Ocean of Siddhis
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Courtesy of David Christensen
Ocean of Siddhis
The Stages of Guru Service
by Longchen Rabjam
Homage to the glorious guru, deity of deities,
Supreme fulfiller of wishes—
The stages of serving whom,
An Ocean of Siddhis, I shall now relate.
This has three parts: 1) the nature of the guru to be served; 2) the qualities of the serving student, and 3) how to serve.
1. The Nature of the Guru
The Great Array says:
Learned, free from activity,
Fully acquainted with the meaning of reality,
And not confused as to the points of inquiry—
Such are the qualifications of a secret mantra guru.
Learned here means being sufficiently learned in the philosophical tenets in general to distinguish one’s own and others’ systems. Through being learned in the points of the Vajra Vehicle in particular, the teacher must understand the intent of the tantras, and, through experience and skilfully attaining signs of warmth, have reached a high degree of realization. Freedom from activity means remaining alone in solitude, free from the distractions of the eight mundane concerns or ordinary ideas. This entails being so relaxed and spacious—physically, vocally and mentally—as to have little dualistic clinging or elaboration. Being fully acquainted with the meaning of reality (dharmatā) means being well-versed in the meaning of the direct realization of reality and applying it in practice, thereby gaining the signs of warmth and an excellent degree of familiarity. Not confused as to the points of inquiry means being capable of answering any questions that students might ask. It means possessing the instructions from the lineage of practice of the four activities in the generation phase; being capable of developing experience and realization through the practice of the nature of view, meditation and conduct in the perfection phase; and not being confused as to the practice of applying the key points of subtle channels, essences and wind-energies based on the structure of the vajra body.
Someone who has these qualities is called a great vajradhara guru and is worthy of supplication.
2. The Qualities of the Student
There are five parts to the qualities of the serving student.
1. The Means of Gratification
Once you have received instructions from such a noble guru, the best approach is to maintain the teachings of the practice lineage through the service of practice; the intermediate approach is to purify obscurations of the three doors through physical and verbal service; and the inferior approach is to complete the two accumulations through material gifts. Practise whichever is suitable.
2. The Benefits of Gratification
You will purify the obscurations of the three doors and become a delight for all to see, your merit and riches will increase, you will be supported by the ḍākinīs, and you will easily obtain the supreme and common siddhis. As the Tantra of Supreme Samaya says:
Faithful ones yearning for accomplishment:
Siddhis come from pleasing the guru.
3. The Faults of Displeasure
The Illusory Net (Māyājāla) says:
The faults of disparaging the guru
And disturbing the guru’s mind
Are such that if the great outer ocean could be emptied
By scattering one drop at a time with a hair,
For the same amount of time you will fall into hell—
The one, that is, known as the Vajra Hell.
And the Vajraḍāka:
Do not denigrate the master,
The one equal to all the buddhas.
Whoever disparages the master
Will endure suffering, even in this life.
Sickness, poison, dangerous potions,
Harm wrought by the ḍākinīs,
As well as destructive and violent, corrupting forces,
Will cause death and descent into the hells.
4. The Means of Confession
Bring about fulfilment through feast offering, be receptive to whatever pleases the teacher, and confess. For faults of the body, dedicate yourself to physically serving the guru. For faults of speech, proclaim the guru’s qualities throughout the ten directions. Mentally, it is most important to cultivate devotion and reflect on [the guru’s] qualities. When faults become more numerous than the years of your own age it is no longer possible to heal them. As the Array of Samayas says:
If a person who has insulted the guru
Feels remorse seven or ten times
And confesses, this brings purification.
If exceeding one’s own age, objects of confession
Will not meet with Vajrasattva’s consent.
5. The Measure of Purification
As an indication of healing based on intense remorseful purification, the guru’s animosity will directly clear, to the level of their prior gratification. In dreams, you will receive the prophecy of an absence of faults and experience indications of the purification of misdeeds, such as the rising of the sun and moon.
3. How to Serve
1. General Approach
In general, the way to serve the teacher is to be like a patient relying upon a doctor. In order to overcome the sickness of saṃsāra you must be sincerely and unfeignedly reverential—dedicated physically, vocally and mentally. Be deferential and, ever fearful of saṃsāra, comply with whatever the teacher says, like a passenger relying upon a boatman. Desirous of liberation, honour the teacher, like a merchant relying upon a captain.
2. Specific Meditation and Prayers
As a yoga for the four sessions of the day and night, first take refuge, then generate bodhicitta and from an experience of the naturally unborn state of all phenomena, visualize at your crown a white lotus and locket of sun and moon, in which a white a-syllable emanates rays of light that invite your root guru. The guru appears, seated and with legs half-crossed. All the lineage gurus and those with a dharmic connection dissolve into the teacher, who is finally surrounded by a vast gathering of deities from the maṇḍalas of yidams, ḍākinīs and oath-bound guardians, all amassed like billowing clouds. Mentally offer homage and praise, and recite:
Only friend to those in the three realms of saṃsāra,
Refuge for beings who lack protection,
Great stairway to liberation,
And torch dispelling ignorance—
I, enshrouded in darkness, take refuge in you.
Protect me, the protectorless one,
Who is mired within saṃsāra.
As I am tormented by the fire of the three poisons,
Cool me with naturally arisen moisture.
Cause all those with a material body, speech and mind,
Who are bound by ignorance and delusion,
To attain nirvāṇa without remainder
Vanishing spontaneously into the luminous nature.
O guru, precious and enlightened one,
We have no one else to rely on but you.
Look upon us with eyes of compassion
And free us from this ocean of saṃsāra.
Help us to accomplish all that is good in life,
And avoid all that would hinder and obstruct us,
Point out profound luminosity at the moment of death,
And liberate us from the perils of the bardo states.
Ensure that all that we do with body, speech and mind
Always brings about benefit for others.
And from this day forward, transform all adversity
Into the supreme path of enlightenment.
In spite of our exertions, liberation is hard to find.
O protector, on the ship of your compassion
Carry us along with all who lack protection,
And lead us to the island of liberation.
May all those who have faith in me
And all who slander and abuse me
Be freed from evil and without afflictions,
And may they leave the rivers of existence.
In time, may my very name be enough
To fulfil the wishes of the world,
And bring down rains of offering clouds
In all the buddha realms of the ten directions.
Through this virtue, may all beings
Be liberated from saṃsāric existence
And, gaining the two sacred forms of wisdom,
Spontaneously benefit both themselves and others.
As a result of this fervent prayer, a stream of nectar flows from the guru’s big toe. It enters my own and all sentient beings’ crowns and pervades our entire bodies, inside and out. Through this, we purify physical obscurations and receive the attainment of enlightened body. As it flows into our throat, we purify obscurations of speech and receive the attainment of enlightened speech. As it flows into our heart, we purify mental obscurations and receive the attainment of enlightened mind. As it flows into our navel, we purify all flaws and receive the attainment of enlightened qualities. As it flows into our secret place, we receive the attainment of enlightened activity. Relax and meditate for a moment while experiencing the non-duality of bliss and emptiness. Thereafter, we experience all sights as the guru’s form, all sounds as the guru’s speech and all thoughts and perceptions as the guru’s wisdom mind. Then dedicate the merit and carry out dream-like, illusory activities.
When beginners who have attachment experience dullness they should consider that they dissolve into the guru, who dissolves into the non-referential, and when they experience agitation they can visualize the guru dissolving into them, before settling into an experience of the ineffable. Then perform the dedication.
Through meditating in this way during the four sessions, your body, speech and mind will remain in a state of bliss, clarity and non-conceptuality, and in dreams you will experience signs of accomplishment—receiving prophecies from the guru, yidam and ḍākinīs, explaining the Dharma, and so on.
3. The Results of Such Meditation
As a result of meditating in this way, you will accomplish all the siddhis and in future attain as sublime as a dharmakāya buddha, guru to the three realms.
Unimpeded Sound (Dral Thalgyur) says:
The precious qualities that come from following the guru
Are like the wish-granting tree, wish-fulfilling jewel,
Or magical cow of plenty that provides everything we desire.
Following the guru, we receive limitless precious qualities.
Focus on this, and serve the guru,
For this will repel the forces of saṃsāra.
Play of the Accomplished Maṇḍala says:
Meditating for three aeons on the generation phase
Still would not match the merit
To be gained by pleasing the guru.
The Glorious Saṃvarodaya says:
Abandon all other forms of offering.
Practise the perfect offering to the guru,
Through pleasing whom you will obtain
The supreme wisdom of omniscience.
The root tantra of the Illusory Net (Māyājāla) says:
The guru is the lord of all maṇḍalas,
And to offer him or her the five riches
Is the same as offering to all the maṇḍalas.
No need to mention the subsidiary maṇḍala.
This is enough to purify all wrongdoing
And obtain the supreme among qualities.
Replete with supreme and glorious qualities
Is the sacred guru, our guide through saṃsāra’s three worlds.
To accomplish the whole purpose of this life and the next, follow him or her with devotion.
You will obtain countless treasuries of liberation and understanding.
At all times, never once forget the kindness
Through which the root guru surpasses all the buddhas.
Since all precious qualities arise from pleasing the guru,
Fortunate ones should follow with the purest reverence.
With behaviour that emulates the four enlightened activities,
The guru tames through a variety of peaceful and wrathful means.
The realization and action of the guru are fathomless, like an ocean.
Rely upon and follow such a teacher with unwavering devotion.
In general, purity and impurity are one’s own projections.
If you purify your own faults, it will be impossible to see faults in others.
When possessing alternating virtues and defects,
You’ll see the same in others, and your reverence will fluctuate.
When you tame your own mind all will be your friend.
So apply pure perception and reverence universally.
Apparent existence, environment and inhabitants, will arise as the guru.
And you will realize impermanence, referencelessness and the absence of true nature.
Since these points represent the supreme counsel of my heart,
Regard everyone—friends, foes and all those in between—
As wondrous emanations of the victorious ones,
Tame your mind sincerely and examine only your own faults.
Reflect throughout the day and night, without a moment’s inattention,
On the qualities of the supreme guru and the spiritual instructions.
Spur yourself on through the recollection of mortality.
Consider the faults of saṃsāra and the qualities of liberation.
The freedoms and advantages are hard to find, and it is rare to meet the Dharma.
So always blend your mind with the Dharma,
And do not entertain even the slightest non-dharmic deed.
Practise Dharma; accomplish Dharma; exert yourself in Dharma day and night.
For it is the wish-fulfilling source of all positive qualities.
Through the virtue of composing this, may all beings
Blend their minds with Dharma, travel the path to freedom,
Tame their own minds and ripen the minds of others,
And attain perfect buddhahood together as one.
This completes the stages of following a guru of the secret heart-essence, entitled Ocean of Siddhis, composed on the slopes of Gangri Thökar by Longchen Rabjam, a yogin of the supreme vehicle. Let it prove virtuous! Let it prove virtuous! Let it prove virtuous!
| Translated by Adam Pearcey with the generous support of the Tsadra Foundation, 2023.
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Jigme Lingpa and Longchen Yeshe Dorje. Treasury of Precious Qualities: Book Two: Vajrayana and the Great Perfection. Translated by Padmakara Translation Group. Boston: Shambhala, 2013.