Monday, February 16, 2009

False teachers? If so, what responsibility?

In a number of places throughout his works, Dogen makes references to students that are "misled" or "led astray" by "false teachers." Such statements often seem to infer an obligation to intervene, or act in some manner in order to help "genuine students" to a correct understanding.

I wonder if some students are being misled today by 'false' or deluded teachers/teachings. If so, what is the responsibility of authentic Buddhist teachers (or of anyone who is aware of false teachers/teachings) to them? I have encountered some that seem to advocate a strict 'hands-off' approach, sometimes offering opinions that students with 'genuine aspiration' will eventually find their way out.

However, it occurred to me that there might be some who, by their very nature, were genuinely seeking to study the Way with no regard for fame and gain, as they tried to treat mindfulness as their prime goal, but perhaps they were unfortunately being led astray by some false teacher so that the correct understanding of the Truth was needlessly being kept from them.
Shobogenzo, Bendowa, Rev. Hubert Nearman, O.B.C

Yet if there were any true practitioners who put the will to the truth first, being naturally unconcerned with fame and profit, they might be fruitlessly misled by false teachers and might needlessly throw a veil over right understanding.
Shobogenzo, Bendowa, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

Any thoughts?

Ted Biringer


Barry said...

Penicillin heals some people and kills others. Is it a false medicine?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes an explanation can be flawed but the intent and the practice are pure. A teaching can be not entirely accurate but still be beneficial.

Before embarking on any crusade I'd look at what my own motivation was. If it's "They're wrong and I'm right" then the motivation is probably not coming from a good place.

SlowZen said...

How is this Buffet?

Uku said...

I don't find "authentic" teachers or students. I just find human beings.

Important post. Thank you.

Ted Biringer said...

Barry, Mike, Jordan, Uku,

Thank you all for sharing on this topic.

The Buffet
Human Beings

Excellent points. Thanks again!



NellaLou said...

The word "needlessly" springs from the sentences. It is more a question of how far to go to prevent "needless" suffering. Some would not rise from their easy chair and some would run a marathon. What is the intent of those who would intervene? And what means would they use? Questions I ask myself.

Ted Biringer said...

Hello NellaLou,

Thank you for your comments.

Your observation about the word "needlessly" is intriguing.

Besides the points you make about how far to go, and being aware of intentions, the word "needlessly" also tacitly infers that all suffering is not-needless...

I heard Robert Aitken tell a story one time about a monk. (If this is a recorded koan I am not sure where it is from). Anyway, it went something like this:

The monk said to the master, "Master, I have a problem..."

The master stopped him from going further, saying, "Come to the assembly tonight."

That evening, when the master appeared before the assembly he said, "Will the monk that came to me earlier please step forward."

The monk came forward and the master grasped him by the lapels of his robe and said in a loud voice, "Look everyone, this monk has a problem!"

Wow! This master certainly seems to be one of those that is willing to run a marathon to help someone.

The point, I think, is similar to one of the miscellaneous koans:

The master asked a monk, "What is that sound?"

The monk said, "That is the sound of a snake swallowing a frog."

The master said, "I thought that all beings suffer, here is another suffering being (meaning the monk)."

Thanks again for your comments.


Ted Biringer

Unknown said...

Speaking of false Dharma teachers... (Lama) Surya Das is Tibetan Buddhism's bad-boy! This guy is a one man army of bad press for all BUDDHISTS! He's married, has sex w/his female students, begins the affairs while on retreat, dates other women while he's at it and when the Dzogchen Board Members and the 3 Associate teachers working under Das find out he throws a fit like a 2-year old and they ALL RESIGN! This guy lost 75% of his sangha as well... now he's on Facebook and Twitter drumming up business w/his new girlfriend who's married! Some hippy doctor in Laguna Beach. If you mention his name around a Tibetan born Dharma teacher, they either ignore you as if they did not hear his name or they make a sour face... sorry to say we tried to tell his sangha many times that he was a fake but they had to learn for themselves... and now they ignore him too! He's known as a "player" and women like having affairs with him... its the same old story, sex and money!

Ted Biringer said...

Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your comments.

While I am personally unfamiliar with this particular teacher, this kind of behavior is, sadly, all too common within contemporary Buddhist communities.

That 75% of a sangha would abandon such a teacher is no surprise---that 25% would choose not to would seem to indicate a sorry situation for the Dharma...

For the so-called "teachers", this may just be about sex and money; sadly, the potential consequences to genuine students is goes beyond physical and financial exploitation. Some may be wounded so deeply as to be turned away from the path for good. Is this not a lamentable situation?

Thanks again!