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Guru Yoga of Lama Tsong Khapa by Geshe Dakpa Topgyal
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Guru yoga is a special practice used to accumulate merit and receive
the blessings of all Buddhas and past Guru lineage masters. Your present guru received teachings from these Buddhas and Guru lineage masters. They are the ones who carry the entire transmission lineage. Guru literally translates as "spiritual mentor" and yoga as "union." Guru yoga, therefore, means "union with your guru." 
     Guru yoga is also a powerful method for communication with all enlightened beings through your spiritual guide and for coming under their joyful care and protection. It is also a powerful means to accumulate merit. In one moment of guru yoga practice, you can accumulate as much merit as you would through eons of practice through other methods.
     In the Gelugpa tradition, there are three types of guru yoga: Ganden Lhagya-ma, the guru yoga of Lama Tsong Khapa; Six Session guru yog; and Lama Chopa guru yoga, which emphasizes the union of bliss and emptiness. The last two, Six Session guru yoga and Lama Chopa guru yoga, require initiation and transmission, and it is not advisable to practice either of these without going through the proper
means. With Ganden Lhagya-ma, transmission and initiation are not required, but it is best if one can receive transmission.
     This book will describe Ganden Lhagya-ma guru yoga. The information is based on the teachings of Lama Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelugpa tradition, who is expected to be the seventh of one thousand Buddhas to turn the wheel of Dharma on earth in this era. It is believed that Lama Tsong Khapa presently resides in Tushita, the pure or blissful land, the kingdom of Maitreya, who is the fifth (and next) Buddha to appear on the earth. 
     The purpose of guru yoga practice is to be able to view your guru as a living Buddha. This is accomplished by training your perception and by cultivating faith and devotional inspiration towards your guru, through whom you receive blessings from all the enlightened beings. 
     Human perception is normally governed by delusions, and it is through guru yoga that your are able to purify your perception and see the guru as a living Buddha. Guru yoga also permits the practitioner to receive blessings from the enlightened beings, which can only come through obtaining this pure perception.
     If you fail to purify your perception toward the guru then, even if the guru is truly a living Buddha, you will not be capable of seeing him or her as an enlightened being and you will not be open to receiving blessings from him or her. On the other hand, if you purify your perception toward the guru, even if your guru is not fully enlightened, you will be able to view the guru as an enlightened being and thus receive the blessings of the enlightened beings from him or her. Therefore, seeing the guru as a living Buddha is crucial to spiritual practice.
     In Buddhism, a blessing is any encounter with a spiritual teacher that has the power to genuinely inspire you to live in a more meaningful way, with increased calmness and peace of mind. The blessing can come in an instantaneous way immediately strengthening your faith and devotion and deepening your spiritual understanding. Or, the blessing can happen more gradually, through observing the way your spiritual teacher acts, speaks, and lives according to the
Buddha’s teachings. If such an encounter with a spiritual teacher changes your perception and increases your spiritual understanding, it is called a blessing.
     Through the practice of Dharma in general and guru yoga in particular, should you gain an unusual feeling of faith, devotion, and respect toward your guru and the Dharma, then you will experience an increase in the pleasure and joyous effort of your practice. You will be inspired to abstain from negative emotions and deeds, and you will deal more easily with physical and mental pain. Your practice
will also create an inner acceptance that will result in an unusual experience of peace of mind because you will experience less negative emotions, such as fear, worry, or greed. In addition, you will become less concerned with obtaining the material objects to fill a depthless desire. When this happens to you, it is a good sign that your practice
is working and that you are receiving the Buddha’s blessings and the blessings of your guru.
     Guru yoga practice is the only way to view correctly your guru as a living Buddha. Guru yoga practice is the root of 
spiritual realization, and there is good reason to view your guru as a living Buddha. It is not just an exercise in blind faith. If we did meet a real, living Buddha able to display magical powers, the only way we could truly benefit from such an encounter would be to receive teachings from him or
her—teachings which are like nectar that can satisfy all of our spiritual needs. If we have impure perceptions towards enlightened beings and are not able to perceive their purity, then we will not be capable of benefiting from their teachings—even if they put on magical displays for us. Conversely, if we have undeluded perceptions and
meet a qualified spiritual guide not yet enlightened, we still could receive the full power of their teachings through the strength of the purity of our own perceptions. We could receive the nectar of his or her teachings in its purest and most potent form.
     The ultimate deed the Buddha performs is to give teachings, and your guru is present to perform this deed. This is the deed that you can best benefit from; you need nothing other than the teachings of the Buddha given by your present teacher. This alone has the power to meet all of your spiritual needs. This is why you need to view your Guru as a living Buddha.
     Buddha himself said, "I cannot wash away your negativities and sins with water, nor can I remove your pain and suffering by my hand, nor can I transfer my realizations to you. The only way I can help you is through giving teachings, and you should strive to liberate yourself."
This passage shows us that Buddha himself considered his ultimate deed to be giving teachings to others. Because our present spiritual teacher performs this for our benefit, it is only appropriate that we view him or her as a living Buddha, as one who keeps the Buddha’s teachings alive for us in the present day.
     Seeing your guru as a living Buddha-cultivating faith, devotion, and respect, and keeping him or her as the most precious and cherished object in your heart-is the root of goodness in present and future lives and the root of Sutric and Tantric realizations of paths (in Sanskrit, margas) and grounds (in Sanskrit, bhumis). There are five paths—the paths of Accumulation, Preparation, Seeing, Meditation, and the path of No More Learning. The practitioner passes from path to path (marga to marga) through a subsequent non-meditative state to a meditative state. A subsequent non-meditative state occurs in the brief period of time when the meditator comes out of his or her meditative state, and the mind is not yet tainted by mundane conceptual thoughts and emotions. Grounds (bhumis) are the ten levels or stages of realization, starting from the first moment of the path of Seeing to the last moment of Vajra-like concentration of the path of Meditation. The meditator moves from meditative state to meditative state. However, there is still a subsequent non-meditative state, considered part of the path (marga) and not the ground (bhumi). Once the meditator resumes meditation, the meditative mind serves as a direct antidote to its corresponding obscurations to liberation and to knowledge, and this is said to be ground (bhumi). 
     The first ground (bhumi) is an antidote to removing the grossest
of obscurations to liberation. In the same way, if you are washing clothes in three rounds, in the first round you remove the grossest of the stains. In the second wash, you can get rid of the more subtle stains. In the third wash, the stains are entirely removed, with no trace left behind. 
     Guru yoga practice subdues the perception flaws of the spiritual
teacher as flawed and enhances the perception of a perfectly realized living Buddha. This is the most important feature of the guru yoga practice. You should try to hold onto perceiving the guru as a living Buddha not only during the meditation period but throughout daily life. Your own impure perceptions are the reason you do not recognize your present guru as a living Buddha and his teaching as a healing nectar and are not able to gain deeper levels of spiritual realizations – even with a good understanding of the Buddha’s profound teachings on emptiness and his vast teachings on Lam Rim.
      Three factors must come together in your spiritual practice in order
to achieve a higher realization: 1) the purification practice, in which negativities that prevent realization from occurring and progressing, are purified; 2) the practice of the accumulation of merit, in which the positive energy created contributes to higher realization and its further progression; 3) the practice of visualization, meditation, contemplation, and concentration, which serves as the material cause for one’s spiritual realization. Guru yoga practice contains these three factors, which should be considered the heart of your Dharma (spiritual) practice. In other words, you should emphasize this practice in daily practice. 
     Because teacher or divine guru plays a key role in Guru yoga practice, it is important to search for a qualified guru right from the
start. As stated in the Lam Rim by Lama Tsong Khapa, ten minimum qualifications are required of the guru. The guru must be an expert in and have a profound knowledge of the topics he or she teaches. He or she must be kind and compassionate, with a pleasing behavior that reflects his or her teachings. He or she must be skillful in guiding his or her disciples according to the disciple’s capabilities. He or she must teach from his or her inner experience and be pleased by his or her student’s Dharma practice and not by material gifts and material offerings. This guru must always be concerned with his or her student’s spiritual well being. Search for a teacher who possesses these spiritual qualifications. 
     These days, although many people have a good understanding of
the Dharma and, to some extent, engage in spiritual practice, many lack the experience of true inner spiritual realization. They may not have found a teacher with the proper qualifications, and/or they may not have fulfilled their responsibilities as students. When students engage in spiritual practice, they should mainly be concerned with not clinging to this life. Nowadays, especially in the West, many people claim to be spiritual teachers and give teachings, but their inner motivation is personal material gain and fame. They totally lack the qualifications stated above for a spiritual teacher. Students who honestly and sincerely search for a spiritual teacher must be aware of this to find the proper teacher.      
     One of the early Tibetan masters said, "Realizations of paths and
grounds will never be born if one fails to recognize the Lama as a living Buddha and fails to perceive his teachings as nectar." Therefore, it is important to strive to see your guru as a living Buddha by means of contemplating the valid reasons presented here, until you have a spontaneous recognition of your guru as being a living Buddha.  
     Through engaging in the practice of Lama Tsong Khapa, you
should try to minimize your habit of finding fault in your guru through impure perceptions and should instead promote pure perception through which you can see his or her inspiring spiritual qualities. The guru yoga of Lama Tsong Khapa has a special power to increase wisdom, compassion, and inner resistance and to keep away obstacles that prevents realization of paths and grounds from progressing.
      Ganden Lhagyamai Lamai Nyaljor or the Guru Yoga of Lama Tsong
Khapa can be performed with recitation of the Sacred Praise Verse called "Migtsema". This praise verse is sacred and blessed because it was originally uttered by Manjushri and transmitted directly to Lama Tsong Khapa. Later, out of devotion, Lama Tsong Khapa substituted the name of his guru, Jetsun Rendawa, for his own in two lines and offered it to him. But Jetsun Rendawa returned it to him, saying that, unlike Lama Tsong Khapa, he did not have all the qualities worthy of the verse. Many of Lama Tsong Khapa’s followers have attained very high realizations as a direct result of the practice of "Migtsema" combined with the Guru Yoga of Lama Tsong Khapa. 
     Your guru is the prime focus of the visualization of the merit field,
and it is mainly through guru yoga that we receive blessings, accumulate merit, and purify negativities and karmic imprints, particularly those related to disregarding the guru’s spiritual instruction and disturbing the guru’s mind.
     Guru yoga is very important in both Sutric and Tantric practices
and is a crucial preliminary for Tantric practice. Without it, Tantric realizations can’t grow. Many Tantric realizations will come as a result of fruitful guru yoga practice. Lama Tsong Khapa, in The Gist of The Lam Rim, states:  

". . . the root that brings about the goodness in one’s present and future lives and brings all forms of spiritual realizations, consists of cultivating faith, devotion, and respect for the guru, and maintaining the spiritual connection through proper intentions and actions. One should see this relationship as precious and not relinquish it even at the cost of one’s life, and one should please one’s guru by making
offerings of one’s Dharma practice. Even I have done this, and encourage you, the liberation seeker, to do the same."

Through Lama Tsong Khapa’s spiritual advice, you can understand
the importance of guru yoga practice, the only means of seeing your guru as a living Buddha. Through maintaining this pure spiritual connection with him or her until you attain enlightenment, you truly deepen faith and devotion.  


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