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Thread: The power: to bless or abuse

  1. #1

    The power: to bless or abuse

    This is an article by Ajahn Sucitto:

    The power: to bless or abuse


    Spiritual power carries an effective potential for good or for bad. First the good: the work and example of spiritual masters, great teachers and leaders who often single handedly went against the tide is a beacon of light in the human ocean. In this case, I think of Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho because I associated with them, but I hope you have your own, because the world is a tough place without that light.

    But it can get even tougher when the guiding light has been seen to cast deep shadows: witness the recent upheavals at Shambhala and Rigpa where the holders of truth for their global communities have been removed on account of their abusive sexual and physical activities. Grim and very sad – but not unusual. Gurus, prelates and even presidents are seen, rightly or not, as bearers of qualities that enable them to support the collective. How they are seen depends not just on a rational assessment but on the energy of their presence, verbal delivery or deportment – an immaterial 'substance' called 'charisma' - ‘grace’.

    On account of this, followers grant effective power to the leader. It’s quite a transference; human collectives orient themselves around it. In fact it's difficult for a collective to arise, as a body that can move beyond individual self-interest, without the charismatic embodiment of the greater good. And although the source of that goodness may be couched in terms of a national myth, or a god, or a god-given destiny, the terrestrial agent of that good embodies that through their personal charisma: kings and queens are sacred. Yet, given the fallible nature of all human beings, and considering the damage caused by charismatic leaders of spiritual communities (let alone of political institutions), along with the resultant loss of faith, meaning and orientation for millions of people, this is a major issue. Its ramifications extend beyond the flaws of particular individuals.

    The Buddha was evidently richly endowed, and thus a source of charisma and authority. His five former ascetic associates, having just made a pact to not acknowledge him, found themselves involuntarily rising up and offering him a seat and homage as soon as he, then newly-awakened, came into their presence. 'Bhagava' they and multitudes of disciples called him - 'the Blessed One, the one rich in grace' – and the honorific had been passed down to seers and sages in India ever since. The Buddha lived up to that on account of his authentic realization and through passing on a wealth of teachings. But, sidestepping a purely personal attainment, he referred to himself in the third person, as Tathāgatā - 'the One who has gone into Truth', the Transcendent One. His insistence was that he had rightly seen the Dhamma, the Way leading to liberation, and that Way was the proper focus to attend to. However the teacher-disciple relationship was a vital part of that Way.

    So for those who had committed to his Dhamma and yet were deviating from it, his instructions took on the qualities of command:

    ... for a faithful disciple ... it is proper that he conduct himself thus: 'The Blessed One in the Teacher, I am a disciple; the Blessed One knows, I do not know.'... 'Willingly, let only my skin, sinews, and bones remain, and let the flesh and blood dry up on my body, but my energy shall not be relaxed so long as I have not attained what can be attained ...' (M.70:27)


    Continues at the link:

    http://sucitto.blogspot.com/2018

    Any thoughts about the whole article?

  2. #2
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    Although it's written about relationships within spiritual communities, it highlights that human interaction is always open to abuse, especially where power over someone comes into it. Even with the best of intentions problems can crop up, or we wouldn't be human. Part of the problem is that people on a spiritual journey have a different sort of power.

    My first wife could spot people from the Buddhist centre I attended in a crowded shop, without knowing them, just by the way they held themselves. There are those who find themselves more easily swayed by such people and I think it's essential for those on the path to be mindful of this.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for posting this, Aloka. I haven't had the time to read it fully, but am sure it will be of interest.

    Lise

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    Hi Aloka

    Thanks for your article, I have liked Ajahn Sucitto for many years, I find him a very wise man who embodies the Dhamma in many ways.

    So the take I get from this article is that it is important to follow the Buddha's path, the Vinaya has sufficient guidance that if it is followed will safeguard both the teacher and student.

    This points to what I suspect with all of these teachers and organisations that seem to be abusive in nature, they are not following the dhamma, the buddhism they offer is often a corrupted form.

    The presence that Philg sites his wife could detect in people from a particular organisation was not the presence Sucitto attributes to Sumedho, one is the reflection of sincere practice and the fruits of that practice and the other is I guess the result of hubris.

    The problem is that it seems few people have the ability to tell the difference.

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