I have been to many Buddhism centers in New York. What I saw is that very often the teachers were the confused ones. The teachers learned a lot of words. So they threw the words at the students. But the teachers didn’t really understand the teaching, and they mixed different things together, just making students more and more confused. (It is ok for the very beginners since they never heard of Buddhism. So it is good for them to hear something of Buddhism that they rarely heard of. But if those beginners come back with the same questions after one year’s practice, these teachers will not be able to answer them.) I guess the worst thing for a Buddhism practitioner is to encounter a wrong teacher. When you feel you are following a wrong teacher, you should leave immediately. Stay away from those lost talkers.
I used to think it was ok for them to follow those wrong teachers as long as the practitioners felt they were learning something. But recently I realized that many students were just wasting their time. If they are learning anything, they are learning it very slowly. Since they wasted so much time learning Buddhism from a wrong teacher, they don’t have time to explore other opportunities of learning. Have they had the time to be exposed to other things especially the wonders of life, they will realize they are wasting their time with the wrong teacher. But since they are trapped with the wrong teachers, they might just waste their whole life without realizing it until it is too late.
Furthermore, when this kind of teachers and this kind of students meet each other, they reinforce each other’s stupidity. It can be quite deceiving because what they are talking about sounds a lot like truth. But it is quite the opposite. Thus it is not difficult for religions to find a large following. (On the other hand, of course, any kind of religion has to make some kind of sense.)
Thus, don’t be afraid of pains of life. Keep expanding your horizon. It is ok for you to stop practicing Buddhism for a while if you haven’t encountered a good teacher and if you are not making much progress anyway. After a few years, you will come back and understand Buddhism more if you have kept on growing and hadn’t wasted your time.
What I said here applies to those teachers as well. You don’t have to trap yourself in teaching Buddhism. You could have learned much more if you didn’t waste too much of your time wasting other people’s lives. It is difficult to do no harm, right? If you are wasting your own life or wasting other people’s lives, you are doing harm as well. How big is the harm of wasting other people’s lives? In my view, it is only second to killing people.
When I was in college, there was a Nobel Prize scholar who came back to campus to give a talk. He said college life is important time of your life because this is the time of your life that you can learn a lot of things. His point was that we should focus on our study in school, treasuring the opportunities of learning in school. I agreed that college ages are the time of life to learn tremendously. But I thought I could have learned much more if I wasn’t trapped in school. It was the golden time of my life and I learned tremendously. But I felt if I was not bound by the school, I could have learned much more.
So if you are not learning with your fastest speed, you are wasting your time. When you feel you are wasting your time, just look around and see if there is something else you should do.