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What is a "Good Death"

What is a “Good Death”

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered during a Phowa retreat:

While there are individual experiences in the bardo of dying, let’s talk about the general ones so that we can prepare. Since we are talking about the six bardos, in general, we want to be very clear on the […]

Astrology for 7/25/2016

7/25/2016 Monday by Norma

Avoid a heavy handed or intimidating demeanor and present your case with charm, dignity and grace today. Tact has never been more necessary and important than now. The more confident you are, the better your ideas are received. People are excited, happy and ennobled by a respectful reception. John […]

Astrology for 7/24/2016

7/24/2016 Sunday by Norma

Feeling tired and grumpy this morning? Move slowly, in time your engine engages and you speed off toward your objective! This is an exciting day, one where opportunity abounds. Planning to electrify others with your performance or ideas? This is your day: enthusiasm is magnetic and attractive to […]

Who is Padmasambhava?

Who is Padmasambhava?

The following is respectfully quoted from “The History of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism” by Dudjom Rinpoche:

He studied all the sūtras, tantras, and sciences under the many scholars and accomplished masters of India, of whom the foremost were: the eight great awareness-holders, from whom he received the Eight Classes of Means for Attainment; Buddhaguhya, […]

What is a

dying

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered during a Phowa retreat:

While there are individual experiences in the bardo of dying, let’s talk about the general ones so that we can prepare. Since we are talking about the six bardos, in general, we want to be very clear on the bardo of the moment of death, and that’s the last subject that we will cover today. It is a very, very important one, because we are all, in our way, preparing for death and we will all definitely experience death.

So, first of all, the bardo of the moment of death. We have talked about the point preceding death. Preceding death there is a period of time during which—and a person may or may not know—one has met with the conditions that will bring about the death. Now for those people who have a disease, a heart disease, or AIDS, or some disease that is degenerative or progressive in some way, the moment that the disease occurred to them was the moment that they entered into another bardo. Although it is still contained within the bardo of living, it is the bardo that preceeds death. What we’re talking about now is the actual bardo of the moment of death. That is when death is marked; it can be seen from the outside, and it actually occurs.

Before I begin I want to make something very clear. We have funny ideas about death. We have some terrible ideas about death. First of all, we’re scared to death of death. That’s the truth. I really didn’t mean to make a pun, it sort of happened that way. But we are scared of death, we are terrified of death, and it’s because we are unprepared. That’s the only reason to be afraid of death. And preparation, as it happens, will dispel the fears of death. I even think that during this week some of your fears of death may be dispelled, because you will be better prepared. But, in truth, until that time, we are terrified of death, and that is the main feeling we have about it. We do not understand death.  We think that death is a horrible, sort of killing thing that we have to go through, and that the best way to go through it is unconscious. That’s the kind of idea we have. People often will actually pray, “Let me die in my sleep. Let me die unknowing that I’m going through the death experience.” And there are other people that say, “Let me die quickly.” Well, for my money, I would like to be one of the fortunate ones who know for some period of time before their death that they have caught the cause of their death or that they have the cause of their death. For my money, that’s what I wish would happen to me if I were an ordinary sentient being. If I were in that position where I was caught in samsara—and we all feel that way, we all are—I would wish to have preparation time. I would wish to know beforehand.

Those of us who are aging gradually and staying clear and in good health through the aging process, we are fortunate, because our minds are clear; and yet we can clearly see in the mirror that we are approaching this time. Clearly we are not the same person we were ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago. Clearly that is true.  We have pictures to prove it. These people are fortunate. We are fortunate. Because seeing the evidence of death approaching, we have time to prepare. Yes, we have to experience the discomfort of knowing that death is approaching, but it’s like going into the room, turning on the light, and seeing exactly where the stuff is so you can get around it. Remember we used that analogy early today, of walking through a room with all kinds of furniture. You want to do it when the light is on; you want to know how not to stumble. So this is what we are experiencing if we can prepare for our death.

Particularly, think about the tremendous suffering of diseases like AIDS. We talk about the tremendous suffering of something like that; and the biggest and most horrible part of it is that we die younger than we would have died if we did not have the disease. And that’s how we think about it. And yet, a disease like that gives us an opportunity. In a way, it is half of a blessing. In a way, it is the quintessential suffering of cyclic existence, couldn’t be worse. It is, in a nutshell, what cyclic existence actually is when you take away the barbiturate effect that it has on us. Yet, in another way, it is a way to understand —you understand clearly as never before—that death is imminent. There is a way to understand that you could not have had any other way, and it gives us extraordinary time. It gives us an extraordinary clarity of time to be able to practice because we’re motivated. It’s just that clear. We are motivated. We know we have a date to keep. Those of us who don’t know what that date is, we’re a little more vague about this.  We don’t want to be bothered, frankly, and so we are at a disadvantage.

Less lucky is the stuff that most people pray for: a quick death. Instantaneous. “Hit me with a truck.” That kind of thing. That’s how people think, “Get it over with. Get me out of here.” And it’s because they don’t understand what death is. They do not understand that once the eyes are closed and the breath has stopped, it sounds like a pun, but basically life goes on in one form or another. One continues to continue. That is the nature of what we are. And so there is no true cessation other than the cessation of breath. To die a quick death may save a little bit of discomfort for the unprepared, but it gives us no time for preparation. Even the dissolution of the elements occurs in an untimely and hurried way so that we cannot cope with them well. So do not pray for an instant death.

Neither should you pray to die in your sleep, because it is too confusing. You are already in the sleeping bardo. The sleeping bardo has a heavier level of delusion in a way than the waking bardo, because you literally are not slowed down by the time it takes physicality to process itself. For instance, if I want to walk from here to that door it’s going to take me a certain amount of time and effort because of the physicality of the situation; but in the dream, I’m there, I’m out, I’m gone. I can go anywhere. So in a way there is even more delusion there. You do not want to die in the middle of the dream state unless your practice is so good that you would recognize the bardo even in the dream state; and that can only be hoped for if you are the kind of person who has complete control and direction over your dreams. Always. And that ain’t you. So instead, pray for a time of knowing and a time of preparation. Pray for the leisure to prepare for your death. That is the appropriate and best prayer.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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7/25/2016 Monday by Norma

Avoid a heavy handed or intimidating demeanor and present your case with charm, dignity and grace today. Tact has never been more necessary and important than now. The more confident you are, the better your ideas are received. People are excited, happy and ennobled by a respectful reception. John Andrew Holmes said, “It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.” What’s good today? Work, health, love, romance and interactions with important people. Absolutely look your best today, and look both ways before crossing the street.

The astrology post affects everyone differently, depending on individual horoscopes. Look to see how this message reflects your life today!

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7/24/2016 Sunday by Norma

Feeling tired and grumpy this morning? Move slowly, in time your engine engages and you speed off toward your objective! This is an exciting day, one where opportunity abounds. Planning to electrify others with your performance or ideas? This is your day: enthusiasm is magnetic and attractive to others. Carl Schurz said, “Ideals are like the stars. We never reach them, but like mariners on the sea, we chart our course by them.” Parades, parties and fiestas go well. Count your grievances, mope around feeling sorry for yourself, and you’ll miss the fun and lose your audience. Amid the excitement, work progresses nicely and accomplishment marches forward like a line of ants heading toward their destination. Look both ways crossing streets and pay attention to things in dark corners. Stay in the light.

The astrology post affects everyone differently, depending on individual horoscopes. Look to see how this message reflects your life today!

Who is Padmasambhava?

PadmasambhavaMandarava

The following is respectfully quoted from “The History of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism” by Dudjom Rinpoche:

He studied all the sūtras, tantras, and sciences under the many scholars and accomplished masters of India, of whom the foremost were: the eight great awareness-holders, from whom he received the Eight Classes of Means for Attainment; Buddhaguhya, from whom he received the Magical Net; and Śri Simha, from whom he received the Great Perfection. Training himself thus, he fully understood all doctrines after studying them only once. He could see the deities even without propitiating them. In this way, he became renowned as Loden Chokse (Intelligent Boon-seeker), and he demonstrated the ultimate attainment of a holder of the awareness of spiritual maturation.

Then he gained influence over Mandāravā, the daughter of King Ārsadhara of Sahor, who possessed marks of a dākinī. He took her to the Māratika Cave, to serve as the consort for his practice; and for three months they practised the means for attainment of longevity. Lord Amitāyus actually came there and empowered them, and he consecrated them to be no different than himself. He granted them one billion rites of longevity, whereby Padmasambhava attained the accomplishment of awareness-holder endowed with power over the duration of his life.

Having thus attained the body of indestructible reality that is beyond birth and death, Padmasambhava went to subdue the kingdom of Sahor. When the king and his ministers tried to immolate him, he performed the miracle [of transforming the pyre into] a lake of sesame oil, in the midst of which he remained seated on a lotus. Thus he secured them in faith and introduced them all to the doctrine, so that they reached the level of no-return.

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7/23/2016 Saturday by Norma

On your feet, there’s work to do! Yet the urge to relax, to take it easy and escape, is equally powerful. Move skillfully between the two throughout the day. Stick with one, ignore the other, and you’ll have problems. A sensitive response to a powerful figure changes matters in an unimaginable way. Leaders are especially magnetic and can use the moment to make points. It’s important to stress the positive; play the victim card, try to make others feel sorry for you and you’ll lose the power of persuasion. An Egyptian proverb says, “A man’s ruin lies in his tongue.” A secret is uncovered that holds the key to success. Dress well, speak well, use every form of charm you possess, and you’ll gain your objective. Avoid angry people and drive carefully today.

The astrology post affects everyone differently, depending on individual horoscopes. Look to see how this message reflects your life today!

Hells?

Hell realm z.about.com

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

According to the Buddha’s teaching, there are six realms of cyclic existence, and I will begin with what is called the lowest of the realms.  Now generally, when Westerners hear about the different realms, oh, we love the high realms.  Those are our favorites.  But the lower realms scare us a bit.  Westerners don’t want to hear about the lower realms, because they are associated with something archaic that their mothers told them, or that their old preachers told them sometime in the past.  Every world religion has a story about a result that will occur if one engages in a lifelong non-virtue, or even in temporary periods of non-virtue, every single world religion that has the kind of strength to have lasted through fads and trends and teachers that say they have it, and then they drop dead just like everybody else and there is no good result.  Every world religion has a teaching about this result from non-virtuous behavior so for those of you that are uncomfortable about this, I’m sorry.  Here’s what you need to do.  Get out of it.  Get out of cyclic existence.  That’s the point.  That’s why we’re having this teaching.  If you don’t like the idea of the result of your non-virtue, don’t commit it.  If you don’t like the idea of sinking to a lower realm or experiencing any of those lower realms, create the causes for not sinking to a lower realm.  First let’s learn about the realms.

Again, we’re walking through a room with the lights turned on.  You want the lights on so that you can get around it.  The difference with the Buddha’s teaching is that we are taught a method to avoid this [experiencing a lower realm].  We are taught a method to purify the causes.  There is method.  There is long-term method that is geared for a certain result, like the ability to turn the light on.

Of the six realms, the realm that we will speak of first is the rebirth in the hell realm.  There are many sentient beings that are now, even as we speak, revolving helplessly in the hell realms.  I guess the Christian idea of hell is a place under the earth where things are burning.  That is not the idea that we have here.  The hell realms are varied.  They are varied in their condition.  There are, in fact, extremely hot hell realms and there are Dharma texts in our bookstore [that tell about them]. I don’t feel the need to go into that at any great length at this time because that isn’t technically what we are about at this time; I’m going into this in a condensed form, but there are the hot hell realms, and the hot hell realms are all results that are associated with the cause of hatred, extreme hatred, the kind of virulent hatred and attitudinal hatred that many people allow to remain in their mind.

A perfect example of that kind of hatred would be the Ku Klux Klan kind of mentality you see, or the Hitler kind of mentality, the kind of mentality in which hatred simply pours out of the pores.  There is such a strong habitual tendency of hatred that simply is unconditional negative hatred instead of unconditional positive regard.  It is habitual.  It is constant.  It is simply an outpouring of hatred.  This is associated with the cause of truly torturing and hurting others. There have been many throughout time who have tortured and mutilated the bodies and lives of others in a horrible way that we, living  middle America lives, really can’t imagine except through what we’ve read.  There are, of course, other certain heinous sins that also result in the rebirth in the most difficult of the hells. Those heinous things are the murdering or killing of one’s mother and father, the murdering or killing or harming of one’s Guru, the murdering or killing or harming or drawing blood of a Bodhisattva.  That is not to say that if you were taking a blood sample for the health of the Bodhisattva, … Well, people would not exactly be standing in line for that job would they!  No, but that would not be intentional harm, like really harming a Bodhisattva, someone who could bring enlightenment to others. Harming or taking that one out of the world is considered to be a heinous crime because it actually literally changes the future of the world.  It changes the world in a negative way.  It prevents the world from moving forward in its evolution, in its continuum.

For extraordinary non-virtue, for those really extraordinary sins, there are the hell realms consisting of the extremely hot hell realms and the extremely cold hell realms. Characteristic of both the hot and cold hell realms is that there is no respite from the suffering.  There is no respite from the suffering.  Literally, when one takes rebirth in the cold realms, one will be reborn in inconceivable cold with no protective clothing.  What will happen to oneself will be the experience of what we think would happen to ourselves if we were to be suddenly now naked in an extremely cold realm.  That is to say, the skin would freeze, crack open.  Things would happen strangely to our bodies and you would think that that would be the end of it.  But in these very cold hell realms, until the non-virtuous karma is exhausted, one continues to reappear even after death from cold has occurred, and that is the same with the hot realms.  Continuously apparent, there is no respite.

There are other forms.  There are the individual hells; and I can tell you for a fact that I know, through my own perception, that this is true.  I have seen this sort of thing and this is the kind of thing that people mistake as being ghosts.  Often you go to a house and at a certain time of night you will hear footsteps or you’ll hear a door creaking or you’ll hear chains rattling, whatever it is that people hear, that sort of thing.  Probably what has happened there, although not exclusively, but probably what has happened there is that there is a sentient being stuck in an individual hell realm.  This is the hell realm that is individual to the person’s experience, whatever their expected experience is. It’s according to the content of the mindstream, their consciousness, their habitual tendency.  Write that word down somewhere in your notes, or remember it—habitual tendency. That will come up again and again during the course of your practice as a Buddhist. Due to the force of their habitual tendency, they will remain and this kind of hell realm is the result of again, extreme non-virtue, but it is also a non-virtue that is mixed with ignorance and a determination to remain ignorant.

Think about that, because you have done this.  Think about this now.  The determination to remain ignorant is the one where you make a decision to go away from pursuing wisdom and pursuing your method, your path.  And you just go, “It’s too hard.  I don’t like this.  It’s not easy for me, I don’t want it.  Hard.  And I’m just a little kid and I have to play some more.”  When you do that, you are actually turning your mind away from Dharma and you are committing a very strong non-virtue. The other one is, “I don’t have to learn that.  I know enough to get by.  I’ll just read…, Who was that one that wrote about death and dying?  A non-Buddhist.  They wrote that you see a tunnel and you see a white light.  Do you remember who that is?  I’ll just read Ross’ book and I’ll be fine.  Maybe I’ll read it, if I have time, but I really like to read other books better.”  And this kind of thing.  You have this kind of idea.

Sometimes, I’ll see a person in class with ‘attitude’ written all over their heads, and have no idea why they’re here.  Why did they come?  I don’t know, but they have attitude written all over their head; and the attitude is actually like putting yourself in chains because you are absolutely setting up that you are not going to have a positive rebirth, that you can sit in the presence of what could possibly be your own root guru, or at least a guru, a teacher, and just simply turn your mind away.  Literally, what you would be doing there is to make your mind like a bowl filled with poison so that the milk that pours in there is tainted, and then you are responsible for tainting the milk within your own mind.  So that kind of thing is the kind of thing that leads to rebirth in the individual hells.  That kind of ignorance.  That is an ignorant move to make.  It is born of ignorance.

The individual hells are very strange, very unusual.  I can describe a couple that I know of personally.  One good example would be of an individual who perceives themselves to be stuck in the opening and closing of the door. Of course this is all relative and it is all a deluded perception.    This is the kind of person that perhaps would remain stagnant within the course of their lives, locked themselves in, did not grow, wouldn’t grow, would not challenge themselves to go the extra mile and be kind towards others, remained extremely self-absorbed.  They literally shut their eyes during the course of life.  Again, that sounds pretty mild in terms of a sin.  You could commit worse sins, but we are talking about sins against one’s own nature and those are important.  Those are very important.   So this person would be stuck in the opening and closing of the door and would experience the door being closed on them and would experience the door being opened again. They would experience it as though their bodies were literally stuck in that, again and again.

I have also seen sentient beings that are literally stuck walking up and down a hall.  That’s it, walking up and down a hall.  They are stuck calling, calling, calling for someone.  Literally they go through bardo—and this will make sense for those of you that have taken the teachings. They will go through the bardo state: They will go through the experience of the white Bodhicitta, the experience of the red Bodhicitta.  They will go through the experience of the appearance of the Dharmadhatu that is experienced as blackness.  They will go through the re-awakening of the perception of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.  They will go through the reawakening of the perception of the wrathful deities. Then they will enter into the bardo of becoming, and in the bardo of becoming they will immediately experience rebirth. It will be very disconcerting because suddenly they will be walking up and down a hall, trying to reach the others that they were so attached to.  Those of you that have very strong attachments on a human level, try to imagine what this would feel like.  They will continually try to reach out for the others and they will sort of see them, but sort of not see them because they are not really there.  Try to imagine seeking the safety of a loved one, and it changes all the time.  You don’t understand.  That’s the kind of experience of someone in an individual bardo. They experience walking up and down the hall, literally, almost seeing safety and then feeling all of the feelings that would go with doing that endlessly.  So that is the kind of experience that one might experience if one were to engage in a non-virtuous life and not practice Dharma. And it happens.

Now what we’re talking about today, once again, is the antidote.  The purpose of talking about the disease is so that we can explore the antidote.  The antidote should not be taken without an understanding of the disease.  These kinds of life forms will also be registered.  From our point of view they will seem like repetitive ghosts doing the same kinds of things again and again and again.

There are many different kinds of hell.  There are hells of entrapment.  There are hells of destruction in which one is literally cut up and then reassembled and all kinds of things, and they go according to the level of non-virtue that one has committed.  Compared to the amount of sentient beings that are now physical as humans, the amount of sentient beings locked in those hells is inconceivably more.  We cannot understand how many more beings are locked there than are now approaching awakening on the physical human level listening to Dharma.  We cannot imagine how many of those there are.

Sometimes as one finishes the karma that has brought them to a lower hell realm, they will then go on to a higher hell realm which is less uncomfortable.  What we are talking about is a playing out the grosser and heavier non-virtue and then cleaning up the more subtle and more lightweight non-virtue.  One may graduate from one experience in the hells to another.

You may think, “Well this is inconceivable to me.  I can’t understand that.  Being stuck in a doorjamb? No way.  Hell no!  Frozen?  No.  Hell no!  Frozen, burned up?  Come on, that stuff doesn’t sound realistic to me.  I can’t believe in that.”  Well, let me ask you if you’ve ever had a nightmare?  Who has had a nightmare?  Will you raise your hand if you have ever in your life had a nightmare.  Just pretty much everybody.  That means that your mind has the capacity to manufacture a hell.  So for you to say that there is no such thing and you will never end up there, after you’ve had a nightmare, it goes to show that you’re not thinking. Because if you can manufacture a nightmare, that is not different from manufacturing a hell realm.  It is the same thing.  The seed, the content, the potential is within the mindstream and it is due to non-virtue.  That’s what it is.

So you know that that’s possible.  You have been there in a very small way.  When you have a nightmare you literally are, in a subtle way, reborn from the bardo of dreaming into this bardo of experience, which is also part of the bardo of dreaming. You are kind of reborn from one subtle element, one subtle level, to another.  And this is the very same thing that happens in a much grosser and denser level for that person who is unprepared for death, which fortunately is not going to be you.  Right?  Good.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Point: Pith Teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

mandarava

The following is from a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

“Calling the Tsewei Lama from afar” does not mean asking for gifts and wishes fulfilled. It’s about devotion and faith. I mostly get requests for favors. Of course I will try to fulfill anyone’s wish. But Buddhists should also practice and learn so they can help themselves. That’s the point, as there may not always be a Lama to call on.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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7/22/2016 Friday by Norma

A clear leader is in place, one who speaks to the hearts and concerns of a specific constituency. Those who disagree withdraw from the scene as happy talk prevails. Do pay attention to underground or hidden matters, people are sulking. Epictetus said, “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” Acceptance is an important issue today. Pay close attention to what you can and cannot control. Dress up, speak kindly to everyone and be aware that your actions and words are favorably noticed. Work goes well, and life seems sunnier, happier. Time spent outdoors is excellent.

The astrology post affects everyone differently, depending on individual horoscopes. Look to see how this message reflects your life today!

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7/21/2016 Thursday by Norma

This is the final day of an emotional time, so relax and accept things are they are. You’ve never felt more like staying home, yet the world beckons. A group forms unexpectedly and favorably, bringing resolution to a problem. Be generous in your evaluation of others. Montaigne said, “There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve censure ten times in his life.” A change occurs toward the end of the day and a leader appears. It’s a good day to wrap up loose ends in business, to speak well of those who deserve it, and to diet, exercise, participate in sports and improve your health.

The astrology post affects everyone differently, depending on individual horoscopes. Look to see how this message reflects your life today!

Bodhichitta: From

Dilgo Khyentse

The following is respectfully quoted from “Enlightened Courage” a commentary by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

Bodhichitta is the unfailing method for attaining enlightenment. It has two aspects, relative and absolute. Relative bodhichitta is practiced using ordinary mental processes and is comparatively easy to develop. Nevertheless, the benefits that flow from it are immeasurable, for a mind in which the precious Bodhichitta has been born will never again fall into the lower realms of samsara. Finally, all the qualities of the Mahayana path, as teeming and vast as the ocean, are distilled and essentialized in Bodhichitta, the mind of enlightenment.

We must prepare ourselves for this practice by following the instructions in the sadhana of Chenrezig, “Take refuge in the Three Jewels and meditate on Bodhichitta. Consider that all your virtuous acts of body, speech, and mind are for the whole multitude of beings, numerous as the sky is vast.”

It is said in the teachings that “since beings are countless, the benefit of wishing them well is unlimited.” And how many beings there are! Just imagine, in one small garden there might be millions and millions of them! If we wish to establish them all in the enlightened state of Buddhahood, it is said that the benefit of such an aspiration is as vast as the number of begins is great. Therefore we should not restrict our Bodhichitta to a limited number of beings. Wherever there is space, beings exist, and all of them live in suffering. Why make distinctions between them, welcoming some as loving friends and excluding others as hostile enemies?

Throughout the stream of our lives, from time without beginning until the present, we have all been wandering in samsara, accumulating evil. When we die, where else is there for us to go but to the lower realms? But if the wish and thought occur to us that we must bring all beings to enlightened state of Buddhahood, we have generated what is known as Bodhichitta in intention. We should then pray to the teacher and the yidam deities that the practice of the precious Bodhichitta might take root in our hearts. We should recite the seven-branch prayer from the Prayer of Perfect Action, and, sitting upright, count our breaths twenty-one times without getting mixed up or missing any, and without being distracted by anything. If we are able to count our breaths concentratedly for a whole mall, discursive thoughts will diminish and the practice of relative Bodhichitta will be much easier. This is how to become a suitable vessel for meditation.

ABSOLUTE BODHICHITTA

Consider all phenomena as a dream.

If we have enemies, we tend to think of them as permanently hostile. Perhaps we have the feeling that they have been the enemies of our ancestors in the past, that they are against us now, and that they will hate our children in the future. Maybe this is what we think, but the reality is actually quite different. In fact, we do not know where or what we were in our previous existences, and so there is no certainty that the aggressive people we now have to contend with were not our parents in former lives! When we die, we have no idea where we will be reborn, and so there is no knowing that these enemies of ours might not become our mothers or fathers. At present, we might have every confidence in our parents, who are so dear to us, but when they go from this life , who is to say they will not be reborn among our enemies? Because our past and future lives are unknown to us, we have the impression that the enemies we have now are fixed in their hostility, or that our present friends will always be friendly. This only goes to show that we have never given any real thought to this question.

If we consider carefully, we might picture a situation where many people are at work on some elaborate project. At one moment, they are all friends together, feeling close, trusting and doing each other good turns. But then something happens and they become enemies, perhaps hurting or killing one  other. Such things do happen, and changes like this can occur several times in the course of a single lifetime–for no other reason than that all composite things or situations are impermanent.

This precious human body, supreme instrument though it is for the attainment of enlightenment, is itself a transient phenomenon. No one knows when, or how, death will come. Bubbles form on the surface of the water, but the next instant they are gone; they do not stay. It is just the same with this precious human body we have managed to find. We take all the time in the world before engaging in practice, but who knows when this life of ours will simply cease to be? And once our precious human body is lost, our midstream, continuing its existence, will take birth perhaps among the animals, or in one of the hells or god realms where spiritual development is impossible. Even if life in a heavenly state, where all is ease and comfort, is a situation unsuitable for practice, on account of the constant dissipation and distraction that are a feature of the god’s existence.

At present, the outer universe–earth, stones, mountains, rocks, and cliffs–seem to be the perception of our senses to be permanent and stable, like the house build of reinforced concrete that we think will last for generations. In fact, there is nothing solid to it at all; it is nothing but a city of dreams.

In the past, when the Buddha was alive surrounded by multitudes of Arhats and when the teachings prospered, what buildings must their benefactors have built for them! It was all impermanent; there is nothing left to see now but an empty plain. In the same way, at the universities of Vikramashila and Nalanda, thousands of pandits spent there time instructing enormous monastic assemblies. All impermanent! Now, not even a single monk or volume of Buddha’s teachings are to be found there.

Take another example from the more recent past. Before the arrival of the Chinese Communists, how many monasteries were there in what use to be called Tibet, the Land of Snow? How many temples and monasteries were there, like those in Lhasa, at Samye and Trandruk? How many precious objects were there, representatives of the Buddha’s Body, Speech, and Mind? Now not even a statue remains. All that is left of Samye is something hardly bigger than a stupa. Everything was either looted, broken, or scattered, and all the great images were destroyed. These things have happened, and this demonstrates impermanence.

Think of all the lamas who came and lived in India, such as Gyalwa Karmapa, Lama Kalu Rinpoche, and Dudjom Rinpoche; think of all the teachings they gave and how they contributed to the preservation of the Buddha’s doctrine. All of them have passed away. We can no longer see them, and they remain only as objects of prayer and devotion. All this is because of impermanence. In the same way, we should try to think of our fathers, mothers, children and friends. When the Tibetans escaped to India, the physical conditions were too much for many of them and they died. Among my acquaintances alone, there were three or four deaths every day. That is impermanence. There is not one thing in existence that is stable and lasts.

If we have an understanding of impermanence, we will be able to practice the sacred teachings. But if we continue to think that everything will remain as it is, then we will be just like rich people still discussing their business projects on their deathbeds! Such people never talk about the next life, do they? It goes to show that an appreciation of the certainty of death has never touched their hearts. That is their mistake, their delusion.