Only You Can Do It

Taxi Cab

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

 

 

Sentient beings have an interesting preoccupation. And that preoccupation is with self; Is with perceiving its solidity; is with holding to it in a grasping and clinging way. And due to that preoccupation, we feel that we actually perceive all things in a dualistic fashion. That means that whatever is the content of our mindstream, we will actually see it flashed out there somewhere and it will take the form of our lives. And to the degree that we believe ourselves to be solid and real, and very, very kind of written in stone and unsurpassably solid, to that degree our environment feels exactly the same. Now, I’m not suggesting that you walk out in front of a taxi and say, ‘Hey you’re not really here. See if you can run over me.’ Because it will. Surely it will. You should practice a little more before you try something like that. Lots and lots of meditation. Like, maybe, lots and lots of meditation. I’ll give you the go when it’s time to stand in front of a taxi. You notice I never stand in front of taxies. But anyway, what we have to begin to do now is on a very subtle level. We have to understand that our experience is the revelation or display of our own mindstream. We have to begin with the very subtle characteristics. That’s as hard to do, believe it or not, as walking in front of a taxi is. Maybe harder. You walk in front of a taxi, boom, it’s over. You start to be a Buddhist and you look at your life and you realize that this is the content of your mindstream; and your suffering has just begun because our lives are tough. And this is very hard to realize.

You know, sentient beings, all of them, are fantastic creatures, everyone from human beings to cockroaches to non-physical beings, the ones that we can see and the ones that we can’t see. We are fantastic creatures. Our innate nature is the Buddha nature. In our essence we are the enlightened mind, the basis of all our experience. Everything that we have ever experienced is the great primordial emptiness. We are fantastic creatures. That is our nature. In our teaching it says over and over again, in our nature we are the all-pervasive, foundational bodhicitta, the all-pervasive compassion. We are the very Lord in our nature. That’s what it says in all the teachings.

But we are so deeply caught up in the habit of self-absorption, so deeply and compulsively caught up in the belief and solidity of self that the great lamas, the great Buddhas, the great boddhisattvas, they can all come to the earth and say, ‘This is what you are; this is what it is; and this is what you should do.’ And it seems that we have so little capacity to take this nectar and really utilize it, really turn around the content of our experience.

How many times have lamas said to us, ‘This is the great truth. This is the great meditation. This is the nature. This is our nature. And this is the method by which we can accomplish the awakening through that nature.’ And how little has been our regard for that nourishment. It’s as though nectar were being poured down from the skies and we have tiny, tiny, tiny little mouths unable to open and great big stomachs full of hunger pang. We can’t seem to pick it up. But occasionally, very rarely, as rare as finding a precious jewel by sifting through garbage, occasionally some virtue that we have accumulated in the past—who knows what it was—from feeding a child to accidentally walking around a stupa because you didn’t know what direction you were walking in; some virtue that might have to do with helping someone and might have to do with accidentally doing something that is of benefit to someone in some way that you never could have imagined,… Somehow these unpredictable and wonderful events have lined up in such a rare way as to create one moment, one tiny window. And believe me, in the amount of time that we have been sentient beings, this whole lifetime is a very tiny window. Somehow things have lined up into this tiny window that we call a precious human rebirth. And even within this precious human rebirth, somehow miraculously there is this incredible lineup.Who could have predicted it? Who could have known how it could happen? There’s no way that you can force this to happen. It just happens because cause and effect relationships are like the wind and you never know which way they’re going to blow. And suddenly they blow in the right direction and here’s this window and you can hear the Buddha’s teaching. And somehow magically in the space of that, you are moved enough to hear it well enough to step out of the compulsive, habitual tendency that has your mind as tight as a rubberband and come up with the brilliant idea: I can change. I can turn this around. I can plant a new seed. I can accept that these are my habitual tendencies, and I can begin to work to apply the antidote.

You cannot imagine how rare such a thing is. Even if it’s possible for all of us to come here and hear teachings every day for the next three hundred years and within those next three hundred years that you would have one such moment, one moment like that, when you say, ‘Yes, enough. Let’s change. Let’s do it now. Let’s apply the teaching.’ And then you really apply the teaching. For those circumstances to line up like that is so rare. It should be considered like the preciousness of a jewel and as rare as though you had found it by sifting through garbage. Strangely, it’s your own garbage and it’s also your own jewel. It’s the finding that’s the hard part.

But Here’s what you should do. If you have the opportunity to have been born in a precious human rebirth, and you have, then you should play on that immediately by lining up your intention and beginning to make wishing prayers that you will be able to make use of this time. Make them all the time, constantly. Never stop making wishing prayers. Couple those wishing prayers by accumulating the merit and beginning the process of actually being of benefit to others by making wishing prayers that others will also find the precious human rebirth and that they too will find the auspicious circumstances. Begin to work on that a little bit. Line it up. Take hold of it. Don’t let it slide by you. You’re not a Barbie doll like those little kids were holding. You don’t have to sit in class like this, or like this. Barbie doll is like this. You don’t have to do that. And you don’t have to do that in your mind either. Begin to line up the circumstances. Begin to play on it. Begin to make it happen for you. Come to the teachings. Then when you hear the teachings, listen to the teachings. Listen to them well. Line your mind up. Take a hold of yourself. Take a hold yourself. You do have that power.

If you think that the blessing of enlightenment is going to come from outside; if you think that you have no control; if you think that you are good because your parents made you good, or you’re bad because your parents made you bad; if you think like that, forget it. You’re not going to do anything. You’re going to wait. You know what waiting produces? Waiting. That’s what waiting produces. It produces waiting. It’s like a little baby. Was drooling before, drooling after. If you continue to wait, you continue to drool. There’s logic in there somewhere. I know you can’t think about that right now, but truly, waiting is not going to help. But to take a hold of yourself and not let the experience of this precious and auspicious opportunity simply slide by you; to open your mind; to make your mind like a bowl; to practice as though nectar were being poured into you, and to really practice; to line it up and to do it. Honestly and truly. You have that opportunity, but only you can line it up and make it happen. Only you can do that.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

Understanding the Causes

new-federal-safety-standards-for-infant-swings-35472

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

Our Predicament

gautama-buddha

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Mixing the Mind with the Guru” 

What I would like to talk about in the adult portion of our teaching is the particular situation, the predicament actually, that sentient beings find themselves in. Sentient beings are in a situation that is something of a struggle, in that for sentient beings often they have problems and not much understanding in the way of being able to solve their problems because they do not understand how their problems have arisen. They do not understand that they must apply an antidote. And often in their efforts to alleviate their own suffering, they perpetuate their problems. So I’d like to explain something of the Buddhist idea as to how that actually comes about. The Buddhist idea as to how our suffering comes about may differ somewhat from what we ordinarily consider the sources and reasons of our problems; and certainly I would think that the Buddhist idea of how to solve the problem will differ from what we have been taught in our society. So I hope that you will listen patiently and really give it a shot, give it a chance. Give it an opportunity to settle into your mind. What I will try to explain, then, is the format or the backbone of some Buddhist ideas.

According to the way we ordinarily view things, we feel or perceive ourselves to be a real and solid object stuck kind of in the center of an environment; and we feel ourselves to be interacting with our environment. From our perspective, it seems as though, from what our parents told us, one fine day we were born. We don’t actually remember that, but we’ve been told that that’s the case; and some of us have birth certificates and pictures to prove it. It seems as though we appeared within this environment. We were born, and from that point on, it seems as though circumstances have acted upon us to cause us to form in a certain way. That is a very popular idea. It is the idea of the day. Whenever one wishes to go into some kind of deeper study, or deeper awareness according to the potential and fad, actually, of our society, generally if we are not deeply religious people, even if we are moderately religious people, we will be guided into an understanding of the psychological makeup of an individual and how it interacts with its environment. And expecting the fact that the individual is what it seems to be exactly, no more, no less, we will begin to study what seems to be the cause and effect relationships between an individual and its environment.

For instance, we have the idea that if we grow up with kindness that probably we will be more healthy psychologically, that we will be more stable. And we have the idea that if we grow up with suffering, such as deprivation or even abuse, that we will be not kind, really, not caring and very insecure and very unhappy people. The idea is that if one grows up with abuse and neglect that one will certainly give abuse and neglect to others. We have the idea that if we grow up with poverty that we will grow up with characteristics that are natural to the impoverished person, whatever those characteristics are thought to be. But there are certain expectant results that we have from the way that we grow up. And actually people in our society spend, comparatively speaking, a fair amount of time looking at the way that they interact with their environment, looking at the characteristics that they have, the qualities that they have, and actually trying to trace them back to things that happened in their early childhood. These are things that we are taught to do. And this is the fashion, actually, of our time in this particular cultural environment.

Buddhist philosophy differs from that greatly, actually. The reason why Buddhist philosophy differs so much is that there are certain foundational expectancies that I’ve just listed that are so ordinary, so normal in our society that we wouldn’t even think to question them. For instance, we would not think to question that our experience begins at the time of our birth; and we would not think to question that our experience is completely controlled by the input of our environment and our parents. We would never think to question that. While we might accept the idea that we have come into this life with certain genetic predisposition, we don’t really understand that genetic predisposition. We think of it as kind of a chemical thing. And yet, even though we have this certain genetic predisposition, we think that for the most part our habitual tendencies, our ideas, our qualities have more to do with the way that we respond to the catalysts that are contained within our early life. That’s how we think.

The Buddha thinks differently about all of that. The philosophy that’s presented is actually quite different in that the Buddha teaches us that this is not the first incarnation or birth that we have ever taken; that as sentient beings we have been involved in a great many birth and death experiences; that we are actually locked into what is called cyclic existence or samsara, which is a cyclic death and rebirth experience. We are actually taught that this birth and death process has taken place many times. In fact, if you are a human and you can even hear the word Buddha, or can hear the teaching that will bring you closer to enlightenment in any way, shape, manner or form, then that should be considered proof that you have lived many times, because it takes many lifetimes of accumulated virtue and merit in order for you to be in this position. One does not happen to be in the position just because in the same way that apples happen to fall from trees. One has to have accumulated a great deal of virtue and merit in order to be in the position of even considering to practice the path of enlightenment. So you’ve had to have had a lot of experience as a sentient being. Oh, it doesn’t mean that you’re at the point where your future is assured. It doesn’t mean that you’re in such good shape that you really don’t have worry about it. It doesn’t mean that it’s downhill from here. It means that you still have a lot to do, because until we achieve enlightenment, actually, we really aren’t safe. We are still sentient beings and we are still revolving in cyclic existence; and we still have the same conditions and situations associated with being a sentient being. But the Buddha teaches us that we must have lived many lifetimes before.

So when we come into this life, we are actually an appearance, or a re-birth, of one who has with them a whole conglomeration of cause and effect relationships already instituted—already begun, already in action, already arising. Some in seed form and some arising in a very obvious and blatant way. If a sentient being has revolved in cyclic existence for some time, they have accumulated many habitual tendencies. They have begun many different causes and experienced many different effects. For some great long time, they have assumed that self-nature, their own self-nature as well as the nature of all phenomena is inherently real, and they, for a very long time, acted accordingly. According to Buddhist philosophy, that continuation, that stream of continuing assumption can be called a mindstream. A continued push, a movement of dynamic occurrence, all of which is based on the assumption of self-nature as being inherently real and the constant need to hold to self-nature and to define it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Guarding Your Heart

Padmasambhava

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

Here in America, we have a lot of pop-psychology. We all have these little boxes about how relationships ought to be; and pop-psychology has told us how big they ought to be and what shape they ought to be in. And we are told that we should be independent in certain ways and then sharing in other ways. And then, you know, one way or another way we are told how we ought to be. I want to tell you that the relationship of Guru Yoga is not like that. For instance, in relationships we are taught, I’m ok, you’re ok. What is it? Don’t be co-dependent. So don’t be in a co-dependent relationship. Well, if you’re going to be in a co-dependent relationship, I guess it ought to be with your guru. But you don’t look at it that way, because a co-dependent relationship is where two people who are ill or not seeing clearly or deluded or neurotic in some way, are being neurotic together, and it fits.

Well, that’s not the same with one’s own root guru. You can freely and openly give your whole heart and know that you are not in danger. You can freely and joyfully walk, dance, through that door of liberation, and you will be happily and joyfully received. You can depend utterly and completely on the Three Precious Jewels and the condensed essence which is the root guru and never fall. This is the one time you should not guard your heart. A difficult habit to break for all of us.

So again, we’re not talking about personalities, because that’s ordinary. We’re not talking about you guys coming to live all at my house.  Not like that. That’s ordinary, ordinary context. We are thinking that the blessing of my teacher resides as me, in me and I am that. And like we say in The Seven Line Prayer, “Following you, I will practice.” Through that devotion, through that practice, all the blessings of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas are yours, freely given. To the deserving student, to the practicing student, the guru will always appear. And we should always today be creating the causes for the guru to appear tomorrow, in whatever form.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

 

 

Mixing the Mind with the Guru

mirror

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

What Do Blessings Look Like?

Prayer Room

The following is an excerpt from a teaching called “The Guru is Your Diamond” 

If our teachers had not accomplished any Dharma, how would they be of any use to us? So we expect it of them and we rely on them to guide us in the way of Dharma. Sometimes it pisses us off. We’d rather go on vacation. We’d rather have a little more fun. I mean, it’s Sunday afternoon, isn’t it? And we have all kinds of reasons why we should maybe do something else, but we come back. There is my friend. If this teacher can bother to appear again and again for no reason other than to liberate sentient beings as my guru has, then I can at least be here. I can at least come half way, come full with devotion. When we are in the presence of our own root guru and we have that connection and we have the history and karma of the guru having ripened our mind in some way in the past, that ripening will surely come again. With faith and devotion and practice, it will surely come again. And so we have that kind of faith. We know in our hearts and our minds that we can rely on this one for that kind of help.

Should it happen that we cannot meet with the guru for some reason, or there is some difficult point in one’s path, some difficult moments, some difficult times, maybe even some difficult months or years, still, so long as the guru remains in the world, we can turn our face towards the guru and know. It’s like falling off a horse. You can always get back on.

But the problem, and there is a problem with that, is that if you waste your time with that precious jewel and don’t collect its interest, the jewel somehow becomes more distant, less potent, less present, less precious, less everything. And we think to ourselves, ‘Why is the guru not in my life so much?’  And we tend to think, ‘Oh, it’s because the guru’s over here or the guru’s over there, or the guru is not speaking right now, or the guru is this, or the guru is that.’  And you can think that way if you want to but it won’t help. We must think, ‘Now I’ve come to this place. I have chosen my guru and I am steadfast. And I have seen the door of liberation. Yet somehow things are a little mixed up here, I can’t quite get to it. I don’t feel focused. I don’t feel like I understand this blessing. I feel outsourced. I feel like I’m out to lunch somewhere on the Path here.’  And so we think, ‘Oh, what is the problem?’ Well, the first thing we have to do is correct our view and think, ‘This is the door to liberation. It is present in the world.’ Period. End of story. ‘What must I do? What must I do?’

Sometimes it takes traveling to see your guru. Sometimes it takes sitting down and doing Guru Yoga like you never did it before. And it can work out a myriad of ways according to one’s karma, according to one’s blessing. I’ve had it both ways. I’ve traveled to see my guru and the blessing was immeasurable and phenomenal. And then I’ve stayed home and practiced Guru Yoga and with amazing signs. The blessing was amazing and fundamentally life changing. And one, I saw the guru’s face; and one, I saw the guru’s face.

And that’s the nature of this blessing. It doesn’t depend on time and space. It doesn’t depend on ordinary things at all. And unless you neglect it, it cannot lose its potency. We must think, as pertaining to Guru Yoga, that every day, even while now we sit in comfort and enjoy being together, that every day, even this day, we should earn the blessing to see the guru tomorrow. How will I see the guru? Maybe I’ll see the guru’s picture and it will jump out at me and touch my heart. Maybe I’ll see Guru Rinpoche’s picture and it will jump out at me and touch my heart. Or maybe I’ll say The Seven Line Prayer.  And wow, that one really…, that one did it. Or maybe I will do my practice and it feels deep and rewarding like an underground stream that has come suddenly to the surface and has given us something precious to drink.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Accomplishment of the Teacher

Guru Rinpoche Face

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

How do we use the Guru Yoga as this rocketship? How do we understand the way it is used? Well, first of all, if we look at the Guru Yoga in our Ngӧndro book, the prayers are achingly beautiful. The tune, Lama Khyen No, that beautiful tun, you could almost hear it being sung on misty mountain tops. There’s something about it that’s just so haunting. And you get the idea when you’re doing this practice that it’s kind of geared that way. It’s geared to bring tears to one’s eyes. It’s geared to create an interdependent relationship that’s so intimate. It’s more than what we are accustomed to. We wouldn’t take an ordinary relationship and sing Boyfriend Khyen No, Girlfriend Khyen No. We wouldn’t do that. And why? Because there wouldn’t be any result. You might as well twiddle your thumbs. There just simply would be no benefit.

And yet we are given this method and it should cause us some benefit. Why? Why is that? Because we are, again, opening the eyes of recognition. What is it Lord Buddha said when he was asked how he was different? He said, “I am awake.” Awake in recognition. We are opening the inner eyes of recognition to understand the difference between the precious connection with one’s root guru—the ultimate nature that we share, that we depend upon utterly—between that and what is ordinary. You know, the stuff we get lost in so easily. We have this single-pointedness that we can whip ourselves back to. That’s how we use the guru when we get lost and wobbly and we’re kind of out in space. You know how we get in our own particular, you know, the noises in our head and everything. We get lost in that. We can use the guru as our centering back to that. We think this is none other than Guru Rinpoche, the second emanation of Lord Buddha, himself. This is the way. This is that nature. This is what is precious.

And so the lama gives us not only a way to have single-pointed concentration, but the lama also offers their own accomplishment. When one practices the Guru Yoga really deeply, whether it be the Guru Yoga in Ngӧndro or Shower of Blessings, or in any of the pujas that have Guru Rinpoche as the main focal point or Guru Rinpoche and consort as the main focal point, we should think thatthis is the way to practice Guru Yoga. And in each one of those practices, whichever it is, we understand non-dual nature. That’s what we’re working on. We see the arising from the nature of emptiness appearing in a real, but insubstantial, gossamer-like light form, first as the seed syllable and then as the guru.

We are telling ourselves our own story, because it is we also who have arisen from emptiness. It is our nature that is indeed also the seed syllable, and ultimately we are the same nature as the guru. And by the power of the guru’s accomplishment, through their many lifetimes of amazing practice, many lifetimes of looking out after sentient beings and accomplishing the needs of sentient beings and liberating sentient beings, they offer that. They offer themselves and their accomplishment in that way to be the very door to liberation. And so we should think of our teachers in that way: that we are in a burning house and there’s no other way to get out except that one door. Boy, would you ever be devoted to that door. That door would be on your mind. If your house were burning, and there were no other way to get out, wouldn’t it? That door would be…  And that’s how we should think. We should think that here we are in samsara; this is indeed the time of Kaliyuga. We have, at best, as many habitual tendencies guaranteed to bring us suffering as we do to bring us happiness. At best. 50/50, and that is so not usual. We tend to make ourselves more unhappy than we do happy. So we are in this burning house and we look to the teacher to provide the door to liberation.

So when we give rise to that devotion, it’s not to the person guru. It’s not to that person. So it doesn’t matter if you like what they’re wearing or how they smell or what they look like, or how they walk or anything like that. It doesn’t matter. That’s just the stuff you do in regular life. So you can just sweep it over. Instead you think, ‘This one has appeared and will appear throughout time out of mind until all suffering has ended, until samsara is emptied, as the door to liberation. What kind of dope am I that I wouldn’t walk through it?’  It’s that kind of fervent regard. Think of it that way. More than like/dislike, that kind of judgment, but rather fervent regard. And we rely on the accomplishment of our teachers.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

Meeting the Teacher

HHPR and JAL

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

When we meet with our guru, our guru should have the capacity to ripen one’s mind, particularly where there is a close connection, where one has practiced under the guidance of this guru before. That’s happened to me with many of you. I see you and I just know you instantly—and, I know, you start crying—and you know me as well. And you can’t deny that. When that happens, it’s just undeniable. And for those fortunate students where that happens, often they wish to even short circuit the discrimination part because the feeling is so strong, the bond is so deep, that the recognition is prevalent. If that should happen to you, here or anywhere else, that is the most precious jewel you will ever find in this world. Whether you are gathering wealth, or gathering intellectual knowledge or whatever you were taught is precious in this world, that connection with that guru is the most precious jewel you will ever find.

First, it’s an indication you have practiced with this teacher before. Maybe an ordinary way of saying it would be, ‘When you see this teacher, you should see the feast laid out before you.’ The feast. And, you know,I have tasted this before. It’s almost like, in an ordinary way, if you go to a giant smorgasbord, one of those places people go to in America when they really want to chow down, and you see the roast beef, and the this and the that and the cobbler, you know, and you go, ‘Bingo, I’m in the right place!’  And you eat some of that, and you remember. It’s like remembering that taste in your next life. Nothing’s going to keep you from chowing down. You might be even a little weird about it at first, really emotional, and so forth; but nothing is going to keep you from that taste. If you’ve ever had that experience, I beg you to honor it. Not for my sake, but for yours.

That happened to me in this lifetime when I met His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. It was like my heart jumped out of my chest and was standing there talking to me. And like I met my mind, my nature. Like I was following something elusive my whole life and suddenly it was standing before me. Almost unbearable. And of course I did the same exact thing that you guys do when you meet your root teacher. You start dancing. Inside you start thinking, ‘What should I do? I should do this and I should do this. I’ll perform in this way, or maybe that way, or maybe this way.’ And of course you’re a stumbling, bumbling fool for a little while, just like somebody who’s newly in love.

If you find that connection, then you must honor it. And you must honor it by growing. Be ready. Some people say, ‘Oh, I really want to fall in love.’  But then when love hits you, you go, ‘No, I don’t want to change that much. A little scary here. Back off.’  And so sometimes, we’re like that when we meet in a sense our destiny, our unfoldment, when we meet our teacher. We go, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ and we feel the feeling, we feel the joy, we feel the connection. Yet at the same hand, we’re like, ‘I can hardly bear it. I have to turn away a little bit. It’s too much. I don’t know if I can change that fast.’  But remember, the original reason for making the connection to the Path was to exit samsara, and that requires a good deal of change. So the relationship between oneself and one’s guru should be potent. It’s ok if it’s a little scary. Gives you a little respect.  In Palyul, my teacher, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche—you all know him—is known as having rather wrathful moments. I’ve met with a couple of them, and I still flinch. But that’s ok, ‘cause it gets my attention.

Ultimately, we come to understand that there is no friend like one’s guru, nobody in one’s life. Nobody in our lives—even if they take care of you and feed you and clothe you until the time of your death—is so willing and so eager to look out for your welfare. Our root gurus are more interested in our well-being than we can understand. I personally can tell you that I had a difficult time with that. I was an American. I mean, I know that I had all this old karma with the Path and I was recognized as this one and that one and the other one and all that, but I was still a 38-year-old American. (Yes, I was 38 when I met His Holiness.)  So I was an old dog with old habits. And I have to tell you that I didn’t understand that kind of love at first. I mean I understood that I felt this commitment to my students even though I had not met with the Buddhist teachers yet. I already had students and I understood the commitment to them. My teacher told me that apparently I was teaching Buddhadharma and I didn’t know it because I hadn’t read any books on it. But then, when I actually met him, and he became so intimately involved in my body, speech and mind, my whole life began to circumambulate my guru. I thought, ‘What is this?  I mean, I’ve never seen love like this. I’ve never seen anything like this.’ That this Lama would come all the way across the world to find me?  That he came all the way from India and the first thing he said when he hit California was, “Take me to that woman in Maryland.”  And so that’s how it happened.

I didn’t understand that every year he wanted to see me, and so I missed some years. I didn’t understand how much he is invested in my well-being and the well-being of my students. I didn’t understand when he built that place up in New York. Now I understand that he built it for us. Because I can teach you during the year what I have to give you, the ripening and the deepening; and then you can receive empowerment and take the next steps on the Path with His Holiness, my root teacher. And so after we established this place here, he did that. I didn’t understand that, but now I do.

I’ve never had that kind of love in this lifetime. I don’t know anyone else who has either. The kind of love that will… Let me explain to you. When His Holiness was here last year, one of his particularly devoted and very close disciples passed on, Kunzang Lama. And His Holiness just abruptly left even though he knew he wouldn’t make it in time, just left. For that one man. And when he got there, the man, Kunzang, had left him a note and the note said, “Guru, wherever you are, you are with me and I am with you. Please do not grieve.”  Like that. Can you imagine? They were so close. They came out of Tibet together. That kind of devotion to each other.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

How to Uphold the Opportunity

bee in jar

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

We revolve in samsara likes bees in a jar. At some point, bees that know each other meet up. And when that happens and it happens to be one’s guru, this is the connection that is most precious. We should understand that if we feel that connection and that it is heartfelt, that is like a diamond that you should invest. To hold onto it and to keep it stagnant is not the way; not to say, ‘I’ve got this connection, therefore I’m in like flint.’  One has to take that connection and build on it. You have to use it for investment. You use that connection to create more virtue through learning the Buddhadharma and practicing accordingly; through going to the teacher for guidance and advice, and then practicing that accordingly. There’s no use going to the teacher for guidance and advice if you don’t practice accordingly. Then you’re simply cashing in that diamond for nothing. You’re throwing it out the window, and it’s too precious to waste. Instead, again, you should invest on it, build on it. That’s cash. That’s money in the bank. That’s the most precious thing you own in this lifetime, no matter how wealthy you are.

And so you go to that teacher for guidance, for advice. You allow that teacher and ask for that teacher to open and prepare your mind and to deepen the mind and to mature the mind; and you depend on that teacher similarly to… Let’s say you had somehow a cash cow in the bank, you know a diamond or some fabulous thing that could be earning interest. In the same way that that diamond might be the nugget and maybe you’re living off the interest, you think like that [about the  teacher]. You’re always making the moves and doing the things that never harm the principal and only increase the interest. See what I’m saying? I’m using a funny money analogy here, but it’s like that.

That diamond must be kept in a sacred place, enthroned upon the lotus of one’s heart where it cannot be harmed. And if you find that that diamond is somehow misplaced and it’s in your mouth and you’re talking about it in a non-virtuous way, get it back down there again. Do your practice. Recite The Seven Line Prayer. Reestablish that connection. Think that it lives in you, as it does.

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

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