Comments on “Lama as surgeon, Lama as spouse”

Comments

Lineage

Well said!
Lineage issues, to this outsider, has always seemed self-deceptively bizarre. They are only one item in the check-and-balance system of any group. And like any item, it is highly susceptible to abuse and delusion. You spell that all out very well. Damn, back to individual responsibility -- where is my pacifier?

But curious how much Lama's for apprentices demand change or drop their students:
-- Do they tell them they should change jobs, get divorced, get married, stop certain hobbies, give money away, drop friends or family, dress differently, etc. etc.

DId I miss it? Maybe it is later in this blog -- if so, perhaps link to it: "How Lamas get in your face". For since Lama training (not found in many other traditions) is so central to this group, I would think concrete specifics would be helpful on this sort of site. Just like you gave specifics the central practice of apprentice-retreats (except for the buried item on nudity) which was immensely helpful.

Lamas' instructions

how much Lamas demand change or drop their students:
-- Do they tell them they should change jobs, get divorced, get married, stop certain hobbies, give money away, drop friends or family, dress differently, etc. etc.

This is an important question about apprenticeship, definitely. It's potentially a large topic. This post and this one and this in the "from afar" section on the Aro Friends site (login required) are relevant. I'm not sure there's anything about it on the public sites. (Probably there should be; but we have limited time to write...)

The short answer is that it is highly individual. Each student has a level of capacity for understanding, accepting, and implementing a teacher's instructions. The Lama has to feel out what kinds of instructions are useful based on the student's capacity. Over time, as the student learns more, they can understand instructions better; as their trust in the Lama grows, they are able to accept more; as their practice deepens, they are capable of doing more difficult things.

Lamas may vary in their approach to this. Among Aro Lamas, I have experience mainly only of Ngak'chang Rinpoche, and to a lesser degree Khandro Déchen. I also definitely can't speak for them, and the following may be inaccurate in detail. However: my impression is that they will only drop a student if they are clearly inactive (not coming to apprentice retreats, for example) or clearly unhappy with apprenticeship in a way that seems unlikely to change. They might expel a student for clearly unethical behavior if the student seemed unrepentant and likely to repeat the problematic action.

In the first couple of years of apprenticeship, they are unlikely to give advice about life circumstances unless they are presented with a specific question, because they don't know the person well enough. After a year or two, they might say "Nice shirt—but it would look better if you starched it. The more starch, the better. If you can get it really rigid, that's ideal." Then they'd observe how you reacted to that.

For long-time students who are willing and able to follow their advice on serious matters, they might indeed recommend that that the student "change jobs, get divorced, get married, stop certain hobbies, give money away, drop friends or family, dress differently, etc. etc." With non-ordained students, that is always just a suggestion. [Some of these, like "drop family," seem very unlikely—there's a strong emphasis on family in the Aro tradition–but perhaps if a family relationship seems irreparably harmful, I can imagine them recommending you sever ties.]

With ordination comes "vajra command"—one takes an oath to follow all the Lamas' instructions. About that, much can be said. But not particularly by me; I'm not ordained.

Lamas as Therapists

That was incredibly helpful, thank you. The Lama is a therapist of sorts -- not certified by a degree granting school, but by reputation, I guess. I wonder what type of therapeutic relationship teachers in other Buddhist Sects offer. This does seem unique in that sense. Sure, other systems offer meditation advisers, but not necessarily life advisers -- or are they more common than I imagine. I imagined on teachers of the meditation techniques and helping students with meditation obstacles and concerns, not whole life interventions -- it is interesting.

Life advice

I don't know enough about other Buddhist traditions to speak with confidence. I think you would probably find Buddhist teachers giving life advice in most, but probably it's more thematized in Vajrayana.

"Without a certification, we

Anonymous's picture

"Without a certification, we risk being swindled."

That's not true. There is no risk. You're going to be swindled no matter who you follow, certification or not. You know how you write that eternalism is nonrecognition of nebulousness? Following is also a nonrecognition of something.