It is entirely normal when we first hear about the practice of offering ourself to the Spiritual Guide as his servant that a wide variety of objections will arise within our mind. We first might wonder if this means we need to leave our family and our jobs and go live next to the Spiritual Guide and bring him food, clean his room, etc. Sure, some might do exactly that, but only if it is their wish. Generally speaking, though, the Spiritual Guide works for all living beings without exception, including for our friends, family, coworkers, neighbors and so forth. How else can the Spiritual Guide help these people close to us other than through us? We don’t need to go anywhere or abandon anyone, all we need to do is take up his work as our own in our homes, work environments, our local centers, neighborhoods, communities and so forth. We merely need ask ourselves, “what would our Spiritual Guide want me to do here?” And then we do exactly that.
We might wonder, if I offer myself to him as his servant, what if he wants to do something with me that I don’t want? It is entirely possible that he will want to do things with you that your delusions will not want. He will want you to put others first, but our delusions will want to put ourselves first. He will want you to let go of your attachments, but our delusions will want to grasp at them. He will want you to be generous and give, whereas our miserliness will want to horde everything for ourself. And this is precisely the crux of it all: what our delusions want and what our Spiritual Guide wants are necessarily opposite. But, what your delusions want is to eventually put you in the deepest hell where you can never escape. They will not stop, ever. All delusions are deceptive. They promise us happiness if we listen to them, but they trick us and leave us only to suffer. What they want is harmful for us, what our Spiritual Guide wants for us is everlasting freedom. It is only because we are under the hypnotic spell of our delusions that we are completely confused about what is in fact good for us.
Our Spiritual Guide, ultimately, wants to forge us into a Buddha. If we understood what Buddhahood was, we would want nothing else for ourself. Offering ourself to the Spiritual Guide will mean we have to go against the grain and advice of our delusions, but that is a good thing. We might think we are not ready to take on such a big commitment and we can’t guarantee that our delusions will not, from time to time, get the better of us. We might worry, I don’t want to create the negative karma of stealing from the Spiritual Guide, and since I can’t guarantee that I will not ever use myself for myself again, it is better that I wait until I am ready before I offer myself. But this is the wrong way of thinking. Our Spiritual Guide knows our delusions will deceive us. If they didn’t, we would already be a Buddha. As long as we don’t abandon the wish to one day become an extension of him, an “instrument of his peace,” then we never actually break our commitment and there is no problem. We might occasionally forget we have offered ourself, but that is quite different than mentally saying, “I don’t want to offer myself to my Spiritual Guide anymore, I would like to take myself back and use me for my own selfish purposes.” It doesn’t matter whether we succeed all of the time, in fact we will fail most of the time. What matters is that we have chosen our final destination, and we never give up striving to go in this direction.
We might also quite naturally object that it sounds very sect-like like to offer ourself as a servant to the Spiritual Guide. Normally we say the test as to whether something is a sect or not is a group is a sect if it tries to take control of you, whereas a pure lineage will try to give you control of yourself. Now Shantideva is saying that we need to surrender control completely to the Spiritual Guide. It sure sounds sect-like. The answer to this objection is in order to surrender control to the Spiritual Guide, we first need to gain control of ourselves. We are currently slaves to our delusions. They control us completely. We think we are free, but in reality we are in bondage. Our delusions will never offer us to the Spiritual Guide. The only way we can do that is to first gain our freedom from them. Once we have gained our freedom, we then need to decide what we do with it and how we can use it in the best way. So we examine all the different things we can do with ourselves, and we realize that offering ourself to the Spiritual Guide is the best. So with whatever control over ourselves we have gained, we offer ourself.
Offering ourselves to the Spiritual Guide doesn’t then deprive us of our feeling of having freedom and control over ourself. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The more we offer ourself to the Spiritual Guide, the more we feel like we are gaining control over ourselves and becoming more free. At present, the cycle of samsara is our delusions take control of us, cause us to engage in all sorts of negative and deluded actions, and this creates the karma that binds us further to Samsara. But when we gain some freedom from our delusions, and then we use that freedom to offer ourself to our Spiritual Guide, we feel like we become even more free. We can then use that freedom to offer ourself again, and so on in a virtuous circle. Offering ourself to our Spiritual Guide enables us to easily overcome all of our delusions because that is his function.
And the deepest irony is this: we are not who we think we are. We think we are the self we normally see, the self of our self-grasping. In reality, we are our Buddha nature, our pure potential. This is who we really are, it is only our self-grasping that has created this false identity and convinced us that we are it. Our Buddha nature is inseparable from the Spiritual Guide. In fact, we can say that our Spiritual Guide is our own pure potential fully ripened. We just don’t realize yet that is who we are. So when we offer ourself to our Spiritual Guide what we are actually doing is offering ourself to our true selves. We do not lose ourselves, but actually discover who we truly are.