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Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism - Chogyam Trungpa


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#1 SteveS55

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 05:44 PM

I do not generally recommend books. What might seem interesting and helpful, even profound, to one, could be incredibly boring and inane to someone else. We are all at very different stages of interest and understanding. Still, this book, "Cutting through Spiritual Materialism" by Chogyam Trungpa is one of the best Ive read in years. Actually, I purchased the audio book, so I didnt have to go through the agony of actually reading!
His definition of Spiritual Materialism is as follows:

"Walking the spiritual path properly is a very subtle process; it is not something to jump into naively. There are numerous sidetracks which lead to a distorted, ego-centered version of spirituality; we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques. This fundamental distortion may be referred to as spiritual materialism."

It seems that ego is the culprit as he goes on to say:

"Our vast collections of knowledge and experience are just part of egos display, part of the grandiose quality of ego. We display them to the world and, in so doing, reassure ourselves that we exist, safe and secure, as spiritual people."

This is a book about the Buddhist path, so those from a Christian perspective will probably find it wanting. But, if you have some interest in Buddhism, this takes the reader through the entire Buddhist path encompassing all of the "yanas". The "yanas" are the Hinayana (narrow path), Mahayana (great vehicle) and Vajrayana (tantric path).

It is considered to be a gradual path, starting with the Hinayana, where one develops meditative discipline, then on to the Mahayana, the path of great compassion and wisdom. This is the path of the Bodhisattva, a being who literally gives up any notion of personal enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. The Bodhisattva Vow is actually a promise to bring all others to liberation and enlightenment ahead of themselves. The final path is Vajrayana, or the tantric path. It would be a mistake, however, to consider these yanas separate in any sense. One necessarily leads to another. It is all one path, which doesnt actually exist (except as a concept) in any case.

One of the more interesting descriptions in this book has to do with Trungpa's understanding of emptiness, a very often misunderstood concept in Buddhism. He explains that emptiness is form without any mental preconceptions. I suppose this is where the statement "form is emptiness and emptiness is form" comes from. So, phenomena "as it is", or its"suchness" is phenomena empty of any preconceived notions, labels, constructs, concepts, etc. But, since emptiness is also a concept, the ego may take hold of it and try to possess it. For this reason, we eventually must see form as just form and emptiness as merely empty. Well, no one said it was easy!

My understanding is that a person of average intelligence, who is emotionally healthy and stable, could traverse the yanas in two to three years, with daily study and practice, assuming they had a qualified teacher.

All and all a very good read if you are into this kind of thing, or if you are headed in that direction.

Edited by SteveS55, 24 April 2017 - 05:51 PM.

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#2 romansh

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 05:56 PM

Just curious ... materialism has two broad meanings ... the scientific sense that everything can be considered material ... or the attachhment sense?

 

Which one is he pointing to?


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#3 SteveS55

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Posted 24 April 2017 - 06:09 PM

He's referring to "materialism" in the sense of ego attachment, Rom, as if "spirituality" is a "real" thing which can be possessed, which of course, it is not.

Edited by SteveS55, 24 April 2017 - 06:17 PM.

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#4 tariki

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 05:03 AM

One of the things I got from Chogyam Trungpa was that he viewed virtually all spirituality as merely replacing one set of goals (secular goals) for another set and that nothing fundamental changes.


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#5 romansh

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 10:22 AM

Well as I said before ... I would not be who I am without my ego,

 

And Joseph Campbell asks the pertinant question whan who is wishing to still the ego?


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#6 SteveS55

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 12:23 PM

I don't think anyone is suggesting destroying the ego, Rom. That effort would be useless. My question is about exactly what you expressed above - who or what is the "who"? The "ego" is just a process,of identification and solidification of our belief in existence, or rather, our fear that we don't exist! And the "witness" or "watcher", as Campbell suggests, is also a process. There doesn't seem to be any substance to any of it. They are both illusory.
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#7 tariki

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 02:56 PM

Well as I said before ... I would not be who I am without my ego,

 

And Joseph Campbell asks the pertinant question whan who is wishing to still the ego?

 

Pema Chodron was taught by Chogyam Trungpa. Here is a part of her talk on "loving kindness" (metta)......

 

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, "If I jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person." "If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person." Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, "If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage." "If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I don't get on, my job would be just great." And "If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent."

But loving-kindness - "maitri" - towards ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. "Maitri" means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice is not about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

Sometimes among Buddhists the word "ego" is used in a derogatory sense, with a different connotation than the Freudian term. As Buddhists, we might say, "Well, then, we're supposed to get rid of it, right? Then there'd be no problem." On the contrary, the idea isn't to get rid of the ego but actually to begin to take an interest in ourselves, to investigate and be inquisitive about ourselves.

 

​So, no, not about getting rid of the ego or seeking to live without it. Myself, the question I asked, rather than the one asked by Joseph Campbell, related to the oft quoted "Buddha's only point the way, each has to walk the path themselves." I asked "in the light of anatta (not-self) just who is walking the path?". One could think it is the same question, but it also has to do with "be ye lamps unto yourselves", another quote from the Buddha. Just what is the light by which we are to see? Anyway, for me, nothing at all to do with getting rid of anything of living without something. More as T S Eliot expressed it........to return to the place where we started and know it for the first time.

 

 


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#8 JosephM

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 03:15 PM

Well as I said before ... I would not be who I am without my ego,

 

And Joseph Campbell asks the pertinant question whan who is wishing to still the ego?

And just who is that 'I am' with or without the ego? The ego seems to me to not be who you are but rather  a series of thoughts, memories, fabricated viewpoints, etc of a  story, real or unreal, (probably make-believe) that has taken on an identity as if it is truly separate and is that story. It seems to me the One who created it in the first place is the One who through evolution will awake and pass through it (Drop or still it (the ego)) and loose that individual identity which is subject to decay anyway.

 

Just my 2 c


"The only separation between you and me can only be in your mind." --Joseph Mattioli


#9 SteveS55

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 04:02 PM

I think Pema Chodron's statements are very informing, Tariki. I agree that the practice of Buddhism is not about destroying anything, but "cutting through" illusion to see the real nature of things.And, I think this does require a real interest in the process, without judgment or condemnation. In the end, there is nothing to change anyway. Surrender might be a better word.

Joseph, I agree that "who we are" often comes down to a continuity of the story line of our thoughts, beliefs and experiences. We identify with this story line and it becomes us. Who would we be without it? I've often found it interesting that we like stories and movies so much. There is always continuity and character development involved. It must say something about how we operate.

Edited by SteveS55, 25 April 2017 - 04:03 PM.

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#10 romansh

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 05:08 PM

And just who is that 'I am' with or without the ego? The ego seems to me to not be who you are but rather  a series of thoughts, memories, fabricated viewpoints, etc of a  story, real or unreal, (probably make-believe) that has taken on an identity as if it is truly separate and is that story. It seems to me the One who created it in the first place is the One who through evolution will awake and pass through it (Drop or still it (the ego)) and loose that individual identity which is subject to decay anyway.

 

Just my 2 c

 

Joseph I never meant to suggest the ego is me. But it is a particular pattern of thought, memories and viewpoints that appear to come from the shell that is me. Of course that shell is a lot more than the individual bits and pieces. It is a reflection of the environment I have come from, which in turn is a reflection of the universe we find ourselves in.

 

The ego to me is more like a sense of my place in the great pecking order of things, for example if I were to say I am a chemist that would be moving towards ego. I might say I am a more qualified chemist than Joseph (likely accurate) and even more towards ego. To be clear I am not suggesting this sense is anyway necessarily accurate. But I think you are right I am a lot more than my ego suggests.


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#11 romansh

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Posted 25 April 2017 - 05:12 PM

 

Pema Chodron was taught by Chogyam Trungpa. Here is a part of her talk on "loving kindness" (metta)......

 

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, "If I jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person." "If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person." Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, "If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage." "If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I don't get on, my job would be just great." And "If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent."

But loving-kindness - "maitri" - towards ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. "Maitri" means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice is not about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

 

The world is just fine ... I will play the game and participate.


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#12 tariki

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 01:58 AM

 

The world is just fine ... I will play the game and participate.

 

Is there any choice? :) 

 

(Pema Chodron has written a book......"The Wisdom of No Escape")


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#13 romansh

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Posted 26 April 2017 - 01:53 PM

 

Is there any choice? :)

 

(Pema Chodron has written a book......"The Wisdom of No Escape")

 

I must admit I am very skeptical of a "free" choice.   See you on the free will thread (or not :-) )

 

 

 

Note- Moved 4 posts to Free Will thread HERE (JosephM as Moderator)


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