Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

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fckw
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Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by fckw » Sun May 06, 2018 10:28 am

It is generally assumed that in the Vajrayana tradition teachers appearing on the market must have been authorized in a way by their own teachers. The debate then often goes into the direction of the authenticity and credibility of the authentication of a certain person. "Was XYZ really authorized to teach by ABC and DEF?" It turns out that in many cases it's basically impossible to figure out this authenticity.

What is striking to me though is that whenever I read either biographies of mahasiddhas or tantric root texts actually none of them tasks about teacher authorization. Whereas initiation into a certain practice seems to be a very common and necessary prerequisite, in the typical story the student then picks up the practice, brings it to fruition (often after years of practice), and then, without further consulting anyone or receiving the teacher's authorization to teach, begins passing down the teachings to qualified students.

[Just as a side note: What is also remarkable is Western students' naivety when it comes to believing in the power of authorization. For example, there are many cases where a realized Tibetan teacher has a few sons, passes away, and then the oldest son automatically receives the father's sovereignty. That this son must therefore have sufficient realization is simply accepted by Western students without further questions asked. At the same time, sometimes there are highly qualified Western students of same masters who automatically, due to their birth as non-Tibetans, are excluded from receiving any further far reaching authorization.]

So, beyond all the circus of power politics: I am wondering, where does this idea actually come from that formal teaching authorization is required?

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Aryjna » Sun May 06, 2018 1:07 pm

fckw wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 10:28 am
What is striking to me though is that whenever I read either biographies of mahasiddhas or tantric root texts actually none of them tasks about teacher authorization.
They do talk about it. As there are several instances where someone's teacher tells them they should teach or confirms they have achieved realization.

Given that these are not detailed accounts covering every word ever uttered by the mahasiddhas and their teachers, you cannot expect to find it explicitly in these stories.

Even if there was nothing like that in the accounts of the mahasiddhas, it would still be irrelevant to the need for authorization in the case of practitioners who are not actually mahasiddhas. Being a mahasiddha, you do not really need someone to tell you that you can or should teach.

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by fckw » Sun May 06, 2018 1:22 pm

Aryjna wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 1:07 pm
Being a mahasiddha, you do not really need someone to tell you that you can or should teach.
I am almost certain that even if you were a mahasiddha but never had received teaching authorization from any teacher many Buddhists would be upset and criticize you for being a show-off. (But then again, there's no proper definition of what a mahasiddha exactly is.)

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Aryjna » Sun May 06, 2018 1:25 pm

fckw wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 1:22 pm
Aryjna wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 1:07 pm
Being a mahasiddha, you do not really need someone to tell you that you can or should teach.
I am almost certain that even if you were a mahasiddha but never had received teaching authorization from any teacher many Buddhists would be upset and criticize you for being a show-off. (But then again, there's no proper definition of what a mahasiddha exactly is.)
Maybe, I'm sure there are many stories about mahasiddhas being harassed and treated terribly. As far as I know a mahasiddha is someone who has achieved supreme siddhi, which is buddhahood.

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by dzogchungpa » Sun May 06, 2018 2:55 pm

My impression is that several tertons, e.g. Jigme Lingpa, Dudjom Lingpa and Chokgyur Lingpa, were not authorized to teach by anyone before they began teaching, but perhaps I am mistaken.
Last edited by dzogchungpa on Sun May 06, 2018 3:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Josef » Sun May 06, 2018 3:00 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 2:55 pm
My impression is that several tertons, e.g. Jigme Lingpa and Chokgyur Lingpa, were not authorized to teach by anyone before they began teaching, but perhaps I am mistaken.
Along with thousands of non-tertons.
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Virgo » Sun May 06, 2018 4:35 pm

fckw wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 10:28 am
It is generally assumed that in the Vajrayana tradition teachers appearing on the market must have been authorized in a way by their own teachers. The debate then often goes into the direction of the authenticity and credibility of the authentication of a certain person. "Was XYZ really authorized to teach by ABC and DEF?" It turns out that in many cases it's basically impossible to figure out this authenticity.

What is striking to me though is that whenever I read either biographies of mahasiddhas or tantric root texts actually none of them tasks about teacher authorization. Whereas initiation into a certain practice seems to be a very common and necessary prerequisite, in the typical story the student then picks up the practice, brings it to fruition (often after years of practice), and then, without further consulting anyone or receiving the teacher's authorization to teach, begins passing down the teachings to qualified students.
Everyone must follow the institution.

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Last edited by Virgo on Sun May 06, 2018 5:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by fckw » Sun May 06, 2018 4:50 pm

Virgo wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 4:35 pm
When you are walking in the jungle, and you come across the lion - the king of the jungle - do you ask him to hide his balls?
I like the example, but I think it does simply not cover reality. The catch is: You already assume that you'd recognize the kind of the jungle as such. Just look how often it happens in this forum when someone raises the question about a particular - typically Western - guy (or lady) teaching the dharma whether s/he has received teaching authorization. For the other cases, where no witnesses can be found, Now, of course the argument will immediately be: "But these are almost certainly not buddhas!" Well, how do you know?

So, it happens over and over that people who have no means of recognizing the king of the jungle walk around and start scrutinizing someone's teaching authority. Same as it happens that people who are actually the puppy of the jungle (if not rather an other animal entirely) simply take up teaching.

[For example, somewhere in a thread in this forum someone asked about the teaching authority of James Low. Luckily, this time, there still were some blokes around who can testify that he has actually been authorized by none other than Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche. Here's a guy, who has some authentic teaching authorization by one of the greatest realized masters of the previous century, and some random other guy in this forum feels there's the need to question his teaching authority. According to your logic, well, James Low is of course not a buddha, because if he WERE a buddha, then nobody would feel any need for questioning him, as it would be so totally obvious that he is one. But, without now being particularly interested with James Low, how can you know he is no buddha?]
Last edited by fckw on Sun May 06, 2018 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by florin » Sun May 06, 2018 5:46 pm

In my opinion being good friends with Samantabadhra puts you in a very good position. :smile:
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Aryjna » Sun May 06, 2018 6:09 pm

fckw wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 4:50 pm
According to your logic, well, James Low is of course not a buddha, because if he WERE a buddha, then nobody would feel any need for questioning him, as it would be so totally obvious that he is one. But, without now being particularly interested with James Low, how can you know he is no buddha?]
Someone being a buddha doesn't mean that it is obvious to everyone. This does not really have something to do with whether he needs permission to teach or not.

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Josef » Sun May 06, 2018 6:59 pm

This notion of explicit permission is something that seems to mostly apply to non-Tibetan practitioners.
If one was living in a valley in the Himalaya's, had received empowerment, instructions, and applied the practices diligently, there would be nobody questioning whether or not said individual could "teach" or transmit the practices they have a lineage connection to.

I find it extremely unlikely that the Mahasiddhas had some kind of certificate or explicit permission to benefit beings through offering them dharma. The notion is a bit silly.
Kye ma!
The river of continuity is marked by impermanence.
Ceaseless flowing of appearance.
Beautiful and repulsive.
The dance of life and death is a display of the vast expanse.
With gratitude the watcher and the watched pass through the barrier of duality.

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Virgo » Mon May 07, 2018 12:05 am

Josef wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 6:59 pm
This notion of explicit permission is something that seems to mostly apply to non-Tibetan practitioners.
If one was living in a valley in the Himalaya's, had received empowerment, instructions, and applied the practices diligently, there would be nobody questioning whether or not said individual could "teach" or transmit the practices they have a lineage connection to.

I find it extremely unlikely that the Mahasiddhas had some kind of certificate or explicit permission to benefit beings through offering them dharma. The notion is a bit silly.
I agree with this and it is what I was trying to express. However, Josef managed to do it much more elegantly, without mentioning a lions' balls. He has that ability. Thank you sir. Perhaps one day I will acquire such an ability.

Kevin
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Palzang Jangchub » Mon May 07, 2018 12:49 am

The first thing that popped into my mind when i read the OP was the story of Naropa asking whether Marpa should bow to the guru or the yidam deity when he manifested the mandala before Marpa's very eyes. When Marpa makes the wrong choice Naropa tells him that his family lineage will cease but his Dharma lineage will flourish. While implicit, that's about as close to an explicit authorization to teach as I can think of with regards to the 84 Mahasiddhas.

I agree with many points being made in this thread, not the least of which being the reverse ethno-centric mindset that Tibetans who teach are met with less scrutiny than Injis and automatically trusted more. I myself fell prey to this once upon a time, seeing the advice of Tibetan teachers as more authentic than the advice of those teachers who looked like me simply due to their birthplace.

A lot of this has to due with the transitional period we find ourselves in as denizens of Western countries. According to my academic studies, historically speaking it takes about 500 years or so for the Dharma to take hold and really become indigenized. By that benchmark we've only been exposed to Buddhism since maybe the very late 1800s (and with Vajrayana really only since the Tibetan exodus circa the 1950s), so we're not there yet.
As such many will no doubt find it easier to trust in traditionally trained lamas than those who've grown up in the same cultural milieu as themselves. The air of authenticity is easier to believe if one comes from the culture that for many centuries has been the major upholder of Vajrayana... This is why we call it "Tibetan" Buddhism, no?

That said, as Inji practitioners who've grown in the Dharma it is our job to question this attitude and begin the uncomfortable business of relying on native teachers (and, dare I say, the guru within). If we never make this transition, we will forever be looking outward to another culture and, in the process, we will impede true flourishing of Western Dharma. We must remind ourselves that if the Tibetans had done this in regards to their Indian and Nepali gurus, the Tibetan Buddhism we hold so dear wouldn't have developed as we know it today, or perhaps the Dharma would never have really taken hold there in the first place.

After all, isn't it important that the transmission of the teachings continue from master to student without breakage, or do we somehow think we're exempt from this? Since the generation of masters who grew up in pre-Chinese occupied Tibet are passing away, logically this leads to us taking up the mantle at some point. Do we want to be the culture(s) that presides over the Vajrayana dying out worldwide, or slinking back into the shadows? I don't think there's a problem with trusting our elderly gurus to train the next generation of Tibetan lamas... But are we willing to let those disciples do all the heavy lifting and not take responsibility for the Dharma as has always been done?

Naturally this will be uncomfortable for many, as it requires an honest examination of our mindsets regarding authenticity, poverty, and the like. I have no doubt that if a destitute American with realization or permission to teach wandered the States he or she would be shunned by most sanghas, or at very least viewed with extreme suspicion. By the time most of us encounter the Dharma, our cultural notions are largely engrained already.

The question becomes whether we let them stay that way or not. I don't think that we'll suddenly see impoverished yogis become in vogue (we can find story after story showing that these types have always suffered abuse and derision for the sake of Dharma before they became accepted), but the status quo won't lead to seeing such figures in our own cultures, which did at least eventually happen in Asia.

Just as uncomfortable but necessary is to examine Tibetan lamas rather than take them at face value, blindly following them simply because they're Tibetan (and therefore must be Dharma superstars). Power politics is indeed a real thing, and some individuals really do want nothing more than a fiefdom they can rule over. Even genuine lamas who start out with pure intentions can be enticed by the "gods' realm" of material comforts we often take for granted, especially when they grew up in drastically different circumstances (though this seems to be more the case with the newer generations).

We might not examine gurus precisely as the tantras enjoin us to, but at least not falling into a weird reverse ethno-centrism is a must. Otherwise we'll find that lay and monastic Tibetans with no realization or authorisation will prop themselves up as tulkus and rinpoches upon coming to the West more often than not.

Circling back to the explicit permission to teach, could it be that not only are we less accepting of our own, but also Injis are more reticent to teach than their Tibetan counterparts, making them more rare and thereby feeding into a vicious cycle? I've heard stories of famous lamas not wanting to teach but yielding to the commands of their root gurus and doing so. Perhaps we're not seeing the same thing with Westerners in part due to a crisis of confidence, or because fewer of the reluctant ones will similarly set aside their misgivings and trust that their gurus know they're ready to do so?
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Sennin » Mon May 07, 2018 1:36 am

Josef wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 6:59 pm
This notion of explicit permission is something that seems to mostly apply to non-Tibetan practitioners.
If one was living in a valley in the Himalaya's, had received empowerment, instructions, and applied the practices diligently, there would be nobody questioning whether or not said individual could "teach" or transmit the practices they have a lineage connection to.

I find it extremely unlikely that the Mahasiddhas had some kind of certificate or explicit permission to benefit beings through offering them dharma. The notion is a bit silly.
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by yagmort » Wed May 09, 2018 11:47 am

imho that depends on how you define what is it "to teach". to give general dharma discourses is one thing, to transmit and then to supervise and guide a student through a particualr practice is another. at the time of mahasiddhas there were generally no such thing as monastic establishment and lineages have been transmitted in a rather private way from a master to several disciples. in many ways i perceive quite a lot of mahasiddhas to be social outlaws, living their lives at the very background of a society as they tresspassed social norms and conventionalities which restrain ordinary people. they therefore from what i know haven't addressed their teachings to a general public in an attempt to popularize them. if we talk about tantric practices i am certain they did authorize their most realized students to be a lineage holders. for example in a Marpa biography we can read that Naropa redirected him to other lineage holders even though he could teach him himself. the same stands true to this day, at least from what i can see in Drukpa. even if a practitioner has succesfully accomplished 3 year retreat he is still not authorized to teach - that is, to transmit certain practices and then guide anybody, unless he is instructed to do so by his own teacher who has such authorization. sometimes a teacher can specify that a qualified practitioner can give general discourses and say guide others on ngondro, but not any further practices.

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Josef » Wed May 09, 2018 8:39 pm

yagmort wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 11:47 am
at the time of mahasiddhas there were generally no such thing as monastic establishment and lineages have been transmitted in a rather private way from a master to several disciples.
That's not quite accurate.
There were many large monastic institutions in India at the time of the Mahasiddhas and in several of their namthar you can read about how they began their training within them.
Kye ma!
The river of continuity is marked by impermanence.
Ceaseless flowing of appearance.
Beautiful and repulsive.
The dance of life and death is a display of the vast expanse.
With gratitude the watcher and the watched pass through the barrier of duality.

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by javier.espinoza.t » Wed May 09, 2018 9:10 pm

Josef wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 8:39 pm
yagmort wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 11:47 am
at the time of mahasiddhas there were generally no such thing as monastic establishment and lineages have been transmitted in a rather private way from a master to several disciples.
That's not quite accurate.
There were many large monastic institutions in India at the time of the Mahasiddhas and in several of their namthar you can read about how they began their training within them.
afaik mahasiddhas were once buddhist monks (shravakas and/or boddhisattvas in training) and top scholars on dharma that arrived a point where they became aware that their bonds and self limitations was an impediment to their realization, so they brook their bounds and lived in a bizarre fashion -to our eyes-

on the point about to teach or not to teach, i only know that if you are going to teach some teaching that's not yours like the transmision of lungs, you should ask the source of them: your lama, your guru.
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Sennin » Wed May 09, 2018 9:26 pm

To transmit teachings then one has to have the "juice" :quoteunquote: . Ya know, no hope, no fear...confidence...transmission...experience..real power. :jedi:

Otherwise it won't work.
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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by fckw » Wed May 09, 2018 10:44 pm

javier.espinoza.t wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 9:10 pm
afaik mahasiddhas were once buddhist monks (shravakas and/or boddhisattvas in training) and top scholars on dharma that arrived a point...
Nah, not really. They really had all sorts of social backgrounds, by far not all of them were learned. And a few ones of them - according to Buddhist sources - were actually non-Buddhists.

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Re: Did the 84 mahasiddhas authorize others to teach?

Post by Malcolm » Thu May 10, 2018 1:58 am

Josef wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 6:59 pm
This notion of explicit permission is something that seems to mostly apply to non-Tibetan practitioners.
If one was living in a valley in the Himalaya's, had received empowerment, instructions, and applied the practices diligently, there would be nobody questioning whether or not said individual could "teach" or transmit the practices they have a lineage connection to.

I find it extremely unlikely that the Mahasiddhas had some kind of certificate or explicit permission to benefit beings through offering them dharma. The notion is a bit silly.
Actually, they had to renew their teaching license every five years with the BRUB (Board of Really Uptight Buddhists).
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