Saturday, 17 September 2011

Devoting to a guru

Today, while Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche is still recovering from stroke, Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup has already passed into Parinirvana and whose cremation stupa would be opened tomorrow morning to retrieve his relics. The coming and passing of a guru happens in just a snap of fingers. So is our life. There is nothing permanent about existence and we should not dwell too much on its absence when it happens. We can only make full use of the time we have and put to practice what the gurus have taught us. 

A few months ago, I read a beautiful article in Mandala Publications about Guru Devotion, written by Venerable Chonyi Taylor. It was right after my guru, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, manifested a stroke. I thought I should share it here....

It was a very subdued atmosphere in retreat at Atisha Centre. Suddenly our various expectations of being rescued from our unwanted situations have gone. Our guru, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche is in the hospital, his right side paralyzed, unable to speak. The weakness of the human body, even that of the guru, is alarmingly apparent. We cannot talk to him or tell him our concerns or ask for blessings. Or to be more precise, we cannot do these things with his current emanation.

The rest of the world continues: a light, cool breeze, sunshine, scurrying ants and a bush renewed by recent rains. In the distance, cars pass on their Easter holiday activities. From the gompa come the sounds of prayers: Medicine Buddha, light offerings, mantras. These are dedicated to our guru’s long life, but they cannot alter this one fact that at some stage this present body of his will die. What will we do then? We discover that we had assumed that our guru would last forever. Indeed he will, but not in this current body that we know and love.

It is hard to imagine FPMT with neither Lama Yeshe nor Lama Zopa, yet the time will come when this will happen. More than ever we need to understand guru devotion.

First there is the listening, his instructions so softly whispered at times that we strain to hear. Listening is not easy. It is in our silences that the guru can speak to us, when we plant his feet firmly at the corolla of lotus petals in our hearts and wait. In silence and openness we can become aware. We wait. “Lama, think of me” we say, but we do not always stop to listen to what he says. Listening means waiting. Listening means the guru is always present.

Having listened, then we act. There is a particular way of carrying out the guru’s instructions. It is called humility. Atisha Centre, so little for so many years, has suddenly flowered after the drought. How did so few members bring the vision of Lama Yeshe into reality? They listened and then when the time was ripe, they acted.

We all agree that harmony in our centers is important in extending the lives of our teachers. Harmony comes from humility. Humility is a simple recognition firstly of our limitations and secondly that our strengths come through benefits given to us by others. Humility does not push to the front seat, or beg desperately for the guru’s time. Humility does not see my offerings as best or my prayer sessions more powerful or my devotion as stronger than anyone else. Humility recognizes that sometimes other people can be right and I can be wrong. Humility gives the victory to others. Humility acknowledges that I can choose to create disharmony or harmony.

If we really understand the teachings, if we really have an inkling of the power of mind, then we know that we do not need the physical presence of the guru to be blessed by him. It is our restricted mind that grieves when the guru’s current body dies. We forget that we have placed him on our hearts. We forget that the mental continuum is not confined to the physical body. We forget about the clairvoyant powers of a highly developed mind. We forget the enormous number of emanations that a bodhisattva can produce. Above all we forget that in pure guru devotion, the guru is a buddha, fully enlightened, capable of knowing all, deeply compassionate.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the site of Great Stupa of Compassion, Australia
“The amount of Dharma you know, the number of realizations you have, depends on how much devotion you have for your guru. The greater your devotion, the greater your Dharma understanding and realizations. It all depends on your guru devotion.” – From “Advice on Guru Practice” by Gomchen Khampala

We have been so profoundly blessed. Lama Zopa, as our guru, teaches us the essence of humility, of compassion and of wisdom. He shows us the qualities we will develop on our individual paths to enlightenment. This will always be true as he remains in his current body, and when the time comes for him to leave it.

Lama Yeshe is still here at Atisha Centre. Lama Zopa is also here among the gum trees and dusty soil and the new statues and gardens and the Great Stupa rising with its steel beams glistening.

I have witnessed all my gurus being exemplary examples of deep guru devotion towards their own gurus. It is only through such humility towards our gurus that bountiful blessings come and realisations develop.  May all those who have doubts in guru devotion, wake from their delusions and arise deep faith in their guru who is the Triple Gem.  May all those who have not found their gurus, do so immediately. May all those who have found their gurus, never criticise or forsake their gurus.  May all be blessed with meeting their gurus in all their lifetimes.   
My other blog posts on Lama Lhundrup:
29 Sept 2011 - Project Swift Return
18 Sept 2011 - Devoting to a guru

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