THE CAUSE OF BUDDHA’S TEACHINGS BEING DESTROYED: DISPUTES BASED ON ATTACHMENT AND AVERSION: 8th Karmapa on the dangers of religious sectarianism and harmful disputes based on arrogance, pride and jealousy (17th Karmapa Spring Teachings 2023, Day 6)

“We take it that everyone in our lineage is practising in accord with the Dharma and everyone in our own lineage is excellent. However, in actuality, we need to examine and see are they really good like that though? The way we examine this is if the monastics and lamas in that tradition are good; how do we know they are good? They have greater and greater respect ་and pure perception for the lamas and teachings of other lineages and their attachment and aversion is much lesser. If this is happening, that is a sign that the people in your own Dharma lineage have a good view and way of thinking.”

“What are the causes for the Buddha’s teachings to perish? This is something the Buddha himself spoke about in his lifetime. The main cause for his teachings to be destroyed is when the people who uphold the teachings no longer get along with each other. Saying things like  “I am in accord with the teachings and you have mistaken them, and are very bad.” When you say it to another person, they then say it back and neither can accept it. So, in the end, there will be no one you can point to and say this is Buddha’s teachings. That is the danger that will happen.”

–17th Karmapa (Day 6, Spring Teachings 2023)


On Day Six of the Spring Teachings, HH 17th Gyelwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje continued teaching on the autobiographical Excellent Deeds by 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje.

This teaching focused particularly on the dangers of disputes within the Buddhist community, motivated by pride, arrogance, attachment and aversion. In particular, sectarian disputes among the Buddhist schools, thinking one is better than another and so on. Buddha himself taught that his teachings would be destroyed and disappear, not due to outside or violent forces, but from within by such sectarianism and disputes.

The 17th Karmapa explained the signs of whether a teacher or group are practising the Dharma or not, as being whether they have strong sectarianism or not. Or if a person’s afflictions increased after they started following that teacher and becoming part of that community. The reason being, a good teacher will be helping students to reduce their bias, afflictions and sectarianism. If a student is getting more angry, jealous and biased that is a sign the teacher and the community are not a good one. If the students are becoming pacified and praising other teachers and lineages, that is a sign they are really practising the Buddha Dharma.

The Karmapa explained that sadly this is something most people are doing these days. In the Karma Kamtsang there are also disputes about who is the real Karma Kagyu and who is not. He explained that can lead to a situation where no-one knows who is the real Karma Kamtsang.

Sadly, the Karmapa said at the end of the teaching that: “Whenever I am about to start a teaching, all of sudden I do not feel well. There is some sort of an obstacle there.” and suggested that we recite Tara and the Heart Sutra to help overcome any obstacles to the teachings.

So, may we all practice Tara and recite the Heart Sutra, and also the Wangdu Aspiration Prayer (as the Karmapa has requested) for the 17th Karmapa’s long life and to help him and Karma Kagyu overcome these obstacles and hindrances.

Music? Marvin Gaye’s Save The Children and God Bless the Child by Billie Holiday.

May we all learn how to peacefully and respectfully agree to disagree and be tolerant of different viewpoints, cultures and respect the physical boundaries, privacy and rights of all sentient beings, women, children and animals.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 21st April 2023.

8th Karmapa’s Excellent Deeds
17th Karmapa Spring Teachings 2023 (Day 6)

At this point, we are speaking about the Autobiographical Verses of 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, the Excellent Deeds. In total, there are 33, and today I will speak about the 28th Excellent Deed. 

If we speak aJbout it according to the outline of Sangye Peldrup’s commentary on the meaning, we are at this section of the outline.  I did speak about this a bit the other day, but there is still more I would like to say. The root verse for this topic is:

We need to hide other people’s faults and see our own

“When we see other people’s faults like this, first of all you need to immediately turn the attention inwards and think “Oh, seeing someone else’s fault is that a sign of envy I have in my own mind and have a kind of negative way of viewing other people? Is it because of that, or does that person really have that fault?” This is what we really need to do. It is very important to have at least some doubt or suspicion that it might be like that. If you don’t even have a doubt and we see faults in others, and say immediately they have a fault and disparage them for that, for a Dharma practitioner, that is not alright. If you are not a Dharma practitioner it is a different matter. If you are not, you don’t have any wish to practice, and you are doing some sort of other work, that’s a different situation. 

That is why it is said that whatever faults you see in someone else you should try to hide. In the Hundred Instructions of Mikyo Dorje, it says:  in particular, with regard to our own school or group, its tenets and the people who uphold it, whether they are monastics or laypeople, if we think the school and our own side is good and the other groups are not at good, then actually these disputes due to attachment and aversion is actually the worst kind of all and the greatest misdeed. 

It really is like this actually. For example, if there is someone on your side, then whatever they do, you see it as being excellent. Whatever someone in another side/faction does you see it as a fault. actually, the way things really are, that is not possible. It is not possible that everyone in your own group is good and right, and that the other group is bad, but that is how we see it.  The reason why we see it like that is because we have attachment and aversion. Attachment to our own side and aversion to the other. 

If they are people whom we like, no matter what they do we see it as being good, that is how it is right? So if there is a person you really like, then no matter what that person does it always look beautiful and good. If one day you start to dislike them then whatever they do you see it as ugly and bad. So, for that reason, we have a very strong power of attachment and aversion in our mind. The power of the strength or energy of it is very strong, and that changes the way we see everything. So, before we look at other people, the first thing we need to do, is turn our attention inwards. When we see other people as good as bad, it is because of the attachment and aversion in our minds, the afflictions. We need to examine and check is it because of that attachment and aversion that we see it like that, or because of some other situation?”

Religious sectarianism and bias towards one’s own lineage and school

To summarise it basically, the disputes that arise due to attachment and aversion are the biggest and worst kind of disputes, and they are the biggest problem. In particular, the moment we begin to practice what is in accord with genuine Dharma, we must understand that just the way the people in their own schools consider that they are good and practice is good, the same is true of the other schools. We need to see that they are all the same. We take it that everyone in our school is practising in accord with the Dharma and everyone in our own school is excellent. However, in actuality, we need to examine and see are they really good like that though? The way we examine this is if the monastics and lamas in that tradition are good, then how do we know they are good? Then they have greater and greater respect and pure perception for the lamas and teachings of other lineages and attachment and aversion is much lesser. If this is happening, then this is a sign that the people in your own Dharma lineage have a good view and thinking.

If you say that your own lineage/school does not match with any other lineages and do not get along with them. If there is a lot of sectarianism, it is like there are thorns in between them, then no matter how good it looks on the outside, it is a sign of it not actually being good. Your own lineage and the lamas and monastics in your lineage no matter how good they are, their attachment and aversion should be decreasing, they should have purer outlook to other people and be more respectful. If it is other than that, then what some people think is that their own side is excellent and good, that there are more of us in our school, our power and resources are greater, we have better education and you think that you are totally suppressing and overwhelming all the other lineages. They say they overwhelm the other schools, yet they cannot even open their eyes and look at us. So, this is how we sometimes see it. 

Moreover, we see our Dharma lineages as good and think that proving they are good, is a way of proving that other schools are bad. If we do this, and think our lineage is really special and important, and praise it like that, it is not in accord with Buddhism or matches the Buddha’s teachings. It is difficult to say they are actually lineages of the Buddha’s teachings and that people who uphold them are upholders of a Buddhist lineage.  Not only does it not match the teachings, it is like pretending that  a lineage is a Dharma lineage when it is not, that people who are not masters of a Dharma lineage are.  This actually is a way of abandoning the Dharma. It is the work without having a method. 

In brief, in this life, when we enter the gate of the Dharma, we encounter the Dharma. When we do that, no-one thinks I want to meet a false or bad teacher. People think they want to meet an excellent  teacher. Likewise, they want to encounter an excellent lineage and instructions. This is what we all hope and wish for. We never say “May I meet a bad guru; may I encounter bad Dharma.” No-one wants that to happen.  

Tibetan Buddhist monks debating Buddhist philosophy

“The reason why we need to meet with excellent Dharma and excellent gurus, the main aim is in order to pacify conflict based on attachment and aversion. In the world, we have many different pointless debates because of attachment and aversion, due to jealousy, greed and hatred creates a lot of conflict. There is no meaning or point to them.  You need to feel revulsion for disputes that come out of attachment and aversion. You look for someone, a great individual, who is going to help you reduce your attachment and aversion. In other words, we are looking for Dharma and gurus in order to be free of attachments and aversions. That is the main aim. 

If we say we are practising the Dharma, but in actuality our attachment and aversion are growing stronger. If the individual before they entered the Dharma was a kind of gentle person and not a lot of attachment and aversion, yet then later they have a lot of bias and sectarianism, and say ‘my school and my lama’ and ‘your school and your guru’, with greater attachment and aversion, that does not become Dharma practice. That is not a method to accomplish liberation. That is a way to accomplish samsara and the lower realms.  In fact, it is mixing up what we are trying to achieve. What we should try to attain is liberation but instead we are practising to attain samsara and the lower realms.  We need to reduce our attachment and aversion but instead it grows stronger. Our jealousy gets stronger.  If this is how it is, then we could say it is the worst of all mistakes. The way we are doing the practice is completely mistaken.”

Turning medicine into poison – Jowo Atisha on Dharma debates based on attachment and aversion
Jowo Atisha

“There are some stories from the Kadampa lamas, they are oral tales passed down by the Kadampa gurus to each other, this is an actual situation not a fictional story. What happened was that Jowo Atisha was staying in Nyethang, this is near Lhasa, and so in the latter part of his life, he mainly stayed in that area of Nyethang. At that time some lamas had gathered to talk about the Dharma. They invited Atisha to come and discuss the Dharma, so he thought they will probably have really good discussions so we should go and look and see what is going on. So, Atisha went. When he went at that time, when he got to the place where the gathering, there Kuton Tsondru Yungrung (khu ston brtson ’grus g.yung drung, 1011-1075) was a student of Atisha. He was very well-known but he had a bit of a strange character but was learned. So, there was a person there who was known as one of the people who participated in the revival of the Buddhist discipline there Lumey, who perhaps other people held in high regard. There were many people including different scholars there, including Kuton Tsondru Yungdrung. At that time, they basically said, “when you know how good a horse is, you need to look at their mouths. By pulling open their mouth. Similarly, if you want to know if a monk is good or not, you need to prod them a little bit and make them a little bit angry to see if they are a good monk or not.” What happened is that people thought they had qualities, had pride and said things that really denigrated other people, and the discussion degenerated into a conflict. People there were thinking “I am better, and you are worse.” and so on. They were all comparing each other and got into a big dispute. They were almost at the point where they were going to throw punches at each other. 

So Jowo Je got very upset and left. He went back to Nyethang. The second day, the discussion was supposed to last a few days. His attendants asked him if he was going to go to the Dharma gathering again. Atisha replied, “I am not going today.” according to Dromtonpa. He said he did not want to go because Dharma discussion should pacify attachment and aversion that cause obstacles that prevent us from achieving true wisdom. It  should decrease our attachment and aversion. We have to look at how can we pacify  and decrease the afflictions that prevent us from achieving wisdom. That is what we need to discuss. The way they are doing it, is not right. 

For example, it is like taking medicine but turning into poison. If someone takes medicine, it should be the antidote for the poison. If you have a fire and need to extinguish it, you need water.  You don’t use water to increase a fire. Similarly, if you have a Dharma discussion it should decrease the delusion and afflictions,  but if they increase instead, then the medicine is turning into poison, like water turning into oil that you throw on a fire. Everything is going backwards. This is very dangerous. The reason for this is because instead of the medicine curing the illness, the medicine is making the illness flare up worse. “

Pride, attachment and aversion will scare other beings away
A Naga couple at Chennakesava Temple in India. A naga is a type of deity in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.  They are snake gods that live in the ocean and underground in an underworld called “Patala.” They can sometimes appear in human form.

“At that time in Tibet, Jowo Je told a story that in the past in India, in the Vinaya they would often talk about ways of pacifying disputes. There are different methods for pacifying the disputes that are taught in the Vinaya. So there was a Bhikkhu who practised this method for pacifying disputes. Every day he would go to the river bank and give a torma to the Nagas. This is primarily for the benefit of the nāgas, right? So normally the nāgas would come to get and accept the tormas. So then the nāgas would offer him the alms.  Later, the nāgas were coming to him in person, he got a bit proud about and so started to see himself as different and special.  So he said to his Dharma friends and felt a bit competitive towards them and said a few words that were motivated by competitiveness. Once he had said them, even though he came to give the tormas, the Nagas would not come back. They did not give him the alms or take the tormas. 

That Bhikkhu had a Getsul monk attendant who had a dream one day of a God who said that Bhikkhu is your teacher, used to have a very peaceful mind and subdued. For that reason, when he went to give the tormas, the Nagas would come and take them and give him the alms. Later, when the monk got proud and and had rivalry towards other people, his mind stream was no longer peaceful like before, so he got a little angry. So they Nagas got frightened, because they probably had some clairvoyance and telepathy, and they had a great feeling for the attachments and aversions we had in our minds. They were afraid and would not come to take the tormas. So this was a prediction that was made in the monk’s dreams. So Atisha used this as an example of how we should not have attachments and aversions.

 In brief, when we think about other Dharma lineages or practices, where we are praising ourselves and criticising others, if we praise our own side, then these are solely things that we should give up. We should never act in this way. The main cause for us to break the Bodhisattva vows is exactly that, to have disputes based on greed, hatred, attachment and aversion.  In particular, among us Buddhists, within our Tibetan Buddhism, if we have any disputes based on attachment and aversion that is the karma of destroying the teachings. “

The main reason for the destruction of the Buddha’s teachings? Buddhists fighting with each other
When you run out of Om Mani Padme Hum….

“What this means is that the teachings of the Buddha one day will stop because like everything else it is impermanent, like when we are born, there is a day we will die.  Likewise, the Buddha’s teachings arose at one point, and at some point, it will perish. What are the causes for the Buddha’s teachings to perish? This is something the Buddha himself spoke about in his lifetime. The main cause for his teachings to be destroyed is when the people who uphold the teachings no longer get along with each other. Saying things like  “I am in accord with the teachings and you have mistaken them and are very bad.” When you say it to another person, they then say it back and neither can accept it. So in the end, there will be no one you can point to and say this is Buddhism. That is the danger that will happen. 

How will the Buddha’s teachings disappear? It is not like some powerful person is going to come  from the outside and destroy all the monasteries and statues, and kill all the Buddhists. That is not what will happen. The one who will destroy the teachings is going to come from within Buddhism.  Those kinds of disputes will destroy the teachings. Buddha predicted it himself and said that was how the teachings would be destroyed. So if you believe in the Buddha’s teachings, then it is important to be careful not to do the things that would destroy the teachings. If you believe the Buddha said this then you need to be careful. If you don’t believe the Buddha said that, then it does not matter. But if you do, then you have to be careful of doing actions that will destroy the teachings? 

It is something most people do! To be honest, most people are acting this way. We have a lot of disputes based on our own attachments and aversions, right?  We think we have pure intentions and we think our own schools are really important, and we do not recognise this as being a mistake. and this is very dangerous. First, to begin with we do not see it as a fault, and in addition to not seeing it as a fault, we become proud of it. We think I can do something better than others, then when conceit and pride happens., then no one can give you advice. This is very dangerous.

For example, in our Karma Kamtsang tradition, we have had disputes, possible there are reasons and not reasons, one side says one thing, the other side another, and what happens, then you say something to the other side: “we are the real Kamtsang, and you are not and bad.” Then the other says the same thing, then in the end no one can say or figure out who the Karma Kamtsang is. Neither side will accept it. You cannot identify anyone as Karma Kamtsang and debates like that with attachment and aversion that will destroy the teachings are going to be like this. It is not going to be a bomb blowing up and destroying it all in a single day. It will go slowly and takes time. We know but don’t know, we have little problems, then they get bigger and bigger, everyone takes a side. Then one side won’t accept the other side, then you have an incurable illness and there is nothing you can do. I feel that we must be most afraid and scared of this. I am just an ordinary person, I am not saying this. The Buddha himself predicted that such disputes would destroy the teachings. There is no other advice or quote we can give, so I think it is very important to be careful about it.

In Mikyo Dorje’s own life, he saw how such disputes were very harmful. If you read the Hundred Short Instructions you will see this. He says how you need to be careful about it, and he speaks about it at great length. There is not much more I could say that would be better than any of that. 

One thing I would like to say is that before we do the teachings, we should recite Tara and Heart Sutra. From one perspective these days to remove the obstacles to the Dalai Lama’s activities and life. Also, whenever I am about to teach, I don’t feel good. The other day I was feeling fine, yet yesterday not so good. So whenever I am about to start a teaching, all of sudden I do not feel well. There is some sort of an obstacle there. So before we start the teaching we should start with reciting Tara and the Heart Sutra. “

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