The Disciple’s Attitude
Based on an extract from Buddhism, Path to Nirvana
The work of the enlightened Teacher inspires inexpressible gratitude in his disciples. From his blissful abode, the Teacher comes down in a human form and lives on earth amidst all kinds of difficulties for his disciples’ benefit. He has no selfish purpose of his own. He leaves no stone unturned to awaken, teach, guide and accompany his disciples, constantly protecting and showering his grace upon all, through the inner regions up to the Teacher’s ultimate blissful abode. This is all out of his sheer love and compassion. Can anyone be a greater benefactor than the Master?
Disciples might ask themselves this question: Should we not do everything possible to facilitate the Master’s work, which he is doing precisely for our sake? Does it not behoove us to do our part, to the best of our ability, however little we may be capable of contributing? Practising the spiritual discipline our Master teaches us should be paramount. Our attitude towards our Teacher and his teachings is crucial.
The Master imparts his teachings to his disciples all his life, exhorting them to put these teachings into practice for the sole purpose of enabling them to attain their salvation. It is the disciple’s sacred duty to carry on the spiritual practice as prescribed by the Master with utmost sincerity. This is the real worship of a revered Master. In the Buddha’s last words to his close disciple Ananda, when the Buddha was being honoured with flowers and sandalwood powder at the time of his passing away, this is precisely what the Buddha said:
Although, Ananda, all these offerings are made in honour of the Tathagata, it is not thus that the Tathagata is rightly honoured, venerated, revered and worshipped. If monks, nuns and lay disciples were to live in accordance with my teachings and strictly follow my teachings, they would be honouring me and venerating me rightly, and paying me true respect and true reverence. Therefore, Ananda, you should act accordingly to my teaching, following all the instructions, and it should be so taught to others. This would be the highest worship, which would please me most.
For the spiritual practice to be fruitful, it is essential to develop proper devotion for the guide. This is why Pabongka Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist Master, says:
The best means of pleasing your spiritual guide is to offer him your practice of his instructions. First you should devote yourself properly to a spiritual guide and put into practice the instructions he gives you.
Since the disciple is ignorant and the Teacher is wise, since the disciple is weak and the Teacher is all-powerful, since the disciple is lost and the Teacher can guide him, it is essential to approach the guide with utmost humility and follow his instructions with faith and devotion, without which the disciple can make no progress. Gampopa, a Tibetan monk, points out:
It is useless to have lived, even for a very long time, with a spiritual preceptor if one be lacking in humility and devotion and thus be unable to develop spiritually.
For him whose humility and faith with respect to his Guru are unshakeable, it is the same whether he dwells with his Guru or not.