Guru Devotion and His Holiness the Dalai Lama

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Munich, Germany, April 2001 (Archive #1329)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching on the qualities of the guru and the practice of guru devotion at Aryatara Institute, Germany, 7 April 2001. This teaching also contains advice on the practice of Dorje Shugden (Dolgyal).

Read more advice on Dorje Shugden in Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book and in Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden. See also the FPMT Collection of Advice Regarding Shugden (Dolgyal).

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Every one of us has universal responsibility. If you have a good heart, loving kindness-compassion, then in your daily life, numberless living beings, including the people around you, animals, insects, in fact, all other living beings, do not receive harm from you.

If you develop a good heart, loving kindness-compassion, not only do other sentient beings not receive harm from you, they also receive benefit and help. That absence of harm means peace and happiness in this life, happiness in all the coming future lives, and the ultimate benefit of bringing all sentient beings into total liberation from the entire ocean of samsaric sufferings by ceasing its cause, delusion and the karma.

Not only that, but by having compassion, you benefit numberless other sentient beings by bringing them into great liberation, the non-abiding sorrowless state of full enlightenment, which is total cessation of not only the gross, but even the subtle mistakes of mind, the subtle defilements; the subtle negative imprints left by the disturbing thought, the simultaneously-born ignorance, grasping at the I, the aggregates and all other phenomena as inherently existent, the subtle negative imprint that projects the hallucination, the dual view, of inherently-existent appearances. The cessation of all this is the great liberation.

Thus, by developing compassion, you collect extensive merit, and through that you are also able to develop wisdom and cease all the defilements. In this way, you are able to bring all sentient beings into the peerless happiness of full enlightenment.

Thus, you can see how you can bring all these various levels of happiness to other sentient beings. So whether or not numberless sentient beings receive all this happiness from you is in your own hands; it depends upon what you do with your mind. It’s up to what you do with your mind—whether you generate the good heart, loving kindness-compassion, towards all the sentient beings or not. Therefore, every one of us has complete responsibility for all the happiness of sentient beings from this life’s temporary happiness up to that of full enlightenment.

Fulfilling this responsibility to bring happiness and benefit to other sentient beings is the purpose of your life, the reason you are alive. In order to liberate the numberless sentient beings from all their suffering and its cause and bring them all happiness up to that of full enlightenment, to accomplish such perfect work for all sentient beings, first you need to achieve full enlightenment yourself.

In order to be able to heal all the sicknesses of others, to give them the happiness of freedom from disease, you need to be a fully qualified doctor, knowing how to diagnose illness and what all the various treatments are. In the same way, then, to free others from all suffering and its cause and lead them to the peerless happiness of enlightenment, first you need to become fully enlightened yourself. Of course, getting enlightened doesn’t happen without cause—you have to actualize the path to enlightenment.

Therefore, without creating the cause, completing the general path, you cannot achieve enlightenment. Also, the path you actualize has to be an unmistaken path; if it’s a mistaken path, you cannot achieve enlightenment.

Furthermore, you have to complete that unmistaken path. Just having a few realizations isn’t enough for you to achieve enlightenment. You have to complete all the realizations of the path to enlightenment.

Now, achieving full enlightenment depends on actualizing the graduated path of the being of greatest capacity. That depends on actualizing, as a preliminary, the path of the being of intermediate capacity and the common graduated path. And that depends on actualizing, as a preliminary, the path of the being of lowest capacity and the common graduated path.

Success from the beginning of the path—the graduated path shared in common with the being of least capacity, which starts with realization of the perfect human rebirth, this precious human body qualified by eight freedom and ten richnesses—all the way up to the end, enlightenment, depends on the root of the path to enlightenment, first analyzing prospective gurus and, having found the right one, correctly devoting yourself to him through thought and action.

In his commentary to the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion, Lama Tsongkhapa explained the different qualities of the guru according to the various teachings he quotes (see The Fulfillment of All Hopes, Wisdom Publications, 1999, p. 41 ff. See also Geshe Ngawang Dhargye's commentary).

According to one explanation, the guru should [1] have stable devotion in the Mahayana teachings, [2] be learned in the different levels of the teachings—the Lesser Vehicle, Paramitayana and tantra—[3] be skillful and wise in guiding disciples along the path to enlightenment, [4] have strong compassion for others and [5] be subdued in his three doors of body, speech and mind. One set of five qualities is explained like that.

Then, in his Mahayanasutralamkarakarika, Maitreya Buddha explained the ten qualities of a Mahayana guru. The first three he mentioned were having his three doors [1] subdued, [2] pacified and [3] highly pacified. The first one means the higher training in morality—abstaining from vice, protecting himself from creating negative karma. The second one, pacified, means having controlled his mind, his disturbing thoughts, through having developed shamatha, the realization of calm abiding; in other words, having the higher training in concentration. The third one, highly pacified, means having the realization of great insight, emptiness; the higher training in wisdom.

The fourth of the ten qualities is [4] having greater knowledge and higher qualities than the disciple. He should also [5] have perseverance and [6] his holy mind should be enriched with scriptural understanding and the lineage of the teachings. He should [7] have realized emptiness. Even though this realization has already been mentioned as the third quality, here it specifically means having the realization of emptiness according to the view of the Prasangika, the highest of the four schools of Buddhist philosophy. The previous mention of great insight meant the realization of emptiness according to any of the Buddhist schools; here it means specifically the Prasangika view.

The remaining three qualities are [8] skill in explaining Dharma, [9] compassion for the students and [10] never feeling too discouraged or upset to explain Dharma, to guide and benefit the disciples. Anyway, if there’s strong compassion, there’s no way a mind feeling lazy or too tired to guide the disciples can arise.

Also, as it is mentioned in the Guru Puja (Lama Chöpa) and other texts, there are further qualities of the guru who reveals the tantric teachings—the ten outer qualities of the guru who teaches the lower tantras and the ten inner qualities of the guru who teaches Highest Yoga Tantra.

However, the very essence of all these qualities is that the guru should emphasize cherishing others. If the guru does not exhort the students to cherish others, it becomes an obstacle to their developing a good heart and actualizing bodhicitta, the realization required to enter the Mahayana path to enlightenment.

But if the guru does not emphasize that, at least he should emphasize liberation from samsara, attainment of ultimate, everlasting happiness. And if not that, at the very least he should emphasize that the happiness of future lives is more important than the happiness this life. That is the very bottom line—it is more important to work for happiness of future lives than for the happiness of this life.

If the teacher does not emphasize this, the disciples’ attitude for practicing Dharma will not become Dharma. Whatever they do—meditation, retreat, any other activity—there’s danger that they will waste their whole life. Whatever they do will not become Dharma, will not become virtue. Everything they do will be done with pure attachment, pure non-virtue, seeking only happiness of this life. Whatever the student does—meditation, prayer, all twenty-four hours’ activities—becomes non-virtue, negative karma. That’s the danger of having a guru who does not teach the importance of working more for future lives than this. You can waste your entire life if your teacher doesn’t emphasize detachment from the pleasures of this life and to work for long-run happiness, the happiness of all the coming future lives; not just one future life’s happiness but that of all future lives.

So, whether the teacher is ordained or lay, the very essence is who emphasizes these things, especially bodhicitta. In that way, the teacher is able to bring the disciple to enlightenment. By emphasizing liberation from samsara, the teacher can bring the disciple to liberation. By emphasizing letting go of attachment, not clinging to this life, and emphasizing to work for happiness of all the coming future lives, the teacher allows the disciple to achieve happiness in future lives. This is how various teachers guide their disciples.

The other fundamental quality that a teacher needs is to emphasize ethics, morality. In that way, the teacher is able to guide the disciple away from negative karma and protect the disciple from creating negative karma, the main obstacle to achieving enlightenment, liberation from samsara and the happiness of future lives.

It is important, therefore, at the beginning, before making a Dharma connection with a teacher, to analyze that person well. After thinking well, then establish a Dharma connection. The tantric teachings explain that in degenerate times such as these, it is difficult to find a teacher that has all the qualities as they are explained in the teachings. If that is so, still, your teacher should have eight of them, or five, or at least four. At least the teacher should possess the basic qualities that I mentioned before. This will help you avoid trouble in future, avoid creating very heavy negative karma, such as rising heresy, anger, many negative thoughts, and also, after having made a connection, giving up. Checking carefully will help you avoid all these dangers.

Then, I want to specify one extra point, on the basis of the usual examination that is explained in the teachings. I want to add that, if you are making a new Dharma connection with a teacher, you should examine to make sure that that teacher is not someone who is against His Holiness Dalai Lama with respect to the practice of what’s called döl-gyäl, the protector Shugden. Make sure that that person does not do the practice. These days, that’s an extra analysis you should make. In that way, you’ll avoid problems in future.

Recently, I also introduced a new guideline for the protection of the centers and their students, which is not to invite to the center teachers who do the protector practice and are therefore against His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

But this doesn’t include gurus who may have practiced the protector in the past. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad. I’m not saying that. If you have already made a Dharma connection with such teachers and you criticize them or give them up, that’s totally incorrect; that’s opposite to lamrim practice. The lamrim, sutra and tantra teachings all explain how to practice guru devotion so that we can avoid creating such heavy negative karmas as criticizing our gurus. It’s for our benefit. Since we disciples want profit, not loss, since we aspire to achieve the highest profit, enlightenment, the complete qualities of cessation and realization, it is crucial to know how to practice guru devotion.

If those previous gurus who used to do the practice were still in the same aspect now, if they were still alive in that aspect, they would also change. For example, His Holiness himself did the practice in Tibet for short while, but after extensive analysis, checking many experiences and signs, and considering the advice of many other high lamas, who spread the teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa like the sun rising both inside and outside of Tibet, who greatly benefited sentient beings, many valid lamas who advised not to do the practice, His Holiness also decided against it.

Is not only His Holiness who is saying not to do it. Before His Holiness, many other high lamas, holders of the entire Buddhadharma, also instructed their monasteries and students not to do this practice.

After checking in many ways, His Holiness came to the conclusion that for the benefit of individual people as well as world in general, he himself would stop doing this practice and also advised others to quit. Therefore, His Holiness did the practice for short while, but stopped.

Therefore, if those gurus who did the practice were still in same aspect, they would stop. Also, many gurus, many great teachers, who are still living, have stopped as well, even though they used to do the practice before. So, that’s one thing.

Also, even though many people, groups and monasteries have asked His Holiness to change his advice on this, he remained firm. Since he arrived at his decision through many years’ analysis, there’s been no change; His Holiness always says the same thing in this regard. As His Holiness has said in many teachings, he will never, ever change his opinion on this matter.

Now, if His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not Chenrezig, if he’s not Buddha, who else is there in the world that you can point to as Buddha? If His Holiness is not the Buddha of Compassion, then it’s also a mistake to call Buddha all those other lamas who are said to be incarnations of this Buddha or that. If His Holiness is not Buddha, then neither are they.

But people the world over, even ordinary people, even non-Buddhists, can see just by looking at His Holiness that his holy body is full of compassion, full of wisdom.

However, without talking much, who in the world is like His Holiness the Dalai Lama? Who benefits the world as much as he does? There’s nobody. Even though there are many Buddhist traditions, for example, the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Mahayana and Theravada, all these many traditions in the world, but who in the world benefits most? Who benefits the world the most? Even though there are many holy beings in this world, who is there than can benefit the world like His Holiness does?

If this is not the action of the Buddha of Compassion, if this is not the action of Buddha, then there’s no such thing as Buddha’s action. Then you have to say that Buddha doesn’t exist. That’s the conclusion to which you have to come. There’s nothing to point to as Buddha’s guidance that we’re receiving.

The purpose of being Buddha is to benefit the world, to benefit sentient beings. That’s the purpose of achieving enlightenment. The door to the path of enlightenment is bodhicitta, so even before you enter the Mahayana path to enlightenment, you have to generate great compassion, which is the root of bodhicitta. So even before you even enter the path, you have great compassion. What is the definition of the realization of great compassion? How does a mother feel when her beloved child falls into a fire? How does she feel about that? She can’t stand it. Twenty-four hours a day she feels unbearable that her beloved child is suffering from having fallen into a fire. She can’t stand it. Eating, walking, talking, she constantly feels unbearable that her beloved child is suffering. Then, she takes the responsibility upon herself to release her child; to release her child by herself. Even though there are many other people around, she wants to save the child herself. That’s great compassion.

Different texts may give different definitions, but the meaning of great is when you take the responsibility on yourself. Great compassion is not only feeling unbearable, wishing the child—in other words, sentient beings—to be free from suffering and its cause, but on top of that, taking personal responsibility oneself to free the child from suffering. Taking responsibility on yourself to free all sentient beings from all suffering and its cause is great, or Mahayana, compassion.

The way the mother feels when her beloved child falls in a fire or is drowning is that she immediately wants to go there and save it. Like that, when you have the realization of great compassion you feel sentient beings’ suffering unbearable and you take upon yourself the responsibility of liberating them from suffering and its cause.

If this, then, is your attitude when you have the realization of great compassion, how can it be possible that after you become Buddha you don’t benefit, you don’t work for, sentient beings? How can that be possible?

You might have completed all knowledge, understanding, and have attained the omniscient mind, as well as the perfect power to reveal the methods, and have nothing more to develop in those areas, and it’s still possible that if you don’t have compassion you might not act to benefit sentient beings. That’s perhaps possible. But if you’ve trained your mind in compassion for inconceivable lifetimes and completed the mind training in compassion, how can you not help sentient beings?

What causes the realization of bodhicitta is great compassion. It’s great compassion that causes you to practice the paramitas—charity, morality, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom—for three countless great eons, to sacrifice your own life, like Buddha did, for the sake of sentient beings for three countless great eons, to practice each of those perfections for three countless great eons in order to complete the two types of merit—the merit of virtue and the merit of wisdom—so that you can achieve enlightenment and then reveal the path, reveal the teachings to all sentient beings to liberate them from the sufferings of samsara and bring them to enlightenment.

Therefore, not only does compassion not allow you to harm sentient beings, it also does not allow you not to benefit sentient beings. This, then, is the main reason—having trained the mind in compassion such that there’s nothing more to develop—that it is definite that Buddha is compelled to benefit, no matter in which different aspect Buddha manifests, including the Buddha of Compassion Buddha. Thus, there is no question that Buddha is benefiting us sentient beings right now.

There’s also one extra thing to add to all this. In His Holiness’s case, Buddha himself predicted that His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be the incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, the Dharma king working for sentient beings in the Land of Snows, Tibet. When Lord Buddha was in India, he told the bodhisattva who always accompanied him that when the teaching declined in India, at that time, “You will be Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, and the sentient beings in Land of Snows, Tibet, will be the object to be subdued by you.”

Recently, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama was at Geshe Sopa’s center, Deer Park, in Madison, Wisconsin, His Holiness said in the teachings, “I have no realization of bodhicitta or emptiness.” His Holiness often says things like that, but then might add something like, “But I have strong faith.” Later, when Geshe Sopa Rinpoche’s students, the organizers of the center, had an interview with His Holiness, one of them said very emotionally, “You say that you don’t have realizations, so what hope is there for us? There must be none.” So then it kind of slipped out of His Holiness’s holy mouth—he had to respond to that person with something—His Holiness said sort of as a private talk, “Actually, I remember when I was with Shakyamuni Buddha in India.” His Holiness didn’t tell the whole story, but he did say that he remembered being with the Buddha in India…but he didn’t give many details.

His Holiness Dalai Lama is also the incarnation of Dromtönpa, the great translator of Lama Atisha in Tibet. Dromtönpa is the embodiment of the Buddha of Compassion. That is well known.

We ourselves know that His Holiness is the source of peace and happiness of all sentient beings; we have experienced the positive effect, the incredible peace and happiness, just by seeing his holy body, just by hearing his holy speech, just by reading books of his teachings. These things leave incredible imprints of peace and happiness on the mental continua of millions and millions of people in the world. It definitely plants the seed of enlightenment in the mental continuum of anyone who sees and, especially, hears His Holiness. Just seeing His Holiness become great purification.

So, who has the greatest impact in terms of bringing peace into this world or into the minds of sentient beings? Who has the greatest effect in changing their minds and thoughts from negative to positive? His Holiness takes full responsibility for all sentient beings, but what we can see at least is the peace and happiness of this world in which we live.

On top of that, His Holiness is the holder of the entire Buddhadharma—the Hinayana, Paramitayana and Vajrayana teachings. He holds the entire Buddhadharma taught by Buddha and is able to preserve and spread it in this world in the most extensive and quickest way, to us sentient beings.

Not only that, His Holiness also bears full responsibility for the welfare of the Tibetan people in particular, who have a karmic connection with Chenrezig.

But, it’s not only the Tibetan people who have a connection with the Buddha of Compassion. That’s why Westerners are able to meet His Holiness and receive teachings and advice, not just once but many times. People in the West, nowadays, also have a connection with the Buddha of Compassion. But Tibetans also have a specific connection whereby His Holiness can guide them in to be, to guide them in not only spiritual way, not only by teaching Dharma, but also as leader of the whole country of Tibet.

Now, for example, patients’ recovering from their sickness does not depend only on the doctor diagnosing their illness and giving them the right prescription. It is not sufficient simply to have a doctor who possesses all that knowledge. The patient also has to take the medicine, has to follow the guide. Only then can the patient recover. So, in the case of enlightenment, it’s the same thing.

If we want to achieve enlightenment, it’s the same thing. It’s not only up to Buddha. Buddha has already revealed the path; he has fulfilled his responsibility. Now, from our side, we need to practice. Only then can we get enlightened. We have to practice correctly.

Similarly, with respect to the Tibetan people, it all depends on karma. The actual, living Buddha of Compassion is here, but independence or freedom, whatever it’s called, depends on the karma of the Tibetan people. That has to come together. It is not only up to the Buddha of Compassion. From their side, they have to put in the effort; they have to create cause for freedom and independence.

If it were up to the Buddha of Compassion alone, there’d be no sentient beings left; not only would there be no Tibetan people left, by now, there’d be no sentient beings.

People say, “Everything is up to God.” God is the creator and everything is up to God. One way, they say that everything is up to God, but another way, it look like everything is not up to God, because when it comes to practice, you can see that it’s dependent on sentient beings.

Some people say that if you don’t believe in God, you’ll go to hell. When they say that, it shows that everything is not totally up to God because depends on people from their side putting in effort, having faith in God. Therefore, it’s not completely up to God. For example, you have to observe the Ten Commandments. In one way people say it’s all in the hands of God, but you can see that God is not the creator. People themselves have to make the effort to observe the Ten Commandments; they have to practice morality.

So, basically, it comes to the same point in Buddhism—from their side, sentient beings have to make an effort.

What I’m saying, therefore, is that because His Holiness has these unbelievable qualities—he offers sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha extensive benefit as limitless as the sky; takes responsibility for the peace and happiness not only of beings in this world, which is all we can see, but for all sentient beings everywhere, and for the complete teaching of the Buddha; and also takes responsibility for the freedom or independence of Tibet—it is very important that we follow his advice. We must follow His Holiness’s words and support his holy wishes in order that they succeed.

The more we support His Holiness and the fewer obstacles we create, he can benefit sentient beings even more with all those limitless skies of qualities. We ourselves don’t have those qualities; even though we have the potential, we don’t have all those realizations, so we cannot benefit others like His Holiness the Dalai Lama can. But if we support His Holiness and don’t create obstacles, he can benefit sentient beings.

It’s similar to the situation in a Dharma center where there is a teacher, a geshe, who has studied Buddhadharma extensively for many years in a community of thousands of monks and lived a life of content, which is the real meaning of being a monk, leading a simple, content life in the monastery and who has not changed, even upon coming to the West, and also living in the practices of compassion and morality. So, even though this geshe might be giving the teachings to the students, educating them, enlightening other sentient beings—the more they learn Dharma, the less their ignorance, and then, through practice, the more their compassion and wisdom—his ability to do that depends on the director, the secretary, the translator and all the other people who work together doing all the things it takes to make the center function properly. Even through the actual Dharma teaching is given by the geshe, but by working together, each person helps to spread the Dharma. Even though each person is not giving the actual teaching, not involved in actually verbally teaching Dharma, but by taking different responsibilities, working together with the others, each person is helping spread Dharma to sentient beings—Buddhadharma, the unmistaken teaching of our kind, compassionate Buddha, and particularly Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching. Even though you might be the secretary or the cook, by working together with the others you are helping enlighten sentient beings as well as yourself, by collecting merit, purifying your mind and actualizing the path. So, this is just using the meditation center as an example.

It’s a question of what is most profitable in the life. Not thinking only of yourself but thinking also about the world in general, about other sentient beings; making the most wise and skilful decision not only to benefit yourself but to benefit the world, other sentient beings. You have to use your own wisdom to analyze what is most beneficial, not only for yourself but also for the world, for the numberless other sentient beings—not just for now but for the long-distant future—and then making your decision on the basis of that.

The meaning of guru

The holy mind of all the buddhas, the Dharmakaya, the transcendent wisdom of non-dual bliss and void, which is eternal, which has neither beginning nor end, which pervades all existence—that is the real meaning of guru.

When you think of your guru, when you visualize your guru, when you see your guru, when you hear you guru, this is what we should come into your heart and mind. When, in your daily life, you see, hear, visualize or remember your guru, the real meaning, or understanding, should come into your heart. The word is guru, but the real meaning is that.

When you have a stable realization of guru devotion, always in your heart, your recognition of guru is that. From the side of the disciple who has a stable realization of guru devotion, when you see or think of buddha, it’s your guru. There’s no other buddha; there’s no buddha separate from your guru. You don’t see that. Your realization is the oneness of guru and buddha. Even when you visualize yourself as buddha, it’s guru. Because you’re the deity, the guru. Even when you visualize the deity in front of you, it’s the guru. This understanding is in your heart.

Even when you see statues and thangkas, you think, “My guru has manifested in these forms to allow me to purify my mind and collect merit.” Also, this is such an easy way of purifying and creating merit. It does not depend on your generating virtuous motivation; it happens without your mind becoming Dharma. Even if your motivation is not Dharma, just by seeing, circumambulating, prostrating to, making offering to these holy objects, immediately your actions become the cause of enlightenment, liberation from samsara, happiness for hundreds of thousands of future lives.

If that’s so, then there’s no question that that powerful merit also affects this life. Since you purify so much negative karma, of course it reduces the problems of this life—relationship problems, sicknesses, cancer; all such things.

However, simply by existing, these holy objects make it so easy for us sentient beings to create merit and purify our minds. With most other activities, first we have to put great much effort into making our minds Dharma—pure, unstained by ignorance and attachment and, in particular, the self-cherishing thought. Only after we make a great effort can our actions become virtue and result in happiness. In that way, we have to work hard for happiness.

But the existence of holy objects makes it easy for us sentient beings to purify our heavy negative karmas and collect extensive merit, creating the space in our mind that enables us to gain the realizations of the path to enlightenment. The thing to understand or realize here is that all these holy objects exist through the kindness of the guru. That they make it so easy to purify negative karma and defilements, gain realizations and freedom from the ocean of samsaric suffering and achieve enlightenment is due to the kindness of the guru manifesting in this way.

You can understanding or realize this by understanding that the meaning of the guru is Dharmakaya, the holy mind of all the buddhas—all these holy objects happened through the kindness of guru manifesting in these aspects to liberate you from samsara and bring you to enlightenment.

If the absolute guru, the Dharmakaya, all the buddhas’ holy mind, manifests in an aspect more pure than I am able to see, in an aspect more pure than my karma allows me to see, I cannot see that aspect until I make my mind purer than it now is.

At present, your mind is so heavily obscured that even though Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, Nagarjuna, Lama Tsongkhapa and all the other great enlightened beings have explained the complete path and that there’s no inherently existent I—there’s no real I, in the sense existing from its own side, there’s no such thing; that such a thing is totally non-existent; that I is totally non-existent, empty, right there, from where it is appearing, from where it is appearing as a real one, existing from its own side, it is totally non-existent; it is totally non-existent right there, totally empty right there—even though all those great enlightened beings explained that by analyzing you cannot find that I, it is totally empty, still you cannot see, cannot realize, the truth of this. Even though that’s the reality, your mind cannot see it; you are unable to see that is totally empty.

Similarly, all these sense objects do not have the slightest even atom of inherent existence either. They, too, are totally empty. But you cannot see even that emptiness. Even though all causative phenomena are in the nature of impermanence, they do not last for even a minute or a second, are in a constant state of decay, you cannot see or realize them as such. You are so obscured that you cannot see what’s going to happen tomorrow, in an hour’s time hour, even in a minute’s time. With respect to such things, your mind is totally dark.

Even if you have some sickness in the body, you have to go to hospital to get x-rayed to see it. You can’t even see the back of your own body. As His Holiness Zong Rinpoche often used to say when talking about reincarnation, “Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You cannot use your not seeing something as a reason for its not existing. For example,” he would say, “You can’t see the back of your head. Does that mean it doesn’t exist?”

Anyway, your mind is heavily obscured. There are numberless phenomena that exist but you can’t see. Therefore, all the buddhas’ holy mind, the absolute guru, bound with infinite compassion that embraces you and all other sentient beings, manifests in an ordinary aspect, which by definition has delusions, a suffering body, mistaken actions and so forth. The Dharmakaya manifests like this and through this aspect gives commentaries, oral transmissions, vows—pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantric—initiations and tantric teachings. In Tibet, we used to say that if you are learning the alphabet order to study Dharma, the person who teaches you the alphabet is also a guru, a manifestation of the Dharmakaya.

Even one verse of oral transmission, one stanza of teaching, can definitely brings you to enlightenment. By leaving a positive imprint, it can cause you to understand the teachings and realize the aspect of the path it contains; that verse can cease certain defilements and bring you to enlightenment. That one verse of oral transmission given by that gurus definitely brings you to enlightenment. Therefore, there’s no question that other, more extensive teachings do so too.

Therefore, the meditation to do at this point is to think, “If these are not the actions of Buddha, guiding me to enlightenment, then there’s no other action I could point to as that of Buddha liberating me from suffering and bringing me to enlightenment. So, these are definitely Buddha’s activities; activities of the Dharmakaya.” This is one reason to use in meditation, to realize that these actions are those of the Buddha; for you to realize from your own side, from the side of the disciple, that these are Buddha’s actions.

Also think, “If any of these gurus is not Buddha, because I see them as ordinary, because I see faults in them”—you might see small faults in some and great faults in others, but you see faults in all of them—“Then, if none of these gurus are buddha, if they are ordinary beings, if these are ordinary beings who are bringing me to enlightenment, what are the buddhas doing? They’re not doing anything; the buddhas are just keeping quiet. The buddhas not doing anything for me but these ordinary beings are being so beneficial by doing all these activities, such as giving teachings, vows and so forth, all those things that definitely bring me to enlightenment. These ordinary beings are bringing me to enlightenment but the buddhas are doing nothing to bring me to enlightenment.” That’s the conclusion you have to come to.

Then you make the mistake of thinking, “What’s up with the buddhas? What’s wrong with them? If none of these teachers are buddha and their activities are not buddha activities, what’s happened to the buddhas? They don’t have omniscient mind? They don’t have the perfect power to bring me to enlightenment? They don’t have compassion?” This is the way to meditate and analyze.

In this way, you actually come to the conclusion that every one of your gurus is buddha. From your own side, you make that determination.

“Therefore, they are extremely kind, manifesting in an ordinary aspect, having all the delusions, suffering and mistaken actions that exactly fit my mistaken mind, so that I can see and communicate with them; that they can do all the various activities, such as giving me guidance, teachings, initiations and so forth. They can do this for me only in an ordinary aspect.

“They are extremely kind; so precious, manifesting like this, in an aspect having faults. This aspect showing faults is most precious in my life, because through this aspect, all the buddhas can communicate with me and guide me to enlightenment. This ordinary aspect is the most precious thing in my life.”

“Without this ordinary aspect manifesting suffering, faults and so forth, my life would be totally lost; I’d be totally lost; guideless, like a baby left alone in a hot desert or left in a dark, moonless jungle filled with wild, vicious animals.” Imagine being a baby left alone like that; how much fear and danger there would be. “Just like that, without this aspect manifesting faults, I’d be completely lost, guideless.”

Appearing in the aspect of having faults is the only way my gurus, all buddhas, can communicate with me. This is the only way that I can communicate with them. So, they are extremely kind to me, manifesting in this aspect of having faults.

This is Lama Tsongkhapa’s technique, where you use even the faults you see in your guru to develop guru devotion. You look at your guru as buddha and you see your guru as buddha. Pabongka Rinpoche refers to this special technique of Lama Tsongkhapa in his extensive commentary on guru devotion, where you not only reflect on the qualities of the guru to develop guru devotion, the root of path to enlightenment, but also use the faults you see in the guru to develop your mind in guru devotion and receive the blessings of guru devotion. The blessings you receive help you gain realizations of the path to enlightenment.

One lama said in his teachings, “Until you are free of defilements and negative karma, even if all the buddhas were to descend directly in front of you, you will not have the fortune to see the supreme holy body adorned the holy signs and exemplifications; you will have only your present view.” “Present view,” or perception, means the view that comes from your ordinary, impure mind.

The logic here is illustrated by the story of Devadatta (Lekpai Karma), Buddha’s disciple, who served Guru Shakyamuni Buddha for twenty-two years. Despite helping Buddha for twenty-two years, he never saw Shakyamuni Buddha as Buddha; he never looked at him from the side of his qualities. He always saw Buddha as a liar, he saw him only as having faults. Because Devadatta didn’t have an omniscient mind or clairvoyance, whenever Lord Buddha would make prophesies, he’d think he was lying. Once, when the Buddha was on his alms round, one girl out food in his begging bowl and the Buddha predicted, “Due to the karma of this offering, in future you will become such and such Buddha.” I’m not sure which buddha was predicted, but one of the thousand buddhas of this fortunate age.

But Devadatta thought Lord Buddha was making a huge deal out of this little offering and praising her with some kind of ulterior motivation. But this was Lord Buddha often did, because he had an omniscient mind and could see even the far-distant future results of karma. But Devadatta didn’t know that and for all the years he served him, didn’t see any good qualities and simply labeled Lord Buddha a liar. Even though Lord Buddha was enlightened inconceivable eons ago, Devadatta didn’t see him as an enlightened being, only an ordinary being riddled with faults.

Therefore, in the first stanza of his Foundation of All Good Qualities, Lama Tsongkhapa says,

The foundation of all good qualities is the kind and venerable guru;
Correct devotion to him is the root of the path.
By clearly seeing this and applying great effort,
Please bless me to rely upon him with great respect.

The reason that Lama Tsongkhapa stresses great effort is that seeing the guru as buddha doesn’t come from side of the object, the guru; it has to come from your own mind, and that takes great effort.

Also, in the lamrim text The Essential Nectar, it says [verse 122],

Therefore, all these apparently faulty aspects
Of my gurus’ actions must be either
Just my mistaken perception from negative karma,
Or alternatively, a deliberate manifestation.

As it says, the faults you see are either a projection of your own ordinary, mistaken mind or intentional manifestations for the benefit of yourself and other sentient beings. So, that’s another way to think; that your gurus manifest faults on purpose.

So, now, after this lengthy explanation, this is where you bring in those other gurus who practice the protector; then it’s easy to understand. One way—it’s the view of your mistaken mind—one way to think is like that. The other way to think is that they have purposely manifested in that way, showing faults, because it’s the only way they can communicate with you, guide you to enlightenment. So you can think either way.

Therefore, if you think like this, you’ll have no problem. You don’t have to criticize the gurus with whom you already have a Dharma connection and who practice the protector. In this way you’ll avoid conflict in your mind and will protect yourself from destroying your devotion.