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The Teacher as Vajra Master
the Vajrayana, or tantric vehicle, your relationship with the teacher
becomes very complicated, very tricky. Your teacher becomes what is
known as the vajra master, and your relationship with him or her has a
different slant entirely. In some sense, the teacher becomes a
combination of the elder and the spiritual friend. The process is the
same, the line of thinking is the same, but it has its own particular
twist. The vajra master is not an elder, a parental figure, a spiritual
friend, or a rich uncle. He or she is a born warrior who accepts only a
few students. The vajra master will not accept students who are sloppy
a Sanskrit word meaning “indestructible.” The idea of vajra mind is
that it is completely well put-together. It does not have any cracks; it
cannot be criticized. You cannot bring any confusion into it because it
is so well guarded, not out of paranoia, but out of its own existence.
It is self-guarded.
closest analogy for the vajra master is the samurai. Such a teacher is
ferocious, but at the same time he has the qualities of a father, an
elder, and a friend. He could be very passionate, warm, and sympathetic,
but he doesn’t buy any bullshit, if we could speak American at this
point. Studying with such a person is dangerous, and it is a very
advanced thing to do. You might actually progress much faster on the
path. But if you start with the expectation of going faster, you might
actually go slower.
gone through the Hinayana and Mahayana, you are well trained and
disciplined. At this point, the vajra master’s approach is to create
successive teaching situations in your life. He or she demands complete,
unconditional trust and openness from you, without any logic. Maybe
some little logic applies, but the invitation and the demand are simple
and straightforward: “Would you like to come along with me and take part
in this historic battle? Come along, here’s your sword.”
course, there is always room to chicken out. But once you accept the
invitation, if you chicken out, you could go through a lot of problems.
The more you are a coward, that much more the vajra master might try to
terrify you, if that is what you need. I don’t want to paint a black
picture of the vajra master, but that is the simple truth. The more you
try to escape, the more you will be chased and cornered. However, the
more you work with the vajra master, the more you will be invited to
join that fantastic celebration and mutual dance.
notion of celebration here is that of sharing a feast. It is not the
usual idea of indulging, having parties and eating a lot. Feasting here
means sharing rich experiences of all kinds. Sharing together in that
sense is the only way that the Vajrayana teachings come alive and become
completely appropriate. However, if you are not ready for that, then
the vajra master may send you back to your spiritual friend, or if
necessary to your elder.
commitment to the vajra master is not purely to the external person
alone. As well, it has possibilities of commitment to the internal guru,
the teacher as expressed in you. However, that takes place only after
you meet the vajra master. At that point, you begin to experience a
greater level of heroism, fearlessness, and power. You develop a sense
of your own resources. That journey takes much longer than you would
expect. The vajra master doesn’t want to give you any chance to play out
your trip. Otherwise, you might decide to reject your irritating and
overwhelming vajra master; you could deceptively internalize by saying,
“I don’t have to deal with that person anymore. I can just do it on my
point here is that, at the Vajrayana level, there is a great deal of
magic, power, and immense devotion. That devotion is different from
devotion in the theistic traditions. In this case faith and devotion are
based not on the sense of giving up or surrendering completely;
devotion here is taking on more things, taking all sorts of examples and
insight and power into yourself. At this point, you can actually be
initiated—that is precisely the word. You can be initiated or empowered.
The formal ceremony of empowerment in the Vajrayana is called an abhisheka. You can be abhisheka-ed, to coin a verb.
and devotion in the theistic traditions may have a remote quality.
Somebody is out there who will care for you, make you feel secure.
Everything is somewhat on an ethereal level, on the level of otherness.
The reason why lizards exist, the reason why snakes coil themselves, why
rivers run to the ocean, and why trees grow tall—the reason for all
this mysteriousness must be because of “him” or “it.”
belief actually keeps you from understanding real magic. It keeps you
from understanding how things come about or from finding out how you can
do something in your own way. When you think that the world must be
someone else’s work or creation, you begin to feel as though the whole
world is run by a gigantic corporation, including the weather. But we
run our own corporation, according to the nontheistic tradition of
Buddhism. In order to have complete access to our world, so that we can
run our own corporation, we need to have the vajra master give us
manuals, techniques, and instructions. And if we are playing dumb, if we
are not exuberant, he might actually put us into a very difficult
situation to wake us up.
together faith in the teacher is not worship; the teacher is not
particularly regarded as a link to God. The teacher is regarded as a
spiritual elder, spiritual friend, or vajra master. He or she has ways
and means to create situations in accordance with our own receptivity,
our own particular style, in order to waken our native intelligence. In
relating with the teacher, your critical input and surrendering work
together. They’re not working against each other. The more you get input
from the teacher and the phenomenal world and the more you develop, the
more, at the same time, you question. So there is a kind of dance
taking place between the teacher and yourself. You are not particularly
trying to switch off your questioning intelligence and switch on some
sort of mindless devotion. Rather, the two—cynicism and devotion—are
From the May 2012 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.
Excerpted from Teachings on the Sadhana of Mahamudra,
to be published in 2012 by Shambhala Media. ©2012 Diana J. Mukpo. Used
by permission. Edited by Carolyn Rose Gimian, senior editor of the works
of Chögyam Trungpa.