Advice on Calling the Guru from Afar (Audio and Unedited Transcript)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Amitabha Buddhist Center, Singapore April 1992. (Archive #442)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave these teachings on guru devotion and brief commentary on Pabongka Rinpoche's Calling the Guru from Afar during an oral trasnmission of the text in Singapore in April 1992.

Read an edited transcript of this teaching here. You can also read a more extensive verse-by-verse commentary, given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kachoe Dechen Ling, Aptos, in the winter of 2004-05.

…which is composed by the great yogi [Pabongka Rinpoche], enlightened being of Chakrasamvara deity, Heruka, which is a manifestation of the kind compassionate Shakyamuni Buddha. So this Calling the Guru from Afar, this is combined guru yoga practice, the guru devotion meditation, also lam-rim, very effective way to do direct meditation on the lam-rim, the three principles of the path then two stages of Highest Tantra, it is very, very effective way to meditate on the lam-rim. Because of this great yogi Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, because of his experience, this teaching came from his own experiences.

[short mandala]

At any rate I must achieve enlightenment quicker and quicker for the sake of all the kind mother sentient beings, as this is the meaning of my life, purpose of my life, to free every sentient being from all the sufferings and causes, lead to peerless happiness full enlightenment; not just leading to liberation from samsara, not just leading in temporary happiness. So, purpose of my surviving one more year, able to, purpose of living again this year that is to be able to actualize bodhicitta, renunciation of samsara, shunyata, wisdom realizing emptiness, the common path, and then as much as possible to leave imprint of the Highest Tantra path. So, even one doesn't achieve realization in this year, at least as much as possible to make the mind near to the realization, so to quickly end the suffering of samsara, to quickly reach to the end of the samsara, cycle of death and rebirth, so forth. Not just that, to quickly achieve enlightenment so that one can bring all sentient beings to enlightenment. So that is the real meaning of the life.

Then, however, with the attitude, especially bodhicitta, then three principles of the path, especially with bodhicitta, then able to make the life useful, beneficial as much as possible my life is for other sentient beings, for all other sentient beings. Whether it is one sentient beings, whether it is two sentient beings, whether it is ten sentient beings, or whether it is numberless sentient beings, so I make my life as much as beneficial for other sentient beings, like Buddha.

I thought, so generally my idea is that, I think it's very good when we do New Year, the morning of the New Year, it's very, very good to read, either in the family together in front of Buddha or in the Center, the bodhisattva's, the end of the chod practice there is a prayer when Buddha was a bodhisattva, practice of the six paramitas, giving his life to other sentient beings, being king then giving the whole family and possessions, everything, giving others, other sentient beings, making charity; then, to the tiger his body giving, starving tiger family completely giving, then giving life to the spirits, to such the blood and then made prayer those spirits to become his disciples next life, then that's why in Sarnath, these spirits become the four monks, Buddha gave his first teaching to them, Four Noble Truths, before spirits, suck blood from bodhisattva, the Buddha, past life bodhisattva; so he used that to dedicate to be able to give teaching for them next life. So like that there are many stories in there that bodhisattva manifested as fish, there is a big epidemic disease in the country, many, many hundreds of thousands of people dying, so then manifest as fish that which flesh become medicine, so then with that particular fish recovered all that country's people epidemic disease.

Then, there are many thousands of fish, so many hundreds of thousands, many, many fish, there's disease or something dying, so then by reciting this particular Buddha's name, de zhin sheg pa....chag tsel lo, by reciting this to all the animals then they all got liberated. So there are many different stories, being bodhisattva, that other sentient beings gave harm and you only benefit, in return only give benefit to them. So there are many stories even they give harm, with very vicious attitude, so those, to read that in the family in front of Buddha together to read and then to be able to live the life sincerity and open heart towards others, to all sentient beings, to make the life beneficial. So, that is the best way to make the life happy and find satisfaction, now and death time and for enlightenment, everything, for all other sentient beings, for the family, it benefits to everybody. So this practice is very, very, either it is done in family or in the Center, that become, refuge and bodhicitta, then four immeasurable, then seven-limb, short mandala, anyway mandala offering then after that read these bodhisattva life-stories, the short. So very, very good to remind how to live the life, how to, what is the purpose of life and how to make the life beneficial for all sentient beings. So that is then, makes the New Year very, very good new year. Very meaningful.

So, I read this, I do the oral transmission, so think, Each word that I hear, each word that I listen may I be able to reveal this word to every sentient being and whenever I say this word, may they be able to actualize the path immediately in their mind, when I say this word. So, dedicate like this.

So I do the oral transmission in English. [Rinpoche reads in English]

"...drawing forth the blessing of the lama, the inseparable three kayas" - this lama doesn't mean any lama. This lama means, there's many ways the word "lama" is used. But here the lama means your own personal lama from whom you received Dharma contact, that you listen to teaching with the recognition of guru-disciple. As I mentioned that Amitabha initiation, if you cannot devote to that person who teach, from the very beginning you cannot devote as guru, then first you can learn from that person as a school teacher, professor, you can learn; after some time, then you feel really devoted and you think you can devote to the person as guru, then one can do. Even one doesn't request to the person - it's mainly, guru, root guru, these things is normally doesn't need to request. If it's very first time, if it's before listening to teaching, then one can request; however, generally, for example if there's thousands of billions of people there's no time to request , there's no time to request, "Please be my guru."

Anyway, so there is a tradition like this, if you are going to attend the teaching, for example, in Tibet, if you are going to attend an initiation or teaching then before that you go to see the lama, "Please can I attend?" There is like that. The lama then kind of checks and accepts, like that. The Tibetan lamas, there is this tradition before; but after, so anyway, like this, after, because when the teaching happened connection is already done, there's nothing to request, "Be my guru." Like this after you are born from the mother, then you request, "Can you be my mother?" "Can you be my father?" It becomes like that. After you become thirty or forty or eighty years old, then, "Can you be my mother?" I'm joking.

So anyway, so generally how it is done in Tibetan tradition, if you are going to take the teaching from the very beginning as guru-disciple, before, then they go to, just very quickly to get the permission, "Can I take teachings?" So then the lama, I think maybe the lama checks up, something like that.

So now, here in, center in the West and like us here, now that which is more like a school where different teachers come to teach. Here in this kind of situation, so since one cannot practice pure mind with everybody - if one can practice then it's okay how many thousands, billions of gurus - but since one's mind is very difficult to practice pure, to practice devotion to everybody, very difficult to have pure mind with everybody, since that is difficult and the mind is full of superstitions, very difficult mind, so therefore in this kind of running like a school, then first if you can't devote from the beginning, then first one hear, listen, then if you really feel, "I want to take," then when you really feel then you decide guru-disciple then take teaching. Before you just learn like from a professor at a university or school, like that.

So I'm not saying that one should not regard as guru, those other teachers coming, I'm not saying that, but as I mentioned, there is greatest benefit, with this relationship, with this object, most powerful object, you get the greatest benefit, achieve enlightenment, the highest, there's greatest merit and greatest benefit, and most powerful purification, able to do and the greatest achievement, all the whole success, but also if one doesn't know how to practice, if one makes mistakes, also greatest obstacle. So, greatest profit and greatest obstacle, obstacle to develop the mind, so therefore the reason why I am saying this is how to be careful in the practice, how to keep the practice clear and neat. So when you are going to visualize, when you are going to do guru yoga practice, then you know how many gurus you have, so it is very easy to visualize, it is very clear who is guru, who is not guru, very clear, then you took for the practice. Then to these ones then you have to have completely new mind, you have to practice pure mind with them no matter whatever happens, even they can, once the Dharma contact is established, before careful, but once Dharma contact is established, before examining carefully, but once it's established, how the guru guides is the guru's responsibility how the disciple follows the guru is, correctly devoting, that is disciple's responsibility, so both has responsibility.

So therefore even that teacher kills millions of people, any ten non-virtuous actions whatever happens, there is, I don't remember by heart, it is already translated into English, there is a text from Trulshig Rinpoche, one Nyingmapa lama, from whom I took teachings, one very, very incredibly qualified Nyingmapa lama, his guru, root guru, one great Nyingmapa yogi, he wrote a teaching on the guru devotion, incredibly moving. So there's quotations that how to practice all what looks mistakes, all those mistakes like ten non-virtues, killing so forth, telling lies, sexual misconduct, stealing, whatever mistake appears, how to use this to develop the devotion within your mind, how to look at as positive. So there's all the quotations by the great yogis, how they practices, so there is, it's translated into English some time ago.

So one has to be careful before the relationship is made. So that is for safety, like there's safety belt in the car and in the airplanes when you are taking off, the hostess they show, if there's some airplane falls down in the water how , this is what, blow up the jacket and show everything in case. So it's like that, so not going to talk much, sorry, again. So the reason why I'm saying all these things, that Amitabha initiation before, spending much time talking the guru, this is for safety, for safe journey to enlightenment.

Then, "Lama think of me, Lama think of me...", so when you recite this, then you visualize the root guru on your crown and that has, by knowing, by being aware of the meaning of guru, the real meaning of guru, by remembering that up in your heart, all the Buddhas' holy mind dharmakaya, transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, all the Buddha's wisdom, if I put in simple way, all the Buddha's completely pure mind the wisdom, so that one is dharmakaya, that holy mind is absolute guru. There's absolute guru and conventional guru. So the absolute guru is working through the conventional guru, which means that we see in the various ordinary aspects, mistaken aspect, according to our impure karma, our impure mind, the level of our impure mind. So all the Buddhas are working through this, this is one way of saying, this is one way of understanding, without, even there's a hot sun, even there's a very hot sun, but if there's no magnifying glass cannot burn, this plant is there, so the hot sun works through the magnifying glass, then burns that plant, that you can make fire. Similar, through this manifestation, which is the appearance of our own mind, quality of our own mind, level of our own mind, all the Buddhas works through this, that, then by revealing the oral transmission, the initiation, commentary, teaching alphabet, so forth, so granting the three level of vows, in this way burns our delusions, all our mistakes of the mind it burns completely, then by actualizing the path that's how we become enlightened, our mind is guided, brought to enlightenment.

So however, this is how it is explained, this is the meditation practice and this is how it is explained in the sutra, tantra texts. So I am just repeating from that, the essence. So, when the, generally I'm speaking, I'm not talking myself here, generally I'm speaking that when we take initiation, teaching, something, from a lama means that your own guru, here in this case lama means, usually in India, they call lama to any Tibetan, any lay Tibetan, as long as it's Tibetan they call lama, even police or army, any that is Tibetan they call lama, according to India. But according to Tibetan there is different name, lama means the abbot of the monastery or a reincarnate lama, your own guru, all these are called lama, similar what is called Rinpoche.

So now, so when one's own guru is giving you advice, scolding you, giving advice or beating you or giving initiation, whatever, the way, that is Chenrezig Kuan Yin is giving you advice, in order to purify, in order to pacify obstacles then scolding, obstacles to practice Dharma, to purify then scolding, beating for your purification. However, like Milarepa's life story. Whether it's teachings, initiations, giving vows, always think, Tara is giving this initiation, Manjushri is giving this initiation, this is Amitabha giving initiation, this is Tara giving initiation, this is Vajrapani giving initiation, this is Yamantaka giving initiation, so you can, all the Buddhas, what one should realize, all the Buddhas are giving me initiation, giving me vows, so this is the way to understand. All the Buddhas are giving, through this manifestation, so this action is all the Buddhas action, So this is the way to meditate and this is what to realize. Then this devotion takes you to enlightenment, stops all the obstacles and takes you to enlightenment, causes all the realizations of the path to enlightenment.

Because at the moment our mind, our karma is not pure, mind is not pure so we have no chance at the moment to see actual Buddha manifesting to us and giving teachings; so we have to receive guidance in some other form, which fits, which we have karma to see, which is according to our level of mind. We have to have another ordinary form, since we cannot see the other one, the more pure one. So like that.

So higher than this, better than this we don't have karma to see, lower than this, animals, like that, then we cannot receive teaching, we cannot recognize. So it is said that, so this ordinary mistaken form, which has many mistakes, suffering, so forth, then this aspect is so precious because without this, my life is lost, so without this aspect my life is lost. There's no guidance, no protection to my life. Lost in samsara, lost in the lower realms. So therefore, this aspect becomes extremely precious, important, so with this mistaken ordinary aspect, that which is according to one's own mind then able to receive all the guidance and even to achieve enlightenment. Yeah.

[Oral transmission continues.]

"...the hundred, five and three families..." This means talking about the Dhyani Buddhas. The hundred different race of Buddha, this race has nothing to do with the blood generation, it's to do with the mind. Five, five Dhyani Buddhas, three means Akshobhya, Vairocana, Amitabha, who are embodiment of all the Buddhas' holy body, holy speech and holy mind.

[Oral transmission continues.]

"...ripening the base of the birth, death and..." - this part is the tantra, the lam-rim part is finished, now the part of the graduated path of tantra, the Highest Tantra. This is first one, generation stage, essence of generation stage. Now this next one is completion state.

[Oral transmission continues.]

"...the ultimate lama, the bare face of..." It's not the animal "bear".

[Oral transmission continues.]

"...removed." It is talking the most, mind has gross mind, subtle mind, extremely subtle mind. Here it is talking about the extremely pure subtle mind.

[Oral transmission continues.]

So the meditation centers in the West, here, the organization side have to do this, inviting and receiving many lamas, and one reason is because there are people who have different karma, so each time a lama comes, there are people, there are sentient beings who have different karma, who has karma with that lama. So until that particular lama comes, those other sentient beings do not meet Dharma even though many other lamas come. So, organization side there's need to invite other different lamas to give teachings. So the benefit is so the lama, there are sentient beings who have connection with that lama, so then the different ones as they come, then other sentient beings who have karma with that lama then they meet and they meet Dharma. So there are particular benefits like that. So, organization side need to do like this, but from one's own individual side, practice as explained before, like that.

So from whomever one has taken vow, refuge, vow, initiation, Eight Mahayana Precepts, those, if you have done some visualization what the lama said, it become guru, whether it's a man or female, whether it's lay or ordained, whoever. If one has taken then become guru, if one has visualized what the lama said, like that. Otherwise, then it should be possible to achieve enlightenment, to achieve all the realizations of the path to enlightenment without any guru. But nobody achieved enlightenment that way. And that is not the experience. So these are the important points I feel to say because I don't think, this important point, the very beginning of the, the very root of the realizations, I think this practice is not clear in many people's minds, not clear, it's very confused, and also particularly as I mentioned before, in our Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, not in Mahayana Buddhism, not in sutra. In sutra, as I mentioned, there is a whole entire volume, for each meditation there's a whole entire volume, two volumes, three volumes, so it's so extensive; so without the lam-rim that is condensed one text, shows all the path, since one, without that you don't know how to practice Dharma, you don't know how to begin the path, so lam-rim is so precious and extremely important.

Because as I mentioned one of the days, so the reason why the emphasis is not there in our Chinese Mahayanists, the common teachers - of course there are many enlightened teachers, bodhisattvas, but the common teachers, why these teachings are not there, why these teachings are not given, not emphasized, there are sutra teachings talking guru devotion, just one volume, the ____ _______ Do, there is one text like this and there might be others. I know because even, I haven't read this, that sutra, whole volume, but so many quotations used in the lam-rim, so that's how I know the title, incredible quotations, teachings from that, brought in the lam-rim. Because the lam-rim is not made so therefore this emphasis is not there, and since one doesn't study the whole sutra, the whole hundreds and hundreds of volumes, one don't read all so then you spend many years reading one volume and studying, so things like that, so then difficult to understand the whole thing. This is general comment. Of course there are many enlightened beings, higher bodhisattvas who know how to practice, but this is my general comment. This is what I think.

So, thank you very much, so happy new year to everybody! Thank you so much, okay. So, anyway, so since here is the Buddha's relic, the Buddha's tooth that I got from Tibet recently and two relics born from Buddha's tooth. I was expecting to get another Buddha's tooth near Lhasa, to put in Maitreya Buddha statue which Lama Yeshe, my incomparably kind guru, advised to build the Maitreya Buddha same size as the stupa in Bodhgaya, but I didn't get the other one, so then I got from somewhere else, from another part of Tibet. This Lama Tsong Khapa's disciple, Ensapa, who became enlightened within a few years, his statue was destroyed during revolutionary time, so inside of his statue there is bit stupa and the stupa was found by some Tibetan people, there inside the Buddha's tooth came, so they crushed and they used by healing by the family because they didn't have anything because everything destroyed; so then one monk found and then he found to Chobgaye Rinpoche, His Holiness Sakya Trizin's guru, Chobgaye Rinpoche, and Chobgaye Rinpoche proved and he said, This is the same tooth what I saw in Sri Lanka, in Candy, in the stupa, when Rinpoche went there to represent the Tibetan government, leader, the religious leader for meeting, and the figures and so this is top of the, near the top of the Buddha's tooth, a small part of that. So the big part of this I think is going to be offered to His Holiness Sakya Trizin. So I brought this so sometimes to, other people to see and to give blessing, to pray, then also to make offerings, at my own altar, while I have this with me, at the altar to make offerings, things like that, when I'm not lazy to make offerings.

Yeah, so [pause], I think that's all, okay.

I'm not, you gave me so much money already, I'm not going to mention the different projects now, so I will put some of that money for the different projects. I'm not going to, I have many projects but I'm not going to…

…mention later. Yeah, okay. So I think that's all. Thank you very much.