Category Archives: Buddhism

pema chodron on “troublemakers”

“The job of the spiritual friend is to insult you… because in order to become a completely loving person, a flexible person, you have to see where you are “hookable”.  You have to see where your shenpa arises so you can work with it.”

Pema Chodron


Samyama is defined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali verses 3.1 through 3.6 as follows:

देशबन्धश्चित्तस्य धारणा ॥ १॥
deśabandhaścittasya dhāraṇā .. 1..
Fixing the consciousness on one point or region is concentration (dhāraṇā).

तत्र प्रत्ययैकतानता ध्यानम् ॥ २॥
tatra pratyayaikatānatā dhyānam .. 2..
A steady, continuous flow of attention directed towards the same point or region is meditation (dhyāna).

तद् एवार्थमात्रनिर्भासं स्वरूपशून्यम् इव समाधिः ॥ ३॥
tad evārthamātranirbhāsaṃ svarūpaśūnyam iva samādhiḥ .. 3..
When the object of meditation engulfs the meditator, appearing as the subject, self-awareness is lost. This is samādhi.

त्रयम् एकत्र संयमः ॥ ४॥
trayam ekatra saṃyamaḥ .. 4..
These three together [dhāraṇā, dhyāna and samādhi] constitute integration or saṃyama.

तज्जयात् प्रज्ञालोकः ॥ ५॥
tajjayāt prajñālokaḥ .. 5..
From mastery of saṃyama comes the light of awareness and insight.

तस्य भूमिषु विनियोगः ॥ ६॥
tasya bhūmiṣu viniyogaḥ .. 6..
Saṃyama may be applied in various spheres to derive its usefulness.

Once Patanjali lays out the training in concentration–dharana, dhyana, and samadhi–he instructs the practitioner to use the resultant attention skills to explore all phenomena in the created world, including the mind itself. The yogi learns to use the “perfect discipline” (samyama) of concentrated mind to explore the entire field of mind and matter. Indeed, much of the third book of the Yoga Sutra, which is widely believed to be just about the attainment of supernormal powers, actually contains Patanjali’s instructions for a systematic exploration of the field of experience.

Excerpt from Yoga Journal Article Seeing Eye to Eye by Stephen Cope


Up and down the main street through downtown Santa Cruz there are similarly odd and intriguing performances of compositions by musical pioneer John Cage . It’s part of a celebration in honor of Cage’s 100th birthday (Cage died in 1992).
Cage studied classical music and later experimented with radically altering the landscape of musical possibilities. He’s inspired musicians across many genres, from new age to ambient and contemporary classical; avant-garde to noise and punk rock. Cage is perhaps best known for his experiments with silence and using techniques of randomness for composing music. He was deeply influenced by Zen Buddhism.
Perhaps his most famous composition, 4’33’’, is performed by musicians who sit with their instruments and don’t play a single note, for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. The piece was partly inspired by Cage’s visit to a soundproof room. He was surprised when he heard two sounds inside the silence (…and it wasn’t Simon and Garfunkel). A sound engineer told Cage the high-pitched sound was his nervous system and the low sound was his blood flowing.
In meditative practices of Buddhism and Hinduism, these sounds are sometimes referred to as “nada.” I’ve heard Vipassana teachers and Buddhist monastics talk about these “sounds within silence,” which can be concentrated upon to bring deeper focus and calm. Baba Hari Dass, a Hindu guru who has maintained a vow of silence since 1952, once wrote: “The inner sound, nada, can be that of a flute, bells, sitar…”
John Cage’s experiments with sound, silence, and music remind me of some musical—and spiritual—ideals to live by:

  • Music can come from anywhere: crickets, ocean waves, a cactus, a human heartbeat. We just have to remember to listen.
  • Keep opening to the possibility of hearing and making new music.
  • Listening to sounds without judgment is a great practice for increasing our capacity to listen to ideas and beliefs of others without moral judgment.
  • We each have the freedom to decide where we draw the line between music and not music (if we draw that line at all).

Excerpt of Article Sound, Silence and John Cage: Four Musical and Spiritual Ideals to Live By By John Malkin

tantric art

The tradition of Himalayan tantric art evolved over more than a thousand years into a form notable for its iconographic complexity and stunning beauty. In December, Tricycle visited New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art, home of one of the West’s richest collections of Himalayan art. In this interview RMA curator Jeff Watt pulls back the curtain on this potent Buddhist art form.

What role can art play in conveying the Buddhist teachings? Buddhists are always talking about tools to use on the path to liberation. Often we are accused of living in our heads, of being too abstract. Buddhist art—and more specifically, tantric art—gives us the opportunity to come down to earth and look at how Buddhism represents itself visually. How is the Buddha represented? How are his teachings and followers represented?

Collection of the Rubin Museum Art
Can you say something about tantra itself, and tantric art?
 Tantra is simply a method to reach enlightenment quickly, in one lifetime. It belongs to Northern Buddhism, the Mahayana school, although it once pervaded much of Buddhist Asia, including Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. Tantric paintings are the visual representations of tantric texts, which outline expedient practices. The texts themselves are primarily understood as revelation, and are said to be the words of the Buddha in his divine or transcendent aspect. Most tantric texts were written down between the fourth and tenth centuries C.E., and tantric art developed alongside of the texts.

And how does tantric art represent the teachings in tantric texts? The deities in the paintings are personifications of the texts and the systems of practice they teach. Tantric art actually compresses all of the important points of the Buddhist teachings into a very tight visual package of symbols.

Excerpt From Tricycle Article, Tantric Art: Maps of Enlightenment, by Jeff Watt

yoga and tantra

Tantrika of Kashmir Shaivism

One night Vasugupta, a great sage believed to have lived during the latter half of the eighth century, had a dream in which Lord Shiva appeared. Shiva instructed the sage to visit a nearby mountain called Mahadevgiri, where he would find 77 sutras(verses) under a rock. When he awoke, Vasagupta did as he was told. He found the sutras—they revealed a path to samadhi (spiritual liberation) through a philosophy and a powerful practice of meditation that, together, were known as Tantra—and began to teach them to others.

According to a branch of Tantra called Kashmir Shaivism, that is how one of their central texts, the Shiva Sutras, came about. But great debate surrounds the origins, history, and practice of the complex and at times controversial body of knowledge known as Tantra. “There are widely different Tantric texts,” says meditation teacher Sally Kempton, “and different philosophical positions taken by Tantrikas,” or practitioners of Tantra. One core aspect of Tantric philosophy that’s taught in the West, however, remains consistent: That aspect is nondualism, or the idea that one’s true essence (alternatively known as the transcendental Self, pure awareness, or the Divine) exists in every particle of the universe.

This idea is radically different from those of the other two schools of Indian philosophy that you might hear about in yoga class: Patanjali’s classical yoga (also known as ashtanga yoga, or the eight limbs of yoga), and Advaita Vedanta. Most scholars agree that Patanjali was dualist and therefore believed that the divine, spiritual realm was separate from the everyday world. Vedantists, like Tantrikas, are nondualist, but they perceive the world as an illusion.

If you hear about Tantra in your yoga class, you’re probably learning about Hindu Tantra. (There is also a Buddhist stream, known as Vajrayana Buddhism). Within Hindu Tantra, there are hundreds of branches, schools, and lineages. Some of the better known are Kashmir Shaivism, an umbrella term for several schools that originated in South India; the Kaula School, which views the body as a vehicle for liberation; Shakta traditions that worship the feminine; and radical “left-handed” schools like the modern-day Neo-Tantra School, which has given Tantra its reputation for sex-enhancing rituals.

At the heart of most of these schools lies the idea of awakening kundalini, thought to be a feminine, dynamic energy in the form of a serpent lying dormant at the base of the spine. Many of the ancient Tantric practices focused on bringing that dormant energy to life by moving it upward, through the seven chakra (energy centers) in the body. The majority of students today focus less on a full kundalini awakening and instead concentrate on bringing the subtle body (also known as the “energy body”) into a state of balance.

Like much else in yoga’s history, Tantra’s origins are still debated. Some scholars believe that it began in the Indus Valley (Pakistan and northwestern India) between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago, when the earliest yoga texts, the Vedas, were written. But Tantra did not come into common practice until the fourth century, after Patanjali’s classical yoga flourished.

Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article, Tantra Rising, By Nora Isaacs

yoga and buddhism


Yoga and Buddhism are sister traditions which evolved in the same spiritual culture of ancient India. They use many of the same terms and follow many of the same principles and practices. For this reason it is not surprising that many of us born in the West, particularly after an initial exposure, are apt to regard Yoga and Buddhist teachings as almost identical.

However, the tendency to find commonality between these two great spiritual traditions is not limited to the West. Swami Vivekananda, the first great figure to bring Yoga to the West, examined the Buddhist Mahayana scriptures (Sutras) and found their key teachings and those of Vedanta that he followed to be ultimately in harmony. In recent years with the influx of Tibetan refugees into India, including the Dalai Lama, there has been a new dialogue between the two traditions that is bringing about greater respect between them. Tibetan Buddhists often appear at Hindu religious gatherings and partake in all manner of discussions.

Nor is the attempt to connect the two traditions limited to modern times. Various synthetic Hindu-Buddhist teachings have existed through history. Buddha himself was born a Hindu and some scholars have argued that Buddhism as a religion apart from Hinduism did not arise until long after the Buddha had passed away. A Shiva-Buddha teaching existed in Indonesia in medieval times, and for many Tantric Yogis it is difficult to tell whether they were Hindus or Buddhists. Buddha became accepted as an avatar of Vishnu for the Hindus during the medieval period, and most Hindus still consider that we live in the age of the Buddha-avatar. Most Hindus accept Buddha as a great teacher, even if they do not accept all Buddhist teachings.

Yet, similarities and connections aside, the two traditions have had their differences, which have not always been minor. Such synthetic trends did not exclude disagreements and debates between the two traditions. Nor did they ever succeed in fully uniting them. Their traditions and lineages remain separate to the present day. Generally the Hindu Yoga tradition sought to absorb Buddhism into itself by reinterpreting Buddha in a Vedantic light. Buddhism however strove to maintain its separate identity by stressing its disagreements with Vedic theism or the Vedic recognition of a higher Self. Most Hindu and Buddhist teachers, including those of the different Yoga schools of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhists, have found it necessary to discriminate their doctrines, particularly on subtle levels of practice and insight. Refutations of Buddhist teachings are common in yogic texts and refutations of yogic and Vedantic teachings are common in Buddhist texts. So while we can honor the connections between these two systems, we cannot overlook their differences either.

Excerpt From American Institute Of Vedic Studies Article, Yoga And Buddhism: Similarities And Differences, By David Frawley

Yogis Of Tibet (2002)- Full Movie

Until very recently, Westerners have had few clues in the search for knowledge of [the] Tibetan yogic paths. In the past few years, however, select teachers from two Tibetan spiritual communities now centered in the West have begun to share their long-secret, carefully guarded movement practices. Both of these practices are forms of what is called, in Tibetan, ‘phrul ‘khor, pronounced “trul-khor.” Trul-khor is the generic name for Tibetan movement practices, and today, two forms of trul-khor are being taught in the West.

The first form is called Yantra Yoga (not the yantra yoga of India, which is associated with geometric images) and is taught by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. He is a living holder of the Yantra Yoga teaching, which stems from an ancient text called The Unification of the Sun and Moon and which descended through the famous Tibetan translator Vairochana and a lineage of Tibetan masters.

The second form was brought to the West by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, a master of the Bon school of the Dzogchen meditative tradition.  In 1992, he founded the Ligmincha Institute.  It’s aim, according to Ligmincha literature, is to “introduce to the West the wisdom traditions of the Bonpo which are concerned with the harmonious integration of internal and external energies.”

Another series of movements said to be Tibetan in origin is known as “The Five Rites of Rejuvenation” or “The Five Tibetans.”  These unusual, rhythmic movements, which have circulated for decades among yogis but are finding new popularity today, have been credited with the ability to heal the body, balance the chakras, and reverse the aging process in just minutes a day. Legend says that a British explorer learned them in a Himalayan monastery from Tibetan monks who were living in good health far beyond normal lifespans.

Whatever the provenance or effects of the Five Rites/Five Tibetans, it seems clear that the practices of Yantra Yoga and Trul-Khor are keeping ancient, secret traditions alive and intact in a way that hatha yoga, perhaps, can no longer claim. “I think [Yantra Yoga] is very much as it was when it was first introduced. There’s an unbroken lineage,” Katz says. “It’s rarely presented to the public, which limits the likelihood of the distortion of the lineage. This may not be the case with some hatha yoga traditions, where there are various interpretations. I think the lineage in this particular tradition is very strong.”

Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article Into The Mystic By Elaine Lipson