50 Verses of Guru Devotion
Ashvagosha lived in the second century at the time of King Kanishka,
in Shravasti (Middle India). In addition to these 50 Verses, he
is the author of the Buddhacarita, the life story of Gautama
1. Bowing in the proper way to the lotus feet of my
Guru, who is the cause for me to attain the state of a glorious
Vajrasattva, I shall condense and explain in brief what has been
said in many stainless tantric texts about Guru-devotion. (Therefore)
listen with respect.
2. All the Buddhas of the past, present and future,
residing in every land in the ten directions, have paid homage to
the Tantric Masters from whom they have received the highest initiations.
(Is there need to mention that you should too?)
3. Three times each day, with supreme faith, you must
show your respect to your Guru who teaches you (the tantric path),
by pressing your palms together, offering a mandala as well as flowers
and prostrating (touching) your head to his feet.
4. Those who hold ordination vows, if (your Guru) is
a layman or your junior, prostrate (in public) while facing such
things as his scriptural texts in order to avoid worldly scorn.
But in your mind (prostrate to your Guru).
5. As for serving (your Guru) and showing him respect,
such as obeying what he says, standing up (when he comes) and showing
him to his seat — these should be done even by those with ordination
vows (whose Gurus are laymen or their juniors). But (in public),
avoid prostrating and unorthodox actions (such as washing his feet).
6. In order for the words of honour of neither the Guru
nor the disciple to degenerate, there must be a mutual examination
beforehand (to determine if each can) brave a Guru-disciple relationship.
7. A disciple with sense should not accept as his Guru
someone who lacks compassion or who is angersome, vicious or arrogant,
possessive, undisciplined or boasts of his knowledge.
8. (A Guru should be) stable (in his actions), cultivated
(in his speech), wise, patient and honest. He should neither conceal
his shortcomings, nor pretend to possess qualities he lacks. He
should be an expert in the meanings (of tantra) and in its ritual
procedures (of medicine and turning back obstacles). Also he should
have loving compassion and a complete knowledge of the scriptures.
9. He should have full experience in all ten fields,
skill in the drawing of mandalas, full knowledge of how to explain
the tantras, supreme faith and his senses fully under control.
10. Having become the disciple of such a protecting
(Guru), should you then despise him from your heart, you will reap
continual suffering as if you had disparaged all the Buddhas.
11. If you are so foolish as to despise your Guru, you
will contract contagious diseases and those caused by harmful spirits.
You will die (a horrible death) caused by demons, plagues or poison.
12. You will be killed by (wicked) kings or fire, by
poisonous snakes, water, witches or bandits, by harmful spirits
or savages, and then be reborn in a hell.
13. Never disturb your Guru's mind. Should you be foolish
and happen to do this, you will surely boil in hell.
14. Whatever fearful hells have been taught, such as
Avici, the Hell of Uninterrupted pain, it is clearly explained that
those who disparage their Gurus will have to remain there (a very
15. Therefore, exert yourself wholeheartedly never
to belittle your Tantric Master who makes no display of his great
wisdom and virtues.
16. If from a lack of awareness you have shown disrespect
to your Guru, reverently present an offering to him and seek his
forgiveness. Then in the future such harms and plagues will not
17. It has been taught that for the Guru to whom you
have pledged your word of honour (to visualize as one with your
meditational deity), you should willingly sacrifice your wife, children
and even your life, although these are not (easy) to give away. Is
there need to mention your fleeting weath?
18. (Such practice of offering) can confer even Buddhahood
on a zealous (disciple) in his very lifetime, which otherwise might
be difficult to attain even in countless millions of eons.
19. Always keep your word of honour. Always make offerings
to the Enlightened Ones. Always make offerings also to your Guru,
for he is the same as all the Buddhas.
20. Those who wish (to attain) the inexhaustible (state
of a Buddha's Wisdom Body) should give to their Guru whatever they
themselves find pleasing, from the most trifling objects to those
of best quality.
21. Giving (to your Guru) is the same as making continual
offerings to all the Buddhas. From such giving, much merit is gathered.
From such collection comes the supreme powerful attainment (of Buddhahood).
22. Therefore, a disciple with the good qualities of
compassion, generosity, moral self-control and patience should never
regard his Guru and the Buddha Vajradhara as different.
23. If you should never tread even on (your Guru's)
shadow, because the fearsome consequences are the same as destroying
a stupa, is there need to mention never stepping on or over his shoes
or seat, (sitting in his place or riding) his mount?
24. (A disciple) having great sense should obey the
words of his Guru joyfully and with enthusiasm. If you lack the
knowledge or ability (to do what he says), explain in (polite) words
why you cannot (comply).
25. It is from your Guru that powerful attainments,
higher rebirth and happiness come. Therefore, make a wholehearted
effort never to transgress your Guru's advice.
26. (Guard) your Guru's belongings as you would your
own life. Treat even your Guru's beloved (family) with the same
(respect you show for him). (Have affectionate regard for) those
closely around him as if they were your own dearest kin. Single-mindedly
think (in this way) at all times.
27. Never sit on the (same) bed or seat (as your Guru),
nor walk ahead of him. (At teachings do not) wear your hair in a
top-knot, (a hat, shoes or any weapons). Never touch a seat (before
he sits down), or if he happens to sits on the ground. Do not place
your hands (proudly) on your hips or wring them (before him).
28. Never sit or recline while your Guru is standing
(nor lie while he is sitting). Always be ready to stand up and serve
him skillfully in an excellent manner.
29. In the presence of your Guru, never do such things
as spit, (cough or sneeze without covering your mouth). Never stretch
out your legs when at your seat, nor walk back and forth (without
reason before him), and never argue.
30. Never massage or rub your limbs. Do not sing, dance
or play musical instruments (for other than religious purposes).
And never chatter idly or speak in excess (or too loudly) within
the range of (your Guru's) hearing.
31. (When your Guru enters the room) get up from your
seat and bow your head slightly. Sit (in his presence) respectfully.
At night, at rivers or on dangerous paths, with (your Guru's) permission,
you may walk before him.
32. In the direct sight of his Guru, (a disciple) with
sense should not (sit) with his body twisted around, nor lean (casually)
against pillars and such. Never crack your knuckles, (play with
your fingers or clean your nails).
33. When washing (your Guru's) feet or his body, drying,
massaging (or shaving) him, precede such actions with (three) prostrations
and at their conclusion do the same. Then attend (to yourself) as
much as you like.
34. Should you need to address (your Guru) by his name,
add the title "Your Presence" after it. To generate respect for
him in others, further honorifics may also be used.
35. When asking for your Guru's advice, first announce
why you have come. With palms pressed together at your heart, listen
to what he tells you, without (letting your mind) wander about.
Then (when he has spoken), you should reply, "I shall do exactly
as you have said."
36. After doing (what your Guru has told you), report
(what has happened) in polite, gentle words. Should you yawn or
cough, (clear your throat or laugh in his presence), cover your
mouth with your hand.
37. If you wish to receive a certain teaching, request
three times with your palms pressed together, while before him on
your (right) knee. (Then at his discourse), sit humbly and with
respect, wearing appropriate clothing that is neat (and clean, without
ornaments, jewelry or cosmetics).
38. Whatever you do to serve (your Guru) or show him
respect, should never be done with an arrogant mind. Instead you
should be like a newlywed bride, timid, bashful and very subdued.
39. In the presence of (the Guru) who teaches you (the
Path), stop acting in a conceited, coquettish manner. As for boasting
to others what you have done (for your Guru), examine (your conscience)
and discard all such acts.
40. If you are (requested) to perform a consecration,
(an initiation into) a mandala, a fire puja or to gather disciples
and deliver a discourse, you may not do so if your Guru resides
in that area, unless you receive his prior permission.
41. Whatever offerings you receive from performing such
rites as (the consecration known as) "Opening the Eyes", you should
present all these to your Guru. Once he has taken a token portion,
you may use the rest for whatever you like.
42. In the presence of his Guru, a disciple should not
act (as a Guru) to his own disciples and they should not act towards
him as their Guru. Therefore (before your own Guru), stop (your
disciples) from showing you respect such as rising (when you come)
and making prostrations.
43. Whenever you make an offering to your Guru, or whenever
your Guru presents you with something, a disciple with sense will
(present and) receive this, using both hands and with his head slightly
44. Be diligent in all your actions, (alert and) mindful
never to forget (your word of honour). If fellow disciples transgress
(what is proper) in their behaviour, correct each other in a friendly
45. If because of sickness you are physically (unable)
to bow to your Guru and must do what normally would be prohibited,
even without (his explicit) permission, there will be no unfortunate
consequences if you have a virtuous mind.
46. What need is there to say much more. Do whatever
pleases your Guru and avoid doing anything he would not like. Be
diligent in both of these.
47. "Powerful attainments follow from (doing what) your
Guru (likes)." This has been said by (the Buddha) Vajradhara himself.
Knowing this, try to please your Guru fully with all the actions
(of your body, speech and mind).
48. After a disciple has taken refuge in the Triple
Gem and developed a pure (Enlightened) motive, he should be given
this (text) to take to his heart (how to abandon his own arrogant
self-will and) follow in his Guru's footsteps (along the Graded
Path to Enlightenment).
49. (By studying the prerequisite trainings of Guru-devotion
and the Graded Path, common to both the Sutra and Tantra,) you will
become a (suitable) vessel (to hold) the pure Dharma. You may then
be given such teachings as Tantra. (After receiving the proper initiations,)
recite out loud the fourteen root vows and take them sincerely to
50. As I have not made the mistake (of adding my personal
interpretation) when writing this work, may this be of infinite
benefit to all disciples who would follow their Guru. By the limitless
merit I have gathered in this way, may all sentient beings quickly