When we think about devotion, we tend to think of it as something we demonstrate externally. But devotion has nothing to do with external demonstrations of respect. Devotion is not kowtowing; it is not the superficial observation of politeness toward bosses or civil leaders. It is not using honorific language. None of these things is devotion.
Devotion is actually a type of love, a type of affection. But it is a particular type of love. Uncontrived devotion is the attitude a student or disciple has when they really trust their guru. They trust their guru’s benevolence, their good intentions. They trust them to be unfailing, undeceiving. They know that the guru will not let them down or misuse them in any way. So therefore, the natural response to that is to entrust yourself, entrust your well-being of body, speech, and mind. This feeling of love that a student has for their guru, in which they entrust themselves utterly – body, speech, and mind – is devotion.
From the guru’s side there must be an equal amount of love as well. It has to be a feeling of intense affection and completely selfless concern for the student’s well-being. The guru’s intention in all interactions with the students must be the thought, “I want these students to realize mahamudra: that is what I care about. I care about that for them and all the benefit they will bring others in turn.”
Devotion — the relationship of faith on the part of the student and benevolence on the part of the guru — is all about love. It is not about control or oppression. The role of the guru is not to attempt to control, oppress the student. Nor is the role of a student to attempt to control their guru. It is an entirely selfless devotion of love.
If this is there, this genuine devotion on the part of the disciple, and genuine benevolence, uncontrived benevolence, on the part of the guru, then genuine transmission will definitely occur.
But if it’s fake, if it’s mere external observance, then the whole thing will be fake. If the disciple’s devotion is cranked up, fake, and contrived, and the teacher’s appearance of benevolence is cranked up, fake, and contrived, then the only mahamudra that will be transmitted will be fake mahamudra.
[From a teaching on The Words of the All-Pervasive Guru by Bardor Tulku Rinpoche given at KPL in 2012. Translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso.]