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Buddhadharma : Winter 2018
64 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY out what is the core of Buddhist practice and find a way to retain that? Certainly in Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, it’s through the guru that transmissions take place; it’s through the guru’s exper- tise that we awaken. That’s still critical. PEMA KHANDRO RINPOCHE: In Mahay- ana Buddhism, we have this idea of the pure realms, where one practices in ideal conditions. But in Vajrayana we have this image of the charnel grounds. We even see buddhas and dakinis depicted in the charnel grounds—a place that’s far from ideal, where it’s dangerous, where it’s life or death, where things are intense, where you might have this wonderful initiation or you might be eaten by a tiger. And in some sense, that’s the situation that we’re in. We don’t know. Yeah, maybe you will have the good fortune to meet your teacher and have a wonderful connection. Maybe trust will develop; maybe they will keep their vows. You will keep yours, and it’s a pure land. But what if it’s the charnel grounds? How do we practice there? We can deal with this current situation by training in bodhicitta, the altruistic enlightened intent. We have to learn to act from that intent and be guided by it, and if we have to say no or raise doubts or speak up in whatever way, as long as it’s motivated by bodhicitta, then we know that this is taking us forward on the path. Raising bodhicitta—hoisting it like a flag, as it says in the sadha- nas—guides us forward. This is how we practice in the charnel grounds. Though it is intense and dangerous, there’s also so much potential. In real life anything can happen. The greatest potential is that whatever happens causes us to be more aware and care for our circumstances, for each other, and for our own minds. LOBSANG RAPGAY: It’s also important to recognize that this abuse is not wide- spread. The number of solid, ethical, responsible teachers far exceeds the num- ber of those who engage in these kinds of misconduct. The fact that a few teachers exploit their students does not in any way call into question the integrity of the guru model at large. But we do need to really examine this model and see what it means for the West. It will take time, ded- ication, humility, and honesty to come up with a form in the West whereby we can preserve the essence of the guru model while ensuring that ethical conduct forms the foundation of the special relationship between a guru and a student. The question is this: in the twenty-first century, can we see someone as the embodiment of the Buddha, or is it better to regard him as a spiritual friend? —LOBSANG RAPGAY