The Dalai Lama’s Message to Bad Buddhist Teachers.

Via Ramesh Bjonnes
on May 11, 2012
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Once, a Buddhist teacher’s controversial lifestyle was brought to the attention of the Dalai Lama by a group of Western Buddhist monks.

“What would be his advice?” they wondered.

The Dalai Lama’s reply was profound and unmistakable:

“One’s view may be as vast as the sky,” he said, “but one’s regard for cause and effect should be as finely sifted as barley flour.”

In other words, you may be an intellectual giant, a great orator, an inspirational teacher, but if you act like an idiot, that’s what you are, and you must face society’s music and take responsibility for your actions.

You may be an inspired and devoted student, but if your teacher is unable to sift through the barley of his or her own heart and mind, then it’s time for you to notice and wake up. It’s time to come down from the vast blue sky-temple of your mind and carry some water, sift some barely.

So, fellow Buddhists, fellow yogis, fellow spiritual seekers everywhere: your teacher’s mind may be as vast as the azure-blue sky over Arizona, but what counts in the end is what happens on those stubbly fields of life:

How good is he or she in sifting those personal bags of barley?

How good are we in doing our own mental sifting?


Editor: Brianna Bemel

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About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes is the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center specializing in detox by incorporating juice fasting, ayurveda, meditation and yoga to cleanse, relax and rejuvenate. Bjonnes is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He lived in India and Nepal in the 1980s learning directly from the traditional teachers of yoga and Tantra. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India). He lives and practices in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


27 Responses to “The Dalai Lama’s Message to Bad Buddhist Teachers.”

  1. […] The Dalai Lama's Message To Bad Buddhist Teachers. | elephant … You may be an inspired and devoted student, but if your teacher is unable to sift through the barley of his or her own heart and mind, then it's time for you to notice and wake up. It's time to come down from the vast blue . […]

  2. integralhack says:

    Thanks, Ramesh.

    Yogis–Buddhist and non-Buddhist–frequently forget about the whole "cause and effect thing" and I'm not being sarcastic at all.

    The beauty of it is that it is a simple analysis, yet it doesn't require being grounded in scientific materialist reductionism as some would have it.

    In sum, it's realistic, but not realist . . . and wise.

  3. Ramesh says:

    Yes, Matt, it is important to note that ethics is the foundation of both Buddhism and Yoga, in other words the personal is also spiritual, what we say and do matters! Unless you are one of those nondualists who believe this world is an illusion and only Spirit is real. Now, that was sarcasm!

  4. I appreciate this. Thank you.

  5. Padma Kadag says:

    In your reference to "Arizona", I whole heartedly agree. The quotation from His Holiness like all quotations from HH. unfortunately should be approached with some degree of verification. He is continually misquoted out of context and just plain misquoted. The quotation which you site originated with Padmasambhava. The quote is very famous and used as a teaching metaphor on meditation and View by all schools of this thing we are calling Tibetan Buddhism. I am sure HH Dalai Lama has referred to this quote many many times. But…i have only heard it used, "One's view should be as vast as the sky and attention to one's actions as fine as tsampa (barley flour)". This is a wholey positive teaching meant as advice for the serious practitioner from one's own Guru. Though the quote you show is slightly different, it's meaning is the same but in the form of an admonition. If the quote from HHDalai Lama is accurate, it is his perogative in a teaching moment without question. For those of us who are hearing this quote for the first time should hear it as heart advice to one's own personal practice.That…our minds can be as vast as the sky and hold attention to our actions as fine as tsampa simultaneously.

  6. Padma Kadag says:

    The vastness of the sky or the View is not attainable without "sifting" through the barley flour, grain by grain, simultaneously.

  7. dallas says:

    so we need to eat more grain?

  8. Ramesh says:

    Dallas, no need to eat it, simply sifting the grainy parts of heart and mind will do….. :-)

  9. svan says:

    Tantric practice is basically concerned with cultivating energy and directing it. Where and how you direct it depends on you, your teacher, your lineage. Without proper guidance, it's easy to see how this power can go astray (the Tantric path isn't likened to a razor's edge for nothing). Adding power to an afflicted mind merely magnifies those afflictions. The Anusara scandal, the Arizona tragedy and on a more mundane level, the rampant spiritual materialism of so many western hatha yogis…. how many examples do we need?

  10. Ramesh says:

    Svan, yes, the higher you go the harder the fall… all of the aspects you mentioned are important… well said!

  11. AnnetteVictoria says:

    Thanks for this, Ramesh.

  12. […] the objective outer world and our capacity to reason and interpret meaning—in fact, I suggest healthy, sustainable spirituality requires this level of […]

  13. yogasamurai says:

    I am not a Buddhist formally, and I do not know the historical background to the Dalai lama's remarks? I also carry no brief for the Roche man either, trust me. I am speaking simply as an outsider who knows that sages often mask their deeper meanings in such adages. Can I ask this, and I ask it most humbly- —

    Is it possible that the Dalai Lama was actually suggesting to the monks that THEIR view, which they think is as "vast as the sky," is the one that might need to be refined also?

    That their thinking that THEY already know and can judge why a monk has a certain lifestyle may not be correct, that they may themselves be mistaking the cause and effect of what is transpiring?

    In other words, might he also be asking them to sift their own views more finely for the truth?

    Possible or not?

  14. Ramesh says:

    Good question, yogasamurai.. When I read the article this quote was taken from, the context seem to imply that he was specifically addressing the teacher in question. But, in a more general sense, the advise applies to anyone on the path, also the monks who asked for it.

  15. Michael says:

    schadenfreude ˈshä-dən-ˌfrȯi-də n. enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.

  16. Ramesh says:

    Michael, learning and wisdom comes from so many sources…. This was intended as a somber message and the discussion, to me, has been far from indulging in schadenfreude…

  17. Pawansuta says:

    Neem Karoli Baba told Ram Dass "gold and sex, gold and sex" – don't mess with them if you aspire to be a holy man – but time and time again we see teachers soiled by their own behavior. I am reading Irina Tweedie – her guru told her "you will never have much money – that will be very good for your spritual journey" Tantra says we all have karma, and if we react with greed, aversion or delusion we just create more karma. Life is teaching me this every moment. Thanks Ramesh for another great post.

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