From afar a Buddhist came to visit. He asked me to write about how to choose a Guru because many are puzzled as to how to do it, and many had been turned off by sour ones that they remain skeptical to spiritual quests and Gurus. Progress on the Buddhist path is mainly based on Bodhicitta, the aspiration to enable all sentient beings to attain ultimate enlightenment. Following a Guru who is an experienced and realized practitioner one would gain protection and guidance on the path. Therefore, a practitioner should, first of all, reflect on Bodhicitta to ensure that it is genuine. As long as one’s Bodhicitta is genuine, any situation would become an opportunity to help grow and mature, and even in case one had been misled or cheated by evil teachers, there is no fault on the practitioner’s conscience. Furthermore, a practitioner should diligently practice basic training such as chanting the name of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, repeating mantras, making prostration to Buddhas, the foundational practices of Vajrayana, etc., instead of being anxious to obtain high or wondrous teachings, or hustling to visit centers and initiation gatherings. When the foundational practices are solidly developed, the opportune time would come for the practitioner to have inspirations indicating whom to follow as one’s Guru. When one approaches a potential teacher, no need to rush into deep relationship. One should let the relationship develop naturally over time, then there will be opportunity to observe and reflect on whether this relationship is really beneficial for growth and progress on the Dharma path. As to how to take genuine refuge in a Guru it requires a disciple to have renounced worldly engagements and devoted fully to Dharma practices and services to comprehend the suitable way. No one can teach this through words. The usual so-called "taking refuge in a Guru" is no more than associating with a senior Dharma friend.
Written in Chinese on April 18, 2000
Translated on April 19, 2000
El Cerrito, California