In our previous post we reflected on the nature of the lama’s blessings and how we can receive them. But what a nonsense it would be, were we to think of these as if they were just for ourselves. As explained in that post, such blessings are an element of the Vajrayana: to enter which we must first have taken the bodhisattva vow, the resolve to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all beings; hence the only valid context for seeking and receiving blessings is to help us in our development of bodhichitta.
Patrul Rinpoche says in his Words of My Perfect Teacher that if one were to distil all the qualities of a dharma teacher into one essential point, it is that, to be genuine, he or she must be a true bodhisattva. Therefore a skilful course of action for oneself as a student is to join one's own energy to the bodhisattva activity of the teacher. Traditionally, this is expressed as serving the teacher.
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Sakya Dechen Ling, London, in 2015, Lama Jampa Thaye spoke about this (hear all this short talk here) when he reminded those present that, while Buddha’s teaching shows each of us the way we can become free of suffering, as followers of the Mahayana, the root of which is bodhichitta, we must go much further than practising the path for ourselves alone. We must practise it with concern for all beings. All beings are afflicted by suffering, some having far more intense suffering at this moment than ours. All those beings are intimately connected with us, we are indebted to them. Therefore, whatever we do from this moment should be for their benefit.
For ourselves, Lama Jampa said, we could perhaps just make do with the teachings we have received and practise in isolation. But the compassionate resolve of bodhichitta means that we need to think about others - and for them to come into contact with dharma, there need to be dharma centres as there have been throughout Buddhist history. And this is certainly one area, although by no means the only one, where we can connect ourselves with the enlightened activity of our teachers.
For those wishing to pursue the Vajrayana, it is recommended to receive teachings on the classic Indian text, Fifty Verses on the Guru, using a commentary such as Opening the Door to the Precious Accomplishments by Tsarchen Losal Gyamtso. This explains how one should develop one’s spiritual relationship with, and service of, one’s vajra master. The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche is also extremely helpful in this regard.
When teaching the latter of these texts some years ago, Lama Jampa quoted his own teacher, Karma Thinley Rinpoche, who had remarked to him that the mark of a good disciple, having strong devotion, is that they don't make a show of serving their lama.
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