Relating to a Spiritual Teacher: Building a Healthy Relationship
Berzin, Alexander. Relating to a Spiritual Teacher:
Building a Healthy Relationship.
Ithaca, Snow Lion, 2000
Reprint: Wise Teacher, Wise Student: Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2010
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Appendix: Summary of the Stages of Expanded Sutra-Level Guru-Meditation
Our analysis of some of the problems that have caused unhealthy relationships with spiritual teachers in the West has suggested Kadam sutra-level guru-meditation as a framework for the healing process. In several cases, additional steps in the meditation have seemed appropriate, but within the context of the traditional method. Let us summarize our findings in terms of a Mahayana disciple-mentor relationship.
The meditation begins with imagining or looking at photos of our mentors and offering the seven-part invocation: prostrating, making offerings, admitting mistakes, rejoicing in the virtues of others, requesting teaching, beseeching the gurus not to pass away, and dedicating the positive potential of the practice. As part of admitting mistakes, we may also acknowledge the wrongs we might have experienced from less-than-perfect teachers.
Following the invocation, we remind ourselves of the advantages of focusing on our mentors' good qualities and the disadvantages of dwelling on their faults. Then, we bring to mind the teachers' shortcomings, clear away conventional inaccuracies, and meditate on the conventionally accurate faults as devoid of existing as inherent flaws. We may repeat the procedure with our own shortcomings. Then, we may follow a similar procedure regarding first our own good qualities and then those of our mentors. The process entails bringing the qualities to mind, clearing away any inflation or interpolation, and then focusing on the conventionally accurate ones as devoid of existing as inherent wonders.
Free of naivety, we then focus on the actual good qualities of our mentors with the clearheaded belief that they have these qualities. When the actual qualities are perfectly clear, we reinforce our belief in their presence by thinking of the process whereby our mentors have gained them and by the positive effects that they have on others and on us. We then focus with belief on the fact that these qualities are attainable and on the conclusion that we can and shall attain them ourselves, to benefit others. This section of the practice concludes with focusing intently on our mentors with firm conviction and trust, and then absorbing our concentration totally on these feelings so that we integrate them fully.
Next, we turn to our mentors' kindness. We may supplement this step by bringing to mind our feelings of their lack of kindness, examine any degenerative regression that may be affecting our feelings, and clear away conventional inaccuracies and exaggeration of our mentors' behavior. Then we focus on the accurate facts as devoid of indicating that our mentors are inherently inconsiderate or cruel. Reminding ourselves that people sometimes show kindness in ways other than what we might normally recognize or want, we bring to mind our mentors' kindness. Clearing away again any exaggeration or interpolation, we then focus on the conventionally accurate kindness as devoid of existing as an inherent favor or boon. If we find it relevant, we may also focus on ourselves as devoid of congenital flaws that would render us, by their own powers, inherently unworthy of kindness or love. As when focusing on our mentors with firm conviction, we then focus intently on them with clearheaded, heartfelt appreciation and loving respect, and then single-mindedly absorb ourselves into these feelings.
With firm conviction, trust, appreciation, and loving respect for our mentors, we now request inspiration. The inspiration enters our hearts in the form of white or yellow light emanated from our mentors' hearts – white to diminish shortcomings such as low energy or yellow to stimulate good qualities. We then imagine tiny images of our mentors coming to the crown of our heads. They sit there for the remainder of the day to act as witnesses of our behavior and thought and to serve as continuing sources of inspiration. Before going to sleep at night, we may imagine that these tiny images of our mentors come to our hearts and dissolve, or we may imagine that we fall asleep with our heads in our mentors' laps.
The meditation ends with dedicating the positive potential of the practice. We think, "May the positive legacy of my mentor's good qualities and kindness integrate with my networks of good qualities, positive potentials, and deep awareness. May it ripen and affect my behavior so that I may pass on this legacy to others and help them to achieve emotional well-being, more fortunate rebirth, liberation, and eventually enlightenment for the benefit of all."
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