Authenticity of a Buddhist Teacher
Unfortunately being an "official dharma descendant" in far too many cases seems not to be a quarantee of someone being a good teacher. Formal authorisation is often the first thing a buddhist wants to know of a teacher in question. People often seem to think that teachers are somehow very special or ”out of this world” in some way. It is silly how far this sometimes goes. But buddhism is not actually ”other wordly” or ”amazing” in some mystical way. Buddhism is about human suffering, the confusion that we all experience. A teacher should be an honest person who has something useful to share with others, whether it is something very basic for beginners, something more advanced or very advanced. Sometimes it seems that buddhist teachers are expected to be special or great in some miraculous way but honestly, the vast majority of all buddhist teachers out there are more or less samsaric beings. This should affect the way we view our teachers. Just because someone is a specialist in some ancient dharma method might not mean much in understanding how to eliminate existential suffering (dukkha) or even how to be a good human being.
Just like in all other religions it happens in all schools of buddhism that "lineage holders" cause suffering to people close to them because they are momentarily blinded by their self-delusion. Horrible things happen when a samsaric being is given too much attention and power. I don't know that many teachers who without formal authorisation say they are buddhist teachers but the few cases I know are saying useful things due to thinking "outside the box" of traditional buddhist education. Of course there are also those who claim big things but are actually small in their understanding and cannot help people out of samsara. However, what is interesting is that I've seen students of both greatly honoured teachers as well as "fakes" who are not making much progress. Why?
How do we know a teacher is authentic if authorisation is not a quarantee of quality teachings and the student's progress? What are quality teachings in the first place?
Buddhism is about 1. recognising and illuminating suffering through becoming aware of it and through that 2. recognising the natural state, one's own buddhahood. As a functionable spiritual path, buddhism comes down to both sudden awakenings and gradual practice. To enter the Way, like Shakyamuni and numerous others before and after him, we need to get insights, awakenings (kensho, shinjin), and through regular practice grow in awareness, buddhanature, until none is left.
Although I have never met a person who practiced and followed authentic or inauthentic teacher and didn't make any progress (purification of mind) I've seen numerous people who practiced with top teachers and even after decades of practice didn't get awakened, didn't have any irreversible insights, although might have had other impressive experiences. I think this is a problem and also an indication of the concerned teacher's and lineage's (lack of) knowhow. The only way to buddhahood is through insight.
Honestly, I think that if this bit is missing the whole path becomes questionable. It is the irreversible insights that matter the most because with each recognition of the natural state a chunk of self-delusion drops off. If practitioners are not having insights it is an indication that something about the teacher or the method is not right, although the teacher might be a nice person and his tradition might somehow be very impressive.
I am certainly not saying that one single kensho or even a few of them is everything there is to buddhist path, of course not. All I am saying is that regardless of the particular philosophical view and a practical method of any buddhist path, it is the insights into the selfless nature of mind that matters the most to anyone out there because havings insights means growing in true existential freedom, devoid of suffering (dukkha).
But like I said above I've seen so many people who have done years of practices, numerous retreats and have been instructed by their teachers on regular basis and yet are not having initial or consecutive insights. This I consider to be an indication of inauthenticity of the teacher and the lineage whatever the teachings are. This is what I understand when the Dalai Lama says that genuine disciples make genuine teachers.
In buddha's grace.