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Rely on a Guide

In the Two-examination Tantra, Buddha Vajradhara prophesies:

In degenerated times, when the practice of Buddha dharma is in decline, I shall manifest as a Spiritual Guide. You should understand that I am that Spiritual Guide and you should pay due respect ... I shall appear as an ordinary being, and I shall come in many forms.

Also, the Sakya Pandita, Kunga Gyaltsen, (1182-1251) said that:

. . . if we practice the six perfections, such as giving and so forth, for a thousand eons, we can accumulate a great amount of merit; but if we rely completely upon our Spiritual Guide we can accumulate the same amount of merit in just one moment.

On Not Devaluing Oneself

His Holiness the 17th Karmapa said, at the January 2004 Monlam:

Liberation is greatly dependent on the individual. The lama is very 
important and should be the object of our appreciation and reverence for showing one the path, guiding one on the path of discerning what is wholesome and beneficial to be embraced, what is unwholesome and a source  of defilement to abandon. One should, however, also regard oneself  highly. One should recognize the preciousness of oneself, and express due  recognition and respect to oneself, because the experience of liberation  is dependent on one's own efforts. 

It is totally a contradiction to our potential to allow ourselves to be steered away by mental afflictions, to be overpowered by them, abused by them.  People, out of confusion, are eager to be involved in self-abuse and devaluing themselves, victimizing themselves at the hands of afflictions, the source of suffering. This should be thoroughly avoided. When I go up and down, you bow. If you could do that towards yourself, very genuinely, appreciate with what you are endowed, if you can make yourself truly happy, oh it is so wonderful, so beautiful!

--  From Jewel Ornament discourse by H. H. the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje



"The best teacher is one who attacks your hidden faults; the best instruction is one aimed squarely at those hidden faults."  
~ Atisha

The difference between a real guru and a charlatan

Chagdud Tulku once said: 

The genuine guru may do things that are strange, but even his strange actions seem to benefit all beings, whereas a charlatan guru may be outwardly benevolent and kind, but inwardly he works only for himself and his own power.

Relation between Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche and his student.


Some practical considerations

  • Are you ready to have a relationship with a lama or spiritual mentor?
  •  What do you know about the lineage to which the teacher belongs?
  • Do you have a connection with the kind of Buddhism and the methods used by the teacher?
    • Is there any controversy surrounding their affiliations or doctrines?
      • If so, does that matter to you?
    • Will you have to adopt a new lifestyle?
    • Is it important for you to be able to practice in English [or your own language?]
      • What role do various languages play in any ritual activities?
  • A very popular teacher may have more demands on her or his time, so it may not be easy to see them privately.  On the other hand, there will be more support in terms of other sangha [community of students.]
  • What is the reputation of the sangha for 
    • friendliness and welcoming new members
    • harmonious functioning
    • financial or other aspects that impact its stability
  • Can you take teachings on a regular basis? 
    • Is the lama or teacher, and the sangha or center, in your area?
    • If not, can you manage the time and expense of travel ?
  • Does it matter to you whether the teacher can easily understand your language without there having to be a translator present? 
  • Would you feel comfortable being alone with the teacher?
    • Have you spoken to other students about that?
  • Do you know how to ask the teacher to accept you as a student?
    • What is the proper offering to give?


Spiritual Guide: not culturally bound expression for lama or guru.  

Robert Thurman prefers the word, mentor. 

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