Why we shouldn’t say bad things of other Dharma centers

A sharing by H.E. TsemTulku Rinpoche, The Buddhist Channel, Nov

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia -- In order to make the holy Dharma grow, we need to have more inter-center  communications, support and harmony (within our respective countries). For example, if one center is having a dinner, garage sale or event, another center’s representative should offer donations, congratulations and emotional support.

When another center is doing well, we must all rejoice and be happy – because we are all in the same family. And if other members or other centers have contributed to the growth of our centers, we should mention this, rejoice and always make sure that the members in our center are informed now and in the future so that it encourages inter-center support in the future.

It is not necessary that we attend ceremonies of other centers when their teachers arrive as we have our own teachers, commitments and practice. But we should definitely

NEVER,NEVER criticize, infer, create gossip or slander other centers’ teachers, practice, lineage or activities. It is said in the holy Lam Rim, composed by the King of Dharma ManjunathaTsongkhapa, that if we criticize any form of Dharma, the negative karma accumulated is equivalent to killing 1,000 Buddhas. Just think of the karma of killing just an insect, which we as Buddhist try to be aware of and not commit; imagine the karma of killing a Buddha! Of course, the action of killing a Buddha is not possible but it is a hypothetical example of the gravity of that kind of action.

If we create schismatic talk and we are successful in preventing others from going to their teachers, create doubt in their mind regarding their teachers, stop them from going to a certain center or cause them to abandon their teacher and practice, how can we gain any attainments?? The negative karma is very strong and multiplies daily. If we are the cause for others to lose faith in their teacher and practice, then how can our own faith (the cause of all attainments in the Tantras) increase or be stable in our own teachers? How can we harm another’s faith and hope our faith will remain stable?

Those who gossip and carry on with criticisms can become unstable in their mind and always change their minds to achieve nothing. If our samaya (commitment and faith) is not stable in our own teacher then how can any understanding, attainments and spiritual growth manifest in our mindstream? We should think about that point carefully.

There are people who may who speak ill of our or others’ teachers, practice and lineage, be they ‘high’ monks, Lamas, or ordinary students; we must be aware of them and let what they say pass into one ear and then out from the other. Have compassion for those people; do not engage or ask any more questions and smile and let it go. If others comment that there is something wrong with our teachers and practice that we have already forged a samaya with, then what can stop others from saying they can be wrong also, be they high-ranking monks or simple students.

When does it stop? Either all the Gurus are to be respected and the bond between them and their students held sacred or we must each be a perfect omniscient living Buddha to criticize, judge, talk negatively and check who is ‘genuine’ and not ‘genuine.’ Would a perfect Buddha do that anyway? Who in true Buddhist practice can run around proclaiming they are a living Buddha and condemn others?

There are people who are incredible examples of selflessness, such as Mother Teresa who proclaimed herself to be a simple nun or a pencil in God’s hand; or H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama who always says that he is just a simple Buddhist monk although more than 14 million Buddhists of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition believe him to be Avalokiteshvara. The Panchen Lama, who tirelessly worked for others, never called himself Amitabha although so many believed him to be.

Once we are able to criticize another practice, teacher, tradition, deity, center, temple, church, student, etc. then we leave ourselves open for criticism and schism, because in the end who is right and who is wrong? Leave people in peace. When we criticize another tradition, practice or teacher, it also shows that we are perhaps highly insecure

about what we are doing so we need more people to do what we are doing to feel ‘right’;or to give us security maybe. 

Only study, reading, practice, holding vows and attending Dharma talks to gain knowledge is what will really give us security in our practice, based on sound logic. A person who does this never criticizes others but rejoices, because when you reach a higher state of practice and knowledge, you see the oneness/sameness of the goal, you see that only methods differ and you rejoice at the skillfulness of the masters in offering diversity to different sentient beings.

We should never want to harm another being. Otherwise, one would create the karma of being separated from one’s own teacher and teachings, being unable to practice and gain results, having anger and fear increase in the mind, and having great insecurities due to the resultant karma of schismatic actions of speech and mind.

When people have taken refuge or accepted another to be their teacher or practice, we must encourage them towards what they have already committed. When we appoint ourselves as the ‘spiritual police’ to ‘take action’ against the people following ‘wrong’ Lamas and ‘wrong’ practices, we create something very dangerous. We create tremendous disharmony, doubt and aggression. We breed and justify intolerance which is the opposite of Lord Buddha’s infallible Dharma. We must search into ourselves and check the level of our own practice, our motivation. If our motivation and practice is supreme and perfect, then very skillful methods are extremely necessary to guide others. People’s spiritualities are very delicate and must be handled with care, combined with compassion.

Do not criticize their practice, teacher or tradition in any way. You just need to police yourself. Just remain in your practice and resolve to gain full enlightenment to benefit them in the future. Spiritual policing should be left to the Dharma Protectors like Mahakala, Setrap, PaldenLhamo, or maybe other Enlightened Beings.

If we separate another person from their teacher, causing them to abandon the teacher-student samaya, and bring them to our teacher/practice, then according to the 50 Verses of Guru Devotion by the Indian master Ashvagosha, that person and us would never gain any attainments. They come to our practice from wrong methods – creating doubts in and abandoning their teachers. 

We may be able to negatively influence them in the beginning, but as they gain more and more knowledge in the Dharma, our negative words will have less and less of a hold on the other person as they study the Dharma more. In fact, the person might lose confidence in us and in the worst cases, forsake their refuge. This is bad for them and extremely detrimental to ourselves.

We must be wary of any teacher, traditions, student or writings that castigate, defame or criticize other teachers, traditions and students as they can prove extremely detrimental to our own spiritual growth. People who like to carry tales from one centre to another centre, or who like to criticize other teachers/centres create the most detriment to the growth of the Buddha Dharma.

Observe these people and how intolerant they may sometimes become even if their motivation was initially good. Every Buddhist lineage, tradition and teacher has the right to exist, form and benefit others. We do not need any councils, groups, or authority to watch over them. Who would listen in today’s day and age anyway? It just creates negativities. If these ‘authoritarian’ groups exist, they must consist of very learned

students, well-practiced members who have their three doors well subdued, people who are unbiased and non-denominationally based. Otherwise these groups can cause great detriment to the growth of Buddhism in their individual societies, even if these groups have good intentions.

If a center is breaking the law, then the law of that country will take care of them. You do not need to be the spiritual law, but just cultivate true Buddhist qualities with the short time you have left. You can benefit more if you become highly attained, than to procrastinate your practice by spiritual policing others with current limited abilities.

Spiritually policing others would be a detriment to our own practice as it takes time away from our development. When we are accomplished, then we would have much more effect on others. If you see ‘wrong’, it should motivate you to practice, transform and become attained faster. Everything can motivate you. Just use it in the right way. To spiritually police others at this time would not be time well spent because we can use the time to practice and become a Buddha. As a Buddha would benefit much, much,much more to skillfully steer wrong to right.

On a practical basis, having only one teacher, one center and one lineage in any one place would be physically and practically impossible to suit and accommodate everyone and every individual’s temperament. However, if there were ten centersin a city, for example, there would be a higher chance for more people to come across the Dharma in that city than if there was just one center.

I often get students of other centers consulting me, asking for divinations, advice, clearing of Dharma points or just to meet me. But I always encourage them towards their teacher, practice and center and discourage them to join my center unless it is for general gatherings and at their insistence.

Their teachers are more than good enough and what I have might not suit them. This is okay. It is not that I do not welcome them, but I want to create stability and consistency with their practice in their minds. But I always ask: what do we want from that person? Do we want them to gain attainments, knowledge, realizations so that their lives can be

happy and they can transform to be of benefit to others? Or just increase the membership of our own centers for financial gains, profits or simply to look good?

If our motivation is the prior, then we should encourage them towards what they have already committed themselves to. Because once they gain knowledge and realizations, causing a transformation of that person, it no longer matterswhat tradition they came from – by then, they simply benefit others. Isn’t that Buddha’s intent? If so, that should

be our own intent. We want to create Buddhas no matter what methods we need to tread to attain this sacred goal.

Therefore, inter-center harmony is crucial to the growth of the Buddha Dharma in today’s world. If we do not wish to help another center, that is fine for whatever reasons we have. But do not harm another center in any way. Remember, karma is for everyone. We should consider if we wish the holy Dharma to grow so that it can be of tremendous benefit to the contribution of inner peace, which leads to outer peace.

If so, then my thoughts here are very applicable to wherever we live in the world because Buddhism is a renowned world religion and it will only grow. In countries where traditionally, Buddhism has not taken root, it is establishing itself by way of centers, that turn into temples and eventually into institutions of great learning.

Wherever Buddhism thrives, it serves as a great addition to the peace and harmony of that city or country due to its emphasis on non-harm, non-killing and its peaceful agenda of cooperative human social interaction. It also places a lot of emphasis on peaceful interactions and inter-religious harmony – so it would be very important for the thousands of Dharma centers throughout the world to continue to grow, expand and fulfill their functions as contributors to inner, and eventually, outer world peace.

These thoughts have been penned specifically from my wish for harmony between the various beautiful Buddhist traditions and also, inter-religious harmony.

This article is not meant to hurt anyone, hint towards anyone or any group not to accuse; it is just my thoughts on inter-center harmony. In today’s world, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness are very much needed, especially from those who are supposed to be spiritual. These qualities are not unique to religion, but should be the uniqueness of religious practitioners.

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