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Question: As self-cherishing and ego-holding are forces which have been active since beginingless time, is it possible to set out upon a spiritual path without developing a negative egoism toward it, leading to sectarianism?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama :
"To avoid that it is necessary to take care that your Dharma practice is really a Dharma practice. This way, although the power of familiarity with ego is great, its effects are not overwhelming. If you study Dharma but do not actually apply it, your so-called spiritual activities can easily become directed at material gain, fame and so forth. In which case only egoism and such negativities as anger, attachment, sectarianism, etc. are developed. However, if each word of Dharma that you hear is used to cultivate your mind then every single word brings only benefit, and no matter how much Dharma learning you amass your learning will never go to the development of egoism. The most important point is to be very careful in the beginning with your motivation in receiving a teaching or doing a practice. If this is done well, there is little danger."
Question: Buddha Shakyamuni once said in a Sutra that sectarianism has a karmic consequence more severe than killing a thousand Buddhas. Why is this so?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
"The essential purpose of the Buddhas giving teachings is to eliminate both mistaken states of mind and the experience of suffering. This is also the reason that they have worked to achieve enlightenment. The Buddhas' only motivation is to benefit others, which they fulfill by teaching; so despising any of their teachings is worse than despising them. This is the implication of following one Dharma Tradition while disparaging other Traditions.
Furthermore, the Buddhas themselves respect all the Traditions of the Teachings, so for us not to do so is to despise all the Buddhas.
There are many ways to look at this Sutra quotation. What is the duty, so to speak, of a Buddha? Only to teach Dharma. And it is Dharma which has brought that Buddha to his state of attainment. Now, in Buddhadharma we do not accept the theory of a Creator; everything depends on oneself. The Buddhas cannot directly fulfill their wish to help beings, they can only do so through the media of their teachings. We might say that they are handicapped. Therefore, the teachings that they give are more precious and important than they themselves are. Because of the varying capacities and inclinations of beings the Buddhas have taught various methods of practice and philosophy. If we follow one of these and yet belittle others, we abandon the Dharma and consequently the Buddhas as well."
From the interview - When the Iron Bird Flies, Nov, "82.