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 Deity Devotion and Meditation Practice

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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Deity Devotion and Meditation Practice   Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:03 pm

Friends,
I've been phasing out from active participation on this forum, but I do have a question I would like to address to those who might be knowledgeable about Vajrayana Buddhist practice. Deity Devotion seems to be a dimension of that tradition. Can someone more knowledgeable than I am explain the integration of devotion to a deity and meditation and or mantric practice?
Thanks,
Bill
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breljo

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PostSubject: Re: Deity Devotion and Meditation Practice   Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:22 pm

Hi Bill



Although your question in the above post was in regard to Vajrayana Buddhist practice which I am not that familiar with, I couldn't help but think of a little work out of Russian Orthodox literature which relates to your question of how "mantric practice" might integrate to deity devotion. You being familiar with other mystic traditions might have heard of "The Way of a Pilgrim", which was written by an anonymus author during the days of what I believe was then still Tzarist Russia. The "Pilgrim" sets out on a spiritual quest to find out what it means to "pray without ceasing". trekking across much of Siberia and stopping at Masters of that traditiion called "Starets", or "Staretski"? One of these Starets gives him a "Mantra" which is now known I believe as the "Jesus Prayer" and it goes something like "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. He is told to recite this, I forget, something like ten thousand times a day, to begin with, and see what happens. It also mentions the "Pilgrim" carrying with him a copy of the "Philokalia", which is a collection of texts out of Eastern Orthodox Hesychast tradition which was compiled by Monks of Mt. Athos around the fourth or fifth century. (Wikipedia has some pretty good summaries on this).
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Deity Devotion and Meditation Practice   Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:42 pm

breljo wrote:
Hi Bill

Although your question in the above post was in regard to Vajrayana Buddhist practice which I am not that familiar with, I couldn't help but think of a little work out of Russian Orthodox literature which relates to your question of how "mantric practice" might integrate to deity devotion. .

Thank you for the response. I am quite familiar with this practice which goes to the earliest centuries of the desert tradition in Middle East Christianity. John Climacus, abbot of the monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai wrote of this tradition of sacred name and breath. In the beginning it was one word, the name of Yeshua, or Iesu (Greek), which was in two or three syllables repeated inwardly synchronizing with in-breath and out-breath. He called it the practice of "monologistos" or one word. And of course the devotee is uniting personal consciousness with that of the deity of the Pancrator or Cosmic Christ, as the doorway into union with the the Trinitarian Life of Abba, the Source, and the Spirit, the mutual in-pouring out-pouring of the Divine in all things.

It has occurred to me that the personal devotion to the deity, for example, Tara, in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition is a parallel to this practice which comes to us from the Hesychastic practice of early Eastern Christianity. It arises from an earlier tradition that is pre-Christian and partakes of Semitic mysticism of the practice of the "Remembrance of God" where invoking the name of the deity or sacred words which reference the deity aligned with breath in mantric form are the doorway into mystic experience.

The Sufi practices of invoking any of the 99 names of God in mantric formulation aligned with breath are such a parallel practice as well. The Jewish invocation of "Adonai" or the mantric phrase of "Shema' Ysrael" are also parallel in mystic, contemplative Judaism. I actually have a fascinating book on the topic Pray Without Ceasing- the Practice of Invocation in the World Religions. And along with mantric practice to a deity often the prayer rope, or beads are used, equally within Mahayana Buddhism we know with the use of the mala. With regard to Orthodox tradition, I would just add that the expanded formulation of the modern Jesus or Yeshua prayer was added to in later centuries to accommodate a theological formulation. But several contemporary teachers, including Lev Gillette, who has written extensively on the topic prefer the "monologistos" of John Climacus of Mt. Sinai, the invocation of one word, or holy name, in its simplicity.

I suppose because I know more about the practice of Hesychastic meditation and mantric use, I was interested in learning more about the Tibetan tradition and use of mantra and deity devotion and parallel understandings. (I have learned some because my sister is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism and has spoken much about deity devotion and mantras.) I did find this site which gives some explanation. http://www.khandro.net/deities.htm It may address some of the questions that arose on Lise's thread about communications from celestial beings, which are apparently regarded as emanations of pure being or Emptiness in Vajrayana tradition, and so the conflicts some people have with the ideas of a higher order of beings communicating with us don't need to present a problem. In the case of Yeshua, the personification of the Cosmic Christ, the Light that pre-exists in all things, Itself emanation from the Abba or Allaha in Aramaic semitic tradition(the Source from which all things arise), this idea of emanation personified seems to me not inconsistent with the Vajrayana tradition and practice and at the mystic level need not be a theological argument about "separate beings." I tend toward the universalist so such an idea would appeal to me.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Deity Devotion and Meditation Practice   Sat Mar 31, 2012 12:22 am

Bill-- recommend you check out the book -- SKILLFUL GRACE: Tara Practice for Our Time - teachings by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche

http://www.amazon.com/Skillful-Grace-Tara-Practice-Times/dp/9627341614/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333167428&sr=8-1Also this other book:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Free-Your-Mind-Liberator/dp/1559392266/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333167540&sr=1-2

Might be helpful.

josh
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breljo

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PostSubject: Re: Deity Devotion and Meditation Practice   Sat Mar 31, 2012 12:40 am

You are right Bill,it would seem to me also that wherever we may momentarily find ourselves on this vast expanse of "Indras Net" that it would be good to take a Universalist approach and not exclude any of an infinite variety of possibilities of experience, including such as personified emanations simply because we are unable to prove otherwise or because we may not have had such experiences ourselves.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Deity Devotion and Meditation Practice   Sat Mar 31, 2012 1:00 am

@Josh
Thanks for the reference!

@breijo

Thank you for sharing your perspective. Having had some experience of practicing across traditions I have found so much common ground, despite differing formulations and concepts.
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