Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

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tomdzogchen27
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Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by tomdzogchen27 »

I am currently practising in the Karma Kagyu lineage and have read some basic articles about the importance of devotion. Nevertheless, I can't comprehend why it is so fundamental towards achieving enlightenment. Couldn't it generate negative power/cultish dynamics? I also practiced in the Theravada and Zen traditions previously and was attracted towards Tibetan Buddhism because of the clarity of the nature of mind practices. Any thoughts?
Malcolm
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by Malcolm »

tomdzogchen27 wrote: Wed Apr 29, 2020 6:01 pm I am currently practising in the Karma Kagyu lineage and have read some basic articles about the importance of devotion. Nevertheless, I can't comprehend why it is so fundamental towards achieving enlightenment. Couldn't it generate negative power/cultish dynamics? I also practiced in the Theravada and Zen traditions previously and was attracted towards Tibetan Buddhism because of the clarity of the nature of mind practices. Any thoughts?
As it says in the Prajñāpāramitā Saṃcayagātha:

The excellent disciple with devotion to the guru
always relies on learned gurus.
If it is asked for what reason, the qualities of being learned arise from them.
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heart
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by heart »

tomdzogchen27 wrote: Wed Apr 29, 2020 6:01 pm I am currently practising in the Karma Kagyu lineage and have read some basic articles about the importance of devotion. Nevertheless, I can't comprehend why it is so fundamental towards achieving enlightenment. Couldn't it generate negative power/cultish dynamics? I also practiced in the Theravada and Zen traditions previously and was attracted towards Tibetan Buddhism because of the clarity of the nature of mind practices. Any thoughts?
Without a genuine guru it is close to impossible to recognise the natural state.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)
Malcolm
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by Malcolm »

heart wrote: Wed Apr 29, 2020 7:17 pm
tomdzogchen27 wrote: Wed Apr 29, 2020 6:01 pm I am currently practising in the Karma Kagyu lineage and have read some basic articles about the importance of devotion. Nevertheless, I can't comprehend why it is so fundamental towards achieving enlightenment. Couldn't it generate negative power/cultish dynamics? I also practiced in the Theravada and Zen traditions previously and was attracted towards Tibetan Buddhism because of the clarity of the nature of mind practices. Any thoughts?
Without a genuine guru it is close to impossible to recognise the natural state.

/magnus
It's actually impossible.
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Devotion is not an “absolute” thing.

I think that most Buddhists are what could be called the casual practitioner, who maybe has had some personal Q & A time with a lama, perhaps one’s refuge lama, attended teachings, may even have a picture of the lama on the shrine. Even after nearly forty years practicing in the Kagyu tradition, even living and working for a year at KTD, I’m in this category.

Then there is what I call the “Karate Kid” level of devotion, the deep, personal one-on-one connection. Your teacher gives you a specific path, maybe calls you to see how you are progressing. He is your master. Like Milarepa and Marpa. Like Kung Fu Panda. Very few students are at this point. Usually they are the three-year retreat people.

My point is, devotion can be casual devotion, or it can be samaya-level devotion, or anywhere in between, depending on what the student is ready for, or suited for, or wants. Or what the teacher thinks the student needs. But it’s all devotion. This is my opinion, anyway. Others might disagree.

The seven-branch prayer, recited in the Kagyu tradition, has this stanza:

Devotion is the head of meditation, as is taught.
The guru opens the gate to the treasury of oral instructions.
To this meditator who continually supplicates him,
Grant your blessings, so that genuine devotion is born in me.


The important thing, the key word here, is genuine (or “uncontrived”). It’s important not to compare yourself, your feelings, your behavior, or even your motivation, to what you see in others. Just because someone is bowing and scraping all the time and cries tears of joy every time they see their lama doesn’t mean you need to. It also doesn’t mean their devotion is genuine. It can be a super big ego trip to constantly throw yourself at the feet of your guru. But are you listening to the teacher’s words? When the teacher says to see other’s harmful actions towards you as a previous gift, are you really willing to let totally let go of your own impulses, and try that, even though you would rather have sweet revenge?
That’s what devotion means. You have to be honest with yourself. That’s the problem that leads people into cults. Instead of being honest with themselves, honest about their doubts and suspicions, they get hooked on telling themselves bullshit and lies. Devotion to your teacher is a mirror-reflection of just how honest you are with yourself.

There’s another aspect to devotion, or perhaps to Guru yoga.
That is, you see your teacher as the vehicle for, the transmitter of, and the embodiment of the Buddhist teachings. So, it’s not that you are devoted to the teacher because of age or fame or anything that is impermanent.

But if you think it is a bit much to think your teacher could really be enlightened, then Why would you ever believe that you yourself can ever get enlightened? And if you don’t think you can get enlightened, why the heck would you be practicing Buddhism? That’s one thing that we have to look at, especially since people (especially in the West) love to look at everything hypothetically. How much do you really believe all this “you too can become a buddha” stuff?

So, that’s also a little bit about the “attitude” of devotion, because it is a kind of attitude. Seeing the teacher as someone who knows the path and can take you on it, either casually or very intensely. I think devotion is key to every type of Buddhism. The Tibetans just come right out and say it.

.
.
.
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
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LastLegend
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by LastLegend »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Apr 29, 2020 8:01 pm Devotion is not an “absolute” thing.

I think that most Buddhists are what could be called the casual practitioner, who maybe has had some personal Q & A time with a lama, perhaps one’s refuge lama, attended teachings, may even have a picture of the lama on the shrine. Even after nearly forty years practicing in the Kagyu tradition, even living and working for a year at KTD, I’m in this category.

Then there is what I call the “Karate Kid” level of devotion, the deep, personal one-on-one connection. Your teacher gives you a specific path, maybe calls you to see how you are progressing. He is your master. Like Milarepa and Marpa. Like Kung Fu Panda. Very few students are at this point. Usually they are the three-year retreat people.

My point is, devotion can be casual devotion, or it can be samaya-level devotion, or anywhere in between, depending on what the student is ready for, or suited for, or wants. Or what the teacher thinks the student needs. But it’s all devotion. This is my opinion, anyway. Others might disagree.

The seven-branch prayer, recited in the Kagyu tradition, has this stanza:

Devotion is the head of meditation, as is taught.
The guru opens the gate to the treasury of oral instructions.
To this meditator who continually supplicates him,
Grant your blessings, so that genuine devotion is born in me.


The important thing, the key word here, is genuine (or “uncontrived”). It’s important not to compare yourself, your feelings, your behavior, or even your motivation, to what you see in others. Just because someone is bowing and scraping all the time and cries tears of joy every time they see their lama doesn’t mean you need to. It also doesn’t mean their devotion is genuine. It can be a super big ego trip to constantly throw yourself at the feet of your guru. But are you listening to the teacher’s words? When the teacher says to see other’s harmful actions towards you as a previous gift, are you really willing to let totally let go of your own impulses, and try that, even though you would rather have sweet revenge?
That’s what devotion means. You have to be honest with yourself. That’s the problem that leads people into cults. Instead of being honest with themselves, honest about their doubts and suspicions, they get hooked on telling themselves bullshit and lies. Devotion to your teacher is a mirror-reflection of just how honest you are with yourself.

There’s another aspect to devotion, or perhaps to Guru yoga.
That is, you see your teacher as the vehicle for, the transmitter of, and the embodiment of the Buddhist teachings. So, it’s not that you are devoted to the teacher because of age or fame or anything that is impermanent.

But if you think it is a bit much to think your teacher could really be enlightened, then Why would you ever believe that you yourself can ever get enlightened? And if you don’t think you can get enlightened, why the heck would you be practicing Buddhism? That’s one thing that we have to look at, especially since people (especially in the West) love to look at everything hypothetically. How much do you really believe all this “you too can become a buddha” stuff?

So, that’s also a little bit about the “attitude” of devotion, because it is a kind of attitude. Seeing the teacher as someone who knows the path and can take you on it, either casually or very intensely. I think devotion is key to every type of Buddhism. The Tibetans just come right out and say it.

.
.
.
You can have both categories you know. I am not Tibetan.
Make personal vows.

End of the day: I don’t know.
tomdzogchen27
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by tomdzogchen27 »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Apr 29, 2020 8:01 pm Devotion is not an “absolute” thing.

I think that most Buddhists are what could be called the casual practitioner, who maybe has had some personal Q & A time with a lama, perhaps one’s refuge lama, attended teachings, may even have a picture of the lama on the shrine. Even after nearly forty years practicing in the Kagyu tradition, even living and working for a year at KTD, I’m in this category.

Then there is what I call the “Karate Kid” level of devotion, the deep, personal one-on-one connection. Your teacher gives you a specific path, maybe calls you to see how you are progressing. He is your master. Like Milarepa and Marpa. Like Kung Fu Panda. Very few students are at this point. Usually they are the three-year retreat people.

My point is, devotion can be casual devotion, or it can be samaya-level devotion, or anywhere in between, depending on what the student is ready for, or suited for, or wants. Or what the teacher thinks the student needs. But it’s all devotion. This is my opinion, anyway. Others might disagree.

The seven-branch prayer, recited in the Kagyu tradition, has this stanza:

Devotion is the head of meditation, as is taught.
The guru opens the gate to the treasury of oral instructions.
To this meditator who continually supplicates him,
Grant your blessings, so that genuine devotion is born in me.


The important thing, the key word here, is genuine (or “uncontrived”). It’s important not to compare yourself, your feelings, your behavior, or even your motivation, to what you see in others. Just because someone is bowing and scraping all the time and cries tears of joy every time they see their lama doesn’t mean you need to. It also doesn’t mean their devotion is genuine. It can be a super big ego trip to constantly throw yourself at the feet of your guru. But are you listening to the teacher’s words? When the teacher says to see other’s harmful actions towards you as a previous gift, are you really willing to let totally let go of your own impulses, and try that, even though you would rather have sweet revenge?
That’s what devotion means. You have to be honest with yourself. That’s the problem that leads people into cults. Instead of being honest with themselves, honest about their doubts and suspicions, they get hooked on telling themselves bullshit and lies. Devotion to your teacher is a mirror-reflection of just how honest you are with yourself.

There’s another aspect to devotion, or perhaps to Guru yoga.
That is, you see your teacher as the vehicle for, the transmitter of, and the embodiment of the Buddhist teachings. So, it’s not that you are devoted to the teacher because of age or fame or anything that is impermanent.

But if you think it is a bit much to think your teacher could really be enlightened, then Why would you ever believe that you yourself can ever get enlightened? And if you don’t think you can get enlightened, why the heck would you be practicing Buddhism? That’s one thing that we have to look at, especially since people (especially in the West) love to look at everything hypothetically. How much do you really believe all this “you too can become a buddha” stuff?

So, that’s also a little bit about the “attitude” of devotion, because it is a kind of attitude. Seeing the teacher as someone who knows the path and can take you on it, either casually or very intensely. I think devotion is key to every type of Buddhism. The Tibetans just come right out and say it.

.
.
.
This was extremely helpful, thank you.
javier.espinoza.t
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by javier.espinoza.t »

it enables your development.

and in sort of way is like an insurance: if one haves authentic devotion then even if one is as idiotic as a dog one can have, for sure , attainments.
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conebeckham
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by conebeckham »

There's a great story about devotion and how it helped someone actualize an experience of mind's nature, related to Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, which I'll try to find and post. But overwhelming devotion is one of the classic techniques to develop an experience. Unbearable compassion is another, traditionally.

It has to be real, felt, and to some degree not "conceptual" though. I say this from experience.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")
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tobes
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by tobes »

Padmavonsamba's post is really good.

Honesty is key. Being uncontrived is key.

I would add though, that cultivation is also key. It is a practice, something one has to develop over time. Accomplishment is not easily won, and it is very easy to go astray.

But: if you accomplish this, you also accomplish everything else. It is undoubtedly the key the path.

Why? Well, no reason will cut it here. I don't think it can really be explained - it is only by doing that you can see, and that has obvious dangers from the standpoint of someone who is trying to work out whether to do or not do.....
n8pee
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by n8pee »

conebeckham wrote: Fri May 01, 2020 12:34 am There's a great story about devotion and how it helped someone actualize an experience of mind's nature, related to Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, which I'll try to find and post.
Would enjoy hearing this.
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明安 Myoan
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by 明安 Myoan »

Devotion in the sources of true refuge gives inspiration.
People need inspiration to do difficult things.
Overcoming our greed, anger, and confusion is a difficult thing.
Cherishing others more than self is a difficult thing.
So inspiration becomes very important, a kind of blessing, a support, all on its own.
If you don't yet have devotion to a guru, pray to the Three Jewels, as abstractly as you like, and develop devotion that way.
Just remembering the sources of true refuge is a form of protection.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the Nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
SilenceMonkey
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Re: Why is devotion towards the guru so important?

Post by SilenceMonkey »

Also in the forms of zen that I've encountered (japanese and chinese), the master is indispensible. Enlightenment cannot happen in zen without a master. There is a direct mind to mind transmission beyond words, from master to disciple. Zen is based on skillful means of the master to enlighten the disciple, especially in rinzai/linji. One relies on the master, not in a kind of emotional dependence, but as the raft who will train you and take you across the raging river of samsara. After the student sees their true nature, the teacher is not needed. Sometimes the student will move on to meet other masters and compare their realization.

Although the devotion is not emotional as you find it in tibetan tradition, it seems to me zen devotion is a completely equanimous mind. And it is devotion not to one teacher, but to the true nature in all beings (emptiness, buddha nature). In the refuge part of morning and evening services in ch'an, they bow to 自性佛, the buddha that is one's own true nature. Any buddha with form or characteristics is considered pure delusion. Hence "See the buddha, kill the buddha. See a demon, kill the demon."

Just my take.

Also, my feeling in tibetan dharma is that the emotional feeling of devotion for the master brings the master's and student's heart and energies closer and closer until there is a merging of the nature of their minds. (Again, just a thought.)
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