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.


Activating the inner Spiritual Guide: Motivation for doing series

Reliance upon the Spiritual Guide is the root of the path.  Gen-la Losang said that there is only one activity on the spiritual path, and that is mixing our mind with that of the Spiritual Guide.  Since his mind is already enlightened, by mixing our mind with his, we too become enlightened.  Geshe-la said at the Summer Festival several years ago that he will take us by the hand internally and guide us every step of the way to enlightenment.  Kadam Bjorn explains that we can literally ask the Spiritual Guide to do our practice for us in our mind, so he will do all the work, all we need to do is know how to ask him.  A very pure senior teacher once said we need to allow ourselves to become completely under the influence of the Spiritual Guide, both externally and internally.  In this series of posts, I will explain my understanding of how to do all of these things.

This series of posts will principally discuss three things:  First, how do we get our relationship right with the outer Spiritual Guide; second, how to leave behind our ordinary mind, and why we should want to; and finally, how do we align ourself with and ultimately surrender ourselves completely to the Spiritual Guide.  We can do this with respect to our wishes, our thoughts, our actions and ultimately ourselves.

Getting our relationship right with the outer Spiritual Guide

There is no relationship more important to get right than the one with your spiritual guide.  There is no relationship more important that you can have because it is eternal and promises limitless fruit.  There are several reasons why we need to get our relationship right with the Spiritual Guide.  Your relationship with the outer spiritual guide is like your lifeline in your spiritual practice.  Many people think they can have bad relationships with everybody externally but a good one with Geshe-la inside, but generally everything falls apart when our external relationship with our spiritual guide is bad.  We lose everything.

If we can’t get our relationship right with our spiritual guide, then our future students of Dharma won’t get it right with us when we are their teacher, and then we won’t be able to really help them.  The faith we have in our spiritual guide determines the faith our students will have in us.  We don’t want our students to have faith in us because we like that sort of thing, rather we want our students to have faith in us so that we can help them.  This is a very important point.  We need to make it a priority to cultivate good, honest, working relationships with our teachers.  If our relationships are bad, even if we have perfect Dharma, we will be unable to help anybody.  By getting it right with the outer spiritual guide, you will be able to get it right with the inner spiritual guide.  The outer spiritual guide will help you identify your delusions that specifically get in the way of you having a good relationship with the inner spiritual guide.  By clearing these, you clear away the internal interference until eventually you realize he is with you all of the time.

So who is the outer spiritual guide?  There are three different levels.  The first, and most obvious, is he is the little Tibetan guy.  This is the individual who assumes the aspect of a Spiritual Guide and appears to accomplish the function of a Spiritual Guide, namely to lead us along the path of Sutra and Tantra.  We first learn how to get our relationship right with him – this is the easiest.  Second, we come to understand the spiritual guide as the synthesis of all three jewels, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – in other words, we come to view the totality of the tradition, externally and internally, as one giant Spiritual Guide with many aspects, like many facets of a diamond.  We view all the teachers, our Sangha friends, the books, the centers, all the different Buddhas, everything as emanations of the Spiritual Guide.  These are like his mind.  We view all the instructions and teachings that are given as emanations of the Spiritual Guide.  This is his speech.  We view all the practitioners and Sangha as emanations of the Spiritual Guide.  These are his body.  If our relationship with even one part of this is not good, then our relationship with one aspect/part of our spiritual guide is not good.  The third and final level is we come to understand him as everybody and everything.  The ultimate nature of all things is bliss and emptiness, so it is correct to say that everybody and everything ultimately arises from and is an emanation of the Spiritual Guide. A senior teacher once explained how we can view ourselves as we are on solitary retreat right now, and everything we see is an emanation of your Spiritual Guide, like one big Truman Show.

Learning to trust the Spiritual Guide

I was recently helping my daughter with her math homework and in doing so I realized how supremely patient the Spritual Guide is.  I know math quite well.  My daughter is struggling to understand.  She is convinced she does not and cannot get it.  Even when I explain it to her, she does not trust me that I am right.  So even though what I am explaining is correct and all she needs to do is trust me and do what I say and she will get it right, because she is seized by doubt and confusion she refuses to take it on board, so she never gets it which then feeds back into her lack of self-confidence making her discouraged and doubtful in a vicious cycle.  I found myself growing very impatient thinking, “if you would just trust me and do what I suggest, I guarrantee you it will all work out and you will get it right.”  If the Spiritual Guide was deluded, this is exactly how he would feel about us!  After working on my daughter’s homework, I realized how supremely patient he is!  Venerable Tharchin once said that Venerable Geshe-la told him, “if you would just fully believe me, you would attain enlightenment in an instant!”  But because we ignorantly believe we are right and he is wrong, we continue to hold back or even do the opposite of what he suggests.

For each and every stage of the path, we must make the transition from deluded doubt to personal wisdom.  This transition is like a ladder with definite steps that we need to go through.  Each stage has its own challenges.  The steps we need to take are as follows:

  1. Wrong views.  We start here without effort!  Here we firmly believe the opposite of what we need to realize in order to attain enlightenment.  To overcome these we have to want to realize the truth more than we want to believe we are right.  Often times it is only after metaphorically banging our head into the wall several times with our wrong views that we can begin to put them into question.
  2. Deluded doubt.  This is a doubt that tends away from the truth.  If this is combined with an arrogance thinking we are right, it is particularly troublesome.  To overcome this we need the openness of mind to question whether we are right or not and to be open to other ways of looking at things.
  3. Virtuous doubt.  This is doubt that tends towards the truth.  Here, we are not certain about things, but we suspect that what is in fact the truth is correct.  We are like a scientist who has a hypothesis, but has not yet done any experiments to verify whether the hypothesis is true.
  4. Correct belief.  Here, we believe what is in fact true is true, but we are doing so either through the force of our karmic imprints from previous lives or through a faith that the Spiritual Guide is correct without any particularly valid reason to support the belief.
  5. Believing faith.  Here we have not fully realized the truth of the subject, but we firmly believe it to be true based upon valid reasons that we have realized to be truth.  We don’t yet “get it”, but we believe it to be true and we are right about that.
  6. Inferential valid cognizer.  An inferential valid cognizer is when we know something is true through a valid reason.  The example given is we see smoke coming our of a chimney, so we correctly infer that there is a fire in the fireplace.  The truth of the subject is still a hidden object for us, but by observing the signs and indications we can affirm with certainty that it is true.  This is the first step of wisdom.  Wisdom is when we know from our own side something is true and we are right.  We realize it, we get it, we understand it.  Everything falls into place and makes sense, and we know (not just believe) it is right.
  7. Direct perceivers.  A direct perceiver is when we know something is true directly.  The truth of the subject is no longer hidden from us, we know it directly.  At this point we realize the object fully, what remains is increasing the power of the subject mind which realizes directly this truth.
  8. Yogic direct perceivers.  Here we know directly the truth of the subject with a mind that has attained superior seeing.  Superior seeing is a mind that has attained the union of tranquil abiding and a realization of emptiness.  The truth is still realized directly, but the mind realizing this truth directly is more powerful.
  9. Realizing the truth with our subtle minds.  Our mind has three levels:  gross, subtle and very subtle.  Everything I have described up until now has been realizing objects with our gross mind.  Our gross minds are, roughly speaking, our waking minds.  Our subtle minds are, roughly speaking, our dreaming minds.  And our very subtle mind is our deepest root mind which only arises at the time of death or through the force of completion stage meditations.  Just as we have to go through the above 8 stages with our gross minds, we likewise have to do this with each of our subtle minds.  We can do so either through the yoga of sleeping (where basically we learn to meditate with our dreaming minds) or through tantric meditations which enable us to generate these subtle minds in meditation.  We then use these subtle minds to meditate on and eventually realize the truth of each object of meditation.
  10. Realizing the truth directly with our very subtle mind of great bliss.  Eventually we must realize the truth of each and every stage of the path directly with our very subtle mind of great bliss.  This is our most powerful mind.  It says in the texts that this mind is thousands of times more powerful than the mind of tranquil abiding (basically perfect concentration with our gross mind) in Sutra.

We need to go through this progression with each and every stage of the path.  First the 21 lamrim meditations, then the 6 perfections.  Then the generation stage meditations of Highest Yoga Tantra.  Then the body mandala meditations.  Then the various completion stage meditations, such as the central channel, the indestructible drop and the indestructible wind and mind.  Then with the mind of the union of great bliss and emptiness, and finally with the union of great bliss and emptiness and conventional truth directly and simultaneously.  This final stage is enlightenment!

Lots of work to do, but there is a definite path with definte steps.  It is simply up to us to do what is required, step by step.  But as it says in the prayer of the stages of the path, “the path begins with strong reliance.”  But for now, back to the math homework!  🙂

You turn:  Describe a situation where you were not sure Venerable Geshe-la was right, but you then trusted him and later came to realize he was right all along.

Reflections on the lower realms

If we do not take control of our uncontrolled mind, we will be a slave to it, and it will no doubt take us to the lower realms.  There is only one destination our ordinary mind is trying to take us and that is the lower realms.  It really is the devil.  It will trick us with all sorts of lies and illusions trying to convince us that it is taking us to heaven.  Because we buy into its lies, we happily follow it to hell.  
As basic as it sounds, it really is like bugs bunny.  There are two minds within us, our ordinary mind (which is the devil in disguise as our closest friend) and our pure mind (which is the angel of our guru who has come to guide us to the pure land).  We need to decide who we are going to listen to and who we are going to follow.  What our ordinary mind promises seems so much more appealing, but it is all deceptive lies designed to ensnare us into its traps from which we will never escape and be literally dragged to hell.  Worse yet, we will go there of our own seeming volition completely oblivious to the fact that we march to our doom.  

Reflections on reliance upon the Spiritual Guide

I need to completely surrender control to my spiritual guide at my heart.  It is like I transform myself into a puppet which he controls.  It is almost like I make myself an inanimate object, like a car or a robot, but he is the one controlling me.  He is the life within me.  The goal is to have my every action be his.  I need to completely abandon any self-will.  I have no agenda other than to surrender myself to him.  He then takes over and uses me to liberate all beings.  
There is a difference between ‘surrendering control to the guru’ and ‘doing nothing.’  I am engaging in an action, and the action is to create the conditions so that I hand over control to him.  I am not handing over control to my delusions and letting them run wild.  When my delusions are functioning, I am their puppet.  I need to create a stillness within me, a stillness of my delusions and ordinary mind, so that he may take over.  I must ‘maintain’ the stillness on an on-going basis, which requires tremendous mindfulness in every moment.
To surrender control to my guru, internally, I must do the following:
1.  I need to actively align my motivation with his.  His motivation is to liberate all beings.  To accomplish this, his motivation is to forge me into a Buddha so that I may be an instrument of his peace.  I need to make active within my own mind this same wish.  
2.  I need to abandon my own plans and agenda.   I let him decide what I do next, what I need to work on, etc.  I adopt a mind of adventure, ready to see what he has in store next for me.  
3.  I must make and maintain my ordinary mind completely still.  My ordinary mind creates interference and it also takes over.  When my ordinary mind is manifest, it takes control of me and does deluded things with me.  If it is in control, how can my guru be in control?
4.  In an active way, I must wish him to work through me.  Depending on the circumstance, I make requests such as ‘reveal to me what I need to do now’, ‘what should I understand from this situation?’, ‘please speak through me, fill me with your words’, ‘what do you want me to do?’, ‘what next?’, etc.
We need to dissolve the guru into our heart, and completely surrender to him.  Our goal is to become his puppet.  “My only wish is for you to take over completely my life.”  We abandon any independent self-will, and surrender ourselves completely to his control.  He takes over, and controls us like a puppet.  To effectively do this, we need to:
1.  Make our ordinary mind completely still.
2.  Abandon any independent self-will or plan or agenda of what we think is best, and instead surrender completely to him.
3.  With deep faith, wish for him to take control of us and to do with us what he wishes.  
4.  Most importantly, we need to align our motivation with his.  One effective way to do this is to generate simply the wish to serve him, to help him accomplish his wishes.  We become his servant.  What does he wish for?  He wishes for us to improve our qualifications so that we can be of greater and greater benefit to living beings, eventually being able to guide them to enlightenment.
I need to become like an Avatar, and GSBH is the one controlling me.  I am a tool to be handed over to the guru so that he can do with me what he wishes, use me in the best possible way.  I need to not only surrender myself in this life, but I need to surrender all my future lives so that from this time forward, he is in control.  
When we start our practices or sadhanas, we are starting from the space of our ordinary self.  With the refuge contemplations, we become aware of the fact that our mind is under the control of the devil of our ordinary mind and it will drag us to hell from which there is no escape.  We then visualize the guru, who seems like an ‘other’ but is actually our true self.  We then wish to draw closer to and come under the influence of our guru so that he may deliver us to the pure land.  Our sense of I is currently indistinguishable from our ordinary mind.  We think they are one and the same.  This is an aspect of our self-grasping ignorance.  We fail to make the distinction between our I, which is a mere name a label which is not the problem, and our ordinary mind, which is its current basis of imputation.  We think we ARE our ordinary mind.  We need to break this identification, and long to and make effort to transfer our sense of I to the guru’s mind, which is in reality our pure mind.  Then, through our tantric practice, we dissolve the guru into our heart, into our root mind, and train in identifying with his mind as our own until we feel this to be our living experience.  We then must familarize ourselves with this experience again and again over a long period of time, both in meditation and outside of it, until it feels to be us more than our old ordinary self.  We will come to relate to this purity as ourselves, who we are.  Then, when we fall back into our ordinary self, we will think, ‘this is not me, this is not who I am.’  
We are currently trapped in the spell of our ordinary mind, and we must wish to break free.  We do so by allowing ourselves to be drawn to the guru, staying focused on his voice, his wisdom, and applying effort to move towards him.  We need to turn our back on our negativity and delusions.  We need to leave them behind.  We can do this by confessing them, acknowledging them as misguided and wrong and deceptive and taking us in the wrong direction combined with wishing to now turn towards the light of our guru.  
I need to completely submit myself to my guru at my heart.  I need to want for him to completely take over and I do whatever he says without questions, with total faith, like a good soldier.  We submit internally, not externally.  My guru wants to take me to the pure land, but to get there I have to allow him to take me there.  I do not have the power to get there on my own, I need to be taken there by him.  I need to have deep experience of submission and doing exactly what he says without hesitation and allowing him to completely take over.  If I have this experience, then at the time of my death I dissolve him into my heart, I generate the pure wish to go to the pure land, and then I submit myself to him requesting, ‘please take me to the pure land.’  As long as I am trying to retain even a slight degree of control by my ordinary self, I can’t get there.  I need to renounce the control of my ordinary self completely and surrender it completely to my guru.  Since my ordinary self is a false self fabricated by my distorted and deluded mind, to hold on to its control is, paradoxically, what leaves me uncontrolled.  It tricks me into thinking my freedom depends on it retaining control, but by holding on to such control I reinforce and feed that which makes my mind uncontrolled in the first place.  The point is if I am going to be able to completely surrender myself to the guru to take me to the pure land at the time of my death, I need deep experience of doing this during my life.  Retaining control with my ordinary self, believing this is what makes me free, is actually what makes me a slave to my deluded mind and what leaves me out of control.
Externally, we surrend ourselves completely to Dorje Shugden that he arrange whatever needs to be.  Internally, we surrend ourselves completely to our guru at our heart, to use us as his avatar in this world, to guide us, to act through us, to reveal to us what we need to do, to teach us, etc.