Robert A. F. Thurman
COPYRIGHT CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION
TAPE 236 - INTVW W BOB THURMAN, PT. 1:
DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTION OR LACK OF CONTRIBUTION THAT THAT WHOLE STREAM OF TEACHINGS HAS MADE TO THE ESTABLISHING OF BUDDHISM IN NORTH AMERICA.
Which whole stream? You mean the Vajrayana tradition.
... TRADITION AND SPECIFICALLY THE DARMA DATI AND -
The darma dati community. Well certainly I think Trungpa functioned as a very effective popularizer of Vajrayana version of Tibetan Buddhism. I don't think actually - I wouldn't even say even Vajrayana version. I would just say his version of Tibetan Buddhism and ah he made it widely popular. And I think his relationship with Shambala publications was very instrumental in that and his ability to speak in a kind of vernacular that people appreciated. And in the process of course as with any popularizer, he lost some dimensions of the tradition. And he had this traumatic reversal, as you know, in his own teaching career here where when he came he kind of joined with the hippies or seemingly did and then by the end he was wearing pinstripe suits and everybody was like dressed up with all kind of Tibetan formalities you know, like super - like ultra formal. You know, his disciples were voting Republican even, much less being hippies. So you know he was a very amazing, colourful, charismatic character and he had a profound popular impact. There's no doubt about it.
DID YOU EVER MEET HIM?
Yes I met Trungpa a couple of times.
WAS HE DRUNK?
What? No, he was sober. I never met him - maybe that's why I didn't become his student. He was too sober when I met - the various times I met him. I met him in India in the '60s. In fact, I would have been his English teacher because I was hired in 1962 by Mr. Beatty to be a teacher at the Yomlama school in Dalhousie. I go way back, you know. and I would have gone to take that job and that's where I would have learned Tibetan and I would have been an English teacher there where he was first learning English. But my father died by accident and I came back to America and ended up studying here with a lama here in New Jersey, my first studies. And then in darmsala. So somehow I missed the deeper relationship I'm sure i would have had with him. So they made a great contribution. Now the complication - the complication of course -
Anyway so that's the contribution. It was a great contribution. I hope you can edit this. It was a great contribution and especially on the level of popularizing. And it attracted a large number of people to Buddhism. And in that sense had a very good effect. I think the complicated effect, the full impact of which we still probably need another decade to measure has to do with his unconventional behaviour and the sort of negative reputation that gave Buddhism in many quarters. I think there probably were a lot of disciples he had who were attracted to Buddhism but then got turned off about it because of that. I've run into quite a few of those over the years. And we don't sort of know really how many they are because they sort of left Buddhism. And so, you know, it has those kind of controversial elements, his contribution. And I think a lot will depend on the community that ah that you're studying that followed from his activity and how they conduct themselves and what they do with themselves and their lives. I think a lot will depend on that in the final evaluation.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS TRADITION THAT HE CALLED CRAZY WISDOM. THAT REALLY IS NOT MAINSTREAM IN TIBETAN BUDDHISM ALTHOUGH CERTAINLY THERE ARE GREAT TEACHERS WHO BEHAVED IN CRAZY KINDS OF WAYS. ... MORE A TRADITION ....
I don't think it's a tradition in any of them actually personally. Precisely the nature of what he called crazy wisdom and what you might call a crazy yogi or an unconventional roshi or lama or something, the whole point of it is that it's not a tradition. It's something that's unconventional, you know. It's something that occasional individuals on occasional circumstances do. And presumably enlightened individuals. But the reason that it's unconventional, that it has shock value when it's done is that it is against tradition precisely. For example, people go, well is it ethical or unethical when a master does, you know, kills somebody, for example. And they wonder, is it ethical - well of course it's unethical. They're doing an unethical thing on purpose, you know for some specific reason. And then the question is, well maybe they had a good reason in that particular case. But there is a little problem in justifying all of Trungpa's behaviour with that sort of loophole you could say in the Buddhist ethical tradition. And that is that because it's not a tradition and because it's unconventional, anyone who behaved like that in Buddhist history who subsequently was accepted as somehow great did so exceptionally. They didn't do it regularly all the time. For example, Milarepa, he was naked but that was not really too big a deal. That doesn't have to be unethical. He had a kind of jockstrap on, you know. And he ah he did occasionally some weird things. For example, even he engineered his own death in a way. He knew by clairvoyance he was being poisoned. He told the woman to go back and get paid before he would take the poison she brought him. He therefore in a way incriminated the people who poisoned him because he could have no allowed them to poison him. And I mean that's very unconven- all that was very unconventional. But then if you look at the record of Milarepa's life, he lived very ethically, helped a lot of people, he basically taught basic Buddhist ethics in teaching and occasionally did shocking things you see, like that, in extraordinary circumstances. So in the case of Rimpoche, I do feel that while he was a excellent teacher with many people, for example, we would all like to have him alive now. He's a little younger than me, around my age I believe. No, he's two years older than me. He would be 55 now if he were alive that means and he would therefore be in the prime of his teaching career actually from 50s - early 50s until around 70 a Buddhist teacher - a great Buddhist master is able to really bring up their best disciples usually because they've really been through some experience at that time. And we lost him. Why? Because he became addicted to alcohol. He became an alcoholic and he ruined his liver and got himself, you know, left the planet way ahead which is the misfortune of those disciples who are by their inclination and karma are going to benefit from such a teacher. The teacher then sort of leaves, you know. I mean people can rationalize and say, well it's a great lesson and all this and that but it would have been much better to have his active teaching for 20 or 30 more years you see and then occasionally unconventional, you see. But the problem was that he was singlehandedly sort of dealing with a huge bunch of people which is a tremendous drain on your personal and psychic resources and he ah you know, and he under-estimated perhaps the power. You know, he was from a simpler society and he under-estimated the power of alcohol, among other things, you know, like Seagram's Incorporated as opposed to some Tibetan beer. The crazy yogis or the mad yogis in Tibet drank a 20 proof type of beer. This guy was drinking 98 proof, you know, whisky and other kinds of things. So it ruined his body which is a shame. I mean it should - even I would think the people who loved him most would consider that a shame.
ABSOLUTELY. NO QUESTION ABOUT IT.
So I think there's a lot of confusion around the issue and ah the Dalai Lama for example never condemned Trungpa particularly when he was alive. He has not condemned him now with his sort of teachers .... Other than Trungpa Rimpoche there is a lot of teachers who have abused the privilege of being a teacher both in Zen and in Tibetan Buddhism. And the point is that it should be made clear in the tradition that there is no norm of abusing your students or abusing - or breaking all kinds of ethical vows. That's not a norm. It is possible that a great teacher will occasionally do that in a certain case to shock someone. For example, there's the famous story in Zen where one guy got enlightened when his master, who had been shoving him out of the room when he didn't answer quickly enough on some profound statement for years and then one time when he was really close to a breakthrough and he resisted being shoved out, the guy slammed the door on his leg and broke his leg. And that's an unethical act to assault somebody and break their leg. But that man had seen enlightenment at that instant that his leg broke, okay. But this guy didn't break a single of the disciples' leg over 30 years of teaching, you see. So the leg breaking was not a norm. It was just done in the confusion of like pushing him over the brink into a new understanding at the last second after many years of development and by accident his leg broke which was a shame.
THEN AGAIN IT'S ALSO REALLY HARD TO KNOW BECAUSE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THINGS THAT MAY HAVE HAPPENED IN THE 9TH, 8TH, 7TH CENTURY. AND WHICH WE HAVE SPARSE WRITTEN RECORDS.
We would have record of a lama. He would be known as the leg breaker if he had broken hundreds of people's legs. That we would have a record of definitely. The point is that they may be sparse but they're not that sparse. And this is something people should I think sort of give up in the Buddhist community, this thing about how it's hard to judge, I can't figure it out, you know. It's easy to judge actually. It's not hard to judge. And a graet lama who occasionally or roshi who occasionally does something wild wouldn't want people to think that that was the norm because then it wouldn't be wild any more. Then they'd have to be conventional to be wild you see. It's not hard to judge actually. Buddhist ethics is very clear, you know. Don't harm people, don't do this and don't do that. It's extremely clear really and don't drink. In the Buddhist tradition you're basically not supposed to drink, basically.
Anyway, period. Even a lay person. If you read back in the taravada Buddhist teachings, basically liquor is one of the bad things, you know. Like Islam. Really. In Buddhism basically you're not supposed to drink. I mean Buddhists do and different Buddhist cultures have a little bit here and there. But ah and of course monks even more strictly but basically, for example, drinking is against the Buddhist precept just like in Islam. There are some Muslims who drink and they maybe still say, well we're Muslims, we're sort of lazy Muslims and they don't keep every thing. And that happens. You could still be a Muslim, still be a Budhist. But that's clear. That's not a confusion thing. That's clear in the Buddist tradition.
GREAT. WHAT ABOUT THE ... DECLARATION.... HALIFAX THAT IT MAY GO TOO FAR, THAT IT MAY SWING THE PENDULUM FAR MORE TOWARDS, WELL INTO THE AGE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. AND THAT IT MAY HAVE A STULTIFYING EFFECT ON SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE SPONTANEOUS.
Well there's different - I thik that's a little unfair of them. There are problems about any so-called declaration.
THIS IS JUST MY INTERPRETATION.
There are problems about any so-called declaration. To really come further with sort of discussing the problems of the sanga in the West, I think that for example one of the problems with that gathering was that they had decided they were only having Westerners who teach, who call themselves lama and roshi and so forth which is actually silly. I had a Tibetan lama friend who said aren't I a Western teacher? I have an American passport, I live in United States, I'm in the West you know. And they were responding in that early period, oh no but they aren't culturally Western because they weren't brought up in the West. But then these other Asian people, Asian Americans of various kinds were very upset about it and some of them jokingly refer to that group as the Ku Klux Klan of Buddhist teachers. You know, you have to be white, you know. And I think that was very unfortunate. There were a lot of unfortunate elements I think like that. On the other hand, I think the general thrust not of a declaration which is highly premature really but of the pursuit of Buddhist ethics in its own original setting and trying to therefore develop a knowledge base about Buddhist ethics which a lot of people did't know. And then trying to interpolate how it should work in the West I think is very important now that Buddhism is becoming a bigger institution in the west. It's a long term process. It should consult with non-Western people as well as Western people. The modern societies in Thailand and Japan are different than they were 2200 years ago or 500 years ago. So there are new ethics that will have to be developed. And that's a very important process actually and particularly since ethics has been discovered in Buddhism by the West which basically turned to Buddhism its first 20 years thinking that Buddhism was just meditation and that it wasn't ethics. But Buddhism has a very profound ethical tradition and very elaborated one. And something which a lot of its wisdom is encoded in ethics and that should be explored I think. Furthermore you have to remember that in the process of introducing a new tradition into the mix of Western pluralistic, multi-religious society, what you do as Buddhists is being observed by the rest of the society. Now if you want to like say to the rest of society, well gee we don't know much - we don't really have ethics because we're Buddhist and we're sort of just feeling our way along and it's all spontaneous, you're going to create a very bad reputation for Buddhists against - by Muslims, Christians, Jews and others and they're going to be much more prejudiced against Buddhism and Buddhism is going to have a harder time. And that's not necessary because Buddhism in fact has a very strict and well thought through ethical tradition and a good aspect of that ethical tradition is that there are a lot of exceptions. And things are very adaptable, you know, but that doesn't mean there are no rules and principles. Like do not kill is a fundamental Buddhist rule. Do not lie is a fundamental Buddhist rule. Do not take what is not given to you is a fundamental rule. Do not steal, you know - defined as taking what is not given to you. And originally in fact charging interest was therefore against Buddhist ethics, usury type of thing. Because interest is not really given freely by the person to you. Do not commit sexual abuse of another is - which is then defined, however, according to what are the sexual mores of a society. You could marry two or three wives in a society where that was acceptable. But you couldn't commit adultery in such a society where people would then kill each other over that, you know or kill the woman. So there are, you know, it was conventional in a way according to the mores of a society but there was rules about sexual abuse versus sexual good behaviour - good sexual behaviour. Not all sexual behaviour was bad but there's good and bad in other words. And lying is against Buddhist ethics.
I WANT TO GET ON TO SOMETHING THAT YOU TOUCHED ON AND THAT'S REALLY THE PLACE THAT BUDDHISM HAS RIGHT NOW IN ITS EVOLUTIONARY PATH IN THE WEST. IT'S ALWAYS MODIFIED ITSELF WHEREVER IT'S GONE. IT'S SOMEHOW INTEGRATED ITSELF INTO THE PREVAILING SOCIO-RELIGIOUS MILIEU.
Somewhat and somewhat it's changed the milieu it's gone into. It has not in fact ever, except to its detriment, sold itself out to its milieu, never.
SO WHERE ARE WE NOW IN THAT PATH, THAT EVOLUTIONARY PATH?
Where? Well ah it's hard to say, you know, I mean I don't have a crystal ball, you know. But I think we're at a point where ah Buddhism was first really attracted notice by its experiential aspect and by its meditative aspect. And I think that since people have come to discover, since they've used that a lot and they've gained different things from that, they've come to discover that, you know, meditation cannot be just extracted from its setting in a social network which involves ethics and you know, even sociological considerations. Nor can it be extracted from its intellectual framework which involves cosmology, world view and understanding of science really. And Buddhism is defined, you know the 8 fold path, breaks down into what's known as the 3 educations. And of those 3 educations you have the ethical, the meditational and the intellectual, the wisdom education, all three. And they all three have to work together. They're like three corners of a tripod. If you try to put Buddhism on just one of those three it won't work. And so they're beginning now to - I think Buddhism in America particularly and in the West more generally is beginning to try to get into the ethical side of it and the intellectual side of it I think more strongly. There's been more desire to learn something about it which I think is very healthy. And ah where it will go in the long run one cannot say. What is interesting is that simultaneous with the growth of interest in Buddhism in the West there has been a deterioration of the status of Buddhism in its home countries. It has been basically destroyed in China by communism, destroyed in Tibet, destroyed in Vietnam. Modernity has pretty much ravaged its vitality in Japan and Thailand and other places although there are revival movements. But the same century that has witnessed the growth of interest in Buddhism in the West has seen its destruction, its institutional destruction in the East.
YOU WERE LEADING INTO WHAT'S HAPPENING HERE ON THIS CONTINENT.
Right. So therefore in a way what is happening to Buddhism on this continent and this - a number of Japanese and others have told me that in a way sort of the fate of Buddhism in the world does rest on the new Buddhists who are mainly what I call Euro Buddhists or Euro-American Buddhists. And because, you know, it's just kind of a fabric of something a little bit archaic in a lot of Asian societies. And although there may be revivals, there will be revivals, I look forward to a great revival in Tibet, for example, after the Chinese empire collapses. But those revivals will - the form that Buddhism will take in those revivals will be what they were - what it was before and it will be influenced by whatever has developed in the terms of sort of the new seriousness of practice and a new determination to really live to a more high standard of Buddhism that has been manifested in the Western societies where people have come to Buddhism in a - out of a sort of chaos and the sort of post-industrial chaos of fragmented society a we have come to it, you know, in a way paralleling perhaps the chaos that Indian society was in during the time of the Buddha which is when Buddhism grew, you see. So it's not perhaps accidental, you know.
WE'RE GOING TO CHANGE TAPE.
TAPE 237 - INTVW W BOB THURMAN, PT. 2:
... THE ... ELEMENT OF TIBETAN BUDDHISM REALLY TAKE A FOOTING ON THESE SHORES WHICH ARE REALLY I DON'T THINK YET HAS ANY SENSIBILITY THAT HAS AN AFFINITY TOWARDS THAT .....
Well I don't know. I think, you know, Catholicism has a lot of affinity with Tibetan Buddhism I would say with all the rich red colours and everything. I'm not sure it doesn't have an affinity. But I don't also expect Tibetan Buddhism to spread very widely here in America personally. I'm not one of those who thinks that Buddhism is going to become The great religion of America. I actually don't agree with that. But I think that Buddhism will stimulate change in the existing religions here enormously and it will be of great help to them. And then the forms that it will adopt here will benefit ah Buddhism as it revives in Asia in various forms. I mean that's my sort of view of it. And Trungpa's effort - things like Shambala training or other meditative disciplines that try to - TM tried to strip ah Hindu meditation of Hinduism in its early movements and was quite useful and popular for doing so. And I guess Shambala training has somewhat of the same ah aspects. I think EST training really derived from Buddhist sources as well and there have been more other varieties of that. And I think all of them are useful and all of them are helpful. And I'm not surprised that they are popular because of the real inability of Westerners to have some sort of methodology of dealing with their interior, you know. So all of these fill a need, I think, very nicely and will have a good effect. I think in the long run, though, I think that the emphasis on just sort of one element of meditation, the calming element extracted from a larger matrix such as those - which those traditions have usually chosen, they've just extracted that easy thing which is to cease your thought type of meditation. And those kinds of meditation in the long run have a limited value I think. And in fact if you develop one pointedness ... minor ... of mind and you don't attend to what you're going to use that one pointedness for, or what you're going to use that improved well-being for, it can be like any palliative, it can be used to sort of make it easier for you to live in a wrong way actually or to belong to a not, you know, positive organizations or institutions or loosen your, you know, weaken your critical faculty and weaken your ability to make sound judgements and so forth. So in the long term it can actually, and therefore I think people's interest in such things drops off after a while, after they get that first rush of a new energy in their being by not being caught up in their thought flow in the same way as they used to be. Then they get - well where do I put this new mental acuity into. And then often they will drift away from the source of that teaching. So I think that those different types of trainings have that problem in the longer term, of usefulness for people. But it's understandable they have a short term popularity and they do a short term useful thing. I just had a meeting with some people about - who were working in hospitals and stress reduction, this sort of idea of meditation as stress reduction. And it's very popular, works very well, you know. It lowers your heart beat, improves your blood flow to your heart, etc. I mean it's medically very comfortable, no question about it.
... BUDDHISM IS ALSO BECOMING QUITE TRENDY IN ... LAST SIX MONTHS.
I hadn't noticed.
OH COME ON. IN NATIONAL MAGAZINES BOTH IN UNITED STATES AND CANADA ...... THE NATIONAL ... MAGAZINE IN CANADA JUST HAD A PICTURE OF HAMI STRON ON ITS COVER, COVER STORY ON THE NEW SPIRITUALITY ... NEW AGE, A LITTLE BIT ... BUT THERE IS A CERTAIN KIND OF TRENDINESS NOW. YOU'VE CONTRIBUTED TO IT. YOU'RE A -
YES YOU HAVE.
(chuckles) I'm an academic scholar.
BUT YOU'RE ALSO A SPOKESPERSON. DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENT ABOUT THAT? IT'S KIND OF ANTITHETICAL TO WHAT BUDDHIST PRACTICE IS ALL ABOUT.
No I don't think it is. I think Buddhist practice is about helping people become more happy basically. And any places where it helps to do that people naturally appreciate it because they become more happy because of it. And so it's not surprising that it should attract a little bit of attention here and there. But in the long run, as I said, I don't expect it to become really that widespread in its sort of - in some sort of like complete form of itself in the West. On the other hand it is a free country and democratic societies are supposed to be religiously pluralistic so I mean it would be - should be developed, have a certain growth and it should take its place among the different religions. I think that's certainly true. But ah I'm not one of those who expects the West to convert to Buddhism basically. And I agree with the Dalai Lama who says he doesn't think it would be a good idea even because the negative aspect of religion in the world has been where they competed for converts and fought with each other and they have become a source of division and violence and ah aggression and so forth. And so at this time of history when the population is so high, when there are so many competing things to have religion which has methodologies that can help people be more peaceful, more loving, more cheerful and so forth, less greedy, that's the aspect that should be brought out in all religions and religions should not fight over spoils with each other, you know. It's really important that they don't you know and is very narrow-minded of them and self-defeating of them to do so. I mean they can say, well communism as destructive as it has been to religion in the 20th century, they can sort of say well it was some sort of demonic affliction, you know. Religious people can sit back and say that. But it could never have taken such a vast ah course if it wasn't that the religions themselves were complacent, that there was an aspect of them that was oppressive to people, that they weren't furthering people's happeniness but were making them more unhappy and so on. Otherwise communism could never have had such a long run so to speak, you know. Hopefully now that the religion of communism has ground more to a halt, an impressive element of it and we'll come back to more sensible arrangements. But let's hope that the religions won't regress to some of the more oppressive behaviours on their part, the religious institutions. And so therefore to add Buddhism as a big competitor here in the West, you know, for market share would be really unfortunate I think. And I don't agree with it and I think that the more knowledgeable teachers of Buddhism don't agree with it.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT BUDDHISM THAT YOU THINK MEANS THAT IT'S NOT GOING TO INCREASE ITS MARKET SHARE?
Well I think that the teaching of love and compassion, one Buddhism's greatest teachings which helps to cheer people up, I think Christianity has that same teaching basically. And people are used to Christianity and they already have a huge infrastructure. And so it would be better that they borrow from Buddhism some of its experiential training methodologies and harness it up to their ideology and their sort of ritual thing and then they would feel more calm about it. Families wouldn't be disrupted. I think it will naturally happen. On the other hand, psychotherapy is a powerful institution in the West but psychotherapy harnessed to a materialistic ideology is a little bit oppressive to people. You know, it locks up deviants, it looks for people, wants them just to be adaptive to societies that are aggressive and deliterious to their health anyway. And maybe societies that are a little bit insane, doesn't take responsibility for trying to reform those societies. And yet Budhism has powerful methodology of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis and it can help psychoanalysis be responsible for the context and the matrix within which it is psychoanalytic and tries to help people therefore. And so in various ways I think Buddhism can contribute and help and thereby yet appreciate it and thereby be deemed something of value and its literature studied and its civilization valued and its own civilization in its original locations supported to be rebuilt and supported to be restored, you know, as something of value to the world, you know. And I think that's good. And I think of course basically, I think Buddhism has something to teach the other religions actually. Because Buddhism is something a little bit more than a religion and that is I think Buddhism can really help them try to learn to get along in a world where they're never going to conquer all the other religions, where it's going to remain stubbornly pluralistic and even more people in the overall aggregate are going to remain sort of non-religious or areligious, forever, you know. And they'll have to just get on with that and not sit there and wait for doomsday and for lightning and thunder, you know. And different religions have a harder time or a less hard time with that the exclusive - their own exclusivity. But in fact that kind of intolerance that religions tend to have produced is intolerable by the mass of people on the planet now. And Buddhism can try to help them realize that they can still be religious, they can still keep their faith, they can still contribute to the welfare of humanity and yet not demand exclusive recognition as the only saving thing in the world, you know. And that's something, a hard lesson for them but they must learn, I feel. They really have to.
... CLOSED MEETING HE SAID THE FOLLOWING THAT TRUNGPA HAD HIM TESTED FOR AIDS WITHOUT HIS KNOWLEDGE SOME TIME IN 1985 AND WHEN THE TESTS CAME BACK POSITIVE HE WAS CALLED IN TO A MEETING FACE TO FACE, NOBODY ELSE IN THE ROOM AND THIS IS HIS VERSION OF WHAT WAS SAID, THAT TRUNGPA ADVISED HIM TO KEEP HIS AIDS SECRET, THAT IF - WELL ..... SAID WHAT IF PEOPLE WANT TO SLEEP WITH ME, SHALL I TELL THEM? HE SAID NO, NOT A GOOD IDEA. BUT HE ALSO GAVE HIM SOME PRACTICES TO DO. AND HE SAID IF YOU DO THESE PRACTICES IT WILL REVERSE YOUR KARMA AND YOU WON'T INFECT ANYBODY ELSE. NOW SINCE THAT TIME APPARENTLY OR AFTER THAT TIME, OSLA TENSIN RECANTED A LITTLE BIT SAYING HE MAY HAVE MISINTERPRETED WHAT TRUNGPA HAD ACTUALLY SAID TO HIM. ON THE OTHER HAND, THIS IS WHAT HE SAID AT THIS MEETING IN BOSTON. WHERE THIS LEADS IS MY QUESTION IS MAGICAL PRACTICES AND THIS TENSION THAT EXISTS BETWEEN MAGICAL PRACTICES AND COMMON SENSE. I KNOW WHERE ... STANDS ON THIS. ON THE OTHER HAND MY QUESTION REALLY REVOLVES AROUND WHEN YOU DO A MAGICAL PRACTICE YOU ALSO HAVE TO, TO SOME EXTENT, SUSPEND YOUR CRITICAL THINKING.
Well no not if -
JUST WAIT ....
If you are a master of a magical practice then it's part of your critical thinking to know that you're a master of a magical practice. If you somehow are hoping through faith that this will rub off on you then of course you might have to suspend your critical thinking. But that brings up this other matter and I think this is something that may be of general interest to your audience possibly irrespective of the sad case that you mention and I can't really pretend to know the truth of that case. And nobody needs me to draw conclusions for them if it is true and if it isn't true then it isn't true. And so but in a more general, I think one of the reasons that this whole issue has become so confused and one of the most creative things that His Holiness discussed in that Daramsala meeting which is not very carefully reflected in the so-called statement is that although - and it wasn't discussed thoroughly still - it hasn't been discussed thoroughly still. His Holiness and I had discussed it ourselves actually years earlier. And that is that tantric practice and I believe - I argue Zen practice as well - involves a specific element which we could call a kind of contemplative transference, you might be able to say, where the practitioner, the meditator, uses the living teacher as if he or she were an icon like a statue of Buddha, a painting like this. Basically uses the person as a representation and thinks of that person as a kind of shell for ah for the ah practitioner to get in contact with the actual living Buddha, with the living sort of ... enlightenment teaching, you know, sort of mystical Buddha. And this is called, you know, usually guru devotion but which is a wrong expression actually. It should be called guru reliance. The technical term, shenyin tensu or lama tensul means rely on the guru and that includes a devotional component which is the minor component and a practical component meaning to put into practice the precept of the teacher and succeed in that practice. That's the major component, not just sitting devoting, you know. The devoting is just a preliminary and then the real thing is to put into practice whatever the teacher teaches you. This is called guru reliance, right? Now ah now the ah ah the key about this is that Tibetans, for example, had a proverb that the best lama to be initiated by was the one who lived three valleys away. The reason for that proverb is that you just go and you meet this icon - basically it's like you go to a famous statue. The icon talks and does things, gives you sort of religious impulse and then you visualize in your meditation that being as if it were a living Buddha and then you feel closer to the living Buddha. You don't feel well Buddha was way back thousands of years ago and maybe people then could achieve this kind of insight but I can't. And you don't use that as an excuse. You make the thing immediate like deroshi says something, you make the impact of their statement immediate in your own life. Transform it in your own life by - by using this practice, right? Now the Tibetans controlled the potential abuse by the icon since in fact it was not a statue but a walking, talking person with needs, desires, you know, power hang-ups, whateer, as many of them probably were when they were off duty, you know. And ah they insulated themselves by various cultural controls like a proverb, like be three valleys away. So the guy is not going to levy taxes on you. The guy is not going to order you to go and do something that might be against your own practice you see. You just be visualizing he's perfect, my guru. It's like bela ripa and marpa in fact. Marpa beat his wife; he like sometimes used magic against his rivals. He disobeyed the dacanies and gave a teaching to his son that was damaging to his son. Marpa was far from perfect in his behaviour. Milareba thought of him as a perfect Buddha, lived far away from him and had the benefit of Marpa as a Buddha without further involvement in Marpa's personal foibles, okay. Now in a Western society this practice of this transference practice having to do with the initiatory aspect of the tantric teaching, we should have access to be able to use that. It is very powerful and useful. You get - it's like a transference consciously and contemplatively cultivated and it creates much greater power in your self-transformation and therefore should be useable. We shouldn't say, well let's cancel that aspect of teaching. Then we would be cancelling tantra which is a most magic and marvellous teaching. On the other hand we have to maybe make - we have to think it through and make special arrangements so that your initiatory lama is not your boss at the office, is not your, you know, is not your political leader. Doesn't use that sort of authority power to do sort of worldly things that, you know, in fact have nothing to do with your darma practice. Because that will lead inevitably any teacher who is less than 100% perfect into abuse of that power. And it will lead the disciple into excessive dependency. You see and then the transference instead of being a creative practice will become a destructive practice, right? So this is something that we haven't really thought of. Now in fact in practice what is interesting in, for example, you know His Holiness - you know His Holiness the Dalai Lama and you've been in daramsala and you see that Tenzing, his secretaries and the people in his office who also will go perhaps to initiations and then they will be visualizing and praying to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama forces them in the day to day work in the office to give him critical feedback and say, we don't agree with that, Your Holiness, we make this judgement we make that. In other words to have that flexibility of personality so that when they're on worldly duty they are not looking at him as Buddha. But then religiously they do. So in other words, de facto in the - in the old days they didn't have to do that with the Dalai Lama because the Dalai Lama lived sort of high and remotely and didn't engage in day to day bureaucratic activity. So he really was just a religious figure to them, figurehead. But now that he's a working person and a crucial member of the government, they have a way of adapting. But it's hard for them. For example, he's trying to get them to learn democracy and then they try to be democratic but then it's hard for them to like speak against what he says, right. But they're working on it is the point. So there's no reason why Western Buddhas shouldn't be working on the complexity. Like okay, you're my Lama, I visualize you on top of my head in the centre of my heart. I'm devoted to you. I see everything about you as perfect. And then we're driving down the street and I happen to be taking you to the railway station and the red light is changing and you say run the light. And I say, no sir, I won't run it because I'll get you and me and everybody killed. And I'm not going to blindly run the light just because I prayed to you this morning. Now you're on the street and you're foolishly telling me to run the light. And I say no, sir, you see. That's what we have to learn there. If that had been learned by people in that particular or other organizations that had difficulty then I think they would have saved maybe the leaders of those communities from getting into more trouble than they need have in fact. So the disciples, if someone wants to point their finger and say such and such a teacher was causing a lot of trouble, they should say such and such a teacher's disciples empowered that teacher to cause a lot of trouble. They are also co-dependent, if you follow me. And so on a philosophical basis, not just on a sort of ca...istic like this case or that case but on a philosophical basis, the teaching of guru reliance and its complexity in either Hindu tantra, Buddhist trantra or Zen which is really East Asian tantra in a way really, ah must be hedged around with much more careful thought as to what is actually going to self-awarely be dealt with by practitioners to prevent both themselves and their teachers from causing trouble to themselves rather than benefitting themselves, right? Don't you think?
OH ABSOLUTELY AND ESPECIALLY IN THIS KIND OF SOCIETY WHERE WHAT YOUR TEACHER DOES ONE DAY IS NOT THREE VALLEYS AWAY BUT IS IN THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER THE VERY NEXT ...
For example. For example, right, perfect.
TAPE 238 - INTVW W BOB THURMAN, PT. 3:
The so-called declaration of daram sala may have offended some people and that's unfortunate. And that had to do with the over-eagerness, I think, of the people who issued the statement as a declaration. His Holiness asked his name to be withheld from the declaration in fact because they wrote him down like a signatory. He thought that was not a good idea. He was basically a consultant but he wasn't perhaps ready to start making declarations. And you will note he is not on that if you see any printing of it. And that's because it's not that it's a bad thing to do. It's good to have an investigation of all of these issues and try to figure out how to adapt things, also learn more about how they used to be handled because nobody know what the vina is. They have no idea, .... Buddhists. And it's a mine of wisdom of managing difficulties in society, you know, religious practitioners' difficulties. But the point is it was premature and the process of analyzing these things, however, is not premature and should go on and on. There should be more meetings, there should be more discussions, they should be as open as possible. People should also not just bandy their emotions and opinions back and forth but they should have those discussions in the context of learning more about how Buddha decided a particular incident somewhere in Travasti thousands of years ago, how this Buddhist master in the 12th century Tibet decided certain scandal or an issue, how that Buddhist master in China in the 7th century decided something. What the basis of their decisions and opinions, the rules that they promulgated and why and compare it. Develop a large database of all this and then try to make decisions about modern Buddhism in the light of that. This process is urgent and crucial and really should be done in a world Buddhist framework really, you know, like in the Fellowship of World Buddhist ... should be done again and again. And I hope it will be. So that would be my real opinion as the darmasala thing. It was just like to run and have one meeting and then promulgate as if you knew everything is part of the problem.
.... PRACTICES I THINK YOU WERE LEADING TO SOMETHING WHEN WE -
Magical practices? No. There is magic but you know the Dalai Lama once jokingly told me, he said that you know that teachers had to be careful. He said that you know like Neropa who broke his bones, every bone in his body like 12 times by Tilapa saying, I wish one disciple of mine jump off this roof or would get the jewels of that queen or go do something. You know he did all these things. He got himself beaten up remember. And Dalai Lama said therefore a teacher, now people, faithful- some of these faithful practitioners read these stories and then they are like ready to jump out of anything more or less he said and we gurus have to be careful, he said. For example if I said I wonder if someone could jump off the cliff here and fly down to Congra valley, you know, somebody would do it if I said such a casual thing, he said. And he said we'd really be stuck. Here in daramsala we don't even have an ambulance service, he said. (laughter)
You know so teachers should be aware of their responsibilities of students who are getting sort of into that magical realm, you know. Anybody who actually achieves some magical ability then they will achieve it, you know. Then they'll know they have achieved it. And they shouldn't like fly off the deep end otherwise.