Is lineage enough?

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Knotty Veneer
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Is lineage enough?

Post by Knotty Veneer » Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:23 am

I've been following the dicussion about Nakpa International on another thread and the role of lineage.

I, probably like most people here, would want to know that a teacher belongs to a bona fide lineage before seeking teachings from them. And I think this holds true for the major orthodox forms of Buddhism available today. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of an orthodox tradition is that it has a demonstrable lineage.

But, just because a group/teacher can lay claim to a history of respected teachers is that enough. Thankfully, all of my teachers have been beyond reproach but there are teachers within my own tradition I would not trust even though they have the seal of approval of the lineage. I cannot think of a Tibetan or Zen or Theravadin school that has not been touched by scandal at some point - and it does not seem to be letting up.

So my question is - in addition to lineage as a guarantor of a teacher's credentials and one's own observation of their behavior - should we require something more? A published code of conduct, an institutional constitution that ensures bad behavior is censured and prevented from continuing, other checks and balances?
“Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.” - James S. Gordon.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Fri Sep 07, 2018 11:20 am

The authenticity of the teachings and the example of Teacher are the most important things, I would say. Especially the example. The Teacher should show that they love Dharma, that they are finding happiness through Dharma and are solving their problems through Dharma, living simply and humbly and not showing the example of living an opulent, samsaric pleasure based life. The Teacher should also show the example of caring for their students with lovingkindness.

If a Teacher's behaviour doesn't accord with even the most basic norms of moral discipline taught by Buddha, this should ring alarm bells.

In addition, I think that any Buddhist organisation should have a moral discipline guide that explains the function of the organisation and the roles and responsibilities of the positions in the organisation, including the Spiritual Director, to ensure that standards of behaviour and spiritual purity are being maintained. It should also accord with the democratic norms of society and not be ruled by one Teacher who shows the example of being a dictator.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Grigoris » Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:04 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 11:20 am
The authenticity of the teachings and the example of Teacher are the most important things, I would say. Especially the example. The Teacher should show that they love Dharma, that they are finding happiness through Dharma and are solving their problems through Dharma, living simply and humbly and not showing the example of living an opulent, samsaric pleasure based life. The Teacher should also show the example of caring for their students with lovingkindness.

If a Teacher's behaviour doesn't accord with even the most basic norms of moral discipline taught by Buddha, this should ring alarm bells.

In addition, I think that any Buddhist organisation should have a moral discipline guide that explains the function of the organisation and the roles and responsibilities of the positions in the organisation, including the Spiritual Director, to ensure that standards of behaviour and spiritual purity are being maintained. It should also accord with the democratic norms of society and not be ruled by one Teacher who shows the example of being a dictator.
This is your opinion right? Coz you state it like it's fact, rather than just what you believe.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:07 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:04 pm
Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 11:20 am
The authenticity of the teachings and the example of Teacher are the most important things, I would say. Especially the example. The Teacher should show that they love Dharma, that they are finding happiness through Dharma and are solving their problems through Dharma, living simply and humbly and not showing the example of living an opulent, samsaric pleasure based life. The Teacher should also show the example of caring for their students with lovingkindness.

If a Teacher's behaviour doesn't accord with even the most basic norms of moral discipline taught by Buddha, this should ring alarm bells.

In addition, I think that any Buddhist organisation should have a moral discipline guide that explains the function of the organisation and the roles and responsibilities of the positions in the organisation, including the Spiritual Director, to ensure that standards of behaviour and spiritual purity are being maintained. It should also accord with the democratic norms of society and not be ruled by one Teacher who shows the example of being a dictator.
This is your opinion right? Coz you state it like it's fact, rather than just what you believe.
If you read what I said, I state 'I would say' and 'I think' so they are clearly my beliefs and strongly held.

Why you feel the need to comment in this way, I don't understand. Many people on this board state their beliefs strongly.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Grigoris » Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:44 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:07 pm
If you read what I said, I state 'I would say' and 'I think' so they are clearly my beliefs and strongly held.
Sorry, I missed that.

A couple of points:
...living simply and humbly and not showing the example of living an opulent, samsaric pleasure based life.
Actually as a ngakpa, if one has realised the deity, living an opulent pleasurable lifestyle is no different to making offerings to the deity.
If a Teacher's behaviour doesn't accord with even the most basic norms of moral discipline taught by Buddha, this should ring alarm bells.
This is not necessarily the case. A Mahasiddha, for example, is not bound by conventional models of moral discipline. So, while I generally agree, it is not a rule. Anyway, a teacher may behave one way in public and another in private so unless you are privy to their private life...
It should also accord with the democratic norms of society and not be ruled by one Teacher who shows the example of being a dictator.
This is not necessary. The Buddha was hardly the model democratic ruler.

And anyway, there is this thing called natural hierarchy.

For example: How well would construction work if the apprentices had the same say over building, as the master builder?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Fri Sep 07, 2018 2:37 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:44 pm
Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:07 pm
If you read what I said, I state 'I would say' and 'I think' so they are clearly my beliefs and strongly held.
Sorry, I missed that.

A couple of points:
...living simply and humbly and not showing the example of living an opulent, samsaric pleasure based life.
Actually as a ngakpa, if one has realised the deity, living an opulent pleasurable lifestyle is no different to making offerings to the deity.
If a Teacher's behaviour doesn't accord with even the most basic norms of moral discipline taught by Buddha, this should ring alarm bells.
This is not necessarily the case. A Mahasiddha, for example, is not bound by conventional models of moral discipline. So, while I generally agree, it is not a rule. Anyway, a teacher may behave one way in public and another in private so unless you are privy to their private life...
It should also accord with the democratic norms of society and not be ruled by one Teacher who shows the example of being a dictator.
This is not necessary. The Buddha was hardly the model democratic ruler.

And anyway, there is this thing called natural hierarchy.

For example: How well would construction work if the apprentices had the same say over building, as the master builder?
Thanks for your reply.

While it is true that a Mahasiddha is not bound by conventional models of moral discipline. I doubt there are many justifications for appearing not to observe the laws of karma that Buddha taught. Every deluded person could claim to be a Mahasiddha and therefore to indulge their deluded desires so there is danger there. You're right about one behaviour in public and one in private, definitely something to be avoided.

The apprentices might have some fresh ideas that the Master builder didn't think of. Seniority isn't always a sign of greater wisdom.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by amanitamusc » Fri Sep 07, 2018 2:38 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:07 pm
Grigoris wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:04 pm
Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 11:20 am
The authenticity of the teachings and the example of Teacher are the most important things, I would say. Especially the example. The Teacher should show that they love Dharma, that they are finding happiness through Dharma and are solving their problems through Dharma, living simply and humbly and not showing the example of living an opulent, samsaric pleasure based life. The Teacher should also show the example of caring for their students with lovingkindness.

If a Teacher's behaviour doesn't accord with even the most basic norms of moral discipline taught by Buddha, this should ring alarm bells.

In addition, I think that any Buddhist organisation should have a moral discipline guide that explains the function of the organisation and the roles and responsibilities of the positions in the organisation, including the Spiritual Director, to ensure that standards of behaviour and spiritual purity are being maintained. It should also accord with the democratic norms of society and not be ruled by one Teacher who shows the example of being a dictator.
This is your opinion right? Coz you state it like it's fact, rather than just what you believe.
Many people on this board state their beliefs strongly.
Well if you did concerning lineage in detail you would be violating the forum rules.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Grigoris » Fri Sep 07, 2018 2:58 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 2:37 pm
While it is true that a Mahasiddha is not bound by conventional models of moral discipline. I doubt there are many justifications for appearing not to observe the laws of karma that Buddha taught.
Of course there is. To help a person see through their grasping to rites and rituals, for example
The apprentices might have some fresh ideas that the Master builder didn't think of. Seniority isn't always a sign of greater wisdom.
Seniority via experience generally is.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Malcolm » Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:34 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:44 pm
A Mahasiddha, for example, is not bound by conventional models of moral discipline.
I doubt the courts will agree.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by DGA » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:38 am

Knotty Veneer wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:23 am

So my question is - in addition to lineage as a guarantor of a teacher's credentials and one's own observation of their behavior - should we require something more? A published code of conduct, an institutional constitution that ensures bad behavior is censured and prevented from continuing, other checks and balances?
Among other things, I think there needs to be a change in culture among Dharma practitioners, particularly in the West. Specifically, there needs to be a lot less credulity and passive acceptance of make-believe. Practitioners need to be increasingly intolerant of bullshit behavior. Be grownups. Be whole people. Put differently, there needs to be supports in place to ensure that the vulnerable are not exploited or exploitable, and that those who have been hurt can heal and live in peace.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by smcj » Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:47 am

While it is true that a Mahasiddha is not bound by conventional models of moral discipline. I doubt there are many justifications for appearing not to observe the laws of karma that Buddha taught.
If a person is actually enlightened they are able to benefit others in ways that appear unconventional. What may appear as non-virtue to the unenlightened may be totally virtuous Buddha Activity. Simply because the ignorant observer finds fault does not mean the truly enlightened person is not engaging in virtue. He/she is still observing the law of karma that Buddha taught.

Buddha Activity can manifest as anything whatsoever. It is/has complete freedom and not limited in its expression. The last chapter of The Uttaratantra explains this idea in detail.
Every deluded person could claim to be a Mahasiddha and therefore to indulge their deluded desires so there is danger there.
In practice it is extremely rare for someone to have attained the level of realization where their actions are always virtuous, and where any finding of fault is merely a misapprehension of what is really going on. It is a truly extraordinary accomplishment. As such these doctrines are almost always the refuge of the rascal--almost.
Specifically, there needs to be a lot less credulity and passive acceptance of make-believe.
It is still important to understand the principle. It's not make-believe on the rare occasion where its real.
Malcolm wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 5:34 pm
Grigoris wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:44 pm
A Mahasiddha, for example, is not bound by conventional models of moral discipline.
I doubt the courts will agree.
Which is as it should be. I wouldn't want Vajrayana ideas brought into the courtroom anymore than I would want to see Sharia Law.
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Knotty Veneer » Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:21 am

DGA wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:38 am
Among other things, I think there needs to be a change in culture among Dharma practitioners, particularly in the West. Specifically, there needs to be a lot less credulity and passive acceptance of make-believe. Practitioners need to be increasingly intolerant of bullshit behavior. Be grownups. Be whole people. Put differently, there needs to be supports in place to ensure that the vulnerable are not exploited or exploitable, and that those who have been hurt can heal and live in peace.
Agree absolutely, and as experienced Dharma practitioners that's something many of us has learned. But, as you point out, venerable people need protecting. Even teachers need protecting from the power that the role can place in their hands.

I know the fear is that any such rules will restrict a true teacher's ability to wake students up. Personally, I think that's nonsense. It's a romantic fallacy that has allowed unscrupulous, or at best self-deluding, teachers to get away with unacceptable behavior. If crazy wisdom activity does not wake a student up, it's not crazy wisdom and the teacher is deluded for trying.

I think it's time we put such concepts away.
“Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.” - James S. Gordon.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:34 am

Knotty Veneer wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:21 am
Agree absolutely, and as experienced Dharma practitioners that's something many of us has learned. But, as you point out, venerable people need protecting. Even teachers need protecting from the power that the role can place in their hands.

I know the fear is that any such rules will restrict a true teacher's ability to wake students up. Personally, I think that's nonsense. It's a romantic fallacy that has allowed unscrupulous, or at best self-deluding, teachers to get away with unacceptable behavior. If crazy wisdom activity does not wake a student up, it's not crazy wisdom and the teacher is deluded for trying.

I think it's time we put such concepts away.
I totally agree, I don't think that 'crazy wisdom' is skilful activity in these degenerate times. The time for Drukpa Kunleg has passed, I prefer teachers who show an example of restraint with respect to actions of body and speech.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by passel » Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:04 am

Of course lineage is not enough. If a person wants to be decent, that person should do decent actions with body, speech and mind. If a person wants more the prescription is the same. There's no other way; dharma doesn't countenance free riders or nepotists. There's no end-run around karma, to think otherwise is a distorted view. Lineage has blessings, but not more. Still waiting for empowered individuals to stop taking credit for other peoples' practice. Can't leave lineage behind but sure as hell can't make it an excuse.
"I have made a heap of all that I have met"- Svetonious

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by passel » Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:05 am

Non-elaborated practice is the way. This ain't the70s.
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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Grigoris » Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:44 am

DGA wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:38 am
Among other things, I think there needs to be a change in culture among Dharma practitioners, particularly in the West. Specifically, there needs to be a lot less credulity and passive acceptance of make-believe. Practitioners need to be increasingly intolerant of bullshit behavior. Be grownups. Be whole people. Put differently, there needs to be supports in place to ensure that the vulnerable are not exploited or exploitable, and that those who have been hurt can heal and live in peace.
The problem with expecting western practitioners of acting like grown-ups and whole people is that many come to Buddhism for psychotherapy. Now I am not saying that this is bad, but it certainly leaves the door open for all sorts of abuse.

Teachers are often put in the position of playing relationship counselors, career advisors, etc... Having worked as translator (Greek to English) I have heard all sorts of questions asked of teachers. Rarely do people ask them questions about their practice.

This also means that a "teacher" with less then well-developed morals and scruples has a smorgasbord of potential victims to choose from.

So in the case of organisations like Rigpa or Shambala part of the onus falls on the "more" grown up and whole people in the groups to protect the "less-so" from predators.

You cannot really expect a potential victim to protect itself, by definition, their inability to protect themselves is what makes them victims.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Knotty Veneer » Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:01 am

Grigoris wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:44 am

So in the case of organisations like Rigpa or Shambala part of the onus falls on the "more" grown up and whole people in the groups to protect the "less-so" from predators.

You cannopt really expect a potential victim to protect itself, by definition, their inability to protect themselves is what makes them victims.
This is a very good point. Sangha's need to be aware that they have a role in ensuring bad behaviour is not enabled. I think Western Zen groups have learnt this lesson more than Tibetan ones, in my experience.

Senior students particularly run the risk of being accused as enablers (CF. Pema Chodron currently). I think groups need to protect themselves with a constitution that allows them to remove teachers who misbehave and there is a process where justice can be done for all sides.

Even if the current teacher is a saint, the next one may not be.
“Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.” - James S. Gordon.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by Dan74 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:56 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 9:23 am
I've been following the dicussion about Nakpa International on another thread and the role of lineage.

I, probably like most people here, would want to know that a teacher belongs to a bona fide lineage before seeking teachings from them. And I think this holds true for the major orthodox forms of Buddhism available today. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of an orthodox tradition is that it has a demonstrable lineage.

But, just because a group/teacher can lay claim to a history of respected teachers is that enough. Thankfully, all of my teachers have been beyond reproach but there are teachers within my own tradition I would not trust even though they have the seal of approval of the lineage. I cannot think of a Tibetan or Zen or Theravadin school that has not been touched by scandal at some point - and it does not seem to be letting up.

So my question is - in addition to lineage as a guarantor of a teacher's credentials and one's own observation of their behavior - should we require something more? A published code of conduct, an institutional constitution that ensures bad behavior is censured and prevented from continuing, other checks and balances?
I think there are lots of lineages that have not been touched by a scandal. These, by definition, tend to be a lot less in the public eye.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by smcj » Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:57 pm

I know the fear is that any such rules will restrict a true teacher's ability to wake students up. Personally, I think that's nonsense. It's a romantic fallacy...
Or maybe it’s just outside your personal experience.
...that has allowed unscrupulous, or at best self-deluding, teachers to get away with unacceptable behavior. If crazy wisdom activity does not wake a student up, it's not crazy wisdom and the teacher is deluded for trying.
Deep realization being rare unfortunately that is the norm—hence the current dramas and problems.
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.

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Re: Is lineage enough?

Post by DGA » Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:57 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:44 am
DGA wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:38 am
Among other things, I think there needs to be a change in culture among Dharma practitioners, particularly in the West. Specifically, there needs to be a lot less credulity and passive acceptance of make-believe. Practitioners need to be increasingly intolerant of bullshit behavior. Be grownups. Be whole people. Put differently, there needs to be supports in place to ensure that the vulnerable are not exploited or exploitable, and that those who have been hurt can heal and live in peace.
The problem with expecting western practitioners of acting like grown-ups and whole people is that many come to Buddhism for psychotherapy. Now I am not saying that this is bad, but it certainly leaves the door open for all sorts of abuse.

Teachers are often put in the position of playing relationship counselors, career advisors, etc... Having worked as translator (Greek to English) I have heard all sorts of questions asked of teachers. Rarely do people ask them questions about their practice.

This also means that a "teacher" with less then well-developed morals and scruples has a smorgasbord of potential victims to choose from.

So in the case of organisations like Rigpa or Shambala part of the onus falls on the "more" grown up and whole people in the groups to protect the "less-so" from predators.

You cannot really expect a potential victim to protect itself, by definition, their inability to protect themselves is what makes them victims.
I think you are correct. It's an intractable problem.

What needs to happen (or rather one of the things that needs to happen) may not be plausible to expect under the current circumstances.

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