Often students and followers of Vajrayana get confused about what qualities are seen as essential requirements in a Vajrayana guru. They falsely believe that they should not examine a teacher and that they should take the first teacher they meet and feel intense devotion for. Fortunately, a great Vajrayana master and guru, Jetsun Tāranātha, explains clearly about what qualifications are necessary for a guru.

Below are some first-published excerpts from Tāranātha’s famous text, ‘A Hundred Blazing Lights: A Supplementary Commentary on Meaningful to See.’ together with a list of questions a prospective follower might want to ask before taking empowerments from a teacher. All the great Buddhist masters and texts state that one should only follow a QUALIFIED Buddhist teacher when doing any Tantric or Vajrayana practise.


When Tāranātha explains what having ‘confidence in a teacher’ means in the context of having the ‘three confidences’ he states:

The second point is confidence in the teacher. [The teacher] must be from a lineage, whose direct source begins with the Shakyamuni Buddha, which has been transmitted directly from one teacher to another, up until one’s own root lama. Also it must be [a teacher] in which the blessings have not deteriorated and in which the experiential realisations are continual without interruption.

One needs [teachers] who are not ‘words-only’ [no lineage blessings or experience], and do not have degenerated vows and samaya, or are not carrying bad spirits and Maras. If someone is an authentic or lineage lama, yet is applying the obstacles of a Mara, or is carrying a negative spirit, even though one practises all the Dharma from this lineage, a large amount of obstacles will arise.  If the source is a famous lineage lama who has broken samayas, even if one practices the Dharma of that lineage, no excellent qualities will arise.  Afflictive emotions will rise up and overflow. Everything connected to [the teacher and the practice] will be inauspicious.  Not only that but if the [teacher] has also lost even the ‘words-only’ transmission, after requesting and meditating on [their teachings], experiential realizations will never arise at any time.  Whether one meditates or not, it will be the same.

If the lama only tells little lies [and is generally honest], they might say well it is included in this text but: ‘I don’t have any experience of it though.’  If some lamas are very deceitful, in order to greatly mislead the students, some will even speak like they have experiential realisations. Yet, even if [their students] do a little practice of their temporary oral instructions, they will be still be destitute.  Instructions [from the teacher] to ‘do this and that’, without reasons, will arise.  These are not conducive to  having confidence in the teacher.


Further along, in the same text, Tāranātha, states in his explanation on Guru Yoga the essential characteristics of master and student:

As it is said:

A disciple with intelligence should not accept as his Guru someone who lacks compassion[1] or who is angry [2], malicious[3],  arrogant [4], has desirous attachment [5], is undisciplined [6] or boastful of his knowledge [7].

(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 tantra) and in its ritual procedures (of medicine and turning back obstacles). Also he should have loving compassion and a complete knowledge of the scriptures.

Thoroughly proficient in the ten principles, skilled in the drawing of mandalas, skilled in explaining the secret mantra, with supreme faith and his senses fully under control.

Even though this was is said in The Fifty Verses to the Guru[1], since it is cited in the scriptures on Stainless Light, it is clearly the same as the words of the tantra. From the Glorious Kalacakra Tantra:

First, the one to be followed, the pure lama. Endowed with samaya[1] and especially abiding in the vajra vehicle[2]. Meditates on ultimate reality[3]; completely pure without attachment [4] and free from stains[5]; a disposition that is patient and tolerant[6]. Entered the path and enabling students by giving the path and robbing them of the fears and dangers of the hell realms [7]. Observes chaste, pure conduct [8]. Regarding demons, one who holds the support of the vajra staff [9]and has accomplished Vajrasattva[10].

These are the excellent qualities of the master.

Endowed with pride[1], suppressing others with anger[2], shredded samayas[3], craving [4] and without having listened purely[5]. One who strives to seduce and deceive students[6], who does [not have] experience of abiding in the supreme bliss[7] nor the empowerments [8]. Craving all wealth and resources[9], immodest and careless and using harsh words[10], and with lust for sensual objects [11].Such experts in leading students to hell should be abandoned in order to attain the perfect bodhicitta.

This [above] is the presentation of the faults [of the teacher].

A deep and vast mind; that really likes the teacher, who gives away things , and understands the excellent qualities; strives for liberation; has respect for the tantras/lineage, a mind that is not wavering and unstable, that keeps very well hidden their attainment; that does not associate with malicious/ cruel friends,……

These [above] are the excellent qualities of the student that are taught.

In terms of the master, there are two types: 1) the supreme type, who possesses all the characteristics of a master; and 2) one who, even though they have not completely perfected the excellent qualities and abandoned all the faults, does not possess any inappropriate qualities. Both these types are suitable.

Similarly, the characteristics of the student are divided into three: the best, the middling and the lowest. In terms of the characteristics of the teacher, having bestowed empowerments, they have received samaya commitments and understand the ten principles and so on. This is not only the defining characteristic of the Secret Mantrayana, generally, the characteristics of the lama is that they are generally the same as a spiritual friend of the Mahayana. There are no huge difference s in the characteristics of the teacher in the Sutra and Mantra [traditions].

From among the [characteristics] of the seven faults such as the absence of compassion and so on, these are faults of the master. If the master’s conduct is predominantly composed of those faults, one should not [rely on] such a teacher.  Even though the  best[teacher] is one who has only a small amount or who has abandoned them, these days, [such a teacher] is difficult to find. If they have abandoned five or six of these faults and only have one or two such faults, then it is indeed the case that such faults will not arise.  Among these faults, since the biggest fault is absence of compassion, this is the most important fault to abandon.

[1]Skt. Gurupanchashika, T 3721 – Fifty Verses of Devotion to the Guru, by Asvaghosha. Here Taranatha is reciting verses 7-10.

Within the Kalacakra tradition, a fully ordained monk is seen as the best teacher and superior to those without monastic vows. Check and ask if your teacher has the full monk vows or not. They may look like monks and wear even monk like robes and clothes but that does not mean they hold the vows. Ask them. A householder can teach but they should not generally teach fully ordained monks unless they are a highly realised practitioner.

That said the Kalacakra Tantra asserts the superiority of Anuttaras (yogis and yoginis) on the ground that there is no monk or celibate who can equal one who has taken the tantric vows and precepts and is self-empowered by means of mantras.’  Any teacher who does not demonstrate these qualities should not be followed in tantric practise as they will lead themselves and their disciples to the lower realms.

Conclusion and Ways to Examine

So that was the great Jetsun Tāranātha’s advice. Here is my conclusion and suggestions for questions to ask oneself. Please think and analyse carefully. As one master said: do not rush into picking a teacher you meet, like a dog rushes to eat some meat they’ve just discovered. You can take your time, up to twelve years. Analyse and investigate. Challenge the teacher. See how they react.

  • Do they react to your challenging or disagreeing with them with overwhelming anger and hostility or love and compassion?
  • How do they treat you and other students? do they treat you as beneath them and with contempt?
  • Do they avoid you if you challenge them? Do they indirectly, or directly, encourage and exacerbate criticism, conflict and division among other Lamas and students?
  • Do they respect ALL women and females, whoever and whatever they do? Do they make derogatory and disparaging generalised comments about women? Do they sexually objectify, seduce and chase after women?
  • Do they encourage friendship and harmony between vajra brothers and sisters?
  • Are they very secretive and lack transparency and accountability for their movements and actions?
  • Do they have lineage masters still living? Do they continually demonstrate respect and devotion to their own root lama and lineage masters? Do they have photos and pictures of them in their shrine rooms? Do they encourage friendship, support and respect for other lamas and students in the same lineage?

THINK FOR YOURSELF. Emotions and feelings and blind devotion are not reliable…….It does not matter if the lama has a big name, even a famous lineage, if they do not have unbroken samaya, three sets of pure vows (Individual Liberation, Bodhisattva and Vajrayana – for more on those see here) and love and compassion combined with a deep understanding of emptiness and/or they have anger, lust and craving for sensual pleasures and power, and lack of love and compassion they should not be followed.




Teachings on Shambhala and Kalacakra by Khentrul Rinpoche in Taiwan, 28th June until 1st July

Jonang Lama Khentrul Rinpoche will be visiting Taiwan this month to give teachings on Shambhala and Kalacakra.

The lectures will be given at Dekyi bookshop.
Contact details: (02) 2375-2611 or
Course location: Deyi Book Square, 6th Floor, No. 61 Section 1, Chongqing South Road, Beishi City (near Sanmin Bookstore)

Online registration form:

時輪金剛及密乘淨土 –



仁波切出生於東藏高原。自幼即被多方秘密認證為果洛喇嘛格澤 堪楚的直接轉世。多年後其根本上師宣佈障礙其生命及佛法事業的違緣已解除,公開了此轉世身份。隨後不久,覺囊求塘寺認證仁波切為哇殊拉祖喇嘛即覺囊傳承阿旺邱珍嘉措喇嘛的轉世活佛。

仁波切曾參學於藏傳五大教派的各大寺院,精通各大教派的教法精髓,根本上師 祜主羅讓赤列尊者因此授予仁波切遍通藏傳佛教不分教派堪布。仁波切戒律謹嚴,精通法藏,證境殊勝,具足無畏大悲心。在如何獲得幸福人生、如何將不分教派的理念用於當今世界多元宗教智慧靈修體系的環境、香巴拉及香巴拉淨土、覺囊他空見、時 輪金剛道次第及結構方面,有清晰卓越的洞見。


1) 什麼是無偏執的不分教派? 如何在多元種族、文化、傳統、信仰、宗派,以及科學技術強盛的現實環境中做到無偏執、不分教派? 無偏執的不分教派與香巴拉的和平與和諧、香巴拉黃金盛世有什麼關聯?

2) 細說香巴拉 什麼是香巴拉? 香巴拉與西方極樂世界有什麼不同?

3) 實現香巴拉和平與和諧以及往生香巴拉的因與緣 在我們這個世界實現香巴拉的和平與和諧,需要具備哪些因緣?如何確保往生香巴拉?對密乘時輪金剛建立正確的理解與往生香巴拉有什麼關係?

聯絡方式:(02) 2375-2611或

主辦單位: 悲智力佛學會


Innate Kalacakra empowerment and teachings by HE Garchen Rinpoche in Portugal, 4th- 7th October.

Hot of the press! One of the greatest living Buddhist masters (and Kalacakra masters), HE Garchen Rinpoche will be giving the Innate Kalacakra empowerment and teachings at the Instituto Changchub, Portugal between 4th to 7th October. This teaching will be part of a European tour of teachings and empowerments Rinpoche will give in September and October 2018.

Translation into English by an amazing oral translator, wisdom dakini, Ina Bieler (Trinley Wangmo). For now put these dates in your diary. Details will be published here as and when they become available.

The programme is here:


Rejoicing at this wonderful opportunity!

Vajravega empowerment and the Greatness of the Kalacakra Vajra-Yogas on 9-12 August 2018, Ontario, Canada.

Khentrul Rinpoché (of the Tibetan Buddhist Rime Institute) will be travelling to Toronto, Canada at the request of the Terma Foundation. Rinpoche will give a series of teachings starting with the Greatness of the Vajra Yogas of Kalachakra. This will be followed by teachings on Bringing the Bardo into Kalachakra Practice and concluded with a Vajravega Empowerment.

The program for Rinpoché’s visit to Toronto will be as follows:

Teachings on the Greatness of The Vajra Yogas of Kalachakra
9 August, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Bringing The Bardo Into Kalachakra Practice
10 August, 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM
11 August, 9:00 AM – 12:00PM and 2:00 PM – 5:00PM

Vajravega Empowerment
12 August, 2:00PM – 5:00PM

All events will be held at:

40 Shields Court, UN 101 Markham, Ontario L3R 9T5, Canada

If you would like to contact the organisers, please use the following:

Jack Xu: +1 416-275 8222

History of the Jonang and other Tibetan Buddhist lineages- teaching by HE Khatog Rinpoche

Khentrul Rinpoché invited His Eminence Kathog Rigzin Chenpo to TIbetan Buddhist Rimé Institute in Belgrave, Melbourne Australia a few days ago to teach the rich history of Tibet’s five major Buddhist traditions – Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, Jonang and Gelug.

There is a link to the live video recordings of the teachings on the Jonang lineage. It is interesting to hear about Khatog Rigzin Chenpo’s own strong connection to the Jonang and his childhood friend in Tibet, a Jonang tulku.

HE Kathog Rigzin Chenpo taught in Tibetan and Khentrul Rinpoché translated into English. Some pictures of the event:

The teachings were broadcast live on the Tibetan Buddhist Rimé Institute Facebook page and are still available for viewing on the page.

The video of the first day of teaching on the Jonang lineage can be viewed here.

13th Annual Meeting on Shentong Madhyamaka in Golok, Tibet and Khenpo Ngawang Ngodrub

Here are some recent photos and videos of the 13th annual Shentong Madhyamaka debate happening at the Jonang monastery, Golok, Tibet.


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Jigme Dorjee Rinpoche meeting Jonang master Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche

ne of the scholars attending this important debate for Jonang is a Khenpo called Ngawang Ngodrub. My attention was drawn to this Jonang Lama by a monk from the Dzamthang monastery. He is considered to be a great scholar who spent a lot of time not only practising Kalacakra but also studying Buddhist Philosophy in India.

Khenpo Ngawang Ngodrub

Here is a short video of Khenpo la arriving at the monastery for the meeting and of the debates taking place.

I am in the process of translating a short biography that was sent to me about him and will post it on this website when it is complete.

May the teachings of Shentong Madhyamaka and Kalacakra flourish!


Taranatha’s Lion-faced Dakini text now available in English

I am happy to announce that Taranatha’s Lion-Faced Dakini Sadhana text (seng gdong ma’i lzog pa) is now available in English (with Tibetan and phonetics) for the first time.

For anyone experiencing obstacles, psychic attacks, obstructions, harmful influences and so on, the Lion-Faced Dakini practise is renowned for eliminating them.

As the practise is only to be done by those who have the necessary empowerment and oral transmission it is restricted access only. Please contact me if you would like a copy and fulfil those requirements.

May it be if benefit!

HH the 14th Dalai Lama on the Jonang Kalacakra Six Yogas and Shentong – English translation

HH the 14th Dalai Lama has been a strong advocate and supporter of the Jonang teachings on Kalacakra and Shentong flourishing in exile. He was good friends with the late, 9th Jetsun Kalkha Dhampa.

jetsun kalkha

HE 9th Jetsun Khalka Dhampa

An example of HH’s support can be read in his beautiful Aspiration for Jonang Teachings composed in 2001.


HH 14th Dalai Lama with Jonang master, Khenpo Kunga Sherab Rinpoche.

Recently, the Jonang Well-Being Association in Exile prepared a compilation of video teachings of HH Dalai Lama talking about the Jonang, the Shentong view and the Kalacakra Six Yogas. This was only in Tibetan.


Jonang Representative in exile, Chokyi Nangwa Rinpoche and Head of the Jonang Well-Being Association, Tsewang, present a copy of their compilation of HH’s teachings on Jonang to Kalon Karma Gelek Yutok in November 2017, Dharamsala, India.

Out of my own interest, and for the benefit of others interested in what HH has to say on this topic, I decided to translate it into English.

In the teachings, HH mentions many times a Jonang stanza by Taranatha that he finds especially inspiring. it is not an easy passage to understand nor to translate, but here is my humble effort, based on HH’s explanations of it. Apologies for any errors on my side!

The naked state of illusory, self-manifesting appearances,

is luminous awareness without reference point;

left remaining the inexpressible sphere;

vividly flickering great bliss.

A beautiful stanza indeed. Here is the Tibetan of it:

སྒྱུ་མའི་རང་སྣང་རྗེན་ནེ་ནེ། །

གཏད་མེད་རིག་པ་གསལ་ལ་ལ། །

བརྗོད་མེད་དབྱིངས་སུ་ཐལ་ལ་ལ། །


Please see here for the complete translation of HH’s teaching on this topic in English.

The Youtube video of the teachings in Tibetan, with Tibetan subtitles is available here. (and see below)


Adele Tomlin, 2018. All Rights Reserved.

New on the website – An Introduction to Shentong

For many, the distinction between ’empty-of-other’ (gzhan stong, pronounced shentong) and ’empty of self (rang stong, pronounced rang tong) is an intellectual debate only that they need not concern themselves with in terms of practice, or one which is simply too high level philosophically to engage with. However, this would be a misunderstanding of the view of ’empty-of-other’ and also why it is important for both Sutra and Tantra teachings and practices.

In fact, ‘the correct view’ as it is called, is an essential part of any meditation or tantric practise. Without the ‘correct view’ (shes rab) then all methods (thabs) are like a bird with only one wing, one cannot really get off the ground. So, here is my humble attempt at a short and accessible introductory essay and reader of what the view of Shentong is and isn’t, and why it is important even in terms of practice.

As Jonang Thubten Bamda Gelek says in his commentary on the Kalacakra practice, The Chariot that Transports One to the Kingdom of the Four Kayas (forthcoming TOMLIN 2018):

The primordial awareness realising emptiness, which is free of the mental elaborations of clinging to reality and things as inherently existing, is alone not the completion stage,  as it is similar to the primordial awareness that arises from bringing the karmic winds into the central channel. In order to accomplish the actual completion stage one needs to realise the view for entering the completion stage.   If one doesn’t realise it [the view], even if one practises the completion stage, the signs [of experience] will not arise in one’s mindstream.

Happy reading folks and don’t hesitate to share or ask questions if you have any. May it be of benefit!

Khentrul Rinpoche teaching on Kalacakra Preliminaries in Moscow, Russia, 20-24 June 2018

Khentrul Rinpoche of the Jonang lineage will be teaching on Kalacakra in Moscow, Russia, between the dates of 20-24 June. The schedule states that he will give the necessary oral transmission and instructions for students to enter the Path of the Kalacakra Preliminaries. For more details see his Facebook page here. (Google Translate the Russian).