Fifty Stanzas of Guru Devotion

Fifty Stanzas of Guru Devotion

(Excerpt from Living Buddha Lian-sheng’s Book 46: The Cultivator from Seattle – How to Serve Your Guru after Taking Refuge)


Root Guru Grand Master Lu Living Buddha Lian-Sheng

  1. All Buddhas of the Three Times,

    Residing in realms of the Ten Directions,

    are eternally embodied in the guru,

    to whom you should pay homage three times a day.

    Explanation: Disciples should pay homage to the guru and keep him in their thoughts three times a day (at sunrise, noon, and sunset). Pay homage to him as they would to the Buddhas.

  2. Summon the utmost devotion,

    Hold flowers with joined palms,

    Scatter them onto the mandala,

    and prostrate with your head at your guru’s feet.

    Explanation: Disciples should make flower offering to the shrine and respectfully perform the five point prostration to the guru.

  3. Whether the guru is a layman,

    Or one recently took the monastic vow,

    Before sutras and Buddha statues,

    Cease any doubts or defamations.

    Explanation: Disciples should not raise any doubts or defamatory thoughts when the guru is before sutras or statues of Buddhas, regardless if he is a lay person or just took the ordination vow.

  4. Disciples of the monastic order,

    Should still serve their guru wholeheartedly.

    If seated, stand up to greet him,

    However, avoid paying homage in public.

    Explanation: Disciples should sincerely serve their guru and observe the etiquette of providing him a seat.

  5.  Both the guru and prospective disciple,

    Should dutifully examine each other’s characters.

    If they do not perform due diligence,

    It is the same as committing an offense of negligence.

    Explanation: A prospective disciple must examine the guru to verify whether the guru can be relied upon. The guru must also examine the disciple to see if he or she can be taught tantra. Otherwise, they have both failed to perform due diligence.

  6. Harbor anger and possess no compassion,
    Being greedy, frivolous,
    Arrogant and self-boasting,
    A guru of these qualities should not be a source of refuge.

    Explanation: Disciples should not seek refuge in a guru who is prone to anger, not compassionate, greedy, vain, arrogant and self-boasting. Hence, before taking refuge, one must understand a guru’s habitual behaviors.

  7. Practice abstinent, tolerance, compassion, and wisdom,
    Respect others without showing flattery,
    Understand thoroughly the secret practices,
    And well verse in the myriad of treatises and doctrines.

    Explanation: A worthy guru should be compassionate, wise, abstinent, respectful, forthright without flattery, and knowledgeable about Tripitaka. These are the qualities to look for when selecting a guru.

  8. Achieve perfect tantric accomplishment,

    Expert in all Karmic Practices,

    Validate the ten auspicious fruitions,

    And purify of all faculties.

    Explanation: A guru who has knowledge of Tripitaka, achieves the tenth level Bodhisattvahood, purifies the six faculties and is not afflicted with defilements is a worthy guru.

  9. If the dharma seekers,

    Commit the slightest verbal offense toward the guru,

    It is the same as slandering all Tathagatas,

    And shall be plagued by all suffering.

    Explanation: Disciples who seek the Dharma should not criticize or denigrate their guru. The offense is the same as slandering the Buddhas, resulting acute suffering.

  10. The accumulation of ignorance,

    Results in present karmic retribution.

    Constantly under the influence of stars of misfortune,

    And afflicted by severe illnesses.

    Explanation: Slandering the guru is a very ignorant act and will incur swift karmic retribution. Malevolent gods will enter into the disciples’ hearts and they will be afflicted with severe chronic illnesses.

  11. Prosecuted by the laws of the land,

    Injured by poisonous animals,

    Afflicted by calamities of fire, flood and bandits,

    Tormented by ghosts and demons.

    Explanation: Disciples who denigrate their guru will inevitably violate the law of the land, be injured by poisonous animals, suffer the disasters of fire, flood and robbery, and be plagued by evil ghosts.

  12. Demons like Vinayaka,

    Often create hindrances.

    At the end of this life,

    Fall into the evil paths.

    Explanation: Disciples who slander their guru will incur the wrath of evil gods. When they die, they shall fall into the Three Evil Paths of hell, hungry ghosts, or animals.

  13. Do not cause the acharya,

    The slightest anxiety.

    Those ignorant who commit this violation,

    Are certain to fall into Avici Hell.

    Explanation: Disciples who serve their guru should not bring any anxiety to him. By disobeying and betraying their guru they will fall into Avici Hell.

  14. Enduring extreme suffering,

    It is difficult to elucidate the depth of frightening consequences,

    By slandering the acharya,

    One shall reside in this hell continuously.

    Explanation: Avici Hell is the hell with the worst suffering. Disciples will suffer severe consequences such as this, just by slandering their guru.

  15. The acharya is someone who,

    Propagates and upholds the correct dharma teachings.

    Hence, serve the acharya wholeheartedly,

    Do not let the slightest thought of disrespect arise.

    Explanation: Disciples should wholeheartedly serve their guru who propagates and abides by the Buddha’s teachings. If they have contempt for their guru, they have committed the offenses previously mentioned.

  16. Serve and make offering to the acharya often.

    Generate the heart of devotion and respect,

    Then many afflictions can be eradicated.

    Explanation: Respect and make offering to the guru. Through the guru’s blessing, your hindrances and afflictions can be eliminated.

  17. Whatever the guru’s pleasure may be,

    Joyfully perform acts of generosity.

    Even sacrifice your mortal body,

    Much less material possessions.

    Explanation: Disciples should be able to sacrifice their lives, not to mention material possessions. Those who have genuine generosity will receive blessings.

  18. Even with diligent cultivation from countless kalpas,

    One has yet to realize the fruition of Buddhahood.

    In this present life,

    The acharya now bestows fruition upon you.

    Explanation: Without guidance of the guru, it is impossible to attain Buddhahood. Only through the teachings of the guru is one able to achieve Buddhahood. Hence, all merits are bestowed by the guru.

  19. Protect the profound and sincere vow,

    Of making offering to all Tathagatas,

    Honoring and respecting the guru,

    Like one would to all Buddhas.

    Explanation: Serving one’s guru is the vow that one took when received initiation in Vajrayana. It is as important as making offering to Buddhas.

  20. Regardless of how trifle one’s beloved possessions are,

    Present the most precious and valuable of them all,

    For the seeking of boundless bodhi,

    Make offering with the utmost devotion.

    Explanation: The guru is the embodiment of the Triple Jewels. Offering one’s guru with the most precious possession one has will generate boundless merit.

  21. Make offering to Buddhas and the acharya,

    Remembering it with each increasing thought,

    This is the most supreme field of merit,

    For swiftly attaining the fruition of bodhi.

    Explanation: Making offering to the guru and Buddhas is the same as cultivating the supreme field of merit. It enables one to swiftly attain the fruition of bodhi.

  22. The dharma seekers who behave as such,

    Possessing the merits of sila and tolerance,

    Neither pretending nor deceiving the guru,

    Shall attain vajra wisdom.

    Explanation: Disciples should serve the guru with tolerance, sincerity, and without any false pretense. Hence, they will definitely attain the vajra wisdom of the Tathagatas.

  23. One who treads on the guru’s shadow,

    Shall receive retribution as if destroying a stupa.

    As for the guru’s bed, seat and utilities,

    Do not cross over them, otherwise one commits an offense.

    Explanation: Disciples should not step on the guru’s shadow, sit on the guru’s bed or use his utensils. These are all considered offenses.

  24. If the guru transmits teachings,

    Receive them with joy.

    If one cannot apply the teachings,

    Politely inform the guru.

    Explanation: Joyfully receive the guru’s teachings. If one cannot carry out the teachings, one should tactfully inform the guru.

  25. Through the refuge and reliance in the guru,

    One achieves accomplishment in all endeavors,

    Resulting in present merit and future rebirth in heaven.

    Hence, do not disobey his wishes.

    Explanation: Through the guru’s transmission of the Dharma, disciples are able to achieve accomplishment in all practices. Hence, the guru is the supreme field of merit. Disciples should not go against the guru’s wishes.

  26. Guard the possessions of your guru as you would your own life,

    Respect the guru’s loved ones as you would your guru.

    Treat the guru’s relatives as your own,

    Earnestly serve them without negligence.

    Explanation: Protect the guru’s possessions like you would your own life. Do not waste them. Respect the people who the guru respects and respect the guru’s relatives. You must not be negligent.

  27. Do not flaunt one’s social status by using an umbrella or carriage,

    In the presence of the guru.

    Do not prop up one’s feet nor place the arms akimbo,

    Instead sit or recline with poise.

    Explanation: One should be dignified and presentable before the guru. Inappropriate postures such as propping up one’s feet or placing the arms akimbo should be avoided.

  28. If the situation requires you to be seated,

    Do not relax by extending your legs.

    Maintain a dignified bearing at all times,

    And stand up immediately when the guru rises from his seat.

    Explanation: Disciples should maintain a dignified bearing. While sitting, do not stretch your legs out for comfort. As soon as the guru stands up, they should also stand up right away.

  29. If the guru is performing walking meditation,

    Disciples should not follow him.

    Stand poised by the side,

    Do not abhor him even if he coughs or sneezes.

    Explanation: In the path that the guru travels, you should stand solemnly by the side. Even if he coughs or sneezes, you should not feel disgusted toward him.

  30. Do not whisper amongst each other,

    In the presence of the guru,

    Or engage in such behaviors as chatting and joking,

    Singing and dancing.

    Explanation: Before the guru, you should not whisper among each other. All undignified behaviors should be avoided.

  31. If the guru asks you to sit or stand,

    Perform each request with poise and etiquette.

    If travelling on dangerous roads,

    Lead the way for the guru.

    Explanation: Abide by the guru’s instructions with respect. If travelling on dangerous roads, you should precede the guru and guide him away from danger.

  32. It is inappropriate to display your weariness,

    Crack knuckles,

    Lean against posts or walls,

    In the presence of the guru.

    Explanation: Before the guru, you should appear energetic, do not display postures of weariness. Your body should not lean against posts or walls. Stop all inappropriate behaviors.

  33. If you are washing clothes or feet,

    Taking a bath or other related tasks,

    Inform the guru in advance,

    So the tasks will be performed out of the guru’s sight.

    Explanation: Let the guru know that you are going to wash your clothes, feet or body so the guru will not see it.

  34. It is improper,

    To speak the guru’s full name.

    If someone makes an inquiry,

    Simply provide his dharma name.

    Explanation: It is improper for you to call the guru’s full name. If someone asks about his name, you may answer with the guru’s dharma name.

  35. If the guru orders a task to be performed,

    You should be at his service.

    Dutifully carry out the task entrusted,

    Always remember it and do not let it slip your mind.

    Explanation: Make yourself available to serve your guru. Remember the task he entrusted to you and try your best to accomplish it.

  36. If you laugh, cough, or yawn before the guru,

    You should cover your mouth.

    If you have matters to inform the guru,

    Bow with respect and disclose them with a gentle tone.

    Explanation: If you want to laugh, yawn, or cough, you should cover your mouth before the guru. If you have something to ask or discuss with the guru, you should speak with a respectful bow.

  37. If laywomen,

    Come to hear the Dharma with devoted hearts,

    Join their palms and carry themselves with dignity,

    And focus their attention on the guru’s face.

    Explanation: When laywomen come to listen to the dharma teachings, it is important to dress appropriately in proper decorum. They should join their palms and concentrate on the teachings.

  38. Practice diligently on the teachings,

    Leave behind pride and arrogance.

    As if they were newly-wedded brides,

    Bow their heads and learn the teachings with bashfulness.

    Explanation: Female disciples should carefully cultivate the teachings transmitted by the guru. They should not be arrogant and conceited. Instead, they should be like brides and learn the teachings with their heads bowed.

  39. Guard from defilements,

    Resolve not to indulge in leisure.

    Those that do not correspond to virtue,

    Should be detached from their thoughts.

    Explanation: Female disciples should refrain from vanity and attachment to mundane adornments. All those things that are not virtuous should be kept away from their thoughts.

  40. Admire the guru’s virtues constantly,

    Do not concentrate on his minor flaws.

    Those who follow this affinity shall attain accomplishment,

    Those who look for flaws shall bring harm upon themselves.

    Explanation: Emulate the virtues of the guru. If the guru makes small mistakes, you should not exaggerate them to others. Disciples should learn to follow their guru and will achieve accomplishment as a result. For those who engage in denigration, their cultivation will suffer and they will harm themselves by generating contempt for the guru.

  41. If you reside in the same city or town as the guru,

    Without his explicit approval,

    You should not give teachings or take disciples,

    Construct mandala or perform a Homa offering.

    Explanation: All dharma activities should be performed under the guru’s instructions. Unless the guru has given his approval, you should not engage in any dharma propagation.

  42. All the offerings received,

    From giving the dharma teachings,

    Should be given to the guru,

    Utilize them only with the guru’s approval.

    Explanation: The offerings received from teaching the Dharma and transmitting practices should belong to the guru. Only with the guru’s permission, may you use the offerings received.

  43. Fellow cultivators and same lineage generation cultivators,

    Should not be taken as disciples.

    Avoid accepting service and homage,

    In the presence of your guru.

    Explanation: There should not be a distortion in the lineage transmission. Fellow cultivators, who took refuge in your guru, are not allowed to take refuge in you. This is an issue of lineage integrity.

  44. If you are making offering to the guru,

    Present it with both hands to show reverence.

    If the guru bestows a gift,

    You should respectfully accept it with both hands over your head.

    Explanation: Whenever presenting an offering or accepting a gift from the guru, you should hold it with both hands over your head to demonstrate respect.

  45. Devotedly cultivate the correct dharma,

    With persistence and without neglect.

    If the guru commits improper actions,

    Request explanations with a tender voice.

    Explanation: Disciples should concentrate on their practices with persistence. If the guru violates precepts, you should not intentionally find fault with him.

  46. If you cannot cultivate the guru’s teachings,

    As a result of illness,

    You should respectfully explain to the guru,

    Then, no offense is committed.

    Explanation: The teachings of the guru should be practiced with persistence. If you are ill and unable to practice the teachings, you should tactfully inform the guru. Then, there will not be any offense committed.

  47. Often bring joy to the guru,

    And keep him away from anxiety.

    Perform these acts with diligence,

    Which are too many to describe.

    Explanation: Do everything you can to please the guru. Resolve all difficulties for him. Make offering and serve the guru with reverence and diligence. There are too many ways to serve the guru to list them all.

  48. Those Vajra Tathagatas,

    Personally proclaimed,

    And also taught in the scriptures that,

    Accomplishment could be attained through reliance on the guru.

    Explanation: The Buddhas said that one can achieve great accomplishment through reliance on the guru.

  49. Disciples who

    Have sincerely taken refuge in the Triple Jewels,

    Should be taught the Stanzas of Guru Devotion,

    Request them to memorize these first.

    Explanation: New initiates should memorize the Fifty Stanzas of Guru Devotion to avoid committing any offenses.

  50. Next, transmit the Vajrayana teachings to them,

    Enabling them to become correct dharma vessels.

    The Fourteen Root Tantric Vows,

    Should be memorized and observed as well.

    Explanation: After disciples have received the Refuge Empowerment, transmit the Vajrayana practices so they can become the cultivators for the correct dharma. The Fourteen Root Tantric Vows must also be transmitted and observed by the disciples so they will become virtuous Vajrayana cultivators.

Note: The term “guru”, “acharya” or “master” as mentioned in the Fourteen Root Tantric Vows and Fifty Stanzas of Guru Devotion refers only to the Root Lineage Guru.

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