Meditation on Impartiality: Patrul Rinpoche

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The following is respectfully quoted from “The Words of My Perfect Teacher” by Patrul Rinpoche

1. Meditation on impartiality

Impartiality (tang nyom in Tibetan) means giving up (tang) our hatred for enemies and infatuation with friends, and having an even-minded (nyom) attitude towards all beings, free of attachment to those close to us and aversion for those who are distant.

As things are now, we are very attached to those we think of as part of our own group–father and mother, relatives and so on–while we feel an intolerable aversion towards our enemies and those associated with them. This is a mistake, and comes from a lack of investigation.

In former lives, those whom we now consider our enemies have surely been close to us, ever lovingly at our side, looking after us with goodwill and giving us unimaginable help and support. Conversely, many of those whom we now call friends have certainly been against us and done us harm. As we saw in the chapter on impermanence, this is illustrated by the words of the sublime Kātyāyana:

He eats his father’s flesh, beats his mother off,
He dandles on his lap his own unfortunate enemy;
The wife is gnawing at her husband’s bones.
I laugh to see what happens in samsāra’s show!

Another example is the story of Princess Pema Sel, daughter of the Dharma King Trisong Detsen. When she died at the age of seventeen, her father went to ask Guru Rinpoche how such a thing could happen.

“I would have thought that my daughter must have been someone with pure past actions,” said the king. “She was born as the daughter of King Trisong Detsun. She met all of you translators and pandits, who are like real Buddhas. So how can it be that her life was nevertheless so short?”

“It was not at all because of any pure past deeds that the princess was born as your daughter,” the Master replied. “Once I, Padma, you, the great Dharma King, and the great Bodhisattva Abbot had been born as three low-caste boys. We were building the Great Stūpa of Jarung Khashor. At that time the princess had taken birth as an insect, which stung you on the neck. Brushing off with your hand, you accidentally killed it. Because of the debt you incurred in taking that life, the insect was reborn as your daughter.”

If even the children of Dharma King Trisong Detsun, who was Mañjuśrī in person, could be born to him in that way as a result of his past actions, what can one say about other beings?

At present we are closely linked with our parents and children. We feel great affection for them and have incredible aspirations for them. When they suffer, or anything undesirable happens to them, we are more upset than we would be if such things had happened to us personally. All this is simply the repayment of debts for the harm we have done each other in past lives.

Of all the people who are now our enemies, there is not one who has not been our father or mother in the course of all our previous lives. Even now, the fact that we consider them to be against us does not necessarily mean that they are actually doing us any harm. There are some we think of as opponents who, from their side, do not see us in that way at all. Others might feel that they are our enemies but are quite incapable of doing us any real harm. There are also people who at the moment seem to be harming us, but in the long term what they are doing to us might bring us recognition and appreciation in this life, or make us turn to the Dharma and thus bring us much benefit and happiness. yet others, if we can skillfully adapt to their characters and win them over with gentle words until we reach some agreement, might quite easily turn into friends.

On the other hand there are all those whom we normally consider closest to us–our children, for example. But there are sons and daughters who have cheated or even murdered their parents, and join forces with them to quarrel with their own family and plunder their wealth. Even we we get along well with those who are dear to us, their sorrows and problems actually affect us even more strongly than our own difficulties. In order to help our friends, our children and other relatives, we pile up great waves of negative actions which will sweep us into the hells in our next life. When we really want to practise the Dharma properly they hold us back. Unable to give up our obsession with parents, children, and family, we keep putting off Dharma practice until later, and so never find the time for it. In short, such people may harm us even more than our enemies.

What is more, there is no guarantee that those we consider adversaries today will not be our children in future lives, or that our purest friends will not be reborn as our enemies, and so on. It is only because we take these fleeing perceptions of “friend” and “enemy” as real that we accumulate negative actions through attachment and hatred. Why do we hold on to this millstone which will drag us down into the lower realms?

Make a firm decision, therefore, to see all infinite beings as your own parents and children. Then, like the great beings of the past whose lives we can read about, consider all friends and enemies as the same.

First, towards all those you do not like at all–those who arouse anger and hatred in you–train your mind by various means so that the anger and hatred you feel no longer arise. Think of them as you would of someone neutral, who does you neither good nor harm. Then reflect that the innumerable beings to whom you feel neutral have been your father or mother sometime during your past lives throughout time without beginning. Meditate on this theme, training yourself until you feel the same love for them you do for your present parents. Finally, meditate until you feel the same compassion towards all beings–whether you see them as friends, enemies or in between–as you do for your own parents.

Now, it is no substitute for boundless impartiality just to think of everybody, friends, enemies, as the same, without any particular feeling of compassion, hatred or whatever. This is mindless impartiality, and brings neither harm nor benefit. The image given for truly boundless impartiality is a banquet given by a great sage. When the great sages of old offered feasts they would invite everyone, high or low, powerful or weak, good or bad, exceptional or ordinary, without making any distinction whatsoever. Likewise, our attitude toward all beings throughout space should be a vast feeling of compassion, encompassing them all equally. Train your mind until you reach such a state of boundless impartiality.

2. Meditation on love

Through meditating on boundless impartiality as described, you come to regard all beings of the three worlds with the same great love. The love that you feel for all fo them should be like that of parents taking care of their young children. They ignore all their children’s ingratitude and all the difficulties involved, devoting their every thought, word and deed entirely to making their little ones happy, comfortable and cosy. Likewise, in this life and in all your future lives, devote everything you do, say or think to the well-being and happiness of all beings.

Al those beings are striving for happiness and comfort. They all want to be happy and comfortable; not one of them wants to be unhappy or to suffer. Yet they do not understand that the cause of happiness is positive actions, and instead give themselves over to the ten negative actions. Their deepest wishes and their actions are therefore at odds: in their attempts to find happiness, they only bring suffering upon themselves.

Over and over again, meditate on the thought of how wonderful it would be if each one of those beings could have all the happiness and comfort they wish. Meditate on it until you want others to be happy just as intensely as you want to be happy yourself.

The sūtras speak of “loving actions of body, loving actions of speech, loving actions of mind.” What this means is that everything you say with your mouth or do with your hands, instead of being harmful to others, should be straightforward and kind. As it says in The way of the Bodhisattva:

Whenever catching sight of others
Look on them with open, loving heart.

Even when you simply look at someone else, let that look be smiling and pleasant rather than an aggressive glare or some expression of anger. There are stories about this, like the one about the powerful ruler who glared at everyone with a very wrathful look. It is said that he was reborn as a preta living on left-overs under the stove of a house, and after that, because he had also looked at a holy being in that way, he was reborn in hell.

Whatever actions you do with your body, try to do them gently and pleasantly, endeavoring not to harm others but to help them. Your speech should not express such attitudes as contempt, criticism or jealousy. Make every single word you say pleasant and true. As for your mental attitude, when you help others do not wish for anything good in return. Do not be a hypocrite and try to make other people see you as a Bodhisattva because of your kind words and actions. Siply wish for others’ happiness from the bottom of your heat and only consider what would be most beneficial for them. Pray again and again with these words: “Throughout all my lives, may I never harm so much as a single hair on another being’s head, and may I always help each of them.”

It is particularly important to avoid making anyone under your authority suffer, by beating them, forcing them to work too hard and so on. This applies to your servants and also to your animals, right down to the humblest watchdog. Always, under all circumstances, be kind to them in thought, word and deed. To be reborn as a servant, or as a watchdog, for that matter, and to be despised and looked down upon by everyone, is the maturation of the effects of past actions. It is the reciprocal effect of having despised and looked down on others while in a position of power in a past life. If you now despite others because of your own power and wealth, you will repay that debt in some future time by being reborn as their servants. So be especially kind to those in a lower position than yourself.

Anything you can do physically, verbally or mentally to help your own parents, or those suffering from chronic ill health, will bring inconceivable benefits. Jowo Atīsa says:

To be kind to those who have come from afar, to those who have been ill for a long time, or to our parents in their old age, is equivalent to meditating on emptiness of which compassion is the very essence.

Our parents have shown us such immense love and kindness that to upset them in their old age would be an extremely negative act. The Buddha himself, to repay his mother’s kindness, went to the Heaven of the Thirty-three to teach her the Dharma. It is said that even if we were to serve our parents by carrying them around the whole world on our shoulders, it would still not repay their kindness. However, can can repay that kindness by introducing them to the Buddha’s teaching. So always serve your parents in thought, word and deed, and try to find ways to bring them to the Dharma.

 

The Stupor

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

Even though we may have practiced some preliminary practice and received some preliminary teaching, still the delusion hangs on. One of the things that is characteristic of samsaric beings or beings that are caught in the wheel of death and rebirth—that’s everyone here—is that samsaric beings tend to kind of fall into a stupor. A stupor.  And we fall into a stupor about every, oh, 30 seconds or so.  We can be temporarily reminded, and those of you who are practicing Ngöndro, which are actually those very preliminary teachings that we are going to discuss today, will notice that you can practice Ngöndro, meaning that you can read those lines, turning the mind towards Dharma, reading them oh so carefully.  What happens here is that repeatedly we are falling into the same stupor.  We are just losing it.  We just constantly lose it.

If I were to say to you now, O.K., you’ve finished your preliminary practice and you’ve accomplished your Ngöndro for today, so now we are going to go into Phowa practice, you have to organize your mind and your thinking and direct yourself so that you understand very clearly why we should practice, how Phowa is suitable for you and why it is necessary to put so much effort into this one particular practice.  The student who is not reminded, in the traditional way, how to approach these teachings, even though they have just been practicing their Ngöndro, will literally forget.  Or they will have that other wonderful remarkable trait that samsaric beings have which is to be able to literally repeat the text back to the teacher and say, this is why, du du du du du du, dudu dudu dudu, and they give you back exactly what they have just read.  But nothing is happening.  Those words are somehow coming out the mouth, not going in the brain.  They are simply not being internalized, and that is another kind of stupor that we fall into.

Therefore, in order to have the best result from our teaching, from our Phowa retreat this week and in order to keep in tune and in harmony with the way the teachings are traditionally taught, we will cover and re-cover some of the most fundamental traditional teachings in order to prepare ourselves; but we will do this in a condensed form and almost kind of conversationally because I have found that westerners who have the intention of absorbing a practice in order to utilize it in their everyday lives, in order to mesh it into their everyday lives, respond better to being taught conversationally, to being spoken to in a way that they are normally spoken to, not in a strange and archaic way.  Then they are able to knit things together much better. So that’s the way that we will approach our teaching for today and it will be useful for those of you who are not intending to pursue Phowa.

For those of you who are curious about what Phowa may be, Phowa is actually the science and the how-to, the traditional Buddhist teaching, the Buddhist view, on death and dying.  It is literally how to die.  The Vajrayana path, which is the path that we are on, is a subsection of the Mahayana path which is one of the many ways in which the Buddha has taught It is considered that our path, the Vajrayana path, is the only way that one achieve liberation within one lifetime.  Using any of the Buddhist teachings, one can surely attain liberation, but in Vajrayana one can attain liberation within the course of one lifetime.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The House is On Fire

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

The Buddha teaches us tenderly and gently, as though we were his own children.  There’s a story about a king who had many children. He loved his children dearly, but they were children, you know, children involved with children things, bright shiny play objects and things that make them happy.  So the father left the children, hopefully in good care; he had to go off and do something in his kingdom (I think I’m telling the story right, I hope so. Om Benzar Satto Hung. So he goes away for a while and when he comes back to his house, his house is on fire. It’s a big house and his children don’t even realize it.  The children are comfortably asleep in their little children beds.  The king is outside. He can’t get to his children and he’s hollering, “Come out children. Hurry up. Get out of that burning house now. Quick wake up. Run.”  The kids, they’re not used to being in trouble.  They’re the king’s children.  They’re used to being safe; and they have that habit of being safe in their beds so they’re not worried about anything.  They hear somebody shouting, but they just turn over in their covers and go back to sleep.

The king becomes frantic. They’re his children!  So he says, “Children come out now or I’ll beat you with a stick! Come out or I’ll go in there and I’ll just beat you with a stick and knock your heads off.  So come out right now.”  And the kids go, “Oh, that’s dad.  You know, he’s not really going to beat us with a stick, because we’re the king’s kids. He’s just saying that, so we’re not too worried about it.”  And so the kids get out of their beds and they start playing with their toys. The king is making so much noise, and they’re in the back room and they’re just playing with their little toys, preoccupied, you know, the way we are, and playing with little things.  And then the king goes, “Children, I have beautiful toys for you out here.  Treasures.  Beautiful things.  I have a grand elephant for you to ride.  I have a whole herd of horses for you to enjoy.  I have beautiful umbrellas and shiny jewels and so many objects for you to come and play with.”  Naturally, the kids are attracted by that and go running out of the house. At which time the father, being part Italian goes, “Aye!”  (That would have been me.  That’s not what the father did.)  The father embraced his children and said, “Oh I’m sorry I had to lie to you.  I’m sorry I had to promise you things.  I’m sorry I had to threaten you.  But see, your house is burning.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind

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The following is an excerpt from “Buddha in the Palm of the Hand” Nam Chö Ngondro revealed by Terton Migyur Dorje:

PAL KUNTUZANGPO LA CHAG TSAL LO
I prostrate to the glorious Samantabhadra

DAL JOR DI NI SHIN TU NYED PAR KA
This precious human birth is extremely difficult to obtain.

CHI DANG CHI LA KYE KYANG MI TAG CHI
All things born are impermanent and must die

GE WA CHÖ LA BED NA SANGYE GYU
If one perseveres in virtuous Dharma, this is the cause for becoming Buddha.

DIG PA GANG CHE DE TA’I RIG DRUG KHYAM
Whatever negativity is produced will cause one to wander in the six realms.

YI DAG TRE KOM DÜD DRO LUN PO DANG
Hungry spirits suffer from hunger and thirst, animals from stupidity,

NYAL WA TSHA DRANG MIKYE GE NA CHI
Hell beings from heat and cold, humans from birth, old age, sickness and death,

LHA MIN THAB TSÖD LHA YI DUD NGAL YÖD
Jealous gods from warfare, and even gods (Devas) also have their own suffering.

Peerless Guru: His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

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

At the same time I first got to know His Holiness and we began to actually have conversations,  I was talking a great deal to Gyaltrul Rinpoche, because I met him soon after that visit. But I remember first learning about Dzogchen, not from my teachers, but from other students, which was kind of horrible. I kept hearing the term. I questioned; I tried to find out what it was. I tried to read some books. I asked my teachers, and His Holiness particularly said, “Soon I’ll give you plenty of explanation so you will understand.” And I questioned. Actually I didn’t question His Holiness, but I questioned Gyaltrul Rinpoche, “ Why is it then that some people are talking about Dzogchen, but His Holiness seems to be holding back on Dzogchen.” And at that time Gyaltrul Rinpoche told me, “Well, you should ask him directly; but from the conversations I’ve had with him, Americans are not ready for Dzogchen. He says that they are, you know, too prideful, too arrogant. They don’t really understand the benefit. It would be like throwing something precious on the ground where it can’t be used, for instance, like a seed. You would want to throw it into fertile ground or put it into fertile ground. You wouldn’t want to put it on, you know, a highway where it’s never going to sprout.”

So that was the explanation I got, and I was satisfied with that. But then later on I kept seeing that more and more, particularly in Dudjom Rinpoche’s lineage, they were always talking about Dzogchen this and Dzogchen that. And if you didn’t know Dzogchen, they thought you were a little silly. You know, they didn’t think you were quite there. So I persisted in trying to find out. And His Holiness reiterated again and again,   “You have to get the preliminaries. You have to build a foundation. Americans are not ready.” For quite a number of years, even though His Holiness returned here many times, he did not want to give out Dzogchen. And it was like that until he set up the summer program in New York where you could go Shedra style—step by step, stage by stage, from one level to the other. When he did that, he kind of reversed his direction in a sense, because he was real hesitant to give Dzogchen and really held back for a long time. And then suddenly he was offering it; and I remember thinking, ‘Well, students will have to go stage by stage no matter what.’ You know, they’ll have to do like in India where if a student wants to go to level 3, he has to graduate from level 2. That sort of thing.

And then I heard that His Holiness had totally opened it up where he left it to the student in conference with the teacher there to decide what practice, to say what practice they had accomplished and what they had done. And if you receive Year 2 the year before, you could always go on to Year 3 unless you were having terrible obstacles. You could always go on to Year 3, and then the next. It’s kind of like the “No child left behind.” No Dharma student left behind here. I remember at that time being completely blown away by that. I was so completely blown away because it was such a reversal for him, such a change.  And I tried to seek the reason for that. His Holiness had switched his tone so thoroughly. He was saying, “Not much time left.”  And, of course, that scared me. I thought he meant for him. “No, it’s not like that,” he said. “No, not much time left for sentient beings.”

And so, that was his decision. He is peerless. There is no lama like him. There is no lama that can top him in any way. He is extraordinary. He is a living Buddha. I mean he is extremely orthodox and yet extremely flexible, an unbelievable combination,  because with orthodoxy comes dogma and rigidity. He is fully qualified and fully able to be the head of his lineage and to steer the course of this great ship, the Buddhadharma. Yet, he is completely flexible.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Relative Bodhicitta: HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse

The following is respectfully quoted from “Enlightened Courage” by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

If I do not give away
My happiness for others’ pain,
Buddhahood will never be attained.
And even in samsara, joy will fly from me.

Enlightenment will be ours when we are able to care for others as much as we now care for ourselves, and ignore ourselves to the same extent we now ignore others. Even if we had to remain in samsara, we should be free from sorrow. For as I have said, when the great Bodhisattvas gave away their heads and limbs, they felt no sadness at the loss of them.

Once, in one of his previous lifetimes, the Buddha was a universal monarch whose custom it was to give away his wealth without regret. He refused nothing to those who came to beg from him, and his fame spread far and wide. One day, a wicked brahmin beggar came before the king and addressed him, saying, “Great king, I am ugly to look upon, while you are very handsome; please give me your head.” And the king agreed. Now his queens and ministers had been afraid that he might do this, and making hundreds of heads out of gold, silver, and precious stones, they offered them to the beggar.

“Take these heads,” they pleaded. “Do not ask the king for his.”

“Heads made of jewels are of no use to me,” the beggar replied. “I want a human head.” And he refused to take them.

Eventually they could no longer deter him from seeing the king.

The king said to him, “I have sons and daughters, queens, and a kingdom, but no attachment do I have for any of them. I will give you my head at the foot of the tsambaka tree in the garden. If I can give you my head today, I shall have completed the Bodhisattva act of giving my head for the thousandth time.”

And so, at the foot of the tree, the king took off his clothes, tied his hair to a branch, and cut off his head. At that moment, darkness covered the earth, and from the sky came the sound of the gods weeping and lamenting so loudly that even human beings could hear them. The queens, princes, and ministers all fell speechless to the ground. Then Indra, the lord of the gods, appeared and said, “O king, you are a Bodhisattva and have even given away your head, but here I have the life restoring ambrosia of the gods. Let me anoint you with it and bring you back to life.”

Now, the king was indeed a Bodhisattva, and even though his head had been cut off and sent away, his mind was still present, and he replied that he had no need of Indra’s life-restoring ambrosia, for he could replace his head simply by the force of his own prayers.

Indra begged him to do so, and the king said: “If in all those thousand acts of giving my head away beneath the tsambaka tree there was nothing but the aim of benefiting others, unstained by any trace of self seeking–if I was without resentment or regret, then may my head be once again restored. But if regrets there were, or evil thoughts, or intentions not purely for the sake of others, then may my head remain cut off.” No sooner had the king said this than there appeared on his shoulders a new head identical to the first, which had been taken away by the brahmin. Then all the queens, princes, and ministers rejoiced and administered the kingdom in accordance with the Dharma.

For those who can practice generosity like this, there is no suffering at all. Enlightened teachers, Bodhisattvas, come into the world to accomplish the welfare of beings, and even when they are ignored by people in the grip of desire, anger, and ignorance, who stir up obstacles and difficulties, the thought of giving up never occurs to them and they are totally without anger or resentment. As it is said:

To free yourself from harm
And others from their sufferings,
Give away yourself for others;
Guard others as you would protect yourself.

The Meditation Upon the Four Immeasurable

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The following is respectfully quoted from “Buddha in the Palm of the Hand” Nam Chö Terma Revelation by Terton Migyur Dorje:

MA NAM KHA DANG NYAM PAI SEM CHEN THAM CHED
May all motherly sentient beings equal to space

DEWA DANG DEWAI GYU DANG DEN PAR GYUR CHIG
Achieve happiness and the causes of happiness

DUG NGAL DANG DUG NGAL GYI GYU DANG DRAL WAR GYUR CHIG
May they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

DUG NGAL MED PAI DEWA DAM PA DANG MI DRAL WAR GYUR CHIG
May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless

NYER RING CHAG DANG DANG TRAL WAI TANG NYOM CHEN POI NGANG LA
And free from the partiality of attachment and aversion. May they live believing in

NEI PAR GYUR CHIG
The equality of all that lives.

Sending and Receiving:

While exhaling from both nostrils, consider that all of one’s merit and the root of all virtue

Is sent forth to all parent sentient beings who equally receive it. Meditate that all sentient beings

Experience immeasurable happiness.

Commentary on the Bodhisattva Vow: HH Penor Rinpoche – Our Kind Parents

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The following is adapted from an oral commentary given by His Holiness in conjunction with a ceremony wherein he bestowed the bodhisattva vow upon a gathering of disciples at Namdroling in Bozeman, Montana, November 1999:

[The second way to adjust one’s intention in order to be in harmony with the special feature of this instruction is through] developing attraction to enlightenment. According to this tradition, what leads one to develop an attraction to enlightenment is the cultivation of love for all beings, which begins by contemplating the suffering of cyclic existence and then cultivating repulsion and weariness [toward that existence].

Think about all living beings that at some time or another, throughout the course of innumerable past lifetimes, have been your own kind father or mother. Consider how a mother will anything for her child–even give her own life, without hesitation. Consider how all living beings have been that kind to you at some time in the past–not just once, but countless times, in countless different circumstances and situations over the course of countless lifetimes since beginningless time. Consider also that to not think carefully about repaying this kindness, and thereby to go through your life without the intention to truly benefit parent sentient beings, and so to actually ignore them, is truly shameless.

Many people in the West may think, “Wait a minute! My parents were not very kind to me. In fact, we are not even close, and I don’t even like them, so why should I feel that I need to repay their kindness now?” If that is what you think, then take a moment to think about how you acquired your body. Is it not due to the kindness of your parents that you have your precious human body? From the time your consciousness entered the union of your father’s seed and your mother’s egg, your mother carried you in her own body. Her body nurtured you as you grew within it. Then with pain and difficulty she gave birth to you. Her kindness did not just stop there: for many years she cared for you and lovingly fed, cleaned, clothed, and wiped you; she provided shelter and cared for you when you were sick, and thus she protected you and looked out for you constantly. If you think you don’t need to repay the kindness of your parents, just remind yourself of those events, which you were the recipient of time and time again.

If that still does not change your attitude, so that you still do not understand the kindness your parents showed you, then think about your body, the gift of your body, which is who you are; your parents gave you that. Because your parents showed you the great kindness of giving you your body, your precious life, here you are. Sure you had the causes for your precious human rebirth, but without parents you wouldn’t have your body. And if you didn’t have your body, you wouldn’t be able to receive these vows.

In our present state of ignorance, we have an inability to recognize that all beings have been our parents in the past, and we certainly don’t know what the particular situations and circumstances of those lifetimes were. Nonetheless, it is certain that we have had countless sentient beings as our parents over and over again in countless past lives. The truth is, at the present time we just do not recognize that.

Imagine you are on the bank of a river with your mother and suddenly she falls in and is being carried away by the rushing water. There you stand on the bank, watching that happen. What would you do? Would you do something to try to save her, such as throw out a rope? Or would your turn your back and walk away rather than risk your own life? Would you be concerned for her, or would your concern be only for yourself? The intention of hearers and solitary realizers can be likened to the later case, while the intention of Mahayana practitioners can be likened to the former. While it is important to develop attraction toward peace, you should never, for any reason, be attracted to the quiescence of the hearers and solitary realizers.

Transforming Appearances Into Dharma

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The following is respectfully quoted from “Drops of Nectar” as translated by Rigzod Editorial Committee of the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute:

Chapter II
Transforming Appearances into the Dharma

Again at this time, having brought forth strong renunciation and disenchantment with my own and other’s perceptions and the activities of this present life, I sing this song of the points of training.

On the great plane of the ground of all experience, which has no beginning and end,
An ignorant person wanders about with the feet of grasping and fixation,
Oppressed by the suffering of boundless samsara.
Mistaken one, to you I now offer this advice!

Without contemplating the suffering of cyclic existence,
Renunciation and disenchantment with it will have no time to develop;
Without contemplating the difficulty of achieving the freedoms and favors,
There will be no time for joy and inspiration in the sacred Dharma to come forth.

If you do not constantly contemplate death,
Heartfelt Dharma practice will never occur.
If you do not regard the benefits of liberation,
There will be no time of achieving unsurpassed enlightenment.

Without contemplating the causes and effects of virtue and evil,
the white and the black,
You’ll have no time to grasp what to adopt and what to abandon, what is Dharma and what is not.
Without casting off the activities of this life,
You’ll have no time to accomplish the sacred Dharma for the life to come.

If heartfelt renunciation is not born within your mind-stream
There will never be time to give up distractions and diversions.
Without toppling, down to its foundation stone, the wall of amicable relationships,
There will be no time for the mind that is too attached to others to end.

Without leaving behind all deluded activities at one go,
Although you’re busy day and night, you’ll never have time to recognize.
If you don’t always keep humbly a low position,
You’ll never have time to tame your unwholesome mindstream.

Please pursue this excellent permanent aim from today!

The first virtue is to develop the mind of renunciation and weariness,
The second virtue is to abandon concerns for this present life,
The third virtue is to maintain the examples of the holy masters.
This is upholding the permanent domain of Dharmakaya, the permanent domain of the Victorious Ones!

From the Vajra Song of Instructions for Rousing Myself (Longchen Rabjam), this completes the second chapter of transforming appearances into the Dharma. 

What is a “Good Death”

dying

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

While there are individual experiences in the bardo of dying, let’s talk about the general ones so that we can prepare. Since we are talking about the six bardos, in general, we want to be very clear on the bardo of the moment of death, and that’s the last subject that we will cover today. It is a very, very important one, because we are all, in our way, preparing for death and we will all definitely experience death.

So, first of all, the bardo of the moment of death. We have talked about the point preceding death. Preceding death there is a period of time during which—and a person may or may not know—one has met with the conditions that will bring about the death. Now for those people who have a disease, a heart disease, or AIDS, or some disease that is degenerative or progressive in some way, the moment that the disease occurred to them was the moment that they entered into another bardo. Although it is still contained within the bardo of living, it is the bardo that preceeds death. What we’re talking about now is the actual bardo of the moment of death. That is when death is marked; it can be seen from the outside, and it actually occurs.

Before I begin I want to make something very clear. We have funny ideas about death. We have some terrible ideas about death. First of all, we’re scared to death of death. That’s the truth. I really didn’t mean to make a pun, it sort of happened that way. But we are scared of death, we are terrified of death, and it’s because we are unprepared. That’s the only reason to be afraid of death. And preparation, as it happens, will dispel the fears of death. I even think that during this week some of your fears of death may be dispelled, because you will be better prepared. But, in truth, until that time, we are terrified of death, and that is the main feeling we have about it. We do not understand death.  We think that death is a horrible, sort of killing thing that we have to go through, and that the best way to go through it is unconscious. That’s the kind of idea we have. People often will actually pray, “Let me die in my sleep. Let me die unknowing that I’m going through the death experience.” And there are other people that say, “Let me die quickly.” Well, for my money, I would like to be one of the fortunate ones who know for some period of time before their death that they have caught the cause of their death or that they have the cause of their death. For my money, that’s what I wish would happen to me if I were an ordinary sentient being. If I were in that position where I was caught in samsara—and we all feel that way, we all are—I would wish to have preparation time. I would wish to know beforehand.

Those of us who are aging gradually and staying clear and in good health through the aging process, we are fortunate, because our minds are clear; and yet we can clearly see in the mirror that we are approaching this time. Clearly we are not the same person we were ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago. Clearly that is true.  We have pictures to prove it. These people are fortunate. We are fortunate. Because seeing the evidence of death approaching, we have time to prepare. Yes, we have to experience the discomfort of knowing that death is approaching, but it’s like going into the room, turning on the light, and seeing exactly where the stuff is so you can get around it. Remember we used that analogy early today, of walking through a room with all kinds of furniture. You want to do it when the light is on; you want to know how not to stumble. So this is what we are experiencing if we can prepare for our death.

Particularly, think about the tremendous suffering of diseases like AIDS. We talk about the tremendous suffering of something like that; and the biggest and most horrible part of it is that we die younger than we would have died if we did not have the disease. And that’s how we think about it. And yet, a disease like that gives us an opportunity. In a way, it is half of a blessing. In a way, it is the quintessential suffering of cyclic existence, couldn’t be worse. It is, in a nutshell, what cyclic existence actually is when you take away the barbiturate effect that it has on us. Yet, in another way, it is a way to understand —you understand clearly as never before—that death is imminent. There is a way to understand that you could not have had any other way, and it gives us extraordinary time. It gives us an extraordinary clarity of time to be able to practice because we’re motivated. It’s just that clear. We are motivated. We know we have a date to keep. Those of us who don’t know what that date is, we’re a little more vague about this.  We don’t want to be bothered, frankly, and so we are at a disadvantage.

Less lucky is the stuff that most people pray for: a quick death. Instantaneous. “Hit me with a truck.” That kind of thing. That’s how people think, “Get it over with. Get me out of here.” And it’s because they don’t understand what death is. They do not understand that once the eyes are closed and the breath has stopped, it sounds like a pun, but basically life goes on in one form or another. One continues to continue. That is the nature of what we are. And so there is no true cessation other than the cessation of breath. To die a quick death may save a little bit of discomfort for the unprepared, but it gives us no time for preparation. Even the dissolution of the elements occurs in an untimely and hurried way so that we cannot cope with them well. So do not pray for an instant death.

Neither should you pray to die in your sleep, because it is too confusing. You are already in the sleeping bardo. The sleeping bardo has a heavier level of delusion in a way than the waking bardo, because you literally are not slowed down by the time it takes physicality to process itself. For instance, if I want to walk from here to that door it’s going to take me a certain amount of time and effort because of the physicality of the situation; but in the dream, I’m there, I’m out, I’m gone. I can go anywhere. So in a way there is even more delusion there. You do not want to die in the middle of the dream state unless your practice is so good that you would recognize the bardo even in the dream state; and that can only be hoped for if you are the kind of person who has complete control and direction over your dreams. Always. And that ain’t you. So instead, pray for a time of knowing and a time of preparation. Pray for the leisure to prepare for your death. That is the appropriate and best prayer.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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