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Great Treasury of Merit

– How to Rely Upon a Spiritual Guide

Through a full explanation of how to practise Offering to the Spiritual Guide, one of the most profound practices of Mahayana Buddhism, Great Treasury of Merit shows clearly how we can develop and deepen our relationship with our Spiritual Guide, the cornerstone of spiritual life. It also contains a great wealth of accessible and practical instructions on the practices of the stages of the path and training the mind, and the Tantric path to full enlightenment—the essence of Mahayana Buddhist practice, both Sutra and Tantra. An indispensable handbook for those wishing to integrate all their spiritual practices into the quick path to full enlightenment.

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Great Treasury of Merit - Front Cover

Great Treasury of Merit - Front Cover



Illustrations vi
Acknowledgements vii
Introduction 1
The Pre-eminent Qualities of Je Tsongkhapa and his Doctrine 13
Why We Need to Practise the Guru Yoga of Je TsongkhapaX 25
The Origin and Lineage of these Instructions 33
The Preliminary Practices 45
Visualizing the Field of Merit 75
Offering the Practice of the Seven Limbs 115
Making Praises and Requests 175
Receiving Blessings 195
Dedication 278
Appendix I – The Condensed Meaning of the Text 279
Appendix II – Sadhanas 285
Liberating Prayer 287
Offering to the Spiritual Guide 291
Vajra Hero Yoga 327
The Condensed Meaning of the Swift Vajrayana Path 343
Prayers of Request to the Mahamudra Lineage Gurus 351
Glossary 359
Bibliography 375
Study Programmes 379
Index 383
Vajradhara viii
Manjushri 6
Je Tsongkhapa 12
Togdän Jampäl Gyatso 24
Baso Chökyi Gyaltsän 32
Drubchen Dharmavajra 44
Gyalwa Ensäpa 54
Khädrub Sangye Yeshe 64
Panchen Losang Chökyi Gyaltsän 74
Drubchen Gendun Gyaltsän 86
Drungpa Tsöndru Gyaltsän 100
Könchog Gyaltsän 114
Panchen Losang Yeshe 128
Losang Trinlay 144
Drubwang Losang Namgyal 158
Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsän 174
Phurchog Ngawang Jampa 194
Panchen Palden Yeshe 204
Khädrub Ngawang Dorje 214
Ngulchu Dharmabhadra 224
Yangchän Drubpay Dorje 234
Khädrub Tendzin Tsöndru 244
Dorjechang Phabongkha Trinlay Gyatso 254
Yongdzin Dorjechang Losang Yeshe 264
Dorjechang Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche (included at the request of faithful disciples) 270
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Great Treasury of Merit - Front Cover

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Great Treasury
of Merit

Also by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Meaningful to Behold

Clear Light of Bliss

Heart of Wisdom

Universal Compassion

Joyful Path of Good Fortune

Guide to Dakini Land

The Bodhisattva Vow

Heart Jewel

Introduction to Buddhism

Understanding the Mind

Tantric Grounds and Paths

Ocean of Nectar

Essence of Vajrayana

Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully

Eight Steps to Happiness

Transform Your Life

The New Meditation Handbook

How to Solve Our Human Problems

Mahamudra Tantra

Profits received from the sale of
this book will be donated to the
NKT-International Temples Project
A Buddhist Charity,
Building for World Peace



Great Treasury
of Merit


Ulverston, England
Glen Spey, New York


First published in 1992
Reprinted 2001, 2004, 2005

The right of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
to be identified as author of this work
has been asserted by him in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced
in any form or by any means except for the quotation
of brief passages for the purpose of private
study, research, or review.

Tharpa Publications
Conishead Priory
Cumbria LA12 9QQ, England

Tharpa Publications
47 Sweeney Road
P.O. Box 430
Glen Spey, NY 12737, USA

© Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and New Kadampa Tradition 1992

Cover painting of Lama Losang Tubwang Dorjechang and
frontispiece of the Field of Merit by the Tibetan artist
Chating Jamyang Lama.
Line illustrations by Gen Kelsang Wangchen.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang 1932-
Great Treasury of Merit:
The practice of relying upon a Spiritual Guide
1. Mahayana Buddhism
I. Title

Library of Control Congress Number: 92238030

ISBN-13 978 0948006 16 6 – hardback
ISBN-10 0 948006 16 1 – hardback

ISBN-13 978 0948006 22 7 – paperback
ISBN-10 0 948006 22 6 – paperback

Set in Palatino by Tharpa Publications.
Printed on acid-free 250-year longlife Wentworth opaque paper
and bound by Cromwell Press, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England.



This book, Great Treasury of Merit, is an extensive commentary to the profound traditional Guru yoga practice, Offering to the Spiritual Guide, the gateway through which we can accumulate the merit, or good fortune, necessary for successful Tantric practice. The book is based upon detailed and authoritative oral commentaries given by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso during courses held first at Manjushri Centre through the winter of 1979-80, and then at Madhyamaka Centre in 1986 and 1990. From the depths of our hearts we thank the author for his immeasurably great kindness in preparing this book, which will make these very precious and important teachings available throughout the English-speaking world.


We also thank all the dedicated senior Dharma students who helped the author to edit the book and prepare it for publication.

Roy Tyson,
Administrative Director,
Manjushri Kadampa
Maditation Centre,
May 1994.


Offering to the Spiritual Guide, or Lama Chöpa in Tibetan, is a special Guru yoga of Je Tsongkhapa that is related to Highest Yoga Tantra. It was compiled by the first Panchen Lama, Losang Chökyi Gyaltsän, as a preliminary practice for Vajrayana Mahamudra. Although the main practice is reliance upon the Spiritual Guide, it also includes all the essential practices of the stages of the path (Lamrim) and training the mind (Lojong), as well as both the generation stage and completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra.

Guru yoga, or lamai näljor in Tibetan, is a special method for receiving the blessings of our Spiritual Guide. Here, the term ‘Guru’ does not imply that our Spiritual Guide should be Indian, nor does the term ‘Lama’ imply that our Spiritual Guide should be Tibetan. Our Spiritual Guide is any spiritual Teacher who sincerely leads us into spiritual paths by giving correct instructions. Thus our Spiritual Guide can be oriental or western, lay



or ordained, male or female. These days, for example, it is quite possible to meet a Spiritual Guide who is a western lay female. The term ‘yoga’ in this context indicates a special way of viewing our Spiritual Guide.

All schools of Buddhism agree that the practice of Guru yoga, or relying upon a Spiritual Guide, is the root of the spiritual path and the foundation of all spiritual attainments. We can understand this from our ordinary experiences. For example, if we want to acquire special skills, become proficient at a particular sport, or learn to play a musical instrument well, we naturally seek a qualified teacher to instruct us. By following our teacher’s example and sincerely applying his or her instructions, eventually we accomplish our aim and become just like our teacher. If reliance upon a qualified teacher is necessary for mundane achievements such as these, how much more necessary is it for spiritual attainments such as liberation or enlightenment?

There are two main streams within Buddhism: the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, and the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle; and the practice of relying upon a Spiritual Guide is fundamental to both. According to the Hinayana, we should regard our Spiritual Guide as being like a Buddha and, with a mind of faith and devotion, offer gifts and service to him or her and repay his kindness


by following his advice and practising his instructions. According to the Mahayana, however, we should regard our Spiritual Guide as an actual Buddha and, with a mind of faith, rely upon him sincerely in both thought and deed.

The ultimate goal of a Hinayana practitioner is the attainment of liberation. This depends upon practising the three higher trainings, and this in turn depends upon first developing the motivation of renunciation. All these attainments depend upon the kindness of a qualified Spiritual Guide. For example, the motivation of renunciation does not arise automatically in our mind but has to be cultivated using special methods. First we have to understand the unsatisfactory nature of samsara and develop a wish to escape from it. This depends upon having a clear understanding of impermanence, rebirth, karma, refuge, and the four noble truths. Without a Spiritual Guide to instruct us in these practices and to encourage us to train in them we will never gain these experiences.

Once we have developed renunciation we engage in the three higher trainings: training in higher moral discipline, training in higher concentration, and training in higher wisdom. To practise higher moral discipline we first need to receive vows from a qualified Spiritual Guide, who then helps us to practise pure moral discipline by teaching us what is to be practised and what is to


be avoided; and by setting an immaculate example for us to follow.

On the basis of our training in higher moral discipline we practise higher concentration by training in tranquil abiding. This entails overcoming the five obstacles by applying the eight antidotes. Without receiving instructions from a qualified Spiritual Guide we do not even know what these obstacles and antidotes are, let alone what to do about them. Thus it is only by relying upon a Spiritual Guide who gives instructions and guidance based on his own experience that we are able to progress through the nine mental abidings and eventually attain tranquil abiding.

Once we have attained tranquil abiding, if we then train in higher wisdom by placing our mind in single-pointed concentration on emptiness we will soon attain superior seeing, and with this we will eventually be able to eradicate our self-grasping and attain liberation from samsara. However, emptiness is a profound object, and it is impossible to gain a realization of it without the skilled instructions and guidance of a qualified Spiritual Guide. Therefore, all the stages of the Hinayana path to liberation, from initially generating renunciation through to the abandonment of self-grasping and the attainment of liberation, are accomplished only through the


kindness of a qualified Spiritual Guide.

Just as reliance upon a qualified Spiritual Guide is essential for completing the Hinayana path, it is also essential for training on the Mahayana path. All the stages of the Mahayana path, from generating equanimity and great compassion through to the final attainment of Buddhahood, are accomplished only through the guidance and blessings of a Mahayana Spiritual Guide. To enter into the Mahayana path we must first generate the motivation of bodhichitta. Like renunciation, this motivation does not arise naturally but has to be cultivated using special methods such as the sevenfold cause and effect and equalizing and exchanging self with others. Without receiving instructions and guidance from a Mahayana Spiritual Guide we could never gain these precious realizations. Once we generate bodhichitta we need to receive Bodhisattva vows from a Mahayana Spiritual Guide, who then instructs us in the practice of the six perfections and guides us on the five Mahayana paths and the ten Bodhisattva grounds until we attain the Mahayana Path of No More Learning, or Buddhahood. Without the inspiration of our Spiritual Guide’s pure example, his unmistaken instructions, and his constant blessings, we would never complete this training.

If training in the Sutra stages of the path is


impossible without relying upon a Spiritual Guide, it is completely unthinkable to enter into Tantric practices without relying upon a Tantric Master. Buddha’s Tantric teachings are very difficult to understand and they are scattered throughout many scriptures without any clear indication as to the correct sequence in which they are to be practised. If we try to practise Tantra without relying upon a qualified Tantric Master we will only increase our confusion. In the scriptures it says that no matter how long we churn water we will never produce butter and, in the same way, no matter how long we try to practise Tantra without relying upon a qualified Spiritual Guide, we will never attain Tantric realizations. If, on the other hand, we find a fully qualified Tantric Spiritual Guide, receive empowerments from him, rely upon him with deep faith, keep our vows and commitments purely, and practise sincerely the instructions on generation stage and completion stage, we can easily attain enlightenment within one short human life.

We can see therefore that all spiritual training, whether Hinayana or Mahayana, Sutra or Tantra, depends upon the guidance and blessings of a qualified Spiritual Guide. In the Blue Scripture Geshe Potowa says:

The crown of all instructions gathered together

Is not to forsake the holy Spiritual Guide.

It is the treasury of all,

The source of all good qualities such as faith and bodhichitta.

Also, in the Condensed Exposition of the Stages of the Path Je Tsongkhapa says:

The root of all that is good and auspicious,

And of all excellence now and in the future,

Is striving to rely properly in thought and deed

Upon the holy Spiritual Guide who reveals the path.

Seeing this you should please him by offering a dutiful practice,

Never forsaking him even at the cost of your life.

I who am a Yogi practised in this way,

You who seek liberation, please do the same.

He also says:

The kind Teacher is the source of all good qualities

Of virtue and excellence, both mundane and supramundane.


Also, the Condensed Perfection of Wisdom Sutra says:

Good disciples who respect their Spiritual Guides

Should always rely upon their wise Spiritual Guides.

If you ask why, qualities of wisdom arise from them;

They reveal the perfection of wisdom.

The Conqueror who possesses all supreme good qualities says

‘The qualities of a Buddha depend upon the Spiritual Guide.’

There is never a time when we do not need to rely upon a Spiritual Guide. Even after we have attained enlightenment we still need to rely sincerely upon our Spiritual Guide so as to show a good example to others. For example, Avalokiteshvara’s crown is adorned by Amitabha to show how he relies upon his Spiritual Guide. Similarly, Maitreya’s crown is adorned by a stupa, symbolizing his reliance upon his Spiritual Guide, Buddha Shakyamuni.

A pure Spiritual Guide must have authentic spiritual attainments, hold a pure lineage, cherish the Buddhadharma, and with love and compassion give unmistaken teachings to his or her disciples. If we meet such a Spiritual Guide we


should consider ourself to be very fortunate. We should develop faith in him and rely upon him sincerely by practising purely what he teaches. Geshe Potowa says that if a pure disciple meets a pure Spiritual Guide it is not difficult for him or her to reach enlightenment.

Our mind is like a field, our Spiritual Guide’s instructions are like seeds sown in that field, and our faith in our Spiritual Guide is like water that germinates these seeds. If these three come together we will quickly and easily harvest a rich crop of Dharma realizations. If we do not have these conditions at the moment we should pray that we will find them in the future.

Once we have met a qualified Spiritual Guide, the way to rely upon him or her is basically very simple. All we have to do is to develop faith in him and put his instructions into practice to the best of our ability. If we do this, our Dharma realizations will naturally increase and we will quickly attain enlightenment. We develop faith in our Spiritual Guide by regarding him as a living Buddha, the synthesis of all objects of refuge. Even though our Spiritual Guide may appear to us in an ordinary aspect we should avoid seeing faults in him and learn to see him as a Buddha instead. We need to develop deep faith in our Spiritual Guide and always keep a pure view of him. We should try to feel close to him, maintaining a happy and


affectionate mind towards him at all times. We should regard our Spiritual Guide as our mother who cares for us and cherishes us, as our father who provides us with all we need and protects us from danger, as the moon that cools the heat of the delusions in our mental continuum, as the sun that dispels the darkness of ignorance in our mind, and as a kind benefactor who gives us the priceless gift of Dharma.

To meet a fully qualified Spiritual Guide is infinitely more meaningful than to possess external wealth. Our Spiritual Guide is our real benefactor. He gives us the inner wealth of moral discipline, concentration, and wisdom, and eventually leads us to the supreme bliss of full enlightenment. Even if we have vast material wealth, if we lack these internal realizations, in reality we are impoverished. On the other hand, if through relying upon a Spiritual Guide we develop the realizations of the stages of the path to enlightenment within our mental continuum, we will be truly rich, even if we have no material possessions. Therefore, we should not be preoccupied with external wealth and development but should put all our energy into relying sincerely upon a fully qualified Spiritual Guide.

Putting our Spiritual Guide’s instructions into practice is the supreme offering. According to Je


Tsongkhapa’s tradition, a qualified Spiritual Guide will be more pleased with his disciples’ Dharma practice than with receiving material offerings. Even if we make prostrations all day long, or regularly give presents to our Spiritual Guide, such practices will have little power if we are not following the spiritual path he has taught us. On the other hand, if we practise our Spiritual Guide’s instructions purely and with deep faith, even if we are unable to make physical prostrations or material offerings, we will be continuously making offerings that delight our Spiritual Guide.

By practising Guru yoga sincerely, even someone who was formerly very evil can become enlightened; but without relying sincerely upon a Spiritual Guide even the most intelligent person will never become a Buddha. To begin with, Milarepa was very evil. Using black magic he killed thirty-six people before he met his Guru, Marpa. Later, by relying sincerely upon Marpa he was able to purify his mind completely, accumulate merit and wisdom, and finally attain enlightenment in that same life.

Our Spiritual Guide is a powerful field for accumulating merit, purifying negative karma, and receiving blessings. We need to accumulate merit to meet with success in our spiritual training. In the Sutras Buddha says that those who


possess merit have no difficulty in fulfilling their wishes whereas those who lack merit find it hard, no matter how virtuous their wishes may be. Similarly, if we do not purify our previously accumulated negative karma it will function as an obstacle to pure Dharma realizations. Just as plants cannot grow in polluted soil, so Dharma realizations cannot grow in an impure mind. The practices of accumulating merit and purifying negativity, therefore, are essential preliminaries to successful Dharma practice. In general, all the Buddhas and holy beings are powerful objects before whom we can accumulate merit and purify our minds, but the supreme object is our own Spiritual Guide.

Similarly, all Buddhas are very kind because they bless the minds of sentient beings and reveal the Dharma, but our Spiritual Guide is kinder than all the Buddhas because he or she gives us blessings and Dharma instructions directly. Thus, in Heruka Tantra it says:

He is the self-arisen Blessed One,

Foremost amongst the Highest Yoga Tantra Deities;

But the Vajra Master is superior to him

Because he gives instructions.

Realizing this, we should seek a fully qualified


Spiritual Guide and rely upon him sincerely in both thought and deed.

In the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in Eight Thousand Lines the story is told of a great Bodhisattva called Sadaprarudita who relied sincerely upon his Spiritual Guide, Dharmodgata, regarding him as more precious than his own life, and more important than all the Buddhas.

Even though he was a highly realized meditator, Sadaprarudita longed to meet a Teacher who would explain the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra to him, for he realized that it was impossible to attain either liberation or enlightenment without realizing the meaning of this Sutra. Even though he had a strong wish to meet a qualified Spiritual Guide, and even though he wandered the length and breadth of the land in search of one, he was unable to find a Teacher who could give him the instructions he desired. So saddened was he by his failure to find a Spiritual Guide that he wept constantly. Others who knew him called him ‘Sadaprarudita’, which means, ‘He who is constantly weeping’.

One day, while deep in meditation, Sadaprarudita received an extraordinary vision in which many Buddhas appeared directly before him. They told him that he had a close connection with a Bodhisattva called Dharmodgata and that he should seek him out and follow his


instructions. Rising from meditation, Sadaprarudita set off in search of Dharmodgata. He travelled great distances and experienced many hardships, but his mind remained happy because he now knew that there was a Spiritual Guide who could give him the help he needed. Finally he discovered the whereabouts of Dharmodgata.

Sadaprarudita wanted to take some offerings to present to Dharmodgata, but he had no possessions at all. To raise some money with which to make offerings, he went to a nearby town and announced that he would sell his flesh to anyone who wanted it. The townsfolk assumed that he was crazy and ignored him, but the god Indra, seeing Sadaprarudita from the heavens, decided to test the sincerity of his intentions. Manifesting as an old man, he approached Sadaprarudita saying that he would buy some of his flesh. Sadaprarudita was delighted and immediately cut a piece of flesh from his thigh and gave it to him. The old man then said that he would also like some bone marrow. Sadaprarudita was even more delighted. Just as he was about to break his shin bone to extract some marrow, a young woman, the daughter of a local merchant, appeared on the scene and asked Sadaprarudita what he was doing. Sadaprarudita replied that he was selling his flesh and marrow so that he could


make offerings to his Spiritual Guide. The woman asked how anyone could be so important that he would be prepared to go to such lengths to make offerings to him. Sadaprarudita explained that Dharmodgata would give him precious teachings on the perfection of wisdom and that by practising these instructions he would be able to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all living beings. Hearing this, the young woman developed great faith in Buddha and his teachings. She persuaded Sadaprarudita not to mutilate himself further, saying that she would ask her parents to donate the money he needed to make offerings.

At this point, Indra threw off his disguise and asked Sadaprarudita why the money was so important. Sadaprarudita replied that it was not the money that he needed but instructions on the path to enlightenment. Indra, seeing that Sadaprarudita’s intention was genuine, offered to provide him with all the riches he required, but Sadaprarudita declined his offer, saying that he would now receive from the young woman’s parents enough money to make offerings to Dharmodgata. He then set off with the young woman and many of her servants to meet Dharmodgata. They made offerings and received precious teachings on the perfection of wisdom, and by practising Dharmodgata’s instructions they later attained full enlightenment.


If we think deeply about this story, we will see that there is nothing more precious than a qualified Spiritual Guide who can give us correct instructions on the path to enlightenment. If a great meditator such as Sadaprarudita, who was able to receive instructions directly from Buddhas, still needed to rely upon a Spiritual Guide, it goes without saying that we must find a qualified Spiritual Guide and rely upon him or her sincerely.

Great Treasury of Merit - Paperback
Details: 408 pages includes 1 colour image and 25 line illustrations
Language: English (UK)
ISBN: 9780948006227
Size: 21.6 x 13.8 x 1.8cm
Great Treasury of Merit - Hardback
Details: 408 pages includes 1 colour image and 25 line illustrations
Language: English (UK)
ISBN: 9780948006166
Size: 21.6 x 13.8 x 2.9cm

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