RITUALS & PRACTICES
While Buddhism is seen as a religious tradition, Buddha didnt really see himself as a god or supernatural being. He was simply a person who saw beyond his own confusion to attain enlightenment. When we talk about becoming enlightened, it’s not that Buddha transcended our world and went somewhere else. In fact Buddha discovered, underneath his own ignorance he could discover real inner peace. He found as a human race, we all have the potential to become more awake and that ignorance is only a state of mind.
The main schools of Tibetan Buddhism below, discuss the three turnings of the wheel of dharma. Dharma refers to Buddha’s teachings from which he found enlightenment. The first turning is sometimes called the “Hinayana,” or “lesser vehicle” because the emphasis is on taming one’s own mind before bringing practice off the cushion. Often referred to as Theravada school, this form of Buddhism took root in places like Burma and Thailand. Then there’s “Mahayana,” or the “greater vehicle,” a pathway to study compassion practices to benefit all beings. Zen, for example is part of the Mahayana school in Japan or Korea. The third turning of the wheel of dharma called “Vajrayana,” or “indestructible vehicle.” is very unique to Tibet. Having studied Hinayana and Mahayana traditions, a practitioner will take a guru, who teaches and empowers them in Vajrayana. These practices are very secret, and only offered to those properly initiated by an authorized teacher.
The Vajrayana practices are also known as tantric teachings, beginning with “ngondro,” translated as “before you go.” They are the preliminary practices of doing prostrations, mantra recitation, mandala formation, and visualization of the teacher. They are called ngondro because the practitioner does them before they go on to a “sadhana,” a longer practice.
The Sadhana often includes a visualization and recitation of a mantra meant to connect the practitioner with her innate wakefulness. The tantric path is often referred to as expedient because, as many great teachers of this lineage demonstrated, we take the challenging aspects of our life and meditate on them, making them a genuine part of our spiritual journey toward enlightenment. Looking to the example of these teachers we can find inspiration for our own life.
Tibetan Buddhist practice has lots of rituals and spiritual practices such as mantras and yogic techniques. Very strong in Tibetan culture, are the beliefs in supernatural beings. Buddhas and bodhisattvas walk the earth & spirits from earlier Tibetan religions are held in reverence. Bodhisattvas are portrayed as both benevolent godlike figures and wrathful deities.
Lay people also have rituals which are mostly carried out in temples & monasteries.
These include Prostrations & Prayers repeated over & over using mala beads, incense burning, mantra chanting. Lay people also provide physical support to the monasteries as well as relying on the monks to organise the rituals. Pilgrimage is also extremely important in the Tibetan Buddhist culture amongst other rituals as a way of gathering Bodhichitta and good karma.
SOME MEDITATION TIPS: for some, meditation is quite a chore. You find somewhere quiet to sit, you try to be still and quiet and then what happens? Your mind becomes filled with all kinds of crazy thoughts . The more you try to clear the thoughts, the more crazy thoughts start to bombard you. Is this sounding familiar? Don’t worry what you’re experiencing is perfectly normal. Over the years you’ve taught your mind well to overthink too many things at one time and now you need to retrain it. What’s happening here, is the minute you start to quieten the mind it starts to go into shock and revert itself back to what it knows best. There’s really nothing wrong with you, and no reason why you can’t meditate. So here’s how to solve the problem. As you say it quietly just focus on the breath nothing else. Experience the breath entering and leaving the nostrils and experience how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. If thoughts start to enter your mind allow them, acknowledge them and let them pass but don’t give them too much energy. If you do this in your practice every time you try to meditate, eventually the intrusions will stop at their own accord.
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