As mentioned in the previous chapter, the attitude of a warrior is essential in our relationship with the Lama. We are not impelled to relish everything our Lama enjoys in terms of his or her personality display, but we must be able to dance with their personality display.
We need to view all the time we spend with our Lama—formal teachings or informal social events—as a potent opportunity for transmission.
Through our demeanour of honour and integrity, and through remaining alert and present, we stay open to all opportunities. Lamas do not appreciate obsequious behaviour, but will appreciate our full attention in terms of their function as Lamas.
Ngak’chang Rinpoche says,
it is common courtesy not to speak over anyone, the Lama does not
require courtesy for the sake of courtesy. The Lama is not offended
by the vagaries of differing manners. The Lama simply needs to be
able to communicate effectively.
Lamas appreciate awareness of their practical needs when teaching in terms of the many demands on their time. Once in vajra relationship the vajra sangha should avoid becoming a Dharma Gestapo – believing they alone have the ear of the Lamas, understand their wishes, and have the right to command the rest of the sangha. If we allow arrogance to develop we are unlikely to notice the subtle guidance and suggestions of our Lamas, and are likely to assume we already know what they mean – and hence to make egregious errors.
Second-guessing one’s Lama is never a good idea. It wastes the potential of the moment. If I have the capacity to follow the instructions of my Lama, and to allow my rationale to be overridden, it offers a great opportunity for spiritual growth. However I remain responsible for my initial decision to function within the parameters of vajra commitment. I cannot blame the Lama for my decision.
Often the Lama has simply been
fantastically generous in allowing vajra commitment in cases where
the student’s only real quality has been reckless enthusiasm that
would not be gainsaid. The Lama will always attempt to encourage
serious consideration of the step – but in the final throw will
often simply defer to the beginningless non-dual nature of the
student in terms of his or her belief in the seriousness of their
It is this aspect of personal responsibility which suggests danger and challenge in the relationship with the Lama. I referred to the Lama as a dangerous friend. Lamas are friends inasmuch as their motivation in all their interaction with me is that I achieve the realisation of non-duality. They are dangerous because they offer a one-way ticket which involves total saturation. They are dangerous to samsara. Once I have moved beyond the general commitment of refuge into the individual commitment of binding myself to a Vajra Master, there can be no turning back without grave self-inflicted personal consequences.
If I abandon the Lama, I throw myself back into my own dualistic view with even greater force and distortion than before. The spiral of self-referentiality becomes increasingly tight and constricting. The movement into openness and growth ceases.
The Lama is dangerous inasmuch as I may decide that the Lama wants to push me beyond what I think is possible – that is to say: outside the scope of my relative view. But as devotion grows I may find that the relative considerations of ordinary life become increasingly irrelevant. The Lama is the enemy of the relative condition. The Lama sees my neurotic patterning, and delights in the hints of realised reality it displays. The Lama plays with my neuroses until they become transparent or explode. It can be both challenging and threatening. This may be an uncomfortable experience – but only to my residual admiration of my personal samsara.
In the beginning, we merely have confidence that the Lama’s view is more subtle or profound than our own. We may merely see the Lama as less entrenched in distortion and confusion than we happen to be. Through the experience of practice, we may proceed to develop confidence that the Lama is greatly realised. The Lama then represents a place of safety.
We see that the Lama recognises the pitfalls and pain of distorted view and that the Lama is able to offer a path to transform our neuroses into non-dual view.
‘Safety’, as the word is used here, can only be understood as ‘safety’ in terms of gaining realisation. The Lama will not indulge our attachment to distorted view. The Lama will not soothe us with comforting words and palliatives. The Lama will bring us face to face with our neuroses – and possibly in a highly creative manner. This is not safety in the sense of comfort and conventional security; it is safety in the sense of reality: the security of no security. The only security we can actualise is in knowing that there is no security in a material sense. Once we realise there is no security, we immediately become secure.
We no longer feel the need to hold on to anything or define our experience referentially. The Lama continually reminds us of our lack of inherent solidity, permanence, separateness, continuity, and definition. The Lama transmits the lived meaning of this teaching in his or her being.