Lama Zopa Rinpoche on verifying teachings

A few minutes ago I stumbled across the following words from Lama Zopa Rinpoche:

I think that people in the West don’t ask questions about whether or not a teaching was taught by the Buddha or has references in the teachings of the ancient valid pandits and yogis. For them it doesn’t seem important to check the references. When Western people listen to Dharma, they’re happy if it’s something that is immediately beneficial to their life, to their mind, especially if it’s related to their problems. It doesn’t matter whether it is something that Buddha taught or a demon taught. They don’t question or check. For them it is about getting some immediate benefit to their mind when they listen; they will then stay. Otherwise, after a few minutes they leave, especially during my talks. But generally speaking, in the East, people are more careful to examine whether something was taught by Buddha. They check the references so that they can see whether or not they can trust the practice, whether or not they can dedicate their life to this. They think about the long run, which is very important. In the West, the main concern is to immediately, right now, taste something sweet.

A Teaching on Vajrayogini

I’m not sure whether people in Asia are actually better at verifying sources, but I appreciated his perspective on seeking immediate gratification from teachings. One of the things that the Buddha (apparently) taught was that we should seek to verify quotes in the scriptures before taking them on board:

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.

Maha-Parinibbana Sutta

One thought on “Lama Zopa Rinpoche on verifying teachings”

  1. I find Lama’s comment a little bit unfair, maybe generalising against the west. Perhaps his opinion is based on his own observations, i.e. his own talks given to various audience. Instead of concluding that his teaching approach maybe unsuited to the western audiences, he’s been quick in blaming the other side. This tells me that Lama Zopa is human after all.

    Happy holidays

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