What the #$*! is Dharma? Is My Yoga the Same as Your Dharma?

Via on Dec 25, 2010

You’ve heard this hip, spiritual term thrown around by yogis for a while. You’ve heard it thrown around by Buddhists the likes of Jack Kerouac, who wrote that ultimate hipster book The Dharma Bums.

You’ve likely even used it yourself. But what really is the inner, spiritual meaning and significance of this ancient Sanskrit word? And does it mean the same for everybody?

Most often, we think of the word Dharma, or Dhamma in Pali, to pertain to the teachings of the Buddha, or in Hinduism as the teachings of the Vedas. The Buddha, while completing his teachings, remarked, “Eśa dhamma sanantana, This is the eternal dharma.”

To live according to Dharma, it is said, means to live according to one’s religion, or to live according to universal law.

But since religions differ in so many fundamental ways, how is it possible that my Yoga Dharma—which I don’t even think of as a religion but instead of as a spiritual path—can be the same as your Buddhist Dharma? Or even your Christian Dharma? And does it really matter? Can’t we just celebrate the diversity of religions, of our spiritual points of view? Can’t we just agree to disagree?

It matters, I think, that we come to some common understanding of what spirituality, or religion, or Dharma is, because as long as I insist that my belief is different, or worse—better than yours—then we’re in deep trouble. And we’ve been in deep trouble for too long.

When people’s religions, people’s dharmas are threatened, then wars break out, wars with both words and swords. And soon the religious blood starts to flow.

And, frankly, at this time in the evolution of humanity, when fundamentalist religions are threatening our safety and sanity, we need to do better than that. We need to find a common ground, a perennial wisdom that can unify us beyond religious difference, practice and dogma. But is that possible?

We have already seen that representatives of both Yoga and Buddhist Dharma have the ability to speak a language of freedom and universal unity, a language that can bring us beyond dogmatic differences.

Vivekananda, the first Indian yogi to come to the West, spoke about religious universalism. He said:  “The idea of an objective God is not untrue—in fact, every idea of God, and hence every religion, is true, as each is but a different stage in the journey….”

And if we venture even further into India’s past, the Rig Veda, the world’s earliest sacred scripture stated: “Ekam sat vipra bahauda vadanti,” which means: “to what is One, the sages give many names.” In other words, there’s only one common, universal, spiritual Truth which we approach in so many different ways and give so many different names.

The Dalai Lama says that “compassion” is that which unites all religions; that each religion share kindness and care toward other human beings as a common goal.

But back to the word Dharma, for I think it contains a clue to our real spiritual commonality. What does it actually mean?

The word Dharma actually means nature, property, law. Hence we can say that it is the nature or property of a flame to burn, the nature or property of a fish to swim, and thus the dharma of water to flow. But what is the nature or property of a human being? To seek pleasure, to seek happiness, to seek enlightenment!

Unlike plants and animals, whose dharma it is to follow the simple laws of nature, whose dharma is easily fulfilled (just look at your dog, or your cat!), our human dharma is more expansive, we want unlimited pleasure, unlimited happiness. Hence, say the sages of the old and new age, our dharma is the search for spiritual happiness, for enlightenment.

If we seek that ultimate happiness the way animals do, mainly through our simple needs of the flesh, mainly by satisfying our hedonistic needs for food, sex and freedom from fear, we are following svabhavik dharma, our animal dharma.

But how can we satisfy our cosmic needs for enlightenment, our infinite needs for union with God, with Spirit, with the Void, through these limited means? How can sexual satisfaction give us the ultimate high, that cosmic realization of our true Self, our ultimate freedom from samsara?

It cannot. Because we cannot satisfy an unlimited need for Pure Awareness, for Cosmic Consciousness, for God, for the Void through limited means.

Hence, there is also something called Bhagavat (Great) Dharma in Yoga, the Dharma or path of spirituality, the path of the real human Dharma. Because our need is greater than that of a plant or a dog, we seek ultimate freedom, we seek the Great Dharma. The Buddhists call this path simply Dharma, or Dhamma.

I think it is fair to say, then, that both Yogis and Buddhists share the same goal, share the same Dharma, share the same desire for enlightenment!

Yes, I know. I can hear the voices of protest: our paths are so different, even our final goal is different. But I do not think so. Our language may be different, our name for that ultimate state of enlightenment may be different, our practices may be different, but the ultimate goal is not different. Enlightenment is One for All. And that is our common Dharma.

“All religions are one,’ said the 17th century visionary poet William Blake. And he was a Christian! The 14th century Indian poet-guru Kabir, while fiercely anchored in yogic practice, spoke to the common spiritual heart of both the Hindu and Muslim faith.

Likewise, Aldous Huxley, who sought illumination in both psychedelics and yoga, found enough common evidence among the world’s mystics to declare that there is a perennial wisdom river that runs through all religions. One river that ends in the same universal sea.

And Huston Smith, the well-known philosopher of religions, said: “It is possible to climb life’s mountain from any side, but when the top is reached the trails converge.” The trails converge because human nature, human Dharma is the same: to satisfy our inner thirst for illumination.

That’s why we pray, do yoga, meditate, chant, prostrate, breathe slowly through one nose at-a-time. That’s why we write love poetry to God all night. That’s why we dance and whirl as if we’re perfectly and wildly free.

But not so fast you say. There are too many differences among us, too many philosophical and ritualistic divergences that do not converge in the same Dharmic sea.

I agree. And that is both the problem and the solution. “A clear-eyed understanding of our religious differences may be the best hope for promoting cooperation among different religions,” writes religion writer Don Harper.

Boston University religion scholar Stephen Prothero, author of God is Not One, protests this notion that all religions share a fundamental goal. Huston Smith is wrong, he says. Prothero also contradicts Swami Sivananda, who said, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same.”

To which Prothero replies, “This is a lovely sentiment, but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous.” He thinks that the only way towards cooperation is by understanding our diversity, our differences.

I agree. I agree with both Huston Smith and Stephen Prothero. Dharma is not either/or. Dharma is yes/and. We need to see and promote both universal unity and tolerance. Because there is both unity and diversity in nature. And if Dharma represents natural law, the two wings of the Dharmic bird are called unity and diversity.

Or think of it as a Dharmic nest. While the sticks used to build my Yogic Dharma may point in quite different directions than those used to build your Buddhist Dharma, on the inside both nests are round and whole. On the inside they both hold and support the nondual grace of the Void, the nondual grace of Pure Consciousness.

About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes was born in Norway and lived for nearly three years in India and Nepal learning directly from the masters of tantric yoga. He has written extensively on tantra, yoga, culture and sustainability, and his articles have appeared in books and numerous magazines and newspapers in Europe and the US. His forthcoming book on Tantra will be published by Hay House India soon. He is currently contributing editor of New Renaissance and a columnist for Fredrikstad Blad, a Norwegian newspaper. He lives in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Visit his blog here: Eight Fold Path. His book Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit: A Personal Guide to the Wisdom of Yoga and Tantra can be purchased here.

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34 Responses to “What the #$*! is Dharma? Is My Yoga the Same as Your Dharma?”

  1. Prothero is right on. I've often been struck by the incredibly disrespectful attitude of universalists who claim to respect everybody's beliefs, saying "if only people would pay attention to the essence, which is the same in every religion, instead of the unimportant details," completely ignoring the rather obvious fact that, for many, if not most, believers, the "unimportant details" ARE the essence.

    • Ramesh says:

      Prothero is right on in that the differences do matter, but he is wrong in that they are all-important. Moreover, he has missed what all mystics of all paths have realized, that the ritual, the practice, the outward form or religion is not the essence–the inner experience is… thus, as I said in the article, Prothero is both right and wrong.

  2. Excellent article, Ramesh. I just finished a wonderful book that is highly relevant to this discussion.

    I don't use this term lightly, but I would say this book is indispensable to anyone who wants to understand the impact of Vedanta-Yoga in the U.S.. (The only exception might be Ramesh, who always seems to know everything already!):

    American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

    • Great article. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Bob. I like Prothero's critical view of universalism solely because saying that "it is all the same" is such an easy way out. Simply saying it is all the same really means nothing. There are some wonderful similarities, though that can be good foundation for discussion.

      Also a very timely post as someone on twitter just mentioned to me that they worked with Huston Smith and I was unfamiliar with his work.

      • Ramesh says:

        Zendirtzendust,
        I think what Huston Smith and Lex Hixon are saying is that the wide blue sky of enlightenment is the same blue sky for everyone, but that the path up the mountain to where you can witness that blue sky is very different. In other words, the similarity is in the revelation of enlightenment, but how the revelation is attained is as varied as the trees below the sky.

    • Ramesh says:

      Bob, thanks so much for your support. The more we know, the less we know, and the less we know, the more we know.

      I looked at that book in the bookstore the other day, but not long enough, as I came to pick up another one next to it….now I will return and take a closer look!

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    Ramesh…as always very thoughtful. But I am not sure why such an article by yourself and the other referenced authors is necessary. I say this because as all of us do our individual practices on our chosen paths, and if we are sincerely following the instructions to carry us on the path, then what more do we need? If you are interested in thwarting zealotry unfortunately this kind of approach will not work as we can see today. If you are wanting to somehow pacify the debates on EJ and elsewhere ….why? The problem with blogs and such is that here in the west it seems everyone is writing a book or has something to sell. Once they have an epiphany they want to sell it in some form and make money. Then they are stuck in believing in an unchanging stagnant spirituality which requires consistent uniform marketing. All of the Yoga Instructors, Healers, Bloggers, authors, are in business to make money, and as they say to make a more peaceful world. But are they really? Or how much of what they deny themselves is because of their business "shtick"? How much spiritual growth is retarded due to maintaining a view which supports their Instructor income or book writing?

    • Ramesh says:

      Padma,

      since I have been working on a book about yoga and tantra, and just signed a book deal for which I have received no money, and will get a small percentage of the sales price later on, I am here to tell you that your criticism is very much misplaced. very very few people make any money writing books. Hardly anybody. Moreover, very very few yoga teachers make much money also.
      We write books and blogs because we are writers, because we are thinkers, because we love the art of communication, simply because of the love of it, and hopefully because we once in a while have something worthwhile to share.

      As for thwarting zealotry, I believe that enlightened rationality and tolerance is the best way to do so. So, while i may mainly preach to the "converted" here, I do think that it has some use, as any positive thought or intention has a life beyond its immediate circle. And, as far as I know, spreading compassion, empathy, loving kindness is part of the Buddhist Dharma, any Dharma….

  4. Aaron says:

    This is an interesting bunch of opinions, but I think where the Boston professor makes his mistake in the distinction between Dharma and Dogma. Dharma is one because reality is one. This why the Dali Lama has said where science has conclusively demonstrated that some bit of Buddhist belief (dogma) is in error it must be abandoned.
    Where I take issue with the author is in statement that one’s Dharma can ever be threaten. Dogmas can be threatened, while Dharma can not. When Dharma is realized there is peace and equanimity. Without a realization of Dharma it doesn’t matter how much one tried to respect another person’s dogma, failure is assured and there will be conflict. Dogmas are egotistical belongings that must be protected at all costs. Although granted “universalism” is a dogma and therefore contains it’s own seeds for strife. On the other hand that there is only one Dharma is an experiential fact that no dogma can either add nor take away from.

    • Ramesh says:

      Aaron,
      very well said, and i agree with most of it.. I also intended to say that dogmas are threatened, not Dharma per se. i used the word Dharma in that sentence as in Hindu Dharma, etc. in which it indicates a religion.
      While Dharma or Truth can never be threatened, people espousing Truth and Dharma are often threatened–think Mesiter Eckhart, think Giordano Bruno, think St. Francis, or the Dali Lama, or….

  5. Padma Kadag says:

    Gurudas… You are a firey character and I like that. Your comments regarding Shugden are concerning. If you want to state that you are standing with them because they are victimized by the Dalai Lama then I am not sure that will give you a result that you are working towards. The shugden activists are not victims persay but are selfvictimized. To support the Shugden people is sheer ignorance and does not need our discussion. If you are one of them , I understand. If you are an observer then best to not get involved and not support.

  6. essay help says:

    I think the main idea of the yoga is the understanding of the inside way of the man!And this way is one right in your life!

  7. Joe Sparks says:

    People can reach agreement to any desired degree, if they get their distresses out of the way and acquire enough information and allow for the differences in viewpoints.

    The ultimate unpredictability of future reality is not due just to our lack of knowledge. Even if we could ever attain complete information about present reality, the future would go on being surprising.

    This fits our essential nature well.

    • Ramesh says:

      Joe,
      Yes, this makes sense…Jean Gebser, who studied the evolution of human culture and consciousness suggest that religious intolerance is part of an evolutionary worldview avoid of rational and integral thinking. He suggested that humanity so far has evolved the following cultural structures or memes: 1. The archaic structure 2. The magic structure 3. The mythical structure 4. The mental structure 5. The integral stage

      Stage 1-3 represent religious dogmatic thinking and modernity or the post-modern is represented by the mental stage. Fundamentalism is caused by a clash between the modern (4) and pre-modern (1-3) stages, as the pre-modern societies are threatened by the rationality and progress of modernity and thus resort to fundamentalism as a survival and fear mechanism.
      While modernity represent secularism and rationality and has a level of tolerance for the other, it is in the integral stage that a more spiritual outlook is reached, an outlook that transcends but also includes the best of all the other. Hence, it is not just about acquiring information but also about acquiring a deeper state of consciousness that will gives us a sense of respect and tolerance for the other, but also awareness about what is irrational and dogmatic…
      I think the increased realization that we need more spirituality and less dogmatic religion is a sign of an increase in integral thinking and awareness on the planet and thus there is hope we can build cultures of tolerance and rationality without throwing out the spiritual with the bath water.

  8. Tangled Macrame says:

    I became a member of Elephant today to read this article. Informative and thought provoking writers like Ramesh Bjoones are completely worth the investment. Thank you!

  9. vakibs says:

    Ramesh.. A very fine article, food for thought.

    I will recall an anecdote from the Mahabharata epic to further elaborate your point on Dharma.

    Yudishtara, the hero of the epic, loses his kingdom in a game of gambling and has to spend 12 years in the jungle (aranya) with his brothers and wife. In the depths of despair, he leaves his beloved kingdom and enters the jungle at the foothills of the Himalayas. One day, his brother Bhima catches sight of him saluting the mighty peak of the Himalaya and performing devotional ablutions. Bhima asks him why he does that, especially considering his despair at the moment.

    Yudishtara replies by saying that it is the "dharma" of the Himalaya to appear majestic and it is his own "dharma" to supplicate before it in awe and wonder. He is just performing his natural course of action, the current condition of his own life is immaterial.

    "Dharma" simply means the natural course of action for any being. Since every sentient being (jiva) strives for perfection and liberation, the natural course of action leads it towards a certain direction. But these directions can be different, indeed contradictory, to different beings at different levels of their journey. Just observe the contrast between the dharma of Yudishtara, Himalaya and Bhima in the above discourse. Yudishtara has a second name "Dharma", and indeed personifies it in the epic.

    There is an ancient saying : "Svadharme nidhanam sreyah, paradharmo bhaya vahah". It means the "dharma" of one's very deepest self (svah) produces fulfillment and joy. On the other hand, the "dharma" of the "other from self" produces fear. It is very common for a human being to confuse his deepest self with attributes from the other that do not belong to him. We often make choices in life that do not represent the volition of our deepest selves, but that of others – either people or social organizations. These choices induce fear. It is important, but very difficult, for everyone to discover their true nature.. and thus identify their "dharma".

    However, there are certain elements that can indeed held in common with the whole of humanity. Charity or giving alms is one such thing. In India, a beggar calls for alms by literally saying "please do your dharma". This is a remnant from the ancient Buddhist period where the Bhikshus (monks) of the Sangha (society) had to beg for alms as a daily duty.

    The word "dharma" does not translate at all into "religion". The right word for the latter is "mata" (when understood as a series of rituals & practices) or "darshana" (when understood as a philosophical viewpoint). There can be various matas or darshanas, but there is only one "dharma" for any person.

  10. Ramesh says:

    Vakibs,
    great to hear from you again! Always a pleasure to read your thoughtful and wise contributions. The way I was thought it by my guru was that the sva-dharma is the bhagavad dharma, the great dharma, the true, spiritual dharma. In other words, whenwe align our personal (sva) dharma with our deepest Self it becomes Bhagavat Dharma, the great dharma, the transformation.

    I agree with you that dharma and religion are different in that religion may contain dogma, superstition, which is absent in true dharma. Thus i like to think of dharma as spirituality, not religion. These are just words, of course…. unless we live it, we are just preaching it!
    So dharma, although not religion per se, may exist in any religion as it indicates what is true spiritual transformation, what is true illumination…. that path of dharma exists irrespective of religious affiliation. It just is!

    • tamingauthor says:

      Partially true. As you know, the lines are not hard and fast. In many religions the dogma and doctrine are merely a formalization of the guidelines and steps one takes as one undergoes spiritual transformation. So the two fit hand-in-glove. Religion may mark off a path others have taken but you still have to walk the path.

      Where one finds something different is when there is no motion toward enlightenment and the guidelines and dogma become fossilized. In other words there is no movement on the path and the markers on the path are treated as static pictures. Here one finds iconic religion rather than transformative religion.

      Thus, as you know, and as you point out, one must speak to the person individually and find out what they are actually doing in their individual practice.

      • Ramesh says:

        Tamingauthor,

        I think we use the term dogma differently. I use the term dogma and often religion to mean belief systems that due not produce spiritual transformation. Such as: I believe in Jesus, thus I am saved. I have prostrated 100,000, thus I will enter get nirvana when I die. I am bathing in the Ganges and dying in Benares, thus I will go to heaven. Hindus believe that if the ashes of their dead are deposited in the river, they will be ensured a smooth transition to the next life, or freed from the cycle of death and rebirth. To die in Benares, or to be cremated on the banks of the Ganges, or to have one's ashes united with the waters of the Ganges, is what every devout Hindu desires. That is why a drop of water from the Ganges and a leaf of Holy Basil (tulsi) is placed on the mouth of a person who is dying. Along with this is the Hindu belief that bathing in the Ganges with cleanse them of all sins. They believe that a single drop of Ganges water, carried by the wind over a great distance, can cleanse a lifetime of sins. Whatever the dogma, such irrational belief systems do not produce much spiritual transformation, yet religions are full of such dogmas. That is not dharma, that is not spirituality.

  11. [...] What the #$*! is Dharma? Is My Yoga the Same as Your Dharma? by Ramesh Bjonnes [...]

  12. [...] a sign related to righteousness and law (both man-made law and God-made law or what is called “Dharma”, in eastern traditions). Sagittarius is the external/masculine nature of Jupiter, the planet of [...]

  13. Bhaeravii says:

    I feel it is essential that the most commonly used words in spiritual work be defined by writers in any available media, really over and over, as most people use the word but do not know what it means. Dharma is such an integral part and visible element of the Eastern spiritual traditions, it cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Any spiritual aspirant can use the word dharma…for good or naught, depending on their conscience and samskaras.

    What a wonderful quote, especially considering all religions and spiritual paths are interconnected on the invisible level, even practical/philosophical descendants of Tantra: Vivekananda said: “The idea of an objective God is not untrue—in fact, every idea of God, and hence every religion, is true, as each is but a different stage in the journey….”

  14. Ramesh says:

    Thanks, Gurudas Sunyatananda for getting my point–the unity in diversity. I share your wish to end suffering through compassion.

  15. Ramesh says:

    Gurudas Sunyatanandaji,
    do you believe that all paths have the potential for enlightenment, though? That a Christian mystic and Buddhist can both reach enlightenment?

  16. Gurudas Sunyatananda said:

    "And so, for what it's worth, my love and support publicly goes to the Shugdenpa, the KPC folks, the New Kadampa practitioners, and the folks at Kashi Ashram. Whenever you're doing something that threatens to expose the shallowness of the "respected po-culture mouthpieces", you can be sure there will be those disparaging you. "

    Seriously? You make no distinction between teachings other than to support those with whom others disagree? That's like saying I support Noam Chomsky, Naomi Kline and Osama bin Laden simply because they are loathed by their critics without considering their philosophies/teachings – indiscriminate support of false teachers is more dangerous than opposing certain teachers.

    As for the article as a whole, I am inclined to side with Prothero and with Robert Wright (Evolution of God) – culture shapes the way people even conceive of "enlightenment." Many Westerners seem to view nonduality as one-ness, a singular experience, an individual wholeness, but other cultures see nonduality as we-ness, an experience of union, a collective wholeness. These may appear to be the same thing from the outside, but I'd guess they are not the same from the inside.

    I think gender also influences these conceptions – like or not, EVERYTHING we experience in our lives is grounded in the bodies we inhabit – even non-physical spiritual experiences are filtered though our gendered flesh.

    I'm cool with discussing these issues – it's part of the process. But when people like Gurudas Sunyatananda announce their love for sham gurus like the woman behind KPC (who was "recognized" by the same "lama" who "recognized" Steven Seagal) simply because others reject them, the discussion becomes pointless.

    The Christians talk about discernment quite a bit – seems maybe the Eastern followers might want to look into that concept a bit.

  17. Ramesh says:

    Gurudas Sunyatananda,
    your first paragraph above beautifully summarizes the many paths, the numerous expressions and concepts of enlightenment of various sages in different traditions. It reminds me of one of my favorite books, Coming Home by Lex Hixon.

    This book, perhaps more than any, brings home the nature of enlightenment, but it also shows us how the practices, how the lifestyles of the various sages differ greatly. Take Ramakrishna, for example, whose longing for Mother Kali was so insanely intense that it puts most teenage love to shame. Compare that to Krishnamurti, whose intellectual yoga was about circumventing longing all together.

    My own tantric yogic practice involves a lot of longing and intense concentration meditation, and is similar to Ramkrishna's but different from the jnana yga of Ramana Maharshi, whose quiet equanimity was radically different from the wild ecstasies of Ramakrishna and Kabir.

    So, when I hear you say that enlightenment is not something we attain, that is a different language than I use, and that so many Indian sages would use.

    I have certainly had spontanious enlightenmnent experiences and insights that seem to come from nowhere, but without my previous striving, my previous disciplined sittings and yoga practice, I don't think they would seem so effortless. Moreover, there have been others that have come after lots of practice that I can only compare to climbing a mountain. Moreover, Buddha certainly climbed many mountains with intense desire for enlightenment, even his final climb under the Bodhi tree was so intense that he gave up food….

    But I do agree that it may have nothing to do with religion, and all to do with our common inner dharma–that we are actually hardwired for enlightenment–and that when that wide sky finally opens, then the seeking, the God-stuff is nothing but a safety-net, a support system you do not finally need, a practice you do not practice, but rather a state of being you have become.

    In other words, Krishna had it right when he said there are different yogis–karma yogis, bhakti yogis and jnana yogis–that we approach the One with different psychologies, from different angles and with different steps. That we open ourselves to the wide blue sky in very personal ways…..ways that have created the various spiritual traditions and practices in the first place.

  18. Colin says:

    "There is a story my guru once told me, from the Zen tradition"

    Who was your Guru? I would love to find a teacher in the Vajrayana that also incorporates and is inclusive of other traditions.

  19. Colin says:

    I can't find any information on these teachers. I only did a quick search online. Is there a specific lineage that they teach from or a monastery or a book or are they self-taught hermit types?

  20. Ramesh says:

    Colin, here is Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati's website:
    http://www.kashi.org/

  21. Ramesh says:

    William,

    in Patanjali's Yoga sutras, the eight limb of Asthanga Yoga is samadhi. Many superficially think of samadhi as enlightenment and thus as one singular experience. But a closer look will reveal that there are various kinds of samadhi in the yoga tradition, not just one. There is Nirvikalpa Samadhi, or pure nondual samadhi in which there is no sense of I at all, not even I am. There is Savikalpa samadhi in which there is the alpervading experience of I am That, I am One with Sprit. Both these samadhis are experienced in meditation. There there is Sahaj Samadhi, a state of nondual awareness that the siddhas expereince, the enlightened beings, during waking, while functioning in the world. Then I Tantric Yoga there are various samadhi states related to the various chakras. So, yes, it is not all One. Still, there is Oneness, because there is duality in Oneness as well, as the Oneness transcends the duality. So there is both…..

  22. I have no doubt Penor Rinpoche was a great monk. His choice in recognizing Americans as Tulkus, however, is suspect. Two monks were consulted in recognizing Jetsumna, and one in recognizing Seagal – hardly a consensus.

    When you say you support "Shugdenpa, the KPC folks, the New Kadampa practitioners, and the folks at Kashi Ashram," does that mean you agree with their teachings? Have you studied the situation, or do you just assume that if someone rebukes their version of the dharma that they must be doing something right?

    I can only speak to the KPC part – and I'm sure Waylon is wishing I do not (since they threatened legal action to stop his publication of an article critical of their sect) – and the person who calls herself Jetsumna. Well, a whole book (Buddha from Brooklyn) has been written about her exploits, so there is likely little that is not already in the public record, such as this:

    *** "Jetsumna proclaimed herself a living Buddha (tulkus, however vaunted, do not usually make such claims for themselves) and required her students–and her children–to prostrate themselves before her. She ditched Michael Burroughs and took on a series of younger and younger consorts and described it as "skillful means" of bringing them into the fold. She increased her salary until it was $100,000 a year on top of living expenses and spent most of it on a massive wardrobe. And she abused students verbally and–on at least one occasion–physically, all in the name of "compassionate activity," most notably when a monk and nun broke their vows by having sex." ***
    (Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/2000/05/Bu

    KPC is no more legitimate than it's leader. And Alyce Louise Zeoli (aka Jetsumna) who has no formal teaching in Buddhism, is not a legitimate teacher. She appears from all accounts to be a new age guru drunk with power. This is why I suggest discernment. Someone who speaks the right words and has some charisma can pass herself off as a Buddha, and in her case that's just nonsense.

    Maybe KPC has changed since she and followers no longer run the place – hard to say – they squash all critical looks at their organization, so we may never know.

    So when you say you support them because someone disagrees with them – which is the essence of what you said – you become part of the reason that false gurus can continue to teach and give ALL dharma teachers a bad name.

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