Inner circles and cults

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Knotty Veneer
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Inner circles and cults

Post by Knotty Veneer »

It's always said that one should look long and hard at a teacher before committing to be a student - especially in the Vajrayana. You need to know that the teacher is the real deal. Doing that can take time and getting the required access can be difficult.

I think there are relatively few cult leaders who cynically set out to create an organization to fleece/abuse students (L. Ron Hubbard is the most famous example if this type I think). More commonly, I reckon, teachers set out with good intentions but surround themselves with yes men, get corrupted by the adulation and end up believing their own publicity.

Newbies and those in the outer circle of a Dharma organization usually rely on the "senior students" to know how to relate to the guru, and it's from them they usually receive they stories and lore of the great man's prowess. It's to the members of the inner circle that members look to explain any bizarre behavior on the part of the guru. And it's to the senior students that the abused first turn to for help.

The problem is that the inner circle are the last people who can or will help in a cult situation. They are often so deeply invested that they struggle more than anyone else to see what is really happening and have the greatest resistance to the truth because of their guilt at their own naivety or complicity. It can be their behavior that poisons the group. Their acquiescence that allows the teacher to think they are something they are not.

So who can you turn to if you think you are in a cult? Well, inside the cult, it's difficult to know, but careful examination of the inner circle is just as critical as examining the guru. They are the gatekeepers and the conduit to the teacher, and frequently, the main practical source of the teachings.
Everyone suffers. Be kind.
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Kurp
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Re: Inner circles and cults

Post by Kurp »

Knotty Veneer wrote: Sun Oct 10, 2021 9:51 am They are the gatekeepers and the conduit to the teacher, and frequently, the main practical source of the teachings.
Sometime problematic gatekeeping doesn’t even involve a cult. Sometimes the teacher is fantastic but a few bad students slip through the cracks. Sometimes power corrupts and then it’s too late and it’s out of the teacher’s hands at that point. The teachers have done all they could do. Teachers do not babysit their students forever, especially when the students get to a certain level.

Therefore, if some of the senior students/gatekeepers abuse their power and use concepts like “samaya”and “karma” to turn a blind eye to the infractions of others in the community, or worse yet, twist the teachings (ie like “milarepa and marpa”) to fit a sadistic, abusive agenda of harming other students they personally judge/do not like/ find unworthy for whatever reason, well, it really makes you wonder about the whole “you have to have bodhicitta” thing. We should want all beings to be liberated, no? Then why judge struggling students in such an unfair manner and not even allow them to get their foot in the door?

Sure, bad teachers make you question the teacher. But bad senior students make you question everything.
Last edited by Kurp on Sun Oct 10, 2021 10:55 am, edited 4 times in total.
zerwe
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Re: Inner circles and cults

Post by zerwe »

Knotty Veneer wrote: Sun Oct 10, 2021 9:51 am It's always said that one should look long and hard at a teacher before committing to be a student - especially in the Vajrayana. You need to know that the teacher is the real deal. Doing that can take time and getting the required access can be difficult.

I think there are relatively few cult leaders who cynically set out to create an organization to fleece/abuse students (L. Ron Hubbard is the most famous example if this type I think). More commonly, I reckon, teachers set out with good intentions but surround themselves with yes men, get corrupted by the adulation and end up believing their own publicity.

Newbies and those in the outer circle of a Dharma organization usually rely on the "senior students" to know how to relate to the guru, and it's from them they usually receive they stories and lore of the great man's prowess. It's to the members of the inner circle that members look to explain any bizarre behavior on the part of the guru. And it's to the senior students that the abused first turn to for help.

The problem is that the inner circle are the last people who can or will help in a cult situation. They are often so deeply invested that they struggle more than anyone else to see what is really happening and have the greatest resistance to the truth because of their guilt at their own naivety or complicity. It can be their behavior that poisons the group. Their acquiescence that allows the teacher to think they are something they are not.

So who can you turn to if you think you are in a cult? Well, inside the cult, it's difficult to know, but careful examination of the inner circle is just as critical as examining the guru. They are the gatekeepers and the conduit to the teacher, and frequently, the main practical source of the teachings.
Not sure if, in the situation you are describing, one would have have access to an objective but authoritative resource on the outside of said organization. The only example I can throw out there is that I would try to find someone like a Geshe or Khenpo, not invested in the said organization, who could provide advice if someone believed themselves to be in a bad situation. They might be part of the larger school or lineage in the sense of being Gelug, Kagyu, etc..., but part of a subschool to which you do not belong.

Shaun :namaste:
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Sādhaka
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Re: Inner circles and cults

Post by Sādhaka »

They’re a part of life that will never go away.

Just hope that if you ever end up getting involved with any of them, that you’re dealing with ‘the white hats’; who are seemingly very few and far between these days.
muni
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Re: Inner circles and cults

Post by muni »

Such inner circles like you call it are in all kind, making smaller groups who are then supporting each other as for example " our sangha and the rest not".

By Buddha's teachings, there are not such boundaries ( Bodhichitta), Mind is embracing/including All, Naturally.

A crystal takes on the color of the cloth upon which it is placed, whether white, yellow, red or black. Likwise, the people with whom you spend your time whether their influence is good or bad, will make a huge difference to the direction your life and practice take.
Spending your time with true spiritual friends will fill you with love for all beings and help you to see how negative attachment and hatred are.
Being with such friends, and following their example, will naturally imbue you with their good qualities, just as all the birds flying around a golden mountain are bathed in its golden radiance.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
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Queequeg
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Re: Inner circles and cults

Post by Queequeg »

Before the Buddha awoke, he had a dream that maggots were climbing up his legs. This was interpreted to mean that he would have many white clothed lay people following him. He later worried that acquiring students would be tiring and vexing, and what he really wanted to do was go wander up into the mountains.

I can't imagine having maggots climb up your legs could ever be a desired thing. The Buddha tolerated us out of compassion for us. I can't imagine a teacher who actually wants to accumulate students. Seems exhausting. Taking on the responsibility of trying to get people to get Dharama? Smart people who really want to get Dharma have a hard time with it. How about all the people who come with all manner of idol worship, fanaticism, attachment, dependence... projecting all kinds of wants and needs.

The real teachers who take on students with correct intention and open eyes are truly great beings. The others have to be questioned for their sanity and intentions.

As for what to do if you find yourself in a creepy culty situation? Get some space. Take time to evaluate. And be ready to make a break if necessary. Of course there is going to be that tug in your mind that you're going to lose connection to something special... if its real, then taking time away, getting space to evaluate will not be in vain, but maybe reset expectations on how to approach and benefit from the teacher.

If the inner circle is messed up, then that probably says something about the center of gravity. If the students are exemplary, then that is a good sign the teacher is the real deal, too. Birds of a feather and all that.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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