The Qualities of a Teacher

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama — from The Bodhgaya Interviews, ed. Jose Ignacio Caberon (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 1988), p. 60.

the Dalai LamaThe Lord Buddha himself has made it quite clear in both the Vinaya Sutras and the Mahayana Scriptures, and even in the Tantrayana, in a very detailed fashion, what the qualities of a teacher should be. This is why I often criticize the Tibetan attitude of seeing whatever the Guru does as good, of respecting everything that [he] does as good right from the start, without the initial period of examination. Of course, if the Guru is really qualified, then to have such an attitude is really worthwhile. . . .

Take the cases of Naropa and Marpa, for example. Sometimes it appears as though some of the things Tilopa asked of Naropa, or Naropa asked of Marpa, were unreasonable. Deep down however these requests had good meaning. Because of their great faith in their Gurus, Naropa and Marpa did as intended. Despite the fact that they appeared to be unreasonable, because the teachers were qualified, their actions had some meaning. In such situations it is necessary from the disciple’s side that all of the actions of the teacher be respected. But this cannot be compared to the case of ordinary people. Broadly speaking, I feel the Buddha gave us complete freedom of choice to thoroughly examine the person who is to be our Guru. This is very important. Unless one is definite, one should not take someone as a Guru. This preliminary examination is a kind of precautionary measure.


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