Seeing the Guru as Perfect

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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby MrDistracted » Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:19 am

I wanted to edit my last post a bit but missed the chance....Lingpupa, my post wasn't a direct challenge/ confrontation to what you said, I was just picking up on the word 'literal'. Sorry if my tone was reactionary in any way.

I feel that alot of this 'not to be taken literally' vibe is creeping into Buddhism in the West now.
When one has entered a relationship with a Vajra master and has been accepted as a disciple by him or her, surely his or her command is to be taken literally with no negotatiation, no compromise.

But good lamas know that we do make promises then try to compromise, they see all this, so out of their compassion will probably not give their students a pith instruction that they know they won't/can't do, it would not be in anyone's interests. They are only there to help the student reach enlightenment, so will be protecting you aswell.

But the student should be prepared to do anything, and that needs careful consideration before the outset. Do you want enlightenment so much and trust this teacher so much that you would do anything they say to get it? If not, don't start that kind of relationship with them. That process of consideration and the issues it throws up itself will be so beneficial to assessing ones motivation. I think it needs more consideration that some of us choose to give it.

But if one does decide that one wants to enter a committed guru/disciple relationship, and decides to take the guru as the path, within the Vajrayana one has to be prapared to follow their instructions to the word, quite literally. Otherwise what's the point? The relationship loses the courageousness and daring and trust and openess that make it such an effective path. If we truly want the fat track and the real deal we should be aware that samaya is literal and that it doesn't come with a safety net.

But neither the student or the lama will enter this level of relationship by accident, both parties need to consciously commit to it. By practising ngondro under a lama you will get a good opportunity and the time to see whether it's something that you both feel you want to get into.

It would be such a shame if the disciple/guru relationship which is the heart of the Vajrayana becomes another casualty of our tendency to dilute aspects of Buddhism which we find challenging.
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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby Lingpupa » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:26 am

MrDistracted wrote:I wanted to edit my last post a bit but missed the chance....Lingpupa, my post wasn't a direct challenge/ confrontation to what you said, I was just picking up on the word 'literal'. Sorry if my tone was reactionary in any way.


Thank you for being so considerate, but I hadn't taken it wrongly anyway. Internet forums are for exchanging views as well as news, aren't they?

In any case, I think I see what you mean. You contrasted "taking things literally" with taking them "metaphorically", and I would agree that understanding these kind of teachings metaphorically does miss the point. "Metaphorical" is far too weak, in much the same way, I think, as when people refer to the attributes of deities, mandalas and so on as "symbolic". They are, of course, on one level, but that falls far short of expressing how they are to be experienced by the practitioner.

I have long struggled, and failed, to find the right vocabulary for this. I think we have a problem that is, at least superficially, similar to the one that the Roman Catholics have when they talk about "transubstantiation". Any fool who has taken communion, or seen it done, knows that in an ordinary sense the red liquid still looks, smells, and tastes like wine, and the dry biscuit still looks, smells and tastes like a dry biscuit. But the Catholic church knows that to say that these are "symbolic" of the blood and body of Christ is not nearly serious enough. They have struggled to find expressions that clearly convey what their understanding is.

So in the course of a higher Tantric empowerment or its associated practice, we may very well drink something that looks, smells and tastes like the beer, wine, whiskey or whatever was put into the cup in the first place, yet it is supposed to be a mixture of things far more disgusting than human blood and flesh, transmuted into nectar. If we just wave our hands and say that this is just "symbolic", then I'm not at all sure that we are really practising properly.

In the same way, the Lama has to be seen "as" the Buddha, not as the Buddha's representative or as "symbolic" of the Buddha being present. And we commit ourselves to following the Lama's instructions. But if we take this literally, and literally believe that whatever the Lama says at any time in the future we must obey unquestioningly, we have a disaster. Not all "Lamas" are in fact kind, disciplined or wise. Some, for instance, are out-and-out sexual exploiters and bullies with a surprisingly shallow knowledge and understanding of the teachings. This is one bad consequence of the tulku system, much good as it has also done. And these Lamas may nevertheless have a high reputation and be very popular. I do not need to name names, and in any case I'm not sure what the board policy is about that kind of thing. But we can all use Google.

People, especially but not exclusively women, have to be able to say "No!" to a Lama from whom they have taken empowerment but who later turns out to be a flake, without having to feel bad, conflicted, or be threatened with the dire consequences of having "broken samaya". And if we look at the situation and bear in mind how these "Lamas" are sold to the seeking public, it will not do to say things like "the student is supposed to observe the Lama for 12 years before making a commitment". This plays only to easily into the "victim as culprit" attitude that too often shelters sexual abusers. You know the stuff – "she was dressed provocatively", "Well she let him drive her home, what did she expect?" and so on. How many Lamas, after all, say "I've only known you for eight years, so no, I can't give you empowerment".

But, as I say, I still haven't found the right vocabulary for this. I agree that taking the idea that the Lama is the Buddha to be merely metaphorical misses the point. But telling students that they have to check in their own responsibility and intelligence, no matter how mistaken they find they were about the qualities of the Lama, that won't do either. It's a bullies' charter and an abusers charter.
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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby MrDistracted » Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:42 pm

I agree with that. And unfortunately it is a fact that the system is being abused and it is likely that we will hear more horror stories as more people find their voices to speak out, and I doubt if all of these people are 'disgruntled ex-students'. And I feel very uncomfortable with the whole Omerta code thing that goes on in Tibetan Buddhism.

I should put my thoughts this way:

For the truly committed guru/disciple relationship, that is when the student takes the guru as the path, to function there has to be the commitment and trust on the student's part to follow the guru's word to the letter. I think to pretend this is not the case is misrepresenting and diluting the Vajrayana teachings. Someone contemplating entering this kind of relationship with a Vajra master needs to accept and consider this.

However, if the guru is clearly abusing his/her position and the student were to refuse to do something, then the relationship is dysfunctional anyway, the 'guru' has messed it all up, so there is no path. The student can and should refuse and walk away.

So I think there is scope to say on one hand the functioning of a genuine relationship is contingent on the student following the teacher's word literally, whilst on the other hand saying if the teacher does abuse his/her position then the student should break it off, as it's already been broken off by the abusive teacher. Not easy ideas to juxtapose by any means, but I don't think there is a contradiction.
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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby Merely Labeled » Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:31 am

Hello heart/magnus,

Thank you for your good words. In the meantime I discovered that postponing pointing out instructions with a `later, later` holds a myriad of great opportunities. I am continuing on the path and work towards a next meeting with my teacher.

M.L.
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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby heart » Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:58 am

Merely Labeled wrote:Hello heart/magnus,

Thank you for your good words. In the meantime I discovered that postponing pointing out instructions with a `later, later` holds a myriad of great opportunities. I am continuing on the path and work towards a next meeting with my teacher.

M.L.


Also remember that a Dzogchen Guru don't give direct introduction only in a formal way. Those hugs could actually be it. :smile:

/magnus
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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby justsit » Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:23 pm

:thumbsup:

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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby catmoon » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:41 pm

Omg is that a surreptitious West Coast fist bump happening in the photo?

Lol, Ponlop Rinpoche has teh cool.
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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby Merely Labeled » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:46 am

Interesting point.
Those hugs certainly stopped me in my tracks for a few moments :)

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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:02 am

I ran into Ponlop Rinpoche at a mall near Woodstock NY. a long time ago, We shook hands, and he just smiled as his handshake became a vice grip clamp. ha ha ha . we had a good laugh as I slowly regained feeling in my arm.
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Re: Seeing the Guru as Perfect

Postby justsit » Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:25 am

Last summer when HH 17th Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje was in NYC, I was backstage before the event. Ponlop Rinpoche's attendant was standing next to Karmapa, and they started kidding around, like shadow boxing. Karmapa got the attendant in a similar vice grip on one hand, and the guy went to his knees, yelling "JESUS!" Karmapa got a funny look and asked him,
"What are you calling him for?"

Maybe it's a Kagyu thing?? :shrug:
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