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Category: Vajrayana
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Master Nagarjuna

 

 

Whatever the school of Buddhism, a great emphasis is placed on the

uninterrupted transmission of Teachings and Blessings. These transmissions

take place through an equally uninterrupted lineage of Masters and disciples

who have transcended the chain of suffering and delusions and attained

supreme realization of the pure nature of mind and reality. Hence it is

said that the idea of someone attaining Buddhahood would never occur if he

did not have a teacher or Master acting as a guide to bring him to the

ultimate stage of realization.

 

 

As there are many types of disciples, so the manifestation or appearance of

the Teacher varies accordingly. For instance, beings who are close to total

enlightenment, the Master, it is said in the Nyingma tradition is the

Primordial Buddha himself, Samatabhadra. The transmission does not require

the cumbersome words and rituals we need at our level but occurs directly

from mind to mind; hence it is called direct transmission. For those who

have not quite reached this level, yet a slightly more concrete approach is

needed and takes place through symbolic signs, which awaken the discipes

realization. Thus it is called symbolic transmission. In our world

however, the fact that we appear as human beings means that our principle

characteristics is that we are attached to appearances and the idea of self

and we do not have the openness of mind to receive these teachings in these

ways; we need words to stimulate our conscousness and thus this type of

transmission is called the aural lineage.

 

 

In all these cases, however, the role of the Teacher or Master is primary,

as it doesn't only carry the actual Teaching but also the necessary

Blessings to purify the disciple's obscuration and enable him ultimately to

merge his mind with the realized Mind of the Master.

 

 

Therefore we can see from the above that all the transmissions and Blessings

are passed on uninterruptedly from a living Master to his disciples whether

in the Distant Lineage of Kama or the Close Lineage of Terma.

 

 

For any transmissions of precepts or empowerments there are two links: one

on the side of the Master who holds the precepts or the lineage and on the

other side his disciples wishing to receive them. For the chain to be

strong, both links have to fulfill certain characteristics. This is why in

the tradition of the relationship between the spiritual teacher and the

disciple characteristics of both are described in great detail according to

Vinaya, Bodhisattva and Tantrayana.

 

 

It also derives from the above that there is no possible transmission hence

no possible spiritual accomplishment without a spiritual Master. It is

stated in a tantra that there is not as much as a name of the Buddha without

a Teacher preceding him, therefore even the Buddha of the three times,

before their enlightenment had to seek a spiritual teacher and receive

precepts and transmissions from him.

 

 

Although we may have the tendency today to believe that we can achieve

anything on our own, this will certainly not apply to spiritual matters. If

that had been the case, we would all be enlightened by now. Lost into

Samsara today as we have been for eons, we are experiencing the same chains

of suffering and are no wiser to attain liberation. Hence, we still need

the help, guidance and blessings from an authentic Master to attain our

goal.

 

 

Similarly, not every Teacher that we encounter will qualify as an authentic

Master. This person needs to have also undergone not only a formal and

complete Buddhist education and training, but also display irreplaceable

moral, inner and secret qualities that can only riped though a profound

spiritual training, itself arisen from following an authentic Master, and

lead that Teacher to display characteristics which have been fully described

in numerous sutras and tantras, revealing his or her inner realization and

signs of accomplishement. The texts also warn us about the dangers of not

examining a potential Teacher according to the three different precepts as

well as the shortfalls of not following a Master correctly once we have

selected him or her.

 

 

In the following parts we will examine what are the criteria applying both

to choosing a spiritual Master, relying on him and following his advice as

well as the qualities and duties required from the aspiring disciple. In

this context we will expound each part according to the three main

catagories of Vinaya, Bodhisattva and Tantra precepts - this in fact

corresponds to the outer conduct contained in the Pratimoksha vows, inner

Bodhisattva precepts representing the next level of practice and finally the

secret Tantra Samaya whose purpose is to enable us to attain enlightenment

in a relatively short period of time.

 

However, it must be pointed out that we cannot just choose a higher level

without complying with the lower ones. All the teachings of Lord Buddha and

the following great Masters are all based first on moral conduct and only

when those have been fully actualised can the disciple naturally develop the

subsequent levels.