Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.
is on the relationship between teacher and disciple, and how to
relate to the practice that involves one's guru. His Eminence will
begin with the ground for such a situation.
many of you may know, in order to assimilate the teachings properly,
to experience and thus to integrate the teachings into one's life,
one must first have the proper conditions necessary to bring about
such a situation. One of the first important points is that if one's
attention is not upon the teachings, then one does not receive the
teachings properly. In listening to the teachings, it is not enough
that one has heard the words; one must hear and understand the
meaning of what is communicated through the medium of words. Toward
that, one must be mindful of the fact that one is receiving
teachings, give one's full attention, and with a very clear and
attentive mind, otherwise one is not going to hear and understand
the teachings, no matter how many times one has the opportunity to
instance, if a particular container into which you would like to
pour water is turned upside down, no matter how many times you try
to pour water into it, none of the water will get inside the
container. This is the first important requirements for receiving
second possible shortcoming that could hinder one from receiving the
teachings properly is a situation that is likened to a container
that has a cracked bottom, or a hole.
the first important points is that if one's attention is not upon
the teachings, then one does not receive the teaching properly.
means that whatever is poured into the container will leak out.
Although you have the chance of pouring, nothing is retained. It is
not enough that one has heard the words of the teachings through the
faculty or the consciousness of hearing; what one has heard must be
properly remembered. This relates to what is traditionally
emphasized as developing the wisdom of understanding, the wisdom of
understanding, the wisdom of contemplation, so that one does not
just forget right away. We often say that what we hear goes in one
ear and out the other. Again this would not be characteristic of
being a proper vessel. Retaining and remembering what you have heard
third important requirements for being a proper vessel for the
Dharma is that one should not be a poisonous vessel. Such a vessel
may have no cracks or leakages, yet nevertheless the vessel is
poisonous. Whatever is poured into it is poisonous, of no use, and
actually a cause for harm. One must have the proper motivation. One
should not be receiving teachings and one should not be giving
teachings with an unhealty motivation. Unhealthy motivation is
receiving or giving the teaching while having neurotic and
egocentric attitudes of all kinds.
proper attitude to have while receiving and giving teachings is to
know that the purpose of receiving the teachings is to benefit and
to bring all beings to enlightenment. In the same way, the purpose
of giving teachings is to benefit those receiving them, to relieve
beings from the state of confusion and suffering. It is important to
have this kind of proper motivation of working toward the benefit
and enlightenment of all beings.
order for one to be able to follow properly the path of the Dharma,
the pure spiritual Dharmic journey, there must be some other
important conditions present and the recognition of
is explained in the text the Jewel Ornament of Liberation by
Gampopa, the cause of the experience of enlightenment (the complete
awakening of the mind) is traditionally known as Buddhanature; this
inherent potential for complete awakening is within all beings. It
is extremely important to know this, and to have a sense of healthy
faith or confidence in oneself. Buddhanature is inherent and
pervades the minds of all being; in the same way, though it may not
be particularly visible or obvious, butter pervades milk. We should
have a sense of the resourcefulness about ourselves. We have to
acknowledge that we are not asking for anything that is not our own
the experience of complete awakened mind, three important conditions
should be present:
(1) the vehicle of human birth,
cause of spiritual friends, and
(3) the method of instruction.
While the potential to experience awakened mind ultimately is
inherent in all beings, even in the tiniest beings, only with the
vehicle ofthe 'precious human birth' can one realize that potential.
The cause of the realization of that potential is the spiritual
friend. The method is the skillful means of the teachings that are
presented by the spiritual friend.
these important conditions, it can be said the most important one is
that of the relationship with the proper spiritual friend. Given the
fact that one does not have the understanding and the recognition of
one's ability to experience enlightened mind, one cannot fabricate
on one's own a path of which one has no idea; one would have no
experiential understanding of the fruition, or even know the
starting point. It is an honest fact that however one attempts on
one's own to experience completely awakened mind, true awakened mind
will not be experienced. One may perhaps experience momentary
satisfaction or entertainment, but in order to experience true
awakened mind one needs the cause of the spiritual friend, one who
has the understanding of the method, and skillful means as well as
is said in the 'Mahamudra Liturgy of Aspiration' by the third
Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, one must develop the three types of wisdom
in order to realize the nature of all phenomena. The first is the
wisdom of hearing, which cuts through the ignorance of not knowing,
of being uninformed. If something needs to be clarified, to be
asserted, proven, or refuted, the wisdom of hearing gives one the
opportunity. Then there is the wisdom of deep understanding, which
is contemplating what one has heard. Through developing the wisdom
of contemplation, of understanding, one breaks through the tapestry
of doubts and clears them away. Thirdly, through the wisdom of
meditation practice, one becomes enlightened; one begins to realize
the fundamental nature of phenomena, not relating to phenomena from
the point of view of illusion and the confusion of dualistic
clinging. Developing the three types of wisdom in this way is
possible through the cause of the spiritual friend. Thus the
spiritual friend is indispensable.
spiritual friend one relates to must have a lineage, because a
lineage has a history of transmitting the awakened intelligence, the
inspiration or uplifted quality of blessing. When the spiritual
friend represents such a lineage, the teachings carry the impact of
enlightened intelligence. This can have an important effect in the
experience of the sanity of the path that one is involved with. So
having a spiritual friend with a lineage is extremely
different types of spiritual friends are classified in accordance
with the teachings of the Buddhadharma. A spiritual friend can be
just an ordinary person who has more knowledge or realization than
oneself, or who is linked to the tradition, having both experience
and the transmission of a lineage. A spiritual friend could be a
highly realized being, like a nirmanakaya (Tib. tulku), an incarnate
being, or a bodhisattva of the different stages, a more subtle
manifestation having the transmission of the teachings of the
samboghakaya. These different types of spiritual friends may also be
embodied in one person. The type of spiritual friend one has depends
upon the stages of spiritual growth that one experiences.
Whatever different types and levels of spiritual friends one
may relate to, the relationship must be based at least to a certain
degree on the three types of confidence. The first is the confidence
of clarity, a clarity about the relationship and the importance of
it. The second is the confidence of yearning, longing to continue
the relationship. The third is the confidence of certitude, that is,
some certainty, something decisive, and definite about the
relationship. One knows that the relationship is for real, and one
engages in it with a real decisiveness, with heart.
accordance with the stages of the path, the Hinayana, Mahayana, and
Vajrayana, and the corresponding vows, there are stages in the
relationship with the spiritual friend. In the Hinayana, referred to
as the lesser vehicle, the greater importance is attached to the
proper conduct of the body and the speech, as prescribed by the
pratimoksha vow or discipline; in this way it is 'lesser'. In the
Mahayana, or 'greater' vehicle, the emphasis is placed on the
development of the mind, intellect, and bodhichitta (cultivating the
enlightened mind of compassion); the expression of this is the
bodhisattva vow. In the Vajrayana there is the presentation of the
skillful means, which involves the commitment of the samaya vow.
There is a spiritual guide for each stage of the path, one who helps
one with the pratimoksha vows and discipline, one who is involved
with the bodhisattva vow, and one who is involved with the samaya
Concerning the ordinary spiritual friend, in Tibetan the
tern is 'ge-wei' (spiritual virtue) and 'nyen' (friend); this refers
to one who serves as a guide on the spiritual path, a friend who is
willing to work with one. It is not like any other friendship in
one's life; it is not a mundane and samsaric situation in which one
is led to being more confused.
said that the bodhisattva spiritual friend is one who can definitely
effect the experience of awakened mind in the lives of other. The
landscape and the landmarks of the journey need to be introduced to
us, we need to be awakened to the ability to acquire the necessary
knowledge and wisdom.
bodhisattva teacher is one who has eight qualities.
first quality or characteristic is practicing the essence of the
pratimoksha discipline-abandoning what is harmful to others,
directly or indirectly, and the causes of such harm-and embodying
the bodhisattva discipline, the essence of which is benefiting
second mark or quality is being learned and knowledgeable in the
vast Mahayana teachings, and not being handicapped or limited in
presenting the Mahayana teachings, but presenting them in accordance
with the need of the situation.
third quality is not only having heard and understood the vast
Mahayana teachings intellectually, but having the experience of the
teachings, being capable of presenting the teachings not only from
an analytical point of view but from an intuitive and experiential
point of view as well. With this quality comes the ability to
clarify the doubts and clear away the shortcomings and the obstacles
fourth point is that the actions and responsibilities of leading
students on the path toward awakened mind are performed with joy and
fifth quality is fearlessness. Fearlessness is always having the
conviction or confidence that regardless of the hard work, the
complicated tasks that the situation may require, there is no fear
of not succeeding. A charactersistic of the bodhisattva is never
becoming disillusioned or disheartened for whatever countless
kalpas, eons, no matter how seemingly impossible the task may
sixth quality is patience. This is very much connected with
fearlessness; it is not giving up, no matter how longlasting or
difficult the situation.
seventh quality is not becoming saddened or disheartened with being
in the world. In a samsaric situation, there are many kinds of ups
and downs, but whatever may be the uncertain play of samsara,
working in the midst of such a situation is contantly a joyful
experience, without the notion of its being overwhelming.
eight quality of the bodhisattva spiritual friend is known as the
fulfillment and accomplishment of the words of the Mahayana.
Whatever is taught through the medium of the words of the Mahayana
has a benefit and wholesome effect on the minds and lives of other.
His Eminence says that those of you who already have spiritual
friends and have established the connection, that is that. Those of
you who haven't made the link, you know what to look for.
This teaching was given
by His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche at Karma Triyana
Dharmachakra, Woodstock, New York, October 4-6, 1985. It was
translated by Ngodup Burkhar.
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