Buddhist Initiation and Commitments

I have been careful about giving initiations because I do not want students to feel overwhelmed by multiple commitments they might be unable to accomplish. However, I myself had many practice commitments that I did daily recitation. In the Tibetan tradition, in the old days, we made many promises to do commitment practices and upheld our commitments, not just by reciting but being involved energetically in the practices. Now, in this busy modern world, many Tibetan Buddhism practitioners receive advanced teachings, and might make commitments they cannot fulfill. Perhaps there are simply not enough hours in their day to do all of the practices that they sincerely promised.
From the side of the student, part of the initiation process is to make genuine commitment to accomplish the practice goals. Otherwise, you are taking it as a blessing. More and more people  actually are taking initiations as a blessing but vowing a commitment because of excitement/enthusiasm. There often is a part in the initiation that says; now you must do this sadhana daily or do so many recitations of the mantra. 
 I have heard that sometimes visiting lamas give initiation but there is no sadhana recitation practice available for students to take home to practice. In that case, someone might carefully take a commitment without even being able to do any sadhana or not even have the mantra correctly. Most are not sure what deity it was or who the lama was that gave the practice. This can also happen because they are participating in a group event of a teacher who has given a commitment without commentary, or just very short teachings. It often happens that the student does not have any personal contact with that teacher, yet they feel like not only is that one their guru but their root guru! This is very interesting because if you have read about Buddhism, the root guru is who cares for you with more personal contact than group initiation or reading a book written by them.
Another important issue that requires addressing is the need of non-Tibetan speakers regarding transliterated Tibetan sadhanas given without any commentary. Naturally, any foreign language recitation done with strong enough faith has some benefit. Like that, to the extent that someone has actually received the initiation, to that extent one has benefited even without understanding the language. However, among the group of disciples attending an initiation, the lama hopes that there will be one or more that will actually receive the initiation.

Initiation is an outside permission to begin studying and practicing the meditation and visualizations of the deity but the actual initiation is interior on another level. To receive the profound transmission is to actually receive the initiation but that is not easy for the student to understand if they don't really know if they have received it or not. Should you actually receive the initiation, you must have close attention paid to you individually by the lama so that the transmission can be stabilized. There also needs to be time and effort in meditation so that you can work with the transmission and gain the desired result. This is how dharma is practiced!


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