Before talking about issues with hierarchy and esotericism in Buddhism, I’ll simply describe my history with it.
My earliest exposure to Buddhism might have been the Taekwondo lessons I took in second grade. That’s also the first place I learned to stretch systematically. There must’ve been brief periods of “sit still for a few minutes,” but I don’t have a specific memory of that.
In middle school, I used to read all about the history of different martial arts, and I learned about Bodhidharma in the context of kung fu before Zen. I watched a lot of movies about someone watching animals for a long time and then avenging their master. It was my favorite thing to do with Hussein, my Lebanese friend in Germany.
I heard that I was “1/16th Cherokee” or something, and that set off an interest in Native Americans that included a series of novels called People of the Sea, People of the Wolf, etc. There was shamanism/vision quest stuff in them, and I seem to recall a “third gender” male character who dressed in female clothing.
I think I first got the idea of picturing “energy” in the body from reading about chi in martial arts.
I think I first read about Buddhist doctrine per se in the Jehovah’s Witness book about world religions. I liked the idea of “a search for enlightenment without god,” and the Four Noble Truths sounded right to me. I remember reading in a magazine about monks that could go to the dentist without anesthesia, and thinking OMGWTF because I’d been to the dentist myself.
I didn’t think about Buddhism much after that, and I lost interest in martial arts and got more into “extreme sports.”
High school debate got me into philosophy, and the interest in psychedelics came from a combination of hearing about Terence McKenna from the debaters that came to my middle school to recruit people, the LSD section of my dad’s college psychology textbook, Aldous Huxley, and a book about acid and “death of god theology” that piqued my interest after I learned about Nietzsche. I started meditating, settling on Zen after reading about Advaita Vedanta and Vipassana.
Truth is a pathless land impacted me:
I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.
So that is the first reason, from my point of view, why the Order of the Star should be dissolved. In spite of this, you will probably form other Orders, you will continue to belong to other organizations searching for Truth. I do not want to belong to any organization of a spiritual kind, please understand this. I would make use of an organization which would take me to London, for example; this is quite a different kind of organization, merely mechanical, like the post or the telegraph. I would use a motor car or a steamship to travel, these are only physical mechanisms which have nothing whatever to do with spirituality. Again, I maintain that no organization can lead man to spirituality.
If an organization be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch, a weakness, a bondage, and must cripple the individual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, which lies in the discovery for himself of that absolute, unconditioned Truth. So that is another reason why I have decided, as I happen to be the Head of the Order, to dissolve it. No one has persuaded me to this decision. “This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies. Then you will naturally ask me why I go the world over, continually speaking. I will tell you for what reason I do this: not because I desire a following, not because I desire a special group of special disciples. (How men love to be different from their fellow-men, however ridiculous, absurd and trivial their distinctions may be! I do not want to encourage that absurdity.) I have no disciples, no apostles, either on earth or in the realm of spirituality. “Nor is it the lure of money, nor the desire to live a comfortable life, which attracts me. If I wanted to lead a comfortable life I would not come to a Camp or live in a damp country! I am speaking frankly because I want this settled once and for all. I do not want these childish discussions year after year.
I see parallels with the reincarnation of Kalu Rinpoche, who I just discovered yesterday.
I did a “senior project” at a small Zen center near where I lived. It was a British guy and an American guy (“Sho-san and Yu-san”) who’d trained in a bona fide Rinzai temple in Japan. I learned zazen and did chores for a certain number of hours, then wrote a paper about it. I promised that I’d show them the paper afterwards and never did, which I sometimes regretted.
I purchased a yab-yum Buddha from a shop on Haight Street, visiting San Francisco after high school. I didn’t know what it was “supposed” to symbolize, but it made intuitive sense to me. I was also reading about Nagarjuna and emptiness, because it was similar to postmodernism stuff from high school debate.
Then Zen and the Brain made a big difference.
From that time, I sat from time to time, but usually not often enough for it really “work.” I found Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind in grad school, and really started sitting a lot in the period leading up to my divorce. I had a period of geeking out about Zen, which preceded therapy. Part of the therapy was ACT, which is itself secularized Buddhism.
My current therapist put me on a train of thought about Kali and dakini lore.
I think I’d at least skimmed through Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience, based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Lots of time on Erowid, the Lycaeum, and deoxy.org back in the day. I’ve generally liked Pema Chodron’s writing. Other than that, Tibetan Buddhism never appealed to me. Too much supernatural stuff. The best thing about Zen is how silent it is on the topic of absurd magical things. Or at least it was more obvious to me how to interpret the myths and stories as metaphors.
During the period of reading a lot of Zen books, I read a single collection of Dzogchen/Mahamudra texts, and the strong emphasis on guru devotion grossed me out, even if I liked it a lot of what I saw as a guide to meditation. The Bao Dang influence on Tibetan Buddhism (from China) was interesting to me.
Within Zen, Soto appealed to me more than Rinzai, as an emphasis. Mostly because I’d had cool drug experiences that nevertheless didn’t fix my life. Clearly, doing it the hard way with daily practice was the important thing, hard as it was to implement. I liked the idea that the hallucinatory stuff was dismissed as “makyo” within Zen.
I liked that shikantaza was so unstructured. “Just sit.” I realized that “just sitting” consists of different things at different times. Having a specific sequence of meditation practices seemed forced. Sometimes I sit and feel compassion. Sometimes I focus on breathing. It happens. Just sit. Intellectualizing is discouraged. Tibetan Buddhism seemed so elaborate.
Now, after reading Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism, it makes sense to me that you could view emptiness as a “Great Mother” that everything emanates from, you might want a wrathful deity to do violence to your illusions, you have to make constructive friendship with desire instead of pretending it can be eliminated, etc. I can see how to view all of the deities and their heavens and hells as metaphors for states of mind, not as literally existing. In short, I see a lot of it as “skillful means,” but it’d be very easy to mistake it for magical thinking and go off into a New Age la-la land.
I reached this understanding, to whatever level, mostly without a formal student-teacher relationship. I just read a whole lot and meditated and tried to practice in daily life. It’s anathema to me that my relationship to the universe should go through someone I trust blindly. Being autistic without a diagnosis, I never had much of a “sangha.” It’s hard to sit still for so long in groups without stimming. There’s so much etiquette. New places and people that I’d probably disagree with about a lot of things. Stressful all around.
I don’t like secrecy. As an academic, I believe I should be able to read all about anything, that knowledge isn’t proprietary. Esotericism lends itself to abuse of authority. Shoes Outside the Door was an important book for me, demythologizing Shunryu Suzuki. I should be able to take something from Buddhism without sacrificing my critical thinking skills or letting people exploit me. I read Zen at War, which was similarly eye-opening about DT Suzuki.
As much as I’m philosophically in favor of openness, it’s true that I couldn’t really “get” Vajrayana stuff without prior exposure to Buddhism. So it’s with great ambivalence that I watch this video:
When I read about “karmamudra” and Tantric sex, my feeling is that it sounds beautiful and like a perfect bullshit story for sexually abusing people. Both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism have a strong emphasis on lineage and authority, where the teacher’s questionable behavior is just “enlightenment working in mysterious ways.”
But then this is what happens when you let Tantra out in the open where Westerners can fuck it all up:
Sometimes I do feel self-conscious about my enso tattoo, because this might be someone’s idea of a black Buddhist.
Like…I’m not getting the impression that they’re masturbating to relieve the suffering of all sentient beings. They’re talking about orgasm when I thought that the idea of Tantra was to not? Prolonging the experience encourages the self-dissolving bliss that reveals the great truth of emptiness. Let’s just stick rocks in our vaginas because Chinese people with a totally different religion were into that. Exotic Asian wisdom is all the same! They have the best sex tricks!
She calls meditation the key to your sexual practice, which is so backwards that I don’t even. Tantra might have been developed as a way for the patriarchy to get women to have sex with the men in disposable fashion (non-attachment!), but there was at least a selfless bullshit story.
“What makes it Tantric is that we’re going to meditate before we masturbate.” It’s supposed to be simultaneous, nondualistically.
Tantra is like brain lateralization research. There’s a real thing there, and it’s complicated, and mostly it’s wrong and unnecessary when people talk about it. Sort of like Tantra undoing trauma at the cellular level. It probably does, and the scientific validation is cool, but it’s more important that it works when you try it. You shouldn’t be “attached to views.” Does the reason to practice Tantra depend on the molecular neurobiology of trauma? Seriously?
The yab-yum Buddhas, which show a dakini sitting on a male meditator’s lap, are supposed to represent the union of wisdom and compassion/skillful means. Those are the “female” and “male” aspects, respectively. From Dakini’s Warm Breath:
The primary instruction for the practice of the yab-yum yidams is to visualize oneself as both consorts inseparable. The specific instructions vary depending upon the tantra, the lineage of transmission, and the guru. However, if the practitioner becomes too focused on whether to identify with the male or the female figure, the practice becomes far too conceptual to be effective. A typical instruction on this point was given by Ven. Tsoknyi Rinpoche: “You are not male, you are not female; both male and female are visualized together. If you think you’re male or if you think you’re female, you’ve completely missed the point because you have lost half of the visualization already.” On the inner level, the gender of the deities is transitional, a display without any substance or weight. Through this practice, the practitioner moves to subtler and subtler levels where there is no such thing as male or female, the level of the secret dakini.
Later, the book explains another easily New Aged point about male/female complementarity:
Alone, either of these [male or female] energies can become an obstacle to spiritual development, according to Vajrayana. One without the other is very difficult and creates an imbalance in the practitioner. The sharpness of our mind-body complex years for more grounding, and our dullness craves excitement and clarity. Unifying these two qualities, bringing them into balance, is one of the goals of Vajrayana practice.
As the tantrika becomes more attuned to these polar energies in his or her experience, they are found to reside everywhere. For example, it is possible to see the interplay between the feminine and masculine energies in solitary meditation. They are experienced as two common extreme states of mind, obstacles that disturb mindfulness practice. Much of our meditation vacillates between wildness on the one hand and drowsiness or dullness on the other. One moment we are bothered by excess discursiveness mixed with vivid emotionality that makes a settled state of mind impossible. Ten minutes later we find ourselves nodding off to sleep, spaced out and blank. The practice is to work with these two obstacles in meditation, understanding that they come from a common root…If we have too much masculine, we see the color but do not discriminate it. If we have too much feminine quality, our sense perceptions jump from thing to thing without really seeing anything fully.
I’m reminded of neuroscience concepts: default mode network, activity of the locus coeruleus. This was in the news just recently:
Slow, controlled breathing has been used for centuries to promote mental calming, and it is used clinically to suppress excessive arousal such as panic attacks. However, the physiological and neural basis of the relationship between breathing and higher-order brain activity is unknown. We found a neuronal subpopulation in the mouse preBötzinger complex (preBötC), the primary breathing rhythm generator, which regulates the balance between calm and arousal behaviors. Conditional, bilateral genetic ablation of the ~175 Cdh9/Dbx1 double-positive preBötC neurons in adult mice left breathing intact but increased calm behaviors and decreased time in aroused states. These neurons project to, synapse on, and positively regulate noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus, a brain center implicated in attention, arousal, and panic that projects throughout the brain.
The myrcene in cannabis is an alpha-2a adrenergic agonist. When they’re found presynaptically, those are the norepinephrine autoreceptors. That is, high norepinephrine release will activate those receptors, which reduce norepinephrine release. It’s a negative feedback mechanism. Clonidine, another alpha-2a agonist, is sometimes used as an ADHD medication.
What frustrates me about the women in the video is that I’m 90% sure that, if I tried to date them, talking about sky burials wouldn’t be a good way to bond about our shared interest in tantra.
Originally, dakinis were supposed to be wrathful, blood-drinking spirits that hung around charnel grounds (bodies left to rot in the open). It’s traditionally Buddhist to meditate on corpses, from the very beginning. Really internalize the truth of impermanence. In Tibetan Buddhist lore, “worldly” dakinis were essentially tamed by enlightened gurus, and subsequently became “wisdom dakinis.” They now use their wrath against obstacles to awakening…or sexually consort with male spirits. Or appear in human form to send messages or be good in bed. They’re sky dancers.
In another video about sky burials, the vultures are called dakinis. I know just enough to know that “sky gazing” is a meditation practice. The emptiness of the clear blue sky. Mahamudra, Great Mother. It immediately clicked for me when I saw the shot of the vultures against the sky.
Meditating in a scary place with dead bodies, predatory animals, and evil spirits expresses that Buddhism lets us make peace with everything unconditionally.
In Tibetan tantra, when the world is understood from the perspective of emptiness and luminosity, it is seen as inherently awake and sacred. This means that no matter how confused and painful existence might be, from an awakened perspective, all pain and confusion are merely the play of wisdom. And that play has a recognizable pattern called the mandala principle. If one can identify difficult situations as mandalas, then transformation of painful circumstances is possible. The mandala principle lies at the heart of Vajrayana Buddhism and is the sacred realm of the inner dakini.
…The center and perimeter are seen as interdependent, and that is the key to the power of the mandala. Narrowly interpreted, a mandala is a representation of a tantric deity’s realm of existence, for a deity occupies its central seat.
In a broader context, the mandala is a paradigm of the natural functioning of phenomena. Mandalas are like Vajrayana “systems theory,” and from this view every situation operates on the dynamic of the mandala principle. A city, for example, has a center of power–its business districts–and its suburbs, linked with expressways. Communication networks have a common vision and organizing principles. Swarms of bees decide collectively about the suitability of new sites for hives. Families have intricate patterns of activity and communication, with interconnecting roles. When one understands the dynamic relationships in these mandalas, it is possible to glimpse the meaning of sacredness in Vajrayana Buddhism.
Conventionally, naturally existing mandalas cannot acknowledge that they are mandalas or systems with their own dynamics and parameters. It is especially difficult for mandalas to acknowledge the power radiated bewteen the center and the perimeter. The center would like to manipulate its boundary, or the perimeter would like to overthrow the center…
From a Vajrayana perspective, we live in many mandalas at the same time: our career or livelihood, our leisure activities, our family, our spiritual community, our neighborhood, town, city, country. In Vajrayana, as in feminist studies, there is no real boundary between the personal and the rest of our lives; the most intimate mandala in which we live is our own personal one, in which all of these parts play a role, adding the dimensions of our physical bodies, health, and state of mind. In each of these mandalas, there is a similar dynamic in which we do not customarily acknowledge the sacredness of every part of our circumstances, and because of this we experience constant struggle and pain. This is the Vajrayana description of the Buddha’s First Noble Truth of suffering.
The only transformative choice that remains, according to Vajrayana, is to take our seat in whatever world we find ourselves in and acknowledge it as a mandala. This means settling into our jobs, our intimate relationships, and our communities, and committing to all of their difficult parts. Our lives can only be seen as a mandala if we include everything, all the positive qualities as well as all that we would like to ignore, reject, or distance ourselves from.
Once we open up to our circumstances and accept them as they are, inescapably, we take our seat in the center of a mandala and establish boundaries by identifying the natural physical and mental limits for this particular system to operate. It then becomes possible to work with our situation and to develop a relationship with our circumstances. Each part of the system can communicate with every other part, and a sense of totality begins to emerge. It is then possible to realize the role each part plays in our lives and how the totality works or does not. The mandala view allows us to experience the natural goodness and workability inherent in our lives. In Vajrayana this view is called sacred outlook (tag-nang): seeing the world as sacred in a self-existing way…
The central seat of the mandala may be a throne, but it may also be a prison cell. When we feel the inescapability of our life circumstances true practice is finally possible.
The strategy of Vajrayana practice is to accentuate our state of mind and context of experience and to seatl the boundaries to allow no possibility of escape, so that we relate to everything fully…When we experience our suffering directly, without the dilution of habitual patterns of avoidance, insight naturally arises. We can begin to experience the heart of our suffering, which is self-existing wisdom. The spiritual secret is that giving up any hope of escape actually opens the door to compassion and skillful action.
This is profound to me, and I think I get it because of the animal research experience, which did provoke a sort of religious conversion to veganism. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something about the experience of walking into a room and knowing that this is the end of the road for rat 11 and he has no idea. Soon his brain will be in a vial of formalin/sucrose solution and his body and disassembled-with-pliers head will be in a garbage bag in a freezer with the others. That’s what I look like on the inside, too. I was depressed and used to look at gore threads on 4chan, baffled at my desensitization.
I am responsible for causing suffering and this is not good. It’s bad karma, in the sense that it more deeply entrenches the habit of being in the wrong frame of mind.
My dad died while I was killing rats on a quarterly basis. I do think I’ve grown as a result of The Dark Times. People who meditate would love to have a conversation about our spiritual journeys, right?
Actually, no, I’m pretty sure the women in the video SO don’t want to talk to me about rat corpses. They SO don’t want to ritualistically have sex with me while we visualize our garlands of freshly decapitated heads and the charnel grounds we gaze down upon from the sky.
If you haven’t been initiated into the secrets of Buddhism, you’d describe that as “horrific,” just like the sky burial tourists. I can see the argument for keeping all this Vajrayana stuff as “secret teachings.”
If someone told me they were into Tibetan Buddhism or Tantra, and it meant something like the passages quoted here, it would be easy to feel connected to them. In practice, it can mean something like the Western video from above. A spirituality of avoidance and Orientalism good, old-fashioned American positive thinking. Plus magic to woo people.
It really feels like a special case of the normal people not being able to follow me deep into a special interest. How can I be a spiritual person if I’m turned off by magical thinking? That’s my dilemma. I think people don’t know that Buddhism can mean taking care of your own mind, for everyone’s sake, without magic. The meditation and the philosophy put you in the right frame of mind for doing that. Buddhism is, essentially, just try to be nice for once. We’re all basically miserable, and we’ve logically determined that it’s pretty much going to stay that way. Act right and be chill. It’s better. You don’t need to think too much. There isn’t actually a secret. It’s just better to follow this way. That’s the meaning of faith in the Buddha.
Serious problem: how the fuck do you even talk to Tantric Sex Lady, to point her in the right direction, since she’s so fucked up and confused that unfucking it is a whole process. You’d need the psychological insight of Buddha, the Great Teacher. You’d need to meditate on the yab-yum deities, to find the skillful means. When you’re just really good at that, you’re a bodhisattva. Trusting that someone gets it right every time causes problems.
In high school, one of the monks explained to me that Zen is “a very self-serve religion.” I have a tattoo of an enso on my forearm. I picked it out of an art book that was nothing but ensos. I picked the one I did because the inscription was “bittersweet,” a reference to Vegetable Roots Discourse.
This is an excellent point, from The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization:
[I]n antiquity plague, famine, and hand-to-hand combat cut life short. Those who managed to live long were champions of a small but resilient minority. They were a select few, constantly aware that most of their contemporaries were not so lucky. Accordingly, sorrow, pessimism, and anxiety form a strong undercurrent in Classical literature, produced as it was by those who survived the diseases and wars that dominated ancient life. Classical myth, the lifeblood of Western society, is endowed with a spirit of tragic evanescence, a heartfelt communion with the metaphysical reality that life is painful and fleeting…
Much of the great psychological burden imposed by the harsh living conditions of ancient life has been alleviated, making it difficult for us to fully appreciate the customs, values, and mores found in ancient literature. More important, a great demographic gulf prevents us from understanding several facets of the Classical world that have been intentionally ignored by modern scholars, namely, the widespread use of mind-altering substances, antiquity’s enduring obsession with drug-wielding sorcerers, and the profound influence of narcotics on the development of Western literature and society.
In order for us to wrap our modern minds around the ancient love affair with drugs, we must first understand why these chemicals were so desperately needed; we must ask ourselves what compelled the Greeks and Romans to seek the solace offered by pharmaceuticals, and how their lifestyles and living conditions induced them to become experts in the use of narcotics.
In that light, the following passage is from Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany. Being a stoner is, like, unattractive:
Tantrism was another manifestation of ritual Cannabis use. This religious movement arose around the seventh century in an “explosive mingling of the doctrines and practices of Shivaite Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism” and is practiced by Hindu, Buddhist, Bonpo (shamanic Tibetan), and Jain sects (Aldrich 1977). Tantric literature is concerned with powerful ritual acts of body, speech, and mind and reached the height of its popularity in medieval Bengal and the Himalayan kingdoms. Chinese and Tibetan traditions were incorporated into Tantric religious icons in which the Buddha may be depicted with sharply serrated bhang leaves in his begging bowl. The asceticism of Buddhism, as well as Shiva worship in Tantric belief, is therefore associated with Cannabis use. In Tantric ritual, Cannabis use fosters increased suggestibility and causes time and space distortions where “minutes seem like hours, small rooms yawn into deep caverns, and every activity is imbued with a sense of timeless grandeur.” Under such circumstances, worshipers traditionally sit through lengthy rituals held in flower bedecked temples illuminated by flickering lamp light and reeking of incense with their “intent upon mystical experience,” and thus the function of Cannabis in Tantric ceremony is “to enable the worshipers to feel the divinity within and without themselves” (Aldrich 1977).
That’s fully compatible with the precepts against alcohol and intoxicants that make you worse. Not as many stoner people who don’t drink at all, ever…
Now, getting baked and visualizing myself as Vajrayogini makes sense. In high school, smoking salvia divinorum extract once caused me to feel like I’d turned into some kind of jaguar or leopard for a second. I might’ve been kneeling and turned around to a crawling position or something. It was trippy and it’s one of the things I remember from high school.
I can’t 100% relate to the dakini thing because the “outer” level, related to the “subtle body,” I just can’t get behind. I took a yoga class at a community college, and visualizing chakras was OK, but I don’t think a lot of the symbolism is natural for me. I don’t see as much payoff to learning all about “energies” incompatible with physics.
Buddhism is all about habits. I think magical thinking is a bad habit. Faith in the impossible, rather than faith in the practice.
Westerners who like Buddhism because they see reincarnation as a way of avoiding death, and they see it literally. They aren’t trying to make peace with dissolving into emptiness.
Personally, I got something out of reading about Vajrayana. It’s great if it makes you a better Buddhist, without the “idiot compassion.” This is just confused, in a way that promotes ignorance. I object on Buddhist grounds:
We can look at any part of the body, such as the hand, and see that the naive scientific materialistic view is entirely fictitious. This is seen in stages. First, we see that the hand is composite, made up of palm, fingers, joints, nails, and skin. When we look further, we see that every part has many parts as well…
But this analysis does not express our experience, in which there is exquisite, radiating sensation that can detect heat, proximity, pressure, and weight. When we contemplate in this kind of analytic manner, we are merely deconstructing a scientific materialistic view, and we see the naive assumptions involved in the experience of the hand. Life radiates from this area of our finger in the same way that a deity arises in a visualization. The living, sensing quality of the hand is a magical emanation, empty but radiant.
What’s she afraid of? She enumerates facts determined by scientific reductionism…and then it’s supposed to be self-evident why reductionism is bad. I, myself, have speculated about Buddhism and the hard problem of consciousness. I didn’t pretend philosophy of mind doesn’t exist and say, “I discovered qualia. I rest my case.” That’s lazy. It means the author thinks that Buddhism has to be woo. If it doesn’t, how could empirical reality be threatening? What should Buddhism have to fear from reality?
True story: the one time I saw the Dalai Lama in person was at the Society for Neuroscience meeting. He said that if neuroscience found a way to stop suffering without loss of mental faculties, he’d be the “first patient.” He’s the Dalai Lama, so he’s on point about the goal being the reduction of suffering, first and foremost. It bugs me a little that “on point” is a corruption of en pointe.
The reason not to promote magical thinking is that it produces bad situations.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses strongly emphasize original sin and the imperfection of mankind. There’s some truth to it.
Kalu Rinpoche explains how to have a teacher without hero worship: