Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale– A Review
Is Enlightenment for Me?
An Enlightened Mind is A Mind of No More Disturbance, a Mind of Clarity, Kindness and Commitment. Enlightenment, as Tsem Rinpoche teaches, is experienced as a state of mind, where there is no more disturbance, as we have already removed and eradicated all forms of disturbance and all causes for disturbance. In other words, we have eliminated all forms of difficulties and suffering and their causes. Our mind has achieved true inner peace.
The Mind of Enlightenment, Tsem Rinpoche states, is a mind that arises when nothing disturbs it anymore as it creates no negative karma. Indeed this mind is a wish-fulfilling jewel that fulfils all our wishes. It is a mind of kindness, commitment and clarity.
What is most uplifting to know about this mind of kindness, commitment and clarity is that it is our natural state of mind.
Hiring a Guru for Enlightenment?
In “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale”, Tsem Rinpoche shows us how a Guru- a spiritual guide and trainer of the mind- is the one who can guide us unerringly toward this state of mind.
Applying the Dharma he teaches and has practised from a young age, he trains our mind to transcend our ego and all illusions and delusions, to recognize and accept the reality of who we really are, as well as the reality of the world surrounding us, and to ultimately reach a point where “nothing disturbs it anymore”. It becomes a mind of peace, a mind of kindness, commitment and clarity. Tsem Rinpoche himself is, without doubt, the living proof of the infallibility of this method of training that is called Guru Devotion.
Tsem Rinpoche brings to “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale” his unique style of presenting the Dharma (the teachings of Lord Buddha of over 2500 years ago) with its special flavour of wisdom, wit, humor and compassion. His honesty and sincerity will not allow him to sugar-coat the truth of the Dharma that he presents. At the same time, we cannot doubt his sincerity because he teaches us the truth and reality of life out of his own experiences in living his life, with all its travails and woes, using this Dharma as his compass and a beacon (in troubled times). Furthermore he presents this profound Dharma in a practical and accessible manner, so that we can make it our spiritual practice for everyday life.
What touched me the most in “Gurus For Hire, Enlightenment for Sale” is Tsem Rinpoche’s Devotion to his Root Guru, Zong Rinpoche
What touched me the most is Tsem Rinpoche’s sincere and faultless devotion to his Root Guru, H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. He saw his Guru as worthy of the highest reverence. He describes Kyabje Zong Rinpoche as a “Living Buddha”. Prostrating to him was prostrating to a Living Buddha. Serving him was serving a Living Buddha.
In the practice of Guru Devotion, it is essential that we develop a whole-hearted commitment to our Guru in all our thoughts and actions. The “Fifty Verses on Guru Devotion” strongly urges us to develop “the total conviction that your Guru is a Buddha”. Only then, can you practise all the protocol of the “Fifty Verses on Guru Devotion” and “Practicing Guru Devotion with the Nine Attitudes” faultlessly. Only then can you receive the full benefits of Devotion to a Guru, including the ultimate benefit of peace and Enlightenment.
From this chapter, we can see that for Tsem Rinpoche, this total conviction of Zong Rinpoche as a Buddha and more so, as a Living Buddha, was spontaneous and instantaneous! Every day, for the six months that Zong Rinpoche was there in Thubten Dhargye Ling , Tsem Rinpoche served him with the immense reverence that one would accord a holy attained Being, a Living Buddha. Getting up early in the morning, he would prepare and bring breakfast to Zong Rinpoche. Immediately upon offering the breakfast to Rinpoche, he would make three prostrations.
“I made prostrations because I did not know how long I could be with him, and I did not want to prostrate to a statue; I wanted to prostrate to a Living Buddha”.
Throughout the six months, he gave his single-minded focus to serving his Guru and devoting himself to him. He cooked and served him food, listened to his teachings, massaged him and was always in close attendance on him and seeing to his every need. The following account shows the care, respect and reverence he gave Zong Rinpoche, even to the minutest detail of making sure his plates and cups were clean and not irreverently touched or used by others:
“I would wash his cups and his plates first, clean them and put them in the highest shelf in the kitchen, without damaging anything. Sometimes I would wash his silverware twice, wipe it carefully so that none of it was dirty or sticky. I would put away everything in a special place so no one could touch his items. I even put up a sign in case anybody made a mistake. This was an opportunity to serve my Guru”.
No one taught Tsem Rinpoche about how to show such great reverence and devotion. He said all this came from his hunger and thirst for the Dharma. He had run away from home, traverse the continent to reach California, and had found the Dharma in Thubten Dhargye Ling, Los Angeles.
“So when I came across such a great master, I was not going to lose my chance”.
Late at night, he would clean the kitchen and mop the floor. He did all this to make sure the place was clean for Zong Rinpoche’s feet to step on, if he walked downstairs and past the kitchen.
Tsem Rinpoche will never forget those days. There was a lot of work. But he never felt tired or felt he did not want to do it. He never regretted all the hard work he put in. Nor did he remember he was ever in pain, or fell sick. It was not work, he says. He was collecting such a tremendous amount of merits with a person without faults.
“I felt I was collecting merits with a person without any faults, that everything that I did would accelerate my Dharma practice and attainments. It was all joyous effort and nothing short of that”!
I am also extremely touched by Tsem Rinpoche’s recollection of the extraordinary kindness of his Guru and his deep gratitude to him, by his saying that everything he is doing today is totally a result of his kindness. Every word here is an expression of his devotion to Zong Rinpoche.
“Zong Rinpoche taught me the Dharma, his lineage was pure, he conferred on me the highest initiations, and he gave me my Dharma Protector practices and all the paths of Dharma from the ‘Lamrim Chenmo’ to the highest practices. He scolded me, he shouted at me. He gave me so much love that everything I am doing today is totally a result of his kindness. He is the only person I miss every single day, and I do not have much attachment to people”.
Tsem Rinpoche’s devotion to his Guru has inspired in him a firm resolve to never ever give up his commitments, vows and promises to him, “even at the cost of my life”. “One big reason that I teach Dharma today is because of Rinpoche and the promise I made to him”. His devotion is also seen in his firm resolve to follow “the manuals of Guru Devotion” all the way. “I have not made any infractions of my Guru Devotion, not that I know of”. Hence, following the instructions in the Fifty Verses to the letter, he never ever slouched or twisted his body around or even burped, in his Guru’s presence!
Hence in the concluding part of the chapter on Tsem Rinpoche’s devotion to his Guru Zong Rinpoche, when Tsem Rinpoche says that if we do not have Guru devotion, if we do not keep our samaya and commitments clean, where does our spiritual practice go, I immediately agreed wholeheartedly with him.
At this point of the book, I was deeply moved, grateful and exhilarated by the thought of a Living Buddha who is my guru, and the tremendous potential this opens up for me to practise this Path of Guru Devotion, under his wise and compassionate guidance! This whole chapter on Tsem Rinpoche’s devotion to his Guru spells out in detail how to best devote oneself to one’s Guru and get the optimum benefit from this most intensive and extensive spiritual Path, which is true inner peace, happiness and Enlightenment. I am fully convinced now that Guru Devotion is the “pith of practice”. Having a qualified and highly experienced Spiritual Guide, like Tsem Rinpoche, is most important.
The Five Things I Learned From “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale”
1) We need to practise Guru Devotion, as is defined and described in this book.
We need a Spiritual Practice that will lead us to Enlightenment, for Enlightenment is about achieving a state of mind of true inner peace, where nothing disturbs the mind anymore, where the mind is all about kindness, commitment and clarity.
Guru Devotion is the spiritual practice that will lead us to Enlightenment. In order for the mind to attain a state of clarity, where all the blocks to Enlightenment are removed, in order for the mind to be led back to its natural state of kindness, commitment and clarity, we need a Guru or Spiritual Guide to guide and train our minds to achieve all that.
In essence, Guru Devotion is about training the mind to develop and hold the spiritual qualities which our Spiritual Guide embodies– the qualities of keeping our promises and commitments at all cost, of non-harming of all beings, and of being increasingly kind to others.
Real Guru devotion is about destroying the self-cherishing mind, which is the root cause of all our pain and suffering. Our Guru is the one to guide us to destroy our ego and self-cherishing. When we practice real Guru devotion, we become increasingly less selfish and more caring of others. Real Guru Devotion means listening to the Guru’s instructions and ‘submitting’ ourselves to all the wrathful methods he employs to help us destroy our egoistic and self-cherishing mind.
Real Guru Devotion leads us to practise the “Fifty Verses on Guru Devotion” and the “Nine Attitudes” in order to overcome and remove all delusions or afflictive emotions, like anger and strong attachments, which are the causes of suffering.
In summary, Devotion to the Guru leads to our natural state of mind, to our original self of clarity, after we have destroyed the negative qualities in our mind that block us from Enlightenment. In the first place, it is our Guru who will lead us to recognise these negative qualities when he brings them forth to us. Devotion to the Guru will ultimately lead you to your natural state of mind of kindness, commitment and clarity. By realising the qualities which our Guru embodies, we are led to this natural state of mind, our Inner Guru.
2) We need a qualified and highly experienced Guru, one who has already attained Enlightenment and embodies these qualities of the mind, a Guru whose pure motivation is to see us achieve Enlightenment.
A Guru, says Tsem Rinpoche, is a spiritual teacher, mentor and friend. The one who can free our enlightened potential, who can guide us to destroy the qualities in our mind that block us from Enlightenment, and uncover our naturally clear and compassionate true mode of being. We need a highly qualified guide with an ocean of experience, like Tsem Rinpoche, who can tailor his teachings, advice and instructions to suit the needs and propensities of each student.
Tsem Rinpoche: “We need a real Guru who challenges us, who pushes us, tells us ugly things about ourselves that are both true and untrue. When we are challenged, we will see where our mind is”.
However, the thing that matters is how we react. This reaction determines our level of practice. Ultimately, through the Guru’s skillful training and guidance, and our commitment to practise, we will get to the point where nothing disturbs our mind anymore. Then the mind of peace, clarity and compassion will arise.
A real Guru is compassionate to the point of not only guiding you to Enlightenment for free and without agenda, but will also risk your anger and hatred of him, your fighting him, your running away and saying negative and abusive things about him, so long as he can benefit you. All a real Guru wants for his students is that we truly engage in real Dharma practice and free ourselves from the bonds of ego and self-cherishing, and from all afflictive emotions or delusions, which block us from realising true peace. All he wishes for us is that we ultimately attain the goal of Enlightenment. The irony of it is that whatever we do in relation to him- serving him, making offerings to him, enduring hardships in the wake of his instructions and advice to us- they are all ultimately not for him but for ourselves.
3) Guru Devotion Leads to Freedom.
Tsem Rinpoche: “Devotion to and submission to our Guru is the beginning of us becoming independent– of our ego, of samsara and of our afflictive emotions”.
The real Guru will push us so that we achieve the six paramitas or Perfections, Bodhicitta and compassion, as these are the necessary prerequisites of higher practices. The six Paramitas or Perfections are ethics, giving, patience, perseverance or joyous effort, concentration and wisdom. We develop the virtues embodied in Bodhicitta and the Six Perfections as antidotes to our delusions, which are the root causes of our pain and suffering. For example, practising Patience as an antidote to anger, leads us to the lessening of our anger, and in its place we develop the virtue of Patience. Compassion for others is also an effective counter to anger and other afflictive emotions. Thus do we free ourselves from the control of afflictive negative emotions and the negative karma they create.
In this way, practising Guru Devotion, ultimately leads us to total freedom from suffering and the causes of suffering. In a similar way, the purpose of submitting to our Guru is to free us from the stranglehold of ego and afflictive emotions and from samsara which is in the nature of suffering.
4) Samaya and Spiritual Commitment
Samaya is about having an honest, pure real relationship with the Guru. Having a clean samaya with our Guru is very important because we are engaged in a spiritual relationship for a very high spiritual goal like Enlightenment.
The guidelines for maintaining a clean samaya with the Guru is contained in the “Fifty Verses on Guru Devotion” and the “Nine Attitudes”.
The devotion and respect we show our Guru has to be exemplary as our Guru is the one whose compassionate motivation and mission is to train our minds to let go of ego and self-cherishing and all negative afflictive emotions.
Tsem Rinpoche: “How strong our commitment is how much we want it. How much we want it depends on us realising the value of what we are doing”.
How much we value something comes from our knowledge of it. Eventually, our commitment is dependent on how compassionate we are, and the compassion is dependent on knowing that if we do not do it, we and others we love will suffer. It all comes back again to the self-cherishing mind. Commitment is about cutting this mind.
Our commitment to the practice of Guru Devotion and our spiritual commitments and promises and vows must never ever be given up at all cost. Keeping our commitments, vows and promises show a mind of compassion at work. The compassionate mind sees that breaking of a commitment or promise will lead to our suffering and the suffering of others. Thus it is important to keep our samaya clean and never break our commitments.
5) Having the Correct Perception of the Guru is Important
Ultimately it is the student’s correct perception of the guru that will remove all doubts and will truly determine if they will be able to devote themselves to him. So we have to train ourselves to perceive him correctly.
At first, we may react to what he teaches, with doubt, impatience and even anger, especially when he exposes what is ugly and unpalatable about us– our selfishness, our ego, our irresponsibility and our clinging to our comfort zones. What he says about us and others often runs contrary to the way we are used to viewing and perceiving them.
We also think negative things about him because he tells us what we don’t want to hear. He has to tell us what is wrong, tell us the truth. He has to encourage us to do daily practices, to attend pujas and go to Dharma classes. He has to urge us to be kind to each other, to keep our promises and commitments, and to study the Dharma.
Furthermore, we do not like it when he scolds, criticises or pushes us or presses our buttons. We are more familiar with people who tells us nice things and we want to hear the Guru say that Devotion is a breeze or only requires some effort. Guru Devotion requires hard work and entails hardship. But, don’t we want ultimate peace and Enlightenment?
As Tsem Rinpoche tells us, we have to learn to see things, including the Guru’s scolding, like a wrathful mantra, purifying our obscurations and negative karma. Eventually, all the hardships and criticisms become incredibly worthwhile because he is destroying our ego and our attachments, which block our mind’s attainment of no more disturbance.
We must cultivate a correct perception, by training our mind to focus and meditate on our Guru’s many good qualities and the great compassion behind all his actions. Having a correct perception of our Guru is a necessary condition for us to be able to devote ourselves to him.
How do I benefit from reading Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale?
“Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale” is worth reading for every one who wishes to have a practice to do for daily life. There are daily practices of the Dharma we can engage in, which is given in this book, for example in the section on the “50 Verses on Guru Devotion” and the “Nine Attitudes”, and also in the section on the “Dharma Centre”- working for the Dharma Centre, and on “The Refuge Vows”. These daily practices will help us develop an increasingly peaceful state of mind.
The Daily Practices from “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale” That We Can Engage In for Peace and Happiness
- Essentially, as Lord Buddha has emphasized, we should focus on non-harming of other beings in our daily actions, as harming others and other beings will lead to negative consequences of suffering for ourselves and of being harmed ourselves. An example of non-harming is become a vegetarian. When we are vegetarians, we are consciously practising a peaceful life-style of non-killing.
- Even from a daily viewpoint, it is most beneficial to engage in the Dharma practice of mind transformation to cut down our negative afflictive emotions, like anger or hatred, and to cut down our self-cherishing mind, which are the causes of our mind’s perpetual state of unrest and disturbance.
- At the same time, it will be to our greatest benefit to engage in the Dharma practice of kindness and compassion, patience, giving and joyous effort and the other Perfections. From this, we gather virtues and merits, which will lead us to temporary short term happiness and the ultimate happiness of Peace and Enlightenment.
All these practices are drawn together under the main practice of Guru Devotion. Guru Devotion then is Dharma practice on an intense and extensive scale, which we engage in every minute of each day for short and long term benefits.
The greatest benefit we can derive from this book is to practice Guru Devotion, following the method or path of practice that Tsem Rinpoche has given here, with a qualified Guru as our teacher and guide. Guru Devotion is, in actual fact, an intensive practice of the stages of the Path to ultimate peace and Enlightenment.
“Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale” an invaluable guide- book for open-minded spiritual seekers.
In essence, “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale” is about training our mind to the point where nothing disturbs it anymore. Seeing that our mind is perpetually in a disturbed and even turbulent state, and it is from our mind that most of our suffering comes, doesn’t it behoove us to get a grip on it, by training our mind to achieve the state of no more disturbance? We put ourselves through much hardship to attend training courses that bring us some sense of security or well-being that lasts only for a while. Whereas, if we were to put our minds to it, and read “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale”, we will discover in it the method of training the mind for this enduring state of peace or no more disturbance.
When shall we practise Guru Devotion? If not now when?
When there is a qualified and experienced Guru, who wants to put Liberation and Peace in the palm of your hand, why should anyone hesitate?
The path of Guru Devotion– the path to true inner peace and happiness or Enlightenment may be a hard one. There are no shortcuts nor easy way out. Nonetheless, when we have a most compassionate spiritual guide and mentor who is there to guide, propel and push us with such great care for our liberation from suffering and for our ultimate happiness, peace (and without agenda) would we turn our back on him? There will never be another chance- our chance is as great as the proverbial blind turtle coming to the surface of the ocean once in a hundred years and trying to put his neck into the constantly moving float (which is the dharma or Buddha’s teachings presented to us in such a powerfully effective though unconventional style by Tsem Rinpoche, coupled with the vigorous practice and training).
I strongly recommend “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale” to be read by everyone who cares about their spiritual growth, who wants to be assured that they are treading the correct path to real Peace, Happiness, and Enlightenment, and who knows the importance of having a Spiritual Guide and mentor of infinite wisdom and compassion, a Spiritual Guide who is most experienced and who cares very much that we will make it. Indeed “Gurus for Hire, Enlightenment for Sale” gives us, who wish to follow it, a clear and precise road map to freedom and real happiness.
To purchase a copy of Gurus For Hire, Enlightenment for Sale, click here.
About the Book
Author: H.E Tsem Rinpoche
Publisher: Kechara Media and Publications (March 20, 2009)
Paperback: 252 pages
ISBN: 978 983 4339 98 2
Product dimensions: 21.59cm (H) x 13.97cm (W) x 1.52cm (D)
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