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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Major Scholarly Approach to Tara, November 30, 2008
This review is from: The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet (Paperback)
Perhaps incorrectly from a practitioners point of view -- since some of the practices outlined in this scholarly work require a teacher's guidance to practice -- this book is nontheless the most complete book of Tara practices in a scholarly format. For a devotee or practitioner, the better choice would be In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress (Paperback) by Martin Willson, because Martin approaches Tara with passion rather than a scholarly treatment and is equally as complete, but writes more from the point of view of a Tara devotee. For anyone interested in a complete and balanced scholarly view, I highly recommend The Cult of Tara (only the name particularly bothers me, since by any definition, there's no cult aspect to Tara practice or compassionate Buddhism) -- but the book is complete, learned, referenced and mostly unbiased -- and contains a wealth of information simply not found anywhere else. If I was studying Tibetan Buddhism, I would choose this book, if I was practicing I might chose Martin Wilson's book, or both. Highly recommended, despite the poor choice of title.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 3, 2013 11:33:06 PM PST
eurydike says:
No practice requires a teacher's guidance to practice. Shakyamuni Buddha himself said, be a light
unto yourself.
Really, the whole structure of Tibetan Buddhism is Indian Tantric Buddhism grafted onto warlike power cults of the Tibetan plateau. The rituals of Tibetan Buddhism are taken from Bon, which is a shamanistic and animistic folk religion of the area, one that is seriously tribal and based upon a lineage-centric power cult. In Tibetan Buddhism, a student is told that they CANNOT attain enlightenment, and cannot even practice the religion unless they receive a series of "empowerments" from the guru, empowerments that all cost money. The guru (or teacher) is the ultimate authority source. Nothing the guru does or says can be questioned. They are always right, and you must always do exactly as they say, so that they can pass on their Wisdom to you. Needless to say, this has ld in the West to numerous sexual and financial scandals.
Nothing in Tibetan Buddhism is done for free. There is always a price tag attached.
I received one empowerment during my involvement with Tibetan Buddhism. I stood in a long line of people who were taking gifts to the guru for giving them this empowerment. Everybody else was just pouring money into his hands, at which he would nod and smile at them. I had some beautiful polished stones that I had carried around in my pocket for years, and which were special to me and quite beautiful. I placed them in his hands, and he did a double take, and then frowned and glared at me. I was ushered away by his supplicants in their robes. The money train then continued, and he resume smiling.
The Dalai Lama claims to be a poor monk, but if you look at pictures of him, he is always seen wearing a Rolex, a particularly jeweled Rolex.
Pick up ANY book from Snow Lion books or Wisdom books on Tibetan Buddhism. Somewhere in the first few chapters, you will ALWAYS find a statement that these teachings (for which you have paid a hefty price when purchasing a book) cannot be followed or understood "without the guidance of a qualified teacher or meditation master". You've already paid for the book, and then you are told that it is useless without submitting yourself to a "qualified master". Which means of course, get out your checkbooks or your plastic (though they prefer it in cash.
Nothing in Tibetan Buddhism is done for free.
The Zen Centers I frequent may be doctrinaire and bureaucratic, but the teachings are free, and you are never told you cannot attain enlightenment without a master. To reiterate: Shakyamuni Buddha himself said, be a light
unto yourself. There is talk of mind-to-mind transmission between Roshis and students, but that is only if you wish to BECOME a teacher and join the stream of their monastic culture. One can practice alone and without guidance and get to the place where Shakyamuni got.
In Tibetan Buddhism that door is closed to you unless you invest money and devotion to a teacher whose every action and desire cannot be questioned. It all come from warrior power cults in Central Tibet, that grafted basic Buddhist teaching onto them, and added Bon animism and shamanism to make it look colorful and attractive to their gullible audiences.

In reply to an earlier post on May 27, 2014 1:41:21 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 27, 2014 1:47:06 PM PDT
Laurie says:
Thanks for your comment/information. I agree and think that the western cult of celebrity and personality has likewise been 'grafted' to the continued buddhist traditions as well as the yogic community of personalities/gurus.
Interesting to note that for some (many?) westerners, the path of tantra perhaps should be done with a trusted teacher, since our culture is so estranged from most realms of consciousness save for linear and the night time dreaming/intuitive mode. And, the spirit realms are also rife with imposters-hence the new age teachings of 'channels' that may be duping from the ethers as much as those in physical form may be imposters, as well. Strong and clear ego, mind and subconscious abilities are needed to navigate.

What really illustrates and should place tibetan buddhism within its historical context, to me, is the fact that it's a patriarchal lineage. This is no different than other religious structures-hierarchy, protocol and titles deem power, prestige and success. It's not unlike corporate structure, really. But, people somehow think that b/c the 'stated ideals' are kindness, peace and enlightenment, the message overrides its delivery vehicle. To be clear, I believe tibetan tantra is a potent set of tools and regardless of whether or not they 'adopted' bon and shamanistic influences and derive originally from indian tantric buddhism, they can have value for practitioners and aspirants. [Since Bon and shamanic traditions can likewise be helpful for some people-it stands to reason that their 'colorful' nature is not only for show, though perhaps it did help to 'convert' those to buddhism, similar to the way christianity used/incorporated pagan traditions and symbols.

Projection onto the eastern enlightenment traditions is also part of the problem in the west, in my view. Looking to the tools are resources, rather than the humans as somehow above human traits, is a more pragmatic use of these tools. Otherwise, we are left with assumptions that those in monk robes are somehow without exception pious, good and true to their teachings. This is not always the case, of course. Monks also operate within a socio economic system that affords them an avenue for education, income and status. Of course some will take that path an avenue for personal gain and business success. It's only logical, I think.

I agree with you that no teacher or set system is needed. Direct realization is considered to be the hardest path by some, yet I see just as many pitfalls and ego trips in taking the path of student/teacher, as well. To paraphrase Krishnamurti: Truth is a pathless land. As soon as you start to follow someone else, you are no longer following truth. Using tools as they are intended and not as props of worship of other humans' words.
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