Buddhist Contradictions

As my diagram above illustrates, Buddhism in America comes in three major flavors  or “schools”: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.  For many people, their nightstand “spiritual diet”  consists of a mix of Buddhist books from these three schools without an understanding that they often offer conflicting views of reality and very different approaches to life.

This confusion is exacerbated by most Buddhist authors who don’t devote any pages declaring to which school they belong nor telling their readers how their Buddhism differs from other Buddhisms.  After all, for them, there is only one Buddhism.  So in effect, these authors are actually proselytizing and pushing their favorite brand without granting the reader enough respect to inform her or him that there are other choices.  These authors practice unabashed prescriptivism.  So reading a mix of traditions, the unwary reader either ends up with a hodgepodge of conflicting views in their head or ignores the parts that don’t agree with their own personal spirituality.

David Chapman, a non-monastic Vajrayana Buddhist practicing in a Nyingma sect called “Aro”, has done a fantastic post called: “Wholeness, connection, and meditation: Competing visions” where he illustrates three conflicting Buddhist approaches to, what my blog calls, the “many selves” model. These three answers are: (1) Renunciation (2) Monism and (3) Tantra. Though each school of Buddhism contains a mix of these answers, generally speaking, they predominately cluster in different schools:

  1. Theravada –> the Renunciation answer
  2. Mahayana –> the Monism answer
  3. Vajrayana –> the Tantra answer

David is refreshing because he clarifies the contradictory Buddhist views. Please read at least the first half of David’s post if you are interested in understanding these conflicting answers.

The “Many Selves Model” is the psychological view I use to understand how much of the mind works — and is critical to understanding many of my posts. It is based on the same observations which David mentions in the beginning of his post: multiple personalities in different settings and multiple allegiances to conflicting systems. But David tells us that mainstream Western Buddhism (not his Buddhism, btw) has concluded that:

This fragmentation and isolation seems unhealthy, unnatural, unsustainable.

He then tells us the solutions offered by renunciate Theravadans, monists Mahayanists and tantric Vajrayanists. Of these three, I have always been attracted to the Tantric answer which is probably the minority stance in American Buddhism. (See, you are going to have to read David’s post).
But apparently, unlike many Western Buddhists, I have observed that the “many selves” is very natural and obviously sustainable since it helps me perform often important contrary functions in my daily life. Meditation simply made the observation of many-selves more obvious and I did not see them as a problem. Instead, slowly understanding these many-selves/no-self allowed me to take the phenomena less seriously, to stop being surprised by it and  to gain a little more control of the process so I could enjoy it more.

So as for the three “solutions” to the “problem” of many-selves:
I don’t incline toward (1) the renunciate model (Theravada). But over the years, as my blog confesses, I have been tempted many times toward (2) the monist model where the goal is merging with a passive God (monkey God) or the Divine or the matrix of the Universe or Buddha Mind or whatever single homogenizing principle you wish to name. Yet meditation and daily life have again and again reminded me that this is an illusion. So monism, though a temptation, is not how I view reality either — it is not the Buddhism I identify with.  The third option David discusses is (3) tantra which always has struck a resonance in me.

My particular Buddhish flavor has slowly evolved from my experiences with yoga, occasional periods of visiting Buddhist groups and my readings of many Buddhist books. There should be a name for animals like me — a pejorative one, I am sure.  But the reasons I have never joined a Buddhist group and am probably best called “BuddhisH” instead of “BuddhisT” are several:

  • I strongly disagree with the renunciate and the monist habits which predominated the Buddhist groups I have visited.
  • I do not have a commitment to the mantra that “Life is Suffering” that many Buddhist teachers and books tell us is key to commitment to the Buddhist path.
  • The tantric groups seemed too full of Tibetan tradition and lots of gods and superstitious magic.
  • Many Western Buddhists are enamored by Asia and their religiosity is tied up in finding their own special identity in another culture.
  • Western Buddhists can be so serious, so sappy sweet and so politically correct that I do not fit in well.
  • And the final irony:  I have never found a group that can tolerate my questions, doubts and speculations — they are all a bit too busy being religious, it seems.

But meditating continues to be useful for me, and the insights/skills gathered continues to be decisive in how I view and live my life. My present bedstand spirituality consists of poetry, history, some Tantric Buddhist stuff, science and math books. Fortunately, I have the blessing of a generally happy temperament and a balanced life of sorts.  I have never felt a pressing need to find a cure for life — I just look for greater ways to enjoy it.  What keeps me visiting Buddhist groups is that I am a very social creature who loves company.  I also enjoy the intellectual stimulus and the inspiration of practicing together when the above items do not distract.

But when asked by friends for books on Buddhism, I can not recommend any because of flavors of either Monism or Renunciation that fills many Buddhist books. And most of the Buddhist books I know point to groups with the problems I list above.  What to do?

Well, if you are interested, read David’s post.  My comment on David’s blog became too long so I transformed it into this post.  I hope my diagram, along with David’s writtings, have given you a tool to sort through some of the hodgepodge called “Buddhism”.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

28 responses to “Buddhist Contradictions

  1. Thanks for posting this. It will be a helpful guide (along with the multitude of other Buddhist posts you have) as I read “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist” for my November book club meeting.🙂

  2. Karmakshanti

    I do not have a commitment to the mantra that “Life is Suffering” that many Buddhist teachers and books tell us is key to commitment to the Buddhist path.

    I think that’s the crux of the matter right there, Sabio. You simply have not come to terms with the fact that, sooner or later, you are going to get old, you are going to get sick, and you are going to die. Everything you have and everything you ever will have will be stripped away from you in the end. Including your memories and your intellect. Medicine is so good these days that your memories and intellect may be stripped from you long before you die, leaving you in a terrifying world where nothing makes any sense and nobody is anyone you recognize.

    Do you have loved ones? If so, one of two things is going to happen, either you will bury them or they will bury you.

    Intellectually, I’m sure you can acknowledge all this, but emotionally it is very hard to believe these things are real until they start to happen. And they usually don’t happen that much until you’re about 50. Reading you on the Net, it doesn’t sound to me like you’re very close to that.

    I was very lucky. Before I was 30 I had several close brushes with either accidental or violent death. So I started thinking about it early.

    There is certainly disagreement among various traditions of Buddhists, but there is little, if any, disagreement about what I’ve written above. And because of this, you will find that all Buddhists are in far greater agreement than you will find between Eastern Orthodox Christians, evangelical Christians, members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Christian Scientists, and Unitarian Universalists.

    You are of sufficiently restless intellect that I would suggest you delve into Nagarjuna and the Madyamika. I usually am in disagreement with David, but when I look at his descriptions and yours of Mahayana Buddhist thought, it is largely unrecognizable, so much so that there is really no place to begin to disagree with it. If you are going to seriously engage it, you have to look further than the imprecise knowledge of mere lay Buddhists like myself. You seem to have no trouble with Nietzsche or any major intellect in physics, so why not confront Buddhist intellect at its best instead of using your skills to browbeat those of average intellect and lesser knowledge?

    If you would like a recommendation of a place to start [a place to start and not a place to stop], try Progressive Meditation On the Stages of Emptiness by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso and compare it to a book of approximately equivalent simplicity such as Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy.

    You need red meat and not canned lima beans.

  3. @ MichaelB
    Glad it is of use. Remember, as you read, even Buddhist atheists come with their background and assumptions as they tell you supposedly what “Buddhism” is. I am looking forward to your post where you tell us your impressions and the group discussion.

  4. @ Karmakshanti

    Thank you, I rarely get inspired to be harsh. But your self-righteous rant demands it:

    I think that’s the crux of the matter right there, Sabio. You simply have not come to terms with the fact that, sooner or later, you are going to get old, you are going to get sick, and you are going to die.

    Sir that is a cocky, dumbass thing to say. Just because someone doesn’t hold your opinion, you assume they must not have “come to terms with” whatever. Your pedantic, impersonal, know-it-all diatribe is another sign why embracing and flying the flag of Buddhism for decades (your gig) is not all that it is cracked up to be.

    And they usually don’t happen that much until you’re about 50. Reading you on the Net, it doesn’t sound to me like you’re very close to that.

    I have heard you brag of your deep years of wisdom on other sites and of all your wonderful gurus. It would serve you well to ask first and fire later. Seek understanding before you rant. A little more careful reading before leaping into convenient, dumb assumptions would be deeply appreciated. Or set up your own blog and see if people want to really come and listen to you. It will be a good mirror to hold up. On other folks sites you can be under the illusion that people care about what you say. But if you set up your own site, you will soon get immediate feedback on that point.

    If you would like a recommendation of a place to start …

    You know, when you preach with as little skill in dialogue as you have, I doubt anyone will clamor for your “recommendations” — I certainly have no interest.

  5. LOL! 🙂 I think you handled Karmakshanti well there.

    I’ve got a Thai friend, my closest personal exposure to Buddhism of any flavor. We’ve had some discussions about it, and that was always may hanging point too, that “Life is Suffering.” In a less pedantic way, he made the same arguments as Karmakshanti to point out that suffering is going to happen in life, but I would always counter that to take that fact and extrapolate that life is suffering is a little myopic. The discussions were normally over a glass of wine, so I’d ask “are you suffering right now?” The suffering view is useful in establishing a foundation, and may have seemed more appropriate in the rougher days thousands of years ago, but it just doesn’t seem altogether true here and now.

    However, one thing I’ve heard, and perhaps you can verify, is that the Buddha was only effectively saying “this is what worked for me, your mileage may vary.” So it was meant to be more of an empirical “faith,” if you will, recognizing that others may have different paths to enlightenment. Is that at all true, or have I been misled here?

  6. Hey, you’re passing for well-under-50 (at least on the web)! That could be taken as an (inadvertent) compliment…

  7. Hi, Sabio & David,

    I just would like to add why I think Theravada can be good for someone. It gives you different structures (of your personality, of disturbing emotions, of patterns of thinking, of world views, of types of conflicts etc.) along which you can start to map your inner and outer life.Abandoning certain types of behaviour is the result of seeing how your emotions, your inner chatter, your interactions with others etc. work. To me it (especially the Abhidhamma) seems pretty close to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (supported by the calm that you learn through meditation).



  8. Karmakshanti

    Well, Sabio, I’m sorry I offended. Whatever else may be the case, I respect your honesty and integrity and wish you all of whatever value you may obtain from the Dharma.

  9. @ Karmakshanti

    Well, Karmak, I’m sorry you can’t see, acknowledge and apologize for your wrong actions. No need to feel sorry for my state of mind, watch your own. I wish you all the freedom possible from the Dogma Dharma or anything else your personality uses to hinder you from deeper transformation.

    Mettamucil to you too!

  10. @ Wise Fool:

    Concerning Karmak
    You are right. Karmak’s smug self-righteous comment is generic. Christians criticize non-Christians with the same pathetic logic. For instance, they may say, “Obviously you have not really looked carefully at yourself, or you’d know that you are a worthless sinner.”

    I remember once when I worked in a trauma unit where one of our patients died but another horrible accident victim was coming in and we would need to the room to crack his chest open too. I told the nurses to cover the body and move it into the next room. One nurse said that the family needed time to be with the dead person before moving him. I told her that they could be with him in the next room. She scolded me, “obviously you have no personal experience with death”. “Either way,” I replied, “Move the body!”

    Wow, if she only knew my history. But I felt no obligation to defend myself to her.
    She felt comfortable making that judgement without asking because she was frustrated. I had gone against her will, against her beliefs, so she struck out.

    Like I said, these sort of responses are generic.

    Also with years of working in high intensity Emergency Rooms, I am use to stepping in and handling the unruly personality disorders — they don’t get to set the atmosphere in the house.

    Concerning Buddhist Pragmatism
    It is difficult to know what the Buddha said. It is difficult to know if there even was a Buddha. The Pali scriptures often contradict each other. They are also full of superstition, magic and very non-pragmatic stuff. Then there is the issue of the Mahayana and Tantric sutras. It is complex stuff. But many Western Buddhists like to portray Buddhism as very sterile and scientific. Read David’s blog if you want more on this issue. It is a long story.

  11. @Sabio
    I think you’re right about those responses. I bet that ER time does give you a pretty unique perspective.

    It figures that the Western brochure for Buddhism isn’t really accurate. I’ll read more at David’s blog.

  12. Tim


    It is quite possible to recognize that we live in an ‘ameliorative universe’ ( to quote William James) in which there is unfinished business for us all to do, without qualifying this notion with any sort of requisite angst as Karmak did. It is easy to SAY what life is: life is suffering, life is good, life is fleeting. We all have alot to learn as we actually live our lives. Life,as a ‘thing’ to be lived, is not antithetical to the adoption of a posture of happiness, especially the form of happiness we might call thriving. I choose to thrive while I do my (perhaps pitiful) best to make the world a better place. Meanwhile I will avoid the canned lima beans.

  13. @ David
    I think he uses “young” to mean “im-mature, in-experienced, un-knowledgable”. Well, or simply, “not-me”. But heck, if he meant, “hip, flexible, eager, enthusiastic, quick, perceptive, insightful …” and all those things, then I misunderstood him. Smile.

    @ Roni
    Yeah, my post could come off as “Anti-Theravada” and that was not its primary intent — though it is anti-renunciation. Even though I think renunciation has a roll at times and perhaps for some people but I dislike it as a “One Size Fits All” ideal. My exposure to Theravada is limited. I know that some Theravada traditions use many different excellent mental techniques. All of these, as you say, offer very useful skills. My objection is when the are taught with the background propaganda that all desires and attachments are negative — we are not of this world and the ideal life is the monk’s — in other words — renunciation is the ideal. I think the techniques can be fantastic, but the rhetoric and ideals seems problematic. Does that make sense? What is your experience?

    I think that the rhetoric (the images and ideals) behind practices, influence the mind as much as the practices themselves.

    @ Tim
    I am familiar with the New Age, Neo-Buddhist , Neo-Hindu notion of “unfinished business”. I think it is hogwash. Comforting perhaps, but hogwash. But maybe that is not what you meant. I must say, I was surprised to hear it from a Christian. Are there Christians who belief some version of that, or have you transitioned to a new religious position?

  14. Tim


    When I mention ‘unfinished business’ I am not taking any position at all in reference to New Age, Neo-Buddhist or Neo-Hindu ideology. Actually my point was that we are responsible for the disposition, the mental stance, we face the world with. We may fashion our disposition in a sick or healthy way. James’s idea of the ameliorative universe is that we must not give up, say ‘woe is me’ and despair of active engagement in difficult situations. Logically you must think the world is improvable, that it is an ‘ameliorative universe’ or why bother. It decidedly does not imply the idea that we will be the sole authors of this improvement, “Life is suffering so why bother?” is, I think, the opposite idea. ‘Life is suffering’ can be unpacked in many ways. You can run in many directions here, so please do not put me in a box. To say ‘I choose to thrive’ is to take a positive spin on my stance toward the suffering world, because of course there is suffering in the world. It is the the 500 lb gorilla in the room. My doing of my best does not at all imply that I thereby act on my own. You enjoin your blog readers not to proselytize and rightly so; it is your blog after all. Having said that I think you know what motivates me and in whom my actions are grounded. To get my point think:faith AND works.

  15. @ roni – Yes; I have nothing against Theravada. Renunciation works well for some people, and vipassana can be hugely valuable in the way you mention. The renunciate approach probably couldn’t work for me; but the tantric approach probably couldn’t work for many others.

    Different methods are suitable for different Buddhists, and so it is a good thing that we have different Buddhisms!

    Where I see a problem is in using the wrong tool for a job. Consensus Buddhism has tried to use the renunciate framework to accomplish transformative goals. That doesn’t work well, because they point in opposite directions.

    When Consensus Buddhism recognizes that the renunciate framework isn’t working (to produce transformation) it looks around for other tools that can fill the gap. What it finds, and incorporates, are psychotherapy, New Age stuff, and Hinduism. Those don’t fit well either; and the New Age stuff and Hinduism are monist, which implies another whole set of problems.

    @ Sabio — Yes, just my little joke… Clearly he was insulting you (and spectacularly ignorantly, as you pointed out).

    On the other hand, you do come across in your writing as having the mental flexibility, openness, and wide-ranging inquisitiveness more typical of someone much younger. So that’s my round-about way of complimenting you…

  16. @ David:
    Aw, that was sweet. Here is a big hug from a furry ole guy to make your day. Hmmmmmm, hug!

    Now for an inquisitive young-man question:
    I love your answer to Roni (a very bright, energetic gal who I am guessing is young and deeply experienced well beyond he solar years). But I don’t want to assume I know when you say:

    When Consensus Buddhism recognizes that the renunciate framework isn’t working (to produce transformation) it looks around for other tools that can fill the gap. What it finds, and incorporates, are psychotherapy, New Age stuff, and Hinduism.

    There are many things there I can’t assume I understand:

    what transformation means
    what Tantra offers for means of transformation</li)
    Nyingma (your sect) claims ( explanatory link here for other readers) that there are different results between practices: Renunciation (Theravada), Transformation (TantraYana), and Self-Liberation (Dzogchen). What are those difference — how would we operatively know they have occured?
    How do you imagine “transformation” happening outside of Buddhist methods
    Do you imagine tranformation happening within Theravada even if their methods aren’t geared for it — how would that happen?

    Wow, I realize that is way too much. Feel free to supply links to answers you have written elsewhere or to tell us if you plan to write at another date, or move this question to one of your blogs and let me know there — and just supply us a link. Or just say, “sorry, no time just now!”🙂

    Anything you can offer would be very cool. thanks.

    Thanks too to Roni for the question.

  17. @ Tim

    we are responsible for the disposition

    Well, I don’t know if I would say “responsible”, because I don’t know who would check in on us. But I think I agree with the intent of what you mean there. See if my rephrase is close to your intent.

    We are who we are. Better to acknowledge that and work with it instead of running, hiding and letting it control us where we could be tranforming/modifying/safeguarding/protecting … it.
    — Sabio

    I agree when you say,

    We may fashion our disposition in a sick or healthy way.
    — Tim

    I agree strongly.

    You then said,

    “Life is suffering so why bother?” is, I think, the opposite idea. -Tim

    No one said that. Did you feel someone said that or that any forms of Buddhism says that?

    You said,

    You can run in many directions here, so please do not put me in a box.

    I hope I am not putting anyone in a box. That is why I ask — in order to clarify. People who like putting in boxes rarely ask for clarifications. Don’t you think? And btw, I didn’t understand your phrase:”you can run in many directions”.

    Anyway, I think we strongly agree with each other that we need to acknowledge our temperament, limitations, strengths etc. and take positive steps to effect the future given those settings.

    But all of this is rather off the thread, I think.

    By reading this post, has it helped you understand anything about Buddhism or think broadly about shared struggles within Christianity?

  18. what transformation means

    Renunciation gradually weakens the kleshas (negative emotions) until they are so thin they have no power over you.

    Transformation does not weaken the kleshas; it changes their character.

    For example, the renunciative approach seeks to kill desire. The transformational approach intensifies desire in order to turn it into compassionate appreciation.

    what Tantra offers for means of transformation

    About 27 billion methods, most of them offputtingly bizarre.

    You could try eating bugs, for example.

    (I’m not doing a good sales job here, am I?)

    Maybe sex is more appealing.

    Nyingma (your sect) claims that there are different results between practices: Renunciation (Theravada), Transformation (TantraYana), and Self-Liberation (Dzogchen).

    Renunciation, transformation, and self-liberation are abstract methods, rather than results.

    Renunciation is characteristic of Mahayana as well as Theravada.

    According to Nyingma, the ultimate result of renunciation is shunyatadarshana (experience of emptiness). Theravada would disagree outright; for Theravada, the ultimate result of renunciation is nibbana. Mahayana would say that shunyatadarshana is full enlightenment, whereas for Nyingma it is an unimpressive preliminary.

    According to Nyingma, the ultimate result of tantra and Dzogchen is the same (Buddhahood).

    Personally, I’m entirely agnostic about ultimate results.

    What are those difference — how would we operatively know they have occurred?

    There are answers to that question, but they are complicated and I don’t find them convincing. I’ll leave them for you to research🙂

    How do you imagine “transformation” happening outside of Buddhist methods

    “Transformation” is a qualitative change in your emotional makeup, rather than the quantitative weakening sought in renunciation.

    Anything that could bring about a qualitative change would be a transformative method, in this sense. Lots of New Age-y methods promise that.

    Do you imagine tranformation happening within Theravada even if their methods aren’t geared for it — how would that happen?

    I expect it does. I don’t know enough to say much about how.

    Theravada is a sect, not a method. It’s fluid and internally diverse, and has changed radically over the past century (despite its rhetoric of “we’ve got the original stuff from the Buddha himself, unchanged for 2500 years, and that’s why you should buy our brand”).

    Modern Theravada deliberately incorporates tantric methods, without exactly admitting that it does. (See the discussion of Achaan Jumnien in Gil Fronsdal’s excellent piece about the diversity of Theravada.)

    Even in Asia, and extensively in America, Theravada also seems to have been influenced by both Hinduism and Western monism.

  19. JSA

    Your flowchart reminded me a bit of this cartoon. I wonder if Karmak can see the humor in it.

  20. That’s a funny cartoon, and an interesting analogy!

    It doesn’t quite work, though. The different forms of Buddhism each have their own scriptures, which are say very different things.

  21. Tim


    When I said ‘you can run in many directions here’ I meant that unpacking a phrase such as ‘life is suffering’ can mean different things to different people; many directions means ( to me) varied interpretations. Perhaps it was a confusing way of phrasing things. Actually I was defending your response to Karmak. He resonates with the angst of ‘ life is suffering’ while you maintain ” I don’t have a commitment to the mantra that life is suffering.” Thus your stance runs in one direction, karmak’s in another. When I said ‘life is suffering so why bother’ I am pointing out yet another direction in which a person can run with the concept; I was not responding to any previous comment by you or to any commonly held Buddhist position. The world is replete with defeatist thinking. and the ‘ life is suffering’ idea could be one of the sources. I am trying to illustrate a few of the possible implications of a far from unitary concept. The notion of ‘unfinished business’ has wide applications and appropriating it to a school of thought and then saying it is hogwash does indeed put the one who proffered the locution i.e. myself, in the Neo-Hindu hogwash box. If the phrase ‘ unfinished business’ has acquired a technical usage in a given tradition I was unaware of any such convention. Thank you for your response and allowing me to clarify my position. Your rephrase of my intent was a fairly accurate one and I do agree that we share some common ground. Finally your post has indeed been informative and you do shed light on shared Christian struggles.

  22. JSA

    @David – Yes, I suppose we’d have to include differing sets of canonical scriptures and differing translations, apocrypha, book of mormon, and the written systematic theologies of the various hermeneutic traditions.

  23. @ JSA
    That is a fun pic (made by a Christian, nonetheless). With all the Atheist cartoonists out there and folks like “Naked Pastor”, we need Buddhist humorists!

    I think you guys are right, the parallel may be closer if you had huge regional which developed rich literature over centuries in different forms of Christianity based on:
    (1) Mormon: The Book of Mormon plus
    (2) Catholic: Bible plus
    (3) Rastafari: Kebra Nagast plus

    But I agree, JSA, if a Christian inadvertently buys bedside Christian books and they include:
    Calvinists, Arminianism, Universalists, Zen Christians, Thomas Merton, Anti-evolutionist Christians and such, they would do as my blender pic above says, either blend into nonsense or ignore and cherry pick unaware. I think many folks list without discerning — Cafeteria Christianity. Mind you, it is not that I idealize choosing a sect and sticking with it and trying to be theologically consistent. I am just pointing out our silliness — all of us.

  24. @ Tim
    Gottcha. We agree. Thanks for the clarification.

  25. @ David:
    Thank you for taking the time and the superb links. I have read them. First question:

    This quote is from your excellent link to Tantric Sex:

    I hope some readers will be inspired to investigate the possibility of actually practicing Buddhist Tantra. For that, you really need help from a teacher.

    So, besides Aro, what other groups do you know that teach transformative tantra methods (sex, bug eating …). Or is this all kept secret for obvious reasons? Or are, as you allude, all these other groups doing so much Buddhist deity worship and magic with, as Greg alludes to on your thread, so packed with time consuming essentially useless busy work (eg, “ngöndro“) that they are a poor choice for most Westerners?

  26. Well, all tantra is supposedly transformative, so if you follow any tantric system, you’ll supposedly get transformed.

    Unfortunately, nearly all tantric systems are presented in traditional forms that may not work for many Westerners, and, as you suggest, may be little more than time-filling busy-work. (Although ngondro can be a radically transformative practice if practiced by the right person at the right time in the right way. I wouldn’t recommend it for you.)

    In the 1980s, Trungpa Rinpoche, Tarthang Tulku, and others created non-traditional tantric systems for Westerners. The nefarious Consensus (🙂 ) suppressed such experimentation in the 1990s, specifically in order to prevent Westerners practicing tantra (if you ask me). So it’s now extremely difficult to get access to Buddhist tantra in a usable form.

    The problem isn’t secrecy. Almost nothing is actually secret in tantra now. You can read detailed descriptions of almost all practices in the English-language open literature. The issue is finding a teacher who can show you how to use the practice in a way that will do you some good.

    You could investigate Tenzin Wangyal’s Three Doors program. I know very little about it, but the approach looks promising: secular tantra, without sutric preliminaries or Buddhist rigmarole. (He seems kind of nice, though. But then, maybe pretending to be nice is a devious strategy for dealing with the intense political pressure I expect he’s come under for daring to do this.)

    You could also consider Hokai Sobol, He’s a Western teacher of Shingon (Japanese tantra). I have liked very much the little I have heard of his teaching, and he’s working intensively to create a new form of Vajrayana that is responsive to current conditions. He’s really smart and likable. And Shingon has no institutional presence in the West, which means he’s free from establishment political pressure.

    Shinzen Young also includes some Shingon in his teaching, and has a scientific world-view that you might like.

    There may be a few others. But overall, I consider the situation dire.

    We are going to have to hit the big red reset button with a sledgehammer for tantra to be an effective path in the future.

    BTW, I should mention that the Aro lamas do not practice or teach karmamudra (“tantric sex”). (The reason is somewhat explained here.)

  27. Niclas Jacobsz

    I made a one-page ‘website’, that in my view says it all and is what I live by:
    [removed for comment policy violation]

  28. Really, Mr. Jacobsz?
    How is it you come by and share your great insight into universe shattering Buddhist holy insight, but break all common courtesy by unabashed self-advertising — breaking both common etiquette and my comment policy.

    Your links were promptly erased.
    Behavior speaks louder than religious fluff!
    Don’t do it again, Niclas — or be spammed

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