So now my questions are:
1. Has the teaching methodology we have evolved in the West where foreign-born Rinpoches spend a weekend in a particular city only once per year (or less) and the "rank and file" hardly ever get to spend personal f2f time with their Teachers taken a wrong turn? IOW, is it really working for the majority of students?
(Sorry if this is a provocative question, but I'm not convinced.)
2. If your answer is yes, we have, willy nilly, evolved a inapt teaching methodology, what, if anything, can be done about it?
If people want to discuss how this teaching methodology came about historically as a way of beginning to suggest alternatives, that's fine with me.
Sorry to revive this old topic, but I've been thinking about this topic (whether or not I would benefit from living closely with a teacher) and looking at my own experience.
To answer the questions:
1. I think really it depends on the community and how they provide the teachings. In my experience with the Dzogchen Community, I have had very little doubts about the practices and most of my doubts can be cleared up with SMS instructors (who themselves often did spend years with ChNN of course). With most other sanghas, I don't mean to be rude, but sometimes I am left scratching my head, not sure if I should even try doing the practice because the arrangements of the liturgies are a lot more complicated, with a lot of flipping back and forth. In the beginning I was of course confused even in the DC, but the learning curve was not very steep, while it seems to be steeper, at least for me, in other sanghas. I did get benefit from the teachings I received from other sanghas, but as a daily practice I just find the DC practices far easier to understand and practice. One exception is with the Sakyapas though. I only received one empowerment from HHST, but the explanation was clear and the sadhana fairly straightforward even without face-to-face time with HHST.
So I think it really depends on the teacher, the approach, the student. You can't say that this kind of approach is doomed for failure across the board, at least I don't think so, for what little my opinion is worth. I am sure other people might find the DC approach not to their needs and other sanghas far more suitable for them.
In the biography of Togden Urgyen Tendzin, the uncle of ChNN who realized rainbow body, he barely spent much time directly with Adzom Drugpa too, but did spend a lot of time with senior students of Adzom Drugpa. Likewise, Jigme Lingpa received many transmissions in an assembly while he was a monk, but he never had the opportunity to study closely with a teacher, nonetheless, he did read and study and practice and he realized. ChNN said himself many times that he hopes all his students practice to the level where they don't need an external guru.
2. It's a two way process I think.
The lamas need to see how things are going, and if they are not going well, try to do something about it. Likewise, if the students feel that there is something wrong with their own practice, then they should voice their concerns and see what the lamas say.
There was a period of time when I was longing for close contact with a teacher and sort-of envious of those who had this contact. But then I wondered what I would get out of such a relationship that I don't already have? I already have Dzogchen transmissions from a great teacher which I know how to practice, and many different Vajrayana transmissions, which I have a difficult enough time practicing. If I wanted to become a ritual specialist or a religious professional, undoubtedly I would need much more instruction in Vajrayana liturgies. But at this point in my life, I don't see that happening. I would very much like to enter a long retreat, but then I have other responsibilities and lack the funds -- these days everything requires money, going on retreat in Tibet, Nepal, India where you can expect at least donations of basic sustenance is very different from going on retreat in the modernized world. I am happy with my daily DC practices, which I understand and can do within daily life. So personally I don't see the need for this for me personally any more. Of course, if I know of a good, qualified Dzogchen master living near me and who is accessible, I would make an effort to at least meet with him and see how it goes, but I don't see my situation as something lamentable.