Oral Instructions on the Practice of Guru Yoga (Part 3)
by Chogye Trichen Rinpoche
GURU YOGA: THE DESCENT OF BLESSINGS
In the biographies of the great masters, it is often said that they would supplicate the Guru until tears would pour from their eyes and the hairs on their bodies would stand on end. These are signs of fervent devotion, which gives rise to ever greater faith. In order to receive blessings, the most important quality one needs is faith (depa). As in the famous story, if we have faith, even the tooth of a dog can become a relic.
Whatever your prayer, such as the taking of refuge or the Yoga of the Guru, more important than just visualising well and chanting properly is to have the quality of devotion (mogu). This is also true when you offer prayers of love, compassion, and Bodhicitta. By contemplating and understanding suffering, and generating loving kindness and compassion, once again, tears may flow. Tears do not come ordinarily, but they may come when one really experiences compassion and the wish to help suffering beings. We can feel empathy for their suffering, and sincerely wish to save them.
The key point is that in all of these moments, such as: a moment of intense devotion (mogu dragpo); a moment when we experience the descent of primordial wisdom (yeshe bab) during empowerment; or when we enter the stream of blessings (jinlab kyi gyud), during Guru Yoga practice; and also, at the time of being overwhelmed with compassion (nyingje); in each of these cases, the experience is similar. These are different causes that give rise to the same experience, the experience of Guru Yoga: The Descent of Blessings (jin bab; byin babs).
Remembering the kindness of our mother, and if she is suffering, feeling compassion for her and trying to help her, is the beginning of developing compassion. Knowing that all beings have been our mother, this becomes a cause for developing love and compassion.
When you reach the point of being overwhelmed with love and compassion, it is a sign of the descent of the blessings of great compassion (thugje chenpo; thugs rje chen po), a sign that the blessings of the Bodhisattvas are falling upon you. When you feel kindness and compassion toward all beings as if they were your own mother and understand their suffering, you will be blessed by the Bodhisattvas, and the experience of their blessings will be born in your mind.
Some are moved to tears because of their previous practice of meditation on emptiness. Seeing for oneself the suffering of beings in the lower realms can also move one very deeply. Through our own compassion for all beings, the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are able to flow to all beings. It is the same as other kinds of prayer, where blessings are invoked on behalf of all beings. There is no question that sentient beings are benefitted when one genuinely gives rise to compassion.
For example, during our practice of Guru Yoga, there is the kusali offering, where one offers one’s body to the Gurus and to the sources of refuge. One also offers to the guests of compassion, sentient beings who require blessings and a variety of benefits. This is a practice of faith and devotion as well as of compassion and sacrifice (lo tangwa; bIos btang ba). It is a very powerful practice for receiving blessings that definitely benefit sentient beings. Faith, devotion, and compassion enable us to receive blessings, and this is what helps sentient beings.
The signs of receiving blessings are for example that we may cry spontaneously, the hairs of our pores stand on end (ba pu Iangpa; ba spu Iangs pa), there might be a trembling sending chills through our body, and so on. Our heart may be flooded with powerful feelings of renunciation, faith, devotion, and compassion. These are signs that we are receiving the blessings of the Guru and the lineage masters, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. They are signs that we have experienced faith and devotion, genuine love and compassion for sentient beings, and so on. One may feel deeply moved from within, and this gives rise to different vivid experiences.
At these moments, it is most important to remember the Guru’s introduction to the nature of mind, recognise and continue in the sustaining of the View. The nature of mind is introduced very directly through blessings. It is realisation of the nature of mind that will accomplish one’s own benefit. Receiving blessings accomplishes the two benefits, the benefit of others as well as one’s own benefit.
GURU YOUGA: THE DESCENT OF PRIMORDIAL WISDOM
If we would ask whether one can receive the same blessings and recognise the nature of mind during the course of one’s own practice, the answer is that yes, one may. This is especially true of the practice of Guru Yoga. When the Guru dissolves into our heart, and our mind merges with the mind of the Guru, we remain in this state of emptiness. This is simply a less elaborate form of what takes place during empowerment, the method by which blessings may be received and recognition of the nature of mind may occur.
If we have more time and wish to practice Guru Yoga somewhat more elaborately, then when supplicating the Guru, we may call to mind all of the sublime qualities of the Enlightened Ones. To review in our mind all of the Guru’s spiritual qualities is very powerful for arousing our devotion. We may remember the master’s attributes, remember situations where we witnessed his qualities for ourselves. We may rejoice in the Guru’s immeasurable qualities, and delight in our own good fortune to have a relationship with our Gurus, to be their disciples and follow their teachings.
This will help us to have a positive attitude toward ourselves as practitioners, as well as generating faith and devotion toward the Guru. We rejoice in our good fortune and strive to emulate the Guru’s noble qualities and benefit sentient beings.
Through the practice of Guru Yoga, our faith will continue to increase. In practicing Guru Yoga, first we generate faith by contemplating the qualities of the Guru, of the Three Jewels and the Three Roots. Then through faith and devotion, we receive blessings, and blessings give rise to experience. Having received blessings, we are able to experience the meaning of the teachings through our own practice, which in turn will greatly increase our faith.
The most important point is that when we dissolve the Guru into ourselves, we must have full faith in and devotion to the Guru. It is not just a matter of going through the motions of visualising and reciting everything properly. We need to really feel from our hearts that this is the authentic Guru and lineage masters who are dissolving into us, who are bestowing their blessings upon us.
Once we are accustomed to this practice, the experience of blessings does not disappear within our recognition of the View of emptiness. In fact, as we remain with the recognition, even more blessings will arise, and at the same time, our recognition of the View will become more and more sustained. Resting within the view of emptiness, faith and devotion continue to increase, blessings continue to be received, and the View continues to become more and more stable.
This is a very important point for our practice of Guru Yoga. It is said that as blessings descend from above, realisation (togpa; rtogs pa) blazes up from below.
“Realisation blazes up from below” means that our faith and devotion increase, and that our recognition of the View becomes more vast (gya chewa) and sustained. It is not only that faith and great devotion increase; our mind merges with the Guru’s mind and we are face to face with the unmistaken View (lta ba ngor ‘khrul med pa), which is unchanging empty awareness (rig tong gyurwa mepa).
These two mutually benefit one another: the more blessings descend, the more our faith, devotion, and realisation of the View blazes up. The more our faith, devotion, and realisation of the View blazes upward, the more blessings will descend. This is the process that leads to great realisation.
THE MEANING OF GURU YOGA: UNIFYING WITH THE BODY, SPEECH AND MIND OF THE GURU
I will repeat once again a few of the key points of Guru Yoga, so that you may learn them well. In the practice of Guru Yoga, the unification with the Guru, first we have to visualise and pray to the Guru. Next, we visualise that all phenomena dissolve into the form of the Guru, and then the Guru dissolves into our heart. Our mind and the Guru’s mind are indivisibly mingled (yermey du drepa; dbyer med du ‘dres pa).
Now we rest body, speech, and mind naturally, and remain with the recognition of emptiness. Whatever we see around us is created by our mind; all that appears and exists (snang srid thams cad) is the manifestation of the mind. Other than mind, there is nothing outside of us.
Whatever phenomena we can perceive, we should regard them as being the same as our Guru. This is something we can practice night and day.
All appearances are the nature of the deities, inseparable from the Guru. Knowing this with confidence, then we dissolve all phenomena into the Guru, and the Guru into ourselves. All phenomena have dissolved into emptiness, we see that the Guru is no other than our own mind.
Thus, once we are able to understand the true nature of this mind, emptiness, then we pray to the Guru and dissolve the Guru into our heart, dissolving the blessings into ourselves (jinlab rang la tim; byin rlabs rang la thim).
Dissolve the Guru into your heart, and merge your mind completely with your Guru’s mind, so that you and the Guru are indistinguishable from one another. Now remain in the View without grasping. This means to allow your body, speech, and mind to rest naturally. These are some of the key points of Guru Yoga, which you should keep in mind.
LETTING BODY, SPEECH AND MIND BE AT REST
In the Guru Yoga instructions, we are told to let our body, speech and mind rest naturally (nal du bapa; rnal du dbap pa). What does this mean? The basis for meditation practice in the Vajrayana tradition of secret mantra (sang ngak) is the three key points of body, speech, and mind. The key point of the body is to place our body in the proper physical posture. Along with this, the key point for the speech is that the eyes must assume the proper gaze. The key point of mind is that the mind comes to rest, relaxed but attentive, in the thought-free state (tog may ngang; rtog med ngang).
The practice is to simply allow your three gates (go sum) of body, speech, and mind to be left as they naturally are (rang lug su zhag; rang lugs su bzhag), at rest in naturalness. This means to simply let your body, speech, and mind be, without altering or modifying anything.
In general, our actions of body, speech, and mind have been a great waste of time. Despite all of our endless actions throughout beginningless time, we have wasted all of our opportunities up to the present time. As we are still ordinary sentient beings, nothing of real consequence has been achieved through our worldly activities.
There is no benefit that comes from allowing our body, speech, and mind to roam through the desire realm (dod kham). But, if we give up all of these meaningless activities, then we can certainly gain realisation and sublime joy, great bliss (dewa chenpo). By this, all of our afflictions, such as those of our elements, bodily constituents (kham), and emotions, can be brought to an end.
For our body, this means not only giving up bodily movements and sitting still in one’s meditation posture, but giving up all thoughts concerning possible activities, such as “I should do this, I shouldn’t do that….” Our body is left free from activity.
For our speech, we let our breathing be natural, and also maintain the proper gaze, without saying anything. This includes thinking about what we would like to say or about what we should not say.
For our mind, we leave the mind free of any activity. There is nothing to think about, nothing to apply our mind to other than resting in the gap between the past and future thought.
We are abandoning all activities of body, speech, and mind. Rather than perform any activities, we simply sit in the meditation posture. When the body is straight, our channels are straightened and our mind will become stable. In this way, we are able to leave our body at rest.
Our breathing is relaxed and natural, and we maintain the focus of our gaze. Practicing the gaze correctly is very powerful for removing all kinds of inner disharmonies of our elements, winds, and so on. If our eyes frequently change focus and our gaze moves about, this can disrupt meditation. The eyes are focused forward into space along the direction of the gaze, straight ahead and slightly upward. This is the practice for letting one’s speech be at rest.
As we practice the gaze, our mind should not be focused either too far into space, or too close to our body. The teachings mention the length of the span of a bow, about four to six feet. We gaze normally without forcing it, without any strain. We are simply looking along the direction of our gaze, without effort.
Our mind rests in emptiness, in the gap between past and future thoughts. There is nothing else to do. The key point of mind is to have nothing in mind.
While we are maintaining attentive presence (dran shes) with effort, we do not concentrate too sharply, nor do we leave the mind so loose that it sinks into dullness (gopa).
The mind is left without a reference point, meaning that our mind is not placed anywhere and is not focusing on anything. In fact, our mind is not making efforts of any kind. At the same time, this is not a blank emptiness. We are present, attentive, and are able to know whatever is taking place.