When Discrimination Fails Dharma
One of the biggest problems buddhism has is the strict authoritarian position of the teacher, or guru. As a tantric buddhist teacher myself I certainly do not deny the importance of guru but it is too often the case that the role of the guru becomes considered too widely than it should. Usually teachers are founders and directors of their own dharma organisations, on top of being the sole person who guides the sangha spiritually. Often teachers get way too much power. When this is combined with too little of an attainment of the teacher, all kinds of problems start arising.
Recently I read about Sogyal Rinpoche's extensive misconduct. A similar case of Lama Norlha Rinpoche was reported only two months prior. Reading stuff like this is like reading of the ancient Roman emperors who did all the crazy things they could imagine with the expense of others. I wonder how far it would go without any moderation. When someone with too small of an attainment and with too little motivation to attain buddhahood, becomes unchallenged and too comfortable, really bad things can happen. This happens because they don't continue their own practice (that would keep their minds clear enough to keep their conscience in the picture) and because they are not living buddhas (even though their followers often like to, or even insist thinking so).
We see unbelievably wild cases of abuse and harm in new age and other religions but it also happens in buddhism. In my view buddhism of all religions probably has the highest and clearest standards of training and yet we also have these disasters happen one after the other. I think this is the greatest harm a teacher can do. Such teachers will experience the karmic backflow of their actions but I also think they should be treated by the common law. If someone in high governmental position abuses his employees they get properly punished by law of their actions. Why should it be any different for spiritual gurus?
Sogyal's case is so extreme that I think he should not be allowed to enter any dharma hall anymore. I think it is unrealistic and stoopid to expect a book case narcissist with decades of physical, sexual and power abuse be able to come back to his senses and have a healthy mind. It's sort of like hoping that a mass murdering dictator would all of sudden become lucid of his horrible actions. It's not impossible but highly unlikely, very highly, because the negative marks that such very harmful actions weigh on the subtle nerves are so deep and compelling that even several lifetimes are not enough to neutralise them. Sometimes it is best to let go and go separate ways.
No matter what, always question
Buddhism is known for it's 2.5 thousand years of tradition. The definition of tradition is that knowledge and knowhow, dharma, is transmitted effectively from generation to generation.
However seeing cases like that of Sogyal Rinpoche, who is a venerated and highly regarded by his Tibetan buddhist teacher colleagues, makes me reason that being a recognised reincarnation of someone important in past life (tib. tulku) or having spent decades with the highest authorities and yogis of Tibetan buddhism (see photos 1., 2., 3., 4., 5.) actually might not mean anything at all. You don't become a movie star just by hanging out with movie stars, do you? To become a movie star, you have to learn how to act and act in famous movies.
I am going to get more unpopular than I already am by saying this but I recently saw someone online write of his guru:
”... the man who became my master, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, is a special kind of master. Everyone once and a while a master who is unbelievable comes around. This is Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. For example, he is a living master who had two of his Gurus attain Rainbow Body, he is a terton, treasure revealer, and has revealed pure visions. He is a student of many great masters, including the famous female Dzogchen practitioner Ayu Khandro. His uncles were great masters. His grandmother had pure visions. He is the incarnation of Adzom Drugpa, a famous Dzogchen master... But he was also raised as a tulku of Adzom Drugpa in a Sakya monastery, so he has a very, very firm education in Dharma. He then went to go meet his tsawai lama, the incomparable Chongchub Dorje who lived to a ridiculously old age, and who introduced him to the real meaning of Dzogchen, which changed Rinpoche's life. He also received teaching from his other uncles, and many masters, and Dakinis.”
And yet, in the Summer of 2016 in a live webcast, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche himself said that among activities his rigpa lasts for ”3 seconds” at a time. This was his response to people who came to him and claimed they they were aware at all times. I am sorry if saying this causes strong emotions but when anyone is in the natural state for few seconds at a time, that person is not a living buddha nor a dzogchen master because the definition of a master is that such person doesn't leave the natural state. This is a simple fact. This does not lessen or nullify the long lasting dharma work of the teacher in question in any way.
The conclusion is that no matter who you have studied with, unless you are a great practitioner yourself, 1. you will not become a living embodiment of the dharma, i.e. a living buddha and because you are not a living buddha 2. you might make bad mistakes, misjudgements and cause a lot of harm for yourself and for others.
No matter how long and impressive the teacher's resume or title is his validity as a dharma teacher should be weighed by the insight of his students, not by what he has achieved materialistically. All the decorated monasteries, dharma halls and centers mean nothing unless people are waking up and maturing in that insight. Students of buddhism should only take refuge on the enlightened principles, not samsaric beings.
Open Heart Bhumi Model
One big problem why mainstream buddhism suffers is that they do not have a concrete way to measure attainments, even though attainments is a major concern. I am saying ”they” because I am not part of the buddhist establishment, even though I feel like being in the same boat with them.
The Open Heart Bhumi Model is a genious measuring stick when it comes to spiritual attainments. By learning and applying it we can come to see exactly where we or our guru is at on the map of insight, from the initial awakening to the bodhisattva stages, to buddhahood and all the way to the full rainbow body. As far as I know there is no other system like it.
If we knew where our lama is at, whether far or close from buddhahood, this would help us to use our own discrimination and intelligence, instead of becoming blind believers. And this makes all the difference.
Let's not put buddhism to shame. Let's not become believers.
Yours In Dharma.
- Orgyen Pema, 22.7.2017.