[With the] causal ground [or direction] not true [at the start, the] fruit [or effect] attracted [will be with] twists and turns, [away from the true goal].
– Śākyamuni Buddha
Are There New Paths To Buddhahood?
An aspiring Buddhist says he knows a so-called ‘Buddhist’ teaching by a so-called ‘Buddhist’ teacher does not follow any orthodox path, but that it is why he feels attracted to it. How should this be viewed? Well, anyone who is not a Buddha, who claims to have come up with a teaching for reaching Buddhahood, that does not abide by the Buddha’s teachings, is surely not offering the Buddha’s actual teachings. Yet there is pretending to do so, by riding upon the prominent ‘branding’ that Buddhist culture has. Some of these teachers might seem sincere but have deluded themselves and their followers into thinking they are on a unique path known only by themselves.
The Chinese term for this phenomenon of promoting what does not accord with the time-tested (teachings of the Buddha) is ‘标新立异’ – to deliberately be unconventional, to start something new and different, to seem special. This is primarily done to highlight one’s so-called ‘ingenuity’, to outshine the Buddha himself, yet while basking in the light of his renown for respectability. All unorthodox teachers will strive to appear very different, with exclusive teachings, so as to differentiate themselves from the rest – the orthodox, who are regarded as deluded instead. Thus, the more appealing teachers are, the more discerning we should be for their authenticity.
With what taught, learnt and practised, that cannot be considered as equal to true Buddhism, it is thus unable to lead to Buddhahood. It is simply a different path with different, and possibly spiritually dangerous (and disastrous) results. As Buddhists, if we already see the Buddha-to-be our fundamental and supreme teacher, why should we even imagine that a non-Buddha is able to come up with a superior path to Buddhahood, that the Buddha did not teach, when he is the actual spiritual genius with immeasurable skilful means? How could the perfectly enlightened one miss it? As this is impossible, it means those who suggest so are definitely misrepresenting him.
Unorthodox teachers often put words in the Buddha’s mouth, claiming to know what he did not say or what he was ‘trying’ to say. This is as if they are ‘greater’ than him, which is easily disproved with their inability to pass two tests. First, as the Buddha has full mastery over matter, only he can display the Twin Miracle – of levitating in the air above ground, while sprouting water and fire simultaneously, interchangeably from the upper and lower halves of his body, or his left and right. Second, with full mastery of mind, he has all-knowing wisdom (and knowledge), even able to instantly know the number of leaves in a forest. Can such teachers pass either test? Of course not, as they are neither Buddhas nor ‘greater’.
With their numbers warned to be like that of fine grains of sand, how do so many false ‘Buddhist’ teachings thrive on, continuing to attract many followers? Well, for fame and gain, their unorthodox paths (i.e. warped teachings) are increasingly designed to appeal to the masses. As none of these teachers follow the Buddha’s actual teachings properly, they are truly distorters; not teachers of Buddhism. The Buddha even reminded us that in this era, Mara’s minions will don monastic robes to confuse Buddhists. Thus, no one should be considered Buddhist by mere appearances or unprovable claims; but only by their adherence to the Buddha’s teachings in practice.
Rather to, [in] one thousand years, not awaken, never to, [in] one day, [take a] wrong path.*
– Buddhist Saying
*As following a wrong teaching can lead one astray for a much longer time over many lifetimes, making it even much harder to find the right path.