How To Rely On The Guru

RelyGuru_GNWhen we have met a qualified Guru who has karmic connection with us, what kind of mindset should we have in reliance upon him? Drimed Oser (Longchenpa) said, “Someone who seeks liberation should be like a sick patient who relies on the doctor, in order to remove the serious sickness of samsara, the body, speech and mind should have no hypocrisy in devotedly serving the Guru. Just as the passenger on a boat relies on the boat-man, one should persistently practise according to the teachings out of fear of samsara.”

How should one rely on the Guru in order to please him? Drimed Oser also said, “The foremost method to please the Guru is to, through the power of offering one’s practice, request, receive, uphold, practice and propagate the three teachings. The middling method is to serve with the body and speech in order to purify the obscurations of the three doors, the lesser method is to offer wealth and material goods to perfect the two accumulations. No matter how, one must definitely adopt one of the three methods.”

Firstly, practising according to the teachings is the actual expression of sincerely relying on the Guru, it is not something easy to do, yet it is the most sublime offering to the Guru. Practising according to the teachings is primarily shown through the offering of practice. The extremely kind Lama Achuk Rinpoche has always required his disciples “to practice the dharma properly, this is the best offering to Guru.”

The protection from all sufferings in this life, future lives and in the bardo is to rely on the sole Lord of Refuge, the Guru. Since we are afflicted by the sickness of samsara, we need to rely on the Guru’s teachings, and practise the Guru’s pith instructions in order to recover. Whether the sickness can be cured or not, depends on one’s own ability to practise according to what is taught and one’s diligence. The Guru tells us that all the afflictive emotions and suffering comes from the attachment of delusive ignorance, instructing us to put down all attachments to this world; to give rise to renunciation; to drop all selfish, self-benefitting ‘self-cherishing attachment’; and to generate the bodhichitta mind to benefit others. If after we have taken refuge with a Guru and having practised the dharma, we are unable to give rise to renunciation and bodhichitta in the slightest bit, but instead, the more we practise, the more we become fixated, rigid and selfish, then this is a case of not practising according to the teaching or turning one’s back on the Guru’s teachings.

The middling level of offering is to serve the Guru. The Guru is the most precious merit field for the practitioner. In terms of accumulation of merits and wisdom, nothing can exceed the Guru as the most unsurpassable merit field. The tantras say, “If someone can be close to and serve the Guru for half a day, this merit is far greater than spending an eon to make offerings to all Buddhas, practising generosity and such merits.”

water-dropNext, the offering of wealth. In the “Sublime Wisdom Tantra”, it is said, “If to a single pore of the Guru, just a drop of oil is applied as an offering, compared to offering to the thousand Buddhas of the Fortunate Aeon, the (former) merits gathered still exceeds and prevails.” That is to say, if one offers the Guru even one dollar with devotion, or one khata (white auspicious scarf)…, this can cleanse immeasurable obscurations of oneself, increasing one’s fortunate roots and merits immeasurably, swiftly accomplishing one’s resources of merits and wisdom. When the sublime Guru performs the Bodhisattva conduct and accumulates vast accumulations of merits and wisdom, if one has participated in the midst of such activities, even if one has created the motivation to offer even just a meager amount of wealth or exerted a little effort with body and speech to help in some way, or even just rejoiced in one’s heart and went along with it, then one obtains the same virtue and merits as those generated by the virtuous activities arising from the Guru’s supreme motivation. This is like a drop of water merging into the vast ocean. The Guru’s motivation is like the vast ocean, our efforts and powers are like a drop of water. As long as the ocean water is not dried up, this drop of water will never dry up too.

Some people make offerings to the Guru with arrogance, as if they are benefiting or being kind to the Guru. Actually, a truly qualified Guru has no attachment to external states and appearances, the reason for accepting our offerings is merely to increase our merits and wisdom accumulations and to help us to break through our greed and desire. There are also some people who make offerings to the Guru with some kind of love (mixed with sympathy and worldly feelings), as if the Guru is a orphan, needing them to take care of him. The truth is, the Guru does not need our material offerings, it is just that when we offer with a heart of devotion and gratitude, this will increase our stocks of merits and wisdom.

The wish to offer “body, speech and mind” to the Guru is a most skilful means to drop one’s “self-cherishing attachment”. If we really offered our “body, speech and mind” to the Guru, our practice will not be deviated from the proper path, the habitual tendencies of our “self- cherishing attachment” will be progressively weakened, body and mind will be increasingly gentle, mind will become more and more broad and vast. For instance, when one’s afflictive emotions or habitual patterns emerge and conflicts with the Guru’s teachings then we will remind ourselves, “I have already offered my body, speech and mind to the Guru, I can only follow what the Guru has taught, not follow my afflictive emotions or habitual tendencies in my actions.” If we constantly train in this manner, our habitual tendencies will be dissolved gradually and we will relate more and more closely to the three doors of Guru.

All the lineage masters relied on their Gurus single-pointedly, practised what was taught and obtained accomplishment in this way. This is the only path to liberation. For instance, when Naropa was relying on Tilopa, he was made to go through twelve major and twelve minor ordeals. When all these ascetic practices had been completed, his mental continuum generated all the qualities in his Guru’s mental continuum, the Guru and disciple became inseparable in mind and intent. When Milarepa relied upon Marpa, the process was also fraught with many tests and suffering practices, but he finally attained the ultimate and common siddhis.

pray-GuruKhenpo Ngakchung also wrote in his autobiography, “Ever since the first time I saw my Guru and created a dharma connection with him, I have never regarded him (my old father) as a normal human being. Basically I only felt a sense of devotion and constantly prayed to him. Once when I went to my Guru’s quarters, he was coincidentally performing his customary circumambulations of twenty-five rounds after his noon meal, I followed suit behind him to circumambulate his retreat room. Normally, my Guru has a wolf-skin belt tied with the knot drooping down like the shoe-laces of Tibetan boots. In the past, whenever it was convenient, he would say the same thing, “Pull my tail a little,” but on this day, he did not say so. Therefore I asked, “Should I pull your tail a little?” He gave a start and then said, “Oh, I forgot about it, so just pull a little, just pull a little…” after that, he seemed to have thought of something and said, “My child, that is just my pet phrase, I can’t blame you for following the way I say it, however, generally speaking, the disciple should regard the Guru as the Dharmakaya Buddha, but should not regard him as an ordinary form body. From this point of view, you should not use the same joking phrase as me when I call it ‘tail’. The Vajra Sutra states, “If one sees me as form, seeks me through sound, this person practises the deviant path, unable to see the Tathagata.” This proof from the teachings has already stated it clearly: if one does not view the Guru as the Dharmakaya Buddha, but only treats him as an ordinary person with the characteristics of form, sound, smell, taste and touch, then such a negative and inferior kind of thought will definitely obscure the mental continuum of the practitioner and cause him to encounter insurmountable obstacles on his path to sublime accomplishments.”

“Hearing the Guru’s teaching, there arose an unshakeable conviction in my mind – the so- called Vajradhara is none other than the Guru! From then on, whether the distance from Guru was far or near, no matter bright day or dark night, in my deepest consciousness, I felt that the Guru’s clear wisdom was always illuminating me, and that I was constantly in front of my Guru. And just because it was like that, I did not dare to give rise to even the slightest negative thinking. Every moment and second, I could guard my mind with right mindfulness and right view. I myself feel that only this way of practising can be truly considered as ‘always remembering Guru, always remembering Buddha.’”

“From then on, whoever transmitted the dharma or gave me empowerments, these Gurus who possess the inestimable great compassion and profound kindness, I would always try my best to do everything possible to please them, and I have never caused the Guru to give rise to even one instant of displeasure.”

Forsaking the qualified Guru who has shown one much kindness is tantamount to the fault of forsaking the Buddha. To say even the smallest lie to the root lama will bring inconceivably harmful results. In the past, there was an accomplished master whose disciple who had started accepted many of his own students. Once, when this disciple was transmitting the dharma, his Guru came to him in the attire of a beggar. The disciple was too embarassed to prostrate to his Guru in front of the entire crowd and thus pretended not to recognise his Guru. After the transmission was complete, he quickly went to see his Guru and made prostrations, his Guru said, “Why did you not prostrate just now?” He said, “I did not see the Guru.” Just as these words left his mouth, both his eyeballs fell to the ground. He begged for his Guru’s forgiveness while telling the truth, after his Guru gave blessings, his eyes recovered.

When we use our coarse and crude thinking and give rise to dissatisfaction with our Guru, or it could be biased views or wrong views, then we must quickly correct our attitude, cutting through the potential for the negative discriminating thought to grow further in strength. We must recall that we have been drifting aimlessly in samsara and are totally hopeless, helpless and suffering. Think of the importance of the Guru’s teachings that have guided you to practice the path to liberation. Remember the preciousness of the liberating instructions that the Guru has given to you. Remind yourself of the faults and serious consequences of forsaking the qualified Guru who has shown you great kindness. You must recollect yourself and recognise the negative thinking in time, and immediately make confessions without hiding anything.


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