Home » Features » Why Denounce Precept-Breaking ‘Buddhist Teachers’?

吾般涅槃后,
汝等当恭敬,
波罗提木叉,
即是汝大师。

–《佛所行赞》
(马鸣菩萨著)

After my Parinirvāṇa [i.e. of Śākyamuni Buddha],
you and others should have reverent respect,
for the Prātimokṣa [i.e. list of precepts
governing monastic conduct taught],
[as it] is your great teacher.

– Buddhacarita; Praise Of Acts Of The Buddha
(Aśvaghoṣa Bodhisattva) 

In one of his final teachings… Then, the Tathāgata [Śākyamuni Buddha] told Ānanda [and all in the assembly], “You should not see my entering of Parinirvāṇa to simply be called the right Dharma, hereat, being forever ended. Why is this so? I, in the past, for all Bhikṣus [and Bhikṣunis], established precepts for the Prātimokṣa. And with more said, on all kinds of wonderful Dharma [teachings], these [together] are then you and others’ great teacher, [just] like when I am in this world, [they are] without [any] difference.” (Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra: Śākyamuni Buddha) 尔时如来告阿难言,”汝勿见我入般涅槃便谓正法于此永绝。何以故?我昔为诸比丘,制戒波罗提木叉。及余所说种种妙法,此即便是汝等大师,如我在世,无有异也。”《大般涅槃经:释迦牟尼佛》

Being a perfect teacher, the Buddha already ensured that all crucial teachings had been taught, which means what left to be done by us is to put them into diligent practice, so as to progress towards Buddhahood. This quote reminds us that the existence of the right Dharma in our world truly ends when there is disinterest or wilful ignoring of the moral precepts. Although addressing monastics, this applies to lay precepts too, and how both monastic and lay communities should relate to each other. To neglect the Dharma on discipline would be direct betrayal of the Buddha!

In the Buddhist community, between teachers and students, be they monastic or lay, the relevant precepts and other related teachings taught by the Buddha should always be referred to for reflection when there are matters of contention, to decide if actions and principles accord with the Dharma or not. On all troubling issues major and minor, discussion should be thorough.

Even if some claim that how some matters are handled was handed down by a teacher, or even that teacher’s teacher, which makes it ‘allowable’, the precepts still should be the gauge of their actual ‘allowability’. If not, anything goes, and all precepts might as well be renounced! Good teachers will abide by the precepts, and urge their students to do likewise, never excusing anyone.

Some feel that they should accord with their teachers’ teachings, even if it means breaking some precepts. However, we should all have the precepts as our default teacher (以戒为师), which is what the Buddha clearly taught. This means the authority of the precepts as our teacher precedes the authority of any other teachers, all the more so if they do not behave and teach accordingly.

If a teacher fails even to lay and stand firmly upon the foundation stone of morality personally, there is no way to urge students to do the same. If abiding by the precepts, yet labelled by the teacher’s supporters as traitors, or even influenced by demons, it is more likely the other way round – as Māra and his minions are those who urge overlooking and betraying of the precepts. 

To silent criticism, often used by cults is followers’ fear of creating grave negative karma, from ‘slander’ of the ‘teacher’. However, reasonable questioning is not slander at all, while it is slander to accuse questioners of slander! If tricked to be students of problematic ‘teachers’, there is of course no need to blindly obey these liars for life. There should be swift departure to warn others!

No guru is so special that he or she is above the Dharma (which includes the precepts) taught by the Buddha. Even the Buddha abides by the precepts he taught! As it was unequivocally taught by the Buddha that the precepts represent his presence after his Parinirvāṇa, all who ignore them do not truly take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Saṅgha, (all of whom live by the precepts).

Remembering Śākyamuni Buddha as our fundamental teacher, as the original and perfect source of all Dharma teachings, if there are contradictions between any teacher’s conduct and the precepts, the precepts are always judge and jury. If even the Buddha’s basic teachings on morality are not valued by a teacher, how valuable can such a teacher be?

Precepts neglected means conduct unaccounted for, that can involve unaccounted money matters, secret sex scandals and latent power struggles. All corruption begins relatively small, with lack of receipts and reports on takings and expenditures. Being a religion for truth, it is alright to ask for fair transparency, and to report to authorities if refused, to prevent more from being tricked. 

We need to rely on good-knowing friends (善知识) as teachers, but prior to that is ensuring that teachers shortlisted have the qualities worthy of our confidence and reverence. Guru devotion that ‘sees a teacher to be like a Buddha’ (视师如佛) only applies after much mindful observing and questioning, to see if he or she behaves and teaches purely. For blind followers, any ‘guru’ will do!

Some ‘gurus’ are privately ‘recognised’ as ‘tülkus’ (reborn masters) too, for power and control of organisations (or even jumpstarting them), without getting proper relevant lineages’ senior masters’ endorsements. Always beware of false ‘spiritual credentials’ that arise too casually and suspiciously. Seek further opinions too, through other respected teachers, to clarify and mediate.

However, truly problematic teachers’ organisations will tend to question the questions, offer smokebomb non-replies to obfuscate the issues, or simply brush aside all questions. Yet, haunting issues will haunt on, awaiting to be exorcised with clear explanations. The more the years go by, the more obvious it becomes that timebombs of ugly truths are hidden, awaiting to explode.

If even the Buddha was open to being questioned, what more should non-Buddhas be? Only fake ‘gurus’ evade questions with threats that negative karma will be created when doubts about their integrity are raised. If even the Buddha clarified misrepresentation of his teachings and character personally, how can we trust his so-called ‘spokespersons’, if they simply rubbish sincere enquiries?

Upon closer look, there are already adequate qualified answers in the Buddha’s teachings, that address ‘contentious’ issues. Yet, even when expressed by other well-meaning teachers, problematic teachers tend to ask their followers to simply trust them fully, and to not even look into others’ right views. This essentially is a most unreasonable request to ignore the precious Dharma! 

Buddhists must be absolutely clear, that just as the Buddha realised the Dharma and continued to take refuge in it even after attaining Buddhahood, our first, ongoing and final focus of loyalty is the right Dharma itself. Any ‘guru’ devotion then, that asks to forsake devotion to the Dharma is surely not a practice that leads to Buddhahood. Such ‘gurus’ automatically disqualify their own status!

True ‘guru’ devotion is not loyalty with blind faith. It also means having compassion for ‘gurus’ gone astray, by addressing their faults to awaken them – for their good and those misguided by them. No one should become so emotionally attached that they lose their reason, to rationalise for the non-Dharma at all costs, which will harm more, while creating negative karma bound for hell!

我成佛来,
所说经戒,
即是汝护,
是汝所持。

–《游行经》
(释迦牟尼佛)

I, [having] accomplished Buddhahood since,
[of] spoken Sūtras [with Dharma teachings] and precepts,
[they] are [for] you to protect [and ‘for your protection’],
[and] are what you should uphold [for practice].

– Mahāparinibbāna Sutta; Sūtra On Travels
(Śākyamuni Buddha)

Related Articles:

HHDL’s Q&A With Chinese Buddhists On Priority Of Precepts (12.07.17)
https://www.facebook.com/DharmaProtectors/posts/332660300521528:0
Dalai Lama Denounce Ethical Misconduct By Buddhist Teachers
https://www.lionsroar.com/dalai-lama-denounce-ethical-misconduct-by-buddhist-teachers

Who Should We Learn The Dharma From?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2017/05/who-should-we-learn-the-dharma-from
Are All In ‘Monastic’ Robes Beyond Question?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2017/06/are-all-in-monastic-robes-beyond-question
The Four Reliances
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2015/04/the-four-reliances-2
What Does The Buddha Take Refuge In?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2011/05/what-does-the-buddha-take-refuge-in
BW’s Burning Issues (16 English-Chinese Links)
https://www.facebook.com/DharmaProtectors/
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2 Responses to “Why Denounce Precept-Breaking ‘Buddhist Teachers’?”

  1. George Metesky August 12, 2017

    This is true wisdom here and all should consider it. It saddens me to relate that the United States has false teachers aplenty, which many don’t realize. The scandals over the years too numerous to relate. Be careful whom you trust.

    Amitabha, George

  2. cultbuster October 3, 2017

    In Chinese, as translated, from https://ladakh2017cn.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/foryou1

    为何要出言谴责破戒的师长?

    吾般涅槃后,
    汝等当恭敬,
    波罗提木叉,
    即是汝大师。

    –《佛所行讚》
    (马鸣菩萨著)

    佛陀涅槃之前,对阿难与众弟子进行最后的教诫时说:「汝勿见我入般涅磐便谓正法于此永绝。何以故?我昔为诸比丘,制戒波罗提木叉。及余所说种种妙法,此即便是汝等大师,如我在世,无有异也。」《大般涅槃经:释迦牟尼佛》

    佛陀是最圆满的老师,并已将最重要的教授流传于世。所以我们所应该做的,就是努力实践这些教授,以趣向佛果。以上所引述的经典提醒我们,在人们忽略、无视于正确的教授与戒律的情况下,正法才会永绝于世间。佛陀的这些教授虽是对出家人所言,但其中的原则也应用于持戒的在家众,以及出家众、在家众之间的互动。若于行持上无视于正法,便辜负了佛陀的谆谆教诲!

    无论出家或在家的师徒之间,若事有争议,都应该以佛陀的教授与所製的戒律为准则,来判断如法与不如法的行为。一切大小诤事中,应进行全面性和深入的探讨。

    即便有人声称,某种做法乃是某位师长、祖师所允许的,这样的做法是否为佛法所「允许」,还须以戒律为准。否则所有的行为都可因此而开许,完全摒弃了戒律!若是真正如法的师长,一定会遵循戒律并勉励弟子依之而行,不应有任何例外。

    有些人认为,与其以遵守戒律为至关紧要,更应该遵循师长的教诫。实际上,我们皆应如佛陀所教诫,以戒为师。这意味著遵守戒律的重要性远超于遵守任何师长的重要性,更何况不依戒行持的师长。

    戒律既然是一切言行的最高准则,若师长本身的行持不严谨地持守戒律,自然更是无法如此勉励弟子。有些师长与其信众自己不严守戒律,却批评依戒而行的人为叛徒、受魔干扰等等,实际上乃是真正已入魔道的人——唆使人们违犯戒律,乃是魔王与其魔子魔孙的行为。

    有些邪教为了阻止他人发表对己不利的批评,常常对信众灌输的想法是:「诽谤师长」乃是十分严重的恶业,对此要深深恐惧。但我们需要注意的一点是,合理客观的提问、探讨并非诽谤,肆意抹黑这些提出问题的人才是真正的诽谤者!倘若受人蒙蔽而依止不具德的「师长」,自然就无须永远盲目地信从,更应该速即离开、警戒他人!

    修为再高的师长,也不能凌驾于佛陀所教导的正法与戒律之上。佛陀本身也遵守他所教导的戒律!就如佛陀所教诫的,戒律乃是在佛涅槃之后常住于世间的存在,因此无视于戒律的人没有真实地归依三宝。

    释迦牟尼佛是一切圆满教法的源头,也是我们的根本师长,因此我们应当谨记:若有师长的言行不符合戒律,应以戒律为判断的准则。倘若佛陀的基本道德教诫都不为一名师长所重视,这名师长到底有何可信度?

    无视于戒律,往往也意味着言行上的过失——金钱流向上的不明、隐秘不法的男女关系、争权夺利的行为等等。一个团体的腐败与堕落都从小事开始发生,或是捐款时不开收据,或是款项出入的不明。佛教既然是追求真理的宗教,信众可以要求团体增进财务透明度,并适当地向相关当局提出调查的请求,以免更多人受蒙蔽。

    我们需要依靠善知识,但在此之前更应该确保这些师长乃是真正具德的善知识。「视师如佛」的依止法,只应在长时间的观察后修行,以确定师长行持教诫都是清净如法的。绝不应随便对任何「上师」盲从!

    有些「上师」被私下认证为祖师大德的转世,实际上往往是为了控管或开立某些宗教团体,而没有相关传承祖师的认证。以这些所谓的「认证转世」来提高其证量的可信度,太过轻易随便地得来,必须十分谨慎地看待。若有需要,亦应寻求其他可靠善知识的看法,对这样的「认证量」作出相关的澄清与探讨。

    但常常发生的一件事是,有严重问题的「上师」与团体往往不会直视外人或信众的问题,同时以模糊不清、避重就轻的回答对许多相关的问题避而不谈,甚至根本不愿意面对。但这些疑团终究会持续地环绕整个团体,等待有澄清的一天。年复一年,被隐藏的真相终究会有大白的一天,乃至会完完全全爆发而显露无遗。

    倘若连佛陀都让弟子提出问题、质疑,更何况非佛者?只有「伪上师」会以「恶业」为由对种种问题避而不谈,用以威胁信众、绑架其思想。若有人对佛陀的教诫与操行加以扭曲,佛陀况且会亲自澄清;若师长对于诚心的提问一味进行抨击,又如何能够信任?

    其实,对于具有争议的议题,佛陀的教诫里都已有充分的解释。但即使其他善知识对这些事情提出善意的提醒,伪上师往往让弟子信任自己就好,对于他人的正确见解根本不要思索、探讨。无视于法,乃是最不合情理的要求!

    佛教徒必须要清楚,连佛陀在领悟到佛法、成就佛果以后,自己况且归依法宝;我们从始至终的正归依应该就是正法。若有「依止法」要求弟子放弃对于「法」的正归依,肯定无法引领人们趣向佛果。这样的「上师」实在不攻自破!

    真正的依止法并非盲从或愚忠。正确的依止法,对于迷失方向的「上师」抱持悲悯心,并正视他/她们的过失、唤醒他/她们,让这些所谓的「上师」与其弟子可回归正道。我们不应为了人情而失去理智,而不计代价地把非法扭曲为正法,因为这样只能带来更大的伤害,让我们造下堕地狱的恶业!

    我成佛来,
    所说经戒,
    即是汝护,
    是汝所持。

    –《遊行经》
    (释迦牟尼佛)

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