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Thread: Student-Teacher relationships

  1. #1
    Moderator lisehull's Avatar
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    Student-Teacher relationships

    Hi everyone, here is an article by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. I found it quite interesting, and positive. Any thoughts on this?

    https://www.lionsroar.com/treat-everyone-as-the-buddha/

  2. #2
    Hi Lise,

    Firstly, its probably worth mentioning that I think Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche seems quite nice, and I've been to some of his talks in the past.

    I get the impression that his article is a response to the latest shocking Sogyal Rinpoche events, as it follows on from those articles on the linked website.

    I don't agree with the idea in Tibetan Buddhism of treating one's guru as the Buddha, as certain foundational texts advise.

    Why? Because one's Guru isn't the Buddha, as people like Sogyal have so clearly demonstrated.

    However I don't think there's anything wrong in having a teacher who one respects and who has more wisdom and understanding of the Dhamma/Dharma than oneself.

    I also think this is going too far:


    We see every person as a buddha, and we treat them as such. We view the world that we live in as a pure realm, enlightened just as it is.
    Personally I don't have the 'pure' outlook to be able to see someone who is sexually abusing a small child, or torturing and killing an animal or another human being, as a buddha. The historical Buddha didn't behave like that.

    Nor do I think that some of the lamas have that outlook either, otherwise why would they have the bitter quarrels that have existed in the different schools and lineages, which historically started to erupt in violence between the different sects in Tibet around the 15th/16th centuries.

    Why also would Tibetan lamas/ tulkus living in or visiting the west be sneaking about having sex with some of their students and deceiving others....or as in Sogyal's most recent case, publicly punching a nun in the stomach?

    Is that treating "every person as a Buddha"?

    ( I don't really want my questions answered by anyone, I'm just expressing a viewpoint.)



  3. #3
    Moderator lisehull's Avatar
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    Hmmmm, looks like I need to read this a bit more closely!! I will make more comments after that.
    Thanks for your insights, Aloka!

  4. #4
    Moderator lisehull's Avatar
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    I did another quick read through, and I do agree with your observations, Aloka. However, Mingyur R. does clearly state that excusing a teacher's abuse as crazy wisdom (as they do with Chogyam Trungpa) is wrong when it harms the student.

    I like this comment: Thus we must distinguish teachers who are eccentric or provocative—but ultimately compassionate and skillful—from those who are actually harming students and causing trauma. These are two very different things, and it is important that we do not lump them together. There are plenty of teachers who push and provoke students to help them learn about their minds, but that is not abuse. Physical, sexual, and psychological abuse are not teaching tools.

    I have always had difficulty seeing my teachers as Buddhas, but I can understand that all beings have Buddha nature, or basic goodness, even if they are deeply flawed. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be held responsible for their behavior. I think Mingyur R. was trying to encourage the reporting of abuse and of leaving teachers who do harm. What bothers me is how many students condone abusive behavior, even when it's clear their teachers are victimizing students and not keeping their vows and the precepts.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by lisehull View Post

    I have always had difficulty seeing my teachers as Buddhas, but I can understand that all beings have Buddha nature, or basic goodness, even if they are deeply flawed.
    Hi Lise,

    Just on a side note here, I do understand where you're coming from with your belief about "all beings have Buddha nature" because its something that's frequently repeated by Tibetan Buddhists.... but the historical Buddha didn't actually teach anything about it, its something that was added later.

    This article "Freedom from Buddha Nature" by Bhikkhu Thanissaro might be helpful:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/a...dhanature.html

    Excerpt:


    .....This is why the Buddha never advocated attributing an innate nature of any kind to the mind — good, bad, or Buddha. The idea of innate natures slipped into the Buddhist tradition in later centuries, when the principle of freedom was forgotten. Past bad kamma was seen as so totally deterministic that there seemed no way around it unless you assumed either an innate Buddha in the mind that could overpower it, or an external Buddha who would save you from it. But when you understand the principle of freedom — that past kamma doesn't totally shape the present, and that present kamma can always be free to choose the skillful alternative — you realize that the idea of innate natures is unnecessary: excess baggage on the path.

    And it bogs you down. If you assume that the mind is basically bad, you won't feel capable of following the path, and will tend to look for outside help to do the work for you. If you assume that the mind is basically good, you'll feel capable but will easily get complacent. This stands in the way of the heedfulness needed to get you on the path, and to keep you there when the path creates states of relative peace and ease that seem so trustworthy and real. If you assume a Buddha nature, you not only risk complacency but you also entangle yourself in metaphysical thorn patches: If something with an awakened nature can suffer, what good is it? How could something innately awakened become defiled? If your original Buddha nature became deluded, what's to prevent it from becoming deluded after it's re-awakened?

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/a...dhanature.html


  6. #6
    Moderator Element's Avatar
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    I read the article and personally found the language 'flowery' & 'rhetorical'; given it only had two references to sex, which were about "sexual abuse". In the secular world, be it in education, sports or the workplace, any sexual relations whatsoever between teachers & students; superiors & subordinates; etc, is generally considered inappropriate & can have very serious repercussions.


    I think Buddhism targeting Westerners (aka 'Western Buddhism') has always been & will probably always be overly hypersensitive towards the subject of sex. Thus, Western Buddhism tip toes around the subject of sex, concerned they will hurt the feelings of or scare away Western sexual liberals. As long as this is the case, Western Buddhism will always have issues with allegations of sexual misconduct because liberal women willing to have sex with gurus will naturally, eventually & inevitably feel resentment when the sexual relationship with the guru ends. Thus, they accuse the guru of "sexual abuse" even though, in probably most cases, they themselves were willing to enter into an inappropriate relationship.

    If the "victims" here were innocent girls then this would be extremely serious. However, the Sogyal problem has been around for many years now, with documentaries, etc, and the impression I have gained is the women involved where not exactly innocent & unwilling.

    A good example is Jack Kornfield. I recall in lecture by Jack he shared how when he returned to the USA from Thailand and became a well-known meditation teacher, he was very sexually active, to the point of 'promiscuous'. Then, one day, one of his female students reprimanded Jack personally about his sexual reputation/activity as a teacher. That woman subsequently became his wife. Here, it took a woman to uphold sexual morality towards a teacher (rather than be dictated to by a wayward teacher).

    To conclude, my point is it is so much more than about "sexual abuse". it is about absolutely no sexual contact between teachers & students.

  7. #7
    Moderator lisehull's Avatar
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    But to blame sexually active WOMEN completely takes away from the whole point. The teachers are in the power position, have taken vows, and are the ones responsible for not having sex with their students, regardless of how willing the students may be. They are the ones who should be steadfast no matter the situation. And there are many who sexually abuse their students, not all of whom are women. The present Kalu Rinpoche is a case in point. You seem to be blaming the victim, Element!

  8. #8
    Moderator Element's Avatar
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    Thanks Lisehull. I did not blame women. Instead, I imputed a SHARED responsibility. If a person is an educated adult woman or man & has sex with a guru at a religious place then obviously there is a shared responsibility; unless the person is completely ignorant about Buddhism & ordinary social morality.

    I personally knew a guru who terribly sexually & financially exploited his female students. Since that time, I no longer attend his talks when he visits my area. I immediately rejected both him & his pathetic expectations that he be immediately forgiven.

    Importantly, his female disciples, who are my acquaintances or 'friends', have not rejected him as their teacher. His photo is still on the wall & altar at the local Buddhist centre. One of these women is currently having a casual sexual relationship with a teacher that started when she recently attended a mediation retreat. The other woman, who is extremely highly educated & careered, I have heard publicly mock the idea of Christian sexual morality in front of the local (secular) community.

    The women here do not have clear sexual values. They are ordinary women who have ordinary worldly sexual affairs. Both have university education. Both have grown children. They continue to support a sexual offender. Where as I, immediately, rejected this teacher.

    I am providing an example, be it men or women, where it is obvious the students are contributing to these matters, in combination with norms in Tibetan Buddhism, the power abuse of the guru & with the vague guidance about sex conduct given by Buddhist teachers to Westerners, who seem to be primarily interested in attracting students.

    The Sogyal matter obviously in not related to Sogyal personally but to his entire institution. It appears not to be a personal breach but, instead, institutional; the same as occurred with Shambala & Trungpa and FWBO. The last time I attended FWBO, 12 or so years ago, they were still honoring the guru at a 'teacher' (as shown in this video).


  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by lisehull View Post
    The teachers are in the power position, have taken vows, and are the ones responsible for not having sex with their students, regardless of how willing the students may be. They are the ones who should be steadfast no matter the situation. And there are many who sexually abuse their students, not all of whom are women. The present Kalu Rinpoche is a case in point.
    Absolutely, Lise. The teachers need to keep their penises in their pants instead of acting like children in a candy store.

    Instructions such "The Guru Yoga which Rapidly Confers Blessing "which is the fourth of "The Four Special Foundations" outlined in Jamgon Kontrul's "The Torch of Certainty" says it all in terms of the teachers being elevated to extremely high positions in Tibetan Buddhism.

    Excerpt from page 186:



    THE GURU-DISCIPLE RELATIONSHIP

    Before you have requested Dharma instruction or empowerment from a master, examine his qualities. But once you have received [any instruction or empowerment] from him, even if he flaunts the four immoral acts, you may not turn your faith away from him, slander him, examine his qualities or do anything but treat him as one worthy of devotion and reverence.

    It is said:

    Once you have listened to a single brief discourse,
    If you lack respect for your guru,
    You will be born a dog one hundred times,
    And a butcher after that.

    and page 188:


    Thus, to please your root-guru is to please all the Buddhas. Mistreating him is like mistreating all the Buddhas. Presenting offerings to him earns the merit of presenting offerings to all the Buddhas and removes obscurations.

    Many sutras and shastras say that our attainment of siddhi is entirely dependent on the guru, and that immeasurable benefits will accrue through our devotion,reverence and presentation of offerings to him.

    from page 194:


    Similarly, your own mental attitude causes you to see faults in the guru. How can a Buddha have faults?
    Whatever he does, let him do it! Even if you see your guru having sexual relations, telling lies and so on, calmly meditate as follows: “These are my guru’s unsurpassed skillful methods of training disciples. Through these methods he has brought many sentient beings to spiritual maturity and liberation. This is a hundred, a thousand times more wonderful than preserving a pure moral code! This is not deception or hypocrisy but the highest mode of conduct!”


    http://promienie.net/images/dharma/b...-certainty.pdf


    PS


    Re. #8 its interesting that Dennis Lingwood (Sangharakshita) appears to be still revered by the Triratna organisation.


  10. #10
    From #9...


    It is said:

    Once you have listened to a single brief discourse,
    If you lack respect for your guru,
    You will be born a dog one hundred times,
    And a butcher after that.

    A powerful threat/brainwashing technique for those who might step out of line and who believe in reincarnation?







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