Last month I read The Buddha from Brooklyn by Martha Sherrill and out of curiosity this morning I read some of the reviews posted on Amazon.com.
Some reviews confirm the accuracy of Sherrill’s portrayal of the Poolesville, MD Center (one poor woman even writes that she is about to purchase the book since her husband of 2.5 years has left her at Jetsunma’s recommendation) while others are sympathetic to “Jetsunma.”
I found this review by Teddy Baines (Oregon), who writes that he has been a Tibetan Buddhist for ten years, particularly interesting as it brought forth unfamiliar ideas:
1. Mandarava, the consort of Guru Rinpoche’s, was slandered and derided to the point that she was imprisoned and sentenced to death. The two main criticisms levelled at Mandarava were that she was despoiling the Dharma and that she was a whore. Jetsunma is recognised by many high Lamas as an emanation of Mandarava. It is no surprise then that the same patterns are recurring. Indeed Holiness Penor Rinpoche predicted this at her enthronement.
2. Martha Sherril is aligned with neo-christian journalists who simply cannot accept the reality of incarnate lamas. To them any incarnate lama has to be a fake. Sherril was heavily pressured by two journalists in particular to turn the book, which was initially positive, into a negative expose. Also, Sherrill has limited exposure to Vajrayana and so has fallen victim to doubt. Doubt is one of two principle causes for human rebirth and so is a major factor in all of our make-up. Doubt will cause even the most perfect teacher to be seen as a villain. Need I remind you there is also a very nasty book about the Dalai Lama and a number of books about the high Kagyu Lamas involved in the ‘Two Karmapas’ affair. There are also slanderous books about Kalu Rinpoche and Trungpa. NO SLANDER OF ANY LAMA, OR ANY ORDINARY PERSON FOR THAT MATTER, IS EVER OK.
3. Very few of the truly great masters of the past would be accepted by us today. Jetsunma is mild mannered compared to Tilopa or any of the great Dakinis such as Niguma. Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Vajrayana, engaged in activity we would all frown one – promiscuity being the main one. The great saint Milarepa even killed someone. Also, what about the reverred saint Drukpa Kunley, who stole, advocated incest, engaged in drunkenness and promiscuity, including the sodomy of a demon?? Clearly Jetsunma’s behaviour, if indeed the book is factual, which no-one here seems to question, is well within the boundaries of what in Vajrayana is considered enlightened behaviour.
4. The very, very high Lamas provoke moral outrage and controversy. All the Tibetan Lamas who have been asked about this, such as Holiness Ngawang Tenzin, the Dorje Lopon of Bhutan, who has no lineage connection to Jetsunma or the Palyul and who is the most reverred monk in Bhutan, has said that Jetsunma must be a very accomplished Lama indeed to provoke this stuff. He also said that she had guided her students perfectly.
5. It is a breach of one’s Samyaya with one’s own root Guru to disparage anyone else’s root Guru. So to disparage Jetsunma means you make your own Lama’s life shorter and damage your own wellbeing. Also it is quite simply a breach of our committment not to engage in gossip and harsh speech.
6. Martha Sherril works in a field not known for its truthfulness nor its committment to accuracy. Sherril breached a fundamental journalistic ethic by NOT giving Jetsunma right of redress and NOT interviewing current students about what past students were saying. This, if nothing else, is unethical and flawed journalism.
Click here to read all the reviews on Amazon.com and click here to read my other entries about this strange book.