How to recognise and follow a Spiritual Guide Part 6


II.1.3 Lastly, in this first section concerning the qualities and characteristics of an authentic Master, we come to examine these According to the Tantra precepts.


As explained earlier, the purpose of the tantra approach is to enable the disciple to reach enlightenment in a very short time. How thus is it different and possible compared to the other two approaches? First the tantra delivers teachings, which are referred to as the ultimate meaning, uncovering the true nature of mind. To achieve such swift results oneself, however, requires the additional and irreplaceable purity of an unbroken lineage, which we are following, and the ability to receive the blessings from our Master[6] . Thus as the level of practice increases, so do the dangers connected with a rush or inappropriate choice of Master. As we receive profound empowerments from a Master who is not authentic, a very strong connection is created which lasts well beyond this single life and can ultimately lead both Master and student into the hell realms.


How do we then have to examine a potential Master in this context? Firstly, the scriptures describe the characteristics of a Master who is not genuine.  In particular:


Although he did not receive the lineage of the teachings he is trying to practice, he fools ignorant people who trust him.  Such a lama is also fooled by his own ignorance taking himself to be great without proper knowledge. He has neither understood nor practiced generation and completion stages but is proud of his knowledge of constructing sand mandala or conducting some small rituals. He is ashamed to acknowledge that his own Teacher although he may be accomplished, has no fame, name or wealth but instead tells that famous and wealthy lamas are his teachers. He is proud of his family and possessions.  He spent most of his time vying for positions and spends the wealth of the Sangha lavishly.


There once was a teacher who was giving a talk to a vast assembly of disciple when a ragged old man appeared at the back of the assembly. The teacher feigned to ignore him, when it was in fact his own Master. In the evening the teacher when to visit his Master and started to prostrate to him. Why did you not do so this afternoon asked the Master? The disciple answered that he did not see him. As he uttered these words, both his eyes fell to the ground. Ashamed and afraid, he confessed to his Master that he did not do so because he was embarrassed by the Master’s rugged appearance. Having recognised his deep mistake, his Master then restored his sight.


He does not know or respect the precepts, vows and does not have any faith in the law of cause and effect and is attached to material wealth especially from his patron.  He ceaselessly collects donation from both the dead and alive. He has not mastered his many afflicted emotions and his level of compassion is very low. Ignorant of the four classes of tantra and the four pitakas,   such a lama is only lama by name.  If he were to bestow an empowerment he would drive both himself and his disciples into the depths of hell like a cow and her calve both fall in a precipice if they are tied together[7].  


If the Teacher who bestows the Empowerment has not mastery of the two stages of generation and completion if he squanders the wealth of the Sangha, if he is attached to the sponsors, if he is poor in compassion and is full of doubts then both Teacher and disciple will end up in hell.


Besides being aware of the means to recognize such false teacher, we must also know the qualities of an authentic Master.   Here again, seven main points are quoted in the tantras; the first four are also common to the bodhisattva precepts and the last three are specific to the tantra precepts. 


1.  A Master who can fulfil all our wishes[8] can be likened to the Indian Pandita Vimalamitra[9] or the great Tibetan Translator, Berotsana.[10]

2.  A Master who has perfect knowledge can be likened to the Indian Pandita Asanga or Jetsun Dragpa in Tibet.[11]

3.  The Master who is liberated from Samsara[12] is a supreme Master such as Shantideva in India or Domtonpa in Tibet.[13]

4.  The Master who has extensive wisdom is a fortunate lama such as the Indian Pandita Nagarjuna and Rongzom Mahapandita in Tibet.[14]

5.  A Master who is holding the lineage of Blessings is like Naropa in India and Milarepa in Tibet.[15]

6.  A Master who can guide beings through his compassion is similar to the Indian Tilopa and the Tibetan Marpa, the translator.[16]

7.   Master who can expound the ultimate essence of the Teachings is such as Master Shri Sinha and the Tibetan Jetsun Senge Wangchuk.[17]


The qualities required from a tantric Master are further expounded:[18]


I Characteristics of a Master who holds the lineage of Blessings mean that


1.        He should himself have found the key to the treasury of knowledge of his Master’s mind and should possess the aural lineage of instructions  

2.         He should have witnessed the complete traditional way of practice[19] from his Master and should be able to skilfully accomplish the two purposes of self and others.

3.        Through his own relentless practice he has attained certain signs of accomplishments.

4.        He should be holding the blessings of his own lineage   and thus be able to turn the disciple’s mind towards the Dharma.

5.        He knows how to employ the many means to lead us to liberation.   

6.        His mind should be imbued with the dharma and thus he himself is the embodiment of the three jewels.

7.        He should be blessed by the Buddhas and should hold all the transmissions of sutras and tantras.

8.        He should have been fortunate to receive secret Teachings for which he has kept all the Samaya pure.


  The Tantra, Gyutrul[20] likewise explains that he should have listened to many Teachings and instructions and thus holds rivers of empowerment., a good knowledge of the tantras and be wise.  He should be impartial to wealth and offerings and experienced in practicing austerity. He should not be bowing to difficulties.


   He understands the many classes of mental dispositions and knows the different stages of realizations well.  He should be greatly compassionate and be skilful in practice. Having attained inner liberation himself, he constantly thrives to liberate others.


The second characteristic, which is quoted relating specifically to tantra precepts, is


:A Master who can guide beings through his compassion is similar to the Indian Tilopa and the Tibetan Marpa, the translator  and carries the following commentary 


·   He should be well versed in Bodhisattva precept and all his activities should be purely for the sake of others.

·   He should have received the blessings of his own Master and have the ability to pass the blessings out to his own disciples

·   He should have actualised the view and practice and displayed signs of these realizations on the view, path, meditation and conduct.

·   By unwavering pristine awareness, he should be able to pacify obstacles, demons and such like

·   He should be able to bring those harbouring wrong views through his miraculous powers

·   He is skilful in benefiting others, leading them into the path of enlightenment



Finally the third point referred to for a tantric Master is: A Master who can expound the ultimate essence of the Teachings is such as Master Shri Sinha and the Tibetan Jetsun Senge Wangchuk.”


Through his Immense compassion he introduces meaning to the life of all those who come in contact with him.

Knowing the nine Yanas[21] he can use any of them to help different types of disciples

Being fully conversant to all the steps to enlightenment he can skilfully lead even the dullest of disciples to the path of enlightenment

He can give instantaneous introductions to the nature of mind.

He has perfected meditative stability and has the ability to increase his disciples too.

He should have perfect realization and is able to awaken realizations in his disciples too

He knows how to turn afflicted emotions into the path

He is fully conversant in different methods  which he can use according to the minds of his disciples

He has a lot of experience on the path and thus he can prevent his disciples to stray into dangers or obstacles.

He accomplished the Dzogpachenpo and fully realized the nature of mind and remains abiding in the true nature, as such he himself is liberated .


The above is well illustrated in the Supreme Wish-fulfilling Secret Tantra.

The Short Tantra of Gongdu states that the lama should have these ten qualities and in the Ornament of Vajra Essence, it further states that these ten qualities should be on outer, inner and secrets levels.  If we find such a lama it is like being in front of the Buddha himself.  Like the Udumvara flower[22], it is incredibly rare to find such a lama.  If a person has all of even six of these qualities, such a Master can be followed like a Buddha from whom we can receive empowerments, instructions and oral transmissions.


Without examining whether the lamas is thus qualified, it is very dangerous and both Master and disciples will suffer greatly



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