I had such a peculiar experience this past 10 Million Day, Chotrul Duchen. I was invited out to the far ger districts to do some prayers and help a family set up a shrine to Amitabha Buddha. What a perfect way to end this auspicious day, thought I. And in a way, it was.
On the way out, however, my hostess (a longtime member of our Dharma group) spun such a tale of woe about her life – for example, having borne ten children, four of whom had died – but with this strange dispassion. It did have the effect of arousing compassion in me and I resolved to do as good as a job as I could. After the obligatory stuffing with mutton dumplings and family chit-chat, I began with a practice to clear obstacles and bring protective energy. I didn’t feel tired, and yet I found myself having great difficulty concentrating, whether on the chanting or visualization. Then, after we did the abbreviated Amitabha practice I’d been teaching our group, I gave a short teaching about the special qualities of Amitbaha and his pure land of Dewachen. It was then I noticed my translator also having trouble concentrating, frequently asking me to repeat myself, unusual for her. Something was off.
On the way home, my hostess began describing a “lama” with whom the family had become entangled. Passing himself off as a Nyingma (‘Red Tradition’) lama, she described his voracious drinking, the women he molested when drunk, and his ever-escalating demands for compensation for alleged supernatural healings and other ‘miracles’ he’d performed, all unverifiable of course. His latest bit of audacity was to ask for her daughter as a wife, having previously been refused one of her sons to adopt.
I was in deep, deep scowl as we rode. This is something I’d heard many times before here – self-declared lamas taking advantage of others, especially poor folk without the education to see through the ruse and desperate for magical solutions to their grinding difficulties. But then I knew by experience that even over-educated galoots like myself could be, and had been, fooled by clever charlatans whose demeanor turned ugly once the mask dropped. It’s a degenerate time.
When I got home I felt unusually exhausted and collapsed into bed. The next day the exhaustion persisted; I could barely muster up any kind of practice, but what I did manage finally seemed to release something from my body, with difficulty, a very odd sensation. I checked in with my translator. She was so sick the next day she simply could not get out of bed, and suggested that perhaps I could leave her off the next field trip. I know there are currents of black energy here, springing both from Mongolia’s shamanic roots as well as Buddhist practitioners gone awry. This was simply the first time I’d felt them so directly.
Because of this experience, I shifted my topic for teaching yesterday and spoke of “the unsurpassed lie.” It’s a basic part of the ethical life of a Buddhist not to lie, but one destroys one’s practice at the root by what’s known as the unsurpassed lie. If I told such a lie, I’d have to leave the monastic life, and it really contravenes every other level of Buddhist practice, top to bottom. In his commentary to Ngari Panchen’s Perfect Conduct, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche explains the subject of such a lie:
“The subject must be one’s own spiritual status or level of development: for example, to claim to possess the five types of clairvoyance or to have transcended the desire realm, to have attained the first level of meditative absorption, to possess the noble qualities of the buddhas, and so forth, when you know this to be untrue.”
Padmasambhava himself called it 1200 years ago. I present this passage from “The Crystal Garland of Faultless Practice” chapter of Dakini Teachings in the hopes that you may avoid these vile spiritual deceivers and pursue a path that brings you great happiness and ultimate liberation:
“Master Padma said: In the future, when the dark age of degeneration arrives, some people who claim to be practitioners will desire to teach others without having received permission. Without having practiced themselves they will instruct others in meditation. Without being liberated themselves they will pretend to give instructions for liberation. Without being devoid of self-interest they will instruct others to cast away their fetters of attachment and be generous. Without the slightest understanding of the good or evil of their own actions they will spout clairvoyant statements about the good or evil fare of others. Having no stability themselves they will claim to be benefiting other beings. I think there will be many who will pretend, be hypocritical, cheat, and deceive in the name of the Dharma.
“All people of future generations who wish to practice the Dharma, read this written testament of the mendicant Padmakara (another name for Padmasambhava) and examine yourself!
“Observe the shortcomings of samsaric misery! Since it is evident that all material things in this life are impermanent, turn your mind toward yourself and think well! Listen to the life stories of how the accomplished masters of the past practiced self-discipline. Find a qualified master and serve him with devoted body, speech, and mind.
“At first do not befriend him like an equal acquaintance but cut your misconceptions through learning and contemplation.
“Next, keep to constant practice and exert yourself with perseverance.
“Finally, assimilate the Dharma in your heart through practice and apply the remedies to disturbing emotions.
“Always keep your samayas and disciplines without transgressions. Do not practice intermittently or postpone your practice, but keep your pledge to apply it immediately.
“Although I, a mendicant, have attained accomplishment, I have never found time for distraction. On seeing all the lost sentient beings who are tormented by samsaric pursuits and delusions, disturbing emotions and evil karma, I feel like weeping. My heart aches with despair and anguish.
“Having obtained a human body and perceived the pleasant or painful results of good or evil actions, people who do not try to attain enlightenment in this lifetime and who do not practice even one session of taking refuge, but instead chase the pursuits, ambitions, distractions, and enjoyments of this life and accumulate evil karmic deeds have no heart. Their hearts have rotted. The demon of Mara has crept into their hearts. They are deceived by demonic friends.
“If you entrust yourself to the Three Jewels from the core of your heart and practice to attain enlightenment in one lifetime, it is impossible that you will be deceived by the Three Jewels.
“It is also impossible that you will suffer from want of food and clothing. The people who claim to lack food or clothes for Dharma practice, who have no time for taking refuge or spiritual practice and say that they have found no leisure, are shamelessly fooling themselves.
“Right now, while your senses are clear and you have free time, if you do not exert yourself in the practices for attaining enlightenment you will very soon be blown away by the wind of karma, approached by the demonic Lord of Death, and be in danger of imminent death. At that time you will frantically try to think of all possible things but it will be far too late, Keep that in mind!
“In general, when practicing Dharma you will have no success unless you keep death in mind.
“Capable people of future generations, there is no deception in these words of the mendicant Padmakara. No matter what you pursue, try hard to be free from regret at the time of death! Take care of yourselves and be diligent with the aspiration to also be able to help others!”
In typing these words, I see how utterly indolent I am, and how very far from perfect practice. Let us be careful in how we choose our spiritual friends, but once we have chosen well, may we strive to emulate these perfect words of Guru Rinpoche.