Guru Yoga
Teaching by Lama Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
September 1998, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Tonight's talk: the subject of the talk is Guru Yoga. I thought tonight I'll talk about Guru Yoga, tomorrow night I will talk about the concept of sunyata, and Friday night I would like to talk about bodhicitta.

These topics are most important, very important, according to Lam Rim teaching and according to various sutras said that Guru Yoga is the root of the realizations of the path. So I think we have something to think about and maybe something to debate about. And you could ask questions: Is it really true? Guru Yoga is the root of the spiritual realization? You could also ask question to your Dharma brother or Dharma sister: Is it possible one can become enlightened or one can become Buddha without the guru or lama or master? Is it possible or not? You could ask question.

Now if you do need guru and establish guru-disciple relationship, if it is very important, if it is very, very necessary, then how long does one need guru and how long does one need guru-disciple relationship? For couple of years, three years, or six years, or many, many years or rest of your life -- how long?

So this sort of question I think is very important. Also, can one have few gurus, or more than one guru, or can one have many, many gurus or not? This can be also a good question for us. It says Atisha had 157 gurus, and so one obviously can have many, many gurus. It's almost as if you need to have a monogamous relationship with one guru, and maybe it's not very healthy and maybe you don't learn very much. And sometimes if you have this kind of guru-disciple relationship, one guru, then sometimes you're not sure who's guru and who is disciple and you become one. Sometimes, like a couple, together for so long so they become like one person and they say anyway -- I don't know, I haven't been with someone so many years. People say even if you been with a pet, dog, you become like the dog and you even have a similar kind of personality, even looks similar sometimes. Sometime when you see man walking down street with his dog, they look similar, the way they walk, and so one can ask questions. I think it's good to ask questions.

Also, is it possible or permissible to end spiritual relationship with one guru and start another one, and keep changing? Is it possible or not? Like male-female relationship, is it possible? So, I think these questions are important to ask and I think some people are not sure and they're reluctant to ask questions. I think these are important. I shouldn't talk too much.

So, in Lam Rim teaching it says, and in the sutras it also says that Guru Yoga is the root of the realizations of the path. It is necessary to have guru if oneself is committed to the path of enlightenment, or Dharma path, or Buddhist path, or Mahayana path, or tantra path, it is important to have a guru. If one wish to really cultivate realization, if one believes in the progress and one to become Buddha.

If you are only studying Dharma for the sake of study, sake of development of your understanding of Dharma, if you are only studying Dharma intellectually, just intellectually on intellectual level, then I don't think you need a guru-disciple relationship. And also you can study with all kinds of teachers. It's like going to university. You study with different teachers or professors, and you go on, you move on. But if you wish to commit yourself to the path, then it is necessary, because one needs to know how to accomplish the realization, how to practice the Dharma.

It says in the Lam Rim, even ordinary things, when you want to learn something good, something thoroughly, like art or music, crafts and woodwork, stonework, pottery and so on, or carpet, thanka paintings, weaving and so on and so forth. What we normally would call worldly matters, worldly things, it is necessary to have a teacher and to establish close relationship with authentic teacher.

Let's say if you want to study thanka painting, Tibetan traditional thanka painting, it is necessary, it is beneficial to have a close connection and a relationship with one master, authentic thanka teacher, thanka painter, master, so you study with this person for seven years, six years, eight years, whatever. It depends on how much you need. Then one can learn a lot. Also, like if you're studying astrology, numerology, or Tibetan medicine. According to Tibetan medicine and astrology, it says one should study minimum seven years under one teacher, master. Then you could become a good medicine man and one can become a good doctor. So it is like that.

Now, Dharma practice, meditation, is much, much more deeper, and these spiritual realizations that we are trying to cultivate, trying to accomplish, it is very profound and delicate. Therefore we do need master or teacher or lama or guru who can show us how to do the practice properly and correctly. So therefore we can learn easily and without confusion and without wasting time and energy. And also one can gain realizations faster and one can develop confidence in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha faster. Therefore it is necessary to have guru or teacher.

Then Lam Rim says -- teaching says -- Lam Rim teaching talks about benefit of having teacher, spiritual teacher or guru. So I'd like to go through this, the benefits.

Onward Onward to Guru Yoga, p.2

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