Not to cheat or deceive our Preceptors or Spiritual Guides
There is nobody more kind in our life than our Spiritual Guides. Our parents are extremely kind to us, but they are only interested in our welfare in this life alone. Only our spiritual guide is primarily interested in helping us in all of our future lives. Since the duration of this life is highly uncertain, whereas the duration of our future lives is infinite, it is clear which is more important. Even if others are concerned about our future lives, they don’t necessarily know the means by which we can secure happiness in our future lives. But our Spiritual Guide does. He has already provided us with everything we need to attain any spiritual goal we set for ourselves. If we wish to avoid lower rebirth, he explains to us how. If we wish to attain liberation, he explains to us how. If we wish to attain the pure land or to attain enlightenment, he explains to us how.
He not only explains these things to us, but he has arranged all the necessary conditions for our practice. Without hardly any effort on our part, we have access to Dharma centers, Dharma books, sadhanas, festivals, everything. He has laid at our feet everything we need to be a modern day bodhisattva, and all we need to do is pick it up and use it. What Geshe-la has done with Manjushri center, we can do with our local centers. In many ways, it is even easier for us because we are already starting with everything, whereas he had to start with nothing.
His greatest act of kindness to us is he is there to help us when we are in the greatest of need. Later, when we are spiritually advanced, we will be able to receive teachings directly from Buddhas. But right now, when our minds are dark and obscured, who is able to shine a light into our hearts? Our Spiritual Guide. He also blesses our mind, giving us the strength and wisdom we need to travel the path, joyfully and even easily. When you think about it, it is impossible for anybody to be kinder to us than he is.
Likewise our Dharma teachers at our local Dharma centers are just as kind. A case can be made for why they are even kinder because we are only able to see Geshe-la very rarely, but our local teachers are with us all of the time. But any local teacher would say in reality they are doing nothing, that it is Geshe-la who works through them, so all credit goes to the Spiritual Guide. Even if our local teacher grants us empowerments or vows, in reality it is our Spiritual Guide who is doing it through our local teacher. Our local teacher is like a speaker connected to the spiritual stereo system of our Spiritual guide.
Why do I explain how kind our Spiritual Guide is? To show how and why it is so terrible to cheat or deceive them. To cheat or deceive somebody who is cruel or out to harm us is bad, but how inconceivably worse is it to cheat or deceive our Spiritual Guide?
What does it mean to cheat or deceive them. Generally, if we are doing it, we know when it is wrong. Any form of stealing or lying or deception would fall under this. Ultimately, it is incredibly stupid to do. First of all, it is impossible for him to be deceived, even if we try, because he is omniscient and so sees right through any of our deceptions. Our local teacher we can perhaps deceive, but our Spiritual Guide (who is our real local teacher) can never be deceived. Second, why would we want to deceive him? He only wants to help us and he has only compassion for our shortcomings, so there is really no need to deceive him.
I think a far more common, but more subtle, form of breaking this vow is when we have pretentious pride with our Spiritual Guide. I for one have a long history of being attached to what others think of me, especially what my spiritual teachers think of me. For many many years (and even now, if I am honest), I try get my teachers to think I am better than I really am. I do this because I think they will like me more if they think I am this great practitioner. But actually, if I am so great, what need do they have to teach me. So even if I am just trying to get them to give me more love, to pretend to be better than I really am is just counter-productive. It is also, again, incredibly stupid to do. Just as a doctor can only treat us effectively if we describe for them the symptoms we are actually suffering from, so too our teachers can only effectively help us if we describe for them honestly what is happening in our mind – humbly and honestly.
Another common form of deception that can take place is to exaggerate how great we supposedly think our local teacher is. It can happen quite often that our local teachers are making all sorts of mistakes. But because we think we are supposed to be maintaining pure view and we think it is disrespectful to talk to them about the mistakes they are making, we tell them how great they are when in reality we don’t think that at all. This doesn’t help them. It may coddle their ego, but how does it help them advance spiritually? And how does it help us because we know it is not what we think. Geshe-la says when we see our teachers making mistakes we need to approach them constructively explaining our perspective on their actions and asking them for clarification so we can better understand. If they are wrong, they should then say, “thank you, you are right, I will try change this about me,” and if we are wrong they should without defensiveness explain to us how our view is wrong at which point we learn something.
Finally, in the context of this series of blog posts, it is a form of deception to pretend that we are taking our vows with the intention of practicing them, but in reality we do nothing about them and never really had any intention of doing better. The first time we took our bodhisattva or refuge or Pratimoksha vows, for most of us it was a big deal, something we considered, something we discussed with our Sangha friends to make sure we were approaching it right. But since then? If others are anything like me, I have attended festival after festival, taking the vows again and again, and never really giving it a second thought. In general, it is advisable before every festival or time when we are going to receive new vows that we make a point of examining the vows, seeing the different areas where we can do a little better next time, and then with a very specific motivation to do better, we retake the vows. In this way, every month, every year our practice of the vows and commitments becomes a little bit more qualified.