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Asvagosha: Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion. Excerpts
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Techniques can backfire, as much else can too

The Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion [Skt: Gurupancashika; Tib: Lama Nga-chu-pa] are attributed to Asvagosha (80? – 150? CE). The verses were written in about the first century BCE. Two main attitudes and teachings of the work are that gurus should be respected as Buddha representatives, and that guru help may enlighten others.

Trying to see only good qualities in the chosen and enlightened guru is a main practice, along with the modest-making "your own opinions are unreliable and may reflect your own deluded state of mind". There is one more idea, that out of great compassion the guru may show apparent flaws in order to teach you (or others), mirroring your own shortcomings etc. Tantric experts do these things.

If your chosen guru has a generally positive influence and teaches you how to attain Buddhahood, the good thing to do is to make ample use of the best and not focus too much on other things. Find out what is essential and focus accordingly.

Great unhappiness is a sign of something wrong, though, and sufferings can generate more and more sufferings. Techniques and teachings are to be practiced correctly, or they can backfire.

Don't think it is best to devote your main efforts to a show of respect (homage) and delicacy of encounters. Instead, take time to practice the Way. And that involves rising above ceremonialism in due time. Such delicate matters are part of the teachings of Buddha, and are pinpointed toward the end of his "farewell sutra".

From Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion

By Asvagosha (attributed)

These cultivated practices are part of Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana.

However, contemplating (meditating) well is better than ceremonial titbits - Just be modest and show due respect, and never overstep your limits. Watching out in these ways could be a help:

A disciple with sense should not accept as his guru someone who lacks compassion or who is angersome, vicious or arrogant, possessive, undisciplined or boasts of his knowledge. (No 7)

A disciple with the good qualities of compassion, generosity, moral self-control and patience should never regard his guru and the Buddha Vajradhara as different. (No 22)

(A follower of) great sense obeys the words of his guru joyfully and with enthusiasm. (No 24)

(A guru should be) stable (in his actions), cultivated (in his speech), wise, patient and honest. He should neither conceal his shortcomings, nor pretend to possess qualities he lacks. He should be an expert in the meanings [of such as tantra and mantra and turning back obstacles]. (Cf No 8)

After a disciple has taken refuge in the Triple Gem and developed a pure (Enlightened) motive, he should (abandon his own arrogant self-will to) follow in his guru's footsteps (along the Graded Path to Enlightenment). (No 48)

After doing (what your guru has told you), report (what has happened) in polite, gentle words. Should you yawn or cough [in his presence], cover your mouth with your hand. (No 36)

Always be ready to stand up and serve him skillfully in an excellent manner. (No 28)

Always keep your word of honour. Always make offerings to the Enlightened Ones. (No 19 abr.)

Be diligent and alert, mindful never to forget (your word of honour). If fellow-disciples transgress (what is proper) in their behaviour, correct each other in a friendly manner. (No 44 abr.)

Bow in a proper way to the guru. (No 1 abr.)

(By studying the prerequisite trainings [that are] common to both the Sutra and Tantra,) you will become a vessel (of) the pure Dharma. You may then be given such teachings as Tantra. [When that happens,] take them sincerely to your heart. (Asvagosha, Fifty Verses, no. 49)

Condense and explain in brief if you can. (No 1 abr.)

Do whatever pleases your guru. Avoid doing things he would not like. Be diligent in both of these. (No 46 abr.)

Don't promise things you are much uncertain of being able to keep, though.] (No 35)

Examine (your conscience) [Feel into it] and discard boasting. (Asvagosha, 50 verses, no. 39 abr.)

Exert yourself whole-heartedly never to belittle your Tantric Master who makes no display of his great wisdom and virtues. (No 15)

From your guru some mighty attainments, better rebirth and happiness should come. Accordingly, make a decent effort never to transgress your guru's advice. (Asvagosha, 50 verses, no. 25 mod.)

Generate respect for [your guru] in others, [by using] honorifics. (Asvagosha, 50 verses, no. 34 abr.)

Giving (to your guru) is the same as making continual offerings to all the Buddhas. From such collection [of merit] comes the supreme Buddhahood. (Asvagosha, 50 verses, no. 21 Mod.)

Go for pleasing your guru fully with all the actions (of your body, speech and mind). (No 47)

(Guard) your guru's belongings as you would your own life. (Asvagosha, Fifty Verses, no. 26)

Having become the disciple of such a protecting (guru), should you then despise him from your heart, you will reap continual suffering . . . and then be reborn in a hell. (No 10-12 abr.)

[The guru] should have full experience in [the needed] fields, skill in the drawing of mandalas, full knowledge of how to explain the tantras, supreme faith and his senses [well enough] under control. (Cf No 9)

If because of sickness you are physically (unable) to bow to your guru and must do what normally would be prohibited, even without (his explicit) permission, there will be no unfortunate consequences if you have a virtuous mind. (No 45)

(If from a lack of awareness you have shown disrespect) to your guru, reverently present an offering to him and seek his forgiveness [to avert future harms and calamities]. (No 16)

If you lack the knowledge or ability (to do what your guru says), explain in (polite) words why you cannot (do it). (No 24)

If you wish to receive a certain teaching, request three times with your palms pressed together, while before him on your knee. (Then at his discourse), sit humbly and with respect, wearing appropriate clothing that is neat (and clean, without ornaments, jewelry or cosmetics). (No 37)

In order for the words of honour of the disciple not to degenerate, there must be a mutual examination beforehand (to determine if each can) brave a guru-disciple relationship. (No 6 abr.)

(In public), avoid prostrating and unorthodox actions (such as washing his feet). (No 5)

In the presence of (the guru) who teaches you (the Path), stop acting in a conceited, coquettish manner. (No 39 abr.)

In the presence of his guru, a disciple should not act (as a guru) to his own disciples. (No 42)

In the presence of your guru, don't walk back and forth (in front of him without reason). (No 29] abr.

In your mind you can prostrate to your guru. [Bow Heavenward, then -] (Asvagosha, Fifty Verses, no. 4)

May this [work] be of infinite benefit to gurus and followers. And may sentient beings quickly gain Buddhahood. (No 50 abr.)

Never chatter idly or speak in excess (or too loudly) within the range of (your guru's) hearing. (No 30)

Never disturb you guru's mind . . . (No 13)

Never sit on the (same) bed or seat (as your guru). (Asvagosha, Fifty Verses, no. 27 abr.)

Never step on or over your guru's shoes or seat. (Asvagosha, Fifty Verses, no. 23 abr.)

One is to serve one's guru and show him respect by obeying what he says, standing up (when he comes) and showing him to his seat - these should be done. (Asvagosha, Fifty Verses, no. 5)

Those who wish (to attain) the inexhaustible (state of a Buddha's Wisdom Body) should give to their guru whatever they themselves find pleasing, from the most trifling objects to those of best quality. (No 20)

Treat even your guru's beloved (family) with the same (respect you show for him). (No 26)

Try sensibly to avoid worldly scorn. (No 4 mod.)

Whatever fearful hells have been taught, such as . . . the Hell of Uninterrupted pain . . . those who disparage their gurus will have to remain there (a very long time). (No 14)

Whatever you do to serve (your guru) or show him respect, should never be done with an arrogant mind. [Better be like a newly-wed bride: timid etc.]. (Asvagosha, Fifty Verses, no. 38 abr.)

When asking for your guru's advice, (first announce why you have come). With palms pressed together at your heart, listen to what he tells you, without (letting your mind) wander about. Then (when he has spoken), you should reply, "I will . . . as you have said." (No abr.)

(When your guru enters the room) get up from your seat and bow your head slightly. Sit (in his presence) respectfully. (No 31 abr.]


The verses have been arranged alphabetically here. What is inserted in round brackets, follow the tradition. Insertions in square brackets are by T. Kinnes (autumn 2005).

There is a commentary to the work online, from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.


Added Sayings

Go for a healthy mind, and have a good heart, which is something very practical that enables.

One should give freedom to oneself and love oneself well enough. In Buddhism, particularly in Mahayana Buddhism, the best way of loving oneself is to pull out the root of all problems. It it is well accomplished, the result will peace, happiness, satisfaction. You can find happiness and satisfaction, as there is a wisdom (prajna) that cuts the ignorance.

Practicing the Mahayana teaching, bodhicitta, may be a good way to love oneself, to take care of oneself.

The satisfied mind is pure.

To love oneself well is not contradictory to what Mahayana Buddhism teaches.

Whatever you do with your body, speech, and mind, go for happiness first. If that is not had, something else.

You may slowly harness this and that situation to make yourself more peaceful [and/or] quickly achieve realizations.


Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion by Asvaghosa, Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayana, Mahayana Buddhism, Literature  

Gleaned from Kasyapa Matanga and Gobharan. The Sayings of the Buddha in Forty-Two Sections.

Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion by Asvaghosa, Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayana, Mahayana Buddhismm, To top Section Set Next

Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion by Asvaghosa, Ashvaghosha, Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayana, Mahayana Buddhism. USER'S GUIDE: [Link]  ᴥ  Gain-Ways: [Link]
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