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My Tibetan Roommates

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

My Tibetan roommates were having a lively discussion the other day about theory and spiritual practice. “Theory,” of course, is View.

The question revolved around the value of practices such as prostrations and mantra. Are they worthwhile in and of themselves, or do you need to first know the theory or world view of the tradition in which you are practicing before you begin?

The roommate on the “side” of practice emphasized the spiritual and ethical Views of the tradition that are embedded in the practices. The other was arguing that Tibetan Buddhism is really a science and that you must go step-by-step, learning the tenets first before you can receive transmission and practice with a good result.

Cool roommates, doncha think?

Their discussion touched on many issues of relevance to modern practitioners.

First of all, receiving View teachings from an accomplished teacher is not just a mental or intellectual exercise. View teachings are transmission. The teachings are one expression of the expanded state of the teacher.

The words of an accomplished teacher are vidya Shakti, direct wisdom emanations of the primordial state. The words that come out of the mouth of an accomplished teacher have the power to directly convey the fruit, or result, of the practice.

In the Hindu tradition, the words of the teacher are the Goddess or Shakti Matangi. Matangi is both the audible words of the teacher and the Shakti of the unbroken transmission. She is the preserver of the transmission.

If you are receiving View teachings, you are already practicing, and you have already tasted the fruit of the practice. This does not mean that you necessarily have recognized the transmission or are able to consciously work with it or stabilize it. But it is there. The process has begun.

Receiving View teachings from someone who embodies those teachings is different from learning about a tradition in an academic setting, or from someone who has just read about those ideas, or only has a little bit of accomplishment. View teachings are direct experience and a form of direct realization practice. Simply playing around with ideas is not.

Second, practice and View are expressions or reflections of each other. The practices of the tradition embody View and blossom into View. Another way of saying this is that great beings discover Reality through practice and the View that emerges to become their embodied state. They transmit the practices and the View. We receive these transmissions, do the practices and through that activity, discover the same Reality for ourselves that was discovered by those who have gone before us.

That View and practice are intimately joined is proved by the fact that two people with differing orientations or Views can do the same practice and get different results. Practice is fundamentally related to View. So my roommate was correct in saying that it is crucial to receive View teachings, but it must be added that transmissions of View are already the result and the heart of practice.

Finally it must also be said that every being is on the path of Self-realization, and that every practice and every View eventually leads to that. In the end, there is no View and no practice. But View and practice are tools that our world has provided to us in its limitless grace.

In Ma’s Love,

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