The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Keeping Heart Samaya”
As a student, one of your responsibilities is to uphold and protect the Sangha, one of the Three Precious Jewels. The way that works is this. The Sangha is one body. If one part of the human body goes sour, if there is some negative consciousness rattling around somewhere – and nowadays even doctors know that there is some connection – the body will develop a cancer. If even one part of it has become disorganized, then the whole body becomes sickened. So the Sangha’s responsibility to one another is virtuous conduct.
By virtuous conduct I mean that in the Sangha there should never, ever be gossip and slander. NEVER! I cannot say this strongly enough. If there will ever be a time when the Buddha’s teachings are destroyed, it will be from the inside because there is nothing on this earth, other than Buddhist practitioners, that have that power. If the Buddha’s teachings and their purity are ever destroyed, it will be by Dharma practitioners committing non-virtuous acts. Gossip and slander that are harmful and disruptive to the Dharma community is a heinous crime because the Sangha is like a beautiful, virtuous, supreme and exalted body; not an ordinary body, but a body that leads to liberation, a body that walks to liberation, a body whose sole purpose is to bring about the liberation of all sentient beings. This is purity itself. This is truth itself. If instead of upholding that truth by keeping samaya with the Lama, the Sangha instead engages in this kind of non-virtuous conduct, this cancer is created. This is such a heinous crime because of what is lost. Where else in samsara can we find such great benefit as from the Sangha or spiritual community? Where else will such help and support come than from the Lama’s extended body, this pure activity in the world? So because something very pure and precious has been harmed, the weight of the crime is very great.
I particularly have a strong dislike for gossip and slander. I have seen what kind of harm it can do in religious communities. Even in the ordinary context in this day and age, gossip and slander have gotten to be so stylish and so outrageously prevalent and hip that we don’t even seem to mind closing down our government so that we can do it. We don’t seem to mind paying any price, including completely disrupting the responsibility between people in office and the people they serve. Not to say that any of these things that are said aren’t right, but this kind of gossip has become such a thing, such a fad. In other religious communities as well as Buddhist communities, it is a general religious phenomena. But there is always gossip and slander. It seems to be that if people think a teacher is pure, other people have to knock that teacher down. Or if people think a particular faith is pure, other people have to gossip about it. Why does it have to be that way?
As far as I am concerned, if you bring gossip and slander into this community, which is the Lama’s body, being the Lama here, I take it very personally. If you bring gossip or slander into this community, you are wrong, wrong because you brought it. Even if the story you are telling is right, you are wrong because what we are doing here by creating gossip and slander, is to harm the body of the Sangha, and there is a breakage of samaya. We have not upheld the three objects of refuge.
Now, of course, if there is ever a problem with misconduct on the part of any religious leader, anything like that, we hope that those who are engaged in this conduct will turn to their teachers and receive spiritual guidance. But the antidote to that is support and compassion. The antidote to that is not the hatred, disease and sickness of gossip and slander. That only harms the body and creates a cancer in the Dharma community. So part of the samaya between students and teachers – and I will tell you that if I could legislate that it would be 100 times as strong here – for any of you who are truly committed to being my students, you must cut out gossip and slander from your life immediately, whatever it takes. Purify that non-virtue. Stop now. You help no one and you harm yourself. It brings nothing but unhappiness.
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