Comments on “How I approached the Aro tradition”


Great sharing - thanx

Great personal story. Thank you. It seem I share many similar temperament traits and preferences as you.
You said: "He clarified for me several points about what it means to be a Buddhist."
What that the Refuge taking that you then mention in the next few lines?

Little edits:
(1) Link to : Chögyal Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche is broken
(2) mediation should be meditation":
"I started practicing a muddled mediation "

Drunken Seductive Lamas & Gurus

Concerning Chögyam Trungpa, I have read in many places about his alcoholism, sexual misadventures and drug use. Are these all nasty rumors by bitter disciples or do you feel they were substantial? How are readers to sort out dangerous Lamas who may also happen to be charismatic, magical and inspiring while using subjective experiences especially since the crowds drawn to such circle tend to be disproportionately broken individuals.


Thanks, glad you liked it.

I didn't quite follow your question about Refuge. Should that be "What was the Refuge taking..." or "Was that [about] the Refuge taking..."?

In Buddhism, "Refuge taking" refers to two things. One is a specific ceremony in which one affirms that one is a Buddhist. The other is the continuing nature of one's commitment to Buddhism.

One of my main issues at the time was that "Buddhism" is a vast sprawl of divergent systems, most of which I wanted nothing to do with. One of the problems with calling yourself a "Buddhist" is that you are perceived by others to buy into that whole mess. And it can be difficult not to internalize that, and wind up convincing yourself that you are supposed to believe and do various things "because I am a Buddhist". Then you go around acting in a bizarre "holy" way and annoying people with your belief in your spiritual superiority.

What Rinpoche said about this, roughly, was "never mind all that stuff; you can't take refuge in 'Buddhism' because that's a billion contradictory things; you only have to take on what we find works for you."

Thank you very much for pointing out the broken link and typo; I have fixed them.

Refuge in What Works

Yes, you clarified exactly what I was asking. Your Rinpoche's reply is exactly something I could agree with and use to enrich a practice rather than burden it. Thank you.

Trungpa Rinpoche & dangerous gurus

I don't have any direct knowledge, but many-to-most of the stories are confirmed by close students of his, who have continuing devotion to him, so I assume they are true.

There's been an enormous amount written about dangerous/abusive gurus and cults; a quick googling will turn it up. I think it's important, and anyone who is in "spiritual seeker" mode definitely ought to read about the issue. I don't have anything much to add to what has already been said, so I probably won't write about the subject. One good starting point might be Isaac Bonewits' cult danger evaluation frame. (This was the first thing written on the subject, as far as I know, and I'm also partial to it because I've taken teachings from Bonewits and like him.)

Anyone interested in Tibetan Buddhism specifically should be aware that all Tibetan Buddhist organizations are going to rate as "somewhat cultish" according to criteria like Bonewits'. The model of Lama/student relationship that is basic to Vajrayana is definitely capable of being abused, and is sometimes abused. Anyone approaching Tibetan Buddhism needs to keep their eyes open, examine potential Lamas carefully, use common sense, and be prepared to move on if problems arise.

The Aro lineage seems to me to score as "less cultish" than most other Tibetan Buddhist groups according to Bonewits' list, and I personally don't see any actual problems. However, perhaps anyone who is particularly concerned about their own vulnerability to cults might do well to avoid Tibetan Buddhism altogether.

Trungpa Rinpoche is an irreducible enigma, in my view. He was brilliant and did a tremendous amount of good; he also was fucked-up and made some drastic mistakes. It's natural to want to categorize people as "good" or "bad" or "OK-ish", and you just can't do that with him. (Or I can't.)

He was full of contradictions. So, actually, are all of us—though it is more obvious in people who are as intense as he was. Accepting one's own contradictoriness is a big part of the Buddhist path, I think.

Isaac Bonewits

Kate's picture

Ah, David, thanks for your bringing up this name-- previously unknown to me, more's the pity. UC Berkeley was my alma mater roughly synchronously; if I'd had the requisite clue, I could have studied with him. I've lived within 100 miles of Berkeley ever since the early '60's.

The requisite clue has been long coming, however. I idly picked up a book a couple of weeks ago called, *On Becoming an Alchemist*: I noticed that it proposed parallels between the mode of Tantra and that of the Western Hermetic tradition. The author, in fact, appears to have been a student of Chogyam Trungpa [or perhaps one of his senior students]. And she-- in alignment with his teaching, as well as the Aro Lama's *Spectrum of Ecstasy*-- gives an excellent demonstration of the necessity of HAVING/experiencing emotions as the material with which the method of transformation works.

The long and the short of it is, in my surprise at finding gemlike truths hidden in the more familiar and therefore rejected traditions of my youth, I have been doing a philosophical inventory of sorts, a re-evaluation. I find myself interested in things like paganism, wicca, magick, alchemy-- in their essentials as method, their description of the base and the correspondences they find in different spheres of experience.