The guru as Buddha — or like Buddha?
His Holiness the Sakya Trizin had some surprising answers to Julia Hengst’s questions about devotion to one’s teacher. She traveled to Pullawari, India to meet with him in February.
Julia: You commented in the March 2000 issue of Mandala that in the Vajrayana tradition the guru is seen as the Buddha, whereas in the Mahayana tradition the guru is seen as being like the Buddha, not that he is the Buddha. Can you expand on this so that students can understand the difference?
His Holiness: In every school, Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana, the guru is very important. Even in an ordinary sense, without a teacher you can’t learn things. Every level in each of the schools emphasizes how important the master is. But in the lower vehicles, Hinayana and especially in the Mahayana, although the teacher is very important, the teacher is not the Buddha. He is as important as Buddha, but not a real Buddha.
But in Vajrayana, in order to realize the nature of the mind, you need the blessings of the guru and accumulations of the merits. Without these, you cannot realize the nature of the mind, even through studies, logic, reasoning or examples. You can get an idea about it, but you can’t realize it without the guru’s blessings. For example, the sun is shining everyday, all the time. But without specific instruments, you can’t use the energy of the sun. Like that, the Buddha’s blessings are shining all over sentient beings all the time without any interruption …guru devotion, his holiness the sakya trizin, interview