Inspiration and Lineage
Things are no longer like they once were in closed societies like traditional Tibet and India where people were much more parochial, provincial, and unaware of the whole range of religious and cultural alternatives.
Our world is a much bigger and diverse place.
Any such claim seems to have functioned as a convenient fiction and polemical stratagem designed to assert authority, and was rarely if ever a factual account of the historical and genealogical record.
My own religious sensibility has been shaped by a variety of influences, and I suspect that is the case for most of us living in such cosmopolitan settings. It seems far more honest to just admit this and lay aside the conceit of any sort of “unbroken” or “pure” lineage.
great preachers (like William Sloane Coffin) whom I had the privilege of hearing many times;
and current spiritual friends and advisors like the Reverends Brian Baker in Sacramento and Anne Deneen in Cape Ann, Massachusetts – surely all of these religiously foundational and influential figures have to be included in my own lineage.
My understanding of religion was shaped by my advisor and other professors from graduate school (Mircea Eliade, Wendy Doniger, Jonathan Z. Smith, and others) as well as by my colleagues once I entered the professoriate.
the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutra, the Ashtavakra Gita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra – texts I have also had the opportunity to teach to students around the world over the past decade or so.
In addition, I have had a very rewarding personal connection to the Satyananda Yoga community in Australia and especially to my friend and spiritual sister Swami Atmamuktananda, who runs the Rocklyn, Victoria, center where I’ve led several retreats.
In 1998, I began an intensive study of Buddhism under the guidance of Geshe Michael Roach and eventually completed a 36 course curriculum in the open and esoteric texts of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
Lama Christie McNally taught the esoteric portion of this curriculum side-by-side with Geshe Michael, and I am very grateful to both of them for what I regard as a very thorough training in this form of Buddhism.
I also have had many teachings and initiations from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other high lamas of the Gelugpa tradition: Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, and Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen.
And then there are the modern Western Buddhist teachers from both inside and outside the Tibetan Buddhist tradition whose books and audio teachings have helped me so much: Jack Kornfield, Lama Surya Das, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Noah Levine, and others.
I guess I could mention other spiritual influences (the Sufi poetry of Rumi, the eclectic and often iconoclastic perspective of Alan Watts, even the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche), but perhaps this is enough to make the point.
If there is “authenticity” to my practice and teachings, it derives not from any one source but rather because it resonates with the truth.
To that end, while we should honor our mentors and teachers for all they have given us, I am increasingly of the opinion that perhaps it’s best to avoid labels (“Gelukpa,” “Buddhist,” “Christian,” “secular humanist,” or whatever) that set us apart from others.
We are all equally human, we are all equally suffering, and we all equally have the potential to realize true happiness. Let us concentrate on the things that unite us rather than obsessing about identifications and designations that prop up our egos and divide us from each other.
he has studied with an array of teachers, integrating aspects of several Buddhist lineages into his practice. There are historical precedents for such an approach. Buddhism has often been reinvigorated when a new synthesis has been created from existing traditions.”
And here’s what Goldstein himself writes in that same book: