Dear Respected Brothers and Sisters,
I am seeking some advice from my other ordained monastics regarding my practice in the Mahayana and how it relates to the Theravada. I ask for your patience and understanding as I wish to exclude no one from this topic. But I do see that it is possible that my fellow monastics may best be able to relate to me and guide me as elders. However if you have insight I seek your guidance whether or not you have received the full ordination precepts.[/i]
I initially started my practice in the Vipassana Tradition under SN Goenka and found much inspiration and faith in the Dhamma. After a few of years of practice and a number of retreats I encountered a teacher in the Gelug Tibetan Tradition. During this time my aspiration was ordination and I saw a teacher who was present as a mentor. After about 4 years (3 ordained) I realized that some of my deep concerns and questions regarding the Vajrayana were not being answered and I saw that I really had no actual faith in the Vajrayana practice. I did find much integrity in the commentaries that related to the Suttra teachings, Karma, the Four Noble Truths, etc. But I could not continue with just this emphasis. I ended up leaving this practice, continuing with my ordination and going to another Mayayana Monastery in a Zen Tradition. This practice has an emphasis on the Theravada Pali source texts as well as the Chinese Agamas. This was a wonderful relief for me as I was once again connected with the Sattipatana Sutta and the Anapanasati Sutta as a basis of practice. However after taking the Bhikku Precepts in this tradition I am once again seeing that I do not relate to, nor do I believe are authentic, the Mahayana Suttras, nor the idea of remaining bound to samsara to benefit others. In the Pali Sutta's I do not hear Buddha describe the volition of bohichitta as a method of practice. Our tradition does not teach these in a strict sense, never the less they are present in the sublty of the practice and environment. I see that wish to receive guidance in the Pali Sources and I deeply question the authenticity of the other sources, I'm not sure exactly why this is, as I have no actual understanding. I have also been questioning the general practices in our monastery where retreats, play, sports, music, computer access, and social time seem to be emphasized over the practice of meditation and study. In the spirit of brotherhood we have very little formal meditation time and study time, yet our play and sports time seems to be quite abundant. Though I do not have an actual interest in sports and music I still can rejoice in my brothers choice of practice. I actually feel there should, and could be a balance, especially as we are meant to be mindful throughout the four postures, but I see many brothers who may be emphasizing a non-contemplative way of life and I am affected by this. I have also seen that my access to food and money are not moving me more deeply into renunciation nor am I gaining humility through the alms process.
I request the guidance of my fellow bhikkus and bhikkunis in order to help me see more clearly. I discuss these topics amongst my sangha here as well and the communication is good. But I cannot tell them that whenever I recite the Heart Suttra that I feel we are directly disrespecting one of the foremost disciples of the Buddha. I cringe a bit every time we chant "Listen Shariputtra...." as if someone has something to teach him.
I am trying to look more deeply into the conditions of practice that lead to a more conducive and contemplative and this is again leading me to look for a monastery that emphasizes the contemplative life, the study of the suttas, simplicity, and renuciation. And I see that I need the support of the sangha, in meditation, study, as solid mentors, simple in life, practice, food and requisites. But I also see the clear potential for my habit energy to simply find dissatisfaction where ever I land but I feel that, though I have much respect for the Mahayana, I may be emphasizing what is not most suitable for my practice. I feel as a Thervada practitioner in a Mahayana Tradition.
Thank you for your time and guidance.