Lately, I was reminded of this old sutra in the Pali Canon called the Saddhammapatirupaka Sutta (SN 16.13) also called the “A Counterfeit of the True Dhamma” sutra.
In this sutra, one of the senior disciples of the Buddha named Maha-Kashyapa asked the Buddha why the early community had few training rules, and many students who made progress, while there were many training rules now, and fewer disciples attaining awakening.
The passage I was particularly interested in was this one:
“These five downward-leading qualities tend to the confusion and disappearance of the true Dhamma. Which five? There is the case where the monks, nuns, male lay followers, & female lay followers live without respect, without deference, for the Teacher. They live without respect, without deference, for the Dhamma… for the Sangha… for the Training… for concentration. These are the five downward-leading qualities that tend to the confusion and disappearance of the true Dhamma.
When choosing a Buddhist community and following the Buddhist path, it really helps to consider these points above. Oftentimes, especially for those of us who are in non-Buddhist countries, we have few options, and just want to find a like-minded community.
But it’s better to maintain integrity than to compromise for the sake of fitting in.