Lama - The Source of Blessings
Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.
teachings can be divided into the sutra path and the tantra path.
The sutra path is based on causes, and the tantra path is based on
fruit. Both are about using a path to free us from the dualistic
view in order to reach the state of liberation.
sutra path, first, the cause for a dualistic view is analyzed. One
finds that the root for this is clinging to an "I," our ignorance.
Then one goes on analyzing. Where does this idea come from? What is
the essence of clinging to an "I?" What are its signs? What is its
cause, etc.? Finally, one comes to the conclusion that one's own
identity does not truly exist. On the sutra path, one starts from
the understanding that now we are in a state full of suffering and
one looks for the cause of this suffering. One finds that the cause
is the various actions one did before. Then one questions what led
to these actions and their resulting karma. One finds that the cause
is our disturbing emotions, which again are caused by our dualistic
view and our clinging to an "I." Thus, one comes to the point where
one recognizes that clinging to the "I" is the cause of all our
on this understanding one follows the sutra path in which one
primarily maintains the rules of discipline with body and speech.
Also, one comes to an understanding of the mutual dependence of all
things, and that they do not inherently exist. Thirdly one tries to
attain a benevolent attitude toward other beings.
Therefore, on the sutra path one proceeds by analyzing
things, investigating the causes. Based on understanding which
results from that, one applies different methods. Thereby one
reaches the point where one becomes free from suffering. One attains
liberation and the state of omniscience as well. However, this path
is very long. It is said that the bodhisattva path takes three
endless kalpas to attain buddhahood. On the tantra path, Vajrayana,
one proceeds in a completely different way. One doesn't analyze
causes, one works directly with one's own experiences. For example,
when disturbing emotions come up, one doesn't analyze their cause,
but experiences them directly and comes to the point where one is
able to transform them. For that reason, it is said that this path
works with the fruit and is therefore a very fast path. The result
which is attained through both paths is the same: one becomes
liberated from suffering and inner disturbances subside, one attains
realization. The difference between the paths is only the way in
which one practices.
tantra path starts from different conditions than the sutra path.
This path is only suitable for practioners with the highest
capacities, since one works directly with disturbing emotions
without analyzing their causes. On the other hand, it is also said
that in this degenerated time this path is suitable for people with
the strongest disturbing emotions. The reason is that these people
don't have the patience to accumulate merit over a long period of
time and to practice the bodhisattva path. They simply cannot manage
it. If one really can practice the tantra path and is able to deal
with the disturbances in one's mind, it is a very fast path.
Nevertheless, one will not reach buddhahood in a few days or years.
always said that the Vajrayana is about bringing impure experiences
and appearances to a pure level. However, this does not mean that
this transformation consists only in thinking or believing that
things are pure. It is rather about real transformation. In order to
be able to do this, one needs the "three roots" (sources) of
blessing, accomplishment, and activity. The root of blessing is the
lama. The root of accomplishment (siddhis) is the yidam. The root of
activity is the dharma protectors. The lama is the most important of
the three roots. Yidams and protectors are manifestations of the
lama. No yidam or protector is separate from the lama. For that
reason, the lama has a very special meaning in the Vajrayana.
order to understand this, it is beneficial to look again at the
sutra path. Here one relies on a teacher or spiritual friend who
shows one the way. According to their explanations one practices and
in that way one progresses through the various bodhisattva levels
and five paths (accumulation, junction, seeing, meditation, no more
Vajrayana, the teacher has a much more important significance. One
does not see him simply as one who shows the way, but one sees him
as the Buddha himself. With this attitude, the blessing of the lama
can directly enter one's mind, mature and awaken one's mindstream.
In order to make this possible, two elements are needed. On the one
hand one has to practice and on the other hand one has to open to
the lama and really see him as the Buddha.
sutra path, one deals with one's actions very consciously. One puts
effort into avoiding all negative actions and only doing positive
things. But since one is always "accompanied" by one's own ignorance
and since one has various disturbances, one never succeeds
completely and always does something negative again. The sutra path
takes so long because the striving for positiveness and the
disturbances in the mind which tempt us to do negative actions, are
always in conflict which each other.
tantra path however, there is an additional element in connection
with the lama. In the true nature of mind there is no confusion to
be found; it is only the way we experience things which is marked by
confusion. If we open ourselves to the lama filled with trust, and
therefore get his blessing, our mind will be guided to maturity.
This means that through the power of blessing we are able to
recognize the true nature of our mind. Thus the lama - the source of
blessing - is so important in the Vajrayana and is called "the first
order to get the blessing, several things are necessary. On the one
hand, one needs to develop full trust and complete devotion toward
the lama. However, this does not refer to just any lama. It refers
to the one we have chosen after having extensively checked several
teachers. It refers to the lama in whom we are sure we can develop
complete trust. On the other hand, the lama should check the
practitioner as well in order to be sure that he is really able to
has attained certainty that one can develop this complete openness
toward a lama, it should give rise to an unshakable trust. It should
really be as unshakable and as indestructable as a diamond. If one
is able to do that, the result is not being influenced and disturbed
anymore by common thoughts. This unshakability of trust is also the
reason for the name "Vajrayana", diamond-vehicle, because this trust
is like a diamond - indestructable. Many people erroneously believe
that there is no difference between a Vajrayana teacher and other
teachers. A common teacher can show one the path in a perfectly pure
and clear way, and explain how to behave, how things are, etc. A
Vajrayana teacher however, is somebody who does not work and teach
only with words, but on all levels. With bodily behavior, with
verbal teachings and through the inspiration of his mind, he can
lead the mindstream of others towards maturity and liberation. Only
someone with this capacity is an authentic Vajrayana teacher. There
are many common teachers, but only few can be called a teacher in
prayer of Dorje Chang it is said that devotion is the head of
meditation. This refers to the devotion which should be developed in
the Vajrayana- a kind of devotion which completely and naturally
awakens in oneself without imagination or fooling oneself. When it
appears in one's mind, common thoughts subside through the blessing
of the lama and the experience of meditation arises naturally,
without putting any effort into meditation. Then the inspiration of
the body, speech, and mind of the lama can be effective in oneself.
is the quotation of earlier Kagyu masters that the preliminary
practices - the Ngondro, are more profound than all other practices.
This statement refers much more to the Guru-Yoga then to the
prostrations, Dorje Sempa or mandala offerings, because here one
receives the inspiration of the lama's blessing. For the practices
like Mahamudra, or the developing phases in connection with yidam
practices, or the completion phases - the Six Yogas of Naropa -
which are all based on the Ngondro, it is always necessary to
prepare one's mind properly. This happens through the blessing one
experiences in Guru Yoga. Only through this, is one able to bring
impure experiences to a pure level and to work correctly with the
other practices. The devotion one should have toward the lama is
more than one's feeling when seeing a certain teacher who behaves in
a pleasant way toward oneself. If the lama smiles or speaks in a
pleasant way, a feeling of devotion may arise, but this is called
the "arising of a feeling due to various conditions." The aspired
devotion toward the lama however, is a deep inner feeling which is
independent from such outer conditions. In the beginning of course,
it still depends on outer things; then it becomes an inner feeling
which awakens independently from outer conditions and momentary
experiences. Only when this completely deep devotion and this
unshakable trust have arisen can the blessing work in a way so that
common thoughts and the like, calm down naturally. There are
descriptions about the signs of devotion: tears appear in the eyes
and the hair on the body stands upright. But for this to happen it
is necessary that one has a connection to one's lama for many
lifetimes; to build it up in one lifetime is impossible.
if one receives the authentic blessing is one in the position to
realize the authentic fruit, the ultimate accomplishments, the
highest siddhis. If one tries to forcefully build up an artificial
feeling of devotion and trust, the blessing and the inspiration will
be only imaginary and artificial, and so will the fruit (result).
Teachers themselves are just human beings. They have a body. They
are sometimes in a good or a bad mood. They are sometimes angry,
sometimes sad, etc. Without real trust and unshakable devotion, one
will be influenced by these things and feel insecure. One will
wonder why the experience of meditation today is not as strong as
the experience yesterday; one becomes unstable and insecure in one's
confidence. All this results from the fact that devotion and trust
are not yet really unshakable.
one talks about reaching the highest accomplishments, it is not
something outer or something new one attains. It is the realization
of the nature of ones own mind. One has attained the highest
accomplishments when one is free of all momentary changing states
and conditions, and when one has realized the mind as it really is.
Blessing is the ability to bring the mind of other sentient
beings to maturity and to liberate them. Blessing does not have any
form, nor any specific symbol of expression. Although during
empowerments different symbolic objects are used, the actual
blessing is that one becomes free of the idea that someone receives
a blessing and is given a blessing. This is the ultimate empowerment
and the real blessing. Everything else is just symbols and examples
for the receiving of blessing.
Reproduced here with kind permission.
originally appeared in :
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