Question: I understand that it is difficult to distinguish the right from wrong teachings of controversial teachers, that it is best to stop listening to their ‘Dharma’ talks to avoid undetected confusion. I came across the teachings of a certain teacher (e.g. XYZ) online, but am unsure if the teachings can be relied on. Is it safe to listen to them?
Answer: The honest truth is, there’s no way to ascertain straightforwardly, that any particular teacher’s teachings (other than the Buddha’s true teachings) are always 100% correct or wrong. Sometimes, unfortunately and shockingly, some well-known ‘teachers’ can make glaring or subtle mistakes, that they don’t seem to know, or are unwilling to resolve openly for various reasons, even after they are highlighted.
As such, we have to receive each teaching from each teacher, be they lay or monastic, with continual discerning wisdom, cross-checking with other teachers for their opinions, followed by personal reflection. We wish we can simply say teacher XYZ is perfect, but we can’t. It would be wrong and irresponsible to label any teacher as always okay when we can’t tell for sure, when not all the teachings have been completely given, learnt and reflected over. Only the Buddhas are perfect. A 2-hour talk by the teacher you mentioned was reviewed. In our unenlightened opinion, there are no major issues at the moment, though some teachings could be taught more coherently. We sincerely hope there will never be any genuine issues.