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The Kagyu lineage of Buddhist Practice- Guru and Empowerment-Milarepa

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The Kagyu lineage of Buddhist Practice- Guru and Empowerment-Milarepa

In tantric practice the relationship with an experienced and qualified guru (Tib, lama) is of special importance. It is he who guides us to the correct path and serves as a pivotal point in opening our minds to the reality of ourselves and our world.

  • The holy lama is the embodiment of all buddha
    His voice expresses the inexpressible
    His mind is the directionless sunlight of method and wisdom.

  • One who realizes that all actions
    Of a (true) lama's body, speech, and mind-Farming, stealing, even killing-are virtuous,
    Who sees them in particular as a buddha's acts.
    Is the best disciple for practicing the profound path.

But not every lama is a true teacher and not every student a worthy vessel of Dharma. The statement above applies only to advanced tantric students in a long-standing relationship with a guru. Even a qualified lama and a good student might find their relationship unproductive due to elements in their personal makeup. The relationship must provide the situations for the initial analysis of the student's actions and motivations and be capable of inducting the subtle, penetrating revelations in the course of development.

The lama must also be able to perform the rites of empowerment effectively in order to open the disciple to successful tantric practice. As Milarepa explains, " empowerment" means "conferral of ability." Empowerment only gives the initiate a glimpse of the import of the practice, he must still cultivate skill in is performance and actual realization. The course of Mila's initiation by the four tantric empowerments, and his motivation, are recounted in the second of the "Six Secret Songs":

  • I'm now Milarepa, but i'm certain
    This body of leisure and opportunity will be spent.
    This canyon on samsara is a vast abyss
    And I fear the narrow track of birth and death.
  • When I think that this wandering in samsara,
    Lasts till the forces of action and effect are stilled,
    I Know it's time to end this illusion of ego.
  • And how could I bear the way these beings
    Of the six realms, our kind mothers, are tormented by misery?
    Thus I sought the path for quickly achieving
    This body of conquerors, leaders of beings.

  • First, by conferral of the vase empowerment,
    My ordinary body was identified with deity's.
    Then the secret empowerment of the stream speech,
    Currents flowing in the right and left channels were drawn to the central.
  • By igniting the bliss of the third empowerment (of wisdom),
    I saw the naked maiden of the egoless sphere,
    And by recognition of the four bodies symbolically expressed
    In the fourth empowerment (of words), I faced the unity of the three bodies.
  • After entering the initiatory doors, i practiced the two phases
    And unified with space and awareness
    The deity's body produced earlier on the path


    This unification with space and awareness is Vajaradhara.
    For the purpose of the emanation-body of Shakyamun (Sakyamuni) appeared

  • This is victory over birth, death, and Bardo.
    Having obtained the three bodies for myself,
    I've no hope or fear about other results.

  • Following empowerment, when the yogi begins practice in earnest, he must observe the major and minor vows of the Tantric Vehicle as well as those involved in his particular practice> Mila gives some idea of these commitments in the third of the "Six Secret Songs" 

  • Through the method and wisdom of my unique lama
    My vision toward friends and others was purified
    All these beings are my mothers-
    Blind of eye, crazed by afflictions[
    yogi, how can you beat it? Dedicate yourself in service to beings
  • Woman is essentially wisdom,
    Source of spontaneous gnosis and illusory-body
    Never consider her inferior;
    Strive especially to see her as Vajra Varahi.
  • Never worship a deity with ordinary food and clothes,
    As common men worship a king,
    When power objects are used in ordinary ways,
    It's like pouring clean milk into a dirty vessel. 

  • (You must) keep and never be without
    Bone ornaments, vajra-bell, and so on

The disciple is also committed to secrecy concerning the nature of his empowerments, personal deity, and tantric practice. Although the tantras are "self-secret," that is, their real import cannot be gleaned from their scriptures by a noninitiate, they can be harmful to practice and mental stability is misapplied.

Reference: Drinking the Mountain Stream: Songs of Tibet's Beloved Saint: Milarepa: Translated By Lama Kunga Rinpoche & Brian Cutillo 





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