Guru Rinpoche--Buddha of the Vajrayana
[Image used by permission, Padmasambhava Buddhist Center of Tennessee]
Within the sacred sutras handed down through the ancient lineages of the Buddhist traditions, Padmasambhava (Padma Sambhava) is revered as the founder of the Nyingma1 sect—the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Living in the 8th Century CE, Padmasambhava established the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. He is credited with preserving the branch of knowledge of Vajrayana Buddhism and is called the “Buddha of the Vajrayana.” The veneration held for Padmasambhava is universal among all the schools and the devotion to certain of his practices so widespread he is often referred to as the “Second Buddha.”
When a Western student is introduced to the teachings of the Buddha and later researches the more advanced teachings of Dzogchen,2 the reader will encounter terms and concepts that are uncommon to occidental spiritual thought. A vast depth of understanding awaits the student beginning the practice of Dzogchen and who decides to study under the tutelage of masters conversant with Padmasambhava, also called Guru Rinpoche.3
Guru Rinpoche supervised a large project translating many Buddhist texts to Tibetan from the original Sanskrit while advancing the tenants of Vajrayana Buddhism. Most intriguing is that among the Nyingma practitioners is the acknowledgment that Guru Rinpoche left behind termas, hidden teachings to be discovered by his tertons—revealers of treasures, enlightened students.
The Vajrayana is also known as tantra. Tantric teachings are based on the foundational Sutra Mahayana4 and offer a more subtle understanding of our experience and additional methods to realize enlightenment. It is among these methods adapted to Western modes of thought that we may find revelations designed for the very challenges we face today.
And where are the tertons themselves to be encountered? Interestingly, we may trace some of our own ascended master teachings to a lineage fostered by a wise dakini, or feminine spiritual being,5 who worked closely with the Guru Rinpoche during his lifetime in Tibet to deliver precious termas vitally applicable and relevant to contemporary generations.
"Practicing on" Guru Padmasambhava
“Practicing on” a guru is an Eastern tradition describing the devotional relationship between a master and disciple that has existed since ancient times. Somewhat foreign to our Western culture, the devotion given to the guru is a yogic practice quintessential to and at the core of Buddhism. Guru Yoga is an ongoing process of merging with the wisdom-mind of the master.
From the modern spiritual classic,The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying6 we read:
“All the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and enlightened beings are present at all moments to help us, and it is through the presence of the master that all of their blessings are focused directly at us.”
Do all lineages subscribe to the belief that guru yoga is the swiftest and most powerful path to spiritual awakening? Is it the surest practice for invoking the help of enlightened beings?
For the Tibetans of the Nyingma sect, Padmasambhava is considered the embodiment of all the masters and the bestower of the blessings of all the Buddhas. As a disciple merges with the compassionate heart of Padmasambhava, all beings are included in him. For the Nyingma sect guru yoga is the path that leads to enlightenment. Its ultimate aim—that the outer teacher introduces the disciple to his or her own inner teacher.
We find in the Catholic tradition among the holy orders a related spiritual practice entered into by Christian renunciates to merge with the mind of Christ through their reverence to the saints of the Church.
Now as students of the ascended masters, we employ a modern form of guru yoga to yoke our souls to the compassionate and mindful ones in heaven. We can commune with any enlightened being, saint or master for whom we feel devotion, whether the master is ascended or unascended, to inspire and help awaken us to our own Christ/Buddha nature.
The Rich Rewards of Chanting and Toning Mantras
Padmasambhava, who begat a Tibetan lineage of true miracle workers, created the mantra below. Visualize now, while reciting his “Golden Mantra” that you are within a vast auric field, a flowfield enlivened, populated by devotees’ tracings dating to the historical epoch of Padmasambhava’s legendary appearance and even beyond Earth’s recorded time, when the Guru was mindfully contemplating his incarnation-to-come.
As you are able to be among sincere ones giving this mantra aloud, see yourself bathed and ensconced in cloud blessings, enfolded in and carried beyond ordinary mind into the pure realm of the wisdom of rigpa.7 Feel the living presence of Buddha, of Padmasambhava. As you invoke the Buddha to inspire and transform, your own Buddha nature is quickened, blossoming as naturally as a flower in sunlight:
OM AH HUM VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI HUM
To engage mindfully, to reap a greater spectrum of alchemy whereby you may touch the very heart essence of the Master, prayerful guru yoga practitioners embark upon a fourfold, or four-phased, practice of mantra that allows them to joyfully advance in this ritual of merging with the heart-mind of the Master.
Building upon the principles taught and modeled by the classical masters, some of whom were regarded as emanations of the Guru Padmasambhava , we, in the West, can strive for realization of these same inner realms the Buddhist devotees have experienced through their many lifetimes dedicated to Dzogchen and cultivating the rigpa, that higher awareness that leads to ultimate enlightenment.
In phase 2 of the practice,8 “Maturing and Deepening the Blessing,” as defined in Sogyal Rinpoche’s treatise, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, we can begin to appreciate the transcendent, transformative potential of the mantra. He states:
“Slowly, through the blessing and power of this practice, you will find you actually experience your mind being transformed into the wisdom mind of Padmasambhava and the master; you begin to recognize the indivisibility[ …] What happens is that gradually your mind begins to find itself in the state of Rigpa, as the innermost nature of mind is nothing other than the wisdom mind of all the buddhas.”
He finishes describing this “maturing of the blessing” as the heart and main part of the practice, to which you should devote the most time when you do the guru yoga practice.
In our Hearts Center community, we know that much of our devotional time focused in the giving of mantra and song, bhajans, kirtans and dynamic decrees is a type of guru yoga! Prayers both classic and modern, adapted to our culture and times, empower us in the Word. We are garnering and implanting the heart-mindedness of the saints and sages, East and West.