Reginald Ray

Subforum: Traditions > Tibetan Buddhism > Tibetan Buddhism General Forum
Thread title: Reginald Ray, Qualified Dharma Teacher?
Date: Oct 4 2008
Page No: 3

Namdrol (Former E-sangha global moderator):

Ok, that’s it for me.

I heard a statement by Ray tonight:

“The whole belief in past lives is something that Buddhism inherited from Indian Tradition. And I think, as with many things in Asian Buddhism, we need to take a critical look at this and see…you know, the Buddha said to his own students “…anything that I teach you, don’t take it at face value, don’t believe it just because even I said it– you have to look at it and evaluate it within your own framework and see if it makes sense. And if it doesn’t make sense, dump it, get rid of it.” And I think that incarnation, ah… reincarnation, as a literal teaching, I don’t find it helpful for anybody because it takes your focus away from this life. But if incarnation is viewed as a sort of metaphor for the fact that we humans are on some kind of extremely long spiritual journey that happened before we were born, and it’s going to keep on going, then I think it’s helpful.”

This person is not a qualified Buddhist teacher.

Forum member:

Do you feel that you are qualified to say who is a qualified teacher? If so, how?

Namdrol (Former E-sangha global moderator):

Yes. How? Because I know what Dharma is and what it is not, and dispensing with rebirth as a metaphor is not Dharma and is harmful to the Dharma.

Forum member:

When you say that you know what Dharma is, do you mean that you have become the Dharma and that it is now how you experience the world, or that you are familiar with what has been taught about the Dharma. If it is how you experience the world, would you be so kind as to look around where you are and from your own experience tell me how objects appear to you.

Namdrol (Former E-sangha global moderator):

I mean that I know the difference between Dharma and Adharma. That is sufficient. Teaching that rebirth outdated, that it is better to focus on this life, is simply wrong.

Forum member:

You mean that you know intellectually between the Dharma and Adharma. That is not sufficient, because what you know intellectually may in fact be far removed from the actual experience of Dharma. Opinions about things are not the things themselves. A realized person knows that realization can be found only now. Could Reggie have been trying to accentuate that point? Could he have been trying to point to the fact that what is here and now is all there is and to spend one’s time on an idea which for most is unproven by experience, such as rebirth, may be an inferior way to spend one’s time? i don’t know and i don’t really care that much; i’m not a knee jerk Buddhist. But what i do care about is smearing a teacher on an international forum. Reggie Ray, who i know personally and who is not my teacher, has devoted his life to the Dharma; he introduced a very close friend of mine to the Dharma while he taught at CU and he has done so with many, many others both at Shambhala Mountain Center and in Crestone. I have read two of his published works on Tibetan Buddhism and found them helpful. Do you really feel comfortable dismissing out of hand a teacher who has made those kind of contributions to the Dharma, because he doesn’t fullfill one intellectual stance that you have chosen to assume.

Namdrol (Former E-sangha global moderator):

You mean that you know intellectually between the Dharma and Adharma.

No. I mean that I know Adharma when I see it.

Do you really feel comfortable dismissing out of hand a teacher because he thinks that rebirth is something that can be discarded?


The very fiber of the Dharma absolutely depends on the Buddha’s teaching of rebirth. If you do not understand this, then you do not understand Buddhism.

This one point is the basic one upon which the entire Dharma hangs, the realizations of stream entrants through Arhats, the realizations of Mahayana bodhisatvas that require three incalculable eons to perfect; or even the profound teachings of Vajrayana which concern how to achieve complete liberation in the bardo, and if not that, then at least within 16 lifetimes.

Basically, as Dzogchen Khyentse Rinpoche recently pointed out, it is quite impossible to have Buddhism without rebirth, and if you are someone who does not believe in literal rebirth, it is much better for you _not_ to be a Buddhist.

So, having said that– I will repeat myself. Reginald Ray is not a qualified Dharma teacher because he teaches that rebirth something which may be dumped out, thrown away.

That one thing is sufficient to render all of the rest of his so called Dharma complete and utter nonsense. He is not a teacher who can lead one to liberation. He is just another one of those Barnes and Noble “Buddhist” teachers like Stephen Batchelor, Kalsang Gyatso and so on who do far more harm to students than good.

Various forum members join in the complaints against Reginald Ray:

there seems to be a blur in Dr. Ray’s thinking between literal acceptance of rebirth and the utility of rebirth as a stimulus to practice.

Namdrol, warming to his theme, continues:

In fact, his comments expose the presence of a form of intellectual racism against a so called “Asian Buddhism”, a constant theme in is his discussions of Buddhist topics.

It is a little strange to insist on such a distinction– as of this writing there isn’t a single highly realized teacher of western origin, not even one.

The so called “American Buddhism” movement is characterized by a deep hubristic immaturity.


4 Responses to “Reginald Ray”

  1. Kim Birch Says:

    Because the Buddha’s teachings weren’t written down until 300 years after his death misinterpretations inevitably occured.
    I believe there are traditional doctrines that should be looked at critically to see if they actually help people live fulfilled lives, and Western teachers with long and fruitful Dharma practice are perfectly entitled ( and qualified ) to do this.
    I think the Buddha would have approved of this, as his teachings were definitely not intended to act as a dogmatic belief system.
    Personal experience of the Dharma is what really matters.

  2. Walker Vreeland Says:

    Wow! For me, this has been a fascinating conversation to follow. I suppose that’s because I’ve never seen, (or read) Buddhists arguing. (That was an assumption…I am not sure who here is a practicing Buddhist.) However, it seems as if there’s an academic/conceptual/literal argument and then there’s the “human experience” argument in defense of Reggie’s “Dharmic status” being put in a box….(or thrown OUT of the box rather.) I’m not super familiar with Reggie Ray, but what I have read of his, and heard of his, I think he’s an incredibly passionate and compassionate teacher, with a lot of refreshing incite. Love or hate the material, I think he’s a born- teacher. Reggie also strikes me as a human being with a lot of spiritual stamina, who wouldn’t allow the accusation of being an “unqualified Buddhist teacher” to send him spiraling downward, much less rustle his feathers, but what do I know? He’d probably be interested in having a dialogue about the word “qualified”, and what that really means….(a qualified Buddhist teacher for who?) I imagine he’s extremely qualified for some, and maybe extremely UNqualified for others. I love America because we have the free will to find a teacher who is perfectly qualified for each of us, based on our own beliefs and code of ethics. And if that is not true for you, and you are discouraged and disappointed by the ” American Buddhism” movement’s immaturity, then thank God for plane tickets, and books and finding quiet places to sit, and doing whatever it takes to take back some peace of mind 🙂

  3. Jim Wilton Says:

    What is interesting is what Buddhist reincarnation means in the context of a system of teachings that holds that there is no self.

    Self or no self, suffering does seem to exist. There is a cause of suffering and, therefore, suffering is not permanent. So there is a path.

    Reggie Ray’s comment does seem to be “off the cuff” and is meant to stress the need to practice in this life. Asian cultures may understand that reincarnation is a manifestation of confusion. Westerners, I think, equate reincarnation with a continuation of the self — and may view that vaguely as a good thing. If we really understood what Buddhists mean by reincarnation, we would understand that everything we do and think matters and practice like our hair is on fire.

  4. Jonathan Brown Says:

    Namdrol, you seem to believe (and I stress the word “seem”) in concepts that are defined outside of yourself, and that adhering to an already defined, pre-determined notion of rebirth is what is important. There does not seem to be an awareness of the context or living sense of Reggie’s words. Even just reading the initial quote, I don’t sense that he is throwing out the living reality of rebirth, but merely pointing out that grasping at the concept of reincarnation is not helpful, just like anything else that takes away from our present experience. I don’t hear him saying that reincarnation is not a reality, but rather it’s not the reality most western thinking sees it to be. Keep in mind he is speaking to a western audience, and seems to be addressing the unique way the western way of thinking creates distraction from the reality of our embodiment, particularly (as Jim points out) how we tend to view reincarnation as a continuation of the self.

    I’m curious, Namdrol, if you disagree with Reggie about Buddha cautioning his students against being dogmatic in following the teachings?

    And I really don’t know what you mean by “intellectual racism” against “Asian Buddhism”. Perhaps you are mistaking his attempts to clarify eastern concepts that can otherwise be interpreted only intellectually or in an other disembodied way as racist. I just don’t see it that way.

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