Oral Instructions on the Practice of Guru Yoga (Part 5)
by Chogye Trichen Rinpoche
THE VIEW: THE SINGLE ESSENCE
The final result or fruition (drebu; ‘bras bu) of the View within all the schools of secret mantra (sang ngak), whether we call it the Indivisibility of Samsara and Nirvana, Mahamudra, or Dzogchen, is the same; they are of one single essence (ngowo chig; ngo bog cig). If they were not of the same essence, we would have to speak of Sakyapa realisation, of Kagyupa realisation, and so forth. Then if we took Sakya empowerment, we would not get the Kagyu result. But it really is not like this.
The names of the Views are different, but the meaning behind them is not different. This is because the final result of all the vehicles of secret mantra (drebu sang ngak kyi thegpa; bras bug sang sngags kyi theg pa) is to realise the nature of one’s own mind. One who realises this may express it in different ways, as Mahamudra or Dzogpa Chenpo, and so on.
The only real difference is that the different schools have different methods, such as methods of introducing the nature of mind, methods of practising the path, and so on. Once you know the real meaning (don) of the View (tawa; Ita ba), they are the same in essence (ngowo chig).
For this reason, I can teach according to the Nyingma tradition, according to the Sakya, or by one of the other ways of explanation. From the master’s experience in practice, he has found that once the real meaning is known, these teachings are not really very different.
I do feel that Sakya Pandita’s words are truly wonderful when he says, “My Mahamudra is the experience of the descent of primordial wisdom at the time of empowerment.” Sakya Pandita means that Mahamudra is not a doctrine or tenet belonging to the Sakya, Kagyu, or Gelug. “Mahamudra” refers to the one who recognises the true nature of mind. This Mahamudra is introduced through the power of the lineage of experiential realisation (thugdam nyam zhay kyi gyupa; thugs dam nyams bzhes kyi brgyud pa), through the power of the ultimate blessing lineage (jinlab don gyi gyupa; byin rlabs don gyi brgyud pa).
Whether we speak of the Inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana (tawa khordey yermey), or of naked awareness (rig pa jen pa) ; or whether we refer to Mahamudra (chagya chenpo), or to recognising awareness (rigpa rang ngo shepa), the meaning is the same for them all, they are of a single essence (ngowo chig).
Some traditions may introduce more generally with few words, some may introduce very nakedly with many explanations, but their intention is the same. All of these teachings are speaking of the same point, to recognise the true nature of mind. The words are different, but if you really know the meaning, it is the same.
For example, sometimes Dampa Rinpoche meditated on the View of the Inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana (tawa khordey yermey), sometimes he meditated according to the View of Dzogchen. For him, the result of these was the same realisation of the View.
The introductions to the nature of mind (ngotro) and sustaining the View (tawa kyongwa; Ita ba skyong ba), which I received from Khyentse Chokyi Lodro according to the Dzogchen teachings, were the same in essence as the introductions and instructions I received from Dampa Rinpoche when he would explain these teachings according to the Sakya tradition. There was no real difference between them.
Different traditions may emphasise different stages of meditation (gom rim). Some put more emphasis on the earlier stages, some on the later stages of meditation practice, according to the needs of beings. The methods of introducing and of explanation may differ in some ways, but once you understand it, they all introduce the same fundamental Buddha nature (zhi desheg nyingpo; gzhi bde gshegs snying po).
In the philosophical schools of Buddhism, the Views of the different traditions are debated. Students of philosophy try to distinguish their View from that of other schools. But, it is not like that in the practice lineage (drub gyu). All schools of the practice lineage arrive at the same essence (ngowo chig), and express it in very similar ways.
Sakya Pandita said that he had a special way of understanding the ground (zhi), the path (lam), and the fruition or result (drebu). In the Sakya tradition of explaining the View, it is said that the ground, the path, and the result are inseparable (yermay), meaning that they share the same essence (ngowo chig).
However, these special words of Sakya Pandita are not based on theoretical understanding or written treatises. They can only be understood through one’s own experience of meditation practice. This is because the ground, path, and result (zhi lam dre sum) are only the same for one who has recognised emptiness, the true nature of mind (sem nyid).
Practicing Guru Yoga Throughout the Day and the Night
KYAB NAY KUN DU LA MA RIN PO CHE
DRIN CHEN CHO KYI JE LA SOL WA DEB
NYAM MAY KA DRIN CHEN GYI LHUG JE ZIG
DI CHI BAR DO KUN TU JIN GYI LOB RANG SEM
RANG NGO SHAY PAR JIN GYI LOB
Precious Guru, embodiment of all refuges,
Greatly kind lord of Dharma, to you I pray.
Unequalled in your kindness, look upon me with compassion,
Bless me in this life, at death, and in the bardo.
Bless me to recognise the essence of my own mind.
This is a traditional four-line prayer often chanted during Guru Yoga practice. I have included a fifth line for those who wish to pray for blessings to be able to recognise the true nature of mind. It is a prayer one can add to one’s practice of Guru Yoga at any time. It is very short, and has all the key points within it so, night and day, you can rely on this prayer for your practice of Guru Yoga.
When we chant this praise, as it belongs to the Vajrayogini tradition, we visualise the Guru in the form of Buddha Vajradharma, red in color. If one is practicing the Hevajra tradition, one visualises the Guru as Buddha Vajradhara, blue in colour. One may visualise the Guru in whatever form is appropriate to one’s practice. Visualise the Guru while you supplicate, and then dissolve the Guru into light, which is absorbed into your heart. Through this, you merge your mind with the mind of the Guru. Having dissolved the Guru into you, the Guru no longer has any form, but you are merging with his wisdom mind (thug gong; thugs dgongs).
This prayer includes all the sources of refuge, the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and the three roots of Guru, Deity, and Dharmapala. Everything included in the Guru, the jewel that embodies all.
This four-line prayer is very profound. I have added a fifth line in order for practitioners of to pray to the Guru for wisdom. Really, it is a prayer that may be used by followers of any tradition of secret mantra (sang ngak). If you wish to pray elaborately, you can just change one line of the prayer slightly, in order to pray to each of the sources of refuge individually, leaving the other three lines the same. In that way, you can pray to the Three Jewels and the Three Roots one by one.
If you wish to do so, then, following from the verse as it is written here, you recite the verse again, praying “YI DAM KUN DU LA MA RIN PO CHE”, “Precious Guru, embodiment of all deities”; then, thirdly, you would pray “CHO KYONG KUN DU LA MA RIN PO CHE”, “Precious Guru, embodiment of all Dharmapalas”, and so on. This is how to pray to the Guru as embodying the three roots one by one. In the same way, you can add the word “SUNG MA” for the guardian deities, and then “KHAN DRO” for the Dakinis, and so on.
Similarly, for the Three Jewels, you can say “SANG GYE KUN DU LA MA RIN PO CHE”, “Precious Guru, embodiment of all Buddhas”; then the same with “CHOS KUN DU…” for the “Dharma” and “GEN DUN KUN DU…” for the “Sangha”. When you chant each verse, call to mind the spiritual qualities of each of the sources of refuge, and consider how these qualities are embodied in the Guru. This is the elaborate way to meditate on the qualities of our Gurus with a single verse.
There is another a very famous four-line prayer of Guru Yoga that may also be used day and night for the practice of Guru Yoga. The verse below is generally chanted at the beginning of a session of meditation, while the verse above that we have already discussed comes from the section on Guru Yoga. Both may be chanted at any time throughout the day and the night.
It is said that you may visualise the Guru above your head in the daytime, or in your heart at night, such as at the time of going to sleep. This is a special instruction. Either of these visualisations is also appropriate at any time. In connection with this visualisation, you may recite the four-line prayer of Guru Yoga.
Supplicate the Guru with heartfelt longing and devotion. Generate faith in the immeasurable qualities of the Guru and the Enlightened Ones. If you wish to gain more benefit from Guru Yoga, recite a short supplication prayer and do the prescribed practice as often as you can. Receiving the blessings of the Guru and remembering the true nature of mind are practices that can be performed continually, day and night.
Glorious root-Guru, precious master,
Please be seated on the lotus throne above my head.
Accept me through your immense kindness,
And bestow the siddhis of your body, voice.
During the practice of Guru Yoga, first generate faith (depa; dad pa) and devotion (mogu; mos gus) while offering prayers and supplications. The best way to receive the blessings that introduce the true nature of mind is to give rise to faith in the Guru. Through faith, you can have an experience of emptiness, the true nature of mind. Pray again and again to the Guru with intense, fervent devotion (mogu dragpo). Then dissolve the Guru and lineage Gurus into your heart. As you do this, merge your body, speech, and mind with those of the Guru and lineage masters.
Now rest your mind in emptiness, remaining without grasping. Within emptiness, clear luminosity (osal) arises through the power of blessings. As it arises, you are able to apply the Guru’s introduction, recognise it, and continue on with the sustaining of the View (tawa kyongwa; Ita ba skyong ba). This is the essence of the practice of Guru Yoga.
ALL EXPERIENCE IS THE PLAY OF THE GURU
For your practice of Guru Yoga, it will be a great enhancement for sustaining the View (tawa kyongwa) if you are able to regard everything you see and experience as the display of the Guru’s body, speech, and mind. Understanding all experience to be the play of the Guru allows us to take Guru Yoga as the path. As we unite with the Guru’s body, speech, and mind in Guru Yoga, all that we see and experience is included within our View, within the recognition of the empty essence (ngowo tongpa).
The most precious teaching of the Dharma is the introduction to the View of the true nature of mind. This teaching is not something that we can grasp or comprehend through making great efforts. Once we receive the teaching, its meaning will naturally occur through our practice of Guru Yoga, just as cream naturally rises to the top of milk. The pure essence (dangma; dwangs ma) of your mind, clear luminosity (osal), will naturally emerge from your Guru Yoga practice of mingling with the Guru’s mind, as a pure essence naturally separates from an impure sediment.
While the View does arise naturally, we need to induce or assist this process by purifying our minds and practicing pure vision. In Guru Yoga, the practice of pure vision (dag nang) means to regard everything we experience as the play of the Guru. Everywhere we look we are seeing the face of the Guru, everything we feel is the heart of the Guru, everything we touch is the Guru’s body, everything we hear is the Guru’s speech, and so on.
When we join this way of experiencing everything with the practice of merging with the Guru’s awareness wisdom (rigpai yeshe) within the recognition of the View, this is the way to practice Guru Yoga throughout the day and the night. As we learn to remain with the View, everything will begin to arise as the play of the Guru’s wisdom. This has similarities with the creation stage, where everything is a manifestation of the deity.
As Tilopa said to Naropa,
“If you can understand everything you experience
To be the play of the Guru,
This is the practice of Guru Yoga.”
In practicing Guru Yoga, some may chant the Guru’s mantra, and some may chant verses of praise such as the one we have just described. If you do not wish to supplicate the Guru in the elaborate way just described, simply recite the five lines by way of supplication. Then dissolve the Guru into your heart, and merge your body, speech, and mind with those of the Guru.
Dissolving the blessings of the Gurus into yourself, now unify with the Guru’s mind. Your mind and the Guru’s mind merge indistinguishably, so that they are non-dual with one another. Let the View be sustained (tawa kyong; Ita ba skyong) for as long as you are able to remain with it. This is the most important point of Guru Yoga. Once you have learned this point well, you are on the right path. It is difficult to get on the right path, but once we do find the right path, everything will go very smoothly. This is known as taking the Guru’s blessings as the path (jinlab lama’i lam khyer; byin rlabs bla ma’i lam khyer).
SUMMARY OF THE PRACTICE OF GURU YOGA
In brief, we should understand our root Guru to embody the four Kayas of the Buddha’s enlightened body, speech, mind, and wisdom. The Guru is the Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, Dharmakaya of the Buddha. While we were not able to meet the Buddha in person, we have met the root Guru. Thus his kindness toward us personally is even greater than that of the Buddha. As explained, the Guru embodies every object of refuge, every enlightened quality. It is said that if a disciple supplicates the Guru constantly in this way, realisation will definitely be born in his or her mind.
After supplicating the Guru, all phenomena dissolve into the Guru and the Guru dissolves into you. Merge your body, speech, and mind inseparably with the enlightened body, speech, and mind of the Guru. This is like pouring water into water.
Continue to mingle your body, speech, and mind with the Guru and rest in the recognition of awareness. Merge your recognition of awareness with the Guru’s enlightened awareness. Just as there is the ultimate taking of refuge, where we dissolve the refuge objects into our heart and rest without grasping, so the practice of uniting with the Guru’s wisdom mind in the View is called the ultimate Guru Yoga (don gyi lama’i naljor).
If you practice Guru Yoga in this way, you will be able to recognise and sustain the recognition of clear luminosity. In the beginning, our recognition of clear luminosity may only last for a brief moment. We need to recognise again and again, hundreds or even thousands of times a day, while continuing to endeavour in supplicating the Guru and merging with his awareness.
Through the practice of Guru Yoga, our moments of recognition will gradually become more and more sustained. Through practice, the clear luminosity that is present in between two thoughts will arise spontaneously and begin to be naturally sustained. In this way, the practice of Guru Yoga will enhance our recognition of awareness, and our recognition of awareness will enhance in turn the blessings of the practice of Guru Yoga. The two practices will support and complement one another.
The practice of Guru Yoga is the most important means to be able to continue beyond our initial recognition of the View. Through blessings, and by uniting with the Guru’s mind, we mix our practice of sustaining the view (tawa kyongwa; Ita ba skyong ba) with all that we experience. By doing this, our recognition of awareness will last longer and become more stable. This is the key point.
Practicing this way, we will come to be more at ease. Everything will seem effortless, without hardship.
We must remember to be mindful of whatever teachings and precepts we have received and taken. This is drenpa, meaning mindfulness or remembering.
Maintaining mindfulness is extremely important. One important meaning of mindfulness is that whatever instructions have been given to us by the Guru must be kept clearly in mind.
Shezhin, which means watchfulness or noticing, takes note of whether we are conducting ourselves properly or improperly. Whatever the Guru has taught us must be tested, checked and verified through our own experience. This is shezhin, observing carefully.
Another extremely important point is the question of the lineage one receives and practices, as Milarepa emphasises in his teachings. In the presence of a true lineage, there is the continuity of blessings passed down through the lineage. And of course, the blessing also depends on oneself, on the practitioner. If one has pure conviction and pure devotion, then one is certain to receive the blessings of the lineage. Receiving the blessings depends on one’s own faith and pure vision, rather than simply depending on the teacher. Even if the master is a great Buddha, if the disciple lacks faith, what benefit is there?
One must resolve with certainty that all of our Gurus and all of the Enlightened Ones are condensed into (chig dril) a single one, appearing in the form of the Guru as described in our practice, and do the visualisation of the Guru Yoga.
Also, from time to time, remember to dedicate the merit of your practice. This will prevent all the merit and blessings you have received from being destroyed, and will help you to progress in the practice.
Ultimately, although we have the true nature of mind within us, some of us may resemble burnt seeds; without enough faith, it is difficult to accept the nature of mind and to recognise it. It is quite simple, but some people have a hard time accepting it because it seems too simple! Lacking faith, we do not accept and recognise the nature of mind, our own awareness wisdom (rang rigpai yeshe) within us, even if it is pointed out to us. Once we have faith, we are like a seed which will bear fruit; all the spiritual qualities can unfold from within.
The pure meditators first learn and gain knowledge, and then they clarify all their doubts and all their accepting and rejecting, progressing through contemplation and reflection, until they come to understand the words and oral instructions of their teacher through their own experience. This is the traditional way in the Sakya tradition. Finally, the yogi will find all the qualities of the teacher arising within him or herself, and these qualities will just go on increasing and increasing.
My principal Gurus for the teaching of the lineage of ultimate meaning (don gyu; don brgyud) are: Dampa Rinpoche, Zhenpen Nyingpo; Zimog Dorje Chang; Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro; Lama Ngaglo Rinpoche; and Shugseb Jetsunma. Among all of them, the most detailed teachings I received were from Dampa Rinpoche. There was no contradiction, nor any major difference, between what I received from any one of them. Their introductions to recognising the true nature of mind and how to sustain this recognition shared the same single essence (ngowo chig). While the methods of introducing varied somewhat, once you recognised the View they were introducing, you would see that it is the same.
The final advice that I received from all of these great masters was also the same: “You must be very diligent. If you are not diligent in your practice, not so much will happen. If you are diligent, you will definitely receive blessings and get results.” The final advice of my Gurus was to put a lot of energy and attention into practice.
As the great yogi Drukpa Kunleg said before the Jowo Shakyamuni statue in Lhasa, “Before, you and I were the same. You were very diligent at your practice, and became a Buddha. I have not been diligent, and I am still an ordinary sentient being. Therefore, I prostrate to you.” It is also like the final instruction of Jetsun Milarepa to his disciple Gampopa.
Milarepa told Gampopa that he had one final instruction to impart to him. They went to a high mountain place, with a vast view. When they reached there and Gampopa supplicated respectfully, Milarepa lifted his cotton skirt and showed Gampopa his bottom. It was callused like leather, from his years of sitting day and night in meditation on the stone floors of caves. Milarepa told Gampopa, “This is my final teaching. You must be diligent, just as I have been.”
As this was the final teaching of my Gurus to me, I feel that it is sufficient for my disciples. Now you have received all of the oral instructions (men ngag). It is up to you to apply them. I have asked my disciples to translate my oral instructions of the teachings on Parting from the Four Attachments, as well as those regarding the Vajrayogini practices.
You have the teachings, but it is up to your practice whether they will bear fruit. Try to remain mindful of the Guru’s oral instructions (men ngag). Study them and apply them at all times. Samaya, the sacred commitment we share with our Gurus, is maintained through faith in the Guru, and by purifying obscurations and receiving blessings. Realisation is gained through uniting this with practice.
I myself have nothing personally to be proud of, though I do feel very fortunate that I have received this kind of lineage from such highly realised masters. These are very powerful, unbroken blessing lineages that have produced realisation down to the present time. I do feel quite wealthy when it comes to lineages.
I also feel that we are all very fortunate. Although I am an ordinary being, I have had Gurus such as Dampa Rinpoche, Zhenpen Nyingpo, Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, and Zimog Rinpoche. I feel we are all very fortunate, which is why I am always saying to you that when Dampa Rinpoche gave the empowerments of the Collection of Tantras (gyude kuntu), during the descent of blessings (jinbab; byin babs), I definitely experienced the stream of the lineages of blessing. This stream of blessings is with us, and this is why we are fortunate and have reached the path.