Buddha or Teacher or Teachings?
Which is the most important?
It’s an vital question.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the human teacher is all important as it’s an oral tradition*; without the teacher, the teachings of the Buddha would not be available or known. The root teacher offers oral instruction in the nature of mind, and then the scriptorial teacher (in the form of text) will be more easily understood; this leads to the inner teacher and the teacher of all phenomena. If we forget the teachings, remembering the human teacher helps us to melt into the essence of the teachings. It’s a good system, a sound support, creating a community to encourage others. The basis of Tibetan Buddhism is Guru Yoga/Vajrayana/Tantra = devotion – not devotion to a person, but to a quality within us.
Now for the ‘however’!
Guru Yoga/Vajrayana/Tantra is a means to an end, and that end is resting in pure conscious awareness. For some, guru devotion does not come easily. For others it may come too easily; we may relinquish realising the inner teacher and become too reliant on the outer teacher, instead of solving problems ourselves.
So we have a choice: Tibetan Buddhism … just Buddhism … don’t call it anything. I still like the word Dzogchen as it lifts me out of street level 😀
“Dzogchen or “Great Perfection”, also called Ati Yoga, is a tradition of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism aimed at attaining and maintaining the natural primordial state or natural condition. It is a central teaching of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism and of Bon. In these traditions, Dzogchen is the highest and most definitive path of the nine vehicles to liberation. According to the Nyingma tradition, the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra taught Dzogchen to the Buddha Vajrasattva, who transmitted it to the first human lineage holder, the Indian Garab Dorje. According to tradition, the Dzogchen teachings were brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava in the late 8th and early 9th centuries.”
Dzogchen was realised by the Indian master, Garab Dorje, and adopted by Tibetan Buddhism.
The mind – mind essence – is extremely powerful. Our bodies may be broken, the brain may be altered and the mind full of distractions, but pure conscious awareness remains untouched. It is not a thing to be killed! If you have ever been drunk, the body and brain don’t function very well but awareness is still present…until we pass out! 😉
A teacher is there to help us stand on our own two feet so that we can solve problems and deal with day-to-day situations. They show us the inner teacher of all phenomena – both outer and inner – where we can investigate and test for ourselves. The way I see it is that the student is the empty essence of mind, and the teacher is the appearances and reactions in that mind. Although empty essence has a knowing quality, it is constantly distracted by the mind, rather like a child who is wide open but whose perception is all over the place!
When we recognise this, arisings become our teacher,
rather than our controller.
When the student understands and realises, there is
no more learning,
But for now we have to accept
that we are running around in the kindergarden,
looking for toys.
* Oral Transmission from Wikipedia:
“There is a long history of oral transmission of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism. Oral transmissions by lineage holders traditionally can take place in small groups or mass gatherings of listeners and may last for seconds (in the case of a mantra, for example) or months (as in the case of a section of the Tibetan Buddhist canon). It is held that a transmission can even occur without actually hearing, as in Asanga’s visions of Maitreya.
“An emphasis on oral transmission as more important than the printed word derives from the earliest period of Indian Buddhism, when it allowed teachings to be kept from those who should not hear them. Hearing a teaching (transmission) readies the hearer for realization based on it. The person from whom one hears the teaching should have heard it as one link in a succession of listeners going back to the original speaker: the Buddha in the case of a sutra or the author in the case of a book. Then the hearing constitutes an authentic lineage of transmission. Authenticity of the oral lineage is a prerequisite for realization, hence the importance of lineages.”