The Man Who Told the Future
by Pico Iyer

Kristin and I were scuffling around the back streets of Kathmandu on a lazy November afternoon. We’d already gone to the zoo that day, and been unsettled to see a brown bear clutching at the bars of his cage, wailing piteously. We’d trudged around the National Museum, where every artifact of the King’s life was recorded, with particular reference to “The Royal Babyhood.” We’d passed an early evening amongst the spires of Durbar Square, watching bright-eyed boys play Carom while their elder brothers brushed against us in their jackets, muttering, “Brown sugar, white sugar, coke, smack, dope.”

But now the afternoon was yawning ahead of us and we didn’t know what to do. It was a rare opportunity for shared sight-seeing: Kristin was accustomed to heading out every night at 10 p.m., reeling through the pubs and bars of the old city, being chatted up by self-styled mystics before fumbling back to our tiny room in the Hotel Eden as the light was coming through the frosty windows. I’d take off, a little later, into the heavy mist, notebook in hand, to record the bearded sages who sat along the streets peddling every brand of cross-cultural wisdom. She was collecting experience, we liked to think, I was collecting evidence.

We’d met in New York City eight months before and, on a wild impulse, had decided that Kristin should join me on the last stop of a four-month tour through Asia that I was planning to take. She had a charming boyfriend back on East 3rd Street, and I was romancing my notebook, so it felt more than safe as we settled into our sixth-floor room on Freak Street.

I opened my Lonely Planet guide — my companion through all the countries I’d visited — and pointed out to her one item that had long intrigued me. There, tucked among long lists of trekking agencies and meditation centers, explanations of living goddesses, and reviews of apple-pie emporia, was the single most startling entry I had seen in such a work: “The Royal Astrologer.” For a price, the write-up said, this mage who consulted with the palace on even its most important decisions — When was the right day to pass some edict? Which time boded well for a royal birth? — was available to anyone who wished to see him.

How could either of us resist?

I had grown up in England, among little boys at boarding school who defined ourselves by everything we imagined we could see through. By day, we committed to memory the lines of Xenophon and Caesar; by night, we proved ourselves “superior” to everyone around us with cascades of fluency and quasi-sophisticated airs we’d borrowed from our books.

Three times a year, I left my all-male internment camp and flew back to my parents’ home in California. There, in a blindingly yellow house perched above the clouds, my father was reading the palm of every stranger who visited, talking of Aquarian precessions and the “Ascended Masters of the Himalayas.” His students, graduates of the Summer of Love, were attuned to psychic vibrations, auras, and verses from the Bhagavad Gita, but I wasn’t sure they’d recognise real life if it punched them in the face.

What better environment for producing someone who loudly announced he believed in nothing?

Kristin, however, had never given up on magic. She was five years younger than I — twenty-three to my twenty-eight — and she had a powerful belief in herself (or some parts of herself), matched only by her conviction that life would reward that faith.

One time, she’d come to my office, on the twenty-fifth floor of Rockefeller Center, and I’d pulled out a backgammon set. I was one throw from victory, and the only way she could defeat me was by throwing a double six. She closed her eyes, she shook the dice again and again between her hot palms, she muttered something nonsensical, and then she sent the dice clattering across the board.

One stopped rolling, and disclosed a six. The other came at last to rest: another six.

Now, as we tried to follow the runic instructions to the Astrologer — what true sage would allow himself to be listed in a Lonely Planet guide, I wondered? — we found ourselves passing through empty courtyards and along a scribble of narrow lanes. We were directed toward a golden temple, and then through another maze of darkened backstreets, and then led out into an open space where a ladder brought us up to a second-floor redoubt.

When the Royal Astrologer greeted us with a business card listing his doctorate and his work for NASA, my every doubt was confirmed.

Still, I was sure I could get a good story out of this, so we agreed on neither the priciest of his readings, nor the cheapest. We padded off to while away the hours before he could give us his verdicts, and settled into one of those Kathmandu cafés that might have doubled as Ali Baba’s cave.

Nepal in those days was budget time-travel to all the revolutions we were too young to have experienced firsthand. Pillows and cushions were scattered across the floor of this (as of many a) café, and a swirl of peasant-skirt bedspreads turned the space into a kind of magic tent. A creaky cassette of “The Golden Road of Unlimited Devotion” unspooled blearily on the sound system, and any number of mushroom enchiladas and “secret recipe” lasagnas on the menu promised transport of a more mysterious kind.

Travel, for me, had always been a testing of the waters. Every journey is a leap of faith, of course, a venture, ideally, into the unknown. But for me a large part of the point of encountering the Other was to see what and how much to believe in. Every stranger approaching me with a smile posed a challenge of trust — and asked, silently, how much I could be trusted, too. Something was at stake in nearly every transaction, I felt, and it was as essential as whether you believed the world made sense or not.

Kristin and I had met when she, a former student of my father’s, had read a cover story I’d written on the Colombian drug trade. She dreamed of being a writer, though for now, just out of college, she was working as a temp in a succession of Manhattan offices, deploying her capacity for typing at a furious speed. I had similar dreams, though for the time being I was cranking out long articles every week on world affairs for Time magazine, drawn from the reports of colleagues in the field. The explosion of demonstrations that was convulsing apartheid-stricken South Africa, the manoeuverings preceding the Mexican election, the gas leak in Bhopal: I covered them all with the assurance of one who had never seen the places I was describing.

In the warm summer evenings, the two of us met often in the gardens of tiny cafés in the East Village, and she showed me the story she’d just written about Desirée, an Indonesian bride arriving in America. I told her of the book I was going to write on Asia. We swapped our latest discoveries from James Salter or Don De Lillo, and she told me of her girlhood adventures growing up in India and Japan and Spain (her father a spy under deepest cover).

By the time we headed out into the streets again, dusk was beginning to fall over the Nepali capital, turning it into fairy-tale enchantment once more. Oil lamps and flickering candles came on in the disheveled storefronts and faces peered out at us, almost invisible save for their eyes. We slipped and lurched across the uneven, potholed paths, the silhouetted spires of temples all around us. The noise and the crowds of the big city seemed to fade away, and we were in a medieval kingdom at its prime.

As we climbed the stairs back to the Royal Astrologer’s chamber, we might have been stumbling into an emergency room after an earthquake. Half of Nepal was there, so it seemed, shivering in the near-dark as everyone waited for his or her fortune. A family wondering when to take its newborn to the temple, and how to name him; a nervous couple thinking about auspicious marriage dates.

Quite often, a sudden thump at the door announced an urgent messenger — from the palace perhaps? The Royal Astrologer handed out futures as easily as a doctor might, and the people who left his room were seldom the same as when they came in.

Finally, he summoned us closer and pored over the charts he’d drawn up from our times and places of birth.

“So,” he said, turning to Kristin — she craned forward, taut with attention — “generally, I have found that you have a special talent.” She braced herself. “This gift you have is for social work.”

I’d never seen my friend look so crushed.

“Does it say anything about creative work, an imaginative life?”

He looked again at the circle with all the partitions and said, “Your talent is for social work.”

She didn’t say a word at first. “Nothing about writing, then?”

He shook his head.

When it came to my turn, I worried it might prove awkward once he confirmed my future as a ground-breaking writer after what he’d said to my friend.

“So,” he said, looking down, “generally I have found that your strength is diligence.”

“Diligence?”

He pointed out the calculations and quadrants that confirmed this.

“‘Diligence’ in the sense of doing one’s duty?”

“Yes,” he said, and began explaining every scribble, but to someone who was no longer listening.

I knew that diligence was the quality that the Buddha had urged on his disciples in his final breath. But the Royal Astrologer wasn’t a Buddhist, and nor was I. To me, the word smacked of Boy Scout badges and “to do” lists.

“I think,” he went on, perhaps sensing our disappointment, “that every month, on the day of the full moon, you should meditate for an hour. And eat no meat all day.”

This sounded like the kind of thing my father would say. He’d been a vegetarian all his life and was full of talk of the virtues of stilling the mind and fasting so as to access a deeper wisdom.

I negotiated the sage down to fifteen minutes a month and a day without meat, and we filed out.

My four months wandering amidst the conundrums of Asia changed my life more irreversibly than I could have imagined. I went to California to write up my adventures, and when my seven-month leave of absence was over, and I returned to New York City, I knew I could never survive in an office now that I had such a rich sense of how the world could stretch my sense of possibility in every direction. While writing up my droll account of the magicians of Kathmandu — and the others I’d met across the continent — I’d remembered to keep an eye out for the full moon and had sat still for a few minutes once a month, restricting myself for one day every thirty to Panang vegetable curries.

It hadn’t seemed to hurt.

So now I served notice to my bosses at Time, packed up my things in the elegant office overlooking another 50th Street high-rise, emptied my eleventh-floor apartment on Park Avenue South, and moved to a small room on the backstreets of Kyoto without toilet or telephone or, truth be told, visible bed.

As I was settling into my cell, on my twentieth week in Japan, I found a letter in my mailbox downstairs. It was from Kristin, in New York. Her father had died suddenly the previous year, she told me. She’d been distraught, hadn’t known where to turn or how to get her longing out, so she’d taken to her desk.

Every night, while everyone around her slept, she’d typed — and typed and typed. When her novel was finished, she’d sent it out to publishers. Within hours, Random House had signed her up for a six-figure sum, and by now rights had been sold in a dozen countries around the world; she and her friends were spinning a globe as the number mounted.

At twenty-six, she seemed assured of a glorious future. She’d rolled a double six again.

A few weeks later, I walked, as I did every Wednesday afternoon, to the little shop across from Kyoto University that stocked a few foreign magazines. It was my one tiny moment of connection with the world I had abandoned. I forked over 700 yen, collected the week’s edition of Time magazine and consulted it, as I always did, while ambling back through the quiet, sunlit lanes to my tiny room.

As I was paging through the magazine, from the back, something caught the edge of my gaze that looked like a misprint — or, more likely, a projection of an over-eager imagination. There, in the Books pages, was a picture of someone who looked a bit like me — or, rather, like me in my previous life, in button-down shirt and striped tie.

I knew the magazine was eager never to take notice of books written by its staff — even former members of the staff — but I looked again and there, among the eminences, was a small, friendly review of my book about whirlwinding across Asia, accompanied by a visa-sized picture. I had any number of other projects I’d been chafing to complete, and now, I felt, I could try to be a writer at last.

“Diligence” and “social work” indeed! The Royal Astrologer didn’t know a thing.

That was half a lifetime ago, almost to the day, and more than a hundred seasons have passed. A few years after our visit, the palace in Kathmandu was torn apart by a crazy massacre and I had no doubt that the Royal Astrologer was no longer in service (if only because he would have been in trouble if he had predicted such a bloody coup — or if he hadn’t. Telling futures for the powerful has never been a reliable source of income).

As for Kristin, her path of double sixes had continued, almost impossibly, for quite a while. Her boyfriend in the Village, like so many, was a committed Star Trek fan and, like thousands of Trekkies, no doubt, had sent in a script on spec to the program’s showrunners in Hollywood.

Unlike most such fans, though, he’d seen his script accepted. He’d been flown out to L.A. and offered a full-time job with the program. He’d taken up a big house with Kristin in the Hollywood Hills, a chief architect of the universe he’d once worshipped from afar.

Few couples of my acquaintance had found such lustrous futures in their twenties. When I visited, Kristin and her beau seemed to have exceeded anything they might have hoped for, with their Spanish-style villa above the canyons, the red, open-top sports car, publishers and TV executives waiting to turn their words into pictures.

But Kristin had always had a restless soul — perhaps the same soul that had brought her to Nepal and sent her out into the streets every evening — and somewhere along the way, in flight from stability but not sure exactly of what she wanted instead, she’d burned the life she’d found and lost it all. Now, in her early fifties, she lives alone with a beloved cat, tending to every lost animal, still writing, but in a world that doesn’t seem very interested in novels, especially from the not so young.

Her strongest quality, though, remains her fierce attachment to her friends. She lives through them and with them, the centres of her universe, and keeps up with pals from high school in Tokyo and Delhi on a sometimes daily basis. She sends me warm and mischievous messages on my birthday and remembers every last detail of 1985. As the years have passed without bringing all the adventures that once seemed inevitable, she tells me that the trip to Kathmandu was one of the highlights of her life.

And me? A couple of years after my first book came out, I sat in a car just under the yellow house above the clouds and watched a wildfire take it apart, every inch of it, so that everything I and my parents owned — not least the notes and outlines I’d drawn up for my next three books — was reduced to ash.

In any case, I’d fallen under the spell of Japan and silence by then and decided to take on a wife and two kids, giving up my thoughts of becoming a writer, and simply turning out several articles a week to support an expanding household.

Writing, I’d seen, demands a ferocious, all-consuming commitment, a refusal to be distracted — or, sometimes, even to be responsible. That would never be my gift.

I smile when I hear people say that the young are too credulous, too open, too ready to be transformed. I and my school friends were so much the opposite. It was only travel — being propelled beyond the world we thought we knew and could anticipate — that stripped us of our petty certainties, our flimsy defences, our boyish confidence. It was only figures such as the Royal Astrologer who showed us that we didn’t know a thing.

We sit on opposite sides of the world now — Kristin essentially a model of social work, with the passionate attention she brings to her friends, while I steadily meet my daily deadlines, the very picture of diligence — and see that life has much wiser plans for us than we ever could have come up with. The only one who really was exercising a writer’s imagination, the kind that sees the future as easily as the past, was the well-meaning man I had mocked as he tried to nudge us toward a truer understanding of who we really are — and were.

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If, like a cracked gong, you silence yourself, you have already attained Nirvana: no vindictiveness will be found in you.

— The Buddha

为何有些人积集善业到最后是痛苦的
净界法师

看看《法句经》的两段,把这个一切法正,一切法邪做个总结。

诸法意先导,意主意造作。若以染污意,或语或行业,是则苦随彼,如轮随兽足。
诸法意先导,意主意造作。若以清净意,或语或行业,是则乐随彼,如影不离形。

这个地方讲出了两种生命的结果,那么先讲一个道理说“诸法意先导,意主意造作”,我们在佛教里面花了很多的时间修了很多的法门,我们也布施,也持戒,也念佛,也持咒,那么谁来引导我这么多的善业呢?“意先导”,你心里的状态,你的思考模式引导着你所有的善业,由你的思想来做主也是由你的思想来引导它造业。那么假设你今天是“以染污意”,就是你追求世间的那种杂染的名利,那么或语或行业,是则苦随彼,你总有一天要尝到痛苦,“如轮随兽足”,就像这个轮子永远跟着前面的动物在走,这个轮子是不能决定的。

那么这个地方我们要解释一下,为什么他积集善业最后是痛苦呢?

这有两种可能,如果你学佛得很早,你很年轻学佛,你大概到中晚年你的福报就会现前,这是正常的,佛教就是不断地忏悔业障积集资粮嘛,所以你的生命就很快会改变,你会很快地出现快乐的果报。如果你发菩提心的人,面对这个果报他是不迷、不取、不动的,他继续会往前走,他不会住在这个福报,但是这个福报一定会出现,因为因果法尔如此。但如果你一开始的发心你就为了福报来修善业的,糟糕了,你这福报就通不过去了,你就住在上面了,然后你就开始享受了,就放逸了,那么你今生就开始放逸,你来生就直接堕落了,因为你善业提前起现行了,所以你在享受福报的时候你的烦恼就开始活动了,福报享尽,你第二生就堕落了,这是第一种情况,你学佛很早,你善业修得很多,到晚年福报现前,因为你发心不正,结果你陷入了福报的陷阱当中。

你不能够说福报害人,因为你自己的发心不对,因为很多人也是福报现前,他走得过去,他追求更好的东西。这个生命是这样,你要拒绝档次低的东西,你后面的东西才会出来,佛法修习是一层一层的,佛法会先给你比较低层的东西,你不要,你再往前走,它再给你更高层的,你再不要,它再给你更高层的,它是一层一层出现的。如果你学佛得早,你晚年就起现行,这个就考验你的发心了。你发心错了,你今生就直接陷进去了,你第二生就直接堕落了,这是第一种情况。

第二种人他比较晚学佛,他善业相对的修得比较少,他的福报到来生才起现行,那么这种人第三生堕落。来生你会很快乐,但是你跑不掉,这种快乐你跑不掉,你一定陷进去了。因为你第一生你在造善业的时候,你的心就住在这里了,所以第二生福报现前的时候,你一定会放逸,你绝对跑不掉的,然后你是第三生堕落。所以这个痛苦什么时候出现呢?不是马上出现,因为你积集善业怎么会有痛苦呢?它是在善业结束以后出现痛苦,可能是来生,也可能是第三生。当然要怪就怪自己,因为你的一开始的发心档次不高,所以你就容易陷进去。

第二个我们再看看“诸法意先导,意主意造作”,这个道理跟前面一样,就是说我们的生命所有的行为是由内心来主导的。假设我们以清净的菩提心来发动我们的口业——我们赞叹别人做很多的慈善事业,是则乐随彼,如影不离形。

诸位,如果你发心发的水准高一点,你还是会享受快乐的,但这个快乐不会障碍你,这个叫作自在的快乐,而不是带业的快乐。

你看有些人他人生活得很快乐,但是这个快乐不会让他堕落,他不为所动,他能够很快地从快乐走过去,得到后面更好的东西,他要的是摩尼宝珠,他不会在乎这种路边的生灭的小花。

那么为什么有些人他福报现前的时候他走了过去,有些人走不过去呢?就是你自己的发心不同。我们每一个人学佛一定要先修善,一定要断恶修善,你一定要先有人天乘的基础你才有所谓的出世的功德,所以学佛很矛盾在这里,我们都要修善,但是修善的结果就会出现福报,而出现福报就会让我们迷惑颠倒,这个地方是大问题,那么就跟你刚开始的发心有关系了,如果你发心的时候发得很高,你为了成佛为了求生净土,你很容易从快乐的果报里面轻轻地走过去,福报变成你一种增上,因为你有福报,你更专心的断恶修善度众生,所以福报为你所用,你是主动权,你掌握了福报,福报听你的。

如果你发心错误,你就被福报牵着走,福报牵着你走,你就堕三恶道去了,你要有心理准备,我们一定要经过福报这一关的,但是不是每一个人都过得了,就是看你的调伏力,引导力了。因为你一定要先断恶修善,一定要先修善业,然后才有所谓的修止观,所以说我们往生净土的人我们要知道阿弥陀佛的名号是很大的功德,无量光、无量寿,你在佛号里面操作你会创造广大的功德,但这个功德有很多种可能,你现在就是说你怎么样引导这个佛号趋向于净土,这是我们的关键。

If there were not the way in which non-dual wisdom is empty of nature that is elucidated by the texts of Consequentialists and Autonomists, what would relinquish our clinging to profound luminous wisdom’s reality and our conceptions of being attached to magnificent deities?

— Sakya Chogden

Treat Everyone as the Buddha
by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

As a Buddhist teacher, I am often asked questions about meditation and profound Buddhist principles, like interdependence and emptiness. I am happy to share what I know on these topics. But I have noticed that people rarely ask me about ethics and how to live a virtuous life.

It is true that meditation is important in the Buddhist tradition. There’s no question about that. The same can be said about studying Buddhist ideas and philosophies. But in many ways, ethics and virtue are the foundation of the Buddhist path.

The Buddha himself lived a life of kindness, humility, and compassion. He fully embodied the teachings he gave, and the sangha that grew around him followed his example. There were many times when the students got off track and acted inappropriately — sometimes hilariously so — but these incidents were used as opportunities to clarify important values and to show the community how to live a life of virtue. From the early days of Buddhism, ethical conduct was as central to the path as meditation, study, and contemplation.

These days, the one time people do ask me about ethics is when scandals or controversies happen in Buddhist communities. Despite the clear importance of nonviolence and compassion in the Buddhist tradition, many students are not sure how to deal with these situations. I can see why they get confused. There are many different Buddhist lineages and schools, and it is hard to keep track of all their different teachings, practices, and ethical frameworks.

This is especially true in the Tibetan tradition, where we have three different approaches — which we call yanas or “vehicles” — that are woven together into one path of Buddhist practice. These are the Foundational vehicle of individual liberation, the Mahayana vehicle of great compassion, and the Vajrayana vehicle of indestructible wakefulness. This combination is one of the unique and beautiful aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, but it doesn’t always make things simple.

ETHICS IN TIBETAN BUDDHISM

In Tibetan Buddhism we practice the three yanas together, and that includes the practice of ethics. Let me clarify.

The most basic ethical principle in the yana of individual liberation is nonviolence, the commitment to avoid harming others at all costs.

When we add in the Mahayana, we do not forget about nonviolence, but take it one step further with the practice of bodhichitta. This is the commitment to help all beings become fully enlightened.

Finally, Vajrayana brings in the notion of pure perception. In practicing the Vajrayana, we remain firmly grounded in nonviolence and the altruistic motivation of bodhichitta, but take the fruitional view. We treat everyone and everything as the embodiment of awakening. We commit ourselves to seeing ourselves, others, and the world around us as fundamentally pure, complete, and perfect.

This ideal of pure perception is embodied in the principle of samaya, the formal commitments that a Vajrayana practitioner adheres to. There many details about samaya, but simply put the essence of samaya is to practice pure perception to the best of one’s ability.

Many people misunderstand samaya and think it refers only to seeing the teacher as a buddha, a fully awakened being. That is part of samaya, but it misses the key point. Samaya is about seeing everyone and everything through the lens of pure perception. The sole purpose of viewing the teacher as a buddha is so we can see these same awakened qualities in ourselves, in others, and in the world around us. It is a tool that helps us to gain confidence in the purity of our true nature.

Vajrayana practice is rooted in the ideals of nonviolence and great compassion. There is no Vajrayana without them. So how do we use these principles to guide us on important issues like finding an authentic teacher and working with the inevitable challenges that arise in the life of a community?

THE POINT OF PRACTICE

The first point I’d like to make is probably an obvious one. Our practice should bring out the best in us as human beings. It should call forth our inner wisdom, our basic sanity, and the moral compass that we all have (whether we pay attention to it or not).

The most basic way to measure our practice, therefore, is the degree to which we are moving closer to the simple ideals of kindness, humility, honesty, and wisdom. If — as individuals or as communities — we find ourselves moving in the other direction, something is off track. None of us will act perfectly in every situation, but over time there should be a clear movement toward these basic and universal human values.

This is especially true of spiritual teachers. Buddhist teachers are role models and guides for the communities they lead, and they represent the Buddhist tradition to the non-Buddhist world. If, as students of the Buddha’s teachings, we strive to be kind, humble, and devoted to practice, then it only makes sense that our guides should embody these qualities. They should inspire us with their kindness and devotion. They should instill trust by the care and concern they show for others. Of course, we should not expect perfection, but it should go without saying that people who are guiding others should practice what they preach.

FINDING A GENUINE TEACHER

When it comes to finding a genuine teacher, there are four things that are especially important.

The first is that the teacher should be part of an authentic lineage. Genuine teachers do not promote themselves; they promote their lineage. If a teacher brags about their qualities and realisation and makes a show of their practice, that is probably an indication that something is not quite right. But if a teacher has studied and practiced under the guidance of other respected teachers, and honours their lineage by upholding its values and traditions, that is a good sign. Lineage alone does not make a teacher genuine, but it is important.

The second quality to look for is commitment to study and practice. This one is pretty obvious. You would not take piano lessons from someone who’s not a good player themselves, would you? Of course not. The same is true here. If you are trusting someone with your spiritual well-being, you should be sure that this person knows the path first-hand. In order to do this, they should have a clear commitment to their own practice and training.

The third essential quality is compassion. As students, we need to feel confident that our teacher is on our side — that they have our best interests at heart and deeply care about us and our progress on the path.

Trust is critical here. A genuine teacher is trustworthy and puts the needs of the student first. The sign of a teacher who has this quality is that students feel safe and protected in their care. They know that no matter what is going on in their life, their teacher will always be there to guide and support them.

The fourth and final quality is the one that relates the most directly to ethics. A genuine teacher should uphold their vows and precepts. In the Tibetan tradition, that means they maintain whatever monastic or lay vows they have taken, adhere to the bodhisattva vows of the Mahayana, and keep the samaya vows of the Vajrayana.

This is no small feat, but it is very important. There are lots of details included in this one, and as students we may not know exactly what vows a person holds. But we can ask around and check to see if there are any questions about a teacher’s behaviour or conduct. That is a good place to start.

In this day and age, it is not easy to find a perfect teacher. The time of the Buddha, when people seemed to get enlightened just by showing up, is long gone. We may not find a teacher who perfectly embodies all four of these qualities, but they should have all of them to some degree. If a teacher is completely lacking one or more of these qualities, it is probably best to move on.

LEAVING A TEACHER

These four qualities are a good general guideline to follow when looking for a teacher. But even when we do our best to research a teacher first, often we only really get to know the teacher after becoming their student. In the modern world, most of us do not have a monastery or Buddhist expert down the street. We do not necessarily know all the details about a teacher, or even have someone we can ask. So what do we do when we discover that a teacher is not quite what we hoped?

Many students of Tibetan Buddhism mistakenly think that they cannot, or should not, leave a teacher once they’ve made a commitment to them. This is not the case. The whole point of the teacher–student relationship is that it should benefit the student. It is not for the teacher’s gain or profit. If you have tried your best and have found that it is not a good fit, you can look for another teacher. This is not a problem or personal failing. It is good judgment.

The best way to leave is to do so without bad-mouthing the teacher or creating difficulties for those who may be benefiting from the teacher and the community. Leave on good terms, or at the very least, do not leave on bad terms. Simply move on with humility and do not feel bad about the fact that it did not work out.

The one caveat I would add here is that it is important to be honest with yourself. Leaving a teacher or community that does not seem to be a good fit is understandable, but if you find every teacher unworthy of your time, then you may want to look deeper into your own patterns to see what is going on. It may be difficult to make any progress on the path if you are looking for perfection.

SERIOUS ETHICAL VIOLATIONS

However, it is another matter altogether when a teacher is committing serious ethical violations. Leaving a teacher on good terms makes sense when the issue is just a matter of fit between teacher and student. When the issue is people being hurt or laws being broken, the situation is different.

In that case, the violation of ethical norms needs to be addressed. If physical or sexual abuse has occurred, or there is financial impropriety or other breaches of ethics, it is in the best interest of the students, the community, and ultimately the teacher, to address the issues. Above all, if someone is being harmed, the safety of the victim comes first. This is not a Buddhist principle. This is a basic human value and should never be violated.

The appropriate response depends on the situation. In some cases, if a teacher has acted inappropriately or harmfully but acknowledges the wrongdoing and commits to avoiding it in the future, then dealing with the matter internally may be adequate. But if there is a long-standing pattern of ethical violations, or if the abuse is extreme, or if the teacher is unwilling to take responsibility, it is appropriate to bring the behaviour out into the open.

In these circumstances, it is not a breach of samaya to bring painful information to light. Naming destructive behaviours is a necessary step to protect those who are being harmed or who are in danger of being harmed in the future, and to safeguard the health of the community.

CRAZY WISDOM

The Vajrayana tradition has a history of eccentric yogis and yoginis and teachers who used extreme methods to guide their students. The story of Marpa asking Milarepa to build and then dismantle a series of stone towers is perhaps the most famous example of this. This tradition of “crazy wisdom” can be authentic, but unfortunately it is often invoked as a rationalisation for unethical behaviour that has nothing to do with wisdom or compassion.

The most important thing to know about these unusual teaching styles is that they are meant to benefit the student. If they are not rooted in compassion and wisdom, they are not genuine. Actions that are rooted in compassion and wisdom — even when they appear odd, eccentric, or even wrathful — do not instill fear or anxiety. They bring about a flowering of compassion and wisdom in the student.

In other words, the results of genuine “crazy wisdom” are always positive and visible. When a teacher uses an extreme approach that is rooted in compassion, the result is spiritual growth, not trauma. Trauma is a sure sign that the “crazy wisdom” behavior was missing the wisdom to see what would truly benefit the student, the compassion that puts the student’s interest first, or both.

It is also worth noting that these extreme teaching styles we see in Vajrayana history took place in the context of a very mature spiritual bond between teacher and student. They were not all that common. Marpa didn’t make all of his students build stone towers. In fact, he treated his other students very differently from how he treated Milarepa. But he saw Milarepa’s potential and the approach that would benefit him most. The rest is history. Milarepa became enlightened and one of Tibet’s greatest adepts.

Not only are these extreme teaching methods used only with very mature students and in the context of a relationship of stable trust and devotion, they are also a last resort. There are said to be four kinds of enlightened activity: peaceful, magnetising, enriching, and wrathful. Wrathful activity is only used for those who are not receptive to more subtle approaches. So again, this style is not a norm, but something that is only employed in certain circumstances.

Thus we must distinguish teachers who are eccentric or provocative — but ultimately compassionate and skilful — from those who are actually harming students and causing trauma. These are two very different things, and it is important that we do not lump them together. There are plenty of teachers who push and provoke students to help them learn about their minds, but that is not abuse. Physical, sexual, and psychological abuse are not teaching tools.

VAJRAYANA IN THE MODERN WORLD

Now that the world is so interconnected, ethics are more important than ever. In a sense, we Buddhist practitioners are all representing the Buddha’s teachings to the world. Anyone can learn about this teacher or that sangha with a few mouse clicks and a quick Google search. This is a good thing, because it makes the entire tradition more transparent. Ethical behaviour — and ethical violations — are more visible than they were in previous times.

It should go without saying that when schools, businesses, and other public institutions are expected to adhere to a code of conduct and the laws of the land, then spiritual organisations should be role models of ethical behaviour And teachers even more so. Throughout history, one of the most important roles of Buddhist teachers and the Buddhist sangha was exactly this. They modelled ethical behaviour to the communities that they served.

Vajrayana Buddhism is thought of as a precious treasure by Tibetans. It is our spiritual heritage and our gift to the world. Now that the teachings and practices of this tradition are spreading across the globe, it is important that we understand the tradition and how to work with its powerful teachings.

As I’ve said, the core of the Vajrayana tradition is that we strive to embody pure perception. We view our thoughts and emotions — even the difficult ones — as manifestations of timeless awareness. We see every person as a buddha, and we treat them as such. We view the world that we live in as a pure realm, enlightened just as it is.

This tradition of treating everything and everyone as though we are meeting the Buddha face-to-face is our main practice in the Vajrayana. It is the life blood of our tradition and the very highest ethical standard we could aspire to. In this day and age, with confusion and conflict all around us, the world needs this more than ever.

Having first generated sympathetic love for all sentient beings, think of all of them without exception undergoing the sufferings of the three lower realms, of birth, of dying and the like, and with the wish to free beings from the pain of manifest suffering, from the suffering [of change] and from their causes, generate the spirit of enlightenment, and vow never to forsake it.

— Atiśa

佛法谈“做人”
圣凯法师

现代的心理学研究表明,一个人有良好的人际关系,遇到问题时,有人可以和其讨论,或伸出援手,此人通常较能应付压力,不易被危机击倒。再进一步看,如果要维持“社会支持”的系统(良好的人际关系),你必须具有“爱与被爱”及“付出”的能力。

一个人在事业或生活不顺利的时候,内心比较脆弱,很容易对他人产生期待。在这种情绪低落的时候,容易把见到的每个人都当是自己的朋友,向他倾诉自己的不幸,并渴望获得安慰与同情。

其实,世界上的许多人都是以自己为中心,每个人的视角也完全是被自己先天或后天形成的思维框架所左右的,所以每个人都有不同的注意力,喜欢把注意力集中在自己感兴趣的事情之上。因此,这样就会影响人类选择自己的群体,这就是“物以类聚,人以群分”。不是每个人都是我们可以依赖的朋友,有些可能是你痛哭流泣的事情,可是别人可能觉得你想得太多、小题大做或能力不够等。

因此,人类需要真正的朋友,能够同喜同悲、同苦同乐,共同承担生命的痛苦,享受生命的快乐。

同时,事业的发展离不开良好的人际关系,但不应牺牲自己的追求与理想,去随波逐流。所以,在人际关系中也会经常出现“不合群”的现象。

我就是一个不太会合群的人,在中国佛学院读书时,我总是一个孤独的人,一个人躲在房间里看书、写作,从来不会跟同学聊天。惟一跟同学玩的机会只是打羽毛球,除此以外,连看电视都是一个人。我一般不会到教室里看电视,但是如果心血来潮,我会自己一个人坐在电视机前,从晚上八点到凌晨五点,也不用换频道。然后,五点半上早殿时,竟然跑去敲磬,大脑一片空白, 但是磬位是不会错的。

到了南京大学后,刚入学时,我努力地跟同学相处,可是这种造作的融洽让我十分痛苦。半年后,我又回到自己的世界,一个人读书、上课,偶尔打打羽毛球。

有时候,为了合群必须牺牲自己的爱好、时间,甚至前途为代价,其实这是媚俗。当然,不合群还有一种原因,是因为性格孤僻、自我封闭,或是人品道德上低劣而让大家疏远。

“木秀于林,风必摧之”,我记得我师父曾经说过:“我就是我,谁也代替不了我”、“走自己的路,让他们说去吧”。最主要的是,必须有自己的追求与理想。佛陀出家时,肯定是不合群的表现;比尔·盖茨中途从哈佛退学, 也不同于大家心目中的“好学生”标准一致……

但是,我们强调这种不合群并不是傲慢, 反而应该去处理好人际关系。佛法的人际关系学是以四摄为中心,即布施、爱语、利 行、同事。佛法中经常讲“布施结缘”,并且讲布施时应该三轮体空,即没有施者、受者、所施物的相,即没有图回报的心。其实,现代情绪管理学对布施是极为重视的,即是培养一个人的爱心,一个充满爱心的人,才能快乐地生活。

而且这种爱心是无所求地给予,与别人并无所约定。

加州心理治疗师的维史考特医生说:“有期望的爱就是有条件的爱,你若需要别人的爱,才会觉得好过,你便迫切地期望他,你是在‘害怕’的心情下付出你的爱, 你不断担心他会不爱你。这不是爱,是依赖,其中少有快乐和喜悦。”

佛法中经常提到的一句话“施比受更有福”,如果你想借付出获得回馈,那么不必了。付出者真正的收获来自心中的善,而非需求。只有心胸宽大的人才能快乐,在助人时能引发自己对生活的热爱,于是能安妥度过逆境。

布施不限金钱布施,还有劳力、欢喜、智慧等布施。惟有懂得布施的人,才是最富有的人。不管用语言、力量、精神、物质来布施,主要的是布施结缘,是人际间最好的善意表现。

对于自私的人来说,即是在谈话中经常提到“我”的人,较易得冠心病。自私的人,过度注意自己,可能使孤独感和隔离感加强,而寂寞对人来说,是致命的。

一个拥有爱心的人,要从各个方面能关心别人,爱语即是用柔和语、无诤语、质实语等,以鼓励代替责难,使人能从语言中得到益处。每一个人都喜欢别人的赞助、 别人的爱护,所不幸的是人世间常发生吵架和误会,乃是不懂爱语所致,若能善用爱护人的话,不但与人结缘,还会增进人与人之间的关系。

同事即是要设身处地为别人着想。慈爱的母亲,喂自己的小孩,本来是要把放置汤匙内的食物喂至小孩的口中,可是自己的嘴巴也跟着张开,这是由于内心的慈悲,引发出来同事的现象。多站在别人立场设想,如果好事好话,就说你如何、如何;假如欲要讲训诫的话, 就说我们以后如何、如何。

利行即是尽自己的能力,去做利益他人的行为。俗语说,给人方便,就是给自己方便,帮助别人就是帮助自己。有时候说一句话帮助别人,别人也会帮助你。我们从帮助别人的时候获得对自己的信心,从而更能爱自己,现代社会学指出利他主义可能是我们生存本能的一部分。

《善生经》中对人际关系给我们很清楚的指导,而且将父母、师长、妻儿、亲友邻居、奴仆、沙门六种关系, 列为佛教徒应该敬仰的对象。

第一、父母与子女的关系。子女在双亲年老时负起抚养之责,尽他们应尽的本分,保持家庭传统于不坠而光大门楣,守护双亲辛苦积聚的财富勿令散失,双亲死后妥为殡葬。父母对子女也有责任,避免子女堕入邪恶,教令从事有益的活动,予以良好的教育,为他们从良好的家庭中择配,并于适当时机付与家财。

第二、师长与弟子的关系。弟子对师长必须恭敬服从,师有所需,必须设法供应,并应努力学习。另一方面, 老师必须善巧训练弟子,使成良好模范;应当谆谆善诱,并为他介绍朋友;学业完成之后,更应为他谋职,以保障他生活的安定。

第三、夫妇关系。夫妇之爱在佛经中称为“居家梵行” ,也就是说这种关系是应当付予最高敬意的。夫妇应当彼此忠实,互敬互谅,向对方尽其应尽的义务。丈夫应当礼遇其妻,决不可对她不敬。他应当爱她,对她忠实,巩固她的地位,使她安适,并赠以衣饰珠宝,以博取她的欢心。妻子应当照顾家务,接待宾客、亲友和受雇的佣工;对丈夫爱护、忠实,守护他的收入,并在一 切活动中保持机智与精勤。

第四、亲邻关系。对于亲友邻居,彼此之间均应殷勤款待,宽大慈惠。交谈时应当态度愉快,谈吐优雅。应为彼此之福祉而努力,并应平等相待,不可争论。遇有所需,应互为周济,危难不相背弃。

第五、主仆关系。主人或雇主对他的雇工或奴仆也有好几种义务:应视其人的能力才干而分配工作及给以适量的工资,并应提供医药服务,并应随时酌发奖金。雇工应勤勿惰,诚实服从,不可欺主,尤其应该忠于所事。

第六、僧俗关系。在家众应当敬爱出家众及供养他们的物质需要。出家人应以慈心教在家众,以智识学问灌输他们,引导他们远离邪恶而走向善道。

所以,对于在人际关系上,佛法与现代情绪管理学,结果与方法都有一定的相同之处。但在本质上,现代情绪管理学是从自我的快乐出发,因为我们能从帮助别人而获得快乐;而佛法则从他人出发,这是同体大悲的表现。