How to receive perfectly reliable inner guidance every day
In popular culture, we often hear about relying upon the inner Spiritual Guide, but what is meant is relying upon our intuition or instincts. The problem with this is our instincts are all wrong! As Gen-la Losang explains, “what is natural is simply what is familiar.” Delusions seem like the entirely natural response to things because we have always responded in this way. Our habits cannot be trusted because our habits are all wrong. At the same time, we don’t want to fall into the other extreme of being incapable of thinking for ourselves, always paralyzed by doubt having to seek affirmation from an external source whether our understandings are correct. We need to learn how to rely upon the inner Spiritual Guide, and fortunately we have been given the method how.
As I have written about before, for whatever reason I do not have the karma to be able to meet Geshe-la in person (except at large teachings). For many years I wished for this very much, and I was saving a special question that I would ask if ever I met him. My question was, “what do I need to do to be able to make internal requests to you and receive perfectly reliable responses every time?” I figured if I had an answer to this question, it would provide me with the answers to all of my other questions for the rest of my life. Within my heart, I would ask him this question nearly every day.
Then, one year at the International Teacher Training Program, the teacher began his teaching by saying, “Geshe-la just passed me a strange, but very special note. It says the following:
It is important to develop a good heart, a Buddhist intention, a beneficial intention, day and night, even during our sleep. We will perceive a special idea, a mental image or plan as our intention is maintained. Through blessings, imprints, receiving teachings and so forth, a special understanding or idea will develop. Then our teachings will be perfect. If we follow the writings alone, we will maintain just an intellectual understanding. It is most important that we improve our motivation.”
As this advice was being read out, I was struck very clearly with the feeling, “this is the answer to my question.” I felt, “even though I never got the chance to ask him this question, he heard it and is now providing me the answer I seek.” After receiving this advice, I was finally able to let go of my attachment to wanting to meet with him and I realized, “I now lack nothing.” If we find ourself in a situation where access to a Dharma center is difficult, gaining experience of this special method for making internal requests is vital. When we are able to do this, we will quite literally feel as if our Guru is always with us, guiding us every step of the way. We never feel alone and always have him to turn to.
How does this work? First, we need to mentally align our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide. Just as sails need to be properly aligned with the winds to push the boat forward, so too the sails of our mind must be properly aligned with the pure winds of the Spiritual Guide to push our spiritual life forward. When we are confronted with some situation or problem that we need answers for, we first ask ourselves the question, “what does Geshe-la want for this situation?” He always wants the same thing, for delusions to decrease and for virtues to increase. He wants us and all living beings to use every situation for spiritual progress. But we should make it more personal and specific by asking, “what do you want in this situation?” “What is your motivation in this situation?” We then mentally do the work to try align our mind with that same motivation so that we sincerely want the same thing.
Once we have this motivation, we then ask, “what would you have me do?” Or, “what spiritual lesson are you trying to teach me here?” Or, “please reveal to me how I can help.” Or, “please reveal to me the meaning of this instruction.” Any pure spiritual request will work. Then, while maintaining our pure motivation for wanting an answer to our question we make our mind completely still, like a clear pond at dawn. With deep faith, we hold our question while maintaining our pure motivation for wanting an answer. It is important at this point to completely silence our ordinary mind. Our ordinary thoughts are like noise which prevents us from hearing or seeing what our Spiritual Guide wishes to reveal.
As we are maintaining this faithful silence, eventually an idea, image, plan or understanding will “appear” in our mind. This is the beginning of our answer. When we start to receive some understanding, we should continue to remain mostly silent, asking as necessary, “is there anything else” as we let him reveal to us his plan. Once we have an initial answer, we can ask questions of clarification, such as, “I am not clear what you mean here, can you please clarify.” If we have doubts, we can ask questions like, “but what about XYZ obstacle.” In short, you should mentally feel like you are having a direct, one-on-one meeting with Geshe-la where he is there patiently answering all of your questions and providing you with the guidance you desire. Then, after your “meeting” with him, you go out and act upon the advice you have received.