Trikaya Buddhism is a modern approach to the Buddhist path in which ancient teachings are integrated into daily life through practical, real-world applications. Teachers of Trikaya Buddhism serve as guides and catalysts, with an understanding that each student is responsible for their own awakening.
Not all who practice Trikaya Buddhism become monks. Taking ordination as a monk of Trikaya Buddhism is a sacred commitment. Monks become part of the network of enlightenment until they dissolve in nirvana. While some monks may leave their practice, a part of their consciousness will remain on the Buddhist path. From the perspective of Trikaya Buddhism, there is no such thing as a former monk.
Compared to other Buddhist schools, there are seven significant differences:
• Female Monks — Monks can be male or female. The designation of gender is the beginning of conditioning in the dualistic world; ultimately, there is no difference between the male and female practitioner. Manhood or womanhood does not exist apart from this conditioning. By ordaining both women and men as monks, it is affirmed that both are equal on the path.
• No Special Outfits — Monks and non-ordained students of Trikaya Buddhism live and work in the world. They do not shave their heads or wear robes as a sign of being a monk. Monks wear whatever clothing is appropriate for their work. Being a monk is a private relationship with enlightenment and with other practitioners that support one’s determination to awaken. Outward signs that can degrade into symbols of pride or spiritual elitism are avoided.
• Married Monks — Monks can be married or single, and celibate or not. Becoming a monk is a serious commitment to enlightenment and one’s spiritual path. On the path, practitioners use everything in one’s life as a teacher.
Whether a monk in the Trikaya Buddhist tradition is married or not, or celibate or not, is determined by what will provide the practitioner the most stable foundation for their practice.
Some monks find it easier to renounce the external world and relationships. If they are in relationships, they can get lost in them. External renunciation aids in the internal release of attachments. In essence, for them external relationships distract from practice.
Others find it easier to renounce the attachment to relationships and the world inwardly. For them, external relationships highlight their attachments through day-to-day life, and they are given the opportunity to release them. Intimate relationships are an especially potent teacher. Through constant pressure, monks can move into detachment much faster than if they were to isolate themselves. Alone it’s easy to pretend there are no attachments when in fact, there are.
Of course, both options require a great deal of self-honesty and commitment to the spiritual path. In Trikaya Buddhism, both monks and non-ordained practitioners are encouraged to evaluate how relationships impact their practice.
• Devotion — Devotion is held for enlightenment and one’s practice; it’s understood that tradition and rituals provide a supportive structure, but may change over time.
Many Buddhist schools place emphasis on lineage. They tell new students they should commit to a tradition because they learned it from their teacher, who learned it from their teacher, and so on through many generations back to Buddha Shakyamuni.
In Trikaya Buddhism, students are encouraged to prove the teachings for themselves through their personal life experiences. From day one, students are told that hearing the teachings is not enough; the practices must be utilized in daily life to see if they hold up. Students are expected to question teachers about all aspects of practice. When done with respect, this results in a continuous refinement of both the students and the teachers.
• Non-linear path — Trikaya Buddhism follows an organic spiral-shaped pathway in which a practitioner cycles through the beginning, intermediate and advanced teachings over the course of many iterations. On this pathway, it is known that the “secret” advanced teachings are not meant to be kept hidden; rather, they are called secret because they do not make sense until one has attained a certain level of awareness. New students are exposed to these advanced teachings with the encouragement to continue their practice through any confusion they face and strive for their own realization.
For practitioners of Trikaya Buddhism, Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path is a circle represented by the Dharma Wheel that begins and ends with meditation. People can spend lifetimes exploring just one of the spokes and all the variations found within that one aspect. Those who follow the path of Trikaya Buddhism begin with meditation and move around the whole circle, deepening their realization with every cycle.
• All Teachers are Honored — Within Trikaya Buddhism, there is a deep respect for everyone who walks the spiritual path. There is an understanding that everyone is on the path, even if they are not aware of it. Enlightened teachers of all traditions are honored, and practitioners observe how these teachers share the dharma in their unique ways. Teachers of other traditions are studied to enhance the understanding of the enlightenment process and to inspire practice.
• Non-hierarchical — The new school of Trikaya Buddhism is not a traditional hierarchy. Rather, it is organized by consensus and cooperation of its members, currently under my spiritual leadership. Teachers share their practice and experiences on the path with students. While teachers make recommendations and offer guidance, it is up to the student to explore the practices offered and discover what methods will work given their circumstances. This allows practitioners to develop self-trust while testing the teachings in a supportive environment.
If you want to be told what to do, Trikaya Buddhism is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you are adventurous, willing to investigate your mind’s workings, and even a little rebellious, then Trikaya Buddhism can lead you into enlightenment in this lifetime.
People who value honesty, self-reliance and community will excel with Trikaya Buddhism. While one can practice at any level, this pathway works best for those who have decided that they have suffered enough and are ready to devote themselves to the path. Practitioners quickly discover that what they put into their practice is what they get out of it.
Through the teachings of Trikaya Buddhism, you will learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and manage your energy. Whether you decide to follow the path to the advanced levels into unreasonable joy, inner peace and awakening, or if you simply wish to gain some control of your mind and build a stable foundation, the practice promises to bring power and freedom into your life. For those called to a more profound connection, formal monk ordination and teaching empowerments are given through Dharma Center of Trikaya Buddhism in San Diego. If you are ready to do the work on the pathway of Trikaya Buddhism, the rewards of confidence, patience, balance and clarity are waiting.