Relying upon refuge


“I . . . go for refuge to Buddha, dharma and sangha.”

With  everything that has been going on at some of our local centers, and in the upper echelons of our tradition, I am not that only one who has been questioning the status quo in the NKT.  Ours is perhaps one of the most controversial Buddhist groups due to Geshe-la’s open opposition to the Dalai Lama back in 90’s regarding the Dorje Shudgden controversy.  And there are also many other allegations, rumors, and possible lies are floating around the internet.  After a while you learn to tune them out and trust your own experience.

My own experience tells me that the NKT is a human institution.  And while the goal may be noble, it is run by people who are filled with delusions, like any other human institution. Monks and nuns whom we admire, some of whom we love as teachers, and are held out as living examples of moral discipline, can fall from grace and disrobe, often leaving in their trail devastated and confused students.  There are rules, roles and by-laws that are made and changed on a regular basis – not unlike the constant re-organization that goes on in a corporate environment.   At some centers (can’t speak for all) there is an unspoken division between those who are committed to the NKT and others who are not.  Sometimes  it can feel like high school with the cliques of the “in” kids who look on with pity (disguising itself as compassion) at those on the outside.  Even though we may all be striving for Buddhahood, it’s evident we’ve got a loooooong ways to go.

Lately, things have gotten hairy enough that it has caused me to question my reliance upon my spiritual guide, Geshe-la.  Normally, in my mind, he has been shielded from all the mistakes that are made in his name.  I know we’re supposed to have pure view, but that doesn’t mean we put on blinders.  

Part of the problem is my relationship with my own teacher.  Communication has broken down and the heart connection has been severely damaged.   I have stepped away to protect my own mind from what seemed like immenient implosion.  We still communicate.  I still help in areas where I can.  But, right now it feels like we’re on either side of a chain link fence – we can see each, talk to each other, but there is a protective distance.  Maybe at some point we can take down the fence, or maybe not.  It’s hard not having a teacher you can trust.  Yet, in some way it is a blessing in that I have to figure out what is right for me. 

When I meditate on all this, I always come back to refuge.  Neither Buddha nor dharma have let me down.  And while individuals may have let me down, I would also say that sangha hasn’t let me down either.  So, amidst all this turmoil, it is to the three jewel that I go for refuge, and find some peace.


3 responses »

  1. The mystery to me is the Sangha Jewel. Isn’t that everybody?

    In my most mind full of timez seems like the SJ iz everybody cuz either theyiz givin me shit witch makes me look at my own – or theyiz helping me out witch makes me wanna pass that along = sew seams like theyiz the onez thatz all wayz doin sum thin where az the Dharma and the Buddha kin sum timez seam like theyiz so subtle that they just get missed.

    As far as the purity of the teacherz goez = yeah they are human too so that means they are gonna fall short of perfection – but only an imperfect teacher can give perfect teachings to imperfect beings eh?

  2. Good points. As you know, Sangha can be defined all sorts of ways. I tend to go with the more casual definition of them being my Buddha buds – fellow travelers, if you will. But, yes, you’re right – the ones who bug you, who let you down, are just as valuable, if not more so, than the ones who make you feel comfy and safe.

    I don’t expect my teachers to be perfect. That would be foolish. My feelings about my current situation are complex, and I wonder which direction – towards her or away from her – will lead to greater spiritual growth. As the legendary band, The Clash, asked – “do I stay or do I go?”

  3. I don’t belong to the NKT. In my tradition the Sangha is not only the ordained, but the people who practice together in their Centre or temple. This can be extrapolated to all Buddhist practitioners, and then to non-Buddhists. We can learn from anybody and take refuge in many people, even if they aren’t Buddhist.

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