Note: I happen to practice within one of the Buddhist traditions. I have no authority of any kind --- and do not want it.
What follows is an attempt to offer, however clumsily, an interpretation framwork that originates within the Mahayana Buddhist tradition by which the health of a troubled Mahayana Buddist practice commuity can be assessed.
I hope this is not seen as proslytizing, for I do not intend it to be such.
My core question would be:
Does this community and its leader/s use rank, wealth and power in such a way as to support the truthful practice of all members, however humble, and to prevent the exploitation of all members, and avoid favoritism?
Buddha was awakened to practice by seeing an old man, a sick man, and then a funeral for a dead man.
Does the sangha care only for the young, the beautiful and the wealthy? Does it care for its members when they grow ill and old?
Or does the community discard people when they have grown old in its service and need their loyalty reciprocated by being cared for in sickness in old age.
Or is only the old and wealthy guru loved and cared for, while lower ranking older members are told to take care of themselves or leave?
To discard old and ailing members in their moment of need is to violate the precept that tells us to cherish all life and avoid killing.
Does the guru only pay attention to handsome and wealthy members? Buddha was visited by all. He accepted hospitality from the wealthy, yet was visited by the broken hearted women whose child had died and begged him for consolation.
Originally Buddha and the monks dressed in rags stiched together, often rags left over after bodies had been cremated. In those ancient days, all cloth was laboriously handwoven and was precious stuff. Buddha wore silk and brocade as a young prince, but discarded those clothes when he ran away to become a renunciate.
A sangha, especially a Himalayan one, has to beware of too great expenditure on brocades for the guru, if it means the lower ranking members are overworked and lack time to deepen their practice.
More questions for a sangha:
Is there time to practice, or are people kept busy by overworking? Too often an expensive temple requires too much attention to fundraising, flattery of the wealthy, etc.
Supporting practice is more than knowing how to wear robes, conduct the rituals, prostrate to the guru, purchase handsome property and create splendid buildings.
Practice has to include truthfulness and an environment that encourages insight into afflictive emotions and the cultivation of both wisdom and compassion.
And practice includes awareness of and concern for the welfare of all beings, not just the guru and his followers.
One should start out and remain a good citizen and remain that way regardless of what level of tantra one qualifies for.
When a sangha practices a multilivel path, with admission to higher ranks being based on years of practice and secret instruction, that particular teacher has to take very special safeguards against fostering a poisonous climate of greed (greed for admission to advanced tantra) ambition (on the part of the guru and on the part of students who
long to receive such practices).
What I hope is to make a case that the Buddhist precepts actually support naming abuses of power within a sangha rather than the practice of collusive silence that is described for us by Tenzin Peljor.
Tenzin Peljor writes:
With respect to the silence of many Buddhists to point out the potential dangers of NKT with respect to the damage they have done to others and may potentially continue to do to others: if one has a clear understanding about this and does not communicate this to potential victims of the group, I think this is inappropriate, because it is like knowing a cruel trap of a hunter, and ignoring it, letting the animal running into it. For me this is not a very compassionate attitude.
In the Mahayana Buddhist traditions, it is important to consult the Bodhisattva vows when evaluating the health of a sangha.
What follows is my own personal intepretation and reflection on all this. I possess no authority whatsoever.
Regrettably, many justify keeping silent about abuses of power within their sanghas by citing the precept, 'I vow not to engage in slander or harsh speech'.
The problem is, this ignores the precept, which states, 'I vow to protect (or not to slander or defame) the three jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha--Sangha meaning the community of practionioners.
Here is where problems may develop:
If a particular leader of a sangha decided to break away due to personal ambition or discord with his* own leader or a desire to acquire personal power, hold onto valuable property or acquire valuable wealth at a greater rate by not having to share it with his own guru, then the sect or sangha lead by such a person will itself originate from a tangle of greed, hate and illusion, and this will entangle everyone, including new converts, in a web of afflictive emotion originating from the greed, anger and delusion which led to the sect leaders decision to break away and take an independent course.
(I say 'his' when referring to the leader because in Himalayan, Buriat and Mongolian Buddhism, most of the leaders are male)
If an ambitious lineage holder who happens to be of legitmate lineage seeks power, social support and connections by giving tulku recognition to famous, wealthy and untrained persons, these 'recognitions' will be entangled in a mess of afflictive emotion, which does no honor to Buddhadharma, defiles the three jewels and will impose a heavy burden on those so recognized.
If an unqualified person creates a fallcious lineage his or her teaching career is born amid greed for power and a lie, and no matter how sincere his or her students, that teacher will entangle students in a web of greed, hate and illusion..especially if students are encouraged to quarrel with others who have any doubts or concerns about the qualification of their teacher.
Life is complex. People may practice sincerely and gain great benefit, but if their sincere practice is entangled with the afflictive emotions of a teacher or sanga with a troubled history of the kind described above, the practice of that sincere student will be
burdened with entanglements generated by the 'family history' of his or her sangha.
Students come trustfully to practice and arrive with enough personal trouble of their own. For that very reason and because life is short and we do not know how long we are given to live, students are ENTITLED to a clean situation that supports their practice and for that reason deserve not to have their practice further burdened by unspoken troubles and discord originating from their teacher's hidden ambitions.
It is wrong to turn students into human wealth for an ambitious teacher and it is wrong to turn students into soldiers to fight an angry and deluded teacher's sectarian wars with others in the Mahayana world. This drags the three treasures through the mud.
(However, this sad behavior has been observed in traditions other than Buddhadharma. Afflictive emotion is everywhere. May our practice benefit all beings)
1) It may be that all too often, people are taught to equate sangha with the guru and forget that this also includes persons low in rank, or who lack full disclosure about the problems within the group. Too often senior members who know all too well about the problems in the group keep quiet when new comers arrive, because they dont want to make Buddhadharma look bad, and they rationalize that they do not want to discourage the newcomers in their dharma practice.
All this does is rationalize a pattern of family secrecy in which newbies are kept from learning the full nature of what is going on in the practice community. Senior members have often surrendered years of their lives and cant bear to admit they might have been serving a disloyal leader and a dubious cause. To stifle these misgivings they tell only sunny things to the new arrivals, perpetuating the toxic secrecy.
This violates the other Buddhist precept which forbids us to lie.
2) If disharmony and wrongdoing already
exist in a community, naming it for what it is does not cause the problem--it reveals the problem. If a tooth is decayed, taking a dental X ray that reveals the decay does not cause the problem---it reveals the condition, hopefully while still treatable and before the patient needs a root canal or have the tooth pulled.
Keeping silent about a problem that already exists in sangha is like refusing to go to the dentist, or refusing, if one visits the dentist, to allow the dentist to take an X ray.
Finally there are differences in rank within many Buddhist communities. The purpose of this is to support the practice of all in the community, no matter how humble their status, NOT to accumulate excessive riches, excessive power for a favored few.
For...this would violate the precept that forbids us to be greedy in relation to comforts and resources.
The problem is it is hard for a newbie to know when information is being witheld from them.
That is why my personal interpretation of the precept "I vow not to lie" would read this way:
'I vow not to lie. This means I vow to avoid misleading speech, misleading gestures, misleading silences. I vow to beware of letting people believe I have given them full disclosure when what I have done is give them partial disclosure.'
There are very rare situations, mostly involving small children, where one may not be able to tell the full truth, but one must never
, rationalize this to justify infantalizing adults who are sincerely seeking a spiritual path.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 11/06/2009 10:12PM by corboy.