Criticizing our vajra brothers and sisters.
All those who have received a Tantric empowerment from the same Spiritual Guide are varja brothers and sisters, irrespective of whether they received the empowerments at the same time. If we criticize them with a bad motivation we incur a root downfall. If, however, our varja brother or sister has broken their Tantric vows and we criticize him or her, we do not incur an actual root downfall.
Within the modern Kadampa tradition, we view all of our empowerments as being granted by Geshe-la, even if it might appear to be some Resident Teacher or Gen-la sitting in front of us. So even if we received the empowerments from one teacher and somebody else within our tradition received them from somebody else, we are still both receiving them from Geshe-la, and so are Vajra brothers and sisters. Likewise, if the teacher from whom we receive the empowerment subsequently leaves the tradition or even disrobes in disgrace, it does not matter because Geshe-la hasn’t. Actually, we go deeper than that. We view the empowerment as being given by the living guru deity. The living Guru is the living Je Tsongkhapa, who enters into our teachers to grant the empowerments. But then Lama Tsongkhapa manifests himself as the deity of whom we are about to receive the empowerment, such as Tara, Vajrasattva, Heruka and Vajrayogini, and so forth.
What distinguishes friends from family is family endures as along as this life. Someone may cease to be my friend, but my children and parents never cease to be my family. For this reason, karmically speaking, we can say family is more important than friends. What distinguishes our normal families from our vajra family is our normal families are for this life alone, our vajra family is forever. For this reason, karmically speaking, we can say our vajra family is more important than our normal family. Our vajra family is with us in life after life, for all our future lives. Our vajra family shares a common project of working for as long as it takes to lead each and every being to the eternal bliss of enlightenment.
Venerable Tharchin says that the realizations of each individual practitioner is like a beacon of light within the darkness of the minds of all living beings. Though others may not see this light with their ordinary eyes, deep down within their mind they are drawn to it like a fish drawn to light in the depths of the sea. He said a Dharma center exists on two levels. The outer level is the physical building, statues, meditation cushions and flyers advertising our programs. The inner level is the collective realizations of the people who belong to that center. If we each hold a candle, it illuminates our surroundings, but if we all put our candles together, it forms a blazing sun illuminating all around. For this reason, he says, the most important thing in any Dharma center is not its financial accounts, but the harmony and mutual love that exists within the Sangha. It is this harmony and mutual love that puts the light of our realizations together into a blazing spiritual beacon drawing all within our community towards the center.
This also explains why it is so harmful to criticize our vajra brothers and sisters. When we do so, we create division within the Sangha. We destroy the harmony and mutual love that exists, re-separating our lights. It takes just one division to cut the intensity of the light in half. This harms not only our Sangha, but all those who would otherwise be drawn to the center by the light of our collective realizations. Even at an ordinary level, if people are bickering within the Sangha, it destroys the joy within the community. Kadam Lucy said when people come to a Dharma center they should find something that they find nowhere else in the world, namely people who genuinely love, accept and support one another. Where else in this world can we find this? But if instead, people come and discover we are just as petty as every other group, they will leave and the door to liberation will be closed to them.
This is not to say we should pretend everything is OK and not seek to confront and resolve our differences. Of course we need to do so. In fact, I would say that the problems and conflicts that exist between the members of any Sangha are in fact emanated by Dorje Shugden to give us an opportunity to work through them. It is by applying the Dharma we have learned that we can work through our differences and come to mutually love and respect one another. Some marriages last for many decades, and some only last for a few years or months. Why the difference? If you speak with long-standing, successful couples they will all tell you the same thing: they view working through their differences as an opportunity to draw closer to one another. Short-lived couples view their differences as sources of frustration and divergence. A Sangha lasts far longer than a few short decades, it is for eternity. We would be wise to work diligently to create genuine harmony, free from repressed delusion.
Geshe-la says somebody who cherishes others is like a magic crystal with the power to transform any community. May we all become such magic crystals within our local centers and within our global vajra family.