Seeing Mistakes in the Guru’s Actions

Seeing Mistakes in the Guru’s Actions

Date of Advice:
December 2019
Date Posted:
March 2020

A student who had recently signed a petition regarding a spiritual teacher accused of misconduct wrote to Rinpoche to explain the situation and to apologize for having disturbed Rinpoche’s mind as a result. Rinpoche gave this advice on how to think about abuse and how to train the mind in guru devotion.

My very dear one,
I got your letter and I have read it. Your letter explained the situation and was very detailed. I was very happy. You explained that you heard other people saying that my mind was disturbed because you signed [the petition] and all that, and then you apologized at the end for disturbing me. You explained all that to me and I was very happy; it made me feel my mind was close to you.

Yes, I understand you have a kind of mental sickness. Even though you don’t remember one hundred percent, you think you were abused and it became a huge thing. Then you could not relate that to karma. Somehow it seems you can’t relate to karma when you think of that; you forget karma, that you are the creator.

Buddha taught that we are our own enemy and we are our own guide also. That means when we follow the self-cherishing thought, it produces and creates all our problems. It produces all our problems and creates all the obstacles to achieving enlightenment for mother sentient beings and to benefiting numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless suras, numberless asuras and numberless intermediate state beings—all those kind mother sentient beings. It harms them and does not benefit them.

The big demon, our enemy and the cause of all our sufferings of samsara, is ignorance—holding the I as truly existent while it is not, while it exists in mere name. Also, the aggregates exist in mere name; they are not at all truly existent but our ignorance believes them to be truly existent.

When you think about your abuse, it is far away from Dharma; it is thinking with the self-cherishing thought and ignorance. This is the same generally when we face problems in everyday life, for example, when somebody is angry with us or is putting us down, disrespecting our body, speech and mind. At that time the Dharma is very far from our mind. Even though we may have intellectually learned Dharma, having studied sutra and tantra, at that time the Dharma is very far away.

When we practice cherishing others, bodhicitta, at that time we become our own guide, we become the creator of our enlightenment, the creator of our own happiness and liberation from samsara. We become the creator of all the happiness of future lives, even this life’s happiness, even today’s happiness, even this moment’s happiness. We are the creator of that.

I want to let you know: thank you very, very, very much. I highly appreciate what you told me, what you expressed to me. I gave advice to that teacher’s students about how to think, all that. The students who have strong lamrim keep their mind in devotion, whereas some others are puzzled, so I was giving advice for those students in particular. From that, my talk expanded and I was also trying to give understanding to external people.

It seems that you have not taken a jenang or teachings from this lama, so it is much easier for you. This means your mind doesn’t have to go into trouble or create the cause of samsara, [resulting in rebirth in] the hell realms due to all those heavy negative karmas [caused by breaking your samaya]. Even if we were to create the five negative karmas without break, we could still achieve enlightenment in this life, but as it is mentioned in the Guhyasamaja text, having broken samaya with the guru, having creating that negative karma with the guru, is the heaviest karma and we cannot achieve full enlightenment in this life.

Anyway, just for your understanding, I am going to mention a few quotations.

The sutra Meeting of the Father and Son (Tib: yap sä jelwä do; Wyl: yab sras mjal ba'i mdo), talks about the Buddha manifesting in various ordinary forms. This means the ultimate primordial dharmakaya, the absolute guru, manifesting in various ordinary forms:

The Buddha works for some sentient beings by taking the costume of Indra and Brahma,
The Buddha works in the costume of Mara for sentient beings.
(He acts as Mara though worldly beings cannot understand this.)
He manifests as a woman, and he even manifests as an animal.
He manifests as attached but has no attachment.
He manifests as frightened but has no fear.
He manifests ignorance but is without ignorance.
He manifests as crazy but is without craziness.
He manifests as lame but is without lameness.
So, with various forms and manifestations, the sentient beings are subdued.

You have to understand that even though the Buddha acts as crazy, having attachment, ignorance, all that, and shows all kinds of form, including animal form, he does this to subdue the minds of ordinary beings. Those manifestations are needed for us to be free from samsara and brought to enlightenment.

It is said in the tantric text Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion (v. 46–47):

Do whatever pleases the guru and abandon whatever displeases the guru.

“Attainment depends on following the vajra master,” Vajradhara said.
By knowing that, please the Guru completely with everything you do.

Thus, the sublime and general realizations are granted in this life.

Also, it is mentioned in the Six-Session Guru Yoga, the long version, at the end of the first round (v. A14):

Every supreme and mundane attainment
Follows upon pure devotion to you, my protector.
Seeing this I forsake my body and even my life;
Bless me to practice what will only please you.

That’s relating to you as disciple and your own guru, from whom you have received teachings. So that’s what it says in the Six-Session Guru Yoga.

Nowadays if people who have made the connection as guru-disciple have been touched or abused, then they totally abandon [the guru]. That is opposite to what it says in the Six-Session Guru Yoga. It’s totally opposite and not only that, they are also giving up or harming the guru, putting the guru in prison, harming the body, speech and mind of the guru, becoming angry with the guru, all that. So, that is practicing the opposite of what is taught in the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion, what is said by Buddha Vajradhara. It’s totally opposite to that, so that practice is displeasing the guru. Those people are not pleasing but displeasing the guru.

So how is it possible to be enlightened? Or to be free from samsara or even to achieve those realizations of the lamrim? There is no way. If their life is for that, then no way; what they are practicing is totally opposite to that.

The refuge prayer that is recited in the monasteries, the very beginning prayer [A Direct Meditation on the Graduated Path Containing All the Important Meanings, by Dorje Chang Losang Jinpa] says:

Essence encompassing all the buddhas,
Originator of all the holy Dharma of scripture and realization,
Principal of all the aryas intending virtue:
In the glorious holy gurus, I take refuge.

This is what is commonly recited in the monasteries, in the refuge prayers, the very beginning practice. Nowadays, some of the Western students see mistakes in the guru, so their guru yoga is totally opposite to what is mentioned in the refuge prayer. [They think the guru] is not the essence embodying all the buddhas, not the originator of the whole entire Dharma, the transmitter of the teachings and realizations, and not the principal of all the Arya Sangha.

We see mistakes if we don’t keep our mind pure by training with much effort in seeing the guru as a buddha, in that realization. If we don’t have that, then we will find mistakes. It’s a question of big mistakes, middle mistakes or small mistakes.

So, we see this in the teachings. If His Holiness is showing the aspect of having a cold, sniffing and things like that, then we really believe that His Holiness is suffering by having a cold or coughing. That means the Buddha has suffering. However, His Holiness is Buddha Chenrezig, so it becomes totally contradictory.

Lama Tsongkhapa made this prayer in A Prayer for the Beginning, Middle, and End of Practice (v. 9):

As Sada Prarudita devoted himself to Dharma Arya,
May I sincerely please my spiritual master
With body, life, and wealth,
Never disappointing him for an instant.

This what Lama Tsongkhapa wrote down in this prayer. So, when we criticize our own guru, what happens is totally opposite to this verse.

Also, Gyalwa Ensapa, who achieved enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerate time, said:

In short, whether we achieve great or small realization depends on whether we have generated great or small devotion.
Therefore, may I reflect only on the qualities of the valid guru, from whom I receive all realizations, and not look at the mistakes.
May I do my utmost to practice this instruction and to fulfill this commitment without any obstacle.

Those students who criticize or give up their guru are the opposite of Gyalwa Ensapa, who achieved enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerate time. This is his experience and what he is advising.

Until we see [the guru as a] buddha and have this realization—seeing the guru totally as a buddha, anytime, whatever happens in our life—until we have that stable realization then we will see always see mistakes, and it’s a question of small, middling or great mistakes. It depends on how we think, how we take care of our own mind—whether we know how to take care of our own mind and are able to keep the mind in stable devotion by seeing the guru as a buddha. For us, it is like that.

This is just extra, I’m telling you, blah blah blah, as it might help those other people who have totally lost their devotion and whose minds have become like hot boiling water, creating the heaviest negative karma with their guru.

Also, one thing is that before we receive teachings from that person, they were an ordinary being, and then there is also Buddha. We can’t say that everyone is a buddha, but as I mentioned before, there is Buddha in ordinary form. But the minute we make the connection as guru-disciple and receive teachings, that person is a buddha for us. So, we have to practice that.

Here it is not so much before we take teachings that the person is a buddha, it is not talking about that, but after we have taken teachings we have to visualize [the guru as] a buddha. We have to think that is a buddha, we have to train our mind in the pure mind of guru devotion, thinking that is a buddha. So, this is one thing to clarify. I’m not saying that before we take teachings everyone is a buddha.

Thank you very much. Thank you very much for the details of your explanation to me. I am very happy to receive your explanation. Thank you very much. I hope to see you soon.

With much love and prayers ...