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Astrology for 10/24/2016

10/24/2016 Monday by Norma

The Moon is sweeping through the sign Leo, bringing happiness in its wake. Dress up in bright clothes and present yourself in style, appearance counts now. How you look advances your cause better than words. No picking up the paper or answering the door in your bathrobe! Indecision is […]

The Student-Teacher Relationship

The Student-Teacher Relationship

An excerpt from a teaching called Awakening from Non-Recognition by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

This relationship between the student and teacher absolutely depends on the connection between what appears to be two things. On the part of the teacher, the relationship requires the capability to express, display and communicate Dharma, and certainly the intention of Bodhicitta first […]

Astrology for 10/23/2016

10/23/2016 Sunday by Norma

This is a great day to bustle around contacting people, touching bases and catching up on neglected tasks. Let yourself be seen, be out and about and open to the possibility doing a good deed. A secret is revealed and encouragement can mark a turning point today. If you […]

Your Chance at Recognition

Your Chance at Recognition

An excerpt from a teaching called Awakening from Non-Recognition by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Guru Yoga must be seen not as an end but as a means to an end. Quite frankly, speaking for myself and I’m sure most other teachers, we could care less. I’ve described this many times before. I just hate the whole prostration […]

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10/19/2016 Wednesday by Norma

The planet of unexpected behavior doesn’t have any friends today; if you behave inappropriately, don’t expect people to defend you or back you up, you’re on your own. This comes as a complete surprise to people who don’t realize they’re operating outside normal boundaries, but it is a learning opportunity. If you’re the outlier, drop your defenses and listen to feedback; you’ll emerge a better person! Abraham Lincoln said, “It has ever been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” Listen carefully to everyone today, there’s a lot to be learned. What’s good? The ability to change deeply held convictions for something better, cheerful conversations, happy partnerships, and growth opportunities in multiple directions.

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

The Longing to Awaken

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Longing for the Guru

You were born with the longing to awaken. You were born with a longing to know your own nature, to taste that nature. You were born with a longing and a homing instinct to find your Teacher. You were born with a longing to find a pure path and there were no words for that when you grew up.

You compensated by substituting other things as the object of your longing. You made lots of mistakes because of it. That’s not the point, though. There is nothing you can do in one lifetime that is as meaningful a miscalculation as reaching for that nature and trying to find it in something small. That is the biggest miscalculation that any of us can make and we do it constantly. That’s what keeps us revolving endlessly in cyclic existence.

The relationship with the Teacher is especially difficult for Westerners. We have lots of training on authority figures. We have lots of training on mothers and fathers. But we have no training on to how to deal with this longing. The ways we have dealt with it have brought us a great deal of pain and suffering because we have acted in ways that we do not understand. We are people who have had a particular karma that did not quite fit in with the karma of the society in which we were brought up. If that were not so, then more of the society in which we were brought up would be able to approach the idea of awakening, and the idea of having a Teacher in order to follow a supreme path to achieve that great awakening.

If we can reprogram ourselves by looking back at that original longing, understanding its depth, understanding the ways in which we compensated and forgiving ourselves and confessing the lack of recognition, we will then be able to establish a relationship with the Teacher, the path, the Buddha and the meditational deities that we practice. If we can establish that relationship anew, the quality of the path that we practice will be completely different. The quality of the experience that we have will be completely different. We will feel healed, and the need for that healing is very sharp and very strong.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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10/18/2016 Tuesday by Norma

Fun is here today! Venus enters Sagittarius- the goofball of the zodiac- always ready to tell a joke and cheer you up when you need it most. The tight knot of planets that has been constricting things moves apart and life loosens up. Whew! Take advantage of the residual work ethic that allows for excellent results today. Physical strength is highlighted and superhuman tasks are possible: the mother lifting a car off her child; Atlas holding up the world; cranes transporting beams multiple stories into the sky. If the opportunity arises, be ready to zip in like Superman or Superlady and save the day! It can happen. Generosity of spirit opens doors that calculation couldn’t budge. Laugh everything off. Wavy Gravy said, “We’re all bozos on the same bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.”

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

Longing for the Guru

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Longing for the Guru

Longing for the Guru is something that each of us experiences.  Each of us experiences that longing for the Guru in many different ways.

In order to be with your Teacher — however good or bad that Teacher may be — you must have spent a great deal of time making wishing prayers that you would never be separate from your Teacher. Especially if you are in a situation where you are consistently close to your Teacher and have a great deal of relatively intimate guidance, you must have spent a great deal of time longing for the Teacher. It’s the only karma that will allow this situation to exist.

As we grew up, each of us must have experienced the seeds of that longing. If we look back at our earlier lives, we may not understand that. It’s very difficult to understand how we ended up practicing Vajrayana. We certainly weren’t brought up this way. We certainly had no idea in our younger lives that we were going to be Buddhists, that’s for sure.

Yet, if we were to look deeply, we would discover that somewhere in our childhood there was a longing, which was the seed or the residue of something that we experienced in a previous incarnation. Probably when we grew up, we never heard of a Teacher. We never heard of a Guru. Because it was not consistent with our culture, and it was not sympathetic with what our culture views as proper, we may have diverted that longing into different paths. We may have felt the longing as a need to find ourselves, or we may have felt a sense of waiting to be given instructions, or to find something that we knew we would find.

Some of you might have felt you were waiting for a time in your life when an understanding would come. You might have felt a recognition that someone or something would come into your life and bring about change. You might have felt as though there was something incomplete and that completion would come later. You might have had a sense of waiting. So even while you were extremely busy in your life, there were certain things that you could have done that you didn’t, because you were waiting. Did you at some point hold back because you felt as though part of you was waiting? Maybe you even felt as though you were the ball in a roulette game, that was still going around without falling into the slot yet.

For instance, it is possible that you felt a sense of searching and perhaps went from relationship to relationship, searching for someone who would be intimate with you, searching for a fullness that you never found. It could be that you even went from a self-help group to an insight situation to a church to various kinds of situations that you thought would bring you the answer and you had no idea that it was a spiritual search. But now in retrospect, do you think that perhaps you were looking for something you didn’t find because you did not understand exactly what you were looking for? Surely, if you examine your life, you will find something of that longing in your past.

One of the great difficulties we have as both practitioners and people involved in a materialistic culture is that we have very little understanding of that longing. But in a culture that has a spiritual foundation, that recognizes the role of the Guru, or that recognizes and approves of a tendency to long for spiritual fulfillment, it is much easier to put a name and a label on that longing. For instance, in Tibet you could simply go into the monastery and know that you would find the answer there. Even if you didn’t understand which deity you were longing for, or what Guru you would find, you knew that the first thing to do was go into a monastery and with faith, the guidance would appear.

But, in our culture, in order to survive that kind of longing, you have to make believe that it’s something else. You have to pretend that it has to do with human relationships, or with prosperity, or with a certain lifestyle. You have to pretend that it has to do with intelligence, or with mental health. You have to pretend all sorts of different things in order to put the longing into some slot that our society recognizes. Because if you don’t, as you grow up, especially in the formative years, it’s crushing when you know in your heart of hearts that you are very different from others. No one else seems to have quite the same feeling that you do.

And so, because it’s so crushing, and so lonely, often, the very people that long the most are the ones that have diverted that longing into, perhaps promiscuity, or perhaps becoming almost fanatical about one idea or another. Maybe they diverted that longing into drugs or alcohol. Perhaps they made themselves into a way that they are not, such as superficial, or hard or tough or dull or even dead. They might have pretended that they had no feelings at all in order to deal with the ones that they did have.

Now, it’s true that lots of people have these same feelings and these same ways of dealing with feelings. For instance, it’s very possible that someone whose mother or father didn’t love them could become promiscuous simply for that reason. Yet, that does not preclude what I’m saying. You should listen to your life — what you did and what was underneath it. And you should come to understand that perhaps there was something a little different in your heart and in your mind, and it was always with you.

By the time you have grown and begun to find your path, you have already lost yourself somewhere. You don’t understand yourself any more. You have already done things for which you do not forgive yourself. You have already substituted something else for the longing that you felt. You have already substituted something else for your Teacher. In having done that, it is difficult to find your way home. It is difficult to reach what was originally very pure in your mind. It is difficult to rebirth what was very pure and tender inside of you. And now, you can’t just say, “Oh, I found it at last. The longing is finished. I found what I’m looking for. I found my path, but in the meantime, I’ve been promiscuous and I don’t forgive myself”, or “I’ve become tough, numb, or materialistic.”

What happens is that we see that what’s in front of us is so precious and it’s just what we’ve been waiting for. Now, instead of being able to just grab it and eat it, what we do then, is try to deal with the numbness, the hardness. the promiscuity, or the materialism. This is because we have become used to this feeling of longing. So the longing remains, and we are not able to truly be one with the path and with the Teacher.

We’ve forgotten how to satisfy ourselves. We’ve forgotten how to do anything except blame ourselves and be angry. We make lots of mistakes. We compulsively make mistakes. We do not follow the path purely and with a full heart. We have to ask ourselves if the person who says, “I’ve got to get through with my Three Roots practice today,” is the same person, who, as a child, was waiting hungrily for something. It’s not the same person. We feel differently now than we did back then and we don’t know how to get back to that original place of purity. We feel something is amiss when we think we’ve found our path because we feel angry, guilty and dirty. We feel different, impure. Then we end up approaching the Teacher, the teaching, and the path itself, in an impure way, because we believe that we are impure somehow.

Having longed for the taste of our own nature for such a long time, now when we look at the Teacher and the teaching, we see it as something altogether different. We see the Teacher as just a human being and we try to get close to that human being. And why do we do that? We do that because we spent our whole lives trying to fit that longing into an acceptable picture and now we’re still trying to do the same thing.

We are afraid to experience the depth of our longing, and instead, we try to get close to the person. We are afraid to experience the bliss of the union between the meditator, the meditating mind and the nature that is meditated on. The bliss of that union is so strong and we are afraid to experience it. So instead, we long for some kind of union with the person who is now our Teacher. It is even common to feel a strong sexual urging for our Teacher. It doesn’t matter if the Teacher is the same sex. Students can have dreams and strong sexual urgings for the Teacher. If you think of the Teacher as a mother figure, or a father figure, or an authority figure, or a therapist that you come to with your ordinary stuff, there will never be satisfaction, because that isn’t the truth. That is not the nature of the Teacher. That longing becomes a perpetuation of the suffering that we had as a child where it was not understood, where it was diverted, and where it could not be satisfied.

We misunderstand the feeling of longing. The longing is for union, not for sexual behavior. Because it is misunderstood, what generally happens is a feeling of rejection, because the Teacher does not comply with our wishes. We feel guilty and wonder what’s wrong with us. We feel a lack of acceptance of ourselves, or a lack of confidence, or a feeling that we are somehow impure in our motivation. The longing sometimes becomes so strong that we are unable to practice.

You want the Teacher to hold you and love you or you want the Teacher to be with you as a friend. You are unable to practice because you are so busy watching how your Teacher acts towards you. Does he or she smile at me? Does he or she hold my hand when I’m lonely? Does he or she notice when I’m ailing? Does he or she come after me when I’ve strayed? You’re so busy noticing that that you do not practice. The practice is the caring for you. The practice is the coming after you when you have strayed. The practice is the taking you home where you accept and awaken to your true nature. The teachings that you receive are your relationship with the Teacher. They are the fruits the Teacher brings to you. If you are longing for union with the Teacher, when the Teacher teaches you from his or her mind, and offers you the essence of what they know, that is the union, far more so than any physical friendship could ever be. There is nothing more intimate than that.

Yet, we continue to not understand. We continue to divert the longing, to not accept ourselves and to blame ourselves. We continue to create a bad relationship with our Teacher. If we understood what was happening, we would run to the teacher, run to the path, run to the experience of being on the path and of practicing in order to achieve enlightenment, with open arms and with an open heart. But instead, we are doing other things that do not accomplish the awakening that we wish.

And so, if you feel that you have become deadened to that longing, if you think that you don’t long for your Teacher or long for the Buddha, if you think that you don’t have a heartfelt longing for that awakening, then you should try to remember your childhood and the different feelings that you had. What were some of the things that you did? Were you promiscuous? Did you become involved in drugs or alcohol? Did you become very materialistic in certain ways? And if you can remember the beginning of that, was it based on longing? Was it really based on something that you could hardly remember, but remember that it was sharp and poignant?

If you can remember that time, you should become reacquainted with the purity of that urging. Cultivate that longing. Don’t cultivate it in a false or contrived way, but search for what was already there. Feel what was felt. Don’t make up a feeling. That’s important because if you do, you’ll blame yourself again. Instead, try to remember that feeling, even if it just numbs you to think that you have gone so far astray. You should not be ashamed because it was your karma to be born a culture where what you felt was not acceptable and you tried to fit-in in ways that were acceptable. Those ways did not work for you and then you shut down. You should try to go back to that original feeling and then you have to forgive yourself.

In order to be able to fully forgive yourself, you have to confess. Don’t confess, “Oh I’ve been a bad girl or I’ve been a bad boy, I’ve done this and I’ve done that.” The confession that you should make to the primordial Root Guru is, “You were everywhere and I tried to find you here.” Your true confession is your lack of understanding the nature of the Guru. Your true confession is your not understanding what you are. That’s your real confession and the real sin you committed. Yes, karma happened. But that core confession and purification can bring about the end of all the karma that arose from that, truly. It can bring about the end of all suffering that came from that point.

You should allow yourself to remember the longing that you felt and learn to live with it. In living with it and having it be the warmth in your heart, that longing will bring the proper result. So long as it is diverted, so long as you refuse to feel it, so long as you do not allow yourself to be pure and constantly cover that up with feelings of impurity, so long as that continues, the longing cannot be satisfied.

If you feel that longing purely, and if you can manage to get your ego out of the way, then that longing can be the very bread that nurtures you to continue firmly on your path. That longing can be the way that provides the actual, undeniable connection with your own Root Guru. It perfects that relationship so that you can realize the nature of the primordial Guru. You can understand that what you see in front of you is the miraculous touch of Lord Buddha. Your relationship with the Teacher, the path, the teaching, and your own practice can only be a result of the miraculous intention of the Buddha. So long as you continue to understand the teaching and the path as something external, you will never understand its nature. You will never be able to truly drink of the taste of that nature. Instead, you will continue to feel separate from the mandala.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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10/17/2016 Monday by Norma

Go shopping today! This is an excellent day for bargains, for picking winners and for solid judgment. It is a relief to return to the mundane details of life, to go about your daily activities with nothing more on your mind than what’s for dinner. Sink into your usual routine, take comfort from it and astonish yourself by doing wonderful work. Decisions you make today will improve your standing in the world; they seem ordinary to you but they are brilliant! E. B. White said, “Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” The peacefulness of this day, the ordinariness of what you do, is what opens the door to the extraordinary. A problem is leaving, let it go in peace and do nothing to bring it back.

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

Merit & the Karma of Happiness

From The Spiritual Path:  A Compilation of Teachings by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

You are able to practice because you had the karma to receive teachings. Merit has come to the surface of your mind; good karma is ripening. But linked with some of this ripening merit are some bubbles of not-so-good karma. So what happens? You sit down with the intention to practice, but now you’re just too tired. You start to fall asleep. Or you decide that you need to do some other things. You externalize what you think are the causes for your inability to practice. Maybe you even begin to doubt that you’re happy in the Dharma. You wish you were surfing in California, and this thought is like a little rat, gnawing in your head. It gnaws at you slowly and steadily.

You need to understand that good karma is ripening, but some negative karma is linked to it. Embedded in your mindstream is some non-virtuous activity associated with the intention to practice. Now you have repeated that pattern, in seed form, and it will ripen in the future. Sometime in the future, you will again sit down with the intention to practice, and you won’t be able to do it. So the sensible thing to do is to persevere, to push through as well as you can. Understand that your tiredness, sleepiness, and other excuses have no basis. They are puffballs.

When you find yourself making excuses why you are unable to practice, why you don’t really want to hear the teachings, the best thing to do is to break through by accumulating merit. By doing virtuous things. Study Dharma. Pray. Practice kindness and generosity. Meditate. Contemplate the teachings. Try to understand them more deeply. Be attentive. Make offerings. Repeat the Seven Line Prayer many times. Repeated with faith, it is an antidote that can end all your suffering. It can, the teaching says, lead to enlightenment. All these things are ways to accumulate merit. You must understand how merit (and lack of it) works, or you will have a difficult time maintaining potency on the Path. It will even be difficult, on an ordinary level, to have a good life. For you won’t have any way to understand what is happening to you. You will always blame external things, other people. It is true that when you encounter misfortune, other people are usually involved, and you may well have some mixed karma with those people. But the karma arises within your own mindstream; it isn’t somewhere outside.

Pull out of your addiction to reaction. Think of your mind as something like a mechanism, and you yourself as a mechanic. Understand that you can work with its levers, pulleys, and gears. To most people, their own minds are a mystery, a complete mystery. And they search for someone who can understand them.

What should you do? Persevere in your practice. What else? Create more merit. The big mystery of “me” is solved. Almost reluctantly, too, because it’s so lovely to remain a mystery. It’s so pleasant to think that there is something mysterious, special, and unique about us. How often we try to obtain something that seems just out of reach. Or we have it in our hands, and it slips away. What is going on here? Lack of merit, of course. And yet we keep on reaching and grabbing and forcing, all in vain. Sometimes we think we have made something happen by forcing it. And yet, we have merely rearranged our karma. The basic problem remains unsolved. Suppose you want a new car, but the cost is just out of reach. Both merit and lack are coming to the surface. Even if you contrive to get the car, you will still have, ripening, some non-virtue associated with lack. That lack will always show up somewhere—with the car itself, or in your relationships, your health, or in missed opportunities. So the key, whenever you lack something, is to accumulate merit.

Some people are unaware that it takes merit to be happy. Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to be happy, no matter what? And others … well, happiness seems to elude them. And it’s because there is no karma of happiness, no karma of having made others happy, ripening in their minds. You can’t even lighten them up with a joke. They just don’t have any happy bubbles ripening to the surface. “How are you today?” you ask them. “Not so good,” they reply. “Umm … Nothing seems to go right.”  But if we haven’t got the karma for happiness, whose fault is that? Who did it to us? Someone else? No, but it’s a problem we can fix. The problem is within our own minds. We can create the karma of happiness by creating merit.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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10/16/2016 Sunday by Norma

Avoid the inclination to make sweeping statements about things (“We’re doomed!”), the urge will pass and you’ll feel foolish later. Stay close to your partner and those who mean the most to you, support is important today. People in the throes of emotion should be comforted, consoled. Planets in opposition highlight the importance of avoiding a partisan stance. Offer every person you encounter the kindness and tolerance you’d give a small child under the same circumstances. Henry James said,
“Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Offer every courtesy to others today: Open doors, set up chairs, say hello to everyone, let no-one be overlooked. Something you do or say today will be remembered far into the future.

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

Identifying What is Important

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Commitment to the Path:

These two particular teachings about the preciousness of this human rebirth and the impermanence of all things samsaric are supposed to make us see, recognize and call to mind and to be mindful of the difference between what is ordinary and what is extraordinary.  What is ordinary experiences birth and death.  It doesn’t travel with you.   It’s a product of samsara and its building blocks, which are delusion, and the senses, which are also deluded.  And while this is what builds samsara (and this is nothing to feel comfortable in), once you identify that, you can also identify what is extraordinary. And what is extraordinary is the Buddha nature.

We think about the Buddha nature as it appears in the world as the ground, the method and the fruit.  The ground is that the Dharma, Buddhism—the way that the Buddha enters into the world—always comes from the mind of enlightenment.  Whenever the Buddha speaks, the Buddha speaks from enlightenment, from the Buddha nature that does not experience rebirth. All teachings in Dharma, then, arise from the foundation, the ground. All teachings in Dharma are expressed as the method, or path.  One thing that distinguishes us from other religions is that we have method, real solid method and many different methods, to suit different karmic propensities.  But the method is given rise by the Buddha nature, so the method and the Buddha nature are not only similar; they are the same taste, the same stuff.  So the path is enlightened as well.  The result, of course, is Buddhahood, liberation from ordinary death and rebirth and the realization of the primordial wisdom nature, that awakened state that the Buddha described.  That’s the result—Buddhahood which arises from Buddhahood, which is Buddhahood and remains Buddhahood. The ground, the method and the result are indistinguishable.

So now we have identified what is impermanent.  We have identified what is useless.  Now we begin, because of that teaching, to identify what is extraordinary, what is of benefit. From that knowledge we can begin to make choices about how to practice our path.  You can see how it would be difficult to make a real commitment without understanding that.  It would be a fad for you, a thing.

Tibetan Buddhism is really kind of stylish right now.  We’re in vogue, but that’s not how we should approach this.  We have to approach it with eyes open. And believe me, as you get older, you’re going to realize that, just like the Buddha taught, our lives are like a waterfall rushing down a mountain.  Oh, you might think, that’s not bad.  Waterfalls last a long time, but don’t you get it?  You’re looking at a condition.  When you see a waterfall, you’re looking at a condition.  The cup of water that falls from the top reaches the bottom in a heartbeat and we’re like that.   We look at life and we think, oh, it’s constant.  Been here for a while.  Probably be here for a while.  But that cup of water falls down so fast that we come to the point at the end of our lives and we wonder. We look in the mirror and we see ourselves.  We have graying hair and like I said, everything is falling south and all these changes are happening. For me, I look in the mirror and here is this middle age woman and I go, how did that happen.? I am just a kid.  I’m just learning something here.  How did that happen?  And that is the experience that we have.  It goes that quickly.

And while life seems like a jewel to be enjoyed, we do not understand that if we spend our time enjoying it, it will be over in a flash and we will have gone to a precious continent and brought nothing back.  And it’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy it.  I’m trying to enjoy my life, but I get the big picture.  And that’s the thing we need to do here.  We need to get the big picture. If we are in this place of great benefit and we have met with the teacher and met with the path, we must encourage ourselves to take advantage of this precious opportunity. I hope that you’ll think about this again and again and again.

Lord Buddha teaches us that all sentient beings are suffering, that all of samsara is pervaded with suffering, that we are wandering in cyclic existence helplessly.  We are taught that all sentient beings are the same in their nature and the same in the fact that they all wish to be happy. Even when they do crazy things, they are trying to be happy, to feel good.  And we realize while there is all this suffering, there is an end to this suffering and that end is liberation.  And that’s the only good news in all of life.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved.


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10/15/2016 Saturday by Norma

A surprise kicks off the day and the emotional reaction that ensues doesn’t help matters. Use time and logic to determine your own response; the more slowly you decide where you stand, the better. A detailed plan works best. Most of the activity is in the world today, which makes staying home is a nice option. Food solves many problems if you can remind yourself to eat. Avoid making sweeping judgments about anything. Marcus Aurelius said, “A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briars in the road. Turn away from them. This is enough. Do not add, ‘And why were such things made in the world?'” What’s good today? The reappearance of something that was lost, physical strength to carry you through a job and supportive partnerships. A smile really helps today!

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

Foundation of Faith

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Commitment to the Path”

The Buddha teaches that we never really know for sure when death will occur.  Maybe a great bodhisattva or a great lama with some wisdom can predict a day.  That often happens, but that is a different story.  We’re talking about sentient beings in samsara.  You think, well, I’m pretty healthy and I’ve had a checkup and I’m OK. But you know,  you can get hit by a car.  You can get hit by a truck.  You can fall out of a plane.  There are all kinds of ways to go.  So none of us really knows when that time will come. Will it happen then that we disappear from this earth having had this jewel in our hands and it’s just gone?   Then we’re no longer on this precious continent.  We’re back in poverty and we have nothing. So we contemplate on this to make us aware that we need, want and find precious every blessing that we can get our hands on, and that we need, want and really care about our practice. Because it is this and this alone that provides the stable foundation that we can build a strong house of faith upon.

There is one other thing that the Buddha teaches us that is hard to understand, and this one is the toughest, the very, very toughest.  It’s even tougher than you’re going to die someday.  It’s the teaching about impermanence.  Just when you think it is safe to go in the water, there’s another shark.  Isn’t it the truth?  You know, after a while you get a little punchy with samsara, sort of twitchy.  After you get to be a certain age, you realize that there have been times that you have been blissfully happy, I mean, like really turned on.  Up.  But where are you now?  This thing never lasts.  You get so punchy that you get to the point where when you start to go up and you start to feel really happy and you start to think, “I’m handling things here. Everything is looking good,” that you are looking over your shoulder. You know the rest is right behind you and there is no sense getting too excited about too much of anything because it is all temporary.  Of course, you have to live a while to understand that, until it beats you over the head.  But we do get it eventually.

The Buddha teaches us that nothing is permanent.  What comes together must go apart.  What goes up must go down.  Everything that has a beginning has an ending. And everything that we experience in this lifetime has a beginning  so there will be an end to every experience.

Now fortunately we use that information when we’re really in tough shape.  Because in tough shape, you know it’s not going to be permanent.  Nothing is permanent.  So we are taught that we are living in this kind of drunken, conditioned, narcotic state where we are wandering through experience not knowing why experience is coming to us. How has this happened to me? Why is this happening to me?  It’s always in our minds, because we can only see the content of this lifetime.  We do not understand and appreciate that the reason this is happening to us now is that we have previously created the causes.  Cause and effect arise interdependently, so there is no other way for anything to happen to us.  So we realize that everything that is happening to us now is kind of a flow of dreamlike, narcotic, dualistic perception that appears outwardly pointed at us. It appears that it is happening to us because of the nature of our delusion, because of the nature of our ignorance—that we are wandering through this experience. From time to time you get the feeling that gosh, you’d like to wake up.  Wouldn’t it be great to just wake up?  You can’t. You’re just wandering through this.  And so, Lord Buddha uses the teaching of impermanence to help us recognize that, because we as sentient beings like to hang onto false stability.

I feel really good because I’m sitting on a chair that is very solid.  It’s very solid, because I am pretty high off the ground here.  If I were to fall down this far, I’d probably hurt myself, so I feel pretty good about the solidity of this chair.  And it’s a great analogy, because really in my mind, the solidity of this chair has more to do with my lineage than it has to do with the wood.  I’m really kind of interested in physics and stuff like that.  If I didn’t become who I am and I didn’t follow my secondary occupation of being a Motown backup singer, which I wanted to be, I think I would have been a scientist, because I like to study a little bit about physics, What I realize about physics is that this chair has more space in it than it has wood.  It’s a bunch of atoms and stuff (I don’t remember their names),all strung together. They are empty things;  they are spacious things.  They are not solid things.  I am really sitting on a bunch of space right now..  What keeps it together is the karma of the situation.  What keeps it together is our capacity for perception.

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