Thursday, 13 January 2011

Lama Zopa Rinpoche venerates His Holiness

Venerable Roger with Lama Zopa Rinpoche
I love the regular little snippets of updates in Mandala Magazine (official publication of FPMT) from Venerable Roger Kunsang, who is the personal attendant of my guru, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Venerable Roger writes about Rinpoche's schedule, their travels around the globe for teachings, who they meet, and Rinpoche's little quirky compassionate actions  that are uniquely Rinpoche etc...

Just a couple of days ago, Venerable Roger updated that they had just hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Delhi for a few events including the 30th Delhi Dharma Celebration.  Lama Zopa Rinpoche says that offering service to His Holiness “is the most extraordinary, most amazing thing! Most unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable ….”.  I could almost hear and remember Rinpoche uttering "unbeeeelieeeeevable" and "amaaaaaaazzzinggggg" next to me, and it always never fails to bring a smile on my face. :)

Venerable Roger also mentioned about a private meeting between His Holiness with Lama Zopa Rinpoche and a small group.  His Holiness sat on a chair and asked everyone to sit down on the chairs. Lama Zopa Rinpoche immediately dropped to the floor with his head not far from the floor. His Holiness joked with Rinpoche but just could not get Rinpoche up to sit on the chair.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche refused to sit on a chair
His Holiness then mentioned how much he appreciated the late Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche and how much benefit the FPMT had been in offering the Dharma. His Holiness said, “I really appreciate.… I think it is something marvelous!” and also mentioned how Rinpoche, although he had done so much to benefit others and had many centers, remained a very simple, humble monk! How he was a very good example!

I am not the least surprised that Lama Zopa Rinpoche had chosen to sit on the floor in the presence of His Holiness.  It shows his utmost respect and pure devotion to his guru, the Living Compassion Buddha, the 1000-Arms Chenrezig (Kuan Yin), which is His Holiness. 

I remember last year, Venerable Roger also related a similar incident to us when he was here. On one occasion, Lama Zopa Rinpoche was on his way to a private audience with His Holiness in his monastery. Rinpoche bumped into His Holiness outside the room. His Holiness happily greeted Rinpoche and said, "come, come, come have a seat!". Immediately Rinpoche fell on his knees and sat at the feet of His Holiness right outside the room! His Holiness laughed. He had meant "come have a seat" inside his room.  

I have seen so many great gurus, well-known masters, high ranking lamas, and how devoted they are when they meet their own gurus. Besides their actions, I witnessed the look of pure devotion in their eyes. I was wondering, we being the guru's students/disciples and being lay practitioners, would we have reacted and behaved with the same devotion and veneration in front of our own gurus. I was wondering, if I was among the small group of people in that room with His Holiness and Rinpoche, would I have followed suit to sit on the floor as Rinpoche? Or would I, like a typical shy and 'paiseh' Singaporean, just hide behind the others and sit on the chair? (Of course I would follow Rinpoche! How could I sit on a chair when my own guru is sitting on the floor?!).

His Holiness in Bodhgaya.
Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama did full prostrations and humbled himself at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya. Shouldn't we be even more humbled?  No matter how learned or knowledgeable we are of the Dharma teachings, we cannot attain any realisations by just reading and understanding, or by just chanting mantras, we cannot progress much without the presence of and the blessings of a guru.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche said, “If we don’t concentrate on guru devotion, we have missed the most important preparation for all our future lives. Our practice of guru devotion is the source of all the progress and all the problems in this life and from life to life. From our practice in this life, we receive all the benefits from life to life, up to enlightenment”.

He goes on to explain how guru devotion arises from our own minds, what is important is how we regard our teacher. Nothing comes from the side of the teacher. If our guru is an enlightened being but we perceive faults in our guru or treat him/her as an ordinary being, we will not receive any blessings. Likewise, even if our guru is actually an ordinary being, if in our minds we think of him/her as a Buddha, then we will receive blessings.

His Holiness with Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche said, “If, from our own side, we don’t look at our guru as a Buddha, we won’t see him as a Buddha. If we look at only the faults, we will see only faults in our guru”. He continues, “Even if our guru is a Buddha, we don’t necessarily see him as a Buddha because what we see accords with our own karma. If we have a pure mind and pure karma, we see a Buddha; if our mind is obscured by impure karma, we see an ordinary being”.

So when we pray, or do Lama Chopa (guru puja), we need to generate a strong sense of guru devotion since that is the essence of guru yoga practice — rejoicing in our connection to our spiritual friends and our extended lineage that reaches back through time to our teachers’ teachers and the Buddha. And whether we are practicing by ourselves or with Dharma friends, we need to cultivate the firm conviction that our guru is actually there with us — showering us with friendly encouragement and infinite blessings.

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