Faith by Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche
Talk given at Kagyu Samye Ling, 3rd August 2008,
Wherever the Buddha gave teachings is considered holy. Bodhgaya is one of these and there are many such places in Tibet. People who live near these places don’t consider them as holy or special. Samye Ling is the first of such places in Europe as the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa left his footprints here. Even in Rumtek, India there are no footprints of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, although there are many of his footprints in Tibet. In the future visitors will come here on pilgrimage to Samye Ling from the East.
If you are sick and get treatment from a doctor who works very well for you, then if you are sick again you would wish to consult the same doctor. Then if the advice works again trust is increased. Then whatever advice the doctor gave regarding diet you trust because of your beneficial past-experience. You develop trust, become grateful and think “doctor is taking care of me 100%”. Faith and trust develops. It is the same with teachers.
You practise the instructions given to you. You proceed and then find benefit from the practice. After that each time you need spiritual help you go to same person. This person becomes your personal guru. Because whatever he/she told you has been beneficial. No need to go to other teachers or other places. At this stage your body should be considered, to be a holy place and must not cheapen it in any way. No longer any need to go to any other place as you are in a holy place. Then faith and devotion, grows in you.
Sometimes we talk about ‘blind faith’ – not knowing whether it is beneficial or not. Blind faith is not necessary, but it is important in the beginning to be very openminded. Not to fall in love with new teacher same day of meeting that person. It could be big mistake. Traditionally it takes nine years. You should check whether he knows the Dharma. What about his way of life, his secret life? Like C.I.D. check everything. Not just read the advertisement. You should check for 3 years. Then you may find some worldly problems. All teachers have these because we are all worldly. But you should check his teachings and whether they are genuine. His failures and faults are not important, they are human faults. But you listen to the spiritual teachings.
When choosing a politician in the West, we usually look for someone perfect, like the Buddha. He/she does not need to be like Christ, you are not going to take ordination from him! But the person should have a good heart. All human beings have problems, make mistakes. Don’t look for a teacher who has no faults, only look at their spiritual life. Have they done practice? What do other teachers think of him? The teacher’s job is to find out whether the student is honest and trustworthy. Are they ‘chasing’ for the wrong reasons? Traditionally this also takes 3 years. Then work together for 3 years. Like body guards, they need to be trustworthy. Willing to give their lives for you and not kill you! A student who has many teachers according to their mood, is not trustworthy. This is like rich people, who have many houses, which they visit according to the climatic conditions. You have, to know yourself. Trustworthy means, whatever people tell you is not blurted out. If someone tells you they are going to kill someone, then such a person would divulge this to others. Not telling others but just acting to prevent it happening without repeating the story to others. Faith will only arise if you can trust. Then the teacher will be willing to give all the teachings, holding nothing back. Otherwise if complete trust is not there one has to just give some very simple instruction which would not be harmful. You don’t have to worry thinking to yourself “are you my guru?” Rather, there is personal relationship between pupil and instructor. That relationship becomes so strong no one can break it. If people ask who is your teacher, then think about what you might do if you have problems, difficulties, who comes into your mind. For instance, questions you might have about major decisions in your life. Even if your meditation is going badly and you are having hallucinations, who would you turn to?
There are international gurus and personal gurus. International gurus are like His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa or Tai Situpa. They don’t have time for personal instructions. They are lineage gurus. They are everybody’s guru. You may be able to listen to their teachings, but not get personal regular teachings. But people who are Khenting Tai Situpa’s Mahamudra students perhaps for 8 or 9 years, and he has shown you the True Nature of Mind, then that is your root guru. The personal guru can also be your root guru, or branch of root guru. True Nature of Mind can be presented in a very public way, 200 or 300 people, even during an initiation. A person who has completed the whole course beginning with the foundations, then such an individual who had interviews with the teacher and who has received instructions and experienced the true nature of mind – such a person is very precious.
During the last 2 or 3 years, many Samye Ling people have received this tuition. They have become precious human beings. Rest of us are cheaper, like cows. Cows may even be better as at least they can forecast weather by how they are sleeping!
I would like all of you to become trustworthy human beings. In a nomadic country friends are very important. We don’t sell them, or kill them. If a friend has done something wrong to you, you do not give up on them. You just consider that they made a mistake. Children will always respect a father’s friend. Also, a father’s enemy is sometimes considered as their enemy. But in my view, this is too rigid and should not happen. However, the side positive view is very important. A trustworthy person is better than a non-trustworthy one. Moods go up and down. Try not to change your practice too much. During 10 or 20 years, it doesn’t matter how long it is. 9 years may be not enough. Even after 55 years of marriage one can sometimes become divorced! But don’t have the wedding on the same day on which you have met someone. You could be lucky, but I think we don’t have enough wisdom to make such quick decisions.
We look at beauty. We might think: “Kalu Rinpoche is good, but too thin!” Some teachers are always laughing so they must be good. During the early times the Kadampa teachers cried every day on witnessing the suffering of samsara. We would not like to see them weeping all the time or maybe we think to send them for therapy treatment! They did not spend time on clothes, food, not cutting the thorns outside their caves, because they thought they might die soon so not worth wasting their time.
Akong’s monastery is called Dolma Lhakang, Palace of Tara (or Temple of Tara). In Tibet there were many Tara temples, built after Guru Rinpoche introduced Buddhism to Tibet. Temples are built on weakness points. Dolma Lhakang was not established by Guru Rinpoche himself but has similar qualities. 21 Taras appeared in the rock. The syllable (Tam) appeared, it used to be clearly visible there, but many such self-arisen manifestations were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. My Mother’s and Father’s main practice was Tara, especially my Father’s. He recited Green Tara praises continuously from morning to night, except if talking to someone. When he was older many people respected him for the energy which he gained from the practice. People asked him to pray for the protection of animals, if they were lost, or if danger from leopards. In the Cultural Revolution, Tara practitioners were chained in their prison cells, and chains broke, and the prison gates miraculously opened.
Tara has so much protection. For people who wish to have a child or for improvement of their health. Tara is common to all Tibetan schools, like Chenrezig. The Karmapa, Kalu Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche practised Tara for people wanting help with their health or happiness because Tara gives the quickest results.
The above was sympathetically edited from the verbatim.