Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kicking Back

Let's see now... where did we leave off?

"Thus, if a person is self-righteously claiming to practice the buddhadharma, is using his practice as credentials, then he is simply playing ego's game."
Ah, yes... the text continues from there:
"If a group of people do this together, then they reinforce each other in the same game. Inevitably they will pick a leader. Then the leader will have as his credentials the title 'head of the flock.' Then the members of the flock will have as their credentials the title 'member of such-and-such organization.' The leader and his flock reinforce each other's identities. As is said in the Sutra of the Treasury of Buddha, 'If someone teaches with ignorance, it is worse than if he took the lives of the inhabitants of three iniverses, because his ability to teach the dharma is impure.' 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 style of spirituality, the operation of spiritual materialism."
It isn't too difficult to find examples of what Trungpa Rinpoche describes. However, I think it is less useful to employ his descriptions in a field guide sense than it is to employ them in a diagnostic sense.

What of people who are right-this-minute, completely caught up in the perversion of sangha, but are absolutely, positively (self-righteously) convinced that everybody else is out of step but them? What of the people who have devoted decades of their lives to braying like a jackass about lineage-in-the-abstract, but have nothing in the way of accomplishment? Whenever I think about this, I am always reminded of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche's statement --
"One serious concern I have is that though the West is known for having thousands of experts and educated people, as yet I have heard of very few westerners who have achieved any degree of realization through practice."
Well, that is the issue, isn't it? Whenever you hear this, you should thank him for laying it on the line. Lineage is held, and upheld, not by proclamation, but by actual accomplishment. You can shout about lineage all you want, and demand to see by whose authority, blah, blah, blah, but the people with authentic presence really aren't tied to your notions of what is and is not probative.

Again, getting even farther away from the field guide and even closer to the diagnostic -- where and in what context do you suppose prostitution of the teachings is taking place? At a Teamster's meeting? Down at Our Lady's? In some faraway, mythical land where the unicorn dwells? Apply some common sense. It is taking place in the West, in Buddhist "centers," or "sanghas," where they play the ever-escalating game of one-upsmanship, telling you that they are the chosen arbitrators between culture and religion.

It is possible to become so materially religious that you forget spirituality. In matters of culture and spirituality, you and you alone are the arbitrator.

Taking Trungpa Rinpoche's descriptions in the diagnostic sense, we need to sit down in a quiet place where we've never been before, and will never go again, and just ask ourselves the basic questions. In what ways do we fit his description? In what ways do we defy his description? We need to be brutally honest about this -- utterly candid with ourselves -- even if after doing so, we still sigh, get up, and go rejoin the perversion of the sangha because we don't know any better, or don't have any place else to go.

What if you have spent your life... ten, or twenty, or even thirty years... wholly invested in something that is fundamentally the operation of spiritual materialism? Do you have the courage to leave? Do you have the courage to change? Do you have the courage to try something new? Do you have the ability to see things not as you once wished them to be, ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago, but as they actually are right this minute?

A sangha is not a gang of football hooligans, rooting for Mahamudra United Meditation Club to overcome its arch-rivals.

And, as a Buddhist, you are most definitely not a partisan.

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