Personality cults vs. traditions

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Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Ramon1920 » Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:01 am

I'm sure you've all come in contact with Buddhist personality cults at some point.

Personality cult Buddhists have their whole Buddhist education revolving around quotes of a, or a couple, contemporary teacher(s) and it leaves them really confused and their practice crippled.

I've met a few sincere people that have a hard time thinking outside of a couple contemporary Buddhist books they've read and whenever I mention authoritative Buddhist teachings and sutras they become really defensive.

Have any ideas on how to recover people from this kind of self limiting mentality that identifies with Buddhism but is adverse to the Buddha's teachings in favor rather of some contemporary teacher's?
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby muni » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:12 am

How to recover, should say start again with courage. But I know this is a cheap answer.
Investigate ourselves and learn to be mindful ourselves, gain some insight in own mind. Since samsara is the tendency to find faults with others, which is just clouding the already confused and so suspicious mind even more, we must investigate own mind and see its limitations. Then when we are ready and honest to ourselves, we can find the genuine teacher and trust. :buddha1:

Then we can easier avoid these.
"Swindlers are worshipped like dieties and gods,
Charlatans are prized more than jewels and gold,
The religious are tossed like pebbles on the road.
How pitiful, ignorant beings".

Töpaga :namaste: "beyond 8 worldly concerns the sun of happiness shines". Beyond worldy peace and war.
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Seishin » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:30 am

84,000 Dharma doors :anjali:
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:41 pm

Seishin wrote:84,000 Dharma doors :anjali:
Personality cults are Dharma doors? And here's me thinking that they are revolving doors that open exclusively into samsara. You learn something new every day!
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby porpoise » Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:48 pm

Ramon1920 wrote: I've met a few sincere people that have a hard time thinking outside of a couple contemporary Buddhist books they've read and whenever I mention authoritative Buddhist teachings and sutras they become really defensive.


I think some people just want Buddhism to be what they want it to be, and don't really want to hear about the bigger picture. It seems to me ironic that some western Buddhists have a very skeptical attitude towards the sutras while happily placing complete faith in the ideas of a contemporary teacher.
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby lobster » Sat Jul 27, 2013 1:09 pm

Increase the size of your dustbin. Throw everything way for recycling by the 'dharma scavengers', hungry ghosts and others stuck on the form part of emptiness.
Take this 'beginner mind' as the form of the bin. You will be amazed how many cults, gurus, advanced practioners, dharmas etc it can hold :woohoo:

Then recycle as if precious jewels . . . :smile:
Tomorrow . . . another plan . . . :popcorn:
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Seishin » Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:16 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Seishin wrote:84,000 Dharma doors :anjali:
Personality cults are Dharma doors? And here's me thinking that they are revolving doors that open exclusively into samsara. You learn something new every day!


Sorry Greg I should learn to expand on my answers more often...

There are personality cults that teach Buddhadharma. There are groups that are not personality cults that teach bad Buddhadharma. A modern teacher doesn't necessarily make someone a personality cult. There are many traditional Dharma schools that I completely disagree with. Trying to convince someone that they belong to a personality cult (or on the wrong path) makes the assumption that I know "the truth" and I know what's right for that person and what's wrong. This is equivilant to evalangelism and similar to what some personality cults do. There's a different path for everyone (84,000 Dharma doors) which makes it difficult for an unenlightened being like me to know what's wrong and what's right for another person. Even, what's right for me! I know posting on a forum is not my strong suite (which is why I don'e post that often) and I apologise for this. I shall be more careful in the future. :emb:

Gassho,
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jul 27, 2013 3:37 pm

Ramon1920 wrote:Have any ideas on how to recover people from this kind of self limiting mentality that identifies with Buddhism but is adverse to the Buddha's teachings in favor rather of some contemporary teacher's?


If people are emotionally invested into a personality of an individual, then you can't realistically draw them away without some kind of hostile reaction.

Personality cults inevitably arise in religions because in terms of spirituality people often seek out parental figures in which they can place their faith and trust in exchange for all the answers. When an organization further demands loyalty and obedience to a figurehead in exchange for letting you be part of the in-group, then this process is only amplified because a lot of resources and income depend on the continued potency of the leader's charisma. It becomes less a matter of doctrine, and more a matter of resources and finances. So even if people wonder about the figurehead in question, too much is at stake to allow challenges to his or her authority or status.

I guess someone might see it like this, but if you've spent a lot of time, resources and perhaps money under a certain person, the emotional devastation of leaving them might seem worse than living a lie. Living a lie is perhaps the easier option for some people. It might lead to cognitive dissonance, but that's still maybe a better deal than leaving behind your idol and community.

This is why I continually insist that spiritual authority should not be vested into people, but rather scriptures or doctrine. But there is still nevertheless the appeal to a living saviour figure in the flesh and blood.
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jul 27, 2013 5:37 pm

Seishin wrote:There are personality cults that teach Buddhadharma... I shall be more careful in the future.
That's better! :smile:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sat Jul 27, 2013 7:44 pm

Yeah, I think i've met (IRL of course) like 2 other Buddhists who read sutra very much.

To be the best of my knowledge, that ain't unique to The West either;)

It's probably natural that most people will learn best from a teacher in Buddhism, heck, look at all the posts on Dharma Wheel that end with "ask your teacher".

So the answer to the question is more good teachers, and less bad ones, lol.


Really though, sometimes i'm amazed by what little people know of Buddhism that have an interest, until it's more familiar I don't see people in the West at least being great at developing a critical mindset about evaluating teachers.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Punya » Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:41 pm

Ramon1920 wrote:I'm sure you've all come in contact with Buddhist personality cults at some point.

Personality cult Buddhists have their whole Buddhist education revolving around quotes of a, or a couple, contemporary teacher(s) and it leaves them really confused and their practice crippled.

I've met a few sincere people that have a hard time thinking outside of a couple contemporary Buddhist books they've read and whenever I mention authoritative Buddhist teachings and sutras they become really defensive.

Have any ideas on how to recover people from this kind of self limiting mentality that identifies with Buddhism but is adverse to the Buddha's teachings in favor rather of some contemporary teacher's?


It depends what you mean by personality cults and contemporary teachers. Contemporary teachers can be authoritative and well versed in the sutras and shastras and encourage their students to study them but also present the teachings in a way that particularly someone born and raised in a western society can understand and absorb.

If by personality cults are you talking about vajrayana then yes, in that context it is pretty important to follow your teacher/guru providing you first thoroughly check them out. Although it's hard to imagine contemporary vajrayana teachers wouldn't encourage their students to look beyond their own teachings as well.

How to recover people from their own limitations? Well, first we need to free ourself from our own.
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Ramon1920 » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:05 pm

There's a lot of well thought out responses here.

A few years ago I met a young man that had been ostracized from the inner circle of a personality cult, probably because he didn't have money or fund raising skill.
He was still fanatically dedicated to the personality and that personality told him not to learn from any other teachers.
For many months I tried to convince him to go to another teacher, at least go to the monastery his personality teacher came from before he became a cult guru. The young man wouldn't go though because his teacher told him not to. I tried to tell him that the vows he had taken and bodhicitta demanded it, but he still would not. After about a year I gave up trying to convince him to pursue his dharma education instead of hanging on the line waiting for the personality guru to teach him some thing. (The personality decided to only teach a close circle of special student in a classic cult move.)

This was a case where a person's whole spiritual pursuit was put on hold because of some Buddhist personality cult leader even though they have tremendous inclination to practice and learn.
Thought I would share that sad story because it is relevant. Being fairly old I've got lots of sad stories like that.

Johnny, when I say, "ask your teacher", it's because it's a tantra matter and I have no way of verifying if someone is qualified to talk openly or I don't feel confident in my understanding and knowledge of the subject.
I realize that many people are here because they don't have a close relationship to any particular teacher.
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:35 pm

Right, I get that, that is point..for lots of things we are encouraged to only trust our teachers.

So especially for new people, when you turn around and ask how to make them more critical of their teachers, well there's some tug of war there. To be more critical of their teachers, they have to understand how to question them in general, which for Buddhism requires a basic knowledge of doctrine etc. that is something many of the people don't have simply due to lack of reading, or lack of desire to read on the subject matter. Without a bare minimum of knowing what one is getting into, it's hard to know when to put on the brakes.

The culture of Vajrayana specifically (at least some, though there are exceptions) obviously seems to lend itself to cults of personality if the tendency is already there, and there are million people out there ready to have someone else give a quick, easy answer to take away their pain.

It's a hard balance to strike between having an open heart with a teacher, and at the same time being willing to question and sift through what they say.

Personally I don't trust anyone who wants to shred my intellectual autonomy without a very good explanation behind doing so, but that of course, is probably an attitude at odds with much Buddhist culture..though really, it shouldn't be, should it? I personally would never trust anyone, ever who told me to only listen to them...but maybe that's just me.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby wisdom » Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:40 pm

I would try to uphold the conduct of a Bodhisattva or Buddha, displaying compassion, kindness, generosity, and tolerance even for and towards those with whom I fundamentally disagree. In the case of this person, I would encourage them to practice Dharma and to study so their mind will be purified and they will naturally come to see the flaws in their Sangha or Guru (assuming they are actually there). I would not discourage faith in their Guru and I would not try to sow any discord in their mind. I would rejoice in their merit of having met the Dharma in any form, and I would pray for their swift liberation and realization. In general, maintain perfect conduct and use the methods for attracting disciples in order to bring your friend over to your view. I would not try to force it, but would allow my friend to naturally realize their situation and decide to change it for themselves.

The reason I would take this approach is because if you take a divisive approach, trying to create doubt, sowing discord in regards to the Sangha and Guru, then if this person decides to leave their Guru they may also come to question you and your motivations and whether or not you have positive motivations. It might appear as proselytizing and they may come to resent both you and the false Guru and leave the Dharma entirely. Whereas if you take a different approach, when they leave their Guru they may turn to you for advice, seeing you as an example of true Dharma, and then you can introduce them to Gurus who you consider to be enlightened.

The other reason I would take this approach is for my own good. I'm not in any position to pretend to be able to judge the efficacy of the teaching or realization of another. Therefore I could make a terrible mistake if I successfully led them away from their Guru, because for all I know they were mere days away from realization and yet now they are going to wander in samsara for another incalculable aeon because of my actions!

I am reminded of the story of the ordinary sentient being who was a monk and began to attract disciples. Despite not being enlightened, his disciples had faith in him and the teaching of Dharma and practiced the Dharma, as a result they began to reach realization. When they did, they saw that their Guru was not enlightened and so set out to help him also achieve realization. The point is that faith, intention and practice are extremely potent, and this story illustrates that a great deal of spiritual development is on the side of the student and not the Guru.
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Re: Personality cults vs. traditions

Postby Dave The Seeker » Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:31 pm

:good:
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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