The Buddhist Holy Trinity







This image contains the main deities that HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche advises his students to practice: Lama Tsongkhapa (the Guru), Vajrayogini (the Meditational Deity) and Setrap (the Dharma Protector).  This holy trinity provides a very complete practice that grants protection, wisdom and powerful spiritual attainments.

Mantras – holy words of power

Extracted from:

There was a book called Words of Power: Mantras by John Blofeld when I read when I was like, 9 or 10 and boy, I memorized every mantra in there. Oh yes. Very famous Sinologist, he was a very great scholar in China and China arts, and a very great devotee of Guan Yin and Tara. And then when he got into Tibetan Buddhism, that was it. He went crazy with Tara. Crazy. He just like, Tara, Tara, Tara, that’s all he talked about. Everybody’s crazy about Tara. In any case, that is why in the future we have to have a Tara Mystical Treasures. Isn’t that fabulous? Can you imagine a Tara Mystical Treasures? Yes I just can’t wait, I just can’t wait, I just can’t wait…

Okay never mind. Now, I’m going to hit on two main reasons, on a profound level, that we do mantras and I’m going to hit on a few general meanings that we do mantras. General meanings…no, general purposes that we do mantras that will help us so you can condense this writing into a short one, you can also make it a long one because it will be information for you. Mantras are very, very holy because…think. One day, if someone tells us, “No meat, you’re gonna be vegetarian for one day”, you’re like, “Ughhh”. Every time you walk by KFC, every time you walk by McDonald’s, you walk by one of the hawker stands, satay stands…(sniffs loudly) “I’m vegetarian.” Just think of Kandarohi with no beef for one day. Oh my god! You know what she’ll do? She’ll go to the Yoshinoya beef stands and moon them. Can you imagine her pulling down her pants that don’t fit, with her blue underwear on, and mooning them? Because she is vegetarian. Yes.

In any case, just imagine one day, no lying. Not even a teeny little lie. You know one of your ugly friends that you don’t like, call you up and they want to go eat eat and din din, and you say, “Noooo because my great grandmother’s sister’s dog died. I can’t.” No, no lies. Imagine one day of no sexual misconduct or contact at all. None. No thoughts of it. Not even contact. You think, “One day, what’s the big deal?” For some of us, it’s like, “I’m already a nun!” But not even the thought of it. Not even an attraction to it. Nothing. Nothing. You’re just a fruit. Not le fruit, but a fruit. Okay, Mademoiselle Le Fruit, that’s different. That was your previous reincarnation. He’s like Madonna, he keeps changing his reincarnations.

Any case, imagine one day of not having any negative motivations. Me, me, me – one whole day, none of self-cherishing mind, of putting yourself a priority. One day that from morning to night, you are Mother Teresa, all day, non-stop. All you think is others, you don’t think about yourself. And one day of no attachment – no makeup, no hair, no clothes, no, no…nothing, just one whole day. And that whole day is filled with light and love, compassion, clairvoyance, skills, great planning for others, skillful speech, skillful action and not self-cherishing mind. But other cherishing mind, altruistic mind, imagine one day of that. And imagine, the altruistic side forget it, just one day of discipline, of cutting out our delusions and illusions, one day of that. And then imagine two days of that. Imagine three days of that, imagine four days, one week, one year, one month. Imagine a whole lifetime of ethics, morality, compassion. Imagine one lifetime of not lying, of not working for the benefit of oneself. Of not thinking about earning, earning earning, getting, getting, getting, me, me, me, me. Just one whole lifetime. Think about that.

And then, imagine the energy that creates. Not lying for one whole lifetime. Not lying will, in short, will create a type of speech that when you talk, people will listen. When you talk, it has substance. When you talk, it will be properly enunciated. When you talk, people understand. When you talk, it moves people’s hearts. When you talk, it changes people’s lives. When you talk, it changes the brutal mind of a person from that of like an animal, into that of a higher being. Animals think for themselves, me, me, me, me, me, me. It may be cute for a puppy to fight for his food and fight for a bone, but it is not cute for a person to fight other people for their money.

So imagine that if you don’t lie, if you don’t lie, you will be born with a speech that is melodious, pleasant, good words, captivating, very clear, the point is brought across. Not only a good speaker – a good speaker is not enough – but a type of speech that transforms people’s minds, transforms people’s lives, transforms people’s inertia, people’s delusions and illusions, and the type of speech that motivates them from doing self-cherishing acts that bring them to more sufferings, to acts that bring them to happiness.

So being a good speaker is not enough. It is a type of speech that has the power of truth and altruism from lifetimes, or a life of practices, and a lifetime after lifetime, that when this person speaks, it profoundly moves another person. Sometimes to tears. Why? To make them realize what is going on in them and what is really the purpose of life. That type of speech doesn’t come from practice. That type of speech doesn’t come from a book. Doesn’t come from learning. That type of speech comes from lifetime and lifetime and lifetime of telling the truth, and using the speech to benefit others, and using the speech for positive reasons. And using the speech not to get money, sex, rock ‘n roll, drugs, fun and increase attachments, but using the speech to increase people’s happiness, increase people’s mind, increase peace, increase love, increase altruism. And using the speech to destroy delusion, using the speech to destroy the very causes that make people – themselves and other people – unhappy.

So that type of speech becomes very very very powerful. Why? It is through speech that we can create wars. It is through speech we can create peace. Even people who have excellent motivation, but they do not speak well or correctly, they can create wars. Even people who have nasty motivation, but if they are very good in their speech, they can make things move. Imagine a person with good motivation, good intention, and they speak to benefit others, and they use their speech, their tongue, their teeth, their mouth, their vocal cords, they use their speech in what? In changing people’s lives, from self-ingratiating activities that bring harm and unhappiness to themselves and the ones they love, to benefit for themselves, and others and everyone. Imagine a person who uses their speech like that, lifetime, after lifetime, after lifetime, after lifetime, after lifetime.

So this type of person will eventually have Buddha speech. What is Buddha speech? They have 60 melodious qualities of Brahma, it is said. 60 melodious qualities. Out of the worldly gods, Brahma is said to have the most beautiful and melodious voice. So they have 60 qualities of their voice. 60 qualities. They have the power of speech of a Buddha. Some examples of the power of speech of a Buddha, which you can get into more detail in the Lamrim, is when they speak, although they speak one subject, one word, whatever your level of intelligence, it will penetrate your mind and it will hit you. So if you are there in your intelligence, if you’re there in this intelligence, you’re there in this intelligence – when they speak, it will hit you at your level and you will understand it at your level. And even when people get together later, they understand it differently and it affects them deeply and it changes their lives. That is the power of speech of an enlightened being or an advanced being, or a Buddha.

So when they speak, it isn’t just nice words to pick up a pretty girl. It isn’t sweet words to just get a good deal on a house or a product for bargaining at pasar malam. It is the type speech that…because some people, you see, they are very good at talking but when it comes to changing people’s lives, when they talk, they can’t do anything. So good speech is not that it sounds nice and you can get things done. Good speech is that it benefits, it changes people’s lives because it arises from altruism. So therefore, a Buddha’s speech is that when they speak, it hits everybody at their level. One.

Two, whether you are very far away or you’re nearby, the level it hits your ear will be exactly the same. That a Buddha’s speech. Just think, during Buddha’s time, there were no microphones, speakers, sound systems. Thousands of people gathered to listen to Buddha. Thousands. Thousands of people gathered to listen to Lord Jesus.  How? These are enlightened activities. They can hear. And when they speak, it’s heard in many languages simultaneously, on many levels. So for beings who don’t need speech to hear, by clairvoyance they will hear it clairvoyantly, immediately. And whatever they speak, soothes the mind, calms the mind, like water on a fire.

There are many, many qualities of speech, and everything that they speak becomes – this is very important – everything they speak becomes a method, a path, a cause for enlightenment. That is a Buddha speech. That’s in short.

Now a Buddha mind dwells, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, in skillful means on benefitting others, how to benefit others, direct methods, indirect methods. And when they look at you, when they understand you, they perceive your previous lives down to a pore of your hair, down to your eyebrows, the shape of your eyes, the color of your skin, everything… and the causes for you to have that result, they look at you, they see directly, your previous lives, unlimited. Your future lives, unlimited. What you are now. Even the cause of a single pore on your skin, they know the cause. And not only do they see you in the present, they see the past, the present and the future simultaneously, all in one shot. And that’s just you. And every single sentient being on this planet, in the universe, in samsara, they perceive directly. Exactly what they perceive you, and everything that’s going on, everything that’s moving, everything that is perceivable, tokpa, perceivable, they perceive simultaneously. And yet they can talk to you, yet they’re aware and they’re alert. This is the Buddha mind.

And this is based on altruism, compassion that derives from many lifetimes of ethical, moral practices. Dharmakaya form is the Buddha’s mind. Non-tangible, unperceivable, and anyone below that level cannot perceive. It does not need a body to be perceived. It can only be perceived by another Buddha. The end. Sambhogakaya form is a Buddha’s body in enjoyment form. Enjoyment means – not that he runs around enjoying himself – it means a form where it looks like as if he is enjoying himself. For example, when the Buddha manifest as Avalokiteshvara, oh god, it’s fabulous! Avalokiteshvara is white, wearing beautiful raiments, beautiful jewels, fabulous hair, you know, clothes that fit. Jewelry, ornaments, on a fabulous lotus, amidst an aural of light, he doesn’t smell, his body is perfectly V-shaped, it’s soft, it’s strong, yet it’s just emitting light…wouldn’t you enjoy yourself if you have that body? Couldn’t you see Jamie with a Tara body on Saturday night? That’s it! See you later! Forget about your marathon! She’ll be on the podium jumping up and down!

So imagine if you have such a body like Tara or Avalokiteshvara, you’d be enjoying yourself! Why is it enjoyment body? It is a body that shows you the results of their practice. So that is perceivable by Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas and high level practitioners who have visions of these beings. For ordinary schmucks like me, cannot see. So for ordinary schmucks like me, who can’t see the enjoyment body, Sambhogakaya, or perceive the truth body, Dharmakaya which is without form, we have to stick with the Nirmanakaya. Nirmanakaya, in Tibetan we call Tulku. Tul means to emanate, ku means body. Emanated body. So a Tulku, a real Tulku is a high level being, that is emanated from either the Dharmakaya or the Sambhogakaya form of the Buddhas. And they emanate into bodies that are coarse and rough, and that needs the four elements, the five aggregates to function to benefit others.

So the mind that this being is in is of course Dharmakaya, but the body that they have is Nirmanakaya. And that body, because it is borrowed of this earth, borrowed of this planet, borrowed of the mineral and resources here… why is it borrowed here? Because these beings are on this planet and they need to relate to these beings on this planet. Maybe on another planet, mercury is the predominant material, maybe they take a body in mercury, it doesn’t really matter. But on this planet, it’s the five aggregates, and the four elements. Therefore, they take on this body like a hotel room to use. It is subject to decay, it is subject to sickness, it is subject to imbalance, it is subject to heat, it is subject to deterioration, because it is a body that’s borrowed. It doesn’t reflect the enlightened being – example, His Holiness the Panchen Lama who is Amitabha himself, gets old, can be poisoned, will die but it doesn’t affect his mind. His incarnation came back again but his body does get old. Why? The body doesn’t belong to the enlightened mind, it is used to borrow to spread enlightenment.

So like that, these three bodies arise from the mind of a holy Buddha. Then the actual body, is we don’t kill, we don’t steal, we don’t commit sexual misconduct, we don’t beat, no vulgarity of the body. And we use our bodies not for making money, not for making fun, not for adorning to increase our delusions and illusions, but we actually use our body in the service of others, and to benefit others. Whether it’s to teach Dharma, whether it’s to discipline our body for others, whether it’s to discipline ourselves or to sacrifice our self-comfort for others, example, Mother Teresa, who uses her body just for others. Just like Mahatma Gandhi, who used his body for others non-stop by his fasts that freed so many people, and inspired millions around the world. That’s a bodhisattva. Like Nelson Mandela, like the great ex-Prime Minister Mahathir, who had to maintain his body, who had to wear suits, who had to look good, who had to be healthy, to run the country and make the country so great. That’s using his body. I mean he could have used his body playing golf all day long, non-stop but using your body to benefit others…sitting in an office wearing nice clothes, that’s using our body for others. Sitting here when we could be somewhere else is using our body for others. Why? We are getting knowledge to benefit others.

So how happy we are to do that and enthusiastically shows the level of our mind and how altruistic we really are. Why? The more we want to get methods to help others, the more altruistic we are. That’s a measuring stick. So making our bodies easily available for others, and very happy to do so shows a level of altruism. Why? Everything else you can share, your body you can’t, you only have one body. You have to be there. And then, suffering disease for others. When you are sick and not well, and you can still push yourself for others, that’s a measuring stick of using your body for others. Why? You don’t think the body as yours, you think its something you borrowed, you use for a while and afterwards, you dump. I mean who will be ridiculous enough to paint up, and redecorate and refurbish the hotel room that you rent for overnight? You know, you go in there redecorate, furnish and paint it up, and “see you later tomorrow”…who’s ridiculous! Like that, when you think of your body as something you borrow and use, you’re not going to be too worried about it and playing with it and doing things with it as an end in itself, but you would use it as a vehicle to reach an end. There is a big difference in how people operate.

If you use your body and everything else as an end in itself, you will end up in depression, unhappiness. Why? Because it tricks you. How ever you feed it and take care of it, it still gets fat, it still gets sick. How ever creams you put on it, whatever operations you go through, whatever slimming or whatever you do, it still gets fat and it still gets old.  And no matter what you tell it to do, it does the opposite. And no matter how wonderful oils and whatever you put on your hair, you still lose hair. And I don’t care, you can drink moisturizer, and your skin will still get wrinkled. It deceives you and makes you use up everything. And then on top of that, it makes you create pleasure for it. It makes you run around for sexual contact, and then all the crap that comes after that, the relationship, the people, the lies and all that stuff, is just to please the body.

So when we use the body in such a way where we try to find pleasure for itself alone, we end up in depression, unhappiness. I’ll tell you why. Because it is deceptive. You never achieve it. So when you use your body to benefit others, you hold ethics, and morals and you use your body for others, in the highest form teaching the Dharma, and using your body as an example of the Dharma, you inspire others to come out of delusions and unhappiness. To medium use of your body in social works, to physically do work, or to use your body to practice such as prostrations, or to use your body simply to be still and not create more negative actions…imagine life after life after life of using your body like that. It will result in the Buddha body with the 112 marks.

What is that? 80 minor, and 32 major. Some of the marks of a superhuman, of a super Buddha is that it is very tall. The limbs are very long. The fingers are very long. The limbs are very soft and very gentle, neither masculine nor feminine. The limbs and the body is very pleasant to the appearance. And it has a golden luster. And the hair turns counter-clockwise in curls. It has an ushnisha, meaning a crown protrusion here. It’s not that someone bumped you there and you got a bump, no. And some people draw the Buddha statues wrong. You need to know this. They actually draw the Buddha with hair and wrap it up in a bun. You know, what is he? Auntie Edna? Wrong! He is bald, he is a monk! And the little bit of hair he has is just a little bit of growth, because monks cannot have more than two finger spans of hair. So he has a little bit of hair which grows in a tuft, which looks like little curls. Like African people, they have this beautiful curly hair. When you cut it short, it’s like round tufts. Buddha’s hair is like that except when he grows out he doesn’t have an afro, so he doesn’t look like Lenny Kravitz. Lenny Kravitz hair is fabulous but the Buddha doesn’t have that. Buddha has curly, beautiful locks of Indian blue, black hair. Yes, and not chicken hair like Paris Buddha. No, beautiful.

And then he has an urn…and this is a protrusion, representing another state. To you he may look like a UFO but to another Buddha it’s a sign of beauty. Okay? It’s not like he has a cerebral problem, you know, the Elephant Man, his brain grew that way, no, no, no. It’s very beautiful. So it is not a bunch of hair tied up. So when you see a Buddha statue with the hair tied up, no, no, no. Thangka, no. It is a protrusion of his head. And he has long, beautiful earlobes. Long and beautiful, not because he is from Myanmar and he wears those earrings that pull his ear down, you know, like those Burmese women, that’s beautiful too but that’s not the point. And some Buddha statues they even put earrings on him. No. He doesn’t wear any earrings, he’s not a drag queen and he is not a layperson. Monks don’t wear earrings. Okay? Buddha is not a drag queen or a layperson, so he doesn’t wear earrings. So when you see Buddha Shakyamuni with earrings, no, no. You ask them to leave the jewelry home then I put you on the altar. He has a long beautiful swan-like neck, golden, strong, broad shoulders like a lion, thick chest, very thick chest. Alright? Thick body but not like Mr Universe, not bulging with veins because bulging with veins is considered not nice. Then he has a beautiful V-shaped body, but it is not V-shaped like that, it’s like a Versace cut. It goes down and then the hips…oh yeah, it’s exactly like a Versace cut, it goes down like that, when it gets to the hips it’s rounded and then comes out, almost feminine and it’s soft and it’s very very beautiful.

He has very beautiful legs, you know. Some people, some of our friends, you know, they complain they have short stocky legs and a big top. Whatever lah. Buddha has long elegant, beautiful legs and he walks with a gait. You know a gait, not a sashay! A gait, not a sashay! You get the picture, Birdcage? Alright, and he has beautiful long feet that are straight and symmetrical, similar to his fingers, with rays of light in between his fingers, that actually look like webs but they’re not webs because he’s not, you know, a toad man. So actually you can go like that but it’s webs of light from not telling a lie. And he has gold, copper colored nails – no, not L’Oreal, they are natural – they’re copper colored nails, webbed with light. And on the palms of his hand and his feet, have Dharmachakra wheels, imprinted, not a tattoo from One Utama, alright, not Paris’s, “OM TARE TUTTARE, I got a Buddha mark here”, no. They’re real Dharmachakra wheels, they’re beautiful, on his feet. And when he walks, his feet never ever touches the ground. Never. But wherever he walks, it leaves a footprint. And lustrous golden lights emanate. And when we see his body, although it is so beautiful and fabulous, for some perverts they will look at it and say, “Oooh yum yum”, but for most people they will look at a Buddha’s body, fold their hands and it will calm their delusions down. It will calm their delusions down.

And he has this magnificent charisma, magnificent energy that when he shows up at the party, he is the life of the party, literally. What does that mean? He has a natural body aura that draws people to him, that pulls people to him, that makes people look at him. Why? Transform them into the Dharma. You see, being beautiful and sexy is not enough. Being beautiful and sexy with charisma and a look that brings people’s passions down, eventually, and brings them to enlightenment is the key to beauty. See, some people’s beauty bring more delusion and unhappiness to other people. They can’t have it, they commit suicide. You know, “I can’t sleep with her, I want suicide.” So it’s not the type of beauty that creates more delusion because Buddha’s beauty, male or female, does not arise from delusion, it arises from great holding of ethics for many lifetimes.

So Buddha holds ethics and morality with his body for many lifetimes, controls his speech where it becomes natural, where it is used to benefit others, and his mind dwells in omniscience, thamche khenpa means all-knowing omniscience. Completely. So his body, speech and mind is in the state of omniscience, compassion, and the full result of elimination of karma, result of altruism. Just every act he does, even if he picks his nose, it benefits some sentient beings. Literally like that. Literally. Alright? And so this type of body, when he practice the practice, he practices for three great aeons. One great aeon consists of 60 minor aeons. One minor aeon, let me just give you a very simple whatever, because they talk in cubits and stuff in the texts and I don’t understand what cubits is so I made up my own little example which is vast enough. Think of a hole in the ground, dug one mile long, one mile wide, one mile in breadth. Fill that up with 1-inch human hairs, alright, no meters and centimeters and stuff.  You don’t like inch? You transfer, whatever. 1-inch human hair fills up that hole. Every hundred years, you open it up, take one hair out. So the time it takes to completely empty out that hole is one small aeon. 60 of those is one great aeon, and it took three of those great aeons for Buddha to practice what I just spoke about to become a Buddha.

So when you look at a Buddha, as Lama Tsongkhapa praised, your body is a result of the accumulation of three aeons of countless merits, “to this great wonder I praise.” And therefore when you look at a Buddha statue, it benefits you because it represents three aeons of body, speech and mind practice. So if it’s a Tara statue, if it’s a Vajrayogini statue, if it’s a Shakyamuni statue, a Tsongkhapa statue, a Mahakala statue, a Setrap statue…if it’s an Amithaba statue, if it’s an Avalokiteshvara statue, whatever it is, it is three countless aeons of practice. And therefore whatever you do to that statue, if you put it in a beautiful shrine, if you put gold on it, you put jewels on it, you clean it, you make offerings to it, you prostrate to it, you do prayers, you meditate in front of it, you are tapping into three great aeons of ethical virtue and merit of body, speech and mind. Therefore, when you have that Buddha statue in a room, trust me, your little wrong door, wrong window, wrong color, wrong direction feng shui, cleared. Because you’re talking about…you want to wash a little cup, they give you an ocean worth of water to wash it out. You think your cup will be clean? Trust me, it will be swept away, you’ll never see it again, on the other side of the universe. Can you imagine using a whole ocean worth of water to wash one little cup? That’s what you are doing when you put a Buddha statue in your room to clear out feng shui.

So you know what? You don’t need to change no windows, you don’t need to change no colors, you don’t need to change your furniture. Just put a Buddha statue there and say, “Do your job!” And then if your place has something spiritually off, you know, things that go bump in the night, things that are attracted to frangipani flowers, and they are there, things that fly with heads and just intestines hanging, you know. Things, when you walk down the stairs, you feel someone went…”huhhhh!”, or when you’re asleep you feel someone going (imitates spirit touching someone). In Kandarohi’s case, he’ll be like, “More” but for most of us it’ll be like, “No thanks.”

So we put a protective Buddha who manifested out of compassion in a fierce form…those spiritual beings become spiritual and leave you alone. Alright? So when we offer gold on the Buddha, we are offering gold to three aeons of merit, and you know what happens? You collect the virtues and the imprints to achieve the same thing, and hence we put ornaments on Buddhas. Hence Buddha statues are incredible blessings, and therefore the bigger the statue, the better. The bigger, the better. The more mantras inside, the better. The more jewels, the better. Why? If we adorn ourselves with jewels, it’s like putting jewels on a corpse. Just put it underground, what’s the difference? If we put it on a Buddha, we are putting it on what it represents. So raising funds for Buddha statues or paying for Buddha statues or buying or having them is tremendous benefit. Tremendous. And that’s visual, visual, alright, that’s visual. And then when we prostrate to a Buddha statue or we make offerings, what are we making offerings to? Some stone or some clay or some copper, gold-plated image? No! To a Buddha and hence in Buddhist practice we make Buddha images all over the world, huge and big ones because of what they represent and the benefit it brings.

So every time each one of us clowns sees that, whether we recognize that or not, it plants the seeds of enlightenment in our mind. Because his whole body is the result of virtuous practice of three aeons. You guys understand that? Just think about the impact of that. And each Buddha is very compassionate because for each of our illusions and delusions and problems and difficulties, he manifests and shows himself in different forms, in different colors, in different mudras, in different stances, in different hand implements to counter a specific problem that we have. Specific. So that’s why if our particular Yidam is someone like Lama Tsongkhapa, the impact is great. To have a big image of him, to have him there, to bless and clear the environment, to make offerings, to even earn our salary to put towards something holy like that, what are you developing? You are creating the causes for you to become that Buddha image, to be that Buddha body. Incredible. Incredible. And then, that is in physical form. That is in physical form.

Now Buddhas are not stuck or blocked in on just a physical emanation or just one way of emanating to benefit beings. Because they have an enlightened mind based on altruism, and they have skillful means, that skillful means can manifest based in body, sound, sight. So therefore when the three countless aeons of virtue of a Buddha manifest in sound, it is called mantras. Mantras are the sound emanation of a Buddha’s three aeons of ethical conduct, virtue, practices, asceticism. Can you imagine that? So every time you chant OM MANI PADME HUM, OM AH RA PATSA NA DHI, OM BENZAPANI HUM, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA, MIG MEY TZE WEY TER CHEN CHENREZIG, DRIMEY KHYEN PEY WANG PO JAMPALYANG, DU PUNG MA LU JOM ZEY SANG WEY DAG, GANGCHEN KHEY PEY TSUG CHEN TSONGKHAPA, LOBSANG DRAG PEY SHAB LA SOL WA DEB, TAYATHA OM BEKANZE BEKANZE MAHA BEKANZE BEKANZE RADZA SAMUDGATE SOHA, TAYATHA OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI YE SVAHA…when you OM MAHA YAKCHA TSA SOHA, when you recite that mantra, you are using the power of your speech and, through that gateway, you invoke upon the Buddha’s three aeons of countless merits, virtues and practice to go into you.

Now mantras are words of power. Why are they power? Power for what? Power to transform our delusions. Power to transform our unhappiness. Power to transform our hatred, our impatience. Power to transform everything in our mind that makes us unhappy and negative and evil and rotten people. And to find the real us, kind, compassionate, altruistic people. So when we recite mantras, it is to counter delusions based on the sound coming from the power of three aeons of practice of the Buddha. Does everybody understand that? That is one way that it helps us.

Second way is, mantras can be used for developing very powerful concentration and awareness meditation. Everything in life, how much suffering we create for others, and ourselves is dependent on awareness. Even in the animal kingdom – now listen up – even in the animal kingdom, how alert an animal is means his survival. So an animal that is “duhhh” gets eaten up, no and’s, if’s and but’s. No second chance. They get eaten up. Some birds sitting in a tree, “duhhh”, they get caught by a bigger bird, eaten. You know, very simple. A stupid snake hanging out, bathes in the sun because he feels a little cold, gets eaten up by a big bird. You know? Stupid animals get eaten. Stupid people don’t make it. Stupid ghosts don’t get any offerings. And stupidity means what? Stupidity is just an evil word that we use coz it’s fun, but it actually means lack of awareness. Not being aware. Not being aware of what’s going on, what’s happening around you, in front, nothing. You’re always like in your own little planet, and your own little planet is very small. So lack of awareness.

So awareness is the key to survival. Awareness is the key to good survival. Awareness is the key to success. Awareness is the key to knowledge. Awareness is the key to happiness. Awareness is the key of Buddhism. Why? When we are aware of things that happen and our level of awareness grows, we are extremely sensitive people. We’re extremely alert people, and we are people that can use this alertness and awareness in normal life to succeed in life, and in spiritual life to advance in practice. When we are not alert and we’re not aware, in ordinary life we lose. In spiritual life, we can’t gain any further. Why? It all develops from the mind. Awareness and alertness. So therefore mantras, in the southern tradition of Buddhism…in the southern tradition of Buddhism, they use the breath. They use breath meditation where they sit with the seven-point Vairochana posture, right and left with their thumbs holding, resting at our lap. The feet, the legs are either in full lotus or half lotus. The back is straight, uplifted, our spine is straight, our eyes look forward, not up, not down. Straightforward if possible, in Zahir’s case, on the nose tip. In Jamie’s case, in the floor in the front or she’ll go buzz eyed. But in Zahir’s case he doesn’t concentrate on the tip, just the center. Because the tip is a little too far. And then the tongue up on the roof of the mouth. And we meditate on the breath, we block out everything. And trust me, it is very not easy to meditate on the breath, in and out, in and out. How long you can meditate and hold the breath, how long is how your awareness will grow, because at a certain point in your meditation, you will hear sounds you didn’t hear before. You will smell things you didn’t smell before, and without your eyes you can feel the presence of people around you, you can hear the presence around you. And as your meditation advances, your mind calms, your awareness grows, you’re able to see ethereal beings, you’re able to see higher level beings, you can see spiritual beings, you can even have visions. And then when you go deeper and deeper and deeper what happens is this. You’re able to gain very good memory into things such as very far back into your childhood. You can have perfect memory into things such as when you were even born and what you were thinking inside your mother’s stomach. And then when you go back in your memory you can even remember your previous lives, your previous lives, your previous lives. That type of awareness will grow. Oh definitely.

And then higher forms of awareness meditation will create clairvoyance. You have clear audio, vision, you can see things that people cannot see, hear things that people cannot here, and you’ll know people’s thoughts. You have clairvoyance, it all arises from awareness. So, if we do the southern tradition, it’s a little slower because it’s upon the breath. If we do the northern tradition, which the aim is the same, awareness, it’s very much faster so we use mantras. Now, when we use mantras we are doing a double-fold benefit onto ourselves. We are invoking the three aeons of a Buddha into us, the blessings, one. Two, we instead of focusing on the breath, we focus on the mantra. For example, during meditation, we focus on Avalokiteshvara’s mantra, OM MANI PADME HUNG, OM MANI PADME HUNG, OM MANI PADME HUNG, OM MANI PADME HUNG, you keep the sound at a still where you can hear it but people outside cannot. You keep it regular, you keep it well, and in your heart you visualize a HUM on a moon disc. Around that is OM MANI PADME HUNG circling, going around, with six different colors, representing the six different realms of samsara, which you wish to conquer and empty out. And brilliant lights going out into the six realms, eliminating the sufferings of others, while you recite that mantra very methodically, OM MANI PADME HUNG, and you focus your mind on not what you gonna eat, you’re hungry, you’re tired, your legs hurt, you don’t focus on the weather, you don’t focus on the mosquitoes, you don’t focus on anything…you focus on the mantra, and how long you can focus on the mantra is how strong your meditation of awareness is.

And when you keep that meditation strong and aware, not only that you are able to remember previous lives, your memory becomes excellent, your mind becomes firm and strong, and you are able to endure hardship…also simultaneously, because it’s invoking on blessings of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, your meditation will be doubled. Faster and quicker. Why? Simultaneously, through the breath, you are not meditating on the empty breath that has no substance, you are meditating on Avalokiteshvara who is an enlightened being. Therefore meditation on that creates merit which propels your meditation into higher levels. Propels. Why? It is on the basis of merit one gains enlightenment and the purification of negative karma and higher thoughts, higher realizations. So when you do the mantras, it propels your mind into a higher state of awareness and it creates a great amount of merit. And a third benefit is if it’s the mantra of for example, Tara, of Setrap, of Dzambala, whatever the deities represent, whatever the deities represent, you are invoking on that particular aspects of enlightenment. So if you are invoking on White Tara, healing comes. Strong body, strong mind, strong nervous system, strong bones, strong circulatory, strong internal organ, strong muscles, everything strong because White Tara’s energy is to heal your body, free it from the causes for it to become sick and unhappy so that you can use your body to benefit others. So therefore the result of this mantra on the side is your body will become lustrous, clean, bright, energetic and extremely attractive to others to bring them to the Dharma.

So if you do Dzambala’s meditation, Dzambala’s mantra, OM DZAMBALA DZALEN DRAYE SOHA, you do it in front of Dzambala’s image, with offerings prepared, and you have done the jorchoe, the six preparatory practices of meditation, jorchoe, six meditations, six preparatory practices, you sit in front of Lama Dzambala and you do your meditation, OM DZAMBALA DZALEN DRAYE SOHA, on awareness and invoking his energy, you will destroy the causes for you to have poverty. You will destroy the causes for you not to be successful in business and earning money, or whatever you like. You will be very successful in earning wealth, you will be very successful in gaining wealth to benefit others and you will also destroy the causes for you to be born in places where it’s very poor or no opportunities, in future lives, from Lama Dzambala’s practice.

So whatever mantra you do, A) you tap into three aeons of Buddha’s energy, of Buddha’s merits and ethics, so you gain the imprints to also achieve that. B) you create awareness. You use that as a meditation to create awareness to gain higher insights within your own mind. C) the mantras also will help you to invoke the particular energy of that particular deity, that particular representation of enlightenment, to gain the particular power or benefit you need from that particular deity. And one more benefit is that because the mantras invoke upon Buddhas, they can be used for healing, they can be used for blessing animals, they can be used for blessing the sick, and blessing the dead, and helping people to clear the environment. Example, if you do Setrap’s mantra well and you achieve Setrap, achieve means become very close by altruism. Achieve Setrap means what? That your mind is very altruistic in propitiating Setrap, that your mind is not about me, me, me, it is about benefitting others. So when you think about benefiting others and you do Setrap’s mantra, you have achieved Setrap. So when you have achieved Setrap and you go to a room that is defiled, that is unclean, that is dirty, that’s filled with disasters or many people has been killed, or you go near a person that needs to be exorcised or taken trance of something evil, or the body has been hexed, OM MAHA YAKCHA TSA SOHA, OM MAHA YAKCHA TSA SOHA, and you think about altruistic and about benefitting people from that suffering so that they don’t do more negative things to create more negative sufferings. And you recite, you invoke upon Setrap’s energy (blows breath out)…you clear the room. Why? When you blow the mantra, it’s as if you are blowing millions and millions of Setraps into that environment. Why? By the power of your meditation, conjoined with Setrap’s energy, combined with your altruistic mind.

Then when you do White Tara’s mantra very well, and invoke upon White Tara, if you work in a hospital, in healing places, as a doctor, as a nurse, oh it’s beautiful! Why? People are very sick on their medicines, for your parents, for your animals (blows breath out)…it really expedites their healing very, very, very, much. Very, very, very much. And then if you have achieved Dzambala, if you give people Dzambala images, and they worship and they practice and do it correctly, their wealth will grow. If you have achieved Manjushri, you do Manjushri practices and you do it well, Lama Tsongkhapa, Manjushri, you know what happens? When you speak about Dharma, when you speak about the truth, when you speak about things that benefit people, when you speak about change, their minds will turn. Why? You have achieved Manjushri, so you have skillful means in order to bring them to the Dharma.

So like that, mantras are words of power, on a very basic level, to heal and take care of immediate problems, spirits, demons, sickness, unhappiness. And on a next level, on the next level, it creates awareness. It makes your mind focus. Why? You’re using the breath and mantra. And, mantras can be used to control natural calamities. Mantra can be used to control the weather. Oh there are many holy lamas, I’ve seen with my own eyes! Who would blow the Yamantaka mantra into the air, within a few minutes you will see the rain disperse. In places where there are no rain and they need it really badly, they will blow Yamantaka mantras in the air. Within half hour you will see a downpour like it hasn’t downpoured in weeks. I have seen it with my own eyes. Not once or not twice. It can’t be coincidence. I’ve seen it. I’m not telling you something I read from 1500 years ago, I’ve seen it in my own backyard with high lamas. Trust me, I’ve been out there blowing until I was blue and nothing happens. But these high lamas, oh they can control the weather. I’ve seen it. No rituals, nothing. Definitely. You can heal people’s lesions and problems and sickness by mantra. You can clear and exorcise them by mantras, but you have to achieve it. Achieve means what? Altruistic thought, concentration on the particular Yidam and devotion to the Yidam, and the wish to benefit others. That is most important for mantra practice.

And then you have the secret level mantras that without initiation you cannot do. Why? Because those mantras move the inside. So those mantras are secret, let me explain why. One of the reasons is because with those mantras, it isn’t simply to recite. Those mantras are conjoined with the movement of the winds inside of your body. And joining the winds into the central channels of your body where, from the 72000 physic channels in your body, it combines into the three main channels. That combines into the central channel where your mind resides, and with those mantras and meditation you can control your rebirth. You can control when you die, when you go, how long you will stay, and you can control where you go. One of those mantras is Vajrayogini’s mantra. So they are not to be recited by the uninitiated.  Why? Because they are combined with the meditation, and that meditation must be given to qualified people, who have already finished their preliminary retreats and preliminary practice.

And certain mantras that are general, they have meditations but they are not ‘dangerous’. Meaning wind meditations. Because you know, Chinese have this word, tau fung, wind off, Tibetans also have that. Means the wind literally goes off. We’re not talking about women, we’re talking about anybody. Because we had a case of a monk – well, that’s what he manifested, I can’t guarantee – where he went to the mountains, he meditated wrong, came back, he was obnoxiously crazy. Nice guy but crazy. If there is women running up and down the monastery, he’d chased after them. Once he caught them, he just wants to hold them and then he lets them go. He doesn’t do anything more. When you see him you’re like, “ohhhh”. And he would run around barefoot all over the monastery…I mean a monk chasing women in the monastery, you know, when women went through to make offerings and stuff, he’d chased them. I mean it is a little not too good. But everybody left him alone because they knew that he was not well, and the story went that he went into the hills for years to meditate and it went wrong.

It could have been that or he’s manifesting as mahasiddha. I don’t know. But he used to come to my window and scare the crap out of me. My window was facing the road behind me and then I’d be sitting there doing, I don’t know, picking my nose, listening to Madonna – yes, in the monastery, I was caught many times – hanging out, reading some serial killer book, whatever. Everything but Dharma practice, I’d be doing and he’d be on the window and he’d be like, “What are you doing?” I’d be like, “OHHHHHH, oh god you scared the crap out of me!” He did this almost daily so I had this phobia. You think, “Well, why don’t you keep the window closed?” Because it was so hot, there was no aircon. I mean south India, I was burning up. I’d have phobia thinking, “Where’s Gen Tenzin?” Gen means teacher, Tenzin is his name. Because he was older, I just couldn’t call him Tenzin, it’s not respectful. I’d be like (looks over shoulder). And sometimes he’d be sitting there and staring at me for minutes, and I’d turn around and I’d be like, “OHHHH” and I’d just see these two eyes like (imitates someone blinking closely), and I’d be like, “Oh my god!” And then sometimes he’d just split…he’d split and then a few seconds later I’d hear some women down the street, screaming, “Ahhhhhhhh! It’s Gen Tenzin! Let’s get out of here! Ahhhhhhhh!” And you’d hear his footsteps chasing them, and sometimes he’d catch them, he’d just hold their hands for a few minutes, let them go. Oh god that went on for years and years and years. I said, “Why do you chase women?” and he says, “Because they are beautiful!” And I’m like, “What do you do with them?” “Well, I like to touch them!” I’m like, “Oh.” Like, why I didn’t think of that! And he was so funny…all the time. He was very dark, very skinny, and he had eyes that flickered.

So after a while, I thought, “No, he is a mahasiddha. He is something weird.” I’d respect him very much. He’d come to my window and he’d go like that to me (imitates prostration). But if there is women, of course he’d split. And then he would always ask me for money or tea or something so whenever I had money – I didn’t have much – I’d take money out and I’d offer to him with two hands, thinking, “If you’re a mahasiddha, may I gain your attainments”, offer to him all the time. I didn’t disrespect him or anything. The police, the Indian people, even the Indian women, no one reported him, no one harassed him because he was harmless. But his brother, who I think his wind is off too but nevermind, his brother his name is Gen blublublublu I can’t say it, it’s not respectful, used to tell me that he went to the mountains to meditate and went off.

The higher forms of meditation, you need a Guru, you need a guide. So if you have not developed a relationship with your Guru from beginning to end, it’s very hard just to show up. For example, hundreds of people show up for initiation and then they are gone. They develop don’t a relationship with their Guru beforehand, they don’t develop a relationship with their Guru afterhand. They just show up during initiation and disappear. So when they do practices nothing happen. No one can guide them, no one can teach them, no one can do anything. We need to develop a relationship with our Guru from beginning to end. And if we have a Guru that is skillful, that has love and that has ways to purify our karma, we follow the Guru without complaining, we listen to the Guru without complaining and whatever exercises he gives us to transform our mind, we take it happily without complaining.

The minute we are rude, we shout, we say vulgar things, we show bad actions toward our Guru, it reflects us. Why? A Guru in our mind should be a reflection of the highest point of enlightenment, of what we want to achieve. If we are disrespectful to our Guru, that’s the whole basis, we’re disrespectful to ourselves and what we can achieve. So people who are very rude to their Guru, are very vulgar, and very impatient, and demand and complain and bitch about their Guru, you look at the state of their life. You look at where they are in their life, you look at their body, you look at their speech, you look at their mind. You look at what they do with themselves. Why? If they respect their Guru, in this case because there are many ways to test the person out, isn’t just by Buddhism, in some cases it’s how they respect their parents. In some cases, it’s how they respect their husbands and wives, or their lovers or their friends. They are different meter sticks. But in our case, for people who claim they have Gurus and stuff, how they respect their Gurus is how they respect their state of enlightenment and what they want to achieve. If they are flippant about it, they’re flippant about what they want to achieve. If they are rude about it, they’re not sincere. How they act reflects their state of mind. it’s very clear. You have to think about that.

So, Gurus are very compassionate. If they are real Gurus, they are very kind to people who are mean, they are very kind to people who are rude, they are very kind to people who scream vulgar things and say negative things about them. Why? For them it doesn’t disturb them. They look at them with compassion and think, “I need to help this person more”. So Gurus will always keep weird, strange, flippant, rude and nasty people around them. Why? Nobody else will keep them. Nobody else would have them. Nobody else will listen to them. Nobody else will ever help them. So a practice of compassion is not having nice people around you. A practice of compassion is having nasty people around you and to show love, and show response to them, no matter what they say and how they complain. Mantras can help us on that. The practice of OM MANI PADME HUNG, and the meditation of Avalokiteshvara and the Eight Verses of Transforming Our Mind can be very great in taking care of other people who need help.

So mantras work on very different levels. Secret mantras such as Heruka, Yamantaka, Guhyasamaja, Kalachakra, those are very sacred, and they can’t be just spoken out. Why? Because they are combined with meditation. And then the meditation, development of that and the recitation of that, and the result of that is dependent on holding the vows, the bodhisattva and the tantric vows. So when we hold our bodhisattva vows and tantric vows well, conjoined with meditation, combined with mantra, things move. Things move. So a teacher who is skillful will not put his students in meditation, will not put his student in tantra or initiation and he will treat them, he will step them up in the preliminary practices. You know they scold the student. Scold and scold and scold until the scolding doesn’t disturb the student anymore. Why? If he or she cannot take scolding from the Guru, he cannot take scolding from the whole planet, so this person will always be fighting and violent. So the Guru is very kind because he puts himself on the firing line of people who have a lot of negative emotions. Lots of negative emotions. That’s the purpose of a Guru. The guru puts himself in your firing line. So what happens is this, is that when we do mantras correctly conjoined with meditation, combined with vows, the result is great. Until that point the Guru will skillfully lead you by practice, by meditation, by reading, by study, by training.

And if you are lucky to be near Guru for a few years, to be personally trained by Guru you are very very fortunate. Why? It takes many lifetimes and many prayers to even see a Buddha image, to have reverence for, to know its significance and to hear about it. Imagine how much more merit you need to be near a Buddha? A living Buddha or a being that teaches Buddhism, for you that is a living Buddha. So to be near a statue needs so much merit, but the statue cannot speak to you. To be near a Guru that can speak the Dharma to you, that is even better than a statue. So to disrespect this person or to talk negatively about this person, to act in an ungracious way towards this person, no matter what training you have gotten, reflects your state of mind and your ulterior motive and then good results cannot come. So lower states, the Guru will guide you until the point of initiation. And when you receive initiation and you practice intensely, the results will be there. Why? Holding the vows combined with meditation and mantra will make your attainments grow and your delusions, purified. The mantras are very, very powerful. Very, very powerful. That is why we devote ourselves to a Guru, that is why we have respect for our Guru, that is why we support a Guru’s work, that is why we help a Guru. Why? So that he may do this for many others. What other reason would we do that, what other reason? So the Guru is very skillful in guiding us to higher meditation practices.

So if we stick by, if we’re compliant, if we’re pliant, if we’re agreeable, and we let him help us instead of making terms and conditions and times and this way and that way, then you limit his ability to help you, then you cut it. It’s like if we find a new girlfriend, we’ll make our time available 24/7, whenever she wants. But if it’s somebody we don’t like, “Oh I’m busy on this day, I’m busy on that day, I can’t do this, I can’t do that” – we have a lot of rules. Similarly, if we treat our Guru like a new lover, we’re very compliant, therefore our attainments will grow and our knowledge will grow. If we’re incompliant towards our Guru, we make a lot of conditions, then our attainments don’t grow. Why? Then you limit the possibility of getting that knowledge. So if you like Buddha statues, better is to have a Guru.

So the power of mantra is very very powerful. The power of mantra, the power of mantra is based on the meditation that you do. This set of meditations that you do from beginning to end, helps you from taking refuge, developing the altruistic mind, the Four Immeasurables, the altruistic mind and the four immeasurable types of thought, combined with dissolution of the world as you know it and its projections, and the reappearance of that world into a Buddha field surrounded by mandalas and all beings surrounding it to be dakas and dakinis, and embodiments of enlightenment. And the meditation stages of dissolving the universe, dissolving samsara into emptiness, and arising from emptiness, and then combining that with dissolving the winds, the channels and drops of your body, to purify your delusions and illusions, and then transform your body like that of your meditational deity, into that of a vehicle to benefit others, up to the point of reciting mantras of felicitation, reciting prayers of benediction and felicitation, and reciting aspirational prayers to benefit others, up to dedication, that refuge to that dedication is what we call a sadhana.

So a sadhana is literally translated as this: self-growth. Why? Sadhana is Sanskrit, in Tibetan it’s called da-key. Da means self. Key means to grow, or to develop or to transform. So the word can be grow, develop, transform, transmute. Transform, transmute, grow from what? From a delusional state of self-centered mind to an altruistic mind that thinks of others. So the purpose of doing a sadhana is to transmute or transform, like elixir, from mercury to gold, from that of a delusional mind, to that of a wisdom mind. That’s the purpose of a sadhana. Each deity has a sadhana. Each deity has a mantra. Each deity has a special meditation and each deity has a special path. Each deity and each mantra and each path is perfect for becoming enlightened, but their approach is different. Each deity sadhana is appropriate for enlightenment and will bring you to enlightenment, but the difference is that the approach is different and that approach depends on one’s individualistic inclinations. Meaning if one is more lust-based, desire-based, hatred-based, ignorant-based, anger-based, then according to one’s basis, and one’s immediate, heaviest delusion, then one’s Yidam will be the one that counters the heaviest delusion, simultaneously purifying the other delusions in one go.

Example, Lord Yamantaka would be anger and deep ignorance and use that method. Lord Heruka will be lust and attachment. Guhyasamaja will be a combination of all three. So Vajrayogini being the synthesis of Heruka’s practice, a shorter version, will be a counter to desire, lust, attachment and using that method to become enlightened. Hence her body red, her visage fierce, trampling on demons of selfishness and ignorance and hatred. The black figure under Vajrayogini represents hatred and ignorance. The red figure under her represents desire. So when she tramples on those three, she tramples on the very causes of samsara, which are the three animals in the center of samsara’s wheel – the pig, the rooster and the snake. SO Vajrayogini stepping on those three, which is the center of samsara, representing that’s the cause of samsara – ignorance, hatred and desire. So she tramples on those three. When you practice Vajrayogini together with mantra, with meditation and holding your vows, it propels you to her state. What is that state? The state free of those three delusions.

So a sadhana is something we do every single day, it’s a practice manual. From A-Z to becoming enlightened. It is a set form of prayers which starts with refuge, next is aspirational prayers, the Four Immeasurables, thoughts and then dissolution of the environment as we know, and development or the projection of the environment as it should be. Dissolution of the environment as it is, projection or creation of a Buddha environment, of a Buddha being, and Buddha sound, everything Buddha. And then using that combined with making offerings, supreme and mundane to the deity, such as offerings that we place in front of the Yidam, as a method to collect merit, conjoined with meditation in our mind to control the winds, channels and drops. The winds is the wind that passes through, it’s chi. The drops, the bindhu, is the fundamental drop that started us, the single drop from our mother red, the single drop from our father, to control that which remains in our body. And the channels, one, two (recites a prayer), five chakras which are joined energy points for our winds to travel.

So during this sadhana, you are holding your vows that you get during initiation to stop doing further negative things. It’s like someone who smokes, no more ciggie butts, you cut it off, that is what the vows do, cold turkey. So a lot of people can’t do cold turkey, so before you take tantric vows, that’s why your Guru doesn’t let you go do it, he trains you up. So people who are fierce, the Guru is fierce; people who are gentle, gentle; whatever the Guru needs to train you up, this way or this way, the Guru will train you, because you can’t give the vows cold turkey to people, they will break it. Defeats the purpose. It’s like giving a little baby crystal glass. When the baby grows up, give it, can no problem. When the baby small, you give it a crystal glass, break what, drop. So similarly the Guru trains you up. If you submit yourself to the training, you will come out excellent. If you fight it, then maybe you have a better method. If you fight it, you don’t have a better method you look at yourself, are you happy? Are you depressed? How is your body, how is your friends, your attitude, your mind, how are you? You have to look at yourself. Okay? Then, by this meditation combined with making offerings, holding your vows and the secret power of mantra, when you combine it such as in Vajrayogini’s case, your attainments will be very fast. Very efficacious.

So a sadhana is a self-transformation text, self-transformation manual and guide to enlightenment. And each deity has their specific sadhana to do. It can be short or it can be long. The prayers that I have composed that are in DMT, those are not sadhanas, those are prayers. Prayers are aspirations in words that we offer to the deities, hoping that what we prayed for will manifest. So aspirational prayers are something we aspire to. So for new people who go into DMT, KMT, they just buy a Dzambala and they don’t know what to do, I give them aspirational prayers with the mantra so that they can make prayers to Dzambala, to have that actualize and by reciting the mantra, purify their negative karma, so that they can achieve something small from it. Questions? Sadhanas and mantras.

(someone asks a question)

(answer) You can do mantras on their own. Of course.


(someone asks a question)

(answer) Depending on the environment and situation. I mean, if you’re with your parents and they think that you’re a religious fanatic and you have joined a cult, you don’t see them and go, “OM MANI PADME HUNG, OM MANI PADME HUNG, OM MANI PADME HUNG.” You don’t do that. If you’re driving, you don’t go into shamata meditation (snores). You don’t do that.

So it depends on the situation but generally mantras should be recited at the tone where just yourself can hear it but the neighbor cannot. At that tone. And if it is not convenient, silently. But by hook or crook, your mouth must move. You can’t sit there and go (imitates mouth closed) “Mmmhmmmhmmm”, then you might as well not do anything. “I’m doing mantras what.” You know, you can’t you…you have to at least move your mouth, very important. Because if you move your mouth the sound of the mantra, the mantra is the energy, the essence, the attainments, is the power of that deity in sound form. So you are enunciating all the qualities of the deity. And there is a type of mantra…there are levels that you can do the mantra silently, which means yi-dey. Yi-dey is mind mantra, meaning you have reached a stage where you don’t have to move your mouth, you can actually recite the mantra in your mind. That’s quite a high stage. People in Vajrayogini’s mantra it’s possible. You have the yi-dey here and you can move it to your belly, you can move it to your secret organ, you can move it to back up, you can move the mantra up and down, recite it without moving your mouth. Oh yes. Those type of people, they can control their orgasms. And when they have orgasms, it’s very strong, it’s very powerful and they can see their subtle mind with their orgasms. Or in their deep sleep. It’s very, very powerful. So with Vajrayogini you can move your mantras up and down without using your mouth, you can use yi-dey, mind mantra. Isn’t that fabulous?

So just now when you make offerings there, what you are praying for is to get all of those in the future. So I advise you guys to stick around. Because when I get that retreat center open and you guys are my friends, I’m going to be passing you a fabulous, delicious, wonderful, Miss World pageant winner. Vajrayogini. Her name is Miss Vajrayogini, come on out. She won in talent and beauty and smart and everything. You know when they interviewed you, “What is your fondest wish?”, she didn’t say, “World peace.” Oh yes, that is what you guys are going to get later. Why Vajrayogini? Look at us. We need her badly. Look at us. Look at Kandarohi. Kandarohi is screaming for Vajrayogini, screaming. Why is he screaming for Vajrayogini? Because he screamed at me the other day when I asked him, “Why don’t you get laid?” and he said, “Don’t you think I’ve been trying?”, screaming. He screamed back, “Don’t you think I’ve been trying?” It’s the first time someone shut me up in a long, long time. He’s screaming. When he said that, he was screaming, he was screaming Vajrayogini. Look at all of you sexual deviants, why Because sexual energy is the most powerful and pervasive in the world. From salmons that swim upstream to mate and then spawn and die, to human beings that live their whole life spending money for sex, getting it, the pleasure of it, wanting it. That’s why Vajrayogini is the most appropriate for all of us, because she is the one that absorbs that, allows it and transforms it. Isn’t that wonderful? Absorbs it, allows it and transforms it. I didn’t say restrict so you guys don’t have to look for the door, and transforms it…because the minute you say restrict, they say, “Where’s the door? Where’s the door? I’m not doing any cult practices that means no boobli!” Yes. If you say ‘restrict’, Paris and a few of her other friends like Kandarohi will be like, “Where’s the door?” Get it? That is why Vajrayogini is very appropriate.

Tonight’s talk became a little profound and deep. And I don’t know if you can come out with questions immediately, but Saturday…I’m sure from now to there, Paris will go home and type out 5000 questions and harass me with. And what we do is we will have 10 people screen her questions and it comes out to me to be one, thank you. Any questions about sadhanas and mantras?

(someone asks a question)

(answer) Remind me to give you a little short version on mantras and sadhanas on Saturday. That you can write up on one little pager on. Because now, what I gave, you’re like, “Ohhhh”. Henry doesn’t even write notes anymore. After I tell him, he’s like, “Oh forget it lah.” Henry is just…the only wind he likes is some tobacco wind. So think about that. I’ll give you a little, simpler form of sadhana and mantra which should take you about 10 minutes. I want to go a little in-depth, I’ll tell you why: you guys are capable about it. And you guys made offerings just now. I wanted it to result in something. Any questions?

(someone asks a question)

(answer) Yes it depends. In the case of Tara, her mantra was spoken by Lord Vajrapani when he was requested to talk about Tara. In the case of certain other Taras, she herself appeared to people like Nagajurna, to people like Atisha…example, there was one student of Atisha’s that was very, very ill. Very, very sick, and he had to do 100,000 Praises to Tara, 21 Praises to Tara in order to become healed. He was so sick that he couldn’t even recite one. So Atisha felt compassionate for him and didn’t know what to do, so he prayed to Tara. Tara appeared to him in the simplified form, and taught him the 21 verses condensed into one paragraph. And then Atisha passed it to this man to recite it, and he became well. So sometimes the deities themselves appear.

In the case of Vajrayogini, Heruka spoke it. In the case of Heruka, Shakyamuni spoke it. Very good question. All mantras have a source. They cannot be made up. Example, His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche’s mantra – apostrophe ‘s’, okay keep the tomatoes and fruits to yourself, don’t throw it to me alright – was made up by my holy Guru Gangchen Rinpoche who says that when people recite it, it will benefit them. It’ll transform their minds. It will help them to realize things better and prolong my life. So in the case of (says his name silently) mantra was by His Eminence Gangchen Rinpoche, requested by my students in Westin Hotel when he arrived here.

(audio cut)…what they want, sweeping, and doing the laundry, the king; the courtesan, recited Vajrayogini’s initiation and he became enlightened. So this mahasiddha has been reincarnating over and over again in Nepal and India and in Tibet. And this mahasiddha’s name is His Eminence Gangchen Tulku Rinpoche. He’s one of my Gurus. He resides in Italy. Yes. Fabulous. Lemons here had the great merit to meet His Eminence Gangchen Rinpoche in Italy. Great merit. Okay, any questions? Susan? Sharon? Wasn’t it fabulous? Yes. Any questions? Kandarohi? What about Sleepyrohi Joe? Joe is always in deep shamata towards the end, he’s like (imitates someone nodding off). What about JJ-rohi? Again, a reminder, no more tight shirts for you. Alright. Go ahead.

(JJ asks a question)

(answer) Oh yes. Now, that’s a very good question. There are four classes of tantra: charya, kriya, yoga and maha-anuttara yoga. The three lower classes of tantra specifically deals with transformation of immediate obstacles. This is what Kensur Rinpoche says: in chaju or kriya tantra, in the lower tantras, what Kensur Rinpoche mentioned is, it will take care of immediate problems and difficulties. And when immediate problems and difficulties are taken care of, then we are able to practice the higher tantras that will actually bring us to enlightenment. So example, if we have monetary problems, we will receive Dzambala retreat, initiation, practice, profound mantra, oral transmission and we do his sadhana. And the Dzambala sadhanas do not really go in-depth into mind transformation, it doesn’t really go into in-depth into the meditation of winds, drops and channels. What Dzambala’s meditation does is actually, immediately purifies the causes for us to be in a poverty situation, clears immediate obstacles, opens up our heart a little bit more to generosity, and therefore with that practice, when we get some money, we’re alright, we can go into retreats. We can do higher practices such as Vajrayogini. Higher and lower is not the deity’s power, higher and lower is the method that is presented. Example, the lower tantra such as Manjushri…let’s say we have bad memory so we go for teachings and we can’t stay awake, we’re not aware, we’re always asleep, we always forget, we’re not alert, so we do a Manjushri retreat, the Manjushri retreat gives us the alertness of the mind. Then we can engage in Yamantaka. Yamantaka and Manjushri is exactly the same deity. One is not lower or higher. So that when we engage in Yamantaka’s retreat, we can gain enlightenment.

So the lower tantric methods are specifically to take care of a problem such as poverty, sickness, mind illness, disorder, obstacles…Example, if we always see spirits, we might need to go into the practice of Black Manjushri in the lower tantras, or Vajrapani. If we always have horrible skin diseases or horrible sickness, we might have to go into the practice of Vajrapani. Maybe we need compose and write and do Dharma texts, we need to practice Saraswati, Manjushri, or the great Lama Tsongkhapa. And then when we’re able to do that, along with that we can do practices of Yamantaka or Vajrayogini or Heruka. Why? The higher tantras deal with, specifically, enlightenment. The lower tantras deal with immediate taking care of problems. Very good. So not everybody is able to go into the higher tantras, but people who can do the higher tantras, they don’t need to do the lower tantras because the higher tantras embody everything. If you are doing Yamantaka, you don’t need to do Manjushri. If you’re doing Manjushri, you need to do Yamantaka. Why? Because Yamantaka is the full-fledged form of this practice. This is just a condensed form. Does everybody understand that? Oh yes, it’s very very powerful.

(someone asks a question)

(answer) Same effect as in purifying other obstacles, yes. And preparing you for Yamantaka’s practice, yes. But not for full enlightenment in one lifetime. So when you do Lama Tsongkhapa’s practice what happens is you create the causes that in case you don’t become enlightened, you take rebirth in Ganden Heaven. Tushita. One.

Two. When you do the practice of Lama Tsongkhapa, you purify the three…hatred, ignorance, and outer obstacles. When you do Lama Tsongkhapa’s practice, it is the same as doing Yamantaka meaning, Yamantaka’s mantra, when you recite, spirits cannot come near. So when you do Migtsema, if you don’t have Yamantaka, it has the same effect. Therefore if someone who does Migtsemas, and their mala is given to you and that mala is put on the door, then very fierce spirits will run. Why? From that mala emits Yamantaka deities. Why? Because they are one in being.

So the meaning of that is not a substitute, it means the immediate benefit. If we have cancer and therefore we have fever…alright? Or someone else has a flu or a fever, if we can take Panadol it helps, but it doesn’t remove the cause. Like that, either way, Panadol helps. Like that, Migtsema helps either way, but Migtsema is a short form and the immediate form of higher tantric practice preparation. So if we do Guru Yoga according to Lama Tsongkhapa, if we do water offerings according to Lama Tsongkhapa, if we do recitations of Vajrasattva according to Lama Tsongkhapa…if we do prostrations, if we do mandalas according to Lama Tsongkhapa, focusing on Lama Tsongkhapa, when we do Vajrayogini, it’s as if we’re not at the front of the door, we already in the middle of the house. We’re ready to go upstairs. It’s much quicker. Why? Lama Tsongkhapa is an easier to digest deity for people, as opposed to Vajrayogini which is quite wild and too obnoxious and scary, but has many functions. So it is equivalent to Yamantaka’s mantra in the sense of protection from outer interferences, yes; in controlling weather and spirits and black magic, yes, but not equivalent in meditation for transforming the mind. Does everybody understand that? Yes. Good. Questions? Otherwise we are finished.

“I don’t have any questions and don’t ask me any questions.” She has this kind of look. Don’t you like? Wan doesn’t go, “Thank you very much!” She goes, “Please don’t ask me anything! Please!” Any questions? Susan? Beneficial? Yes. Good. You come back for a little while, you pop in. I saw your hand. Keep it down I can see your armpit hair sticking out too. Like Richard Nixon. Hello. Isn’t that rude? You see when you come back to the peninsula it is better than that little island over there, wherever you are living at. And remember what the Buddha’s telling you. Yes JT and let’s make it an intelligent one this time.

(JT asks a question)

(answer) That’s why you doing now. That’s what you’re doing right now. Everyday. You got that right! That’s what I said! An intelligent question this time. Edit that one out. I don’t want anybody to see how evil and negative and how uncultured and how unpracticed and how uncouth this Guru is. And I don’t want this to be like, “snip” and sent to the Dalai Lama. Uh oh. Called back, excommunicated, kicked out and then you know what? Next time when you go to India, I’ll be like running around with a buffalo. And you’ll be like, “What happened to you?” “I’m a farmer now.” Which is what where I was. Isn’t that horrible? You guys on the way to Bodhgaya, it’s like, “Isn’t that Rinpoche?!” God! And then couldn’t you see Kandarohi? She’ll be like, “Here Rinpoche, here’s some cough drops for you! Mwah! Mwah! Mwah!”  and I’ll be like, “You little…” And then suddenly you see me getting on a lorry, rushing there with my buffalo and Kandarohi is running around, getting on the luxury deluxe bus, thank you very much, with the Hindi music blaring, going to the stupa…I send my buffalo. Sic ‘em, sic ‘em, get em! Moooo! Oh god! And it’ll be a water buffalo, so it’s gonna be a big one! Hmmm, you might enjoy it though. So snip this out so I don’t end up a buffalo or a rice planter farmer in India. Questions?

Well no questions? It has been a wonderful, fabulous, beautiful, delicious experience and I just can’t want for Saturday because you guys are very sincere, you guys are going to do wonderful Dharma work. And you guys are gonna write in such a way that with the skill of composition, it will benefit so many people. So if I can benefit you all with this and the outlet people are here, then it’s very pleasurable because when we get this out, more and more people will be benefited. They will have some knowledge. And this is what Dame Khang is all about. This is what Kechara House is all about. This is what our outlets are all about. And we’re normal people, I make mistakes, I have my diva fits, I have problems and difficulties, but deep down inside I am a good person, and I really do want to help. So sometimes things go up, things go down, that’s normal. I never said that I was a Buddha, I just said I’m trying to be. So that’s my catchline, “I ain’t a Buddha, I’m trying to be.””

The next time I make a mistake, they’ll go, “See! You’re not a Buddha!” “I already told you I’m not a Buddha so kiss my grits!” Alright? You know what? You’ll Vajrayogini everybody again with your backside. My, my, my. You and JJ and JT should not be allowed to wear tight things. You should wear things that are not tight and that fit. I like that! Things that are not tight and that fit. Oh that is so evil! And the original lineage of that came from Guru Paris. Well we have to have a lineage and tell them where it came from, that powerful mantra, “Om wear things that fit hung phet”, that came from Guru Paris when we had a vision of her in a green dress. So you can see Paris…Tara appears like that, Vajrayogini appears like that, Buddha appears like that, Paris appears like this. “Wear things that fit hung phet.” And then of course, the mahasiddha Tsem here had a vision of the goddess Paris and said, “Oh my god it’s a fabulous mantra! Om wear things that fit hung phet! Om wear things that fit hung phet!” And I pass it to you, and then you’re like, “I’m going to kill that mahasiddha and I’m gonna slap that Buddha! Oh god!” And then you find out, it’s not a mahasiddha or Buddha but two charlatans. Don’t you love it? Yes. So Paris, you’ve been dethroned before you were canonized by the Bahrainian inquisition. It’s been wonderful, thank you for the preparations, we will start on Saturday 3 o’clock, and then we will finish it off at 7 what is…no 6, and then we start at 7:30pm and finish at midnight. It’s going to be…sleep well Friday night, take the Xanax, take whatever pills you need to sleep well because its going to be a long, tough, fabulous whatever.

Where there is no Dharma, let there be the Dharma; where there is Dharma, let it become stronger; where there is a misunderstanding of Dharma, may we clear it. May we use our body, our speech and mind to be of tremendous benefit of others, to relieve people of their immediate unhappiness and sufferings, and their ultimate unhappiness, suffering and delusion. May we spread the word of the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation. May this country and this land be peaceful, be bountiful and be happy, may the leaders all of this country have long life, health and happiness and may the holy wishes and their virtuous wishes all come to fruition. May this place be free of natural disasters and calamities. May it be free from riots and wars and poverty. By our presence and the generation of the Bodhi mind, may this place and this country and this area be filled with bounteous thoughts and harvests.

Tsem Rinpoche



(This was transcribed from a talk I gave a  few years ago as there were many questions on mantras and I thought I’d answer the questions with this talk. And Ms Jean Ai has re-edited it again weeding out the mistakes.

I thank Ms Jean Ai for such a good job. Now I can share with more people. Tsem Rinpoche)


Masters of Tibetan Buddhism

Even Shakyamuni Buddha needed the guidance of teachers on his journey to enlightenment.  In a popular analogy, the spiritual practitioner is likened to a patient.

The Buddhist teachings or ‘Dharma’ is the medicine.  The sicknesses are mental and emotional afflictions, and the guru is the physician.

The living presence of the spiritual master makes the ideal of Buddhahood an accessible and tangible reality, and provides an inspirational role model to which a disciple can aspire.

Practitioners may receive instruction from numerous teachers, but there is generally a ‘root guru’ with whom they develop a special relationship.  Unlike other Buddhist traditions, in Tibetan, after enlightened masters die, they can be rediscovered as incarnate masters.

Such extraordinary gurus, called rinpoches or ‘precious jewels’ are at the very heart of Tibetan Buddhist Life.

3 Higher Trainings

Three Pitakas and Three Higher Trainings Generally, it is said that: The Vinaya teaches the Higher Training of Discipline The Sutras teach the Higher (ethics of moral disciplne(abandoining non-virtues), the ethics of gathering virtues and the ethics of working for the sake of sentient beings.)

the Lamrim is so great.We share the path with the small scope practiitoners, w eshare the path with the dividual liberation sekers and then w ewalk the great scope path to complete Buddhahood.

3 Ethics

Pastor Han Nee: The Three ethics are the ethics of moral disciplne(abandoining non-virtues), the ethics of gathering virtues and the ethics of working for the sake of sentient beings.


Translated from Tibetan as “Followers of the Virtuous Path”, Gelug was established in the 14th century by Tsongkhapa, widely regarded as on of Tibet’s greatest Buddhist masters.

Foundations of Gelug: emphasis on monks and nuns to follow the vinaya, the monastic code of ethical conduct that the Buddha had taught.

The Gelug school presents the path to enlightenment as a series of gradual steps in a system called Lamrim or “Stages of the Path”. and emphasizes “the three principle aspects of the path”: renunciation of worldly attachments, the altruistic determination to achieve enlightenment for others, and a correct understanding of the nature of reality.

The Three Yanas in Buddhism

The Buddhist path is traditionally divided into three yanas or vehicles:  Hinaya, Mahayana and Vajrayana.

The Hinaya shcools, of which only Theravada remains, focuses primarily on the discourses of Shakyamuni Buddha, including his guidance to develop meditative awareness and to cease all negative emotions and actions that bind us, lifetime after lifetime, to this suffering existence called samsara.

Mahayana included much of what is taught in Hinayana, but it emphasizes the altruistic motivation for practitioners to attain complete enlightenment in order to save all sentient beings from suffering.

The third vehicle, Vajrayana or tantra, means “continuum” of “unbroken stream” from ignorance to enlightenment.  Vajrayana is a continuation of Hinayana and Mahayana and has been passed through initiations from masters to disciples.


Attitude ~ Buddhist Perspective

“Why should we change our attitude? When we are cushioned and when things are taken care of for us, life will of course be very easy. However, are we sure that life will always be like that? We might be cushioned physically – eg., our parents have given us a house or our partner has bought us a car – but are we cushioned mentally? Do we remain mentally stable and cushioned throughout our relationships with people, in our finances, jobs and friendships?

If we are not cushioned mentally and we are not prepared, our whole world will fall apart the minute something external changes. For example, the minute someone leaves us or we lose some money, our whole reality will fall apart. The minute someone shows us a sour face and says something unpleasant to us, our reality will fall apart….

Dharma is the complete turnaround of our attitude and the way we perceive the things around us. Everything else is to facilitate it….

Buddhist practice is perspective.” – Tsem Rinpoche

50 Stanzas of Guru Devotion…



Lama Nga -chu-pa


The great Indian pandit Naropa said, “Before the existence of the lama there was neither buddha nor deity.” He said this because buddhas and meditation deities are emanations, or embodiments, of the guru; that’s why there was neither buddha nor meditation deity before the guru.

The great siddha Tilopa said to the great siddha Naropa, “The great results, blessings and inspiration you get from having fervent respect for your guru is due to your guru, therefore you should have fervent respect for him.”

Jetsun Milarepa said, “Try to see your guru in his actual aspect of dharmakaya. If you can, you will receive all blessings and inspiration effortlessly.”

Vajradhara himself also spoke often about the importance of guru devotion. Since all these great beings have said these things, there’s not much need for me to comment further.

However, at the beginning of his commentary to the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion, Je Tsong Khapa said, “The only door for disciples who want to experience great bliss and gain the highest attainments without much effort is the proper cultivation of guru devotion. In order to open this door, I am going to explain the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion.”

Thus, in all the commentaries by Je Tsong Khapa, everywhere—at the beginning and the end, in the dedication as well as in the introductory verses—he prays to cultivate pure and proper guru devotion.

Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang often says, “Although the sutras and tantras all have the two types of meaning—definitive and interpretive—with respect to guru devotion, they’re unanimous on the importance of guru devotion; there’s no controversy on that point.”

To show the pure lineage of whatever teaching we’re studying—if it’s tantra its source should be Vajradhara and if sutra, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha —the great gurus are quoted in this way.


Atisha, for example, cultivated 157 gurus and his deeds in both India and Tibet were very extensive and he became extremely famous as a result. This was because of his guru devotion. Although he had 157 gurus, he said that he didn’t displease even one of them for even a single moment—that’s why he was able to do such extensive deeds.

Dromtönpa, too, although a layman [Skt: upasaka], became one of the most famous of the Kadampa geshes—most of whom were monks—because of his guru devotion. He cultivated such pure, stainless guru devotion that even Atisha praised it. As a result, he, too, was able to perform extensive deeds to greatly benefit sentient beings.

Then there’s Jetsun Milarepa. From the point of view of realization and insight, many other siddhas were equal to or comparable with him, but because of his extraordinary devotion to his guru, Marpa, he became much more famous and widely renowned than any of them.

A story from the life of Sakya Pandita gives us a different look at guru devotion. He once requested his uncle, Dragpa Gyaltsen, to teach him guru yoga but he rejected the request, saying, “You regard me only as your uncle, not as a buddha, so it’s useless giving you such profound teachings.” However, later on, Dragpa Gyaltsen pretended to be sick just for the sake of Sakya Pandita, who nursed him so single-pointedly that he forgot to eat during the day or sleep at night— his mind was completely focused on taking care of his uncle. Because of his great guru devotion, Sakya Pandita was able to see his guru as Manjushri and achieve the ten kinds of knowledge. He became very famous and was invited to give teachings in Mongolia.

These examples of Dharma practice are not for your amusement but to show you that if you want to attain the levels of realization that these great beings did and become as renowned as they were, you should cultivate the kind of guru devotion that they did.

Lama Tsong Khapa’s relationship with his first teacher, Chöje Döndrub Rinchen, who cared for him from the ages of three to seventeen like a mother and gave him all the teachings, is also an excellent example of guru devotion. Whenever Lama Tsong Khapa mentioned this great teacher’s name, tears would come to his eyes as he remembered his great kindness, and in his lam-rim teachings he praised the great teachers under whom he studied.

Now we come to the topic of guru devotion. There are two ways of cultivating guru devotion: mentally and physically.

The mental cultivation of guru devotion is elaborately explained in the lam-rim. The guru devotion expounded in the Fifty Verses is mainly the physical type.

In Tibetan, the title of this text, Lama Nga -chu-pa, literally means “Fifty Lamas” because it is composed of fifty verses on how to cultivate guru devotion. However, the meaning behind each verse is extremely profound because it contains words spoken in the tantras by Vajradhara himself. This makes it a most unfathomable teaching.

There’s no Indian commentary on the Fifty Verses but we have the Tibetan one by Lama Tsong Khapa, which is widely renowned and the most famous commentary on this important text.

The teaching I am giving here accords to the root verses without the commentary. In order to properly give this profound transmission to his disciples, the guru should also have received the perfect transmission. If he hasn’t, his teachings will be of little use to his disciples. If he tells them, “I haven’t received it completely but since you have, you’re very fortunate,” that’s also incorrect.

However, I received the complete teaching of the Fifty Verses from Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang—who heard it from Kyabje Pabongka—several times in Tibet and also here in Dharamsala at the Tibetan Library, with a commentary by Khenchen Losang Thubgyen, root guru of the first Trijang Rinpoche. The direct lineage of this teaching can be traced all the way back to Buddha Vajradhara himself, and since I have received the transmission and listened to the teaching a number of times, you can definitely receive the blessings and inspiration of this lineage.


Homage to the Bhagavan Vajrasattva

1. Introduction to the explanation


Homage & commitment to the undertaking

(1) Bowing in the proper way to the lotus feet of my guru, who is the cause for me to attain the state of a glorious Vajrasattva, I shall condense and explain in brief what has been said in many stainless tantric texts about guru devotion. (Therefore) listen with respect.


The best way to gain the high realizations or pure abodes of Vajrasattva or Vajradhara, the doorway to these, is to cultivate the guru who can lead us there. Therefore, he makes obeisance to his guru’s lotus feet; he touches his forehead to the lowest part of his guru’s body.

Ashvagosha then says that, having made obeisance in this way, he will now tell us about the fifty verses of guru devotion, the fifty verses that show us how to cultivate proper guru devotion, which is the root of all insights. He also says that what he is about to write is not his own fabrication but is in accord with the tantric scriptures written by Vajradhara; by taking the essence of these scriptures, he will now write these verses.

With respect to cultivating proper guru devotion, as it is said in the lam-rim, the disciple who wants to attain liberation or enlightenment has to cultivate proper guru devotion. As we all desire advantage and none of us wants disadvantage or loss, there’s only one thing to do—we have to cultivate proper guru devotion.

2. Presentation of the explanation

The way to be devoted to a guru

How to be devoted in general

Actual subject matter



Correctness of being reverent toward a guru

(2) All the buddhas of the past, present and future, residing in every land in the ten directions, have paid homage to the tantric masters from whom they have received the highest initiations. (Is there need to mention that you should too?)


Just as the buddhas of the three times have revered the gurus from whom they received initiations, oral transmissions and tantric vows and teachings, so should we revere and respect them and cultivate proper guru devotion. It’s a mistake to regard only the guru who confers initiations as a vajra guru; we should also regard the guru who gives tantric teachings in the same way. Lama Je Tsong Khapa clarified this point.

So, it mentions here receiving the highest initiations from a guru. Just because a vase is put on our head doesn’t necessarily mean we have received the initiation. An initiation should be given as the tantric scriptures state, by having its meaning explained: the initiations we have achieved and the paths that we have the karma to follow. When we have gained all this knowledge we have received a proper initiation.

Initiations are of three types: causal, to ripen our mind stream; pathway, through which we progress towards enlightenment; and resultant, into the fully enlightened state. The initiation referred to here is the causal one, which is a bit different to the four initiations: vase, secret, wisdom and word.

The importance of cultivating proper guru devotion is stated in the seventeenth chapter of the

Guhyasamaja Root Tantra, [Sangdü Tsa Gyü], which has 18 chapters.



How one goes about being reverent

General teaching on how to be devoted

(3) Three times each day with supreme faith you must show the respect you have for your guru who teaches you (the tantric path) by pressing your palms together, offering a mandala as well as flowers and prostrating (touching) your head to his feet.


The Buddhas of the three times prostrate to the vajra guru three times a day—morning, noon and evening. This shows that we, too, should cultivate proper guru devotion. That’s the actual meaning of this verse.

This verse also describes in a general way how we should make offerings to our gurus: we should fold our hands in reverence, offer mandalas and flowers, and prostrate to the feet of our guru three times a day.

Once we have received an initiation, we have pledged, or given our word of honor [Skt: samaya; Tib: dam-tsig], to offer a mandala to our guru three times a day, and it’s a great transgression if we forget. (Samaya means not to be transgressed.) However, this pledge is fulfilled by reciting the six-session yoga daily.


An exception

(4) If you hold ordination vows and (your guru) is a layman or your junior, (in public) prostrate while facing such things as his scriptural texts in order to avoid worldly scorn but in your mind (prostrate to your guru).


So now there is an exception. It’s not appropriate for a fully ordained monk [Skt: bhikshu; Tib: ge-long] to prostrate to a novice monk or a layman in public, because it can cause ordinary people tocriticize and disparage the Dharma. So what should you do in a gathering if you, the vajra disciple, is a bhikshu and your vajra guru is a novice or a layman? O n such occasions, you should prostrate physically to a statue, stupa or scripture on your guru’s altar but mentally prostrate to your guru. By physically offering prostrations to scriptures or other holy objects you avoid causing the laypeople to generate bad feelings in their mind, but since mentally you are prostrating to your guru, you’re fulfilling your commitment in that regard.

This is illustrated by an incident from the lives of the great masters Chandrakirti and Chandragomin, who often used to debate with each other. One day Chandrakirti, a monk, invited Chandragomin, a layman, to Nalanda Monastery, telling him he’d organize a grand procession of monks to greet him. But Chandragomin objected, saying that that would give the local lay-people a bad impression. However, Chandrakirti said he had a way around this: he was going to put a statue of Manjushri on a throne on a chariot just in front of Chandragomin, and in that way the people would think that the procession was for Manjushri.

So this is the kind of situation that this verse is talking about, but in a secluded area where there are no laypeople to generate a negative mind, you should prostrate directly to your lay guru, as is your commitment.


(5) As for serving (your guru) and showing him respect, such as obeying what he says, standing up (when he comes in) and showing him to his seat—these should be done even by those with ordination vows (whose gurus are laymen or their juniors). But (in public) avoid prostrating and unorthodox actions (such as washing his feet).


This next verse shows the limits of the exception mentioned in the previous one, where it explains what a fully ordained vajra disciple should do in relation to a lay vajra master, even in public. You can make material offerings, show general reverence, offer him a cushion, stand up whether he’s nearby or even far away, do things to help him accomplish his plans or projects and so forth. What you should avoid is offering physical prostrations directly or washing his feet and so forth in the presence of lay people, as to do so might give laypeople the wrong impression and cause them to criticize.



(6) In order for the words of honor of neither guru nor disciple to degenerate, there must be a mutual examination beforehand (to determine if each can) brave a guru-disciple relationship.


We should try to examine a spiritual teacher before beginning a guru-disciple relationship with him. Similarly, a guru should examine a student before accepting him or her as a disciple. This is very important, right from the start. Before cultivating such an intimate relationship both should check each other very carefully because if, once established, this relationship is broken, it is a transgression of samaya—bad for both guru and disciple. However, once we have accepted a teacher as our vajra guru, we shouldn’t continue examining him. That is to be done before accepting him as guru, and once we have done so we should only regard our guru as an enlightened being. Further examination can only lead us to the vajra hell.

Jetsun Milarepa said that when we are with our vajra guru we shouldn’t seek out his faults; we should cultivate a proper outlook and regard him as a perfect being. If we are successful in this we will be successful in our practice. If we want to practice properly we must cultivate proper guru devotion. Without it, despite diligent practice, we won’t achieve anything worthwhile.

One great practitioner said: “No matter how much you try to seclude yourself in an isolated area, if you regard the buddhas and your gurus as enemies, your practice will be of no value because it will lack the root of substantial achievements.” Guru devotion is essential for success in practice.

Certain sutras recommend that examination go on for as long as twelve years, if necessary. It is very important that such examination be done properly. When both guru and disciple are satisfied, the relationship can be established. If the guru-disciple relationship is established without proper examination from either side, the sacred words of honor are in danger of degeneration. Therefore, we have to be very careful in this.


The guru who is to be relied upon or avoided

The character of one to be avoided

(7) A disciple with sense should not accept as a guru someone who lacks compassion or is prone to anger, vicious, arrogant, possessive, undisciplined or boastful of his knowledge.


This verse explains the kind of guru we should not cultivate; it mentions some disqualifications. An intelligent disciple should not cultivate such a guru.

He should possess great compassion—the wish that sentient beings be free from suffering and its cause. This is the most important qualification. If our guru is not compassionate there’s the danger that he’ll give up on us at the first sign of bad behavior. If he has great compassion, then no matter how offensive our actions, he won’t forsake or neglect us. Therefore it’s very important that our guru have great compassion. As stated in the great commentary on Lama Chöpa by Kachen Yeshe Gyeltsen, “However the mischievous child offends his parents and misbehaves and worries them, they won’t lose love and compassion and will continue to value him. Although I, a vulgar rascal, don’t deserve your compassion, please don’t forsake me and guide me as parents guide their child.”

He shouldn’t be prone to anger.

He shouldn’t be sadistic or hold a grudge.

He shouldn’t be arrogant.

He shouldn’t have a strong desire for possessions or wealth or cling strongly to material things.

He should not be loose of character of body, speech and mind or careless in his practice of morality. If the guru gambles and takes intoxicants, his disciples will follow the same path. We should try not to fall under the influence of such a guru. If possible, our guru should be like Nagtso Lotsawa’s: he lived with Atisha for nineteen years during which time he couldn’t see the tiniest stain or fault in him. We should try to cultivate a guru like that—one in whom we can’t find even a single shortcoming. Similarly, Khädrub Rinpoche offered praise to Lama Tsong Khapa: “No matter how the buddhas, with all their wisdom, try to see if you have breached any of your vows, even a minor downfall, they won’t be able to find a single one.” This emphasizes that we should choose a guru who keeps his vows properly.

He should not boast of his abilities or be fond of revealing his qualifications all the time.


The character of one to be devoted to


(8) (A guru should be) stable (in his actions), cultivated (in his speech), wise, patient and honest. He should neither conceal his shortcomings nor pretend to possess qualities he lacks. He should be an expert in the meanings (of the tantra) and in its ritual procedures (of medicine and turning back obstacles). He should also have loving compassion and a complete knowledge of the scriptures.


This verse explains the kind of guru we should cultivate; it mentions some of the qualifications we should look for in a guru, the characteristics of the kind of guru who should be cultivated by an intelligent disciple.

Stable means that he should have very subdued actions of body; he should abstain from non-virtuous actions of body, keep his bodily actions proper and moral; immutable.

Cultivated refers to his speech; he should abstain from non-virtuous actions of speech, keep proper morality of speech, not hurt others by means of speech, sharp words, etc.

Mentally, he should abstain from the three non-virtuous actions of mind as well as from pretentiousness; his mental attitude should be very pure. He should possess intelligence and discretion; if he doesn’t, he can’t lead us on the path to liberation.

He should possess the three types of forbearance, or patience:

forbearance of harm received from others;

the ability to endure hardship; and the ability to hear profound teachings without being terrified.

He should be true and unbiased, or impartial; not biased towards near relatives or repulsed by enemies; he should be even-minded towards all sentient beings.

He shouldn’t be pretentious or conceal his shortcomings. Pretentious means pretending to have supernatural knowledge that he doesn’t have and concealing his shortcomings means always trying to hide his faults from others, especially with the intention of getting offerings.

He should have the power to drive out interferences by means of mantras and tantric practice.

He should be able to practice medicine, which actually means to help and benefit others by means of his teachings; to really pacify them.

He should possess great compassion, the wish that all sentient beings’ suffering be alleviated.

He should have profound knowledge of the scriptures, especially the Tripitaka.


(9) He should have full expertise in both ten fields, skill in the drawing of mandalas, full knowledge of how to explain the tantra, supreme pure faith and his senses fully under control.


He should possess the two sets of ten qualifications, as mentioned in the Guru Puja. These twenty things are the ten externals and the ten internals that a Highest Yoga Tantra guru should possess. A vajra guru of the lower tantras needs only the external ten; the internal ten are not necessary, although if he does possess them it’s all well and good. It’s important to be fa miliar with these various qualities.




The ten inner qualities are:

  1. The ability to visualize protection wheels and can eliminate interferences. Protection wheels are visualized just outside the mandala and the mere sight of it is enough to terrify negative forces.
  2. The ability to tie protection knots.
  3. Skill in conferring the vase and secret initiations, that is, the first and second initiations, which plant the seed to receive the buddha’s form bodies.
  4. Skill in conferring the transcendent wisdom and word initiations, that is, the third and fourth initiation, which plant the seed to receive the buddha’s wisdom bodies. In the fourth—the word—initiation, the disciples are made to understand the meaning of yuganatha, or great union.
  5. Skill in separating enemies of Dharma from their protectors, after which those enemies are eliminated.
  6. Skill in making sculpted tormas and the offering ceremonies.
  7. Skill in reciting mantras both verbally and without uttering words, that is, mental recitation, such as found in the Vajrayogini practice. Mental recitation is very profound and usually taught only during the giving of a tantric commentary.
  8. Skill in the wrathful rituals. In order to be able to do this, the initiation must be taken properly, the words of honor kept purely and the deity actualized correctly.
  9. Skilled in consecrating holy objects.
  10. Skill in self initiation, offering mandalas and so forth.


The ten external qualities are:

  1. Skill in visualizing, drawing and constructing mandalas of deities.
  2. Skill in single-pointed concentration on meditation deities.
  3. Knowing how to do mudras correctly.
  4. Skill in performing ritual dances.
  5. Skill in sitting in the vajra posture and the half lotus as well.
  6. Skill in mantra recitation.
  7. Skill in making fire offerings [Tib: jin-seg].
  8. Skill in all the other offering ceremonies.
  9. Skill in the rituals for subduing enemies of the Dharma, the teacher and sentient beings; who always harm sentient beings.
  10. Skill in concluding ceremonies. The buddhas and deities invoked in front at the beginning of a practice should be made to return to their former place from where they were invoked, although some may be made to dissolve into the images.


Question: How can we know if the guru has these qualities and qualifications?

Gen Rinpoche: Actually, if the guru is really an authentic teacher, most of the qualifications would beknown because of his reputation as a learned lama and great practitioner, but you yourself can understand after you have examined him properly. As I mentioned before, you should cultivate a guru about whom you can confidently think, “If I take this teacher as my guru my faith won’t degenerate later.” When your faith in him is resolute you can cultivate that teacher as your guru.

In the next session the qualifications a disciple should possess will be taught. If you lack some of the qualifications of a perfect disciple, you should purify your mind and accumulate merit. You have to create your enlightenment by yourself; nobody will bestow it upon you.

Vajradhara said, “Enlightenment cannot be found anywhere. Only by practicing the methods taught by the guru, purifying your mind and accumulating merit can you find enlightenment.”







We have finished enumerating the two sets of ten qualifications that the vajra guru should possess. Just as when we go to an unknown place we have to cultivate friendship with somebody who knows the way and can lead us to it, in the same way, when heading for enlightenment we have to cultivate a guru who possesses the necessary qualifications to lead us there.

As Sakya Pandita said, “Even when buying a cow or a buffalo we check very carefully and throw dice to see if we should do so, how much more so, when seeking enlightenment, should we check carefully and cultivate the right guru?”

Now we come to the qualities a disciple should possess. It is important that the right teaching be given to the right disciple, a disciple with the right qualities, otherwise it’s uncertain whether the teaching will benefit or not.

The qualities a disciple needs are given in two parts: the qualities of the disciple in general—the disciple of the graduated path to enlightenment—and the qualities of the advanced, extraordinary disciple, that is, a disciple of tantric practice.


The qualities in general:

The disciple should be impartial and not have a biased attitude. This is most important.

The disciple should have discretion or intelligence, a good faculty of discernment. If the disciple is dull and doesn’t understand the subject even though it’s taught a hundred times, there’s little value in teaching that student. For disciples with sharp intelligence, or discriminating awareness, everything becomes a teacher because they know what to cultivate and what to abandon. For dull, deluded or closed-minded students, making a guru-disciple relationship is like purposely seeking the lower realms because can’t observe it properly. There’s an illustration to clarify this point.

In Lord Buddha’s time, the great benefactors would invite the Buddha and his shravakas for lunch and it was customary that a discourse would be given after lunch. The eldest monk would sit on a cushion and give a discourse. Once the eldest was a monk who didn’t know anything and he sat on the cushion saying repeatedly, “Knowing nothing is suffering,” referring to himself. The others thought that he meant that ignorance is the cause of suffering and contemplated the thought that all suffering comes from ignorance. As a result of this, they achieved liberation. This shows how important intelligence is.

Not only should the disciple have an impartial, unbiased attitude and intelligence but also keen interest. This is probably the most important quality, because if the student isn’t enthusiastic, it’s like giving a discourse to a scarecrow; the teachings won’t be kept in mind. As a great Kadampa geshe said, “It’s no use giving teachings to those without keen interest. No matter how many you give, they’re of little value. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Even if you push its head into the water, it’ll just shake off the little water that does stick.”

So these are the three general qualities that a disciple should possess.


The qualities of the tantric disciple:

The Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion contains the essential teaching of Vajradhara himself as summarized by Ashvagosha. In other words, these teachings were actually given by Vajradhara in the same way that the Guru Puja also has its source in the tantras. Every verse comes from the tantras and contains their essential meaning.

The disciple should be fond of doing virtuous actions and practicing the meditations.

The disciple should always show respect to the guru. This has great significance. It says “always,” that is, all the time. It doesn’t mean that when your guru is telling you some story you respect him and when he’s rebuking you, you don’t. You must always respect him, all the time, just as Jetsun Milarepa always showed respect to Marpa, no matter what.

The disciple should always have strong devotion and make offerings to the meditation deity and always practice the yoga method of that deity. Whatever initiations we have taken, we should continue that practice for the rest of our life. Geshe Potowa said that when we engage in our tantric practices we shouldn’t be like a dog eating. If you give a dog a piece of meat he’ll swallow it whole without tasting or enjoying it and then look around for the next bit. We shouldn’t be like that. Having taken an initiation, we should practice it with care and enjoyment.

Disciples possessing these qualities are the really good ones.

The qualities that make a disciple a bad one are similar to those of the guru we shouldn’t seek. A disciple should not lack compassion, be prone to anger, have sadistic views or lack faith in the guru or meditation deities.

This concludes the discussion of the qualities of the guru to be cultivated and the disciple who cultivates the guru. Next comes how to avoid disrespect for the guru and how to cultivate respect. This has two parts: how to abandon disrespect and how to cultivate respect.






Giving up irreverence

Abandoning disrespect has four divisions: (a) abandoning belittling or deriding your guru; (b) abandoning disturbing your guru’s mind; (c) the invisible consequences of disrespecting your guru; and (d) the summary of the meaning of all these verses.


Giving up despising and disparaging

(a) Abandoning belittling the guru is discussed in two divisions: general (Verse 10) and specific (Verses 11 and 12).


General teaching


(10) Having become the disciple of such a protecting (guru), should you then despise him from your heart, you will reap continual suffering as if you had disparaged all the Buddhas.


If, having become a vajra disciple, you intentionally belittle your vajra guru—the guru who has given you initiations, taught you tantric practices and conferred tantric vows upon you—you will have to undergo immense and constant suffering. Why? Because belittling your guru is the same as belittling all the buddhas. In the same way tha t making offerings to just one pore of your guru creates the inconceivable amount of merit of making offerings to the three time buddhas, so too does any negativity created with your guru become extremely heavy.

How do we belittle our guru? When we say things like “He doesn’t have good morality,” “He has no enthusiastic perseverance,” “He’s stingy,” or “He’s so short-tempered,” we’re creating that kind of negative karma—belittling means deriding, disparaging and so forth.

Geshe Potowa said, “In degenerate times disciples will belittle their guru in an honorific way,” that is, they’ll do it politely. This might seem not so bad, but it’s still belittling.

When Atisha came to Tibet he told the Tibetans, “All the major and minor realizations are developed by relying on the guru but since you Tibetans regard your guru as simply an ordinary man, there’s no way you can develop any realizations.”

Geshe Potowa also said that we should carefully examine a potential guru before establishing a guru-disciple relationship, but once we have taken him as our guru, we should cultivate proper guru devotion. Even though he might pretend to be poorly educated, we still shouldn’t belittle him but instead cultivate pure guru devotion. Since the law of cause and effect is inevitable, if we behave in this way, in future we will meet with gurus such as Manjushri or Maitreya Buddha. The benefits are infinite.

Vajrapani once asked Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, “What are the negative consequences of belittling the guru?” Taken aback, Guru Shakyamuni replied, “Oh, Vajrapani, please don’t ask me that! If I were to enumerate those consequences, humans, gods and even dauntless bodhisattvas would be terrified and die of shock. However, if you steel yourself by developing great courage before listening, although the negative consequences of belittling the guru are limitless, I’ll summarize a few for you.” The consequences of belittling the guru are so unbearable that spelling them out would terrify even Vajrapani.


Specific explanation

(11) If you are foolish enough to despise your guru, you will contract contagious diseases and those caused by harmful spirits and will die (a horrible death) caused by demons, plagues or poison.


The invisible consequence is rebirth in hell. Here, the visible consequences are enumerated. If you belittle your guru you will suffer from infectious diseases and die from harm inflicted by other sentient beings, such as snake bite or tiger attack. Other ways you can die as a result of despising your guru are demonic interference, incurable disease and poison. As has been said, “The greatly deluded and extremely ignorant belittlers of their guru will die from such diseases.” As this implies, even those who have a little knowledge will not belittle their guru; only the extremely ignorant will do so.


(12) You will be killed by (wicked) kings or fire, by poisonous snakes, water, witches or bandits, by harmful spirits or savages, and then be reborn in a hell.


As a consequence of belittling your guru you can also be executed by the king or die from snake bite, drowning or bandit attack. Having been deprived of life by such interferences, you will be born in the great hell. The source of these consequences is the Great Hevajra Tantra.


Refraining from seriously upsetting one’s guru

(b) Abandoning disturbing your guru’s mind.


(13) Never disturb your guru’s mind. Should you be foolish enough to do so, you will surely boil in hell.


At no time, by neither body, speech nor mind, should you disturb your guru’s holy mind. But if, out of deep ignorance or closed-mindedness, you do, you’ll be born in the great hells and from all sides be burned by fire. The source of this statement is the Secret Ornamental Moon Spot Tantra, one of the great tantric scriptures.

It is also very clear in many sutras that you shouldn’t cultivate friendship with those who have belittled their guru; you shouldn’t even drink water with them. If you do associate with them, your sacred words of honor will degenerate and, no matter how hard you try, you won’t be a ble to achieve any powerful attainments.


Explanation of the unobserved bad consequences

(c) The invisible consequences of disrespecting your guru


(14) Whatever fearful hells have been taught, such as Avici, the Hell of Uninterrupted Pain, it is clearly explained that those who disparage their guru will have to remain there (for a very long time).


Visible consequences are those bad results that you can see in your lifetime; invisible ones are those that you have to experience in future lifetimes. This verse refers to the latter.

The great hell—Avici, the Hell of Uninterrupted Suffering [Tib: rab-tsor, immense heat], the Hell Without Respite—the worst hell, as described in the sutra teachings. Disciples who belittle their guru will be reborn in that hell and will have to remain there for a very long time.

One of the great tantras, the Ornament of Vajra Essence Tantra, says that no matter how hard they try—abandoning sleep by night and food by day, even for eons—disciples who belittle their guru will not only be unable to achieve any powerful attainments, they won’t even have auspicious dreams, and all their practices will become causes for rebirth in hell. These are some of the invisible consequences of belittling the guru.

The Heruka Root Tantra [Demchog Tsa Gyü], says that no matter how hard they try to receive initiations, enter the mandala and engage in tantric practices, disciples who have a very weak relationship with their guru—that is, who have belittled their guru—won’t be able to achieve any powerful attainments.

The Guhyasamaja Root Tantra, says that—if they properly cultivate a vajra guru, receive initiations and practice correctly—even disciples who have committed the five immediate negativities, the most serious of non-virtues, can attain enlightenment in the one lifetime, whereas those who have not created any such negativities but have belittled their guru from the depths of their heart will never be able to attain anything, no matter how they practice.

Lama Tsong Khapa said that the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion was written especially for disciples who take profound teachings from any gurus who just happen to be around but don’t cultivate devotion to any of them. Out of his great compassion, Acharya Ashvagosha summarized what such disciples should do in order to help them understand their commitments properly.

Another scripture says that if you don’t regard the teacher from whom you hear even one verse of teaching as a guru, you’ll be reborn as a dog a hundred times or as a being that feeds on the flesh of its own mother.

Thus, the great Tilopa told Naropa, “For all these reasons you should be skilled in cultivating proper guru devotion.”

A great Kagyu lama once said that if you allow the sunshine of your fervent regard to fall on the holy physical form of your guru, the vajra river of inspiration and blessings will flow. Another said that if you try to meditate on emptiness without supplicating your guru, you’re like a cave facing away from the sun—it’s impossible for the light to shine in. In other words, if you meditate on emptiness without making requests to your guru, your practice won’t bring realizations and you won’t be able to strike at the heart of your ego-grasping ignorance.

In his Uttaratantra, Maitreya Buddha said that you can realize emptiness only when you have fervent regard, or great respect, for your guru.

Gampopa’s disciples once asked him how he had achieved the realization of mahamudra. He replied, “When I was able to keep my guru, Milarepa, in mind all the time, that’s when I realized mahamudra.”

Similarly, Jetsun Milarepa said that since the guru is the quintessence of all the buddhas, if you can see him in his real form of dharmakaya, you will spontaneously and effortlessly receive all the inspiration and blessings of all the buddhas.

So, I think that’s enough citations clarifying these points; now please contemplate them properly.




(d) Summarizing the meaning of all these verses

(15) Therefore exert yourself whole-heartedly never to belittle your tantric master, who makes no display of his great wisdom and virtues.


It’s now clear that a t no time should we belittle the vajra guru. The consequences of doing so are obvious. As mentioned above, Lama Tsong Khapa said, “The Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion is made up of quotations of Buddha Vajradhara himself, summarized in book form for those disciples who seek out many gurus but don’t cultivate proper guru devotion with any of them. In order to help such disciples, warn them, and save them from the worst consequences of belittling their guru and transgressing their guru-disciple relationship, Ashvagosha wrote this book.”

When Sadaprarudita first generated guru devotion for Dharmodgata he was on the highest path of accumulation, but as he cultivated proper guru devotion, he was able to attain the seventh bodhisattva stage within seven years—which, according to sutra, is impossible. However, his great guru devotion enabled him to do so.

As Vajradhara said, we should pray not even to see—even in our dreams—or hear of those disciples who have violated their guru-disciple relationship.

This completes our discussion of the verses dealing with abandoning disrespect for the guru. Those on how to cultivate respect are next.

How to go about being reverent

Cultivating respect for the guru has eight divisions:

  1. Offering material
  2. Perceiving him as buddha
  3. Acting according to his word
  4. Looking after his materials and entourage
  5. Purifying temporal behavior
  6. Offering body, speech and mind
  7. Abandoning pride
  8. Not acting according to your own wishes


Arranging teachings in outline, or summarized, form helps us understand them properly. Those with sharp intelligence can understand the essence of an entire text just from its table of contents.


Making material offerings has four divisions:

  1. Making offerings to purify disrespect
  2. Offering ourselves and all our possessions
  3. The validity of making such offerings
  4. How to cultivate pure words of honor every day






Giving presents

Giving presents in order to stop irreverence


(i) Making offerings to purify disrespect

(16) (If, out of lack of awareness, you have shown disrespect) to your guru, reverently present an offering to him and seek his forgiveness. Then in the future such harm as plagues will not befall you.

If, because of our overabundant delusions and recklessness, we have generated or shown disrespect for our guru, we should make offerings to our guru with both respectful mind and respectful gesture—whatever we present we should offer with both hands. In this, we should copy the great masters who were learned and well-skilled in this field. We can learn a great deal from the way they behaved. When observing great masters, we shouldn’t be so concerned with the way they recite mantras and so forth as with how they behave purely in front of their gurus.

Also, the offerings we make to purify disrespect and ask for forgiveness should be charming, attractive things—good quality things that we like, not things we don’t. If we do this properly and ask forgiveness, then in future we won’t be afflicted by infectious diseases or the other consequences mentioned above.

To show that he’s not just making this up, in his commentary, Lama Tsong Khapa quotes the Long Paramadya Commentary as the source of this method of counteracting the effects of disrespectfulbehavior.


The way one gives absolutely everything one has

(ii) Offering everything we own

(17) It has been taught that for the guru to whom you have pledged your word of honor (to visualize as one with your meditation deity), you should willingly sacrifice your wife, children and even your life, although these are not easy to give away. Is there need to mention your fleeting wealth?


There’s a Tibetan term in this verse, dam-tsig lobpön, samaya guru—the guru to whom you have pledged your word of honor—the guru you regard or visualize as inseparable from your deity. For example, if you practice Yamantaka, the guru you regard as inseparable from the body, speech and mind of Yamantaka. That is your samaya guru. Of course, it’s the same with any deity that you practice, such as Avalokiteshvara.

We should offer our samaya guru our wife, our children, our life itself. Therefore, if we’re supposed to offer things like that, which are so difficult to give away, to practice generosity with, what need is there to talk about our fluctuating wealth?

The source of this statement is the Samputa Tantra.


The correctness of such offering

(iii) The validity of making such offerings

Now we go into the details of the validity of this second offering, to prove that it is not meaningless, carries a profound meaning and was propounded by Vajradhara.

(18) (Such practice of offering) can confer even buddhahood on a zealous (disciple) in his or her very lifetime, which otherwise might be difficult to attain even in countless millions of eons.


The validity of making such offerings is that the pure abode of enlightenment, which is very difficult to actualize no matter how many eons we try, can be achieved within the hundred-year lifespan of this degenerate age by the pure cultivation of a vajra guru.

The Kalachakra Root Tantra clearly states that no matter how many offerings you make to the Three Jewels in a million eons or how much charity to sentient beings you practice over the same period, you still can’t actualize enlightenment in a single lifetime, but if you cultivate pure guru devotion without transgression you can actualize enlightenment in a single lifetime of this degenerate age.


The way one protects one’s three words of honor

(iv) How to cultivate pure words of honor every day

(19) Always keep your words of honor. Always make offerings to the enlightened ones. And always make offerings to your guru, for he is the same as all the Buddhas.


There are several points here so we’ll take them one by one.

“Always abide by your words of honor” means that your first word of honor to the guru who gave you the initiation of a certain deity is to always abide in that deity’s yoga.

“Always make offerings to the buddhas” means always make offerings to the buddhas, like Vajrasattva and so forth, in order to complete the accumulation of merit. There are four types of offering—external, internal, offering of suchness and secret offering—and you should constantly make these offerings, visualizing them as extensive as space itself, and thereby complete your accumulation of merit.

“Always make offerings to your guru…” means always make offerings to your guru because as an object of accumulating merit, he is like all the buddhas.


(20) Those who wish to (attain) the inexhaustible (state of a buddha’s wisdom body) should give to their guru whatever they themselves find pleasing, from the most trifling objects to those of best quality.


Alone, the word “inexhaustible” here is a bit vague, but through his kindness, Lama Tsong Khapa has clarified it. It means that we’ll achieve the dharmakaya, which is as inexhaustible as space; infinite. So it’s saying that disciples who wish to attain this inexhaustible state should make material offerings—from the smallest to the greatest—to their guru. Furthermore, the guru, in order to help dissipate the disciple’s craving desire, should accept these things.


(21) Giving (to your guru) is the same as making continual offerings to all the buddhas. From such giving much merit is gathered. From such collection comes the supreme powerful attainment (of buddhahood).


Making offerings to your guru fulfills the requirement of making continual offerings to all the buddhas, and by doing so you accumulate the merit that brings the supreme powerful attainment of enlightenment. Since you actualize the highest powerful attainment of enlightenment, what need is there to mention all other ordinary powerful attainments? Obviously, you accomplish these by the way. This and all the other ideas written down by Ashvagosha have various tantras as their source.

So, now we have finished the first of the eight divisions of cultivating respect for the guru, that of making material offerings.


Looking on the guru as an enlightened one

(b) Perceiving your guru as Buddha

This has two subsections: (i) regarding him as Buddha and (ii) not stepping over his shadow


The actual topic

(i) Regarding him as Buddha

(22) Therefore, a disciple with the good qualities of compassion, generosity, moral self-control and patience should never regard the guru and Buddha Vajradhara as different.


First comes a description of the good disciple, one who has developed the qualities of great compassion—the root of the Mahayana path—who abides by the cultivation of pure morality, and has dedicated his or her body, speech and mind to the welfare of other sentient beings. The disciple who is preoccupied by working for other sentient beings, abides by the three types of Mahayana morality and can endure all the hardships of the path should regard the guru as inseparable, not separate, from Vajradhara himself.

As Geshe Potowa said, “Disciples who regard Vajradhara as better than their own guru have no possibility of gaining powerful attainments.”

This makes it clear that if, while practicing any meditation deity and doing the visualization, you regard the meditation deity and your guru as separate—the deity as very high and your guru as very low, separate—because of that great mistake, you won’t be able to actualize any powerful attainments, even if you meditate for a hundred years. On the other hand, if you meditate on the inseparability of the meditation deity and your guru, it’s impossible that you won’t actualize any powerful attainments.

Furthermore, Vajradhara assured us that the guru is an emanation of himself. He said that in degenerate times such as this, we shouldn’t worry that we haven’t met Vajradhara because at such times he would manifest as the vajra guru. Therefore, we should develop the skill of recognizing Vajradhara as our vajra guru, because that’s how he manifests at times like this.

So that’s the actual meaning of this subject, regarding the vajra guru as inseparable from Vajradhara.


Stopping irreverence even to his shadow

(ii) Not stepping over your guru’s shadow

(23) If you should never step on even (your guru’s) shadow because the fearsome consequences are the same as destroying a stupa, is there need to mention never stepping on or over his shoes or seat, (sitting in his place, or riding) his mount?


The text says that the negativity of doing so is the same as demolishing a stupa, which is one of the five near immediate negativities.1 And if the negativity of stepping over the shadow of the vajra guru is so grave, it’s obvious that stepping over his shoes, mattress or cushions or riding his conveyance, such as his horse, must be much worse than that.

The instruction not to step over the guru’s shadow was given by Vajradhara in the tantras. Lama Tsong Khapa’s elaborate commentary on the Fifty Verses, the Fulfillment of All Hopes, contains many quotations substantiating such advice. This commentary can be found in the first volume of the eighteen that make up Je Tsong Khapa’s collected works [Tib: Sung-bum].


Doing what the guru says

(c) Now we come to the third division of cultivating respect, acting according to his words.

(24) (Disciples) having great sense should obey the words of their guru joyfully and with enthusiasm. If you lack the knowledge or ability (to do what he says), explain in (polite) words why you cannot (comply).


This verse says that highly intelligent disciples should listen to the words, or orders, of their guru with great pleasure, or bliss; they should hear whatever he has to say with much enthusiasm and perseverance. Whenever your guru speaks, listen with pleasure. If you can do what he asks, if you can act in accordance with his words, you should accept, but if it’s too hard, then explain your difficulty politely. Don’t ignore what he’s asking, but tell him intelligently why you can’t do it.

If your guru tells you to do something that you feel goes against your three types of morality, you can avoid doing it, but explain intelligently and unemotionally why.

One of the Jataka Tales is about a previous life of Guru Shakyamuni when he was born as a Brahmin disciple. The Brahmin teacher told his disciples to go out and steal for him. His logic was that since the universe was made by Brahma, if, as sons of Brahma, Brahmins take things, it’s no more stealing than if a son takes things belonging to his father—since they are his own possessions, he’s not stealing. However, the disciple who was the previous life of Buddha didn’t go. His teacher said, “You don’t seem to like me.” Guru Shakyamuni replied, “Theft is at no time religious,” an intelligently explained many ways in which stealing wasn’t good. Later he became one of this guru’s best disciples. Intelligence is always stressed as one of the very best qualities a disciple can have.

The fine print at the beginning of the Guru Puja says that at all times we should look for our guru’s qualities, not his faults or shortcomings. By seeing his qualities we will achieve all powerful attainments; by seeing his faults, we won’t.

Lama Tsong Khapa said, “The practice of disciples who pretend to listen to teachings and meditate without cultivating pure guru devotion is merely an echo; it’s nothing. It has no potential to yield any result.”

Also, in his Abhisamayalankara commentary, Gyältsab Rinpoche said, “Listening to teachings without cultivating proper guru devotion is like turning medicine into poison; it has no potential to bring a good result.”

All this shows that if we cultivate pure guru devotion, we’re sure to attain realizations, as illustrated by a story of three of Atisha’s disciples—Dromtönpa, his translator and secretary; Amé Jangchub Rinchen, his cook; and Gönpa Wangchug Gyeltsen (the Great Neljorpa, or Mahayogi), who spent all his time in meditation—Atisha was always going to give him teachings and he remained in seclusion. So Mahayogi thought, “I spend all my time in meditation whereas the others don’t meditate at all. I must have higher realizations.” Atisha was aware of this, so called them all together and examined them. He found that of the three, Dromtönpa had the highest realizations, Amé Jangchub Rinchen the second highest, and Mahayogi the least. This example emphasizes the importance of guru devotion.


Question: So, we don’t always have to do what our guru tells us?

Gen Rinpoche: Ashvagosha says that we should always try to act in accordance with the words of ourguru but are exempt if what we are asked to do is very heavy. In that case we can explain politely why we can’t do it. If your guru asks you to do something against the three types of morality—for example, say he asks you to kill a human being—you can decline. Angulimala’s guru told him he could attain liberation by killing a thousand human beings in a week and wearing their fingers as a garland. So, you don’t need to doubt—these exceptions are mentioned in the Lam-rim Chen-mo and the Jatakamala, and the source of this advice is Vajradhara.


(25) It is from your guru that powerful attainments, higher rebirth and happiness come. Therefore make a whole-hearted effort never to transgress your guru’s advice.


This verse tells us why we should follow our guru’s orders—we have to act according to his words because all powerful attainments, both common and supreme, are accomplished only by relying on him. Through proper reliance on our guru we will achieve the prosperity of human beings and gods. Once again, this statement comes from one of the tantras, the Hevajra Tantra. That text clearly

states that if you abide by the words of your guru you will achieve all powerful attainments and even in this life receive all happiness. However, going against what he says will only lead you to the lower realms, which is why Lama Tsong Khapa says that going against your guru’s words or disrespecting him is an extremely grave negativity.

According to tantra, the speech of the buddha is the sambhogakaya, so one word of the guru is the equivalent of one sambhogakaya. That’s why it’s extremely negative to transgress the guru’s words.


How to treat the guru’s belongings and retainers

(d) Looking after your guru’s materials and entourage

(26) (Guard) your guru’s belongings as you would your own life. Treat even your guru’s beloved (family) with the same (respect you show) for him. (Have affectionate regard for) those closely around him as if they were your own dearest kin. Single-mindedly think (in this way) at all times.


You should look after your guru’s possessions properly—you should cherish them as much as you do your own life. Before Dromtönpa met Atisha, he was studying with another guru. By night he would tend his guru’s cattle; by day he would spin yarn with his hands, soften leather with his feet and, as his lama had a wife and many children, always carry his guru’s children on his back. When he met Atisha and told him about his previous realizations and merit, Atisha said, “Your greatest merit was created when you were serving that lama.”

Therefore we, too, should respect and serve those closest to our guru—his family members, his foremost servants and helpers and so forth—learning from the lives of the great practitioners like Jetsun Milarepa and Dromtönpa.

When Gyälwa Dromtönpa was serving his guru in Kham, he used to lie in the mud so that his guru’s wife could sit on his back while she was milking the cows. Milarepa did the same thing; he had Marpa’s wife, Dagmema, sit on him while she milked the cows.

You should also treat your guru’s servants and so forth in the same way that you treat your beloved relatives. “Single-mindedly think (in this way) at all times” means that you must constantly keep this idea in mind so that it becomes very clear.

From the above you can now understand what Geshe Tölungpa meant when he said, “I get greater merit by giving food to my guru Loba’s dog than by inviting all the monks of Western Tibet and offering them a feast.” [He was called Tölungpa because he lived in Tölung; his ordination name was Rinchen Nyingpo. Similarly, Loba means a person from Lo; he was referring to Kadampa Geshe Chengawa.]

This is not a fabrication. The Guhyasamaja Root Tantra clearly states that it is much more meritorious to make offerings to one pore of your vajra guru than to the buddhas of the three times. As your guru is the representative of all buddhas, this merit far exceeds all others.

If you make very clear, unmistaken notes during these discourses and keep them properly, they will form a commentary to the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion. This commentary is very rare; the most famous is Lama Tsong Khapa ’s. So if you preserve your notes, you’ll have a second commentary.


Purifying present behavior

(e) Purifying temporal behavior

This fifth section of cultivating respect for your guru has three subsections: (i) a voiding bad behavior; (ii) cultivating good behavior; (iii) avoiding other bad behavior in general.

(i) Avoiding bad behavior has two parts: what to avoid in his field of vision and what to avoid in his range of hearing.

Stopping incorrect behavior

Advice about what to do when in the guru’s field of sight

(27) Never sit on the (same) bed or seat (as your guru), nor walk ahead of him. (At teachings do not) wear your hair in a top-knot, (a hat, shoes or any weapons. Never) touch a seat (before he sits down or if he happens to sit on the ground. Do not) place your hands (proudly) on your hips or wring them (before him).


When he is standing you shouldn’t sit on a cushion or a mattress. If your guru is sitting on the bare ground you shouldn’t sit on a cushion. When traveling or walking on a road together you shouldn’t walk in front of him; he should go first. All these points have their source in the Ornament of the Vajra Essence Tantra.

Similarly, you shouldn’t wear your hair in a topknot or in a plait tied around your forehead while in the presence of your guru. If there is a long mattress on which you are going to sit together, you shouldn’t step over it before your guru sits down; if you do, it’s a downfall and you create negative karma. Also, you shouldn’t sit with your hands on your hips or wring your hands in his presence.


(28) Never sit or recline while your guru is standing (or lie while he is sitting). Always be ready to stand up and serve him skillfully in an excellent manner.


While your lama is standing, don’t sit or lie down. This is not made up but comes from what was said by Vajradhara himself. You should always be very quick to do whatever you can do for your guru. Don’t be lazy or lethargic but very active in performing such tasks.


(29) In the presence of your guru never do such things as spit, (cough or sneeze without covering your head. Never) stretch out your legs when at your seat, nor walk back and forth (without a reason before him. And never) argue.


You shouldn’t spit, expel snot or blow your nose in front of your guru. Nor should you stretch your legs out when sitting before him. Similarly, in his presence, don’t stroll about here and there in an arrogant manner, as if out for your morning walk, or quarrel or argue with others.


(30a) Never massage or rub your limbs. Do not sing, dance or play musical instruments (other than for religious purposes).


As it says here, you shouldn’t rub your limbs or your feet in front of your guru, just as you shouldn’t wring your hands. Don’t sing or dance in front of him or play musical instruments, unless it’s during a religious ceremony. These are some of the things that you should not do within your guru’s field of vision.


Advice about what to do when in the guru’s range of hearing

(30b) And never chatter idly or speak in excess (or too loudly) within range of (your guru’s) hearing.


The rest of this verse says that you shouldn’t gossip within earshot of your guru, where he can hear your frivolous talk and chatter.

These admonitions to curb such wrong behavior and bad habits within your guru’s sense perception come from the Ornament of the Vajra Essence Tantra and the Vajramala Guhyasamaja Explanation Tantra.


Resorting to good behavior

(ii) Cultivating good behavior

(31) (When your guru enters the room), get up from your seat and bow your head slightly. Sit (in his presence) respectfully. At night or at rivers or on dangerous paths, with (your guru’s) permission you may walk before him.


If you are sitting, stand up when your guru comes into view. When you sit, do so very demurely and not in a slovenly way that reflects your untamed mind. If an apple tree is well laden, all its branches hang down; similarly, if your mind is well tamed, your behavior is very subdued. Try to be on your best behavior in front of your guru and not reveal your unsubdued nature.

Verse 27 said that you should not walk ahead of your guru, but this verse offers an exception. If you are traveling in a dangerous place you can go first; under such circumstances, it’s not right for your guru to go ahead. For the same reason you can also walk in front of him at night. Similarly, when crossing a river by foot, you should go first to check the depth or for danger. This advice also comes from the Ornament of the Vajra Essence Tantra .

When checking the validity of such teachings, you should be able to trace them back to Vajradhara. If you can do so, there’s no need to look for any other source, just as when you trace a river back to its source, you can’t find any other origin for it.


Teaching another way to stop incorrect behavior

(iii) Avoiding other bad behavior in general

(32) In the direct sight of the guru, (a disciple) with sense should not (sit) with his or her body twisted around or lean (casually) against a pillar and so forth. Never crack your knuckles, (play with your fingers or clean your nails).


When in front of their guru, intelligent disciples endowed with discretion sit correctly, not in a slovenly or arrogant fashion. Nor should they lean on pillars or walls for support.

Furthermore, don’t crack your knuckles etc. The sublime being who said this was Ashvagosha , who cited Vajradhara in the Ornament of the Vajra Essence Tantra in support of this statement.


Special physical and verbal acts of devotion

Special physical acts of devotion

(f) Offering body, speech and mind

(33) When washing (your guru’s) feet or body, drying, massaging or (shaving) him, precede such actions with (three) prostrations and at their conclusion do the same. Then attend (to yourself) as much as you like.


Before you wash your guru’s feet, bathe his body or cut his hair, offer three prostrations. When you have finished, offer three more. After that, you can attend to your own needs.

Special verbal acts of devotion

(34) Should you need to address (your guru) by name, add the title “Your Presence” after it. To generate respect for him in others, further honorifics may also be used.


Next comes the offering of speech. Whenever you utter your guru’s name, don’t leave it naked. For example, when you quote him, say, “I heard it from his great, holy speech.”

Pabongka Rinpoche said that we use our guru’s bare name too casually, without praise or honorific, but that he felt very uncomfortable whenever he heard his own guru’s name spoken like that. That’s why when we quote our lama we should say something like, “I heard it from his radiant, holy mouth.”

In the commentary, Lama Tsong Khapa says, “For example, if the guru’s name is Rinchen Dorje, you should say, ‘My precious lord Rinchen Dorje spoke of this and said….’ By this, having caught the attention of others, they become reverent to the guru.”

Similarly, in his commentary on the Vinaya Sutra, Acharya Gunaprabha said that whenever you take the name of the preceptor who bestowed vows upon you, you should say, “From his great radiant mouth….”

Therefore we should act in accordance with the following short story. Once Lama Tsong Khapa was giving a teaching just above the site where Sera Monastery was later built, when Khädrub Rinpoche came to meet him for the first time. He asked a nun living there where the venerable Tsong Khapa could be found. She didn’t answer immediately but went inside, washed her mouth, lit some incense and replied, “I don’t know anything about the name you just said, but if you mean my Venerable Gracious Guru, His Presence Je Tsong Khapa resides over there.” Khädrub-je was very impressed by this nun’s subdued behavior and said that this is how those who really abide by the vinaya should act.

Thus, when mentioning your guru’s name in front of others, in order to arouse respect in them for your guru, add honorifics before and after his name.


g) Abandoning pride


Now the seventh division of cultivating respect for your guru, the elimination of arrogance in front of him. This has three subsections: (i) a bandoning arrogance when taking orders from your guru; (ii) abandoning arrogance when listening to discourses and so forth; and (iii) eliminating arrogance in all actions.


Abandoning pride through following commands

i) Abandoning arrogance when taking orders from your guru

(35) When asking for your guru’s advice, (first announce why you have come). With palms pressed together at your heart, listen to what he tells you without (letting your mind) wander about. Then (when he has spoken) you should reply, “I shall do exactly as you have said.”


First check the sincerity of your wish to work for your guru and your ability to do so. Go to him with folded hands and ask reverently, “Can I be of any help to you?” When he does ask you to do something, listen to what he says without arrogance and with folded hands. When he has finished speaking, say, “I will do as you have said.”


(36) After doing (what your guru has told you), report (what has happened) in polite, gentle words. Should you yawn or cough, (clear your throat or laugh in his presence), cover your mouth with your hand.


Whenever you smile or laugh in front of your guru, cover your mouth with your handkerchief or hand. If you have to spit, you should take your handkerchief out slowly.

When you have finished doing the work he asked you to do, with reverence, fold your hands and tell him, “I have finished that work.” This, too, has as its source the Ornament of the Vajra Essence Tantra.


Abandoning pride through listening to religious teaching

ii) Abandoning arrogance when listening to discourses and so forth

(37) If you wish to receive a certain teaching, request three times with your palms pressed together while kneeling before him with your (right) knee. (Then at his discourse) sit humbly with respect, wearing appropriate clothing that is neat (and clean, without ornaments, jewelry or cosmetics).

When listening to teachings you should pay attention mindfully, dress properly, sit in a very subdued, well-composed way and keep your behavior in check. When asking for a special teaching, kneel on your right knee and, with folded hands, make the request three times.

All the great, sublime beings attained realizations by cultivating perfect guru devotion; since we, too, want to attain realizations, we should also know these things.

Just as the great sublime beings of the past—Milarepa, Dromtönpa, Khädrub Rinpoche, Geshe Chengawa and so many others—cultivated proper guru devotion, served their gurus all their life and attained high realizations, so should we emulate these great beings and cultivate proper guru devotion as explained by Vajradhara.

In the Lam-rim Chen-mo, Je Rinpoche explained how to practice guru yoga. First we prove to ourselves that the guru is buddha through logical reasoning and various quotations, thus becoming fully convinced that our guru is, indeed, buddha. Then, seeing that our guru is buddha but in the aspect of the deity we practice, our guru yoga practice will be effective. If we try to practice without this recognition, we won’t achieve anything.

So, since we all cherish ourselves and none of us wishes the slightest of sufferings, we should really try to do the right thing. And as we do have high regard for Milarepa , we should try to emulate him and the way he cultivated guru devotion. Milarepa cultivated proper guru devotion with Marpa, and Marpa with his gurus, especially Naropa, and Naropa with Tilopa, and Dromtönpa with Atisha. To really appreciate all this, we should read the scriptures that explain about guru devotion. Then when we practice meditation in the context of proper guru devotion, interdependently, our realizations will increase like a waxing moon.

Ra Lotsawa said, “During the final decline of the doctrine, although there’ll be many practitioners, few will actualize the end because they’ll lack the necessary skills. Only those who cultivate the perfect guru, deity and Dharma protector will be able to actualize.”

Therefore, when we request teachings from our guru we should approach him in a composed manner, kneel on our right knee, fold our hands and request three times. Also, in his presence, we should wear proper, clean clothing and not wear jewelry or try to make ourselves beautiful.




Abandoning pride through one’s general behavior

(38) Whatever you do to serve (your guru) or show him respect should never be done with an arrogant mind. Instead you should be like a newly-wed bride, timid, bashful and very subdued.


However properly we have revered our guru and made offerings, it should not be sullied by arrogance. In his presence we should try to maintain subdued behavior all the time, without arrogance. We should act with decency and not always be looking around here and there. The text says we should act like a newlywed bride, who shyly bows her head and acts very quietly.


(39) In the presence of (the guru) who teaches you (the path), stop acting in a conceited, coquettish manner. As for boasting to others what you have done (for your guru), examine (your conscience) and discard all such acts.

You should check with your own intelligence and try to avoid doing acting in these ways. Also, when walking with your guru, if you walk right behind him you run the risk of stepping on his shadow, which is very bad. Also, if you walk alongside him you might walk too fast and get ahead. Therefore, walk to his side, just behind him, in a very skillful way.


Not independently involving oneself in work

h) Not acting according to your own wishes


This is the eighth and final section of cultivating respect for the guru. There are four things here that we should not do by ourselves but instead get our guru’s consent:(i) when working for the benefit of others—for example, when you are going to give an initiation or teaching—get your guru’s consent; (ii) offer back to your guru any offerings that you receive from that action; (iii) avoid taking offerings or receiving others’ respect, such as prostrations or hand blessings, in front of your guru—from your point of view as guru, you must avoid such things but from your disciples’ point of view, they should do it; and (iv) showing special physical respect.



Receiving permission when involving oneself in altruistic activity

(40) If you are (requested) to perform a consecration, (an initiation into) a mandala or a fire offering ceremony or to gather disciples and deliver a discourse, you may not do so if your guru resides in that area, unless you receive his prior permission.


If your guru is in that locality, you should not do consecrations or fire pujas for others or give initiations and so forth without his prior consent.


Delivering up what has been obtained from the involvement

(41) Whatever offerings you receive from performing such rites as (the consecration known as) “opening the eyes,” you should present all these to your guru. Once he has taken a token portion, you may use the rest for whatever you like.


You should give your guru whatever offerings you receive from doing consecrations, giving initiations and so forth. He’ll take a small portion and give you the rest, which you can then use for whatever you want.

In contemporary Tibet there was no greater lama than Pabongka Rinpoche. He received all the Nyingma teachings Öser Tretog Dorje. The lineage of whatever teachings we hear today from the two tutors [Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche] comes from Pabongka Rinpoche. He is like both father and monarch. There’s no lama or aristocrat who hasn’t cultivated him as his or her guru. When people talk about Lama Dorje Chang, they’re referring to Pabongka Rinpoche.


Not accepting devotion from others in the guru’s presence

(42) In the presence of his guru a disciple should not act (as a guru) to his own disciples and they should not act towards him as their guru. Therefore (before your own guru) stop (your disciples) from showing you respect, such as rising (when you come) and making prostrations.


Avoid receiving offerings in front of your guru. You shouldn’t make disciples of your guru’s disciples or give them an initiation without his consent. If, in your guru’s presence, your disciples stand up for you, offer you prostrations or come to take hand blessings, try to stop them and make them sit down.


Physical behavior that is a way of demonstrating immense respect

(43) Whenever you make an offering to your guru or whenever your guru presents you with something, a disciple with sense will (present and) receive this using both hands with his or her head slightly bent.


Showing special physical respect means that whatever you offer to or accept from your guru should be done with both hands, not one. This is the type of behavior that a perfect disciple should cultivate. In an assembly of disciples, offering a khatag with one hand is proof that you haven’t heard the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion.



(44) Be diligent in all your actions, (alert and) mindful never to forget (your word of honor). If fellow disciples transgress (what is proper) in their behavior, correct each other in a friendly manner.


You should keep your vows and words of honor without any transgression, being mindful and alert all the time, and try to abide by the codes of conduct prescribed by Vajradhara.

If out of ignorance a vajra brother or sister—a disciple with whom you have taken the same initiation, together or apart—breaks a vow or breaches his or her words of honor, then, with compassion and a feeling of love and fondness, you should try to make that person avoid that wrong action. You should regard your vajra brothers and sisters as more dear and sacred than your own relatives.




An exception

(45) If because of sickness you are physically (unable) to bow to your guru and must do what normally would be prohibited, even without (his explicit) permission, there will be no unfortunate consequences if you have a virtuous mind.


If we ask if we have to cultivate the behaviors taught in the Fifty Verses at all times, if there’s any time we don’t have to do them, there are certain exceptions. However, belittling the guru and disturbing his mind are not among them. At no time can we do these actions.

There are certain exemptions for the sick disciple who is too weak to get up but whose mind is virtuous: it’s not required to stand or prostrate or to ask the guru’s permission not to do these things. The reverence of standing or prostrating can be done mentally.


Summary of the way to be devoted

(46) What need is there to say much more? Do whatever pleases your guru and avoid doing anything he would not like. Be diligent in both of these.


To summarize, we should try to do things that makes our guru happy and pleased with us and avoid doing things that make our guru unhappy and displeased with us.


(47) “Powerful attainments follow from (doing what) your guru (likes).” This has been said by (the Buddha) Vajradhara himself. Knowing this, try to please your guru fully with all the actions (of your body, speech and mind).


Why is guru devotion stressed from the very beginning? Because all common and extraordinary powerful attainments follow your cultivation of a proper guru, that is, by making your guru pleased. This was said by Vajradhara. By knowing this fact, then by all means—that is, by body, speech and mind—cultivate pure guru devotion and make your guru pleased with you.



Time for explaining how to be devoted

(48) After disciples have taken refuge in the Triple Gem and developed a pure enlightened motive, they should be given this (text) to take to heart (how to abandon their own arrogant self-will and) follow in their guru’s footsteps (along the graded path to enlightenment).


If perfect disciples—those with pure mind and intention—having taken refuge then follow their guru correctly, he will lead them to enlightenment. This Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion has been written in the form of a prayer so that we can recite it again and again and thus know what to cultivate and what to eliminate in order to correctly follow our guru.


How to be a suitable receptacle after the explanation has been given

(49) (By studying the prerequisite trainings of guru-devotion and the graded path common to both sutra and tantra,) you will become a (suitable) vessel (to hold) the pure Dharma. You may then be given such teachings as tantra. (After receiving the proper initiations,) recite out loud the fourteen root vows and take them sincerely to heart.


As it says in verse 48, this text has been written especially for disciples distinguished by the two good qualities of having taken refuge and the vows of wishing and engaging bodhicitta and who really abide by the commitments of both these practices of refuge and bodhicitta.

After that, disciples who have studied the lam-rim and the Fifty Verses and acted accordingly become disciples ripened for tantric practice. Therefore, they should obtain initiations, study the stages and paths of tantra, know the fourteen major tantric downfalls perfectly, remain aware of them by memorizing them and ask their guru for teachings on them.

In short, we should cultivate the sort of behavior that makes our guru pleased and happy and avoid that which makes him displeased and unhappy.

Lama Tsong Khapa said that the practice of guru yoga is regarding the guru as buddha and seeing the deity as the guru in the form of the deity. That’s the actual practice of guru yoga; if we practice it in that way it will be effective.

The only way we can achieve a ll the major and minor good qualities is to depend on our guru and regard him as buddha. Lama Tsong Khapa said that if we don’t respect our guru, then no matter how much we declare that we are listening to teachings, meditating and so forth, we won’t get anything worthwhile from whatever we do.

One of the root tantra s says, “I make obeisance to my gurus, who are the quintessence of all the buddhas, Vajradhara in nature—Vajradhara in the form of an ordinary being—and the root of all three objects of refuge.”

Similarly, from the same text comes the prayer we often say:

The guru is Buddha, the guru is Dharma,

The guru is the quintessence of all Sangha, too.

The guru is the creator of all happiness.

To all gurus, I prostrate (or, go for refuge, or, make offerings).

At present, what we want is enlightenment, the state that has all good qualities and not a trace of fault, shortcoming or disadvantage. To accomplish this, we have to follow the guidance of a proper guru, and even if Buddha Vajradhara were to manifest in front of us right now, he wouldn’t say anything different from what our guru has told us.

The Hevajra Root Tantra says that no matter how hard we try to find the great bliss of enlightenment, we won’t be able to find it unless we follow the guidance of the right guru.

All these quotations come from the tantras; I’m not making anything up.

But it’s not only in the tantras that we find many quotations that prove that the guru is buddha. The Buddha said that this is so in the sutras as well. For example, just before he entered parinirvana, Lord Buddha went to a mountaintop in south India, where he met a bodhisattva called Tongwa Dönden, who was crying and saying, “We are so lucky that the Buddha manifested on Earth, but after your parinirvana we’ll have no Buddha.” Lord Buddha said, “Don’t worry. After that I’ll manifest as gurus and abbots and at those times you should be smart enough to recognize me as such.”

So these are not fabrications but authentic sayings of the Buddha.

Thus, as verse 49 implies, we should memorize the fourteen major downfalls of tantra and imprint them in our mind so that we don’t forget them. If you can’t abstain from breaking these root vows, taking initiations becomes like purposely creating the cause to be reborn in hell. Lamas are not supposed to give initiations or tantric teachings to disciples who can’t keep these vows.

Vajradhara himself said, “You can’t keep lion’s milk in an earthen pot—the milk will sour and the pot will fall apart; both will be ruined. Similarly, Highest Yoga Tantra teachings should not be given to immature disciples lest they be reborn in miserable circumstances.”

If you listen to the Fifty Verses attentively, you’ll make yourself a mature disciple for tantra if you’re not one already, and you’ll recognize the importance of knowing the fourteen major downfalls and protecting yourself from them.


3. Bringing the explanation to a conclusion

(50) As I have not made the mistake (of adding my personal interpretation) when writing this work, may this be of infinite benefit to all disciples who would follow their guru. By the limitless merit that I have gathered in this way, may all sentient beings quickly attain the state of Buddha.


Lama Tsong Khapa’s concluding remarks

Verses of dedication

This is the conclusion of the text. The great Ashvagosha said that he wrote this commentary with the intention of benefiting all mature disciples and dedicated the merit of doing so to the quick enlightenment of all sentient beings.

This shows he is a great bodhisattva— he dedicates the virtuous actions he creates to the welfare of all sentient beings. Actually, concluding by dedicating the merit of giving a commentary or doing other virtuous actions to the welfare of all sentient beings is a unique feature of the Buddhist doctrine; an exclusive feature not found in non-Buddhist texts.

In a text called Praise to You, the Outstanding [Khye-par-phag-tö], the author writes, “In your doctrine, whatever merit you create you dedicate to the welfare of sentient beings. Such is not found in outsiders’ teachings. Therefore, I regard it as one of the best features of your doctrine.”

It would be good for you to study this text on the distinctions between the Buddha and other teachers to strengthen your faith in the Buddhadharma.




This Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion was rendered into Tibetan by the great translator Rinchen Zangpo and the great Indian Pandit, Padmakaravarma.

There’s no Indian commentary but, as mentioned before, the great Tsong Khapa wrote an elaborate one, The Fulfillment of All Hopes, which he did at the request of two great Kagyu lamas. He also wrote a commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa at the request of Kagyu lamas and a very elaborate commentary on dzog-chen at the request of the great Nyingma lama, Tashi Palden.

Lama Tsong Khapa wrote his Fifty Verses commentary at Reting, where he also wrote the Lam-rim Chen-mo.

I received the transmission and teaching on the Fifty Verses from Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, who received it from Kyabje Pabongka, who received it from his root guru, and its direct lineage goes all the way back to Vajradhara.

If you want to have insights and realizations, guru devotion is essential. If you listen to teachings just for knowledge, guru devotion is not necessary, but it’s the gateway for practice and achievement.

During the meditation session, meditate on guru devotion. In between sessions read texts such as the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines , which describes Sadaprarudita’s cultivation of Dharmodgata, or the Flower Ornament Sutra [Skt: Avatamsaka Sutra], which describes the Youth Sudhana’s cultivation of many gurus including Manjushri and Maitreya and his subsequent attainment of enlightenment.

You should also read other inspiring examples of the practice of guru devotion, such as Naropa’s with Tilopa, Marpa’s with Naropa and Maitripa, Milarepa ’s with Marpa Lotsawa, Dromtönpa’s with Atisha, Geshe Chakawa’s with Geshe Chengawa, Khädrub Rinpoche’s with Lama Tsong Khapa and Sakya Pandita’s with Dragpa Gyaltsen, which I detailed before. And, of course, there’s the original example of guru devotion in Ananda’s relationship with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha.

The insights they received through cultivating guru devotion is all in print and their names are still renowned. You should develop the attitude: “As those great beings cultivated guru devotion and received realizations, may I emulate their achievements in this practice.”

And to think of a more contemporary example, there’s the way Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang cultivated his root guru Kyabje Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, and also his teacher when he was younger, Geshe Losang Tsultim, which is described in his autobiography.


Colophon to this commentary

The root text was composed by Ashvagosha in the first century BCE, translated into English by Sharpa Tulku, Khamlung Tulku, Alexander Berzin and Jonathan Landaw, and published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in 1975. Gen Rinpoche Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey gave this commentary at the LTWA in Dharamsala July–August 1976. It was translated by Losang Gyaltsen and edited by Nicholas Ribush from his notes of the class.





1. Introduction to the explanation

Homage (v. 1a)

Commitment to the undertaking (v. 1b)

2. Presentation of the explanation

The way to be devoted to a guru

How to be devoted in general

Actual subject matter


Correctness of being reverent toward a guru (v. 2)

How one goes about being reverent

General teaching on how to be devoted (v. 3)

An exception (v. 4, 5)


The guru who is to be relied upon or avoided

The character of one to be avoided (v. 7)

The character of one to be devoted to (v. 8, 9)


Giving up irreverence

Giving up despising and disparaging

General teaching (v. 10)

Specific explanation (v. 11, 12)

Refraining from seriously upsetting one’s guru (v. 13)

Explanation of the unobserved bad consequence (v. 14)

Summary (v. 15)

How to go about being reverent

Giving presents

Giving presents in order to stop irreverence (v. 16)

The way one gives absolutely everything one has (v. 17)

The correctness of such offering (v. 18)

The way one protects one’s three words of honor (v. 19, 20, 21)

Looking on the guru as an enlightened one

The actual topic (v. 22)

Stopping irreverence even to his shadow (v. 23)

Doing what the guru says (v. 24, 25)

How to treat the guru’s belongings and retainers (v. 26)

Purifying present behavior

Stopping incorrect behavior

Advice about what to do when in the guru’s field of sight (v., 27, 28, 29, 30a)

Advice about what to do when in the guru’s range of hearing (v. 30b)

Resorting to correct behavior (v. 31)

Teaching another way to stop incorrect behavior (v. 32)

Special physical and verbal acts of devotion

Special physical acts of devotion (v. 33)

Special verbal acts of devotion (v. 34)

Abandoning pride through following commands (v. 35, 36)

Abandoning pride through listening to religious teaching (v. 37) Abandoning pride through one’s general behavior (v. 38, 39) Not independently involving oneself in work

Receiving permission when involving oneself in altruistic activity (v. 40)

Delivering up what has been obtained from the involvement (v. 41)

Not accepting devotion from others in the guru’s presence (v. 42)

Physical behavior that is a way of demonstrating immense respect (v. 43) Discussion (v. 44)

2.1.2. An exception (v. 45)

2.1.3. Summary of the way to be devoted (v. 46, 47) 2.2. Time for explaining how to be devoted (v. 48)

2.3. How to be a suitable receptacle after the explanation has been given (v. 49)

3. Bringing the explanation to a conclusion (v. 50)

3.1. Lama Tsong Khapa’s concluding remarks 3.1.1. Verses of dedication

3.1.2. Colophon

This outline comes from Lama Tsong Khapa’s The Fulfillment of All Hopes, translated by Gareth Sparham. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1999.

1 five near immediate negativities (Skt: anantaryasabhagah; Tib: nye-wa’i-tsam-med) The five actions that are similar tothe five immediate negativities in that they cause rebirth in hell, but not necessarily in the immediately following life. They are (1) sexually violating one’s mother who is also an arhati; (2) killing a bodhisattva who is destined to be a buddha; (3) killing an arya who has not yet reached the arhat stage; (4) Stealing the property of the Sangha; and (5) destroying a stupa.