Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Guru On The Guru Question

File under: Gurubusting

Discussion list denizen Matthew Files made known to us this interview with a lama whose tradition is notorious for guru abuses. In it, H.H. the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa tries to walk the razor's edge between acknowledging that the "actual guru," – your own enlightenment – is already in us all, and keeping his own position important enough to keep himself in business:
In Vajrayana we always say that the guru has to be seen as a Buddha. Again, this is not cultural, it should be seen in a universal way. It means that, in terms of helping us realize our Buddha nature, the guru is as kind to us as the Buddha himself.
That's just a wee bit pollyannaish, don't you think? His Holiness obviously doesn't read the newspapers (or this blog) much.

But he does a fairly good job justifying his own existence in this era of "be your own guru," to a fault, if you asked us:
People complain about masters, and decide they don’t need one and can practice by themselves because the Buddha nature is within them anyway. Unfortunately, it will never work.
Fortunately, he's dead dog wrong here. That's not to say that a good guru isn't a wonderful blessing to a sincere spiritual aspirant, but it's equally true that a sincere spiritual aspirant can be blessed to meet the guru within completely outside the influence of anyone who considers themselves a guru without.

5 Comments:

At 2/20/2007 4:13 PM, Anonymous gurugeorge said...

It depends on whether one wants to be a teacher or not, or pursue this spiritual matter full time.

The insight is everybody's birthright, natural, not too hard to "get". But (as everybody who's had it knows) it's a bit unstable. However, that's not a problem unless you're taking this stuff up full time. For most people, they can get the insight and live their lives with it in the background, maybe refresh it from time to time.

But for someone who wants to teach, most traditions will get you to cover all the ground in terms of "experiences", and also make sure that the insight is "stable" - which is why most traditions do lots of boring "stabilising" practice before insight (e.g. lots of shamatha before vipashyana, lots of pranayama and mantra before Jnana, etc., etc.).

For that, a teacher, someone who's been through the mill themselves, is I think necessary. Some of the experiential stuff is dangerous, and you need a guide (or some tradition, some stock of experience and know-how).

But clearly the standard has to be quite high. It's a discipline like any other.

 
At 2/20/2007 4:17 PM, Blogger jody said...

But (as everybody who's had it knows) it's a bit unstable.

If your own foundation of being is "unstable", it's not what you think it is.

 
At 2/22/2007 5:36 PM, Anonymous gurugeorge said...

The "insight" is unstable, not the "foundation of being", which is just what it is.

i.e., the "recognition" can be stable or unstable, even though the "recognition" is of no cosmic importance in and of itself, least of all to the "foundation of being" (i.e. whether or not the universe gets an Eye wherewith to see Itself - in you or me - is of no importance to the Universe).

At some point, even those who are claiming to be cooked and finished with all this stuff will fall again, you can guarantee it. At some point, they will be "trapped" again, and will need the "recognition" again. Liquorman's "pendulum" is actualy inescapable, even by his clever little "fulcrum" dodge.

This is partly (IMHO) because this is a physiological process as well as an intellectual process. There's Jnana, but there's also Yoga, a form of knitting-together of being by Being.

(If you think this isn't so, consider Dzogchen and the "Rainbow Body". Already, by the time someone starts that kind of "advanced" practice, they are "done with Zen and all that", but yet there's something left to do, and it gets harder and harder, not easier.)

 
At 2/22/2007 6:45 PM, Blogger jody said...

the "recognition" is of no cosmic importance in and of itself, least of all to the "foundation of being"

Nothing is, is it?

The recognition is of vital importance to the individual, however. It's the feedback that allows one to know who they really are as that ineffable kind of knowing unlike any other kind of knowing known as jnana.

At some point, even those who are claiming to be cooked and finished with all this stuff will fall again, you can guarantee it.

That's because there is no "cooked and finished." Transformation continues to the provisional entity until death. However, once Self is known in that dynamic and experiential way known as jnana, it's never going to be anything other than what it was at the first instant of recognition.

At some point, they will be "trapped" again, and will need the "recognition" again.

Then what you are calling recognition and what I know as recognition are two different things. Once the ahamkara is broke, there ain't no putting it back together. That said, various attachments remain and are transformed over time and under the influence of jnana, but there is no need to ever come to another recognition. Once it's known, it's known. If you stop knowing, you never really knew to begin with.

there's something left to do, and it gets harder and harder

Agreed. Jnana is no out to anything in life. You've still got to pay your bills and do your time.

 
At 2/24/2007 3:24 AM, Anonymous gurugeorge said...

Then what you are calling recognition and what I know as recognition are two different things. Once the ahamkara is broke, there ain't no putting it back together. That said, various attachments remain and are transformed over time and under the influence of jnana, but there is no need to ever come to another recognition. Once it's known, it's known. If you stop knowing, you never really knew to begin with.

Maybe. I think it depends on the circumstances, or what one might call the "calibration" or the "granularity" with which you are looking at this stuff. My ahamkara got "broke" when I was a kid (total loss of sense of self and its replacement with a sense of being all this), but because I was a kid, and because this recognition came at a time when nearly all the brain's energy was devoted to building up a self, the insight was fugitive, and actually being a self was more interesting in the long run to the child.

The knowledge - the understanding of what's really going on here - never disappeared. But a fat lot of use it did me :) The inertia or momentum of the bodymind mechanism, or the samksaras, was too much.

Really, consider the traditions - especially Buddhism from a tradition like the guy in your original post. The practices and the stuff they do gets harder and more comprehensive as they go, not easier, and they don't consider they are really finished with all this stuff for a long time after they get their first recognition. What they are doing is bringing more and more of their total bodymind into the realisation, right down to the cells, so to speak.

Now that's not for everybody. A little analogy I often use is: consider riding a bicycle, it's a great thing to be able to do, everybody "should" be able to do it - but not everybody is called upon to compete in the Tour de France.

Similarly, insight into your true condition is a great thing, everybody "should" get a glimpse of some kind, but not everybody is called upon to become a teacher, or to carry on a tradition.

The guru-teacher relationship is really for the hardcore crowd, not necessary for your McDonalds type of enlightenment for the masses - that can be had easily enough under the right conditions in satsang or even just a few meetings with someone who's truly realised. (Think of some of the Buddha's dialogues, or old Zen dialogues, where the master gives a talk and at the end "the whole assembly was enlightened". Obviously they weren't enlightened to Tour de France level, but they were enlightened sufficiently so they could get on with their lives but with some kind of solid background understanding of the universe and their place in it, sufficient to give them psychological comfort and ease. Perhaps the Greek Mysteries were something similar. Modern LGATs are a bit like that too, as is most satsang.)

 

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