Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Importance of Having a Teacher, Part 1

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Ceremony
Abbot of Vietnamese Temple,
Shang Rinpoche Dharma Ceremony,
Melbourne, Australia

The lineages associated with guru yoga, like golden necklaces linked unbroken from every generation of master and student, each have their own oral tips. For example, in the practices of guru yoga wherein the guru is outside of you, you visualize yourself as a deity that you’ve been authorized to practice in an empowerment. On the crown of your head, you visualize a lion throne, on top of which sits a lotus; on the lotus pad rests a moon disk, the shape resembling a sliver of the earth. On top of this seat sits Vajradhara. If the practitioner wants to receive his master’s blessings, he must visualize Vajradhara as a representation of his master. This practice falls under external guru yoga. Once the visualization is very clear, if the practitioner wants to receive blessings, she can at this time recite the supplication prayer to the lineage masters. This is the simplest way to pray to the master for the blessings of correspondence. There are also prayers to the master’s dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. Finally, the practitioner visualizes ambrosia flowing from Vajradhara’s body through each of the lineage masters and into the crown of her head (herself visualized as yidam). The ambrosia flows very slowly into the yidam’s crown chakra, throat chakra, heart chakra and solar plexus chakra. Finally, Vajradhara becomes a ball of light and melds with the practitioner’s master, who then himself becomes a ball of light and melds with the practitioner herself. In this state, the practitioner rests in meditative stillness. This is the most expedient method to receive correspondence blessings from your own master. However, you first need to receive an empowerment or an oral transmission and explanation directly from your own master, then follow the sequential steps outlined in the practice text. You cannot just practice this from the book itself.

The unique quality of Vajrayana as compared to other Buddhist schools is the relationship between the master and student. In Vajrayana, to transform yourself from an ordinary being into the supreme Buddha, which is already inside of yourself, you must receive empowerments from a qualified master. Empowerments, of which there are four major, authorize you for practice. Next, the student receives oral tips directly from the teacher, absorbing his compassion. The root master might directly instruct the student on the practice of the meridians, or perhaps decide to send him to another qualified master to receive all the oral tips on Mahamudra. This master can also be seen as your root master. Briefly, if you receive teachings from a true yogi that lead you to liberation, show you how to transform your habits related to the three poisons, and teach you about bodhicitta and helping sentient beings, this is your root teacher. This is the most important teacher within your lifetime. Each school has a different definition of “root master,” but the basic premise is that a root master is one who shows you how to use this relatively comfortable human life to attain liberation, whether it is by transforming your scatteredness, anxiety or confusion, or helping you to understand that achieving the states of bliss, clarity or no-thought are not the highest practice methods; or giving you an oral tip that points to your self-nature and liberation, gives you supreme understanding and sweeps away the clouds of ignorance, unfolding and expanding your mind: all of these functions define the role of a root master. In the Kagyu lineage, although Gampopa spent his whole life paying homage to countless good knowledge holders and was able to enter into deep meditative stillness in which he gave rise to no delusive thoughts for seven days, Milarepa told him this attainment was merely a slightly more unique form of stillness. When Milarepa finally transmitted to Gampopa the key oral instructions for recognizing the true mind, only then did Gampopa see his original self-nature. For this, Gampopa treated Milarepa as his only root master, feeling more respect and reverence for him than could be bestowed upon millions and millions of fathers. Correspondence with the master, no matter whether the external, internal or secret methods are practiced, will eventually lead you to see your innate buddha nature. From the beginning stages of correspondence all the way to enlightenment, guru yoga is of extreme importance.

When you successfully correspond with your guru yoga practice, you will very clearly feel in every moment that the master’s mind is the same as your own mind. The master’s body, speech, mind, activities and merits are all within our self-nature, not separate even for an instant. Once the practitioner grows accustomed to this state, her mind will merge with the master’s like rain mingles with the ocean, becoming one and the same. Once you’ve reached this state, the mind of the master, in whom all the buddhas have converged, is no different from the mind of the student. From then onwards, there is no need to look for any external buddha outside of one’s own nature, because once you’ve seen the quality of your own nature, all the buddhas of the ten directions simultaneously attest to your awakening and bless you. The only thing left to do is to never let your mind become separate from this supreme Dharma even for a moment. These are the essential concepts regarding the practice of guru yoga in Vajrayana.

Published by Shang Rinpoche, June 1, 2015 on https://www.facebook.com/tsalpa.kagyu?fref=nf

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