Nine Attitudes of Ignorant Disciples

Yutang Lin

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition there is a well-known teaching called, "The Nine Attitudes of Devotion to Guru." It aims at helping disciples to know to abide by such attitudes so as to obtain the Dharma benefits of following a Guru. Here, based on decades of observation, I am listing the mistaken attitudes that ignorant disciples had for disciples in general to reflect on, with the hope that such failures will not be repeated by novices.

1. Grace Forgotten: No matter how much benefit from teachings obtained and how many blessed inspirational events experienced, suddenly all forgotten. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that the benefits from teachings and the blessed inspirations are supreme and rare.

2. Abrupt Departure: Either feeling unsatisfied, or listening to others' words, or liking new and tired of old, suddenly stay away. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that Guru's teachings through words or behaviors could not be comprehended completely at once, but will take long-term association to gradually obtain the benefits derivable from them.

3. Self-righteous: Mistakenly assume that Guru should explain everything to one, or listen to whatever one suggests, or grant satisfaction to all one's requests. If Guru's speeches or behaviors are not in accord with one's own views, then Guru is considered as questionable. If one had an ill-omened dream, then instead of reflecting on one's own fallings, one took it as a sign of Guru's falling. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that one is still full of shortcomings and has only limited views and comprehension, and yet has adopted one's views as the standard to evaluate everything.

4. Comparing and Complaining: Prompt to compare with other disciples, and jump to the conclusion that Guru is partial to someone or others. Evaluating whether others are in accord with Dharma or not from one's own perspective, incessantly being tangled by such considerations. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that to practice Dharma one should work on reflecting on one's own shortcomings but not on evaluating others.

5. Judging: Holding many fixed views, prompt to pass judgments on others or matters, as if one had thoroughly comprehended the Dharma and was capable of judging everything. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that what one knows is very limited, what one sees is not the whole picture, and what one comprehends is not much, and hence one is incapable of passing down fair judgments.

6. Exploiting: Getting into close association with Guru only to receive blessings to accomplish one's personal wishes and profits. Once the selfish goals had been attained, and no other exploitable interests are in sight, leave without saying good-bye. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that close association with Guru could lead one to exit from the suffering of transmigration in Samsara. Deluded, the great advantage is renounced, and instead one worked only on temporary interests in sight.

7. Ordering Dishes: Instead of freeing oneself from preconceptions in order to receive guidance step by step, holds certain ideas in mind, and demands to be taught this or that. When such wishes are not fulfilled, leave abruptly, just like a customer ordering dishes in a restaurant. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that one need to empty one's mind while learning from Guru so that real advancement will arrive.

8. Destroying: Unsatisfied, unhappy, or had misunderstanding, then, not only stops communication, but also spreads complaints or slanders all around and instigates other disciples to rebel, as if only complete destruction could be the satisfaction. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that the spreading and continuation of Dharma is under the supervision and protection of Dharma Protectors. Those who behaved not in accordance with Dharma will be punished, and those in accordance will be protected beyond any human interference. To commit karma like this is only to create hindrances for oneself.

9. Worldly Considerations: Mind fluctuates with changes in the evolution of worldly events and circumstances. One's pursue of the Dharma becomes at times cold and at times hot, difficult to sustain; and one period of diligent practice is followed by ten periods of negligence. Practice sessions are held irregularly; much or less done depending on one's moods. Such ignorance lies in not understanding that the transcendence from transmigration that Dharma practices aim at can only be attained through constant and persistent efforts that go well beyond worldly engagements. How could it be taken lightly and carelessly like child's play?

The list above was composed all at once, and all were based on actual instances but were prominent and readily committed ones. May this work serve as a clear mirror for Dharma practitioners to reflect on their own shortcomings so that the mistakes committed would diminish and extinguish!

Written in Chinese on October 13, 2008
Translated into English on October 15, 2008
El Cerrito, California

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