Fundamental teachings
Antidotes to not understanding how to achieve Enlightenment: The spiritual master
(from In Search of the Stainless Ambrosia, Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Jewel Treasury of Advice and Transformation of Suffering)
by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche

It is very important when taking refuge to find a qualified spiritual master. Those who wish to achieve Buddhahood must depend on the spiritual master because alone one does not know how to strengthen all the virtuous qualities and purify the obscurations. All the Buddhas of the three times achieved Buddhohood through the guidance of the spiritual master. The spiritual master is like the guide who helps us when we go to an unknown place. He is the escort when we pass through dangerous regions. He is the captain of the ship, and without him we cannot cross the ocean of samsara.

There are four different types of spiritual master: the ordinary master; the master who has attained different Bodhisattva levels; and the masters who have attained the levels of Nirmanakaya and Sambhogakaya. Each corresponds to one's own level. When one is beginning, one cannot reach the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, so one must attain the ordinary spiritual master. When one's karmic obscurations have been somewhat purified, one attains the Bodhisattva master. When one transcends the level of the accumulation path, one can attain the spiritual master of the Nirmanakaya level. When one attains the level of a Bodhisattva, one can attain the master of the Sambhogakaya level. Of these four kinds of masters, which is the kindest? When we are in the darkness of karma and afflicting emotions, we cannot even see the face of the higher masters. By meeting with the ordinary spiritual master and receiving teachings, we are able to enter into the path and progress in our understanding. By this means we are later able to see higher masters. Therefore, of all masters the one to whom we are most indebted is the ordinary spiritual master.

Each level of master has different qualities: The Buddha is completely purified of the two obscurations to liberation and omniscience, and has completely achieved the two great wisdom (realization of the various types of knowledge, and realization of suchness). The spiritual master from the first to tenth level of bodhisattva is purified and practiced in the realization of wisdom. Among ordinary spiritual masters there are three different types: the first has eight qualities - morality, vast knowledge of the Bodhisatttva's teaching, realization, great compassion, fearlessness, patience, tireless mind and skillful speech. The second has four qualities: a good knowledge of the Sutruas and Shastras, the wisdom that cuts through others' hesitations, virtuous actions, and the ability to point out the afflicting emotions and prescribe their antidote. The third type of master must have at least two qualities: knowledge of the meaning of the Mahayana teachings, and dedication to the Bodhisattva's vow. On this basis the Vajrayana master must have at least received the empowerments, be expert in the teaching of the arising and completion process, and keep the samaya. He may also be possessed of many other, higher qualities.

When we find any of these matters we should attain them, realizing that they are precious, respecting them, doing prostrations, standing when they enter the room, and not allowing ourselves to be easily satisfied. The true master is difficult to meet. Make offerings of food, clothing, and other necessary articles such as medicines and money. Regard the master as the Buddha himself, obeying him implicitly as did Naropa and Milarepa. Most importantly, please the master through your practice, receiving the teachings from him with one-pointed mind and dedicating the three doors to the practice. If the master is pleased, one may achieve higher realizations and eventually achieve Buddhahood.

When one receives the teachings, one should do so with the Bodhicitta motivation, meditating that oneself is the patient, and that the master is the physician removing sickness. When we receive the teachings, we must keep them properly in the mind, avoiding the three faults; being like a cup that is upside down, or like a cup that has holes in the base, or like a cup that is already filled with poison. When the cup is upside down, nothing can be poured into it. In the same way, if our mind is closed, we cannot absorb the teachings. When there is a hole in the cup, the liquid runs out. just so, if we do not contains poison, it will spoil any liquid placed in it, no matter how delicious. Just so, if we receive the teachings with desire, anger, hatred, etc., they cannot help us. So we must receive them with pure motivation.

The beneficial effects of attending the spiritual master

- The bodhisattva who attains the spiritual master will not fall into the lower realms,
- will not fall prey to non-virtuous friends and
- will not turn back from the Mahayana teachings.

Such a person will pass beyond the ordinary human state. Soon he will achieve Buddhahood.

The root of attainments is the vajra master.
Developing faith in all his activities, holding his instructions as valid,
and respectfully serving and attending him without hypocrisy is the root of all Dharma.
This is my heart's advice.
(from the Jewel Treasury of Advice)