Comments on “Authorized to teach”



Hey, David! What your Lama has to say about things like this one?

I know that these people are very resentful and start to contaminate everything they say with this feeling... But let's be realists: there are tons of Lamas – almost all of them – that are just doing what she describes in this blog Ex-Tibetan Buddhist...

What do you think yourself? What's your criticism in respect to Vajrayana here and there??

Thanks a lot for your attention!

Ex Tibetan Buddhist

Far too much of this is factually accurate—although the general tone is hysterical and exaggerated.

Much of it, also, is untrue. It would take a huge amount of work to go through it and explain which parts are true and which are false (and even more work to provide solid evidence for both).

A number of Tibetan lamas have done terrible things. It is also true that the structure of the system helps enable them to get away with that. I doubt it's "almost all," or even a large faction. Still, it is certainly far too many.

Given that, one should take sensible precautions when approaching Tibetan Buddhism. This advice applies to all other religions as well; every one of them has had similar sexual and financial scandals. Being a religious leader gives you a special kind of power, which some unscrupulous people inevitably exploit.

Ngak'chang Rinpoche has publicly criticized sexual abuse by Tibetan Lamas. That site borrows heavily from Mary Finnegan's reporting on Sogyal Lakar. She is friendly with Ngak'chang Rinpoche, and has quoted him in her articles.


Rafael Roldan's picture

Hmm, i see. Totally agree with you.

But there are parts of the Vajra system that are very suspect. The first of the Four Reliances is one of them. If Sogyal Rinpoche really did that all but what he teaches is very profound, then we have a hypocritical system. Don't you think?

What about the supernatural side of it all? What do you think?

For instance, another subject that is scandal is the Shugden affair...

It totally undermines a great part of the Vajra system as it is presented:

If the Dalai is a Living Buddha, he could just have bound that spirit or even destroyed him. Instead, he divides his folks, in a fashion that rescends completely theocratic, as to find nebulous excuses for not being able to hold Tibet as nation, not to mention as a country.

If he's just an ordinary man, then he's tinged with hypocrisy, because he allows many persons to treat him as a God King...

Concerns about Vajrayana

In general, my advice is that if you have strong concerns about Vajrayana, you should stay away from it. ("You" here being generic, not meaning you Rafael Roldan specifically.) There are many good reasons to stay away from it, and I don't want to talk anyone into it.

Hysterical attack sites mix together good and bad reasons, which isn't helpful. When a reader figures out that most of the criticisms are wrong, they might dismiss all of them and mistakenly think there are no problems, without realizing that some are also correct and important.

However, to answer your questions:

> there are parts of the Vajra system that are very suspect. The first of the Four Reliances

The Four Reliances are not a Vajrayana teaching. Vajrayana contradicts some aspects of other brands of Buddhism. (As every brand of Buddhism contradicts some aspects of every other one—otherwise they would all be the same, and there would only be one brand!)

> If Sogyal Rinpoche really did that all but what he teaches is very profound, then we have a hypocritical system.

That would imply that he is a hypocritical teacher, not that the system is hypocritical. Right?

Or, maybe I am not sure what you are saying:

I guess some people might say that it is magically impossible to teach special doctrines unless you are an extremely special person, but I think that's obviously false. Anyone can teach anything. They might not teach it very well. But who is to say whether he teaches very well? I've never heard him teach, so I have no opinion. For what it's worth, I have heard from reliable-seeming sources that "his" main book, the Living and Dying one, was actually written by one of his Western students. Anyway, I find it perfectly plausible that a morally corrupt person could teach very well. Teachers are people, and people are hypocritical, and good at compartmentalizing.

Or, maybe you are saying that the institutional system is hypocritical because Tibetan institutions have not taken action against him? This may be a fair criticism. I don't know whether the allegations against him are true, but if they are, I think other Tibetan teachers ought to shame him.

I think it's important to recognize that Vajrayana is not Tibetan Buddhism. Most Vajrayana is not Tibetan. Most Tibetan Buddhism is not Vajrayana. History shows that Tibetan religious institutions and leaders have often been corrupt and highly immoral. (As have religious institutions and leaders everywhere.) We do not have to reject Vajrayana, or any other religion, on the basis that its institutions and leaders are often corrupt.

> What about the supernatural side of it all? What do you think?

I personally have a naturalistic worldview and don't believe in spooks. (Most Aro gTér practitioners do believe in them.)

Before the late 1800s, all branches of Buddhism were extensively supernatural. Most of them still are. Some modernized versions of Zen and Theravada kicked out their spooks, and those sects have been successful as exports to the West. They are mostly not successful in Asia, where nearly all Buddhists, Theravada and Mahayana, have a supernatural worldview and rely extensively on spooks for help in daily life.

I think it would be possible to kick the spooks out of Vajrayana too. I wrote several blog posts about that, starting here.

> the Shugden affair

Shugden is a symbolic personification of a political power struggle within the Geluk Party. It has almost nothing to do with religion. (Not quite nothing.) It also has almost nothing to do with any of the non-Geluk branches of Tibetan Buddhism. (Not quite nothing, because some Geluks use it to justify persecution of non-Geluks.)

If you take it seriously as a spook, you completely miss the point that it's 97% about factional infighting for secular power (and the money, girls, and fancy hats that come with power).

> If the Dalai is a Living Buddha, he could just have bound that spirit or even destroyed him.

Yeah, but nobody takes that seriously. Translated out of metaphorical spook-ese, this just means he doesn't have enough political clout to win the Geluk internal power struggle outright.

> Instead, he divides his folks

I think he has done an extraordinary job of uniting his folks. The Tibetans are a fractious people, and he's managed to get most of them heading in the same general direction for half a century. No one has ever done that before in history.

I'm not entirely happy with the way he has done that, which in part has been to suppress dissidents whom he couldn't coöpt; nor with the outcome, which is to centralize power in himself. However, that may be better than the likely alternative, which was endless bloody feuding erupting occasionally into low-grade civil wars. That may still happen when he dies, because the process for succession is unclear and will be fought over.

> If he's just an ordinary man, then he's tinged with hypocrisy, because he allows many persons to treat him as a God King

Yeah, I'm not enthusiastic about that either. "No gods, no kings, only man" is a good motto. I favor secular democracy. He has, however, taken the Tibetans a long way in that direction.


I'd have no means to follow your advice. I'm already a snake in the tube...

Firstly, let me send a sincere and warm hug of gratitude for all your effort on your websites and with your time and attention to participate in so many conversations we, your audience, put you into.

In this sense, you're more kind than soooo many Lamas (yours included) that don't risk to visit for more than a few days or dare to live in "Third World" countries like mine or even to be a little more open to communicate like we're doing right now.

There's relief each time someone says that Vajrayana is not Tibetan culture and vice-versa! That's why I don't give a damn to a title such as Dalai Lama. He may seem to have done a great job, but there's still Tibetan people being the subject of rage from other Tibetans simply because they practice the Dogyal and the Dalai Lama banned it. Even though I agree that there's a lot of politics into it, I cannot deny that there's manipulation too. BTW, I wouldn't simplify Shugden to the fact that it was used by Pabhongkha to spread sectarianism towards non-Gelugpas, as there's a Sakya origin for this dharmapala (whether or not it is enlightened):

Well, let's get quickly to juicy and boozy parts of this conversation:

1) If anyone can really teach Vajrayana, we dismiss the fact that the greatest way to teach someone is by example. Would you really be liberated by someone that fake's to be a great meditator but "behind the tangkas" is just, e.g., a sex addict? I'm not even talking about Sogyal anymore, but about other minor lamas I've met and who caused more suffering than delivered from it.

2) Shpookz... I really like that term. And although I've to agree with you that this is generally a superstition problem that is a great obstacle, on the other hand there are a few experiences that I could say are the greatest inspiration to point to non-ordinariness and open possibilities of new worldviews of expanded naturalness.

From my own life I could tell some strange and insistent shared dreams with other persons that were not doing the same dream yoga practices I was doing. Also some dreams that proved premonitory.

However, let's take an example from your Lama's excellent book Wisdom Eccentrics. There's a Drugpa Kunleg's history there where he wants to have sex with another guy's wife and the husband then takes a sword from the wall only to have it taken from Drukpa, that made a knot on the iron (just as my Lama, Chagdud Tulku, is said to have done).

We may find symbolical meaning on this and other stories found there, but this is not what your Lama's suggest, especially when he tells us about the little island revolving the lake in Tso Pema.

If we are to think that every and each spook occurrence is just superstition and that we must make the King (Vajrayana) to be naked, then I believe we'll end with no Vajrayana at all, but just a thin soup of humanitarian ordinary spirituality, much as Sam Harris suggests us to do.

Maybe we are just a wackos (me and your Aro spooky friends), maybe there's still much for us to discover regarding reality...

Of course, that doesn't mean that Yidams exist as we visualize then. Otherwise, hoodoo sorcerers that abound in my country would be making seances receiving Mahakalas and Tibetan oracles could be invoking Shango and Ogum and we know that this is utmost stupidity that will never take place at all.


Anyways... regarding the Ex-Tibetan Buddhist site and another one, Shadow of Dalai Lama, it's possible to see that those girls are just overly traumatized and have no clarity to judge the whole by its parts, however rotten they could be, seem to be or really are.

I already said that in another comment, but Saadi, a great Sufi, already said:

"Do not judge a path by those that walk on it".