How to recognise and follow a Spiritual Guide Part 5

 

II.1.2      We now want to examine what are the other required characteristics of an authentic Master According to the Bodhisattva precepts

 

There are numerous qualities enumerated in sutras and their commentaries about the characteristics of a Master, which can be subsumed into seven main points. Hence the authentic Master

 

    1. Should know the way of the Bodhisattva’s life perfectly and follow it himself with a pure mind.
    2. Should be well versed in the profound and vast meaning of Lord Buddha’s words as well commentaries.
    3. Should be compassionate to all sentient beings like a mother to her only child.
    4. Should be conversant with meaning of the tripitaka (three baskets of teachings) and should practice their contents.
    5. Should have subdued his afflicted emotions.
    6. He should have attained a certain level of realization.
    7. He should be skilful in gathering disciples through the four means, being generous, speaking nicely, be able lead them to the path according to their own ability, and acting according to his word.

 

A person displaying such qualities is worthy of being a spiritual Master. 

In the Yonten Mzod[1], Treasury of Enlightened Attributes, Jigme Lingpa[2] quotes; in these degenerate times finding a Master who embodies the complete teaching is very difficult.  The qualities that are compulsorily required are:

His perfected practice of the three vows should be like the field moistened by his compassion and wisdom. He should be fully conversant in bestowing and practicing the rituals as well as .the three baskets of sutra, vinaya (moral conduct) and abhidharma (Buddhist metaphysics). The fruit of the above is that he should have subdued his own afflicted emotions and attained certain

realizations. The four means of gathering disciples[3] should blossom as a flower of accomplishment that attracts swarm of disciples (likes bees to a mature flower

 

 Such a Master should be followed.  Most importantly according to the Bodhisattva precepts, the Master should practice the two levels of Bodhicitta [4] aspirational and practical Bodhicitta.  At least he should have these qualities.  Like a ship captain leading us to the ocean shore, a Master endowed with such qualities will surely lead us to liberation and enlightenment.

 

If we choose such a guide, good qualities will naturally arise within us like ordinary wood becoming fragrant when left to lay in a sandal grove.

 

Yet the scriptures warn us that, in these degenerate times, it may be very difficult to find all these qualities assembled in one person, hence a Master who possesses half, a quarter or even an eighth of the qualities can be considered qualified to be a teacher.  Furthermore, although a Master with only a fraction of the qualities required may be found, we, ourselves have many obscurations, which we prevent us from recognizing whatever qualities are truly there. Like the clouds covering the sun, deep veils arising of our wholesome actions are creating obstacles for an objective examination and taint our view.

 

In many cases these obscurations become such a hindrance that we cannot even recognize any qualities in the Master, we underestimate him and develop wrong views about him.  This is not the Master’s behaviour at fault here but our inability to overcome our own ignorance and obscurations that prevent even this fundamental acknowledgement of the Master’s qualities.  We could compare this to the sick man afflicted with jaundice who maintains that snow is yellow.

 

 So, not only is it rare to find a Master endowed with the required qualities but the difficulty is further compounded by our own inability to recognize them even when they are present as a pertinent metaphor illustrates in Lord Maitreya’s Abhisamayalamkara[5] :

 

“ Although the King of Gods brings about the rain, the rotten seed will not sprout.  Similarly, although Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appear in this world, those with no fortune will not benefit from their Blessings.

 

We easily recognize the authenticity of a Master when, by following him, our own obscurations diminish and our virtues multiply. We become calmer, more composed and our concentration is improving. In short the benefits are there for all to see and for us to experience

 

 In the following manner, a Master who is not authentic is described thus: he doesn’t possess any knowledge deriving from listening, contemplation, and meditation yet boasts of his connections, accomplishments, and lineage like a Brahmin.  He is not inclined to use the little knowledge he may possess for the sake of others or even his own liberation, but mainly directs it to gain short term earthly benefit.  Such a person could not bring about a positive change in the mind of his disciples. Although he has no special qualities, some disciples are fooled by his claims and fame.  Without examining the situation themselves, they lend him authority, expecting earthly reward in return.  Receiving adulation and offerings his pride increases.  Such a Master does not recognize authentic greatness and in such a case both Master and students will gradually loose their way.


His Holiness Penor Rinpoche recounts the story of the lama shepherd. There was once a simple shepherd who had no education and no interest in religious matters and was herding his sheep everyday towards the banks of a river, where he used to take his mid day meal. There was a large rock on the side and without any particular thought or intention, the shepherds used to leave the remnants of his meal on this rock every day. He did not particularly intend to make any offerings; it was just an idle habit. It happened though that the rock was the home of three spirits, a Mara, a naga and a yaksha. They were very pleased with what they took to be regular offerings to them and conferring among them decided that they should do something to thank the shepherd. It was decided that the Mara spirit would be the one to help him.

Thus jumping in the body of our unaware simple shepherd, the Mara started to head for his home reciting mantra and religious texts to the astonishment of all who knew him. As he started to go across the neighbourhood, people came to listen to him and not examining his credential, lineage, teachers or knowledge, spread the rumour of his fame wide and large so that hundreds flocked to listen to the poor shepherd. They showered him with offerings and sat him on a precious throne, which pleased the evil Mara spirit. All this carried on until an authentic Master who had power of clairvoyance arrived in the area and saw what had happened. Sending one of his attendant among the crowd, he made him spread incense close to the lama shepherd, at which point the Mara spirit jump out the fellow’s body and returned to his rock. Awakened from his daze, the poor shepherd nearly fell from the high throne, muttering where are my sheep? So we are well advised not to act in such foolish ways.

 

Hence when we first meet a potential Master, we should not rush indiscriminately but rather carefully set about examining his behaviour and qualities as described above. There is no more important choice we will ever make for our own existence, because the Master is the one in whom we rest our trust not only for this life but until enlightenment, unmistakably guiding us on the path to liberation. If through lack of examination we become followers of an Master who is not genuine, not only will there be no benefit to oneself and others, but we will waste this precious human life and this will become cause for both Master and disciples to be reborn in the hell realms. Thus beware!

 

 


[1] Jigme Lingpa (1729-98) composed Yonten Mzod (Treasury of Enlightened Attributes) in which the path of the three persons has been described in detail. This text has thirteen chapters.  From the first to the ninth chapter it describes the sutra teachings and from tenth till thirteen is about Tantra.  The tenth chapter is about general Tantra teachings, the eleventh one describes the ground of Dzogchen teachings, the twelfth describes the path and the thirteenth its fruition.  Dharma Publication. Page 42.

.

[2] Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798), is considered to be a combined emanation of Vimalamitra and King Trisong Deutsen and Gyalse Lharje.  He was a prodigy who became immensely learned with almost no study, through arousing his wisdom mind in long meditation retreats.  He received the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse in a series of visions of Longchenpa,    

[3]   The Four Means of gathering disciples:  This is the practice of Bodhisattva to actually lead other sentient beings on the path of enlightenment.  They are giving Jigme Lingpa (1729-98) composed Yonten Mzod (Treasury of Enlightened Attributes) in which the path of the three persons has been described in detail. This text has thirteen chapters.  From the first to the ninth chapter it describes the sutra teachings and from tenth till thirteen is about Tantra.  The tenth chapter is about general Tantra teachings, the eleventh one describes the ground of Dzogchen teachings, the twelfth describes the path and the thirteenth its fruition.  Dharma Publication. Page 42.

.

[3] Jigme Lingpa (1729-1798), is considered to be a combined emanation of Vimalamitra and King Trisong Deutsen and Gyalse Lharje.  He was a prodigy who became immensely learned with almost no study, through arousing his wisdom mind in long meditation retreats.  He received the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse in a series of visions of Longchen,    

[3]   The Four Means of gathering disciples:  This is the practice of Bodhisattva to actually lead other sentient beings on the path of enlightenment.  They are giving whatever is necessary, speaking pleasantly, helping others and having consistency in words and deeds.

[4]  Aspirational Bodhicitta is only the intention to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings and Practical Bodhicitta is the action to realize that goal, like engaging in six perfections of generosity, morality, patience, perseverance, concentration, and wisdom

[5] This is the Lord Maitreya’s commentary to the Prajnaparamita Sutras, the main teaching of Lord Buddha’s Second Wheel of Dharma.  Root text of Abhisamayaalankaraprajnaparamitaupdeshshastra, Sitron Publication, Page No. 38 – 39

[6] who is also called  root Lama

[7] as quoted in Yonten Dzod

[8] The wish fulfilling supreme master is the one who is compassionate and has mastery over both sutra and tantra

[9] A IXc Indian Pandita from Vkramshila University who came to Tibet the time of King Deutsen and spread the Dzogchen Nyingthig Teachings

[10] Born in Nyemo in Tibet at the end of the VIIIc, one of the greatest translator in Tibet and one of the seven monks first ordained

[11] Asanga, a IVc Indian Pandita founder of the vast conduct lineage of Mahayana; Jetsun Dragpa 1147-1216 was one of the five great Masters of the Sakya School

[12] He has abandoned worldly things and  possessions, has firm faith in the law of cause and effect, is a skilful Bodhisattva  

[13] Shantideva VIIc scholar from Nalanda University, renown for his compassion and author of the famous Bodhicaryavatara – Bodhisattva way of life; Dromtonpa 1004-1064, chief disciple of Atisha and holder of the Kadampa tradition

[14] Nagarjuna most renown Indian Pandita, born 400 years after Lord Buddha’s parinirvana. Founder of the Profound View Lineage of Mahayana; Rongzom, eminent scholar an accomplished Master from Tsang province, the last of the great translator of the old school

[15] Naropa Sic Mahapandita, author of the six teachings of Naropa and Marpa’s Master

[16] Tilopa, Xc Indian Mahapandita, famous Master to Naropa ; Milarepa 1040-1123 great mystic and poet founder of  Kagyu Sect

[17] Shri Singha, VIIIc Indian Mahapandita who propagated the Nyingthig teachings in Tibet, Chetsun Sangye, main disciple of Neten Dangma Lhungyal , holder of the Nyingthig Teachings, he achieved the rainbow body

[18] These are points 5,6&7

[19] : practice, meditation, rituals etc,.)

[20]  Gyutrul or Magical Net Tantra is an Mahayoga teaching of Nyingma Tradition

[21]  According to Nyingma Tradition all the paths leading to liberation are included in the nine yanas or vehicles.  The sravakayana, pratyekabuddhayana, bodhisattvayana are the three causal vehicles of characteristics, Kriya tantra, upaya tantra, yoga tantra are the three outer tantras, and the unsurpassed father tantra of Mahayoga, that known as mother tantra of Anuyoga, and the non-dual tantric class of Atiyoga are the three inner tantras

[22]   Udumvara is the name of a very rare flower and this is likened to an authentic lama who is also precious and hard to find

[23]  Khenpo in Tibetan term literally means, “The Doer of the Action”, and in Vinaya tradition, this is used for the one who bestows pratimoksha vows, the term is widely used now a days for a learned lama who observes pratimoksha vows, specially the bikshu vows

[24]   According to the vinaya tradition, the night is divided into four parts; 6 to 9pm, 9to 12 midnight, 12 to 3am, and 3 to 6am.  We should not sleep during the first and last part of the night

[25] Dongpo Koedpai Mdo (Decoration of the Tree Sutra), Kunzang Lamai Shelung (Words of My Perfect Teacher), Sherig Publication, Page 215.  This is a Mahayana Sutra.

[26] Patrul Rinpoche Words of My Perfect Teacher 169

[27] Patrul Rinpoche opus cit pg 149

[28] The ten non-virtues are killing, stealing, adultery, lying, slander, harsh speech, idle speech, craving, ill will and incorrect view.  The first three are non-virtues of body, the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth are the non-virtues of speech, and the last three are the non-virtues of the mind.

 

 

[30] One of Lord Buddha’s previous incarnations.

[31]  Ashtasahasrikaprajnaparamitasutra, Gyetongpa, the short version of Prajnaparamita Sutra.

[32] There are four hills of razor sharp edged trees called salmali in the neighbouring hells where loose monks and nuns who have broken their vows of chastity and people who indulge in sexual misconduct are reborn.  They are torn apart by the sharp leaves when they try to reach their former lovers whom they think are calling them.

 

[33] Listening disciples receiving the teachings

[34] Fully savouring the foods but unable to describe their taste in the same way as true meditation can not be described nor conceptualised

[35] see appendix The Four Kinds of Faith

[36] Think for instance about strong perfumes or fragrances which can be distressing to others

[37] The text of the whole Teaching is available on Internet www.palyul.orgunder teachings. This text was translated by Chokyi Dawa and edited by Bill Speckhart

[38] see appendix Guru Rinpoche Biography

 
 
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