Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind

wheel of life 2

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

I prostrate to the glorious Samantabhadra

This precious human birth is extremely difficult to obtain.

All things born are impermanent and must die

If one perseveres in virtuous Dharma, this is the cause for becoming Buddha.

Whatever negativity is produced will cause one to wander in the six realms.

Hungry spirits suffer from hunger and thirst, animals from stupidity,

Hell beings from heat and cold, humans from birth, old age, sickness and death,

Jealous gods from warfare, and even gods (Devas) also have their own suffering.

Peerless Guru: His Holiness Penor Rinpoche


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


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

May all motherly sentient beings equal to space

Achieve happiness and the causes of happiness

May they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless

And free from the partiality of attachment and aversion. May they live believing in

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

mother and child

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


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”


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


Hell realm

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

According to the Buddha’s teaching, there are six realms of cyclic existence, and I will begin with what is called the lowest of the realms.  Now generally, when Westerners hear about the different realms, oh, we love the high realms.  Those are our favorites.  But the lower realms scare us a bit.  Westerners don’t want to hear about the lower realms, because they are associated with something archaic that their mothers told them, or that their old preachers told them sometime in the past.  Every world religion has a story about a result that will occur if one engages in a lifelong non-virtue, or even in temporary periods of non-virtue, every single world religion that has the kind of strength to have lasted through fads and trends and teachers that say they have it, and then they drop dead just like everybody else and there is no good result.  Every world religion has a teaching about this result from non-virtuous behavior so for those of you that are uncomfortable about this, I’m sorry.  Here’s what you need to do.  Get out of it.  Get out of cyclic existence.  That’s the point.  That’s why we’re having this teaching.  If you don’t like the idea of the result of your non-virtue, don’t commit it.  If you don’t like the idea of sinking to a lower realm or experiencing any of those lower realms, create the causes for not sinking to a lower realm.  First let’s learn about the realms.

Again, we’re walking through a room with the lights turned on.  You want the lights on so that you can get around it.  The difference with the Buddha’s teaching is that we are taught a method to avoid this [experiencing a lower realm].  We are taught a method to purify the causes.  There is method.  There is long-term method that is geared for a certain result, like the ability to turn the light on.

Of the six realms, the realm that we will speak of first is the rebirth in the hell realm.  There are many sentient beings that are now, even as we speak, revolving helplessly in the hell realms.  I guess the Christian idea of hell is a place under the earth where things are burning.  That is not the idea that we have here.  The hell realms are varied.  They are varied in their condition.  There are, in fact, extremely hot hell realms and there are Dharma texts in our bookstore [that tell about them]. I don’t feel the need to go into that at any great length at this time because that isn’t technically what we are about at this time; I’m going into this in a condensed form, but there are the hot hell realms, and the hot hell realms are all results that are associated with the cause of hatred, extreme hatred, the kind of virulent hatred and attitudinal hatred that many people allow to remain in their mind.

A perfect example of that kind of hatred would be the Ku Klux Klan kind of mentality you see, or the Hitler kind of mentality, the kind of mentality in which hatred simply pours out of the pores.  There is such a strong habitual tendency of hatred that simply is unconditional negative hatred instead of unconditional positive regard.  It is habitual.  It is constant.  It is simply an outpouring of hatred.  This is associated with the cause of truly torturing and hurting others. There have been many throughout time who have tortured and mutilated the bodies and lives of others in a horrible way that we, living  middle America lives, really can’t imagine except through what we’ve read.  There are, of course, other certain heinous sins that also result in the rebirth in the most difficult of the hells. Those heinous things are the murdering or killing of one’s mother and father, the murdering or killing or harming of one’s Guru, the murdering or killing or harming or drawing blood of a Bodhisattva.  That is not to say that if you were taking a blood sample for the health of the Bodhisattva, … Well, people would not exactly be standing in line for that job would they!  No, but that would not be intentional harm, like really harming a Bodhisattva, someone who could bring enlightenment to others. Harming or taking that one out of the world is considered to be a heinous crime because it actually literally changes the future of the world.  It changes the world in a negative way.  It prevents the world from moving forward in its evolution, in its continuum.

For extraordinary non-virtue, for those really extraordinary sins, there are the hell realms consisting of the extremely hot hell realms and the extremely cold hell realms. Characteristic of both the hot and cold hell realms is that there is no respite from the suffering.  There is no respite from the suffering.  Literally, when one takes rebirth in the cold realms, one will be reborn in inconceivable cold with no protective clothing.  What will happen to oneself will be the experience of what we think would happen to ourselves if we were to be suddenly now naked in an extremely cold realm.  That is to say, the skin would freeze, crack open.  Things would happen strangely to our bodies and you would think that that would be the end of it.  But in these very cold hell realms, until the non-virtuous karma is exhausted, one continues to reappear even after death from cold has occurred, and that is the same with the hot realms.  Continuously apparent, there is no respite.

There are other forms.  There are the individual hells; and I can tell you for a fact that I know, through my own perception, that this is true.  I have seen this sort of thing and this is the kind of thing that people mistake as being ghosts.  Often you go to a house and at a certain time of night you will hear footsteps or you’ll hear a door creaking or you’ll hear chains rattling, whatever it is that people hear, that sort of thing.  Probably what has happened there, although not exclusively, but probably what has happened there is that there is a sentient being stuck in an individual hell realm.  This is the hell realm that is individual to the person’s experience, whatever their expected experience is. It’s according to the content of the mindstream, their consciousness, their habitual tendency.  Write that word down somewhere in your notes, or remember it—habitual tendency. That will come up again and again during the course of your practice as a Buddhist. Due to the force of their habitual tendency, they will remain and this kind of hell realm is the result of again, extreme non-virtue, but it is also a non-virtue that is mixed with ignorance and a determination to remain ignorant.

Think about that, because you have done this.  Think about this now.  The determination to remain ignorant is the one where you make a decision to go away from pursuing wisdom and pursuing your method, your path.  And you just go, “It’s too hard.  I don’t like this.  It’s not easy for me, I don’t want it.  Hard.  And I’m just a little kid and I have to play some more.”  When you do that, you are actually turning your mind away from Dharma and you are committing a very strong non-virtue. The other one is, “I don’t have to learn that.  I know enough to get by.  I’ll just read…, Who was that one that wrote about death and dying?  A non-Buddhist.  They wrote that you see a tunnel and you see a white light.  Do you remember who that is?  I’ll just read Ross’ book and I’ll be fine.  Maybe I’ll read it, if I have time, but I really like to read other books better.”  And this kind of thing.  You have this kind of idea.

Sometimes, I’ll see a person in class with ‘attitude’ written all over their heads, and have no idea why they’re here.  Why did they come?  I don’t know, but they have attitude written all over their head; and the attitude is actually like putting yourself in chains because you are absolutely setting up that you are not going to have a positive rebirth, that you can sit in the presence of what could possibly be your own root guru, or at least a guru, a teacher, and just simply turn your mind away.  Literally, what you would be doing there is to make your mind like a bowl filled with poison so that the milk that pours in there is tainted, and then you are responsible for tainting the milk within your own mind.  So that kind of thing is the kind of thing that leads to rebirth in the individual hells.  That kind of ignorance.  That is an ignorant move to make.  It is born of ignorance.

The individual hells are very strange, very unusual.  I can describe a couple that I know of personally.  One good example would be of an individual who perceives themselves to be stuck in the opening and closing of the door. Of course this is all relative and it is all a deluded perception.    This is the kind of person that perhaps would remain stagnant within the course of their lives, locked themselves in, did not grow, wouldn’t grow, would not challenge themselves to go the extra mile and be kind towards others, remained extremely self-absorbed.  They literally shut their eyes during the course of life.  Again, that sounds pretty mild in terms of a sin.  You could commit worse sins, but we are talking about sins against one’s own nature and those are important.  Those are very important.   So this person would be stuck in the opening and closing of the door and would experience the door being closed on them and would experience the door being opened again. They would experience it as though their bodies were literally stuck in that, again and again.

I have also seen sentient beings that are literally stuck walking up and down a hall.  That’s it, walking up and down a hall.  They are stuck calling, calling, calling for someone.  Literally they go through bardo—and this will make sense for those of you that have taken the teachings. They will go through the bardo state: They will go through the experience of the white Bodhicitta, the experience of the red Bodhicitta.  They will go through the experience of the appearance of the Dharmadhatu that is experienced as blackness.  They will go through the re-awakening of the perception of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.  They will go through the reawakening of the perception of the wrathful deities. Then they will enter into the bardo of becoming, and in the bardo of becoming they will immediately experience rebirth. It will be very disconcerting because suddenly they will be walking up and down a hall, trying to reach the others that they were so attached to.  Those of you that have very strong attachments on a human level, try to imagine what this would feel like.  They will continually try to reach out for the others and they will sort of see them, but sort of not see them because they are not really there.  Try to imagine seeking the safety of a loved one, and it changes all the time.  You don’t understand.  That’s the kind of experience of someone in an individual bardo. They experience walking up and down the hall, literally, almost seeing safety and then feeling all of the feelings that would go with doing that endlessly.  So that is the kind of experience that one might experience if one were to engage in a non-virtuous life and not practice Dharma. And it happens.

Now what we’re talking about today, once again, is the antidote.  The purpose of talking about the disease is so that we can explore the antidote.  The antidote should not be taken without an understanding of the disease.  These kinds of life forms will also be registered.  From our point of view they will seem like repetitive ghosts doing the same kinds of things again and again and again.

There are many different kinds of hell.  There are hells of entrapment.  There are hells of destruction in which one is literally cut up and then reassembled and all kinds of things, and they go according to the level of non-virtue that one has committed.  Compared to the amount of sentient beings that are now physical as humans, the amount of sentient beings locked in those hells is inconceivably more.  We cannot understand how many more beings are locked there than are now approaching awakening on the physical human level listening to Dharma.  We cannot imagine how many of those there are.

Sometimes as one finishes the karma that has brought them to a lower hell realm, they will then go on to a higher hell realm which is less uncomfortable.  What we are talking about is a playing out the grosser and heavier non-virtue and then cleaning up the more subtle and more lightweight non-virtue.  One may graduate from one experience in the hells to another.

You may think, “Well this is inconceivable to me.  I can’t understand that.  Being stuck in a doorjamb? No way.  Hell no!  Frozen?  No.  Hell no!  Frozen, burned up?  Come on, that stuff doesn’t sound realistic to me.  I can’t believe in that.”  Well, let me ask you if you’ve ever had a nightmare?  Who has had a nightmare?  Will you raise your hand if you have ever in your life had a nightmare.  Just pretty much everybody.  That means that your mind has the capacity to manufacture a hell.  So for you to say that there is no such thing and you will never end up there, after you’ve had a nightmare, it goes to show that you’re not thinking. Because if you can manufacture a nightmare, that is not different from manufacturing a hell realm.  It is the same thing.  The seed, the content, the potential is within the mindstream and it is due to non-virtue.  That’s what it is.

So you know that that’s possible.  You have been there in a very small way.  When you have a nightmare you literally are, in a subtle way, reborn from the bardo of dreaming into this bardo of experience, which is also part of the bardo of dreaming. You are kind of reborn from one subtle element, one subtle level, to another.  And this is the very same thing that happens in a much grosser and denser level for that person who is unprepared for death, which fortunately is not going to be you.  Right?  Good.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


The Point: Pith Teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo


The following is from a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

“Calling the Tsewei Lama from afar” does not mean asking for gifts and wishes fulfilled. It’s about devotion and faith. I mostly get requests for favors. Of course I will try to fulfill anyone’s wish. But Buddhists should also practice and learn so they can help themselves. That’s the point, as there may not always be a Lama to call on.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Bodhichitta: From “Enlightened Courage” Commentary by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Dilgo Khyentse

The following is respectfully quoted from “Enlightened Courage” a commentary by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

Bodhichitta is the unfailing method for attaining enlightenment. It has two aspects, relative and absolute. Relative bodhichitta is practiced using ordinary mental processes and is comparatively easy to develop. Nevertheless, the benefits that flow from it are immeasurable, for a mind in which the precious Bodhichitta has been born will never again fall into the lower realms of samsara. Finally, all the qualities of the Mahayana path, as teeming and vast as the ocean, are distilled and essentialized in Bodhichitta, the mind of enlightenment.

We must prepare ourselves for this practice by following the instructions in the sadhana of Chenrezig, “Take refuge in the Three Jewels and meditate on Bodhichitta. Consider that all your virtuous acts of body, speech, and mind are for the whole multitude of beings, numerous as the sky is vast.”

It is said in the teachings that “since beings are countless, the benefit of wishing them well is unlimited.” And how many beings there are! Just imagine, in one small garden there might be millions and millions of them! If we wish to establish them all in the enlightened state of Buddhahood, it is said that the benefit of such an aspiration is as vast as the number of begins is great. Therefore we should not restrict our Bodhichitta to a limited number of beings. Wherever there is space, beings exist, and all of them live in suffering. Why make distinctions between them, welcoming some as loving friends and excluding others as hostile enemies?

Throughout the stream of our lives, from time without beginning until the present, we have all been wandering in samsara, accumulating evil. When we die, where else is there for us to go but to the lower realms? But if the wish and thought occur to us that we must bring all beings to enlightened state of Buddhahood, we have generated what is known as Bodhichitta in intention. We should then pray to the teacher and the yidam deities that the practice of the precious Bodhichitta might take root in our hearts. We should recite the seven-branch prayer from the Prayer of Perfect Action, and, sitting upright, count our breaths twenty-one times without getting mixed up or missing any, and without being distracted by anything. If we are able to count our breaths concentratedly for a whole mall, discursive thoughts will diminish and the practice of relative Bodhichitta will be much easier. This is how to become a suitable vessel for meditation.


Consider all phenomena as a dream.

If we have enemies, we tend to think of them as permanently hostile. Perhaps we have the feeling that they have been the enemies of our ancestors in the past, that they are against us now, and that they will hate our children in the future. Maybe this is what we think, but the reality is actually quite different. In fact, we do not know where or what we were in our previous existences, and so there is no certainty that the aggressive people we now have to contend with were not our parents in former lives! When we die, we have no idea where we will be reborn, and so there is no knowing that these enemies of ours might not become our mothers or fathers. At present, we might have every confidence in our parents, who are so dear to us, but when they go from this life , who is to say they will not be reborn among our enemies? Because our past and future lives are unknown to us, we have the impression that the enemies we have now are fixed in their hostility, or that our present friends will always be friendly. This only goes to show that we have never given any real thought to this question.

If we consider carefully, we might picture a situation where many people are at work on some elaborate project. At one moment, they are all friends together, feeling close, trusting and doing each other good turns. But then something happens and they become enemies, perhaps hurting or killing one  other. Such things do happen, and changes like this can occur several times in the course of a single lifetime–for no other reason than that all composite things or situations are impermanent.

This precious human body, supreme instrument though it is for the attainment of enlightenment, is itself a transient phenomenon. No one knows when, or how, death will come. Bubbles form on the surface of the water, but the next instant they are gone; they do not stay. It is just the same with this precious human body we have managed to find. We take all the time in the world before engaging in practice, but who knows when this life of ours will simply cease to be? And once our precious human body is lost, our midstream, continuing its existence, will take birth perhaps among the animals, or in one of the hells or god realms where spiritual development is impossible. Even if life in a heavenly state, where all is ease and comfort, is a situation unsuitable for practice, on account of the constant dissipation and distraction that are a feature of the god’s existence.

At present, the outer universe–earth, stones, mountains, rocks, and cliffs–seem to be the perception of our senses to be permanent and stable, like the house build of reinforced concrete that we think will last for generations. In fact, there is nothing solid to it at all; it is nothing but a city of dreams.

In the past, when the Buddha was alive surrounded by multitudes of Arhats and when the teachings prospered, what buildings must their benefactors have built for them! It was all impermanent; there is nothing left to see now but an empty plain. In the same way, at the universities of Vikramashila and Nalanda, thousands of pandits spent there time instructing enormous monastic assemblies. All impermanent! Now, not even a single monk or volume of Buddha’s teachings are to be found there.

Take another example from the more recent past. Before the arrival of the Chinese Communists, how many monasteries were there in what use to be called Tibet, the Land of Snow? How many temples and monasteries were there, like those in Lhasa, at Samye and Trandruk? How many precious objects were there, representatives of the Buddha’s Body, Speech, and Mind? Now not even a statue remains. All that is left of Samye is something hardly bigger than a stupa. Everything was either looted, broken, or scattered, and all the great images were destroyed. These things have happened, and this demonstrates impermanence.

Think of all the lamas who came and lived in India, such as Gyalwa Karmapa, Lama Kalu Rinpoche, and Dudjom Rinpoche; think of all the teachings they gave and how they contributed to the preservation of the Buddha’s doctrine. All of them have passed away. We can no longer see them, and they remain only as objects of prayer and devotion. All this is because of impermanence. In the same way, we should try to think of our fathers, mothers, children and friends. When the Tibetans escaped to India, the physical conditions were too much for many of them and they died. Among my acquaintances alone, there were three or four deaths every day. That is impermanence. There is not one thing in existence that is stable and lasts.

If we have an understanding of impermanence, we will be able to practice the sacred teachings. But if we continue to think that everything will remain as it is, then we will be just like rich people still discussing their business projects on their deathbeds! Such people never talk about the next life, do they? It goes to show that an appreciation of the certainty of death has never touched their hearts. That is their mistake, their delusion.

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