All the perfection and good qualities

In the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,

Arhats, Listeners, Solitary Realizers,

And ordinary beings beginning the path

Come from reliance on their predecessors.

As this quotation from the Root Tantra of the Assembly of Knowledge Holders points out, in general, all the excellent qualities of the Great and Lesser Vehicles come from relying on a spiritual friend.

In particular, in the profound Secret Mantra Vehicle the accomplishments all come from following a teacher—they cannot happen otherwise.

Unless one has obtained an empowerment from the teacher, one will not have the good fortune to even hear the Secret Mantra Vehicle teachings.

And even once one has received empowerment, one cannot get to know the ordinary and extraordinary pith instructions without their being revealed by the teacher.

To practice the Mantra Vehicle in any other way leads to the crime of unauthorized use of the teachings, to the result of the practice being wasted, and other extremely serious faults.

For these reasons, any accomplishment, however great or small, will only be obtained by pleasing the teacher and receiving his blessings.

Even when you request a practice for accomplishing some minor purpose [literally, “a sadhana of minor activity”, e.g. a practice for curing a sickness or for acquiring wealth, rather than for the major purpose of enlightenment], you should please the teacher with offerings and the like. By doing so, you will achieve your goal without difficulty. But if you fail to do so, there will be negative consequences, as has been widely described in the tantras, in the oral tradition, and in stories of the past.

Still more particular is the view of the co-emergent absolute truth, the way things truly are, which is the inconceivable absolute nature beyond all description or illustration. This can only be introduced by means of the teacher’s pith instructions or transmitted through the blessings of the authentic lineage. It cannot be pointed to in any other way. This is why we read in the tantras:

Inborn, it cannot be expressed by others,

One will not find it anywhere.

Revealed by the teacher with timely skill,

It is known as a result of one’s own merit.

And this is mentioned again and again in the original scriptures and their commentaries. Saraha, for instance, says:

When the teacher’s words enter your heart,

It is like seeing you have a treasure in the palm of your hand.

And Nagarjuna writes:

One who tumbles from a lofty peak

May think “I must not fall” but fall he will.

One to whom a teacher has kindly given the beneficial transmission

May think, “I don’t want to be set free,” but he will still be freed.

To take an example, even if the sun is shining, without the linking condition of a magnifying glass, it is impossible for the tinder to catch fire.

Similarly, even though the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of past, present, and future are always present, the deity’s blessings and profound realization will not penetrate the disciples’ streams of being in the absence of a teacher.

There are stories from the past of ordinary disciples who, when accomplished knowledge holders actually showed them the yidam deity, had greater confidence in the yidam and thus, as a result of the connection going wrong, failed to obtain accomplishment [they made the mistake, for example, of requesting empowerment from the yidam deity rather than from the teacher. They did not realize that the mandala of the deity that had been revealed to them was the teacher].

The teacher is the embodiment of all the Buddhas, the root of blessings, the source of accomplishment, the foundation of activities.

Moreover, as far as we are concerned, the teacher is much kinder than all the Buddhas. Why is this? Because at this time, when we do not have the good fortune to see the Buddha in person or listen to him teach, our teacher is the dominant condition for the Buddha’s activity penetrating us, the link through which we can actually see the Buddha in the absolute body (dharmakaya Buddha).

In this respect, the teacher’s kindness is inconceivable, and for this reason our teacher is definitely superior to all the Buddhas. As we read in the Sutra of Immaculate Space:

Ananda, the Tathagatas are not visible to all beings, but spiritual friends, being fully visible, teach the Dharma and plant the seed of liberation. For this reason, consider the spiritual friend as more important than the Tathagatas.

This is particularly true here in the Mantra Vehicle, where all the deities of the mandala are embodied in the diamond master’s body, speech, and mind, and it is on account of this that such teachers benefit beings. So if we disrespectfully scorn them, or respectfully make offerings to them, we will be doing the same to all the infinite deities of the mandalas.

The benefits and dangers, therefore, are both much greater than in other vehicles. As the Word of Mañjushri says,

Any being who in the future

Shows contempt for a diamond holder

Will have shown contempt for me:

Therefore I have avoided contempt at all times.


In that form I will accept

Offerings from other practitioners.

Pleasing such a teacher will purify

The obscurations of past deeds in their minds [In these two quotations, it is the Buddha who is speaking, referring to teachers (diamond holders) of the future in whose form he will appear].

Whether our teachers present in person are ordinary beings or emanations of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, if we are able to pray to them considering them as the Buddha, there is absolutely no difference between them and the Buddha or Bodhisattva or yidam deity in person, because the source of blessings is devotion.

So whichever profound practice we are undertaking, whether the generation phase or the perfection phase, we should begin by making the teacher’s blessings the path. There is no more to it than that.

But as long as we have not received the blessings, we will not be genuinely on the path.

It is said that if disciples who keep the commitments give themselves wholeheartedly, with devotion, to an authentic diamond master, they will obtain the supreme and common accomplishments even if they have no other methods.

But without devotion to the teacher, even if we complete the approach and accomplishment practices of the yidams of the six tantra sections, we will never obtain the supreme accomplishment.

And we will be unlikely to accomplish many of the ordinary accomplishments either, such as those of long life, wealth, or bringing beings under one’s power.

Even if we do manage to achieve a little, it will have necessitated a lot of hardship and will have nothing to do with the profound path.

When unmistaken devotion takes birth in us, obstacles on the path will be dispelled and we will make progress, obtaining all the supreme and ordinary accomplishments without depending on anything else. This is what we mean by the profound path of Guru Yoga.

Now in making devotional prayer the path, the objects of our prayer are the ones who actually bestow on us the greatest kindness—the teachers themselves. We can therefore meditate on them in any form [in the form in which we see the teacher, or in the form of the deity].

Nevertheless, if we visualize our teacher in the form of the second Buddha, Padma Thöthrengtsel, who is the speech of all the Buddhas of the ten directions and three times appearing physically as a diamond master, all unfavorable circumstances and obstacles on the path will naturally be dispelled and we will accomplish the twofold goal in accordance with all our wishes.

The dakini Yeshe Tsogyal speaks of this most essential and profound point as follows:

In general terms, and for the people of Tibet in times to come,

The Lotus-Born is your predestined teacher.

To accomplish the Guru you should strive,

Perceiving your own teacher in the form of Padma.

Thus the blessings of compassion will flow the more abundantly.

Practice on the Teacher’s Mind in sadhanas both long and short:

I promise, you cannot but accomplish Buddhahood in one life.

And according to his own diamond words,

For fortunate beings who have devotion

And yearningly pray to me,

By virtue of my special prayers of aspiration—

Cause and effect being connected—

My compassion is swifter than that of other Buddhas.

Again, in the Secret Sayings he says:

Attaining me, all other Buddhas you attain;

All other Buddhas do you see in seeing me,

For I am the embodiment of all the Sugatas.

And in Ratna Lingpa’s Prayer of Invocation for the Tenth Day[this text is a treasure (terma) discovered by Ratna Lingpa, and therefore contains Guru Rinpoche’s own words]:

Pray with tears welling up in your eyes:

Blessings will flow like the main stream of a river.

When experiences blaze and blessings descend,

These are signs that I have come in person,

And at that moment, there is no doubt, I have arrived.

Now as I depart to the land of ogres,

I make a promise to the king and mantra practitioners,

To my children and disciples in Tibet,

That on every tenth day of the month

I myself will come to them.

The Lotus-Born lets no one down.

Cast away your doubts, my followers:

If you have a fit mind,

My children who diligently pray to me

On this my day, the tenth of the month—

Even abandoned in cyclic existence, I’ll be responsible for you.

Trust me wholeheartedly with body, speech, and mind.

To those of future generations who rely on me

And follow me, connected through prayers of aspiration,

In order to give them confidence and dispel their doubts,

I leave them this clear advice.

In truth, I do not depart or stay,

I am beyond coming and going,

Yet relatively, for those with habitual dualistic perceptions

I dwell in a celestial sphere.

Because their bodies are not purified

Of their tendencies to cyclic existence

And of the two obscurations, they will not see me.

When they purify their afflictive emotions and obscurations

They will see me, Padma, in person,

And be able to converse with me in words.

Even practitioners still on the path

Will meet me in experiences and in dreams.

In fact, those who, developing a virtuous mind,

Have given rise to boundless compassion

And remember me vividly for just an instant—

By doing so, they are meeting me.

For those who have a thought of devotion to me,

There is no break in the stream of my compassion.

Ultimately, for me there is no coming and going:

When someone purifies their evil deeds and twin obscurations,

At that moment they are meeting me.

Relatively speaking, from beings’ point of view, it’s true:

On account of my aspirations I dwell in the land of ogres;

Yet, because my compassion is unceasing, If you have devotion, I am there by your side.

More than this I shall not say,

For that would be mere verbiage.

In essence, trust me with your heart and breath

And, whether your social status is high or low,

Depending on your devotion,

You will receive my blessings, there’s no doubt.

For us red-faced people born in the dark kingdom [that is, the inhabitants of Tibet, on which, before the coming of Guru Rinpoche, the sun of the Buddhadharma did not shine], the one who is much kinder than other Buddhas is Guru Rinpoche. When we meditate on him, practice his sadhana, and pray to him, it is as if we were meditating, practicing, and praying to the infinite Buddhas and the Three Roots.

He has promised that he will constantly guide and bless us, and he will never let us down. That promise is a profound commitment made with his diamond speech. So pledge yourself to him with total conviction and heartfelt confidence.

Devotion and Respect

It is said in the writings of the great masters of the past that if you see your teachers as Buddhas, you will receive the blessings of the Buddhas.

If you see them as Bodhisattvas, you will receive the blessings of Bodhisattvas.

If you see them as accomplished beings, you will receive the blessings of accomplished beings.

If you see them as ordinary beings—simply as good spiritual friends—then that is the sort of blessing you will get.

While if you have no devotion at all, you will not receive any blessings at all.

For this reason, we should cultivate devotion, and there are four ways to do so.

First, no other Buddha is greater than your own root teacher. The essence and embodiment of every one of the Three Jewels in the ten directions and three times is the teacher, and there is no end to the excellent qualities of the Three Jewels. Consider that the sublime beings who are working at present for the welfare of beings everywhere, the sun and moon, medicines, and even boats and bridges are manifestations of the teacher; that empowerments, transmissions, and instructions you receive from others, occasions when you are writing, reading, and studying, and even circumstances in which you can perform positive actions are all the miraculous display of the teacher. In short, decide that the teacher is the Buddha in person.

Second, think of all the countless Buddhas there have been in the past, of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, teachers, yidam deities, and so on at present dwelling everywhere in the ten directions, and of the former knowledge holders who were learned and accomplished. You can marvel at these inconceivable and innumerable beings, at their clairvoyance, miraculous powers, and other extraordinary qualities, and yet you do not have the good fortune to even meet them in a dream or hear them teach. Moreover, even if you were to meet them, they could not do anything more for you than do your teachers. Your root teachers are the ones who give you the pith instructions that constitute an unmistaken, complete method for attaining Buddhahood in a single body, in a single life. So even if they were to smash your body and vital force to dust, think that there is no way ever to repay their kindness.

Third, it will not do to think of your teachers when they are giving you teaching, offering you material gifts, and generally taking notice of you, but after a while to forget them. Nor merely when you are sick, in difficulty, or otherwise miserable, and not when you are comfortable and happy. Instead, remember your teachers again and again, and think of nothing else, even when you are moving around, walking, lying down, or sitting, and whether you are happy or suffering.

Fourth, when you are thinking of your teachers, do not just say “I take refuge” or recite one or two prayers and reckon that that will do. Instead, you should feel intense yearning, with your hair standing on end and tears welling up in your eyes—the sort of longing that can suddenly transform your awareness, make ordinary perceptions cease, and cause experiences to occur spontaneously.

When you have these four aspects together, you will have the sort of genuine devotion that allows blessings to penetrate your stream of being and is able to give rise to sudden realization. Now there are four branches to applying devotion on the path.

The first of these is never to think of anything as a fault in the teacher. If you see apparent faults in the teacher, you will be like Sangye Yeshe. Seeing Mañjushri as a lay practitioner with a wife and children, his faith wavered [literally, “he had a faithless thought” (or thought of non-devotion)], and this acted as an obstacle to his attaining the supreme accomplishment. It is your own impure mind that is responsible. How could there be a single fault in the Buddha? Let your teachers do what they are doing. Even if you see them doing such things as acting unchastely or telling lies, train in thinking that these must be the best methods for benefiting beings. By using such skillful methods, they are certain to be maturing and liberating numerous beings, and they are therefore a hundred times, a thousand times more to be marveled at than others who observe strict vows. From the very fact that they are not doing it artfully or hypocritically, there can be no doubt that their conduct is that of a sublime being. In particular, if they should happen to scold you, it is to exhaust your evil deeds from the past; if they give you a beating, it is to drive out negative forces and obstacle makers. Think how immensely kind they are being in treating you lovingly and not dishonestly, like fathers with their children. If they seem not to take any notice of you and to be displeased with you, realize that it is because of your impure actions and obscurations, and make every effort to purify your obscurations and to do anything that will please them by serving your teachers’ body, speech, and mind.

The second branch is to recognize that whatever your teachers do is a virtue, for as the accomplished beings of the past have said,

These precious, authentic teachers—

All that they do is excellent;

Whatever they do is a virtue.

Even if they are murderers or butchers,

Be content, it is perfect;

They surely hold beings with compassion.

Even if they appear to have loose sexual morals,

Good qualities are increasing, good qualities arise:

It is a sign that they are uniting skillful means and wisdom.

In fooling others with their lies,

They’re using a variety of gestures and means

To guide all beings on the path to liberation.

Even though they act as thieves, robbers, or gangsters,

They are transforming others’ property to accumulate merit

And reducing people’s poverty.

In truth, when teachers like these

Deliver a reprimand, it is a wrathful mantra:

It is sure to dispel bad circumstances and obstacles.

When they give a beating, it is a blessing:

It gives rise to all accomplishments.

Beings who have devotion, be glad!

The third branch is to decide that you have to put an end to all your hopes and doubts. Do not be concerned that by meditating with devotion on your teachers you will please or displease them in this life, let alone entertain the hope that you will attain the supreme accomplishment. No matter whether or not they hold you with their compassion, no matter whether or not you attain accomplishment, there is nothing else for you to do than to have devotion.

The fourth branch is to always remain flexible and agreeable in your attitude to your teachers. Even in ordinary life, how much do respectable people put up with being polite and honest with their superiors, and that is only for this life, for a matter of months and years. Your teachers are the sources of all happiness, excellence, and good qualities, major and minor, in this life, the next life, and all your lives until you reach enlightenment. Therefore, you should be constantly adaptable in your wish to do everything you can, physically, verbally, and mentally, to serve them, including praying for their long life and the blossoming of their activities, for any Dharma qualities you obtain are entirely due to their kindness.

Use these four branches to train in developing devotion. For beginners it is difficult to give rise to uncontrived devotion right from the start and you have to create the foundation by deliberately arousing devotion. Later, develop the flow of devotion, getting used to it. Finally, when you gain the confidence of uncontrived devotion, you can be certain that your stream of being will inevitably be matured and liberated.

Source: Rinpoche, Dudjom. A Torch Lighting the Way to Freedom (pp. 235-237). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

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