The Fourteen Root Tantric Vows of Vajrayana
|(Excerpted from ''How to Serve Your Guru after Taking Refuge'' in Grandmaster's Book 46, The Vajra Adept in Seattle)
Note: The terms ''guru'', ''acharya'' or ''master'' as mentioned in the Fourteen Root Tantric Vows and Fifty Stanzas of Guru Devotion refer to the Root Lineage Guru only.
- All buddhas of the Three Times
Residing in realms of the Ten Directions
Are eternally embodied in the guru
To whom one should pay homage three times a day
Explanation: Three times a day (at sunrise, noon, and sunset), disciples should pay the same homage to the guru as they would to the buddhas and keep the guru in their thoughts.
- Summon the utmost devotion
Hold flowers with joined palms
Scatter them onto the mandala
And prostate with one's head at the guru's feet
Explanation: Disciples should make flower offerings at the shrine and respectfully perform the five-point prostration to the guru.
- Whether the guru is a layman
Or has recently taken monastic vows
Before sutras and buddha statues
Cease any doubts or defamation
Explanation: Disciples should not have doubts or defamatory thoughts when the guru, whether ordained or not, or having just taken ordination vows, is before statues of Buddhas or before sutras.
- Disciples of a monastic order
Should still serve their guru wholeheartedly
If seated, stand up to greet the guru
However, avoid paying homage in public
Explanation: Disciples should serve the guru sincerely and observe the etiquette of providing a seat.
- Both the guru and prospective disciple
Should dutifully examine each other's capacities
If they do not perform due diligence
It is the same as committing the offense of negligence
Explanation: A prospective disciple must examine the guru to determine whether the guru can be relied upon. The guru must also examine the disciple to determine the disciple's capacity to learn Vajrayana practices. The disciple and guru's failure to examine one another means there has been a failure to perform due diligence.
- Harboring anger and having no compassion
Being greedy, frivolous
Arrogant and boastful
A guru with these qualities should not be a source of refuge
Explanation: Disciples should not seek refuge in a guru who is greedy, prone to anger, vain, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, and lacking compassion. Therefore, prior to taking refuge, one must understand the guru's habits and behavior.
- Practicing abstinence, tolerance, compassion, and wisdom
Respecting others without showing flattery
Thoroughly understanding secret practices
And well versed 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.
- Superior ability to discourse the truth
Skillful at construction of mandalas
Validating the ten auspicious fruitions
And purification of all faculties
Explanation: A worthy guru has perfect knowledge of Tripitaka, achieved the tenth level of Bodhisattvahood, has purified the six faculties and is not afflicted with defilements.
- If Dharma seekers
Commit the slightest verbal offense toward the guru
It is the same as slandering all Tathagatas
They will be plagued by all kinds of suffering
Explanation: Disciples who seek the Dharma should not criticize or denigrate the guru. This offense is the same as slandering all the Buddhas, and the result is acute suffering.
- 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 a disciple's heart and the disciple will be afflicted with severe chronic illnesses.
- 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.
- Demons like Vinayaka
Often create hindrances
At the end of this life
Fall into 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.
- Do not cause the acharya
The slightest anxiety
The ignorant who commit this violation
Are certain to fall into Avici Hell
Explanation: Disciples who serve their guru should not cause the guru any anxiety. By disobeying and betraying their guru they will fall into Avici Hell.
- Enduring extreme suffering
It is difficult to elucidate the depth of frightening consequences
Of slandering the acharya
One shall reside in this hell continuously
Explanation: Avici Hell is the hell with the worst suffering.
Just by slandering the guru, disciples will suffer severe consequences.
- 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.
- Serve and make offering to the acharya often
Generate a heart of devotion and respect
Afflictions can thereby be eradicated
Explanation: Respect and make offering to the guru. With the guru's blessing, one's hindrances and afflictions will be eliminated.
- Whatever the guru's pleasure may be
Joyfully perform acts of generosity
Even sacrifice one's mortal body
Much less material possessions
Explanation: Disciples should be willing to sacrifice their lives for the guru, not to mention material possessions. Those who have genuine generosity will receive blessings.
- 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 one
Explanation: Without the 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.
- Protect the profound and sincere vow
Of making offering to all Tathagatas
Honor and respect the guru
Just as one would all buddhas
Explanation: Serving the guru is the vow one made when receiving initiation in Vajrayana. Keeping this vow is as important as making offerings to buddhas.
- Regardless how trifling one's beloved possessions
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 the guru one's most precious possessions will generate boundless merit.
- Make offerings to buddhas and the acharya
Remembering them with increasing thoughts
This is the most supreme field of merit
For swiftly attaining the fruition of bodhi
Explanation: Making offerings 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.
- 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.
- 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 the guru's utensils. These are all considered offenses.
- 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.
- Through refuge in and reliance on the guru
One achieves accomplishment in all endeavors
Resulting in present merit and future rebirth in heaven
Therefore, do not disobey the guru's 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 oppose the guru's wishes.
- Guard the possessions of one's guru as one would one's own life
Respect the guru's loved ones just as one would the guru
Treat the guru's relatives as one's own
Earnestly serve them without negligence
Explanation: Protect the guru's possessions like one would one's own life. Do not waste them. Respect the people who the guru respects and respect the guru's relatives. One must not be negligent.
- 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.
- If the situation requires one to be seated
Do not relax by extending one's legs
Maintain a dignified bearing at all times
And stand up immediately when the guru rises from a seat
Explanation: Disciples should maintain a dignified bearing. While sitting, do not stretch one's legs out for comfort. As soon as the guru stands up, disciples should also stand up right away.
- If the guru is performing walking meditation
Disciples should not follow
Stand poised by the side
Do not abhor the guru even if he coughs or sneezes
Explanation: In the path that the guru travels, one should stand solemnly by the side, respectfully welcoming and sending the guru off. Even if the guru coughs or sneezes, one should not feel disgusted.
- 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, disciples should not whisper among each other. All undignified behavior should be avoided.
- If the guru asks one 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, one should precede the guru and guide the guru away from danger.
- It is inappropriate to display one's weariness
Lean against posts or walls
In the presence of the guru
Explanation: Before the guru, one should appear energetic, not displaying postures of weariness. One should not lean against posts or walls. One should refrain from all inappropriate behavior.
- If one is 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 one is going to wash one's clothes, feet or body so the guru will not see it.
- It is improper
To speak the guru's full name
If someone makes an inquiry
Simply provide the guru's Dharma name
Explanation: It is improper for one to call the guru's full name. If someone asks about the guru's name, one may answer with the guru's Dharma name.
- If the guru orders a task to be performed
One should be at the guru's service
Dutifully carry out the task entrusted
Always remember it and do not let it slip one's mind
Explanation: Make oneself available to serve one's guru. Remember the task the guru entrusted to one and try one's best to accomplish it.
- If laughing, coughing, or yawning before the guru
One should cover one's mouth
If having matters to inform the guru
Bow with respect and disclose them in a gentle tone
Explanation: If one wants to laugh, yawn, or cough, one should cover one's mouth before the guru. If one has something to ask or discuss with the guru, one should speak with a respectful bow.
- When laywomen
Come to hear the Dharma with devoted hearts
They should join their palms, carry themselves with dignity
And focus their attention on the guru's face
Explanation: When laywomen come to listen to Dharma teachings, it is important to dress appropriately with proper decorum. They should join their palms and concentrate on the teachings.
- Practice the teachings diligently
Leave behind pride and arrogance
Like a newly wedded bride
Bow one's head 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 bashfully with heads bowed.
- Guard from defilements
Resolve not to indulge in leisure
That not corresponding to virtue
Should not arise in one's thoughts
Explanation: Female disciples should refrain from vanity and attachment to mundane adornments. That which is not virtuous should not be in their thoughts.
- Admire the guru's virtues constantly
Do not focus on the guru's 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, one should not exaggerate them to others. Disciples should learn to follow their guru and will achieve
accomplishment as a result. As for those who denigrate the guru, their cultivation will suffer and they will harm themselves by generating contempt for the guru.
- If residing in the same city or town as the guru
Without the guru's explicit approval
One should not give teachings, take disciples
Construct a mandala or perform a homa offering
Explanation: All Dharma activities should be performed under the guru's instructions. Unless the guru has given approval, one should not engage in any Dharma propagation.
- 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 belong to the guru. One may use the offerings received only with the guru's permission.
- Fellow cultivators and same lineage generation cultivators
Should not be taken as disciples
Avoid accepting service and homage
In the presence of the guru
Explanation: There should not be a distortion in the lineage transmission. Fellow cultivators, who took refuge in one's guru, are not allowed to take refuge in one. This is an issue of lineage integrity.
- If making an offering to the guru
Present it with both hands to show reverence
If the guru bestows a gift
One should respectfully accept it with both hands over one's head
Explanation: When accepting a gift from or presenting an offering to the guru, one should hold it over one's head with both hands to demonstrate respect.
- Devotedly cultivate the correct Dharma
With persistence and without neglect
If the guru commits improper actions
Request explanation with a gentle voice
Explanation: Disciples should concentrate on their practices with persistence. If the guru violates precepts, one should not intentionally find fault.
- If unable to cultivate the guru's teachings
As a result of illness
One should respectfully explain to the guru
Then, no offense is committed
Explanation: The teachings of the guru should be practiced with persistence. If ill and unable to practice the teachings, one should tactfully inform the guru. Then, there will not be any offense committed.
- Often bring joy to the guru
And keep the guru away from anxiety
Perform these acts with diligence
Which are too many to describe
Explanation: Do everything one can to please the guru. Resolve all difficulties for the guru. Make offerings and serve the guru with reverence and diligence. There are too many ways to serve the guru to list them all.
- Those Vajra Tathagatas
And also taught in the scriptures that
Accomplishment is attained by reliance on the guru
Explanation: The Buddha said that one can achieve great accomplishment through reliance on the guru.
- 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.
- 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 cultivators of the correct Dharma. The Fourteen Root Tantric Vows must also be transmitted and observed by the disciples so they will become virtuous Vajrayana cultivators.
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