Aug 29, 2020

Posted by in BUDDHISM IN OTHER LANGUAGES | 16 Comments

WHEN DEVOTION BECOMES IRREVERENCE..( Khi sùng kính trở thành bất kính)

Dear Guru,
I am happy to be granted a precious teaching by Guru which is very necessary for us while applying Dharma into reality!
Regarding the way of addressing among Buddhist brothers, we will accordingly follow your teaching and reflect on our wrong way earlier. I am sincerely grateful for Guru’s teaching.
In regard to those who called Guru as “ a living Buddha” or “the Buddha of my heart”, etc., based on Guru’s wisdom, I would like to contribute my understanding as follows. First of all, I was strongly impressed by Guru’s teaching that said “Using exaggerating honorifics to praise Guru is actually an act of defamation which cannot be worse. Those fancy words are nothing but an outrage to Guru, because it illustrated the fact that they got lost into Guru-ism”. It can be understood as PAYING RESPECT TO GURU IN WRONG WAYS HAS THE SAME MEANING WITH HARMING GURU!

What can be seen as “wrong ways”? That can be seen in this confession : “I was fortunate to find an answer for myself that I was lost in Guru-ism. If I have ever made any progress, it was just based on a worldly respect which is not far from its nature of Dharmadvaya (two extremes). Guru has warned the disciples to be cautious with this trap” (Mat Nga once confided in the article “A Yomost feeling”). A worldly respect which reveals the nature of two extremes can usually be found in reality with these common cases:
– Out of my Guru and my lineage which are considered as number 1, there is nothing else that is “good enough” (two extremes). There is an old saying that said “There is another sky out of this sky”, why must we insist on being number 1? However, we should have a proper reflection of the values we have, and what we are still lacking, or something we already achieved but it has not completed yet to make a right judgement. Since the boundary between self-reflection and self-possession is extremely hard to distinguish, we must see the difference in their essence.
– Those who tend to turn Guru devotion from a unique Dharma practice of Vajrayana into a trivial competition to see who is the winner in giving devotion! Seeing others praising Guru, they forced themselves to do the same thing that has no difference with a story named “the naked King”, in which no one dared to say the truth to the King for not being beheaded. It is a must to use the spirit of fearlessness in this case. If someone praised Guru deceptively out of being fearful, at that time they saw Guru as a harsh and cruel ruler, didn’t they? Supposing that Guru had some guests at that time (for instance some other Gurus), Guru might easily suffer losing face while taking all responsibility for the disciples’ attitude. Because those guests may give this kind of thought: Oh, so that’s the way he trained his disciples to merely praise him and he prefers to be flattered. On the contrary, if the disciples behaved naturally, conversed comfortably with Guru (of course, must be in the right track of Dharma), openly asked questions or even presented their critical thinking when it is necessary, the guests would otherwise pay high respect.

– Those who are having troubles make it clear between paying gratitude to Guru and clinging to the thought that Guru “demand” them to repay or that Guru just tried to heighten himself. Those who thought that Guru let his personal feelings (like or dislike, praise or insult) interfere while the disciples pay their gratitude, instead of acknowledging that Guru is pleased because the disciples can accumulate more merits when they sincerely praised Guru’s virtues.
These types of confusion may turn the practitioners into spiritual slaves, they become cringing in front of Guru. As they were scared that if they “displeased” Guru, (they thought) they might end up being scolded or even expelled. Therefore, they tried their best to praise Guru with empty speeches (as a story which was told by Mat Dieu Hang earlier, for instance). In that way, they chose to be a “suffering” practitioner, not a “happy” one. Is it necessary to make it hard like that? We should understand that if we “displease” Guru by asking straightly what we really don’t understand, or even by sharing that practicing Dharma is more tiring than hanging out with friends, but because it brings a lot benefits so we will try our best; it is much better than we try to “please” Guru deceptively, such as someone may show the determination to put the family affairs aside for seeing Guru, or taking part in Dharma events, but then they could not overcome any obstacles and give up eventually. If someone wants to please Guru that way, it means he underestimates Guru and considers Guru nothing more than a mortal being (who prefers to be praised and flattered and hates to be disparaged). In that case, how come the disciple receives the “blessings from the Buddha”?! If someone considers “the Buddha and Guru has no difference” (Fifty verses of Guru Devotion), is it unnecessary to “flatter” because the Buddha must not appreciate being flattered, especially without the right understanding of Buddhist teachings. Even when being praised sincerely, the Buddha would maintain a “neither happy nor sad” state, let alone those who offered “empty” praises. Here is a true story which proves what I just mentioned. In the Great Skillful Means Sutra on the Buddhaʼs Repayment of Kindness, chapter Compassion 7th mentioned a story of Buddhist nun Mahaprajapati Gautami who expressed gratitude to the Buddha for accepting her as a disciple despite she is a female. The Buddha did not accept and gave a teaching on this occasion. The story is as follows: (Due to the narration of Mahaprajapati Gautami) “At that time the Buddha gave me a teaching on the Anguttara Nikaya Sutta. I gathered all great compassion toward generations of Buddhist nun in the future countless lives to ask the Buddha: “His Holiness, latterly in next upcoming lives which may encounter the degenerate age of Dharma, if there are any good women who hold great reverence to Buddhism, please accept them to become a disciple and allow them to practice Dharma”. The Buddha responded:
– Good to hear! If there are any good women, who maintain their belief in Buddhism, hold their precepts, rejoice in almsgiving, diligently study Buddhist teachings, practice the right Dharma, whether they are laywomen or bhikkhuni, whether they take refuge in the Three Jewels or hold five precepts, or hold all the possible precepts, whether they practice six paramitas or auxiliary disciplines, I will bless them to follow the path of Buddhism without any restriction. They will get the fruitful outcomes from three rewards including human being realm, god realm and nirvana.
I was pleased to hear what the Buddha had taught and expressed my gratitude that: “His Holiness, if we, all good women, are able to receive the fruitful outcomes from those three rewards, it is thanks Buddha’s benevolence”.
The Buddha responded:
– It’s not right. Towards all sentient beings, Tathagata never concerns about granting mercy or receiving gratefulness. If these things are mentioned, it is a misunderstanding to Tathagata’s equal treatment to all sentient beings. It should be kept in mind that if Tathagata still concerns about sentient beings paying their gratitude or not, that is not a proper illustration of an equal mind.

Therefore, Bhikkhunis and all good women from now on should pay wholehearted gratitude to Ananda, in which they should recite his honorable name, hold reverence, make offerings, praise the virtues without interruption. If that cannot be done constantly, it is a must to keep in mind through days and nights”.
From this story, we can refer to Guru and the disciples. The sutra says “IF THERE ARE ANY BEINGS WHO APPLIED SANDALWOOD INTO TATHAGATA’S BODY, TATHAGATA WOULD NOT BE HAPPY”. So, Guru is a Buddhist master who is teaching and transmitting Buddhist teachings to his disciples, following the Buddha’s example, how would Guru be happy when being called a “living Buddha”? Guru cannot be swayed by being pleased or displeased, but by the compassion to the disciples in specific and all sentient beings in general.
“THE GRATEFULNESS MUST BE EXPRESSED TO ANANDA, NOT TATHAGATA”. If Ananda is understood as a Guru (the intermediate between Mahaprajapati Gautami and the Buddha), is it relevant that Guru is more compassionate than the Buddha? Absolutely yes. Because “THANKS TO ANANDA, THE FIRST FEMALE ENTER BUDDHIST PATH”. Accordingly, the Buddha taught that “BHIKSUNI AND ALL GOOD WOMEN FROM NOW ON SHOULD PAY WHOLEHEARTED GRATITUDE TO ANANDA, IN WHICH THEY SHOULD RECITE HIS HONORABLE NAME, HOLD REVERENCE, MAKE OFFERINGS, PRAISE THE VIRTUES WITHOUT INTERUPTION”. This is said by the Buddha himself, not a saying that was “clarified” by the any later Buddhist masters! So, Guru has never meant to heighten himself while emphasizing the importance of Guru in Vajrayana Buddhism as well as the significance of “hold reverence, make offerings, praise the virtues without interruption” to Guru.

On the one hand, it is taught that we should see Guru as the Buddha (Asvaghosa), and Guru is more compassionate than the Buddha (from the teachings of the Buddha, and Atisa). On the other hand, someone may be scolded severely while calling Guru as “a living Buddha”, or “the Buddha in my heart”. Are there any conflicts? It may be confusing considering literal meaning; however, it is relevant due to the figurative sense. It is hard to analyze meticulously because it also depends on the disciple’s sincerity while praising Guru. However, it can be concluded this way: Praising Guru as a Buddha without giving any thought is an act of ignorance which only aims at pleasing others. Praising Guru as a Buddha out of the worry of not being blessed by Guru is originated by selfish purpose. Doing so in order to be commended by Guru is originated by ego attachment. Then, should we not consider Guru as the Buddha at all? Absolutely not, because the Buddha and many Buddhist saints had strongly confirmed that fact! Then what should we do? Fortunately, we found the answer in one comment written by Mat Hanh Giac that said “Dear Guru, though Guru taught us not to call or praise Guru a living Buddha, we still keep in mind that “Guru is more compassionate than the Buddha, Guru’s teaching is more important than the sutra”. “Guru is more compassionate than the Buddha” is a process of acknowledgement that happens inside the disciples’ mind which reflects the ultimate respect to Guru as a Vajrayana messenger of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It plays a critical role throughout our secret pilgrimage to the Pure Land; therefore, it is hard to deliver this sublime expression by words or exaggerating honorifics which can easily deviate the practitioners into the path of the eight winds”.
It is important to CONTEMPLATE (which is processed only inside our minds; therefore, the expression of Body and Speech is originated by the force of Mind), but not to “shout out” all the time to be favored by Guru! In that case, the disciple unexpectedly turns Guru into a mediocre being who is greedy of fame, simultaneously falls into the trap of trivial fame and formality. There is no possibility that the disciple will receive the blessings as if directly “from the Buddha”.
Dear Guru,
I have presented what I understood based on your teaching. If there is anything that deviates from the right track of Dharma, I am showing my deep gratitude for Guru’s compassion for pointing it out for me.
I bow my head before Guru with my deepest gratitude.
I sincerely pray for Guru’s health and longevity for the benefit of all sentient beings.
May all sentient beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature.
Mat Kien.
Translated by Mat Tu.


  1. Mật Thanh Phương says:

    Dear Guru,
    I read this article. This made me look at myself, check my behavior in the past, present and future.
    Thanks Dharma brother Mat Kien for sharing this thoughts. It’s very helpful for my road to Nirvana.
    Thanks Dharma brother Mat Tu for this translation.
    May Mat Kien and Mat Tu achieve your rightful wishes.
    May Guru have good health and live long for the sake of sentient being.
    May all sentient beings attain the Buddha nature’s happiness.
    May all sentient beings free from suffering and get enlightened.
    May the Covid-19 end soon.
    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  2. Mật Phê Rô says:

    Dear Guru!
    I have read this article
    Thank you so much!
    Pray Guru good health, live long because benefit of all beings.
    Pray covid 19 end.
    Om Mani Padme Hum!

  3. Dr C H Lakshminarayan says:

    I bow my head at the lotus feet of Guru.
    Critics are always there in the world for all ages who talk for and against any subject or truth like the existence of light and darkness!
    The gold glitters ! The diamond sparkles wherever it be ! Does the Rose loose it’s fragrance or beauty call it by any name? So one need not worry whether one may praise or defame you! The reality being your consciousness knows what you really are !.All other criticism are negligible from whosoever it may be!
    Om Mani Padme Hum
    Tantra Nirvadeva

  4. Mật Chánh Hưng says:

    Dear Guru!
    I read this article.
    I joyful to thanks Guru for teaching and leading me to the path of right understanding. I joyful to thanks Mat Kien for wrote this article.
    May Guru has a good health and live long for the sake of all sentient beings.
    May the covid 19 will be soon over.
    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  5. Kim Johnson says:

    Thank you so much Guru
    What another wonderful article and teachings i loved this alot it makes alot of sense and how you should be respected the pictures you share with us are so beautiful
    Thank you again

  6. Tantra Mashita says:

    To my light in darkness the compassionate guru,

    Thank you so much for sharing this article with us, I really admired it, such a stunning article, in fact I have to admit that before I knew our holy guru I didn’t ever know anything about the devotion and its meaning, but today and after I knew our honorable guru, I think that the guru is the most important thing in three jewels “Buddha, dharma and sangah” because the Guru is the person who helps us to learn, practice and apply dharma in our daily life, and to be Buddha, so I think the devotion is an important thing on the path of the enlightenment, thank you so much dear honorable guru

    I bow my head down for you
    I devote myself to you
    I express my gratitude to you

    May you have a good health and live long for the benefit of all sentient beings
    May all the sentient beings attain the happiness of Buddha’s nature
    May the pandemic caused by corona virus soon end
    Om Mani Padme hum 🙏🙏

  7. Mật Thuận Nguyên says:

    Dear Guru
    I read this article
    I rejoice with the share that contains the devotion of Guru of brother Mat Kien which has shown me the delicate paper-like distance of devotion devotion and disrespect just one word, a small act of ignorance is enough. let us become disrespectful to the Guru.
    May Guru have good health anh live long for the sake of all sentient beings. May all sentient beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature.
    May the Corona will end soon.
    Om mani padme hum

  8. Sonam Tshering says:

    Dear guru,
    I personally feel like this article must reach each and everyone who can understand human language in this world.
    It is true that not everyone is prasing guru from what their mental process is developing.
    It is a very beautiful article everyone should read.
    Thank you so much. 👌👌🙏🙏🙏

    May this knowledge reach everyone so that they get an idea to correct their direction.

    Thank you @violet.


  9. Mật Diễm says:

    Dear Guru,
    I have read this article .
    I am delighted with the sharing of brother Mat Kien through reading the article “WHEN DEVOTION BECOMES IRREVERENCE .. (Khi sùng kính trở thành bất kính)”.
    I pray for the health and longevity of the Guru for the sake of all sentient beings.
    I pray that all sentient beings awaken with the state of enlightenment.
    I Pray for the coronavirus disease soon to be eradicated.
    OM AH HUM.

  10. Mật Phước says:

    Dear Guru,
    I have read the article “WHEN DEVOTION BECOMES IRREVERENCE”.
    Thank you, vajra brother Mat Kien, for your sharing.
    May Guru have good health and longevity for the sake of all sentient beings.
    May the Covid 19 pandemic be soon over.
    May all sentient beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature.
    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  11. Phan thị Bạch Tuyết says:

    Kính bạch Thầy !
    Con Mật Phong Tuyết đã đọc bài “Khi tín ngưỡng trở thành bất kính”.Pháp đệ cảm ơn đạo huynh Mật Kiên đã chia sẻ chân thành và những lý lẽ thật hơp lý giữa sự sùng kính và sự bất kính đối với vị Thầy ,vị Đạo sư tôn kính là một khoảng cách rất gần.
    Con cầu nguyện cho sức khỏe và sự trường thọ của vị Thầy vì lợi lạc của tất cả chúng sanh.
    Cầu nguyện cho tất cả chúng sanh thành tựu hạnh phúc của phật tánh.
    Cầu nguyện cho đại dịch covid 19 được tiêu trừ.
    Om mani padme hum.

  12. Tantra Amishuta says:

    Dear Holy Guru,
    This article has made me look back at my first articles I have written and how I felt at that time. I recall many times having fear that I would offend you or be in a sour light from you. I understand now that showing respect out of fear is wrong. Showing respect out of what you have learned, how you have become the path to Buddhism and enlightenment and for all of the lessons you share for us to learn the Buddhist way which helps us achieve enlightenment is worthy of praise and appreciation, not fear of being reprimanded. I would rather be reprimanded than be disrespectful to you guru. Please continue to correct me when I am wrong so I may understand and recognize my wrong doing as I sincerely try my best to follow the right path with devotion. Om mani padme hum.
    May all sentient beings benefit from your teachings, and other gurus who can lead them to liberation.

  13. Mật Khải Nguyên says:

    Dear holy Guru,
    I have read this article, which is like a mirror for me to look at myself. I understand that many acts that I committed in the name of paying devotion are not at all paying devotion, but actually insults to Guru because they came from my deep desires from the five winds.
    From this, I understand that I have to avoid letting my devotion turning into irreverence, by reflecting on myself. I thank Guru for this great lesson. Guru has been always finding chances to shape me not just my mind but also my behaviour. I’m grateful towards Guru.
    May Guru live long for the sake of all sentient beings,
    May all sentient beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature.
    Om Mani Padme Hum

  14. Cao Diệu Chánh Tấn says:

    Dear brother Mat Kien,
    I am delighted to read your sharing in this article. Through this sharing, I am able to understand more about the cases that show respect to Guru in wrong ways, which include:
    If we keep the thinking: (1) Out of my Guru and my lineage which are considered as number 1, there is nothing else that is “good enough, or (2) turn Guru devotion from a unique Dharma practice into a trivial competition, or (3) though that Guru”demand” to repay; that mean we are pushing ourselves into the eight worldly concerns (fame-disrepute; praise-blame; gain-loss; pleasure-pain). Also, If we keep these thoughts that means we have negative thoughts of Guru, consider Guru nothing more than a mortal being (who prefers to be praised and flattered and hates to be disparaged). This is the act of violation to the first Tantric vows: “Show respect and do not criticize the Guru”. As a result, we would not be able to receive the “blessings from the Buddha” and not be able to get enlightenment because we are going opposite to the teaching of the Master Asvaghosa in “50 verse of Guru devotion”.
    Thank you Dharma brother Mat Kien for sharing this article. From that, I can reflect my own action of body, speech and mind and nurture Guru devotion accordingly to the right orbit of Dharma.
    May holy Guru have good health and live long for the sake of all sentient beings.
    Thank you Dharma brother Mat Tu for your translation.
    May the epidemic of Covid-19 come to end soon.
    May all sentient beings attain the happiness of Buddha’s nature.
    Om Mani Padme Hum.

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