Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Lion's Corpse

"Firstly, this speech of sadness at the actions of Kali Yuga beings, is instructed from myself to myself. The lamenting words are changing my heart deeply. I offer them to you thinking you feel the same as I. If your feelings differ from mine and you have the confidence of high point of view and meditation, being intelligent with sophisticated worldly dharma activities, and rely on the plans of big organizations to benefit yourself and others, if you have such feelings, then I must apologize to you."

--Patrul Rinpoche,
The Practice of the Essence of the Sublime Heart Jewel, View, Meditation, and Action: The Propitious Speech from the Beginning, Middle and End

This is an open letter to a celebrated acquaintance who is ashamed of mental illness:

I do not believe there has ever been a case in the history of Tibetan Buddhism where a person charged by institutional tradition with guiding the spiritual well-being of others -- a "root guru" if you will -- was personally under the care of a psychiatrist, and taking a daily regimen of prescribed pharmaceuticals to control raging psychosis. I do not believe there has ever been a case where such a person, on a nightly basis, also abused alcohol and smoked marijuana. I have scoured history, and I cannot find a single example where the combination psychiatric patient and root guru and poly drug abuser habitually ordered their students to keep visiting psychiatrists until they found one who would diagnose the same disorder and prescribe the same pharmaceuticals, nor can I find an example where the alcohol and drug abuse was typically in the company of one's own child.

So, you are unique. I do not believe there has ever been a case in the history of Tibetan Buddhism quite like yours.

When you read these words, or have them read to you, you will undoubtedly react with fury, believing that I have betrayed your confidences; that I have betrayed your secrets to strangers, and that I have identified you, hauling you into public censure and ridicule. Undoubtedly, you will experience anger, hatred, and pride, and you will plot revenge. Perhaps you will burn me in effigy, and order your students to take turns expressing anger, hatred, and pride. However, I have (1) not betrayed your confidences, (2) your "secrets" are in fact open secrets, I have (3) not identified you, for you will identify yourself through your own, predictable actions, and (4) both public censure and acclaim have an equal taste and are beneath any further consideration.

I have sympathy for you, especially since you have now practically worn yourself out trying to revise history. You burn not only effigies, but images of Chenrezig, Manjushri, and Vajrapani. You burn sadhanas, protection cords, and you dismantle your intranet, where digital messages passed between your followers. You try to explain that which cannot be explained: how you, so occupied with crowns and thrones and credentials, repeatedly invited and hosted the self-same authentic presence that eventually uncovered the worst of your madness: the clear mirror that now reflects your nakedness. Oh, omniscient one! How could you allow yourself to be so misled?

I, too, look in a mirror, and think I see the problem.

"If someone teaches with ignorance, it is worse than if he took the lives of the inhabitants of three universes, because his ability to teach the dharma is impure."

--Sutra of the Treasury of Buddha.

There are titles, and then there is authentic presence. When a person who can only lay claim to a empty title comes in contact with authentic presence, all sorts of fears and jealousies arise. You cannot barter or bribe or seduce authentic presence. You cannot "play" authentic presence. All you can do is clutch fiercely to your tin crown and scream your tantrum to the crowd: that they did not see what they saw, they did not hear what they heard, they did not feel what they felt, they were in fact misled. This was no authentic presence! This was an impostor that infiltrated! True, he was powerful, but it was demonic power! Why, he seemed to know things before they happened! Why, it even came to pass that you had more devotion to him than you do to me!

Gee, thanks honey, but tame your mind first.

But the door through which the infiltration took place was the door you left open. There was the welcome mat you swept, and the numerous reproductions of the impostor's words that you wished the faithful to read and memorize. Transparent mind can perceive what has not yet been expressed. It is really not so difficult once you actually know how, but "knowing how" takes practice and practice takes a clear mind. Psychiatric medicines, narcotics, and cheap bourbon just compound delusion, and compounded delusion breeds the very antithesis of clear mind. There is not one rule for you and another for others. This organization you have created is badly flawed because it is a distorted reflection of your disordered mind.

"Inevitably this organization, this collective ego, will look for further confirmation of its health and existence. It may even take as its credentials the transmission of the lineage, the teachings of the great masters, but it will be a prostitution of those teachings. It will involve itself in the ever-escalating game of one-upsmanship in order to enlarge its congregation. This one-upsmanship may take the form of collecting endorsements and diplomas, as well as the form of ambitious practice and adherence to the teachings. It will also see the success of rivals as a threat. The Buddha said that his teachings, like a lion, would never be destroyed by outsiders; it could only be destroyed from within like a lion's corpse consumed by maggots. This is the perversion of sangha. It is the dark-age of spirituality, the operation of spiritual materialism."

---Trungpa Rinpoche
Buddhadharma without Credentials.

For over 40 years, I have been interested in the propagation of the Nyingma School in the West. While I do not cite this as a claim of entitlement, I cite this as an explanation of why I am concerned.

I am concerned, when I see someone collect money ostensibly to educate others in foreign monasteries, but then "borrow" thousands of dollars of that money to support a personal lifestyle.

If you simply must have a golden throne, then manifest one. Do not extort it from your students. If you simply must have respect, then earn it. Do not inculcate a climate of fear and then mistake fear for respect.

I am concerned, when I see someone order a student to take psychiatric drugs he does not need, and then once he is made pliable by these drugs, systematically bleed him of his family's money and property. How that family appealed to me, do you know? It truly brought tears to my eyes.

If you simply must have money and property, then ask the wealth deities to assist your practice. Do not make conspiracies and victims. If you simply must have security, then abandon impermanence. Do not swim in mirages and drown in rivers.

I am concerned, when I see the paranoia bred from narcotics abuse send someone running from a temple to a compound in the countryside. When you are there, do you feel you are not watched? Can you not see that a thousand pairs of eyes are always watching you? Why do you encumber those who trust you with debt after debt when the very ground upon which sacred structures rest stands in jeopardy?

Do not force others to lie in order to cover your own transgressions. Do not teach poison upon poison and repress transformation upon transformation. Teaching students is bilateral effort, not unilateral edict.

I am concerned, when I see someone enter into strategic alliances with overseas compradores, usurpers acting "in the name" of accomplished persons, and I am deeply concerned when wolves meet crows, placing Nyingma institutions in the names of individuals who are not even lamas. At this very moment, the man you call your teacher lays blind, dying, saying that his body can no longer support his activities. He says nobody listens to him anymore and that there is no purpose for him to remain. He says directly -- in the presence of numerous witnesses who will tell the tale -- how very disappointed he is with you.

Can you answer these concerns without resort to Orwellian machinations? Without arrogance? Without rationalization? Are you big enough to admit you have been wrong? Nobody wants to hold your feet to the fire. Don't you know you will be loved, and understood, and forgiven? Don't you know that ours is the religion of compassion, not retribution?

"People who do not have noble intelligent power often use worldly politics in spiritual groups. Because those who want to study or learn generally depend upon tradition, social customs, or politics, Dharma institutions cannot be made without some form of dependence on these. But, if we really want to make pure Dharma institutions, we must only temporarily depend on society's heavy elements' customs in order to ultimately go beyond wisdom's customless light elements. If we only believe in using our ordinary gross impure elements' power to help ourselves, we will automatically make hierarchies to prevent others in a subtle way from being equal. Then those who desire internally to bring themselves up to a pure lighter level will be forced to use external power, depending on worldly institutions for advancement. Finally, as a result of this hierarchy style in which those on top try to keep others down everyone's mind becomes heavy."

---Thinley Norbu Rinpoche
Magic Dance

You should make a gift of all your possessions to Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, place all of your followers in his care, and walk away alone and penniless. I think he is the one doctor who could cure you.

And cured you shall be as be cured you must be. There is such a potential for good within you: such an untapped reservoir of pristine purity as could favor a desert with constant, gentle rain.

The clock ticks and your body aches. This is a reminder that you must act before it is too late. Do you not remember the oft-told symbol from our shared cultural heritage -- Nero fiddling while Rome burns? Do you do this as well? Do you squander blood and treasure on soundless music, like a drunk who believes every word he speaks is of deathless importance?

The clock ticks and your body aches. This is a warning to the wise that course correction is necessary. If you want to join me in an empty place, away from your mindless ass-kissers and your living coffin's satin shroud you are more than welcome. If you wish to escape prison, you will find freedom here. If you wish to be more than an empty title, here is your opportunity. You say you teach --- we all earnestly wish to see this --- but to teach, one must first learn, so come here to the learning place and stop lying to yourself.

Stop lying to yourself that you can intercede for others in the bardo, when you do not even know whether an animal lying by the side of the road is alive or dead. Stop lying to yourself that you have powers you do not possess, when you cannot even fight your own battles. Stop lying to yourself and hiding in your room, growing bloated and ugly on the poison your own delusions distilled. Your illness is hurting people -- it is hurting your students, and it is hurting you. Do you know that the Protectors cannot be fooled? If you call upon them wrongly, they will turn against you, as they have now done.

"You shouldn’t boast about visions. There are many of these so-called western tulkus and lamas who are busy boasting to their disciples that they had this vision and that vision trying to impress their disciples. This is just worldly concern. I hope none of you will ever do that. Why should you boast? If you’re my friends, in the future you won’t do that. Just be harmonious with each other and do your very best and follow the pure tradition, not “my way.” Don’t follow the highway of “my way,” that’s very shameful. That will cover up the pure Buddhist doctrine. And don’t mix the tradition with other things, with your own ideas and your own cultures. Don’t follow cultures for that matter. You don’t need to follow any culture, just the pure Buddhadharma, and nothing ever needs to be changed. It’s so sad when people think they need to adjust Buddha’s speech, like pouring blood into pure milk."

--Gyatrul Rinpoche,
Yeshe Nyingpo Newsletter, March 2006

I know these rules because I broke these rules and I suffered the consequences. I learn from my mistakes, and in the spirit of altruism, I wish only that others learn from them as well. This thing called Nyingma does not belong to us. It is not ours to play with or sell. It is not collateral for a loan, nor excuse for ill-tempered action. This thing called Nyingma is a constant exhortation to serve the welfare of others BEFORE we even think to serve ourselves.

People like us should understand and have the courage to admit carelessness, contradictions, mistakes, and transgressions.

This thing called Nyingma can never be permitted to become a lion's corpse.

To help prevent that from happening, here are a few more words from Gyatrul Rinpoche you might want to keep in mind:

'These days it’s a very sad time because many people are given dharma names like ‘tulku.’ Then right away they pop up, but they are empty of qualities. There’s nothing more sad than that. So please don’t follow this empty tulku tradition where the demon of godliness is cultivated. That demon of godliness is meant to be eradicated, not encouraged. Therefore, all disciples must keep samaya.

"Keeping samaya vows doesn’t mean looking at one another and pointing to see if others are keeping them or not, saying he or she is good, he or she is bad. Of course, all beings are having a hard time keeping samaya, just as you are. That’s because they are wandering in samsara. So rather than faulting and judging them, we must have compassion and love for them continuously. Tulkus can really destroy the doctrine, especially these days when they compete with each other for positions, like who sits on the highest seat in the shrine room. It’s a sign of not knowing the dharma at all. Whoever sits on the lowest seat in the shrine room is the one who has the highest qualities.

"For example, it’s a well-known fact that there’s no owner of the Ganden Tri, the throne of the Ganden. Whoever has the qualities takes the seat on that throne. But these days, lamas and tulkus are fighting over positions. That’s the tradition of kings; it’s not the dharma tradition. Buddha Shakyamuni never worried about a throne. Guru Rinpoche never worried about a throne. Our root guru, Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, never worried about a throne and in the history of his lineage there’s never any history of anyone fighting over who held the throne or competition about how many tulkus there may be. This has never existed in Dudjom Lingpa and Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s lineage. Usually there are 5 tulkus for body, speech, mind, qualities and enlightened activities. All of these tulkus are busy increasing the doctrine. They’re not thinking, “My monastery’s the seat,” or “I’m the only throne holder.” So don’t take the pure dharma and bless it with demon’s views.

"Think about the future and about keeping the lineage pure. It doesn’t matter if you’re a monk or a ngakpa. You should tame your own mind. That is the main responsibility of dharma practice. And also not breaking samaya. No matter how scholarly you may become, if you don’t have pure samaya, your mind will become like a poisonous snake and you’ll never be a good practitioner. You will only be a reflection. In the future, always remember it doesn’t matter what you look like with your dharma clothes on, whether you appear to be handsome, pretty, powerful, even if someone is always praising you. You need to understand that all these ways of thinking about dharma are detrimental because they don’t help you to tame your mind and cultivate compassion for others. So just work on taming your mind and don’t worry about the rest of the stuff.

"Stay happy with who you are whatever status you have. However much you can tame your mind, that will bring you more happiness. Have excellent thoughts toward others and give offerings as much as you can without being proud or boasting. These days people do one good thing and right away they want to tell everyone, pretending they’re so great. There’s never any reason to tell anyone anything when you do something good. They will notice it. It will be conspicuous. Remembering that all parent sentient beings are equal to space we should always have love for them and whatever happens, we should always attribute that to the kindness of our root guru and our parents. This is very important, to think that whatever qualities you have are because of your guru’s kindness, not because of yourself.

"For example, for me, I know that I don’t have any qualities, but because of the kindness of my gurus, I have been able to do something meaningful in my life. I do have confidence in that. But I have never thought that I did this myself. I always thought that it was because of their kindness and their kindness alone that I had this opportunity. That makes me special. That makes me someone who can give the gift of dharma. When I think about myself doing something good, I attribute all the credit to my root gurus. So if you are my friends, then you should do the same. I would expect that of you. As for this name tulku, a dog can be called a snow lion. The tulku lineage does not matter any more. Just tame your own minds. That’s the real tulku."

My poor, sad, sick and lonely friend: who were these words written for, if not you and me?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

2 reader comments:

CFynn said...

Don't know to whom your post refers - but these pieces of advice from a declaration by Chatral Sangey Dorje Rinpoche should probably be heeded by many who call themselves Nyingma teachers...

1. If you are a serious Buddhist student and Dzogchen practitioner one should spend all your life in retreat with a minimum of comfort and giving up all luxuries and attachment.

2. Do not waste your time touring foreign countries including Taiwan which is fruitless.

3. Do not be tempted to beg for donations under different excuses such as construction of a big monastery, stupa, Zangdogpalri, Bum thshog, setting up of a new Buddhist centre etc.

4. Do not sell out Dzogpachenpo under different pretexts for your own personal benefit.

5. Always be humble and try not to expose yourself in front of others even though you may have a little knowledge of Buddhism

6. Do not cheat others in the name of Dzogchen by giving initiations or teachings which you have never received and not done practice by yourself from a legitimate lama or guru.


Anonymous said...

That is the most deeply moving expression of the compassion of one human for another that I have ever read.