How to recognise and follow a Spiritual Guide Part 7

II.2      How to rely on the Spiritual Master


Having found the perfect teacher how should we now follow him?                                    


II.2.1  According to Vinaya precepts 


We should first request and receive the pure precepts or vows from him and further make abundant offerings, honouring him at all times with our body, speech and mind.  The three hundred verses of the precepts of novice give us step-by-step guidance on the correct behaviour.


In the morning, we should arise before our Master, wash and make prostrations to the Buddhas and our Master and prayer until daybreak.  Then we should visit our Khenpo[1] and knock quietly, prostrating whilst entering, enquiring about his well-being.  We should further enquire what kind of activities we should have in the morning.


We should keep his residence clean, prepare all toiletries for his bath, as well as laying out all that is necessary for his need, washing his begging bowl and so on.  We should serve him so as to avoid letting him become tired.  We should prepare the mandala offering and receive his teachings.  In all activities of our three doors, we should have respect according to vinaya monastic rules.  In spare time, we should endeavour to practice meditation and study earnestly.  In the evenings, prostrations to the stupa, teachers and supreme objects of virtues, should be performed.  The Master’s feet should be cleansed with clean water.  We should enquire what we should do during the night and follow his instructions without falling asleep at that time[2]


Usually when we are close to our Teacher, we should get up immediately when he stands, when he is sitting we should enquire what he needs, providing according, we to his wishes.  When we go as his attendant, we should not precede him as we are showing our back to him.  If we walk behind him should not step on his footprint.  We should not step over the shadow on his right but walk to his left slightly behind.


However, if there is some danger about, we can precede him.  We should not step over his seat nor use his means of transport (horse, vehicle etc.).


We should always take care to keep our vows pure following our Master with respect from three doors avoiding disrespect such as not rising as the Master does so.  When the Master is seated, we should seek a lower seat, not standing, behaving calmly and humbly.  During alms round we should not go ahead of nor stand on the right of the Master but follow him behind on his left. Among the few possessions we are allowed to keep through Lord Buddha’s instruction we should offer the best to our Master without stinginess.


Whatever we do for our Master, we should do so out of pure respect not arising out of pretension, disinterest nor grudgingly.  Such impure motivations are not in accordance with the teachings and they are not genuine.  The sole purpose of the above is to make our Master happy.


 By making our Master happy though we are not benefiting him nor rendering a service to him. However we have many opportunities to accumulate merit, cleanse our bad habits and tame the wildness of our mind. Henceforth this behaviour is very beneficial for us and lays the foundation for the growing of trust and respect.


As time progresses, these two qualities in turn will naturally develop into faith and devotion and form the support required from our side for the pouring of blessings. In this context, our self-centred society has lost any means to even understand the concept or even the need for respect, rendering service to others even less honouring 0ne who is greater than oneself with a genuine frame of mind. Instead, we are constantly focusing on our personal needs, emotions and well-being. No wonder that, since everyone is pursuing the same type of ideals, we experience ever-increasing conflicts, first in the wildness of our untamed mind, in the relationship between close and distant families, social classes, work colleagues and even nations. When the only means of focus is self-interest and increase in personal gains, whatever kind they may be, conflict is never far away. Thus the first step in the training of the mind is that of basic re-learning process of respect through the recognition of our Master’s qualities, qualities we do not possess ourselves as yet but we feel are worthy of emulating.


In essence, the teacher we meet is the result of the quality of our view and the consequence of past karma. However always consider him as the Buddha in person.


There once was a woman who arrived late for an important empowerment. Distressed, she found the doors of the temple already closed but discovered a hole where the key should have been. Without any further thoughts she sat fervently behind the closed doors and peeped with full concentration at the whole empowerment. When it was all over, the officiating Master told the following. Of all the assembled disciples today who received this empowerment, the woman who did not even receive the empowering substances is the one who will fully accomplish the Teaching. For she has such a great faith and devotion and received everything with great and pure concentration, not disturbed by not been able to come in, so  that the seed will fully mature in her. All distinguished assembled disciples were astounded at his words and even more so when they found the shy woman crouching behind the door.


Similarly, there was once an illiterate man with great faith in the dharma and his Master who was sitting at the back of the monks during prayers. As he could not read nor even fully understand all which was recited, he used to pray very simply, may I too accomplish whatever they are saying. And so, through the power of his devotion this also came to pass


[1]  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

[2]   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

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