Comments on “Truth and methods”


2 Truths

Buddhists have several ways of using this 2-Truth notion, don't they? They don't all agree with each other, right?

Two truths, in different yanas

Right. I said a little about this at the end of the page itself. The view of Mahayana is that the absolute truth is the truth of emptiness, and the relative truth is the truth of form (which is not as true).

The view of Mahayoga is that "pure vision" reveals the ultimate truth (in which all beings are Buddhas and all circumstances are Buddhafields). Thinley Norbu Rinpoche's White Sail is a profound exposition of this Tantric view.

The view of Dzogchen is that duality and non-duality are non-dual -- so the two truths are neither the same nor different...

Would you mind explaining how

Brad's picture

Would you mind explaining how onions could possibly be impure from a Kriya Tantra perspective? You made this statement and seem to agree with it. I'm impressed by your website overall, but there are certain points where you make statements that beg for further explication.

Many thanks,

Onions in Kriya Tantra

Hi, Brad,

My recollection is that the principle is that in Kriya Tantra you are approaching the deity as a supplicant. Therefore, you go to great lengths to make yourself pure enough to enter the deity's presence. You definitely would not want to have bad breath, which might offend the deity, so you avoid onions, garlic, radishes, and so on. (This does not apply in Mahayoga/Anuttaratantra, where you and the deity are on the same level.) I haven't studied Kriya in any depth, so my understanding and/or memory may be unreliable.

A google search pulls up lots of sites that mention this in passing. (E.g. "The Mahayana sojong vows come from the kriya tantra. Because of this, cleanliness and purity are of utmost importance. You should therefore abstain from eating meat of any kind, eggs, onions, or garlic during the period you have taken the vows.") If you are curious, maybe you can find one that has a more detailed explanation.

If you are actually practicing Kriya Tantra, it would be best to ask your Lama. There are many different systems, and yours might not have this dietary restriction.


atheist vs non-theist

Martin Treacy's picture

I've just come across this website, and am very appreciative of what is being presented (knowledgeable and sincere).

Would just like to make a brief but I think quite important point. You say in this section "Buddhism is an atheist religion". But is this accurate?

From what I have seen, a more accurate characterization might be that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. This is a very different statement; non-theistic means that it doesn't approach spiritual development from the viewpoint of getting 'top down' help from a deity. It's more a bottom-up approach - focusing on your own efforts (probably - usually - with help and guidance from others such as sangha and teachers).

However saying Buddhism is an 'atheist' religion implies Buddhism is actively denying there is any such thing as a God (and by implication, that theistic approaches are based on delusion - a position held by devout atheists such as Richard Dawkins).. I'm quite sure (from your open-minded approach elsewhere on this site) that this was not your intention. So I'd suggest a shift in terminology to non-theistic.

I always tend to think of Buddhism as a kind of PSYCHology (if you take that rather broadly, by no means limited to traditional Western understanding of the term) as contrasted with a THEOlogy. Focusing on removing/transforming what in us is blocking us from higher realization (rather than receiving transmissions of grace from the divine - though in Tibetan Buddhism, the experience of empowerments could arguably be said to have a kind of 'top down' element? Even if not seen as from "God" - but that's a discussion for another day!).

My limited knowledge of the traditional Buddhist scriptures is that when asked about metaphysical questions the Buddha is usually reported as responding with a "Noble Silence". I.e. focusing on the practicalities of removing the poison of delusion (or transforming it, or seeing it directly as Rigpa - depending on level); rather than discussing more abstract concepts (such as is there or isn't there some kind of divine presence or God). No mention of denial of God - just not focusing on that. Which means Buddhists can be perfectly respectful of the theistic traditions, while saying that the Buddhist focus comes from a very different angle. Non-theistic (i.e. agnostic about whether there is or isn't a God), rather than atheist (dogmatically certain that there isn't one).

Saving yourself

Hi, Martin,

Fair enough... I've updated the page accordingly.

I wrote this three or four years ago. Since then, I've become much more careful not to say "according to Buddhism, X," because Buddhisms are so diverse that any such generalization is bound to have exceptions.

I wrote that "if you want to be saved, you have to do it yourself"; but of course there are Buddhisms (such as Shin) for which that's not true. I've left that statement in my text, to avoid extensive re-writing.

Thanks for pointing out the limited viewpoint.

Thanks for your comment

Martin Treacy's picture

Thanks for your comment David. You are of course absolutely right that Buddhism is a very broad church! Although I would say the 'self-effort' school is most characteristic of Buddhism, you do have approaches such as Pure Land (which I don't know much about personally) which aren't that far from a theistic tradition's focus on receiving grace from above. But I think 'if you want to be saved, you have to do it yourself' is still a pretty fair generalization in relation to most Buddhist traditions. I recall Philip Kapleau referring to the Japanese terminological distinction between joriki and tariki (if I've remembered the spelling), i.e. 'self-power' and 'other-power'.

In my own practice I've found myself drawing on both at different times (emphasis was very much on joriki in my earlier practice, but I've become interested in the theistic traditions in recent years as well, with their emphasis on tariki). Actually these two aren't quite as neatly distinct as they sound at subtler levels (the distinction, like many such distinctions, I suspect dissolves at the deepest level), although they do represent very different modes of practice initially. And probably not a good idea to mix them up in earlier stages. Though I think once you've gone deeply into one approach, it's then not so difficult to see deeper patterns connecting other spiritual traditions and methods. It seems to work for me, anyway - and in fact has also become part of my job, I suppose, as someone who has ended up as a psychologist looking at connections between different spiritual traditions (a direction which very much emerged from my early experience of Buddhist meditation in my twenties). Though I suspect most people are probably best just sticking to one approach on a practical level.

I do recall when I was going to meditation classes in my twenties (with a Theravadin teacher) we also used to have a Dominican monk who attended, and found great benefit in using Buddhist mindfulness/concentration meditation to enhance his Christian spiritual practice. And of course mindfulness is becoming hugely signiificant in clinical psychology these days (to treat things such as depression and stress). Though I do sometimes have some concern that the secularization of these techniques may sometimes result in key elements being missed out, something 'scientific' psychologists need to watch out for.

Hadn't intended to write such a long post again, time I got back to my assignment marking!


Martin, there is very

Anonymous's picture

Martin, there is very explicit rejection of belief in a creator God (issara-nimmana-vada) by the Buddha in the early sutras. He specifies that belief in such a thing is a wrong view with unfortunate consequences.

There is no form of traditional Buddhism or found in traditional writing attributed to the Buddha which is strictly an empirically-based psychology without any metaphysical commitments whatsoever. Such a Buddhism has been the great desiderium of modernists for 150 years, and they have tended to distort their presentations of traditional Buddhism(s) in the service of their quest. David has written much about this on his other blog.


Anonymous's picture


I've noticed on the Aro Ling website that it has a large base in the UK, and not much goes on in the US. Assuming you live in the States, how do you attend teachings and practices?

Thank you for your work,


The Aro gTér in the US

Yes... the lineage used to be much more active in the US than it is now. There are a number of teachers in various locations, but due to life circumstances (they have families and/or full-time jobs and/or health issues) they mostly no longer teach publicly.

There are still occasional public teachings in or around New York. Ngak'chang Rinpoche is teaching a weekend there in a couple months: "Short Circuiting the Crippling Corsetry of Circuitry."

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