Reflections on the Accomplishment of Guru Yoga
(from kathokgonpa website)
In the palace of the unexcelled dharmadhatu, essence of the Buddhas of the three times, they who enact the direct introduction to one’s own mind, the dharmakaya- to the root lamas I pray. Although your qualities are equal to all the Buddha’s Protector, your kindness surpasses all the Buddha’s combined- At the feet of the root lama I pray, Grant blessings to develop understanding of the fundamental nature. As a long time practitioner and a humble follower of great masters I, myself, every day do practice, read and reflect on Guru Yoga. Each time this becomes a truly profound experience for me. Within this there is a very deep longing towards my Guru like a child missing its mother. But as a human, within the human condition, I also still struggle with my practice and the distractions of social life. I completely feel that Guru Yoga is the most powerful and cleansing practice to overcome any circumstances.
Having been in Western countries for a long time I have the aspiration to benefit beings here. When I ask my masters what possible practice to recommend for the West the answer is always that of Guru Yoga. I personally experienced the magical blessings of Guru Yoga practice long before meeting with my beloved Root Guru. Through the intensity of devotion and practice there can be experiences such as dream prophesies that lead one finally towards the Root Lama. The fulfillment of the practice for me was when at last I was in the presence of my great teacher, Kenpo Münsel. For Westerners there are many opportunities to experience the teachings of great masters, however, even if one practices on the generation stages and even if one has great pride in devotion to this yidam or that yidam and even though some might practice on something as profound as mahamudra, or the great perfection, true realization and accomplishment can only come through the Guru Yoga, which is considered to be the Supreme Path.
The founder of Dzog Pa Chen Po Long Chen Nyig Thig tradition, the great master Longchenpa, advised that there are three steps to achieve or accomplish. The first is to accumulate merit, the second, to purify negativities, and the third to rely on the realization of a true and authentic Master. Without this any other path is meaningless or foolish. We all have a desire to achieve something through our practice. Some wish to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime, some wish at least to achieve some kind of liberation. In the Vajrayana tradition the key, the most important step, is to accomplish Guru Yoga. All the great masters speak of Guru Yoga and practice it on a daily basis. All the true masters depend on their guru. Many stories of this abound. Many of you have heard some of them such as the stories of Longchenpa and Jigme Lingpa, of Naropa who depended on Tilopa, and the great Yogi Milarepa who relied on his teacher, Marpa, the translator, and so on. There are many of these inspirational and deeply moving stories.
To me the most inspirational example is that I witnessed the pure faith and devotion such an accomplished master as Kenpo Münsel had towards his own great Guru. Kenpo Münsel constantly taught and gave oral transmissions but one thing he could not do was give the oral transmission of his Guru, Kenpo Ngawang Rinpoche’s biography. This was so profoundly moving to him that he would become overwhelmed by it. In this life such a master as Garchen Rinpoche displayed an incredible devotion to his own Guru. Many years ago I witnessed how Garchen Rinpoche came during a very beautiful summer with many monks and nuns to receive teachings from Kenpo Münsel. When it was time for them to part he cried inconsolably on the lap of Kenpo Münsel. He had no pride no self clinging in his devotion to this great Master. The great Master comforted him and yet he finally had to be carried out by two monks.
Also, a few years ago during Lingtrul Rinpoche’s last visit to Tibet I was present at the moment of his first meeting with the young Tulku of Kenpo Münsel. After the formal ceremony and exchange of kataks Lingtrul Rinpoche began to express his gratitude, love and devotion towards Münsel Rinpoche . He became completely overwhelmed by the power of this until he was beyond words, choked with emotion and speechless. The room became absolutely silent as all of the monks and high lamas observed the great Lingtrul Rinpoche in this moment of devotion. Personally, I experienced the hairs standing on end on my body. There was no room for ordinary thoughts in that moment. Everyone present also reached a level of intense awareness and it was as if the whole assembly was one in the practice of Guru Yoga.
My tutor, Kenpo Panchen Dawa, who lives up the mountain, often speaks of the great masters in his life. He has inexpressible devotion for them and is never able to complete stories when telling of his teachers. I still have many unfinished stories to hear after many years. Each time he tries to tell the stories the joy and devotion that he expressed brings one to a level of joyful awareness that is unreachable by ordinary consciousness. Countless stories such as this exist about Guru Yoga. The profundity and benefit of doing Guru Yoga is beyond words. In the teachings it says that without depending on the master there would not even be a Buddha. All the eons of Buddhas have depended on the masters. Also, the great Yogi Milarepa, after developing profound realization said, the only companion who can protect him is the Guru, the only enemy that can harm him is the damaged samaya.
It is even said in the teachings that aeons of making merit or practicing on the generation stage are insignificant in relation to only a moment or one second of Guru Yoga. That is why it is considered to be one practice that gathers all the practices together as described in the teachings, ³Inseparability between the Guru’s mind and all appearances is the practice of all the Buddhas´. In order to truly recognise and have blessings enter into one, devotion is the key. To depend upon the Guru generally, the attitude towards the Guru should be as a patient depending upon a doctor. To be cured of this sickness we must truly and sincerely with our all body speech and mind, depend on the Guru. We must humbly serve, trust and follow him as sailors depend upon the captain of a ship. In order to get out of the fearful ocean of samsara we must always devotedly listen to the teachings and the advice of the Master. As a blind person relies upon a guide so too must we diligently depend on the Guru to accomplish liberation. The sun of one’s devotion must be activated and the blessings will come to you through the power of your pure faith and devotion.
Here we speak of devotion not as blind but as the actual recognition of the perfect qualities of the Guru. By reading and by studying you may gain some knowledge but to actualize the learning one must devotedly follow the Guru. After Naropa became one of the most studied and learned Panditas of Nalinda University one day a wisdom dakini prophesied who said, ³You are only good with words, you do not really have the meaning, you must find your Guru to actually find your wisdom´. Thus, Naropa searched to find Tilopa and endured many challenges to become his student and to actualize his learning. Through this devotion we are able to recognise the truth. Study and intellectual learning can bring us some realization but in order to truly achieve one must practice Guru Yoga, which brings the swift realization of Buddha hood. Of course there are many details of Guru Yoga but for those who have an interest in this as a daily practice, according to Longchenpa, it should be practiced day and night in four sessions. . Always begin with generally taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, intrinsically in the Lama Yidam and Dakini and secretly in the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakya and Nirmanakaya . Following this one should practice the generation of the mind of bodhicitta . As Longchenpa described, yourself and countless sentient beings, already are enlightened from the beginning. To develop that recognition we must generate the supreme bodhicitta mind. Visualize in this way as from the The Excellent Path of Omniscience of Dzog-Pa Chen-Po
LAMA KYEN, LAMA KYEN, LAMA KYEN
From the blossoming lotus of faith at the center of my heart,
Sole Protector, Gracious Lama arise.
From the torment of harsh karma and defilements,
For my protection against miserable circumstances,
Dwell as the ornament of the Chakra of Great Bliss on the crown of my head, Let there arise in me all recollection and mindfulness.
From the recognition of all phenomena as unborn and unceasing, out of this state of emptiness, the purest white lotus arises above the crown of one’s head. In the center of this is the union of the sun and moon disk. The letter Ah, resting upon the lotus, is white and is the essence of all phenomena. Light radiates from the letter which invokes the Tsa wai Lama, the Root Guru. He resides on the sun and moon disc with his legs half crossed. All the masters of lineage and all of the teachers with whom one has had a dharma connection appear above his head and all the yidams, mandala deities, dakinis, and dharma protectors surround him like a cloud The masters then dissolve into the root Guru and finally the surrounding yidams, mandala deities, dakinis and dharma protectors also dissolve into the Root Guru.
Visualise that from the deepest depth of sincerity of one’s mind one is making great offerings and giving praise. Truly and sincerely request the benefits of wisdom for oneself and others by strong and sincere supplication to the Guru. From the mandala in front of one, through this strong supplication of the Guru visualize that from the Guru’s body amrita descends on oneself and all sentient beings surrounding. Entering through the crown of one’s head the whole body is cleansed and covered with the blessings of this nectar. It purifies the negativities of the body and achieves the siddhis of the Vajra body. The essence comes down to one’s throat and purifies negativities of the speech and one achieves the siddhi of pure speech. Then the nectar drops into one’s heart and purifies the negativities of the mind and at the same time the siddhi of vajra mind is achieved. The nectar then descends to a point at the navel and purifies all negativities including habitual tendencies. One accomplishes the beneficial abilities of the Guru. Then the energy enters the secret parts and all the activities of the mandala are realized. The siddhi of accomplishing the four activities is strongly achieved and realized.
One then remains in the union of great bliss and emptiness for a moment, eventually emerging within a state of clarity where all appearances are the embodiment of the Guru, all sounds are the speech of the Guru and all thoughts and consciousness are the mind of the Guru. One then dedicates the aspirations and merit of this practice as Longchenpa did, by creating naturally pure virtue to stir up samsara and the lower realms.Pray that no one is left in the state of samsara and that all achieve liberation together. After the dedication enter into daily life as into the state of an illusory dream.
In practicing Guru Yoga the capacities of all are different and for the beginner, thoughts and clinging often do not permit clarity. When this occurs, at that point one may visualize oneself dissolving into the Guru without any divisions or exceptions. If one’s thoughts become too wild think of the Guru entering into one and dissolving and remain in the state of inexpressible union and then strongly dedicate. In this way if one practices four sessions during the day and night one can achieve some outer signs of accomplishment, such as actually being able to have body speech and mind remain in the state of bliss, clarity and non duality. Then even in the dream state one can reconnect with the Guru, Yidam and Dakini and receive prophecies, teaching and advice. The fruition of Guru Yoga practice is the accomplishment of all the siddhis of Lama, Yidam and Dakini. In future lives one may become the guru of the three realms like the Guru of Dharmata and enter completely into Buddhahood. In the tantras, the benefits of depending upon Guru Yoga are described as the wish fulfilling jewel, the wish fulfilling tree and the wish fulfilling cow. The benefits are endless.
Everyone should be depending upon this and practicing with great dedication because this is the only way to purify samsara. For example, three eons practicing on the generation stage would not in any way compare to a moment of pleasing the Root Guru. It is said in the teachings that one should avoid making any other kind of offering but only offer to the Guru, through this one will develop supreme wisdom. The great translator, Vairotsana, was inspired to say that, ³I gather everything I have in making offerings to the gurus. I would be completely joyful even if I were going hungry and starving to death.´ This practice is recommended by all the lineage masters and accomplished beings. To truly depend on the Guru fully requires pure motivation and pure thoughts. One must see all the actions of the Guru as the four activities of Buddha Dharma. Whether he is peaceful or wrathful it is always only for the purpose of benefitting others.
To depend on the Guru without pride or criticism is essential. Always repay his kindness by sincerely making offerings, humbly serving and diligently doing practice accordingly. The great Longchenpa said all purity and impurity depends on your own mind. Once you purify your own mind you will see no impurity in others. If one has purity and impurity mixed together within oneself one will consequently see others sometimes in a pure and sometimes in an impure state. Purify your own negativity, then everything will become as the companion to your practice. To develop more of a pure view and devotion towards all is extremely important. As from the inspiration prayers: Glorious, precious root lama, dwelling on the lotus seat on the crown of my head, hold me with your great kindness. Bestow the accomplishments of body, speech and mind. Toward the way of life and activities of the glorious lama may incorrect view never arise, not even for a moment. With fervent regard may I view all the guru’s actions as Dharma activity. May the guru’s blessings enter my mind.
Longchenpa also said that through the inspiration of seeing both the outer and inner world as none other than the Guru one realizes that all phenomena are impermanent and naturally empty. This is the heart essence of my advice to you. Enemies, friends and those with whom one has neutral connections in pure view will be seen equally as emanations of the Buddha/Dharma. From your heart put great effort towards overcoming your own mind and recognise your own faults. Only focus on finding your own faults and day and night diligently think of the profound nature of the Lamas and their heart wishes. Through one’s own recognition of death and impermanence one should always push towards greater practice and diligence. Think of the sufferings of samsara and the benefits of liberation. Think how hard it is to obtain human life and connect your mind to the dharma. Avoid non virtuous thoughts and do not allow them to remain for a moment. There are many reasons to be continually connected to practice.
I would like to give a little story to demonstrate the power of maintaining a pure connection with the Guru. In one village in Tibet, many years ago, a student sincerely and humbly served his old Master for many years. One morning he came to bring the morning tea and found his Guru dead and collapsed in a most undignified manner. His body was sprawled on the floor with tongue hanging out. The disciple’s faith was unwavering however and he immediately began making prostrations to his Guru’s body. He said to his Master. ³I know that you have only taken on this appearance as a test of my devotion. I have complete faith in your teachings and wisdom but please, when I return with the other villagers who will want to see your body let them be inspired by your example of realization.´ Then the student locked the door, went to the village and announced the passing of his Tsa wai Lama. Of course many of the people wished to come to the Lama’s home and when the door was unlocked they were inspired to see the teacher’s body sitting upright in seven point posture, with many signs of miraculous transference.
In this case, the qualified master and the faithfulness of the student connected perfectly. It does not matter how qualified the Master is if the faith of the student is not sincere. One servant of the Buddha served him for 25 years and then completely lost his faith returning in his next life as a hungry ghost. It is important to keep samaya pure and maintain the faithful connection. From my personal experience of serving Münsel Rinpoche, I cannot say I always had a pure view of him as the Buddha but I can sincerely say that no impure thoughts of him ever lasted overnight. Putting this teaching together is through the inspiration of the Gurus. I hope that you may find some kind of benefit through reading it. If you are too proud, you may read this to find humility. If you are hopeless, you may find in this some kind of hope that we may achieve something in this life. I hope that this little teaching may be as sunshine in the raincoast fall. I, the empty title, unaccomplished Tulku taught this but the faithful, sincere diligence of his student, Mary Pat, translated it from (English) to English.
May all beings be liberated in the state of the Primordial Guru.