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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)
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  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 a disciple's heart and the disciple 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 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
    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.

  14. 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.

  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 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.

  17. 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.

  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 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  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 the guru's 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 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.

  26. 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.

  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 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.

  29. 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.

  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, disciples should not whisper among each other. All undignified behavior should be avoided.

  31. 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.

  32. It is inappropriate to display one's weariness
    Crack knuckles
    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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  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 belong to the guru. One may use the offerings received only with the guru's permission.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. Those Vajra Tathagatas
    Personally proclaimed
    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.

  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 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.
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.
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