Tormod wrote:As for Tibetan teachers, they adhere to spiritual customs that Buddha nowhere goes for in the Pali Canon. He did not keep any secret teachings or techniques, he says in the sutra about his last days, the Maha-parinibbana Sutta. Parts of it are online at Access to Insight.
Buddha: "I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back. Whosoever may think that it is he who should lead the community of bhikkhus, or that the community depends upon him, it is such a one that would have to give last instructions respecting them. But, Ananda, the Tathagata has no such idea as that it is he who should lead the community of bhikkhus, or that the community depends upon him." [DN 16, part 2, v. 32]
I posted a speculative article here. The stuff in Tibetan/Himalayan/Mongolian/Kalmuck Buddhism looks like old shamanic material dressed up in later add ons that invoked Buddha but were not in line with Buddha's compassionate teaching that he had given all needed instruction and had held no esoteric material back.
How Classically Educated Westerners May Have Become Enchanted by Tibetan Rinpoches, Tulkus, Lamas and Idealized Shambala?
Much of Western education has, since the Renaissance, been influenced by Plato's ideas. Plato, in his Republic, speculated about the possiblity of creating a society ruled by 'Guardians' a trained elite. In shorthand, this was popularized as the notion of the philosopher king, a superior being entitled to rule over inferior, less evolved mortals.
It came to me as a startling discovery that, according to Dodds in his book, The Greeks and the Irrational, a strong Thracian/Central European shamanic component influenced Greek thought, and entered Greek religious thought via Pythogoras.
After the terrible defeat of Athens in the Pelopannesian War, and its collapse from a participatory democracy into a series of dictatorships and a lethal crackdown on objective searching questioning of traditional religious beliefs, Plato reacted to this by incoporating much material from Pythagorean religion into his work.
Dodd's book, The Greeks and the Irrational
is now readable via Googlebooks. Dodds suggests and gives evidence that Plato's 'Guardians' are a fantasy of Pythogorean shamans trained to rule benevolently over society. Even reincarnation of the occult daimonic self, a shamanic idea, was incoporated by Pythagoras into his vision, and later parts of this influenced Plato's later works such as Timeaus and Phaedo--the very dialogues most cherished by Western gnostics
Read here and if Google books permits, the entire chapter
Plato incorporated material from Pythagorias into his Guardian/Philosopher King speculations and Pythagoras was influenced by Northern Balkan shamanism--the occult daimonic guiding self, transmigration of this hidden powerful self through a series of lives, ascension/travel through various levels--this is shamanic material--it isnt what Lord Buddha gave us at all. But it has a perennial grip when people are terrified and crave magic parents.
Now consider that Tibet was full of shamanic practices (Bon) prior to the arrival of Buddhist influence and that its old shamanic traditions and deities were incoporated into Buddhism.
What you have, dressed in red and brocade, are shamanic Guardian rulers, passing from one body to another.
Westeners who had been previously exposed to Plato, either via rigorous classical education, or more fleetingly, in popularized text book summaries, who then encountered all this Tibetan material would have felt a shiver of recognition.
A seeming fulfilment of the Platonic vision of a society ruled by 'philosopher kings' seemingly better than the scientifically jaded West.
What this actually shows us is the extent to which shamanic practices are encountered in old cultures and how resilient shamanic traditions have been when later belief systems are brought in, either by intellectual refugees such as Plato, or by missionaries such as Padmasambhava.
In the case of Tibet, Platonic hopes were not fulfilled. When Younghusband's expedition reached Lhasa at the beginning of the twentieth century, and forced the Tibetan government to allow entry, one officer was so horror striken at the wretched condition of prisoners liberated from the dungeons of this alleged Buddhist paradise, he wrote, that it was worth all the hardships of the journey to have been able to liberate these sufferers from their prisons
And Heinrich Harrer, in Seven Years in Tibet, a man who loved Tibet and its people and was entrusted with tutoring the Dalai Lama, wrote that he spent much of his time assisting the rich grandees of Lhasa. They sought Harrer's assistance asking him to write on their behalf to place orders for gems and precious materials to be sent to them from dealers in Europe.
The money for those pearls, corals and other jewels was exacted from their serfs who worked the land and suffered abominably.
Old Tibet was probably the closest that any society ever came to living out Plato's program of enlightened rule by guardians and the result was not pretty.
Its not pretty whether the guardians operate by shamanism dressed up in Buddhist trappings or operate from Maoist Communism