Problems?

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

When we see the guru, we don’t look at the guru and say, Well, I like him or her, or, I don’t like him or her. We don’t think like that. That’s not a good reason to take a teacher; and it’s not a good reason to reject a teacher. We accept a teacher based on the clarity that they can show us, and whether they themselves have crossed the ocean of suffering. And so our view of the teacher is based on that.

Now, we find ourselves in a position where we are confused. We really don’t get the big picture. We really are experiencing everything that we experience due to a false assumption and false reaction and false set of conceptualizations that are built on all those erroneous views. How can we untangle this spaghetti kind of phenomena? Well, if we tried to pick out the pieces one by one, we would still be doing it from the point of view of the assumption of self-nature, so it’s never going to be clear. We really must rely on the perception of that one who has crossed the ocean of suffering. We really have to rely on the guidance of our teachers and the teaching of the Buddha. We really must rely on that.

The most important step that any student can make—and any good student will really have to make this at some point—is arriving at the conclusion, or coming to the understanding that you really just don’t know. That you really just don’t have a clue. Many students, when they first come to temple, and when they first begin on the spiritual path, feel a kind of arrogance, a kind of pridefulness. We talked about that the last time that we were together. They really assume that they know something, you know? ‘Well, I’ve had several different teachers and I’ve been on the spiritual path for some time now; and yes, I have a great affinity for spiritual things. And in fact, I myself have taught a few people, in my humble way.’ You know, and they sort of think like that. They come to the temple, and then they think, ‘Yes, well I’ve tried everything so now I think I’ll try some Tibetan Buddhism because you know, it’s like really exotic. Having been everywhere, I guess I’ll try Tibet.’  And so that’s what they think, really, when they come to the path. And really even some of the oldie, goldies over here were like that. Oh, oh, let me tell you. It was pew city for a long time. I actually had many of them come to me and tell me how wonderful they were and how helpful they had been in other people’s spiritual awakening. And all they needed from me was a reading. You don’t think that’s weird? Then you have some work to do. So, anyway, they experienced that, and you may actually be experiencing that. And you may feel just a little itchy under the collar when I talk about this, or a little uncomfortable.

At any rate, there will come a point in any proper student’s life when they might enter in that way. Then, at some point, they simply realize that they don’t know anything. They just haven’t got a clue in the world. And at that point, they finally have entered onto the path, because you cannot enter onto the path any other way. And every religion has a way of telling you that. I’m thinking about Christianity—that you have to enter Jerusalem through the eye of the needle. There is actually a place in Jerusalem, as I understand it, or was—I don’t know if it’s actually still there—where there is a tunnel or rock formation which is quite low, and it’s called the eye of the needle. Camels going into Jerusalem that way actually have to get down on their knees to enter into it. So that analogy is made: That you have to enter by getting down on your knees. You actually have to get off of the arrogance and the spiritual superiority that you have.

This may come as a shock to you; but, in fact, you are not getting messages from Jesus, or Buddha, from the Pleiades star system, or anybody else, as you thought you were every night at 7:00. You actually are not getting the inner directives that you thought you were. You’re just confused! And I’m really sorry about that. I really hate to break this to you, but you’re having a lot of problems. When you get to the point on the path that you can actually realize that, you’re somewhere and you’re in good shape. Until you realize that, believe me—and you’re not going to like my saying this and you might not come back—but you’re nowhere and you’re not in good shape.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

 

 

Conceptual Proliferation

When-should-I-report-a-car-accident-to-the-insurance-company-2

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

In our ongoing continuum of trying to understand correct view from many different angles, I would like to talk about the conceptual proliferation that we continually engage in and how that actually occurs. If any of you have had any familiarity with any kind of psychotherapy or counseling, or with any kind of inner work at all, one of the things that you might have noticed during your work is that dependent on how you accept information and how you react to it, under those conditions you’ll have a certain kind of experience. And that certain kind of experience really depends on how you accept things, on how you hear things. How many of you have noticed that? That it isn’t what happens to you; it’s how you hear it or how you accept it. Are there any of you who haven’t noticed that? Some of you didn’t raise your hands. I was just checking. You haven’t noticed that. OK. Here’s what I’m saying: Whatever happens to you isn’t always what determines how you feel. It’s how you accept what’s happening to you. Do you agree with that? OK. Because one thing can happen to two different people and they can have two totally different experiences. Isn’t that true? That’s true.

Let’s say two different people have a car accident. Buddha forbid. Two different people have a car accident. One of them tends to be a heavy breather, you know, and they’re just going through the tragedy, and the shame of it, and the anger of it, or whatever it is that their particular habit—and habit may be the operative word there—happens to be. But another person tends to accept things like that kind of like water rolling off a duck’s back. It goes down easier somehow. It’s just their temperament and their personality. They both had the same experience, and maybe they both walked away without injury and had their cars totalled, or both broke a leg, heaven forbid, or whatever; but they might still have totally different experiences even though they had the same kind of situation. So basically that’s what I’m talking about.

So you all have seen that, I’m sure. Even in your own lives you’ve seen that. And a lot of time during the course of counseling, you don’t really engage in trying to change the facts of your life, the things that you cannot change; but you more often engage in changing how you respond to certain things and how you understand them. Well, if this is true in something as relatively simplistic as human psychology or psychotherapy, as we know it,… And I say relatively simplistic because the Buddha’s understanding of what our nature actually is is much more profound, or much deeper, than a psychologist’s understanding of what our nature is. Even if we understand that phenomena on a very simplistic level—and it seems to be an accepted fact these days that we understand that our perception really dictates our experience—how much more so must it be at the level that the Buddha approaches it from.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Hook

veclro

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing the Hook of Compassion”

The teacher actually appears in the world, and hopefully the teacher is a bodhisattva. Because if the teacher is not a bodhisattva, you might as well throw that one out the window. You have made another mistake. You don’t want to go to school and learn from Betty Crocker, or something like that. You really want to know that you are getting teaching from someone who’s equipped to give you the method, to give you the Path. So if the teacher’s a bodhisattva, if the teacher is an incarnation who has achieved some realization, and therefore has returned solely to benefit beings, there is some design. Different tulkus will appear in different ways, but there is some design in the tulku’s method. The tulku will have a sense of purpose from a very young age, a sense of purpose, and it will be the cornerstone of that tulku’s life. Everything will be built around that. It’s almost like everything that arises, all of the circumstances that arise in the bodhisattva’s life, in the tulku’s life, will arise from that intention. Everything is centered on that intention; that intention is the center. It’s like if you’re building a house, and there’s one post that holds up the whole house somewhere in the middle. Although I don’t think houses are really built like that, and I’m sure the carpenters are getting angry at me just for saying that. But anyway, the cornerstone, if you will, of the structure is the tulku’s, the bodhisattva’s, pure intention-—the intention to be of some benefit. So the things that hold it up, that’s what they are—that compassion, that loving kindness.

As the tulku moves toward their time, and that happens differently with each one, there is a sense of calling. The tulku will call the students. Now sometimes, I can say to you from what I’ve heard and what I know, it isn’t really like the teacher will know the name of a certain student and just be necessarily finding that student. You know going to that student’s house and knocking on the door and saying, ‘Hey, guess what?  I’m your teacher.’  Terrible things would probably happen if teachers did things that way, and it just isn’t the way that it’s done. It’s not what really happens.

What begins to happen is that there is a quality of intention, of loving kindness, of compassion that begins to ripen in the teacher’s mind. And it’s like it sets up a vibrational quality almost like a sound, almost like a sound. A song, maybe. A sound, a note that begins to sound in a certain way. It’s not accidental that certain students appear at that time, simply because the karma of the situation is such that the teacher who appears in the world has a certain relationship with certain students; and that’s already established because the karma’s already such. The karma is already established. That karma will begin to actualize itself in that the teacher will set up a quality, a vibrational field or a sound, or something that will be appropriate, that will reach out and touch certain particular students, and their minds will respond to it. Their minds will respond to it and they will be called. Students will appear from literally nowhere.

I don’t consider myself a great teacher in any regard. I consider myself the humblest of the humble. Believe me, I do consider myself thus. But I do know my own small experience has been just that. I never, until Penor Rinpoche recognized me, I never represented myself in any way. I never hung out a shingle and said this or that is what I am, or who I am.  Never did that happen. But students came when I became ready. And I know that this happens with other teachers. There is a vibration that goes out, a sound that goes out that’s like a hook. It’s a hook, you know, just like velcro.  One piece of velcro doesn’t attach itself to a smooth surface. If the student doesn’t have the responding piece in them, it won’t connect, you see.  It will just smooth right over. You see what I’m saying?  It’ll just slick right over. But if the student has that other piece, they’ll be tight. You can’t separate them. To separate them literally sounds like velcro. It sounds like your heart is being torn out. There’s something there that is so fantastic that cannot be explained in ordinary terms.

So this amazing fantastic thing happens. And from the lama’s point of view, there is simply the display of that intention. That’s all that happens. And the student from literally nowhere, the student could be a coarse and crude construction worker. The student could be a ballerina, you know; the student could be a disco dancer They could be all sorts of weird things. You never know. And suddenly something begins to happen. And they don’t really change from being weird things, they just show up.

So this amazing thing happens; and this response begins to happen. And often the student will come up and they’ll go, ‘What am I doing here? How did I get in this?  What is this?’ One student that I remember: The first time she came to me for a consultation, she was so prim and proper. She wore this little proper camel suit, you know, and she was very business-y and very here-I-am, very business-y, very professional sort of woman. She comes in click, click, click, little high heels, sits down and goes, “Well, I’d like to have a reading.”  So, we talk, and we talk, and we talk, and about three or four hours later, she’s in tears, and she feels like her life has just fallen apart. She’s just left one train, and entered onto another, and all these weird things begin to happen to her. She’s crying, and she doesn’t know what’s happening to her. She feels like she’s going crazy. She just doesn’t know what this is. And really, there’s no monkey business happening on the part of the teacher. The teacher isn’t saying, ‘Hey, let me see how I can mess up this person.’  It isn’t like that at all. There is simply this call, this sound that is going out, and the student, if the hook is there, suddenly becomes velcroed, literally velcroed. Sometimes there is  anger at first, because you didn’t want to be velcroed, you know.  You didn’t ask for this. You wanted to be free and independent. You know? You don’t want to be stuck to something. And suddenly you can’t get away. You’re hooked.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Trouble With Samsara

burning house

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing the Hook of Compassion”

When a student calls the teacher in their mind, when they begin to make their mind and their heart like a bowl, there are several different things that are happening. First of all, there is some fantastic auspicious karma that is ripening. In order for a student to even make that step, the student must have accumulated a tremendous amount of merit, of virtue, somewhere in the past. A non-virtuous mind cannot call the teacher with devotion. It cannot happen. They will not be able to experience that devotion, that gentling, that softening. So the student must know that about themselves: If they are responding with devotion, if they are really calling the lama, if they are really experiencing surrender, then there is some virtue in the student’s mind. The student should be happy and pleased with that.

When the student calls the lama, when the student practices that kind of devotion, it’s because the student has realized certain kinds of things; and the only way that real devotion can be practiced is if these things have been realized. First of all, the student has looked around and has seen that cyclic existence, or ordinary life, is flawed. It is faulted. The student has looked around—and sometimes it’s the older students that really in some ways, unfortunately, are able to do this, because they have seen their lives pass—and they look around and they say, ‘What have I done? I’ve worked so hard for maybe 55, 60 years. I’ve worked so hard, and what have I really accomplished?  What am I going to take with me?  What is this that I’ve done?  What will happen when this time has passed?’

So sometimes older students are truly prepared to understand the faults of cyclic existence. Younger students have a much more difficult time with that, because younger students are still trekking along, you know. They’re still thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I can do this, and I can do this,’ and they’re still steamed up, puffed up with that ‘I can, I can do’ kind of thing. Too many exciting threads to pull. Too many different ways to move. Our juices are flowing, and we’re moving ahead. And it hooks us; it hooks us into this delusion.

The student that is prepared to call the teacher has been awakened, stimulated, has understood that so much time has passed. And what has happened during that time?  Not much. Not much that we can really account for. We’ve had some fun. We’ve had some big fun, some of us. And we’ve had some big suffering. And we’ve had some big excitement. We’ve had some big letdowns. And it’s up and down, and up and down. And we’re all going to experience old age if we live that long. We’re all going to experience death; and we’ve all experienced sickness. And it just goes round and round and round, doesn’t it?

At some point we look at that and we see it, and we ask ourselves, ‘Isn’t there something more? Isn’t there something?  There must be something.’  We begin to move in that direction. And then we see someone who can give us a path. Not only just thoughts about the path, not only just ideas that are popular in the New Age. Not just some theories. But a technology, a method, a method that is succinct and exacting, and has shown itself to give results that have been repeated and proven over time.

So this student looks at that and thinks, ‘Wow! This is something!’ And the student is in the position of experiencing themselves sort of like in a burning house, and suddenly they’ve seen a door. They’ve seen a way out. They’ve seen something that doesn’t have the danger in it that cyclic existence has, that doesn‘t have the fault in it that cyclic existence has. Maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s something that we can do. And the student looks at that and says, ‘Oh,’ and they gather themselves together; and they are hopeful and they’re joyous. And somethng’s going on. Suddenly they’re excited. Then the student begins to want to call that, to bring that closer to them.  That’s a beautiful, precious, and exciting moment.  But that moment can only happen due to the virtue of the student’s previous practice. That really only happens due to virtue.

So the student begins to call the teacher.  And the student has lots of different experiences while that happens. Sometimes the student doesn’t know how to measure what the relationship with the teacher is. Sometimes there’s some initial confusion. There are all sorts of interesting and different things that happen during that time. But still, the student with the kind of virtue that is necessary to really do this will remain firm, will continue, will move forward, and continue to call the teacher, continue to invoke that presence in their lives and really come to the point, due to the virtue of their practice, where they will do anything, they will do anything, because they know their time is short. They know that they’ve tried everything, and nothing’s worked so far. Nothing has produced permanent happiness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Wedding Cake

wedding cake

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “This Time is Radical”

I think of Dharma as a wedding cake with three different levels, and everyone is welcome to partake of this cake. Only some people will get to go into three-year retreat, way up at the top: three-year Dzogchen retreat, and then maybe onto seven-year retreat, and then maybe onto end-of-life retreat. Hopefully some of you will have that opportunity. And don’t waste a minute if you do. If you have that opportunity, then that’s where you are, and the cake is yours.

The next level are people who may never get to practice that deeply in retreat and may never get to three-year or seven-year retreat or whatever, but they practice every day of their lives. They learn their Phowa, and they learn their generation practice, and they do a little Dzogchen practice; and they are hooked up, because they will have an auspicious rebirth. They are making ready for their next life.

Then at the lower level… It isn’t lower in the sense of up and down. It’s bigger, if you think of how wedding cakes are. That level is every human’s level. Every human can come and have a taste of mantra, of Dharma. How do I make a cake big enough for everybody to have a bite?  We’re going to sing it. We’ll just make it big and make it happen.

I’m really looking forward to that. I have lots of hopes and dreams. Eventually when we’ve accomplished certain things that we want to accomplish with our music, which is to get the mantra out into the world, then we want to hit the road. Hitting the road means bringing mantra, chanting and drumming to all people. And so any of you who wish to join us on that, it’s time for you to practice.

You shouldn’t be thinking, ‘Well, I only want to practice this way, and not that way.’  Well, you’re not exactly thinking in Dharma terms at all if you’re like that. You should have your mind open, relaxed, joyful, following in the footsteps of your teacher in the best way that you can. So I’m asking for you at this time to keep your heart open, keep your eyes open. Try to be mindful. Try to really see patterns around you. Try to notice Dharma and what it is to you, and how you can help others. Don’t do anything by rote now. Get back into the deep end again. Don’t just say a little mantra and then walk around like you own the place. Don’t do that. Get deeper in your practice, as deep as you can. For those of you who are giving rise to the Bodhicitta, when I say these words are inspired, say, ‘Sign me up. Send me. I’ll go. I’ll sing some. I’ll bring some drums. I’ll do cartwheels if that’s going to teach Dharma.’ You could go in a certain direction and have it written on you. We’ll think of something.

I’m trying to be upbeat about this, but this is a time of great change. This year and next year are going to be stupendous in terms of change that we experience as individuals and as a temple. Not frightening change, good change; but get-your-act-together kind of change. Get ready to help beings. Get ready to minister. Those of you who are wearing robes, you’re supposed to be ministering to others in the best way you can, whatever that means. If that only means open-hearted connection, good-heartedness like the Dalai Lama wrote. if that’s all we can do, that’s great!  Let’s do that here. We can do more than that because we have training. We have lots of training and we’ve got method. With method and a solid heart, we will hold back the dark for as long as possible.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Confession and Remorse

avoiding buyers remorse

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “AA & Buddhism”

Now with alcohol or drugs, the nature of the beast is that you’re going to hit bottom. At some point, things are really going to fall apart. One of the additional problems with samsara is that we can be angry every day, we can be needy every day, we can be miserable beyond belief every day, but we may not bottom out until we die. And right before we die we look back at our lives and go, ‘Gee, you know I’ve been miserable and angry and needy just about every day here. And now I’m dying.’ What are you going to do about it then? You know, think about it. You’re going toes up into the bardo. And you’re going to be faced with the nature, with your mind, with your habitual tendencies.

So, the problem with samsara is even more acute. I think samsara is even more a drug than heroin. Even more a damaging substance, or damaging condition, than addiction to alcohol. And the reason why I think that is because in samsara, the way it plays out, even though things have fallen apart, even though we have bottomed out, even though we are utterly miserable, we often can’t see it because we’ve been taught that that’s simply the way it is. That’s simply the way it is.

So like an addict that changes bars in order to solve his unhappiness… And it happens, doesn’t it? You go from one kind of social scene to another kind of social scene thinking that it’ll help. Like that, we go from day to day trying to solve the problem of samsara by bending the elbow a little more. And that’s kind of how it goes. Now the situation that we find ourselves in is very similar to that. And in terms of being addicted to samsara, we have to really dismantle the delusion of samsara. We have to see the faults of it. Now, according to the Buddha’s teaching, there are certain pre-written faults of samsara that you can rely on; but I really recommend that you look very carefully at your own condition in a courageous way.

I don’t think that that can happen very easily on your own, because you’re going to miss some things, a lot of things. It is remarkable to me… For instance, let’s use a hypothetical situation that I ran into just recently. Let’s say you have a friend (and probably you’ve seen this), who has a habitual tendency of terribly destructive relationships. Do you know anybody like that? How about yourself? Terribly destructive relationships in which it never happens that your friend walks out of a relationship unscathed. They always come out of it damaged in some way. Terribly destructive relationships. It seems to be a big item here in samsara. It’s like a big seller. It’s right up there with T-shirts. Big seller. So we’re in  terribly, terribly addictive relationships. And then you see this person go into another terribly destructive relationship. The woman looks different. She smells different. She sounds different. How is it possible that she’s exactly the same as all the other ones he’s had? And you want to say to your friend, whap, whap, wham! ‘Don’t you see that you’re doing it again?’ And they don’t! They have not a clue, nary a clue. Now has that ever happened to you? Not a clue! Have you ever seen your friend do that? Have you ever seen yourself do that? It’s the same song again and again and again. So you may need to get with someone who’s a little bit more advanced at this than you are, or at least someone you can talk to, someone you can trust.

I actually recommend that for my students. I set up a system where they can do partnering with each other. And it’s a useful thing, because we can look at each other’s patterns; and we can look at where each other’s thinking has just sort of slid over a few very important facts. And we can point it out and really help each other to stay honest, because we don’t have the habit of honesty. We have the habit of patching things up and putting band-aids on them. That is our habit. We’re trying to slick by, Jack! And that’s what we’re doing. So what we need to do is to try to find a way to cut to the bone, and you may need a friend to do that with.

Now if any of you wish to engage, those of you who are my students, and those of you who are thinking of becoming students, to engage in such a practice of really dismantling your habitual tendencies, to really look at the faults of cyclic existence and to really get with that, I heartily suggest that you do so. And certainly any of you are welcome to call on any of my students, those who have been with me for some time and have some of those skills; and I’m sure they would be willing to help you. We’re set up to do that. We’re like that. And there’s nothing to be shy about. The one thing I have to tell you about this is that whatever you’ve done, I know these people, they’re worse. There’s not a rose amongst them. Although they’re looking pretty sweet these days. There’s not a rose amongst them, believe me. There’s not one amongst them that probably hasn’t done worse. So there’s nothing to be afraid of. The deal is, and here’s something that’s really important, in both Alcoholics Anonymous and in the Buddhadharma, confession and remorse are essential components.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

A Higher Power

Guru Rinpoche

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “AA & Buddhism”

The next step, in both the Buddhadharma and in addiction, is to take refuge in a higher power. Now, in alcohol addiction, as I understand it, one takes refuge, in a sense, in one’s sponsor, who is no longer under the influence of the drug and who has been the same route, as the Buddha has done (although I don’t think most of them are Buddhas to tell you the truth), but as the Buddha has done, crossed the ocean of suffering in a boat that works. That’s the relationship. And that’s how we see our gurus. Basically it’s not a personality cult. They have crossed the ocean of suffering in a boat that works. It’s the same thing with your sponsor in alcoholism. They have crossed that ocean of suffering in a boat that works. So you take refuge in them, and you take refuge in the system, or the teaching. And that’s what you do. You also in Alcoholics Anonymous would take refuge in God, if you believed in God; or Jesus if you felt yourself to be a Christian; or again, if you’re a Buddhist, you would take refuge in the Buddha’s enlightened mind and in your guru. So it’s like that. And there, they are very, very similar.

And then the rebuilding starts to come from that. The recognition of the fault of cyclic existence, the fault of your addiction, the recognition of the horrible bottomed-out condition that we find ourselves in both applying to samsara and to the addiction; and the taking refuge and then day-by-day working it through in a very real, hands-on, cut-to-the-bone way. That’s really basically, and of course this is the cereal box-top version, but that is basically the Buddha’s teaching. The Buddha’s teaching is about giving you a workable model or a workable vehicle that you can work through and actually get from one place to another. It’s very real and it’s very not flaky or pie-in-the-sky. One of my biggest arguments with a lot of religious systems that I’ve seen is that there’s no way to make it work. There’s no applicable technology, and it’s too esoteric, too pie-in-the-sky. Now certainly in Buddhism, there is definitely esoteric philosophy. There is definitely the more profound view that one has. But the basis of the practice is, in fact, working through—applying the technology to solve the problem. And it is that: It is a model, a technology, that solves the problem.

The good news is that you can get somewhere with it. You can actually accomplish something that you may not have been able to accomplish before. Isn’t it scary that there are so many things in our lives that we can actually be caught up in and not be able to accomplish? And that has happened to us, hasn’t it? I mean, how many people amongst us,… Yourselves, think about yourselves. Have you been addicted to anger? That constant anger that accompanies us when we constantly have hostility, anger, hatred really. Do you have anger every day? Then you’re an anger addict. Have you ever decided you’re not going to be angry anymore? Have you tried that? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Wasn’t that a funny day! So you’re an anger addict and you find yourself in the same position. And when your anger gets just ugly enough and you begin to see the playback from it, maybe, maybe, you’ll find yourself in a position where you can change something. What about your lust and grasping? Do you have lust and grasping every day? Then you’re a lust and grasping addict. That’s the truth! I didn’t make this up.  You’re a lust and grasping addict. Are you needy? Are you needy? Then you’re a needy addict! It’s not different. You have to think like that.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Compassion? Maybe Later?

Busy-people-problem-with-weight

The following is an excerpt from a teaching called “The Antidote to Suffering” by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

The basic beliefs are the foundational viewpoint that will encourage you to keep practicing, most especially the idea of compassion. I don’t think that there is ever a time on your path when this becomes no longer necessary. In fact I think that as you go on, further and further, on whatever path you choose, and specifically on the Buddhist path, you will meet with challenges that will cause you to want to get into your stuff. Invariably you will meet up with obstacles that will make you feel tired, unwilling to go on. You will feel the pressures that one feels living here in the material world, specifically living here in the West where we are so busy. Here it is really a push, a stretch to be a Buddhist and to be a person committed to a spiritual path, whether it is the Buddhist path or not. It is a stretch because most of us have to earn a living. Most of us have to raise our families. Most of us have to do all those things that are very time consuming.

So it is very easy to sort of fall back and say, ‘I will wait till later. I will wait till I’m older.’ I just turned 39. I can’t say that too much longer. But we do say that. We say, ‘I’ll wait till I am older, more settled. Or when things are less busy.’ And I find that here at 39, things are more busy than they ever were at any time ever, ever, ever. So I think that it is kind of fruitless to wait for that. Or you might say, ‘I’ll wait. I’ll just wait.’ You don’t even have any reason. You just say, ‘Later I’ll do this.’

So it is good to have these foundational teachings. It’s good to think in the ways that we are going to think in this class. And you shouldn’t think that because you’ve been a long-time Dharma student that you are beyond all this. If you think that, really, I tell you from my heart, you have a problem because I don’t think that. I don’t know of any teacher who thinks that. Every teacher that I have ever spoken to has said to me, ‘Teach first compassion. Teach first the foundational teachings and keep on that and on that throughout your whole involvement with the Buddhist path.’

So I feel that that is important. I feel that it is important to beginners and I feel that it is important to long-time Dharma students. So for that reason it is important for you to come. It is important for new people to come. It is important for us to come together in this common ground, and this common ground has to be based on commitment and recommitment. It is a very important aspect of what we have to do together.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

What We All Have in Common

Shakyamuni Altar

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Antidote to Suffering”

The precepts that the Buddha lays down are precepts that are real and workable for everyone. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to hold to those precepts—the precepts of being compassionate and the realization that all sentient beings want to be happy, yet don’t have the skills or knowledge as to how to be happy. Because of that ineptness at capturing happiness, we often make ourselves stress out.In fact, the Buddha teaches us that all sentient beings are suffering because we don’t know how to attain happiness. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to notice that these things are true. You don’t have to be a Buddhist if you are willing to look with courageous eyes and see that these are so. Also, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to use the antidote.

The antidote is purity in conduct. The antidote is purity in practice, whatever your practice might be. The antidote is the realization of compassion. It certainly should be the core of one’s life. Of course, the Buddha’s teaching is more involved than that but still one doesn’t have to be a Buddhist to hold to those teachings. I think they are very universal. So the idea is to have these classes as a way for everyone to participate in what is happening here at KPC. For those of you who may not know, we also maintain a 24-hour prayer vigil here and have been doing that since 1985. There is never a moment in this place when there is not prayer being done. The prayer is specifically dedicated to the end of suffering in all its forms. Our original intention was to keep up this prayer vigil until none of us are here anymore or there is the end of suffering on this planet, the end of war on this planet specifically. Anyone can join in the vigil and you don’t have to be a Buddhist to join in. And if you understand that you have the capacity to apply the antidote to suffering and you can do that through sincere practice, through dedication, through compassion and through prayer, then there is no way for you to feel separate from what is happening here. So the original thought about this class would be to present some of the more foundational Buddhist teachings in a way that anyone could apply them and understand them.

The tricky thing about it is that we have both Buddhists and non-Buddhists here in this room. In a way it would seem tricky because if you have been studying here for some time and you’ve gone on to deeper teachings, specifically to the technology of Buddhism, you’ve gone on to the method. If you’ve gone on to the method, you tend to think that you no longer need to remind yourself why you are here in the first place. You tend to think that you have learned already the Buddha’s basic teaching that all sentient beings are suffering, that there is an antidote to suffering; already learned that all sentient beings are trying to be happy and that one needs to apply and to live a compassionate viewpoint. But that is not true. That is why you see several of the ordained Buddhist Sangha here and why it is good, even for a long time Buddhist practitioner, even one who has studied in really extensive ways, to come to a teaching like this.

I myself have decided very firmly that no matter how long I teach personally, and no matter whom I teach, whether the people whom I teach are brand new to anything metaphysical or whether they have gone on twenty year retreats, I will continue to teach the basics. I don’t know if anyone like that is going to show up here, but even if I had someone like that here in this class I would still always first and foremost speak of the root reasons why you should practice.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Avoiding the Path to Happiness

images

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “AA & Buddhism”

Now, many of us also are not very happy. We just don’t seem to be able to master happiness. We are filled with longing, filled sometimes with anguish of different kinds—you know, loneliness, unhappiness, anger. Anger seems to be our constant companion. Just can’t seem to shake it, you know. It comes back again, again and again. Loneliness comes back again and again and again. So we don’t feel that we are particularly happy. Even in this beautiful country and these beautiful places that we find ourselves sitting in, we still find that we are terribly unhappy. And then what to think about those who are in different places, different countries, different life forms that are miserably unhappy?

Happy or unhappy, we know that life is impermanent. We know that it is brought about by habitual tendency, which is scary. Have you looked at your habitual tendencies lately? Doesn’t that make you just a little squeamish? I mean if you think about it. So if life is brought about by habitual tendency, and cause and effect is definitely what’s happening here, we have to really sit down and study what we call in the Buddhadharma the faults of cyclic existence. Now it’s considered in Dharma teaching and in Buddhist thought that without thoroughly examining the faults of cyclic existence, honestly and courageously…  And I have to underline the word courageously because this is where most people fade out. So don’t! Have courage here! You have to examine yourself honestly and courageously the way an addict does. You have to see your habitual tendencies. You have to see your pride. You have to see your anger and hatred. You have to come to terms with your clinging and grasping. You must be able to look at it and recognize it in the same way an addict does. Because according to the Buddha’s teaching, until we do that we are going nowhere.

I’m telling you that this is true. I know it is because I have many well-meaning students come here to study. And when they come here to study their idea is well, you know, I’ve been the spiritual route, and I’ve even taught a few things. And I’ve done this and I’ve done that. And I’ve read Maha somebody and blah-blah who-who. And I’ve been through it all. And I’ve even sat at the feet of Big Chief Somebody-or-Other. And we all think that because of that, you know, we’re coming in here and we’re just listening to this lady in the yellow jacket, and ‘I’m just not that impressed.’ So, come on, I can read minds. Doesn’t it just scare you? Anyway, let’s say that happens.  There are students who come to just about every kind of spiritual gathering in that way, with that kind of arrogant posture, completely avoiding the issue that it would be useful, beneficial, and just logical, when you’re in any situation like that, to pick up a mirror and really, honestly look at yourself. Really, honestly look at yourself. That would be the normal thing to do, if you consider normal healthy. That would be the healthy thing to do. Maybe that’s not the normal thing to do, but it would be the healthy thing to do. It would be the right thing to do. But instead we seem to hold ourselves in a posture that makes everything that we’re all about kind of up there in an unreachable place. You can’t talk about it. You can’t think about it. You can’t argue with it. You just basically can’t do anything with it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

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