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Re: [Buddhism_101] Re: is it possible for a non-Buddhist to receive samaya?

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  • John Pellecchia
    PJ, Tara has given you some excellent advice. And, as Normand stated, there are two ways one may Take Refuge in Buddhism; informally (usually in front of an
    Message 1 of 10 , Mar 17, 2008
      PJ,

      Tara has given you some excellent advice. And, as Normand stated, there are two ways one may Take Refuge in Buddhism; informally (usually in front of an image of the Buddha by repeating the Refuge Vows three times) or formally in front of a sangha (see http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/refuge.html#5 ). When I "Took Refuge," I took the "Bodhisattva Vows" as well which is frequently the custom in Tibetan Buddhism (see http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/resources/bodhisattva_vows.html ). So, whether you "Took Refuge" is a question only you can answer.

      We get into the deeper and more interesting question in this issue. Is it possible to be both Buddhist and a Christian clergyman much less a Christian lay-person? In this matter it depends upon whether one answers based upon HHDL's statements regarding changing one's "birth religion" (see http://youtube.com/watch?v=kJRm3T_kmvE ) and views on "mixing" Buddhism and another faith. We need to remember that HH is not like a Roman Catholic Pope so he does not speak "ex cathedra" in matters so it becomes a matter of tradition and what others have written. I will not use Wikipedia as a source since much of the information posted is frequently a matter of opinion and not necessarily authoritative or properly researched.

      With the above in mind, I'll give some various quotations on the matter and will let other minds sort out the details and determine which is correct.

      "My own lama, the late Venerable Kalu Rinpoche, used to say at his monastery in Darjeeling, West Bengal, that practicing two different religions was like trying to sew with a needle that has two points. In other words, there's no place for the thread that would join two pieces of a garment.
      "On the other hand, during his many teaching tours and travels in Europe and America, he would often, when asked, tell Westerners that they could not only practice Buddhism but also take refuge vows—thus formally entering the gate of dharma—without giving up their own faith. When his own Tibetan disciples, including some lamas and khenpos, questioned him on this, Rinpoche remained adamant on this point.
      "This kind of hybridization may be skillful means rather than what the old masters really believe."
      ( Quoted from http://www.beliefnet.com/story/30/story_3004_1.html )

      H.H. The Dalai Lama maintains a different point-of-view on the subject: "...the Dalai Lama added, there 'cannot be unification' between Christianity and Buddhism. 'If you mean having a closer relation, understanding, that is happening in religions,' he noted. 'For individual practitioners, having one truth, one religion, is very important. Several truths, several religions, is contradictory,' he said."
      ( Quoted from http://www.tibetoffice.org/en/index.php?url_channel_id=8&url_publish_channel_id=469&url_subchannel_id=12&well_id=2)

      Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, states in his book "Living Buddha, Living Christ" (pp 196-197), "Buddhists and Christians both like to share their wisdom and experience. Sharing in this way is important and should be encouraged. But sharing does not mean wanting to others to abandon their own spiritual roots and embrace your faith. That would be cruel. People are happy only when they are firmly rooted in their own tradition and culture….We must help them return to their tradition. Each tradition must establish dialogue with its own people first, especially with those young people who are lost and alienated…I always urged my Western friends to go back to their own traditions and rediscover the values that are there….We can enrich one another's spiritual lives, but there is no need to alienate people from their ancestors and their values."

      As far as "mixing" beliefs—well, that apparently becomes problematic. Generally, it will confuse the practitioner. The Tibetan scholar Geshe Lhundub Sopa explains: "Being a Buddhist is defined as taking refuge in the Three Jewels. The answer to the question 'Am I a Buddhist?' is based on whether or not you have taken refuge. ...if you have nothing to do with the Three Jewels you are not really a Buddhist. A true Buddhist is someone who has some level of understanding of the Three Jewels and has placed his or her trust in them. It is someone who trusts the method and is taking the medicine of the Dharma. Such people are working to turn their body, speech, and mind away from negative actions in order to rid themselves of the bad results that arise from such actions. Taking refuge, therefore, is the entry to the Buddhist path. This is an important point....
      "Without knowing the qualities of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, you cannot take refuge in them properly. You also need knowledge of the differences between them; you must be able to distinguish their different abilities so that you can rely on each of them properly....Once you know the qualities and the distinctions between the three refuge objects you accept them as your refuge. You should take refuge fully; from the heart, knowing that these Three Jewels have the complete power and ability to help you. Since there is no better object of refuge, you disavow faith in any other refuge. Once you take refuge in the Three Jewels you should not look somewhere else for refuge. You should not have a divided mind and think that perhaps somebody else or some other religion would help."
      (from "Steps on the Path to Enlightenment: A Commentary on Tsongkhapa's Lamrim Chenmo -- Volume One: The Foundation Practices" p 408)

      In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, "...Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism." (from http://religions.pewforum.org/reports ).

      In a local newspaper article regarding this survey the author wrote, "Some spiritual journeys aren't so much about switching faith as combining them. Such is the case with Sharon Silverstein, a Jewish woman from Hillsborough who blends elements of Buddhism in her beliefs...." (from http://thnt.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080317/NEWS/803170345/1001 )

      So, can one be both Christian and Buddhist? I can't give a simple answer nor do I believe there is one to be found. I do remember in the New Testament there is a caution as to whether one can serve two masters (Matthew VI: 24 and Luke XVI: 13). Granted, these reference God vs. Money but can one serve both a faith believing in a Supreme Being and the Buddha who refused to enter a discussion debating the existence of a Supreme Being? Is there an inherent contradiction between the two? Again, I cannot answer that question for you. Buddhism in Western society may be making some significant changes based upon the cultural mix. I think we'll have to wait for some future date to see how it will sort out. Maybe we'll see a Christian-Buddhist Temple, A Judea-Christian-Buddhist Church, or some other hybridization. You may want to discuss this with your Bishop. Best of luck in making your decision.

      May all be at peace.

      John


      There is no more worldly existence for the wise one who,
      like the earth, resents nothing,
      who is firm as a high pillar
      and as pure as a deep pool free from mud.

      (Dhammapada 7.95)




      ____________________________________________________________________________________
      Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.
      http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs
    • Cittamani
      Dear John, You make good points very skillfully. I agree. How fortunte you are to have Kalu Rinpoche as your teacher. I was not so fortunate to meet him but
      Message 2 of 10 , Mar 17, 2008
        Dear John,
        You make good points very skillfully. I agree.
        How fortunte you are to have Kalu Rinpoche as your teacher. I was
        not so fortunate to meet him but admire him greatly. One of his
        students, Lama Yeshe Wangmo, I was most fortunate to receive a Dudjom
        lineage empowerment thru.
        Sarva mangalam,
        Tara


        --- , John Pellecchia <pellejf@...> wrote:
        >
        > PJ,
        >
        > Tara has given you some excellent advice. And, as Normand stated,
        there are two ways one may Take Refuge in Buddhism; informally
        (usually in front of an image of the Buddha by repeating the Refuge
        Vows three times) or formally in front of a sangha (see
        http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/refuge.html#5 ). When I "Took
        Refuge," I took the "Bodhisattva Vows" as well which is frequently
        the custom in Tibetan Buddhism (see
        http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/resources/bodhisattva_vows.html ).
        So, whether you "Took Refuge" is a question only you can answer.
        >
        > <snip>
        > May all be at peace.
        >
        > John
        >
        >
        > There is no more worldly existence for the wise one who,
        > like the earth, resents nothing,
        > who is firm as a high pillar
        > and as pure as a deep pool free from mud.
        >
        > (Dhammapada 7.95)
        >
      • ken
        First of all, John, thanks for the very well written answer. I m hoping that someone could explain to me simply what receiving samaya means... does it mean
        Message 3 of 10 , Mar 18, 2008
          First of all, John, thanks for the very well written answer.

          I'm hoping that someone could explain to me simply what "receiving
          samaya" means... does it mean just taking refuge? And then what
          obligations, if any, does this bear with it?

          Thanks much,
          ken

          On 03/17/2008 03:04 PM John Pellecchia wrote:
          > PJ,
          >
          > Tara has given you some excellent advice. And, as Normand stated,
          > there are two ways one may Take Refuge in Buddhism; informally
          > (usually in front of an image of the Buddha by repeating the Refuge
          > Vows three times) or formally in front of a sangha (see
          > http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/refuge.html#5 ). When I "Took
          > Refuge," I took the "Bodhisattva Vows" as well which is frequently
          > the custom in Tibetan Buddhism (see
          > http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/resources/bodhisattva_vows.html ).
          > So, whether you "Took Refuge" is a question only you can answer.
          >
          > We get into the deeper and more interesting question in this issue.
          > Is it possible to be both Buddhist and a Christian clergyman much
          > less a Christian lay-person? In this matter it depends upon whether
          > one answers based upon HHDL's statements regarding changing one's
          > "birth religion" (see http://youtube.com/watch?v=kJRm3T_kmvE ) and
          > views on "mixing" Buddhism and another faith. We need to remember
          > that HH is not like a Roman Catholic Pope so he does not speak "ex
          > cathedra" in matters so it becomes a matter of tradition and what
          > others have written. I will not use Wikipedia as a source since much
          > of the information posted is frequently a matter of opinion and not
          > necessarily authoritative or properly researched.
          >
          > With the above in mind, I'll give some various quotations on the
          > matter and will let other minds sort out the details and determine
          > which is correct.
          >
          > "My own lama, the late Venerable Kalu Rinpoche, used to say at his
          > monastery in Darjeeling, West Bengal, that practicing two different
          > religions was like trying to sew with a needle that has two points.
          > In other words, there's no place for the thread that would join two
          > pieces of a garment. "On the other hand, during his many teaching
          > tours and travels in Europe and America, he would often, when asked,
          > tell Westerners that they could not only practice Buddhism but also
          > take refuge vows—thus formally entering the gate of dharma—without
          > giving up their own faith. When his own Tibetan disciples, including
          > some lamas and khenpos, questioned him on this, Rinpoche remained
          > adamant on this point. "This kind of hybridization may be skillful
          > means rather than what the old masters really believe." ( Quoted from
          > http://www.beliefnet.com/story/30/story_3004_1.html )
          >
          > H.H. The Dalai Lama maintains a different point-of-view on the
          > subject: "...the Dalai Lama added, there 'cannot be unification'
          > between Christianity and Buddhism. 'If you mean having a closer
          > relation, understanding, that is happening in religions,' he noted.
          > 'For individual practitioners, having one truth, one religion, is
          > very important. Several truths, several religions, is contradictory,'
          > he said." ( Quoted from
          > http://www.tibetoffice.org/en/index.php?url_channel_id=8&url_publish_channel_id=469&url_subchannel_id=12&well_id=2)
          >
          >
          > Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, states in his book
          > "Living Buddha, Living Christ" (pp 196-197), "Buddhists and
          > Christians both like to share their wisdom and experience. Sharing in
          > this way is important and should be encouraged. But sharing does not
          > mean wanting to others to abandon their own spiritual roots and
          > embrace your faith. That would be cruel. People are happy only when
          > they are firmly rooted in their own tradition and culture….We must
          > help them return to their tradition. Each tradition must establish
          > dialogue with its own people first, especially with those young
          > people who are lost and alienated…I always urged my Western friends
          > to go back to their own traditions and rediscover the values that are
          > there….We can enrich one another's spiritual lives, but there is no
          > need to alienate people from their ancestors and their values."
          >
          > As far as "mixing" beliefs—well, that apparently becomes problematic.
          > Generally, it will confuse the practitioner. The Tibetan scholar
          > Geshe Lhundub Sopa explains: "Being a Buddhist is defined as taking
          > refuge in the Three Jewels. The answer to the question 'Am I a
          > Buddhist?' is based on whether or not you have taken refuge. ...if
          > you have nothing to do with the Three Jewels you are not really a
          > Buddhist. A true Buddhist is someone who has some level of
          > understanding of the Three Jewels and has placed his or her trust in
          > them. It is someone who trusts the method and is taking the medicine
          > of the Dharma. Such people are working to turn their body, speech,
          > and mind away from negative actions in order to rid themselves of the
          > bad results that arise from such actions. Taking refuge, therefore,
          > is the entry to the Buddhist path. This is an important point....
          > "Without knowing the qualities of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, you
          > cannot take refuge in them properly. You also need knowledge of the
          > differences between them; you must be able to distinguish their
          > different abilities so that you can rely on each of them
          > properly....Once you know the qualities and the distinctions between
          > the three refuge objects you accept them as your refuge. You should
          > take refuge fully; from the heart, knowing that these Three Jewels
          > have the complete power and ability to help you. Since there is no
          > better object of refuge, you disavow faith in any other refuge. Once
          > you take refuge in the Three Jewels you should not look somewhere
          > else for refuge. You should not have a divided mind and think that
          > perhaps somebody else or some other religion would help." (from
          > "Steps on the Path to Enlightenment: A Commentary on Tsongkhapa's
          > Lamrim Chenmo -- Volume One: The Foundation Practices" p 408)
          >
          > In a recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public
          > Life, "...Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born
          > adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists
          > describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists
          > say they are converts to Buddhism." (from
          > http://religions.pewforum.org/reports ).
          >
          > In a local newspaper article regarding this survey the author wrote,
          > "Some spiritual journeys aren't so much about switching faith as
          > combining them. Such is the case with Sharon Silverstein, a Jewish
          > woman from Hillsborough who blends elements of Buddhism in her
          > beliefs...." (from
          > http://thnt.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080317/NEWS/803170345/1001
          > )
          >
          > So, can one be both Christian and Buddhist? I can't give a simple
          > answer nor do I believe there is one to be found. I do remember in
          > the New Testament there is a caution as to whether one can serve two
          > masters (Matthew VI: 24 and Luke XVI: 13). Granted, these reference
          > God vs. Money but can one serve both a faith believing in a Supreme
          > Being and the Buddha who refused to enter a discussion debating the
          > existence of a Supreme Being? Is there an inherent contradiction
          > between the two? Again, I cannot answer that question for you.
          > Buddhism in Western society may be making some significant changes
          > based upon the cultural mix. I think we'll have to wait for some
          > future date to see how it will sort out. Maybe we'll see a
          > Christian-Buddhist Temple, A Judea-Christian-Buddhist Church, or some
          > other hybridization. You may want to discuss this with your Bishop.
          > Best of luck in making your decision.
          >
          > May all be at peace.
          >
          > John
          >
          >
          > There is no more worldly existence for the wise one who, like the
          > earth, resents nothing, who is firm as a high pillar and as pure as a
          > deep pool free from mud.
          >
          > (Dhammapada 7.95)
          >



          --
          The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the
          same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
          -- Albert Einstein
        • John Pellecchia
          Ken, I ve always been somewhat perplexed why Buddhism continues to use Sanskrit terms in explaining aspects of practice especially for Westerners. It seems as
          Message 4 of 10 , Mar 18, 2008
            Ken,

            I've always been somewhat perplexed why Buddhism continues to use Sanskrit terms in explaining aspects of practice especially for Westerners. It seems as though every profession (it's done in education, technology, etc.) has its "secret language" almost as if to keep the "uninitiated" at bay. It would be so much simple if these words were simply translated into English.

            Anyway, samaya is a bond between one's vajra lama and the pupil in Vajrayana Buddhism. You may want to bookmark the following websites for future reference. They contain on-line dictionaries in translating Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist terms.

            http://www.diamondway-buddhism.org/default.asp?col=04&t=diction.htm
            http://www.thdl.org/reference/dictionary.html

            Hope you find this of some use.

            May all be at peace.

            John

            There is no more worldly existence for the wise one who,
            like the earth, resents nothing,
            who is firm as a high pillar
            and as pure as a deep pool free from mud.

            (Dhammapada 7.95)

            ----- Original Message ----
            From: ken <gebser@...> wrote

            I'm hoping that someone could explain to me simply what "receiving
            samaya" means... does it mean just taking refuge? And then what
            obligations, if any, does this bear with it?

            Thanks much,
            ken







            ____________________________________________________________________________________
            Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.
            http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs
          • ken
            Ohhh, it s not a big bother for me to encounter Sanskrit or Pali terms. In fact, I think it s the smart thing to do. Words don t always translate directly
            Message 5 of 10 , Mar 22, 2008
              Ohhh, it's not a big bother for me to encounter Sanskrit or Pali terms.
              In fact, I think it's the smart thing to do. Words don't always
              translate directly from one language to another and this is especially
              true of philosophical terms. For example, there's no adequate way to
              translate "bardo" and any attempt to substitute in an English word would
              lead to gross misunderstanding. It's best just to use the word "bardo",
              but then explain what it means, tell the story it takes to bring about
              understanding.



              On 03/18/2008 08:35 PM John Pellecchia wrote:
              > Ken,
              >
              > I've always been somewhat perplexed why Buddhism continues to use
              > Sanskrit terms in explaining aspects of practice especially for
              > Westerners. It seems as though every profession (it's done in
              > education, technology, etc.) has its "secret language" almost as if
              > to keep the "uninitiated" at bay. It would be so much simple if these
              > words were simply translated into English.
              >
              > Anyway, samaya is a bond between one's vajra lama and the pupil in
              > Vajrayana Buddhism. You may want to bookmark the following websites
              > for future reference. They contain on-line dictionaries in
              > translating Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist terms.
              >
              > http://www.diamondway-buddhism.org/default.asp?col=04&t=diction.htm
              > http://www.thdl.org/reference/dictionary.html
              >
              > Hope you find this of some use.
              >
              > May all be at peace.
              >
              > John
              >
              > There is no more worldly existence for the wise one who, like the
              > earth, resents nothing, who is firm as a high pillar and as pure as a
              > deep pool free from mud.
              >
              > (Dhammapada 7.95)
              >
              > ----- Original Message ---- From: ken <gebser@...> wrote
              >
              > I'm hoping that someone could explain to me simply what "receiving
              > samaya" means... does it mean just taking refuge? And then what
              > obligations, if any, does this bear with it?
              >
              > Thanks much, ken
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > ____________________________________________________________________________________
              > Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.
              > http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs
              >
              > ------------------------------------
              >
              > Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >


              --
              The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the
              same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
              -- Albert Einstein
            • John Pellecchia
              Ken, This is one of those I agree but disagree , yes and no responses. Yes, certain terms have made it into the English lexicon from Sanskrit and Pali. Most
              Message 6 of 10 , Mar 22, 2008
                Ken,

                This is one of those "I agree but disagree", "yes and no" responses. Yes, certain terms have made it into the English lexicon from Sanskrit and Pali. Most would have no need for a translation of "sangha","sutta" / "sutra", "Dhamma" / "Dharma", or "guru." On the other hand, I can't begin to tell you how many times I had to explain that "kamma" or "karma" simply means "action" and not "predestined" as many non-Buddhists believe. Could you imagine the puzzled looks one would encounter if using the terms "metta, karuna, mudita, and upekkha" instead of "loving-kindness, compassion. appreciative joy, and equanimity"? In general, I feel it depends upon the practitioner but I still feelmany (most?) terms obscure the ease of learning Buddhist thought andmay easily perplex and even "turn off" students.

                Other terms such as "bardo," which happens to be Tibetan and neither Pali nor Sanskrit, and "lama" have also made it into English vernacular to some extent. I'm certain that most new to Buddhism would understand "the state between life and re-birth" just as well (if not better) than the term "bardo." Terms such as "samaya" create a bit of a stumbling block even for thoseof us more familiar with Buddhist terminology. I'm sure you would agree thatusage of "a vow or bond between lama and student" certainly is anadequate and more readily understandable substitute. It makes it easierfor Westerners to understand by lifting an obscure veil of words.Otherwise, why your initial query as to its meaning? Use the term and then the English meaning? Perhaps. But I wonder how many would simply skip over the unfamiliar term and zero in on the English meaning. I know I would -- and do. So, what's the sense?

                It's like the terms "participatory set" or "sponge activity", common verbiage used in the education sector, served no purpose other than to limit the understanding to "insiders" as to what was actually meant. Personally, when reading certain texts I find I am consistently and persistently reaching for a Pali or Sanskrit Dictionary to get a handle on what a term means. Put it in the lay-person's common language. Certainly, some subtlety of meaning would be lost but isn't that already the case in translating suttas into English? Why not have everyone just learn Pali and read them in their original tongue? Obviously a rather poor choice for spreading the Dharma in Western society. So why are we in Buddhism adamantly adhering to other equally obscure terms in Pali, Sanskrit, or Tibetan? It just doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

                Chanting mantras, however, need to be in the original language since the rhythm of the sounds have much to do with stabilizing the mind in preparation for meditation. I would find chanting "Behold the jewel in the lotus" to lack the resonance of "Om mani padme hum." But, conversely, I am a bit perplexed why prayers continue to be said in Tibetan only to be accompanied by an interlinear English translation for the rest of us. Why not simply say them in English in the first place? Seems similar to the argument in the 1960s when the Latin vulgate was replaced by the English rite in Roman Catholicism -- it made the order of worship easier for "the masses" (no pun intended) to more fully understand what was going on in the ritual.

                In much the same way most of us would be equally confused with terms such as "ad hoc", "in loco situ" or other Latin terms which were at one time more readily understandable even in English speaking circles but are now rather archaic except to the legal profession. Even terms and abbreviations that were used in footnotes when I was in school ("ibid.", "op. cit.", "nota bene" to name a few) have gone into the circular file of academia. The footnote (or the now common and easier to create endnote) usage of Latin terms has been replaced with the more easily understood and preferred Modern Language Association's style.

                As Bob Dylan sang, "The times they are a-changin'." I'm certain this will likewise occur as Buddhism becomes more Westernized in our society.

                Well, enough philosophizing for one night. Time to put the 'ol soapbox under the bed.

                May all be at peace.

                John


                With good will for the entire cosmos,
                cultivate a limitless heart:
                Above, below, and all around,
                unobstructed, without hostility or hate.

                (Sutta Nipata I, 8)


                ----- Original Message ----
                ken <gebser@...> wrote

                Ohhh, it's not a big bother for me to encounter Sanskrit or Pali terms.
                In fact, I think it's the smart thing to do. Words don't always translate directly from one language to another and this is especially true of philosophical terms. For example, there's no adequate way to translate "bardo" and any attempt to substitute in an English word would lead to gross misunderstanding. It's best just to use the word "bardo", but then explain what it means, tell the story it takes to bring about understanding.



                On 03/18/2008 08:35 PM John Pellecchia wrote:
                > Ken,
                >
                > I've always been somewhat perplexed why Buddhism continues to use
                > Sanskrit terms in explaining aspects of practice especially for
                > Westerners. It seems as though every profession (it's done in
                > education, technology, etc.) has its "secret language" almost as if
                > to keep the "uninitiated" at bay. It would be so much simple if these
                > words were simply translated into English.
                >
                > Anyway, samaya is a bond between one's vajra lama and the pupil in
                > Vajrayana Buddhism. You may want to bookmark the following websites
                > for future reference. They contain on-line dictionaries in
                > translating Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist terms.
                >
                > http://www.diamondway-buddhism.org/default.asp?col=04&t=diction.htm
                > http://www.thdl.org/reference/dictionary.html
                >
                > Hope you find this of some use.
                >
                > May all be at peace.
                >
                > John
                >
                > ----- Original Message ---- From: ken <gebser@...> wrote
                >
                > I'm hoping that someone could explain to me simply what "receiving
                > samaya" means... does it mean just taking refuge? And then what
                > obligations, if any, does this bear with it?
                >
                > Thanks much, ken







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