Characteristics Of Those Unsuitable To Be Gurus

Many people trained within NKT might be full of fear and guilt to either leave NKT or after they have left NKT already. These feelings of guilt and fear might undermine the clarity to make a firm and strong decision and to rejoice into a virtuous deed.

Since the NKT offer only a selection of the vast basket of Buddhist teachings within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it might be helpful for NKT affiliated persons to learn those teachings not given in NKT—especially about the teacher-student-relationship.

Recently a nun pointed out teachings from the Kalachakra Tantra which say that a wise disciple would abandon wrong gurus as they would abandon hell.

I will give the quote—and a link to a file with other quotes from Buddhist scriptures—below.

For the sake of keeping you updated here is a news from the special realm of NKT:

The NKT leadership recommended in a letter from 5th Aug 2010 to all NKT-IKBU Centres to not associate with other Tibetan Buddhist practitioners:

Dear Administrative Directors,
Because of the potential for great spiritual confusion both now and in the future, we advise and request that NKT Centres, teachers, managers and residents do not get involved with the activities of any Tibetan Buddhist groups, teachers or their students.

If you receive any invitations or requests from a Tibetan Buddhist group, teacher or student, please politely decline them, and forward them to the Education Council Representatives for our information.

These approaches can be for support in some form (for example with donations, fund-raising events, visa applications, hosting, transport, publicity, social events); or offers to give teachings, empowerments or informal talks, or to perform pujas, ceremonies, ritual demonstrations and so on.

The main reason for this request is to help NKT practitioners to avoid mixing spiritual traditions, while of course maintaining respect for other traditions. It will also avoid being drawn into the many difficult political problems associated with Tibetan Buddhism, caused by mixing Dharma and politics.

Please inform the teachers, managers and residents at your Centre of this advice and request.

Thank you for your co-operation.
Warm regards,
Steve Cowing, NKT-IKBU Secretary
on behalf of the GSD and Education Council Reps


Ornament of Stainless Light – An Exposition of the Kalachakra Tantra by Khedrup Norsang Gyatso, pp. 214–216, translated by Gavin Kilty

Characteristics of those unsuitable to be gurus

The third verse of the Initiations chapter says:

Proud, ruled by anger, and lacking vows,
greedy, without knowledge, working to deceive disciples,
a mind that has fallen from great bliss,
without initiation, totally attached to wealth,
unaware, of harsh and coarse words, filled with carnal desire,
the wise disciples should abandon taking such people
as causes of complete enlightenment
as they would abandon hell.

People with such faults are not fit to be relied upon as gurus in the Vajra Vehicle. Even if one takes such a person as a guru and requests initiations and so forth, there can be no meaningful receiving of the initiation. Moreover one will become infected by a measure of his faults and fall from all elevated status in this and future lives. Most of the above verse is easy to Understand. “Without knowledge” means to be without the essential teachings on the six-branched yoga, for example. “Working to deceive his disciple” means to delude disciples by telling lies. “A mind that has fallen from the great bliss, without initiation” means that without having received the initiation he is bestowing, he nevertheless teaches it to others. “Filled with carnal desire” means working only for the pleasure gained from the sexual union of the two organs.

Therefore the way to rely upon a guru is firstly to know the characteristics worthy and unworthy of devotion and then to examine thoroughly who is and who is not fit to be a guru. The Great Commentary says on the second verse of the Initiations chapter:

Disciples who wish to gain worldly and nonworldly powers by way of mantra should first devote themselves to a guru. Furthermore one should examine the vajra master thoroughly. One should thoroughly examine his words. Otherwise, relying upon a guru unexamined, the disciples’ dharma will be perverse, and perverse dharma will send them to hell.

Also the Paramarthaseva says:

He, omniscient in the complete Vajra Vehicle,
has said that very wished-for siddhi follows the master.
If perfect disciples examine the master, therefore, as they would gold,
they will not accrue even the tiniest of faults.

However what should one do if one already regards as a guru someone endowed with those unworthy characteristics? The Great Commentary says:

In mantra, even though one has taken as a guru a person with the faults of pride and so forth, wise disciples, meaning those of intelligence, will abandon him as a cause of complete enlightenment as they would abandon hell.


Because of these words, even though he has been taken as a guru, if he does these wrong deeds, disciples who strive for freedom should leave him.

A passage quoted in the Great Commentary says:

Without compassion, angry and malicious,
arrogant, grasping, uncontrolled, and boastful,
the intelligent disciple will not take such a one as guru.

Therefore, if one has taken someone with these faults as a guru, then this disciple who is seeking freedom should part company with him and not associate with him again. These quotes from the Great Commentary teach just this point and this point only. They do not teach that one should loose one’s faith due to seeing faults because, as it is so rightly said:

Once that is used as a reason and one casts off the undertaking of holding him as a guru and as a field of reverence, one opens up the opportunity for a root downfall to occur. One must learn, therefore, to distinguish what is to be developed from what is to be discarded.

Some explain the two instances of the phrase “taken as a guru” in the two Great Commentary passages above as applying to gurus taken by others.