To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Manopubbangama
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To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by Manopubbangama »

I'm thinking of joining a local Buddhist meditation Group and of the three groups that exist in my locale, all of their founders were embroiled in various sexual scandals, some with spiritual groupies, others of various degrees of pandaka behavior.

I wont name the groups in public, but the absolute percentage, 3/3, makes me wonder if I should remain a lone practitioner.

I used to have the most Orthodox Burmese teacher imaginable, but I moved.

I miss my teacher a lot.
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Sam Vara
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by Sam Vara »

There is an argument that one can separate different aspects of a person's teaching, such that one could profitably learn (say) meditation from a person with compromised morality, or - more easily, perhaps - one could gain an intellectual understanding of what the Buddha taught from somebody with an acute intellect but no meditative practice. I myself greatly admire the work of the scholar Richard Gombrich, who as far as I understand does not meditate. I think this view is probably rather more modern or Western, in that complex capitalist economies and bureaucracies often require a separation of skills from character.

Conversely, I personally would be wary of meditation instruction from a person who has very poor personal conduct. Sila is supposed to be a foundation for concentration, and I would wonder what the meditation was for if it didn't lead to some insight into moral qualities. At least as a lone practitioner one can pick and choose what you think is best.

I hope your search is fruitful.
budo
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by budo »

Why call them a teacher?
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Manopubbangama
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by Manopubbangama »

Because they teach people.

What they teach is my question.
dharmacorps
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by dharmacorps »

The first thing to look at when evaluating a teacher is their sila. If that is in question, then its best to stay on one's own. Look out especially if anyone tells you that they have "transcended morality". Run away if you hear that. Examine them. Is their speech good? Do they handle unusual questions and criticism well? You have to watch the teachers and see what you think.
santa100
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by santa100 »

Manopubbangama wrote:To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?
You already knew the answer. What defines a teacher to you? Isn't it because s/he's able to do something that you're not able to do just yet? Isn't that the whole point of studying under him so that you yourself can eventually pick up the skillset to do it by yourself? So, if the skillset of the "teacher" is having sex or doing something naughty to their students, is that something you wanna pick up from him/her? Now say that you're fully aware he's a naughty boy but he knows a lot of Dhamma knowledge, you still don't need him, especially in this day and age where 99% of Dhamma knowledge is already available online and all you need is a few mouse clicks. So if it was me, I'd run far away without looking back. You never know, the naughty guy might force you to join his orgy, like what that bad boy Chogyam Trungpa did to the poet W.S. Merwin and his girlfriend.
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Manopubbangama
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by Manopubbangama »

Thanks all for your thoughtful responses.

While I admit, the seemingly stoic, and moreover, heroic idea seems to be to stick to myself until I meet that great master meditating in the cave, I still desire the idea of community.

Santa100, I had never really heard much about Chogyam Trungpa, I remember when his 'spiritual warrior' book appeared in Borders (when there was Borders) and it seemed to be popular among the ex-hippy,new-age baby-boomer burnouts, but reading the wiki article I had no idea he was a rapist and that his successor committed gay rape!

Absolutely shocking!

Garden-variety zen get-togethers where people dress up in zen pajamas and sit zazen for 30 minutes at a time, while they address each other in fancy oriental titles (regardless of what they do in their off time) seems relatively pg-13 in comparison. I know the hardcore types here would scoff at a Theravadin doing this, but its all there is within the limits of physical propinquity.

Honestly, I wish Theravada had a bigger footprint in the world outside of South-East Asia. :weep:
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AgarikaJ
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by AgarikaJ »

santa100 wrote: Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:33 am [You never know, the naughty guy might force you to join his orgy, like what that bad boy Chogyam Trungpa did to the poet W.S. Merwin and his girlfriend.
If one would look for a Theravadin teacher, sexual inappropriateness would be a great disqualificator; without a strong base in Sila, the Buddha taught that enlightenment would not be possible. Therefore, such a teacher would be simply unable to increase your knowledge of the Noble Eightfold Path.

---
Not sure how far I want to go off path in this forum...
If anybody feels affinity to a school with a strong Tantric undercurrent, especially where behaviour is celebrated that might be seen as 'outrageous' in the frigid, puritan strata of Western society, there is little point complaining later that your zone of comfort was pierced. Reading through the Wikipedia report, this was a seance of 'poets and artists' in the year 1975 and everybody would have been well aware that drugs would be aplenty -- was that not even the main attraction?! -- and things kind of were supposed to get 'out of hand'. To note, even the affected 'victims' stayed on for weeks after.

:!: This, of course has nothing whatsoever to do with Theravada.

I just sometimes wish, people would take responsibility for their actions, having done due diligence and being mindful of what they are about to do, and instead of having a label that coffee in a cup might be hot being necessary, people have a look first if the liquid steams before they grab at it.
/rant over
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]
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Manopubbangama
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by Manopubbangama »

AgarikaJ wrote: Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:47 pm
santa100 wrote: Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:33 am [You never know, the naughty guy might force you to join his orgy, like what that bad boy Chogyam Trungpa did to the poet W.S. Merwin and his girlfriend.

Not sure how far I want to go off path in this forum...
If anybody feels affinity to a school with a strong Tantric undercurrent, especially where behaviour is celebrated that might be seen as 'outrageous' in the frigid, puritan strata of Western society, there is little point complaining later that your zone of comfort was pierced.
You don't really think that people turned off by gay sex-orgies and violent rape inside of an ostensibly Buddhist Sangha are necessarily "frigid" and "puritanical" Westerners, do you?

Seems like a bit of a false dichotomy?

Please clarify, because this statement sounds like it could be inadvertently promoting deviancy.
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by SarathW »

What do you mean by a teacher here?
A teacher with theoretical knowledge or the teacher with practical knowledge?
If I answer your question, am I a teacher?
What if you do not know the exact virtues of a teacher.
It seems Ajahn Chah used to smoke?
Is he a good teacher?
:shrug:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
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AgarikaJ
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by AgarikaJ »

Manopubbangama wrote: Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:01 pm You don't really think that people turned off by gay sex-orgies and violent rape inside of an ostensibly Buddhist Sangha are necessarily "frigid" and "puritanical" Westerners, do you?

Seems like a bit of a false dichotomy?

Please clarify, because this statement sounds like it could be inadvertently promoting deviancy.
Maybe you might have noted, that this was not a Theravada Buddhist Sangha, not even on at least the second look an "ostensibly Buddhist Sangha" -- but a lineage of Tantric Mahasiddhis with a master having formally renounced any monastic vows so that he can live an unencumbered 'New Age lifestyle'.

Even though of course I do not promote 'deviancy' (whatever you could mean with this term in such a context), I promote that people behave in an adult way when knowingly entering a sphere where there is a different baseline of behavior to what they might be accustomed to or approve... or maybe simply not partake and socialize with such people in the first place.

Our western societies are becoming increasingly infantilized, and taking responsibility for own actions becomes quite uncommon: I would posit that this is the opposite of Mindfulness, actually.

A few examples, if you please:
- if I abhor the killing of animals, I do not go into a steakhouse and start complaining that there is no vegan option on the menu
- if I abhor crude jokes and language, I do not sit in an open standup comedy and complain to the audience that I rather would wish to enjoy silence
- if I abhor alcohol, I do not sit in a beer garden and complain to my table neighbors that, indeed, they are drinking beer
- if I abhor the taking of drugs, I do not sit down together with the junkies at the railway station and then complain that a dealer offered me a fix
- if I abhor loud music, merriment and dancing, I do not go to a techno rave and go to the DJ and ask that the music be toned down
- if I only would wish to eat one meal at a certain time, I do not go to a burger eating contest and complain to the judges that eating only ten mouthfuls from a bowl did not win me a prize
- if I abhor cosmetics, I do not go to a beauty contest and complain that I somehow were not chosen to be in the lineup
- if I abhor handling money, I do not send a CV to a big bank and then complain that a large part of my job is related to financial matters
- if I abhor that I have no full control over *my* possessions, I do not go to live in a no-possession Ashram and complain to the Guru that my watch and golden rings were taken from me
...
and yes, if I do not wish somebody to talk openly about Lingams and Yonis, I do not go to live under Shaivists, or if I do not wish to partake in a tantric orgy, I also would think it really, really stupid to live in a centre where this is hapening and then enter a room full with drugged-up naked people.

The world is a big place (and very often not a nice one), and there are -- if we wish it or not -- a lot of people who think nothing of breaking any of the precepts, or even enjoy doing so. I say, it would be foolish to expressely mingle with such people.

This does not promote deviancy in any way, it is a recognition that not everything around us can be forced to function as we personally believe is right and that proselyzation of our ideals will quite often not lead to the conversion of the heedless masses around us.
The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]
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StormBorn
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by StormBorn »

Manopubbangama wrote: Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:53 pm I'm thinking of joining a local Buddhist meditation Group and of the three groups that exist in my locale, all of their founders were embroiled in various sexual scandals, some with spiritual groupies, others of various degrees of pandaka behavior.

I wont name the groups in public, but the absolute percentage, 3/3, makes me wonder if I should remain a lone practitioner.

I used to have the most Orthodox Burmese teacher imaginable, but I moved.

I miss my teacher a lot.
We can learn something from monks' rules: It's a “No, no” to take a shameless one as a teacher. Here's from The Book of the Discipline (see page 1510).
Now at that time monks lived under the guidance of those who were unconscientious; these soon also became unconscientious, depraved monks. They told this matter to the Lord. He said:

“Monks, one should not live under the guidance of those who are unconscientious. Whoever should (so) live, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”
“Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one—himself.”
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Manopubbangama
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by Manopubbangama »

StormBorn wrote: Sat Dec 01, 2018 10:23 am
Manopubbangama wrote: Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:53 pm I'm thinking of joining a local Buddhist meditation Group and of the three groups that exist in my locale, all of their founders were embroiled in various sexual scandals, some with spiritual groupies, others of various degrees of pandaka behavior.

I wont name the groups in public, but the absolute percentage, 3/3, makes me wonder if I should remain a lone practitioner.

I used to have the most Orthodox Burmese teacher imaginable, but I moved.

I miss my teacher a lot.
We can learn something from monks' rules: It's a “No, no” to take a shameless one as a teacher. Here's from The Book of the Discipline (see page 1510).
Now at that time monks lived under the guidance of those who were unconscientious; these soon also became unconscientious, depraved monks. They told this matter to the Lord. He said:

“Monks, one should not live under the guidance of those who are unconscientious. Whoever should (so) live, there is an offence of wrong-doing.”
That indeed is helpful and puts things into perspective, thank you, sir.

Your knowledge of the Tipitika is admirable.
Our western societies are becoming increasingly infantilized, and taking responsibility for own actions becomes quite uncommon: I would posit that this is the opposite of Mindfulness, actually.
This is true - the egomaniacal identity politics on one side and the egomaniacal Randian ideas of the idolization of accumulation of wealth on the other are neither healthy to the Middle way.

That being said, I was addressing your comment on "frigid Puritans" (still remains unaddressed) which is ironic considering that the Puritans were incredibly fecund compared to those of the modern age: http://faculty.weber.edu/kmackay/histor ... phics.html


Now I hope we can actually address the initial post instead of continuing down the line of this tangent.
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StormBorn
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by StormBorn »

Manopubbangama wrote: Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:10 pm Your knowledge of the Tipitika is admirable.
I have a great venerable :anjali: as a spiritual friend to take guidance. :smile:
“Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one—himself.”
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Dali348
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Re: To what extent does wrong conduct invalidate the teacher?

Post by Dali348 »

Sounds like a good opportunity to step up into the role of Dhamma leadership, perhaps not making any great claims about being a teacher, but just in a humble way of starting a weekly meditation group, sharing what you know from your experiences, and building a community based on sila. Not sure about your level of experience but I gather that you have put in enough hours that you could play that role without leading people astray, especially if you were careful about how you presented yourself.

For sure, we need more leaders in the community that practice what they preach and aren't full of themselves or helplessly addicted to pursuing sense pleasures! To me, it sounds like you might be a good candidate! That way you can also support your own practice by bringing people in to practice with you, and you can learn from each other through sharing and whatnot. The way I've seen this work well is by turning to discussion topics, sharing circles, or listening to recorded Dhamma talks if no one feels inspired or qualified to give their own. I hope that my suggestion is somehow helpful and if not, no worries. Good luck!
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