Guru Yoga Is Not for Everyone
Stephen Batchelor’s “Why I Quit Guru Yoga” (Winter 2017) presented an interesting perspective. Every path is not meant for everyone. If there’s one thing that seems to be a consistent cause for concern, it’s that Vajrayana students aren’t being thoroughly educated about what they’re signing up for. Yes, it should be the job of the individual to check out his teacher and lineage, but practitioners of these schools (myself included) need to be comprehensive when explaining to others the ins and outs of the biggest commitment you can make. I hope that we can be open and honest in helping our brothers and sisters find the right pair of shoes for them, and that we can be encouraging yet firm in letting people know that if the shoes we’re walking in don’t feel right for them, they should go and find the shoes that do.
Thank you for this comprehensive refutation of the feudal model in teacher-student relations. As the student of a sexually abusive but otherwise brilliant lama, I can testify firsthand to the deep and decades-long confusion and torment that resulted from such a dynamic. I have been fortunate enough to have since found a Vajrayana mentor who embodies straightforward humility and who doesn’t need or want students who would jump off a roof or into a bed. We can remain practitioners and survive and thrive despite the abuses that can come with this territory.
Roberts Creek, British Columbia
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has spoken on the topic of student-teacher relationships over the years and again recently. He has said that you have to constantly check the actions and words of the guru. If they veer from secular conventions and laws, that is a massive red flag. If they make you cringe, take a few steps back, assess, and examine.
Today most people insist that someone famous be their root guru, but that’s playing Russian roulette. Sadly, what’s ignored today by many, including teachers, is the tradition that the student and teacher critically examine each other for years before accepting the relationship.
Thank You to the Editor
Tricycle editor and publisher James Shaheen’s editorial “Unhistoric Acts” (Winter 2017) was greatly inspiring. I often struggle with the question of whether my “hidden life” matters. You give hope that such “unhistoric” lives—the kinds of lives that most of us live—do matter. Thank you.
As I read the comments regarding “A Buddhist’s Call for a Middle Way in Politics,” by Dick Allen (Trike Daily, Nov. 5, 2017), I’m reminded of a time several years ago when I was the only Republican (as far as I know) in our Buddhist sangha. It was difficult, because I was occasionally met with anger or smugness, yet I felt dharma was part of my path. I’m no longer a Republican or a Democrat, but there was nothing in my political beliefs when I did belong to the Republican Party that opposed the Buddhist teachings. My reason for joining the sangha was to sit and study the dharma. That’s it. Not all Republicans are the same. I doubt that Democrats are, either. The middle way is also about not being too attached to our preferences.
—Deb Bray Haddock
San Antonio, Texas
Being Realistic About Lying
Matthew Gindin’s “What Did the Buddha Say About Lying?” (Trike Daily, Nov. 30, 2017) presents an important topic with compassion and understanding. Deception is often a desire to protect ourselves, simplify communication, or gain a perceived advantage. I think of the Shin Buddhist pledge to think pure and beautiful thoughts, say pure and beautiful words, and do pure and beautiful deeds. Planning to deceive is not a pure thought, words that deceive are not pure words, and lying is not a pure or beautiful deed. Knowing we will never reach perfection in our thoughts, words, or behavior frees us to make our best effort, knowing we will fall short, over and over again.
In 1972, I got busted during a period in my life when I was determined never to lie. When I went to my sentencing for the felony of possessing for sale a rather large amount of herb, I didn’t know that my lawyer had worked out a deal with the court for a charge of use. The sentence would be a high misdemeanor with three years’ probation and a fine. When the judge asked how I pled to this charge, I just stood there, mute, because I wasn’t smoking pot anymore—I was just providing a service to the community. My lawyer nudged me and whispered, “What’s going on?” He was quite amazed when I explained my ethical dilemma about lying. “Plead guilty or I can guarantee you’ll get ten years in state prison.” Without hesitation, I said, “Guilty your honor—as charged.”
Let’s be realistic about this truth thing, OK?
“The Original Buddhist Rebel” (Winter 2017) stated that Shinran died in 1162. He died in 1262.
We regret the errors.