What Really Matters

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Love Now, Dzogchen Later”

You should read stories about lamas in the past, stories of the saints, where lamas in the past have gone into retreat or gone to their teachers and said, “I really want to accomplish Dharma. I’m ready. I want to accomplish Dharma right now. So what will I do?”  And the lama would say, “Take some retreat. Go into the cave and practice a certain mantra.”  And time and time again students would go to the caves and would practice mantra.  And they would come back out and they would say to the lama, “I’ve practiced this mantra and yet I don’t seem to have any result.”  “Well,” lama says,  “then you need three million more. Go back into the cave and practice some more.”  And then again more advice. “Well I’ve not been able to practice any Dharma. Not given rise to realization although I’ve said mantra repeatedly.”  Then the lama would give some other advice. “Well, go back and accomplish the bodhicitta.  Accomplish the motivation.”

There are just uncountable stories like that of these great saints who struggled like you do, like we do, to accomplish their practice. And they didn’t go and get promoted every year. They had to accomplish the underpinnings, the basics, before they could move on to the next level. And it’s according to the lama’s wisdom. The lama would be able to see whether that accomplishment had really happened. And there are also many stories of disciples who would come to the lama after practicing in a cave some time or practicing in some kind of retreat, and they would say to the lama, “I have accomplished this.”  And the lama would say, “See ya. Keep trying. Go back. Another three years for you.”  Because that’s not what you say to your lama.

So, uncountable stories, uncountable stories that seem completely ridiculous and irrelevant in this time because of the experience that we’re having. But I’m telling you that they are not irrelevant. It’s something for each of us to take personal responsibility to study. And I really think that some of the elder monks and nuns should take on the responsibility of studying the lives of these saints and then reporting on them to other students. Maybe we could take turns giving some classes on that.

But just to go every summer and say,  “I have Dzogchen. I must be okay to die now.”  Or something like that, you know?   Thinking that, you know, somehow magical thinking. You’ve got the bumpa on the head and you’re just set to go. I’m afraid not. I wish that it were so. There is no bumpa on this planet that is hard enough. I mean how many times has His Holiness said that without giving rise to Guru Yoga, to true devotion, you know, egoless devotion, the lama could literally bang you on the head with the bumpa until it was dented and you are too, and there wouldn’t be much value. Even though the lama had practiced. Even though it had been an unbroken chain all the way down to the original source of the teaching.  Because in our practice there is a call and response. The lama gives the blessing; the student is invited to respond accordingly. It’s in the call and response connection that the growth occurs. It isn’t really what the guy above you tells you to do that makes you grow.

Our concern should always be loving concern for the welfare of sentient beings. If we are so puffed up with our own view of ourselves that we cannot bother ourselves to be of benefit to sentient beings; we cannot rouse ourselves to do something that will bring benefit to all sentient beings; we cannot bring ourselves to study on the suffering of humans, of animals—these being the two that we can mainly see on this planet— and to bring some relief, let alone worry about sentient beings in other realms that we cannot see and know are suffering,… We can’t even be bothered to look at human beings and animals. But we are going to sit there and do secret teachings, and look at others and wonder why they can’t do the same. Not appropriate. Not appropriate at all, and no benefit. No benefit.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Most Important Practice

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

The traditional fundamental ideas of all sentient beings as being equal—the realization that all sentient beings are suffering equally, that it is unacceptable to see their suffering, that all sentient beings are interrelated with us—these fundamental thoughts are really important. But go on from that and practice the mechanics of changing habitual tendency. It is not enough to be theoretical. The biggest fault that I find in Buddhist practitioners is that they keep it academic. I do not myself like academic Buddhist students. I would rather you knew nothing about the academics of practice and a heck of a lot about changing the habitual tendency of self-absorption through a real practice. Because academics is not going to get you anywhere but between your ears. On the other hand, giving rise to the bodhicitta and pure view and changing habitual tendencies will lead to profound realization, to the perfect awakening. Not only that, but it will lead to a better world.

So for my money, I feel like the best thing you can do is to begin to practice in a small and simple way. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do that either. And you don’t have to be a high falutin’ practitioner to do that either. You don’t have to wear the robes, or walk the walk or dance the dance or talk the talk, or even have a nifty mala which seems to be the highest priority when we first become a Buddhist. Big deal! The highest priority should be loving kindness and you should begin in whatever small way that you can, making no conclusions, other than the fact that you have a pattern and that you can change it. Remember the idea of the scales. That’s really important. Remember the idea of applying the method today. Now. Remember the idea of confession and restitution immediately after any breakage. How potent. What an incredibly potent way to live! Can you imagine living without the burden of guilt or the burden of the false assumption that you are a bad person?  You’d have so much spare time on your hands. You wouldn’t know what to do. Because all the things you do to prove yourself you wouldn’t have to do anymore. Isn’t that true?

Do yourself a favor. Live simply in that way. It’s the best and highest practice. In the Vajrayana tradition we are given many things that we can do. We practice Ngöndro, preliminary practice. We meditate on the Thoughts that Turn the Mind.We practice generational stage practice, completion stage practice. We visualize ourselves as the meditational deity and pronounce mantra. All of those things are meant to put more in this pile. The most important practice is that of loving kindness, that of viewing others as equal. Don’t view them as worse than you, no matter what they look like and that way there won’t be anybody better than you.  All of this has been taught by the Buddha and is absolutely true.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Learning to Step Back

contemplation

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

I study sentient beings.  I must have done it in another life, because as a child I knew this. I sort of woke up from my childhood knowing that all beings are suffering. And I understood somehow that it was a spiritual thing and that they needed love. No matter what it looked like, they needed love. That was as a child; as a child I understood that. Now as a woman and a practitioner, I understand what the Buddha has taught and it’s the same. And I understand that my fervent prayer is that should I leave a footstep in this world, it will be a living display of the bodhicitta through my students, through any works that I might do. That’s what I care about. And each one of us should participate in that dream. If you are really my student, then you must care. We should all care to advance the aspirations of our teacher. That’s part of Vajrayana. We may not individually have the power to give rise to a stupa or to give rise to an ordained Sangha, but we are part of that and we should take responsibility for making that dream come true. My dream is love. It is bodhicitta. Temporary love. Feed the birds. Feed people. Feed somebody that’s hungry. I feed everything that moves. If there was sputum in a jelly dish and I could prove that it needed food, I would feed it. This is how I am. I am crazy with it.

And then, you know, beyond that recognize them because they’ll never recognize themselves without a little help. Recognize them as being Buddha. Know that they are suffering because they don’t know what to do—not because they want to suffer—and do what you can to give rise to compassion. Make it a commitment. Disallow those rage things. Disallow that anger that we have to have when we have to go and punch a wall or something like that.

The way to do that is to get a little space from that. No suppression. We don’t like suppression. Suppression is bad. It makes us all crazy, and we’re crazy enough. You work it, you work it, you work it. The rage that we have, step back from it. The way you step back from it is you question yourself. And there are two different ways you can do it. You can do it the good old American way or you can do it the Buddhist way. The good old American way works too. You can say, ‘Now what’s really making me mad here?  Do I really mean what I am saying about this person?’ You can sort of take a step back and analyze it a little bit. Just look at it sort of cool, calm and collected if you can. I mean, you let yourself go back to your rage if you need to, but step back and tell yourself you can go back to the rage if you need to. But if you really do well and you think it through, you won’t. The rage will be gone because your understanding will have come up and your mind will be smoother. The mind gets inflamed like an arthritic joint, like with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s kind of like that. The mind gets inflamed.  The more we are emotional, up and down, up and down, and full of hatred, and judgmental and gossipy and stuff like that, the more inflamed the mind gets, the more unhappy we get and the more we blame other people for it, and the more unhappy we get and the more inflamed we get. That is the cycle of samsaric existence.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

When We Blow It

oops

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

So little by little, you begin to change your habit. If you really blow it, and you will, … Accept that right now, too. You will. You’re bound to blow it. When you blow it, you can prepare yourself for that by saying, ‘As a sentient being, I will probably blow it again. And when I do, I’m going to get right back on the horse and I’m going to make restitution and I’m not going to form any conclusions about myself. I’m going to let my mind relax.’ And get right back on the horse by practicing bodhicitta in the very next moment, plus confess in your mind that you were wrong just there. Confession in your mind is very, very important. ‘Boy, I really blew it just then. I was really wrong just then.’ And make restitution as quickly as you can.

Sometimes we have a kind of pride that says you’re going to look like a jerk if you say, to somebody that you were just mean to, ‘Well, I’ve really been trying to practice generosity and I realize that I was not generous to you at all. I realize that was pretty sleazy, what I just did, and so I’d like to ask you if there is anything I can do for you.’ Now most of us have too much pride to do that, but it’s the very right thing to do. And you’ll feel like a new person once you begin to do that. And that will be not only a pebble in this pile, but that kind of thing—the confessing and making restitution of an already established non-virtuous habit—is like a boulder going into that pile. It’s more important than little kindnesses. That kind of acceptance and inner peace and moving forward regardless, really, really helps. It’s like a boulder going into that pile, so much more quickly when you get into the habit of kindness. So I heartily recommend that method.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Challenge of Self Honesty

buddhists-prostrating-outside-the-temple

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

We must take ourselves to task more. I don’t want to speak harshly because harshness doesn’t help, but I want to say succinctly and directly, we have to take ourselves to task regarding our faults and our poisons.   When I think of the Tibetan culture, that’s a lot easier because there isn’t that attachment to materialism.  Even in terms of the roots of the culture itself without religion, they were a nomadic people and they had things, but you couldn’t carry much.  You had your yaks and your yurts and that was it.There wasn’t that much variety in food; there wasn’t that much variety in clothing.  It’s true that the aristocratic Tibetans used to collect jewelry—some of the strangest looking jewelry.  It was intense jewelry, and that was considered a status thing. But for the most part, culturally, a Tibetan Buddhist would not have a hard time understanding that hatred, greed and ignorance and particularly desire, as the Buddha taught, keep us revolving endlessly in samsara.  We, unfortunately, are programmed quite differently.

I know in my household and in those of many people that I’ve talked to, there was confusion.  My mother was sort of a lox and bagel Jew and my father was a twice a year Catholic; and we were supposed to somehow dance in the middle. So when mama won we were going one way and when daddy won we were going the other way. I think that this happens with a lot of people.  They are raised with a lot of confusion around religion.  And even when they are taught that faith and religion should be a part of their life, and even when they are given the Western ten commandments, still there is so much confusion because we seem to find ways around that.

Thou shalt not kill.  But you can kill bugs, animals and enemies.  So who are you not supposed to kill?  I will not kill you.  That will do it.  So there is tremendous confusion around that.  How does one venerate these absolute laws that have to do with a moral and ethical human when there is so much confusion around them?  I mean, thou shall not kill but go to war.  How does that make sense to a child?   And so, as we grow up with religion, even though we have been founded in religion, or have some foundation in it, the information that we’re given is very confusing.  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Whose family hasn’t had a little bit of that? You know, it’s just crazy.

And so, first of all, we’ve learned to be a little bit hypocritical; but most of all, we’ve learned that these laws don’t really matter, and that’s really sad.  So when we become Buddhist, we hear that there is a Vinaya and there are certain things that we must not do. And that if we take a life,  we understand that we will be giving our lives someday from having taken a life because karma works like that. Karma is exacting. When the cause arises, the results arise independently and simultaneously.  It’s our misjudgment through having the mind of duality that makes it seem like time stretches out. So even though you may not have the result of that bad karma until later on in life or even some future life, definitely we know from studying, at least. And every once in a while we get blessed with a little instant karma, so we have sometimes the opportunity to learn; but still that confusion is rampant, really rampant.

We want to practice Buddhism, so we take the teachings. We get to all the retreats; we see the right teachers; we try to do the practices. Yet we don’t really change ourselves.  It is an amazing thing to me that students can be on the path for so long and even try to go to the completion stage practices,  the tsa lung and the trekchod and togyal, and go to those levels and practice them with some part of their mind, and yet the rest of them is somehow remaining the same.  To me that is probably the worst tragedy on the path.  It’s the one that makes me not like to teach, but that’s the battle I fight with myself, you know. I’m just being honest.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Warriorship on the Path

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

The theme that we will work on today is working through one’s five poisons. I think it’s an important one. And I think what we should do is take our time and pick through it.  That doesn’t mean working through one’s five poisons.  That means getting rid of them.  In a sense when we take to the path, we think that, ‘Oh, I am going to be like the picture of the Buddhist where I get to sit on top of the Himalayan Mountains somewhere all by myself, and eventually people will climb up and ask me profound questions.’  But it really doesn’t work out like that.  When we enter upon the path we want to go forward with the most exotic practices and wear the most exotic robes and collect all the implements and learn how to use them.  I know there is the tendency to want to get into the customs and trappings and surroundings of Dharma. But really the first thing that should be done when we enter onto the path is to take hold of and begin to think of ourselves as a warrior regarding our own poisons.

Now when we say “warrior” everybody thinks they can’t be very Buddhist, because Buddhists are peaceful.  Well, Buddhists are peaceful.  We’ve never had a war that I know of.  We’ve been attacked, but we’ve never had a war.  There is no other religion that can say that.  Every other religion has brought about war and that has never happened in Buddhism. Yet we are warriors. And we consider ourselves warriors in the sense that we must take to task that which prevents us from attaining liberation, because the goals here are very different.  In other religions, there are lots of materialistic ideas about possessions, like how much land a certain religion should have or how many pieces of gold they should collect.  There is a certain materialism in it.  But with Buddhism, there is really no materialism.  In truth, students will give their last dime to make an offering to the three precious jewels.  There are many stories of practitioners whose generosity and unthinking faith—no, not unthinking, more like spontaneous faith—is so strong that they would offer even their last garment at the altar to give to the three precious jewels knowing that it is so much more important to gather the merit of making that kind of offering. That it is important to have done it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

You Get What of You Pay For

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

Who are you?  Is being busy your guru?  Good luck. Good luck. Is being fearful your guru?  Is keeping your heart in a place where it doesn’t have to mingle with the cry that I hear from samsara that says help me now, help me? You have to ask yourself because this is the time. Who am I?  How many people will suffer at my hand?  How many people will slip through my fingers that I did not offer Dharma?  These are the questions that you have to ask yourself.

You get what you pay for. That rule is as good in Dharma as it is anywhere else. And if you don’t do the work, the work does you. Each of us has karma and we will experience it. Karma is exacting. There is no way out of it, unless we rely completely and utterly upon the teachings and our teachers as the door of liberation. To delude yourself into thinking that you are practicing that you are Buddhist or that your life has meaning whatsoever, unless you are walking through the door of liberation, is a waste of time. My time and yours.

So I’m asking you, won’t you please let go of your habitual tendencies?  Won’t you please let this precious nectar of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas enter your heart and heal you?  Won’t you please respond in kind to the cries of sentient beings, because if you are not helping them onto the path of Dharma, not your make up stuff… You can’t have a bunch of people that sit there and talk Dharma to you and think you’ve done your job. Unfortunately, you haven’t practiced that well and you are not the Buddha yet, and you’re not awake. So when you talk about Dharma, it’s just you talking about Dharma. People learn by your practice. They don’t learn by your ego talking about Dharma and saying, ‘I’m so great, I have some Dharma.’ They learn by watching your humility, your qualities, your practice. What is your practice?  How do you change week by week, month by month. That’s what people learn  That’s when people can learn by your example. But if you yourself are lost in samsara, you have nothing for anybody. Nothing. Your little gifts that you give when you say, ‘Here’s a little Dharma. I know a little Dharma. Try that, I know a little Dharma.’ It’s nothing. It’s a little kabuki dance. You know, you’re playing your little ego thing and they’re playing their little ego thing and everybody’s doing their little ego thing. Real Dharma is not like that. Real Dharma is a method. It is method that must be practiced every day. If you do not rely 100 percent upon your guru, then you are not practicing that path—relying on the teachings, relying on the wisdom, and most of all, relying on the compassion.

Our teachers understand our minds without being inside of them. Did you know that?  Teachers can look a certain way, and we can see what you think you’re hiding. In fact, we see it so well that we find that what you’re hiding is running your life. It’s in charge. Whatever you are doing in your mind is in charge.

And I’ll tell you that the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas love you. You know in the East, they talk more about the bodhicitta and it sounds very intellectual. They talk about compassion, and that sounds good. They talk about respect and devotion, and these are all good things. But being a female I can tell you this, I know this from my own experience: You are loved, each and every one of you. Your egos and your stupid stuff, that’s not the part we love the best. We can be patient with that, but we see it killing you. Clinging to life is the very cause of death.

We see you scratching on top of that dirty field and we see the diamonds, and those diamonds are calling to you, ‘Go deeper, go deeper. You can’t see me, but I’m here; and you can’t see me because you are scratching.’ Like beggars under the table of a great feast, we pick up a little crumb, we think, ‘Oh, I got a crumb,’ while the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are saying to us, ‘Come to this feast, eat everything. Have enough for your whole life. Take it all. Take me.’ I’d take everything. And like beggars, we just have a little piece; and we’re so proud. Show it to everybody, got this little piece. And that’s the nature of human beings. Your teachers understand. There’s no question of forgiveness. It’s not like that. There’s no question of guilt. There’s no question at all, actually. It’s simple. The nectar is here and because your teacher has been recognized as the consort of Guru Rinpoche, we’re speaking of the nectar of immortality. That’s the offer. The feast is here, but you have to want to eat, and you have to be willing to chew.

And the love and respect is real. I don’t know of any teacher that purposely gives a student a hard lesson that is so unbearable that they cannot bear it. The teachers hold us as close as they can, like a bond, a bond that is a tether of love; but at the end of that tether of love, if we are not looking to our root gurus with faith and with good mind and proper thinking and proper view, then we will never receive the blessing. It will never come. And instead, what happens is we dance at the end of that tether. And that is what I see. From my heart, I tell you this. You’re dancing at the end of a tether of love, absolutely ensuring that you will never, never come to the feast. It’s decision time. You have to decide who is on the throne: your ego, your fear, your idiot mind, selfishness, delusional thinking. Whatever is on the throne, you’ve got to fix it. No one else can fix it but you. And no one else can come to this table and eat with me  this beautiful feast but you.

He who I love beyond all measure lives in you, my teacher, and you betray him every moment. You do not seat him on your throne. He is Guru Rinpoche, teacher of teachers, Buddha of Buddhas; and I tell you this because I have mixed my mind with his.

You are wandering in samsara, my darlings, and I’m asking you, please come back. Please practice the teachings. Please abandon the world. You will do so soon enough. Soon enough we will leave this world and then there will be no choices, only results.

I don’t think there is anybody more qualified than me, forgive me, to tell you that it’s not easy to be a true disciple, that it’s not easy to mix one’s mind with the mind of the guru; it’s not easy to learn. But I can tell you, and nobody is more qualified to tell you this, that when you give up, you win. When you let go, you have it all. And when you stop wiggling, the tether of love binds you so tight, there is nothing else. Please don’t forget the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and please invite the guru to be seated upon the throne of your heart. I can tell you that there is bliss and happiness in doing so and I can tell you that samsara will always, always be the whore she is and will continue to let you down.

So that’s my teaching for this evening and I’m really thrilled that I had the opportunity to give it to you. And I thank you for listening.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

What Do You Long For?

Guru Rinpoche

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

JNT 14 Decision Time

How much time do we spend understanding the quality, the fabric, the substance of the Buddha’s teachings so that we can make good decisions?. Have we reasoned things out for ourselves?  Do we follow the Buddha’s logic?   If we don’t follow the Buddha’s logic that cause and effect arise interdependently and at the same moment, if we don’t follow the logic that what we are experiencing now is our own karma, if we have not taken that teaching to heart, are we Buddhists?  I wonder.

How much time do you spend mixing your mind like milk with water, mixing with the mindstream of your beloved teacher?  Maybe it’s not me. I’m not that impressive. How much time do you spend mixing your mindstream with the nectar of the teaching?  How much time have you spent in courageous determination, paring the mind down the way one works the wood of one’s craft, or the metal of one’s craft? How often have we made solid and good and sensible plans for our death?  How many of us have made plans and can count on the plans we’ve made for our next life?  Isn’t it funny that after all this time, we do relatively little, and some of us nothing, to add to our virtue?  We don’t plan for the next life. We act like people who don’t believe that rebirth will occur immediately. And it will. We act like people who think there is no relationship between cause and effect. Everything we do is for satisfaction in this life and we still dance with it. We still try to control it.

How much time a day do we spend beseeching the Guru to never abandon us? And how much time each day do we spend in longing for the nectar of bodhicitta? How much time every day do we spend longing for liberation?  Compare that to the time that we spend hanging out with our own minds, like a drunk in a bar, convincing himself the next one won’t hurt. Opening the cans, pop another one, pop another one. Maybe this one will be the magic one. Or, maybe this one. Pop another one. Maybe this will be the one that there is no result for, a freebie. Only a true, bona fide alcoholic, or somebody who was awake enough to know that they are bona fide samsaraholics, understands the depth and depravity of the thinking that I’m describing. That kind of thinking tells me one thing and one thing only: One has not become a Buddhist. You might think you are, might wear the right clothes, but you ain’t there yet, because you have made samsara your guru, because you have made fear your guru, because you have made doubt your guru, because you have made the noise in your head your guru. Because of these and many other things, we’re still suffering. And we’re so deluded that we still seek answers in samsara. Do you know that’s the definition of insanity–to repeat the behavior again and again, achieving the same result?  By this time, we should have made decisions like that. But I see you listening to your heads. I see you making up your own religion in your minds.

I mean, sure, maybe it looks like Buddhism, but it’s not. Because if it were the teachings of the great Guru of Gurus, Padmasambhava, it would say to you that you are drunk, that you are mistaken, that the things that you hold onto in samsara will only betray you. The very things that you are most afraid of will come back to harm you. Guru Rinpoche would have said to you, ‘Each and every one of you have the seed of Buddhahood, but without ripening that seed, it will never manifest.’ Without taking the time, without taking this lifetime to hone one’s skills, to develop the kind of discipline and good mind, relaxed, calm mind…. This will never happen under the conditions that we are thinking now.

Guru Rinpoche’s teachings have said that we should rely on our root guru; and woe unto us if we make up something different. That’s a different religion. Our root guru represents for us the very nature of our mind; not only represents, but in fact is the very door of liberation. And for most of you, if not all, that’s your chance. There is one door to liberation and that’s one’s root guru. And if one cannot align one’s heart, body, speech and mind with the milk or the nectar of the guru, then something else is going on entirely, because this is what our faith is. This is what Vajrayana is about. It is about quick liberation. Nobody said easy. Quick liberation, by virtue of the karma and the relationship between oneself and one’s guru, which one cultivates. The work is hard, because our own minds want to remain drunk. We like the stimulation. We like the 30-minute stories. We like to control the endings. But that’s delusional. Nobody controls the ending. No matter how healthy you are, you could die tomorrow.  Or your root guru could die tomorrow.

Ego, health, control has nothing to do it. Your karma is ripening right now and that’s your experience. That is your experience. It’s yours. And should it happen that the path is difficult and long—difficult, takes a lot of work, makes us nuts sometimes—that’s the very time that Guru Rinpoche reminds us that we are hanging by one string from falling into the depths of samsara and that string is the connection that we have with our teachers. Ignore that string or cut it at your peril. I would not want to be lost in samsara. I would not want to be unknowing of what my next rebirth will be and what I’ll have to endure because I followed the wrong path.

You’ve been given a gift without measure that you have not even opened yet.. I would say in this lifetime you haven’t earned it. And so you might think that by that, you can accept it freely and you can waste it. But I say to you, if we are together and if we speak and if we love one another, then this is the result of many, many efforts in the past. And our job is to, instead of acting like an idiot farmer who is plowing the ground for nothing, rocks and dirt —maybe I can plant a bean here, a little corn—when underneath there is a diamond field, a mine of gold… We’re like poor, starving idiot farmers scraping around when the jewels are ours.

Why do you want to be beggars?  You have been invited to the feast of the Buddhas. Why would you put your fear on a throne?  Why would you put your confusion on a throne? And most of all, why in the world would you take your flawed, crippled ego and put it on the throne? But we do it, day in and day out. We think that somehow if we talk about Buddhism and we look Buddhist and we act Buddhist that somehow the cards will count and it will be fine. It will work out in the end. And I beg to differ. Do you know how it works out in the end?  You die, and you take rebirth according to what you have accomplished in this lifetime. So what are you going to put your money on? Insanity?

Some of you, I think, are beginning to get renunciation and that means you stop making up your own bullshit, and you listen. Some of us are not so young and stupid anymore. Learning the hard way is tough, but we’re good at it. The question is, though, are we learning Dharma, or are we learning to dig ourselves into samsara deeper and deeper? And that’s the question.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Relief From Suffering

HumanRealm

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

Now having been introduced to the six realms, you should look at all of the different qualities that produce these rebirths: anger, grasping, ignorance, doubt, jealousy and pride.  You should think that the thing to do, if you have any understanding at all, is to begin to engage in activity that pacifies those kinds of qualities.  How does this mesh with compassion?  When you think about engaging in compassionate activity, you have to view compassionate activity in accordance with this teaching because you might think that compassionate activity would only be to be nice to people, and actually that is one kind of compassionate activity, or to give money to the poor, or to feed people.  That is one kind of compassionate activity; that is one kind of bodhicitta, but it is temporary bodhicitta.  It will produce a temporary cessation of suffering for the people that you help.  If you give them food when they are hungry, it will produce the end of temporary suffering.  If you give them money when they are poor, it will produce the end of temporary suffering.  But if you really want to get into ultimate bodhicitta, which is the quintessential practice of the Mahayana vehicle, and Vajrayana as part of Mahayana—Vajrayana is what we practice here—what you really want to do is to practice ultimate or supreme bodhicitta.  Ultimate or supreme bodhicitta is creating some kind of practice that will be a vehicle by which the qualities that produce this result will be pacified both in yourself and in other sentient beings.

I’ve described the six realms of cyclic existence.  Where in the six realms is there relief?  Nowhere.  Will you find relief as a result of temporary help in any of the six realms?  No, because you will be reborn again. And where?  We don’t know.  We just don’t know.  In cyclic existence, there is no true relief.  All there is in cyclic existence are the components of cyclic existence.  That is all that is in that pot.  You cannot expect true relief from cyclic existence.  So ultimate bodhicitta and an ultimately compassionate act would be to become a Buddha yourself.  To become highly enough realized yourself to make that commitment to attain realization in order to return again and again and again, emanating from the mind of enlightenment in order to be of benefit to sentient beings, because that is where relief comes from.

Now let me see if this is a typical thangka?  No this is not a traditional thangka.  The traditional thangkas usually show a path coming out from the human realm leading to enlightenment.  As a human, you can make the ultimate gift.  You can engage in the supreme practice.  You can achieve enlightenment yourself and, therefore, you can be a returner.  You can return again and again and again in order to lead sentient beings through a display of your enlightened compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Animal Realm: Ignorance

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

The next realm is the animal realm. Now we have a strange understanding of the animal realm. We think, ‘Now that won’t be so bad.’  I have actually had people say to me, “I wish I could be a dog in my next life so that people would pet me.”  And I go, “Oh, no. Please don’t say that because you are not going to be a dog. You are going to be a hungry ghost.”  Don’t do that. That kind of neediness, that kind of idea,… You don’t want to express that. Let’s understand the animal realm better.

It isn’t like our little puppies and our little kitties and our little birdies. It isn’t cute little fluffy stuff like that. You have to think about what the animal realm is really like. Animals are completely at the mercy of the higher life form of humans. They are completely at the mercy of one another. In animal realms, there is the predator and the victim. And even amongst those animals that do not engage in that kind of activity, they are victimized by their own stupidity. I think about the bullocks in India. They have to pull these huge carts. Their owners whip them all day long in order to make them pull these huge carts; and they decorate their horns and think of them as their objects. They are their objects; and really they are more valuable than their wives because the bullocks can make it possible to pull these large amounts of things that the owners need to pull in order to make their livings. So I think about that kind of suffering. I think about camels that are ridden across deserts, not ever being able to go where they want to go. I think of horses that are never permitted to do what they want to do, never permitted to live naturally. I think about even our own domestic pets that are at our mercy as to whether or not we remember to feed them, whether or not we remember to take them to the vet. It’s our decision whether or not we want them fixed. It’s a dog’s life. It is a terrible thing to be engaged in the animal realm, because in the animal realm the chief suffering is that of ignorance. An elephant, for instance, could easily escape from a man who was dominating it, you see, in order to make it work all its life; but the elephant is too stupid to know that. It is too stupid to understand that. The human has developed a method to demonstrate his mastery, and therefore the elephant, although it is ten times bigger than the human, thinks that it is a victim of the human. That kind of stupidity leads to terrible suffering.

Animals in the animal realm are constantly fearful. They are constantly fearful of being eaten. All of their instincts guard against being eaten. They are constantly fearful of being left without food. They are constantly fearful. There is no space in their minds other than the fear that they have; and that fear is the result of ignorance.

So, do we have any ignorance in our minds, do you think?  Now, I don’t mean ignorance like you didn’t go to college. Not like that kind of ignorance. But the ignorance that makes you say, “Where did the day go?”  That dullness that makes you go through a day and you get the impression that you rode or skimmed on the surface of that day. You just kind of skimmed, just kind of floated on it, and your mind didn’t dig in anywhere in particular too much. You sort of ran around in your head a little bit. And then maybe you spent another day where you kind of floated on the sensuality of that day. I ate, and I slept. I spent time with my family, and I spent time with my husband or wife. And put on some new clothes. I worked and it felt good to work; or maybe it didn’t feel so good to work, and it felt like this. That kind of dullness where you don’t say, “Yo, let’s look at the faults of cyclic existence and figure out what we can do to make this day count.”  That kind of dullness is the kind of dullness that will cause us to be reborn in the animal realm. That dullness and ignorance.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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