Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

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KiwiNFLFan
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Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Mon Mar 02, 2020 12:54 pm

Is it normal in Tibetan Buddhism to accept someone you haven’t personally met (but that your mentor/teacher has met)? Can you become the disciple of a guru without meeting them in person (and/or receiving a transmission and/or empowerment from them)?

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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 02, 2020 2:47 pm

:jumping:

I’m just laughing because I’m assuming that here you are asking people you never met for advice on being a student of someone you never met! You should write to that teacher and ask them.

You can learn from all kinds of teachers and shouldn’t hurry thinking “I need to find out who is MY guru” or hurry to set up some kind of student/master thing everybody hears about. The more you study and practice, the more likely that will come about on its own, naturally.

If there is a remote teacher somewhere and you have maybe read their books or listened to them online, then write to that teacher with your questions.

If the teacher writes back, then maybe you have some basis for establishing a stronger connection. If the teacher does not write back, then, even if they perform empowerment ceremonies on the internet, those will be blessings and won’t be the type that demand any obligations on your part.

There are a lot of famous lamas on line, Khyentse Norbu, Mingyur Rinpoche, etc. and one can listen to them on YouTube for hours and hours, and so many things they say, It’s like, “yes! Yes! That’s exactly my situation! Yes! I really feel a strong connection to this teacher!” And that’s fine. It’s because they have wisdom and can share it. But, its like having a favorite musician whose songs all go directly into your heart. It’s not the same thing as an actual student/teacher thing where they actually know you, see you in all your different moods, and want to get into a relationship with you for your benefit.

Keep in mind, the personal student/master relationship is also a huge responsibility for the teacher. You are putting everything in their hands.
So, not only is it like trusting someone you never met with all your gold, but from their point of view, “someone I never met wants me to be responsible for all their gold”.
What do you think will happen?
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PeterC
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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by PeterC » Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:11 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Mon Mar 02, 2020 12:54 pm
Is it normal in Tibetan Buddhism to accept someone you haven’t personally met (but that your mentor/teacher has met)? Can you become the disciple of a guru without meeting them in person (and/or receiving a transmission and/or empowerment from them)?
I'm not sure what you mean by "accepting". There's a couple of relevant levels here. If you receive an empowerment from them, they're your guru. Doesn't matter whether the empowerment is in person or online (though there are some who will debate the online issue, it's been done to death here). If you hear even one line of the Dharma from them, you should have respect and gratitude towards them, though you don't have samaya with them. If neither of those conditions exist, you don't have a relationship with them, though of course it's in general beneficial to have respect towards all teachers of the Dharma.

You do not need to have a personal relationship with them for them to be your guru. A lama who doesn't know your name, who you've only interacted with by sitting in a crowd in one mass empowerment: you have samaya with that lama just as much as with the lama who has tea with you once a week and gives you individual practices. People tend to romanticize the personal connection aspect of this.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Simon E. » Tue Mar 03, 2020 1:13 pm

OK...but let’s not go overboard with this. If you CAN take with your teacher, and there might be many reasons why this is not feasible, but if you can it is of great value.
I don’t know much about Dharma, but much of what I have learned has been in informal settings, just hanging out with teachers.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Sunrise » Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:26 pm

I was just listening to a Ram Dass lecture this morning called "devotion and the guru". There he tells the story of his relationship to his beloved guru and how that relationship become the foundation of his spiritual life. It was a very deep, spiritually intimate relationship. I can't imagine that someone could have a relationship like that with someone they've never met.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:42 pm

Sunrise wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:26 pm
I was just listening to a Ram Dass lecture this morning called "devotion and the guru". There he tells the story of his relationship to his beloved guru and how that relationship become the foundation of his spiritual life. It was a very deep, spiritually intimate relationship. I can't imagine that someone could have a relationship like that with someone they've never met.
Hindu guru devotion is different that guru devotion in Buddhadharma. It's best not to confuse the two.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by 明安 Myoan » Tue Mar 03, 2020 5:08 pm

I think a good sign is how much their presentation of the teachings speaks to you and begins to inform your daily life and approach to practice.

I think PeterC hit the nail on the head.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 03, 2020 5:29 pm

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Mon Mar 02, 2020 12:54 pm
Is it normal in Tibetan Buddhism to accept someone you haven’t personally met (but that your mentor/teacher has met)? Can you become the disciple of a guru without meeting them in person (and/or receiving a transmission and/or empowerment from them)?
You cannot become the disciple of a Vajrayāna guru without receiving empowerment from that person. There is a transitive property in lineages where by taking empowerment from lama b, you also have a disciple relationship with their lama, lama a. For example, if you receive an empowerment of Vajrakilaya from HH Sakya Trizin Ratnavajra, you automatically have a samaya relationship with his father, HH Sakya Trichen, as a lineage guru.

Attending an empowerment is considered meeting them, whether or not you have a personal relationship with them.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Simon E. » Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:04 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:42 pm
Sunrise wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:26 pm
I was just listening to a Ram Dass lecture this morning called "devotion and the guru". There he tells the story of his relationship to his beloved guru and how that relationship become the foundation of his spiritual life. It was a very deep, spiritually intimate relationship. I can't imagine that someone could have a relationship like that with someone they've never met.
Hindu guru devotion is different that guru devotion in Buddhadharma. It's best not to confuse the two.
Aye. A description often used, and I think it’s useful, is that the Vajrayana guru is as a spiritual friend.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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heart
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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by heart » Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:11 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:04 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:42 pm
Sunrise wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:26 pm
I was just listening to a Ram Dass lecture this morning called "devotion and the guru". There he tells the story of his relationship to his beloved guru and how that relationship become the foundation of his spiritual life. It was a very deep, spiritually intimate relationship. I can't imagine that someone could have a relationship like that with someone they've never met.
Hindu guru devotion is different that guru devotion in Buddhadharma. It's best not to confuse the two.
Aye. A description often used, and I think it’s useful, is that the Vajrayana guru is as a spiritual friend.
A mahayana guru is a spiritual friend.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)

Simon E.
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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Simon E. » Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:19 pm

At least two Vajrayana gurus in my hearing, one being Situ Rinpoche and the other being Chime Yongden Rinpoche, said that they encourage their students to think of them as a spiritual friend.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Malcolm » Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:38 pm

heart wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:11 pm
Simon E. wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 6:04 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:42 pm


Hindu guru devotion is different that guru devotion in Buddhadharma. It's best not to confuse the two.
Aye. A description often used, and I think it’s useful, is that the Vajrayana guru is as a spiritual friend.
A mahayana guru is a spiritual friend.

/magnus
Also a vajrayāna guru is a gurukalyanamitra.

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PeterC
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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by PeterC » Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:16 am

Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 5:29 pm
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Mon Mar 02, 2020 12:54 pm
Is it normal in Tibetan Buddhism to accept someone you haven’t personally met (but that your mentor/teacher has met)? Can you become the disciple of a guru without meeting them in person (and/or receiving a transmission and/or empowerment from them)?
You cannot become the disciple of a Vajrayāna guru without receiving empowerment from that person. There is a transitive property in lineages where by taking empowerment from lama b, you also have a disciple relationship with their lama, lama a. For example, if you receive an empowerment of Vajrakilaya from HH Sakya Trizin Ratnavajra, you automatically have a samaya relationship with his father, HH Sakya Trichen, as a lineage guru.

Attending an empowerment is considered meeting them, whether or not you have a personal relationship with them.
Malcolm - for the avoidance of doubt, this would only apply to the lineage of the empowerment you received from lama B, no? Otherwise we would probably all have samaya indirectly with Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo...

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Malcolm » Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:35 am

PeterC wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:16 am
Malcolm wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 5:29 pm
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Mon Mar 02, 2020 12:54 pm
Is it normal in Tibetan Buddhism to accept someone you haven’t personally met (but that your mentor/teacher has met)? Can you become the disciple of a guru without meeting them in person (and/or receiving a transmission and/or empowerment from them)?
You cannot become the disciple of a Vajrayāna guru without receiving empowerment from that person. There is a transitive property in lineages where by taking empowerment from lama b, you also have a disciple relationship with their lama, lama a. For example, if you receive an empowerment of Vajrakilaya from HH Sakya Trizin Ratnavajra, you automatically have a samaya relationship with his father, HH Sakya Trichen, as a lineage guru.

Attending an empowerment is considered meeting them, whether or not you have a personal relationship with them.
Malcolm - for the avoidance of doubt, this would only apply to the lineage of the empowerment you received from lama B, no? Otherwise we would probably all have samaya indirectly with Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo...
Correct.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Sunrise » Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:06 am

PeterC wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:11 am

You do not need to have a personal relationship with them for them to be your guru. A lama who doesn't know your name, who you've only interacted with by sitting in a crowd in one mass empowerment: you have samaya with that lama just as much as with the lama who has tea with you once a week and gives you individual practices.
I find this to be so strange. Realistically how much inspiration can one receive from a teacher that you don't know? Without some kind of personal connection, an empowerment is going to be a person in a funny hat saying words you don't understand over you. Commitment to a teacher should be a natural outgrowth of love and deep admiration of their qualities, it really can't be contrived or imposed upon you. Just my two cents.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:24 am

Sunrise wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:06 am
PeterC wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:11 am

You do not need to have a personal relationship with them for them to be your guru. A lama who doesn't know your name, who you've only interacted with by sitting in a crowd in one mass empowerment: you have samaya with that lama just as much as with the lama who has tea with you once a week and gives you individual practices.
I find this to be so strange. Realistically how much inspiration can one receive from a teacher that you don't know? Without some kind of personal connection, an empowerment is going to be a person in a funny hat saying words you don't understand over you. Commitment to a teacher should be a natural outgrowth of love and deep admiration of their qualities, it really can't be contrived or imposed upon you. Just my two cents.
If that's what an empowerment is to a student, then that is the student's obscuration. People do this all the time "oh I didn't understand it", "oh I was uncomfortable" etc. It's up to us as students to recognize how precious these sorts of meetings are. Expecting the Guru to always be exactly what you want them to be is probably a recipe for failure. Seeing empowerment as someone in a weird hat saying words is actually an issue with how we view the Vajra Dharma...not just the teacher.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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PeterC
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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by PeterC » Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:54 am

:good:

I would also add that you don't need to know a teacher personally to find them inspiring. There are teachers who don't know who I am, who I am certain are no different from the Buddha, based on hearing them teach.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by florin » Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:02 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:24 am
Sunrise wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:06 am
PeterC wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:11 am

You do not need to have a personal relationship with them for them to be your guru. A lama who doesn't know your name, who you've only interacted with by sitting in a crowd in one mass empowerment: you have samaya with that lama just as much as with the lama who has tea with you once a week and gives you individual practices.
I find this to be so strange. Realistically how much inspiration can one receive from a teacher that you don't know? Without some kind of personal connection, an empowerment is going to be a person in a funny hat saying words you don't understand over you. Commitment to a teacher should be a natural outgrowth of love and deep admiration of their qualities, it really can't be contrived or imposed upon you. Just my two cents.
If that's what an empowerment is to a student, then that is the student's obscuration. People do this all the time "oh I didn't understand it", "oh I was uncomfortable" etc. It's up to us as students to recognize how precious these sorts of meetings are. Expecting the Guru to always be exactly what you want them to be is probably a recipe for failure. Seeing empowerment as someone in a weird hat saying words is actually an issue with how we view the Vajra Dharma...not just the teacher.
I am of the opinion that we can only recognise the preciousness of empowerment and the lama if we understand what happens. And in order to understand we need to educate ourselves. What does education mean in this context ?It means to know who these people are and what they say. Otherwise the automatic devotion, fascinaton and inspiration we feel to a lama could be just blind faith. And blind faith can lead us into troubled waters.

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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:13 am

florin wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:02 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:24 am
Sunrise wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:06 am


I find this to be so strange. Realistically how much inspiration can one receive from a teacher that you don't know? Without some kind of personal connection, an empowerment is going to be a person in a funny hat saying words you don't understand over you. Commitment to a teacher should be a natural outgrowth of love and deep admiration of their qualities, it really can't be contrived or imposed upon you. Just my two cents.
If that's what an empowerment is to a student, then that is the student's obscuration. People do this all the time "oh I didn't understand it", "oh I was uncomfortable" etc. It's up to us as students to recognize how precious these sorts of meetings are. Expecting the Guru to always be exactly what you want them to be is probably a recipe for failure. Seeing empowerment as someone in a weird hat saying words is actually an issue with how we view the Vajra Dharma...not just the teacher.
I am of the opinion that we can only recognise the preciousness of empowerment and the lama if we understand what happens. And in order to understand we need to educate ourselves. What does education mean in this context ?It means to know who these people are and what they say. Otherwise the automatic devotion, fascinaton and inspiration we feel to a lama could be just blind faith. And blind faith can lead us into troubled waters.
I agree there, but investigating a Lama does not require that you go have dinner with them on a regular basis. The OP is asking about whether or not it's possible to have an authentic relationship with a Lama without a conventional "friendship" of some kind, and I would say it is, and that there is even some historical precedent for it.

A couple of examples from my own life: ChNN, I consider him my root Guru. I never met him (sadly), but I thoroughly investigated him, eventually took DI, began following his teachings and developed a deep faith in them. HH Sakya Trichen. I have taken initiations from him, once ate a Chinese buffet lunch with him (me and 50 other people or something), but outside of saying a couple words when offering Khata, I don't "know" him at all. I have other teachers, some who I do regularly see in person, but these two are very important to me, with minimal personal connection.

I question whether sometimes romantic notions get in the way of taking advantages of opportunities in the Vajrayana world. I also think that sometimes these notions might take away from the importance of understanding the transmission - which seems to what you are talking about.

These are valid ways of knowing the Guru in Vajrayana. Would I jump at the chance for closer relationships with such beings? Of course I would, but that does not lessen this sort of karmic connection for me. I see a lot of people start off in the Vajrayana with the expectation of this close relationship where the Guru is saying all this stuff directly to you etc. If we can have that, we should jump at the chance. If not, we should rejoice in the connections we have made and do what the teachings say is the best way to honor the Guru - put them into practice.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

Simon E.
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Re: Accepting a guru you haven’t personally met?

Post by Simon E. » Wed Mar 04, 2020 11:00 am

Sunrise wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:06 am
PeterC wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 3:11 am

You do not need to have a personal relationship with them for them to be your guru. A lama who doesn't know your name, who you've only interacted with by sitting in a crowd in one mass empowerment: you have samaya with that lama just as much as with the lama who has tea with you once a week and gives you individual practices.
I find this to be so strange. Realistically how much inspiration can one receive from a teacher that you don't know? Without some kind of personal connection, an empowerment is going to be a person in a funny hat saying words you don't understand over you. Commitment to a teacher should be a natural outgrowth of love and deep admiration of their qualities, it really can't be contrived or imposed upon you. Just my two cents.
That’s a good description of devotion..to a Shaivite or Vaisnav Guru.
A personal relationship with a Vajrayana Guru is desirable but non essential .
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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