Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thoughts on Teachers and Ethics

This post by Gniz made me think about putting into the blogosphere some thoughts that have been swirling about my head for some time now.

  • Dharma transmission, inka shomei, whatever you want to call it, must not be very important relative to how you live your life. Some of the most notable teachers didn't have certificates, scrolls or what-not saying what a great realization they've had.

  • Corrupt and immoral teachers do not - cannot - invalidate the way. Your way is your way, and you're still empowered and condemned to be on it, no matter what folks say. While some would certainly make the same arguments for Christianity, and in a sense I would agree with them, the presence of corrupt teachers in and of itself cannot invalidate the truth of one's way. The truth of one's way as a Christian versus as a Buddhist or a non-religious atheist is another matter. But if you are attached to a great teacher or a corrupt teacher, you're not on your way, but merely in somebody else's shadow.

  • Teachers with some fall-back position, some income generating method, such as being a professional artist, physician, or some other such thing seem to be more ethical than others. I think this helps quench an understandable money hunger that seems to arise as we age. In the US, monks that exist purely by begging their way through life strikes us as a bit cynical, and in addition, the charitable urge for Americans, despite the appendage waving, just isn't enough to keep folks from going hungry and worse.

  • It is on its face unethical to accept money accumulated from the estate of a fraudulent "teacher" to "promote Buddhism," especially when that "teacher's" life and death were at odds with the ethical precepts of Buddhism. It is unethical if only because there are those who have still not been made whole as a result of contact with this "teacher," and in fact there is no admission that this "teacher" left people unwhole. And this unwholeness stems at least in part by the fact that this "teacher" conflated Buddhism with something entirely different, and this conflation continues now, and those who accept largess from this teacher are silent about this conflation. It is though a great treasure had been plundered from an indigenous people, and you build a temple showing of the great treasure you plundered, and you claim that as some kind of skillful good work!

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