Guru Rinpoche Day Teachings

Five Ways of Practicing Guru Yoga

Dear friends near and far

Greetings to you all on this very special pen chu falling in the month of Saga Dawa. Pen chu refers to the Guru Rinpoche Day that falls on a Saturday (which is a rare occurrence) in the month of “Saga Dawa”, the most sacred month in the Tibetan Lunar calendar: marking Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinirvana.

So, how have you all been? I hope very well. Anyhow, just to update you on my whereabouts, I’m in Hong Kong for a teaching program with H.E. Chokling Rinpoche, who on this special day gave a Sampa Lhundrup empowerment, which was later followed by 100,000 feast offerings.

Since today is such a special and auspicious day, I thought to say little about “Lamey Naljor” or Guru Yoga, which is the practice of merging your mind with the wisdom mind of the guru.

Five Ways of Practicing Guru Yoga

  1. Outer Guru Yoga: Requesting blessings through supplication.
  2. Inner Guru Yoga: Recitation and receiving the four empowerments.
  3. Secret Guru Yoga: Meditating on the Guru and yourself as indivisible.
  4. Innermost Secret Guru Yoga: Resting in uncontrived equipoise.
  5. Unsurpassable Innermost Secret Guru Yoga: Primordial purity and spontaneous presence.

1. Outer Guru Yoga: Requesting Blessings through Supplication

The first guru yoga is to make supplication, so we visualize the guru in the space in front of us. We fold our palms and with our speech we say, “I go for refuge in you. I have no other hope but you. I supplicate you from the very depths of my heart!” We really think like this in our minds and give rise to sincere faith and devotion. In this way we make supplications, requesting the guru, “Please look on me with your compassion and bestow your blessings!” just as it is taught in Calling the Guru from Afar. That’s the outer guru yoga of supplication.

2. Inner Guru Yoga: Recitation and Receiving the Four Empowerments

Inner guru yoga is mantra recitation for the guru, so if the guru is Guru Rinpoche then we recite the Vajra Guru mantra and visualize receiving the four empowerments from the Guru visualized in space before us. First, from the white OM in the guru’s forehead white light-rays radiate out and strike our own forehead so that we attain the blessings of enlightened body. Then from the guru’s throat, from a red AH, red light-rays radiate out and strike our throat so that we attain the blessings of enlightened speech.

Then from the blue letter HUNG in the guru’s heart centre, blue light-rays radiate out and strike out heart centre so that we attain the blessings of enlightened mind. Then for the fourth empowerment there are two different traditions: one way is to visualize yellow light-rays radiating out from the letter HRIH in the guru’s navel and another way is to visualize white, red, and blue light-rays radiating out simultaneously from all of the three syllables (OM, AH, and HUNG). By these light-rays striking you, you imagine that primordial wisdom has been born within your stream of being. You have then received the four empowerments, blessing you with enlightened body, speech, mind, and primordial wisdom.

3. Secret Guru Yoga: Meditating on the Guru and Yourself as Indivisible

Whoever the guru may be, you think you’ve now attained all of their blessings through receiving the four empowerments, as was just explained, and the guru now dissolves into yourself through the central channel on the crown of your head. By doing so, the guru’s enlightened body and your body, the guru’s enlightened speech and your speech, and the guru’s enlightened mind and your mind have become completely indivisible, inseparable and you remain within that state.

4. Innermost Secret Guru Yoga: Resting Uncontrived in Equipoise

Resting in equipoise. You leave your mind completely uncontrived, un-fabricated, unaltered, totally at ease. This is the innermost secret guru yoga.

5. Unexcelled Innermost Secret Guru Yoga: Primordial Purity and Spontaneous Presence

What is the essence of the guru? The guru is primordially pure, primordially unborn. What are the excellent qualities of the guru? They are spontaneously present. The guru’s knowledge, love, and capacity are spontaneously present; they’ve been there, present from beginningless, primordial time. You need to understand these two: primordial purity and spontaneous presence. You need to understand, “These have never been separate or apart from me. My own mind is primordially pure. My own mind is spontaneously present. This is it – it is the guru. I’ve never been separated from these qualities.”

Understanding primordial purity and spontaneous presence and being able to rest in equipoise within that state is the unexcelled innermost guru yoga.

Just visualizing, imagining the guru dissolving into you—their enlightened body and what you think of as your own dirty, impure body mixing together—we can’t do that, right? Why? Because it won’t work—you can’t mix something clean with something that is dirty. So we need to understand that our own minds are primordially pure in essence and that all the excellent, enlightened qualities are spontaneously present within our own minds. Remaining vivid and aware in that state of recognition is the unexcelled innermost secret guru yoga.

Sarva Mangalam,


Phakchok Rinpoche

Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.