Confessions of a Devoted Student – Part 1

Samaya, Devotion & Beliefs that Alter Perception

The love in the room is palpable. It flows directly from the man on the dais at the front into my heart, and into the heart of the other 300 people sharing this experience. He swivels on his chair and scans the room, looking at each of the students in turn. He does not rush. He holds us all with his wisdom mind. He looks at me and our minds connect. Heart-mind in one. Transformative power flows through him from his masters and from their masters before them. He is a light bulb plugged into the socket of devotion, and the blessings of the lineage flow through him into me. He is all the lineage masters in one. He is Guru Rinpoche. He is also a mirror. He mirrors and evokes my own wisdom mind. I recognise it and smile. His eyes twinkle and the corner of his mouth rises just slightly, then he turns to the next person. I remain in spacious awareness.
In that moment, I hear and see all and every single sound and sight in its own place all at once, in one glance—panoramic awareness—and I hold it all in my heart, aware of every interconnection that brings it all into being and keeps it always changing. The world is luminous, alive with being. Like my lama, my Vajra brothers and sisters are perfect in their primordial nature. This is without a shred of doubt the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect teacher, the perfect teaching and the perfect students. It still is. It always is.The atmosphere in the room is vibrant with awareness. It is he that has awakened it in us all. For that I am eternally grateful. That gratitude will never die, cannot, for to deny that experience is to deny the very nature of my own mind. To deny that would indeed plunge one into a darkness of denial that could take lifetimes to dissolve before one could see ones true nature again. Or it could dissolve in an instant of seeing that this experience was real, that in that moment a true student met a true teacher with true devotion, in the realisation that no matter what horror, grief, anger and even regret occurred afterwards, this moment can still be honoured.
It’s a tangible thing this samaya that is created in the moment a teacher introduces and the student sees the nature of their own mind and the nature of everything. It’s like sharing a child with someone; you are henceforth always connected.
This man had my devotion: a simple openness and receptivity to the truth, along with a deep appreciation for the lineage and the person who brings the sublime teachings. Though I saw his enlightened being when teaching and in particular in those moments of introduction from wisdom mind to wisdom mind, I never believed he was enlightened when not teaching formally. Clearly he was not perfect, because he appeared, at the very least, to push his teams too hard. I saw him demand a ridiculous degree of precision one day and criticise that very precision when executed the next day. I saw public humiliation, but I was told it was a teaching, that the person saw it as a blessing, a fast way to dissolve ego. I simply watched without mental comment or opinion. That was my practice—or was it denying what I saw and felt, pushing it aside?
I held two views at the same time and figured that the fact that his harshness still bothered me somewhere deep inside meant that my perception was simply not pure enough—or was it too pure, too connected to my inner teacher, the wisdom and compassion inside me, to completely deny my gut feeling. In light of his transformative power when teaching formally, I believed he was indeed a crazy wisdom master, a mahasiddha, and so what I saw as harshness was really love, that my perception of what love is was limited, that it took an enlightened being to see the full picture and recognise that these actions were for the benefit of the person at the end of his anger—oh, no, not anger, wrath. Mental correction. Do not criticise the lama. See his every action as a teaching. See it in a positive way. It is not a sign of someone unable to manage their emotions, but a sign of a master so enlightened that he is beyond ordinary ideas of good and bad.
Wait. What did you believe? You believed that what appeared as bad was really good? That anyone could be ‘beyond ordinary ideas of good and bad’? Is this not a very dangerous belief to hold? Is anyone above the law? What happened to your critical thinking? Your discernment?
 Like a good little student, I offered up my discernment on the altar of devotion, to please the lama so he would give me the precious nectar of the Dzogchen teachings. Like a little girl pleasing her father for the reward of an ice-cream.
I was trapped in spiritual materialism, held captive by the “The Lord of Speech” which refers to, “the inclination on the part of ego to interpret anything that is threatening or irritating in such a way as to neutralise the threat and turn it into something ‘positive’ from ego’s point of view. The Lord of speech refers to the use of concepts as filters to screen us from a direct perception of what is.” (Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism , Chogyam Trungpa, pages 5-11.)
Not only that, but as an instructor, I also helped others to see the way I did. I pray that none of them ended up close to the fire.
After all, I rationalised, sometimes I must speak firmly to my child or she does not understand how important it is to correct herself. And there are stories of the unconventional crazy wisdom approach helping students in Tibet in the past. Fine beliefs, except that I had no idea what was really going on, that the behaviour supposed to ‘correct’ or awaken the student was not in the ‘occasional’ category but was a relentless daily regime of emotional, physical and sexual abuse far beyond what I, and the majority of the Western world, could ever accept as right conduct.
My gratitude goes to the ‘Courageous 8’ for waking me up to my spiritual materialism.
I would like to believe that this belief system was not intended to control and coerce, but we have certainly used it this way, not just the lama, but all those, like I, who didn’t listen to those who cried out to be heard. Forgive me for my complicity.
Some students are still not listening. Some are still telling me that ultimately there is no good and bad (conveniently ignoring the relationship of interdependence and emptiness which mean, essentially, that the laws of cause and effect do operate in conventional reality and so ethics are always important), that SR is an enlightened master and that therefore everything he does is perfect, and that if I criticise him, it means I have no pure perception and I will go to Vajra Hell—the worst of the hell realms (whose existence I never believed in except as a mental state)—as if I hadn’t already had these ideas drummed into my skull. As if these weren’t the ideas that allowed this to happen in the first place and continues to allow it to happen.
Wake up, my friends, wake up. The Lord of Speech has you in his thrall.
This is part one of Confessions of a Devoted student. Part two Why I didn’t See will be posted tomorrow.

16 Replies to “Confessions of a Devoted Student – Part 1”

  1. If you are a dharma practitioner then you should know that the focus of your practice should be to transform your own habit of getting caught in the four maras and 8 worldly dharmas of hope and fear, and focus on the lojong practices. Whatever wisdom awareness you have should free you, not set you on a campaign. It is not easy to really dissolve our ego-entrapment. It is hard inner work and the only sign of your progress is how YOU are with yourself and others.
    Drop the desire to ‘share’, for ‘expert mind’ and getting caught up in the wildfire of social media. That is for journalists, not spiritual practitioners. No one forces you to take on a teacher or to stay with them. If you have serious doubts, recognise what you have benefitted by and leave your teacher with a clear heart and mind, without the inner hatred of holding a grudge, and go find another teacher or go without one if you think you don’t need one any more – no need to make others support your decision by being part of a campaign of righteousness. The dharma is not a political party.
    Practise the dharma on yourself, not others, and remember the crucial insight: everything arises through interdependence, the play of emptiness and appearance – nothing is fixed, permanent, independent, or singular. Here is a poem from a friend, not a Buddhist but someone with great personal insight when reflecting on their own life journey – so beautiful a way to live.
    Challenge everything you know,
    Anything you are, spread yourself too thin,
    and push yourself too far.
    Flirt with disaster. Slow dance with sorrow.
    Suffer, shatter and break, and then play hopscotch with helplessness.
    Smile at regret, at guilt, and shame, and then
    thank them for the pain they gifted you today.
    Appreciate that hurt is a guru worth seeking, a mentor worth needing.
    Lose yourself in a moment or a memory in order to find your
    soul stronger, better, closer.
    Surrender a war to win some peace but never stop fighting for love,
    for hope, for connection.
    Find the ones who hold your heart in their eyes and keep them close inside.
    Don’t ever let the good things go.

    1. ‘Though my view is higher than the sky, my respect for cause and affect are finer than grains of flour’- Padmasambhava
      Is there a more important and meaningful teaching on the path than this?
      When do we draw the line Barbara? Incapacitation, rape, murder?

    2. I just cringe when I hear this sort of Dharma advice being given when the reason is that the giver doesn’t like what they’re hearing. In order for it to come from a pure place, it would have to have a lot fewer “shoulds” in it. How dare one Dharma student tell another how to think, act, what to write? This is deluded.

      1. Agree totally, starshine. I don’t know who Barbara lepani is but her post doesn’t reflect an embodiment of the Dharma into one’s being. No empathy but a lot of preachy ‘shoulds’. Very Christian. If you were to follow her instructions and shut the hell up, then even more spiritual seekers would be hurt by SL’s behaviour, and the R cult, into the future. As for telling people that social media is for journalists, not for practitioners, OMG, WTF? I’m probably the same age bracket as the writer but I find that very funny.

    3. “Practise the dharma on yourself, not others” yes well, perhaps you might apply that to yourself as well…

  2. I wish we could find a way to support each person in their current view and their path to discerning wisdom. My perception is that every person posting on this blog has positive intentions. Yet we can look at a situation, and each of us sees it in our own way. Also, none of us sees it the same way as we did a month ago, or a year ago. Perhaps we can bring spaciousness to our views of other people… not pressure anyone to conform to a specific view… pray that all of us posting on this blog, may our minds increase in clarity and compassion.

    1. Very nice, somehow you are quite right, but maybe it’s just too much, what is too much…
      …it should be love…

  3. Dear Barbara, I’m flabbergasted by your post. Your response to someone’s heartfelt words about their own experience and pain that they have experienced is to give a dharma lecture about how to behave. Your utter lack of empathy is astounding. And I thank you for writing what you did, because I am reminded of how, when I was active in Rigpa, I was becoming such a disconnected and uncompassionate person–being trained in how to ignore others’s suffering. What an utter perversion. I hope that you wake up.

    1. The lack of empathy that you so wisely note is something I’ve recognized in many senior students and staff. I think it’s an outcome of the toxic conditioning that they are subjected to. You have to learn to repress your natural reactions to things to survive, which leads to repression of all tender emotions like compassion and love:(

  4. Wow. I am speechless. How did Barbara miss the devotion in my piece? What makes her think that I am trying to tell anyone what to think or do? I certainly am not.
    Can we not at least respect each others heart-felt confessions no matter what they are?
    Surely Rinpoche taught us better than to have such vitriol for others in the sangha. Or have I been excommunicated for supporting those who need to speak of their hurt and concern, those who had no where to turn until now. For those watching on in horror, I assure you that there are many very good and kind people in the sangha.

  5. why isn’t there money being set back for students to receive therapy? Dharma is not mental health therapy. I am very uncomfortable with how this feels so Biz as usual for the larger organization, who is not stepping up to catch their students they allowed to be push off a psychological cliff.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Teresa. The right therapy can make a big difference in the healing process.

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