Stages of the Buddha's Teachings

1. Preliminaries

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1. Preliminaries

1. Homage and need for composing the work1

Having bowed with reverence to the teachers,

the treasury of all good qualities,

I, a person of weak intellectual power, have made a compendium

by uniting what was scattered here and there.

In the section on not giving up the spiritual mentor from the Compendium of Trainings,2

it is stated that the starting point of all advice is, in brief,

to never give up the noble spiritual mentor.

Deeds, faith, the thought of awakening, and the like

come from him, and he is a treasury of all good qualities.

2. How to find a religious teacher and rely on him

The right way to seek out a spiritual mentor and rely on him

is to emulate the way of our mentor.

We should not seek out many; we should invest our life for the one we’ve sought.

It’s not fit for a person who has not cultivated the mind to seek many.

These days we behave like an ox in autumn or summer

that sniffs at everything and becomes engaged with nothing;

our way has come to be

to listen to everyone without holding anyone as our teacher.

A lack of respect for his instruction and for all his explications of the Dharma

is the main reason our insight declines.

Therefore, as long as we have not examined our relationship with a teacher, there are not many [obligations].3


Once we have examined and adopted a teacher, we must respect him.

Then we will not be deprived of our teacher in the future.

That is the nature of things: karma does not vanish.

When someone from Tsang asked about the way to rely [on the teacher, he was told that]4

we should devote ourselves to the teacher with the notion that he is a buddha.

This notion when it is not genuine leads nowhere.

It must be generated in this way whether he is a teacher of the secret mantra

or of the path of the perfections.

The story of the Nepalese Hangdu can be presented in this context,5 and

Fifty Verses about the Guru also [prescribes] the same manner toward both [sutra and tantra teachers].6

In the teacher, the buddhas of the three times appear to us.

To a bodhisattva who has mastered the ten bodhisattva levels, they appear in the enjoyment body (saṃbhogakāya).

They appear here as is appropriate for the recipient.

When we honestly regard the teacher as a buddha

and follow him in this way, to enjoy our share of the teachings

is not just like enjoying our share of material things. [2]

The whole way of relying on the spiritual mentor is contained in this.

Since all good qualities depend on the teacher,

someone who is never separated from him

will achieve all purposes in no more than an instant.

To one who is endowed with great faith and wisdom

the teacher will give the whole instruction at one time.

Even if you have fully acquired knowledge and understanding,

if you practice and do not stay with him but live separately,

no good qualities will arise from this,

and even if some good qualities have arisen, they will vanish quickly.

Even if your wisdom is weak, as long as the root of faith is there

and you always stay with the teacher without separation,

all the teachings of the Buddha are fully contained in him.

Therefore you should always remain with him full of respect

and always consider the teacher’s good qualities, not the faults.


With regard to the teacher’s body and speech, whatever his deeds,

never think of it as something to either adopt or reject.

If you speak about him as you would about aged cheese and the like,7

and think accordingly, everything will become rotten.

If you harbor doubts about his instructions,

there will be no blessing at all; that’s the way it is.

Trust, therefore, in his actions and teaching.

In this way the blessing will arise.

While ordinary beings act as spiritual mentors,

they will never be without flaws.

Therefore never ponder their flaws

but always think about their virtues.

In this way the blessing will reach you.

Turning away [from this attitude] will cause you to not meet [a spiritual mentor in the future].

Moreover, you need to know the right time to approach him.

To follow him is something very precious.

In this way, all aims will be accomplished.

Not observing the appropriate time

is a serious transgression.

All good qualities depend on the teacher;

Even pratyekabuddhas up to the stage of the highest worldly realization rely on a teacher.8

Therefore please the teacher in every possible way.

First become acquainted with him through material offerings and respect.

When you have become acquainted, there are two obligations

with regard to the noble field of merit,

and the true way of fulfilling these obligations

is to practice according to his words.

To [attempt to] please him by honoring him without practicing

is not the way to behave toward the teacher.9

In the Hinayana, everyone who knows the Tripiṭaka,

even a householder who is not equipped with the thought of awakening,


is worth listening to, he says,10 though this can be difficult.

In the Mahayana, however, someone may know the Tripiṭaka,

but if he is not equipped with the thought of awakening, he is not suitable at all;

even if you listen to him, no good qualities will arise.

The Mahayana depends on the blessing [of the teacher].

If [a Mahayana teacher] possesses the four kinds of readiness in speech,11

you must listen with respect, no matter what he may do, says [Potowa].

The teachings will never be corrupted by the faults of the person [who teaches].

This does not contradict what was said above [about the need of choosing your teacher carefully]

but refers to the fact that those who have reached a certain level [3]

perceive [any teacher] as a buddha.

As long as you have not trained [your mind], it is as stated above; there is no contradiction.

This is as in the case of Buddhajvāla’s question12

and the story of Ratnabhadra.13

It’s the way in all the traditions of Mahayana

that everything comes from pleasing the teacher, so this is critical.

When the teacher has become greatly pleased,

any practice will lead to the great purpose [i.e., liberation] itself.

If you turn away from that,

no blessing at all will arise, even if the teaching is complete.

Therefore you should please him with all your energy.

If you persevere with unceasing respect

and please him with great effort,

then even if the teacher has given up his life and

the blessing has not arisen during this lifetime,

you will not be deprived of the teacher in the future; this is the truth,

because your karma does not vanish.

As it says in the section on gratitude at the beginning of the Compendium of Trainings,

the extent of the teacher’s blessing

lies not in itself but rather in you.


If you are not grateful and have no faith in him,

it would be of no benefit at all

if even Mañjuśrī or Avalokiteśvara were to appear before you.

But as long as you have faith, respect, and gratitude toward him,

the blessing will arise accordingly,

even if the teacher is not fully endowed with all good qualities.

Therefore it is essential to have faith and gratitude.

In the passage on the fault of abandoning the Dharma from the Compendium of Trainings,14

it is said, about being tamed or not being tamed by another,

that we are tamed by the one in whom we have faith.

Therefore, we should not hear the noble teaching from a person

in whom we have no faith.

If we have no respect for the teaching and the teacher,

this will cause our insight to decline.

Therefore we should listen to the teacher in whom we have confidence;

then the blessing will reach us.

In the initial section of the Letter to a Friend,15

it is said that if we do not have respect for the teachers,

it would be of no benefit even if we were to rely directly on the Buddha himself.

This is as in the case of Sunakṣatra:<a href="" data-ohref="Notes03...

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