First off, I apologize that it took a week for you to get a response to your post. I really had my hands full with offline issues this week and was not able to check in as much. As for the book you read, it sounds like a pretty unfortunate presentation of Vajrayana. Do you mind if I ask what book it is?
As for Mahayanas looking down on Theravadans, I honestly believe that this is an issue that varies according to the person. Speaking for myself, as a practitioner of Vajrayana, I have deep respect and reverence for the Teaching of the Elders. It is true, that long ago there was a schism in the Sangha and the Mahayanists began to emphasize bodhicitta as an essential element on the path to enlightenment. But my personal experience has been that I've found about an equal amount of prejudices on both sides of this. Some practitioners of Theravada don't have a very high opinion of the Mahayana traditions, and many some Mahayanists feel full of themselves or their traditions. Personally, I distance myself from people from any tradition who take up that sort of attitude.
So it is a shame that the author of the book you read presented Vajrayana ideas in such a light. It is true that within the context of receiving teachings from a guru, a student will be assured that s/he is on the swift path because it is the method path. But this would be in the context of receiving the Vajrayana teachings, and often meant to motivate students. Again, mileage may vary according to the teaching, the teacher, and the student.
As for guru worship, eek! As I mentioned, the Vajrayana is a method path. So we don't worship the guru. Rather, we do something called "Guru yoga" in which the guru/student relationship is used as a means to accomplish the goal. In the same way that Gotama Buddha is venerated, so is the guru in Vajrayana. But the word "worship" is definitely creepy! The guru in Vajrayana isn't worshiped any more than a rupa of the Buddha is worshiped by a Theravadan. The guru/student relationship is very important and it's impossible to practice vajrayana without a guru. But please understand that if it is a situation in which a person is being worshiped or a deity is being worshiped or anything like that, something has gone wrong.
This is why there is often great care taken to make sure that a student has a basic understanding of sunyata before taking on the actual tantric practices. Alexander Berzin wrote a lot about the guru/student relationship so you might want to give that a look.
In any case, I'm sorry to hear that you came in contact with a possibly poorly presented body of information like that. Should you take up an interest again in Tibetan Buddhism, I hope we can be of help to you in navigating the boatloads of information that's out there. And I hope that you find much joy and satisfaction in your current practice. Metta going out to you
sherubtse wrote:I am re-considering my exploration of Vajrayana, as I have read a an introductory book on the topic, which stressed some aspects that I don't at all like, viz.
1. The fact that Mahayanists really look down upon us Theravadans as inferior, and view our practice of Buddhism as an inferior way (with Mahayana, of course, being far superior).
2. The presence of guru worship / utter devotion to one's teacher, which seems to really allow for (encourages?) mis-use and abuse of this relationship.
Please forgive me if you have heard these things before. But for me, they come as a shock, and are really a "turn-off".