In Illuminating Light 1, I talked about renunciation. In this article, I will continue this topic, followed by the importance of having faith in the Guru.
Before I get to the main points, I want to remind you that you shall not take these words as merely chattering materials and soon forget about them. If so, then you are repeating the same old habits. That is, even though you have heard numerous precious teachings from the Guru, yet you still wander around and make little to no progress on Dharma Practice. When the disciples once beseeched the Guru to continue expounding precious teachings in the weekly Ngongdro practice, the Guru turned down the request with the following response, “I have tried giving you as many teachings as I could every week in the past several years, but there is not much growth in all of you. Now I am getting older and can no longer speak for a few hours like before.” I feel deeply saddened having heard about these words and have the extreme pity for all of you. In this dark age of degeneration, all sentient beings’ negative habits grow so strong that they cannot even recognize how precious our lineage and our Guru are. Therefore, by writing the “Illuminating Light” series, I hope to strengthen your understanding of the importance of Dharma and awaken your determination of practicing Dharma!
Through Illuminating Light 1, I hope you have understood that all the Dharma practice without renunciation is no different from the worldly phenomena, and thus cannot help us attain full enlightenment beyond worldly phenomena. On the other hand, though it is inevitable that we as laymen need to engage in worldly phenomena to sustain ourselves or to provide for our family, if our mind has prepared to liberate ourselves from the sufferings of the Samsara, then we have established renunciation.
When you are fully aware of and thus renounce the sufferings of the samsara, you need to find the right approach and guidance toward liberation. What is the right approach? It is Dharma. Who provides the right guidance? It is the Three Jewels–the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. In simple terms, the Buddha is the stainless being with perfect wisdom, power, blessings, compassions, and achievements. The Dharma is the teachings originated from the Buddha’s great compassions to help all sentient beings achieve Buddhahood. The Sangha is the being in any identity who propagates the Dharma and guides the Dharma practice.
Then, what do we need to practice Dharma? Faith, a pure and stainless faith. Faith is the indispensable state of mind in learning Dharma. If refuge is the door to the Dharma practice, then faith is the key to the door of refuge. To learn and practice Dharma, we must have the unwavering faith, or we cannot open the door to the Dharma practice. Faith is like an acre of fertile land. You will reap great harvests regardless the types of seeds you sow. Faith is also the perfect seed of all the virtuous behaviors and merits. An impure faith is like a rotten seed; we cannot harvest anything from it. When we realize the merits and blessings of the Three Jewels, the correct faith will naturally arise deep in our hearts and minds, making us understand the sufferings of all attachments and the Samsara. There is no other way you can rely on to liberate yourself from all these sufferings except for the Three Jewels. Faith is the treasure of endless merits and the best among all the treasures. As the Guru expounds, “When you have a pure faith, the heart filling with this pure faith will receive the blessings of Padmasambhava's wisdom body, speech and mind. The faith determines whether the blessings from the three jewels enter your body, speech and mind. Further, the strength of Dharma’s blessings also depends on the practitioner’s faith; a practitioner with a complete and absolute faith will receive complete blessings, which wipe out all the negative obstacles and karmas, foster perfect accumulations of wisdom and merits, and further help us attaining Buddhahood. We have heard numerous stories about the merits of having faith. Among those stories, the most familiar is that, with a pure faith, we can even find precious relics from a dog’s teeth. Therefore, the importance of having faith cannot be over-emphasized.
Even in terms of the worldly phenomena, we need faith to succeed in everything we do. For example, when we are sick and go to see a doctor, if we do not have faith in the doctor, nor do we follow any of his or her diagnostics, then it will be hard for us to recover from our illness; when we go to school, if we do not trust the teacher’s instructions, then it will be hard for us to acquire the correct knowledge. Without faith, we might be even unable to move—the dubious thought that we do not know whether it is safe to travel by car or by foot stops us from travelling…
In terms of the beyond-worldly-phenomena—the Dharma, to whom shall we have faith? We shall build and have our unwavering faith to a well-qualified teacher, the Guru. Why? This is because all of us as sentient beings have the nature of Buddhahood. However, before we purify all the obscurations and attain the Buddhahood, it is extremely important to choose a well-qualified teacher and practice Dharma under his or her guidance. If we can closely follow this well-qualified teacher with the utmost respect and faith as instructed by the Dharma, over time we will receive all the merits from the teacher. A sentient being is like a piece of ordinary wood, and a well-qualified teacher is the precious sandalwood. Over time, this piece of ordinary wood will be imbued with the sandalwood and emanates the fragrance of the sandalwood. Therefore, a well-qualified teacher is our only dependence in all of our lives until attaining Buddhahood. He or she teaches us to make the right choice and liberate us from the sufferings from the Samsara. That is the reason why I constantly remind you that the Guru is even more important than your life, which spans at most a hundred years. This life of yours cannot even be compared to all the reliance we have on our Guru until attaining Buddhahood, which may take very long time. Therefore, we should choose the Guru very carefully.
Then how should we choose a well-qualified teacher? In simple terms, the teacher should come from a non-broken lineage with many accomplished teachers, accumulates all the merits from practicing Dharma, has unbounded loving kindness and compassions toward all sentient beings, abide by all the Buddhists’ precepts, behave in a modest manner, master in all the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings, and guide disciples with every skillful means. A teacher with all the aforementioned qualities is the well-qualified Guru.
Therefore, if you cannot really determine if the teacher is well qualified, you can simply judge the person based on whether his or her behavior shows Bodhicitta; if the teacher’s words and deeds are full of Bodhicitta, then we should follow him or her no matter how simple and inconspicuous he or she looks. Particularly, no matter how hard we try, we as ordinary beings still cannot even understand and appreciate the well-qualified teacher’s uncommon merits. Further, in today’s society, so many cunning fraudulent people disguise themselves as “teachers,” using every possible means to swindle ignorant believers out of their money. If we follow the wrong teachers, the mere loss of money is incomparable to wasting the opportunity of making the most of the precious human birth to liberate ourselves from the Samsara and to attain full enlightenment. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous if we do not abide by the aforementioned rules and select the well-qualified teacher. On the other hand, a special case occurs like this: If you feel so thrilled or deeply touched when you first meet the teacher, or listen to his words, or even just hear about his name, then this is the teacher you should follow in everlasting lives without further observation.
In reality, whether the teacher you follow is well-qualified or not depends on the circumstances and if you have accumulated enough merits in your past lives. Without accumulating enough merits, some people will miss the well-qualified Guru even if they have had the opportunity to meet him or her. In some cases, after following the well-qualified, omni-virtuous Guru, some might even leave because of their own obscurations and insufficient merits.
I am hoping that the above key points, as well as the expounder that you receive from the Guru, will serve as the clear evidence that you have met and followed the right Guru. Why is following the well-qualified Guru so important? This is because ordinary beings accumulate very few merits. If they are not careful in selecting the teacher, they may end up encountering and following unqualified “teachers” who hold deviant views. The disciple will incur great losses as the result, because he or she not only wastes all the pure and benevolent wishes to practice Dharma, but also turns the good intentions of conducting virtuous behaviors into bad outcomes, further wasting the precious human birth and delaying the opportunities to attain enlightenment. In addition, if some people have met the well-qualified teacher, but they do not cherish him or even miss him, the resulting loss is immense.
After you have met the well qualified teacher, how should you follow him as a disciple? All of the aforementioned words serve as guidelines to identifying the right teacher. After you have decided to follow the teacher, you should stop questioning the teacher’s qualifications and view his words and deeds as the utmost virtues and wisdom. Whenever and wherever you are, you should strictly follow the Guru’s teachings. Further, you should sincerely and respectfully pray for the blessings from the Guru, thinking of the Guru as the true Buddha all the time. You should have this kind of faith in the Guru, with the utmost respect and willingness to guard the Guru, to hold the Samaya, and to please the Guru. The supreme way of repaying the Guru’s endless loving kindness is to practice the teachings given by the Guru, followed by serving the Guru with our mind, body, and speech. This part was misunderstood by many people and thus needs further elaboration: Serving the Guru with body means running errands or providing labor for him or her; Serving the Guru with speech means following the Guru’s orders and instructions, praising the Guru, and using respectful terms when talking to the Guru. Serving the Guru with mind means having a clear mind ready to remember all the Guru’s virtues. Among all the servings to the Guru, the most insignificant and easiest way is graciously provide money, food, utility, and equipment. Most important of all, no matter how bad the circumstances you face, you shall not abandon the pledges you made with the Guru; you shall strive to obey the Guru’s teachings and instructions.
Holding impure and evil thoughts toward the Guru begets incredible sufferings. Some people become arrogant after following the Guru for some time and thus hold grudges when the Guru correct their mistakes. In that case, the absence of an immediate, intense repentance arising from the heart will not only reduce the merits accumulated in thousands of previous lives but also result in the long-lasting sufferings in the Vajra hell. If you are given the opportunities to serve beside the Guru, when the Guru stands up, you should rise immediately; when the Guru is walking, you shall not walk next to the Guru or step on the Guru’s shadow, but stay behind on the left to the Guru. When the Guru is giving teachings or expounder, you shall avoid interruptions or meaningless chatters and constantly remind yourself of the respectful mind and manner and stay quiet.
You shall not befriend those ignorant people who are incapable of observing the disposition of the true Buddha from the Guru, but rather spread defamatory, hateful and disrespectful speech toward the Guru. Even if we cannot stop their wrongdoings immediately, we should not continue the conversations with them.
In addition, you shall not show impatience or disrespect toward the Guru’s dependents and other disciples, causing rifts and lack of rapport. No matter what happens, you shall get along with your fellow Dharma brothers, treating them with care and respect. Not doing so will result in hindrance in the path of Dharma practice.
Once you have learned the right path to following and devoting to the Guru, you should carry out and proceed with correct and unwavering faith. In particular, you shall graciously offer and rejoice all the Guru’s extraordinary activities of accumulating immense merits and wisdom by means of monetary support, labor, speech, and so on. By supporting all the virtuous feats made possible by the Guru’s utmost resolve and wish, you will accumulate the same merits. Similarly, supporting others’ virtuous behaviors through your body, speech, and labor will earn you the same merits as those who engage in these virtuous behaviors. In particular, you should make every effort to complete the Guru’s immediate assignments, even just tidying up the surroundings. These assignments are the exact ways of accumulating merits.
Among all the supreme methods of accumulating merits, none is superior to serving and offering to the Guru. In particular, when the Guru is giving empowerments, all the Buddhas’ unbounded blessings and compassions enter the Guru, so he is indifferent from the Buddhas. At that time, even tiny offerings will accumulate far greater merits than huge offerings at some other time.
While the Guru is still staying in this world, we should precisely follow his teachings and strive to practice Dharma accordingly. If we miss this rare and precious opportunities to serve the Guru while he is still in this world, or we fail to follow his teachings, then we can only pray or practice Dharma in front of his statute. In that case, it becomes very difficult to see the Guru or receive his guidance when we are in the phase of etheric body after death. This is not because the Guru is not showing compassions or he is incapable, but because we do not have enough faith and respect for him. Therefore, if we want to liberate ourselves from the sufferings of the Samsara in the phase of etheric body, we have to show the utmost faith and respect for the Guru so we can correspond to the Guru’s unbounded compassions and wisdom.
May the blessings from the Guru enter your mind!
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