Problems?

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

When we see the guru, we don’t look at the guru and say, Well, I like him or her, or, I don’t like him or her. We don’t think like that. That’s not a good reason to take a teacher; and it’s not a good reason to reject a teacher. We accept a teacher based on the clarity that they can show us, and whether they themselves have crossed the ocean of suffering. And so our view of the teacher is based on that.

Now, we find ourselves in a position where we are confused. We really don’t get the big picture. We really are experiencing everything that we experience due to a false assumption and false reaction and false set of conceptualizations that are built on all those erroneous views. How can we untangle this spaghetti kind of phenomena? Well, if we tried to pick out the pieces one by one, we would still be doing it from the point of view of the assumption of self-nature, so it’s never going to be clear. We really must rely on the perception of that one who has crossed the ocean of suffering. We really have to rely on the guidance of our teachers and the teaching of the Buddha. We really must rely on that.

The most important step that any student can make—and any good student will really have to make this at some point—is arriving at the conclusion, or coming to the understanding that you really just don’t know. That you really just don’t have a clue. Many students, when they first come to temple, and when they first begin on the spiritual path, feel a kind of arrogance, a kind of pridefulness. We talked about that the last time that we were together. They really assume that they know something, you know? ‘Well, I’ve had several different teachers and I’ve been on the spiritual path for some time now; and yes, I have a great affinity for spiritual things. And in fact, I myself have taught a few people, in my humble way.’ You know, and they sort of think like that. They come to the temple, and then they think, ‘Yes, well I’ve tried everything so now I think I’ll try some Tibetan Buddhism because you know, it’s like really exotic. Having been everywhere, I guess I’ll try Tibet.’  And so that’s what they think, really, when they come to the path. And really even some of the oldie, goldies over here were like that. Oh, oh, let me tell you. It was pew city for a long time. I actually had many of them come to me and tell me how wonderful they were and how helpful they had been in other people’s spiritual awakening. And all they needed from me was a reading. You don’t think that’s weird? Then you have some work to do. So, anyway, they experienced that, and you may actually be experiencing that. And you may feel just a little itchy under the collar when I talk about this, or a little uncomfortable.

At any rate, there will come a point in any proper student’s life when they might enter in that way. Then, at some point, they simply realize that they don’t know anything. They just haven’t got a clue in the world. And at that point, they finally have entered onto the path, because you cannot enter onto the path any other way. And every religion has a way of telling you that. I’m thinking about Christianity—that you have to enter Jerusalem through the eye of the needle. There is actually a place in Jerusalem, as I understand it, or was—I don’t know if it’s actually still there—where there is a tunnel or rock formation which is quite low, and it’s called the eye of the needle. Camels going into Jerusalem that way actually have to get down on their knees to enter into it. So that analogy is made: That you have to enter by getting down on your knees. You actually have to get off of the arrogance and the spiritual superiority that you have.

This may come as a shock to you; but, in fact, you are not getting messages from Jesus, or Buddha, from the Pleiades star system, or anybody else, as you thought you were every night at 7:00. You actually are not getting the inner directives that you thought you were. You’re just confused! And I’m really sorry about that. I really hate to break this to you, but you’re having a lot of problems. When you get to the point on the path that you can actually realize that, you’re somewhere and you’re in good shape. Until you realize that, believe me—and you’re not going to like my saying this and you might not come back—but you’re nowhere and you’re not in good shape.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

 

 

Finding Safety

1aafather-and-son

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing the Hook of Compassion”

I’m reminded again and again of that wonderful story that we hear in our tradition of the father who had many children in a house, children that he loved very dearly. The father came home to his house and he saw these children were playing in the house, but that the house was on fire. And so he called out to his children. He said, “Come out! Come out quickly! The house is on fire!”  He couldn’t really get in to help them, so he’s calling, “Come, come. Please come! Come out quickly! “ And the children were playing. They were happy playing. You know how children are. You know how children are. They were happy playing; and they were busy, being very important in their house. Very, very important in their house. So they were busy in the house playing important games. Aren’t we all playing important games? They’re very important games. So we’re playing important games in our house. And those children are in there; and they’re playing, and they’re intent. They’re concentrating. Aren’t we concentrating on our lives? We’re so concentrated. We concentrate so hard! And so the children are playing. And no matter how hard the father calls, and how loud, the children cannot come out. They cannot hear. They can’t get themselves together. Have you ever seen children, how they do that? They just can’t pull themselves away. Have you ever noticed how children do that?  Big children too! So anyway, that’s happening and happening. And suddenly the father thinks, ‘How can I?’ he’s crying. ‘How can I get my students [sic] out?’

So he sounds the sound that the children need to hear. He said, “I have chariots for you. I have umbrellas for you. I have big elephants to pull you. I have toys for you to play with. I have everything you need out here. Come! Come!”  And seductively, the teacher calls the student. The father calls his children. (Freud, your slip is showing!) The father calls the children. So the father’s calling the children. And suddenly the children go, “Toys? Toys? Umbrellas? Elephants? Chariots? Yeah! That’s what I want!”  And then they come out, and the father says, “Really, I don’t have anything for you. It’s just that the house was on fire, and I had to get you out. But I have for you something precious. I have for you your freedom. Now you’re free and you can live. And you weren’t consumed. You weren’t consumed and helpless by yourselves.”

So the story’s kind of like that. I’m paraphrasing it, but it’s kind of like that. And it really is the story of the teacher and the student, isn’t it? It really is the story of the teacher and the student. All that is done is that the student is being called. Everything else that happens happens in your mind. All you are truly seeing when you meet your root guru is the compassionate extension of the Buddha’s miraculous activity. The rest is up to you.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Outside the Reaction

mara

Remember, when you are angry at your teacher, which really is useless to be, when you are resentful, when you are anxious, when you are going through all the gamut of human experience, which you do, when you do everything from wanting to belt your teacher right in the snoot to falling desperately in love with your teacher… When any of those things happen, remember that this is a reflection of your mind. This is your nature. This is your habitual tendency rather; and as you go deeper into your practice with your teacher, you will eventually also see your nature. In the way that you saw your habitual tendency, you will also see your nature.

Stand outside of that reaction. It is only that. It has no real importance. It’s not a big deal. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t blame yourself; don’t make yourself right. It’s neither one. It’s just a reaction. They come and they go. No big deal. Just walk through the door of liberation. That is all your teacher wishes you to do. That is all the guru really wishes you to do, just walk. That’s all. Just move forward.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

How Will You Respond?

Sound_Wave_by_vladstudio

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing the Hook of Compassion”

Sometimes we sort of wimp out. We want to be right. We want to have an issue. We want to be safe, without changing. We don’t want to change. So difficult to do. And meanwhile, all the teacher is really doing is calling the student from afar, sounding that note that is so like the student’s mind that it begins to bring forth this response that is in the student’s mind. And what they see is their own face, layer upon layer of their own face. Ultimately, if they practice devotion, they will see their true face, which is their nature. Now they’re only seeing the dust that is covering it. Now they’re only seeing the stuff that is on top of it. But all the teacher really does is sound the sound of their nature.

And something begins to happen. That sound is some kind of thing that you can’t even hear with your own ears, you know? You can’t even hear it. But it’s so powerful it can change the life of a student like that. Like instantly!  And it can sustain that change. And it’s also so powerful that it can change an entire area. It can change a community. It can change the world. But it’s so subtle that you probably couldn’t even hear it with your own ears.

What is that? It is the greatest and the most gossamer force that there is, and that is the force of compassion— the bodhicitta. In practice the bodhicitta is compassion; it is kindness as we understand it. But its ultimate nature is the ultimate truth. It is the ultimate Buddha nature. And that is the sound that is being sounded, vibrationally cloaked to suit the students for whom the teacher has appeared. And it is for those students that the teacher has returned, that the teacher has appeared.

So it is like you. It is like you, and you should be strong. You should take responsibility for what comes up in your mind. You should know that this is your time, and you should respond through practice. Not through agreeing with yourself and saying that it’s okay to do this. It’s okay to have this hatred; it’s okay to be angry; it’s okay to be vengeful; it’s okay to be resentful; it’s okay to grieve; it’s okay to whatever. Why is that okay when you could be moving closer to your greatest hope?

So each student must have strength and understand what is happening to them.  Do you, you who are responding, do you know what is happening to you? Do you really understand it? Do you really see its importance? And when the stuff comes up that comes up, and I know it comes up—the discursive thought, you know, the anger, the disagreement, the ‘well, I don’t know if I agree with that,’ you know, all these different kinds of thoughts—when that comes up in your mind, do you have the courage to get ahold of yourself? To take ahold of yourself and understand what is happening to you? That you are, in fact, seeing your own face. This is your resentment. This is your anger. This is your sadness. This is your needing to be independent. These are reflections; these are images of your mind. And in truth, so long as they keep you from pure practice and perfect surrender, from truly seeing with the help of your teacher, your own primordial face, these in fact are only obstacles to your practice that are coming up, and these are the form that they are coming up in.

So you can begin by giving thanks that they come up in such an easy-to-deal-with way. I mean you could have met your teacher and then got run over by a truck!  That could have happened. That could have been a big obstacle. Well that was nice!  But it didn’t happen, you’re still here!  And you can right now begin to develop the courage to move forward without any hesitation.

Students respond with hope and fear. And sometimes, there is a lot of fear, isn’t there? Hope and fear, with anger, with restraint, with judgment, with discursive thought. They respond that way because it is their nature to do so. That is the nature of samsara, that is the nature of cyclic existence, and that is the nature of all sentient things. We have developed this habitual tendency of response in that way. Why should we suddenly change? Of course we’re still responding that way. We always do. Always.

The important difference is that suddenly now we have a choice. We can begin. We can respond through mindfulness. We can respond through practice. We can respond by recognizing, through courage, that this is our response due to our habitual nature. We can stand outside of this whole deeply reactive scenario, and instead of reacting with the hatred, instead of reacting with grief, instead of reacting at all, we can know, we can understand: This is my mind. That is my teacher. The only thing to do is to walk forward and to continue, to walk through the door. So simple. And yet, due to our strong reactions, so difficult.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

The “Feeling”

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing the Hook of Compassion”

That hook doesn’t happen because the teacher is manipulative. The hook happens because you have seen your face; and the karma in your mind is such that you have responded in a way that you never could have predicted. The student might be very conventional, not ever been religious before in their life. The student might be very unconventional, and never thought that they would deal with a conventional religion, like Buddhism. And they might be really ticked off about it. They just didn’t want any of these things to happen. And suddenly… Hooked! And the student can sometimes respond with anger, literally. Sometimes the student can feel that they’re too young to die. How did this happen? Suddenly I’m surrendering, and I didn’t want to surrender. I wanted to have more fun; I wanted to rock and roll. I wanted to continue to be a free agent, you know. I wanted to be footloose and fancy free. Let me go where I want to go, and do what I want to do. Don’t chain me down. Oh yeah. And they’re singing all these songs.

Suddenly they’ve got lead feet. They can’t move, and they just can’t go. They’re incapable of movement. What are they going to do?  And they grieve. They start to grieve. They grieve like someone died. And sometimes the students have to go through a period of time where they must be permitted to grieve. You can’t rush them. They have to grieve. Something died. Yes, something died. The part of their life where they were not hooked just died. And they can hear that velcro, you know. It can be a really uncomfortable position to be in. And sometimes they feel all kinds of different responses that are just unbelievable. I mean it’s just unbelievable to watch some of the responses the students have when they first meet their root guru and feel that feeling, that response. It’s just amazing. Sometimes the student will wonder what kind of demon they have turned into. ‘I used to think I was a good spiritual person and suddenly I’m acting like a complete turkey.’  And it often happens because the student has simply met their guru and they are responding to this feeling that they have never known before in their lives in a very human way.

But the teacher continues in what seems to the student like a relentless way, to send out this call, this call, this call. You can’t resist something that is like your mind. And the teacher is set up, due to their compassionate intention, karmically set up, really without any choice, to sound like and to respond to the student’s mind. The teacher will be like them vibrationally; sometimes like them situationally. Sometimes the student can look at the teacher and see themselves quite clearly. Sometimes they can simply hear the words, and it’s so much like the way they are. So funny. So strange. And  really all you’re seeing when you see that is you’re seeing compassion. That’s all that is to be understood. You should never think that you’re understanding the teacher by determining how much the teacher is like you. All you’re understanding is yourself.

The teacher is only acting from the point of view of compassion. That is if it’s a qualified and realized teacher. If it is someone who, you know, is considered to be a bodhisattva or an incarnation, a tulku, then what you’re seeing really is the display of compassion and what you’re seeing is your own face. If anger comes up, that’s your face too. That’s what you’re seeing. If resentment comes up, that’s what you’re seeing too. Sometimes resentment comes up, and that’s the hardest one, because the student will think they’re kind of spiritual, you know. They almost think of themselves as kind of a little guru, you know. Like a junior guru. You know, ‘I have some answers, and I’ve got some methods, and yes, I have some worldly wisdom here, and I’m sort of slick in my own way. And I’m king or queen of my little mountain.’ Of course my mountain is very, very small. But suddenly I move into a bigger place, and there’s another king or queen. And there’s a guru that is, you have to face it, far superior. And so you look at that and you feel kind of resentful, because you’ve been dethroned!  That’s painful!  That can be really painful, and first what might come up is a kind of resentment. A resentment also that the different kind of situations that you’ve engaged in during your life were not the holy, high, far-flung things that you thought they were. And it took this superior teacher to show you that. And there might be some resentment there.

But all that is happening… Can you really understand this? Can you really hear this? All that is happening is that there is a sound that is being sounded that on some level you are capable of hearing due to the karma of your mind. What is happening is happening because of you. Not because of anyone else. This is your mind. This is your karma. This is your face that you are seeing. Your response is your own response.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Hook

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing the Hook of Compassion”

The teacher actually appears in the world, and hopefully the teacher is a bodhisattva. Because if the teacher is not a bodhisattva, you might as well throw that one out the window. You have made another mistake. You don’t want to go to school and learn from Betty Crocker, or something like that. You really want to know that you are getting teaching from someone who’s equipped to give you the method, to give you the Path. So if the teacher’s a bodhisattva, if the teacher is an incarnation who has achieved some realization, and therefore has returned solely to benefit beings, there is some design. Different tulkus will appear in different ways, but there is some design in the tulku’s method. The tulku will have a sense of purpose from a very young age, a sense of purpose, and it will be the cornerstone of that tulku’s life. Everything will be built around that. It’s almost like everything that arises, all of the circumstances that arise in the bodhisattva’s life, in the tulku’s life, will arise from that intention. Everything is centered on that intention; that intention is the center. It’s like if you’re building a house, and there’s one post that holds up the whole house somewhere in the middle. Although I don’t think houses are really built like that, and I’m sure the carpenters are getting angry at me just for saying that. But anyway, the cornerstone, if you will, of the structure is the tulku’s, the bodhisattva’s, pure intention-—the intention to be of some benefit. So the things that hold it up, that’s what they are—that compassion, that loving kindness.

As the tulku moves toward their time, and that happens differently with each one, there is a sense of calling. The tulku will call the students. Now sometimes, I can say to you from what I’ve heard and what I know, it isn’t really like the teacher will know the name of a certain student and just be necessarily finding that student. You know going to that student’s house and knocking on the door and saying, ‘Hey, guess what?  I’m your teacher.’  Terrible things would probably happen if teachers did things that way, and it just isn’t the way that it’s done. It’s not what really happens.

What begins to happen is that there is a quality of intention, of loving kindness, of compassion that begins to ripen in the teacher’s mind. And it’s like it sets up a vibrational quality almost like a sound, almost like a sound. A song, maybe. A sound, a note that begins to sound in a certain way. It’s not accidental that certain students appear at that time, simply because the karma of the situation is such that the teacher who appears in the world has a certain relationship with certain students; and that’s already established because the karma’s already such. The karma is already established. That karma will begin to actualize itself in that the teacher will set up a quality, a vibrational field or a sound, or something that will be appropriate, that will reach out and touch certain particular students, and their minds will respond to it. Their minds will respond to it and they will be called. Students will appear from literally nowhere.

I don’t consider myself a great teacher in any regard. I consider myself the humblest of the humble. Believe me, I do consider myself thus. But I do know my own small experience has been just that. I never, until Penor Rinpoche recognized me, I never represented myself in any way. I never hung out a shingle and said this or that is what I am, or who I am.  Never did that happen. But students came when I became ready. And I know that this happens with other teachers. There is a vibration that goes out, a sound that goes out that’s like a hook. It’s a hook, you know, just like velcro.  One piece of velcro doesn’t attach itself to a smooth surface. If the student doesn’t have the responding piece in them, it won’t connect, you see.  It will just smooth right over. You see what I’m saying?  It’ll just slick right over. But if the student has that other piece, they’ll be tight. You can’t separate them. To separate them literally sounds like velcro. It sounds like your heart is being torn out. There’s something there that is so fantastic that cannot be explained in ordinary terms.

So this amazing fantastic thing happens. And from the lama’s point of view, there is simply the display of that intention. That’s all that happens. And the student from literally nowhere, the student could be a coarse and crude construction worker. The student could be a ballerina, you know; the student could be a disco dancer They could be all sorts of weird things. You never know. And suddenly something begins to happen. And they don’t really change from being weird things, they just show up.

So this amazing thing happens; and this response begins to happen. And often the student will come up and they’ll go, ‘What am I doing here? How did I get in this?  What is this?’ One student that I remember: The first time she came to me for a consultation, she was so prim and proper. She wore this little proper camel suit, you know, and she was very business-y and very here-I-am, very business-y, very professional sort of woman. She comes in click, click, click, little high heels, sits down and goes, “Well, I’d like to have a reading.”  So, we talk, and we talk, and we talk, and about three or four hours later, she’s in tears, and she feels like her life has just fallen apart. She’s just left one train, and entered onto another, and all these weird things begin to happen to her. She’s crying, and she doesn’t know what’s happening to her. She feels like she’s going crazy. She just doesn’t know what this is. And really, there’s no monkey business happening on the part of the teacher. The teacher isn’t saying, ‘Hey, let me see how I can mess up this person.’  It isn’t like that at all. There is simply this call, this sound that is going out, and the student, if the hook is there, suddenly becomes velcroed, literally velcroed. Sometimes there is  anger at first, because you didn’t want to be velcroed, you know.  You didn’t ask for this. You wanted to be free and independent. You know? You don’t want to be stuck to something. And suddenly you can’t get away. You’re hooked.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Trouble With Samsara

burning house

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing the Hook of Compassion”

When a student calls the teacher in their mind, when they begin to make their mind and their heart like a bowl, there are several different things that are happening. First of all, there is some fantastic auspicious karma that is ripening. In order for a student to even make that step, the student must have accumulated a tremendous amount of merit, of virtue, somewhere in the past. A non-virtuous mind cannot call the teacher with devotion. It cannot happen. They will not be able to experience that devotion, that gentling, that softening. So the student must know that about themselves: If they are responding with devotion, if they are really calling the lama, if they are really experiencing surrender, then there is some virtue in the student’s mind. The student should be happy and pleased with that.

When the student calls the lama, when the student practices that kind of devotion, it’s because the student has realized certain kinds of things; and the only way that real devotion can be practiced is if these things have been realized. First of all, the student has looked around and has seen that cyclic existence, or ordinary life, is flawed. It is faulted. The student has looked around—and sometimes it’s the older students that really in some ways, unfortunately, are able to do this, because they have seen their lives pass—and they look around and they say, ‘What have I done? I’ve worked so hard for maybe 55, 60 years. I’ve worked so hard, and what have I really accomplished?  What am I going to take with me?  What is this that I’ve done?  What will happen when this time has passed?’

So sometimes older students are truly prepared to understand the faults of cyclic existence. Younger students have a much more difficult time with that, because younger students are still trekking along, you know. They’re still thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I can do this, and I can do this,’ and they’re still steamed up, puffed up with that ‘I can, I can do’ kind of thing. Too many exciting threads to pull. Too many different ways to move. Our juices are flowing, and we’re moving ahead. And it hooks us; it hooks us into this delusion.

The student that is prepared to call the teacher has been awakened, stimulated, has understood that so much time has passed. And what has happened during that time?  Not much. Not much that we can really account for. We’ve had some fun. We’ve had some big fun, some of us. And we’ve had some big suffering. And we’ve had some big excitement. We’ve had some big letdowns. And it’s up and down, and up and down. And we’re all going to experience old age if we live that long. We’re all going to experience death; and we’ve all experienced sickness. And it just goes round and round and round, doesn’t it?

At some point we look at that and we see it, and we ask ourselves, ‘Isn’t there something more? Isn’t there something?  There must be something.’  We begin to move in that direction. And then we see someone who can give us a path. Not only just thoughts about the path, not only just ideas that are popular in the New Age. Not just some theories. But a technology, a method, a method that is succinct and exacting, and has shown itself to give results that have been repeated and proven over time.

So this student looks at that and thinks, ‘Wow! This is something!’ And the student is in the position of experiencing themselves sort of like in a burning house, and suddenly they’ve seen a door. They’ve seen a way out. They’ve seen something that doesn’t have the danger in it that cyclic existence has, that doesn‘t have the fault in it that cyclic existence has. Maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s something that we can do. And the student looks at that and says, ‘Oh,’ and they gather themselves together; and they are hopeful and they’re joyous. And somethng’s going on. Suddenly they’re excited. Then the student begins to want to call that, to bring that closer to them.  That’s a beautiful, precious, and exciting moment.  But that moment can only happen due to the virtue of the student’s previous practice. That really only happens due to virtue.

So the student begins to call the teacher.  And the student has lots of different experiences while that happens. Sometimes the student doesn’t know how to measure what the relationship with the teacher is. Sometimes there’s some initial confusion. There are all sorts of interesting and different things that happen during that time. But still, the student with the kind of virtue that is necessary to really do this will remain firm, will continue, will move forward, and continue to call the teacher, continue to invoke that presence in their lives and really come to the point, due to the virtue of their practice, where they will do anything, they will do anything, because they know their time is short. They know that they’ve tried everything, and nothing’s worked so far. Nothing has produced permanent happiness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Calling the Lama From Afar

Guru Padmasambhava

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing the Hook of Compassion”

In our tradition, in preliminary practice, we practice this “Calling the Lama from Afar,” and it’s a haunting practice. It will bring tears to one’s eyes if one practices it with a full heart and really does one’s best. When that begins to happen, there is a change in the student. There is truly a change. Often that is when the lama, the teacher, first begins to notice the student. That is when the lama takes an awareness of the student. That is when the student comes into the lama’s mind and the lama comes into the student’s mind. That is when this tremendous bridge, this perfect bridge, is formed that is everything, really everything, on the Path. Without it there is only dressing up in Dharma clothing like a peacock, you know. There is nothing without that. So that is necessary.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Foundation of Devotion

Guru Rinpoche

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing The Hook of Compassion”

Now I’m going to dive into the adult portion of our teaching, but you might have gotten something out of the children’s portion even though we’re adults, and some of us are even past 38. It looks like maybe some of us might be, and we’ve already learned some bad habits. Don’t we still move through whole passages in our lives when we just forget that we can be of benefit? We just move through and live in a way that’s relatively meaningless. We simply move through time, marking time by births, deaths, and anniversaries and summer reruns, and all kinds of things that are really pretty insignificant. We too can take hold of our lives and really become firm-, really practice accordingly.

So in the Buddhist tradition, particularly in Vajrayana, there is a kind of practice that is called devotional practice, and devotional practice has many components. But one particularly meaningful and important component is that one develops a relationship of pure devotion with one’s guru, with one’s teacher. In the Vajrayana tradition, the teacher is considered to be like the door of liberation because, even though there has been a Buddha on the earth and there has been the Buddhist teaching, even though the teaching is written in the books, even though there are many ways in which you can approach the Buddhadharma, it’s really, according to Vajrayana tradition, just about impossible to enter into the Path, into the meat of the Path, into the thick of the Path without the blessing of the teacher.

The lama is considered to be the blessing that is inherent in the Path. The lama is necessary for empowerment; the lama is necessary for transmission; the lama is necessary for teaching; the lama is necessary to make a bridge. Almost like the lama is the nurse that administers the medicine. The doctor might prescribe, the doctor might be considered the Buddha; but the lama is considered to be the nurse that actually administers the medicine while we ourselves may be too weak or too unaware to be able to hold onto the medicine or take it into our own mouths without some help. In Vajrayana tradition, from the very most preliminary practice to the very most superior practice, there is a devotional aspect to every practice that is done; and that is considered to be the vehicle or the means by which the blessing is actually transmitted.

In preliminary practice, there is actually a section of devotional yoga, guru yoga. This is something that is widespread not only in our particular tradition, but is widespread across all the traditions in Vajrayana Buddhism— the tradition of calling the lama, beseeching the lama, of invoking the lama’s blessing. Now in our particular Ngöndro, we have a beautiful passage, a beautiful song of invocation, called “Calling the Lama from Afar.” It has a very haunting melody and it’s done with one’s heart. Actually the recommendation is that one should do it until tears arise in one’s eyes. One should do that in order to soften the ego, in order to soften the mind and to make the mind like a bowl that is turned up, not turned over, hard, you know, and unable to receive any blessing; but a bowl that is turned up that doesn’t have any poison or dirt in the bottom of it, that’s kept purely; so that when the nectar comes in, it won’t be mixed with the poison or dirt. And it isn’t cracked, cracked through the distraction that we all feel when we can’t really keep our minds on any kind of devotional practice and our minds wander too much. That kind of bowl could not hold the blessing, could not hold the nectar. And, of course, if our minds are hard and filled with anger and hatred, and that anger surfaces, the bowl is turned over and the nectar simply runs off so there is no blessing to be had. We might fool ourselves thinking that we have a blessing, but in fact, no blessing has been received.

So we practice this devotional yoga; we practice it very sincerely. The benefit of this practice is immeasurable in that it softens the mind. It’s almost like planting a field of grain, you know? One has to plow the field; then one has to harrow it or disc it, turn it over. One has to soften it and rake it and work the soil so that it’s capable of receiving the seed. Otherwise if the soil were not ready, and the seed were thrown out, it would just bounce, like on a hard surface. It would not do much good. Any of you who have planted things know the truth of that. So devotional yoga is a cultivator. It’s considered to make one ready. Without devotional yoga, there is no possibility, really, of the blessing being fully received.

The devotional yoga is meant to benefit the student. It never benefits the teacher. If the teacher needs devotional yoga, the teacher is inadequate and impure; the teacher is without value. So the devotional yoga is purely for the benefit of the student. The teacher is not pleased by the devotional yoga. The teacher is pleased by the movement and the softening and the gentling and the change that occurs within the student, and that‘s because the teacher wishes to benefit the student. It isn’t because the teacher requires any kind of devotional yoga, or any kind of notice, really, at all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Wedding Cake

wedding cake

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “This Time is Radical”

I think of Dharma as a wedding cake with three different levels, and everyone is welcome to partake of this cake. Only some people will get to go into three-year retreat, way up at the top: three-year Dzogchen retreat, and then maybe onto seven-year retreat, and then maybe onto end-of-life retreat. Hopefully some of you will have that opportunity. And don’t waste a minute if you do. If you have that opportunity, then that’s where you are, and the cake is yours.

The next level are people who may never get to practice that deeply in retreat and may never get to three-year or seven-year retreat or whatever, but they practice every day of their lives. They learn their Phowa, and they learn their generation practice, and they do a little Dzogchen practice; and they are hooked up, because they will have an auspicious rebirth. They are making ready for their next life.

Then at the lower level… It isn’t lower in the sense of up and down. It’s bigger, if you think of how wedding cakes are. That level is every human’s level. Every human can come and have a taste of mantra, of Dharma. How do I make a cake big enough for everybody to have a bite?  We’re going to sing it. We’ll just make it big and make it happen.

I’m really looking forward to that. I have lots of hopes and dreams. Eventually when we’ve accomplished certain things that we want to accomplish with our music, which is to get the mantra out into the world, then we want to hit the road. Hitting the road means bringing mantra, chanting and drumming to all people. And so any of you who wish to join us on that, it’s time for you to practice.

You shouldn’t be thinking, ‘Well, I only want to practice this way, and not that way.’  Well, you’re not exactly thinking in Dharma terms at all if you’re like that. You should have your mind open, relaxed, joyful, following in the footsteps of your teacher in the best way that you can. So I’m asking for you at this time to keep your heart open, keep your eyes open. Try to be mindful. Try to really see patterns around you. Try to notice Dharma and what it is to you, and how you can help others. Don’t do anything by rote now. Get back into the deep end again. Don’t just say a little mantra and then walk around like you own the place. Don’t do that. Get deeper in your practice, as deep as you can. For those of you who are giving rise to the Bodhicitta, when I say these words are inspired, say, ‘Sign me up. Send me. I’ll go. I’ll sing some. I’ll bring some drums. I’ll do cartwheels if that’s going to teach Dharma.’ You could go in a certain direction and have it written on you. We’ll think of something.

I’m trying to be upbeat about this, but this is a time of great change. This year and next year are going to be stupendous in terms of change that we experience as individuals and as a temple. Not frightening change, good change; but get-your-act-together kind of change. Get ready to help beings. Get ready to minister. Those of you who are wearing robes, you’re supposed to be ministering to others in the best way you can, whatever that means. If that only means open-hearted connection, good-heartedness like the Dalai Lama wrote. if that’s all we can do, that’s great!  Let’s do that here. We can do more than that because we have training. We have lots of training and we’ve got method. With method and a solid heart, we will hold back the dark for as long as possible.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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