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Dalai Lama on teacher/student relationships

genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
Passed along in email today, this 1993 interview with the Dalai Lama ... apparently unpublished until now.


  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited October 2013
    " If someone says that since everyone has Buddha mind, any kind of conduct is acceptable, or that teachers do not need to follow ethical precepts, it indicates that they do not correctly understand emptiness or cause and effect. "

    "If the guru refuses to accept your reservations about following their non-Dharmic or unskillful instructions and kicks you out, pack your bags and leave. Your guru can tell you to leave physically, but they cannot make your mind leave the Dharma."

    These were highlights for me. *claps*
  • That's a great start, but there is no system in place to investigate and remove the Rinpoche or Lama that engages in misconduct. Lesser monks may be disciplined up to having their robe taken from them.
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    @cinorjer -- The only current mechanism that I know of is when the sangha packs its bags and moves out.

    Of course, on second thought, there is tar-and-feathering ....
  • howhow Veteran
    In Japan, the zen priest who ran a small rural temple that one of my teachers eventually took over, died when the local villagers stop providing any alms (food) because of behavior they deemed to be un priestly and he refused to leave.. (50 some years ago)
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran
    edited October 2013
    What an awesome interview! I made a pdf copy for my files. Here's just one excellent snippet from this outstanding Q & A session (emphases mine):

    WBT: "There are some teachers who seem to have deep realization of emptiness and yet their ethical behavior leaves a lot to be desired. How can someone have such realization and yet still conduct themselves in this way?"

    HHDL: "Problems arise due to lack of inner strength. Even though a person teaches the Dharma, there can still be a gap between the Dharma and their lives. When there is contradiction between someone’s apparently high realization and their ethical conduct, that realization may not :D be as high as it seems. Although the ability to remain in single-pointed concentration or in a non-conceptual state is a realization, it is not a very deep one. It is not a realization of emptiness, the ultimate nature.

    "People can err in their way of meditating on emptiness. Some mistakenly go to the extreme of negating cause and effect, in which case their “realization” of emptiness is incorrect. Others meditate on a nonconceptual state and mistake it for emptiness. Or, their meditation is influenced by subtle dullness, and that is mistaken for realization. This happens due to lack of study of potential pitfalls in meditation and their antidotes.

    "Emptiness is not nothingness. On one side, a thing is empty; on the other it arises dependently. Emptiness is not empty of existence; it is empty of independent existence. So it must depend on other things. It is important to make sure one has the correct understanding of emptiness. Those who understand emptiness correctly as meaning dependent arising see that if they misbehave, they will have to face the consequences. Thus they refrain from acting in an unethical manner.

    "We have a positive and a negative sense of self. The realization of emptiness destroys the negative, not the positive one. Without strong will, bodhisattvas are unable to confront and fight their self-centered attitude. To develop such will requires tremendous self-confidence, and this is the sphere of the positive sense of self. The negative sense of self works without sound reason, just on the grounds of “I want this or that,” and this is to be eliminated. The positive sense of self, on the other hand, operates on the basis of reason, and with it we can develop the confidence and will necessary to overcome negativities. Therefore do not misunderstand and think that the realization of selflessness makes you weak.

    "An actual realization should bring about a change in your life. The sign of having truly listened to teachings is that your outward behavior becomes calm. The sign of having experientially realized the teachings is that your afflictions are eliminated. If you meditate properly on emptiness, your compassion and ethical self-discipline will grow naturally. Although you may have meditated for thirty or forty years, if you do not obtain these results, something is wrong with your practice and the time has been wasted. This is due to a lack of proper study at the beginning. Before engaging in extensive meditation, it is essential to learn how to meditate properly: what are the obstacles to perfect concentration? What are their antidotes? What is meant by “emptiness” and how do we go about perceiving it in meditation? What are the broader implications of emptiness in our daily life?

    "When we have learned about these from qualified teachers, then our meditation practice will go more smoothly and will bear good results.

    "Afflictions are overcome in stages, not all at once. The first time you actually eliminate a portion of them is at the path of seeing, when you have direct, non-conceptual perception of emptiness. Before that stage, when you encounter circumstances that give rise to afflictions, you must use ethical self-discipline to prevent these attitudes from manifesting as negative behavior. To develop such self-control, two factors are crucial—a sense of personal integrity and a consideration for others. Since those Buddhist teachers who misbehave lack these two factors and do not care about the consequences of their actions for themselves or others, it is helpful, as a Dharma friend, to speak up and voice your disapproval. This may help them develop a sense of personal integrity and consideration for others, which will curb their destructive conduct.

    "The mind is so complex and afflictions are so sophisticated and powerful that one single practice alone cannot eliminate all negative states completely. Therefore, the Buddha devised a complex strategy for overcoming afflictions. In battle, if we underestimate the power of our enemy, we are in big trouble. Similarly, in Dharma practice we must not underestimate the power of our afflictions."
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran
    Also these two snippets (any emphasis mine):

    "If someone says that since everyone has Buddha mind, any kind of conduct is acceptable, or that teachers do not need to follow ethical precepts, it indicates that they do not correctly understand emptiness or cause and effect.

    "Everyone is accountable for his or her behavior. For someone with full realization, ingesting urine, feces, alcohol, and human flesh are all the same. But if those Buddhist teachers who ethically misbehave were to eat feces or drink urine, I doubt they would enjoy it!" :rarr:

    - - - - - -

    "What is in the best interest of the Buddhadharma is much more important than anything concerning an individual guru. Therefore, if it is necessary to criticize a guru to save the Buddhadharma or to benefit several hundred of their disciples, do not hesitate. Afterwards you can go to that teacher and explain that you acted as you did with a pure motivation. If the guru gets angry, this is another indication of their shortcomings. :rolleyes:
    "The scriptures say that because we cannot be sure who is a bodhisattva and who is not, we should not criticize anyone. In that context, Mao can be seen as a bodhisattva and we do not criticize him. That is on a private level, how we see it in our own mind. But in terms of Tibetan independence, I cannot say Mao was good because he destroyed our religion and our country! I must speak out! There is no conflict between these two views. :scratch:

    "If you have not yet taken someone as your guru and you find out about their misconduct, then you can stop the relationship. If you have already taken tantric initiations from them, avoid developing disrespect or antipathy. In such cases, the Kalachakra Tantra advises us to maintain a neutral attitude and not pursue the relationship any further. You can keep your distance, while still considering that person as your guru because they have benefited you Dharmically in the past.

    "If someone is a student of an abusive teacher and you see that their relationship with that teacher is harmful, you should warn that student. But if that relationship is not harmful, you should leave it alone. The key to whether you create the negative karma of separating a disciple and teacher is your motivation. Actions motivated by an angry, judgmental attitude are to be avoided, while those based on compassion and tolerance are fine.

    "When Asian teachers pressure Westerners to raise or give money for their monasteries, you must use discrimination. In some cases where there is a legitimate need and the funds will benefit people and not just go towards constructing a lavish, empty building, it is good to help if you can. But when such funds will be used for other purposes, such as buying jewelry for members of the teacher’s family, this is corruption and to cooperate with it is merely spoiling the teacher."

    Here endeth the Lesson from this very smart Dalai Lama dude.
    I hope he flourishes a long, long time.
  • Dependence and independence.
    Many 'teachers' collude with their students. The genuine teacher and student want independence as soon as possible.
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