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The Failure of Buddhist Leadership

August 31, 2013

Q: In the short time I’ve been studying the teaching of the Buddha, you are the only monk I’ve met who I would consider brilliant. Why is that?

The Arahant: The failure of Buddhist leadership is responsible. The Sangha has become a stilted mediocracy that drives away anyone with intelligence or talent. Most of the monks would be unemployable in any other field. They are largely uneducable rejects even from their own families. The leadership’s thinking and policies are firmly stuck in an increasingly irrelevant past. If left to themselves they will destroy Buddhism as we know it—fly it right into the ground.

Certainly there are a few good Buddhists; but they are far outnumbered by the useless ones. Any monk with a little intelligence is quickly overloaded with more administrative work than they can handle, then everyone sits back until they leave or burn out. No one dares change anything; they are driving flat-out towards a cliff while looking fixedly into the rear-view mirror. In another generation or two, the whole thing will be finished.

Now when you say you don’t find anyone brilliant, what kind of brilliance are you talking about? I can understand the way your mind works. Once you make a determination to learn something, you methodically investigate the original sources and background, exhaustively define the terms and carefully practice fundamentals. You seem to be moving slowly, but one day you reach a stunning moment of insight, in which you take an effortless, discontinuous quantum leap, light years in a single bound.

People are left in your dust, trying to relate to who you were, and completely unable to understand that you are not that person anymore. You appear to move slowly, but that impression is deceptive. Actually you are an order of magnitude faster student than anyone I have ever met. Unfortunately, you are not going to find that quality of intelligence in any religious organization. At least Buddhists are not quite as vicious orthodoxies as the Islamists, Hindus and Christians, but they can be quite nasty despite their claims of ahimsa.

The only way to attain enlightenment is to keep your independence at all costs. Don’t get caught up in a group. This is not just my opinion, by the way:

“Indeed, Ananda, it is impossible that a monk who delights in company, enjoys company, is committed to delighting in company; who delights in a group, enjoys a group, rejoices in a group, will enter & remain in the awareness-release that is temporary and pleasing, or in the awareness-release that is not-temporary and beyond provocation. But it is possible that a monk who lives alone, withdrawn from the group, can expect to enter & remain in the awareness-release that is temporary and pleasing, or in the awareness-release that is not-temporary and beyond provocation.” — Maha-suññata Sutta (MN 122)

Nor do you need a guru:

“It may be, Ananda, that to some among you the thought will come: ‘Ended is the word of the Master; we have a Master no longer.’ But it should not, Ananda, be so considered. For that which I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Discipline, that shall be your Master when I am gone.” — Maha-parinibbana Sutta (DN 16)

We have quoted and discussed these Suttas before. You should understand their meaning. Rely on your own intelligence, not on tradition or leaders. Take your own counsel and make your own determinations. Do not wait to attain enlightenment until you have approval or permission. Learn the Suttas, go off alone and realize them. Take the Buddha at his word:

“The Tathagata, friends, is a worthy one, rightly self-awakened. Lend ear, friends: the Deathless has been attained. I will instruct you. I will teach you the Dhamma. Practicing as instructed, you will in no long time reach & remain in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for yourselves in the here & now.” — Ariyapariyesana Sutta (MN 26)

From → Leading by Being, Q&A

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