Some time ago I thought of starting a web site called Dopey Dharma and inviting readers to submit the best example of nonsense taught by Buddhist teachers, outlandish claims made by them or gobbledygook they had written. Then at the end of the year I thought of selecting the best of the worst and giving them the Dopey Dharma Award. I finally abandoned the idea. Firstly I don’t have enough time and secondly I thought I might be sent so much material that it might be difficult to handle.
Last week I finished reading Miranda Shaw’s Buddhist Goddesses of India, an excellent and long overdue study. I did have problems with some parts of the book though. Including Mayadevi, the Buddha’s mother, and Mahapajapati Gotami, his step mother, is such a study is questionable (neither was never elevated to the status of a goddess, even in Mahayana) and Shaw’s failure to give the periods when the various goddesses evolved detracts from the study’s value. Nonetheless, the book makes interesting reading. On page 10/11 Shaw addresses the question of whether Tantric goddesses are real or not. She finds some Westerners ‘no they don’t’ reply to the question to be a regrettable example of ‘crude absolutism’ and then says -
‘Seeking to address this rather crude absolutism, Bokar Rimpoche, a contemporary Tibetan teacher clarifies the ontological status of the deities. He explains that the deities are not illusions produced by the human mind. However, human envisionments of deities are mental fabrications that do not correspond precisely to the form of those deities. In that sense, Bokor Rimpoche concedes, a deity can be said to be a creation of the human psyche. This illusionary statue, however, holds true only of the human concept and image and not of a deity himself or herself. The deities are realities that transcend this world and “spontaneously assume…various forms…to benefit beings.” Religious practice, he holds, is an interaction between deity and devotee that invokes the protection, assistance, blessing, and revelation of the deity. Human envisionments of deity, as in the practice of deity yoga, offers a means to approach the deity and eventually to attain a direct vision of the deity’s divine form in all its glory and living reality. When deity and practitioner merge in the culmination of deity yoga, and their identities dissolve into one, it is not because the deity was unreal all along but because the practitioner has entered the radiant, blissful realm of nonduel awareness the deity inhabits. Moreover, the practitioner comes to recognize that the qualities of the deity were already present in a dormant state in his or her own being, awaiting to be awakened.’
I’m just a simple monk so my mind can only operate in terms of the ‘crude absolutism’ of ‘Yes they do’ or ‘No they don’t.’ Bokar Rimpoche’s ‘clarification’ looses me completely. Am I right in thinking that someone is trying to avoid a simple, straightforward answer?