Virtue, Trust and Fraud
Since the time of the Buddha, monks and nuns have worn the three robes of ordination as visible symbols, along with the shaved head, of their pratimoksha vows. The Vinaya, the monastic precepts as laid down by the Buddha during his life to guide the Noble Sangha, are intended to simplify the life of the ordained person so that he or she can concentrate on practice rather than the complications of everyday life, calling upon the monk or nun to renounce those attachments which bind him or her to the wheel of death and rebirth. The robes have always served as an important support for the practice of the renunciate, clothing that is “easy to acquire and to cast aside,” as it says in the sutras. They are a constant reminder of one’s vows as well as signaling those we meet that we hold vows so that they can be mindful in their dealings with us. Lay people who understand the meaning of the robes and the value of the vows they represent therefore view the ones who wear them as a field of merit. It is said that even to see the robes of the Buddha, whether or not one understands what they are, is a blessing.
Monastic robes are not worn to increase one’s pride or to set the ordained person above anyone. They are worn as a mark of humility, an outward sign of our oneness with all beings. Wearing the robes carries with it an obligation of spiritual and moral honesty as they are a declaration that one is observing the vows of a Buddhist monastic. To wear the robes without keeping the precepts is dishonest. Even worse, to wear the robes without ever having taken the vows in order to impress people with one’s “spiritual prowess” and to gain their trust dishonestly is a very serious breach of that trust.
To our knowledge, William Cassidy has never taken those vows, nor has he ever been recognized as a tulku, or reincarnate lama, by a qualified lama, despite his specious claims to the contrary. In fact, at the time when he is pictured wearing the robes he was, by his own admission, a falling down drunk who very nearly drank himself to death. This can hardly be considered renunciation! It is just one more sign of the dishonesty Cassidy uses in his ceaseless attempts to gain credibility as a Buddhist teacher so that he can use that credibility to manipulate people, steal their money, and turn them away from the path.
His actions bring dishonor not to the robes, but solely to himself.