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

Love Affair With Samsara

narcotics

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

There are certain preliminary teachings that must be taken into account, that must be part of our menu, in order to proceed into a deeper level of practice.  Traditionally on the Buddhist path, these teachings are often heard again and again and again.  It’s kind of interesting the way it happens.  It will seem as though you will have absorbed and taken in certain preliminary teachings well enough to know them and recognize them, but the student will also notice that, upon getting ready to take on another deeper and more profound level of teaching or level of practice, they will always be given at least in a condensed form, those same preliminary teachings again and again.  This is completely necessary, because in order to ready oneself for deeper levels of practice, in order to sort of tenderize the mind, soften the mind and prepare the mind in the same way that one plows a field in order to prepare it to receive a seed, we have to prepare our minds. And we have to think in a certain logical pathway in order to proceed to these deeper levels of teaching.

The thought behind that is that the deeper levels of teachings, and particularly the practice, will have no context if we don’t go through these certain preliminary ideas, certain preliminary passages, before we go further.  Without context, there will be no deep understanding.  In order for Dharma to be appropriate for the student, the student has to have accomplished what we call ‘turning the mind toward Dharma.’  Turning the mind toward Dharma means, actually, that we have stood back, in a sense, from our lives in order to gain some perspective with the help of someone who has, before us, stood back from their life in order to gain some perspective.  Having stood back from our lives, we are able to look at cyclic existence and we are able to see our position in cyclic existence.  We are able to see the situation of other sentient beings in cyclic existence and, having viewed all of that, we are able to understand then the problems associated with cyclic existence, literally the faults of cyclic existence.

Then, and only then, are we capable of turning away from cyclic existence.  Literally it is somewhat like a love affair in the sense that we are infatuated with cyclic existence.  Cyclic existence tricks us into showing us bright, shiny, feel-good things that cause us to react in a characteristic way, in the same way a new love affair would bring us a new toy to play with, something bright and shiny in our lives, something that we can say “Oh, things are not so bad!  I have that!”  That’s kind of how we think as human beings.  We need a toy to play with, and for a very long time we become playful in samsara.  We think of samsara as a toy much as a child would think of a bright and shiny object.  In the same way that we do not always think our intimate love relationships through to the end, very rarely in fact, neither do we think samsara through to the end. So we are in love in a stupid childlike way, an unthinking way, an idiot way, with samsara, in the same way that many of the love affairs and infatuations that we have engaged in have been kind of stupid and unthinking and basically guided by bright lights or who knows what.  We have no idea what makes us fall into the situations that we fall into.

At any rate, we have to address this problem of being in love with cyclic existence without being able to see what cyclic existence actually is.  We cannot see its faults in the same way as in a new relationship if someone, an outsider who is knowledgeable, were to point out the fault of the relationship that one were engaged in, and even point out the fault of the beloved and, most of all, point out the fault of the interaction between oneself and the beloved. Of course you would not accept that information.  You would reject it. In fact, you would kill the message bearer, literally.  You would kill the message bearer in your mind. You would toss that out and that would be the end of it. So we have that kind of situation in our lives and it causes us to revolve in cyclic existence endlessly, unthinkingly, in a kind of rapture, kind of stupid-like, in a daze.

We also say that an appropriate way to understand our relationship with samsara is to think that we are drunk, that literally samsara is like a drug, like a narcotic.  It dupes us in the same way that narcotics do.  Narcotics cause us to not be aware of the pain.  The same situation is going on, but we are not aware of the pain.  If you think of having surgery or something like that —taking in first barbituates and another kind of drug in order to make that surgery less painful or to make it possible.  Our relationship with samsara is very much like that.  You may be asleep and you may not know that you are feeling the pain; but actually the way barbituates work, in fact, you are feeling the pain, but it’s blocked off from the part of your brain that registers that in a way where you can react to it.  So, in fact, you are feeling the pain and, in fact, you are under the knife.  Surgically you are being cut open and your parts are laying out on the table; but to you, that’s not an uncomfortable experience.  In fact, surgery seems quite a wonderful thing because you go to sleep and you wake up and it’s all finished.  You weren’t there.  It was neat and clean.  You have no idea whether you had respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest or ingrown toenails or any of your teeth fell out.  You have no idea what happened to you while you were on that table, and that’s because of the influence of the narcotic.

A narcotic makes us approach things that can be not only detrimental to our health and well-being, but can literally kill us—to make us even approach our own death with a calm mind.  But a calm mind not in a smart way.  A calm mind would be literally a prepared mind, ready to go through a door that we have rehearsed going through and we know how to go through.  In this way, we have a drunk mind, a mind that is incapable of feeling anything besides the kind of delusion and calm that goes with narcotics. And that’s how our relationship with samsara is right now.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

Proper Conduct: Understanding the Source of Happiness

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Lama Never Leaves”

Whenever we are on the path and we have a spiritual friend in the form of a teacher, whether it is on the earlier path of Theravadin Buddhism or whether we have a spiritual guru who is from the Vajrayana point of view, a very profound friend who one can expect will mingle with our lives and hopefully mingle with our mindstreams, and give us the appropriate information in order to practice the path, there is one set of instructions that is almost always given in one way or another.  And so I’d like to give these instructions.  They are about gathering and accomplishing “merit”…or meritorious activity.

Here in our society, we are taught in a materialistic way.  We are taught that of course if we get education we will make money.  If we make money, we will get things.  If we get things, we will be happy and we can pass those things on to our children who hopefully will be happy also.  And that’s the idea that we have in this society about material things.

Very rarely do our parents teach us about profitable conduct.  We’re taught about how to live profitably.  Hopefully, if we had good parenting, they taught us about how to keep a bank account and all of those passages of adulthood that we learn about.  But nowadays, it has become much less popular, unfortunately, for parents to teach us profitable conduct; in other words, how to act, how to present oneself, how to hold oneself, what deeds to act upon and so forth, that will bring us happiness and joy.  We in fact, in growing up, we are not really taught that acting in a certain way will bring us happiness or joy; or making offerings in a certain way, or certain kinds of conduct.  Generally what happens is the child imitates the parent.  Many times the parent, like any other samsaric being, is neurotic and we see them acting neurotically in their relationships, and we see that it’s like a roll of the dice.  According to how we act, half the time it produces happiness, and half the time it doesn’t.  And sometimes when we’re in a real spiral…that means the downward kind…we can experience a great deal of neuroses and our children will watch that habitual patterning and they will pattern themselves after it.  It’s natural.  It’s hard-wired in children to do that.  And of course in this day and age, it seems like we have lost touch with what it is that actually creates happiness.  We are so confused in our minds…we’re in such turmoil…we’re always grasping and grabbing and trying and often we’re working very hard at it.  It’s not that we’re lazy.  We don’t just lay around all day.  We’re often working very hard at things that ultimately produce no good result.  Pursuing endless distractions, the Buddhas have called it.

And so, we turn to the people of authority in our lives and we look to them for guidance.  Well, we look to the government and the government says, “Let’s cut down on social services, screw the poor people, we’ll go to war!”  So maybe that’s not so good.

So then we look at our parents…and let’s see, parent’s are on maybe second or third marriage, and they’re very much trying to be happy but they don’t know how to be happy and the parents are in as much turmoil as perhaps the child is.

And then the child turns to the teachers and even religious figures.  And if the religious figure is not enlightened, often times they are lead down horrible paths; perhaps even abusive paths where they are taught some strict dogma that has no relationship to anything really; or in the worst case scenario, they are used and abused by a religious figure of authority.

So where do we actually go to understand what it is the Buddha taught about cause and result…because this is where the Buddha really shone…showed his immense wisdom, his immense capacity.  …Is that not only Shakyamuni Buddha, himself, but every teacher and lama that has studied his teachings, followed his ways and accomplished.  And all the teachers yet to come that revealed Terma, including Guru Rinpoche and those that were Treasure Revealers later on, each in their own way, taught us Proper Conduct.

Proper Conduct is actually part of our Ngondro practice in which we learn to turn the mind toward Dharma.  And that doesn’t mean…what do you call it when somebody…a person that sings the rap of a certain company and…public relations, right.  It’s not like that.  Our teachers actually indicate to us how we should live and actually that’s one of the signs of the Buddha is that the Buddha comes to the earth and shows us how to live because we are living in confusion.  We have not been taught of cause and effect.  And this is one thing that Lord Buddha really taught about was cause and result.  And he said that, if spiritual thinking isn’t reasonable and logical, that is, if one cannot think it through first before one decides to really open the heart in faith, then we should think again.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Power of Ngondro

The following is respectfully quoted from “Natural Liberation” by Padmasambhava:

OM VARJASATTVA SAMAYAM ANUPĀLAYA VAJRASATTVA TVENOPATISTHA DRDHO ME BHAVA SUTOSYO ME BHAVA SUPOSYO ME BHAVA ANURAKTO ME BHAVA SARVA SIDDHIM ME PRAYACCHA SARVA KARMASU CA ME CITTAM ŚRĪYAM KURU HŪM HA HA HA HA HOH BHAGAVAN SARVATATHĀGATA VAJRA MĀ ME MUŃCA VAJRA BHAVA MAHĀSAMAYA SATTVA ĀH

This is an extremely important practice. It’s dealt with quite concisely here, but more more elaborate instruction can be found in other teachings on the preliminary practices. This practice is of very tangible benefit. There are other teachings on Atiyoga and so forth that we may consider more esoteric or advanced, but it’s questionable how deeply benefited we can be by those and how much we can truly enter into experience of the Great Perfection. Here, though, is something of practical benefit. If you are familiar with this practice, it’s good to share it with others who may be beginners. By such a practice as this, the two types of obscurations can be purified. Once all of your obscurations have been completely purified, you are a buddha; and that means you have realized the Great Perfection.

Due to ignorance, delusion and stupidity,
I have transgressed my samayas, and they have degenerated.
O spiritual mentor, protector, protect me!
Glorious Lord Vajradhara,
Merciful being of great compassion,
Lord of the world, protect us!
Please cleanse and purify the whole mass
Of sins, obscurations, faults, downfalls, and taints.
By this virtue, may I now
Swiftly actualize Vajrasattva
And quickly bring every sentient being
Without exception to that state.
O Vajrasattva, may we become exactly
Like your form, with your retinue, life span, pure realm,
And with your supreme , excellent signs.

OFFERING THE MANDALA

Once you have begun purifying the two types of obscurations, there is the task of accumulating the two collections of merit and of knowledge for one’s own benefit and the benefit of others. The welfare of others is accomplished in the realization of the Rūpakāya, or form embodiment, of the Buddha; and it is toward accomplishing that end that one offers the mandala.

OM VAJRA BHŪMI ĀH HUM
The basis becomes the powerful golden ground.
OM VAJRA REKHE ĀH HŪM
On the periphery is a surrounding jeweled iron fence.
In the center is the supreme king of mountains,
Majestic in its composition from the five kinds of precious substances.
Lovely in shape, beautiful, and delightful to behold,
Seven golden mountains are surrounded by seven concentric seas.
In the east is the continent Videha, in the south, Jambudvipa,
The west is adorned by Godàniya,
And in the north is the great Uttarakuru;
With the eight sub-continents of Deha and Videha,
Cāmara and Aparacāmara,
Śāthā and Uttaramantrina,
Kurava and Kaurava,
The sun, moon, Rāhu and kālāgni,
And this bounty of wealth and enjoyments of gods and humans
I offer to the precious spiritual mentor and his retinue.
Out of compassion, please accept this for the sake of the world.

Short Confession: From Nam Chö Vajrasattva Ngondro

Vajrasattva-single

The following is a Short Confession found in the Nam Chö Ngondro practice of Vajrasattva revealed by Tertön Migyur Dorje:

In the View, I confess all commitments broken through mental activity,
Knowing the View is the all-pervasive foundational Bodhicitta;
Realizing that the View exists in non-existence,
And practicing meditation that is non-existent,
Realizing activity is neither existent nor non-existent,
The Bodhicitta is without expectation or disappointment.
All root and auxiliary committments,
Breaches and failure to uphold them, are unborn, ungenerated,
And liberated in the indivisibility of the object to confess and the confession itself.

Prayer to the Root Guru

Padmasambhava

The following prayer is from the Nam Chö Ngondro by Tertön Migyur Dorje:

Alas

Glorious condensed essence of the miraculous activity of the Buddhas of all directions and times,

Great Lotus Guru (Padmasambhava) of loving kindness,

Myself and those like me who are without a protector and tormented by suffering,

Look upon us with your loving compassion and grant us your blessings!

In this time of extreme degeneration of this aeon, when demonic forces, corruption, incurable disease and perverted prayers are increasing,

During this terrifying time of armies and weapons in the four directions, grant us the breath to breathe fearlessly, like a vajra.

Impure sentient being’s hearts are confused and their intellects distorted. So as not to follow our ingrained habitual instincts, tame us in whatever skill means are necessary by actually arising in the Rupakaya.

Lead us upon the path to the realm of Great Bliss.

Concerning myself and all others on the path to Awakening, by pacifying our obstacles and non-conducive circumstances and greatly increasing our life span and endowments,

May our vital airs and mind be controlled to realize the common and supreme spiritual attainments.

May we never be separate from our root Lama!

…repeat this prayer with intense fervent devotion (until one’s tears uncontrollably well up from within) after which repeat the essence prayer, the Vajra Guru mantra OM AH HUNG BENZAR GURU PEDMA SIDDHI HUNG.

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:

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.

The Meditation Upon the Four Immeasurable

meditation

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

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

Longchen_Rabjam

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. 

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