Interesting, Greg. Would you say, then, that DW intentionally devalues strict retreat? Would you say that perhaps they value quantity (of teachers, centers) over quality?
The above rant was just my opinion in regards to the "quantitative" success of DW centers. The truth is though, that the practices at DW centers do not require the presence of a trained lama. You can get away with a tape recorded guidance through the practice, what happens with the questions that may arise as a consequence of either the guidance, or the experiences one has during the practices, is a different story.
I agree that not all three year retreat graduates may be suitable Dharma teachers. But I'd bet that three year retreatants have a more complete, and I daresay a more developed, practice, in general.
We are kind of digressing from the topic here but it's an important question... A ex-three year... may have a developed practice BUT if they do not know how to pass on the knowledge (ie they are not proficient in didactic techniques) then their developed practice merely remains theirs. Now while that is not bad per se, the question arises as to whether three year retreats should be a precondition for teaching, or whether maybe a pastoral approach (like that utlised by many Zen schools in the US) would be more useful? Would it, maybe, be more useful for teachers to have a firm grounding in the 4NT, DO, knowledge of karma, Abhidharma and basic practices: Ngondro (ie Guru Yoga), Chenrezig, Tara, Amitabha and a basic protector practice, since most practitioners coming in off the street will never "progress" further than that, thus allowing ex-retreatents the freedom to deal with the nuances of the more complicated practices? Allowing qualified lama to deal with more serious students, students that are seriously considering retreat themselves?
This would also free up qualified lama to focus on their personal practice too, instead of, on a daily basis, having to play the social worker, psychological therapist, etc... You see learning the yogas of Naropa, the drum beats for the protector practice or the mudra for yidam practice do not prepare one for the abovementioned roles.
For what it's worth, many more "traditional" centers, Kagyu and Non-Kagyu, do have teachers, at various levels, who have not completed 3 year retreats.
Not officially they don't. Like, I have permission from my teachers to teach shine, but no official training and/or permission. This is problematic to an extent because, okay, I may teach shine but my "students" come to me with all sorts of questions. For the tough ones I try to steer them towards qualified lama, but given the isolated (geographically) nature of where I live, apart from bringing a qualified teacher out once a year, well...
But the complete contents of the Kagyu transmissions require a certain amount of strict retreat, I think--perhaps not a 3 year retreat, but some sort of disciplined retreat program, for sure. It's fine to propose an alternative for those who are not able, willing, or ready to undertake lengthy strict retreats--and, in fact, every Dharma center I've been to does this--but to dispense with, or devalue, long retreats seems to be missing one of the key elements of Vajrayana.
I don't think what I outlined above devalues three year retreats, but for me it is like taking a high ranking professor of nuclear physics and getting them to teach basic vector theory to 15 year olds. The amount/type of knowledge seems unecessary in the specific context.
Again, this is all just my opinion. I am just saying that I can see the logic behind the way DW is organised AND it is quite clear (based on the sheer size of the organisation) that the specific approach works. Now whether the aim is quantity not quality, I don't think the choice is intentional, BUT DW does act as a entertaining introduction to serious practice and as a filter/funnel towards a traditional organisation. Like I said in the previous post, the fact that so many DW members have completed/are in the process of accumulating Ngondro practices is a valuable contribution in of itself. Wouldn't you say so?