In the higher schools of Buddhism Guru Yoga is seen as one of, if not THE most important aspect. The traditional way of proceeding with this is to meditate in the presence of ones Guru while incorporating the process of Yidam Yoga, in this case the Yidam being the Guru. This process includes creating a devotional link through extensive visualization with all the Gurus of the past, the entire lineage, and then setting the intent to receive their blessings and instructions.
This is a tantric method of visualization whereby one creates a detailed external image of the various Gurus, in Tibetan Buddhism usually Padmasambhava, and then once the visualization is strong and clear, drawing the image into oneself. This is basically an elaborate method to connect with the mind of the guru, allowing access to understanding the Teachings.
As Dzogchen practitioners though, there is no need for complicated tantric practices, unless one wants to, but it is certainly not a must, and for those who prefer, there is always the direct route.
Dispelling the darkness of ignorance, I kindle the light of great wisdom.
In fact, not knowing that all the phenomena of existence are precisely the natural condition of enlightenment, beings become enfolded in the thick darkness of erroneous conceptions.
Showing them that everything that exists springs from the supreme source, pure and total consciousness, I enable them to recognize this condition.
In this way, dispelling the darkness of discriminating concepts and judgements, I kindle the light of great self-arising wisdom;
thus, I am called the one who dispels darkness of ignorance and kindles the light.
~ Samantabhadra, the primordial Buddha (The Supreme Source, p151)
The word ‘Guru’ literally means Remover of Darkness. "Darkness", so demonized in many traditions as ‘evil’ is really just a way to describe “that which we do not know or understand”. Therefore, in the most literal interpretation possible, a Guru is someone or to be more precise, an agent of illumination, that agent which makes what was unknown and misunderstood, known and understood.
Is it not true that the only time we suffer is when we are forced to deal with things we do not understand - opposing views, obstacles, the inability to change something we are not happy with, and so on? The act of knowing why or how something is the way it is, is the logical precursor to finding the solution, and once a solution is found, the way out becomes perfectly clear and before you know it - obstacle overcome.
We should never separate ourselves from that yoga in which we are aware of our own innate presence as being our true Master. Continuing with this mindful awareness … is the root of the practice.
~ Namkhai Norbu (The Cycles of Day and Night, p44)
This being aware of ones own innate pure presence or intrincisc awareness is our True Guru.
~ Namkhai Norbu (The Cycles of Day and Night, p63)
Namkhai Norbu, one of our age’s most illustrious Dzogchen teachers extorts us time and time again, in almost every single one of his many books, that the real Guru is Samantabhadra, and therefore quite literally our own minds. Samantabhadra is, according to Dzogchen, the primordial Buddha. Not an external being at all, instead it is a symbolic being of the state of wakefulness already present in all beings.
This means that you ARE Samantabhadra, that your own state of awakeness IS the primordial Guru. Again through no incredible leap of logic this means that your mind, once seen and experienced in its true nature as constant, alert, undivided, open, unlimited, indestructible wakefulness that dispels “darkness from the mind”. Simple really. The very process of being conscious of something removes the confusion around that subject. Deceptively simple. Almost laughably simple. And yet. The process of recognizing this state and then remaining in it at all times, is a lifelong challenge which is where the many techniques of remaining in Rigpa comes in.
Many of the traditional paths to Dzogchen will find this way of proceeding with downright arrogant. However there is no need to justify ones experience. Nor is it often useful actually to even engage an argument with someone from another paths. If they're trying to bait you, don't bite. The disharmony and misunderstanding it causes are unnecessary and potentially harmful to their practice, and yours, because it creates friction where there really needs not be any at all. Not everyone is hellbent on enligtenment, and willing to sacrifice ANYTHING, even sanity or love, and that is ok too. All good and perfect, and moving right along.
Great wisdom resides in [oneself]
There is no Buddha somewhere else.
Those obscured by the darkness of ignorance
Attempt to find the Buddha in something other than [themselves]
~ adaptation of the Hevajra Tantra (The Ri-Me Philosophy of Jamgun Kongtrul, p271)
Understanding ones mind as Guru is a simple process but that does not necessarily make it easy. There are certain definite characteristics that have to be grasped, integrated, and then applied on a moment by moment basis, every single day, for the rest of ones life. This is a full-time job as you will soon discover when familiarizing yourself with the various aspects of the Mind. It is not some theory to believe in though. It is not contingent upon anything other than personal and practical application which, amazingly, affirms itself to be true in very obvious ways as you start playing with it in your day to day life, from eating, to making love, to doing business, to driving your car ... everything.
This has always been the one undeniable selling point for me about Dzogchen. It works. It walks its talk, provided that you do. There is nothing to hide behind, no excuses to justify anything, it is you, on your own, and the rest of your reality and it encompasses everything in it and more. This is not to say that I don’t use my Dzochen comb to fine-comb every detail of the Teachings, but I have yet to find a single flaw in the direct application of it’s fundamental tenets.
I’ve always been a ‘straight to the source’ kind of girl, that is my nature, and it has brought me agonizing pain but also drenched me in the nectar of astonishing realizations, making every moment of suffering a thousand times worthwhile.
We all encounter external Gurus who at various points in time introduce us to Teachings we did not know of at the time. In fact, technically speaking, every single person that crosses our path, when viewed through the correct lens, is 'Self-As-Guru' in one form or another. The recognition of this beautiful truth allows one to navigate reality from a completely different perspective, where each encounter is a possible point of illumination, if we have the eyes to see.
Our most hated enemies, the stranger in the street, each holds some precious realization if we are brave enough to unlock that door. This can be equally true of even the wind, birds, cake recipes, you name it, if a river could do it for Siddharta then it can work equally well for me. And finally that through it all, the understanding, the total surrender and union with our own Minds has always, is always and will always be, the one and only Guru - remover of darkness and gateway to total enlightenment.
That said, Dzogchen is a practical set of techniques, rooted in a certain way of viewing the world. Therefore, any explanation of the meaning of Guru yoga would not be complete with some examples of its practical application in reality.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru you are honour-bound to accept total responsibility for your own reality, this means all your own sadness, all your own happiness, as well as your role in the joys and sorrow of others. This tidies up your universe by developing a code of conduct that is beneficial, honourable and characterized by integrity. It also means that any tendencies to become lax or apathetic is nipped in the bud, as you come to terms with the fact that no one can save you but yourself.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru you do not need to bow down to anyone, or any system of teaching, and you do not have to accept what others teach you without question. Instead, you can engage in a lucid exchange of information, respectively contemplate the pros and cons of their information, and accept or decline whatever you feel is useful and integrate it into your personal belief system. In this way you can forge on as a warrior of truth and transformation as you carve out your destiny in a way that does not compromise your values.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru, you are on your own, which means that you simultaneously become more receptive and discriminating about what you choose to believe, and how you express those beliefs. This develops your capacity to graciously follow those who are worthy where they may lead, as well as your own ability to become a benevolent leader in your chosen fields of interest or expertise.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru, you have no problem showing humility when needed because there is no need to hold up a specific idea or identity. You become familiar with what your gifts and weaknesses are. The gifts you share freely, and the weaknesses you actively resolve as you allow your own Guru nature to guide you in finding workable solutions. Understanding that ultimately it is only yourself that can determine your own worthiness, you behave in ways that develop your most noble aspirations.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru, you are obliged to accept that other people’s mind’s are their own Gurus, which naturally makes you more compassionate and tolerant of other people’s views. This is essential in creating networks of people where individuality is celebrated while at the same time forging bonds of belonging to community.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru, you start to see every situation in your life as an opportunity, instead of an obstacle, making the most of accumulating all the possible information that each event might reveal. This leads to the developing of confident fearlessness as you stop struggling against reality by instead welcoming whatever curveballs are thrown your way. This further results in the maturing of wisdom like a soldier who have seen and survived many battles and has mastered the ‘zen’ of swordplay, turning the art of skill into tried and tested enlightenment techniques.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru, there is nowhere to hide from your own anxieties or neurosis, all of these come glaringly into focus and you are forced to deal with them, one way or another. This not only builds character and strength of purpose, it ensures that you earn your badge through personal experience which allows you to be of benefit to others who might be struggling with the same things. This alone is a gem without price, a gift that keeps on giving, as you will no doubt also benefit from the accumulated wisdom of others who have come before you. In this way the cycle of transmission organically continues from generation to generation.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru, you enter an infinite realm of possibilities, a place which holds all your greatest fears, and your most beautiful dreams and only you can determine to what extent they serve or hamper your journey. Becoming your own Knight in Shining Armour as well as your own Great Nemesis, reality turns into an heroic fantasy which affords you the opportunity to achieve not only wholeness, but greatness indeed! Every cause you fight for or against is transferred from external reality into the landscape of your own mind, which is truly the root of all existence, and once conquered results in external reality coming up to meet you by changing in front of your very eyes. This is the only real way to transform your reality and if you don’t believe me, try it out and see for yourself.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru, you become familiar with the fact that no one, and nothing in the world outside can be blamed for how you experience each and every moment. You hold the key to either suffering or joy and can be in one or the other in the blink of an eye - your choice. It is after all literally a matter of perspective and since you are the king and the world is your kingdom, only you can determine how the movie plays out.
~ When you accept your own mind as the ultimate Guru you become familiar with the patterns that perpetuate in your reality as you start seeing how your attitude and approach to life is echoed by real-time manifestations in your reality. You soon realize that you will do whatever you can to free yourself from your own limiting behaviour as you rebel against your old conditioning, insisting on finding a way out. Allowing the rebel and the knight in your nature to free yourself from the injustice of imprisonment by your own hands, no sacrifice is too large in service of your liberation, especially if it means sacrificing ideas about yourself. You can no longer be bothered pretending that that something works when it doesn't. With no time to waste you passionately and one-pointedly pursue paths of liberation without a second thought as to how cool it might seem, or obligation to stay in something which doesn’t serve you, or continue indulging in behaviour or relationships that are detrimental to your growth.
All of this of course with a mind that is like a self-sharpening diamond sword, a heart that is wide open despite the many disappointments experienced before, and the magnanimity of a sultan with an unending supply of glorious riches, gifts of wisdom and beauty, soothing medicines to uplift even the most broken of souls, to be shared unconditionally with all the sacred pilgrims that come your way.
From the Universe, with Love