Last weekend, during one of our BA classes, we had a very interesting discussion led by Sis Voon Pheng (our lecturer). We were discussing about people who I have not heard before! Still new in Buddhism mah…
Dr Paul Williams (who I thought was a singer but he is a professor who wrote many Buddhism text books) and Phra Ajahn Yantra Amano (who has the reputation of good looks and charisma)… what about them? Seems that Dr Paul Williams has converted from Buddhism to Roman Catholic while Phra Ajahn Yantra was disrobed…
The root of the discussion was: NOT to follow an idol or figure (person) in Buddhism.
As Buddha, in Maha-Parinibbana Sutta (reference to the The Four Great References), says:
“….In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn. Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline. If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus: ‘Certainly, this is not the Blessed One’s utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.’ In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it.
But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: ‘Certainly, this is the Blessed One’s utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.’ And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve….”
I remembered when I joined my first meditation retreat, there was a kind lady who would prepare drinks for us everyday during the retreat. I met her a few times after the retreat and one day, she shared her thoughts with me:
” I am still searching for a good teacher. I have followed so many Bhantes and Ajahns for the past 10 years and I have not found a true teacher in Buddhism… not even Ajahn Brahm (someone I could relate to since I was new in Buddhism then)… ”
Later, when I started listening to Venerable Dhammavuddho Thera’s sutta talks in CD, he related similar situations like the lady above and he said,” Why go looking for famous teachers when the best teacher is the Buddha himself. Learn from the Dhamma and Vinaya ~ the true teachings of the Buddha.”
In Digha Nikaya Sutta 26, the Buddha said: “Monks, be a lamp unto yourselves, be a refuge unto yourselves, with no other refuge. Take the Dhamma as your lamp, take the Dhamma as your refuge, with no other refuge.”
In other words, we should depend solely on ourselves and on the Buddha’s words…. we really, do not need a representative for the Buddha’s teachings
We do need kalyanamittas (spiritual friends) though, to learn and walk the spiritual path together ya….
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!