What Are Your Senses Telling You?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen in Your Practice”

When you see, you react with acceptance or rejection.  You have an acceptance or rejection or even a neutrality, which would be a combination of both or a decision not to do either; but there is that first knee-jerk reaction.  It’s the same with all of our senses.  We react to what we sense.  The senses are really to keep us pacified in the belief that our lives are inherently real, that we are sitting on solid, that we are solid, we live in solid and everything’s ok.  And that’s what the senses are meant to do.  They are meant to grasp on in a way, and hold on to the time and space grid so that we can feel as though we are safe.  Because we don’t like that idea of emptiness. That’s just troublesome.

So when a Tantric practitioner sits down to meditate, he has to take the senses and open them up.  How can you do that?  Can you visualize it?  Well, you really have to go quietly in your practice and find out for yourself.  It’s very difficult for any teacher to tell you exactly how to let go of the senses or to let go of the attraction of the senses.  Yes, we can give you pointers.  But it comes down to the point really when you have to sit and you have to know your own mind.  When we know our mind, we know how to deal with it.  And it’s like feeling our way around.  Oh, we know we shouldn’t go there because there’s an object; and we know we should go there because it’s ok.  We’re kind of feeling around.

So when a Tantric practitioner meditates on emptiness, he doesn’t build emptiness.  He doesn’t make emptiness.  He doesn’t cling onto emptiness which is somewhere else and bring it here.  Instead, what the practitioner does is to simply allow the grasping to solid phenomena and solid self-nature to be appeased.  One relaxes.  One awakens to emptiness!

How does one awaken to emptiness?  Well of course, the first time you sit down and try this, you’re not going to awaken to emptiness fully because that would be like becoming practically enlightened in a very swift time, like very swift.  And so, you can’t expect that.  You must be patient with yourself and expect that this will take some work, that it will take some time.

When one relaxes the grasping, the difference is . . . Ok.  If you take a crystal and sunlight comes through the crystal and is reflected and refracted and you see a rainbow, the rainbow is the same nature as the light that came through the crystal.  In a way, what you’re going to do, is if you’re seeing a red ray and a purple ray and a blue ray or whatever color you’re seeing from this crystal, you’re going to, with intention, go to the heart of that color, as though you were peeling away the colorness of it.  Almost reversing it.  Putting it back through the crystal and understanding its source.  Like that.

I know.  That’s a little chewy.  So you have to chew on that for a little bit.  But it is very much like that.  To be a Tantric practitioner, in fact, you must have assumed the nature of emptiness.  And in one’s practice, that is what you do.  You assume the nature of emptiness.  So, you are relaxing the senses and the grasping knowing that. You don’t visualize emptiness because when you allow the relaxing and the grasping to go, emptiness is what is.  It spontaneously arises.  And even that’s a joke.  Because here I am telling you “it” spontaneously arises.  And of course, that’s not possible.  Because once it’s “it”, then it isn’t empty.  And yet I say to you that this is the trick of it. When we take that precious minute before we generate the deity to really allow the senses to unlock, to stop contriving, to cease to evaluate, to stop giving you the food that you use to react, to simply let go, the more deeply we go into our practice.  And your assumption there—and that should be your first assumption—is that separate from this grasping, there is the nature of emptiness.  That, in fact, if we can pacify this grasping, then the empty nature is visible or knowable in some way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Astrology for 2/22/2017

2/22/2017 Wednesday by Norma

State your opinion and observe how it is received. If no response comes, let it go and move on. Continuing to press a point only brings trouble today. Don Marquis said,”An idea isn’t responsible for the people who believe in it.” Tiptoe out of range of trouble if you see it coming, or turn tail and run if need be. Spend time in quiet pursuits, visit sick or troubled people, do your best to generate a compassionate attitude toward those who hold different opinions. This will be a great help in calming the turbulence of the times. What’s good today? Love, relaxation, thoughtfulness, medical interventions and a peaceful attitude that carries you safely through turbulent times.

Astrology for 2/21/2017

2/21/2017 Tuesday by Norma

An announcement by an authority figure must be heeded, and you won’t want to. Sensitive information is presented. Be still and pay attention; difficult with three planets in Aries, the sign devoted to jumping around and charging into action. Take the advice that’s offered and take your medicine too. An enthusiastic person urges others to stand up to a leader, which is inadvisable right now. Mars in negative aspect to Pluto urges people to rush into perilous situations. An inmate incarcerated for thirty eight years in Virginia said, “I didn’t think they would be so strict about it, I would only have gotten eight years in California. I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known this would happen.” What’s good today? Simple pleasures, listening to music, quietly tending to your business, anything to do with water, and romance!

Understanding the Senses

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen Your Practice”

In order to practice Vajrayana, for instance, there has to be some certain capacity that the student has, or some previous karma that now comes forward and comes to bear, or Vajrayana simply would not work. Indeed, for certain kinds of students because they practice very superficially, Vajrayana , would be like just reading Sutra—just reading it, reading it, reading it, reading it. You may glean some information, but you will never accomplish any wisdom that way.

So when we first come to Vajrayana, we are expected not only to read, to learn how to pronounce, to accomplish the tune; but we also have to learn how to visualize. We also have to learn how to allow the five senses to dissolve into the sphere of truth, which is emptiness,  and that means letting go of perception.  And that’s the first step towards meditating on emptiness, or rather as we do in Vajrayana, dissolving or realizing the essence of all nature to be empty and then arising from that empty nature as the deity or as a wisdom being.  This is basically the meat and bones of Vajrayana, that generation of the wisdom being by first dissolving into emptiness.

If a person who is studying Theravada Buddhism (that’s the early stages of Buddhism that Lord Buddha taught when he was actually physically alive),  practices like that, they are letting the mind relax. They are using some kind of method like allowing the mind to rest on the breath, to simply breathe, to simply be like that.  But ideally, when a Vajrayana practitioner prepares to really generate the deity and they’ve done their taking refuge and all the steps that precede:the promising, the Bodhisattva promise and all the prayers:and they actually get to the part where there is the dissolution or the original view of emptiness, they are not, at that point, relaxing the mind.  Because if we’re simply relaxing the mind at that point, we are technically practicing Theravada Buddhism.  It’s a little different.

It’s ok to start that way, but again, we’re talking about going more deeply into our practice.  So when a Tantric practitioner meditates on emptiness in order to pave the way for the rrising of the deity, what you really do at that time is to open up the senses in the sense that the senses are grasping things.  They see “this” or “this”.  I hear “that”.  I smell “something”.  So the senses are grasping things. The senses are actually the children of the original conscious assumption of nature being essentially real, or of phenomena being essentially real.  And so the senses arise from that assumption.  It’s a chicken or egg thing.  It’s opposite what you would think.  The senses arise from the assumption of consciousness as being inherently real.  And so the senses’ job is to grasp!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 2/20/2017

2/20/2017 Monday by Norma

A sudden breakthrough comes that brings real happiness. The news is uplifting, friendly people are everywhere, and inventiveness is on the horizon. Be open to new, surprising ideas and don’t think you have all the answers. Epictetus said, “What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he already knows.” A combination of activity and relaxation is here. Absolutely avoid charging into an uncertain situation, driving through a flooded street, exploring a dark cave or asserting yourself against a stranger. The unknown is not your friend today, respect it and avoid it. Your intuition will
tell you everything you need to know, provided you listen.

Astrology for 2/19/2017

2/19/2017 Sunday by Norma

Fire signs rule today, generating heat, excitement and energy. The more you do, the happier you are. Be out and about, hiking, walking, listening to philosophy and discussing ideas. But reserve some time to dream and relax today. Vague ailments are healed by rest and exacerbated by activity. Do offer help to someone in genuine need. Mother Theresa said, “Charity begins today. Today somebody is suffering. Today somebody is in the street, today somebody is hungry.” Look at what’s in front of you, not something half a world away, to give assistance. Bring a friend a bowl of soup, give an uncertain person a hand. A slight disconnect exists between debating abstract causes and giving actual help. If you don’t feel well, take it easy.

Why We Practice

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered at Palyul Ling Retreat in 2012:

So I think as we ascend to the higher teachings, we have to remember the bodhicitta.  We have to remember that if we are not kind, there’s nothing that we are doing that’s useful.  If we are not kind, there’s no way we are going to be able to keep our practice going, because we will forget the suffering of sentient beings.  And if we do that, we are lost.  We forget why we are practicing.  We don’t practice.  And then if we are lucky, we may see a person whose suffering can be read on their face.  You can see that.  And if you are fortunate enough to see that, it may remind you that it is time to do your practice.

I promise you, you won’t forget to do your practice for the rest of the year if you meditate on the suffering of sentient beings every day – even just for five minutes.  Ten minutes is better.  But if we can manage to do that, that’s what keeps us going.  Otherwise our practice becomes dry.  It’s too intellectual.  We reason with our practice, and we kind of argue with our practice.  And yet with bodhicitta, it’s impossible to do that.  How can bodhicitta be the wrong thing to do?  How can bodhicitta be something that you can skip?  We must be kind.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all the high lamas that I have ever heard have always said that you must be kind.  That’s what’s happening.  So I have pretty much stuck with teaching bodhicitta all my life, and I’ve been doing this for about 30 years.

Bodhicitta is beautiful.  It is nourishing.  It’s like food.  If you keep yourself nourished by practicing the bodhicitta, you’ll continue to be full and have confidence, and be able to benefit sentient beings even though it seems so hard to keep going.  We all have jobs.  It seems so hard to keep going but if you remember the bodhicitta, and that it is your reason for practicing, you absolutely will not give up.  I promise you. That is the answer.

Everyone I’ve talked to has this problem—practicing for part of the year, and keeping that going.  Although it’s not true of Tibetans necessarily, it is true of Americans.  Tibetans were brought up in a culture that is all about loving-kindness, and the Dharma is part of their entire system.  It’s in their blood and it’s in their brains and it’s everywhere.  But we Americans like to have reasons for things.  The best thing to do is to stop being so prideful and go back to the very reason why you are here.  You are not here to wear a fancy robe.  You are not here to receive high teachings and walk around so prideful.  No, you are here first of all because you love His Holiness; and then you are here because you know that sentient beings suffer and that you can help.  I know of nothing that is more precious than that.  You can help.  We forget that.  We think the practice is about us, making advances.  We should make advances in our practice.  It’s true.  We should.  And yet we have to remember that the true reason why we practice is love.

Now if there is anything that I’ve said that offends you, I’m sorry, but not really.  I will sit here and pound bodhicitta into your heads until I no longer have the opportunity because it is what I believe and what I know will bring benefit to the world.  It’s what brought His Holiness to us.  It is what will bring him back.

If we keep our promises and benefit sentient beings, he will return to us.  Maybe he already has.  Who knows?  But it is our job to call him with our hearts by practicing in the way that he taught us.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 2/18/2017

2/18/2017 Saturday by Norma

Rest and relaxation are wonderful today, a balm for frayed nerves. Act if you must, but give yourself time to wind down and take stock of what has been accomplished. This is harder than it seems. The body in motion wants to stay in motion and you’ll need to go against your own wishes. Spend time near water, at the movies or listening to music. Euripides said, “That person is happiest who lives from day to day and asks no more, garnering the simple goodness of a life.” An insistent person tries to rouse you to action, but be kind and say, “not now.” Sidestep demanding questions, “Don’t you care about…?” What’s good today? Moving into a more peaceful, contemplative mode, love, relaxing activities, and partnership.

Kindness is the Way

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered at Palyul Ling Retreat 2012:

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche was one of the most stubborn lamas in the beginning. He did not want to teach Dzogchen yet, because he didn’t want to throw Dharma on the floor. Instead he wanted everybody to learn the great bodhicitta, and he made you understand that there is no power anywhere stronger than the bodhicitta.

When Tibetan kids are young, their moms or their Amas, their nannies, or whoever takes care of them, teaches them about kindness. It’s customary. It’s what happens. That doesn’t happen here in America. It’s so fortunate that Tibetan Amas and mommies teach their children that way from birth.

I think in some ways we should think of our own mothers who have taught us like that to be like a root guru to us. The first one that taught you to be kind, that’s a root guru. The first one that taught you to love, that’s a root guru. The first one that taught you that bodhicitta is the most important power in the universe, that’s a root guru. His Holiness taught me that, and he is my root guru.

I wish the fashion would turn around, and that there would be more teachings given out constantly about bodhicitta. I wish we would not set it aside. I wish Tibetan lamas would not listen to us, because we are so prideful and so willing to think that we know what’s best. His Holiness was one of the last ones that gave in and began to teach some Dzogchen. I think he felt the way I do—that bodhicitta is the most important thing. Once when he saw the dogs and the parrots that we were saving, he said, “That’s Dharma. That’s Dharma.” That’s what His Holiness said, and I believe it. I know it to be true. Kindness is the way.

. . . Sometimes we can be so prideful. We think that having practiced so well it is not necessary for us to be kind. We can concentrate on the academic part, the intellectual part, and then we will have it all down perfectly. But that is not really the truth.  Academics is part of the teaching. Meditation is part of the teaching. Taking vows, that’s part of it. Please don’t forget, most important is the great bodhicitta. It is the very display of all that is light and pure. It is the very display of goodness. We like to forget it and let it go, but please don’t. I beg of you. Don’t do that.

Your mind will stay fresh and sweet if you are always concerned for sentient beings. And we must always be concerned for sentient beings because they don’t know how to take care of themselves. They don’t know how to do what is necessary to accomplish any Dharma or anything really meaningful in their lives. Many people get a scholarship and they go to college and then that’s it. They’ve done it. But it’s not true. It is most important to develop kindness. It is most important to be kind.

For those of you who are unforgiving in your demeanor and not so kind, you don’t give Buddhism a good image. That should be what it is all about to you. I will assume that probably isn’t pleasant to hear, but it is what I believe and what I know. If you did nothing else but take the bodhisattva vow and spend the rest of your life praying and benefitting sentient beings, you will have accomplished a lot. When you go back home, whether it is New York City or Kalamazoo or wherever it is, bring this little bit of information with you.

. Look around. Stop closing your eyes. Are you going out to dinner this evening?  Then notice the person sitting on the street with nothing to eat. Maybe bring them what’s left or give them some money for some food. If you are going to the movies, think about it twice. Go to the movie but then take the same amount of money and give it to someone who really needs it. I believe in that. It is called paying it forward. And it is the best display that you can possibly give people about what the Dharma is. If you display your activity like that, they will understand. They will understand what Dharma is. But if we are self-important, prideful and in love with ourselves, we will never see the beauty of Dharma. Never. We must see this. We must understand that Dharma is not different from loving-kindness, and it is not different from our nature.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

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