Talking of Dharma.....Why Dont You Just Shut Up!

Recently, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche posted the following advice on Facebook for his "so called Vajrayana students."

"Don’t attempt to share your so-called wisdom: If you think receiving profound teachings gives you license to proclaim them, you will probably only display your ignorance. Before you “share” a quote from the Buddha or from any of your teachers, take a moment to think if they really said those words, and who the audience was meant to be."

This got me to thinking about how I and other Western Dharma students one encounters (and this includes 'old hands')  have the annoying tendency to rant on about Buddhism and its significance at every given opportunity, either in the form of "Geshe-la says.." or, if they're genuine followers of a bona fide tradition, "Lama said that, in this situation....", or (secretly revealing their great psychic powers ) " Lama thinks..." or even "As Buddhists, we believe...." There's also the "In his book "Buddhism and (insert preferred topic here), the Dalai Lama says......."

Elsewhere, on the web recently I read a short post from Wikipedia censor and NKT webpolice officer, 'Lineageholder' (note the inherent humility of the chosen name) which kindly advised  "Your life will be over soon, make the most of it." Elsewhere, one poster advised another, someone he or she didnt even know,  as to the true significance of the term 'samaya' and which particular tantric practices to employ in order to purify said samaya when broken! (Isnt it called 'SECRET mantra'????)

Again, for many years, I counted among my acquaintances an avid Dalai Lama fan  (he read lots of his books and even met him once, which resulted in HH being called 'My root guru'....until this person met another lama a couple of times) who also just couldnt keep his mouth shut about Buddhism. As I began to wise up to this classic method of ego reinforcement and distracting the mind from the essential practice of applying the Dharma to ones own mind (after all, you cant really apply it to anyone else's) I watched this person turn all of his children off the Buddha's teaching, as well as a long line of other needy individuals who would otherwise have benefitted. How? By repeatedly, uninterruptedly and uninvitedly imposing his ego chosen vision of how the universe is or should be on others. Even on your way to the toilet, this person would remind you to "Imagine youre excreting your delusions and flushing them away.....for all beings"!

Eventually, this drove me mad! I no longer bother speaking to this person because I can already readily predict everything he will say beforehand. Indeed, every time I do encounter him, he very kindly offers me his thoroughly uninformed Dharma advice on what he thinks my current 'problem' might be, as usual, without being asked.

You might ask what is wrong with this? What's wrong with talking about Dharma?

Here's a list & a note to myself about how not to be

1) When you talk to others about the Buddha's teaching, its usually based on the assumption that you know what you are talking about. But do you? How long have you been studying and pretending to practice Buddhism: ten years, twenty, thirty? When you say you have been practicing, what do you mean? Have you been living in a monastery, waking up at 4;30 AM, seven days a week, and doing prayers for two hours before a long day studying scriptures, listening to teachings and then finally, in your spare time at the end of the day, sitting on your cushion pushing beads for an hour or two?

Lets say youve been into the Dharma for fifteen years (a long time by Western standards; a beginner according to those born into the faith.) Now take away all the time youve  spent sleeping (five years) , working (three or four), eating (another year) and generally messing around. If you  add it all up, in honesty it comes to a few weeks and nothing more. Then think how much of the time you were  sitting formally was actually spent thinking about something else, other than the meditation topic (!!!!)

If youre  truly honest and add it all together, even if youve been going to a local Buddhist centre regularly for the last decade or so, in reality youve probably been practicing for no more than a few weeks at the most. And in a tradition that takes a lifetime to learn (just for starters) that means YOURE NOT QUALIFIED TO TELL OTHERS HOW TO PRACTICE . SINCE NOBODY APPOINTED YOU A GURU YET, WHY NOT KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT AND APPLY THE DHARMA TO YOURSELF?

And before you start with the "Ive completed the Foundation Programme" etc etc or the "I did a three month retreat with such and such a lama", remember the majority of these courses were designed either to part gullible Westerners from their hard earned money or to provide unscrupulous gurus with unqualified worker ants with inflated opinions of how much they know in order to help spread his or her word across the planet-Often genuine teachers instruct students to teach so they can learn more (so that means theyve got more to learn!) and the Teacher Training Programme you may have studied was totally superficial in comparison to the genuine article, which takes decades and involves more than parroting the sayings of Geshe so and so. SO........Repeat after me: "I dont know s**t. I dont know s**t" Why not make it your personal mantra?-A lifetime will do.

2) The next point is related because if you arent really that experienced in Dharma, you obviously cant see the minds of others or know what they need. In fact, it is said that the only person that can fully know the mind of another is the Buddha himself. And remember, he trained not just for one life to reach that state, but for many (Read the Jataka Tales to see how long for-there are 547) So, if youve only spent the spiritual equivalent of five minutes under the bodhi tree YOU CANT POSSIBLY KNOW THE MINDS OF OTHERS OR WHAT TEACHING IS APPROPRIATE FOR THEM  

Remember, your advice to remember the hells to someone suffering from anger might just trigger the next psychotically crazed gun massacre, SO  BETTER TO KEEP YOUR UNINFORMED ADVICE TO YOURSELF!

3) Talking about Buddhism and being a genuine Buddhist are two very different things. I was told by my own teacher of a senior tutor at the School of Dialectics in Dharamsala, India who, despite his learning, died screaming. This monk was so knoweldgeable about the scriptures that he could recite Sutras backwards, but when the time of his death came, he crumbled and died the death of an ordinary being, clawing at his chest and clutching at the air. Why? According to my teacher, although he had spent his lifetime studying and debating, he hadnt taken the time to sit down and mix the teachings with his mind. The result-a grizzly death and, no doubt a horrible rebirth. So, let that be a warning:  BEFORE YOU TALK THE TALK, MAKE SURE YOU CAN ALSO WALK THE WALK

4)Often, one finds that those who talk about Buddhism do so as a means of perpetuating ego, as opposed to undermining it and of replacing one, ordinary, mask for another, spiritual one. 

This could be because of deep feelings of insecurity or inferiority (talking about something others dont know about makes you feel superior and important) or even to maintain the mind at a superficial level, so as to prevent potentially traumatic introspection. Whatever the reason, its clear that the Buddha didnt teach us to exchange one identity for another. In effect, he taught us to drop masks and come straight from open space. IF TALKING ABOUT BUDDHISM BLOCKS YOUR PERCEPTION OF THAT OPENNESS, YOU ARE FAKING IT AND USING DHARMA TO BUILD UP YOUR EGO AND ESCAPE REALITY RATHER THAN TO SEE IT DIRECTLY

So why not give it a try? Go on a Dharma diet. Devote yourself to meditation and actions that help others without the preaching. After all, evangelism was never really part of the Buddhas teaching. SO WHY NOT JUST SHUT UP AND GET ON WITH IT? YOU MIGHT BE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED! 

And remember........

Maybe think about the words of Paltrul Rinpoche, who said:

"You have to eat, sleep, piss and shit;
everything else is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS"


  1. Have you ever considered your own advice rather than displaying all your own defilements?

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  3. This is mainly Dzongsar Khyentses advice- perhaps take the issue of defilements up with him. As to my displa, the western bullshit pseudo Buddhist attitude that " if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing" is what will destroy our faith. One of us has to say something- better me than someone else-I can manage the consequences thanks, as long it's done for the right reasons I'll be fine innit?