Rejecting Telepathy and examining what is considered True Miracle
“And what is the miracle of telepathy? There is the case where a monk reads the minds, the mental events, the thoughts, the ponderings of other beings, other individuals, [saying,] ‘Such is your thinking, here is where your thinking is, thus is your mind.’
In this sutta, Buddha made it clear that relying on psychic powers to win the devotional faith of people is inappropriate and psychic ability includes telepathy too. Thus, we ought to beware of mind-reading capability too.
Many people are awed by psychic capability and associate them with divine or spiritual powers. They believe that a person who possesses supernormal ability must be spiritually advanced or good or enlightened. Thus, they become receptive to their words and tend to follow everything blindly.
However, Buddhists are cautioned to be more skeptical. This is because supernatural powers or abilities can be due to external influences caused by malevolent spirits or beings. Their purpose is to prevent people from practicing the Dharma. Put simply, a person (monk/nun/layman) may be possessed by an evil spirits (especially Mara ghost) to spread fake Dharma.
Alternatively, miracles or psychic abilities could also be simply an illusion, a trickery, hypnotism, or some man-made events. Greedy and intelligent people can manipulate and beguile people into blind obedience to serve their selfish needs too.
As a wise Buddhist, we should look for the True Miracle of Dharma instead of supernatural activities.
True miracle of Dharma refers to teachings of Buddha and its ability to heal people from the influence of Craving, hatred and ignorance. Therefore, a teachers who influence their disciples to become better people through Dharma teaching is the best. Drunkard becomes sober and refrains from booze. Violent people becomes kind and tolerant. Liar becomes sincere and truthful. Lustful people become self-retrained and composed. Such are examples of Dharma Miracles. Finally, it is important to note that this Sutta, exhort us to avoid spiritual ignorance. That means we shouldn’t confuse supernatural and superstitions as Dharma.
We should learn to differentiate between good and bad teachings. Teachings that promote superstitions and ignorance should be avoided. Likewise, we want to make sure that we only follow or support a good Buddhist teacher and not ignorantly follow a fake one.
How do we know if a Buddhist teacher is virtuous?
The lesser section on Virtue
Although it is sub-headed as lesser, we should understand that this is so basic that if one fails to meet this simple criteria, then there is no virtue whatsoever in that person. Thus, they shouldn’t be teaching others when they cannot even manage themselves. Please don’t misinterpret this subtitle as meaning, of lesser importance.
“And how is a monk consummate in virtue? Abandoning the taking of life, he abstains from the taking of life. He dwells with his rod laid down, his knife laid down, scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. This is part of his virtue.”
A true dharma teacher will not indulge in violence. We need to observe and examine them for ourselves. They will not encourage or teach their disciples to participate or engage in any activities that relates to violence. Thus, violence is never justifiable in Buddhism; Not even for the protection of Buddhism. This is because when one engages in violence, Buddhism ceased. It is important to note that we abstain from violence against all sentient beings (including ourselves)
This requirement is very basic and fundamental. Thus, any teachers who instruct their disciples to engage in act of terrorism against human or sentient beings are not Buddhist. We should leave them immediately. A true Buddhist teacher will also not teach us to harm ourselves. (for example prescribe severe fasting as a form of practice or self-whipping or burning, and etc.)
“Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given. He takes only what is given, accepts only what is given, lives not by stealth but by means of a self that has become pure. This, too, is part of his virtue.”
The emphasis of this verse is the absence of greed. A virtuous Buddhist teacher is simple and low-maintenance. They do not crave anything for themselves and would give away their possession to help others. It is not a coincident that great Buddhist masters die with no possession to his or her name.
“Abandoning uncelibacy, he lives a celibate life, aloof, refraining from the sexual act that is the villager’s way. This, too, is part of his virtue.
A monk or nun has to be celibate and there is no exemption to that (including Vajrayana). That is part of Buddhist virtue concerning self-restrain. For a lay person, that translate to a monogamy sex life if that person doesn’t practice celibacy. This is because having a lustful mind is considered non-virtuous in Buddhism. No Buddhist teacher should be asking you for sexual favors and if you encounter one, leave them immediately and report them to the authority!
“Abandoning false speech, he abstains from false speech. He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is firm, reliable, no deceiver of the world. This, too, is part of his virtue.
Virtuous people speaks truthfully; simply because they have nothing to hide.
The above verses help us determine the qualities of our Buddhist teachers. Buddhist monks or nuns are expected to possess such virtues in order to be worthy of alms and veneration. As can be seen, we do not blindly offer money and veneration to people wearing the Buddhist robes. We need to exercise wisdom and only support those who are virtuous. To be continued……
May all be well and happy.