Devotion to the Guru


Where is my mind?
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Middlesbrough, UK
Absolute Devotion to and reliance on the Guru.

There are many branches of Buddhism which hold this concept to be very important. I have been told before by teachers that it is impossible for me to achieve enlightenment without it. At first I believed it completely, but now I doubt it.

This concept seems designed to maintain control.

It is a concept of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibet is a country where religion was the dominant political force for a long time, even the leader of the tibetan government in exile is a religious icon!

So it seems only natural that such a concept would be employed by these religious leaders to maintain their positions.

Most importantly, the idea of complete devotion to and reliance on the Guru is in direct conflict with the (very appealing) notion that you should only believe what is proved in your mind, rather than what you are told.

I do not think that modern Buddhist leaders are deliberately conspiring to maintain control, but I do believe that they are holding to an old tradition which was first designed to maintain control.

When you gain an understanding, or rather intuit the ramifications of sunyata/emptiness, it becomes clear that a support is required, something beyond our ordinary experience. If everything is dependent on everthing else and all is impermanent, then what could you place your trust in? What happens if the path doesn't seem to be going the way you expected? Even worldly Gods are subject to karma, and what about Shakyamuni? He died long ago. The Dharma could be confusing, and the Sangha could be at each other's throats, or not exist.

But the Guru is the living embodiment of the triple gem, of which taking refuge in is the entry into Buddhism. So the Guru has a really special position to aid in this radically accelerated path to enlightenment.

Sure you can gain enlightenment without the Guru, Shakyamuni did, but he had a torrid time doing it. If you read the Jataka tails, it took him many lifetimes as a Bodhisattva to achieve the ultimate state.

Most importantly, the idea of complete devotion to and reliance on the Guru is in direct conflict with the (very appealing) notion that you should only believe what is proved in your mind, rather than what you are told.

Best not to believe anything in particular. When looking, just look. When tasting, just taste.
i agree with 'awaiting'. though im new to buddhism, i think that a guru or spiritual leader may be helpful at times, but i dont think that it should be clung to, therefore breaking the 4 noble truths that say that clinging is the cause of samsara. i think that this also includes religious leaders. i dont think that its even right to cling to what the buddha said until it is proven by you. try it out, even keep trying it out many years after you first start practicing, that way you can always be testing and you will never cling, even to your beliefs. thoughts and beliefs can be just as dangerous a a bomb. just practice and be a lamp upon your own feet, and you will find your way.

be well in peace
I think it is when we undertake some of the advanced stages of meditation - any attempt, in fact, to break through to the formless (arupa) levels of awareness - that the tutelage of an accomplished Master is absolutely indispensable. In fact, without such, I do not believe spiritual advancement is possible, beyond a certain point.

For this reason, it is important that we place our complete trust and reliance in a qualified Teacher, though certainly not without being absolutely certain that we have found such an individual. And the difficulty will not likely be in knowing whether or not this is so. We will know it to be so. The challenge - will be from that point forward. There is a saying, When the student is ready, the Master will appear.

The Buddha did indeed leave us with the parting words, Be as lamps unto your own feet; work out thy own salvation with diligence. But he did not say, that Truth is a pathless land. There must be a means of approach, and because the world of maya, glamour, and illusion (or, samsara) is so confusing, the Guru serves as a Beacon of Light, amidst the darkness. And yet, he is the guide, and not the performer of Right Action. He is not the one still in need of the karma of accomplishment.

This all seems a bit Zen to me, in that the utmost of obedience and devotion is required, and yet the student gains the most when s/he thinks and acts for him or herself. Maybe it's not supposed to be easy! :p