The conflict between tradition and innovation

- through Francois Leclercq

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The moment I came out of the three-year, three-month meditation retreat in 1989, my world turned upside down. I expected the basic structure of reality to always be the same. Only the content would change. New fashion, new music, new movies, new technology. People would be like before, but with different ideas and attitudes. But no, the container itself, the structure and configuration of the monde had changed, not just the content. And the shape of mind he himself had changed, the daily spirit at least. I then understood that fitting the square peg of the 11th century spiritual methods I had studied into the round hole of the 21st century was a foolish task. Another peg was needed. THE gasoline of these profound truths would always be the same, must be the same. But this ankle had to reflect the shape and structure that corresponds to the reality of right now: the challenges, chaos, opportunities and reformatted form of the everyday mind.

This type of spiritual renewal is needed in every generation. Making healing and transformation methods accessible and effective has been the work of great practitioners throughout the ages. Whether in a tribal village or a great civilization, those who are products of their time and culture are the best vehicle for expressing timeless wisdom in a form contemporary to their world. Such a person is generally recognized by his peers in the spiritual hierarchy, as well as by the majority of people, for his various qualities and development. This status may have been acquired through great effort or conferred by lineage or lineage. In Tibetan Buddhism, this revival has been fully formalized in several unique ways. THE tulku The system depends on the intentional reincarnation of a realized being, either as a blood relative or as an ordinary person. Either the follower leaves a letter indicating where the next emanation will be, or a child showing unique qualities and knowledge of their past life may be discovered. But there is a catch.

While the Buddhism of Tibet and Bhutan evokes images of wild yogis and yoginis dwelling in the solitude of the mountains and wandering in the green valleys, these beings were and still are in the minority. Tibetan, like all other forms of Buddhism, is highly hierarchical. Thus, in the real world, spiritual power transmissions are subject to favoritism, nepotism, politics, monetary concerns, status, and many other forms of corruption. In this case, renewal becomes improbable. A more direct and rarefied tradition is that of terton, those who have the special ability to discover hidden spiritual treasures, which appear in the earth, underwater, in the sky or simply in the open sky of the mind. The story of the origin and unlocking of these cryptic messages has of course been well described elsewhere. But their goal is to refresh the eternal wisdom of Vajrayana or Tantric methods through innovative practices. Such spa the treasures are highly respected and well received.

At the other end of the scale are the free inventions of the modern ego which turns its voracious gaze toward spirituality. In some places, like Sedona, Glastonbury, and Ubud in Bali, throwing a stone in any direction will hit a dozen gurus with self-revealed teachings and techniques. But an older example is enough to express the essential point. Beginning in 1902, CW Leadbeater wrote a series of books describing the chakras and the aura (subtle body) in great detail: how they chakra and aura appear in the body, what disorders or ill health look like, and how “thought forms” appear as they pass from one person to another. This was all based on his seeing experience. Almost everyone who is immersed in spiritual practice, biofield healing, energy medicine, yoga, tai chi or meditation in its many forms is aware that there is a vast spectrum of possibilities for human development and nuances of consciousness. Psychic development, deeper sensitivities, and empathic skills are a reality, no matter what Wikipedia says. But the water is indeed getting murky with the “anything goes” and “make-up whatever reality you choose” paradigm of New Age thinking stretching to its outer limits. Leadbeater's personal experiences have been cloned and copied endlessly, without any corroboration in the original traditions or practices. I mean, funnel shaped chakra? Missed chakra?

So what about the Buddhist, Christian, Taoist or Hindu contemplative practitioner? Even more so, what about the teachers of these spiritual paths? Are they tied to a rigid set of dogmas and methodology, and a restricted way of thinking and feeling? Or are they free to adopt the “I am my own religion” mentality, or to invent the next big thing based on their personality rather than their essence? These are difficult questions, and ones that have not been adequately examined, with examples from the ends of the spectrum, both hidden and free, found in great abundance. But as is often the case, we find that both polarities express important truths and that there is a sort of “middle way.”

Tradition is the vehicle, the enclosure that allows us to practice in a specific, relatively safe and proven context. But there are times when a long personal experience begins to amplify or push the boundaries of that narrative. Everyone's visualization is not the same, nor is the pronunciation of a mantra. And their experience is also unique in many subtle ways. For all spiritual practice to be a lived experience, when one touches the Spirit of Wisdom, then the true guru, the divinity, dakinietc. appear, and can be very different from a please or a statue. We can only dwell on the theory or, as I like to say, “stay in short pants” for a while. Tradition is there to liberate you, not to lock you in a Dharma prison forever. But again, when is it real freedom or just the same old mundane, self-centered ego trip? The answer is surprisingly simple and therefore is usually missed.

One way to get to this point is to research and practice for a long time, then let go. Allowing authentic experience, sincere intention and silence to cook in the crucible of the soul, until “something” new can arise. During my three-year retreat, I had fallen painfully into an essential core, a naked and raw way of being, free from the programming and training that fills our lives. It is a touchstone from which Wisdom Mind can speak, however you arrive at it. And anything that doesn't resonate with that is always suspect, it's just neutral, there are more trees and rocks in the landscape. This solid foundation, this thing you can trust, has been given various names along the way, but has almost never become what it should be: part of our everyday jargon and spiritual language. I always liked the Tibetan phrase “ injie minjie go gi doo!» which means “absolutely necessary!” » Perhaps the most appropriate term is “essence”, the one used by the great modern-day adept, GI Gurdjieff.

If one cannot yet differentiate the essence and programming of the personality within oneself, then all dogmas must be respected. And if the essence is present, wisdom can speak, and its voice will triumph over every false narrative. Then Dharma will always be Dharma, but not the Dharma you started with, nor necessarily the way it sounds in a book. It’s the splash of frigid water that Chogyam Trungpa spoke of, disrupting our lukewarm bath. Vajrayana is a dangerous game and, as the wonderful and great Dawa Rinpoche said, “Going through it is not for the faint of heart.” »

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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