Nov 10

Kalu Rinpoche | Guru and disciple

Relationship between the guru and the disciple

Today I want to talk about the relationship between teacher and student, both in the traditional way and non-traditional way.

First I would like to explain in the traditional way. In the traditional way, we all have this understanding that we should have good positive karma to be born as very fortunate human beings that we meet this beautiful and important Lord Buddha’s teaching; if more fortunate, encounter a great enlightened teacher as a great example, get all the knowledge from a great teacher; and if even more fortunate, have the wisdom to understand all the teachings of our teacher. Therefore, if we find a great teacher, we have an idea that we must increase our devotion by keeping all the Samaya and vows as clean and perfect as possible.

And you know what? I will stop you right there. The point is that, the traditional way of thinking that we are explaining does not work to us. Because we are so used to it. We are so used to it but we keep misinterpreting it.

Yes, nowadays the concept of devotion, and the relationship between teacher and student are misinterpreted. People are kind of falling in love with their great teacher, they are so attached to their teacher as a magnet and almost want to marry their teacher. I don’t mind if you love your teacher because I also love mine. But at the end that is not something to liberate you. Loving your teacher would not liberate you. And there is nothing related to the real devotion at all.

Let me talk about devotion. Devotion is purely depended on how you see your own reality. I am not talking about the boring reality that you cook your breakfast and lunch and dinner everyday. I am talking about the real reality, which is that we don’t want to live within our ego, jealousy and ignorance. From realizing the truth of our own reality, realizing that we are all suffering from our own attachments, we start to be truly interested about the Lord Buddha’s teaching and want to practice the Dharma sincerely. From that comes the real devotion, and it means that you know the precious quality of your teacher, you want to learn from that, you want to receive teachings from your teacher and then practice the Dharma by yourself.

Don’t stay too close to your teacher. Never. Because what you need is not the teacher himself/herself, what you need is his/her quality, and the teachings and experience from that individual. There is no benefit of being too close to the teacher, only negative impacts from it. I think that is important for all of us. I hope I am quite clear. Because myself, as a practitioner, I got lost so many times.

Lord Buddha’s teaching and the spiritual Dharma path is very simple. You receive teachings from your teacher, and you do your retreat, digest and practice what you received from your teacher. Once you have certain improvement, go back to the teacher and tell him/her what is your improvement, and explain your experience to your teacher. That is simple. That is important.

Here comes a question. What kind of a teacher we should find? My answer is, to find the teacher who follows the lord Buddha’s teaching, who applies the lord Buddha’s teaching to himself/herself, who helps you with generosity and wisdom of the spiritual teaching. Find that kind of a teacher, no matter the teacher is male or female, monk or not. Don’t try to find someone who is perfect, famous, who looks good and beautiful and elegant, who sits up in a throne. Just forget all about these. Anybody can sit up in a throne. Giving a thousand of your currencies to someone and tell him to make a throne with paintings and gold, and you can sit up in that throne which makes yourself look important and a little bit like an enlightened one. But that is not the real part of Buddhism or the Dharma teachings.

Take your time to find the right teacher. You should find his/her positive qualities by yourself. Because nowadays in the 21st century, in all these Vajrayana, there are all kinds of advertisements about teachers, telling people who is a great master and how great he/she is. But these are not about the truth, these are just advertisements. So take your time to search and examine by yourself. There is nobody pushing you. You can be confused here and there. And that is a part of the journey. If you can never accept yourself being confused, then you’ll never be a student. Accept the fault, accept the mistake, accept the confusion, accept to be a loser time to time, but never lose your spiritual quality. Never lose your own foundation.

When you find the right teacher, receive teachings from him/her and then do retreat, practice what you received, without being attached to your teacher. When you received the teachings, stop depending on your teacher, start depending on yourself. Because your teacher is not your husband or your wife, is not someone you can control either. And from the teacher’s point of view, the student is not someone we can control or we should control by any means. As a teacher, we always should pay our respect and share our positive qualities according to the student’s experience.

You should also avoid staying in a big group with your dharma brothers and sisters. There are always dramas in such groups, which are kind of pushing you to be angrier, to think more and doubt more. The bigger a group is, the bigger the trap is, which will make you blind in the path of your spiritual journey. When you call yourself a practitioner, whether you are a Mahayana or Vajrayana, think less, do more practice. Yes, think less, do more practice. Keep it simple, make it simple. With all these Buddhist teachings, focus on your teacher and focus on yourself. That will be the most important part that we all need to understand.

Then let’s talk about the practice. There are two main obstacles that we should remove.

The first main obstacle is pride. In some cases, we are getting familiar with the Dharma teachings and have such ideas as we’ve already know everything. That attitude, needs to be removed, right away. The long as you hold into I know better than any other students, I know better even than the teacher himself/herself, but I am so humble…I am so perfect and pure, knowing everything and still being so humble. You know, you’ve already got sucked in your own illusion. That is the first stopping obstacle that we all should remove. Stop trying to make yourself look good in misusing the humbleness. We are not pure, and we are not beautiful. We are human being with few control of our own emotions and no self-awareness. If you want to look for the perfection for yourself, in an idea of feeling good about yourself, in an idea of humbleness, you are already lost.

In fact, everything that we have learnt from our teacher, even small things, or very simple details, we must cherish, we must value. If you know how to value and cherish a very small teaching from your teacher, and practice according to it, then you will definitely improve in the matter of time. But if you do not know how to cherish small and very detailed teachings of your teacher, then even a great great great master comes to you, even he/she cannot help you.

The second main obstacle is comfort. Stop the idea of staying in the comfort zone. When I say practice, it doesn’t mean that practice a little bit when you want to, read a little bit something interesting when you want to, feel good a little bit when you want to.

Remove your habit of looking for comfort. Stop thinking that way as I am practicing right now, everything will go according to my plan. In life, nothing goes according to your plan, and that is the reality we live in. In the path of Dharma, exactly that. And we all must accept it. Nothing goes according to the plan. Why? Because everything is impermanent.

Furthermore, as a practitioner, you are not here looking for comfort. You are here to realize the truth. If you want to look for comfort, just get a job and make money and go for a good massage, that is the comfort for you. However, the purpose of Lord Buddha’s teaching is not for comfort.

Nowadays, everybody wants to find the miracle and see the miracle, and that is what makes me very disappointed. We have to stop looking for miracle, we have to stop looking for comfort, we have to remove our laziness such as trying to stay in the comfort zone. We have to stop all these habits. Receive teachings, learn dharma, practice by yourself anytime when you can, both physically and mentally. I think that is important.

Being comfortable is the main obstacle. That’s what I am trying to say. Being rejoice is different from being comfortable with your practice. Being joyful with the practice of Lord Buddha’s teaching, is far different from making yourself look good in front of other people, it is also far different from being comfortable with your practice. So don’t try to make yourself look good, don’t try to make yourself comfortable, don’t get used to all the knowledge and teachings of the lord Buddha and fall into laziness.

The relationship between the teacher and student is simple. The Lord Buddha’s teaching is simple. The spiritual Dharma path is simple. Like an example, when Gampopa was on his way to meet Milarepa, he knew that he was going meet Milarepa tomorrow, he asked his Dharma brothers in which direction his great master was staying, and with tremendous devotion from his heart, he slept in that direction. The next morning when he woke up, he understood the Buddha nature. That is how the beautiful simplicity can be. But to reach that point, we must prepare ourselves with retreat, with simplicity, with self-awareness of our own action and our own behavior. We must stop talking about whether that teaching is for them or her or him. Every teaching is for you. There is no such teaching for him or her, and not for you. Every teaching is dedicated for you. Every teaching is dedicated to benefit you. But remember, when you come to practice, you must keep it simple. One practice. Focus. Do your retreat. Remove all the negative habits and romantic expectations in your practice. That is all …


With love and respect. Kalu Rimpoche