Author Topic: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?  (Read 16472 times)

WoselTenzin

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I sometimes wonder whether there is such a thing as degeneration in Dharma practice although sometimes we do hear people say that we or others have degenerated. 

Why is that? Because if we have made any real progress at all in our mind, it should be irreversible.

Otherwise it would not have been progress in the first place and what we saw or thought as progress was not real or just superficial.  As such, when put under challenge, the real self emerges again. 

What does everyone think?

diamond girl

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2011, 10:53:20 AM »
Yes definitely degeneration in Dharma practice happens. This is simply the existence of samsara and all the negative karma and habituations we have collected in this lifetime and many previous lives. I know that I make it sound morbid, it actually is not.

The fact that we can actually ask if we have degenerated is positive, meaning we have enough awareness about our thoughts and actions to question ourselves. This awareness is probably part of the progress that HAS taken place. If there was no Dharma seed planted in our minds and Dharma practice, we would probably never recognize any degeneration in ourselves. In fact, we would deny it and most likely spend much energy getting angry and blaming others for our deterioration.

However, simply recognizing is not enough. It is what we do about it to stop further degeneration. Times like this one must push oneself to do more Dharma and push to reach the next level of practice. This is, I feel, the only way to really achieve attainments.

dsiluvu

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2011, 12:16:37 PM »
Yes I have heard of degeneration in your Dharma practice. And degeneration is quite dangerous especially if we are doing tantra I've heard. In some cases it can also make one lose one's mind, they call it "wind off". Many lamas speak of it and there are many commentaries on it especially before one enters the tantric path. So I guess if it can happen to a tantric practitioner who is supposedly more learned and more senior in dharma... hence it should also be possible for the ones not on the tantric path yet. And being ignorant about it is the scariest. So yes I agree with diamond girl
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The fact that we can actually ask if we have degenerated is positive, meaning we have enough awareness about our thoughts and actions to question ourselves. This awareness is probably part of the progress that HAS taken place. If there was no Dharma seed planted in our minds and Dharma practice, we would probably never recognize any degeneration in ourselves. In fact, we would deny it and most likely spend much energy getting angry and blaming others for our deterioration.

However, simply recognizing is not enough. It is what we do about it to stop further degeneration. Times like this one must push oneself to do more Dharma and push to reach the next level of practice. This is, I feel, the only way to really achieve attainments.


I guess if I am able to even acknowledge it, that is a good sign I am not off yet... but yes it does not just stay there, we have to do something positive to get out of it and overcome it before it gets bigger.

A senior dharma brother once gave this scenario: If you are always unaware and ignorant but you like playing with knifes, and due to your bad habituations you one day accidentally cut or hurt someone... would you still collect negative karma from the action even though you were ignorant about it? The answer is a YES you still collect the negative karma. And if left unpurified, this negative karma grows day by day and it can become a source of your degeneration - meaning you never progressing in correcting it, stopping your negative mind/actions and amending what you have done.

Degeneration is scary that is why we continue with our practice and do more. We must stop thinking or dwelling in the negatives but do something about it. We are so lucky to have Dorje Shugden practice where in his prayers there is "Kawang" we can do daily to help us swiftly purify and combat our negative mind from arising. It can be found here http://dorjeshugden.com/wp/?page_id=57

Helena

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2011, 12:02:53 AM »
This is such a wonderful post to read.

Thank you for your valuable thoughts and comments, Diamond Girl and DSILUVU.

Degeneration in my Dharma Practice is my greatest fear. But even I recognise that my fear of it is not great enough for me to really pull myself together and just go full steam ahead like all the great Lamas that we all have the good fortune to read about and meet. No matter what hardships and adversity they go through, they do not degenerate. But instead, they practice even more.

My Guru often says that it is because we really have no idea how Karma really works. Therefore, it does not scare us enough to be deathly afraid and we will all want to take ordination vows immediately. We do not see how we are causing ourselves to be reborn in lower realms and etc. We do not grasp the gravity of our situation. Hence, we will slack, slip, fall, rise and go back a few steps, etc.

Degeneration seems to accompany our path every now and then.

However, if we are determined, then we will find that with every fall, we leap further and we will keep moving forward. It is all about conviction and perseverance. We must believe that our only end to suffering is enlightenment and without getting there asap, we are running into the risk of degeneration at any point in time, despite how long and far ahead we are in our path.

That is really the scariest part.
Helena

Damian.D

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2011, 09:46:33 PM »
Most definitely there is such thing as degeneration of our practice. Its scary because it can get to such a stage that you would never even think you had degnerated.The only thing that gives it away is the people that we are surrounded by.

They can give the clues, are we leaving people with the same view they have of us, can it be that we are surrounded by difficult people who think they know whats best for our practice?

Chances are if you can accept that people have a point with regards to our practice degenerating then at least we have some hope. But if we are still stubborn believing its everyone else who is wrong no matter how many people are in agreement then hold on for a bumpy ride.

iloveds

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2011, 11:46:21 PM »
The gauge for myself is how much it bothers me to do more for others,
When I choose myself over others so I can get that extra hour of sleep.
If I find myself saying I need... I need...
then I have an answer already to the question has my practice degenerated.

@dsiluvu ...valid point, must acknowledge first before can do anything about it, but I seriously doubt a person in degeneration would be able to see it, due to a clouded view.

@helena... agree that if your determined you can get out of it, but how to be determined when you think your lilly white pure and everyone else is wrong.


Positive Change

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2011, 03:54:25 AM »
We are in samsara and hence I am sure degeneration in our Dharma practice exists... purely because we are who we are. We are still attached to our egos and everything associated with it. And the scary part is we can't really "see" our own degeneration... or at least it is not as clear as it is to others.

Hence it is important that we take feedback and criticism from those close to us positively and check within ourselves to see if what they say have any relevance or merit at all. We often get "caught up" in what we think is doing good that we actually get lost in the process of wanting to look good. Not sure if I am making myself clear but that is, in my mind, the fundamental flaw in our mindset....  in that we think we are doing good in our Dharma practice and we view it from a selfish standpoint and forget it is NOT about us but about others. That is our true Dharma practice. When we focus inwards on our journey we are degenerating!

triesa

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2011, 04:47:58 AM »
Thanks WoselTenzin for posting this thread. It is really thought provoking.

I myself find it hard to even pass an opinion of whether other dharma practitioners are progressing or degenerating, becasue our minds are just not up to that level to see everything crystal clear.

So in my humble opinion, it is better to work on our own progress, always remembering our guru's advice  and not to be too judgemental on others' spiritual progress or degeneration.

Big Uncle

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2011, 02:58:47 AM »
Yes, this is indeed a wonderful thread and thought-provoking as well. Degeneration is always lurking behind every practitioner because our the countless time we have spent in Samsara migrating from one realm to another. Just look at the amount of years we had spent without the Dharma and the amount of time we are in Dharma. Also, look at how much of real Dharma we are actually doing although we are already in the Dharma. This is a wonderful yardstick and sometimes we do slip and degeneration happens.

However, we are in control and the idea is to seize control and stop ourselves from slipping even more. It is impossible to be perfect Buddhas and Bodhisattvas right now but we can pretend to be and we can remind ourselves of our potential. Sadhanas, repairing samaya, Dorje Shugden Kangsol and purificatory practice is extremely crucial and it will make a difference if we perform these as they do stop or lessen our degeneration but the rest is really up to us.

samayakeeper

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2011, 06:18:20 AM »
Yes, there is.

We may check ourselves:

Have we been keeping up with our practices that our Lama gave us? Or do we start finding them a chore? Or do we say to ourselves that we are lacking time because of that big promotion at work? Or are we into a new relationship and just put our time and effort into it? Or we are just doing the practices like a mechanical robot without wanting to read and learn more? Or are we doing more for others? Or are we being distracted by new friends and join them in other activities that take us away from our practices?

It is not wrong to work hard to get the big promotion at work, or start a new relationship, or have new friends and sometimes chill out with them. The problem is we may get carried away especially if we are not strong.

Aurore

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2011, 09:33:05 AM »
Thanks WoselTenzin for posting this thread. It is really thought provoking.

I myself find it hard to even pass an opinion of whether other dharma practitioners are progressing or degenerating, becasue our minds are just not up to that level to see everything crystal clear.

So in my humble opinion, it is better to work on our own progress, always remembering our guru's advice  and not to be too judgemental on others' spiritual progress or degeneration.


I agree with Triesa that it's undeniably difficult for us to judge when we have not achieved a certain level of attainments in spiritual practice. In such matter, I believe the best person to point out who is degenerating or not ultimately is the lama. In any spiritual practice especially one which leads to faster enlightenment will surface more challenges which leads to faster degeneration if vows and guru devotion are taken lightly. A lama should be able to gauge if one is ready or not for higher tantric initiation, otherwise as what dsiluvu has mentioned the wind can go off.

Whether or not spiritual practice which focus inwards can end up causing degenerating, I am not truly convinced. It's like saying in the Theravadan path, you will degenerate eventually. Not that such thing is impossible, however, spiritual path can start from wanting to help yourself first and we gradually progress to a middle scope and so forth. Therefore, degeneration in a dharma practice can only exist if there is a progression in the very first place.

DSFriend

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2011, 02:47:59 PM »
I sometimes wonder whether there is such a thing as degeneration in Dharma practice although sometimes we do hear people say that we or others have degenerated. 

Why is that? Because if we have made any real progress at all in our mind, it should be irreversible.

Otherwise it would not have been progress in the first place and what we saw or thought as progress was not real or just superficial.  As such, when put under challenge, the real self emerges again. 

What does everyone think?

There could be progress but it doesn't mean that it is irreversible. From what I understand, even 1st level bodhisattvas can degenerate,...what more us who has no attainments.

If we are fortunate to have received vows, it is a powerful means for us at least stop creating further negativities and rehabituate our minds. If we break our vows, we must quickly amend...as it will help prevent us from degenerating further. Without vows, we do not have any way possible to hold ourselves back from heading for the 3 lower realms.

Ones we have our vows/practices from our Guru, we must work towards holding them well and stabilizing our practice. Studying, contemplating, and engaging in the path of accumulation and purification will help us from degenerating due to such low merits in this degenerated age.


Barzin

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2011, 07:26:48 PM »
It is actually very scary for people who practice dharma to know that "degeneration" is following behind our back.  We can spend so much time doing dharma, learning dharma and talking dharma but when negative karma catches up, just that split second of negative thought can lead you back into deeper delusions and struggles.  That is why Vajrayana practice is so powerful and amazing.  It is said to the the swiftest path but it requires a lot of determination for the mind to not sway, hence prepare for higher tantra.

I have heard, seen people can be doing dharma disappeared out of sudden.  I was told that they lacked of merits so I always wonder do they actually still continue to do their practice or they actually abandon dharma as a whole?  Whether or not they do, but abandoned their guru, doesn't it considering as abandon dharma and disparaged Buddha?  So even if we do a lot, doesn't mean that our merits won't be exhausted.  Negative Karma is scary, we don't know how big or small... Just as we know they are around the corner breathing behind our neck.

I loved what one friend of mine told me, many of us have had experience of even seeing a spirit of have had heard stories and experience with spirits.. but so rarely we heard people had seen a Buddha or talking dharma experiences...  It only shows how much negative karma we have.  Even dharma is in front of us, we can't see.  It is very very scary indeed.  Degeneration.

Lam Chung

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2011, 11:40:51 PM »
I believe that degeneration can happen easily. my respected teacher once said, "If we are not progressing with our practice, then we are degenerating: there is no such thing as standing still in Dharma." I pondered this a lot, not wanting to believe it, but I am now proof that it is true.

I think that I am correct in saying that only a realisation that is supported by emptiness is free from potential degeneration. in past lives we have all attained tranquil abiding many times, but where is it now? Rebirth in the god realms requires tremendous merit, but we have died from that state and not even memories remain.

iloveds

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Re: Is there such a thing as degeneration in our Dharma Practice?
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2011, 08:53:24 PM »
@Lam Chung... Welcome to the forum. Your words are quite deep for me to ponder over with my breakfast. To have met with the teachings again is also of tremendous merits. But without the support of Merits we will degenerate that I have seen and witnessed as being inevitable. A person whose mind is clouded will eventually be swepted away by degenerative karma until no words you can say will turn them around. At that stage its already to late hence give them space for them to come around.


I'm still scratching my head with your commentary above.

What do you mean by "realisation supported by emptiness is free from potential degeneration"? Can you elaborate on this one please.