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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
52 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 4 through words. If a teacher rests his or her mind in realization and teaches from that place, that quality of mind can be expressed and communi- cated, and can be transmitted to a student ready to receive it. Through the teacher’s hand gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and so forth, the student can receive and begin to embody the view that the guru is transmitting. The living lineage comes through the teacher, not the historical Buddha. For the student, the teacher is kinder than the Buddha because he or she is the root cause of our spiritual maturation. Blessings come not only from the guru but also through the guru, who is perceived not only as a living buddha but also as the prime vehicle for the dharma teachings and the noble sangha. Our ability to recognize and use the benefits of the guru’s blessings depends on our devotion. Devo- tion makes us receptive to all the guru offers. Without devotion, we are like cups turned upside down, unable to take in anything. For our refuge practice, the guru is understood to be our personal teacher or guide. The guru may also refer to the teacher who gave us the transmission for this particular practice. The con- ventional sense of guru as other—the teacher over there who teaches the student over here—is of utmost importance, because without this teacher, or what we call the outer guru, we might never hear the words of dharma. More profoundly, the outer guru puts us in touch with the inner guru, which is none other than the natural wisdom of our original mind and what we ultimately take refuge in. It’s the source of everything we nor- mally think we are missing: peace and tranquility, insight and wisdom, compassion and empathy. Everything we long for, we already have. The outer guru is like the key, but when we open the door we discover ourselves, our true guru. Taking Refuge in the Yidams The meditation deities, or yidams, are the root of accomplishment. When we enter into a relationship with them, their enlightened quali- ties illuminate our very own, helping us accom- plish our own realization. Each yidam signifies a particular aspect of enlightened mind. For example, in the second unique foundation prac- tice, we focus on the meditation deity Vajrasattva to purify our negativities. If we are concentrat- ing on compassion, we might invoke Chenrezik, also called Avalokiteshvara. Basically, we use an archetypal projection of an enlightened quality to see ourselves reflected in that mirror. Having created a dualistic structure as a skillful means, we then grow into our enlightened projection. In guru yoga, we eliminate the duality and inhabit the meditation deity in order to further deepen and clarify our inner qualities and to experience ourselves as awakened in the present moment. At this stage of our practice, we start with the yidams in a dualistic sense by imagining them “over there” as part of the field of enlight- ened beings. But ultimately we come to see that the deity and the mind of the student have never been separated. We refer to the yidams as symbolic forms of buddhahood because the imagery symbolizes and points to views that we use on our path. For example, the six arms of a particular yidam may represent the paramitas, the six “perfections” or virtuous behaviors that we need to cross over from samsara to nirvana: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom. Four legs might represent the four noble truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path of practice. One face represents dharmakaya, the oneness of all phe- nomena—no subject, no object, no duality, no samsara, no nirvana. Two arms represent wisdom and compassion. Two legs represent relative and absolute realities. When the legs are crossed, it represents the union of the relative and absolute. The important point is that no matter how bizarre images with many (Opposite)Vajrakila (Eight Pronouncements) (detail) Central Tibet, 1800–1899 Nyingma Lineage Collection of Rubin Museum of Art (acc.# F1996.31.18) ➤ continued page 82