Are All Famous Buddhist Teachers Always Right?

Question: Master XYZ (not the real name) is a well known teacher respected by many. Does this mean that all of his/her teachings are truly Buddhist teachings?

Answer: It is difficult, if not impossible to say if all teachings of any one single person, other than the Buddha, are truly Buddhist teachings. This is so as some teachers interpret the Buddha’s teachings in their own ways, at times deviating from his actual messages. This is why we should learn the Buddha’s teachings directly from Buddhist scriptures, and refer to more than one commentary for more reliable interpretation and cross-reference of what the scriptures truly mean. This is best learnt through more than one teacher, also for cross-reference. The more we learn in this way open-mindedly, the more will be see the big picture of the Buddha’s true teachings and their details.

At other times, some teachers might be teaching non-Buddhist teachings, due to their other subjects of personal interest. These teachings might have nothing to do with the Buddha’s actual teachings at all, and might even deviate from them in spirit. As such, we need to discern all teachings we encounter with wisdom on a case by case basis – including the Buddha’s teachings, as encouraged by him! Since none of the teachers in our world today is a Buddha, wise discernment is all the more important. Even a famous and mostly good teacher can make mistakes occasionally. Thus, also as taught by the Buddha, we must remember to rely on his true teachings, instead of relying on any teacher’s personality (or status) blindly.

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