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.