How to REcognise and Follow a Spiritual Master Part 9


II.3.2. It is appropriate to now examine how to follow his advice according to the Bodhisattva precepts.


With faith and interest, we should try to acquire qualities such as manifested by our Master. To this effect, we first we need to receive the Bodhisattva teachings and further examine them carefully, finally applying ourselves to practice the result of our analysis with diligence.


The following story of King Tsangpai Lhai (Brahma Deva) and his son Gyaltshab Dampa[1] provides insights into the way bygone great practitioners have followed and practiced with their own Master .The Prince was seeking dharma Teachings but could not find any, feeling very saddened.  Indra, the King of Gods knew clairvoyantly the mind of the Prince and assumed the guise of a Brahmin.  He came to sit near the gate of the palace announcing he could give Teachings.  The Prince came to hear about it and requested them.  The Brahmin answered that he would give Teachings if the Prince were to jump into a deep fire pit and then make offerings.


 The Prince accepted without hesitation and set about digging the fire pit at the dismay of The King, Queen, Ministers and courtiers. Yet the Brahmin maintained his condition and the Prince his resolve so all was set for the Prince to jump   All his subjects requested him to abandon the idea to which the Prince replied,  “I have been born in this Samsara countless times and taken rebirth in higher realm of God and humans.   There I have suffered under desire, in the lower realm I had undergone immense suffering.  All to no avail and further I have never sacrificed my life in order to receive Teachings.  Now I am going to offer this impure body.  Please do not hold me back and alter this pure motivation in order to achieve enlightenment.  I will give you the Teachings as soon as I have gained enlightenment.  The subjects saw that the Prince was very determined and they could not press the matter further.


The Prince was ready to jump staying close to the pit as he spoke to the Brahmin.  O great Teacher! Please give me the Teachings now as I may die and not be able to receive them from you.  Then the Brahmin gave the following Teachings on the Four Immeasurable,


Practice loving kindness,

Abandon anger

Protect the beings through great compassion

Shed the tears of Compassion

With all sentient beings never to be separated from happiness and the causes of happiness

By protecting all the beings through great compassion

You will become a genuine Bodhisattva


As soon as he finished these teachings, the Prince jumped into the fire pit.  Both Indra and Brahma held him back holding him on both side from falling in the pit.  They said “you are the Protector of beings who is very kind and compassionate.  What will happen to your subjects if you jump now?  It will be like the death of our parent”.  The Prince replied, “Don’t hold me back from the entering the path to Buddhahood and all became silent as the Prince jumped into the fire pit.


The earth shook and the Gods in the sky lamented shedding a shower of tears like a rainfall transforming the fire pit into a lake at the centre of which the Prince stood on a lotus and the gods showered flower to praise him.


Another story related in the Eight thousand Verses Prajnaparamita Sutra[2] is that of Bodhisattva Sadaprarudita who underwent terrible hardship to receive the Teachings of the Prajnaparamita from his teacher. Sadaprarudita was anxiously looking for a teacher to receive the Prajnaparamitra Teachings and heard that Dharmodgata was dispensing them, After much difficulties, he found the Master and from merely beholding his sight experienced many realisations. But Sadaprarudita was very poor and he had nothing to offer his Master for the priceless teachings. Desperate, he decided to sell his own flesh to get offerings for his Master. On the market place, however, no one was interested in buying him and Indra, who saw his predicament decided to come and test his resolve. Appearing in front of him in a human form, he asked for some bone marrow, for which he was willing to pay a good price. Overjoyed, Sadaprarudita set about cutting his arm to expose the bone and was about to crush it, when the daughter of a rich merchant who also had silently observed the scene cried for him to stop. Sadaprarudita explained that he would not stop as he wanted to receive the precious Prajnaparamita Teachings. Touched by his devotion, the girl offered many gifts for the Master and along with a retinue of five hundred maidens, also requested to come and hear these Teachings.


As the party arrived at the sight where the Teaching were due to take place, their resolve was further tested as Dharmodgata was in meditative equipoise for a further seven years. Finally when the day came for the teachings to be dispensed, they realised that the setting was very dusty, and having no water in sight, all the members of Sadaprarudita’s party sprinkled the grounds with their own blood to keep the dust down. As the Master arrived though, through their deep faith and devotion, they all had amazing experiences and attained high states of realisation.


II.3.3  Finally, we will examine the ways of relying on a Master according to the Tantra precepts as well as the shortfall of not doing so


By offering the Master horse, an elephant, precious jewels, kingdom, son and wife, gold, silver, copper, iron, food, feasts, clothes, medicines, flowers, our virtues and wealth in order to please him, you will attain instantaneous spiritual blessings, and attain common and uncommon siddhis even in this life. If we follow his advice without going against his word, the dharma protectors will take care of us like a mother of a son and all our enterprises will be successful.


Similar quotes can be found in the Gongdu (Sutra of the Gathering of Intentions).  It says that if we serves our Master with all three doors, we will become naturally powerful, and will receive blessings uninterruptedly as said in the tantra of Supreme Samaya, we will be delivered from Samsara even if we cannot undertake extensive study, meditation and contemplation.  In the Gongdu we find the same meaning.


If a seed is planted in a fertile soil, it will grow naturally, similarly this applies to the above that’s we will be freed from Samsara by unreservedly devoting oneself to the service of our Master even if we cannot do extensive practices.


By serving our Master, many great benefits can be reaped.  We read in the Tantra of Ocean of Primordial Wisdom: 


If we please our Master by offering sandalwood and camphor, this merit is greater than making offerings to one hundred thousand Pure Buddha fields for we hundred kalpa.


 The Tantra of the Vajra Ghost (Rolang) says;


Whoever offers food and drink to one’s Master who is inseparable from Vidyadhara, he will have abundant food and drinks in this life and will be reborn as a Universal Monarch in the future.


The Tantra of “Kuntuzangpo within us” tells that if we visualize the Great Perfection Master at our Master at our heart or on the palm of our hand, we will attain the qualities of we thousand Buddhas.  Similar such advantages are been described in the Tantra elsewhere; only a few have been quoted here.


The great Masters of the past attained realisation at the cost of unthinkable hardships. Many stories are well known such as the 24 trials of Naropa, where his Master Tilopa let him experience great sufferings and depravation which were in fact nothing else than the purification of all the attachments and obscuration, still holding Naropa from full realisation. For many years, Tilopa did not formally gave him we word of Teaching, and Naropa apparently did no practice, but in fact, each of these experiences were the instructions, which, as Naropa fulfilled them without hesitation, not a single instant disobeying his Master allowed the latter to pour his mind into Naropa mind with a single blow of his slipper. Later Mila underwent similar seemingly cruel hardships, but these in fact also acted to purify his evil deeds and prepare him to receive Marpa’s blessings.


Today, how can we compare our resolve, determination faith and confidence in our own Master compared to those exalted beings? At the first difficulty, we whimper, complain and loose faith and courage; the slightest hurdle sees us riddled with doubts and disparaging words. How can we then describe the holiness of our Masters , who undeterred still support and carry us through , using an array of skilful means to still bring us to overcome our weakness and bent minds? 


The shortfalls of not relying on a Master are also described in the scriptures:


If we do not rely on a Master, and if we do not serve him according to the three ways described previously, we will not be on the Path to liberation in future lives.  No virtues will arise within us this lifetime.  Even good karma will degenerate.  We will always undergo suffering and will be drawn into the swamp of Samsara and so forth.


These results are clearly described in the Tantra of the Samadhi that cognises Buddha Being; 

If we do not follow our Master and have no respect, any good qualities will degenerate and new virtues will not arise.


By going against our Master and Teaching, we have accumulated negative actions and we will be reborn in the three lower realms amidst great suffering for a long time.  Even if we were to attain a human form, we will be born in such places where the words of the Three Jewels has never been heard, and we will be born as deaf, dumb, blind and with other physical disabilities.

If we harbour harmful motivations or even harm the Master, it is as if we would harm a thousand Buddhas and we will surely be reborn in the hell realm head down first experiencing many unfortunate and terrible happenings in this life too.


It is extremely disrespectful to jump or tread over our Master’s pillow or measure his height by hand or tread on the Master’s footprints or shadows and will bring about very negative consequences for ourselves. In the Tantra the following explanation is given,; by stepping on our Master’s pillow, we will be reborn in the neighbouring hell realm of salmali trees[3].By measuring the Master’s height by hand, three hundred spears will pierce us. By stepping over the shadow of our Master will lead us to be reborn in hell realm.


Once a Master and disciple relationship is established and after receiving empowerment from him, if we speak badly about our Master claiming for instance that he does not know anything, or speaking harshly to our Master thinking oneself superior to the Master, will not actually harm the Master but produce much suffering for oneself in this and subsequent lives.  Many quotations from the Tantra likewise illustrates the downfalls of not relying on our Master respectfully, it will be only the cause to be reborn in hell realms for hundred thousand eons. 


It is also through the pure pathway of service, faith and devotion that we can meet our Master in the intermediate state or bardo and also achieve liberation there. However, if we do not respect him during his life time, but instead pretend to rely on him through a picture or portrait after his death, or look for the nature of mind elsewhere, there will be no way in which the hook of our Master’s compassion, however perfect he is, may help us, since we, ourselves provide no anchorage for his blessing; thus do not practice at odds with the practice


Thus beware!

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

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

[3] 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.


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