I was part of a religious group that claimed to be everything that the Buddha teaches. But, when you listen to their teachings, you can tell discrepancies between their teachings and Buddhist teachings.

I just saw many people being misguided, but I do not know what to do. (Just to clarify, the religious group I'm referring to is neither Mahayana nor Theravada. But, the question can be generalized further if necessary.)

On one end, I do not wish to create any conflict among anyone. On the other end, I feel sad that many people are misguided into the teaching.

So, the question is: What should I do?

Any answers based on experience would be AWESOME, and experience + Scripture references (said by famous teachers or based on Pali Canon) would be an Awesome+++infinity. :) Once again, I hope to find a method that does not create animosity.

Thanks Buddhist Community! Praises to the Dharma. ******As for an explanation on how this question is different from the forum titled "How to address wrong view", it's pretty much the same, except this is more scenario-based. I just wanted a different perspective/insight to this specific scenario. My ultimate goal is to avoid conflict!!!

  • possible duplicate of How to address wrong view
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 3:57
  • 2
    A wise person that I know says that attempts to avoid conflict end up creating conflict. If someone is causing harm, it is your duty to intervene. That said, you have a choice about it.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 12:10
  • 2
    To avoid conflict never ever avoid conflict.
    – Lowbrow
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 3:19

8 Answers 8


You can share with them DN 16's Four Great Referrals:

“Here, monks, a monk might speak like this: ‘I have heard this directly from the Gracious One, friends, directly I learned it: “This is the Teaching, this is the Discipline, this is the Teacher’s Dispensation.”’ That monk’s speech, monks, is not to be rejoiced over, not to be scorned at. Without having rejoiced over it, without having scorned it, after learning those words and syllables well, they should be laid alongside the Discourses, they should be compared with the Discipline.

If, when these are laid alongside the Discourses, compared with the Discipline, they do not fit in with the Discourses, they do not compare well with the Discipline, you may here come to this conclusion: ‘Certainly this is not the Gracious One’s word, it is not well learned by that monk,’ and, monks, you should abandon it. If when these are laid alongside the Discourses, compared with the Discipline, they do fit in with the Discourses, they do compare well with the Discipline, you may come to this conclusion: ‘Certainly this is the Gracious One’s word, it is well-learned by that monk.’ This, monks, is the first Great Referral you should bear in mind.

That religious group will have no ground to criticize you for the above comes straight out of the Buddha's Discourses. Also freely share good Dhamma resources like accesstoinsight.org, suttacentral.net, tipitaka.wikia.com, etc. so that group members can go and find out the truth for themselves.

  • 2
    Thank you friend. What a wonderful verse you have just showed. I will bear that in mind. My goal was to avoid conflict, but I know I must take a stand at some point. Once again, thanks santa100! Much blessings to all.
    – Reid
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 5:51
  • 3
    "not to be rejoiced over, not to be scorned at"
    – Reid
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 6:03
  • 1
    Very true indeed. Sadhu!
    – santa100
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 3:10
  • thank you very much indeed! sadhu! Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 12:42

From Dogen's Shobogenzo:

Some hear of Anuttara-Samyak-Sam-Bodhi from "good friend", and some hear of it from the sutras. What one hears first is, "Not doing wrong action." If one does not hear “not doing wrong action,” one is not hearing the Buddhas' true Dharma but demonic talk. Know that hearing “not doing wrong action” is hearing the Buddhas' true Dharma.


The essence of the Dharma proclaimed by all Buddhas of the three worlds is the same, yet the actual words used depend on the time and circumstances.

My comment:

When I was a little boy back in the dark soviet years, I could not possibly come in contact with True Dharma. My glimpse of light was a song by an alcoholic folk singer who sang: "The Indians have made up a nice religion: when we kick the bucket we don't die forever. If you lived like a pig, you'll be reborn a pig. If you were dumb like a tree, you'll come back a baobab. You could become a parrot or a poisonous snake. Isn't it better to be a decent man?"

In this world there are people who are not confused, people who are mildly confused, and people who are very confused. This includes students of Dharma, teachers of Dharma, and people who have never heard of Dharma. So if your "ultimate goal is to avoid conflict" then don't judge the work of others -- even if they are somewhat confused at least they can help people who are even more confused. For someone deep in the darkness even a little glimpse of light can show the direction out.

As for your literal question, "what should you do when someone teaches false Dharma?" -- my answer is: "why, teach the true Dharma of course!"

  • Sigh I hear you dude. But, I still feel like it's a lose-lose situation though. On one end, I'm sacrificing the authenticity of the dharma. On the other end, I'm creating conflict. Look, some teachings that are taught can cause more problems than if people never heard them. For example, one particular effect of practicing that religion is that people can develop an ego-based merit-anxiety-complex. I know, it's weird. It helps them do less evil, but makes them suffer more, just in a different way. Anyhow, thank you for insights.
    – Reid
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 8:13

You should see if the interpretations given are in fact:

  • In line with the Dhamma as per the Suttas.
  • Even if they seem to be from the Suttas, see if the interpretation can be put in practice and not philosophical and abstract. Dhamma is meant to be practised to experience the result here and now. Hence if it is philosophical or abstract then this is not pure Dhamma.

So the best course of action would be:

  • Try to bring up Sutta discussions with a view toward reconciliation.
  • If it seems to be in line with the Suttas, see if some interpretations are abstract and philosophical rather than simple practice, in which case you can bring up an alternate interpretation to see how this resonates among the practitioners.

Refer to Ani Sutta which describes how Dhamma gets polluted.

  • Thank you sir. Yeah, some things were definitely off. I have heard from several Chinese Buddhist Masters that the religious group is not legit Buddhism. "The try to bring up Sutta" part was really what I wanted to do, but I do not have enough experience with Scripture to quote any appropriate ones at the time. But, perhaps in time. Once again, thank you friend.
    – Reid
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 5:36
  • Have a look at: dharmafarer.org, suttacentral.net, accesstoinsight.org (in order of correctness). These might help. But be aware some of the translations to not meet criteria 2 I have listed above. Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 5:46
  • @SumindaSirinathSalpitikorala: (Assuming they pass review) I edited your post to make some grammatical corrections. Hopefully I've not changed the meaning of what you said. If so, please feel free to roll them back.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 13:25
  • I agree that the emphasis of the teachings is practical. People have an endless tendency to create new concepts and world-views. "Greed for Views, tends not to edification."
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 12:20

Coming from the middle of the United States (OKC, OK) I have encountered the following Buddhist groups: Vietnamese (Mahayana), Korean (Mahayana), Thai (Theravada), Chinese (Mahayana), and Californian (Zen). After spending time at the Kopan monastery in Kathmandu I have also experienced Tibetan and, of course, the Theravadan people here. Every one of these groups have differences. Some rather vast and many rather surprising.

So my first response would be - by whose standard are you evaluating their interpretations to be wrong?

To call themselves Buddhists one asks ... Do they seek refuge in the jewel? Do they follow the 5 precepts?

After that it's a matter of school and lineage. I have noticed much more of a dao influence in the Chinese Mahayana group compared to the Vietnamese (who seem much more pedantic). And the Korean group has prescriptions of an origin I still dont know. The Zen group seemed much more Hindu in nature (even mixing in Yoga ideas of shedding karma) and the Tibetan group from Kathmandu was much more mystical than purely secular.

I mention all this because there is a wide variance in views and all maintain some form of justification based on canon. I wouldnt rule any group out as errant until I had done my own homework beforehand. I studied the Upanishads, the Dhammapada, and the Bhagavad Gita before deciding which path I would follow and my determining factors were:

  • my path must swallow all others in its' embrace, and
  • my path would align with both the physical world as well as the spiritual.

That first factor requires a little explanation. After such an exhaustive search (50 years) for spiritual guidance I finally figured out that if a set of beliefs excludes any group of people then it is incomplete. Usually incomplete means it suffers from inaccuracies and bias. So any ultimate explanation should encompass everyone. It should be a universal truth to all ... swallowing up all other beliefs.

The second factor comes from my practical education and background. We ARE talking about the very nature of the Universe and I dont believe in magic. I do believe in science and physics and quantum mechanics and biology. I will certainly allow for discoveries we have yet to make (black box principle), but my path will be supported by known science and be furthered by it.

These are, of course, MY factors. You will have your own. Based on your background. Seek refuge first through learning about the Buddha. After you learn then find the path that suits you and a group of people who help you in it. Be up front about your search and the earnest questions you ask will be greeted with a smile by the right-minded. Not conflict.

I hope any single word of this was helpful. I understand this journey and wish you the best of results! Namaste my friend.

  • As a scientist you have to keep in mind that a theory that accounts for everything, in the end, accounts for nothing. It is very easy for us to think that we have found an unverifiable explanation for every single spiritual variation and get attached to that explanation, without realizing that we are just deluding ourselves. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 19:40
  • @EdgarBrown I'm not sure that's a useful comment. As you should probably know, the proper purpose of a comment is to e.g. clarify an answer.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 21:03

Ideally, after metta, ask your spiritual friends if they want to share perspectives on dhamma.


I think the best way is to raise doubts in your friends, so that they will check it for themselves. For example, you can use the Socratic questioning technique to ask questions. For example, you can ask:

Is this always the case?

When you seed the doubt in them in a subtle way, you won't be perceived as a threat.

If you really care about them, and willing to spend more effort to help them, you may want to use these guidelines:

Be sure that your knowledge is solid before correcting them.

FYI: What is the Buddhist view in Socratic questioning?


Well this is a general thing happening in spirituality. There are people who are clearly frauds or just have extreme narcissistic personality disorder and have delusions becoming spiritual teachers and gurus that many people become their students and sees them as idol or super enlightened beings and even worship these frauds. These kind of things are very normal in the human world.

There are belief systems in the world that literally glorifies killing. I can not go to more detail because it may be out of BSE rules, but I think many people understands what I mean. This is the truth of humanity. You can not change it because this is actually what the crazy state of ordinary human mind loves.

Buddha was not a Buddhist and "Buddhism" does not belong to a specific group. Let's be happy and grateful that original teachings of Buddha is still alive in different sects of Buddhism and let's give help to the people(who are demanding help from us) with the true teachings of the Buddha. That is more than enough.


Since it is a very important topic and need a lot of explaining, Atma has started to prepare a hopefully understandable answer here: How to address wrong view? It will take one day or two and of course a Book could be written and would be not at all of no use. So not finished yet but give it meanwhile the possibility to put further thoughts and questions while being in development into it.. How could it? But here the gist: talk toward a smart

A revised and extended version as well attempt to translate in into German, after blessed approve of firm insider, can be found here: How to address wrong view (preliminary).


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .