Lineage: it throws open the doors, and takes us out of the cul-de-sac of self-assessed practice.
Mahayana Buddhism is precisely a call to action. The more yogic-influenced early Buddhism is arguably still a little more self-inflected: the ideal being liberation from the wheel of rebirth, or samsara, so you don’t have to be born again, rather than a dynamic call to help samsara, or the many suffering beings. Samsara may be an illusion anyway, but it’s an illusion that is still crying out for our attention and service.
So we do our best to step in, armed with the delusion-allaying sword in one hand, and the relief-bestowing pitcher in the other.
Another key difference may be in the approach to lineage. In most Mahayana Buddhism, it seems, no matter what we attain or achieve in our meditation, we need something more, something else, namely lineage-based confirmation and community. Lineage: it throws open the doors, and takes us out of the cul-de-sac of self-assessed practice.
The problem that can arise with teachers without lineage, who were never authorized by an authorized teacher, is twofold: just this cul-de-sac effect: that you can end up with a game of whack-a-mole, trying to suppress and manage whatever states are deemed undesirable, and gain and keep desired states.
More serious, among teachers who are not explicitly authorized, there may be more of a risk of unhealthy power dynamics developing, whereby the teacher, because they are not mere officiants of the teaching of a lineage, in service to that, end up exercising more and more emphatic personal influence over their followers, and wind up disempowering them in a way that empowers themselves, in a vortex that may lead to the whole project collapsing anyway — and sometimes to the teacher himself [almost always “him”] stepping off a dockside with cement blocks in his coat pockets and an overdose of barbiturates in his veins.
Message from Henry taken from our November 15, 2016 Newsletter.
Image: Garden opening, by plantsandanimals1, CC0 Public Domaine, from Pixabay.com