Betrayal by Buddhist teachers in the setting of a Dharma or Zen center is not an uncommon misfortune. A student who puts their trust or expectations in a particular teacher is, at some level, vulnerable to betrayal. Betrayal usually involves a beginning student and in their eyes a very respected religious authority. The one most subject to betrayal is usually an overly devoted, naive student; one, especially, who has very high, unrealistic expectations.
The outline of the relationship is a great deal like a legal contract, but non-binding. The student has certain religious expectations of the teacher such as helping the student achieve enlightenment. The student promises to give the teacher their undivided attention and obedience. Perhaps most, importantly, the student believes that the teacher has an implied obligation to carry out the student’s expectations. In the main, there is a fragile reciprocal dynamic involved.
In this same consideration, there is another factor in betrayal which often weighs against the student which, if the student were immunized against it, betrayal might never occur. For want of a better way of explaining it, this factor is the student’s own naiveté. In the example of Buddhism, in general, it involves a simplistic, literal view of Buddhism. Regrettably, also, the naive student is only too willing to turn his mind over to his teacher in a heart beat thus suspending his own critical thinking abilities. It is only after several years of being the naive student does this student finally become disenchanted with his teacher and leave feeling somewhat betrayed.
Usually after the shock of betrayal the student's belief in Buddhism is sometimes called into serious question. But in truth, it is the student's own certainty of judgment that has been called into question and challenged. In light of this, ironically, betrayal has a silver lining to it. For what has actually been betrayed is the student's naiveté—his or her spiritual immaturity. More importantly, it is likely that such a betrayal is part of the maturation process every good student must go through before they are able to test things out independently, for themselves.