I have had long conversations with several people who loathe Ngak’chang Rinpoche. After discussion, it seems to me that some just hate him, and in the end there is nothing more to say. There is no specific reason they hate him; that is just how it is.
This is something I have no problem with at all. It is natural to feel visceral dislike for some people and things, and it can sometimes even be useful to say so. What is not fine is to invent facts to justify your taste. It is not fine to tell false stories about people you dislike in order to harm them.
to my stomach
There aren’t any Buddhist teachers I actually hate, but there are one or two I viscerally dislike. To be fair to those who dislike Ngak’chang Rinpoche, I need to give a specific example: Thich Nhat Hanh. His books make me feel slightly sick to my stomach.
This is completely non-rational. There is no reason for it. It’s just how I react to him.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a great teacher. I have read quite a bit he has written, and every word seems correct. Some of it is deeply insightful, inspiring, or moving. His book on walking meditation is by far the best thing on the subject. Yet I find him overly sweet for my taste. He’s just too nice for me. He sometimes seems to verge on kitsch—and I am allergic to kitsch.
So my disliking Thich Nhat Hanh says nothing bad about him. It also says nothing bad about me—according to the Dzogchen view. Some strands of Buddhism recommend eliminating likes and dislikes in order to accept everything equally. The Dzogchen approach is to leave natural energies—including lust and revulsion—as they are. (This may come as a shock to some readers—or as good news, to others.) The Dzogchen view is that trouble only comes from making things mean something beyond what they are. My disliking Thich Nhat Hanh doesn’t mean anything—about him or me—so it is a total non-problem. All it says is that there is a bad fit between his teaching style and my learning style.
I don’t go on the web and rant about Thich Nhat Hanh. That would probably be no use to anyone (and might drive away some students for whom he would be the ideal teacher). My opinion might just possibly be useful if you have similar taste to mine—and if I made it clear that I was simply describing my reaction. If you are a Buddhist beginner and if you are allergic to kitsch, Thich Nhat Hanh might not be a good place to start. He might put you off Buddhism permanently; and that would be a shame.
Rinpoche might be
It’s hard for me to know what it is about Ngak’chang Rinpoche that rubs some people so much the wrong way. Here’s a try, though. If you don’t like Monty Python, you might not like Ngak’chang Rinpoche. If you don’t think the dead parrot sketch is funny, he might not be the first Buddhist teacher to go and see. He uses wild exaggeration, absurd incongruities, ghastly puns, improbable quotations, oblique references, abrupt changes of subject, and cheerful irreverence. You might find that really annoying—maybe even nauseating.
Certainly, something about Ngak’chang Rinpoche intensely irritates some people. Some of them think that it is very important that you know that.
If they left it at “Ngak’chang Rinpoche makes me want to shriek,” I wouldn’t have to write this section of Approaching the Aro gTér.
Unfortunately, they go further. They want to justify their revulsion. They want to convince you that there is something objectively wrong with him. They want you to believe that their reaction is not just a matter of their personal taste, but that there is a problem with him.
Since there actually isn’t an objective problem, they have to invent factually false stories about him. I think that is unethical.
To those of you who hate Ngak’chang Rinpoche and feel that you need to let others know it—could you please be more careful? Could you please check what you have said on the web to see if it is factually true? If it isn’t, could you delete what you wrote and replace it with “I find him revolting, and maybe you will too”?