Gentle Voice : April 2007
I've already said a lot of things about thestudent’s motivation, which should be thewish for enlightenment.And the teacher musthave the motivation to enlighten the student.That should be the guru’s main aim. If there's anything else, you can consider it abonus.
There is a fair amount of confusion amongstudents, especially within Tibetan Buddhismand probably also Japanese Buddhism. There is,of course, a fascination with the words of Gautama Buddha, but there's also a fascinationwith eastern cultures – with colourful Indianculture, chaotic Tibetan culture, bare, simpleJapanese culture, orderly Confucian Chineseculture. This fascination with culture and thewords of the Buddha can get mixed up. Most of the time, as Patrul Rinpoche said, fascinationwith the culture takes over. That’s how one losescontact with the dharma, the Buddha’s words.You have been chanting the Prajnaparamita or HeartSutra, the quintessence of the Mahayana sutras, whichstates, "No nose, no eyes … form is emptiness,emptiness is form …" and so on. There is no ceremonyin this; the closest thing to ceremony in it is theprajnaparamita mantra. There is no culture in it.However, even if one wanted to do without culture, youwill not find a way and it would be unwise to do so.Unless you are already accomplished (which means youhave already been groomed in a certain tradition), youcannot read the Heart Sutra and contemplate the words,without depending on a master, a tradition, a culture orteachings. It is almost impossible to get the benefit of itwithout depending on some kind of method. Theimportant point, though, is not to think that the method isthe dharma.Yet there is no black-and-white judgement we can make.If your Tibetan master prescribes that every day beforeyour meditation you must have a cup of butter tea assome kind of skilful means coming from the master'swisdom and compassion, then this is a skilful meansprescribed for you and it's what you have to do. But noteverybody has to learn how to make butter tea justbecause they are following Tibetan Buddhism.Anyway, seeking enlightenment should be the student'sprimary goal. Then all that we are supposed to practise –trust, devotion, renunciation, bodhicitta – should nothave any difficulty arising within us.Let's talk about devotion. The great siddha Sarahadefined devotion as trust in cause, condition and effect.For example, if you're boiling an egg, there are certaincauses and conditions you must have, such as water, apot and fire. Of course, the egg itself is the mostimportant thing, isn’t it? (And an egg is such a goodexample of ourselves: beautiful to look at, butcompletely closed.) Perhaps a kitchen would make iteasier. You can cook an egg right on the street, but it'svery uncomfortable and messy and in the process the eggmay not be cooked properly unless the cook is skilled.We're reluctant to rely on the cook these days, aren't we?But the cook is actually quite important in this case, asyou can see. This is why I think the guru is almost amust. When all the causes and conditions come together,even if you prayed for the egg not to be cooked, theprayer would not succeed. The egg will be cooked:there's no choice. When we cook an egg, what do wehave? Devotion. And when the cook, the water, the potand the other conditions are gathered together, we gain acertain confidence.