Geshe Kelsang Gyatso on How to Avoid Sectarianism

August 28, 2008

I came across a section of one of Geshe-la’s books yesterday which I found extremely interesting and incredibly relevant to my previous post. So much so, I feel the need to share part of it! Shamefully I have to state it was the first time I had read the section, The following is taken from Clear Light of Bliss by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (pg 153 – 155)

“ The first Panchen Lama was a highly realized practitioner who always behaved in a very humble manner, but when writing about the need to refute mistaken and misleading teachings he was quite direct: 

As we cannot percieve the mindstream of others 

We should strive to appreciate the teachings of all;

But I cannot accept those who spread wrong views

And through these wrong views lead many astray.

What the Panchen Lama wrote several hundred years ago is particularly applicable today. If pure Dharma is to flourish in western countries it is essential that we examine our beliefs carefully to ensure that they are fully in accordance with the pure teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. The ugly, unfortunate result of not understanding pure Dharma and of following misleading teachings that pretend tot be pure Dharma is sectarianism. This is one of the greatest hindrances to the flourishing of Dharma in the west. Anything that gives rise to such an evil, destructive mind should be eliminated as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. 

Nowadays there is a strong tendency to believe without the slightest hesitation every word spoken by someone of high reputation, whereas a humble practitioner giving perfect and accurate teachings is often neither appreciated nor believed. Buddha Shakyamuni cautioned his disciples against adopting such a mistaken attitude:

Do not accept my teachings simply because I am called Buddha.

Time and time again he reminded his disciples not to accept his teachings out of blind faith, but to test them as thoroughly as they would assay gold. It is only on the basis of valid reasons and personal experience that we should accept the teachings of anyone, including Buddha himself.

In the teachings on the four reliances Buddha gives further guidelines for arriving at an unmistaken understanding of the teachings. He says:

Do not rely upon the person, but upon the Dharma.

Do not rely upon the words, but upon the meaning.

Do not rely upon the interpretative meaning, but upon the definitive meaning.

Do not rely upon consciousness, but upon wisdom.

The meaning of these lines is as follows:

1. When deciding which doctrine to rely upon we should not be satisfied with the fame or reputation of a particular Teacher, but instead should examine what he or she teaches. If upon investigation we find the teachings reasonable and faultless, we should accept them, but if they lack these qualities we should reject them, no matter how famous or charismatic their expounder might be.

2. We should not be influenced merely by the poetic or rhetorical style of a particular teaching but should accept it only if the actual meaning of the words is reasonable.

3. We should not be satisfied merely with an interpretative meaning of conventional truth but should rely upon and accept the definitive meaning of the ultimate truth of emptiness. In other words, because the method teachings on Bodhichitta and the wisdom teachings on emptiness and so forth are companions, we should not be satisfied with only one or the other but should practise both together.

4. we should not be satisfied with impure, deceptive states of consciousness, but should place our reliance upon the wisdom of meditative equipoise of Superior beings.

If we understand these four reliances and use them to evaluate the truth of the teachings we receive, we will be following an unmistaken path. There will be no danger of our adopting false views or falling under the influence of misleading Teachers. We will be able to discriminate correctly between what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected, and we will thereby be protected against faults such as sectarianism”.

The above was taken from Clear Light of Bliss by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (pg 153 – 155).

Well that seems pretty clear to me and I think it makes Geshe-la’s viewpoint on sectarianism crystal clear too. I find this section so relevant to issues raised at this present time. 

 

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One Response to “Geshe Kelsang Gyatso on How to Avoid Sectarianism”


  1. Thank you for a very insightful teaching. In Northern Ireland where I live we need these kinds of insights 🙂


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