Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

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Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby WASW » Wed Feb 12, 2014 6:18 pm

Hi all,

I was originally planning on posting these questions in the Tsen Tulku thread http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=3572, but I thought that they may have been a bit off-topic so am posting separately. Questions like the ones that have arisen regarding Tsen Tulku make me wonder how (for a relative newcomer like myself) we should discriminate between teachers and potential gurus?

The obvious answers are to use your scrutiny on their actions and dharma teachings, but obviously if it was as simple as telling yourself "I will scrutinise this person and be credulous", then people like this would never get any following at all! This brings me to the crux of my question - are there any definite warning signs for someone who is new to Buddhadharma to avoid being taken in?

Similarly, and on a more positive note, what would be the signs of a teacher with integrity and who it would be worth placing you trust in?
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby smcj » Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:01 pm

A friend of mine had a problem with a well known teacher. Afterwards his advice was that if you could PREDICT how a teacher would act based on the 8 worldly dharma (gain/loss, praise/blame, pleasure/pain, authority/obscurity) then don't trust them. Or put more simply, if money, sex, power and prestige are their motivations, they are not trustworthy.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby tatpurusa » Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:18 pm

The real guru

1. neither does limit your freedom
2. nor does liberate you
3. ... just teaches how to liberate yourself
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby Motova » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:29 am

Examine their teachers and students.
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby lobster » Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:04 am

Similarly, and on a more positive note, what would be the signs of a teacher with integrity and who it would be worth placing you trust in?


I think you have been provided with good advice. Being familiar with several teachers will also provide a way of comparing. A teacher needs to have what you require. Perhaps practice experience? Knowledge? Patience, kindness etc. Most teachers have this in abundance. You will be fine as long as you maintain your integrity. Good teachers are now abundant. :woohoo:
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:11 am

Check their lineage, their teachings and their personal example. According to the Lamrim teachings there are ten qualities possessed by qualified Mahayana Spiritual Guides:

(1) A mind that is controlled by the practice of moral discipline.
(2) A mind that has become peaceful and undistracted through the practice of concentration.
(3) Reduced self-grasping through the practice of wisdom.
(4) Greater knowledge than the disciple.
(5) Delight in teaching Dharma.
(6) A wealth of scriptural knowledge.
(7) A deep and stable realization of emptiness.
(8) Great skill in explaining Dharma.
(9) Compassion and love for his disciples.
(10) Enthusiasm for teaching Dharma, being free from discouragement or laziness.
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby plwk » Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:42 am

Selections from the Sutra texts and East Asian Mahayana perspectives...

Now the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying:
"It may be, Ananda, that to some among you the thought will come: 'Ended is the word of the Master; we have a Master no longer.' But it should not, Ananda, be so considered. For that which I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Discipline, that shall be your Master when I am gone.

Mahaparinibbana Sutta

"This being the case, there is the teacher's undoing, there is the student's undoing, there is the undoing of one who leads the holy life.
"And how is there the teacher's undoing? There is the case where a certain teacher resorts to a secluded dwelling: a wilderness, the shade of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a forest grove, the open air, a heap of straw. While he is living thus secluded, brahmans & householders from town & countryside visit him. When they visit him, he gets smitten with things that infatuate, falls into greed, and reverts to luxury. This is called a teacher undone with a teacher's undoing.
He has been struck down by evil, unskillful qualities that defile, that lead to further becoming, are troublesome, ripen in pain, and lead to future birth, aging, & death. Such is the teacher's undoing.

"And how is there the student's undoing? A student of that teacher, imitating his teacher's seclusion, resorts to a secluded dwelling: a wilderness, the shade of a tree... a heap of straw. While he is living thus secluded, brahmans & householders from town & countryside visit him. When they visit him, he gets smitten with things that infatuate, falls into greed, and reverts to luxury. This is called a student undone with a student's undoing. He has been struck down by evil, unskillful qualities that defile, that lead to further becoming, are troublesome, ripen in pain, and lead to future birth, aging, & death. Such is the student's undoing.

"Therefore, Ananda, engage with me in friendliness, and not in opposition. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness.

"And how do students engage with the teacher in opposition and not in friendliness? There is the case where a teacher teaches the Dhamma to his students sympathetically, seeking their well-being, out of sympathy: 'This is for your well-being; this is for your happiness.' His disciples do not listen or lend ear or apply their minds to gnosis. Turning aside, they stray from the Teacher's message. This is how students engage with the teacher as opponents and not as friends.[6]

"And how do students engage with the teacher in friendliness and not in opposition? There is the case where a teacher teaches the Dhamma to his students sympathetically, seeking their well-being, out of sympathy: 'This is for your well-being; this is for your happiness.' His disciples listen, lend ear, & apply their minds to gnosis. Not turning aside, they don't stray from the Teacher's message. This is how students engage with the teacher as friends and not as opponents.

"Therefore, Ananda, engage with me in friendliness, and not in opposition. That will be for your long-term well-being & happiness.
"I won't hover over you like a potter over damp, unbaked clay goods. Scolding again & again, I will speak. Urging you on again & again, I will speak.
Whatever is of essential worth will remain."

The Greater Discourse on Emptiness Sutta
More here: 1 2 3

“Four reliances: that is, reliance on the Dharma not (merely) reliance on the person...
The Four Reliances Sutra
The Brahma Net Sutra
16. Unsound Explanation of the Dharma
A Bodhisattva Dharma Master must first, with a wholesome mind, study the rules of deportment, as well as sutras and moral codes of the Mahayana tradition, and understand their meanings in depth. Then, whenever novices come from afar to seek instruction, he should explain, according to the Dharma, all the Bodhisattva renunciation practices, such as burning one's body, arm, or finger [as the ultimate act in the quest for Supreme Enlightenment]. If a novice is not prepared to follow these practices as an offering to the Buddhas, he is not a Bodhisattva monk. Moreover, a Bodhisattva monk should be willing to sacrifice his body and limbs for starving beasts and hungry ghosts [as the ultimate act of compassion in rescuing sentient beings].

After these explanations, the Bodhisattva Dharma Master should teach the novices in an orderly way, to awaken their minds. If instead, for personal gain, he refuses to teach or teaches in a confused manner, quoting passages out of order and context, or teaches in a manner that disparages the Triple Jewel, he commits a secondary offense.

18. On Serving as an Inadequate Master
A disciple of the Buddha should study the Twelve Divisions of the Dharma and recite the Bodhisattva precepts frequently. He should strictly observe these precepts in the Six Periods of the day and night and fully understand their meaning and principles as well as the essence of their Buddha Nature.

If instead, the disciple of the Buddha fails to understand even a sentence or a verse of the moral code or the causes and conditions related to the precepts, but pretends to understand them, he is deceiving both himself and others. A disciple who understands nothing of the Dharma, yet acts as a teacher transmitting the precepts, commits a secondary offense.

22. Arrogance and Failure to Request the Dharma
A disciple of the Buddha who has only recently left home and is still a novice in the Dharma should not be conceited. He must not refuse instruction on the sutras and moral codes from Dharma Masters on account of his own intelligence, worldly learning, high position, advanced age, noble lineage, vast understanding, great merits, extensive wealth and possessions, etc. Although these Masters may be of humble birth, young in age, poor, or suffering physical disabilities, they may still have genuine virtue and deep understanding of sutras and moral codes.

The novice Bodhisattva should not judge Dharma Masters on the basis of their family background and refuse to seek instructions on the Mahayana truths from them. If he does so, he commits a secondary offense.

23. On Teaching the Dharma Grudgingly
If a Dharma Master, on account of his extensive knowledge of sutras and Mahayana moral codes as well as his close relationship with kings, princes, and high officials, refuses to give appropriate answers to student-Bodhisattvas seeking the meaning of sutras and moral codes, or does so grudgingly, with resentment and arrogance, he commits a secondary offense.

From the late Ven Master Xuan Hua: A Good and Wise Advisor
From the late Ven Master Dr Sheng Yen:



Thus Have I Heard: Buddhist Parables & Stories
PARABLE 047: FAULT-FINDING (GOOD SPIRITUAL ADVISOR)
According to the Brahma Net and Avatamsaka Sutras, we should ignore appearances and external forms when seeking a good teacher. For example, we should disregard such traits as youth, poverty, low status or lack of education, unattractive appearance or incomplete features, but should simply seek someone conversant with the Dharma, who can be of benefit to us. Nor should we find fault with good spiritual advisors for acting in certain ways, as it may be due to a number of reasons, such as pursuing a hidden cultivation practice or following an expedient teaching. Or else, they may act the way they do because while their achievements may be high, their residual bad habits have not been extinguished. If we grasp at forms and look for faults, we will forfeit benefits on the path of cultivation.

'Thus, when Buddha Sakyamuni was still alive, the Bhikshu Kalodayin was in the habit of moving his jaws like a buffalo; a certain Bhikshuni used to look at herself in the mirror and adorn herself; another Bhikshu liked to climb trees and jump from one branch to another; still another always addressed others in a loud voice, with condescending terms and appellations.

In truth, however, all four had reached the stage of Arhatship. It is just that one of them was a buffalo in a previous life, another was a courtesan, another was a monkey, and still another belonged to the Brahman class. They were accustomed to these circumstances throughout many lifetimes, so that even when they had attained the fruits of Arhatship, their residual habits still lingered.

'We also have the example of the Sixth Patriarch of Zen. Realizing that the cultivators of his day were attached to a literal reading of the sutras and did not immediately recognize their Buddha Nature, he took the form of an ignorant and illiterate person selling wood in the marketplace. Or else, take the case of a famous Zen Master who, wishing to avoid external conditions and concentrate on his cultivation, took the expedient appearance of a ragged lunatic, raving and ranting. As a result, both distinguished Masters were criticized during their lifetimes. The Sixth Patriarch was faulted for his ignorance, while the Zen monk was called insane and berserk. Therefore, finding a good spiritual advisor is a difficult task indeed."

Addendum: 1 2 3 4 5
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby theanarchist » Thu Feb 13, 2014 12:53 pm

In case it's a Tibetan buddhist teacher, verify the vajrayana lineage the teacher claims to hold. Who are that teachers teachers and did they give him or her teaching permission. If it's a tulku, who recognized him/her and was that lama qualified to do so. Did that person do the required retreats to be qualified to give empowerments. What kind of academic studies has this person undergone.

How about the ethical behaviour?

Shouldn't bee too hard to find out these things.
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:37 pm

Also you can ask around. Usually teachers, good or bad, get reputations. If google doesn't give any results, you can ask us or some other Buddhist communities about a teacher you're interested in.

For Tibetan Buddhism, the Fifty Stanzas on Guru Devotion says:

6) In order for the words of honor [samaya] of neither the Guru nor the disciple to degenerate,
there must be a mutual examination beforehand (to determine if each can) brave a Guru-disciple relationship.

7) A disciple with sense should not accept as his Guru someone who lacks compassion or who is angersome, vicious or arrogant, possessive, undisciplined or boasts of his knowledge.

8) (A Guru should be) stable (in his actions), cultivated (in his speech), wise, patient and honest. He should neither conceal his shortcomings nor pretend to possess qualities he lacks. He should be an expert in the meanings (of the tantra) and in its ritual procedures (of medicine and turning back obstacles). Also he should have loving compassion and a complete knowledge of the scriptures.

9) He should have full expertise in both ten fields, skill in the drawing of mandalas, full knowledge of how to explain the tantra, supreme pure faith, and his senses fully under control.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby theanarchist » Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:35 pm

Konchog1 wrote:Also you can ask around. Usually teachers, good or bad, get reputations. If google doesn't give any results, you can ask us or some other Buddhist communities about a teacher you're interested in.


Problem here is, I have for a long time been involved with Rigpa/Sogyal Rinpoche (among other teachers) and I have not been able to determine what/how much is really true about the sexual abuse claims that have been made public on the internet.
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:57 pm

theanarchist wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:Also you can ask around. Usually teachers, good or bad, get reputations. If google doesn't give any results, you can ask us or some other Buddhist communities about a teacher you're interested in.


Problem here is, I have for a long time been involved with Rigpa/Sogyal Rinpoche (among other teachers) and I have not been able to determine what/how much is really true about the sexual abuse claims that have been made public on the internet.
If I was in your situation I would think "There are many good teachers. Does Sogyal Rinpoche provide me with something unique I cannot get elsewhere? If no, then I would go elsewhere. If yes, then are these teachings worth the confusion and worry caused by the rumors?"
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby theanarchist » Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:14 pm

Konchog1 wrote:
theanarchist wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:Also you can ask around. Usually teachers, good or bad, get reputations. If google doesn't give any results, you can ask us or some other Buddhist communities about a teacher you're interested in.


Problem here is, I have for a long time been involved with Rigpa/Sogyal Rinpoche (among other teachers) and I have not been able to determine what/how much is really true about the sexual abuse claims that have been made public on the internet.
If I was in your situation I would think "There are many good teachers. Does Sogyal Rinpoche provide me with something unique I cannot get elsewhere? If no, then I would go elsewhere."


He is the only teacher of the lineage I feel drawn to who has any activities going on in my area. Due to financial and particularly health problems I am not able to travel extensively for teachings. All the other options are completely out of my area or really hard to come by for teachings at all (like for example Alak Zenkar Rinpoche or Tulku Pema Wangyal)

Threre are good Kagyu and Gelug groups here, but that's simply not my "piece of cake".
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:32 pm

theanarchist wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:
theanarchist wrote:Problem here is, I have for a long time been involved with Rigpa/Sogyal Rinpoche (among other teachers) and I have not been able to determine what/how much is really true about the sexual abuse claims that have been made public on the internet.
If I was in your situation I would think "There are many good teachers. Does Sogyal Rinpoche provide me with something unique I cannot get elsewhere? If no, then I would go elsewhere."


He is the only teacher of the lineage I feel drawn to who has any activities going on in my area. Due to financial and particularly health problems I am not able to travel extensively for teachings. All the other options are completely out of my area or really hard to come by for teachings at all (like for example Alak Zenkar Rinpoche or Tulku Pema Wangyal)

Threre are good Kagyu and Gelug groups here, but that's simply not my "piece of cake".
So, the teachings are worth the confusion and worry. There is no problem?
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby theanarchist » Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:35 pm

Yes, there is the problem, but I don't have a solution for it.

I guess the frustration alienated me to some extent from dharma.
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby Adi » Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:20 am

Chapter Six of Patrul Rinpoche's The Words of My Perfect Teacher is titled "How to Follow A Spiritual Friend" and contains much excellent advice on how to evaluate a teacher.
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby theanarchist » Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:04 am

Adi wrote:Chapter Six of Patrul Rinpoche's The Words of My Perfect Teacher is titled "How to Follow A Spiritual Friend" and contains much excellent advice on how to evaluate a teacher.



Problem here is, this is written for people already firmly rooted in Tibetan buddhism due to cultural backgrounds. Words of My Perfect Teacher is not neccessarily the book I would give someone who is new to buddhism and looking for a group.

For a beginner from a non buddhist country I'd suggest to apply the various lists of tell tale signs for cults on cult awareness networks. Because unhealthy buddhist groups operate pretty much by the same problematic standards as unhealthy christian or hindu groups.
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby TaTa » Fri Feb 14, 2014 8:24 pm

I guess my approach has been using como scence. Dont though myself to the pool as we say here in argentina. So far so good, im steel a newbie though..
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby Adi » Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:29 pm

theanarchist wrote:
Adi wrote:Chapter Six of Patrul Rinpoche's The Words of My Perfect Teacher is titled "How to Follow A Spiritual Friend" and contains much excellent advice on how to evaluate a teacher.



Problem here is, this is written for people already firmly rooted in Tibetan buddhism due to cultural backgrounds. Words of My Perfect Teacher is not neccessarily the book I would give someone who is new to buddhism and looking for a group.


I would not quite agree with that first sentiment, though obviously it could be helpful if one already knew something of the culture. It could also be a great hindrance, depending on any one person's causes and conditions. From the translators introduction:

Patrul Rinpoche's work is not a treatise for experts but a manual of practical advice for anyone sincerely wishing to practice the dharma.


Anyone means anyone. And though HH Dalai Lama mentions in his Foreward to the book that "…this authentic preliminary work will benefit all those who are interested in Dzog-chen" he has often recommended this book to anyone interested in any of the Tibetan Buddhist schools or teachings, regardless of background, culture or familiarity.

For a beginner from a non buddhist country I'd suggest to apply the various lists of tell tale signs for cults on cult awareness networks. Because unhealthy buddhist groups operate pretty much by the same problematic standards as unhealthy christian or hindu groups.


I think that would be most helpful, too, in that it would give a good way to steer clear of the kinds of people and groups teaching things that aren't Dharma.

--Adi
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby odysseus » Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:35 pm

Buddha is best on Earth. My lord is best.
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Re: Recognising a teacher/guru with integrity

Postby theanarchist » Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:17 am

Adi wrote:I would not quite agree with that first sentiment, though obviously it could be helpful if one already knew something of the culture.i



I would not give Words of my Perfect Teacher to some friend who is simply interested in buddhism. I find the talk about hell realms and gurus and vajrayana preliminaries not exactly suited as first contact with the path of buddhism.
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