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Astrology for 8/31/2014

8/31/2014 Sunday by Norma

Difficult news brings a choice, a fork in the road. Your response provides a snapshot of how you will negotiate the times to come. Respond with anger and depression, and the road will be difficult. Respond with determination and commitment, and things will go easier. Will you be a warrior or [...]

What Causes Happiness?

What Causes Happiness?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”

In order to understand what to do, we have to understand the definition of the cessation of suffering. The cessation of suffering doesn’t happen when everything external gets all right. Can you learn this? Can we all [...]

Astrology for 8/30/2014

8/30/2014 Saturday

Return to earth! Good sense and a shrewd assessment of reality characterize this day. Confidence appears where uncertainty was previously. Men and women are in harmony. A suggestion offers the way out of a stalemate. Inspiration and a medical cure can come today. Look deeply into your current situation: you can understand things [...]

Who Needs Refuge?

Who Needs Refuge?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”

How is the understanding of compassion a clarifying thought as well as a motivating thought? How is it a clarifying thought? Now here is where the profound connection with refuge comes into play. Not only does the [...]

Astrology for 8/26/2014

8/26/2014 Tuesday by Norma

Feeling proud? Something will shrink your ego down to reasonable proportions today. However if you work hard to perform your job, kudos are yours. Your choice! Keep your nose to the grindstone and experience the satisfaction of a job well done. Three planets in Virgo reflect people running around tending to all the details of life in a precise manner. It’s a perfect time to improve your diet, join a gym, visit your dentist or accountant. Accept that you do not have all the answers. John Ruskin said, “Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.” Have the humility to learn something new, you’ll be glad you did. People continue to be enthusiastic and in a good mood, which is helpful.

The daily astrology post affects everyone. Because individual charts vary, the circumstances outlined in the post will affect people differently. Some will feel this energy in the personal arena, some in finances, some with family or children, some in work, and so forth. There are many departments of life. Look to see where the dynamic affects you!

All Sentient Beings Wish to Be Happy

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”

When we are considering the thoughts that turn the mind, we consider the teachings on the six realms.  We consider the faults of cyclic existence.  We consider teachings on cause and effect.  We consider teachings on impermanence.  But also we consider teachings on compassion, and they start with, and are absolutely related with, those teachings that you have just had on the six realms of cyclic existence and the faults of cyclic existence.

The idea of compassion, of Bodhicitta, is intimately related to that.  The way that they are related is like this:When one is actually considering entering onto the path, or considering making one’s relationship with the path much more firm and solid, or if one is a more advanced practitioner, to deepen on the path, one always has to go back and re-examine the faults of cyclic existence. One of the main thoughts that we have concerning the faults of cyclic existence is that we look around and we see the Buddha’s first teaching in action.  We see that all sentient beings wish to be happy. We all have that in common —we all wish to be happy.  It is our motivating force.  Whatever it is that we are doing, whatever form it takes, underneath that is the wish to be happy. Now each one of us has delusions.  Each one of us has habitual tendencies. But underneath all of them is the wish to be happy

One way to understand this and to really broaden the perspective on it is that in some cases it is very easy to see that a person is striving to be happy.  You might see one person, one particular type of personality, for instance, using every skill that they have to maintain happiness and joyfulness and equilibrium and that sort of thing.  Maybe they go to psychotherapy in order to clear out neuroses, or maybe they do a lot of affirmations, you know, positive thought—thinking in affirmations about themselves in order to try to be happy.  And for the people like that who are trying to maintain a certain kind of energy in their personality, it’s very obvious that they are trying to be happy.  You can mark that and see it very easily.

But what about somebody like a criminal?  What about someone who is a committed criminal? I mean a serious criminal, somebody who has done something unthinkable, such as even a serial killer?  I don’t mean somebody that kills cheerios, I mean, kills people in a row—a serial killer.  Let’s say somebody like that.  We can’t even understand what the mind of a serial killer would be like.  They are filled with obsession, filled with compulsion, filled with hatred.  In many cases they are psychologically incapable of empathizing with other human beings.  It’s like they have a microchip missing.  They are all kinds of messed up.  All kinds of messed up.  To many of us their thinking, their world, may not even be recognizable.  It may not have even the same landmarks.  And internally, certainly, if we could go into their minds, it would not be recognizable as any kind of internal reality that we’ve ever experienced.  So they would seem very different from us.

But there is one factor that we have in common with somebody like that, and that is that we are both equally, in our own way, trying to be happy.  Believe it or not!  This person who commits such a horrendous crime, and does so repeatedly,  is compelled to continue doing so. If we were to really go within and try to slice and dice enough to find out what moves this person, what is happening here, we would find out that there would be a lot of jungle to go through.  I’m sure that that’s the case.  There are a lot of entanglements in there and a lot of mental confusion.  However, underlying the dynamo that drives this engine is aperson who wishes to be happy and, in that way, is completely the same as you, completely the same as you.

Now I’m not recommending that because of that we should be nice and pat them on the head and let all the serial killers out on the street.  I’m not saying that.  I realize that this issue is far more complicated than I am presenting it, but the fact that I’m mentioning does not change, no matter how complicated the situation is.  And that is that this person has something in common with you that is very strong and it is what drives both of you.  You wish to be happy.  Interestingly, neither one of you really knows how to be happy until, as a mature practitioner, you have really contemplated and studied the Buddha’s teaching and learned something about that, and then maybe had enough life experience, in terms of maturity, to go within and approach oneself honestly, to look at oneself and examine one’s habitual tendencies.  These are the kinds of skills that we learn as life skills, and skills that we learn on the path in order to help us to begin to learn what comprises happiness, what actually makes it up, and to develop the skill of how to produce it.

But until that happens, we are the same as anyone else.  All sentient beings are exactly the same in that way.  Maybe not in too many other ways, you know, but in that way we are exactly the same.  And this is true of all the beings in all the realms of cyclic existence, not only in the human realm.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 8/25/2014

8/25/2014 Monday by Norma

A new month begins today, and it’s full of work! You are ready to go. Plans, details, activities, all these are satisfying. Schedule for the next month; start a diet or exercise program. Vacation time is over and work is surprisingly fulfilling. Organize things, clean out desks and cupboards, alphabetize the canned food, replant your garden. The small details of daily life call you. It’s possible to work so hard today that you forget things – your medicine, your appointments, etc. You’ll be reminded. Kalu Rinpoche said, “We are all interdependent for our daily needs, and in this way we owe a debt to all beings.” Love is wonderful, work is satisfying, and emotional volatility is stabilized by remembering how much others mean to you.

The daily astrology post affects everyone. Because individual charts vary, the circumstances outlined in the post will affect people differently. Some will feel this energy in the personal arena, some in finances, some with family or children, some in work, and so forth. There are many departments of life. Look to see where the dynamic affects you!

Polishing the Diamond

white-diamond-on-the-polishing-wheel_1852.eeb69

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Bodhicitta”

I have been aware that people in our age and people who are awakening to spirituality and meditation and these different philosophies have been exposed to the idea that we have lived only just a few times, whereas the Buddha teaches us that is not true. The Buddha teaches us that we have lived, we have revolved in cyclic existence over countless aeons. An aeon alone is a very long time. And countless aeons, that kind of terminology is inconceivable to us. In order to have revolved since beginningless time, in countless aeons of cyclic existence, we had to have parents every time unless we were born in a realm in which parents were not the way of birth. But whether we were animals or humans or some other form that we don’t recognize at this time, whether we were born in the form or formless realms, there is a great potential for all sentient beings to have been our parents endlessly. And the way in which to understand the kindness of all sentient beings, the way in which to understand their kindness to us so that we can begin to build Aspirational Bodhicitta, is to understand that at this moment we’re here. We are hearing the Buddha’s teaching and we are experiencing comfortable circumstances in which to practice. We have no defects of mind or body that would prevent us from practicing the Buddha’s teaching. We are capable and we are able and we have the leisure to accomplish practice. We have very auspicious circumstances. 

To have come to this point, we must think of the kindness of all of the situations that have brought us to this point. We shouldn’t think that our parents had any capability to prevent us from coming to this point, because they haven’t prevented us from coming to this point. So we shouldn’t think of their cruelty. We should think of their kindness because somehow, having birthed us, they have given us this precious opportunity to accomplish enlightenment. This is true for all of the circumstances that we have ever experienced, all of the births that we have ever experienced. Having come to this point, we should be thankful and grateful and happy, filled with joy realizing that this auspicious moment has occurred at last. And like finding a precious jewel while sifting through garbage, here we are and we have found the Dharma.

So having experienced this joy, we can begin to understand that all sentient beings have been our kind mothers and fathers, and that we owe them a great debt. We can remember once again that cyclic existence is just that, it is cyclic and endless, and that they are struggling night and day working very hard to make themselves happy and have no way to do it. We should think again and again that they are lost. Although they have given us birth in such a way that we can accomplish Dharma, and that all of these many parents who have birthed us over these many lives in order to help us to create the causes by which we might meet with this perfect Dharma, that even while they have participated in that, they themselves have not done it. It reminds me of a form of animal that I read about. It’s actually an insect called the midge. It conceives its young within itself and the young, as they begin to grow, actually eat the inside of the mother; and consume the mother. By the time they are ready to come out, the mother is dead, and they simply break out of her body as though it were an egg. We should think of that, and we should think that perhaps all sentient beings have done that for us. If they remain in a condition of suffering and we have now found the perfect path by which to alleviate their suffering, then perhaps it’s time to begin to develop the kindness that will liberate them from their unbearable suffering and their continued involvement in cyclic existence.

So when we hear about this Aspirational Bodhicitta, we become confused as to how to think of it. Time and time again students have said to me, “What practice will help me develop Bodhicitta?  Isn’t it true that once I begin to practice, I will develop Bodhicitta?” or, “How can I best develop Bodhicitta?” They talk about Bodhicitta or compassion as though it were something separate from themselves because we think of all phenomena, both internal and external, as separate from ourselves. That is part of the basic delusion of believing in self-nature as being inherently real. It seems to come with the package. Yet, we need to take a hold of ourselves and begin to understand that Aspirational Bodhicitta is potentially the way we are. It is not a reality separate from ourselves. It is not a mystery that we should approach in a linear way, perhaps in the way that we used to think of spiritual mastery. It used to be that, before we studied the Buddha’s teachings, we began to think of spiritual mastery as accumulating this wisdom and that wisdom and this wisdom and that wisdom and this wisdom and suddenly, you would become a great master. And that’s it. Now you’re a master. Well that isn’t really how the Buddha considers realization. The Buddha considers that you cannot collect wisdoms or knowledges and that they in a sum total will create mastery. The Buddha considers that true wisdom is the realization of the emptiness of all phenomena and the emptiness of self-nature, the illusory nature of phenomena, the illusory nature of self. This is the true wisdom, and it is not something that you can collect or gather.

In the same way, when Bodhicitta is fully realized, it is none other than the Primordial Wisdom state. It is none other than supreme awakening. Bodhicitta then, ultimately, when it is fully realized, is our own nature, and we should not treat it as though it were something separate from ourselves. We should not treat it as though it were a thing that we could collect by doing this practice or that practice. Instead, we should take a hold of ourselves and begin to uncover the diamond of Bodhichitta, the jewel of Bodhicitta. We should begin to uncover it by polishing away the delusion that occurs through the selfish concerns which are born of a lack of understanding of what awakening truly is.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 8/24/2014

8/24/2014 Sunday by Norma

Strange dreams or troubled sleep cause you to feel tired or morose this morning. Give yourself plenty of time to get going. Try not to schedule activities early, you’ll feel better later in the day. Spend time with a partner or special friend, one who knows and appreciates all you do. A difference of opinion appears out of nowhere and you’re mystified. Think carefully: it seems you have taken someone for granted and you are hearing about it now! Soothe feelings. Arnaud Desjardins said, “Gratitude leads to love.” Praise is necessary, lay it on thick! Three planets in Leo cause people to feel both happy and in need of compliments. ( The sign over a desk reads, “Will work for praise.”) A sudden idea or attraction is likely today. Go with it, it’s good! Rest up, take it easy.

The daily astrology post affects everyone. Because individual charts vary, the circumstances outlined in the post will affect people differently. Some will feel this energy in the personal arena, some in finances, some with family or children, some in work, and so forth. There are many departments of life. Look to see where the dynamic affects you!

The Trap of Intellectual Satisfaction

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Perception”

So, if you are conscious, does that lead you to the assumption that self-nature is real? Yes, it does.  Of course it leads you to the assumption that self-nature is real.  What are you doing here if you don’t think self-nature is real?  I mean, be real.  Why are you sitting here listening to this teaching so that you can attain realization in order to benefit beings?  The whole thing is built on the assumption of self being real.  I mean, you go to work every day. Would you go to work if self wasn’t real?  It doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?  Would you go through what you go through if self wasn’t real?

So, self is real.  Where we get into trouble is when we try to find self.  If you go through the process that I have described, and if you really do it diligently, if you follow that process and follow it faithfully, you will become extremely confused because then you will not know who is being confused.  It will be clear to you, very clear to you, that self is not to be found.

Well, what do you do with this, I mean, really?  What you’re supposed to do with this is meditate because if you try to do this with your brain, first of all, you’ll be crazy within a week. It simply won’t work.  You can come to some conclusions.  One thing about the Buddha’s teaching is that the philosophy is extremely appealing to the intellect.  A lot of what the Buddha taught was made for very intellectual people.  It was made to be sifted through and reasoned out intellectually. The Buddha’s instructions were that we should not practice anything that’s not reasonable to us and intelligent, so you must reason it out for yourself.  There are even some arguments that are used about reincarnation.  One can sum it up by saying that to have only one lifetime that continues into infinity is about as logical as postulating a stick with one end.  It’s not logical. It does not seem as though it could be possible, or it does not seem as though it could be realistic.

So when it comes to this kind of philosophy that we’ve been learning about, one should really think on these things.  Let’s say that we contemplate a little bit on this, and we come up with the dilemma that our experience is very real.  I am having an experience, there’s no denying it and yet, when I come to find self, I cannot find it.

So, we might, because we’re Westerners, and because this is a habitual tendency of Westerners, and also because we are confused and deluded and sentient beings, we might want to get into this meaty kind of inner dialogue with ourselves.  We might want to say to ourselves, “If I can’t find self and yet I am clearly feeling and touching and tasting and smelling and I clearly am conscious, what is happening here?”

Now if I listen to the Buddha’s teachings, and I say to myself,Well, the Buddha teaches us that this is all a function of the assumption that self is real. Everything that I perceive seems extremely real to me, and yet it is a function, just like my fingers are a function of my body.  In that same regard and with that same directness, these experiences that I’m having are actually the extensions of perception that I’m having, and the perceptions themselves are actually a function of the assumption of self.  Yet, I can’t find the self, and the Buddha said, in fact, my nature is empty of self.” We might get into the trap of trying to figure out who made the assumption.

Don’t you love that question?  You would love to hear the answer. What if I told you that if you paid me two hundred dollars apiece I would tell you the answer to that question.  You might do it!  But actually, the Buddha did not teach, really, the answer to that question. The Buddha recommended that we don’t waste our time concentrating on our ability to compute and understand some occurrence that, perhaps or perhaps not, happened in time out of mind.  He recommended that we do not waste our time with philosophical questions. And the reason why we should not waste our time with such philosophical questions is that they do not lead to enlightenment, or in fact, to growth of any kind.

 

To have these questions answered and to be satisfied with them, one plays with them in the intellect.  One uses them as toys. They’re interesting baubles to juggle.  Every moment that you juggle these interesting baubles, you increase your awareness of consciousness, you increase the awareness of intellect, you deepen the self-cherishing, the clinging to self-nature as being inherently real.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 8/23/2014

8/23/2014 Saturday by Norma

A very happy time comes today. It’s hard to remember when you have been more pleased with those around you. A partnership matter goes well, and it is easier to move ahead with your plans. Someone expresses great affection for you, and it is reciprocated. Plan a special event with those you care for, and pull out all the stops! At the same time, you must keep an eye out for risky places and people. Stay in well lit places and don’t fall in with strangers. Dilgo Khyentse said “Actions may be positive or negative according to the intention that underlies them.” What’s good today? Happiness is in the air, love is all around, and people grow more intelligent and perceptive before your very eyes!

The daily astrology post affects everyone. Because individual charts vary, the circumstances outlined in the post will affect people differently. Some will feel this energy in the personal arena, some in finances, some with family or children, some in work, and so forth. There are many departments of life. Look to see where the dynamic affects you!

Astrology for 8/22/2014

8/22/2014 Friday by Norma

This is your last day to make a statement, to express yourself fully. If you feel strongly about something, take a stand! Tomorrow you will begin working on the project that you champion today. Emotional responses are likely, go ahead and speak your piece. An important conversation happens, and you tell someone what you expect. This person is well qualified to execute your plan, if you give all the precise details. Children are highlighted. If someone has pleased you, express it. During these times, people need to hear that you are happy with them. The Dalai Lama said, “The more we develop love for others, the more confidence we have in ourselves.”

The daily astrology post affects everyone. Because individual charts vary, the circumstances outlined in the post will affect people differently. Some will feel this energy in the personal arena, some in finances, some with family or children, some in work, and so forth. There are many departments of life. Look to see where the dynamic affects you!

Refuge and Bodhicitta: Introduction by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”

What I would like to talk about today has much to do with the practice of Bodhicitta, which is taking the vow of compassion, committing oneself to live one’s life as a compassionate person, and moving into adopting the posture of and becoming a Bodhisattva., that is an awakening being who lives to benefit others.

Generally speaking, Refuge and Bodhicitta are considered to be almost like twins.  Many times practitioners will structure their practice so that they are accumulating Rand Bodhicitta at the same time.  You’ll notice that the two sections in your Ngöndro book are side by side and that one easily follows the other.  To help you with understanding how to live through the muscular changes that you are going through even as we speak, one thing that you can do that I did that is very helpful is that when you’re practicing the Refuge and you’ve established the visualization,  you’re halfway there to the Bodhicitta because it moves directly into the practice of Bodhicitta, using pretty much the same visualization.

If you are accumulating prostrations,  either you are in retreat or you are simply upholding your daily practice commitment.  There will be times when you really feel that in a physical way you simply cannot put up with the challenge of the practice.  Each one of you will have a certain limit of prostrations that you can consistently do on a regular basis.  If you were to do a daily practice commitment of 100 prostrations, or 200 prostrations, or 300 prostrations, whatever it is, there will be some days that for whatever physiological reason you may not be able to do that  much, or it may be that you are moving from 100 prostrations to 200 prostrations and the body is stressed as it’s going to this new level.  The one thing that you can do is combine the practice of Refuge and Bodhicitta. You can practice the Refuge, accumulating prostrations until you feel that you are tired and need to move on to something else or take a break.  Then you can sit down and visualize and meditate on the bodhicitta section of the practice.  So you could take a break, accumulate Bodhicitta Vow for awhile and use that visualization, and if that’s the only time you’re going to accumulate bodhicitta, you can close the practice at that point. But you can close the practice of Bodhicitta somewhat and then go back to the Refuge practice, or you can actually go back and forth.

Interestingly they are so connected in one’s mind, and should be so connected in one’s mind, that that’s actually an excellent way to practice and I recommend, rather than doing only prostrations, to go back and forth on a regular basis and accumulate the bodhicitta at the same time.  Now the reason  why this is very useful is that the idea of refuge and bodhicitta in concept are so well-connected and so interdependent, literally, it’s hard to understand one without the other.

Yesterday during the retreat we talked about the meaning of refuge.  We talked about the thoughts that turn the mind.  We talked about the pitfalls and conditions of samsaric or cyclic existence, the cycle of birth and death, so we talked about many different subjects.  How do these subjects connect with bodhicitta and how does bodhicitta connect with these subjects?

Actually the two main legs of our entire path are wisdom and compassion—the knowledge of emptiness or the realization of the primordial wisdom state and the bodhicitta.  These two are as inseparable as the rays of the sun are from the sun. If one were to examine the sun, one would understand that yes, there seems to be a place where the sun’s actual body ends, but is the energy of the sun’s rays, is that emanation form of the sun, actually in truth separate from the sun itself?  Some would say no. So in many ways refuge and bodhicitta have the same kind of relationship.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Be Your Own Best Friend

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Western Chöd”

Understanding what is in front of you is like, I’ve used this analogy before, it’s like walking through a dark room. Let’s say that the life span that you have can be symbolized by a room. It’s dark because you don’t know what it’s going to be like. So let’s say the room is perfectly pitch dark. All the shades are drawn. It’s dark outside. No moon. Lights are off. We’re talking dark. And it’s like that because no one can predict the future. We have no idea what our lives are going to be like. But you have to walk through that room.

So you have a choice there. You can either do what we’re used to doing which is, eyes closed, you don’t turn on the light. You just take it the way it is and, like a fool, just walk through the room. Now unfortunately in that room, there’s a sofa, there’s a couch, there’s a table, lots of tables, there’s stuff on the floor. It’s like any other room. It’s furnished. Just like your life. It’s furnished. So you’re going to walk through that room what, with the light off?  With your eyes closed?  Guess what’s going to happen. Try it in your room. Try it in your house. Just walk around a while with all the lights off and your eyes closed. You are going to hurt yourself. You’re going to fall down.

There’s another choice, and this is the choice that Buddhism offers to you, or that this kind of practice specifically offers you—examining the faults of cyclic existence and examining what is the more noble way.This kind of practice offers you another alternative and that is turning on the light. Having seen the faults of cyclic existence that’s like you’re walking through this room, yes, but you know where the couch is. You can walk around the couch. You know where the chair is. You can walk around the chair. You know where the table is. You can walk around the table. Something on the floor. You can step over that. So while it may not be our natural tendency to look at life in that way, it behooves us to have that kind of courage because ultimately it would be like walking through your life really seeing what it is, being able to avoid the obstacles, taking advantage of what is there to take advantage of, and not hurting yourself.

It isn’t like you’re sentencing yourself to several months of the worst practice you’ve ever experienced. In a way, for the first time, maybe for the only time, you’re being your own best friend. You’re really looking, really seeing, not copping out. And because of that you will be more competent to move through your life than you might have been otherwise. And not only that, you’ve given rise to the great Bodhicitta, the great compassion, and you have understood that while you are alive in this world, you cannot accept, you cannot bear the suffering of sentient beings. You see that it becomes somehow disgusting and unacceptable to you, that your two feet, that your self could be here in this world, and sentient beings are suffering. That’s why, in the practice, we give rise to renunciation, true renunciation. We totally give up the self for the purpose of benefitting sentient beings.  Practice like that will produce that excellent result.

According to my teachers, this is a combination of preliminary practice called Ngöndro, which is where we see the faults of cyclic existence and give rise to the Bodhicitta, and it’s also the practice of Chöd. There’s no reason why any of you can’t begin to practice like that right now, immediately, tomorrow, today. That practice can be done deeply as I have just given instruction, but it can also be done in more casual way, as you’re walking around. Examine everything you see, and even if you are not a Buddhist, that’s fine with me. Even if you’re not planning on being a Buddhist but you’re interested in these words and you have some connection with them, great. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice in this way, because when I practiced in this way, I wasn’t. But it is the same ethics, the same morality and the same beauty that I have later come to find in my religion, Buddhism. So I offer this to you as a gift and I really hope that you take it with you wherever you go, and that, for my friend, it will bring you back safely, and that for all of you, you will have the most excellent result practicing in that way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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