All the practices and precepts of the dharma are really very vast, but what we really need is devotion and inclination toward practice, pure perception especially relating with the guru as the essence of all the buddhas, and generation of compassion and loving-kindness toward all sentient beings. These are the heart essence practices of the dharma.
If you don’t have devotion or faith, it is an obstruction for you to really enter the dharma. If you don’t have the pure perception of your lama as the essence of all the buddhas, you cannot do the supplications and it will be very difficult to introduce you to the true nature of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. If you don’t have compassion and loving-kindness towards others like a mother for her only child, you do not have the very root of the dharma and you cannot achieve anything.
From the beginning, no one has accomplished anything without these, but those who think properly and carry through the practice in this way can get accomplished with everything.
If we don’t have devotion for the dharma, it does not really affect the dharma itself. It only affects us, such that we cannot get the benefit. It is through your devotion and inclination that you can have the benefit of purifying your obscurations and your karmas. And if you do not generate compassion for all sentient beings, that is the very opposite of dharma, so there is no way you can accomplish anything.
Also, the lama does not gain or lose anything by whether or not you pray with devotion to him as the essence of all the buddhas. But if you have very strong devotion and faith in the lama, then even if a lama is very ordinary you can receive the actual blessings through that.
For example, some of you might know the story of the relics born out of the dog’s tooth. It was not that the dog’s tooth had any special blessing, but rather that the old mother had been praying and supplicating to the tooth, and thinking that it really was the Buddha’s tooth. That is why it yielded such relics. This is why devotion or faith is so important. If you don’t have devotion, then even if the real Buddha appeared in front of you, you could not receive any blessing.