Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Judging the teacher when there's a scandal

Often people are quick to judge when there is a scandal arising from a teacher. Recently, a friend of mine sounded very agitated as she relayed the incident about how a well known monk seemed to be in an 'overly friendly' terms with a nun.

What happens when we hear of a potential scandal like this? Do we lose your faith in Buddhism or in the Buddha's teachings? Do we feel 'cheated' if a teacher whom we have suddenly followed for many years choose to disrobe to marry a lady?

Perhaps we do. I must say, in the past, I will be aghast if I find out that a monk whom I respect, have faith and follow the teachings suddenly disrobe after many years of monkhood and to return to the life of a layperson.

But now, I've changed my view about this type of issue. You see, kamaraga that governs lust/passion/love/affection is only permanently estinguished at the stage of Anagami (3rd stage of sainthood). It is one a known challenge facing many monks and nuns in view of the world today when sex, sexy bodies, love are used to sell products and services all around.

That is why there is a lot of Vinaya rules that is placed especially with regards to dealing with the opposite sex. It is not that the Buddha discrimates or dislike women and do not want monks to be in close proximity with women. There is nothing against women, really. The rules are set in order for monks to be able to practice self-control and restraint.

When we do not understand the nature of kamma, we should not be quick to judge at a teacher or any other person. Many people who practices earnestly usually have a spiritual partner who had been going through with them through countless of rebirth cultivating their perfections together. As such, the bond may be too strong and too difficult to break- if we have never been in that shoes before, we will never understand. I feel sad and unfortunate that a monk whose practice is going very well were to suddenly have the kind of kamma ripening and to meet someone and fall in love. It is easy for one to resist crushes and physical attraction- but there are some kammic bonds that are hard to break.

During Ajahn Mun's time, there is a story of a monk- this monk went with another friend to bath at a river stream. Then suddenly, the hill tribe woman walk past with her friend- the route is not the type of road that people will normally take. The moment he set eyes on her, he could not stop thinking about her- that he was distressed and nearly gone crazy. His friend, noticing something that is wrong with him, finally managed to coax him to tell. His friend then suggested that this monk move to another place. Ajahn Mun also did not request the monk to go almsround but got other monks to share their food with them. When the affected monk went to Ajahn Mun and took leave from him, Ajahn Mun consented. Even though no one relayed the incident to Ajahn Mun, he seemed to know about it because he made a comment, something about, 'certain kammas one just can't escape regardless of where one goes to.'

The monk went to another area and it is sheer coincidence that the woman also shifted to the same place. When the monk went for almround, he saw her again. It is very unusual for a hill tribe woman to move. Anyway, the monk disrobed and marry the lady.

In the past when I went to Thailand, I had been fortunate to be trained by a very good Acharn. He had a lot of compassion and taught me to the best of his abilities. He had been ordained for a very long time, and had done excellent translations of books that had changed the lives of many. But in the end, he had a lot of affection for one particular lady- so much so that the abbot had no choice but to send him away after giving him a number of warnings. On subsequent trips when I no longer saw him and someone told me about the incident, does it make me thing any lesser of him?

The answer is NO. Because when he had taught me, he had helped me a lot during the time when I was struggling with my meditation practice. I had gratitude in my heart for his teachings and books that he had translated because he is an excellent translator that captured the essence of the teacher's teachings in his translation. It is unfortunate that this had to happen as it had cut short his parami to be under the particular teacher. We will never know, if we judge or condemn others, one day, when we chose to practice earnestly, we may end up in the same predicament.

The same with the alleged scandal that was told by my friend of this other senior monk. And I told her, why judge others? It is the kamma that is made between the both of them. In the past, that teacher had helped her to break through when her meditation was stuck. I reminded her that she had to have gratitude for it. And also, the monk was the only one whose teachings were able to inspire my mom during the difficult period when she was struggling with cancer. When I took her to listen to his talks, she was inspired. He was the only monk whose teachings have touched my mom's heart and whom had benefited my mom. So I will always be grateful for that- because help was there when we needed it the most.

Let us not look and focus on the faults of others. Instead, let us reflect on the past on how we have benefited and then, move on with our practice. We should only be concerned with our hearts- do we have ill will, is our practise improving? Judging and condemning others, not having gratitude will not get us anywhere- in fact, it will lower our practice.

As the argument if whether will such thing ruin the name of Buddhism, etc: The answer, if we want to find fault, anything can potentially ruin the reputation. Defilements affect everyone- at least, this type of man-woman relationship is obvious. The bigger danger is that one associate with a teacher who spreads the wrong teachings and bring his/her disciples that instead of getting rid of ignorance, are pilling them up. This exist in all sects and in all religions. Don't you think this is much more harmful?

Therefore, the most important thing is that we must be able to develop our practice sufficiently to differenciate between what's right, and what's wrong. To develop our hearts that it can be reliable and a mainstay so that wherever we are and whatever we do, the practice sustains us.

Life is anicca- impermanent. We will not know what will happen in the future- practice and strive NOW- don't wait.