Lineage Is Not a Mobius Strip
You can make a Mobius strip very easily. Take a strip of paper, twist it once, and join the two ends with tape. Remember, you started out with a piece of paper that had two sides, right? Now, run your finger along one side of the strip. And you will find there is only one side.
That is the problem with the Dec. 9 post about lineage on Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar.
Provisionally, we have no problem with the idea of blogger William Cassidy being allowed, as he puts it in his post, “to be me.” As long, of course, as he goes straight—for he is an ex-convict. As long as he refrains from the aggravated assault and arson, the crimes for which he was convicted.
We do have a problem with that request from someone who calls himself “Tulku Urgyen Tenpa Rinpoche” without credentials or authorization. In fact, we are offended. “Tulku” and “Rinpoche” are titles specifically conferred by Lineage Masters in order to confirm others as Lineage Masters. Mr. Cassidy claims the right to publish under those titles, while at the same time minimizing—even denying—the importance of lineage.
His clever, twisting arguments remind us of a Mobius strip—a one-sided geometrical conundrum.
That is the way Mr. Cassidy’s argument runs: he is too modest to claim lineage, and he decries those who do, but he reserves the right to use the titles that confer recognition within a lineage. And of course he is right some of the time: no title can confer accomplishment. Here is what he says:
If I point to my teachers, and my teacher’s teachers as some sort of authority, or justification, or credential, or even excuse for myself, this is a wholly incorrect and mistaken appreciation of what lineage actually means.
Lineage is both delimited and defined by accomplishment. One cannot be said to “hold” a lineage in the absence of actual accomplishment.
And that is where we see the one-sidedness. One does not “point to” one’s teachers; one’s teachers point to the ones they recognize as accomplished. Conferring of these very titles by Lineage Masters represents that recognition of accomplishment.
Recognition comes with credentials for the very same reason that consumer products are often certified. Let the buyer beware! Let the spiritual consumer be wary of being sold a bill of goods. Or bullshit. Because the stakes are higher in one’s spiritual life than they are in a consumer supermarket. More than your life is at stake.
And as if to confirm our very point, the blogger of Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar closes with a very real threat. He admits to engaging in “the odd bit of sorcery now and then.” For the benefit of all sentient beings? We don’t think so!