Annual India Tours
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt
gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity.
These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
Nanaimo May 26 1992
Last week we covered "Sitting in a comfortable meditation platform in the seven fold posture, you should rid yourself of defiled thoughts and extraneous mental activity, but first practicing the nine breathing." I explained just that it is felt from the Buddhist side, the body is the support for the nervous system, the mind rides on the energy of the nervous channels. So if our body and nervous system is not straight, then the mind does not function well. It becomes sleepy or stimulated by delusions. By doing the breathing exercises one visualizes the breath and energy flowing down through one's spine. By doing this, it is said that it balances our nerve energy and the mind which runs on that nerve energy has a better opportunity to not be crippled or hindered in being able to function clearly or pristine to gain realizations.
The next paragraph: "Sorting out dull states of mind from the clear, you should begin by taking refuge and developing an enlightened attitude of bodhicitta with a pure and virtuous motivation. You should then perform the profound meditation of guru yoga after making fervent requests a hundred times or more with intensive faith, you should visualize your guru as dissolving into you."
Meditation is essentially calming and deepening with awareness. It is not definite that any particular results will come from that. If you just calm yourself down and kept awareness, allowed yourself to become more subtle, more centered and concentrated, there is no certainty that any particular good will come out of that other than maybe you will become more peaceful. But no guarantee.
So when you meditate it is important that you also work with your mind, your attitude, work on those things which will cause you to become more centered in a whole way in the sense that your attitude and sense of being and hopefully with the calming, that you will actually access a closer vision or experience of reality. That is the object of meditation. If it were to just become a fanatic or some kind of religious nut or something, what would be the use? We don't need those sorts of people, they cause wars in the world and all sorts of things.
Obviously one would sooner work with a reality practice in the sense that it brings reality into focus. It clears away delusions, that which distorts reality and makes reality appear vividly and clearly so that we do not distort the nature of reality. So that is the object of meditation. To accomplish that in a real manner, then we have to work both with our attitude and with the meditation which makes it real for ourselves in our conscious experience.
Refuge simply is looking for a solution. In taking refuge, it is not that I give up responsibility for who I am, but rather, it's looking for a particular idea which deals with reality which are helpful for myself and the world around me. Refuge is looking for a meaningful message which I can then align myself with. The altruistic thought of bodhicitta is important within the mahayana context because it is said the main cause of suffering in the world is selfishness. If we have strong self centeredness only concerned with our own needs, then we will never attain a good level of satisfaction. We might get personal gratification, but satisfaction and emotional fulfillment will not be easily attained.
Just the appreciation that we like a kind and warm person more than a selfish one will move us towards having an altruistic thought of bodhicitta. Bodhicitta can be defined as the thought which wishes to benefit not only oneself but all universal sentient beings. In having that thought, trying to actualize it to the best of our ability, we work not four self but for the benefit and assistance of others which is of course love and compassion.
Not wishing to move heavily into being Buddhist and looking into our own needs and recognizing what is valid for ourselves, we always then do take refuge. We take refuge in the social structure we live within in our community. If we didn't like it, we would complain or move! So we take refuge in money, in food, alcohol or drugs, things like that, looking for a good solution for our needs. Compassion, open mindedness and universal attitude can be appreciated by the quality it invokes in us. Those are fairly easy to see.
Now we get to the subject of the guru. When you speak of guru yoga, it is important to differentiate what guru yoga, it means reliance upon a teacher, means. If on has a clear understanding of that, then the path becomes wonderfully happy. Because it is a real cause of inspiration. If it is not understood, then there is a lot of confusion. Principally confusion lies in who has responsibility for what.
It easy to come to someone and say, I'm really confused, you take care of everything for me. I know you can do it! And that is a really deluded approach feeling that someone else can take care of our life or be responsible for us. If we have that idea or need, life will become quite confusing and different emotions can arise regarding whether we are being taken care of enough or that we have been hurt, all those different things can get in the way. Whereas if we have a clear realization of what the guru's actual purpose is, and how it is beneficial for us to rely on a teacher. The guru's purpose is essentially someone who has gone a little further into a subject matter than we ourselves have. Simply said, a teacher is someone who has more know how regarding a particular subject matter than other people. And so you seek out a teacher because the teacher has qualifications in certain areas.
We do that all the time in everything. We go to teachers in school. Particularly when we are older we seek teachers who have the things we would like to learn. Really good teachers are a cause of inspiration. They are normally inspired, they are into what they are doing and a few other things, if they are a good teacher. So a teacher., by definition is just someone who has quality in an area and is willing to share that. That is from the side of the teacher. From our side, the benefit is, because it is human which we can relate to, we can actually draw on it from a variety of ways. One just getting the actual oral instruction. If it is a good teacher, they give very clear instructions on how to work with oneself. Secondly, we get the actual inspiration of the person. When someone is turned on about what they do, if you hang out with them, it turns you on to it too, especially if you have a similar interest. Then it really inspires you and you can level and draw on that energy which is part of that other person.
Maybe you used to do something for a little while and then you meet someone who does interesting diary writing, so you find someone who has written very well with beautiful prose. You attend a workshop. And you become inspired and might spend an hour on your diary each day for awhile. That is what teachers do! They inspire you, they give you technique! So one the side of how we get benefitted, by inspiration, by clear guidance and those sorts of things.
When I think of my own teachers, the ones I enjoyed and were like bright lights, were the ones you would like to emulate. You sort of like have an osmosis where you feel like then and then try to, they turned you on and you follow through on it. That qualifies the teacher and the meaning of the teacher. What the student and what the benefit for the student for the individual.
The other area which is particular to Buddhism and maybe to a few other faith traditions, is that the practice is not just gaining an external skill, like that of using a paint brush. Buddhism is involved with enlightenment which is personal integration. So not only do you have what you are interested in and seeking after, is of benefit, it actually causes personal integration, so it helps you get your act together. And it gives you a clear center. If you have been extremely deluded and then you find a technique which helps you get out of your delusion, become more open minded, that is a cause of real bliss. If you have been miserable, and remember during this time that you heard something which was inspiring or had a bit of reality in it, and it took the wind out of the sails of your delusions, and brought things into focus! Then the problems disappeared and you felt bliss! That bliss is the whole focus of what Buddhism is about. It is personal integration from personal realization. And it is the revealing of your own mind. So when that is the case, when you talk about the teacher, it becomes more special, especially if you have a good quality teacher who inspires you. Then, when you think about that person, it can be more profound than on regular levels.
I am thinking of the Dalai Lama and someone like that, and for those of you who have heard him talk or heard cassettes of him or something, I think you may get a little of sense of him as a terrifically wonderful person! there is good example of someone who can really turn you on. And it is related with personal realization which makes it close to heart!
The reason guru yoga is profound is because in Buddhism, the basis of our practice is our own individual Buddha nature. So when you reflect on the guru, or we take it to the Buddha, has fully realized their Buddha nature. Has full access to everlasting bliss. Completely liberated. So in regards to that, then when we reflect upon the Buddha, we are also reflecting on that we also have Buddha nature and our Buddha nature as it becomes revealed, will become just like their's. It is called profound guru yoga because the guru is said to be the manifestation of accessing the Buddha nature. And we wish to access that too! So it is profound in the sense that it talks about our ultimate nature. Granted the whole meaning of this text is to move towards that, so right now we have to take it at that level, that maybe there is something in this that maybe moves towards our ultimate nature. So it refers to the profound level of our ultimate nature, Buddha nature.
Very often it's like someone who talks you into running for ten miles. Although you do not want to, they get you going! You start running with this person, and maybe they get you to the tenth mile! Whatever the case it! But they, by being there and helping you and inspiring you, they get you to run the ten miles. In that is a relationship which helps you to go further that you may have never considered originally to be possible. Like that, the teachers help you go beyond your own limitations. Thoughts of like I am inadequate, I can't do much, can't do anything. So when you think of your teachers, you shouldn't think of them as ordinary persons. Try to create the thought that that person is accessing their Buddha nature, that is what they are striving for. Whether they have it or not, doesn't really matter. But they are going for their Buddha nature which is a fully open state of mind. Their mind is in tune with reality, has no problems. When their mind manifests outwardly, there is no delusion there. It doesn't twist reality. It is beautiful, clean and clear. They got bliss.
Reflect on that. The bliss of the teacher or guru or Buddha, and their mind is so free and flowing, it would be very blissful. Think of yourself. You are walking down the street and meet someone you do not like, your whole mind turns into cement. You have no fluidity, no capacity to know how to deal with that person. That is suffering! Whereas if you have a good head space, maybe you do meet someone who has been a bother in your life, then maybe you can greet them without going down to the level of all the garbage that is there and you just walk on because your mind is free. That is like what enlightenment is like! In the sense that the mind doesn't create turmoil and distortion. So you reflect on the guru, the guru has accessed the Buddha nature, and therefore they have bliss. Their mind is open and free. You should reflect that they have actualized their own internal realization and realized what is real regarding their final nature.
This reflection does not mean that you grasp to the feet of the guru, but rather I should look and find out what my own internal nature is, access it. Start to reveal it. Start to get in touch with it. Start to let go of those things which cause me hassles. Then reflecting and requesting the guru a hundred times, and then visualizing the guru absorbing into you, actually becomes a source of letting your mind fully open so you have bliss! And you can let yourself let go of all the hassles and hang ups we have. We can go beyond for awhile, we have inspiration. That is guru yoga. And you have not lost responsibility for yourself, you never gave up the capacity to make judgements and discern what is right and wrong for yourself. All you have done is aligned yourself to something which you think is pretty powerful and beautiful, and you feel inspired by it. And bottom line, you are inspired by the potential of your your own mind, your own self. The potential of yourself, your own Buddha nature in becoming enlightened.
When you work with guru yoga it should be in a way that makes you more beautiful, more realized. And then that is quality guru yoga in contrast to feeling that one gives up responsibility, that one has to show veneration. Some teachers literally control everything the person does. Tells them what to do all the time. That they shouldn't study with other teachers because you might loose my guidance! Then you get really uptight. Then you set up this little group of people that support the teacher who then says do this do that. Eat this kind of food, and these sorts of things! That takes away any kind of responsibility, any personal development of wisdom. It is good for being part of a group and being totally unconscious and unaware.
Whereas what a teacher should do for you, is realize your own potential, help you try to feel confident about your potential, and help you work work at trying to stabilize that. It sort of comes close to telling you what to do with yourself, but I think the best teachers don't. You come to your own conclusions. You could then ask what do you think about it!
The point is, we should work for our own realization and teachers are for inspiration and guidance. Coming back to the first two issues, essentially a meditative teacher is someone who has meditated a little more than yourself. That is the simplistic qualification. Our responsibility is to listen with an open mind to what is being said, analyzes and see if it works or not, and if it does, then we get inspiration, we move towards our own realizations by being inspired from where the other person is coming from.
So that is the talk on guru yoga for mahamudra.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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