How to recognise a Spiritual Guide Part 2


Part I Background to Buddhism


IA What Buddhism is and stands for according to the different traditions


Buddhism encompasses a vast array of Teachings, which, to the uninitiated, may at first appear bewildering and even sometimes contradictory. In fact it is said that Lord Buddha taught more than 84,000 paths, which correspond to the vast array of mental capacity, conceptions and inner dispositions of individuals.


 This has to be understood in the context of our being in the clutches of delusion, believing in a separate entity of self, lending an intrinsic existence to appearing phenomena and the resulting chain of suffering we experience. Along this is the great compassion of the Buddhas or Enlightened Mind, whose activity is unfathomable for the ordinary mind. We would for instance intuit that these Buddhas ‘ activities are the result of a well-researched decision and thus, de facto, make the decision to act and the originator of the action to be two separate events. This would be totally wrong here, because in fact the activities of benefiting beings are the spontaneous manifestation of the Enlightened Mind and the way in which they manifest is naturally occurring according to the capacities of the beings they are touching.


Hence it is said in the Introduction to Dudjom Rinpoche’s encyclopaedic work [1]that the word Cho in Tibetan or Dharma in Sanskrit has ten different meanings. It is derived from the root dhr, meaning to hold. The sutra of the Wishfulfiller states,


Because it holds everything, it is the dharma.


The ten meanings are describes in the Rational system of exposition in the following manner:


“Dharma is what is knowable, the path, nirvana, an object of mind, merit, life, the scriptures, material objects, regulation and the doctrinal traditions”.


Here the supreme meaning described in that further quote from Dudjom Rinpoche


The dharma is the medicine that cleans and frees us from the diseases of Samsara. It also leads us to abandon our ignorance.


 The supreme Dharma exists in two forms as Teachings and Realisations, which can be looked upon as cause and effect. Therefore the supreme Dharma is the source of all happiness both temporal and ultimate and should be cherished like our own eye by all those who wish to attain self-liberation or supreme Enlightenment. more precious than if we were to fill the three worlds with jewels. There is no better remedy for relieving the suffering of beings or better means to dry up the ocean of Samsara.


Therefore it is said that among all the miracles performed by all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, there is no greater miracle than the one of Teaching, which will endure until Samsara is fully exhausted.


To illustrate the diverse mental apprehension of various categories of beings, the following is found in the sutra[2].


(Although Bodhisattvas appear to die and the dharma appears to diminish…)

The Bodhisattvas will not pass into nirvana and the dharma will not diminish.


Even the understanding of the life of the Enlightened One varies according to the ability of each individual to grasp the depth of His Teachings. Although as mentioned above those Teachings are numerous, they can be loosely grouped in three categories, which correspond to the three main paths of Buddhism that Lord Buddha taught successively in the course of his earthly life. These three paths are known as the Hinayana – or lower vehicle, the Mahayana- or great vehicle and the esoteric Teachings of the Vajrayana or tantric vehicle. Like the graded sizes of Russian dolls, those Teachings do not only not contradict each other, but in fact are built to support each other- the lower ones forming the indispensable base for the higher Teaching.  They suit perfectly each type of mentality and ability of individual beings so that everyone can find a comfortable base to start from according to their level of maturity or disposition. There again, Teachers manifest to take into account our various mental limitations.


Hence for the Hinayanist, Sakyamuni Buddha was an ordinary human being, born in the royal family of the Sakya who, having accumulated merits for countless eons, achieved Liberation from suffering at Vajrasana, present day Bodh Gaya in the state of Bihar. We, ordinary human beings, likewise have the ability to create merit by following rigorous code of moral conduct, which is known as the Vinaya, and, by doing so, also have the potential to achieve liberation from Samsara, by totally renouncing all that is considered evil in this world and life. By achieving this, we will attain Buddhahood according to the Hinayana, but this does not mean that we will have fully emulated Lord Buddha who is considered to be an extraordinary being endowed with uncommon courage and determination to lift all other beings from the depths of Samsara. Such a being is also called a bodhisattva but, according to the Hinayanist, this stage can only be reached by extraordinary beings with outstanding courage.


This is why the Hinayanist will strive to achieve complete liberation by the means of cleansing the three poisons of ignorance, attachment and aversion. Ignorance in this case is taken to be the lack of knowledge or understanding of the four Noble truths[3] and the selflessness of the ego. This liberation of the sravakas or Pratyekabuddha is purely a self-liberation and there is no aspiration to help other beings to do likewise. Although they have fully realised the selflessness of the ego, they have failed to apprehend the lack of existence of all phenomena. It is referred to attaining Buddhahood of the first stage.



Thus, in the same manner as Sakyamuni Buddha ordained and taught the Sangha[4], and was himself given instructions in the course of his numerous lives by great Masters, we too need to find a guide who can explain this code of conduct to us, grant us the vows to uphold its conduct and altogether lead us to individual Liberation by practising the five paths[5].


For the Mahayanist, Lord Buddha was already a Bodhisattva of the tenth level[6] who was meant to reach full Enlightenment in his next incarnation. Born as the son of the God, Svetaketu in the Tushita heavens[7], he descended to his earthly mother, Queen Mayadevi in the form of an elephant and entered her womb through her right rib. Then he went on displaying the remainder of what is known as the twelve acts of the Buddha[8], finally passing into nirvana in Kushalnagar, on the present day Indo–Nepali border.


 In this vehicle, Lord Buddha’s main Teachings are centred on the elucidation of the concept of emptiness, which does not mean the voidness or nothingness of the nihilist, but highlights the fact that not only there is no individual self, as taught in the Hinayana, but all phenomena that we see or experience appearing in front of us, themselves have no intrinsic existence. They are the product of the chain of cause and effect, and are the manifestation of our mind ‘s projections.


 Because of not recognising that there are no independently existing phenomena, all beings are caught in an endless cycle of successive lives, which they fabricate themselves and then hold to be self-existent. This fundamental ignorance, coupled with the attachment to the idea of self and the feeling that they need to protect their “own” whether perceived as material possessions or loved ones, give rise to the three poisons and lead to the samsaric chain of suffering.  We can say that all forms of beings are a product of ignorance.


By realising the delusion which afflicts all forms of beings, a deep compassion arises in the disciple, who then naturally develops the longing to achieve liberation of this chain of suffering, not only for himself but as a pre-requisite to help all other beings to free themselves as well. This essentially altruistic frame of mind leads to the arising of qualities unique to this type of practitioner, known as Bodhisattva, who embodies inexhaustible courage to lift all sentient beings from their deep state of misery, enlightened activities to develop skilful means to bring the beings onto the path of Liberation by making them first recognise the hopeless state they are in and unshakable power to tame the wildness of their minds which can not, at first, stop creating more Samsaric phenomena under which they will go on suffering.


The training of a Bodhisattva is carried through countless eons of taming our own mind and brings him to serve all beings without any regard for his own welfare, even at the cost of his life and is traditionally divided into 11 stages or Bhumis. There, we need to find and follow a spiritual Master, who, himself has attained high levels of realisation, and who, through the power of his compassion can lead us away from our egotistic, deluded grasping of a non existent self and guide us to emulate his noble activities of service to others.


The fruit to be reaped from following an authentic Master endowed with Bodhicitta is to achieve a similar state to his. This is achieved in two ways, first by emulating his every action filled with Bodhicitta and then recognising the skilful means he employs to deal with all situations. This is known as enacting the union of Wisdom and Compassion. The qualities required from the disciple will lead to the cleansing of the two obscuration[9] through the code of conduct of the Bodhisattva, which encompasses and yet goes well beyond the scope of the Hinayanist.


Here the greatest emphasis is placed on the inner motivation rather than outer conduct, as we will see in the following chapters. The Mahayanist does not believe that it is impossible to emulate Lord Buddha’s altruistic activities, but recognises the length of time it will take to train the disciple under the appropriate Master as well as the great self sacrifices required from the disciple[10], examples of which abound in Buddhist literature.


This training does not only require that we learn how to Master our own outward behaviour and know how to apply the pure moral conduct of the Hinayanist, but also demands a complete taming of the tiniest stir of our mind, constantly checking our inner motivation, our aspiration but also taking practical steps to relieve the suffering of beings.[11]


The two above approaches are known as the relative teachings and the subsequent vehicle of Tantrayana as the ultimate teachings


To the disciple of the Vajrayana, Lord Buddha is a primordially enlightened being who appeared in different forms to tame the mind of beings by simultaneously emanating numerous manifestations in time and space and dispensing Teachings to the beings of the six realms[12] and three worlds according to their needs and requirements. In essence though, Lord Buddha is inseparable from the primordial Buddha Samanthabadra, equally primordially enlightened and appearing in this particular form in our particular world for the benefit of its inhabitants[13].


Out of immense Compassion, the Supreme Teacher manifests himself in the display of the five Wisdoms[14], which form the mandala[15]of the five Buddha families. Emanating simultaneously in innumerable realms under innumerable forms, he appears to beings according to their capacity to conceive him[16]– When teaching the five Buddha families, there is literally no differentiation between him and the wisdoms emanated from him and these Teachings are known as direct transmission[17]. When teaching the Bodhisattvas of the tenth Bhumis who are about to become fully enlightened and are only held back by the faintest remaining obscuration, the Primordial Buddha who appeared in our world as Lord Sakyamuni, emanates as Vajradhara (Dorje Chang) and dispenses the teaching of the unborn Dharmakaya by mere symbolic gesture. This is called symbolic transmission.


For those whose obscuration are still too great to receive the teachings in such a way, Samanthabadra emanates as nirmanakaya forms such as Lord Buddha who teaches disciples in words transmitted from living Master to disciples, holding an unbroken lineage of transmission. This way is called the aural transmission lineage because it involves words and listening.


Nevertheless it is said that this nirmanakaya emanation is like the reflection of the moon in water, an unsubstantial appearances apprehended by beings according to their wishes. The sutra of quality account says: (Words of Lord Buddha)


Although I have taught nothing

To the sentient beings it has pervaded

 Liberation is given in sequence

To those who wish to receive it step by step

If they wish to see it in a complete form, it appears to them as such


Hence it is said, that among the 1002 Buddhas of this fortunate eon, Lord Buddha’s compassion is the greatest of all, as he purposely chose to appear in this degenerate time, close to the end of an eon[18], when the difficulty to tame beings is the utmost.


 For the disciple of the highest capacity, that is to say, the we who carries in his mind stream the tamed qualities of the two previous vehicles, with meditation and inner experience of emptiness, Lord Buddha has expounded the secret Teachings of the Vajrayana, revealing the essentially pure nature of all phenomena, which manifest as the spontaneous presence of Pure Awareness, the primordial essence of being.


 Like the ineffability of dreams can not be caught and yet appears so real to the dreamer, or the mirage manifests in a vivid way to the exhausted traveller but may never be reached, phenomena arise out of the matrix of emptiness as spontaneous, ephemeral presence without intrinsically existing or not existing. But as we grasp on to these reflections and assign them an independent existence, we create a duality[19], which leads us to believe in our own independent existence.


 The depth and great simplicity of these teachings is that, by correlation, Buddhahood or Enlightenment is not something to be reached, like a traveller going to a foreign land, or cultivated like a farmer his crop, but an uncovering of our intrinsic nature which is Pure Awareness or Rigpa and the realisation that the same applies to all manifestations we are able to apprehend, whether beings or phenomena.  Thus the qualities of the Master whom we need to find and follow in this vehicle is that of a totally realised being, who, having Mastered the training of the lower vehicles, has himself achieved total stability and realisation of the intrinsic nature of all phenomena. He has to be furthermore able to lead his disciples on the path of recognition through both the clarification of his instructions and the power of his blessings.


All schools of Buddhism, however, start from the same basic remark, which is the realisation of unending suffering, beings are experiencing in the cycle of existence, which in Buddhism is known as Samsara or cyclic existence. This suffering stems from the intrinsic impermanence of all known phenomena, which means that we can never take anything for granted nor in fact as independently existing whether we consider it harmful or beneficial. Whatever has come into existence will sooner or later, when its karmic energy is exhausted, again come apart and disintegrate, a phenomena anyone can convince themselves of with little effort.


Since we base our entire concepts, strivings and indeed life ignoring this simple fact, we endure countless sufferings as situations change, friends and loved ones move away or die and circumstances endlessly create new patterns. In fact, we even believe firmly that we are individuals with a personal ego or self, the idea of which we cling to, and since there are no independently existing self to be found, again find ourselves in a cycle of endless suffering. To awaken us to this realisation, and the latter ones mentioned in the paragraphs above, Lord Buddha manifested as a human being born to a royal Indian family and expounded the various levels of Teachings. We can now begin to understand how his Life and even Teachings were apprehended in different ways by different types of disciple and may thereby start to get a glimpse of the infinite Compassion and Wisdom of his enlightened activities for the purpose of beings.


IB How the Dharma came into the universe and this world


According to the highest teachings of the Nyingmapa, The primordial Buddha Kuntuzangpo is enlightened and inseparable from the sphere of Primordial Purity, displaying innumerable emanations to teach and benefit countless beings. In order to benefit the beings of this world, he assumed the form of Sakyamuni Buddha and dispensed a vast array of teachings, which can be classified into extensive form, middle form and short form. Those in turn are traditionally grouped under twelve branches and further nine yanas.


These nine yanas were given in the following manner, according to the capacity of the beings of this world. The first three vehicles of svravakas, Pratyekabuddha and Bodhisattvas were given to large assemblies in Varanasi, Vulture Peak and Vaisali among others in succession


In which form were these teachings received? The Teachings of the svravakas and Pratyekabuddha were collected by different Arhats on three separate occasions and further spread. The vehicle of the Bodhisattvas were collected by Maitreya and Manjushri and later spread by Nagarjuna and other great Masters and scholars.


The next three yanas are known as the three outer tantras and are known as the Kriya, Upa and Yoga Tantras.


The Kriya Tantra was taught at Neranjana and in particular in Alkapuri, the Pure Realm of Vajrapani, the Lord of Secrets. On this occasion, the teachers took the form of the three classes of Bodhisattvas[20]– Manjushri, Vajrapani and Avalokiteshvara.[21]


Sakyamuni disclosed the teachings of Upa and Yoga tantra after assuming the form of Buddha Vairocana in particular in the realm of the 33 Gods in Akanishta Heaven to the requesting Vajrapani.


The remaining three tantras are known as the inner tantras. There are the Maha yoga tantra, itself divided into two classes – gyude and drupde (Tantra Class and the Class of the means of attainment), Anuyoga and Ati Yoga.


Of these three, Maha yoga was disclosed by Lord Buddha under the form of Buddha Vairocana, again to Vajrapani, on the top of Malaya Mountain and in the Akanishta Heaven.


The Anuyoga tantra was first divulged by Lord Buddha who had assumed the form of Samanthabadra and Dorje Sempa at Gyalmopuri to the King of Lanka and many others


Kuntuzangpo having assumed the form of King Kunjed also gave Ati yoga at Gyalmopuri and Samburi Park.  This time though it was only given to a few selected disciples and not to large assemblies, hence the three inner tantras did not immediately spread widely in the human realm.


However, Lord Buddha left a prophecy in the Subsequent Tantra of the emergence of the Cakrasamvara (Samvarodayottaratantra) that says:


“One hundred and twelve years after my passing, the supreme essence of the teachings will descend on the roof top of King Dza’s Palace through he Compassion and Blessing of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and will be taught by Vajrapani, the Lord of Secrets.


When the Teachings actually descended on the roof top of King Dza’s Palace, the latter realised their meaning and transmitted them to Kukuraya who passed them on in the following line of the middle Indrabodhi, Singharaza, Uparadza, Gomadevi, the second Kukuraya, Lopon Gegpai Dorje, Buddhaguhya (Sangye Sangwa). Lopon Vimalamitra, the renowned scholar from Vikramshila University received the transmission from the last two line holders and brought the Teachings with him to Tibet. There he established the teachings with another great translator Ma Rinchen Chog and Nyak Jnanakumara.


As to the second category of the Mahayoga tantra – the means of attainment, they were taught through the eight great Indian Pandita[22] and thus spread widely both throughout India and Tibet.


The Anuyoga tantra was transmitted by King Dza, who had also collected them from his Palace’s roof top to his son, Shakraputi, then the transmission went to the second Kukuradza, Lopon Rolang Dewa, Vajrahasya, Prabhahasti, Shakya Senge, Dharmarakshita, Humkara, Dewa Selzed and Dharmabodhi.


Dewa Selzed had actually another two main disciples besides Dharmabodhi who were Dharmaradzapala and Vasudhara, from whom three, Lopon Chetsenkyed received the transmission and gave it to Nub Sangye Yeshe who in turn brought the Teachings to Tibet. Finally, the Pinnacle of all Teachings was given by Dorje Sempa to Garab Dorje and Jampel Shenyen (Manjushrimitra) the to Shri Singha, Jnanasutra Vimalamitra and others.


Ati Yoga itself has three branches known as Semde, Longde and Mengag de – mind, space and Pith instructions.


The Mind and Space classes were received from Garab Dorje by Shri Singha and passed on to Berotsana who introduced them to Tibet. The pith instructions of the Nyingthig were received from Vimalamitra who passed them on to Nyang Tingzin Sangpo and the two great translators, Kawa Peltseg and Chogro Lui Gyaltsen and were widely spread in Tibet through their effort.


Both Guru Rinpoche and Berotsana received the same Teaching from Shri Singha. These two teachings are known as Terma teachings whereas the three inner tantras are usually considered to be of the Kama or distant lineage version.[23]

[1]  In Fundamentals and History of Nyingma School Of Tibetan Buddhism Dudjom Rinpoche

[2] Mdo Sde Ser Od Dampa, The Sutra of the Supreme Golden Light

[3]  There are the truth of suffering or the vessel and its contents-the world and the beings, the truth of origin, which is karma, negative emotions and their effects, the truth of cessation as the quality of having relinquished the above and the truth of the path

[4] Monastic community

[5] Accumulation, preparation, path of seeing and meditation, path of no more learning, at which point we are liberated.

[6]  Bodhisattvas Bhumis is used as a support for qualities to increase and correspond to the means and knowledge in a training bodhisattva’s mind stream. There are attained when complete purification of we level is achieved whereby we move on to the next level.

[7]  Tushita is the name of the realm of the Gods of the desire world where Lord Buddha and presently Maitreya, the future Buddha have taken their final rebirth before displaying attaining Enlightenment.

[8] The twelve main acts of Lord Buddha were His descent from Tushita Heaven, entering into womb, taking birth, displaying the skill in worldly arts, life with the women in the palace, renunciation, practicing arduous asceticism, reaching the point of enlightenment, defeating the host of Mara, attaining full enlightenment, turning the wheel of dharma, and finally passing into the parinirvana

[9] 1. Delusive obscuration to liberation and 2. Obscuration to omniscience.

[10] Superior like Lord Buddha took 3 countless eons, for the middling capacity disciple, 7 eons and for the mediocre one 33 to attain enlightenment

[11] These two aspects are known as aspirational and practical Bodhicitta or compassion

[12] The 6 realms of samsaric existence are the three higher realms of gods, demi-gods and human and the three lower realms of animals, hungry spirits and hell

[13] See Appendix Samanthabadra.

[14]  The five aspects of the Wisdom of Buddhahood embodied in the five Buddha families: Buddha, Vajra, Ratna(jewel), Pema(lotus) and Karma (activity)

[15] dkyil’khor:centre and periphery. The celestial palace and the pure realm of a particular deity we are visualising

[16] according to their wishes is said in the texts

[17] gyalwa gonggyud

[18]   Period, eon kalpa: one cycle of formation and destruction of a world system. One great kalpa has eight intermediate kalpa in which two small kalpa are found, one where the life span of being is increasing, one where it is decreasing like our time.

[19] Like thinking this is different from me

[20] Embodiment of all the Buddhas’ compassion, wisdom and power

[21] after they were requested by Lord Indra

[22] Humkara, Manjusrimitra, Nagarjuna, Vimalamitra, Prabhahasti, Padmasambhava,Dhanasamskrta,  and Rambhuguhya

[23]  Kama is the distant lineage of uninterrupted transmission since Lord Buddha of His Teaching. Terma is a Teaching hidden by a great Master such as Lord Buddha or Guru Rinpoche to be re-discovered in future times by predestined disciples, thus known as short lineage

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