Garchen Rinpoche- Guru Yoga- May 3, 2012 – Rockville, MD


During refuge vow, the spiritual master says “this is the method to slowly attain enlightenment. But the cultivation of that, the practice of that relies on you.”
– H.E. Garchen Rinpoche


There are limitless Buddhas of the past, limitless Buddhas of the present, limitless Buddhas of the future. The present Buddha is Shakyamuni. In beginning, Buddha gave rise to bodhichitta, and then practiced for three limitless eons until he attained enlightenment.

We can take in refuge in 3 jewels, and then attain enlightenment in one lifetime or in the intermediate state, or at least favorable rebirth and enlightenment within 1 or 2 lifetimes.

There are 2 systems in the world.  In those, various religions and spiritual paths in order to benefit sentient beings temporarily and spiritually. All are of benefit. But the Buddhist view is that all beings can attain enlightenment. Beings are obscured by temporary stains, and are all Buddhas underneath.

Buddha taught 2 vehicles- the causal vehicle and the resultant vehicle of secret mantra. Buddha taught 84,000 teachings, which can be further subdivided into 84,000. Even a scholar would have trouble with learning all of them. What are we to do? Depending on our mental capacity- higher, middling, lower- we enter in a gradual manner. Now, we are living in a degenerate age. There is not much practice time, life is short, and there is much suffering.  Afflictive emotions are increasing, and virtuous conduct decreases. Due to karma, things are degenerated.  So the causal vehicle of characteristics is first and foremost.  We must understand the workings of karma.

This path was taught first by the Buddha Shakyamuni. The teachings have remained, and  through that, we can enter the path. We must know how to seek refuge into the 3 jewels. The Buddhas are all the infinite Buddhas of the three time, past, present and future. The present Buddha is Shakyamuni .  The Dharma is the words of the Buddha. The ultimate result in all the 4 major lineages is to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion. We must understand the importance of compassion. If we cultivate great compassion for others, self-grasping will diminish. First, one will be become free from samsara, and then can say to others “I have become free from sufferings, practice in this way, and you can too.” The spiritual master is the sangha.

The spiritual master embodies Buddhas, dharma and sangha. The body of the spiritual master is the sangha, his speech is the dharma, and he teaches us how to practice the path (the dharma). This is both the causal vehicle of characteristics and resultant vehicle of mantra, and his mind is the Buddha nature – the Buddha. We should understand this is how to take refuge.

So we have the spiritual master, who we should see as the embodiment of all the Buddhas of the 10 directions and the 3 times. He also is representing all the sangha. Even if there are 100 sanghas or 100 teachers, they all teach the same thing, the one single point.  These sangha have become free of suffering and show us the path to be free from suffering. The words are the same, weather 100 sanghas and or one sangha.  Sentient beings are not free from suffering because they grasp at a self. They grasp at their reality of their perceptions and give rise to many thoughts of attachment and aggression. Sometimes due to some small virtue, beings get reborn in the three higher realms.  More often, beings are reborn in the three lower realms. The wheel of samsara spins like the wheel of a car. No matter how vast, samsara has one root- self-grasping.  The grasping of an insect, the grasping of an formless being, and your grasping are the same. Existence is the  reflection of accumulated karma.   The root of suffering is self-grasping of one person.

As it says in the 37 Bodhisattva Practices, “all self-cherishing thought is root of suffering …”

(From Garchen Rinpoche’s the 37 Bodhisattva Practices booklet, Red version:

Number 11: All suffering without exception comes from wishing for one’s own happiness. The perfect Buddhas arise from the altruistic mind. Therefore, complete exchanging one’s own happiness for the suffering of others is the bodhisattva’s practice.)

We cultivate the altruistic mind. This is skillful means. When we give rise to the altruistic mind, self-grasping will diminish. The root of dharma is bodhichitta. The ultimate result, the purpose for teaching the 3 levels –

  1. Pratimoksha-The  method to cultivate bodhichitta when not arising
  2. Bodhisattva-The method to where it is born, to increase it and not let it decline – 6 paramitas
  3. Secret mantra– The method to make  it increase higher and higher.

In the 37 Bodhisattva Practices, it says, “The perfect Buddhas arise from the altruistic mind”.  Because all teachers teach just this, all teachings have same essence. One spiritual master has the essence of all the Buddhas:  the Buddhas of the past, the Buddhas of the present, and the Buddhas of the future. The teachings ever unchanging- this is taught in manjusrhio…(need name of text)

It is most important in the beginning to understand karma.   Temporarily, on the relative level, karma is infallible. Ultimately it is emptiness.  All teachings are just these 2 truths.

The Secret mantra had the most methods and is the easiest, but it depends on mental capacity.

All the words of the Buddha are embodied in the spiritual master.  The guru’s form is the sangha;  the  guru’s speech is the dharma, and the guru’s mind is Buddha.  Buddha is the embodiment of the 3 jewels. There are infinite Buddhas.  The dharma is contained in the 2 truths, the entire sanghas of the spiritual master contained in guru, so the spiritual master is the embodiment of the 3 jewels. All Buddhas contained in guru.

Who is the guru? (Garchen Rinpoche) says ‘I am the guru,’ anyone could think that. But we must understand that the guru is embodiment of three jewels.

As it says in the Samantabhadra prayer, “All phenomena have a single ground, 2 paths,  and 2 fruitions.”

(Also translated as:

“All that appears and exists—samsara and nirvana—is an illusory display of knowing or ignorance with one basis, two paths and two fruits.”)

The Single ground is the continum of minds. We must understand the relationship of guru. The mind of the guru, and the mind of sentient beings are a single continuum like a vast oceans.

So what is the difference between guru and disciple, Buddhas and sentient beings?  The difference is that the Guru has cultivated the altruistic mind. As it says in the 37 Bodhisattva Practices, “the perfect Buddha’s arise from the altruistic mind.”  Also, the 37 Bodhisattva Practices has all that I know. So, I am teaching the 37 Bodhisattva Practices all the time and distributing it everywhere. That is all that is needed, it is sufficient.

There is a single ground in which all beings are one. The Mind of all the Buddhas, they have cultivated the mind of compassion, and are the unity of emptiness and compassion. Sometimes afflictive emotions arise, when they arise, lose altruistic mind, and can’t bring benefit. At times, we are completely pure and can explain the words of Buddha. It is said that in one instant, we are sentient beings, and in the next, we are Buddhas. We must see the mind Buddha to be compassion and wisdom. Our minds are not different. It is like a vast ocean. Whenever you pick up water in oceans, in the middle or in the periphery, it is same water. Similarly, sentient beings are like blocks of ice in this ocean. We have some small compassion towards our loved ones, and aversions to others. Our love is very small. The spiritual master cultivates the intent to benefit all sentient beings. Without that intent, they can’t explain dharma.  The mind of the genuine teacher is the mind of Buddha. If it arises in us for just an instant, we can cultivate confidence that mind is like that. When you cultivate altruistic mind, faith in guru, pure view, and compassion will increase, and self-grasping will decrease and (good qualities) will arise. If don’t give rise to pure view, even if Buddha is standing next to you, you can’t  get liberated.  So, one should gain certainly that the spiritual master actually embodies the 3 jewels. So, in beginning, this is how we should practice seeing the guru as the 3 jewels.

In the beginning, when we take refuge, we seek protection.  why? We don’t want to suffer, so we seek protection from suffering by taking refuge in the 3 jewels.  In particular we take refuge in the spiritual master who introduces us to the dharma and teaches us. If you engage in these practices, we will attain enlightenment. You may as, “what does that mean?”  Temporarily, it means we will be born in higher realms, won’t be born in the lower realms, and will eventually get enlightenment.  If you rely on this method, you will achieve this result. But to walk on it requires your own efforts. He instructs us that we have Buddha nature and the potential to attain enlightenment, and the cause of suffering is our self-grasping mind, and he teaches us the methods to get rid of it, especially love and compassion. If we cultivate love and compassion, we will become a good person.  If you practice compassion and refuge properly, you must refrain from harming sentient beings. This will automatically make the doors to the lower realms closed. If you benefit sentient beings as much as you can – through generosity, moral conduct and patience – the result will be that you are reborn in the 3 higher realms and then attain enlightenment. It is like a block of ice melting. So, we must rely on refuge in the 3 jewels to be free from ocean of samsara.

 During refuge vow, master says “this is the method to slowly attain enlightenment. But the cultivation of that, the practice of that relies on you.”   The guru introduces us to the path of Pratimoksha- the workings of karma, cause and effect. Then we enter the path of dharma and practice and eventually say “still I suffer, I have illness, I have many difficulties.” The teacher responds, “Of course you do, it is due to karma in past life.”  If you want to know what you did in the past, look at your present body.  We have a precious human body. Because of practice of virtues and non-virtues, we experience happiness and suffering.  We have created all the causes in past lifetimes. We are responsible for that. Whatever arises on the outside is a condition, but not the causes. The conditions are obstacles. But the cause was created by our own mind with our own afflictive emotions. If we recognize this, we will be able to tolerate suffering now, and avoid it in future.

Then, we realize afflictive emotions are the root of suffering, but we have no way to end them. So, we must cut the root. The root (of suffering) is the self-grasping mind, and we cut the root by cultivating the altruistic mind.  At once, we destroy all afflictive emotions.  Understanding this, we take bodhisattva vow. We understand that as we are cultivating compassion, self-grasping will diminish. It means we have some intelligence.  This is what we are introduced to by spiritual master. The cause is bodhisattva vow. At that level, the mind of the guru and that of the Buddhas are not different.

We as samsaric sentient beings have not purified our grasping to our ordinary appearance, sound and form.  Although have cultivated altruistic mind, we haven’t purified appearances. So we move up to Vajrayana.  So we move into visualize the purified form of the creation stage and recite mantra while we give rise to the mind of bodhichitta.  If we practice in this way, grasping to form and sound will diminish and we will enter Buddhahood in one lifetime.  This is the creation and completion stages.

At this level, we regard the spiritual master as the embodiment of the 3 jewels and the 3 roots. Of the three roots, the lama is the embodiment of the Buddha’s body, yidam is the Buddha’s speech, and dakini is the Buddha’s mind.

In the context of personal practice, you learn from guru how to practice creation stage, give rise to bodhichitta, and recite mantra. And you learn how to live.  In your personal practice, you see your own body as the yidam.  You see your mind as the guru. The mind of the guru is the union of emptiness and compassion; we are connected to the guru like the beads of a mala string.  If your practice is not with wisdom and compassion, then the deity has become a worldly god.  The speech is the dakini. With speech, we recite mantra.  With mantra we attain 2-fold siddhis and the 4 activities. This activity is the activity of the dakinis.  So the mantra also represents emptiness. Although things are empty, activities are accomplished; this is how the world arises from the sphere of emptiness.  Various phenomena arise and appear interdependently.

So, from the perspective of our own practice:

  1.  mind is guru,
  2. body is yidam, and
  3. speech is the dakini.

Ultimately, having engaged in such practice of the 3 roots, ideally, we attain the rainbow body in this very life, or in first bardo merge into the dharmakaya.  On the medium level, we will attain the  sambhogakaya in the bardo.  At least, we will attain the Nirmanakaya,  taking a favorable rebirth and and then attain enlightenment after 1 or 2 lifetimes.   That is result of instruction of guru.

The Guru is the embodiment of 3 kayas:

  1. Body – Nirmanakaya
  2. Speech – Sambhogakaya  
  3. Mind – Dharmakaya.

First, the guru is the embodiment of outer refuge, the 3 Jewels. Later, the guru is the embodiment of  inner refuge, the 3 roots. Finally, the Ultimate result is the attainment of the 3 kayas.

The Nirmanakaya guru may appear like an ordinary person. For example, look at His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is appearing, eating food like everyone else.  But then he teaches, and his speech is the sambhogakaya.  Represented by the various stages of the pure lands also the teachings the guru speaks – the 2-fold bodhichitta.

If we practice accordingly; we can attain enlightenment in 2nd bardo. If we remember the deity, will attain it. If we think of “I”, we will be “I”.  But if we think we are deity, will transform into deity. If we think of ourselves as I, will experience hot, cold, wet, dry and so forth. Visualize self as deity, we purify the ordinary body, and discard our grasping. The deity will always appear in our minds. If after we die, the deity will appear in our minds, we will attain enlightenment (in the bardo).  Also, speech is sambhogakaya because we are introduced by the guru’s speech to the Creation and completion stages.

The Dharmakaya guru is as described in the Samantabhadra prayer:

“If you see your own true nature, see perfectly pure Buddha.”  

Dzogchen refers to this as primordial purity, the actual mind free of obscurations, duality. That is the Dharmakaya mind of guru.

You realize your nature is Dharmakaya.  You can regard this Dharmakaya nature as being like water.  When water is very clear, it is very pure; it is the same result as the Dharmakaya. This water is so pure; we can use it as eye drops. But if we have negative emotions – it is like toilet water. No one wants to touch it, let alone drink it. But it is still water. In this way, the pure nature of water is like Dharmakaya.

So we should see guru like the Dharmakaya.  The guru is actually the embodiment of the 9 jewels- the 3 jewels, the 3 roots, and the 3 kayas.

When we practice (thinking of) the in guru yoga, receive the teachings in guru form, what we must attain is the guru’s mind – the Dharmakaya.

We attain that by first cultivating bodhichitta. On a conventional level, when we practice bodhichitta, self-grasping will diminish. Then (later), we will see the nature of mind as it is, we will see our own mind as inseparable from the mind of the guru. When you realize that, then you will realize that although the bodies appear separate, when the guru meditates, and I mediate, the minds are the same. It is like ice in an ocean melts inseparably. 

First is bodhichitta. When we cultivate bodhichitta, the bodhichitta of the guru and the bodhichitta of me is the same. Even if the guru is in a different country, the mind is the same.  Even if our bodies are separate, our minds are one. If our minds are one with the guru, we will assume conduct of guru. The fruition of guru yoga is that our actions of body and speech become like that of the guru. Then we will be liberated from suffering, and then able to show path.

When we understand the qualities of 3 kayas, and  understand they are one, and realize my own mind is inseparable from guru, then that is fruition. As the sign of fruition, conduct of body and speech becomes like conduct of the guru.

To engage in the practice of guru yoga, there are many ways.  There are many guru yoga practices:  some are more concise practices, and some are longer practices.  If we just think of the guru, there is inconceivable merit. Even to just think of the guru like that is a guru yoga practice. The great master Patrul Rinpoche said, “each day, when I keep of my guru, I keep count on mala. 20, 30, 40 times a day The more you think of the guru, the greater the merit.” Why? When we think of the guru, we think of the guru’s words.

To practice, there is an elaborate guru yoga practice in the Kagyu, to attain the 4 kayas of the guru. We start Training in the qualities of the guru by recollecting the qualities of guru.  First, we practice with the guru as a Nirmanakaya form.  So, we first visualize the guru in the form of Shakyamuni Buddha, who performed the 12 great deeds: he appeared in this world, turned the wheel of dharma, displayed miracles, passed into Parinirvana, and so forth.

What is the Nirmanakaya really? He appears as a human being. He appears like a person, but not quite the same mind. In fact, it is very different.  His mind is the union of emptiness and compassion, the mind of all the Buddhas of the 3 times.

The Sambhogakaya appears in various ways in countless pure lands in countless forms of Buddhas. In a single Buddha, the entirety of Samsara and Nirvana is contained. This is because Buddha nature is all pervasive like space; likewise, the guru’s mind is pervasive like space. From this, all phenomena manifest. Pure lands manifest, and temporarily, the impure 6 realms also manifest. Buddha fields appear from altruistic mind, but in reality, there is nothing that is impure. By nature, all sentient beings are Nirmanakayas.  They are all Nirmanakayas because they all contain Buddha nature. All want to be happy, nobody wants to suffer, some appear in frightening forms, and some in peaceful.

Lord Jitgen Sumgon said that “karma is the embodiment of the momentary thought.” Whatever appears is our own karma.  For example, a poisonous snake is the embodiment of hatred. We see a snake, and want to kill it.  The snake is that snake because of karma.   But other animals are born as pleasing animals that we will invite into our homes (pets).  “Karma is the embodiment of the momentary thought.”  If we give rise to love and compassion, even for a moment, we will achieve some happiness.  But if we give rise to aggression, we will be just like the animals that kill each other.

Temporarily we, give rise to karmas. When we engage in activities, it forms habitual patterns.  Until we make an end to that (habitual patterns), will suffer. However, this body will end.  Then, we will exchange this body, and assume a different body until we attain enlightenment.    We may appear as many things, for example,  we may appear as frightening animal or friendly animal we want to take into our home.

However, any being with a Mind can attain enlightenment.  That is the content of guru as Sambhogakaya manifestations. Ultimately mind is the Dharmakaya, like space, with  no sense of boundary.  The Practice of Dharmakaya is mahamudra, resting in the Dharmakaya free of any grasping.  It is like the guru and yourself are 2 vases filled with water. The vases appear separate. But when we attain the guru qualities, it is like pouring water from one vase into the other. There is no difference (in the contents). When you have attained this, is the 4th kaya of Svabhavikakaya.  “I am not separate from the guru.” You rest with nondual awareness, and realize your mind to be non-separate  from guru.

So, we practice in this way until we realize our mind, the nature of the mind as it is.  You will naturally accomplish the 4 kayas. The essence of this is in the Lama Chopa practice in the self-empowerment section, which explains how 4 kayas are attained.

When we engage in this practice, we must rely on guru. In the beginning, you must rely on the guru you meet in the world: the outer guru.  To do that, contemplate relating with the guru, and the faults of not doing so.

Myself, I have a lot of anger. From experience, I find it is difficult to cultivate sincere loving-kindness in one’s heart. But, from the teacher we learn we have this precious human body, extremely difficult to get. Having attained it, has been parents that have given us this body.  There is not one sentient being that hasn’t been our parents.

From our teacher, have learned that our teachers are precious. Without our teachers,  we wouldn’t know what to do in this world- no matter what system – religion or mundane. From mundane teachers, learned how to attain happiness and avoid suffering, but only in this life. Our karma comes our way and we have no way to avoid that, though we try to become happy, we are not always happy. If you don’t understand karma, won’t be able to accept suffering as it happens, and avoid it in the future. You will not have a method to avoid suffering. Without a spiritual path, we have no way to avoid suffering. Personally, I have found practices of Buddha dharma have brought me great benefit.  All I learned from the guru, all from the 37 Bodhisattva Practices.  “Cherish the guru more than one’s own body.”

(From Garchen Rinpoche’s the 37 Bodhisattva Practices booklet, Red version:

Number 6: When [sublime spiritual friends] are relied upon, one’s faults are exhausted and one’s qualities increase like the waxing moon. Holding sublime spiritual friends even more dear than one’s own body is the bodhisattva’s practice.)

This can present great difficulty, so we have to contemplate it. Quality of the dharma is inconceivable.  I don’t have much learning, but the 37 Bodhisattva Practices have benefited me, so will you.

“Cherish the teacher.”  It is difficult at first, but think about it. What is more important:  our body, or the qualities we learn from our spiritual master?  Our body will die. There are very few circumstances maintaining life, and we can die any moment. But the good qualities can’t be destroyed. We take them with us into all future lifetimes. Because we learned them from our teacher, the master is better than our body.        In fact, our body causes us much suffering  due to sickness and aging. Most of what we know, we learned from our teachers, so we must cultivate love for all our teachers.  This is not in a mundane sense.  When we remember, some may get angry. We may remember how they beat us*, but they are so precious.

Also, we must cultivate love of country. Without our country, we wouldn’t  have roads or electricity. Without those, wouldn’t have these things (Rinpoche indicates building teaching was taking place in) that allow us to understand these qualities (that he had been talking about of the spiritual master, the dharma, and our own innate inherent Buddha nature).  (By thinking about these things that allow us a place to get teachings and to even be able to get to those teachings), we will have love of country.

  • In the beginning, we rely on the outer spiritual master. We receive the teachings and work on cultivating love and compassion, and trust in karma.
  • In the middle, we rely on the teacher to be the scriptures- for example,  the 37 Bodhisattva Practices – Any that teaches about this precious human body, death and impermanence. We learn when we die, we have no chance but to follow our own karma. Killing ourselves is meaningless, since we take our karma with us.
  • In the end,  we rely on our own mind as Buddha. Our own mind purified is Buddha. We see the nature of mind as it is. It is the Dharmakaya. When we see this, we have the body of a sentient being, but the mind is vast like space, without any boundary.

The path to the Dharmakaya through Logical reasoning is called Mhadyamaika. In the older tantras, it is called Dzogchen. In the newer tantras, it is called mahamudra.  But all are like giving three names to a single person. The Dharmakaya is the same.  If you see the nature of the mind, this is what you will see.  It cannot be said to exist. It is empty like space. But you can’t say it doesn’t exist, since it engages in activities.  The Dharmakaya is free from the extremes of existence and nonexistence. It is the space-like expanse of mind. That is the mind of guru.  When you rest in the space-like nature of Dharmakaya, you attain Buddhahood.

The Tibetan word for Buddha is “Sange.” “San” means “cleared away”, and “ge” means “vast.”  Having cleared away all obscurations, we will reach the vast space like nature of Dharmakaya.  When there is no difference between mind and space, that is the Dharmakaya. This is the actual guru.

Lord Jitgen Sumgon said “I am a yogi who realizes my own mind, the mind of the guru, and the Buddha to be all identical. “ That is where we will end tonight.


Leave a comment

Filed under Dharma teachings, Drikung Kagyu

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s