The first thing we as genuine spiritual practitioners of Lord Buddha’s teaching must clearly understand is that: The Buddha’s teaching, no matter whether you are a practitioner of Vajrayana, Mahayana or Theravada, must be understood logically. The Buddha taught about the universal truth, therefore his teaching can be tested, examined and verified, it is universally true. Buddhist spiritual teachers exist in order to expound the authentic teaching of the Buddha. This is something we as followers and students of Buddha Dharma must always keep in mind. If you have doubts, clear them with your teacher, who should be qualified to explain to you honestly without any personal agenda, because his or her sole duty as a Dharma teacher is to clear your doubts and not to add to your confusions. If he or she doesn’t have the answer, he or she should also be frankly telling you, “I don’t know.” Unfortunately, sorry to say, finding an authentic and honest teacher with pure motivation is very difficult these days.
Many questions about “Samaya” have been pouring in these few weeks, such as I have taken refuge and I was told that I am now bound by Samaya, so I cannot question the actions of my refuge guru and his or her lineage, but something is not logically correct, what to do? Some even ask: By doubting the actions of my guru and his or her lineage, I am told that I have broken my Samaya and will be heading to Vajra hell, what to do? And so on so forth. First of all, whoever supposedly has given you Samaya or so-called Tantric vows, is he or she keeping his or her own Samaya pure and unbroken?
You must understand that you cannot give away things that you yourself do not possess. If the teacher has broken his or her own Samaya with a guru and Vajra brothers, then he or she has no Samaya to give you. Samaya has to come from a pure and golden lineage, unbroken, and the teacher giving you the Samaya also must have been keeping the Samaya pure, golden and unbroken. It has to be a beautiful lineage, pure, golden and unbroken.
Samaya is not something that just pops up from nowhere, no way! Samaya has a lineage from Vajradhara up until your own guru. Samaya is actually nothing but the realisation, the Mahamudra or Maha Ati realisation. For example, I as the guru must have the Vajradhara realisation from Tilopa to Naropa, to the rest of the lineage masters and then to my own guru, or from Guru Padmasambhava to my guru. Once I receive the Samaya, I have to keep it preciously. Not only keeping it, but I also have to practise it, I have to realise it, I have to sustain it with pure motivation for the benefit of all beings and pass it on to qualified disciples and students. A qualified disciple is one that is ready and that has the quality and qualification of realisation or understanding. In this information age, a lot of Vajrayana teachings have been translated, with contents partially extracted and communicated to the public. Sometimes out of compassion and kindness, Vajrayana masters give Anuttarayoga Tantra teachings and initiations even to beginners for them to have a connection with the Vajrayana path.
Such teachings often come with Samaya vows. However, it does not mean that the students receiving them who lack the qualifications to practise and the realisation are bound by these vows. The students must have some realisation after practising and having received the Samaya from the Annutarayoga Tantra, there should be some genuine effect after practising. If there is no intention of practising nor receiving the Samaya vows, and Samaya vows were received without any intention or understanding, then the students would not have received the Samaya vows at all. Basically, both the guru and the student must be qualified in order to effect the Samaya vows.
Samaya is not a joking matter or something to be abused. It cannot be passed on like a piece of mundane contract, it is a very serious matter. The one giving you must have the pure Samaya, and the one receiving it must be ready and must have the quality to receive it. Generally, we say that a student needs to be a perfect vessel to receive the teaching, and in the case of the Samaya connection, the guru needs to be a perfect vessel to pass on the teaching. Think of Samaya being pure nectar. If a guru is not ready or does not have the authentic Samaya, he or she is like a contaminated vessel, and no matter how golden and precious the nectar is, it would become contaminated. So when it is given to the disciple, the Samaya is also not pure and golden. It’s become something else other than what we all know as Samaya.
Just because I have given you refuge and now you are bound to me by Samaya. Definitely not. The refuge is not Samaya. Samaya is not a dark spell cast on you. We are followers of Buddha’s teaching, we are not followers of a cult. While we always blame that this is a Dark Age full of teachers with impure motivation, let’s check our own motivation as followers, whether we are seeking a path of liberation for the benefit of others, or we are just roaming around and hanging out in a fan group. As the Buddha says so many times in different teachings, “My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or worship.
Once again, I urge everyone, including my own students and disciples, to investigate your teachers, their teachings and their actions. An authentic teacher would not be afraid to be tested. Return to the basic principles taught by the Buddha. The Buddha gave us the 5 refuge precepts so that we do not harm others and then he gave the Mahayana Bodhicitta precepts so that we would protect and help others. We should at least be practising these two levels of precepts well. At least we should have this motivation of not harming and of helping others, this is the least we can do if we call ourselves Buddhist practitioners and if we genuinely want to be good human beings.