Gathering for the Guru

By Ven. Thubten Dondrub


Devotion is a fundamental quality of all religions and in tantric Buddhism, the highest devotion is reserved for the Spiritual Master - the source of all happiness, benefit and progress. Without the moisture of devotion, our enthusiasm for practice dries up and our heart becomes hard. The wellspring of our devotion needs to be constantly renewed. It's especially important once we have taken empowerments into the practices of highest yoga tantra, as all success in this path comes from correct devotion to the Spiritual Master.

One way of doing this is through repeated meditation on the qualities and kindness of the Guru as outlined in the lam Rim. Another is through ritual ceremonies that are designed to produce the same result through a less intellectual process. The most profound of these ritual ceremonies is the Lama Chopa Tsog Offering, composed by the First Panchen Lama, one of the greatest tantric masters the Gelugpa tradition has ever produced. It's a ceremony of prayer, chanting music, meditation and a ritual feast. It actually contains all the points of the Lam Rim meditation on Guru devotion but presented in a way that directly appeals to our senses and emotions.

The more devotion we have to our teacher, the more there is the wish to make offerings to him. The Lama Chopa creates the opportunity to make many kinds of offering - food, drink, lights, music and the best form of offering to the Guru, which is the offering of practice itself. In this case, the practice of doing the chanting, visualisations and prayers in the first part of the ceremony and the meditation on the Lam Rim in the second part of the ritual. Since the Guru is the highest object of offering, the merit created is enormous.

The Lama Chopa ceremony also involves the Tsog offering. Tsog means a collection or gathering and has many profound meanings according to tantra. One aspect is the gathering of the Gurus disciples. The Vajra brothers and sisters are meant to gather for a tantric feast to celebrate the glory of the Guru, create merit, purify vows and make offerings to the local spirits that can help us gain worldly success, health and happiness. The Bodhisattva vows also have the commitment to take part in Dharma ceremonies whenever possible. In addition, there's a commitment to do Lama Chopa Tsog on the 1st, 10th and 25th of each lunar month, as a way of strengthening one's commitment to the Guru and to help purify any tantric infractions when we have taken highest yoga tantra empowerments.

This wonderful opportunity for all FPMT practitioners of highest yoga tantra to come together as Vajra brothers and sisters and affirm their commitment to the Guru and each other is offered regularly at FPMT centres throughout the world.


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