Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche
Kagyu Samye Ling,
Within the Hinayana
Tradition the lama, teacher doesn't really come into it, rather they
have somebody who is like a learned spiritual friend, who is like a
normal human being but spiritually more advanced than oneself, a friend.
In the second case, when one is on the Mahayana path, one's perception
of the teacher is like somebody who is on the bodhisattva levels and he
has spiritual accomplishments. The teacher is like a doctor, you are the
sick person and they give you medicine. That's how you perceive the
teacher to be at the time of the Mahayana and bodhicitta practice. When
it comes to the Vajrayana viewpoint of the teacher, then the teacher is
viewed as Buddha. What is the reason for that? It's because if you view
the teacher as Buddha you obtain blessings. Why is the swift
accomplishment of blessings obtained? It's because between ourselves and
the lama there is a connection. A very good, positive connection.
What are the three very
good connections? They are the blessing of the empowerment, the
scriptural transmission and the explanations. For a practitioner there
is no better connection than these three. Also we can see the lama, we
can hear his teachings. Because of these things mentioned we can say
there is a very good positive connection with the lama and
interdependence. So then, if we supplicate the lama with faith, it's
like all blessings of the Buddhas come together united into the lama,
and we receive the blessing of the lama, so therefore we also obtain the
blessings of all the Buddhas.
Buddha Sakyamuni and
Buddha Dorje Chang are very important but if we were to supplicate
Sakyamuni or Dorje Chang directly and we also supplicated the lama, then
supplicating the lama would be more beneficial to us and it bring
blessing more swiftly. So the lama is more important. Why is that? We've
never received empowerments, instructions or scriptural authorisations
from Dorje Chang or the Buddha Sakyamuni, we've never heard their speech,
we have never heard their teachings. We have from the lama, so the lama
is more important to us.
We are given an example
of what it's like for all of the blessings of the Buddha passed to the
lama and thento us. For example the sun shines all over the United
Kingdom. I have piece of paper in my hand. If you want to burn this
piece of paper and place it on the grass in the sunshine, it will be
difficult to burn it. But if I bring along a magnifying glass, and I
place it by the paper, the sun's rays will be concentrated onto the
paper and it will burn very quickly. It will burn immediately. The
Buddha's blessing is like the sunshine. One's lama is like the
magnifying glass and through him comes the sunlight, which is the
blessing. Having connected with the lama's lineage, one obtains all the
blessings of the Buddhas through him.
The main technique or
main practice for us as practitioners in the Vajrayana is that of the
practice of Guru Yoga. If we practise Guru Yoga we will swiftly obtain
all of the blessings. Then one attains enlightenment very quickly. If
you remember when we were doing prostrations and refuge practice we had
the objects of refuge and the lama there who is the embodiment of all of
the objects of refuge. When you are visualizing in the Dorje Sempa
practice the Dorje Sempa deity upon your head, he is inseparable from
your own guru. Then one does the yidam practice of the development stage
and one feels that the yidam and the lama are inseparable. Then one is
practising the dharma protectors' practices and one feels that the
dharma protector and the lama are inseparable.
Based on these things
one will swiftly obtain the blessings and the levels of enlightenment.
What is the reason for that? It's based on having a very strong positive
connection between ourselves and the lama, because we have had the
empowerments, the scriptural transmissions and the instructions. Even if
we don't receive all these three from the lama, if we receive
empowerment from him or just instructions or just scriptural
transmission, even each of them separately, will still give a very
So then, when we
supplicate the lama, whether we obtain the blessings of all the Buddhas
and the lama depends on our faith. If we don't have faith, even if our
teachers were Dorje Chang and the Buddha Sakyamuni and we were next to
them all the time, without faith in them, no blessing would enter us. As
an example, Buddha Sakyamuni had a monk called Gelong Legpe Karma. He
stayed with the Buddha for 25 years but he didn't generate devotion for
the Buddha therefore he didn't receive blessings. So if we perceive our
lama to have the lineage, even if he is like a normal person and he
doesn't have very high realisation, if out of our faith we perceive him
to be a Buddha then we will get all the Buddha's blessing completely. So
generating faith for one's lama is very important.
What type of faith we
have to generate? We have to have faith that the lama and the Buddha are
inseparable, they have the same qualities. There are two reasons for
that: one is based on the relative truth and one is connected with the
ultimate truth. The one related to ultimate truth is that the lama has
Buddha nature and the Buddha nature is Buddha. Therefore the lama and
all of the Buddhas have identical nature. So the lama really is the
Buddha. Not only the lama is Buddha, the student also is Buddha. Why is
that? It's because the student also possesses Buddha nature. If you
understand that, it's called the ultimate guru yoga. It's like the lama's
mind and your mind are meeting. When we say the lama's mind and the
student's mind are united and become mixed, it's not like you have to
pick some substance in your right hand and some substance in the left
hand, grind them and mix them up together. It doesn't mean that. The
first thing to understand is that one's nature and the lama's nature are
the same. Understanding that one also understands that all the Buddhas'
nature is identical. If you understand correctly, one's own lama, his
mind and your own are inseparably mixed. That's the reason relating to
the ultimate truth.
What is the reason
connected with the relative truth? The Buddha said that generally all
the Buddhas possess compassion and skilful means. For all the vast
number of sentient beings the Buddhas do what they can to help each
individual being appropriate to that being's nature. We ourselves have
negative karma and illusions. Because of our impure perceptions we
cannot perceive pure perceptions. Right now this moment Dorje Chang is
present before us. We can't see him. We can't hear his teachings. This
is due to one's own negative karma and negative or impure perceptions,
illusions. So, what are we able to see? We can see somebody who is
rather similar to us, somebody of flesh and blood who suffers. Who
appears to be like us because they have suffering and mental defilements.
That type of person we can perceive. So then the Buddhas in their
infinite wisdom, compassion and skilful means emanate beings who look
like us; like Karmapa, Tai Situ Rinpoche. In the world now there are
many beings like that. They look like us, they appear to be the same.
They need to eat food. They become sick, they need to take medicine from
time to time, and they also manifest death. And sometimes they make a
few little mistakes.
So they appear to be
like us and because of that we are able to see them and relate to them.
and we are able to listen to the teachings they give. But truly their
real nature is that of the Buddha because they are emanations of Buddha.
If a lama has all the characteristics and he possesses the true lineage,
he is an emanation of Buddha. That's the reason for relating to the
dimension of relative truth. So then, putting it in brief: one needs to
have faith and supplicate the lama. The root of the blessing depends on
our generating faith for the lama, devotion. In Milarepa's lifestory it
tells you what he did and what kind of experiences he had, how he
generated faith etc. One day one of Milarepa's students approached him
and said, "You know, when you were with Marpa, he gave you all those
difficult things to accomplish and you did all those things, you
practised and finally you became enlightened. Surely you aren't a human
being like us, we can't hope to do this kind of thing. Maybe you are an
emanation of Dorje Chang or maybe another Buddha, would you please tell
us, whose emanation you are?
Milarepa replied, "For
you to think that I am an emanation of Buddha is a very good thing, but
as far as I'm concerned, I don't know whose emanation I am. If I happen
to be a rebirth of a hell being, because you perceive me as an emanation
of a Buddha, that's very beneficial for you. So then we can see that
everything depends on the generation of one's own faith and devotion. If
you understand that the nature of the lama is Buddha but that the lama's
kindness is greater than that of the Buddha, then one will naturally
give rise to faith and devotion for him. That's the explanation of
showing us that the nature of the lama and the Buddha is identical.
Now there is a little
bit of discussion about how it is that the lama's kindness is greater
than that of the Buddha's. Even though Dorje Chang and Buddha Sakyamuni
are very important and great beings, you are not able or fortunate
enough to hear their teachings, to obtain empowerments or scriptural
authorities from them, you are not able to meet them even. But we can
actually meet the lama physically, hear his speech and receive his
teachings, empowerments and instructions. If we were to meet the Dorje
Chang Buddha in person and ask for teaching, if he was going to liberate
us and lead us to enlightenment, what could he give us? He could give us
the instructions of how to practise and liberate ourselves within one
lifetime. Higher or better teachings than that he wouldn't be able to
give us. He couldn't just pick us up and threw us into a Pure Land. And
this type of instruction one's own lama can give: how to liberate
oneself in one lifetime and become enlightened. We are not able to
perceive Dorje Chang but we can perceive our own lama. So, who is more
kind to us, is it Dorje Chang or the lama? It's the lama. If you
understand that point, faith and devotion will arise. This is why in the
Vajrayana tradition the practice of Guru Yoga is respected as something
very important, the main point. That's the general meaning of Guru Yoga.
How do we practise the
Guru Yoga actually? How do we do it? If we have understanding and
appreciation that the lama's mind and the Buddha's mind are identical
and that the lama is in fact a Buddha, then we can meditate on his body.
If one is not able to generate that strong faith, then one feels that
the lama manifests as Buddha Sakyamuni or the Buddha Dorje Chang, not
the way he normally is. And you also think that his manifestation
contains all of the essence of the Buddhas. One supplicates one's lama
and ask that I myself and all sentient beings may be free from suffering;
temporary suffering now and all suffering up until the point we reach
the end result, perfect enlightenment. And then please give me the
blessing so that I will have the realisation of the mahamudra, please
give me all the blessings. You make a prayer like that.
Some people like to
meditate on their lama in the form he normally has, how he normally
appears and that's okay for them. But some people don't like that.
Rinpoche knows someone who was practising the Guru Yoga but he didn't
enjoy it. The reason was that in real life he was constantly coughing,
so when he visualized the lama on top of his head he was uncomfortable
because the lama kept on coughing. There is another guy, who had
unfortunately a very pointed head, so the lama couldn't sit on the point
of his head, he kept on falling off.
Before in India one
person had an experience - when he tried to meditate on the form of his
lama upon his head he kept on falling off from side to side. So he went
to the teacher and asked what he could do. The lama said: "Oh, you put
the lama at the bottom and you sit on top of his head!" So then he
meditated like that. It became very clear, he didn't move. He said to
his lama: "I meditated as you instructed and it was very clear, very
good." Then lama said, "Now you need to revert back to what was
originally there, you on the bottom and the lama on the top. He did this,
and this was also very clear. The reason why he couldn't achieve this in
the first place is because he had a very tight grasping idea that he had
to have a very clear visualization of the lama. Because of his intensity
and grasping for that, his mind became very tight and then the lama fell
all over the place. When he turned it around with him on top and the
lama on the bottom, he didn't really have appreciation of that, because
he didn't quite like that position, as he wasn't grasping, it became
very clear. Afterwards he understood the meaning of what had happened,
and could meditate very well.
If one can meditate the
form of one's lama and form of Dorje Sempa as inseparable, one has got
the meaning of Guru Yoga as it's explained in the ngöndro. When one is
practising the refuge and the prostrations, one is visualizing one's
guru in the form of Dorje Chang in front of one. So that is the meaning
associated with ngöndro.
What is the main part
of the practice of the Guru Yoga? It's the receiving of the empowerments.
The empowerments are four in number. The first one is from the lama's
forehead a white light emanates and touches one's own forehead. One
feels that ones physical obscurations, defilements and impurities are
completely purified, and one receives the blessing of the body of the
lama. That is classified as the vase empowerment.
The second part is that
from the lama's throat a red light emanates and touches one's throat
centre and one feels that all of one's impurities, obscurations and
defilements related to speech are completely purified and one has
received the blessing of the speech from the lama. This is called the
secret empowerment. The third thing to happen is that from lama's heart
centre a blue light radiates out and strikes one's heart centre. One
feels that all of the defilements, obscurations and impurities related
to mind - our mental impurities - are completely purified and one has
received the mind blessing of the lama. This is called the
The fourth empowerment:
one imagines simultaneously white, red and blue lights coming out and
striking one's three places. One feels that all of the body, speech and
mind impurities, defilements and obscurations are completely purified
and one has received in totality all the body, speech and mind blessings
of the lama. This is called the word or mahamudra empowement. Finally
the lama dissolves into light and this dissolves into oneself. The
meaning really is that in the end the lama and oneself become
inseparable and their essence is identical. So you need to understand
that. And then you relax. That is the absolute true Guru Yoga. When one
is visualizing the lama external to oneself and supplicating him, that
part is related to relative truth.
When one has done the
visualization of the lama dissolving into light and the light dissolving
into oneself, you recognize that the lama's mind's essence and your
essence are identical, the same, and relax in that. That's the ultimate
truth Guru Yoga. That's the end of the explanation of the Guru Yoga.
Q: If one has faith and
devotion to several lamas, does one put them all into one form of the
main lama and think they are all the same?
R: That is what was
told yesterday, yes. That's fine. One doesn't have to think: "Oh, this
lama has got blessing and maybe this one has more. If you have faith in
many lamas, you put them into one, think that their essence is identical.
Q: My lama was the 16th
Karmapa and he passed away long time ago. I wonder if I can still see
him as my lama.
R: Of course.
Q: Could Rinpoche
explain the idea of tsawe lama (root lama)?
R: There are two types
of root lama. The real meaning of the root lama is the lama who points
out the nature of one's mind. At the point one understands that, one has
the instruction and meeting together like that. That's one's true root
lama. But before we get to the point of having pointing out instructions,
we have to have various lamas giving teachings. You can also perceive
the root lama to be somebody whose is within a pure lineage unbroken and
they have all the characteristics of a proper pure teacher, and one has
connection and faith and devotion for them, then one can also perceive
them as a root lama. But when one is doing the Guru Yoga though, it is
more beneficial if one can feel that the lama who is giving you the
empowerments and instructions and all transmissions, his essence is
really there, he is the main one.
Q: Which were the four
types of teachings held in different directions?
R: Tummo, clear light,
dream yoga and illusory body are just an example of the four types of
teachings, which were held in different directions. But there are many,
it is not just those alone.
Q: What does it mean
for the guru to become the path?
R: Guru Yoga is the
path. We don't say that the lama himself is the path. It's the Guru
Yoga. Oneself practising the Guru Yoga, that is the path.
Q: At the very
beginning of teaching today we heard that Dorje Chang manifested to
Tilopa. If he was so clever, why didn't he manifest to somebody in every
country of the world speaking every language and get it done much
R: If he could do that
then he could just pick us up and throw us to the pure lands. Because of
individual sentient beings' karma appearances like those don't come
about. If it were like that we wouldn't have to stay in samsara now. We
would have been Buddha a long time ago.
Q: Would you tell us
R: Marpa received three
types of mahamudra teachings. There were the sutra tradition, tantra
tradition and essence of mahamudra tradition. Maitripa gave Marpa the
sutra tradition; mahamudra transmission and the other two were bestowed
by Naropa. Marpa had various teachers: Maitripa, Kukkuripa and so on.
Q: As westerners we
often have suspicions associated with figures of authority, not like in
the east where in India or Tibet people naturally have faith in parents
and lamas and they maybe take authority figures better than us. So from
time to time we have doubts and obstacles related to these figures of
authority. How do we deal with that?
R: It is important and
necessary for one to follow the dharma instructions and advice that the
lama gives you. But if it relates to everyday worldly life then one can
be a bit more neutral about that. Sometimes we might not listen to some
of that advice. You can check it out like this: these days when the
really true and straightforward lamas talk to people and give advice it's
not based on their own benefit. They are thinking solely of the benefit
of the person they are talking to. But there are also present in the
world lamas who have some idea of mixing their own benefit in with that.
So the second one is not beneficial and you need to check that out. But
when one's lama is perceived to have Buddha nature and to be really the
Buddha in essence, you can supplicate like that. But if one comes into
contact with kind of false lamas who are really mixing up their own
benefit in their teachings, one abandons them. That kind of advice and
connection, you leave it. If one encounters a false lama, it's better to
Q: There is a special
connection between His Holiness Karmapa and Tai Situ Rinpoche. Could we
have some explanation of that?
R: This comes about
because of Chögyur Lingpa's prophecy, where he gives a prophecy about
the connection between the 12th Tai Situpa and the 17th Karmapa. Tai
Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsap Rinpoche were students of the previous 16th
Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, and now the 17th Karmapa has taken birth
and is a young person. Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche became
his teachers. T his is based on the lineage: one is young and the older
people look after them and then it changes around from time to time.
Generally, there is a prophecy, which is a statement of connection, and
also from his side His Holiness Karmapa has a genuine faith in Tai Situ
Rinpoche. This is based on the teachings and transmissions that the
Karmapa has faith arising for Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche.
The lineage goes in such a way that the Karmapa bestows all of the
teachings on his main students, but then when the Karmapa takes rebirth,
although he has all the teachings in their entirety because he is Buddha,
he has to go through the motions of taking instructions from human
beings and human teachers. Now he has manifested as 17th Karmapa and his
teachers will be Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Tai Situ Rinpoche. They in a way
symbolically give back all the teachings that they received from the
previous 16th Karmapa. The Karmapa himself already possesses them, but
because of the students, in order to show how to do it, then they go
through the motions of giving him back everything.
Q: Who is your personal
guru (tsawe lama)?
R: Tai Situ Rinpoche.
Q: We have noticed that
lamas wear special hats from time to time. What do the hats and crowns
signify, black hat in particular?
R: Generally speaking
when one wears the crowns on the head, it's the sign of respect to the
nature of reality and respect to all the gurus. Generally the teaching
comes or is connected with the individual being's own perception. In
olden days a king could give somebody respected a crown to wear, the
idea of that crown is a token of respect, so there is this respect
associated with wearing a crown. Another reason for wearing it at that
time was that when sentient beings saw the crown it gave them joy.
And why does the
Karmapa have particularly the black crown? Before the arising of the
first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa, a long time before he manifested as Karmapa
he was meditating in a cave. Along came a great gathering of dakinis and
they said to him: in the future you are going to manifest as a being who
will be of immeasurable benefit for sentient beings, because of that we
have great faith and devotion for you and we want to make offerings to
you. So they all pulled lots of their hair out and they wove a crown and
placed it on the Karmapa's head. "Now you become like the king of Dharma."
So the nature of this crown placed on the head was rather like a rainbow,
insubstantial and most people can't see it. It's with the Karmapa always,
where ever he goes. He doesn't have to take it on and off, it's always
on his head. And then the Karmapa at one time went to China. At that
time the emperor of China was an emanation of Manjushri. Immediately
when the Karmapa came the emperor perceived the crown on the Karmapa's
head. The emperor said, "Oh, that crown on your head, everybody needs to
see it, so we are going to make a copy of it, a visible copy. So the
emperor of China made a replica of the crown which was on Karmapa's head
and he offered this to Karmapa. When he put it on his head, everybody
could see, because it was a physical object. Because of the
interdependence of the self-existing hat and the one made as a replica,
blessing can be obtained from seeing the hat.
Q: In the Dorje Chang
tungma there is a line that says: "Grant me your blessing that
uncontrived devotion may arise in me." In that context, what does
R: It is a particular
type of power. Various medicines have various types of strength or
power. Water has a power to wet things and clean things. Fire has a
power to burn. When we put water in a field it helps to grow flowers or
crops. All phenomena have a particular power associated with them.
Through the power of interdependence, when we ask for the blessing,
blessing comes as a particular type of power. What happens is, that one
receives that power, the blessing, and one's defilements and
obscurations are purified and dispelled. If one gives rise to devotion
and faith and supplicates, then one has the blessing connected with
arising of faith and devotion.
to read Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche's biography
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