Secret to the Dung Beetle
(From a talk by Traktung Rinpoche – 2000)
"The fragrance of the lotus is known to the bee, but is forever secret to the dung beetle, who is happy nestling in dung." Bengali Mystic
Recently I read an article about Tibetan Lamas who were packing up their bags and returning to their silent mountain abodes. They were fed up with materialistic western students who did not properly respond to the dharma. This saddened me. Not saddened by their leaving – who could be sad when false prophets turn tail and run. I was saddened that such pseudo Gurus, masquerading as the lineage of the Buddha, were ever allowed to don the noble robes. That is sad!
When Padmasambhava first came to Tibet he did not encounter saints waiting to float into the sky at the slightest instruction. He did not encounter people just on the edge of enlightenment. As he put it they were “barbarians, as arrogant and stupid as human beings could get”. He encountered the “descendents of humans who mated with monkeys and had minds hard as dried yak skin”. Did he cry and run home? Did his compassion show its failure? No! He applied the miraculous skillful means of Tantra and overcame the obstacles. He dug in and stuck it out teaching, working, transforming even the landscape. What these coward Lamas show is that they have no compassion wed to wisdom. They have no understanding of Vajrayana – skillful means. Padmasambhava was called in because sutra is not strong enough to overcome the obstacles in a new land and tantra was needed. These so called Vajrayana monks are just Hinayanist – small boat – little men. Good riddance.
Recently I read an article, in response to the afore mentioned one, about how many westerners are leaving Vajrayana because it has failed them and the Lamas were not the wonders they had imagined. This saddened me. Not because the seeming victims were failed by their spiritual leaders but because of the endless ability to blame ones personal self created suffering on others. Ram Das once said, “Look at your motivation and it will determine what kind of the Guru you get.” If you are into status, power, glitz, you will get a Lama or Guru who plays into this. If you are into playing the dependency role, Guru as savior great daddy figure, then you will get a Guru who will lay this trip on you. Later of course you will despise them for domineering you.
When the motivation and intention is impure on either side it spells trouble. When it is impure on both sides – watch out. Lamas on the traveling side show dog and pony act circuit go about selling their empowerments and collecting starry-eyed fools. Fools go about shelling out cash and sex to inscrutable Gurus who will make them special. Both sides are wearing the emperors’ new cloths. Both sides feel angry when they realize they have been conned and are in fact naked.
Westerners want to think you can buy the secrets of life with cash. We are a culture that tends towards tremendous spoiled brat mentality. Easterners see the open pocket books of westerners and forget that Padmasambhava told the King way back when – “My dharma is NOT for sale!” Tibetans get angry that westerners treat the teachings like musk and the Lama like a musk deer and themselves as a hunter. But then perhaps they should stop standing on street corners and shouting “Musk for sale” Musk for sale.” By and large samsara is a con job. Everyone knows it but tries to fool him or herself. What passes for Dharma is just the same….. 99% bullshit. The intervention of the divine in human affairs is rare and most likely not to be bought from a stranger passing through town.
There are authentic gurus, lamas – of that there is no doubt. There are authentic disciples. East and west. They deserve each other and the other kinds deserve each other as well. And you usually get what you deserve.
Often times people want to take the methods of Tantra without consideration of the context within which it was taught. Certainly no spiritual path that leads to transcendent liberation requires the fashions of one culture or another. One does not need to sport a Tibetan purse or hat in order to be a Tantric Buddhist. In fact this sort of shallow display usually coincides with a faddish approach and not with an authentic deeply felt wish to grow.
While one need not become a pseudo Tibetan or pseudo Himalayan in order to practice Tantra, there is another issue to consider. The place, culture, circumstance in which Tantra has been traditionally taught is suffused with the context of practice. In other words, there may be aspects of the culture that were shaped by the Tantric ethos and these might be crucial to the success of the practices. The methods are not mere techniques. They cannot be because we are not going about building something mechanical like a car. We are involved in the subtlest art - the spiritual transformation of a human being.
The context of practice is the outer and inner world of the practitioner. In Tibet, the context of practice was the creation of an entire world revolving around the vision of Tantric practice. One finds this in the monasteries and in the gars (yogic encampments) in which people engaged these practices. In such circumstances, there was tremendous implicit consideration about every aspect of life and how it related to the path. It is also true that many such places were, over time, corrupted into dens of pedophiles and businessmen just like the medieval (and even modern) Catholic Church.
When the teacher and the student renounce materialist destruction or manipulation of the teachings, then teacher becomes master and student becomes disciple and wisdom realization blossoms. The fragrance of the lotus is known to the bee, but is forever secret to the dung beetle, who is happy nestling in dung.