, dear friend!

You are right, more or less: There is little difference between Zen, Chan, and Seon.

I like how Zen looks at reality head on, with no filters. I think you start to see reality a bit more clearly than with other traditions. But Zen is powerful and effective for sure. It is a truly a valid path for enlightenment and must be highly respected from Buddhists from other traditions.

The reason why I follow Theravada to some degree is because there is a greater emphasis on morality, which is necessary to build your meditation practice. It's not that Mahayana schools downplay morality (necessary for wisdom); they just don't emphasize the fact that morality is a basis on which you build your practice. But, again, Zen Buddhists would say that morality comes from meditation and seeing clearly. I don't know. Perhaps I am speaking ignorantly as usual.

All traditions have their gems.

The only difference between Theravada and Mahayana is that Mahayana goes into much greater detail on the concept of emptiness. Tibetan and Zen/Chan/Seon schools also believe in non-duality, whereas Theravadas are quite fuzzy on the matter. The Bodhisattva vows .... I'm not sure what that entails so much. Supposedly that is a difference as well. But, all in all, all Buddhism is more or less the same.
May we all fulfill our deepest wish for happiness

We are already Buddha
Pulsar
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Pulsar »

Dearest Dan74. Thank you for your well thought out reply. I took time since I wanted to find something for you.
Have you read this?
http://www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-b ... ffaith.pdf
It is intriguing, but I also wanted to find another link, a summary of a doctoral dissertation done
at Harvard on Zen and its origins. I just cannot locate it right now, it is saved somewhere.
I will alert you once I find it.
But two things you wrote
but according to Bodhidharma,
yes Platform sutta, right?
once a student asked B Bodhi to comment on it. He wished not to, so that told me something. BB is generally
impartial, he even wrote once that he has learnt much from one of his original teachers, who I think
was perfectly Zen or Mahayana. I admire his honesty. As for Korean ZEN don't they rely on the Pali
canon even though it is a very meditative tradition, at least its original teachers?
With love :candle:
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Dharmasherab
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Dharmasherab »

StrivingforMonkhood wrote: Thu Oct 08, 2020 4:34 pm What draws me to Theravada Buddhism is the emphasis on morality. That's not to say that other schools of Buddhism don't stress morality, but it has just been my experience. Morality is the basis on which build our practice. I think this gets downplayed a little in the other schools. Of course, morality is not enough to be enlightened - far from it.
I think the reason for this is because schools of Buddhism which are part of the Vajrayana have a large corpus of teachings which encompasses the aspects of non-Tantric Mahayana as well Theravada. A school of Buddhism becomes distinct based on what makes it different from others, and in Tibetan Buddhism its the Tantric aspect which makes it stand out from other schools of Buddhism (even though non-Tibetan schools are also known to have tantra). But the purpose of the tantras is for a Bodhisattva path which means that the Bodhisattva commitment is an essential. This means that the teachings on morality as a proportion of the entirety of teachings get even smaller, as compared to Mahayana and Theravada.

Also Tantric teachings are to be used like alchemy where the 'poison' is transformed to bring the purity. But people who are misguided tend to use this as an excuse to do all kinds of activities which are contrary to Buddhist ethical conduct. To cover up for one's short comings, 'transformation' is used as a convenient word game to silence any type of questioning.

The irony is that in Tibetan Buddhism there are the 6 Perfections and one of the Perfections is the Perfection of Ethical Conduct (Sila) just like in Theravada. So if one is hoping to maintain Bodhisattva conduct then their ethical conduct should reach levels of perfection with the Bodhicitta in mind. If this true then the only reason why a Tantric Buddhist would ignore the Perfection of Ethical Conduct is because they put their faith and practice in the Tantric aspect only and complpetely ignore the Path of Perfection (Paramitayana).

As for me. even though I am living as an Angarika in a Theravada monastery whiles being a Vajrayana Buddhist, I am determined to put effort to make my standards of ethical conduct for the better.

I recently read in The Law of Attention: Nada Yoga and the Way of Inner Vigilance by Edward Salim Michael that morality/ethical conduct is an important base for spiritual practice because if one is living a non-virtuous life, then those non-virtuous aspects can crystallize with practices such as sitting meditation, hatha yoga etc.

So I am happy that you found the value of good ethical conduct. Its about a life of no regrets and no negativity where one is at peace with oneself as well as with the community around him/her.
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Dharmasherab
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by Dharmasherab »

StrivingforMonkhood wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 2:19 am
Do you have experience with Zen/Chan/Seon, the other Mahayana branch? It has it gems for sure.
Around 4 - 6 year ago I was going to various Mahayana/Vajrayana groups and activities as this was the time I was opening up to Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism. Part of that exploration also involved me visiting Mahayana groups. I have been to a few Zen groups, a Seon group and a Chan group. I have a high respect for the practice. I have never attended a formal Koan lesson or teaching session (I dont really know whether it is meant to work this way). But still I wanted to explore it and see what it was. So far when it comes to Koans the best I ever got was to come across some stories but not with a teacher. A part of me saw the value in this as well as the strict discipline in manners and etiquette in Zen/Seon/Chan.

But when it came to making choices I went for Vajrayana Buddhism.

Having said this, one's refuge vow allows them to visit different schools of Buddhism and get trained for sometime.

In my imaginary world I fantasize a single engineered form of Buddhism which encompasses all good aspects of Buddhist teachings, including Vipassana techniques, Tantra, Dzogchen, Koan etc, even though I know its highly unlikely to be a reality.
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Re: From Mahayana to Theravada

Post by StrivingforMonkhood »

Dharmasherab wrote: Tue Dec 29, 2020 6:04 pmAround 4 - 6 year ago I was going to various Mahayana/Vajrayana groups and activities as this was the time I was opening up to Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism. Part of that exploration also involved me visiting Mahayana groups. I have been to a few Zen groups, a Seon group and a Chan group. I have a high respect for the practice. I have never attended a formal Koan lesson or teaching session (I dont really know whether it is meant to work this way). But still I wanted to explore it and see what it was. So far when it comes to Koans the best I ever got was to come across some stories but not with a teacher. A part of me saw the value in this as well as the strict discipline in manners and etiquette in Zen/Seon/Chan.

But when it came to making choices I went for Vajrayana Buddhism.

Having said this, one's refuge vow allows them to visit different schools of Buddhism and get trained for sometime.

In my imaginary world I fantasize a single engineered form of Buddhism which encompasses all good aspects of Buddhist teachings, including Vipassana techniques, Tantra, Dzogchen, Koan etc, even though I know its highly unlikely to be a reality.
I am most grateful for your beautiful reply. I agree wholeheartedly with your ideas and general thoughts. Yes, morality is there in all schools of Buddhism -- it is simply that it can get more overlooked in certain schools.

It is as if I am unable to make a choice as to what school of Buddhism is best for me. I take the gems of all.

I give you the highest respect for your choosing to be an anagārika. I think at times I am getting closer to renouncing the world, but still haven't explored enough. Where I live has limited Buddhist options. I am unmarried with no children...and I am getting older (in my early 40's)...there isn't much time...

Some of the most profound and beautiful teachings on emptiness have come from Vajrayana Buddhist teachers. The visualization meditations are fabulous as well.

Will you become a Vajrayana monastic at some point? I didn't know that you can live at Theravada monastery without being a Theravada Buddhist. Interesting.

Your response has filled me with such joy.

May you fulfill your deepest wish for happiness through the teachings of the Holy Buddha.

Peace and enlightenment.
May we all fulfill our deepest wish for happiness

We are already Buddha
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