Why Guru Yoga

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

One of the most important sections of Ngöndro practice is the Guru Yoga. It is beautiful. The cries to Guru Rinpoche are plaintiff and haunting and just moving. How can you describe it any other way? The Lama Khyen No…  And yet in the Ngöndro book, Guru Yoga’s at the last. I know when I started practicing Ngöndro, I asked for special permission to practice the Guru Yoga first, and I was given that because of my special connection with Guru Rinpoche in the past. And to me, it was the most beautiful and pure and worthwhile time I’ve ever spent.

For most people, we want to start with the Taking Refuge and the Bodhichitta. And the reason why, again, is because the first need is to discriminate between what is extraordinary and what is ordinary.

We cannot really practice Guru Yoga effectively unless we’ve made that discrimination. Because, if we can’t make that discrimination, we’re basically practicing to a cartoon image that we do not have the depth yet to understand; or maybe we are practicing on a personality level—. that my personality is worth worshipping the Guru’s personality. That’s a baby step. It’s not to be sneezed at, but it’s not where we stay either. We go further than that.

When we practice Guru Yoga, that’s the rocketship of tantric Buddhism. That’s the shortcut. The luckiest practitioners on the Path of Vajrayana are those who feel— it doesn’t mean they have to display it in any outward way or even see their Guru that often—but who feel they have, and who have cultivated a special connection with their teacher, a connection not of persona to persona, but one of recognition. That connection of recognition  is where we go to our teachers and we say, or we go in our practice and we visualize our teachers and say, “I understand that this is the very nature of Enlightenment, that this is the same nature as Guru Rinpoche, that this is the same nature as all the Buddhas of the ten directions, that this Buddha, this teacher that I have, has been taught to me by Guru Rinpoche to be the Buddha in Nirmanakaya form. And that we think like that, that kind of recognition, that kind of Intention, and a kind of—I hate to use the word passion, because people think of passion in only a certain category—but one develops a passion for the nectar that one’s teacher has to offer.  . That person is ripe. That person is ripe, not only to enter the Path, but blessed in such a way that not only will they continue, but very likely they will find completion stage practice, as well.

Because, when we connect with our teacher in that way, and really give rise to that recognition it says that indeed, this is exactly what Guru Rinpoche promised. Guru Rinpoche said, ” I will be there with you as your root teacher. If you call to me, I will be there”. And so, of course he’s saying that in the presence of one’s Root Guru, having been given the blessings, now we practice Guru Yoga. And that is the very nectar of Guru Rinpoche’s blessing.

How fortunate for those of us who have that sense, even in some small form, enough to where, you know, like an ember, you can fan the flame. That’s the most fortunate connection of all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Words of Honor: Advice from HH Penor Rinpoche

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Kyabje His Holiness Penor Rinpoche offered at Palyul Ling Retreat:

When I was in Tibet I studied all this Dharma with my teacher, Khenpo Nuden. He was a great Dzogchen master. We received the transmission on the four volume text called Duba Do, which he has composed. There were five of us receiving this Dharma. We all tried to maintain the disciplines of being very humble and respectful, and not disturbing the lama’s mind.

We also had another Khenpo with us. This Khenpo always had coughing fits. He was always coughing. To announce the start of class each morning, a gong would ring. But one morning nobody rang the gong. We went to the lama’s place anyway, and asked, “Why was there no gong?”  The lama was really angry and told us that there was no need to ring the gong. I went to him, and said, “It is time now. May I ring the gong?”   He said, “No.”  Then I asked, “Are you sick or something?”  And he said, “No, I’m not sick.”  Then I asked, “Did you have a disturbing dream?”  He said, “No.”  After asking a few questions, he said, “You guys are not really respecting me.”  Then I said, “We all do respect you. We are just trying to maintain good discipline.”  Then the lama said, “Well, you know Khenpo clears his throat a lot, coughing up stuff.”  What to do?  He had an illness. It was natural, but we told him not to be too loud. We made a commitment to maintain discipline, and then later the lama started the teaching. No one dared to cough loudly in front of the lama. Talking to each other or making noise or getting up and down in front of the lama never happened when we visited the lama. One should be careful when visiting the lama. There is a whole book that gives lessons on how to relate with the master.

Disturbing the lama’s mind a little bit obscures one’s path and bhumis. Once one actualizes these stages of realization and the path, then one can do whatever one wants to do. Until achieving the ultimate fruition, the Buddhahood, enlightenment, until then we must relate to and rely on a master. One should respect and follow, and through that one can receive the blessing. Then there is benefit. Even with millions of dollars, there is no way to buy the Dharma teaching  through which one can attain complete enlightenment. Because if there is even a tiny breakage of samaya, then it obscures one’s own power or realization. The life force of the Dharma is the words of honor, the samaya. Even though you guys are very good, it is still good to understand how these things should be done.

 

The Spiritual Teacher

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The following is respectfully quoted from “The Great Perfection: Buddha in the Palm of the Hand” by Gyaltrul Rinpoche

The first root downfall is to disrespect one’s root guru or gurus. If we belittle or disrespect our spiritual teacher, our guru, then not only do we shut the door to liberation, but probably we will have a difficult time getting out of the lower realms.

What makes someone your guru, your spiritual teacher? To begin with, an empowerment. Once you have received an empowerment from a teacher, the teacher becomes the guru, the object that this first vow pertains to. When it comes to inner tantric empowerments this is especially so. If a person has been your teacher from childhood onward, has taught you dharma continuously, or has been an important catalyst for the development of your insight, or has given you teachings on the generation and completion stages, or has openly revealed to you the secret oral instructions on the great perfection atiyoga, this person can be considered your guru. This kind of teacher is said to be one who has been kind to you in three ways: by giving  you empowerment, by giving you teachings on generation and completion stage practice, and by giving you teachings on the great perfection. Whether the teacher has given you only one, two, or all three of these, if you disparage or belittle that teacher in any way the samaya is lost.

Now how is this done? For instance, if you feel that you are more learned than the teacher, and that you could have done it better. In the extreme case you would eliminate your teacher so that you could take his place. Or, with a mind of jealousy, anger, or attachment, any of the poisons, to speak badly about the teacher to others, to tease the teacher, to disrespect teacher from the door of your body (such as ignoring the teacher), to disturb the teacher, upset the teacher’s mind, or cause the teacher to be displeased–of all broken samaya this is the heaviest. Very difficult.

As it has been taught, as an antidote to these problems, and to avoid them, you must always see the spiritual teacher as a living buddha and the embodiment of all buddhas, in all situations.

The Importance of Faith

Gyaltrul Rinpoche

The following is respectfully quoted from “Great Perfection: Buddha in the Palm of the Hand” commentary by Gyaltrul Rinpoche:

Faith cannot be forced in the disciple’s mind. You must understand the qualities of the objects of your faith; only then is there a ground for faith. Because these are difficult times, if a disciple has true, firm faith that isn’t wishy-washy but is based on a true wish to practice on the path, and if a teacher at least possesses impartial compassion, then these two make a suitable connection–the faithful disciple and the compassionate teacher–and it is appropriate to nurture that connection and practice on the path.

Obviously, these are not all of the qualities mentioned above, but it is very difficult if not impossible, in these degenerate times, for both lama and disciple to have all the qualifications and to come together at the same time. What is obvious and true for you now is what you call your “luck,” which is actually the force of good karma accumulated in the past; you only call it “luck” because you know nothing about it. It’s just an accumulation that you’ve unknowingly made.

Look at your present situation and compare yourself with millions of people in this and other countries who have no time for any kind of spiritual pursuit. This karma you have is really quite strong because it’s remarkably natural and easy for you–at least for these Nam Cho transmissions. Sofr these particular transmissions there’s a great amount of karma that we’re all a part of, and a great amount since the Nam Cho revelations are teachings of the ninth vehicle, the peak of the path, the atiyoga transmissions, you should rejoice in having this kind of natural, spontaneously arising karma to make these kinds of connections.

Padmasambhava said, “My dharma of the secret mantra is extremely dangerous, like taking a wish-fulfilling jewel off the head of a poisonous snake.” If you’re able to get the wish-fulfilling jewel it has the power to fulfill all your wishes. But you risk your life trying to get it. Padmasambhava gave this analogy for the path of secret mantra, and it pertains especially to the path of terma revelations. There is also the analogy of the snake in the bamboo shaft with only two directions to go: up or down. If you keep samaya and practice well, you go straight up and experience very swift results. If you don’t keep samaya and don’t practice, then just as good results are swift, so are negative ones.

To be a suitable disciple, the main quality you need is faith. It doesn’t matter which dharma you’re receiving–Kagyu, Nyingma, Sakya, Gelugpa; hinayana, mahayana–you don’t even need to be smart. You just need faith.

Impact of Karma on the Experience of the Bardo

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

Now listen to how this lama [Bokar Rinpoche] explains this—I think this is excellent. “Likewise the experience of death will be different for each one of you, although there are certain fundamental rules. Consider a house of rooms in which each wall is covered with mirrors. The man living in this house is dirty, has untidy hair, wears ragged clothing, and is always making faces. He goes from room to room, and the mirrors steadily reflect the faded image of an unkempt man with a grimacing face, untidy hair and ragged clothing. Similarly, when our mind is distorted by a lot of negative karma, each of the six bardos reflects suffering, just like the mirrored rooms in that house.” And they have a footnote here about negative karma. “Negative karma: All negative deeds, ones that deliberately make other people suffer, leave an imprint in our mind and will condition our experience and our vision of the world. And that is our suffering, that is what our suffering is.” That is the content of our suffering, that is our only suffering. That is the only suffering we will experience, but it is enough.

“The house occupant could also be clean, well-dressed and smiling. Everywhere he goes, from room to room, he sees a clear and smiling face. The house remains the same, you see, but there is no more ugliness nor appalling sights. Everything you see is pleasant and peaceful. When our mind is free of negative karma and the passions that disturb it, the six bardos reflect a picture that resembles us, full of peace and happiness. Whether pleasant or not, experiences do not depend on the six rooms. An individual fills the rooms with his or her own nature. Likewise, negative experience of the six bardos does not depend on the bardos, but they do depend on our own mind.”

Now, boys and girls, this is a very important point. It’s important because you are living the result of that right now. You are passing right now through the bardo of living. The experience that you have depends on and is resulting from the habitual tendency within your mind, the karma of your own mind, the causality that you have already brought into play. The experience of your present day life is due to that. All the suffering that you will ever experience during the course of your life, , including the cause of your death, and all of the happiness,  is due to the habitual tendency of your mind and the karmic patterns of your mind. Literally, think about it this way. If your experience was that of the kind of person who is only here to see what they can get, and upon meeting other people only sees a potential source of satisfaction… And how many of us in samsara are like that? Here is a potential source of satisfaction, and we wheedle and we whine, and we feel sorry for ourselves, and ‘please love me and do this for me.’ Or we do the opposite, which is manipulative: We try to manipulate people into a position where they have nothing else to do but benefit us. And we’re real good at it. In fact, so good we hardly see it ourselves, but that’s what we do.

And then we have another kind of situation where we spend all of our life trying to dominate the people in our environment, and our environment—trying to force it to be what we want so that we can have what we want. The experience of the life passage or the bardo of living for persons like that will be very different from the experience of the person who goes through life saying, “How can I help? How can I contribute more love to the world?” The kind of person that goes through life knowing that it matters much less how much love they get than it matters how much love they give will have a very different experience from the other kind of person. And that’s what this lama is talking about there. Not only during life, but also during death. Our death depends on the habit of our lives. If we are neurotic and frightened and whiney and complaining and weepy and emotional during the course of our lives, think  What will your death be like? What has your life been like? Think. This isn’t a great mystery. Everybody has this fantasy of climbing the Himalayas to get to the dirty guy on a rug at the top who knows everything, and he’s going to tell you the secret of life. This is the secret of life. Think. You know, think about this. If this is your passage through life, what will your passage through death be? You’ve got to fix it now.

On the other hand, if you are the other kind of person, if you have been a contributor, if you have been strong, if you have been loving, if you’ve tried to do your best, if you’ve tried to contribute love to the world, if you have tried to practice, if you have tried to calm your mind, if you have tried to make your mind an attractive and virtuous vessel, your death experience is going to be quite different. Absolutely different.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Start From the Beginning

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”

Today then I will talk about something that is necessary as a foundational understanding in order to begin the Buddhist path. In order to understand what the Buddha is talking about, in order in fact to begin to meditate or accomplish anything spiritual, on any level, there has to be, of course, a motivation. This motivation varies from culture to culture and certainly it varies from individual to individual.

I have stated this before and I will state it again. In third world countries there is a tremendous amount of very visible suffering. Of course, we have suffering here too. And I believe in my heart that the suffering is actually equal, but it is a different kind of suffering. Our suffering is not as visible. We are sophisticated and therefore we hide certain aspects of our culture. There are certain particular, very obvious forms of suffering that we traditionally put away and hide in institutions, or hide in certain parts of town that we never go to. There are certain ways in which we deal with suffering that third world countries do not have. In third world countries, and it really isn’t fair but I don’t want to spend too much time naming a specific situation, suffering is often seen very visibly on the streets. I remember when I went to India, landing in Bombay, and never having seen a case of leprosy in my life, suddenly seeing hundreds of people on the street with different degrees of leprosy, different levels of advancement—some without arms and legs scooting around on little carts, because leprosy had done away with their limbs, and others with just the beginnings of leprosy and open sores and different extremities beginning to show decay. Poverty is unbelievably evident. I am a little on the hefty side, as you may have noticed, and I remember being unbelievably ashamed of that when I saw that on the streets of Bombay, you could count everyone’s ribs. It was completely unbelievable that hunger is so prevalent there and so much a part of society. The suffering of the lack of education, of ignorance, of hunger, of sickness, these are all very obvious and they are right there in front of us. People literally do lay down and die in the street. The suffering of the animals there, the bullocks that constantly have to, from dawn to night time, pull huge carts that are so much greater than their body weight. And seeing that is quite shocking because we don’t have that here.

So in a culture like that when we look at the motivation to accomplish Dharma, it is very simply that the people in that culture do not wish to suffer anymore. They are very much aware that they are suffering. They are very much aware that this suffering is constantly with them. They are very much aware that it is completely possible to be reborn as a human being and still experience terrible suffering. They are very much aware that they don’t have a sense of control; they feel that having been born into a certain situation there is really no way out. In America, we are taught from birth that there is a way out. We can take education or we can do one thing or another. If we really work hard, we can achieve the American dream. We can build a better mouse trap and sell it to the American public and become rich. And we can work for Amway or whatever it is that we do and have a geometrical progression into wealth. We always have that hope. But people in these cultures do not have that hope. They are trying to survive from day to day, and the tremendous amount of suffering that goes with that is very evident to them.

So when you bring to a culture such as that a philosophy such as the Buddha brought where he clearly taught that all sentient beings are trying to be happy. They wish to be happy, yet they do not have the means to accomplish happiness. In a culture like that, it is understood. When the Buddha teaches that all sentient beings are suffering and even if they feel temporary happiness, even if we are able to accomplish an entire life time of temporary happiness, that because we are involved in cyclic existence, and because it is cyclic that that happiness is impermanent. It is always coupled by the other side of the coin which is suffering; that, in cyclic existence, suffering is inescapable. In a culture like that it is clearly understood. It is very evident to them that there is always suffering. Even if we managed to get enough firewood, get enough food, and even store it for awhile and even have a little celebration and even if we lose ourselves temporarily in the phenomena of life, such as falling in love, getting married—all of the different things that bring us temporary joy—that still we are very much involved in suffering. That is evident there.

But here in our culture, I have found it personally very difficult to convince Westerners, Americans at least, that this is a good reason to practice. And I understand why this is. We are brought up with the idea that we don’t have to suffer. We are brought up with the idea that here in America one need not suffer. Here in America the streets are paved with gold. Literally, there is a wonderful and golden opportunity. And if you are willing to buy a book, there is a book about how to have that opportunity. There are all kinds of books about how to have those opportunities. The sufferings that we have are very hidden. What they don’t tell you in those books is that even if you get rich, even if you become popular with the opposite sex, even if you learn to make friends and influence people, even if you become politically powerful, even if you become well educated that these things do not bring ultimate happiness. Or what happiness that they do bring is very impermanent. That often the people who accomplish these things never feel a sense of fulfillment, never feel truly happy, never feel as though they had aced it, always feel a sense of longing and a kind of suffering that is very hard to describe. In fact there is another book that is written, the book that I know personally is Passages. It talks about different periods in one’s life during which one traditionally breaks down, and breaks down because all of your life they told you, in these other books, that you could be happy doing these various things; and you could be happy if you were popular with the opposite sex, and you could be happy if you made lots of money, and you could be happy if you did all these things. But right around 35 or 38, somewhere around there, you discover that in fact you have done all these things and you are not happy.

And so it becomes traditional to break down at that time. So that is another book that we write. But we do it in such a crafty way that we don’t even realize that this is a cyclic thing, that this is a constant event. That we constantly strive and work very hard and accomplish these things that seem as though they are going to be the answer; and then ultimately they are not the answer. Ultimately we continue to suffer, but the way that our society is structured these things are very hidden. So, for Americans, for Westerners, I have found that it is very hard to convince them of this. The expression that we use in the Buddhist tradition is hook, or hook of compassion. Sounds devious, I know. Americans are afraid of hooks. If you think of it as a hook of compassion, maybe you will be more comfortable. But the hook that seems to really work for Westerners is compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Commentary on the Bodhisattva Vow: HH Penor Rinpoche God Realm

 

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

Next, consider the gold realm. Gods remain in their realm where they experience immeasurable bliss and happiness for long periods of time. They all have their own palace and gardens, wish-granting trees, and celestial food; everything in their external environment is inconceivably wonderful. Internally they experience only happiness and bliss throughout the entire course of their life. Eventually they exhaust their karma for that rebirth. Prior to that, the dying clairvoyant gods see the place of their future rebirth, which in most cases happens in the hell realm. They take such a rebirth due to having exhausted all tainted virtue that brought them rebirth in the god realm, and then nothing remains for them except an abundance of weighty negative karma. The vast storehouse of merit they once possessed is spent, and they have nowhere to go but to the lowest hell realm. Seeing the irreversible fate that awaits them, and knowing it is too late to reverse that, they experience tremendous suffering. They are powerless to reverse their karma of having to fall from the celestial realm of the gods to the lowest realms in existence.

Buddha therefore taught that there is not even a needle point’s worth of true happiness in samsara. Now you can understand the meaning of that teaching. Even if there is happiness, it always changes because it is impermanent. Happiness in samsara occurs as the result of the karma produced to cause it. Once that cause and result are exhausted, that happiness becomes something else, which is why the term cyclic existence is used to express the nature of life in the six realms. Sentient beings pass from rebirth to rebirth, revolving on this endless wheel of changing realms in dependence on their own karmic accumulations.

If your hair were suddenly to catch fire, you would immediately, without hesitation, try to put out that fire. Likewise, by understanding that cyclic existence is by nature permeated with suffering, and by understanding that it can never be anything other than that, you should immediately, without hesitation, focus on putting out the fire of cyclic existence. Focus totally on effort to extract yourself from this endless suffering of cyclic existence, so that you can achieve the state of permanent bliss and happiness, the state of fully enlightened buddhahood.

Thus it is taught that in order to be successful in reversing strong attraction and attachment to cyclic existence, we must practice dharma. Through the practice of dharma we can reverse attachment to existence and gain more momentum toward liberation, to the point where we realize the state of permanent bliss and cease to return to samsara.

The Accomplishment of the Teacher

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

How do we use the Guru Yoga as this rocketship? How do we understand the way it is used? Well, first of all, if we look at the Guru Yoga in our Ngӧndro book, the prayers are achingly beautiful. The tune, Lama Khyen No, that beautiful tun, you could almost hear it being sung on misty mountain tops. There’s something about it that’s just so haunting. And you get the idea when you’re doing this practice that it’s kind of geared that way. It’s geared to bring tears to one’s eyes. It’s geared to create an interdependent relationship that’s so intimate. It’s more than what we are accustomed to. We wouldn’t take an ordinary relationship and sing Boyfriend Khyen No, Girlfriend Khyen No. We wouldn’t do that. And why? Because there wouldn’t be any result. You might as well twiddle your thumbs. There just simply would be no benefit.

And yet we are given this method and it should cause us some benefit. Why? Why is that? Because we are, again, opening the eyes of recognition. What is it Lord Buddha said when he was asked how he was different? He said, “I am awake.” Awake in recognition. We are opening the inner eyes of recognition to understand the difference between the precious connection with one’s root guru—the ultimate nature that we share, that we depend upon utterly—between that and what is ordinary. You know, the stuff we get lost in so easily. We have this single-pointedness that we can whip ourselves back to. That’s how we use the guru when we get lost and wobbly and we’re kind of out in space. You know how we get in our own particular, you know, the noises in our head and everything. We get lost in that. We can use the guru as our centering back to that. We think this is none other than Guru Rinpoche, the second emanation of Lord Buddha, himself. This is the way. This is that nature. This is what is precious.

And so the lama gives us not only a way to have single-pointed concentration, but the lama also offers their own accomplishment. When one practices the Guru Yoga really deeply, whether it be the Guru Yoga in Ngӧndro or Shower of Blessings, or in any of the pujas that have Guru Rinpoche as the main focal point or Guru Rinpoche and consort as the main focal point, we should think thatthis is the way to practice Guru Yoga. And in each one of those practices, whichever it is, we understand non-dual nature. That’s what we’re working on. We see the arising from the nature of emptiness appearing in a real, but insubstantial, gossamer-like light form, first as the seed syllable and then as the guru.

We are telling ourselves our own story, because it is we also who have arisen from emptiness. It is our nature that is indeed also the seed syllable, and ultimately we are the same nature as the guru. And by the power of the guru’s accomplishment, through their many lifetimes of amazing practice, many lifetimes of looking out after sentient beings and accomplishing the needs of sentient beings and liberating sentient beings, they offer that. They offer themselves and their accomplishment in that way to be the very door to liberation. And so we should think of our teachers in that way: that we are in a burning house and there’s no other way to get out except that one door. Boy, would you ever be devoted to that door. That door would be on your mind. If your house were burning, and there were no other way to get out, wouldn’t it? That door would be…  And that’s how we should think. We should think that here we are in samsara; this is indeed the time of Kaliyuga. We have, at best, as many habitual tendencies guaranteed to bring us suffering as we do to bring us happiness. At best. 50/50, and that is so not usual. We tend to make ourselves more unhappy than we do happy. So we are in this burning house and we look to the teacher to provide the door to liberation.

So when we give rise to that devotion, it’s not to the person guru. It’s not to that person. So it doesn’t matter if you like what they’re wearing or how they smell or what they look like, or how they walk or anything like that. It doesn’t matter. That’s just the stuff you do in regular life. So you can just sweep it over. Instead you think, ‘This one has appeared and will appear throughout time out of mind until all suffering has ended, until samsara is emptied, as the door to liberation. What kind of dope am I that I wouldn’t walk through it?’  It’s that kind of fervent regard. Think of it that way. More than like/dislike, that kind of judgment, but rather fervent regard. And we rely on the accomplishment of our teachers.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

Extraordinary Connection

HHPR and JAL

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

When we practice Ngӧndro, one of the most important sections of Ngöndro is the Guru Yoga. It is beautiful. The cries to Guru Rinpoche are plaintiff and haunting and just moving. How can you describe it any other way? The Lama Khyen No. And yet in the Ngӧndro book, Guru Yoga’s at the last. When I started practicing Ngӧndro, I asked for special permission to practice the Guru Yoga first; and I was given that because of my special connection with Guru Rinpoche in the past. And to me, it was the most beautiful and pure and worthwhile time I’ve ever spent.

For most people, we want to start with the Taking Refuge and the Bodhichitta. And the reason why, again, is because the first need is to discriminate between what is extraordinary and what is ordinary. We cannot really practice Guru Yoga effectively unless we’ve made that discrimination. Because if we can’t make that discrimination, we’re basically practicing to a cartoon image that we do not have the depth yet to understand; or maybe we are practicing on a personality level—that my personality is worth worshipping the Guru’s personality. And again, that’s a baby step. It’s not to be sneezed at, but it’s not where we stay either. We go further than that.

When we practice Guru Yoga, that’s the rocketship of tantric Buddhism. That’s the shortcut. The luckiest practitioners on the Path of Vajrayana are those who feel—not that they have to display it in any outward way or even see their guru that often—but who feel they have, and who have cultivated a special connection with their teacher, a connection not of persona to persona, but of recognition that connection of recognition. And that is where  we go in our practice and we visualize our teachers and say, ‘I understand that this is the very nature of enlightenment; that this is the same nature as Guru Rinpoche; that this is the same nature as all the Buddhas of the ten directions. That this Buddha, this teacher that I have, has been taught to me by Guru Rinpoche to be the Buddha in Nirmanakaya form.’ And we think like that, that kind of recognition, that kind of intention; and a kind of—I hate to use the word passion, because people think of passion in only a certain category—but one develops a passion for the nectar that one’s teacher has to offer. That person is ripe. That person is ripe, not only to enter the Path, but blessed in such a way that not only will they continue, but very likely they will find completion stage practice, as well.

When we connect with our teacher in that way, and really give rise to that recognition, that says that, indeed, this is exactly what Guru Rinpoche promised. Guru Rinpoche said, “I will be there with you as your root teacher. If you call to me, I will be there.” And so, of course he’s saying that in the presence of one’s root guru, having been given the blessings, now we practice Guru Yoga. And that is the very nectar of Guru Rinpoche’s blessing. How fortunate for those of us who have that sense, even in some small form, enough to where you know, like an ember, you can fan the flame. That’s the most fortunate connection of all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon 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.

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