March 10, 2012
One of the central contentions and conflicts within the process of spiritual development is whether or not there is recognition among other human beings that one has achieved a higher state of being that engenders respect and devotion. Some mystics or healers are revered and become materially powerful by the recognition of others, whether it is genuinely deserved or not. Other mystics and healers, most in fact, regardless of their abilities, live in with little respect and little material control over their own lives or the lives of others.
I do not agree with the idea that people who develop their spirituality or their subtle abilities should be given more respect or trust than any other field of development. This is very similar to the way in which I do not think that medical doctors or scientists should have special morality or privilege conferred upon them. They are just human beings with an uncommon set of experiences. Beyond those special experiences they are just as prone as anyone else to weakness, desire, prejudice, hate, shortsightedness, ignorance and the tendency to disregard that which is unfamiliar or unknown.
Two pertinent examples of systems or hierarchies that are invested by others with special morality and privilege and possess of themselves a deep knowledge of subtle reality are the priesthoods of Vajrayna Buddhism, more broadly known as Tibetan Buddhism, and some orders of the Vatican (Edit: I should have added any number of less well known cults, sects and movements to this list). This post deals exclusively with the former.
I have a mixed feelings toward Vajrayana Buddhism and Buddhism in general. I very much recognize deep knowledge and understanding of reality, both subtle and gross, within various branches and teachings, but there is a hierarchy and a patriarchy within the organized monks, priesthood and teachings that is too often glossed over by Western devotees and admirers. Beyond these obvious discrepancies between some Buddhisms and modern Western morality, there are subtler issues of symbolic, ritual and spiritual meaning.
The position of privilege combined with subtle knowledge creates powerful temptations and opportunities to abuse the energies of others. I recently found a first hand account that provides a very complete and accurate picture of one form that this abuse can take. The woman’s account deals with a Buddhist monk of high standing having a hidden romantic relationship with a female student whose energies he seemed to use for himself. Vajrayana Buddhism is in no way the only system or hierarchy that produces such situations. I know that such circumstances can manifest themselves without any help from organizations or spiritual systems, but I feel there are inherent tendencies within Vajrayana that make it more prone to them as a whole. One aspect of my perception is that Vajrayana possesses great knowledge and insight into subtle reality, magic and the human being, but I do not believe that this kind of knowledge can be equated to morality. Subtle knowledge is like all other kinds of knowledge. It can be used for good or ill and sometimes seeing the difference is very difficult.
The first hand account can be found at the following link:
For a more complete treatise on some of the aspects of Vajrayana Buddhism that can disturb the modern Western sensibility and the subtle seeker with an egalitarian disposition, see The Shadow of the Dalai Lama: Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism. The book can be found in its entirety at: