Enlightenment: Buddhism Vis-à-Vis Hinduism

Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana Rinpoche

It must be understood that Hinduism and Buddhism have shared the same culture for the last 2500 years, which means they’ve also shared common language/s (Sanskrit or Pali). Because of this historical situation, there are many words that are used commonly in both traditions. This has led many scholars, especially Hindu scholars, to think that words and symbols mean exactly the same thing in both the traditions. By extending this thinking, they arrive at the wrong conclusion, mainly that Buddhism is another form, or revision, or reformation of Hinduism.

First of all, it is wrong to say that Buddhism is either a branch or a formation of Hinduism. Buddhism is actually a paradigm shift from not only Hinduism but also from all other religious systems. Secondly, words used commonly in both Hinduism and Buddhism do not mean the same thing. In fact, very often they mean almost the opposite, and certainly at all times they point at two different paradigms.

 I would like to elucidate some of these points that will affect the meaning in the two systems directly or indirectly.

First of all, in the Hindu context, we always find the theory that if illusion is removed, Brahman will reveal. Thus, samsara is illusion and Brahman is the only thing behind samsara, or is the base of the samsara, that truly exists. Only when the illusion-samsara vanishes, the Non-dual Brahman manifests.

However, in the Buddhist context, illusion is not removed but rather seen as knowledge itself - or is transformed into knowledge. And this knowledge is not something that is the support or base of samsara. It is the knowledge of the true mode of existence of samsara itself. And furthermore, samsara is not an illusion which will vanish and only the Brahman will remain. In Buddhism, samsara is interdependently arisen (pratityasamutpann), like all illusions. So it is only like an illusion and cannot end. What ends is the wrong experience of experiencing it as really existing (skt. svabhava siddha). The knowledge (Gyana), that is synonymous with liberation, is not of an eternal, unchanging Brahman beyond samsara, but rather of the true mode of existence of samsara itself.

Difference between Advaya and Advaita

Although both experiences are called non-dual, here too, they mean two different things. Non-dual (advaita) in the Hindu context means non-existence of the second (divitiyam nasti). There is no second substance except the Brahman; it is the only thing that exists. This should be called Monism rather than Non-dualism. The phrase 'eka vastu vada' (one thingism) would be close to 'advaita'.

However, Buddhism usually uses 'advaya' (only sometimes is advaita used). Here, it means 'not two', i.e. free from the two extremes (skt. dvaya anta mukta) - of samaropa (the tendency to see things as really existing) and apavada (the tendency to see things as non-existing) - which include the existence of the grasper and the grasped (grahaka and grahya) too. Advaya is not of a thing (the one and only thing) like Brahma but a description of the form of samsara. That is why the samsara that is like an illusion transforms into Advaya Gyana in Buddhism. In Hinduism, the illusory samsara vanishes and the true eternal, unchanging Brahman dawns. That is why Buddhist Gampopa says, "May illusion dawn as wisdom..."

There are two traditions of explaining 'advaya' in Buddhism. One is called the Vast Lineage (skt. Vaipulay parampara) of Asanga-Vasubandyhu. This is based on the 'Five Works' of Maitreya that emphasizes subject-object (skt. grahaka-grahya) duality. But unlike the various forms of Vedanta, they neither merge into one whole, nor does the grasper (subject) vanishes, and the illusion and only the eternal grasper remains. Here, they are found to be untenable from the very beginning. What remains is emptiness. This system had many great teachers like Dingnaga-Dharmakirti.

The second lineage, called the Profound Lineage (skt. gambhira parampara), started with Nagarajuna, and was passed down through famous teachers such as Aryadeva, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Chandrakirti, Shantideva and Atisha. Other famous teachers, like Shantarakshita and Kamakashila, gave synthetic interpretations of 'advaya' using both traditions.

Any Buddhist hermeneutics must be based on one of these hermeneutics or their various branches like ‘Sakara Yogachara’, ‘Nirakara Yogachara’, ‘Yogachara’, ‘Sautrantic Madhyamik’, ‘Prasangic Madhyamika’, and ‘Svatantric Madhyamika’, etc. Just because one understands Sanskrit or Tibetan, one cannot interpret the ‘Sastras’ (texts) as one likes, giving straightforward meanings to them. Any interpretation must belong to, or be in conformity with one of these hermeneutical methodologies. Otherwise, it becomes one's own private idea of what these texts are teaching. That is why many Hindu scholars have misinterpreted the Buddhist texts and claimed that they are teaching the same thing found in the Hindu texts. But it is even more unfortunate that even so-called Buddhist scholars or those who are favorable to Buddhism, have not studied under any lineage masters belonging to any of the above hermeneutics, and have interpreted the texts simply on the basis of understanding the Sanskrit language. Such interpretations are personal ideas and not true Buddhist hermeneutics, and if analyzed, one will find many contradiction and inconsistencies.

There are some who say that they are meditators and they are not interested in such theories. Some say such theories are only intellectual pleasures, and others say that the lineage of meditation and the lineage of text studies have no relationship. Such statements prove that such so-called Buddhist teachers are only half-baked.

First of all, I would like to remind them that Asanga, Vasubandhu, Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Shantideve, and Atisha were all great meditators and they are considered among the greatest Buddhist masters in history. Such masters believed that it is necessary to acquire the correct philosophies to be able to truly practice the Buddhist meditation properly. Of course, H.E. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche said that this correct view could be presented in the form of a simple pith instruction from a qualified master, instead of an elaborate and detailed study of the religious texts. But one must still listen, think, discuss, and finally understand clearly the importance of the pith instruction, which is the same thing elaborated in the texts. So, to say that to meditate one does not need to study at all is utter nonsense. It is only after understanding the view correctly that correct Buddhist mediation can take place. Otherwise, there would be no difference between Hindu, Sufi, Christian, Tao, and Buddhist meditations.

Some Newar Vajracharyas think that just taking the initiation of Cakrasamvhara, chanting its mantras, performing channel and chakra practice (nadi-chakra yoga) related to it is enough and there is no need to study. If that was so, why does the Hevajra Tantra, etc., say very clearly that one must study first the Vaibhasika, then the Sautrantic, then the Yogachara, and then the Madhyamika, then only be initiated?

Secondly, if doing just Nadivayu-tilak yog would lead to Mahamudra accomplishments, then thousands of Hindu masters, who practice Kundalini Yoga, would achieve Buddhahood. Such thinking completely contradicts the very basic concept found in Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Meditation progresses from wisdom gained through hearing (Srutamayi), to wisdom gained through contemplation (Cintamayi), to wisdom gained through meditation (Bhavanamayai). How can there be hearing and contemplation without a valid study of valid religious texts?

Notice when I say valid study. Valid study means study with valid lineage teachers, not just somebody who knows Sanskrit or Tibetan and happens to be a lama or Vajracharya by caste, as is found among Tamangs and Newars. Valid lineage Masters teach according to historically accepted Buddhist hermeneutics and do not give their own personal self-contradictory interpretations. Such a Master has studied with someone who belongs to one or more of these hermeneutical lineages. Such a study is not merely intellectually entertainment but is also a proper base for acquiring wisdom gained through listening and contemplation, and this creates an understanding of the correct view. This is the proper foundation for proper Buddhist meditation, i.e. the third wisdom gained through meditation. Simply doing 'nadi-vayu-tilak yoga' without such a base is the same as doing Hindu meditation, even if it is part of Hevajra, or Cakrasamvara, or Vajrabhairava, or Kalacakra practice.

It is true that there are different lineages to study and meditate, but to say that the two are not interrelated, is simply showing ignorance.

Tathagatagarbha

Now, I would like to deal with the concept of ‘Sugatagarbha’, or ‘Tathagatagarbha’, or ‘Dharmadhatu’, or ‘Dharmakaya’. Many Hindu scholars think that these words prove that Buddhism is basically speaking about Hindu Brahman. If one studies the Ratnagotravibhaga, and the Srimala Sutra, it is easy to see that they make it very clear that Sugatagarbha and Sunyata (emptiness) are cognate words. Sunyata is the mode of existence of all phenomena, including the mind, which knows this; whereas Brahman is a separate entity altogether from all phenomena. Brahman is something that truly exists (absolutely existing / Parmartha Satta). Sunyata is not a thing or a ‘Super Thing’ but the mode of existence of all things. Therefore, it is nonsense to speak of it as knowable epistemologically but not as a thing ontologically except interdependently. The Brahman, according to Hinduism, is not existing interdependently, but truly existing – the one and only truly existing substance. The Brahman is svabhavasiddha (inherent), whereas Sunyata is nisvabhavata (non-inherent); the Brahman is svalaksana siddha, whereas Sunyata is a Laksanata. The Brahman is Paramartha satta (ultimate existence), whereas Sunyata is the unfindability of such a parmartha satta anywhere.

Since the Ratnagotra makes it clear that sugatagarbha is just a cognate word for emptiness (Sunyata), Sugatagarbha and Brahman cannot be the same. The confusion is often created by the statement that the Sugatagarbha or the Buddha nature exists in all sentient beings. The word 'exists' is the perpetrator of confusion here. The ‘exists’ is only for conventional usage, or giving way to conventional usage. Without its use here, one cannot express the fact that this is the mode of abiding of the true nature of mind of all sentient beings. ‘Exists’ here is a synonym of ‘is the mode of abiding’, so ‘exists’ here does not mean ‘abide’ (skt. sthita) but rather ‘non abidingness’ (skt. asthita). This is the mode of abiding, or the sugatagarbha present in all sentient beings. Even in the last sentence, the word ‘present’ can create the same confusion. ‘Present’ here would mean presence of the absence of self-existingness or self-characteristicness, etc. What is positively named ‘Sugatagarbha’ is that it is said to exist in all sentient beings. This ‘exists’ is qualitative rather than existential. It is also more epistemological, whereas the Brahman is more ontologically truly existing. The Brahman is not non-abiding but rather ‘kutastha’, which mean self-abiding.

I have already elaborated the differences of Sunyata Sugatagarbha and Brahman in my article in the Buddhist Himalaya, Vol. VI, 1994-95. The word ‘Samantabhadra’ used in the DzogChen tradition can often mislead people to believe that Samantabhadra is some kind of a god in this system. However, there is no God in any form of Buddhism. Great Buddhist Masters like Nagarjuna, Odiana Acharya, Kalyana Rakshita, etc., have written books proving that such beliefs are only for children. So Samantabhadra cannot be some substitute for God. Samantabhadra is a poetic, metaphoric expression for the enlightened state, i.e. the Sugatagarbha all sentient beings already possess. This is the way things really are, the way things really exist from the very beginning. However, it is called primordial enlightenment, because this state is always there and never was not. We, sentient beings, have apparently wandered from the knowledge, which is already there as our true mode of existence. Therefore, we have to be re-enlightened, i.e. come to recognize the primordial enlightened state already present in us, and through practice become established in it.

Buddhism does not believe, and this applies to the DzogChen, which is considered relatively quicker or sudden path, that simply because Samantabhadra - the primordial enlightenment already present in us from the beginning - we can just recognize that fact and become enlightened. We have to become re-enlightened because we have already wandered off the path and need to be re-enlightened. One needs to remove the cause of our wandering. The cause is ignorance. Ignorance is basically cognitive but includes the conditioning produced by the cognitive mistake. These conditionings validate further the mis-cognition, which further produces more conditioning.

Conditioning has two forms: conceptual defilements (kleshavarana) and emotional defilements (jñeyavarana). Therefore, to have correct cognition, i.e. true recognition of Samantabhadra, requires clearing off of the conditionings to some extent. Since cognition itself is moulded by these conditionings, true recognition cannot take place unless the hold of the conditionings has been relaxed to some extent; but even this recognition can only become a pin-prick opening, which will naturally be conditioned by the still extant conditionings. So it is only through years of clearing off the conditionings, through accumulation of merit (skt: punya sambhara), and having glimpses of the true nature over and over again through accumulation of knowledge (jñanasambhara) that one is finally re-established in the state of re-enlightenment. Just recognizing one's true unconditioned state is not re-enlightenment. This is the major difference between the teachings of DzogChen and those of Punja Svami, Ramana Maharshi, Adrew Cohen, Krishnamurti, Nisargadutta Maharaja, and Sadyo Vedantic Systems like Astavakra Gita, Jivan Mukta Gita, etc. They believe that just recognizing one's true nature is primordially unconditioned enough to free a man. As we have seen earlier, no form of Buddhism agrees with that concept. The glimpse is only of the seed of enlightenment and is not the full enlightenment, or the enlightened state itself. There is a difference in the Tathagatagharbha and the Tathagata himself. But there is another difference too. What they call the unconditioned is the Atman as found in the texts of Hinduism. What the DzogChen of the Nyingma, the Mahamudra of Kagyu, and Lamdre of Sakya, the texts of the ‘Profound and Vast’ tradition call the unconditioned, is the Tathagatagharbha, Samantabhadra, Emptiness, Nisvabhavata, Anatma. As we have seen, these are diametrically opposed paradigms.

There are, however, two schools, some Nyingma and Kagyu schools, based in the ‘Vast Lineage’ (skt. vaipulya) of Asanga, which interpret Tathagatagarbha as being present in full form (not as a seed), but the veils covering it is gradually unveiled through practice. Some Sakyapas based in the ‘Profound’ tradition of Nagarjuna, however, interpret it only in seed form, and it has to be developed into its full form through practice.

So what can be said in the Buddhist language is that people like Ramana Masharshi and Krishnamurti have only the base but no path related to that base, therefore, logically no fruit too. Many of these teachers teach about an indifferent state, i.e. choice-less, to be the base, or the enlightened state. It must be understood very clearly that this is not the state of Mahamudra or DzogChen. ‘Choice-less Awareness’ (as taught in the Shiva Sutras and in the Kashmiri Shaiva school), to any form of Buddhism is such a state of ignorance (skt. moha) and not an enlightened state. Being indifferent and untouched by pain, happiness, anger, attachment, and remaining in a king of ‘Choice-less Awareness’ is not DzongChen or Mahamudra, although, they may sound very close to each other. Such a state is a state of ignorance or delusion. DzogChen or Mahamudra is free from not only attachment or aversion but also from the choice-less state.

That is why the Mahapandita and Siddha of the Sakya lineage, Sakya Pandit, warned, “Everybody speaks about Mahamudra…Mahamudra, but if one has not properly understood or experienced them with the help of a genuine lineage Master, such a state (indifferent, choice-less state of awareness) is a sure way to reborn as an animal”.

It is also not a question of merely eschewing all conceptuality and just remaining in a non-conceptual state. When non-conceptuality is used in the context of Dzogchen or Mahamudra, it is the Yogi pratyaksa, the unity of Sunyata Prabhasvara, in which Sunyatra Prabhasvara and the consciousness become one, like water poured into water.

This is the Tathagatagarbha, which is very different from the non-conceptual experience of a choice-less awareness, or a Brahman or Parasamvit. Many so-called teachers are confused by the word ‘non-conceptual’. When describing their experience, they believe everything must be the same, without realizing that there are many kinds of non-conceptual states. Perhaps things get clearer if one understands that in the Buddhist context, non-conceptual is synonymous with pratyaksa- especially Yogi pratyaksa - and it is always an experience of something which becomes non-dualistically one with the experiencing consciousness. So it is not just a ‘non-conceptual’ state that Buddhist traditions are talking about; but a particular type of non-conceptual experience of emptiness or the Tathagatagarbha (skt. avikapla or nisprapanca).

Concept of Trikaya

I would now like to take up the concept of Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya. One way of looking at it is Daharmakaya is Emptiness, Rupakaya (Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya) is interdependent origination (pratityasamtpada). We can divide all the three doors of body, speech and mind (skt. kaya, vak, citta) into the three Kayas. A very god metaphor is the crystal ball. The crystal ball is colourless representing emptiness. Even though it is colourless by itself, it has the capacity to reflect all the seven colours, if the right causes and conditions are present. This capacity is the capacity of emptiness to appear as interdependent origination. This is the Sambhogakaya, and if the right causes and conditions appear, i.e. if a torch light is flashed into the crystal ball, multi-coloured light will project out of it and appear on the wall. This is the actual appearance of the empty Samsara. This is called Nirmanakaya.

It is of utmost importance to understand these three Kayas to fully comprehend what Enlightenment means in Mahayana-Vajrayana Buddhism. We find Enlightenment used in Hinduism and also by teachers such as Punja Svami, Andrew Cohen, Nisargadutta, J. Krishnamurti, and U.G. Krishnamurti, but they do not mean the same Enlightenment as the Enlightenment of Buddhism. In Mahayana Buddhism, Enlightenment means full realization and anything else is an inferior state.

The popular Hindu definition of Enlightenment is Mukti, which means taking no more birth in samsara. This definition is also found in Mahayana and Theravada. Because of this, many people confused the Buddhist Enlightenment with Hindu ‘Mukti’. ‘Mukti’ is no returning to samsara anymore. It is not enlightenment.

In Buddhist Mukti, a person who attains it goes to one of the pure realms like Sukhavati, etc. This is achieved through Theravada and some Mahayana practices. He is not born again in this world until he becomes enlightened. But Enlightenment means that he has realized total reality as it is (skt. Yathabhuta), which means he has actualized all the three Kayas. Actualizing the three Kayas means attaining the three Vajra Kayas. Dharmakaya is the realization of emptiness (anatma / non-self), and there is no birth and death anymore after it, because there never was one who had taken birth. It is not destruction of some really existing Self. It is the realization that from the beginning, there never was any Self. This means there never was anyone who took birth from the very beginning.

However, true and in-depth realization of Dharmakaya also leads to the realization of Rupakaya. Just as true realization of emptiness also entails true realization of interdependent origination (pratityasamutpada). Therefore, even though there is no birth, through the proper causes and conditions of compassion, etc., Nirmanakaya emanates continuously to help all sentient beings. It is this Nirmanakaya which is wrongly called ‘Incarnated Lama’ by Nepalese Buddhists, due to the influence of Hinduism. But technically, they are not ‘incarnations’ but ‘emanations’. Nirmanakayas are not personalities born again but rather emanated (skt. nirmita) from causes and conditions due to the innate capacity of Dharmakaya. This innate capacity is Sambhogakaya. A personality if reborn can be only one. Nirmanakayas can be infinite.

Only such a person, who although is never born, emanates continuous emanations for the sake of sentient beings. The person has realised Totality, and only such a person is enlightened. People who have not manifested such capacities are merely conceptually enlightened not truly enlightened.

This is the meaning of the statement made by the Eight Karmapa when he was born. He had turned around to his mother and stated, “I am the unborn Karmapa”. The unborn is the empty Dharmakaya. However, the apparently born Karmapa, who made this statement, is the Nirmanakaya of this very unborn empty Dharmakaya. If you have understood Madhyamika well and understood that interdependent origination itself is un-produced (skt. anutpada), then you’ll realize there is no contradiction.

Sambhogakaya is the capacity of the unborn empty Dharmakaya nature of Enlightenment. It consists of all the qualities like omniscience, etc.

If a person does not possess these qualities, he has not manifested Sambhogakaya. Therefore, he has not truly manifested the Dharmakaya, which according to Mahayana Buddhism is not truly enlightened.

There are many such Masters around, especially coming from Hindu backgrounds, who later claim to be Buddhist masters but they have no realization of the Three Kayas. Such people cannot be considered as enlightened Buddhist Masters. Some of them do not even have the faintest idea what three Kayas are about. Those who want to practice Buddhist practices and attain Buddhist Enlightenment must be sensitive to these issues. They must not get confused by sweet talks and oratory skills.

There are many degrees of Enlightenment in Buddhism. That is the significance of the concept of the ‘Ten Stages’ (skt. dasha bhumi). A person who is in the First Stage is already Enlightened and they are very different from an unenlightened person. This person already has begun to manifest the Three Kayas to some extent. The actualization deepens as he moves to the Second Stage, the Third Stage, and so on until the Seventh Stage. The First to the Seventh Stage are still considered impure. It is only from the Eighth onwards that the Nirmanakaya begins to manifest more visibly. From the Eight to the Tenth are the pure Stages. It is said that many gods (devas) who have taken refuge in Buddhism and have practiced according to Buddhist texts, are found between the First and the Seventh Stages; but only Masters are found from the Eight upwards. It is only when a person crosses over the Tenth Stage to the No-Learning stage (skt. asaiksapada), or the state of Vajradhara according to Tantra, that the person is fully Enlightened. Often in Tantra, we find thirteen Stages instead of ten, but again, this is only a question of categories which can be classified in many ways.

But, even a person who achieves the state of Vajradhara is still only what is called a Mind Buddha. This means his mind is the mind of full Buddha, like that of the Buddha Shakyamuni. His body, however, still does not possess the 32 superior and 80 secondary marks present in the body of Buddha Shakyamuni. So, although, he can be called a Buddha and there is no difference between his mind and the mind of the Buddha Shakyamuni, or any other Buddha, he has not perfected the Rupakaya yet. It is only after collecting vast amounts of merit, by emanating countless emanations, for the benefit of others, that he will also achieve the perfect Nirmanakaya, like Buddhas Shakymuni, Krakuchchanda, Kashyapa, etc.

It is said that it took three uncountable eons (asamkhya kalpa) for Shakyamuni to collect enough merit to have the perfect Nirmanakaya. According to the Tantra, if the Sambhogakaya is developed using the Tantra methods, countless emanations can be sent to collect merit. This can be achieved much quicker and at faster rate than by following the Sutra system or method that the Buddha Shakyamuni used.

If you understand the Buddhist Enlightenment correctly, based on what has been said, one begins to realize that ordinary people, nowadays, who have no such qualities and claim to be enlightened Masters, are like clowns sitting on the thrones of emperors caricaturing an emperor. However, people have the freedom the define Enlightenment in other ways; but in such a case, it is not the Enlightenment of Buddhism, especially Mahayana-Vajrayana.

People like Milarepa, Longchempa, Marpa, Sakya Pandita of Tibet; Surata Vajra, Humkara Vajrea, Sasvat Vajra, Vak Vajra, Jamuna Gubhaju of Nepal; Naropada, Tillipada, Virupada, Nagarjuna, Atisha of India of the Vajrayana tradition; and Linchi, Hogen, Sungsan, to San Unmen of China; Dogen, Haquin Banke of Japan achieved at least one of the higher Stages, if not the Mind of the Buddhas.

All of them manifested the display of Sambhogakaya throughout their lives, and especially during death. The death process of an Enlightened being is a very special occasion, and one can gauge his depth of realization. If he is Enlightened, there is no doubt that Sambhogakaya will manifest during and after his death. Some of the many manifestations are: rainbows appearing in the sky or around the house of the dead body, the body shrinking to the size of a 8 to16 year old, or in very advanced cases, the body either vanishing or transforming into light. Mantras and statues of deities engraved in their bones, special forms like stupas, etc., are also found in the ashes. Earthquakes, storms, animals, and birds beings disturbed, some parts of the body remaining intact after cremation are some others manifestations. There have been many well known Masters who have claimed to be Buddhas or Enlightened in the past whose death showed absolutely no manifestations. Such people cannot be considered enlightened in the Buddhist sense. As Karme Chagmed put it, “the corpse of an ordinary man is the bed of a great Scholar Master”

Faith and Devotion

There is no god in Buddhism. Devotions found in Mahayana-Vajrayana are not the same as that of the devotional cults of Hinduism. First of all, a person in Vajrayana shows great devotion towards their Guru. This is because a Guru plays a very special role in Vajrayana. In Theravada and Mahayana, a Guru is only a Kalyanamitra, i.e. some body that points the way. In Vajrayana, a Guru is also the way itself. This second role, teaching the way, is more important role of a Guru in Vajrayana. The Guru is the State of Enlightenment. But unlike Sutrayana, which is a cause-vehicle, he is not just a representative of the goal; he is used as the path itself.

Vajrayana is also called effect-vehicle (skt. phalayana). It uses the effect in the path, instead of creating causes and conditions (skt. hetu-pratyaya), as in the cause vehicle to attain the effect one day. Since the Guru is the Enlightened state (he beings enlightened), he is used as the Path. He reflects one’s own true nature and all of one’s defilements (skt. Klesha) and obstructions (skt. avaranas). It is when one truly sees the Guru as primordially pure that one recognizes one’s own primordial purity, and also sees the Guru was always one's own primordially pure Sugatagarbha.

Therefore, devotion here is dedication and devotion to the path. It is devotion, faith, and dedication towards one’s own Sugatagarbha. That is why in Tantra, a Guru who gives you initiations is not an individual but a Buddha. More accurately, he is one’s own Buddha Nature, reflected in the personality of the initiation giver. This is very important for the path of Tantra, which uses the principle of effect-vehicle (using the fruit itself in the path to make the path quicker). Devotion is, there, to one’s own Buddha Nature. That is why the first samaya (law, rule, bond) is to see the Guru as the Buddha, no matter through what kind of personality it may crystallize. And that is also why one must be very careful to make sure that the Guru is genuine.

A genuine Guru in Vajrayana does not depend on how his personality is because most of the personality we see in him are our own characteristics we see reflected on him. We have to use this as our path. A genuine Master is someone who has received instructions from a genuine lineage teacher, belonging to pure, unbroken, realized lineage. Such lineages are not decided by caste or family, although families can preserve such lineages. Such a lineage must produce enlightened and learned masters in every generation. Then, only can it be considered as a pure and unbroken enlightened lineage.

After having received all the theoretical and practical instructions from such a lineage master, he himself must have practiced those teachings and experienced them in his own mental continuum. He must also be certified by his own masters as a teacher, or as an Acharya, or a Vajracharya, or a Vidyadhara. Only such a Master, no matter how his personality is, can be considered worthy of being called a Master in Vajrayana.

It is not necessary in Vajrayana Buddhism to have only one master. This concept of one guru only is a Hindu concept and not a Buddhist one. But I have found most Newars have only one master. This is a Hindu influence and such a concept is not found in true Buddhism. If we study the life stories of all the Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan masters, we find that the majority of them had many masters. Some of them even had up to 300 masters. It is also a wrong and narrow minded thinking to think if you have a Nyingma master, you should not have a Sakya master at the same time. Nyingma and Sakya are names found only in Tibet. If you study the history of the lineages, you find the same Indian or Nepalese Masters taught both Marpa Lotsawa, the founder of the Kagyupa, and Drogmi Lotsawa, the founder of the Sakya lineages. To Phamthingpa or Humkara Vajra, Guru Padmasambhava or Bharo Bajracharya, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya or Gelug had no meaning.

I would like to dedicate the article:

1) For the swift return of the Nirmanakaya of my Root Master Urgyen Rinpoche

2) For the long life of my Root Masters H. E. Chodbgye Trichen Rinpoche & Karma Thinley Rinpoche

3) For the development of lineage & long life of Ratna Raj Vajracharya of Patan, and Badri Ratna Vajracharya of Kathmandu, both of whom are my Masters.

4) For the long life of my Gurus Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Chokling Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, and Khenpo Migyur.