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It needs to be emphasized that it is our perception of the guru which enables the guru to function as a manifestation of the dharma. At first we see the guru as an ordinary person, and then as our practice develops we start to see the guru as more of an enlightened being, until finally we learn to recognize the guru as being nothing but an external manifestation of our own awakeness or buddhamind. In a subtle way then, it is almost irrelevant whether or not the teacher is enlightened. The guru-disciple relationship is not about worshipping a guru, but providing the opportunity to liberate our confused perceptions of reality.

Looking at it from the teacher's point of view, if someone assumes the role of a teacher without being qualified, the negativity of this deception obviously will remain within their mindstream. It is important to understand that unless a lama is completely enlightened, he or she must carry the burden of what they do. Obviously, if he is an enlightened being, he has no karma, but if not, the consequences of his actions will come to him; his actions are his responsibility. From our point of view as students, if we have chosen him as our teacher, we should just learn from him, according to whatever path we wish to follow.

The principle of guru and devotion is much more complicated than creating a role model and worshipping him or her. Devotion, when you really analyze it, is nothing more than trusting the logic of cause and effect. If you cook an egg, putting it in boiling water, you trust the egg will be boiled. That trust is devotion. It is not blind faith or insistence on the illogical. The Buddha said, "Do not rely on the individual, rely on the teaching." Yet it seems that we nonetheless decide to continue judging individual teachers without remembering the wider perspective and context of the purpose of the teachings.

One issue that can be controversial, and which has attracted a great deal of attention, is that in the vajrayana pleasure such as sex is not rejected as a threat to spiritual practice, but rather is used to enhance spiritual purification. While this may sound fascinating, it is important to remember that such practice requires an immense theoretical and practical grounding, without which, when viewed from the outside, it is easily misinterpreted.

Vajrayana male-female symbolism is not about sex. The practice can only exist in context of a correct view of the unity of compassion and wisdom. Furthermore, as the tantric path works on a personal and non-conceptual level, it is not possible to make judgments about a practitioner. Tantra transcends completely the conventional idea of a man and women having a sexual relationship. It is about working with phenomena to bring about the extraordinary realization of emptiness and bodhicitta in order to liberate all beings from samsara. To expect a yogin or yogini, who is aspiring to go beyond the chauvinism of the confused mind, to worry about sexual rights issues seems absurd in the context of such a vast view.

Yet for the neophyte Westerner, certain Tibetan traditions must be very annoying, and seem sexist or male chauvinist. Western perspectives on sexual relationships emphasize "equality," yet this is very different from what is meant by equality in vajrayana Buddhism. Where equality in the West stands for two aspects reaching equal footing, in vajrayana Buddhism equality is going beyond "twoness" or duality all together.

If duality remains, then by definition there can be no equality. I think social equality between men and women is less important than realizing the equality between samsara and nirvana which, after all, is the only true way to engender a genuine understanding of equality. Thus the understanding of equality in vajrayana Buddhism is on a very profound level.


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