Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How To Recognize Fraudulent Buddhist Teachers

When Shakyamuni Buddha exposed his teaching (the Buddhadharma) 2,500 years ago, he made a prediction that, in the ages to come, that teaching will inevitably deteriorate. If we now conduct a comparative study of the ways the Buddhist teaching has been evolving and unfolding in the past 2,500 years, there will be very little doubt that the Buddha's prediction turned out to be absolutely true.

One only need compare the crystal clear words of the historical Buddha with the arcane mumbo-jumbo that passes for the Buddhadharma nowadays, in order to get convinced in the legitimacy of the Buddha's claim. While the Buddha exposed the lofty teachings on suffering and eradicating the suffering, Buddhist teachers in the modern age tend to slip into meaningless meandering about 'just sitting', 'just being in the now', and some such nonsense.

Now that the Buddhadharma regrettably took a serious nosedive, this decline in the quality had resulted in a terrible situation where Buddhism nowadays seems to attract mostly people with low level of intelligence. People who would like to join some form of spiritual practice, but lack sufficient intelligence and intellectual rigor required for grasping the basic principles, find solace, huge relief, and an easy way out in what passes nowadays for the Buddha's teaching. There are numerous fraudulent Buddhist teachers on the market today who cater to such hopeful but nevertheless sub-standard individuals. They simply explain to the hopeful practitioners that, if they embrace Buddhism and Zen, they need not think, they need not strain, they just have to sit and breathe. How hard can that be?

People who lack capacity for critical thinking (which, by the way, is an absolute prerequisite for any form of Buddhist practice), fall easy victims of such fraudulent teachers. Feeling sorry for such lost souls, I would like to offer several fail-safe criteria that may guide confused practitioners when choosing their Buddhist teachers:

1. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to ever experience lust toward their disciples. If your teacher is attempting to guide you towards engaging in any form of sexual activity with them, turn around and run, don't walk! You're dealing with an obvious fraud. (by the way, you should do the same if you learn that your teacher is attempting to make similar advances toward any other disciple)

2. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to crave sensual pleasures. One becomes a Buddhist practitioner and a teacher by first abandoning the belief in pleasure. If one has not arrived at the point in practice where one has recognized the futility and the stickiness of pursuing pleasure, one is definitely not fit to lead others on the path.

3. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to crave material comfort. Material comfort is something that all trained Buddhist practitioners spurn. Pursuing material comfort quickly softens us to the point that, before not too long, one gets into a position where nothing ever feels right. Once we soften our bodies to that point, we lose any opportunity for practice, as we end up spending all our time and energy in the endless pursuit of material luxuries.

4. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to crave fame and recognition. Without abandoning pride, one cannot hope to ever advance on the Buddhist path. If your teacher is overly concerned about his/her popularity and is ever hopeful that his brand of teaching will attract countless followers who will shower him/her with endless adulation, you should turn your back on such a teacher. Nothing good will ever come out of such relationship. Instead, seek a teacher who had managed to abandon his or her pride, who is modest to the point of being humble, and who is ever mindful of the disciples' needs.

5. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to consider his or her body as being clean. One of the core practices in Buddhism is concentrated mindfulness on the body's impurities. Ordinary people fool themselves into believing that their bodies are clean, but ardent Buddhist practitioners are constantly aware that such is not the case. Hence, they will not make vein attempts at covering the body's lack of cleanliness with jewelry, luxurious clothing, perfumes, makeup and such.

6. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to be afraid of his or her death. This is because that person became an authentic Buddhist practitioner by being ever mindful of the unavoidable presence of death. One can only hope to attain certain level of authenticity in the Buddhist practice if one agrees to be constantly mindful of death. Keeping the fact that death is imminent as one's constant companion, the practitioner familiarizes him/herself with the crux of the Buddha's teaching -- impermanence -- thus attaining lofty states of consciousness. Only such a person is capable of showing the way and leading others. A teacher who is afraid of sickness, aging and death should not be followed.

7. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to strive to subdue his or her opponents. If a teacher engages in polemic or in debate, it is never for the sake of outshining their opponents. The only motivation for debating anythings is to minimize and eradicate suffering. If your teacher enjoys putting his/her opponents down through the means of debate, it is time you leave that situation.

8. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to indiscriminately protect his/her friends. If a teacher's friend or relative has done something wrong, the teacher should not lie and protect them by withholding truth. Authentic teachers are easy to recognize in that they value truth above everything else.

9. It is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to ask for money from his/her disciples. Authentic Buddhist teachers are extraordinary human beings in that they possess sharpened intellectual acuity, developed through many years of focused meditative concentration. As such, they are capable of analyzing any situation, and thus see the most proper way to go through it. In case there is a need for obtaining financial means, such teachers have clever and often times surprising ways of devising a plan that will satisfy the need while at the same time minimizing the suffering of the beings involved. There is never a need to ask one's disciples, point blank, for any kind of financial contributions. Keep in mind that authentic Buddhist teachers are extremely resourceful human beings who can utilize each and every situation to its most optimal outcome; they are extremely self reliant. In other words, if they end up relying completely on you, the disciple, it is time to part company with such fraudulent impostor.

10. Finally, it is not possible for an authentic Buddhist teacher to ever engage in any acts of violence. This includes also violence toward obtaining one's food. As such, Buddhist teachers typically do not eat meat. Their role in life is to help and assist living beings. In order to do so, they must first win the beings' trust. And how can anyone win trust of living beings if one is violent, callous, and enjoys eating the bodies of living beings?

If you keep the above ten reminders describing authentic Buddhist teachers, you will never fall prey of many of the fraudulent impostors who are currently making rounds trying to convert the weak, the gullible, and the confused.

May this condensed set of reminders keep all of you in good steed, as you progress on the path to liberation and omniscience!