17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje on the criteria of a true Buddhist lama

These questions and answers were taken from H.H. 17th Karmapa‘s ‘Black Hat Lama’ MySpace blog:

17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje

17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje

Q: What are the criteria of a true Buddhist lama?

H.H. Karmapa: “Lama” means teacher. It is as plain as that, actually. Therefore, a Buddhist teacher has to have the qualities of genuine compassion, a great extent of dharma knowledge, and he or she needs to be someone who doesn’t just teach but also practices what they teach, which means believing in their product.

Other than that, there are many other qualities, but these two are the main ones. These are the guidelines of examining a teacher. Beyond that, there’s no real way to check whether someone is a teacher or not. Only time tells if someone is an authentic teacher.

Q: How can you tell whether a teacher has genuine compassion?

H.H. Karmapa: Genuine compassion is expressed both physically and mentally. If someone is truly compassionate, this will show in both his physical and verbal gestures, any time, under any circumstances.

Generally, the reason why it’s so difficult to find an authentic teacher is because we can only rely on very simple and basic proofs. For example, we cannot read the minds of others. Therefore we have to rely on gestures of body and speech, on their behaviour. So that means if someone is calm, cool and collected this will often point to their inner quality. Then, most of all, it’s a matter of how long they can sustain these qualities. These are the basic signs of a qualified teacher. That’s why compassion plays a big role.

Q: If we search for a lama today, can we find an authentic one beyond the East?

H.H. Karmapa: If any teacher, a gentleman or a lady, if any individual possesses these basic qualities, then it doesn’t matter whether they come from the East or the West.

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