For anyone reading this who doesn’t know what Guru Yoga is, it is visualizing the embodiment of all the Buddhas of the Three times (especially one’s root teachers) sitting in front of you. There are many possible forms that are used, since humans find an actual form to focus on very useful for holding the mind. In the Nyingma school especially, this is in the form of Padmasambhava, the dude who brought the Vajrayana dharma to the Tibetan Plateau (which includes Nepal, Mongolia, and large chunks of Siberia and China) generating devotion to him, and then dissolving him into yourself.
It’s a way of using devotion (which is the transformative element in all the REAL religious traditions) to transcend ones’ constant ‘me-orientedness’. The Sufi’s do this, Hindus do it, and Rabboni Yeshua bar Yoseph wasn’t just talking to hear Himself talk when He said “Love God with all your heart“.
The thing that is different in Buddhist tantra compared to everything else is the part when that Great Wonderful thing which is being supplicated is then dissolved in oneself.
It’s a nice skillful means of making it clear “this Great Wonderful thing that is being supplicated/prayed to/etc. is the same as you.” Or, if you are especially thick-headed (like me), then it’s “this Great Wonderful thing that is being supplicated/prayed to/etc. is the same as you, Dumb-ass!!!”
note: this post excerpted from one originally posted March 1, 2008.