Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Spiritual Friend

Editor's note: This is a guest post by Karen Johnstone.

 I've been invited to be a guest writer here today, and the subject:  something that inspires me.  Immediately, Guru Yoga, Devotion to the Spiritual Teacher, the Spiritual Friend came to mind.   

I crossed a benchmark in the past several months, having taken refuge a little over 5 years ago, studying exclusively with my root teacher, Younge Khachab Rinpoche.  He has often exhorted me to direct my attention to Guru Yoga.  Early on, I found myself somewhat befuddled by the terminology - what does this truly mean?  Am I practicing a kind of blind faith, an "idiot" devotion (parallel to another popularized term, "idiot compassion")? Perhaps this has occurred to some degree. 

However, as I've passed the 5 year benchmark, I have discovered an inner confidence that provides a very firm foundation for my practice and anchors my commitments.  I reflect on all that I have learned from my root teacher, and I deeply appreciate the insight and stability that supports me daily.  I recognize a joy and sense of ease that is uncontrived- a radiance that simply occurs.  I've come to recognize this after taking the time to listen, absorb, and contemplate the teachings he has so generously and abundantly shared. 

My meditation practice allows me to examine and relate to the teachings from my own personal experience.  I am deeply and sincerely moved by the profound generosity of my root teacher, and of course his discipline, patience, diligence, meditative concentration that is so deeply instructive, and wisdom.  Guru Yoga for me has evolved into something very natural, empowering and nurturing.  I understand just how illuminating this relationship has become and its far reaching benefits. 

Alexander Berzin defines a Spiritual Friend:

A Spiritual Friend is a friend to help us be more constructive.  It doesn’t mean somebody that we go drinking with and go to the movies with, but someone who we really have a heart to heart close connection with. The whole purpose of the relationship is to help us to be more and more constructive, more and more positive, to gain more and more good qualities.

That is unquestionably my experience.  My practice and my path are rooted in the very practical and grounded advice of my root teacher, the very genuine and reciprocal respect we share, and the deep self respect he has inculcated in me.  From that deep respect, I move with a greater sense of responsibility, devotion and attention to my practice, which is so very constructive and grounded.

I had the pleasure of spending this past week on the island of Hawaii, at Wood Valley Temple, for an empowerment, teachings, fire puja and celebration of Losar, presented and led by a visiting teacher from Seattle, Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche.  I have been acquainted with him since 2008 (a few months after establishing my relationship with my root teacher). Recently I read his autobiography, a remarkable story, and I welcomed the opportunity to deepen my acquaintance with him.  I also had the pleasure of socializing with the Hawaii sangha.   Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche also spoke about Guru Yoga, explaining that it is not merely the physical actions done as part of preliminary practices.  I already had a deep appreciation for Younge Khachab Rinpoche and in the weekend's activities I recognized how much I have learned, and the ease and confidence I now enjoy with what I have learned and experienced so far. 

I came to recognize that Guru Yoga is not something merely done.  It is a way of being; of receptivity, of inspiration and integrity. 

Time spent listening to Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche and interacting with the Hawaii sangha- being open, receptive, sharing, and responsive gave me quite an exuberant feeling.  I found myself quite conscious of devotion to the Spiritual Teacher in conversations as each of us came from unique backgrounds. We quickly came together with a sense of warmth, generosity and kindness that was reflective of the devotion each of us have to our respective root teachers and subsequent teachers.  While I felt very exuberant in my devotion to my teachers, I also felt more firmly rooted in my dharma practice; even more deeply at home.  I was inspired and focused on the transformative power of the teachings from my own root teacher and Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche, as shown in my ease and comfort with people I did not know previously; I departed with many new friends.  I was inspired by the firm confidence, devotion and responsibility to the teachings I have been so fortunate to receive, to live them as fully as I can, and in the profound kindness and generosity of the teachers with whom I share very dear connections.

This sense of connection to my teachers and their lineage was punctuated later in the week when I went to Paleaku Garden, a botanical garden that includes a Stupa dedicated by Bokar Rinpoche, one of the great teachers for Younge Khachab Rinpoche, and a Green Tara shrine inspired by Her Eminence, Jamyang Dagmola Rinpoche, who has been like a second mother for Tulku Yeshi Rinpoche.  Being mindful of very real and dear lineages was deeply inspiring to me, deepening my sense of inspiring presence, devotion, and the beautiful guidance and power of Guru Yoga.

It is from this inspiring presence, devotion and joyful confidence that I can be available for others.  Realizing that is profoundly empowering.

Karen Johnstone is an estate planning paralegal, energy clearing consultant, bad ass mother; and long time student of Younge Khachab Rinpoche.  She is a leader and coordinator for the YDL- Washington Sangha.  She can be contacted at

No comments:

Post a Comment