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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Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project. Daniel has a BA in English from KU and handles paperwork for a living. Once a Novice Monk in the Korean Zen tradition, Daniel dropped out of monk school to become a regular person.
Daniel has taken Bodhisattva Vows.

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