Vows, commitments and modern life: Precepts of aspiring bodhichitta, abandoning pretention

Not to pretend to have good qualities or hide our faults without a special, pure intention.

There was a time within the tradition when it was quite common for people to pretend to be better than they actually were, especially if they were teachers or key officers in a center.  Many many people did this for what seemed like a good reason.  They allowed others to refer to them as “Buddhas,” and “having miracle powers,” etc., because they thought doing so helped the student develop faith, and with faith they would then gain more realizations.  So they allowed such views to develop among the students.  The results of this were predictably disastrous.

For the students, it tied them in all sorts of really strange knots where the teacher would be making some fairly obvious mistakes, but the student would have to try say it was actually correct because they needed to “maintain pure view.”  This caused students to repress their criticisms of their teacher, which far from increasing their faith served as a cancer gradually destroying any and all faith.  For the teachers, this was likewise terrible because they had to keep up this charade of being some holy being so they too had to repress their delusions (which just made them worse) and it deprived them of having any refuge of being able to go to their sangha friends when they had problems.  There were quite a few very high profile teachers who self-destructed due to this dynamic.  For those who were neither teachers nor regular students, this all seemed very strange and cult-like.  They were not fooled by the teacher’s pretentions so they had no faith, and seeing the slavish and strange sychophantry of the students made people think they had found some cult. 

Probably a good 10 years ago, Geshe-la tried to put an end to this bizarre dynamic.  He explained that our local teachers should be viewed as Sangha jewels, not Buddha jewels.  This was a monumental change, because up until that time it was standard practice to try view our local teachers as Buddha jewels.  He explained that when our teachers appear to make mistakes we should go speak with them explaining our view with an open mind, and then through a healthy discussion either the teacher would realize their mistake or the student would develop a better understanding by seeing the teacher’s actions through a different lens.  There is still within the NKT some residual of this old way of doing things, but it is quickly fading away.  Now we are all practitioners doing our best and having a good laugh at ourselves and our own delusions.

This wrong view emerged from a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to maintain pure view.  Pure view does not mean we view everything as perfect on the side of the object itself, rather it means we learn how to view everything – the good, the bad and the ugly – in a perfect way.  Good, bad and ugly are still good, bad and ugly, but no matter what is appearing it can be perfectly beneficial for our practice.  Viewing everything, even mistakes, as teachings enables us to receive perfect benefit from whatever appears.  This is viewing things in a perfect way.  So we can still call a spade a spade (say what is wrong is in fact wrong), but identifying it as wrong is not a problem for us because it teaches us something valuable.  If we view everything in a perfect way, then for us everything will be perfect, not because what is happening is perfect on the side of the object but because we know how to receive perfect benefit from whatever arises.  Pure view exists only on the side of the mind (or at least it starts there). 


4 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Precepts of aspiring bodhichitta, abandoning pretention

  1. Perfect?? Not too sure about the use of the word.

    We cannot view anything perfectly, until Buddha hood. This is because of the subtle types and levels of self-grasping. I understand the connotation and angle you are providing but I would still be careful to put an assumed standard or condition to gaining maximum benefit.

    I think there is an epidemic of practitioners wanting to do things ‘perfectly’ yet fall short and on the basis of this judge themselves against an unrealistic benchmark.

    What you are saying is different I know but it’s a subtle observation.

    What does it mean to view things in a perfect way? Your perfect and my perfect would be different from the subjective experience of a high Bodhisattva’s. To derive maximum benefit ‘at that time’ would be close. Since ultimately, objects are essentially timeless, like mind. Our mistakes of the past can be viewed perfectly at that time, and we learn something then. Again, further on our capacity changes and our perfect view changes again and we ‘see’ something different from the apparent same event.

    So pure view is impermanent. Changing. Its fruit is expansive and fleeting, it’s benefit is changing, never fixed. A perfect unchanging blissful view will establish itself over-time on the path of no more learning, until then our learning and hunger to benefit will be sustained by pure view.


  2. I meant to say, apparently, a perfect unchanging blissful view will establish itself over-time and then on the path of no more learning, we ourselves will not need to benefit from our perfect view yet we will create the karma with others by seeing them perfectly as Buddhas. Apparently, at this time the enlightened mind sees past, present and future simultaneously. Our pure view should aspire to seeing the end result ie a being on the path of no more learning but until then we are learning.

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