The Technology of Dharma

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

I know we’re getting older, but in truth, if you want to rush through Dharma, I have to say there is no hurry. Not that we should be at ease and think, ‘No need to accomplish Dharma now. I’m going to live forever,’ but rather think first things first. If you cannot handle your poisons, it is not time to move on yet. And I’m not saying either that you should use your poisons as a personal excuse not to go any further on the path,. because I notice that some of us cowboys like to do that. But the truth of the matter is that in order to accomplish Dharma, one has to change. For instance, the basis of Dharma, we are told, is method. Why is that?  Because method is meant to promote change. It’s a technology. And the Buddadharma supplies technology.

Let’s see, how can I explain? Let’s compare it to playing an instrument. You can learn to play an instrument sort of academically, intellectually. You can learn to read music. You can learn the ins and outs of your instrument. You can learn how to blow or pluck it or strum it effectively, whatever your instrument is. But it’s another kind of artistic capacity or another kind of depth with the music that causes the musician to be an artist. They don’t just go dah, dah, dah, dah. They use moderation in the hand. You know what I am saying?There is delicacy; there is heart in it. You can feel itYou can’t have an ego to accomplish that kind of artistry. You have to let go of that kind of egotism to allow the music to be realer to you than your own stupid ego. So Dharma compares to that, really, in the sense that it’s not so hard to learn step one, step two, step three. And you can go through the whole course. We can put the shedra up, and you can go through the whole course. And we hope to do this. But if we do that in an unthinking way, we’re never going to be an artist regarding Dharma. And who cares about that? Most of all, we’ll never really accomplish it. We’ll never really accomplish what Dharma is meant to do.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Buddhist Way

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

And then, of course, you can do it the Buddhist way. And the Buddhist way is:Wait a minute. Where is this anger?  Show me the anger. OK. It’s coming out of my mouth, but I can’t quite hold it. Where is it?  Take time and play with it. Is this anger solid?   Well, who is the person I’m angry at?  I’m angry at her or him or somebody. Let’s see. I’m angry at her.  (This is a pretend person I’m pointing at.) I’m angry at her. OK. Where exactly is her?  I’m going to go through the Buddhist teaching: Where is the ‘I’ in her?  Where is the part that is actually her?  Is it the ear?  Is it the mouth?  What part of the mouth?  The teeth?  The tongue?  Is it the brain?  Slice the brain and find her.

Do yourself a favor. Take yourself off the track of hatred and work the method, because the more you let that go,… You think you feel better after you’ve had a rage thing because it’s addictive. It’s like alcohol. The more you drink, the more you want. The thing to do is to keep yourself from that by stepping back, taking a breath and examining what you are doing. Just examine the basis of it. Just take a minute and examine the basis of it. It will be very hard to do at first, very hard to stop yourself, first of all. But you must practice and you must learn. And the first time you are successful at it, yes!  And the second time you are successful at it, yes again; and the third time it’s a little easier. And you begin to start noticing things. It’s a step upon step upon step sort of building process of awareness that is actually happening, because in fact, there is no enemy, there is no self, there is no anger. And we just need to wake up to that.

Our nature is the pure primordial luminosity—that spontaneous nature which is utterly empty and absolutely complete, that emptiness which is not empty within which is all phenomena, all potential . So that emptiness is our living, dynamic nature. Having forgotten it, we are asleep. Being asleep, we act like criminals, while we should be acting like the celestial deities with the vajra pride that we visualize, giving rise to those good qualities of helpfulness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Warrior of Virtue

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

For myself, I have that commitment. I made it a long time ago. There’s no backing out now. Every time I try, my commitments are made. It’s a done deal. I’ve always known that. My aspiration is to leave the footprint of bodhicitta every time I incarnate, to leave it so it is undeniable , and to help others so that they can leave that same footprint. And I don’t intend for that to ever stop until all sentient beings are free. Now why is that?  It is because I am such a great kid? I am  such a doll? Iam such a wonderful person?  That may all be true, but that’s not why. It’s because I cannot be truly free without you. There are many gurus of different kinds who are self-realizers. They realize mastery of self. But that is not our gig here. That is not what we do in Buddhism. At least not Vajrayana. We don’t do that in Vajrayana. In Vajrayana, our goal is to understand and give rise to the primordial nature in display, which is the great bodhicitta. End of story. And so I will not abandon you. I cannot abandon you, because you are me and I am you and I cannot be free without you.

That’s the understanding we should all aspire to. In our selfishness and our self absorption, we forget and we commit this abomination of even fighting with each other when if we could only truly look in each other’s eyes, if we could truly see,… We are the same, we are the same, we are the same taste. And so, this is why we need to break our habitual tendencies, train ourselves thoroughly, look at ourselves honestly and most of all, if any of you are in that childbearing age, anyone who is listening, please, raise your children right. Raise your children right. Teach them responsibility for what they do. The ‘I help with the household chores’ is one thing. Teach them to clean up their own messes. Teach them that pencils were made with erasers for reasons—so that we can correct ourselves. We can erase our mistakes and correct them and make better. Teach them ethics. Teach them the ethics of liberation.

The reason why we have so much difficulty teaching people proper values and how to stick with the beginning stages of the Buddhadharma, which is about virtue and conduct, the reason why that is so hard is that most of weren’t raised up. We were kind of dragged up. You know? We weren’t raised up with thoughtfulness and regard and respect. Many of us were just kind of fed and watered and whatever. When you raise a child, you must teach the child to be a good citizen in the world and to leave the world better than they found it.

So that’s my hope for you and that’s my hope for anybody’s children and that’s my hope for all sentient beings. Just think if we could really just get that message across. Forget the big practices and the bells. Just think. The most fundamental of the Buddhist teachings allows one to be whatever faith they wish, but teaches us how to live with good qualities.

So take up your sword, take up your shield and beat the crap out of your bad qualities, lest I have to do it for you. That wasn’t a threat. I am a nice person.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Learning to Step Back

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

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

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

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

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Roots of Anger

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

For most of us, when we are wrathful or angry, it’s not wrathful. It’s not righteous wrath, you know, in order to help that person. The only time I can see where it would be useful for an ordinary person to be wrathful would be to maybe encourage somebody else to stand on their own two feet or to be less dependent or something like that. Now look, I really want you to do that, and you can talk sternly. But otherwise, where in your life should hatred be?  Hatred is one of the three things that binds you to this world of samsara in which you will get old, you will get sick and you will die. And so we are taught that we must handle this hatred.

So when we approach hatred and look at it, we have to really examine our habitual tendencies. We can’t just say, you know, ‘I’m not going to hate anybody,’ or it’s kind of like a recovering alcoholic. It’s difficult, very difficult, to just say, ‘I’m not going to drink anymore. I’m going to use will power and I’m not going to drink anymore.’ You know, they say some people can do that, but most people can’t. And why is that?  Because you have to learn about yourself. Because there is a reason why you drank in the first place. Because you have to learn to look inside of yourself and see what’s in there and you have to work it. What do they say in the program?  ‘It works if you work it.’ What do I say about Buddhism?  ‘It works if you work it.’ It’s the same deal. We are addicted to our habitual tendencies like a bunch of alcoholics. That’s why I love recovering alcoholics, because I feel such a kinship with them. And it’s beautiful that it’s so obvious to them that they are recovering addicts. Those of us who maybe have a little shot every now and then or whatever, a little wine every now and then or we’re teetotalers, we think, ‘Oh well, I’m not an addict. Oh, I’m pure, because I take vitamins and I eat bananas,’ and whatever.

But I tell you what. It’s that recognition that from the point of view of recovering from the addiction to the five poisons and from that awakening to Buddhahood, most of us are still at the stage where we are living like bag ladies and men under the bridge, because we ain’t recovered yet. We still have our hatreds; we still have our resentments. And we practice them.

When a Buddhist approaches ridding themselves of hatred, it can’t be done through willpower. It must be done through understanding, through practicing and ultimately through attaining view. Understanding means looking within oneself with honesty. None of us have been perfect. We’ve hurt others. We’ve killed bugs, people; I don’t know what, swatted flies, whatever. None of us has been perfect. And when we approach that, we need to look at that without excuses, bald-faced, you know?  Where have I fallen down here?

Now we don’t want to look at in a harsh and miserable way.  When I say take oneself to task, I mean have a long, sobering talk with oneself. I don’t mean self-hatred. That is useless and I don’t like it. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to talk about it; and I will slap you next week if I see it, because you are just as worthy as anyone else, and that’s just a game. When we get into self-hatred, it’s because we have bad qualities and we don’t want to deal with them. So I say, accomplish those qualities and your image of yourself will rise up like a mountain.

Most people that have poor self-image are stuck in a kind of fearful narcissism where they do not respect or understand what is outside. They do not respect or understand what is inside. They can’t tell the difference between outside and inside. And they are so internally focused, focused on their own needs, wants and dramas, particularly dramas, that it is really very difficult for these people to step out of their shell, their shell of narcissism, and begin to truly try to be of benefit to others.  This narcissism, this kind of fearful self-absorption, often is one of the causes of a kind of hatred. If you are fearful and self-absorbed in your own drama, it’s really, ultimately when you trace it down, pretty much all about you. You know? If you have that kind of thing, there is never the opportunity to understand the nature of phenomena. There is never the opportunity to understand the primordial naturally luminous wisdom state that is our nature because of the drama. And there is even a posture with that. Forthe people who have that kind of thing, as they grow older, their body tends to go like that. It caves in like that. And it’s the protecting that we’re doing of something that we feel is inherently real–ego.

When you think, ‘Oh, what can I do about this? I’m so fearful. Of course she’s saying I’m narcissistic, but it’s really that I am afraid.’ Well, what can we do about that?  I think one step is to notice that are there are other people who are afraid, also. Notice that everybody is afraid. Notice that there is a humanity that we share of brother-sisterhood, a humanness that we share, human experiences that we will all have together. We will grow old. We will be sick. We will die. This is the condition that humanity shares in samsara. So learn to recognize in others that connection, even if it’s a sad one, that we all suffer the same; and we have the same wants, too. That narcissistic self-absorbed person who is very fearful wants desperately to be happy but doesn’t know how. And so in order to make themselves better, they stay frozen. They have hatreds and fears toward everybody else. And that’s the reaction.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The “How To” of the Method

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

There is no confusion regarding Dharma. It’s spelled out that conduct is everything, that working with one’s poisons is everything. And there are no modifications on not killing. Not killing is all pervasive. It means bugs. It means worms. It means enemies. In fact, we are the only ones that I know of who are taught to raise our enemies in loving concern higher than ourselves. Not that we do a personality cult thing, you know. We don’t do the wave every time we see our enemies. It’s not like that. But if our enemies are harming us, then they must be harming themselves also. So our compassion for them should be even greater. Tibetans were thrown out of their own country. They were killed; they saw their lamas abused; they saw their lamas murdered; they saw their texts being walked on by Chinese boots, their precious Dharma texts, and then many destroyed, as Palyul was destroyed. And yet because their culture is so different, rather than going to war or hating, from the Dalai Lama on down, they all say, “The Chinese are our gurus.  They taught us that we must have had some fault or we wouldn’t have been thrown out of Tibet, or there wouldn’t have been this huge problem.”  That’s the way Tibetans think. They think, “Oh, now maybe the problem is that we kept our faith to ourselves and we were happy just in our country, Shambala,.” And so the lamas said, “Go out and teach others. This is what we must do.”  And now they are grateful for that happening, although of course we want Tibet back. No doubt about that. But they are grateful for what happened there, for what they learned, for what they taught. It is no less a travesty. It is no less genocide than it was when it happened, yet this speaks to the quality of our faith. This speaks to the quality of our practitioners and our lamas. And so, now that we see it, we see that, in fact, it was the Chinese that sent Buddhist lamas around the world. And so we find out there are never any exceptions.

There were powerful practitioners at that time whose blessing was so strong (and I’ve heard stories about this from other lamas), whose powers were so strong that they would go out when the Chinese were shooting and they would stand in front of people with their robes held out to protect them. And then they would come inside and shake the bullets out because the blessing was so strong, their power was so strong; but they never fought. They died, but they never fought. There were many lamas who knew when the Chinese were coming, and it was hopeless. They simply did phowa and left. They didn’t wait. They knew the Chinese would kill them.  So rather than allow the Chinese to take on that non-virtue, they did phowa. And phat! they left their bodies. What was the year when the Chinese came into Tibet?  ’49?  I was born in ’49. So that’s what happened there. But there was never the thought of revenge. Never the thought of hatred or barbarism, because this is not our way. And what is great is that we can teach our children there are no exceptions. It’s black and white. That’s what is really great. Never kill. Each sentient being values its life just as much as you do. I really like that about our faith.

I see a problem in people who are trying to defeat their own poisons in this lifetime, even you guys whose faces and hearts I know so well. We tried this. We’ve given a lot to be Buddhists,  on the one hand. Yet we’ve gained a lot more by being Buddhists, on the other hand. And we’re very much involved; and each person is as committed as they can be to their path. So I know that the willingness is there. I think the caring is there, but there is so much confusion. How in the world are we supposed to defeat our poisons when it is not clear to us how we should live?

For instance, we are told in Buddhism that we must conquer hatred, greed and ignorance, and let’s see, lust and competitiveness, or warlike behavior. Let’s see. What else? Did I say sloth?  Well, that one, too.  So, we are supposed to conquer all of these things; and yet we’re not even clear what hatred is. We’re not even clear on that, because of how we were brought up.   If we acted out ,you know, few of us had parents that would sit down and say, ‘This is why this isn’t working.’  Most of us had a backhand or time out, or go away, or watch TV, or something like that; but there is never any clarity, because we ourselves don’t understand. So when we look at abolishing hatred in our mind stream, which we must do, which we’ve committed to do for the sake of sentient beings, where do we even start?  It’s so confusing. And not only where do we start? What are the perimeters?  . What does that mean, not hating?  Ok. I don’t hate you outright, but you know, if we mush with that a little bit and fool around and dance a little a bit, there’s a lot of leeway in there according to the way ordinary people think. But, in fact, that’s not true, because if you just look at the one poison, which is hatred, it’s much more widespread than you think, my poor little lambs. You know, when you go ballistic sometimes, because somebody let you down or somebody was rude to you or whatever the particular thing is?  That’s hatred. You can say it’s not because you don’t hate the person, but the rage, the thing that comes out of you is the same energy, just a little tweaked to fit our culture. It’s that same thing when you go off on somebody, . Or when you gossip. Like when you gossip to put another person down, you indicate that their qualities are down: They are not a good practitioner, they are not a good person, they are mean, they are mean to me, they are just bad. You have that kind of gossip, you know. Somebody looks at you cross-eyed and you’re going to hold a grudge for the rest of your life. That kind of thing. And every chance you get, you’re going to tell somebody how bad that person is. Or maybe you are a lightweight gossiper. You just do it with a smile on your face,  ‘She never practices.’

However you do it, whether you smile, or whether its grudge-oriented or whether you do it because there is nothing in your head but gossip, well, it’s still hatred. Now here’s where we get lost, because we think, ‘I’m not hating.’ But still, we are putting others down in order to raise ourselves up in our mind. Now there are a couple of unfortunate things that are happening there. First, the hatred. Any time that you need to raise yourself up at the expense of anyone else, that is about as far away from Buddhadharma as you can get. The instructions from Buddhadharma are that we should gain so much compassion from giving rise to the bodhicitta. And when is that going to happen?  When it feels right?   No. You have to practice. You have to make it happen, even if you’ve got to grit your teeth. One step at a time, you give rise to the bodhicitta. And eventually, hopefully, you lose the habit of putting someone else down in order to climb on top of them, because the bodhicitta requires that we understand this: We are one being. Out there is everybody else, so it seems, in relative phenomenal reality. That being the case, there are more of them than there is of me. They are therefore more important. That is what the Dharma teaches.

The basis for that is not martyrdom.  We’re not going to go to the heaven of 87 virgins or whatever. Not that I would be interested in that. Anyway, I think it was only for men. You know, that’s not going to happen to us. We don’t think of it in terms of martyrdom. We think of it in terms of view. According to what the Buddha teaches, the idea of duality, the idea that we are separate, the idea that time and space are separate, the idea that mind is separate from time and space, these are all the confusions that we live with. And so, because of that, it looks like there are so many of us out there and me over here. But in truth, if I were to meditate the way the Buddhas and bodhisattvas meditate, with pure Dzogchen view, I literally could not find a place where I end and you begin. And so I am you. I look into your eyes and I see Guru Rinpoche. How much do I love Guru Rinpoche?  That’s how much I love you. Like that.

And so sometimes, I have the occasion to speak very harshly to my students. On occasion, I’ve had to, figuratively speaking, slap them around. I mean really. Here is half of a piece of rice. You must know there there is not even that much hatred in that, none whatsoever. When I come to the point that I feel like a student needs a spanking, it’s because they are at a probability point. It could go this way or it could go that way, and I like to whap them over them that way. And that’s my job—to keep my eye on those probability points.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Challenge of Self Honesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Warriorship on the Path

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

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

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

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Foundation

EightFoldPath

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Reclaiming Our Merit”

Lord Buddha built the path sequentially.   First what did he teach?  That all sentient beings are suffering, that suffering is all pervasive,. that the cause of that suffering is desire and greed. None of which we, by the way, have bothered to get rid of. But he also taught that there was an end to suffering, and he taught that as the eightfold path. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten so ahead of ourselves, thinking that we are Dzogchen practitioners that we haven’t bothered to have right mind, right concentration, right meditation, right work, … (I have a list somewhere. I’ve forgotten them all.) But all of the eightfold path, all of those different qualities, they have to be looked at one at a time. Right speech: That means cut out the gossip; that means you cut out the bullshit and the bad words you have toward each other. Right contemplation:. Ok, what is wrong contemplation?   Wrong contemplation is watching phenomena dance around you and just buying in, dancing with it. Right contemplation would be taking the Buddha’s teachings one by one and studying them carefully. Have any of you practiced the eightfold path?  No. No. Then the Buddha came along, and he took the eightfold path and he sort of condensed it into the Mahayana view, which is wisdom and compassion.

The thing is, that when we have wisdom and compassion, we think, ‘Oh, that’s much easier.’ So we leave behind the eightfold path and we go right to the wisdom and compassion; and really we do ourselves a disservice by faking our way through it. Wisdom is something that arrives through practice, through service to fulfilling the ideas that Lord Buddha presented before. In other words, wisdom and compassion are not considered separate or different or above the eightfold path. You still have to accomplish the eightfold path, you see. And when you have fulfilled that, then you have the capacity to give rise to wisdom and compassion. And then you find out that the reason why the eightfold path was taught first, and Mahayana second, , is that it’s almost impossible to keep your commitment as a bodhisattva and to practice the way of the bodhisattvas for even one hour.

And so we have to rely on all that we’ve learned before this to build this house of Dharma. We have to make sure it’s all standing correctly, and we’re all here in line, and the foundation is good. Then you can start to build a house. That’s your wisdom and your compassion. And you have to ask yourself, has it come yet? We’re waiting for compassion to come likeHappy Birthday, you know, some sort of thing that is coming from a wave from the sky. Suddenly you’ll be good. But in order to really give rise to compassion like that, you have to have your foundation; and then as you begin to give rise to the bodhicitta, you have to base it on what you learned before.

What did you learn before?  All sentient beings are suffering. That in samsara, suffering is so pervasive that our perception is askew. We don’t know up and down. We’re running so fast to get away from discomfort and pain; we really don’t have ourselves in order. This is what the Buddha taught. And so you look at the situation of sentient beings.  If you did that right contemplation and you did it right, you really spent some time on it. And you open your eyes. You don’t close them and say, ‘I hate this stuff. I can’t look.’ You open your eyes and see it, and be willing to shoulder the burden of noticing that what Lord Buddha taught was right: That there is nothing but suffering, really, and we’re causing it ourselves through our being asleep and our lack of understanding.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Grasping for Happiness: The Root of Ignorance

dew17

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

In closing, I wish to say this one thing. I talked to someone recently  who was schooled in a meditation that could create a feeling that was kind of blissy. This kind of meditation had bliss-like qualities. It would make you feel that you were kind of drunk, a kind of high feeling, a bliss-like quality. When I asked where the teaching came from, she said she got it from her teacher who had an experience of revelation and developed this teaching from that experience. I asked what the source of revelation was. She said they don’t think of it as a source, but this person had a revelation. This person had developed a technique with breathing and things like that. When I heard what the technique was, I was amazed. I remember thinking that you can horse yourself into a hyper-excited emotional state that is very much like a blissy kind of an experience. You can jerk yourself around psychically, using breath, using visualization, using certain kinds of thoughts and physical and non-physical techniques in which you can feel a certain kind of bliss. But I don’t know why a person would want to waste their time with that. I don’t know why a person would engage in such activity. It seems to me that all they are doing is exchanging one kind of phenomena for another.

The feeling that you have right now is just that. It is a feeling. It is like dew on the grass. When you examine it and even understand that the self that produced the feeling is empty of self-nature and is only the primordial wisdom state, that feeling that you have right now will vaporize. And who is producing this bliss that you can horse yourself into? This bliss, when examined, is produced by that same one. Not understanding the emptiness of self nature, not understanding and awakening to the primordial wisdom state through purifying hatred, greed and ignorance, not understanding this, you can jerk yourself around and experience bliss. And you can think happy thoughts for an hour and you will feel pretty good about yourself; but who is producing that thought the same way and it will vaporize the same way. Why exchange one kind of phenomena for another?

In the Vajrayana view, it is very plain and actually best put in a very stark verbiage. In the Vajrayana view, it is very clear: Chocolate and shit are the same. They are both brown and they are both phenomena. Now, of course, it is the you that would rather it be chocolate, but the you is not inherently real as you understand it. It is empty of self-nature. And it is only in your understanding of yourself, in the way that you do understand, and your clinging to that self, that you crave chocolate as you do and you are repelled by shit.

But phenomena is phenomena and you must understand that in order to practice the ultimate bodhicitta, you must practice the supreme path that does not create just another kind of phenomena. It doesn’t just create another kind of high, but in fact absolutely pacifies, once and for all, all of the building blocks of cyclic existence, all of the grasping, hatred, greed and ignorance, pride, jealousy, all of these things, that will produce this terrible suffering. These must be pacified once and for all. That is the ultimate act of love. There is a technology by which this can be accomplished. You cannot think it away because always  who is doing the thinking will be you.

So the game is then to become awake—to awaken to the primordial wisdom nature, to awaken to that Buddha nature, the ultimate kindness.

That is our teaching today. I hope that it is useful. Please make use of the teaching.

 

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