stream enterer to Mahayana

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  InnerKnowledgeSeeker 4 years, 4 months ago.

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    hey, I was wondering if once you’re a stream-enterer can you switch to the Mahayana tradition and do you have to start from scratch if you do?



    Hi Tom,
    I’m glad to hear that your goal is stream entry, but am curious as to why you would want to switch traditions once that has been attained. I have practiced extensively in the Zen and Theravadin tradition, and to some degree in the Tibetan tradition, and they all have good practices, but are quite different. Culadasa refers to First Path, rather than stream entry, as there are practices for each stage of the path.

    In some schools of Zen, koan practice is used, and so if you switched to that, yes, you would probably need to start over. Although Zen can be quite effective, there is not the same level of understanding of how the mind works as Culadasa teaches. The same thing for Tibetan Dzogchen practice. The preliminary practices are different, as are the main practices. There are some very skillful means for developing compassion, which can be good for all of us. But again, there is not the understanding of neuroscience which makes TMI so effective.

    Following the instructions in TMI and Culadasa’s teaching, you can progress to stream entry and beyond. I find other practices to be helpful along the way, but would not want to give up the clarity and effectiveness of these teachings for another path. Good luck in your explorations!


    Darlene T

    Hi Tom, I relate to and support Kim’s response and believe it is spot on. I do think that Culadasa’s teachings would be and are applicable in any tradition, and as a Mahayana/Zen and Vajrayana practioner myself there is no conflict provided there is some understanding of why we are practicing a particular practice and where it will take us. Remember, beyond any formal system of practice is the impact the practice has on our heart and mind. The behavior of a Bodhisattva doesn’t require formality of a tradition. This way of being in the world is the primary essence/injunction of the Mahayana path. Best wishes!




    …… I love Culadasa’s work and view. Other traditions have capable, and wise teachers…. you will not fall off the edge of the world. Keep your standards high. Dzogchen resonates with our times and is worth looking at if you are at crossroads. Things learned with TMI stay with you as good friend forever. luck………….. matt



    I’m going to stick with Theravada I think. I was just worrying that I might get to a point where I wanted to switch but had gone too far (not that I will). its just that I thought you might have to unlearn the skills you’ve gained and you end up not getting anywhere.



    just thought I say this forum in general is really nurturing. its refreshing to have people on your side rather than a load of abuse and ‘naysayers’. good on ya Dharma Treasure whoop!


    Mike G

    Dear all,
    I’d like to add my personal perspective to this interesting topic. I’m coming from the other side to a certain degree: I was a Zen practitioner for several years. I ended up switching to TMI not because I was unsatisfied with Zen practice, but because my practice had fallen asleep and when I moved, there wasn’t a Sangha or teacher in my new city.
    Then, when I had decided to restart my practice, I heard about TMI, was intrigued, and decided to try it out. I’m very happy and am quite sure to stay with this practice, but if I had continued doing Zen, this would have been good as well.

    So, Tom, about your question. Stream entrance is quite an accomplishment, and I believe that it is quite compatible between the different schools. Sure, the philosophies and techniques vary enormously, but the goals don’t. Zen teachers try to teach you attention, awareness, Samadhi and enlightenmend just as Mahayana or Vajrayana teachers will. Especially the “goal-less” Zen way is almost the opposite of TMI with all it’s stages, but these are to a certain extent details.

    I believe that someone who has realized stream-entry will be able to find footing in any genuine meditation tradition without too much difficulty. Sure, you’ll have to start from scratch in the sense that techniques will be unknown to you, but with a pliant mind, you’ll go through these rather quickly. So, in my opinion, as far as training your mind is concerned, you do not start from scratch.

    Best wishes! Michael

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by  Mike G.


    Thanks. it’s really interesting and something to think about. I think I was going through a phase of wondering about the different traditions and wanted to make sure this one was right for me before I settled and started buying all the additional books on Buddhism. i’m still a long way from stream entry but its good to plan ahead sometimes. Tom


    Cliff W

    “once you’re a stream-enterer can you switch to the Mahayana tradition.” IF indeed you are a stream -enterer why switch? I think this story is appropriate.

    Three monks heard about a hermit who lived alone on an island and was reputed to be very accomplished. They decided to pay him a visit and ask him about his practice. The hermit told them he had given himself to the recitation of the mantra “OM MANIE PODA BOOM”.
    The monk listened as the hermit did his mantra and, with a slight smile and the best intention in the world, leaned over to him and whispered:
    “I think you have got the pronunciation wrong. This mantra should be chanted this way…” and proceeded to demonstrate “OM MANI PADME HUM”. The hermit listened attentively and then watched as the 3 monks walked back to their boat to leave the island.

    Ten minutes later when the boat was halfway across the lake the monks saw the Hermit running across the surface of the water towards them. Astounded, the monks saw the hermit then standing on the water next to their boat when he cried out to them “Dear Monks, could you tell me that mantra again I’m not sure if I got it right?” I think I may have forgotten what you told me and the hermit proceeded to chant the same mantra but with the monk’s intonation.
    The monks looked at each other in amazement and said to the hermit “Please forgive us we are sure that whatever you are doing is perfectly OK.”



    As someone who has switched from Theravada to practicing the Dzogchen ngöndro, I can testify that I have not had to start from scratch. Switching to a new tradition has required me to get use to new techniques, a new theory of how emotions work, and a new approach to discipline, but for the most part, my Theravada training has carried over nicely.

    The meditation techniques I’m using are different and have required me to learn new skills, but the stability of attention and introspective awareness I have acquired while practicing Theravada have carried over. The way I deal with emotion is now quite different, but the fact that I am not very reactive anymore has made things a lot easier. To be honest with you, I think I may have been better off starting out with Theravada and then moving over after dealing with most of the psychological tension I had accumulated than I would have been if I had started out with the Dzogchen ngöndro.

    I know little about Mahayana and am unqualified to answer your question, but I hope my post is useful.


    Hi @kimw, you said, “Following the instructions in TMI and Culadasa’s teaching, you can progress to stream entry and beyond.” You therefore seem able to identify a stream-enterer. What do you use to determine if someone has attained stream entry?

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