Confession: I Don’t Do Visualization Meditation.

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Confession: I Don’t Do Visualization Meditation.

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By Daniel Scharpenburg

I attend a local Rime (nonsectarian) Vajrayana Buddhist Temple and I love it. I go to as many events and retreats as I can, and I volunteer for a few duties, including teaching classes.

My community means a lot to me.

This means I’ve been on retreats with Vajrayana teachers multiple times (sometimes Theravada and Zen teachers visit too). I like Vajrayana teachers, I really do. I find the bowing, chanting, bells and drums to be interesting and entertaining.

I have to admit the big focus on rebirth is something I don’t connect with at all. I am, by nature, skeptical of such things in a way that most of the people in my community are not. And that’s okay. That’s definitely on the list of reasons I give when people ask why I have trouble thinking of myself as a Vajrayana Buddhist. But that’s not what I’m writing about now.

I’m writing about visualization practices. I’m confessing that I don’t really do them.

A point comes where the teacher says something along the lines of: “Imagine a glowing ball of clear light directly in front of you.” or “Picture a Buddha sitting up here in front of you, looking upon you with eyes of compassion.”

These sound like lovely practices and they are, but I have trouble, and I wonder if I’m the only one. I sit there trying to picture clear light for 20 minutes. Sometimes I do for a little bit, but I always end up giving up and going to following the breath or zazen instead.

I often wonder, “Are the other 40 or so people in this room doing this without difficulty? Am I the only one?” and “When people say they connect with Vajrayana practice, is this what they mean?”

I have friends who are deeply involved in Vajrayana practice. They are engaged in dedicated study with good teachers. They do visualization practices and I don’t think they struggle with them at all.

On a final note I want to say something about Trungpa. I almost consider Chogyam Trungpa as one of my teachers. I consider him as a patriarch of American Buddhism. I’ve meditated in his stupa. I’ve studied his teachings a great deal, but there’s only so far I seem to be able to go with the training he set up.

Visualization meditations are a huge roadblock for me and at the higher levels of his teachings, that’s really not something you can get around.

 

 

Photo: Peter Schaller

Editor: Peter Schaller

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Columnist & Featured Writer at The Tattooed Buddha
Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher and Chan Adept living in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project. He also runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center. Daniel has a BA in English from KU and handles paperwork for a living.

His teaching style has been compared to that of the earliest Mahayana teachers and Chan Masters.

Daniel has taken Bodhisattva Vows in both the Nagarjuna and Asanga lineages and is a lineage holder in the Empty Cloud lineage of Chan Master Hsu Yun.

Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter