Rongzom Pandita

Quote from Rongzom Pandita (an 11th. century Buddhist Saint), reposted from a dear bright, lotsawa dharma brother John Whitney Pettit~

There’s been much discussion about behavior of lamas towards their disciples. Needless to say, there are all kinds of scoundrels masquerading as gurus. Here is what Rongzom Pandita (11th. century), one of the most learned Mantrikas of the Ancient Translation School, has to say about how gurus should NOT treat their disciples in the Mantrika (Ngagpa) sangha. Indeed he says, in effect, there is a “samaya issue” when teachers treat their disciples like dirt. Sorry to disappoint any of you masochists out there, but according to Rongzompa, we mustn’t delude ourselves by fantasizing that somehow, “we deserve it”.

“According to The Charter of the Mantrins, “one should not discipline disciples as if they were dogs.”


What does this entail and how does it connect to the ethics of teaching? Rongzom writes:

“[F]or example, when someone spends time with a fierce dog, at first, before they know the dog, they take caution and calm the dog, repeatedly giving it food, and speaking softly and kindly. When they get to know the dog, however, they insult and yell at the dog, and do not calm the dog. They beat the dog with rocks and sticks.

“The fault here is that after generating bodhicitta one will pledge (dam bca’) to take care of all sentient beings, after which one is not permitted to either deceive even ordinary sentient beings or make them unhappy (sun dbyung ba). That being the case, what need is there to even mention [this type of] training through trickery and dispiriting behavior, especially with regard to close disciples and companions who are connected through a holy being.

On top of being a great downfall, [this] forms a basis for rupturing the Vajra Enclosure because, for those who behave in this way, there is no state of agreement between the Vajra master and the qualified companions. Thus, for someone who disciplines students [as if disciplining] dogs, in return [his or her disciples] will lose faith, become dispirited, find joy in turning away [both teacher and teaching]. Therefore, I have decreed that people should not be disciplined like dogs.”

Source: Dominic Sur, “Constituting Canon and Community in Eleventh Century Tibet: The Extant Writings of Rongzom and His Charter of Mantrins (sngags pa’i bca’ yig)”, in Religions (2017, Vol. 8, No. 40, pp. 20-22/30; retrieved from

3 replies
  1. JP W!zzrd
    JP W!zzrd says:

    It’s a beautiful icon. Interesting how it mirrors some depictions of Kanhapa. According to legend, Rongzom met Atisha (Dipamkara Shri Jnana), and Atisha recognized in Rongzompa the tulku of one of his gurus, even-more-legendary

    • Dawn Boiani-Sandberg
      Dawn Boiani-Sandberg says:

      Yes, we have such a powerful, open, direct expression of unconditioned compassion, and how tragic that anyone would ever use religion, power and control for harm. We were taught to co-believe that all teachers are entitled to do so- no, sadly not all Lamas are divine, incorruptible and every gesture an expression of purity.


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