Happy Tsog Day: Generating Admiring Faith in our Spiritual Guide

In order to remember and mark our tsog days, holy days on the Kadampa calendar, I am sharing my understanding of the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide with tsog.  This is part 16 of a 44-part series.

Requesting by remembering his good qualities as explained in the Vinaya scriptures

Great ocean of moral discipline, source of all good qualities,
Replete with a collection of jewels of extensive learning,
Second Buddha, venerable saffron-robed monk,
O Elder and Holder of the Vinaya, to you I make requests.

The practice of moral discipline is the primary cause of upper rebirth. Engaging in moral discipline with a spiritual motivation enables us to take another precious human rebirth, liberation, or enlightenment. Normally, we divide our practice of moral discipline into the different levels of our vows: refuge, pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and tantric vows. The essence of our refuge vows is to make effort to receive Buddha’s blessings, receive help from Sangha, and to put the Dharma into practice. The essence of our pratimoksha vows is to not harm living beings, either ourself or others. The essence of our bodhisattva vows is to put others first, and the essence of our tantric vows is to maintain pure view out of compassion. At the beginning of the sadhana, we emphasized our practice of refuge. Here, we emphasize our pratimoksha vows by recalling our spiritual guide maintains perfect outer moral discipline. This is symbolized by his outer aspect as a fully ordained monk. During the prayer of the stages of the path later in the sadhana, we generate both aspiring and engaging bodhichitta for our bodhisattva vows, and we maintain pure view throughout the practice and especially after we dissolve the Guru at the end of the practice. In this way, the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide is a supreme practice of all types of moral discipline.

In order to understand all the different vows and how we practice them in the context of our Kadampa life, I did a series of posts on each of the 200+ vows and commitments of Kadampa Buddhism. You can find the explanation here. The posts are listed in reverse chronological order, but you can scroll down to the bottom and work your way up if you want to read them in order.

Requesting by remembering his good qualities as a Mahayana spiritual guide

You who possess the ten qualities
Of an authentic Teacher of the path of the Sugatas,
Lord of the Dharma, representative of all the Conquerors,
O Mahayana spiritual guide, to you I make requests.

In Hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land we recite, “I rejoice in the great wave of your deeds.” What does this mean? Je Tsongkhapa’s special strategy for ripening and liberating all living beings is for himself to become a spiritual guide, then train others to become fully qualified spiritual guides, who then in turn form yet more spiritual guides, and so forth. In this way, gradually all living beings are guided to enter, progress along, and eventually complete the path to enlightenment. This is the great wave of Je Tsongkhapa’s deeds, and his actions as a Mahayana spiritual guide. This is symbolized by Buddha Shakyamuni appearing at the heart of Lama Losang Tubwang Dorjechang.

Requesting by remembering his good qualities as a Vajrayana spiritual guide

Your three doors are perfectly controlled, you have great wisdom and patience,
You are without pretension or deceit, you are well-versed in mantras and Tantra,
You possess the two sets of ten qualities, and you are skilled in drawing and explaining,
O Principal Holder of the Vajra, to you I make requests.

In the sutra teachings, we generate the wish to become a Buddha. But it does not explain exactly how we do so. The actual method for attaining enlightenment is only explained in buddha’s tantric teachings. When Buddha taught tantra, he appeared as Buddha Vajradhara. The tantric teachings explain how to change the basis of imputation of our “I” from the contaminated aggregates of an ordinary samsaric being to the completely purified aggregates of a deity. We can say but there are five principal aspects of the path: renunciation, bodhichitta, the correct view of emptiness, generation stage, and completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra. These can be understood as follows. There is only one action on the path – changing the basis of imputation of our “I” from an ordinary samsaric being to an enlightened being. There are two reasons why we do this, for the sake of ourselves or renunciation, and for the sake of others or bodhicitta. Realizing the ultimate nature of phenomena or emptiness enables us to change the basis of implication of our “I”. This is the essence of the tantric teachings that Buddha Vajradhara taught. This is symbolized by Buddha Vajradhara appearing at the heart of Buddha Shakyamuni who himself is at the heart of Je Tsongkhapa.

Requesting by remembering that he is kinder than all the Buddhas

To the coarse beings of these impure times who, being so hard to tame,
Were not subdued by the countless Buddhas of old,
You correctly reveal the excellent path of the Sugatas;
O Compassionate Refuge and Protector, to you I make requests.

We can say that the spiritual guide is kinder than all the Buddhas because all the Buddhas are in fact emanations of our spiritual guide. There are two helpful ways to understand this. First, our spiritual guide is like a magic portal through which we can gain access to and communicate directly with all the Buddhas. By making offerings and requests to our spiritual guide directly, we are making offerings and requests to all the Buddhas indirectly. Second, our spiritual guide is like a diamond, and all the Buddhas are like different facets of this diamond. When we look at one facet, we might see Tara or Avalokiteshvara or Manjushri, but by nature they are all the diamond of our spiritual guide. Understanding this we can see that our spiritual guide is kinder than all the Buddhas.

Requesting by remembering that he is kinder even than Buddha Shakyamuni

Now, when the sun of Buddha has set,
For the countless migrators without protection or refuge
You perform exactly the same deeds as the Conqueror;
O Compassionate Refuge and Protector, to you I make requests.

Buddha is incredibly kind because he shows us how to wake up from the nightmare of samsara. Ultimately, samsara is like a Rubik’s Cube in which there is no solution. Yet we fundamentally believe that there must be a solution, and we spend all our time trying to arrange samsara in a way in which we do not suffer. Despite committing ourselves fully to this task since time without beginning we still continue to suffer. The reason for this is samsara is the nature of suffering, and that will never change. Buddha helps us recognize this, enabling us to let go of trying to fix the unfixable. Instead, we can focus on waking up from the contaminated dream of samsara. Only Buddha provides us this solution which is why Buddha is so kind. But our spiritual guide is kinder still. The reason is he is the Buddha who appears to us now and is helping us along the spiritual path. Buddha Shakyamuni while still living, does not appear directly to us because our minds are too impure. But he can emanate himself in the aspect of our spiritual guide who then introduce us to the path. In this way, we can say that our spiritual guide is even kinder – to us at least – than Buddha Shakyamuni. Ultimately, this is not correct because our spiritual guide himself is an emanation of Buddha Shakyamuni. But conventionally, we can say our spiritual guide is even kinder.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s