Home » Features » How To Awaken Those Tricked By ‘Buddhist’ Cults

As published in April 2015’s issue of Singapore’s ‘For You (Information)’ Buddhist magazine

此诸众生, All these sentient beings [in the Dharma Ending Age (now) will],
去佛渐远。 away from the Buddha, be progressively distant.
邪师说法, Evil teachers who speak the [false] ‘Dharma’
如恒河沙。 [will be as numerous] as the Ganges River’s sand [grains].

– 阿难尊者 (楞严经)
Venerable Ananda (Surangama Sutra)

A Buddhist friend had this query – ‘A relative attended the activities of a group, whose teacher claims to be a “Buddhist” master giving “Buddhist” teachings. Having learnt some seemingly “Buddhist” practices there, she claims they have “healing” effects, and that the master has some “supernormal” powers. However, upon closer look, this so-called master is not a true Buddhist teacher who gives true Buddhist teachings at all. He is merely riding upon Buddhist culture, teachings and terminology in a loose and inaccurate way to promote his ideas and practices, many of which distort actual Buddhist teachings. As she strongly believes in the so-called healing effects, she blindly gives the master credibility over whatever he teaches, gladly parting with her money and time to contribute to the group. Not only is she learning “Buddhism” wrongly, which brings her further away from liberation (enlightenment), she is repeatedly cheated in its name. How can I wake her up?’

It can be challenging to guide those in ‘Buddhist’ cult groups back to true Buddhism due to 3 main reasons. [1] First, they did not really learn about true Buddhism adequately, which is how they easily fell for, and continue to fall for these groups’ tricks. (This is delusion or ignorance, the root of the Three Poisons at work.) [2] Second, as these groups dish out some appealing and addictive benefits, they are easily mistaken as worthy of faith and support, assumed to create ‘good’ karma (for health and wealth) when promoted. (This is attachment or greed, the first of the Three Poisons at work.) [3] Third, these groups often use fear to retain followers, by claiming those who leave ‘will’ create very ‘bad’ karma. (This is aversion or hatred, the second of the Three Poisons at work.) The thorough solution for awakening those poisoned is by continual education through the true Buddhist teachings. When the root poison is uprooted by wisdom, all Three Poisons will be purged.

There are 2 key steps the deluded can take to awaken themselves, and for us to help awaken them. [1] The background of all so-called ‘Buddhist’ teachers should be checked for credibility – even if they are already ‘popular’. Are there public records (e.g. online and in print) on who their teachers are, and which Buddhist organisations they are associated with? Are these teachers and organisations in turn reputable in the eyes of orthodox Buddhists? [2] Are all the core teachings that attract many followers found in the Buddhist scriptures? Or are they self-concocted, mixed with pseudo-Buddhist ideas and practices? Even if they seem ‘Buddhist’, they might not be. If they are ‘praiseworthy’, are many prominent Buddhist teachers and organisations endorsing (or condemning) them? (Egoistic cults of personality usually run on high self-praise while disparaging others.) When in doubt, other learned Buddhist teachers’ advice based on the scriptures should be sought for second opinions.

One big reason cult followers remain loyal to their masters is due to apparent ‘healing’ benefits, often supposedly brought about by some ‘meditation’ or ‘energy’ techniques. (Another reason is being tricked into belief that they have secret ‘exclusive’ access to the ‘highest’ truth, which they are expected to believe blindly without question, thus stunting their growth of actual wisdom.) Some ‘healing’ effects are due to auto-suggested placebo effects, peer pressure and adrenaline rushes. Even when they do work, it could just be physical energy (such as qi) at play. The confusion comes in when warped ‘Buddhist’ practices are thrown into the mix, to make things look ‘holy’. The truth is, orthodox Buddhist practitioners already experience healing frequently. It is just that we do not make much of a fuss out of it, to use it as a means to attract followers. This is so as all forms of worldly healing and powers cannot prevent death, while the Buddha’s teachings focus on transcending rebirth.

The main priority of the Buddha’s teachings is to heal the mind before the body as all suffering arise from mental poisons, while liberation is by ending the cycle of birth, ageing, sickness and death. For instance, countless in history have experienced miraculous healing through the time-tested practice of mindfulness of Buddha (e.g. Amituofo), but most also know the importance of practice to reach his Pure Land, where healing of mind and body will be truly complete, and the cycle of suffering can be transcended once and for all. A cult master however, slanders all Buddhas by saying there is no point to reach Pure Land. Such is how deviant teachers can sabotage and destroy spiritual lives! Cult masters short-sightedly focus on short-term ‘healing’ instead. The more this is emphasised, the more will the main priority be forgotten. With attachment to physical ‘healing’, while neglecting furthering of actual spirituality in time, one’s body will still eventually let one down.

What if cult masters seem to have ‘supernormal’ powers? Most, if not all are imaginary, either staged or are mere mind games. If they do exude some strange ‘energy’, all the more should they be steered clear of, as the physically and mentally weak can easily be manipulated. The Buddha was very clear that only the pure universal Dharma and pure personal conduct should be used to attract followers; not unverifiable claims of power, attainment or status for fame and fortune. Although masterful of tremendous supernormal powers, the Buddha only used them skilfully as last resorts, to highlight the truer and greater miracle – of instruction, that leads to liberation. Other traits of cult masters include claims of being ‘equivalent’ to Bodhisattvas and Buddhas (out of delusion), being embroiled in financial and sexual scandals (out of greed), and being against orthodox Buddhism (out of hatred). Being so seriously affected by the Three Poisons, how can they lead others beyond them?

Some might think that since some cults have some ‘positive’ teachings and ‘healing’ benefits, we should just let them be. However, not clarifying on them is to allow their further confusing of the masses via defiling of Buddhism’s name. As the Three Poisons keep all bound to suffering, any teachings that further them are harmful. These spiritual poisons are more insidious than physical poisons, which are easier to detect and eradicate. The most dangerous poisons are those disguised as tempting candy. Any cult master who is willing to abuse and misrepresent the Buddha’s teachings is straightaway and downright a liar. As the Buddha warned in the Itivuttaka, ‘For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done [as it can be concealed]. Which one thing? This – telling a deliberate lie. The person who lies, who transgress in this one thing, transcending concern for the world beyond [karmic rebirth] – there is no evil he might not do.’

Also warned by the Buddha in the Surangama Sutra (楞严经), ‘[With the] causal ground [or direction] not true [at the start, the] fruit [or result] attracted [will be with] twists and turns, [away from the true goal].’ (因地不真,果招纡曲。) Mistaking a false teaching as the true path to liberation, one might end up taking a convoluted detour for many lifetimes, and even sink to the lower realms due to negative karma created from supporting what is against the Buddha’s teachings. All grave mistakes begin small, as they further grow when left unchecked, until they become so serious and widespread that they even harm oneself and others beyond this generation. As concerned Buddhists, we must share these warnings, with all our already affected or potentially affected family members, friends and beyond, while pointing out a path for how they can learn the genuine teachings of the Buddha. If even we true Buddhists do not do this, who will? Why not share this article today?

– By various Dharma protectors

如我所说, Such as I have spoken,
名为佛说。 is named Buddhas’ speech.
不如此说, Not such as spoken,
即波旬说。 is Papiyan’s [Mara: the evil demon king] speech.

– 释迦牟尼佛 (楞严经)
Sakyamuni Buddha (Surangama Sutra)

Related Articles:

How To Prevent Being Tricked By ‘Buddhist’ Cults
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2015/03/how-to-prevent-being-tricked-by-buddhist-cults
(As published in Singapore Buddhist Federation’s magazine):

Are There Mediums & Manifestations Of Buddhas & Bodhisattvas Around?
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/02/are-there-mediums-manifestations-of-buddhas-bodhisattvas-around
The Buddha’s Admonition Against Making False Claims
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2015/01/the-buddhas-admonition-against-making-false-spiritual-claims

Recommended Courses:

List will be updated regularly:
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/category/06

18 Responses to “How To Awaken Those Tricked By ‘Buddhist’ Cults”

  1. TrueBuddhists February 12, 2015

    For the information of all, false teachers riding on the brand of ‘Buddhism’ include the following. This list is not exhaustive, and contains but the tip of the iceberg of how the related organisations misportray the Buddhist teachings:

    1. Jin Pu Ti 金菩提 (Master Jin Bodhi) of ‘Meditation & Health’ magazines and ‘Bodhi Meditation’: Claims to have met Amitabha Buddha in biography, who didn’t know what to say to him, hinting that he is already perfect. He has a dubious background, wears robes modelled to look similar to but yet different from monastic robes – probably for the ‘best’ of both worlds – to attract those who prefer monastic teachers while looking like a layperson too.

    2. Lu Sheng Yan 盧勝彥 of ‘True Buddha School’ (Not to be mistaken as the late Chan Master Sheng Yen): Claims to be a living Buddha, who has his own Pure Land and sutra.

    3. Lu Jun Hong 卢军宏 / Lu Taizhang (of Oriental Radio): Claims to be Guanyin Bodhisattva’s manifestation in publicity materials, and mixes twisted Dharma teachings with his own anti-Dharma ideas. Pretends to have supernormal powers.

    4. Qing Hai Wu Shang Shi 清海無上師 / Suma (‘Supreme Master’) Ching Hai: Claims to be enlightened and supreme but teaches deviated form of Buddhism. Her organisation runs Loving Hut/Heart restaurants.

    5. Dromtug or Jamseng ‘Rinpoche’ & Kadampa associates 种菟’仁波切’ / 睿吉祥’活佛’ (of Kadhampa Buddhist Association 国际嘎档巴 ) : Claims to be Guanyin Bodhisattva and Dromtonpa, the great late Kadampa master, promotes worship of a hungry ghost (Dorje Shugden) against advice of orthodox Tibetan Buddhist community. Linked to New Kadampa Tradition (led by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso) with same beliefs. Regularly slams HHDL for not supporting their beliefs, although none of the orthodox Tibetan sects’ heads do. See more at http://shugdenfacts.com

    6. Michael Roach (‘Geshe’) (of Diamond Cutter Institute): Claims to be a first level Bodhisattva, had sexual relations despite monastic celibacy vows, denounced by HHDL Office

    7. Ken Tay Bien Keong (Dai Purui; Dai Mianqiang; 戴普锐; 戴缅强; 戴老师): Constructs stupas that installs double-edited version of the last sutra to exist in this world (Immeasurable Life Sutra). This is against the lineage and advice of the 13th Pure Land Patriarch Great Master Yinguang, who admonished the editing of any sutra spoken by the Buddha. Tay is unrepentant despite formal warnings.

    8. Soka 创价学会: They practise a deviated form of ‘Buddhism’ focusing on material well-being. They see Nichiren (an ancient monk) as a Buddha, when he never said so at all; displacing the importance of our fundamental teacher – Sakyamuni Buddha. They focus very selectively on only 2 chapters of the Lotus Sutra in twisted ways, while discounting the worth of all other teachings by Sakyamuni Buddha. They have no monastic members at all; discounting the value of monks and nuns. In short, the very basis of the Threefold Refuge for them, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, are wrong. Website by victims: http://www.toride.org/eindex.html

    9. Li Hongzhi 李洪志: Falun Gong / Falun Dafa: Claims to be the greatest of all Buddhas. Uses Buddhists terms in teachings not adhering to true Buddhism.

    10. Yiguandao 一贯道/ Tiandao 天道: Selectively and secretly mixes different religious teachings together and twistedly reinterprets them in a supposedly exclusive light, that does injustice to each religion’s true teachings, including Buddhism. Uses Buddhist personage such as Maitreya Bodhisattva (whom they address as Buddha), Guanyin Bodhisattva, Jigong… for ‘worship’. They have their own version of the Triple Gem too, that is supposedly secret, though many already know it openly. They use fear to control devotees, threatening them that if they leave or divulge their ‘Triple Gem’, they will be struck by lightning.

    11. Baha’i Faith: Claims Maitreya Buddha has already manifested as Bahá’u’lláh when in Buddhist sutras, he arrives 5.6 billion years later.

    12. Shinnyo-En: 1. See file at https://dspace.stir.ac.uk/handle/1893/2264 and search for ‘Singapore’ within the thesis for a glimpse of the Shinnoyen’s works in Singapore. They have mediums communicating to members the wishes/advice of supposedly ancestors and founder’s departed sons. But there are witnesses of conflicting information from different mediums under the same organisation. There is follow-up of asking for ‘petition prayers’ that requires money. The heavy use of ‘mediums’ is proof of deviation from orthodox Buddhism, what more with conflicting messages, which means they are inaccurate. (Medium culture in Buddhism is unique for only a few deity oracles in Tibetan Buddhism.) Repeated regular offerings of money is suggested.

    13: Happy Science (as led by Ryuho Okawa 大川隆法): Why this is problematic is obvious at http://www.vice.com/read/my-afternoon-with-a-failed-japanese-cult

    14. Phra Dhammachayo; Dhammakaya; Wat Phradhammakaya Singapore; Kalyanamitta Centre: ‘Sells’ Nirvana as a heaven that can be ‘bought’ by donations. Speaks of much unverifiable sci-fi inspired matters. Embroiled in much money scandals.

    15. 印广’法师’: ‘Confers enlightenment’ upon audience members without basis, and misrepresents many teachings, including the Lotus Sutra, Amitabha Sutra and more. Part of why what he teaches and does is problematic can be seen at http://toutiao.com/a4590893254

    More info at http://viewonbuddhism.org/controversy-controversial-teacher-group-center-questionable.html

  2. Be sure to keep http://www.cultnews.com/ up-to-date on Buddhist cults. They’re an organization that keeps track of these cult

  3. Karmic Wind February 15, 2015

    Everyone has the right to believe.But for cults to twist the buddhas teachings…that act alone is already built upon a violation of a most basic moral code by building trust on a lie. 

    Belief is sensitive becos it has alot to do with an ego. Apart from other attractive reasons why people continue to join cults..life has conditioned us in so many aspects that we tend to equate all our choices as intelligent ones. Nobody wants to feel foolish especially when one has invested their time..faith and money. But we all know that intelligence is not foolproof. Intelligent people also do make mistakes. 

    It is important to make intelligent choices but we should go all the way and not halfway by just stopping at the choice made. Full intelligence is the ability to get in and get out. It is two way…not one way. One who can get in but cannot come out is simply trapped. 

    If indeed one gives so much emphasis on intelligence…remember this. What you lose…you gain. When you lose the intelligence of the ego…you gain wisdom. Wisdom is more important than intelligence.

  4. Time Wheel February 15, 2015

    There are two types of people in this world. One who upholds what is right regardless of any person. The other is simply one who upholds WHOM they think is right. This is how spirituality divides.

  5. Prajnamind March 7, 2015

    Keep up the good work in exposing these cults. Honest Buddhists must be guided correctly. (L)

  6. Voidness June 6, 2015

    There is no excuse why Buddhist dunno which are authentic sources in the jungle of many centres and even temples. If they are clueless and is sincere in learning from the RIGHT sources….just step into the Singapore Buddhist Federation as your first stop to Dharma.

    I have seen many cults even vegetarian ones who trumpet their compassionate efforts of their diet. Yet when it comes to the teachings…they do not refer to the tripitaka or the kangyur. Some have no qualms about changing the buddha sutras while expounding respect and filial piety to elders. If you can’t even respect the teacher and true teachings by checking your sources rather than hearsay or becos my friend say so…..how well can you respect yourself and your parents? Even the name of amitabha is being changed to 南无天元太保阿弥陀佛. How many people have you sent to hell with this?

    The penalty for changing buddhist sutras is Avichi Hell. Its likely King Yama will give a discount on this. How much more when parents just like parrots groom their kids to become followers and even spokesperson of cults. They are literally pushing their own kids to hell..not liberation.

  7. Voidness June 6, 2015

    Correction. Its unlikely King Yama will give a discount.

  8. Nameless June 6, 2015

    Cults are basically formed by people who dun believe in karma yet they need the brand of that religion to push their agendas whether for ego’s sake or money. Thats why they dare to preach one thing yet do another. For all we know…they dun even believe in the religion they represent. For all we know…they only believe what they want to believe their way or truth while using the skin of another faith as their cover.

  9. Goodwill Jones June 6, 2015

    When you are in a cult which the respective federations do not recognise. The next possible way to recognise it is through its believers. Its much easier this way. People will form their own self pepetuating cycles.

  10. Ishvaraja June 6, 2015

    有心入佛门却不努力入正门。这一世的人身等于努力也是白费的。因为你已经选择了成为魔的眷属与它的魔子魔孙。

  11. Pure Dignity June 9, 2015

    Cults have the best actors. When people or even teachers exposes them…they cry foul and once again…using the guise of their so called peace…high moral grounds….they accuse them of not behaving.

    The best proof of whether a faith is cult or not is very simple – if the leader acts blind, dumb and deaf despite seeing the wrong done in the name of keeping peace.

    In the first place…who is not keeping the peace and maintaining the order which prevents disorder by working towards the right cause?

    If their so called role model is a perfect example…it is the best example of building a world to harbour lies and wrong doing.

  12. Skarate June 9, 2015

    A world that harbour lies and evil has no TRUTH in order that the lies and evil may continue to flourish at your expense. This is exactly what evil hope to achieve becos you can lend them power and wealth.

  13. Darkseid June 9, 2015

    Darkness hates the light. Where there is light…there is no darkness. This is the same way with truth…that of upholding it and EXPOSING the darkness to light.

  14. Dhammagedon June 10, 2015

    Those who are truly interestd in the dharma will not create bad karma with it. Those who are not interested…they won’t even be bothered to learn or know and stay free from any knowledge. Only those who pretend to be interested as they are more interested who are more interested in their own veated interests would do the unthinkable. These people not only failed to receive the precious gift….in addition…they land themselves into woeful states and incur lifetimes of bad karma amd rebirths. This is not worth it.

  15. I hope they then can realize their mistakes and reform, so no need to descend into lower realms.
    ;-( ;-(

  16. Toothless October 23, 2015

    In this dharma ending age…while anyone can claim to have the truth. In fact, everyone can claim to have it. There is something more important than TRUTH. It is called MORALITY. 

    It is natural to assume truth and morality goes hand in hand but that is not quite the case. Without morality…whatever truth no matter how great would be as false as what it is lacking.

  17. Ng Xin Zhao January 27, 2016

    Is Bahai Faith really counted? It is recognized in many interfaith events…
    Sure as Buddhists, we know that their claim is nonsense.
    Is listing them as a cult does more harm than good in harmony?

  18. Re: Is Bahai Faith really counted? It is recognized in many interfaith events…

    Reply: That which misrepresents Buddhist teachings and propagates the misrepresentations should be listed.

    Re: Sure as Buddhists, we know that their claim is nonsense.

    Reply: Do all Buddhists know ‘their claim is nonsense’? What about non-Buddhists? Have all been surveyed? It is always good for all to know Bahai Faith does not represent true Buddhism.

    Re: Is listing them as a cult does more harm than good in harmony?

    Reply: The word ‘cult’ was not used for description at all. As above, that which misrepresents Buddhist teachings and propagates the misrepresentations should be listed. Their propagation and misrepresentations of Buddhist teachings surely does more harm than good in the name of inter-religious harmony?

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