Activating our inner Spiritual Guide: Becoming an extension of the Spiritual Guide

A very senior teacher once told me the highest practice is offering ourself to the Spiritual Guide so that he can do with us whatever he wishes.  We surrender ourselves completely to him, give him the keys, let him take over, we become an extension of him.  We should view ourselves as a reflection of the guru’s mind.  Normally we say that everything is a reflection of our own mind, but when we say this we still have enormous self-grasping.  But when we see ourselves as reflections of the guru’s mind, then we lose any sense of independent self-existence.  We are part of him and there is no longer any us.  Then all of our actions will be his because only he is present.  We get our ordinary selves completely out of the way and let him act through us.  We surrender to him in all our actions where everything we do is actually him acting through us.

What are the benefits of this practice?  If we can do this, all our actions function to create non-contaminated karma.  Because the spiritual guide’s final goal is the enlightenment of all living beings, by working towards the fulfillment of his goals everything we do accumulates non-contaminated karma.  By doing this, we purify massive amounts of negativity, specifically with respect to the Spiritual Guide.

When we offer ourselves as a servant to the Spiritual Guide, our delusions will fight back with a vengeance.  As we work through these delusions we plow through all the obstructions that prevent us from uniting inseparably with him.  We naturally become just like him.  We become like him, his wishes become our wishes, his choices become our choices, his behavior becomes our behavior.  We put ourselves in total alignment with him, so all of his power naturally flows through us.  We receive perfect inner guidance and always know what to do, and all our actions have infinite power behind them.  It is like we connect into a spiritual nuclear reactor and can do anything.  We generate infinite self-confidence, because our Spiritual Guide can do anything and we are now an extension of him, so we too can do anything.  We come under the protection of the Spiritual Guide now and in all our future lives, so we can guarantee the continuum of our Dharma practice between now and our eventual enlightenment.

This practice completely destroys our self-cherishing and our self-grasping.  It destroys our self-cherishing because we no longer can use ourselves for ourselves, but need to use ourselves in the accomplishment of the goals of the Spiritual Guide.  It destroys our self-grasping because we see ourselves to be a reflection of the mind of the Spiritual Guide and have no independent self-existence.  We become and feel ourselves to be part of a larger whole.  We feel ourselves to be an extension of his body.  It feels as if we are like a limb of his body – our body, speech and mind are his.  All our actions naturally become his actions working through us.  So it is as if he does all the work and we get all the merit, and we feel ourselves to be directly engaging in the actions of an enlightened being. This experience is an essential basis for a qualified divine pride in Highest Yoga Tantra.

How do we overcome the objections that come up?  For example, we might object what if he wants to do something with me that I don’t want?  But we need not fear.  What he wants to do is forge us into a Buddha, which is what we want for ourself.  It will mean us having to go against the grain and advice of our delusions, but this is a good thing because our delusions will take us only lower.  It doesn’t matter whether we succeed at doing this, we train in this direction.  Another objection is it sounds sect-like to surrender ourselves completely to the Spiritual Guide.  In general we would say that a tradition is a sect if it tries to take control of you, and a pure lineage will try to give you control of yourself.  Now I am saying that we need to surrender control completely to the Spiritual Guide.  This sure sounds sect-like.  But it is not.  In order to surrender control, we first need to gain control.  Once we gain control, we then need to decide what we do with our freedom and we need to choose to 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 possible use of our freedom for all of the reasons explained before.  With our hard won freedom and control we offer ourselves.  Paradoxically, offering ourselves to the Spiritual Guide is the easiest way to gain control over ourselves, because the reason why we don’t have control over ourselves is our delusions, and offering ourself to our Spiritual Guide enables us to easily overcome all of our delusions because that is his function.  When we offer ourselves to our Spiritual Guide we are actually offering ourself to our true selves because the Spiritual Guide is our own future enlightenment.  He is our pure potential fully realized.  So in reality we are offering ourself to our true self.

Through this series of posts, I have attempted to explain how to activate our inner Spiritual Guide.  For me, there is no higher practice.  If we can master this, everything else becomes easy.  By focusing most of our efforts on this one practice, we open the door for our Spiritual Guide to do the work of all of the other practices for us.  We will soon enter the time when Venerable Geshe-la is no longer around with us physically.  What will we do then?  If we are to carry the lineage forward, we need to learn how to maintain a daily relationship with him even after his passing.  We need to do more than this.  We need to keep him alive in this world forever.  We do this by handing ourselves over and becoming an extension of him.  We take our place in the mandala.  We become part of the Great Wave of Je Tsongkhapa’s deeds.  We become the body, speech and mind of the enlightened guru forever working in this world.  May we all attain this.

Activating our inner Spiritual Guide: Becoming an instrument of the Spiritual Guide

In this post, we will explore how to become an extension of the Spiritual Guide, how to make our every action of body, speech and mind be him working through us to benefit others, where we literally feel like we are an extension of him.

In the end, we can learn how to engage in the actions of a Buddha right now.  Our true self is our pure potential – our Buddha seed.  It is completely beyond defilement, no matter what delusions we might have.  Its nature is the same as the Spiritual Guide.  In other words, our true self fully developed is the Spiritual Guide and the Spiritual Guide is our own future enlightenment.  A Buddha is simply an aspect or a reflection of our own pure potential.  Our pure potential is like a diamond, and each Buddha is like a facet of it.  The conventional aspects of Buddhas are tools which help us understand the good qualities of the Dharmakaya.

We might think, well that is nice, but I have no access to all this power, no access to myself, so what good does it do me?  It is possible to gain access to all of this power and all the abilities of a Buddha right now.  All it takes is faith, imagination and a pure motivation.  An easy way to think about is to think we have two selves:  our external self and our internal self.  Your external self is your ordinary body and mind.  Of course they are very limited in the sense that you have only one body and so can only do so much, and the ordinary mind is quite weak and so can’t do that much.  But nonetheless, things can and should be done with them.  Venerable Tharchin once advised me to get to know all the different powers and abilities of the spiritual guide.  This increases our faith, helps us better understand how he can help us, strengthens our bodhichitta and shows us what we too can accomplish if we become a Buddha ourselves.  Studying this enables us to know all the different ways we can invoke him.  The Dharmakaya has all the powers and abilities of all the Buddhas, so we can consider any Buddha and attribute that power to the Dharmakaya.  There are three principal aspects of the Spiritual Guide upon whom we rely, Guru, Yidam and Protector.  Guru functions to lead us along the path of Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  Yidam functions to bestow the realizations of Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  Protector arranges all the perfect outer and inner conditions for our being able to practice Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  We can invoke these three deities for ourselves or for others.

So the question is how can we develop this power right now?  We know how to get our right hand to do something – we simply request it to go do something and it does so.   It is exactly the same with our internal self.  If we want to bestow wisdom on somebody, we just request Manjushri to do it, and so forth.  Our ability to do this primarily depends upon our faith and imagination:  our faith that the guru is within us and can accomplish these functions and our imagination that he goes and does so when we invoke him.  If we check carefully, there is really no difference between requesting our right hand to do something and requesting one of the Buddhas abiding within us (which arise from our own pure potential) to do something.  When we see this, we realize we can use the enlightened beings’ bodies, speech and minds as our own by simply requesting them to do things.  When we can do this, we can engage in the actions of an enlightened being right now – long before we ourselves are an enlightened being.  We can right now do and accomplish anything simply by asking with faith, a pure motivation and our powers of imagination.  Once we are trained in the feeling of having a Buddha inside of us that we can invoke, we then hand over increasing levels of control until it is only him acting through us.  We accomplish this by surrendering ourselves completely to him.

But is it possible to go beyond even this and actually becoming an extension of the Spiritual Guide, where our every action of body, speech and mind are his actions?  The answer is yes, and I will explain how in the next and final post of this series.


Activating our inner Spiritual Guide: Working for our local Dharma center

We want pure seeds on our mind so that the Spiritual Guide has a lot of material to work with.  One of the most effective methods for planting such seeds is working to fulfil the wishes of our Spiritual Guide.  But we may wonder how we can do that when we aren’t with him every day.  The answer is simple, we work to fulfil the wishes our Spiritual Guide has for our local center.

Many Dharma practitioners work very hard to try overcome their delusions, but they do not enjoy much success.  Why?  The main reasons are because we lack sufficient merit and we haven’t purified.  We can solve both problems by doing work for our local center.  I used to study under Gen Lhamo.  When somebody would come to her with a personal problem, she would give them a job to do for the center and hardly even talk to them about their specific problem.  Then, after they were done with their task, she would sit them down to have a talk, and very often the problem would simply be gone, either externally or internally being considered a problem.  Miraculous!

How does work for the center accumulate merit?  All such merit is necessarily non-contaminated because the final goal of the center is the enlightenment of others.  The merit we accumulate from helping our centers grows exponentially as the generations continue.  If each student helps 10 people in their life, then each of those 10 people helps 10 people, after 2 generations the karma is multiplied by 100, after 3 generations the karma is multiplied by 1000, and so forth – so it grows exponentially. The merit continues to accumulate for as long as the center – or the effects of the center – exists, which theoretically is forever.    The conclusion is the merit we accumulate is non-contaminated and it grows expontentially for eternity.  Where else can you accumulate such merit?  We need to really see this as an incredible opportunity.  If we think deeply about this, we should even be willing to pay to be able to do such work at our local center!

What kind of karma in particular does working for a center create?  It creates the karma of causing the Dharma to flourish, the effect of which is it flourishes in our own mind.  The center is like an internship for being a bodhisattva.  Everybody wants to get a good internship so that they can gain the skills they need for a good job.  The same thing applies to working for our local center.  The questions is what do you want to do/to accomplish with your life.  Working for our local center also create the causes for finding the Dharma in our future lives.  We create the causes of having a supportive and authentic spiritual community and friends in our future lives.  We create the tendencies to make the most of our spiritual opportunities.  We create the causes for being able to receive pure spiritual teachings.  We create the causes to have the necessary conditions to engage in practice, retreat, etc.  We create a conduit between the ordinary world and the pure world of the Buddhas.  The center is like an exit in the matrix, or an Embassy for all the Buddhas.  It is like a beacon or transporter.

There are several things you can do to fully seize the opportunity you now have to work for the center.  Through our local centersr, we can fulfil our vajra commitment to others.  If our superior intention is authentic, we will naturally be motivated to do as much as we can.  It is up to us to decide what we are going to do with this opportunity.  Only we can decide for ourselves to make the most of it.  We can do as much or as little as we wish.  If we do as much, we create opportunities to do more; if we do as little, we burn up the merit giving rise to this opportunity and as a result almost never get it again.  We need to meditate again and again upon dying full of regrets.  Imagine that you arrive at your deathbed and your spiritual guide shows you what all you could have accomplished if only you had been motivated enough.  You could have accomplished all spiritual goals and lead countless others to the same state.  You could have caused your local center to flourish and enabled countless people to make contact with the Dharma – actually engaging in a Bodhisattva’s actions.  But instead we listened to and followed our laziness and attachment and anger, and accomplished nothing.  We have used up all the Dharma karma and now will fall into the lower realms where we will remain for aeons once again saving up our spiritual pennies.  We use this meditation to arrive at the conclusion that we will not let this happen to us.

We need to realize that this moment is the one in which we can fulfil our spiritual destiny. We wouldn’t go to school for years and years only to at the last minute not finish.  We wouldn’t run for political office our whole career and win the election to the presidency and then not show up for the job.  We have worked very hard in the past to create for ourself this spiritual opportunity, we can’t throw it away now when we are so close.  The only thing standing in our way is the strength and purity of our motivation.  If we work on that, then we will have everything.

We need to appreciate the high stakes for the success of our practice and the center.  If we don’t attain enlightenment, everyone we know and love will fall into samsara and be lost for as long as it takes us to get out.  All the people who are depending upon our future students are also depending upon us, and so forth.  There are literally countless beings whose fate depends upon our actions in this life.  Our local center is like an Embassy for all the Buddhas in our area.  It is our job to make it happen for the people of our area.  If we don’t make it happen, it won’t happen for them at all.  When we see others on the street, we should think, ‘this person is depending upon me.’  We need to ask ourselves the question, “what am I doing for the people of my region?”

We need to cherish our local Dharma center as our most precious endowment.  It is an outpost of the Buddhas in the wilderness of our mind.  Through our Dharma center we can accomplish everything.    Geshe-la has put everything at our feet.  We simply need to pick it up and use it.  We can accomplish with our local center what Geshe-la has accomplished with Manjushri center.  And we will have it much easier than he did because he has already written all the books and practices, established the study programmes, etc.  We just need to use it.  Venerable Tharchin says he views every person who walks into the center as the future savior of all.  This is true.  This is a very literal statement.  We need to adopt this view, and cherish others accordingly.

Activating the inner Spiritual Guide: How to create pure karmic seeds

Here we align our actions with those of the Spiritual Guide.  As we explored in the earlier posts, the quality of the karmic seeds we create determines the quality of the messages we can receive from the Spiritual Guide.  In this post, we will learn how to create the best possible karmic seeds for the Spiritual Guide to be able to bless.

So the question is how do we create these pure imprints?  By aligning our actions with those of the Spiritual Guide, all our actions become non-contamianted because his goal is non-contaminated.  The reason why this works is the objective of the actions is itself beyond samsara, and since the location of the mind is at the object of mind, by mixing our mind with a pure object we take part of our mind out and thus create pure seeds.  The next several posts will explain methods we can use to plant pure karmic seeds on our mind.

Receiving teachings and our study and practice of Dharma.

Every time we study or practice Dharma, we plant pure seeds which can later be blessed.  Every time we mix our mind with any instruction, we plant pure seeds.  Why?  Because all instructions are the same nature as the omniscient mind of the Spiritual Guide, and so therefore are pure.  Every instruction leads us in the direction of enlightenment and has as its ultimate intention to lead us to enlightenment.  When we receive teachings, we realize that we are sick and that we are listening to the cure.  It is like we are reading our horoscope.  When we study, we plant seeds that can later be blessed so that we understand the material we studied.  This is why it is so important to study.  When we meditate, we plant seeds that can later be blessed so that we gain realizations of the truth of the instructions.  This is why it is so important to meditate.

Become a channel for the Spiritual Guide.

Kadam Bjorn explained to me a special method for dealing with any need we feel, such as an attachment of wanting to feel loved or approved of.  Whatever need we feel, we should try to go and fill this need in others by opening ourselves up to becoming a channel for the Spiritual Guide to fulfill this need in others through us.  What he said was every time we feel the need for approval or love from others, we should take this as a sign from the spiritual guide that we need to offer approval to and love those around us (our students, our friends, family, etc.) (in other words, we need to change the object of needing approval and  love from self to others).  He said what we need to clearly realize is that needing to feel loved is a delusion.  We need to recognize this clearly for what it is:  a deceptive mind which results in only suffering that should not be believed.  We don’t need to feel love, we need to love.  We need to align ourselves with the directional gradient of the spiritual guide – from self to others.  He said by aligning ourselves with his intention to love others – in other words instead of seeking approval and love from others we seek to give approval and love to others – then we get the winds (pure winds at that) of our spiritual guide in our sails and he loves others through us.  When he loves others through us, he satisfies their need for approval and love and likewise fills us with his approval and love.  In other words, the way in which we can feel the unconditional love of our spiritual guide is not to seek it from him for ourselves, but rather is for us to unconditionally love others.  Then he fills them and fills us with his unconditional love.

We can likewise do the same with any feeling or need.  Whatever we feel we need, become a channel for your spiritual guide to give that to others.  When we do, he fulfills our need and that of others through us.  We can do this with anything.

Activating the inner Spiritual Guide: The art of making requests to enlightened beings

I have explained the following before in the series on cultivating a true self-confidence, but it is so important I wanted to explain all of this again.  If we can master this, then the rest of the path becomes easy.

What is the most important question – the question if answered would answer all your other questions?  When we were kids, we would ask each other questions like:  if you had three wishes, what would you wish for.  Eventually we figured out that the best thing we could wish for was more wishes.  In that way, we could accomplish all our wishes.  Along exactly the same lines, the most important question we can ask is:  “what do I need to do to be able to make internal requests to you and receive perfectly reliable responses every time?”  I have had this question in my heart for years, saving it for whenever I would have a meeting with Geshe-la, but he answered the question during an ITTP without my ever asking it!

So here was Geshe-la’s answer:  “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.”

After this advice was given, the ITTP then discussed this in great detail about what it means and how we practice it.

  1. First we dissolve everything into the Dharmakaya.  This eliminates all the interference from our ordinary mind.  We talked about this in an earlier post.
  2. We then align our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide.  We also talked about this in an earlier post, but just to review some of the main points.  Our Spiritual Guide’s final intention for everyone is for us all to attain union with the Dharmakaya.  We generate a specific beneficial motivation with respect to the specific request we have for specific people by asking ourselves the question:  “what does Geshe-la want for this person/these people?”  ‘A good heart’ means a bodhichitta motivation, we wish to guide these people to enlightenment.  ‘A Buddhist intention’ means we are thinking about their future lives, not just this life alone.  Pure love, by definition, is love that works for the happiness of others in their future lives.  ‘A beneficial intention’ means we are seeking to benefit the other person, without any self-concern.  ‘Day and night’ means that we have a spontaneous realization of this pure motivation, we are never separate from it.  So we train consistently in the Lamrim until all of our wishes are pure.  ‘Even during sleep’ means we should try to carry this intention even into our sleep, and by doing so we can often receive signs and indications in our dreams.  We can fall alseep in the Dharmakaya posing a question according to this method, and during our sleep we will likely receive a response.  This gives new meaning to the saying ‘go sleep on it.’
  3. With strong faith that he is there and that he has the power to respond, we make our request.
  4. We then wait with our ordinary mind inactive, maintaining our pure motivation and faith for wanting a response to our request.
  5. Through this, a special image or plan will appear to our mind which will be the perfectly reliable answer to our request.  This is Geshe-la’s personal advice for us.
  6. This likewise works when invoking the Buddhas to accomplish their function for ourselves or for others.

How does this work?  We can understand this by an analogy.  Dissolving everything into the Dharmakaya is like having a clear space within which to project an image.  Aligning our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide is like aligning the crystals of our karma with the direction of the light of our Spiritual Guide.  The crystals themselves are our own karmic potentialities which when a special light is shined through them they project, like a hologram, the future experiences they hold or what is possible.  These are created through our practice, study, etc.  We will talk in later posts how we can plant good seeds which can then be blessed.  The more faith we have that our Spiritual Guide is there the more it opens the curtains in our mind by purifying the obstructions of his presence being manifest in our mind.  The more faith we have that he has the power to respond to our request, the greater the power is the source of light.  Our request creates the cause for him to actually shine the light through our karmic potentialities.  The special idea that arises is the reflection of the light through the crystals that reflects the constellation of our karma.  This is our perfect response individually tailored to our karma.

There are some things we can consider about how to increase the power of this method.  First, the scope of the ‘special idea’ will correspond with the scope of our aspiration.  If our aspiration is worldly, the idea can be at a maximum worldly, if our scope is initial scope, the idea will correspond, etc.  Second, the purer the quality of the imprints we create, the clearer the will be the special idea, mental image or plan.  We will talk in the next post about how to create pure seeds.  Third, the quantity of imprints determines how much material the spiritual guide has to work with in shaping the plan.  Fourth, the less the ordinary mind is functioning, the clearer is the space within which the special idea is projected. The more I get my ordinary self out of the way, the clearer I will perceive the image because there will be less distortion.  The more willing I am to follow whatever is revealed, the more readily the special image will develop.  Fifth, the more familiarity I have with engaging in this practice, the easier it will get.  Sixth, the more faith that we have in the practice, the more rapidly will the special idea come.  Seventh, the longer we can maintain/sustain the motivation, the more complete and dynamic (in time, nuance, flexibility, etc.) the special idea will be.  Finally, eighth, the aspect of the Spiritual Guide to which you direct the request (Tara, Dorje Shugden, etc.) determines the nature or type of special idea or plan that emerges.

You can engage in this practice with all of your Dharma activities:  when preparing your teachings, when deciding what to meditate on, when making plans for the center or for your life, when thinking about how to help somebody, when posing any question, when doing sadhanas, when doing analytical meditation to generate object of placement meditation, when deciding what to do or say, when studying or contemplating, and when listening to teachings.

Through this practice, we can move beyond the books, from which we can only gain an intellectual understanding, to being personally guided, or taken by the hand, from where we are now to the final goal.  Likewise, we can know how to do the same for others (lead them by the hand to enlightenment).  Through mastering this technique, we can receive perfect inner guidance from our spiritual guide at any moment, and always know what to do.  With this ability, we will have nothing to fear and have infinite self-confidence.

Since much of this depends on faith, I want to just say a few words about faith in the Dharma.  Westerners have a natural resistance to faith because they associate faith with blind faith.  When we use the term faith in a Buddhist sense, we have a completely different understanding.  Blind faith is faith without a valid reason.  Believing faith is faith with a valid reason.  It is easiest way to understand believing faith by likening it to the scientific method.   In the scientific method, scientists have hypotheses which they then test.  A hypothesis is developed when they take all available information and come up with the most logical conclusion given that information.  Then they test that conclusion through experiments.  When they conduct their experiments, they then acquire new information with which they refine their hypotheses.  This is the type of faith we have in the Dharma.  Dharma is an inner science.

Believing faith is the strongest type of faith.  How do we develop believing faith?  There are several different methods we can use.  First, we can use the logical reasoning contained within the Lamrim to convince ourselves by weight of argument.  Second, we can be a good scientist and suspend our doubts about whether it works or not, and experiment with the instructions by putting them into practice purely.  From this we can see if they work.  Third, we can choose to believe.  Faith is a choice to believe.  What do we choose to believe?  That which is most beneficial to believe.  So we simply investigate whether it is beneficial to think in a particular way, and then we choose to do so.  Fourth, if you have previously gained conviction that your spiritual guide is a Buddha, and therefore completely reliable, then you can use the perfect logical syllogism which says, ‘the spiritual guide is omniscient and therefore completely reliable, he says X, therefore X is true.’  This is not blind faith because it is based on the valid reason that the spiritual guide is completely reliable.  You then use your powers of reasoning to fully understand from your own side.

At this point, it is useful to discuss the relationship between faith and wisdom.  This is best done through the faith wisdom cycle:  It starts with believing faith – we believe in the good qualities of the Dharma, for example, we believe that the spiritual guide is a Buddha.  Believing faith naturally leads to admiring faith – where we think, fantastic, how great.  We appreciate the good qualities of the observed object.  Admiring faith naturally evolves into wishing faith – the wish to acquire the good qualities of the spiritual guide ourself.  Wishing faith naturally leads to joyous effort – where we put the instructions into practice.  When we put the instructions into practice, we gain personal experience of their truth, which is wisdom.  We know the truth of the instruction from our own side.   This wisdom then functions as our next valid reason informing a now stronger believing faith, and so the cycle continues until we attain enlightenment.  This cycle is how we gain realizations, and all our practices should be organized into this cycle.

Everything in this series of posts is ultimately an extension of this advice.  This is the core of our reliance.

Activating the inner Spiritual Guide: How to fulfill our vajra commitment to others?

In the last post we discussed making a vajra commitment to others.  In this post, I will explain how we actually fulfil our vajra commitment to others.  We can fulfil our vajra commitment to others by practicing for them as if we were them.  We are prepared to take on all their delusions and negative karma and work through it for them.  With total faith in Dorje Shugden and like Shantideva explains in Chapter 8, we offer ourself to others and are willing to become whatever they need us to become to be able to provide them temporary and ultimate benefit.  We are ready to endure whatever we need to endure.  We are ready to go through whatever we need to go through.  Soldiers are ready to give their lives to protect others and go through difficult training and situations to be able to do this.  We are the same, except we are seeking to protect them from samsara.  We are ready to work through their obstacles for them so that they do not have to.

How do we do this?  We view our delusions and negative karma as those we have taken on (from our vajra family).  When a delusion arises in our mind, we imagine that it is one that we have taken on – that of our vajra family/future students.  We then imagine that as we overcome it in our mind, we are eliminating it in their mind.  Quite simply, we completely exchange ourself for others, where we impute “self” onto others and “others” onto what we previously considered to be ourself.  Shantideva explains this practice in Chapter 8 of his Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.  For example, when we are sick we can imagine that as we are overcoming our delusions related to being sick, we are actually overcoming all of the delusions of others related to them being sick.  Literally, like Christ, we feel like we go through others suffering for them so that they don’t have to.  We have taken their suffering upon ourselves and are working through it for them.  We take on the delusions of our vajra family because we realize we are in a better position to work through them than they are.  Our mind becomes like a TV screen which reflects the aggregate nexus of the delusions arising in the minds of our vajra family.  We become like a contaminated mind treatment facility.  We bring in delusions and negative karma, we treat it within our mind and then return it back purified.

Technically speaking, how can we do this?  We essentially take on the contaminated karma of our vajra family.  This includes all negative karma, deluded tendencies similar to the cause and their obstructions to omniscience.  We can also accomplish this through requests to Dorje Shugden.  We have on our mind the contaminated karma for virtually any experience.  So we are essentially requesting Dorje Shugden to activate the karma in our mind that corresponds with the delusions and negative karma of our vajra family.  We make requests to Dorje Shugden and dedicate:  may the delusions that arise in my mind be those of my vajra family; and when I overcome them in my mind may they be eliminated from their minds.  Since ultimately, the world is a creation of our mind, if we eliminate these delusions from our mind, their effects will also gradually vanish from our world as the karma giving rise to these appearances exhausts itself.

How does it feel to practice in this way?  We can imagine that we are the ‘resultant’ Vajra Family, and we engage in the practice.  We view ourself as the ‘resultant person’ of our vajra family, and seeing ourself in this way, we try gain the realizations of the stages of the path of Sutra and Tantra.  This is really the highest form of King-like bodhichitta, and can easily be understood as Christ-like bodhichitta.  Even though the delusions are arising in our mind, we don’t feel them as “our delusions.”  Rather we experience them as the delusions of our vajra family that we have taken on.  When we work through them, we feel like a spiritual surgeon directly healing the minds of others.  We feel ourself as the Dharmakaya performing spiritual surgery on the minds of our vajra family.  As the Dharmakaya, we imagine that we are accomplishing the function of the various practices on the minds of your vajra family (purifying their subtle body, etc.)

The benefits of this practice are limitless.  By doing this for others, we create the causes for the Spiritual Guide to do it for us.  Doing this gives us enormous power in our practice, because we feel like we are directly practicing for all living being.  We feel, “if I succeed, they succeed; if I fail, they fail.”  If our superior intention is genuine, this will really motivate us.  This practice gives our suffering meaning, so we gladly accept it.  It helps cut our identification with the delusions arising within our mind.  They are not our delusions, they are the delusions of others that we have taken on.  With this practice, bodhichitta comes naturally.  We see the direct connection between overcoming our delusions and negative karma and benefiting others.  This practice creates a special karmic connection with these beings which will ripen in the form of them being our disciple in the future.  It will karmically draws us closer to them in the form of a special relationship with them as our disciple.  If we think deeply, it is nearly a miracle anytime somebody turns to us for spiritual advice.  Dorje Shugden does not activate the karma for others to come into contact with us before we have the realizations necessary to actually help them.  When we overcome their delusions in our mind, then we know exactly how to help them.  On this basis, then Dorje Shugden can safely activate the karma for them to appear.  It is in this way that Dharma centers grow.  Venerable Tharchin said that all we need to do to make a center grow is for ourselves to gain realizations.  Ultimately, by eliminating others delusions in our mind, we are actually eliminating them from their minds.  This is so because their faults and delusions come from our mind anyway, they are the reflection of our own faults.  If we eliminate the fault in our own mind, we will no longer project it into others.  In this way, we can directly engage in the actions of a Buddha liberating all beings right now simply by working on our own mind.  Venerable Tharchin said every step we take towards enlightenment, we take all beings one step closer as well in proportion to their karmic connection with you.  With this practice, we can understand how this is so.

Activating our inner Spiritual Guide: Aligning our mind with that of the Spiritual Guide

The next several posts we will talk about how to align ourselves completely with and ultimately totally surrender to the spiritual guide.  First we will talk about how to align our wishes, then our thoughts, then our actions and finally ourselves.

We align our wishes with our Spiritual Guide by asking ourselves when we look at or think of somebody, “what is your [the Spiritual Guide] plan for this person?”  His ultimate plan for everybody is to deliver them to the Dharmakaya, where they will be completely free.  His temporary plan is to gradually lead them along the path to enlightenment.  Our job is to align our wishes with his – where his wishes are our wishes and our wishes are his wishes.  We want to get to the point where our wishes are in total alignment, we work for what we want (which is what he wants).  When our wishes are not in total alignment, we work on changing our wishes so that they are in alignment with his by considering the benefits of his wishes versus our own.  We need to examine whose wishes are better, and when we see his are, we change our wishes to be his, we adopt his wishes as our own.

We ask what does he wish for us?  What does he wish for others.  He wants to get us and everyone else out because he understands the danger we are in.  We want to stay.  The principal method for aligning our wishes with those of our Spiritual Guide is our regular practice of Lamrim.  Lamrim functions to make our aspirations pure – it changes our desires and makes them spiritual.  At this point we might object, “but I don’t naturally desire spiritual things, I want worldly things.  So adopting his wishes is artificial.  Gen-la Losang explains what is natural is simply what is familiar.  Worldly wishes are natural for us because we are more familiar with them.  Through training our mind in new wishes, they will become more familiar and eventually even more natural.

The best way we can align our intention with the Spiritual Guide’s is by making a vajra commitment to others.  A vajra commitment is a commitment to take personal responsibility for the eventual enlightenment of somebody else.  We promise somebody that we will do everything we can to help them attain enlightenment as quickly as possible.  We promise that we will continue working for their behalf for as long as it takes, even if that means countless lifetimes.  We will never abandon them.  We don’t have to directly do this with them, but internally we make such a commitment.  One powerful shortcut for being able to do this with everyone is try view others as your future disciples and organize all of your relationships around this idea.  Right now, they are just our colleagues, friends or family.  But one day they will be our spiritual students and it will be our responsibility to be their Spiritual Guide.  Knowing this is where our relationship is going with the person, we then naturally know what direction to take things.  We will naturally feel we are responsible for them right now.

Why do we make a vajra commitment to others?  Because doing so puts ourselves in perfect alignment with the Buddhas.  Their power then flows through us, and we naturally and easily have self-confidence.  We can accomplish anything.  Doing this is the best possible thing for our practice.  It changes everything in our life, like somebody having a child.  But it is much more than being a parent, because this is their spiritual welfare and it is for all their future lives.  Vajra commitments make our bodhichitta real, not abstract.  Bodhichitta is the wish to become a Buddha for the sake of others.  When we have others who we are personally responsible for, we easily feel the need to get serious about gaining realizations to be able to help them.


Activating the inner Spiritual Guide: How do we practice with the guru’s mind?

Our Guru is a much better Dharma practitioner than we are.  He knows how to enagage in all of the meditations perfectly and he knows how to resolve all of the doubts or problems that can arise.  He has perfect concentration, perfect wisdom and just the right motivation.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could just use his mind to meditate instead of our own?  Well, we can.

To understand how we can consider how there are three different types of mantra recitation, verbal, mental and vajra.  Verbal recitation is when we do mantra recitation with our mouth, mental is when we do the recitation with our mind, and vajra is when we do by listening to the Spiritual Guide do it in our mind for us.  Mental is more qualified than verbal, and vajra is more qualified than mental.  In exactly the same way, we can engage in all of our other Dharma practices in these three ways.  For example, we can recite a Sadhana with our mouth, in our mind, or we can have our guru do it in our mind for us.  We can do this with our meditations as well.  When we engage in vajra recitation, sadhana practice of meditation our ordinary mind is completely still and silent.  In this space, we allow our guru to take control of our mind and guide is through our recitation or meditation, filling our mind with each of the realizations implied by the words or lines of thought.  He enters into us, does our practices for us but with our mind – his mind doing them with our mind, so we get all the benefit as if it was him doing our meditations for us.  Once we have a taste for how to practice in this way, we will have no desire to practice in any other way.

So how do we actually engage in vajra recitation or meditation?  What do we need to do to start the process?  First, we need to make our ordinary mind completely still understanding it is just static, contaminated noise.  We then try align our motivation with our guru’s motivation.  We ask ourselves, ‘why does my guru want me to engage in this practice?’  We then try feel that same motivation itself – this is why we want to engage in this practice.  Then, we dissolve our guru into our root mind, strongly believing he is there and understanding that all of our subtle and gross minds arise from our root mind.  Then, make the request that he engage in the practice for you inside your mind.  The feeling is not that his mind is somehow separate from your mind and he is doing it with his mind and you are just watching.  No, the feeling is he picks up your mind and begins his enlightened dance with it, and you go along for the blissful ride.  Each time you recite a word of the sadhana or consider a line of reasoning from the contemplation, transform that recitation or thinking into a faithful, well motivated request that your guru generate within you the appropriate spiritual understanding.  You still say each word of the sadhana, but here you understand the recitation to be a faithful, well-motivated request.  As you do this, keep your ordinary mind completely still and inactive to create the space for the guru’s dance with your mind to take place.

Once we gain some experience of this, we can learn how to accomplish all our daily activities through making requests to our guru to do it through us, for us, for others.  We can do this for every activity, right down to brushing our teeth.  Because we are directing all of our requests to the guru, we naturally have a spiritual motivation in everything we do.

Of particular importance is learning how to fight our delusions with our guru’s mind.  This has several different aspects.  First, we make request that he reveal to us our delusions in a way we can overcome them.  Then we request him to reveal to us what we need to do to overcome them.  Finally, re request him to help us to actually overcome them.  We can learn to overcome all difficulties with our guru’s mind.  One of the easiest ways is to make requests to Dorje Shugden that he pacify all obstacles.  Gen Togden once told me the story of how he dealt with almost all of his obstacles.  An obstacle would arise, he would request Dorje Shugden, “if it is best, please pacify this obstacle; if it is not best to pacify it, please help me transform it.”  After making the request, sometimes the delusions would just go away.  Other times, they wouldn’t.  He would then train his mind in response.  Either way, it was all perfect for him.

We can also make requests to Medicine Buddha that he heal our mind of the difficulty.  We need to break our identification with the delusion by identifying it as the fruit of our ordinary mind.  We generate a strong desire to be free from the delusion or distraction by considering how much misery it causes us.  We then make requests to Medicine Buddha that he heal our mind of this delusion by reciting his mantra.  We imagine that infinite healing light rays radiate out and permeate every aspect of our mind but in particular healing this delusion/distraction and we strongly believe that our mind is becoming completely healed of this particular delusion.  If we have faith as we do this, we will literally feel our mind being healed.

Once we see how this works with a few of our practices, it is not difficult to extend it to all of our Dharma activities:  teaching, working for the center, writing on Facebook, emails or a blog, caring for our family, doing our normal jobs, etc.  We can literally set aside our ordinary self and from this day forward have our guru live our life through us, for us, for others.  It makes travelling the path literally effortless.



Activating the inner Spiritual Guide: Leaving behind our ordinary mind

The most transformative conclusion I have ever come to in the Dharma is “the most intelligent thing I can do is rely upon the guru’s mind alone.”  I have always taken great (deluded) pride in being smart.  When I realized this conclusion above, it changed literally everything.  It showed me I had everything exactly backwards!

We often say in the Dharma that we have choice of mind.  Normally what we mean is we have choice over how we respond to situations, but here the meaning is much deeper:  we literally have ‘choice of mind.’  We can choose our ordinary mind or we can choose our guru’s mind.  Given that we have choice, we need to investigate what is the best choice.  Once we have decided what is the best choice, we simply choose to identify with and use the mind of our choice.

The essential argument for relying upon the guru’s mind alone is it works better.  We need to overcome our pride with respect to our contaminated aggregates.  We think that we are quite capable with our contaminated aggregates, and we rely upon them for all our actions.   Contaminated minds are limited at best and deceptive at worst.  When they do help us, they only make our samsara better which doesn’t help us.  Pure aggregates of the Buddha are omniscient, possess universal compassion, employ perfect skilful means, and immortally do so for the rest of eternity. No matter how clever and skilled we think we are, the guru’s mind is infinitely more developed and reliable.  We have a total and complete understanding that if given the choice between relying upon (using) the guru’s mind and relying upon (using) our ordinary mind, it is absolutely foolish to use our ordinary mind and what we should do is rely upon his mind alone.  Once again, the most important conclusion I have come to in my Dharma career is the most intelligent thing I can do is rely upon my guru’s mind alone for everything I do.

We need to come to a definite decision to permanently unplug/turn off our ordinary mind.    We realize that following/listening to our ordinary mind is endless.  It takes us nowhere, it spins endlessly.  Seeing that, we simply give up on it.  There is nothing left to figure out with it, nothing left to think about with it.  We realize its uselessness, we understand its harmfulness, and we just leave it behind.  It is like in a Beautiful Mind when Russell Crowe says good bye to the little girl, understanding that he will never speak with her again because he understands that if he does it will just make him more sick and that she is not real.  It is like saying goodbye to somebody on their deathbed knowing you will never see them again.  It is like deciding to remove the TV from your house, not simply say you aren’t going to watch it anymore.  It is like throwing away the final pack of cigarettes, quitting knowing you are never going go smoke again because it kills you.

How is it possible to rely upon the guru’s mind alone?  To answer this, we need to understand how is it possible to have choice over which mind we use?  The guru’s mind is not separate from our own – his mind is inside our mind.  It is a part of our mind.  Normally we think that his mind is somehow completely separate from our own mind, like there is this wall between them.  The only thing separating our mind from our guru’s mind is grasping at an inherently existent guru’s mind and an inherently existent mind of our own.  When we realize the emptiness of our mind and our guru’s mind then we can mix directly with his and use his mind as if it were our own.  The guru’s mind is actually an aspect of your own mind, its completely purified part.  It is in us, we simply start to use it.

To understand how, we can examine the process of thinking.  The process of thinking is actually a process of making requests to a mind.  We pose questions to the mind, it gives us answers.  The only difference between thinking with our ordinary mind and thinking with the guru’s mind is not the process of thinking – which is making requests – but the mind to which we direct our requests.

Concretely, how do we practice this?  The goal here is to completely turn off, silence and still the ordinary mind.  Ordinary thoughts crowd out the guru’s mind from being manifest.  Here we try to completely eliminate them so that we are left with only the guru’s mind functioning.  If we use our ordinary mind, we feed it.  If we don’t use it, we starve it and it dies. By silencing the ordinary mind it creates the space for the guru’s mind, until eventually we completely shut it off and are left with only the guru’s mind.

The practice is every time our ordinary mind becomes active, we identify it as our ordinary mind, and then ask the guru’s mind to resolve the question by dissolving it back into the Dharmakaya.  By dissolving it into emptiness, we purify the contaminated karma giving rise to it.  The feeling is a bit like playing Space Invaders where every time an ordinary thought comes up we vaporize it into emptiness and thereby keep the space of our mind completely pure and free from ordinary conception.  The main function of this practice is to completely destroy any and all barriers between our own mind and the guru’s mind.  Both Gen Lhamo and Kadam Bjorn suggested this as the main way of being able to rely upon the guru’s mind alone.

Step by step, the practice can be done as follows:

  1. We identify with the conventional nature of the mind itself (according to Sutra or Highest Yoga Tantra).  A shortcut is we simply “listen to the silence/experience the stillness of our ordinary mind in the infinite expanse of the unobstructed clear light.”
  2. Meditate on the union of this bliss and emptiness.  Shortcut here is we withdraw all the projections of our mind and realize that nothing is left.  We experience this absence as supreme inner peace, or bliss.  Main point is to rest within the Dharmakaya, understanding this to be your mind mixed inseparably with the mind of your Spiritual Guide.
  3. When a delusion/distraction arises:
    1. Become aware that a delusion/distraction is present – that your ordinary mind is projecting something or is active.  It could be a particular delusion or distraction.  It could be a question that you don’t know the answer to and you want to try figure out.  It could be some situation that you don’t know what to do, etc.
    2. Remind yourself that this is not your object of meditation.  Label it ‘not my object.  This is my ordinary mind which I have completely turned off.’
    3. Mentally make the request to the underlying Dharmakaya that the spiritual guide resolve this problem, answer this question, heal this delusion, etc, by directing the implicit question to the Dharmakaya.  Every thought has an underlying request to be made, such as work this out for me, give me an answer to this, etc.  We essentially hand over the question to the Spiritual Guide that he work it out for us. The dissolving the question back into the Dharmakaya is the posing of the question to the Dharmakaya.  By connecting with the emptiness of the delusion, distraction, situation, etc., you purify the contaminated karma giving rise to the situation itself so you treat it at the most profound level.  In this context, we are purifying the karma that gives rise to the ordinary mind.
    4. Then once again, meditate on the union of this mind and emptiness, then rest once again in the union of bliss and emptiness as above until the next delusion/distraction arises.  Keep doing this again and again and again for as long as it takes to completely purify/destroy our ordinary mind.

Activating the inner Spiritual Guide: How to get our relationship right with the outer Spiritual Guide

Relying upon the outer spiritual guide is actually quite simple.  All we need to do is regard him as a living Buddha and then put his instructions into practice to the best of our ability.

How can we regard him as a living Buddha?

Whether somebody is a Buddha from their own side or not is irrelevant, what matters is our view.  If we understand deeply the emptiness of a Buddha, we realize that nobody is a Buddha from their own side because nothing exists from its own side.  Beings become Buddhas for us when we karmically construct them as such.  If we viewed an ordinary being as a Buddha, we would receive a Buddha’s blessings; if we viewed a Buddha as an ordinary being, we would receive nothing.  The way this works is wherever you imagine a Buddha, a Buddha actually goes, so when you regard somebody else as a Buddha, a Buddha enters that person.  Wherever a Buddha goes, they accomplish the function of a Buddha, which is to bestow blessings.  A blessing is the activation of a karmic seed that directs our mind towards enlightenment.  Through our viewing this person as a Buddha, we receive the blessings of a Buddha and what we understand is directing our mind towards enlightenment.  We can do this with anybody, but it is easiest to do this with our Spiritual Guide.

When it comes to pure view, it is very important to make the difference between attachment to perfection and pure view.  Attachment to perfection is when we project our own expectations of how a Buddha should supposedly act, and then we judge the other person against this standard.  They inevitably don’t, and then we see only faults in this person and we lose faith.  The outer spiritual guide will never appear pure and perfect from their own side, because no such being exists.  Because our mind is impure we project something impure.  If we want to see the outer spiritual guide as completely pure, it depends upon our own practice. Sometimes we think pure view is something we have or we don’t.  Usually in the beginning we see only good qualities, but then over time we see only faults.  This is just the exhaustion of our imprints of having practiced pure view in the past.

Pure view is a practice.  The practice of pure view has two parts.  With respect to the qualities that appear, we rejoice in the good qualities of the outer spiritual guide.  We practice appropriate attention with respect to their good qualities.  We admire their good qualities and allow ourselves to be inspired by their example (the good parts).  With respect to the apparent faults that appear, we practice pure view by asking ourself the question, ‘how can I receive perfect benefit from what this person did, from this apparent fault?’  When we receive perfect benefit, the person functions for us as a Buddha with just extremely skilful means.  We need to train ourselves in this view.  One of the main functions of the spiritual guide is to create situations that kick up our delusions so that we can identify them and then work through them.

But pure view does not mean we say everything the Spiritual Guide is doing in a conventional sense is perfect and can’t be questioned.  We will, for example, see our teachers doing something which is not correct – they make a mistake.  If we have a wrong understanding of pure view, we think we are supposed to say that the mistake was correct in a conventional sense.  But if it is a mistake, it is a mistake, so we get ourselves tied in all sorts of knots.  The resolution of this is actually very straightforward:  view the mistakes as teachings.  Who says a Buddha’s teaching methods are limited to declarative direct transmissions of meaning?  We learn many valuable lessons learning from the mistakes of others, why can’t our Spiritual Guide also teach us in the same way?  So their mistakes are just another form of teaching, one that makes us learn to think critically for ourselves.  Ultimately, pure view doesn’t mean viewing the object itself as being pure, rather it means we receive perfect, pure benefit within our mind no matter what appears conventionally, be it a mistake of a skilful deed.  Pure view does not mean we view objects as objectively perfect, rather it means we know how to look at everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, in a perfect way.  Everything our Spiritual Guide, our teachers, our sangha, our friends, our family, and eventually everybody do teaches us something.

Putting the instructions into practice to the best of our ability

What does it mean to put their instructions into practice to the best of our ability?  It means to use the Dharma as a solution to our problems.  The point of departure on the spiritual path is a redefinition of the problem to be our own mind, not our external circumstance.  Seeing that our problem is our mind, we then use the Dharma we learn from interacting with our Spiritual Guide to change our mind in a way consistent with the Dharma.  When we do so, we are putting the instructions into practice.  Through training in Lamrim, we can gradually realize and feel like we actually have these problems.  Then our practice will be sincere.

I wanted to talk about a specific instance I have struggled with a lot, namely thinking that the Spiritual Guide or a teacher thinks badly about us.  We need to identify the attachment/aversion in our minds, where we think our happiness and suffering depends upon what others think.  This is a mistaken mind, our happiness depends only upon whether we respond to the situation with virtue.  When we feel our Spiritual Guide or teacher thinks something bad about us, there are three possibilities:  If we are doing something wrong, we admit it without guilt and change.  If we are doing something correct, we continue to do it.  Or we think we are doing something right, but the teacher thinks we are doing something wrong.  When this happens, we have an open, honest discussion about it.  It is important to make sure we are not going to the extreme of exaggerating the bad of what the teacher thinks.   We often exaggerate thinking the teacher thinks only bad about us, and doesn’t see our good qualities.  We then become defensive and try to justify why we are right and the teacher is wrong.  This shuts down the learning process.

When we do have a discussion, we need to learn to accept ourself and our mistakes without judgement.  We often project that the spiritual guide is viewing us the way we are viewing ourselves.  We think he is judging us and thinking bad about us and not liking us because of our faults because that is how we are relating to ourselves.

We also need to seek clarification until you have clarity about what is correct.  We need to be more concerned with doing what is right than in being right.  Motivated by this, we should try seek clarification through external and internal methods until all doubts are resolved.  For example, if we see our teacher doing something we perceive to be wrong, Geshe-la advises that with an open mind we approach the other person and tell them how we are viewing their actions, but we wanted to understand their perspective.  If we have such a conversation without attacking our teacher, then one of two things will happen.  Either the teacher will realize they were making a mistake, they thank you, and everything functions better in the future; or your teacher will explain their perspective, you will realize why you were wrong, and your faith and understanding will increase.  Either way, everybody is better off from having the conversation.  If instead, we think they are making a mistake but we keep it all bottled up inside because we think we are supposed to view everything they do as perfect, then eventually this view will eat away at our faith in and relationship with our teacher like a cancer until eventually it dies completely.  Our teacher will continue on making their mistakes and we will have lost our path.  Everybody is worse off.  Geshe-la says, again and again, we need to behave conventionally exactly normally like everybody else.  When we have a problem with what somebody is doing, we have a normal conversation about it.  To not do is a mistaken and externally exaggerated relationship with the Spiritual Guide.

One final possibility is after clarification you conclude that you are right and the teacher is wrong but they can’t admit it and they don’t change.  If this happens, then keep an open mind that your view could change later and continue repeating the methods above.  Eventually, things will become unblocked.