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Guru and Empowerment

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Guru and Empowerment

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 the pivotal point in opening our minds to the reality of ourselves and our world.

The holy lama is the embodiment of all buddhas.
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 for 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 make-up. But not every lama is a true teacher and not every student a worthy vessel for 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 make-up. The relationship must provide the situations for the initial analysis of the student's actions and motivations and be capable of inducing 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 givs the initiate a glimpse of the import of the practice ; he must still cultivate skill in its 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 of 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 and beings.

First, by conferral of the vase empowerment.
My ordinary body was identified with deity's.
Then by the secret empowerment of the stream of 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 Vajradhara.
For this purpose the emanation-body of Shakyamuni
(Shakyamuni) 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 those beings are my mothers-
Blind of eye. crazed by afflictions-
Yogi, how can you bear 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 if misapplied. 

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

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