Impact of Karma on the Experience of the Bardo

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

Now listen to how this lama [Bokar Rinpoche] explains this—I think this is excellent. “Likewise the experience of death will be different for each one of you, although there are certain fundamental rules. Consider a house of rooms in which each wall is covered with mirrors. The man living in this house is dirty, has untidy hair, wears ragged clothing, and is always making faces. He goes from room to room, and the mirrors steadily reflect the faded image of an unkempt man with a grimacing face, untidy hair and ragged clothing. Similarly, when our mind is distorted by a lot of negative karma, each of the six bardos reflects suffering, just like the mirrored rooms in that house.” And they have a footnote here about negative karma. “Negative karma: All negative deeds, ones that deliberately make other people suffer, leave an imprint in our mind and will condition our experience and our vision of the world. And that is our suffering, that is what our suffering is.” That is the content of our suffering, that is our only suffering. That is the only suffering we will experience, but it is enough.

“The house occupant could also be clean, well-dressed and smiling. Everywhere he goes, from room to room, he sees a clear and smiling face. The house remains the same, you see, but there is no more ugliness nor appalling sights. Everything you see is pleasant and peaceful. When our mind is free of negative karma and the passions that disturb it, the six bardos reflect a picture that resembles us, full of peace and happiness. Whether pleasant or not, experiences do not depend on the six rooms. An individual fills the rooms with his or her own nature. Likewise, negative experience of the six bardos does not depend on the bardos, but they do depend on our own mind.”

Now, boys and girls, this is a very important point. It’s important because you are living the result of that right now. You are passing right now through the bardo of living. The experience that you have depends on and is resulting from the habitual tendency within your mind, the karma of your own mind, the causality that you have already brought into play. The experience of your present day life is due to that. All the suffering that you will ever experience during the course of your life, , including the cause of your death, and all of the happiness,  is due to the habitual tendency of your mind and the karmic patterns of your mind. Literally, think about it this way. If your experience was that of the kind of person who is only here to see what they can get, and upon meeting other people only sees a potential source of satisfaction… And how many of us in samsara are like that? Here is a potential source of satisfaction, and we wheedle and we whine, and we feel sorry for ourselves, and ‘please love me and do this for me.’ Or we do the opposite, which is manipulative: We try to manipulate people into a position where they have nothing else to do but benefit us. And we’re real good at it. In fact, so good we hardly see it ourselves, but that’s what we do.

And then we have another kind of situation where we spend all of our life trying to dominate the people in our environment, and our environment—trying to force it to be what we want so that we can have what we want. The experience of the life passage or the bardo of living for persons like that will be very different from the experience of the person who goes through life saying, “How can I help? How can I contribute more love to the world?” The kind of person that goes through life knowing that it matters much less how much love they get than it matters how much love they give will have a very different experience from the other kind of person. And that’s what this lama is talking about there. Not only during life, but also during death. Our death depends on the habit of our lives. If we are neurotic and frightened and whiney and complaining and weepy and emotional during the course of our lives, think  What will your death be like? What has your life been like? Think. This isn’t a great mystery. Everybody has this fantasy of climbing the Himalayas to get to the dirty guy on a rug at the top who knows everything, and he’s going to tell you the secret of life. This is the secret of life. Think. You know, think about this. If this is your passage through life, what will your passage through death be? You’ve got to fix it now.

On the other hand, if you are the other kind of person, if you have been a contributor, if you have been strong, if you have been loving, if you’ve tried to do your best, if you’ve tried to contribute love to the world, if you have tried to practice, if you have tried to calm your mind, if you have tried to make your mind an attractive and virtuous vessel, your death experience is going to be quite different. Absolutely different.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Start From the Beginning

leprosy-hands

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

Today then I will talk about something that is necessary as a foundational understanding in order to begin the Buddhist path. In order to understand what the Buddha is talking about, in order in fact to begin to meditate or accomplish anything spiritual, on any level, there has to be, of course, a motivation. This motivation varies from culture to culture and certainly it varies from individual to individual.

I have stated this before and I will state it again. In third world countries there is a tremendous amount of very visible suffering. Of course, we have suffering here too. And I believe in my heart that the suffering is actually equal, but it is a different kind of suffering. Our suffering is not as visible. We are sophisticated and therefore we hide certain aspects of our culture. There are certain particular, very obvious forms of suffering that we traditionally put away and hide in institutions, or hide in certain parts of town that we never go to. There are certain ways in which we deal with suffering that third world countries do not have. In third world countries, and it really isn’t fair but I don’t want to spend too much time naming a specific situation, suffering is often seen very visibly on the streets. I remember when I went to India, landing in Bombay, and never having seen a case of leprosy in my life, suddenly seeing hundreds of people on the street with different degrees of leprosy, different levels of advancement—some without arms and legs scooting around on little carts, because leprosy had done away with their limbs, and others with just the beginnings of leprosy and open sores and different extremities beginning to show decay. Poverty is unbelievably evident. I am a little on the hefty side, as you may have noticed, and I remember being unbelievably ashamed of that when I saw that on the streets of Bombay, you could count everyone’s ribs. It was completely unbelievable that hunger is so prevalent there and so much a part of society. The suffering of the lack of education, of ignorance, of hunger, of sickness, these are all very obvious and they are right there in front of us. People literally do lay down and die in the street. The suffering of the animals there, the bullocks that constantly have to, from dawn to night time, pull huge carts that are so much greater than their body weight. And seeing that is quite shocking because we don’t have that here.

So in a culture like that when we look at the motivation to accomplish Dharma, it is very simply that the people in that culture do not wish to suffer anymore. They are very much aware that they are suffering. They are very much aware that this suffering is constantly with them. They are very much aware that it is completely possible to be reborn as a human being and still experience terrible suffering. They are very much aware that they don’t have a sense of control; they feel that having been born into a certain situation there is really no way out. In America, we are taught from birth that there is a way out. We can take education or we can do one thing or another. If we really work hard, we can achieve the American dream. We can build a better mouse trap and sell it to the American public and become rich. And we can work for Amway or whatever it is that we do and have a geometrical progression into wealth. We always have that hope. But people in these cultures do not have that hope. They are trying to survive from day to day, and the tremendous amount of suffering that goes with that is very evident to them.

So when you bring to a culture such as that a philosophy such as the Buddha brought where he clearly taught that all sentient beings are trying to be happy. They wish to be happy, yet they do not have the means to accomplish happiness. In a culture like that, it is understood. When the Buddha teaches that all sentient beings are suffering and even if they feel temporary happiness, even if we are able to accomplish an entire life time of temporary happiness, that because we are involved in cyclic existence, and because it is cyclic that that happiness is impermanent. It is always coupled by the other side of the coin which is suffering; that, in cyclic existence, suffering is inescapable. In a culture like that it is clearly understood. It is very evident to them that there is always suffering. Even if we managed to get enough firewood, get enough food, and even store it for awhile and even have a little celebration and even if we lose ourselves temporarily in the phenomena of life, such as falling in love, getting married—all of the different things that bring us temporary joy—that still we are very much involved in suffering. That is evident there.

But here in our culture, I have found it personally very difficult to convince Westerners, Americans at least, that this is a good reason to practice. And I understand why this is. We are brought up with the idea that we don’t have to suffer. We are brought up with the idea that here in America one need not suffer. Here in America the streets are paved with gold. Literally, there is a wonderful and golden opportunity. And if you are willing to buy a book, there is a book about how to have that opportunity. There are all kinds of books about how to have those opportunities. The sufferings that we have are very hidden. What they don’t tell you in those books is that even if you get rich, even if you become popular with the opposite sex, even if you learn to make friends and influence people, even if you become politically powerful, even if you become well educated that these things do not bring ultimate happiness. Or what happiness that they do bring is very impermanent. That often the people who accomplish these things never feel a sense of fulfillment, never feel truly happy, never feel as though they had aced it, always feel a sense of longing and a kind of suffering that is very hard to describe. In fact there is another book that is written, the book that I know personally is Passages. It talks about different periods in one’s life during which one traditionally breaks down, and breaks down because all of your life they told you, in these other books, that you could be happy doing these various things; and you could be happy if you were popular with the opposite sex, and you could be happy if you made lots of money, and you could be happy if you did all these things. But right around 35 or 38, somewhere around there, you discover that in fact you have done all these things and you are not happy.

And so it becomes traditional to break down at that time. So that is another book that we write. But we do it in such a crafty way that we don’t even realize that this is a cyclic thing, that this is a constant event. That we constantly strive and work very hard and accomplish these things that seem as though they are going to be the answer; and then ultimately they are not the answer. Ultimately we continue to suffer, but the way that our society is structured these things are very hidden. So, for Americans, for Westerners, I have found that it is very hard to convince them of this. The expression that we use in the Buddhist tradition is hook, or hook of compassion. Sounds devious, I know. Americans are afraid of hooks. If you think of it as a hook of compassion, maybe you will be more comfortable. But the hook that seems to really work for Westerners is compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Illusion of Satisfaction

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Desire Blocks Happiness”

Our minds are so unstable.  They are so inflamed, so on fire. With what? With excitement? With the idea that something is going to happen for us? What are we inflamed with? According to the Buddhist teachings, we are actually inflamed with desire. Desire. I want! I want! And I’m going to have it! I’m going to get it! I’m finally going to get it! The excitement that you feel when you’ve got that dress, and those shoes!, And those stockings! And those $150 earrings, all of it together. That same excitement is the inflammation that you feel when you’ve got the dress, but you haven’t got the shoes yet; and you want them so bad, you can taste them. It’s the same thing. It’s an inflammation. It’s like a fever. And no one can ever be happy no matter what while they’ve got that fever in their minds because it isn’t the satisfaction of that fever that composes happiness. That isn’t what makes happiness.

In fact, in cyclic existence, there ain’t no such thing. You can’t satisfy that fever. That fever is the symptom. It is the problem. Satisfying that fever would be like treating a physical fever by heating up the room to be the same temperature. Think about it. It doesn’t work. Temporarily you may feel strangely like there’s not much difference between the heat in your body and the heat in the room. I don’t really know how it would affect you physically. But I do know this: It won’t cure the fever. The fever ends when the fever ends, when it subsides. And here’s where the analogy ends, because, in an ordinary fever, if the fever doesn’t kill you, it will eventually naturally subside. It will naturally calm down. The body will rally itself to create a cure. It will come to its own defense.

But, in fact, the Buddha teaches us that cyclic existence will not naturally cure itself. We must take steps. Here’s why. Because in cyclic existence, we’re busy buying those shoes and those earrings. We’re busy finding the first perfect relationship, and convincing ourselves that it’s going to work. Or ditching it and finding another one when it doesn’t. We’re busy suffering the disappointment of watching things that have come together fall apart. We’re busy going through what we have always gone through: the ups and downs of cyclic existence. Just the cycle of death and rebirth, up and down, happy and sad, high and low, hot and cold. We’re busy doing that. And every single time we hit a certain point, whether it be high or low, at that point we are creating more cause and effect relationships and more habitual tendencies within our mind. Specifically this: Let’s say we buy the dress. We want the dress so badly. We buy the dress. Let’s say, now we want the shoes, so bad we can taste them, or in the case of men, maybe it might be… Let’s say he’s a drummer and he bought himself one drum. And he’s got to have the other one to make the set. Let’s say that’s the case. He’s just gotta have it! There’s no ifs, ands. He can just taste it! It’s just in him so bad. So let’s say that we have the one object, and we have to have its complement. We want it so bad.

Well, first of all, there’s no satisfaction there, and here’s the reason why. In getting the object in the first place, we’ve reinforced an old and very bad habit of ours. We saw something; we accepted it at face value; we took a lot of energy to secure that thing. We grasped at it, and we got it. We strengthened that habitual tendency. We strengthened it. And then, of course, what was the result of that? The result of that was that you had to have more because that habitual tendency has been strengthened. So now we’ve got to have the shoes. So okay, now we’re going to go for the shoes. Save up lots of money, buy this big pair of shoes. Well, hopefully they’re not too big, but anyway, buy this great pair of shoes. They’re really expensive; they’re really beautiful; they’re perfect for the dress. And now you have to go through this whole thing of making it practical for yourself. Now you’ve got to go through so much, so much. And in doing so, you have substantiated, you have reinforced, you have continued the cause and effect relationships within your mind that cause you to look at things on a superficial level, to reach out, to grasp for them. It continues the inflammation of desire.

So even though you might have everything that you can think of, the habit of desire and the inflammation are still there. They’re still there. How is that going to happen? What’s going to result in that? You’ll think of more. You’ll think of more. You’re endlessly creative, always have been. Endlessly creative. You will think of more. And maybe you’ll satisfy yourself by thinking that, ‘Well okay, I’m not on clothes right now.’ So now you’ll think of something else. You’ll think of something else that you must have—a certain kind of happiness even if it’s a certain kind of mental state. I don’t know what it’s going to be next. Do you? But it will be something. You’ll think of more.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Problem With Desire

shopping

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Desire Blocks Happiness”

The teaching that the Buddhas have given us is that the cornerstone of our religion is generosity and giving. Celebrating Christmas as a cultural holiday could be a time when we Buddhists could practice the most important meat and bones part of our religion. We could be really generous. But it doesn’t seem to happen. It’s just become too materialistic. I think that that is a perfect example of some of the problems that we have as sentient beings.

As sentient beings we have this mistaken idea that we can satisfy ourselves through very gross materialistic means. And we can’t even see through the falsity of that idea. We can’t really understand how it is that we’re fooling ourselves, that we’re duping ourselves; and we never seem to understand why in the end we are never completely satisfied. Do we? We never really understand what has fallen through. Why is it that we‘re never happy? And why is it that we’re never completely satisfied? Or if we are happy, why does it not last? Why is that so? I think about the strange mental configurations that we can get into. It’s really odd. Depending on what kind of person you are, each one of us will express this mental configuration in a different way.

Here are some of the ways that I can think of just off the top of my head. Let’s say, for instance, that we’re eating some food. Well, you know, you might eat something that is very rich and meaty; and then after that you have to have something that’s very light and sparkly to cleanse your mouth. After eating something rich and spicy, then you have to have something sweet and mellow. And then you think that if you’ve had something salty, you must have something very liquidy and smooth to drink. And it goes back and forth and back and forth; and you must constantly build on what you have given yourself to complete the experience. Have you ever noticed that that’s true? Have you ever noticed that if you were to eat, for instance, some meat at a meal, then after that you would have to have something sweet? Or if you ate something salty, then after that you would have to have something cool and refreshing? And that if you ate something cool and refreshing, then you would have to have something salty? And it’s an endless cycle of things that you have to do that is based one on top of the other. It’s almost like a reactive phenomena that is circular and cycled, almost, in its shape.

Then let’s say that we go to the store and we see a dress that we absolutely must have. It’s a ‘must have.’  It’s a beautiful dress. It’s a beautiful dress. We try it on, and it fits us perfectly. Or if we’re a man, it’s a beautiful suit, and it fits us perfectly. I can relate more to the women’s dressing aspect. But anyway, if it’s a dress, well, you have to have the perfect shoes. And of course, if you have to have the perfect shoes, then you must have the perfect hose. And of course, if you have the perfect hose, then you must have nice underwear to go under it. And of course, if that’s the case, you must figure out exactly how to do your hair properly to make it just right for that dress. And then, what are the accessories that you are going to use? Well, the only earrings that you’ve found that are just perfect are going to cost you about $150.00. Ahhhh… So in order to make that practical, you have to buy another dress that they go with. Two dresses for a $150.00 pair of earrings? Nope. That skirt and that blouse would make it practical. They would make it worthwhile. But then, for each one of them, you have to have shoes and hose. Pretty soon it gets awfully darn complicated, doesn’t it? And you find that it never ends. Because every time you put a piece together, there has to be another piece.

Or with relationships. You always think, ‘Well if I could just find that perfect relationship, I could be happy.’ Then you find a relationship, and you talk yourself into believing that it’s perfect. Maybe it seems perfect at first. And then suddenly there comes that first, horrible day when you notice there’s a flaw.. You try not to think about it, but it’s really there. You try not to think about it, but it’s creeping up on you; and pretty soon you notice that it’s not perfect. And the moment that it’s not perfect, you fall through the cracks again, don’t you? Because little by little, that lack of perfection is going to build up. And if your mind is not stable, pretty soon it won’t be the one. And if it’s not the one, pretty soon you’re on the track again, looking, looking, looking.

It’s always like that. It’s always like that. It can happen with material objects. It can happen with relationships. It can happen with ways that you spend your day. It can happen with jobs. It can happen with ideas. And the thing that we always come out understanding is that nothing is perfect. We’re never completely content. There is no perfect relationship. None.  There is no perfect object. None. There is no perfect circumstance. None. There is no perfect idea. None. Because each idea, each object, each relationship, can only be perceived by us according to the karmic patterns and habitual tendencies of our mind.  We will create the kinds of relationships in our mind that are our habit to create according to our karma. And we will not even be able to register those that are inconsistent with the karmic cause and effect relationships within our minds, with the habitual tendencies that are within our minds. We will not even be able to cook up a relationship that isn’t part of the habitual tendency of your mind. Of our minds. That’s why they’re all alike. That’s why, even though some relationships seem different, and some people seem different, our friends and our experiences within the context of relationships eventually all have a certain common denominator. They have a common denominator in some regard. They are the same. They leave us in the same way; they affect us in the same way. And it’s due to the fact that we cannot even perceive a relationship that is not part of the habitual tendency of our mind. That is what we are doing. We are looking in the mirror and seeing the habitual tendency of our mind. And it’s the same way with any object that we have ever owned. They all have a certain common denominator. They all excite us for a period of time, and then they leave us. They either get old, or they break down, or they’re no longer in fashion, or whatever it is that happens.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Ticking Clock

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why We Suffer”

The next piece of information that you really have to take in is that not only are you responsible for being where you are now, and not only are you responsible for what’s going to happen next, but you don’t have much time. This precious human rebirth goes by as quickly as a waterfall falling down rocks. Depending on how old you are, you’ll know that. You partially know that already. I’m forty-one and I think to myself constantly how it was only yesterday that I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty.  Only yesterday. In my mind I feel like a child; I’m not fully grown yet. I feel like I’m not grown up, not mature yet. And I’m halfway through this bugger. Now that’s true of all of us; and some of us are further along than others. We don’t have much time. It’s going by very quickly. If you don’t take a hold of this opportunity now, you will not be able to utilize it.

Please understand that you are deeply involved in a habitual reactive process. The mind is tight, and it is tightly ingrained in its compulsive habitual tendencies. That you will be able to take advantage of one small moment of spaciousness, that you will be able to really absorb the nectar and really able to use it, according to the teachings, is really as unlikely as a sea turtle surfacing in a great ocean and coming up through a round circle that is afloat on the ocean. How rare is that? So please do what you can to make this opportunity as auspicious as possible. Please accept the fact that even though you’re hearing the teachings, and you’re hearing them as well as you can, you’re only hearing a little bit of them. The mind is hard. Soften the mind. Go for the nectar of the teaching that leads to enlightenment as though you were a starving and thirsty being on a desert where there is no other water to be found. Generate that thirst. Generate that thirst as though your throat were parched, as though there were nothing else. And then aim truly. Try not to make up your own religion. Actually, we’ve been doing that for eons and eons in cyclic existence. We have been making up the religion of self. This is the religion of ego. We have a religion, it’s true. Time to convert. Now we need to follow the method that leads to enlightenment, not the one that leads to further self-absorption and more suffering. Remember that all the experiences that you’ve had are phenomena; that they are direct displays of your own habitual tendency, and, therefore, as meaningless, really; that the meaningful truth about you is the most glorious truth and the one that you keep forgetting. In your nature, you are the Buddha; and it is possible to awaken, and therefore to be free from cyclic death and rebirth and from samsaric suffering. It is possible. But it will not happen without great effort. And it will not happen if you don’t begin now.

So please do utilize the opportunity. Do utilize the teaching. If you go away from this and you change in some way… And, of course, the idea is to change. If you didn’t want to change, you probably wouldn’t be here. If you go away from this and change in some way, change sufficiently to where the mind becomes more relaxed, the heart becomes more receptive… If these things begin to happen and you actually begin to practice, begin to make wishing prayers, begin to make kindness the cornerstone, the backbone, of your incarnation, of your life, then this day has been worth something. But if you just wanted to sample the wares here, your mind probably is like a bowl turned over and the nectar, once again, has escaped you. Please take a hold of yourself. Please utilize this precious human rebirth. Please understand the nature of cyclic existence and its faults. And please understand the beautiful and bountiful feast that awaits you upon awakening.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

Understanding the Causes

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why We Suffer”

When we come into this life, although we are little drooling children, although we cannot understand very much, we will grow. And as we grow what we will see is the display of those habitual tendencies of the continuation of the movement of that which is called the mindstream. When we, seemingly as individuals, hold to the idea of self-nature as being inherently real, in order to continue that continuation of holding to self-nature as being inherently real, we constantly have to distinguish between self and other. Otherwise, we cannot understand self-nature. Self-nature is only a relative term. Self-nature has no meaning unless we continue to define the difference between self and other. That is one aspect of our habitual tendency that is so deeply ingrained that it must happen automatically. Because if it does not happen, the stream of continuation simply cannot exist. There is no continuation.

Believing self-nature to be solid and real, we must distinguish between self and other. Therefore, we must find other to be solid and real. And so, the way that we move through what seems to us to be linear experience is by clinging to self, defining it, creating all kinds of conceptual ideations surrounding self-nature, constantly being involved in distinction between self and other, and therefore constantly being involved in acceptance, rejection or indifference to other. Reaction. We continue in that mode. What is actually happening here, in the midst of this deluded and very energetic and very involving and actually narcotic experience, this dynamic continuation? It seems to us that we are individuals who are moving through linear time and that is the delusion, the active delusion that we are involved in. But, according to the Buddha’s teaching, we are actually experiencing the display of our own habitual tendency, our own mindstream.

Because of the belief in the distinction between self and other, because of this basic fundamental assumption of self from which all reaction, from which all ideation that is the foundation of every circumstance arises, we have our experience, and that is the material of our experience. But, actually if we were to examine our own experience from the point of view of realization, such as the Buddha experienced, if we were to examine at the most profound and the most deep level, if we could somehow eradicate our addiction to this kind of experience, our fixation on the solidity of self-nature and its distinction from other, if we could stop reacting, if the mind were completely relaxed, we would understand that what we are actually experiencing is the material of our own mindstream. This is very hard information to take in sometimes. Especially, it’s hard for Westerners because of our training.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

Mixing the Mind with the Guru

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

Guru Yoga can always be depended on to reestablish and continue the blessing. I promise you, if we call out to the guru with full heart, with determination and with fervent regard and recognition, the guru will respond, whether it’s in the way that you would like which is ‘Hi! I’m here for lunch,’ or whatever. It may not be that way. It may be something quite different; and sometimes it’s not something that feels good right away. One of my favorite students works herself to death and forgets to practice sometimes, and then periodically does things like break her back or, you know, injure herself in some way. And then she practices and amazing things happen. I wish she wouldn’t do it that way, but she does. You know who I’m talking about, out in Sedona. I have other students that kind of orchestrate separation and return in order for that feeling of return. But I wish they wouldn’t do that, because that feeling of separation often comes with some cause and effect relationship. And again if it were my diamond, I’d be shining it up all the time. I’d be collecting that interest all the time.

We use Guru Yoga that way to create the causes for continuation on the Path. The teacher should never be frightening. The teacher is your friend, your friend who will take your hand and walk you, lifetime after lifetime, even when you stumble and you fall. Something will arise through the devotion that you practice in this lifetime to protect you even in your next life. Eventually we come to the place where we see everything as the blessing of the guru. Everything. Sometimes we feel some confusion, and maybe even confusion for a long time, but you know that that guru would not let you down. You know that. And so you count on that, even the confusion, to be a blessing. Eventually because of that devotion, the confusion will clear and the guru will appear again like an underground spring coming once again to the surface.

Guru Yoga is the most potent of all practices and it’s the most simple. One can practice Guru Yoga simply by visualizing the guru above the crown of one’s head and making offerings in a visualization way, and then receiving the blessing, real quick. The white blessing from the guru’s body to your body, and it does come in the head, white to white; the red blessing from the guru’s speech, from the throat to your throat; the blue blessing from the guru’s mind, which is the heart, from his heart to your heart (or her heart). And you can receive that blessing constantly. It’s free. It’s yours. You can receive it periodically. You can receive it every morning, every night—whatever you want, as much as you want. That’s the beauty of Guru Yoga. You should think that the guru is like your constant companion. Not in a creepy way. I don’t want you guys looking in my window, But in a wholesome way, where we understand that this nature is freely given, like method that one can use. It is indistinguishable from the ground which is full Enlightenment, the method which is Dharma, and the result which is the completion or accomplishment of the precious awakened state.

So we understand the guru is the ground, the guru is the method, the guru is the result. We begin to mix, through the devotion, through calling out our own nature, our own mind, our own qualities, willingly with that of the guru; and over time, that blessing mixes like milk with water and we understand that, indeed, Lord Buddha resides in us all. We understand that indeed each one of us is some uncontrived beginningless and endless and yet fundamentally complete luminous nature,  some state of awakened and yet uncontrived view. That we are that in our nature. And our job in this lifetime is to use the blessings of our gurus, to use their accomplishment, their qualities, their methods; to listen carefully and accordingly accomplish awakening to that, awakening to that nature. It’s the swift way. It’s the rocket ship. It’s powered because it’s like lighting something at both ends. You’re not thinking, ‘Oh I have to go there.’  We are thinking, ‘This is like a mirror and a mirror,’  inseparable in their nature.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Recognizing Liberation

Palyul Guru Rinpoche

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

Now, in the way of confession, I will tell you honestly that this kind of situation has happened to me, and I’ve really done my best to remain pure in holding to the equality of all that lives. The way in which I hold to the equality of all that lives is that I don’t look at you in the way that you are now. I don’t see you that way. I see you as being the very Lord, the very Buddha, and that someday you yourself will be in the business of liberating beings. So you are, each and every one of you, to me, a treasure beyond any measure. A treasure, a unique and incredible treasure. But not unique in your individuality, not unique in samsara. There’s nothing like what you really are. But I don’t actually look at each of your personalities. So I’ve had people say to me that I’m not accessible on a human level. It’s not that I’m not accessible on a human level. I do feel that I’m accessible on a human level. I’m just not friendly on that level because I don’t see you on that level. I don’t want to either. What would be the point? You do that well enough on your own. I can give you something else, and I’d rather do that.

Here’s where the honesty and the confession come in. I’ve had it happen a number of times that before I give a class I’ll be told that a teacher is here. There’s a teacher here. Someone will be sitting down and they’ll say this person teaches spiritual things to others and has a number of teachers, like 25 or 30 maybe (30’s much more impressive than 25, don’t you think?); and that person will sit down there and say, ‘Just remember that this person’s here and they even teach a little yoga.’ Or, no, ‘This person’s here and they channel, you know, like the hierarchy and everything. And you should know that this person is here.’ And I think what they expect me to do is go, ‘Ooooooooo!’ But I never do and it’s just so darned disappointing to everybody. Nobody really likes this about me. In fact, what I actually do… And here’s where the meanness in me comes out. What I actually do is that when I find such a one, I find a way to rib teachers that day. Or I find a way to not pay any special attention to them. You know why? Because I’d like to dismantle that super-structure. I’d like to see it fall apart before my very eyes. I would like to see them come to the point where they realize that they just don’t know, and they need to follow the guidance of the Buddha’s teaching. They need to follow the enlightened mind in truth. They need to get off the high of power and pride. They need to get real. Like that little guy said, ‘Get down and get funky.’

And so, it probably looks like, and perhaps there is a little bit of arrogance in there somewhere. What do you say? But in fact I want to tell you from my heart that I see that one, whoever that one might have been, the same as any of you—all in the same condition, all in the same shape, ultimately and supremely worthy, worth saving, worth loving. And I promise you from the depths of my being that I would come back and reincarnate if I could be of benefit to any one of you, just for one of you. And for that one also. So you can’t say that the love’s not there. But I don’t think that we’re serving ourselves and I don’t think that we’re serving each other when we play that little game.

So I challenge you to awaken each morning and continue every moment of every day by thinking I don’t know anything,  and make a big joke about it. OK? That’s going to be your big joke, like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Your big joke today is that you don’t know anything. You just don’t have a clue.  You’re going to start dismantling this craziness that you run around in and try to look for the lighthouse. Try to see it. Don’t make one up either. Go to your guru. Go to your teacher. Come and find out the path and practice the path, and practice it purely. And if your guru says to you that you are confused, then, buddy, you are confused. And if your guru says to you that you should practice compassion instead of anger, drop the anger, practice compassion. And if your guru says to you that you should let those thoughts, whatever they might be, whether they’re anger or pridefulness or whatever, rise to the surface of your mind and just leave them alone, don’t follow them, that you should meditate like that, then pal, it’s time to do it. You should think like that. You should think that when you’re here, your guru’s teaching. When you hear the teaching of the Buddha through the mouth of your guru, you should think that this is the very nature of my own mind shining at me. That this is liberation. This is liberation. Really think like that: This is liberation.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Extraordinary Connection

HHPR and JAL

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

When we practice Ngӧndro, one of the most important sections of Ngöndro is the Guru Yoga. It is beautiful. The cries to Guru Rinpoche are plaintiff and haunting and just moving. How can you describe it any other way? The Lama Khyen No. And yet in the Ngӧndro book, Guru Yoga’s at the last. When I started practicing Ngӧndro, I asked for special permission to practice the Guru Yoga first; and I was given that because of my special connection with Guru Rinpoche in the past. And to me, it was the most beautiful and pure and worthwhile time I’ve ever spent.

For most people, we want to start with the Taking Refuge and the Bodhichitta. And the reason why, again, is because the first need is to discriminate between what is extraordinary and what is ordinary. We cannot really practice Guru Yoga effectively unless we’ve made that discrimination. Because if we can’t make that discrimination, we’re basically practicing to a cartoon image that we do not have the depth yet to understand; or maybe we are practicing on a personality level—that my personality is worth worshipping the Guru’s personality. And again, that’s a baby step. It’s not to be sneezed at, but it’s not where we stay either. We go further than that.

When we practice Guru Yoga, that’s the rocketship of tantric Buddhism. That’s the shortcut. The luckiest practitioners on the Path of Vajrayana are those who feel—not that they have to display it in any outward way or even see their guru that often—but who feel they have, and who have cultivated a special connection with their teacher, a connection not of persona to persona, but of recognition that connection of recognition. And that is where  we go in our practice and we visualize our teachers and say, ‘I understand that this is the very nature of enlightenment; that this is the same nature as Guru Rinpoche; that this is the same nature as all the Buddhas of the ten directions. That this Buddha, this teacher that I have, has been taught to me by Guru Rinpoche to be the Buddha in Nirmanakaya form.’ And we think like that, that kind of recognition, that kind of intention; and a kind of—I hate to use the word passion, because people think of passion in only a certain category—but one develops a passion for the nectar that one’s teacher has to offer. That person is ripe. That person is ripe, not only to enter the Path, but blessed in such a way that not only will they continue, but very likely they will find completion stage practice, as well.

When we connect with our teacher in that way, and really give rise to that recognition, that says that, indeed, this is exactly what Guru Rinpoche promised. Guru Rinpoche said, “I will be there with you as your root teacher. If you call to me, I will be there.” And so, of course he’s saying that in the presence of one’s root guru, having been given the blessings, now we practice Guru Yoga. And that is the very nectar of Guru Rinpoche’s blessing. How fortunate for those of us who have that sense, even in some small form, enough to where you know, like an ember, you can fan the flame. That’s the most fortunate connection of all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Beacon of Clarity

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

According to the teaching, and according to the recommendations that all of our teachers have given us, those thoughts have no inherent reality other than the reality that we give them in expressing and clinging to the continuum. So if we were to simply let them be what they are, they’re just bubbles, only bubbles, and we can let them go. Our tendency, however, happens to be a very neurotic one. When we see a bubble rise to the surface of the lake of our mind, first of all we don’t even get that our mind is a lake, we’re just in this sea of wavy stuff, just constantly in this big wavy sea. And so when a bubble rises to the surface of the sea of despair that we are involved in, we beat it to a froth. I mean we get our little psychic eggbeater and we just go to town beating it and whipping it up. And pretty soon we have lots and lots of bubbles. And then the next thing we do is say, ‘Oh my God, bubbles!’ And we panic and follow them everywhere they go. And we assume that because those bubbles are there, we are the bubbles. And that is our life.

Now the Buddha teaches us that we don’t have to do that. In fact, that’s really dumb! So the first thing you want to do when you get up in the morning is think, ‘I really don’t know what’s going on here. I’ve been whipping myself into a froth of confusion since who knows when, and I’m really just not getting the big picture.’ That’s when it’s possible to accomplish some view, because the view comes in where you can look at the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and you can look at your guru or teacher as being the representative and administrator of those three and the embodiment of those three, and you can think, ‘Well, in my confusion even I can see that the Buddha was different than me. Not in his nature, because he taught that in the nature we are the same; but in his perception he was different.’ The Buddha said, about himself, “I am awake.” That means when a bubble rose to the lake of his mind, he knew what to do with it, or what not to do with it. He didn’t panic and beat it into a froth. His mind wasn’t filled with the samsaric, conditioned response and conceptual proliferation that ours is. His mind was very much like a lake. He wasn’t filled with the same kind of confusion that we are, so he could see clearly. And when the Buddha tells you that your nature is not like that and that you can let it go and that you can meditate on emptiness and arrive at accomplishing wisdom and compassion, then you can believe that that’s true. And you can believe it more than you can believe actually what your own two eyes and your own mind tells you. Now that’s scary for Westerners, because we’ve been taught, ‘Think for yourself!’ Well, try to remember what thinking for yourself actually means. You’ve been doing it since you were born and what good has it done you so far. I mean think about it. You’ve been whipping yourself into a froth since time out of mind, and wandering in samsara and confusion.

So when we look to the Buddha, we look at someone who has crossed that ocean, who has seen, who has had the mist taken from his view, his eyes, you see, and he can see more clearly. He does not assume the idea of self-nature as being inherently real. He has accomplished the understanding of his own true nature, which is that primordial wisdom state. So he’s clear, you see? Not like us. He does not do duality. He does not do attraction and repulsion. He does not do hope and fear. And he does not do super-structuring, or conceptual proliferation. When you think about the Dharma, you think that is actually the teaching that the Buddha has brought to the world. And he brought to the world a means, or a way, by which each one of us can accomplish that kind of clarity. When we think of the Sangha, we think of the Sangha as the religious community, or spiritual community, that engages in the practice and upholds the practice and makes it available to us. When we think of the lama, we think of the lama as being all those three wrapped into one, because the lama gives us the Buddha’s teaching, has accomplished the teaching as well, provides a means by which we can receive the teaching, and keeps the teaching safe and available to us. And so the lama, then, is like the doctor or the nurse who actually gives us the medicine.

Therefore, the view becomes this: I have been wandering in samsara since time out of mind. I cannot see straight. I’m wandering kind of helplessly because I have this false assumption and all kinds of false contrivance that arise from that, and confusion that arises from that. Therefore, I take refuge in that which is clarity, in what which is the primordial wisdom, in that which is the very display of innate wakefulness without confusion. I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and especially in the lama as being all three. And so the view becomes that: The lama is seen as that which is a beacon of clear light in a world where we are wandering in confusion. And we hold that view. That is one way in which we should most assuredly view the guru. That is the understanding.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

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