From: Rahul Brown < >
The video—Yogis or Tibet – A rare documentary
Looks interesting! I’ll watch it when I’ve got some time.
Tibetans practice Vajrayana Buddhism, which is steeped in esoteric and tantric practices. These are often secret practices too, passed among small groups perhaps because of the supernatural power they can awaken. This is contrasted with Mahayana Buddhism that is more like bhakti, with deity worship, singing, chanting, praying etc. Theravada Buddhism emphasizes meditation much more and is a lot like Vedanta– highly scientific and experience- oriented. And also having no secret practices, and thus making itself universally relevant and applicable as a raw science of mind and matter.
Very interestingly, Neem Karoli Baba used to send his disciples to practice meditation with two Indian Theravadin teachers: SN Goenka, and Anagarika Munindra. Both were Vipassana teachers, one in the tradition of the Burmese masters Mahasi Sadayaw and the other a student of U Ba Khin, who was a disciple of Ledi Sadayaw. They were of course contemporaries, and good friends, so there was only minor difference in their emphasis on specific aspects of Vipassana practice.
People used to ask Neem Karoli Baba how to raise kundalini, and he would tell them to serve the hungry and needy with love. The sum total of the direct spiritual guidance he gave people was “chant Ram, or Sita-Ram; serve others with love; practice vipassana meditation”. Occasionally he would also send people to be with Swami Sivananda, or Ananda Moyi Ma, but never gave specific instructions about what to do when he got there. Despite having an ashram in Kainchi and close access to many Himalayan yogis (and perhaps even Tibetan ones), he never sent his disciples there.
The current Dalai Lama was a good friend of both Munindra and Goenka when they were alive. At one point, Goenka and Dalai Lama were discussing the relevance and need for all the rituals in the way Tibetans practice. As a result of the conversation, Dalai Lama sent two monks to attend a 10-day Vipassana retreat by Goenka as a test. The condition was that they had to suspend all other rituals, practices, and prayers to completely follow the instructions of the retreat. Turns out that on day 3, the monks started seeing spiritual light in meditation. Dalai Lama was shocked, saying that it takes his monks 2 years of intense training to perceive divine light. After that, many Tibetan monks in India have taken Vipassana retreats in Goenka style.
Another differentiation is that its widely recognized that you don’t have to be a perfected master to be a good Vipassana teacher. This is very different than say Kriya yoga– which in some ways is so high powered that you can’t get really serious about practice without a teacher. It’s like trying to fly a rocket ship when you are a monkey– recipe for disaster. Though Goenka is regarded as one of the best teachers of Vipassana, he’s not a monk, and never had the first dip of the nirvanic experience. Many of his students have taken the dip, but he never did.
And there are some interesting stories related to this: there was one retreat given by U Ba Khin, and of the 30 participants, 28 had their first experience of nirvana. The only two who did not were Goenka and his wife! Also, Goenka had a doctor friend who had known him for many years while he was the leader of the Hindu community in Burma, after he became a Vipassana teacher, and started teaching in India. That said, he never took a Vipassana course until he was much older, maybe his 50s or 60s. On his very first course so late in life, he had his first dip of the nirvanic experience! And Goenka, who had been practicing for decades by then had still not had the experience. So interesting stuff!
(Skanda987’s comment: This is probably due to one of more of these:
1) Difference of each person’s level of spiritual advancement.
2) One’s intensity of love/ sentiments/ feelings/ acuteness of desire for nirvana experience.)