Extracted from the website of Buddhist Vajrayana Charity Funds Association and translated (事師法五十頌導言) into English:
50 Stanzas on Devotion to the Guru
Vajrayana disciples should read the《50 Stanzas on Devotion to the Guru》on a regular basis. In fact, the majority of Vajrayana disciples can recite them by heart. Thubten Rinpoche states “Many senior disciples, who already possess a wealth of knowledge on Vajrayana doctrines, know that the 『Guru Realisation Practice』 is the purest form of dharma. They also know that the《50 Stanzas on Devotion to the Guru》is an essential stepping stone to the Vajrayana practice, and a compulsory subject to be studied. However, these disciples still repeatedly ignore the most fundamental《50 Stanzas on Devotion to the Guru》, this concept is wrong. Therefore, how can the disciple attain Guru Realisation if he cannot even master the basic practice of ‘Devotion to the Guru’ (devotion here means through one’s service, one’s offerings, one’s personal attendance, etc.)!”
The Guru wholly embodies the Triple Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. He is the perfect personification of the Buddha’s Body, Speech and Mind, encompassing the inexhaustible store of merits and blessed virtues. Without a Guru, one cannot receive the blessings of Buddha dharma. The Guru, the Yidam, and the Dakini Dharmapala are the three roots of a Vajrayana practitioner. The Guru is the root of all blessings; the Yidam is the root of all accomplishments; and the Dakini Dharmapala is the root of all spiritual activities. The term ‘root’ is thus defined. For example, if one of the roots of a tree is to be broken, namely the most important and primary one, then one cannot receive Dharma Lineage, the branches and leaves will surely wither. The main trunk will not withstand the onslaught of evil wind and demonic rainfall. With the ending of waist part of a tree being broken in the future! (remark: ‘waist part of a tree being broken’ denotes the upper part of a tree including branches, leaves and trunk will be collapsed. A Vajrayana practitioner is just like a tree, one cannot learn higher level of dharma; even one can learn higher level of dharma, one cannot attain great achievement.) Moreover, if the most important, the strongest, the thickest and the deepest piling beam of a building, 100-storey high, is to be removed, will the building remain standing under the weight of such immense pressure? (Therefore, if the Vajrayana disciple’s root with his Guru is broken or removed, the grace of the pure Buddha Lineage will be broken and will not transmit from Guru to disciple.)
Every Vajrayana disciple with wisdom should know that the Yidam and Dakini Dharmapala are an extension of the Guru’s power of merits and blessed virtues. As a disciple, one should bear in mind the proverb ‘When drinking water, one should give a thought to the fountain or the source of that water’. In other words, one should always remember the source of one’s merits and blessed virtues. When one pays respects to one’s Guru, one is also paying respects to one’s Yidam, the Dakini Dharmapala, the Buddhas of Ten Directions and the successive generations of Enlightened Patriarchs. Therefore, the Vajrayana Guru is the pivotal key in Vajrayana, the most venerable attribute of the Three Realms! In an era where tantric dharma is popular with plenty of tantric practitioners, many of them still moan about their shortcomings “After so many years of practising the Yidam Sadhana, why am I still not able to attain spontaneous realisation?” The reason being the disciple has not successfully followed the practice of ‘Devotion to the Guru’. By observing their way of thinking and behaviour, it is obvious that many are still arrogant, pretentious and even critical of their Guru. Those Vajrayana practitioners with wisdom, should not forget that the Vajrayana Patriarch, Guru Padmasambhava, once foretold that towards the end of the Buddha Dharma Age there will be few who can attain enlightenment! As a Vajrayana disciple, one must hold ‘Devotion to the Guru’ in high esteem and regard it as a principal and critical practice. One should lay great emphasis on this doctrine, as it is the solid foundation of Vajrayana. One should whole-heartedly strive to practise the doctrine of ‘Devotion to the Guru’ successfully. One should forbid oneself from committing any kind of fault or evil deed, whatever the magnitude, however big or however insignificant or minute! Moreover, one should repeatedly and diligently cultivate to accumulate assets of merits and blessed virtues.
Throughout the millions of aeons, honouring one’s Guru is the very core of Buddhism. This vital doctrine remains to this day. Furthermore, in the Vajrayana sects, it is unanimously accepted that honouring one’s Guru is a sacred samaya, a commitment that must be honoured by every tantric practitioner. A Buddhist cultivator must regard ‘Buddhas and Bodhisattvas’ as the Past Buddha Vision; ‘one’s Guru’ (Rinpoche, Guru or Lama) as the Present Buddha Vision; and ‘all Vajra Dharma Brothers’ as the Future Buddha Vision. This is the simplest explanation of ‘The Buddhas of the Three Ages’. This is also the basic step towards ‘Venerating one’s Guru’, ‘Honouring Buddha’ and ‘Respecting fellow practitioners’.
It is a concept that a Vajrayana disciple only perceives Guru’s outer physical appearance. Consequently, due to one’s self-ignorance, one easily forms a prejudicial view of Guru’s human form. Subsequently, this creates a sense of disrespect and loss of perspective on the true significance of one’s Guru. In fact, there are many ways on ‘Devotion to the Guru’ and the secret of observing and exercising them well depends upon one’s wisdom and discernment. Once the disciple has chosen one’s heart-felt Guru, one must totally honour one’s Guru as a Buddha. One must put one’s belief into practice by fully committing oneself to the fundamental principles on ‘Devotion to the Guru’. By doing this, one can achieve tantric realisation and swiftly attain the perfect siddhi!
The《50 Stanzas on Devotion to the Guru》describes meticulously how Vajrayana disciples should follow the doctrines of the Vajrayana Guru. The Tibetan translated version was written by the Indian scholar, Bhavideva. The Great Teacher, Tsongkhapa wrote《An explanation to the 50 Stanzas on Devotion to the Guru – a Discourse on Cultivating Disciples’ Desires》. The Great Teacher, Tsongkhapa explored and analysed each and every stanza, with extensive references to other tantras and scriptural sources. In addition, the written language used was practical, simple, lucid and the commentaries abundantly clear. Consequently, his works are held in high esteem in Tibet.
The《50 Stanzas on Devotion to the Guru》can be found in Buddhist scriptures, namely, Volume 32 of the Thesis Section of ‘The Tripitaka’ sutra (also known as ‘The Buddhist Canon’ sutra). The《50 Stanzas on Devotion to the Guru》is basically not difficult, just read the stanzas several more times, one can grasp (remark: in Chinese, ‘grasp’ here means besides comprehending and understanding the stanzas, one can apply them) most of them. In order to let readers understand the contents of ‘Devotion to the Guru’ and learn how to follow one’s Guru, we have used concise and established terms to produce an explanation that will benefit everyone. If one wants to understand ‘Tantric Dharma’ or ‘Tibetan Meaning’ in advanced terms, one must consult one’s Guru.