Scorning the Dharma of Sutra or Tantra.
If we criticize any teaching of Buddha, claiming that it is not the word of Buddha, and if someone else hears our criticism, we incur a root downfall. This also teaches that Tantric practitioners must respect Sutra teachings because Sutra is the foundation for all Tantric realizations.
It is unfortunately all too common for different religious traditions to criticize one another. Human history is replete with wars fought and lives destroyed as a result. The root of this problem is a lack of understanding of emptiness. If two religions say contradictory things, and both religions grasp at their being an objective truth, then one of them must be wrong or both of them are wrong, but both can’t be right. The zealots then get into all sorts of heated discussions about who is right and who is wrong, both claiming to have the monopoly on the truth. Meanwhile, neutral observers to these religious disputes conclude, “all religious people are nuts!”
If we understand emptiness, all of these problems go away. Virtue can be arrived at in a variety of different ways depending upon the karmic dispositions of the different followers. For some, a Christian presentation will work; for others, a Jewish presentation; for others a Muslim presentation, and so forth. All valid religions point in the same direction, but their presentation and explanation differ. This difference is not a problem, it is a gift of all of the holy beings. As a result, different people can be touched by different words that move them. Someone who doesn’t grasp at objective truth can say, “your teachings work for you, my teachings work for me, and even though they seem contradictory, this is not a problem at all. You have your bread, I have mine.”
Our heart commitment to Dojre Shugden is to “follow one tradition purely without mixing, while respecting all other traditions as valid for those who follow them.” On the surface, this can seem like a contradictory statement. If we are following only one tradition, aren’t we implicitly rejecting all others, and thus becoming sectarian? No, not at all. We are not rejecting these other traditions for other people, we are just saying we drink a different cup of tea. Our choice of one tea does not in any way imply other teas are less good in some universal sense. Rather it just says, “for me, this is what I like. You order what you like, and we all can be happy for each other.”
The analogy I like to give is of a burning room. Imagine you are in a giant burning room, and there are many different doorways out. What should you do? You should find the doorway nearest you, and head straight out. You don’t head towards one door, then another, then another, because then you remain forever in the burning room. You don’t head towards the average of two doors, because then you bang into the wall. You don’t head towards all doors simultaneously, because then you will be split in many directions at once. No, you find the door nearest to you, and you head straight out. Your choice of one door doesn’t in any way deny the validity of any of the other doors, and if you see your friend closer to a different door, you encourage them to head out the door closest to them. This is exactly what the flight attendants ask us to do in the event of an emergency.
In exactly the same way, if you find yourself trapped in the burning room of samsara, and there are many different doors (spiritual paths) out, what should you do? You should find the one that is karmically nearest to you, and head straight out. The one karmically nearest to you is the one that speaks to you most clearly, the one that moves your heart the most, and the one that seems complete (in other words, it actually leads out). You don’t follow one path, then another, then another, because then you never get out. You don’t follow the average of two paths because that doesn’t lead to a door out. You don’t follow all paths simultaneously because that spiritually splits you into many parts. No, you find the path that karmically is closest to you and you head straight out. Your choice of one path doesn’t in any way deny the validity of the other paths. If you see your friend karmically closer to another path, say Christianity, then you encourage them to follow their path sincerely and purely. We each follow our own path, and even if they seem to be heading in opposite directions, in reality they all lead us out of the same burning room.
It is terribly negative karma to criticize another spiritual tradition. Why is that? Because when you do so, you destroy the faith of another person in what is otherwise a perfectly valid path. If that path works for them, meaning it is helping them become a better person, then to sabotage that is to destroy that person’s spiritual life. They might wind up losing faith in all paths and reject spirituality altogether. Crises of faith are extremely painful things, and ultimately our criticism is based solely on our delusion finding fault in something that encourages virtue. If we were sick with a cold, do we go around and sneeze in other people’s faces? No, we cover our mouth and turn the other way because we don’t want to get other people sick. In the same way, if we have a critical attitude towards the spiritual path of another, what gives us the right to go in there and start sneezing our critical attitude in everybody’s faces? We might self-righteously claim we are protecting these poor innocent people from being misled down wrong paths. But can we honestly say we know the minds of others to know that this other path is not exactly what they need? Who made us the spiritual police? How does our attitude make us any different than Spanish Inquisition?
The correct attitude is to rejoice in the virtue of others, regardless of whether what motivates it is the teachings of our tradition or something else in complete contradiction with our tradition. Even if it seems a very goofy and esoteric system of belief, if the end result is people acting in more virtuous ways, more loving ways, more compassionate ways, more wise ways, then let people be. Even when others criticize us, our teachers, our traditions, we should never retaliate in kind. We should never criticize their spiritual teachings. We can say, “your teachings work for you, mine work for me, let’s all respect one another and co-exist peacefully and in harmony.” Conflict comes when everybody has to hold the same view. Harmony comes when everyone can hold their own view, and nobody tries to impose their view on anybody else.