Fifty Stanzas on the Spiritual Teacher

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Item Code: IHF007
Author: Aryashura and Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey
Publisher: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala
Edition: 2001
ISBN: 9788185102870
Pages: 27
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5” X 5.5”
Weight 60 gm
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Book Description
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Fifty Stanzas on the spiritual teacher (formerly fifty Stanzas on Guru Devotion) by Aryashura is an indispensable text that deals with how to cultivate the proper relationship between a student and his or her spiritual Teacher. This text along with a oral commentary by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey have been ably translated by the LTWA translation bureau and revised by Dr. Alex Berzin.


Fifty stanzas on the spiritual teacher (Gurupanchashika) was written in about the first century B.C. by Ashvaghosha. This Indian poet was known by many names, such as Aryashura, Matricheta, Patricheta, Matichitta and Bhavideva, and was a contemporary of King Kanishka of the Kushan Dynasty. Having previously been a strong non-Buddhist believer, he become an extremely devout follower of the Buddhas path writing many works on its various aspects.

Shakyamuni Buddha lived about four centuries before Ashvaghosha. He taught sutras dealing with meditative practices for attaining Liberation and Enlightenment and in the form of Buddha Vajradhara, Mahamudra and the tantras covering speedier, yet more dangerous methods for achieving this latter goal. Success in following either the Sutrayana or Tantrayana path depends solely on your whole—hearted commitment to your spiritual teacher for Buddha indicated in the Saddarmapundarika Sutra (II, 124) and in the kye-dor bshadrgyud rdo-rjei gur, an explanatory work to the Hevajra Tantra, that in future times of degeneration he would take the form of spiritual teachers. At such times these teachers should be respected the same as the Buddhas, for they will be their living representatives.

A whole hearted commitment to a spiritual teacher involves both thoughts and your actions. The most important thing is to develop the total conviction that your teacher is a Buddha. Such a conviction is prerequisite for receiving any insight. If you are aiming to benefit yourself and overcome all suffering with the attainment of Liberation, or reach the perfected state of a fully Enlightened Buddha so that you can help liberate others, your spiritual teacher can only show you the way if he himself has already achieved these accomplishments. If you doubt your teacher’s competence and ability to guide you, your practices will be extremely unstable and you will be unable to make any concrete progress. You must have full confidence that it is possible to become enlightened, that your spiritual teacher is living proof of this, and that by following Buddha’s teachings as he or she instructs you can achieve the same. Only then will it be possible to gain any benefits from the practice.

Seeing only good qualities spiritual teacher therefore, is the way to develop these qualities yourself. Normally most people are blind to their own shortcomings, while the faults of others shine out clearly. But if you did not possess these same faults yourself, you would be unable to recognize them in others. If there are two pieces of fruit, one ripe and one rotten, and the person next to you takes the ripe one, it is only due to your own greed that you accuse him of being greedy and selfish. If you were unattached to the fruit, it would not matter to you which one he took- you would simply see him as having taken a piece of fruit.

Likewise, if you can train yourself to see only good qualities and never any faults in your spiritual teacher, this positive outlook will come to pervade, amplify and reflect your own state of mind. As everyone has the clear Mahamudra or Buddha nature within him or her-the clear, uncontaminated state of pure mind established without any true independent existence –then if you can see your spiritual teacher in terms of a Buddha, you have the possibility of activating and realizing your own Buddha nature of achieving the resultant Mahamudra. If you see only faults, you merely reinforce your own shortcomings and negative attitudes, whereas if you see only perfection you will be able to attain the perfection of Buddhahood yourself. Therefore one of the main practices of Guru-yoga, particularly in Mahamudra and the tantra, is to realize the inseparability of your own mind with your spiritual teacher, the Buddhas and your meditational deity, who is a pure-form manifestation of the Enlightened mind. Thus a whole hearted commitment to a spiritual teacher is the root of all attainments.

If your spiritual teacher acts in a seemingly unenlightened manner and you feel it would be hypocritical to think him or her a Buddha, you should remember that your own opinions are unreliable and that the apparent faults you see may only be a reflection of your own deluded state of mind. Also you should think that if your spiritual teacher acted in a completely perfect manner, he or she would be inaccessible and you would be unable to relate to him or her. It is therefore out of your spiritual teacher’s great compassion that he or she may show apparent flow. This is part of his or her use of skilful means in teaching you. Your teacher is mirroring your own faults; therefore check within and learn how to remove your shortcomings. If you are only intent on criticizing your teacher you will never be able to benefit from him or her.

It was Buddha Vajradhara himself who said that your spiritual teacher is to be seen as a Buddha. Therefore if you have faith and take refuge in the Buddhist teachings, you will try to understand what Buddha meant by this statement. Buddhas exert a great positive influence on the world in the same way as does the sun. but just as a magnifying glass is needed to focus the rays of the sun in order for tinder to catch fire, so too a spiritual teacher is required to focus the Buddhas enlightening influence onto a disciple’s mind stream and inspire him or her to follow a spiritual path. Thus as living examples representing the Buddhas, spiritual teachers carry on the work of all the Enlightened Beings, acting as an accessible focal point for your practices to gain Buddhahood yourself.

Through a whole-hearted commitment to your spiritual teacher showing respect serving him or her and making offerings you build up the positive potential that will allow you to become liberated from all your suffering. Such service is done not to benefit your teacher, but for your own sake. When you plant seeds in a field, it is not benefit the earth. It is you yourself who will harvest the crops. Therefore with the proper committed attitude towards your spiritual teacher –seeing him or her as a Buddha-the positive energy you exert in his or her direction the closer you come towards Buddhahood yourself. Likewise, if you hate your spiritual teacher and generate negative energy towards him or her state of Enlightenment and its freedom from pain. As a result you bring intense suffering upon yourself. Therefore if you see faults in your spiritual teacher and tend to belittle him or her, remember that your opinions are unreliable and only unhappiness can result despising the state of happiness he or she represents.

Remember your spiritual teacher’s kindness to each you during the degenerate age after Shakyamuni Buddha has passed away. You mast develop loving respect for him or her. Your teacher guides you despite and does not force you to undergo such hardships as Jetsun Milarepa and others have had to endure in the past. He or she gives you initiations, oral teachings and transmits the unbroken lineages coming from Buddha. Your spiritual teacher, it is impossible to become enlightened. If you do not have respect for the state of Buddhahood he represents, how can you attain it?

These various aspects of committing yourself wholeheartedly to your spiritual teacher by means of your thoughts are taught extensively in such text as the Gandavyuha Sutra. These points and their scriptural references are found in detail in the lam-rim chen-mo by Je Tsongkhapa. The Gurupanchashika by Ashvaghosha is the most comprehensive summary of how to commit yourself to your spiritual teacher by means of your actions. Its scriptural sources are a wide range of tantric texts, including the Guhyasamaja, Kalachakra, Chakrasamvara, Vajradakini and Vajra—hrdayalamkara Tantras. The specific tantric sources for each verse are given in the bla-ma lnga-chu-pa rnambsha, a commentary on this text also by Je Tsongkhapa.

For the study and practice of tantra, commitment to a spiritual teacher is even more essential and receives more practices are extremely difficult and complicated. If done correctly they can bring you Buddhahood within your lifetime, but if done improperly they may be very dangerous and bring you extremely dire consequences. Therefore the direct personal guidance of spiritual teacher is indispensable. As the Gurupanchashika outlines specifically how a disciple should act with his or her teacher, it is the custom to teach this text before giving any tantric empowerment. Once to teacher-disciple relationship is established the disciple is taught commitment to a spiritual teacher and the common paths of renunciation of the suffering of samsara, the Enlightened Motive of Bodhichitta and the correct view of Voidness (Shunyata). Then after receiving the proper empowerments, he or she can be led gradually through the stage of tantra on the firm foundation of his or her whole-hearted commitment and the above “Three Principal Paths”

Although spiritual teachers, like Buddhas, may be either male or female, the English translation of the following text and commentary uses exclusively the masculine pronoun for ease of expression. This reflects merely and awkwardness of the English language and not a sexist bias.


The library of Tibetan works and Archives is pleased to offer this revised edition of fifty Stanzas on the spiritual Teacher (formerly titled Fifty Ngawang Dhargyey, originally translated by the LTWA Translation Bureau, has been revised by Dr. Alex Berzin.

It is our hope that by standing this text students will be able to cultivate proper relationship with their respective Spiritual Teachers.

Gyatsho Tshering

Director, LTWA

December, 1992

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Book Categories
Foreword vi
Preface vii
Text and Commentary 1