Devotion with Discernment — A question of personal responsibility by Rob Preece

There is an excellent essay by Rob Preece which was recommended by a poster of this blog, Tiger Lily. I think this essay deserves our attention. Here is an extract. For the full essay please read: Devotion with Discernment — A question of personal responsibility.

Recognising boundaries

Possibly the most critical issue that arises in relationship to the guru is the potential for a loss of appropriate boundaries. As a psychotherapist there is consistent emphasis on the understanding of how teachers and therapists need to be clear of their ethical boundaries, especially because of the power imbalance in the relationship. When we consider the power we often give away to our gurus the assumption we make is that they will be skilful with us and not be abusive or exploitative. Unfortunately this is often misunderstood by both teachers and students. Boundaries imply a teacher or guru will respect the needs and vulnerabilities of a student and not take advantage of them for his own needs. This can be materially, economically, emotionally or sexually. Materially it is very easy for teachers to exploit the devoted student who wishes to practice generosity towards them and so provide money, material goods, a home, work, and so on out of devotion. Gurus can get very rich on the offerings of their disciples and in Tibet the estates of the highly revered Tulkus where often extremely wealthy and powerful.

Emotionally there can be a tendency for some gurus to actually feed on the devotion of their students. It can nourish a narcissistic need for love and to be seen as special that has been there since childhood. Possibly the worst form of exploitation is the sexual abuse of female students to satisfy a need of the teacher. It is this, which is the most blatant form of abuse of boundary and power and can often be dismissed or denied within the context of a dysfunctional community of disciples. […]

Update July 09, 2012

See also: Spiritual pathology by Rob Preece.
The article has been made available also on www.info-buddhism.com.