📰 Mahayana Is Optional
Full Title: Mahayana Is Optional
Mahayana (especially the cultivation of bodhicitta and good karma) formed the morality of Tibet. The Tibetan monastic system was at the heart of politics and society.
Developing Mahayana view was an essential prerequisite for Vajrayana, as the only available moral system. The approach to Vajrayana now taught in the West developed within this institutional context. Teachers and students have left unquestioned the assumption that Mahayana is indispensable.
Tibetan teachers in the West exported Buddhist ethical training in its most elaborate form, designed for dedicated monastic practice, and applied it wholesale to Western adults approaching Buddhist practice in contemporary, non-monastic circumstances. That missed the point of Mahayana’s social and spiritual role.
Most Western adults approaching spiritual practice are already trained in ethical standards and behavior.
When Vajrayana is approached as a stand-alone path, with a unique starting point and methodology, Mahayana is an optional, not an essential prerequisite. Any social or spiritual technology, Buddhist or not, that gets you to the base of Vajrayana, fulfills the preparatory function.
We regard Mahayana in its Tibetan form—that is, all of the preliminaries as presented in the Tibetan systems, including practices of cultivation of bodhicitta, the bodhisattva vows—as inessential for Vajrayana practice. They are interchangeable with other means of preparation fulfilling the same role of establishing (1) ethical maturity and (2) experience of emptiness.