My Buddhism for today, why I choose only ONE lineage…

As I’ve noted before, on my Dutch blog people respond very critically. This is often annoying, but they also sometimes ask great questions.

The question asked in this case was: doesn’t your present path contradict your earlier assertion that we need to balance certainty and uncertainty?

The answer is – as it often is – yes and no.

Yes, this year I was planning to take it easy, find my place in the spiritual market place. Instead I fell for the first tradition I came accross. It’s not much of a coincidence though: Gelugpa Buddhism is the one tradition I have known for years was most likely to be the Buddhist tradition I’d feel at home in if I were to ever become a practical Buddhist. And Buddhism in turn is the one religion I’ve always felt most at home with.

I tried out Nyingma Buddhism for about 45 minutes last Saturday and though there was nothing I could find wrong with them, I felt like I was cheating on my boyfriend or something (not that I have one of those). So I left. The fact is, however much I may not have wanted to commit, I’m the type of person that does in fact commit. Just like I’m not looking for a superficial flirt, I’m not the kind of person to just pick and choose from any spiritual tradition either.

After all, I spent 17 years in the Theosophical Society, never even considering trying anything else. I only left (well not quite yet, but emotionally I did) when that path really no longer worked for me.

Buddhism works for me. I’m not ashamed to say that it simply makes me feel good. It’s also a great relief to find a tradition in which instead of being learned out, I’m an absolute beginner. No chance of being ‘finished’ with this tradition even till the end of this lifetime.

I do have some issues with the FPMT tradition. The teachers are mostly traditional Tibetans. The result is in many details not exactly fitted to the Western mind, nor to my own. However, I’d rather study in a tradition that sticks as close to the tradition as possible than in one that tries to adapt to the Western spirit too quickly. I can do my own adapting well enough. When the tradition gets on my nerves too much, there’s always Lama Yeshe

Of course the ideal teacher is just like Lama Yeshe: thoroughly grounded in his tradition, yet so like the Buddha in teaching skills that he or she can adapt what they teach to the hearers very specifically. However, I can hardly blame these teachers if they’re not like that every single minute of the day.

Ultimately it’s about emotion: this feels right and there’s no use being unfaithful to my own sense of what’s right.

While I’m talking emotion… Spiritual growth is to a large extent about cleaning up the emotions. Purifying, letting go… in practice it’s quite tiring. Committing to a tradition means committing to a specific set of people, learning the traditions, meditations and rituals of that tradition. Anyone who tries to combine several traditions will have to split their emotional energy between those traditions. The result is less energy can go into either.

There are probably people for whom that is still the best path. They feel there’s something so vital missing from one tradition that they need to find it somewhere else. Or they have already made an emotional tie in one tradition, comparable to mine with theosophy, are ready for something new, but are not ready to let go of the previous tradition.

I am not about to judge what people end up doing. I’m just saying: for me it works to pick just this one lineage. If that makes me inconsistent, so be it. All I do on here is share my thoughts on my path, I never promised consistency.

10 thoughts on “My Buddhism for today, why I choose only ONE lineage…”

  1. Were you aware of the ecumenical `Rime’ movement in Tibetan or Vajrayana Buddhism? Teachers in it have studied from different lineages–specifically, several or all different Tibetan schools. From their point of view I suppose it is good to study in different lineages. Of course, if someone does not have a large amount of time for that, I think you are right it is good to stick to one. As far as I know, the rinpoche I have been learning from is in the Gelugpa school, but it might be interesting if he had studied in several schools or if I could find a Rime teacher when I move.

    1. To me it’s not about the mental stuff – I won’t stop learning about Buddhist history, Buddhist philosophy and even the theory of meditating from other teachers, Buddhist or not. What I can not do however, simply because it becomes too complicated emotionally, is learn meditation from teachers in different traditions.
      For most of us, let’s face it, one meditation practice a day is quite enough. For people who devote their whole life to the path to enlightenment (aka Buddhist monks and nuns) it may be another matter. They may have the time to practice with several teachers, from several traditions.

      Equally people may be unable to choose a specific tradition and want to simply continue their Bricolage of spirituality, even into their actual practice. Theosophists are often like that, and if it works for them, that’s great. I do think this world needs people like that, in order for the divisions between traditions to not become too rigid.

      For me, however, that’s just not possible right now. It’s a devotion thing – how can I be devoted to more than one path? Serve more than one master? It just doesn’t work for me.

      Those who become masters, who have ‘spiritual realizations’ who are able to hold on to throughout the day don’t need devotion to anything but their own Buddha Nature. For them it’s a different issue. For me, just not possible.

      I did the whole ‘get to know as much as you can about as many traditions as you can manage’ thing for almost two decades. It’s time for me to commit to just one.

  2. A young man leaves home to look for truth. He goes to a well-known guru who lives on the banks of the river. ‘Please, sir,’ he says to the old man, ‘allow me to stay with you. I want to learn the truth from you.’ And the guru agrees. And so he washes his clothes, cooks for him, and performs all kinds of tasks for the old teacher. After five years, he says to the master, ‘I’ve spent five years with you but I still don’t know the what the truth is and haven’t learned a thing. So if you don’t mind , I’ll leave you. Perhaps I can find another teacher, from whom I can learn more about the truth.’ ‘I don’t mind,’ says the old man, ‘go right ahead.’

    So the young chap goes off and finds several other gurus, from whom he learns various magic tricks. After another five years have passed, he remembers his old teacher and goes to visit him. ‘So what have you learned?’ the old man asks him. And his former student tells him that he can walk on hot coals, levitate and so on. ‘Is that all?’ the guru asks. The young man points at the river in front of them and says proudly, ‘And I can walk on the waters of that river to the opposite shore.’ ‘And it took you five years to learn that,’ the old master exclaims, ‘when over there, fifty yards from here, you can take the ferry boat across for two pence!’

  3. “Spiritual growth is to a large extent about cleaning up the emotions.” I resonate with this sentiment. I think it’s what motivates change after a season in life. We move on in order to bump into some new emotions that need to get rattled out of our bones and, as you say, get cleaned up.

  4. Katinka u are an absolute beauty in your expression I must tell u before I express my excitement with this forum alltogether!
    My name is Zecky and this is my first blog ever written and I mean EVER so if u seem to be the object of my extreme overenthusiasm for participating don’t let it alarm u I’m just very happy to see what I was hoping to see. And so easy too!
    Now I’m a bit late when it comes to this blogging thing but that’s changing finally since Ive discovered the bloggosphere! I am NOT la
    te however in my state of awareness as I beleve we all should feel. I am not versed in the teachings of buhdda in any manner of schoolastic ‘study’ as I see dominates the dialog here. I DO percieve and have ALWAYS percieved buddhism (in its more general or basic expression) to be undeniably rooted in the more direct attempt

  5. I like the mysterious way your image keeps looking at me, even when I think the mouse arrowClick is making the page scroll.

    I remember the spiritual sensation of math.

    I recall the newness of the perfect sphere which is geometry, whose every concept fits with its entirety as a body of knowledge, so symmetrically that the mind knows the whole while discoursing with pen on paper concering its elemental parts.

    Then we knew chemistry, or looked at its various areas. The soul pled persistently to the mind to find the unified way of understanding chemical diversity.

    But, I loved physics. It could encompass people and time, distance and congruities. It was the inner vision realized. It put all of chemistry in a dimension unique yet interrelated with undimensioned entities in the world and in the mind.

    I think I met a theosophist. But, after reading too much philosophy, I preferred simpler frames. Gurdjieff seemed organized, so I liked his lectures. I think people were religious or philosophical, but my own way lost touch with many of them, and appeared to improve from the dissociations, as if a colloid, or some new kind of matter only a mathematical physicist would care to conceive.

    Your site I discovered thru a Gurdjieff search word. Yet, I only rarely look for material related to such an individual. He certainly was a character fitting for his times and geographic location.

    I suppose that I have lived like your blog article title, singular of focus, as a resonance.

    Gurdjieff’s long book is in storage now quite a few years. I left knowing its contents, mostly.

    Though math and chemistry, and writing, and photography seem apt ways to view the world. If you write about them some time, I would hope to see those blog writings.

    Buddhism is ok. Poor Buddha, being ancient, timeless, and still a legacy which endures my levity. What’s happening in the present time is important, tho. But it’s far from an organized body of knowledge. Or, perhaps, closer than the far I imagine.

  6. “All I do on here is share my thoughts on my path, I never promised consistency.”

    Well said. I have found the right Blog.

    Your path, my path, our path. It makes me wonder where are we going? Does it matter? I read your post on Language and this makes me think of the words we choose to represent things that do not have a noun worthy to encompass its meaning.

    PATH – I might like to change that to ‘EXPERIENCE’ or ‘CONNECTION’.

    I think the PATH is a myth. It is too linear. It implies that it is predetermined. EXPERIENCE is too temporary to be the name of a life long journey. CONNECTION is the one I am after. Re-connecting, re-charging and maintaining a connection when you have two feet firmly on earth.

    When we are dis-connected our life sends us signs to let us know. When we are connected we are energised and share this energy with those around us, and that is the point.

  7. I have just started looking for a path that will help me find a peaceful mind and sense of spirit. I am just beginning to look at Buddhism and the path it can offer. I am almost 64 yrs. old and have no sense of spiritual well being I hope to find it Can you offer any advice? Thanks

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