Mani Drupchen complete

Kirby on fellow pilgrim's laps in Ladakh, India
Kirby on fellow pilgrim’s laps in Ladakh, India

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Hello again,

Back from attending Garchen Rinpoche – wow, what a being.  I think he embodies spontaneous, liberated, spacious heart – words don’t come close.  Hmm.  Well, I am a bit more grounded as a result – had the blessing of another Bodhicitta pill, as he says, (and I paraphrase) Bodhicitta is the warmth that we need to melt the ice of self grasping.

So, I think I am wrapping up the Mani Drupchen, finally.  I have a few more thoughts and considerations, but I think they will wait.  For now, here are my thoughts on how the military and Tibetan Buddhism might be similar.

Overall, there is a deep fundamental difference between say, the Army and attaining Buddhahood, however, there are some uncanny surface parallels. Apparently, not that I have conducted much research on this, Robert Thurman believes this topic to be a valid theory, considering the Buddha had been raised as a military leader when he was Prince Siddhartha.

Here is what I discovered as I sat on my cushion and pondered (distracted from meditation):

In the military there is a hierarchy among ranks and in a spiritual tradition there is also a hierarchy among lamas – maybe they know who has attained which realizations. The Retreat Master, who is sometimes known as the disciplinarian could be reflected in a Drill Sergeant role (just very compassionate and lovingly-kind beneath the crusty, rough exterior). There was quite a regimented schedule at this retreat – especially with chanting through the night – the night shifts of mantra recitation greatly reminded me of night watch in the army. In Tibetan Buddhism there are preliminary practices that one must do before taking on a tantric deity practice, these preliminary practices could be viewed as slowly advancing through the ranks – there are various “schools” one has to complete before becoming eligible for higher ranks. And in another manner, the stages of the path could be viewed similarly – for instance, the stage of accumulation, the stage of one taste, the stage of no more meditation, etc. With advancement through the “ranks,” one gains more responsibility and occasionally the little things in life get easier – for instance some of the high lamas, abbots, lineage holders, retreat masters, might be relieved from needing to prepare food.

A friend pointed out, when I mentioned this theory, that the lamas might be the officers, the monks could be seen as the enlisted personnel and the lay people (us) might be seen as the tax payers (basically watching and typically not having a clue about what is going on, at least on the subtle levels).

Thanks for reading and perhaps I will see you at the next Mani Drupchen.

Thanks for reading!

Kirby Moore

konchog chakchen


Published by Kirby Moore

Kirby Moore is a healing facilitator based in the beautiful rolling hills of Charlottesville, Virginia. He does sessions in-person and long distance via Skype and Zoom, working with Spiritual Astrology, Somatic Experiencing, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and Birth Process Work. His healing work is informed by fifteen years of meditation and Qigong practice. He works with client's intentions and deepest longings to attain clear, tangible results. Contact him for more info at (email): kirby [at] mkirbymoore [dot] com

5 thoughts on “Mani Drupchen complete

  1. That’s an interesting insight, that the common thread is vigilance. So perhaps one could say that religious and military structures have been developed to foster vigilance…

  2. Hi Kirby, I think you’re on to something. I felt in Taiwan that the disciplined structure of the monastery served to take the focus away from all the little details like, “What shall I wear?” and “What time shall I eat?” And that lets you focus on getting down to business and watching your mind–if of course that’s what you want to do! The problem is that Americans are such individualists, I started wondering whether such a strict monastic set-up could work in the US. It would be interesting, given your military experience, to hear what you think about individualism vs. discipline and structure as regards Americans in particular.

    1. Hi Meg, Thanks for sharing about your experience in Taiwan. Although I wonder if that level of discipline is truly necessary. And let me just mention one little tidbit which I forgot in my previous response. For me, what Buddhism and the military have most in common is vigilance. Of course in the military we are vigilant against outer foes, and in Buddhism it is the inner foes which create the most havoc. But it is that vigilance, the desire to get to know your enemies, to anticipate their moves and to have antidotes ready when our enemies act that I found to be very similar as well. There are few options in the military, basically fight, flight or freeze (and hide); whereas in Buddhism, there are possibly as many skillful practices as there are individuals. I just wanted to mention this however as I felt my last response was lacking in juiciness. This is more complete. And back to your question, with regard to American individualism vs. rigorous discipline, I plan to ponder it for a bit and then reply shortly. I do wonder though, if I am equipped to answer it. My mother, when she did some investigating into Buddhist theory, said that she thought I had always been Buddhist, that it was only in my 20’s that I found it [externally]. But I will do my best.

  3. Interesting post, Kirby. What do you think it is about regimented structure that serves the (rather different!) purposes of both the military and organized religion?

    1. Hi Meg,

      For me, having reliable discipline and structure around me leads to my feeling more secure. If everyone can be counted on to hold up their end of the bargain, I just feel better. As a result, I can drop in deeper into what I am doing, which in either (very different!) case would be settling the mind deeper into its joyful states through meditation or jolting the brain with a shot of adrenaline as I am in my fox hole with my (reliable) buddy soldier, preparing for a potential fire fight… Yes, good question. Terry Barrett whom I believe you know, told me that Robert Thurman said something similar. Without knowing exactly what Dr. Thurman said, I believe it had something to do with the Buddha’s prior military training as a commander affecting his formulation of the systematic Buddhist path. Having been in the military myself, and staying awake on several occasions for several days straight, I noticed definite similarities when doing the same at the Mani Drupchen. Having mentioned all of this, I do not recommend anyone go into the military and I would be happy to chat with anyone who is on the fence in this regard. I realize I have not mentioned much with regard to new information, but perhaps we can speak in person, when my mind is more cogent. Thanks for reading!

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