Addicted to Happiness

happiness

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

I would like to take a moment to look at that. You should understand your own psychology enough to really look at yourself and see that mostly everything that you do is an attempt to be happy. If you look at the way we dress, the way we eat, the way we play, the way we work, all of these are meant to fulfill in some way the need to experience happiness and stability. All sentient beings have as their primary, motivating focus the urge to be happy. That is common in all of us. That is part of our basic psychology. You are not bad if you are trying to be happy. This is normal. No one is bad if they are trying to be happy. Every form of life, every bit of cyclic existence experiences that urge to be happy. In fact that can be seen as a brotherhood among us. It can be seen as a way to understand that we are absolutely kin, even in terms of understanding one another’s behavior.

You may not understand the behavior of someone who is very rough and gruff and insensitive. You may not understand the behavior of someone who is a thief. You may not understand the behavior of someone who is very needy and whiny. You may not understand the behavior of someone who is very boasting and gregarious. Whatever your particular personality is like, you won’t understand the other one. Trust me. Whatever yours is like, the other one is not very easily understood. But you can come to understand anyone if you come to understand that each of us, in our own weird way, is trying to be happy. Even the thief is trying to be happy. He thinks that is how he is going to be happy. The misunderstanding is that he thinks that is how he is going to be happy. The whiny kind of needy person is trying to be happy. They think they will get what they need if they continue that behavior. The boastful and gregarious person is trying to be happy. They think that they will be approved of or they will get what they need if they continue in that way.

All of us, equally, are trying to be happy. That is what makes us brother and sisters, if nothing else, because that is our psychology. And because we do not want to be unhappy. we wish to be happy, we resist examining the faults of cyclic existence. It is a downer. There is no getting around it. It is not what you want to think about because if you think about that you kind of get the icky-stickys. It’s just not what you want to think about. It’s just not so pleasant. However, if you think about love, or if you think about beauty, or if you think about positive thoughts, or if you just examine rainbows or do all these wonderful things that you have found make you happy, you think that is the answer. That is what I want to do. It will make me happy for a little while. And we are happiness addicts; we are stimulation addicts; we are instant gratification addicts. We want to have that little hit of happiness; and we don’t really care who we have to steal it from, much like a thief.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Covering the Bases

mountain

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

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you and give some little cookie as to what the prayers are all about and as to why we use them as we do. I think that if you are not used to pronouncing Tibetan you must have something of the same experience that I had when I first began to learn these prayers and began to pronounce them. I remember being a little Jewish and a little Italian, I rolled up my eyes and did like this and went, oy!  It seemed to me so cumbersome. It seemed to me intensely uncomfortable; and I just could not believe that I was investing myself in doing this. But eventually over a period of time and patience, which is not something I have a lot of, I did manage to listen to these prayers in such a way that they became meaningful to me. And now that I have come to understand something of the meaning of them, I really take a great deal of joy in reciting them. I feel a tremendous amount of joy and regard for taking the time to recite these prayers on a regular basis and in a heartfelt way. They are truly wonderful and a great blessing.

For those of you who come every week, or come fairly regularly, you will find that there are many times that I will repeat things that I have already taught. There is a reason for this; there is a method to my madness. First of all, I have found that almost never do people internalize philosophical concepts the first time they hear them. Almost always is it necessary to hear them again and again and again. Actually it is better to hear them in different ways, and then they begin to become a part of us. It is almost like climbing a mountain from several different directions in order to understand the shape of the mountain. If you can’t look at the mountain as the Buddha might look at it, from kind of a bird’s eye view, or an elevated posture, you have to rely on climbing the mountain in order to understand its topography, in order to understand its shape and its form and its dimension, and how big it is, and to really internalize what the mountain is all about, to see all its different faces. One climb won’t do it and climbing the same way all the time won’t do it. It seems as though we have to climb from all the different beginning places, from all the different sides of the mountain, in order to really accomplish understanding what that mountain is.

I feel that philosophy and religion are something like that. In order to really understand them and internalize them, they must be approached again and again and again; and they must be approached at different times and from different angles. For one thing, you are constantly changing. There is nothing about you that is permanent. You are constantly growing and changing; and even from day to day, your particular mood, your particular depth, your particular understanding is very flexible. It is constantly changing. What you understand one day, you might not understand the next day. And I am sure that you have had experiences like that where you have read a religious thought or a spiritual thought or had an experience in your meditation that one day seemed unbelievably deep, seemed to you to really click, seemed to really mean something to you. And then the next day, you might read it and you might as well be reading a bubble gum wrapper. It is just about that meaningful to you. So we change constantly. There is nothing about us that is permanent, plus the fact that our karma is constantly changing. Of course, that is what makes us change. Different catalysts cause the ripening of different karmic structures, different karmic events. We are constantly effected by these ripenings. From time to time, obstacles arise that effect our minds and our perception. And also we have a characteristic way of understanding. There is a characteristic karma that is our karma. Each one of us has our own particular mode of understanding.

I was listening to the radio yesterday for a little while and there was an interesting example of that. A man who was a linguist would go to different movie stars and different movie sets and he would teach people how to speak in a different dialect or with a different accent. He was so proficient; he was just amazing. He could speak three different dialects of… How can I explain this? He could speak English with an Irish accent, but he could sound as though he had come from three different regions in Ireland. He could sound like any different state in the union. Each state has a characteristic way of speaking. Not all Southern states sound the same, not even all Appalachia sounds the same. Anyway he was so good at that that he could make a difference between the Bronx and Brooklyn; he could make a difference between India. He could act as though he were speaking from a specific region from any country in the world, and he could teach anyone to accomplish that.

His observation, and the reason why I am bringing this up, is that people learn differently and you have to be skilled in many different ways in order to teach people. He was describing Jane Fonda and he was saying that she has an incredible ear. Only three two-hour sessions, I think he said, and she could mimic a certain regional Appalachia dialect that was very difficult to accomplish and very specific; and she had an ear that was like a tape recorder. That was the way that she learned. A lot of what she learned she had to learn from ear. She couldn’t really learn it by reading it as she could by hearing it. And then he described Charlton Heston. He is not able to learn by ear at all. He has to learn it by phonetically spelling out the accent. Then he can read it from cards, and he can do it perfectly that way.

So each of us has a characteristic way in which we learn. It is not as simplistic as that. It is not that some of us hear better than read or read better than hear. There is that, but there is a characteristic karma or an outlay or a fabric that our minds seem to have and the way in which we learn. It may be that you may hear an entire philosophy laid out in a very explicit way. It may be just perfect. It may have everything in it, and it may not make any sense to you. It may be like Jane Fonda trying to read a card or Charlton Heston trying to mimic a voice. It may not do anything for you. And yet something may be laid out in a different way and it may be fairly sketchy; and from that you may have an understanding that is deeper than the one that you could have gotten from a very specific teaching.

So we try to cover all of our bases here and make sure you hear this teaching in as many different ways as possible. And for those of you who are here for the first time or come only once in a great while, I try to not build the classes one on top of the other too much so that when you come here, even if you only come occasionally, you can come away with a whole cameo piece, or a whole thought or a whole teaching that you can use for your own benefit and also eventually to benefit all sentient beings.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Commitment

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

If you can’t be bothered to join and give some help, some support through having given rise to the bodhicitta, and having habituated oneself towards understanding the nature of samsara, which is also your responsibility, and habituating oneself towards deeply understanding the suffering of all sentient beings, which is also your responsibility, then there’s not much hope for good practice, no matter what practice you do. You can’t get away from it, no matter how wonderful you are. Compassion is in the mix. And there’s not much time. None of us knows how long we will live. It is not appropriate to say I’m going to wait, wait, wait, wait, wait until I get my stuff ironed out, and then, THEN I’ll try the bodhicitta. You’ll never get the chance. Believe me, my friend. I’ve seen it time and time again. You will never have the opportunity.

When you accept the path of the Dharma, and you commit yourself to the idea of liberation, at that point, you have to accept what has actually been taught. You can’t pick and choose what you want. You can’t make up your own little gig and call it Buddhism. Because all of the Buddhist teachings, every one, from the simplest level in the Deer Park when Lord Buddha was actually alive to this very day and whatever terma revelations may even be realized in this time, the heart beat, the essence, the blood and spirit and truth of Dharma is the bodhicitta, the great compassion. That is the way.

If you think you can simply muster up great pride in your accomplishment by keeping your ordinary qualities—pride, self-absorption, slothfulness—and yet somehow do a very high practice, and magically give rise to the perfect awakening, it won’t be so. Time and time again, we have been taught that the way of the Buddha Dharma is the way of the bodhicitta. So it is easy to say, ‘I graduated last year. I’m going to graduate this year, too.’  It is easy to say, ‘Well, I didn’t do this, and I didn’t do this, and I didn’t accomplish a bhum [one hundred thousand repetitions] of this, and I didn’t accomplish a million of that, but I’m practicing Dzogchen.’ That’s very easy to do. But it behooves us to go back and see what we’ve missed.

You are not too advanced to love. You are not too advanced to get off your duff and help somebody. You are not too sanctified to look at other beings on this planet and say, ‘I know that you are wandering in samsara. I know that we are basically human and that we share many of the same sufferings, and I find that unbearable. I wish to help.’  You are not too holy to care that there is war, that there is hunger, that there is suffering. And shame on you if all you do to honor Guru Rinpoche’s teachings is to sit on your little cushion and have it be all. Yeah, you can dedicate your practice. That’s right. You can also help. It wouldn’t kill you. Do you see what I’m saying?

It’s good to go all the way. It’s very good to get these precious inconceivable teachings, but since you are not in that perfect situation where you will be constantly reminded except by maybe me… And how much do you listen to me?  Unless you are in that perfect situation, it is up to you to make up the difference. This is the karma of our times. And you find yourself here at 18400 River Road. You can’t skip anything. You should accomplish your Ngӧndro. You should finish it even if you’re working on Togyal. You should accomplish your Ngӧndro. And that means finishing it, not just saying, ‘I did a lot of it so I accomplished it.’  And you should accomplish your Three Roots. And most especially you should give rise to the precious bodhicitta.

Read the lives of the saints. Read what they went through in order to give rise to compassion. And that in any case, in every case, no real progress was ever made unless there was compassion, unless there was bodhicitta.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

Essential Motivation

HisHolinessPenorRinpoche

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

Ngondro purifies the five senses to such a degree that many of the gross defilements.  The ones that you meet up in your life where you are happily going along the road of life and you get punched in the face by karma.  Those obstacles.  You know.  They purify some of that and they keep that sort of thing from happening or they make it happen more benignly pacified is the idea.  And then accumulation of the Three Roots stabilizes the mind.  Begins to ripen the mind.  At that time we are trying to accomplish the Vajra confidence of the deities, their very pure qualities.  Their ability to establish virtue.  Their ability to accomplish view.  All of these things are accomplished through this recitation.  But nowadays, we don’t even have to do that.  We go to Tsa Lung.  And we don’t even have to finish Tsa Lung.  Then we can go to Trekchod, and then we can go to Togyal.  I think that is right.  We don’t really have to graduate.  And you have to ask yourself at this point.  What has changed?  Did His Holiness change?

I think of His Holiness like the Copper Mountain.  Our perception of the Copper Colored Mountain may change.  It may be connected to our own capability but does the Copper Colored Mountain ever change?  No.  It is absolutely empty of self-nature and yet spontaneously accomplished.    Figure that one out.  So, there is no fault here.  The fault is not with His Holiness.  His Holiness made a decision based on the times and I understand his decision.  It is not for me to agree or disagree, but I absolutely understand what his method is.  But the thing that I want to express to you is that it puts the responsibility on us.  To accomplish when we are not with His Holiness what we have to accomplish in order to make what he is teaching us next worthwhile.

One of the worst things that I have seen happen, that is a terrible result, and indeed it is not unusual in the sense that it is different from the way the world is acting now.  But still I have to say that it is not a good result and that is that most people on the path blow right by giving rise to the Bodhicitta.  Giving rise to the great compassion, to the way that actually is the very essence of awakening.  The Bodhicitta.  Now, His Holiness always teaches about Bodhicitta.  He never denies an opportunity.  Never abandons an opportunity.  He teaches about the Bodhicitta every time.  Like for instance when he starts to give a teaching or he starts to do a practice, often he will remind us to establish our motivation and the Khenpos will always say that we must establish our motivation or that we must understand that we are hearing this teaching not just to hang out here or that we are doing some practice not just because we are bored or for some other self-oriented reason.  But the only valid, righteous and appropriate motivation to accomplish Dharma is for the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.  So, we can repeat that back. We’ve heard this so many times.  And we can say if I say to you, “Why are you doing this practice?”  You’ll say, “Oh, liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.”  We’ve heard this so many times that we can parrot it back.  Sort of like a Malaccan Cockatoo or an African Gray.  But have we really given rise to the Bodhicitta?  Have we really accomplished it?  Have we worked really clean?  Thank you!  Somebody said no.  I appreciate that.  You know?  Have we worked cleanly and purely with our motivation?  Do we tutor ourselves on our motivation everyday, every moment?   And when we have choices to make, do we reestablish the motivation so that we can make the correct choices by saying, “Thus for the sake of sentient beings, I will open this altar, close this altar, pray, circumambulate, do my practice, study some Dharma.  Benefit sentient beings in some way.  Feed the hungry.  Heal the sick.  Walk a dog.“ Anything!  Anything.  Do we remind ourselves that that is our reason for taking our next breath?  That other than giving rise to compassion, giving rise to the mind of Bodhicitta which by the way, is the pure awakened state, our primordial wisdom nature, that that is the reason for anything that we do.  And should remain so.  And if we do not have the proper karma to be born in a monastery amongst many learned monks and nuns and many learned Khenpos, and lamas and Rinpoches, then we must accept that as our karma.  And shouldn’t leave ourselves to say, “Oh those poor guys.  They have to work for years trying to accomplish some Dharma and all they get is a couple of maroon colored sheets and a rug.  And you know, they just stay there in the Monastery.  And gee, I get to hang out here in America with cars, and TVs, and you know, stuff.  I have a great house.  And I can buy another car if I want.  And you know there are so many things that I can do do do.  And have have have  have.  And yet I get some Dzogchen.  Whoopee!  I must be the most fabulous person in the world. “

Unfortunately, our response to being given this great blessing is a little more like the whoopee part than it is the honest internal watchfulness that makes us ask ourselves, “Have I given rise to the Bodhicitta?  Have I accomplished good qualities?”  I mean when you practice the root deities, the Three Roots you accumulate so many repetitions of the mantra and you put so much energy into visualizing their different hand held implements and even their posture, which means something.  The handheld implement and the posture are the very display of the deities’ excellent qualities and activities.  So, we practice many repetitions of the mantra of the root deity.  And we think now we have accomplished the qualities of the root deity.  What are the qualities of the root qualities of the root deity?  We study the hand implements.  We study the posture, and we begin to inhabit those qualities.  We begin to display those qualities.  We accept those qualities.  We habituate towards those qualities and even one of the qualities that we habituate toward is Vajra pride.

Vajra pride which is different from American pride.  American pride is the bullshit that knocks you off the path.  Vajra pride is the confidence in the method.  Confidence in the method through meditating on Shunyata and giving rise to the deity.  And so there is the confidence.  Not having practiced mantra like that.  Not having gone through those different accomplishments, we instead have given rise to ordinary pride.  And ordinary pride is stupid pride.  It tells us to argue with the elder sangha members, lamas, and Khenpos, thinking that we know better, or to make up our own religion.  Or to just do it the way we want to, or to just self cherish.  To meditate on self-cherishing, ego cherishing, which is giving rise to the ordinary pride and back to that ordinary cycle.  But when we accomplish the deity, something different rises up.  And then when we move on to the other levels, we move on with Vajra confidence and unshakeable Bodhicitta – compassion.

Now, when that foundation is properly laid, and we have properly practiced Bodhicitta, and we have properly accumulated mantra and we have purified our senses through the Ngondro, then when we are introduced to Dzogchen.  The mind is matured.  The blessing of the lama, particularly if we have accomplished purely the accumulation of Vajra Guru mantra within the context of Guru Yoga in Ngondro.  And what is it, 1.5 million of those?  Or 1.2, I forget.  Huh?  1.2?  Thank you.  She knows but did you do it?  Oh see!  Yeah.  So, after you accomplish that many Vajra Guru mantras in the context of Guru Yoga, you have changed.  Your capability is different.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Roots of Anger

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

For most of us, when we are wrathful or angry, it’s not wrathful. It’s not righteous wrath, you know, in order to help that person. The only time I can see where it would be useful for an ordinary person to be wrathful would be to maybe encourage somebody else to stand on their own two feet or to be less dependent or something like that. Now look, I really want you to do that, and you can talk sternly. But otherwise, where in your life should hatred be?  Hatred is one of the three things that binds you to this world of samsara in which you will get old, you will get sick and you will die. And so we are taught that we must handle this hatred.

So when we approach hatred and look at it, we have to really examine our habitual tendencies. We can’t just say, you know, ‘I’m not going to hate anybody,’ or it’s kind of like a recovering alcoholic. It’s difficult, very difficult, to just say, ‘I’m not going to drink anymore. I’m going to use will power and I’m not going to drink anymore.’ You know, they say some people can do that, but most people can’t. And why is that?  Because you have to learn about yourself. Because there is a reason why you drank in the first place. Because you have to learn to look inside of yourself and see what’s in there and you have to work it. What do they say in the program?  ‘It works if you work it.’ What do I say about Buddhism?  ‘It works if you work it.’ It’s the same deal. We are addicted to our habitual tendencies like a bunch of alcoholics. That’s why I love recovering alcoholics, because I feel such a kinship with them. And it’s beautiful that it’s so obvious to them that they are recovering addicts. Those of us who maybe have a little shot every now and then or whatever, a little wine every now and then or we’re teetotalers, we think, ‘Oh well, I’m not an addict. Oh, I’m pure, because I take vitamins and I eat bananas,’ and whatever.

But I tell you what. It’s that recognition that from the point of view of recovering from the addiction to the five poisons and from that awakening to Buddhahood, most of us are still at the stage where we are living like bag ladies and men under the bridge, because we ain’t recovered yet. We still have our hatreds; we still have our resentments. And we practice them.

When a Buddhist approaches ridding themselves of hatred, it can’t be done through willpower. It must be done through understanding, through practicing and ultimately through attaining view. Understanding means looking within oneself with honesty. None of us have been perfect. We’ve hurt others. We’ve killed bugs, people; I don’t know what, swatted flies, whatever. None of us has been perfect. And when we approach that, we need to look at that without excuses, bald-faced, you know?  Where have I fallen down here?

Now we don’t want to look at in a harsh and miserable way.  When I say take oneself to task, I mean have a long, sobering talk with oneself. I don’t mean self-hatred. That is useless and I don’t like it. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to talk about it; and I will slap you next week if I see it, because you are just as worthy as anyone else, and that’s just a game. When we get into self-hatred, it’s because we have bad qualities and we don’t want to deal with them. So I say, accomplish those qualities and your image of yourself will rise up like a mountain.

Most people that have poor self-image are stuck in a kind of fearful narcissism where they do not respect or understand what is outside. They do not respect or understand what is inside. They can’t tell the difference between outside and inside. And they are so internally focused, focused on their own needs, wants and dramas, particularly dramas, that it is really very difficult for these people to step out of their shell, their shell of narcissism, and begin to truly try to be of benefit to others.  This narcissism, this kind of fearful self-absorption, often is one of the causes of a kind of hatred. If you are fearful and self-absorbed in your own drama, it’s really, ultimately when you trace it down, pretty much all about you. You know? If you have that kind of thing, there is never the opportunity to understand the nature of phenomena. There is never the opportunity to understand the primordial naturally luminous wisdom state that is our nature because of the drama. And there is even a posture with that. Forthe people who have that kind of thing, as they grow older, their body tends to go like that. It caves in like that. And it’s the protecting that we’re doing of something that we feel is inherently real–ego.

When you think, ‘Oh, what can I do about this? I’m so fearful. Of course she’s saying I’m narcissistic, but it’s really that I am afraid.’ Well, what can we do about that?  I think one step is to notice that are there are other people who are afraid, also. Notice that everybody is afraid. Notice that there is a humanity that we share of brother-sisterhood, a humanness that we share, human experiences that we will all have together. We will grow old. We will be sick. We will die. This is the condition that humanity shares in samsara. So learn to recognize in others that connection, even if it’s a sad one, that we all suffer the same; and we have the same wants, too. That narcissistic self-absorbed person who is very fearful wants desperately to be happy but doesn’t know how. And so in order to make themselves better, they stay frozen. They have hatreds and fears toward everybody else. And that’s the reaction.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Step by Step

StepByStep

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Reclaiming Our Merit”

Based on the eightfold path of the contemplations on the meditations, and so forth, that are prescribed, we start to build the wisdom, which is more than knowledge. Let’s say we find an ordinary person who is 70 years old. with general and average sensibilities, a person as honest as Woody Allen, who said that he never gained any wisdom his whole life.. I think that’s strange, but anyway, coming back to reality here. A 70 year old person is going to have to experience some of the cycles of life, the passages and changes that we negotiate through that change us, make grownups out of us. Somebody much younger may have the same capacity, but they have not had that repeated experience. So that’s the kind of wisdom: The way a 70 year old person would have calmer view, a better wisdom, a better grip, a bigger understanding, perhaps, of how the world works, than say, a 20 year old.

In the same way, we build our practice carefully, step by step in the way you have to live year by year. You can’t skip years if you want to do that with our practice. And don’t even dare to think to go on to the higher practices until you’ve accomplished what was before that. Really, back in the old days, that’s how it was. A teacher gave you a teaching. You climbed back down the mountain and didn’t go up again to visit your teacher until you accomplished it. And it was not, ‘I did this many mantras.’  You accomplished it. And back in those days, teachers weren’t worried about lawsuits. They would throw you down the mountain if you didn’t do it right. But nowadays we’re worried.

So these are dark times and there are reasons why we should get together more. There is a universe of reasons why we should get together and practice our art. We have the robes. We have the teachings. And I pray that we have the pure intentions, the willingness to experience a little bit of discomfort, inconvenience—oh, perish the thought—so we can actually contribute.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Relief From Suffering

HumanRealm

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Foundation of Bodhicitta”

Now having been introduced to the six realms, you should look at all of the different qualities that produce these rebirths: anger, grasping, ignorance, doubt, jealousy and pride.  You should think that the thing to do, if you have any understanding at all, is to begin to engage in activity that pacifies those kinds of qualities.  How does this mesh with compassion?  When you think about engaging in compassionate activity, you have to view compassionate activity in accordance with this teaching because you might think that compassionate activity would only be to be nice to people, and actually that is one kind of compassionate activity, or to give money to the poor, or to feed people.  That is one kind of compassionate activity; that is one kind of bodhicitta, but it is temporary bodhicitta.  It will produce a temporary cessation of suffering for the people that you help.  If you give them food when they are hungry, it will produce the end of temporary suffering.  If you give them money when they are poor, it will produce the end of temporary suffering.  But if you really want to get into ultimate bodhicitta, which is the quintessential practice of the Mahayana vehicle, and Vajrayana as part of Mahayana—Vajrayana is what we practice here—what you really want to do is to practice ultimate or supreme bodhicitta.  Ultimate or supreme bodhicitta is creating some kind of practice that will be a vehicle by which the qualities that produce this result will be pacified both in yourself and in other sentient beings.

I’ve described the six realms of cyclic existence.  Where in the six realms is there relief?  Nowhere.  Will you find relief as a result of temporary help in any of the six realms?  No, because you will be reborn again. And where?  We don’t know.  We just don’t know.  In cyclic existence, there is no true relief.  All there is in cyclic existence are the components of cyclic existence.  That is all that is in that pot.  You cannot expect true relief from cyclic existence.  So ultimate bodhicitta and an ultimately compassionate act would be to become a Buddha yourself.  To become highly enough realized yourself to make that commitment to attain realization in order to return again and again and again, emanating from the mind of enlightenment in order to be of benefit to sentient beings, because that is where relief comes from.

Now let me see if this is a typical thangka?  No this is not a traditional thangka.  The traditional thangkas usually show a path coming out from the human realm leading to enlightenment.  As a human, you can make the ultimate gift.  You can engage in the supreme practice.  You can achieve enlightenment yourself and, therefore, you can be a returner.  You can return again and again and again in order to lead sentient beings through a display of your enlightened compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Long Life Gods – Is It the Good Life?

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Foundation of Bodhicitta”

Now there is the long life gods realm.  It is hard not to pray for rebirth in the long life god realm. First of all, it lasts a very long time, maybe two or three thousand years. Three thousand years of total bliss sounds like a nice vacation to me. That sounds better than three weeks at the beach in the summer, but I can’t figure out where to buy the ticket. There are problems with this realm, actually. There is a suffering to that realm and the suffering of that realm is that it is impermanent. In the realm itself, while it exists, there is no suffering. Water is like the elixir of life; it can cure all ills. Music when heard doesn’t sound like music to us. Music to us is either good or bad; we either like it or don’t like it. It helps, it hurts; it depends on what kind of music it is. If we are in the long life gods realm, one note can cure any ill, can result in bliss. Just one sound, one touch, brings about waves of bliss. I can’t think of a better word. Ecstasy!  Everything that happens is ecstasy.

The gods and goddesses are beautiful beyond compare. Take the most gorgeous person you can imagine in the physical realm. Think of the most gorgeous movie star or person that you have ever seen and think that in the god realm they would be dogs. They would look like fish mongers. People in the god realm would look at them and would go yeck, stinko—literally stinko—because in the god realm the fragrance that is given off of the body is like perfume coming from every pore,but sweet perfume. Estee Lauder would be nothing compared to this. It would be the perfume of virtue.

In order to be reborn in this gods realm, you have to have a lot of virtue stored up, but it is a particular kind of virtue. It is the kind of virtue where maybe you help others become rich, or help others to become full of food. You see what I am saying? It is virtue, but it is not associated with philosophical or religious ideals. It is just a different kind of more materialistic virtue. So this kind of virtue can result in this wonderful life in which you are so beautiful you just can’t believe it. There is not a flaw on your body. You never have b.o. Your b.o. will heal all sentient beings if they just catch one whiff of it. I don’t care what beautiful movie star you have imagined to be your person to compare them with, but they have b.o. sometimes. You may not believe this but everybody smells sometimes, but in the long life god realm everybody is perfect.

Everything that you see is color, not like color you see here. It looks very colorful in this room, right? You go outside and you see beautiful greens and you see beautiful blue sky. Color in the long life god realm is so gorgeous, you just look at it and you experience ecstasy. Wouldn’t you like to go there?  No, you wouldn’t because the problem is that when you are born in this long life god realm, it takes so much virtue , to be reborn there, accumulated virtue over eons and eons of cyclic existence, that when you are reborn there you begin to use up your virtue like an eight cylinder car going up a mountain. You use it up so fast. Admittedly, it is often a couple of thousand years, but in terms of cyclic existence, which is eons and eons of endless cyclic existence, that is a short time. And also while you are in the long life god realm, to a human it may seem like two thousand years, but to you it might seem like a short life time because there is so much pleasure that one’s whole experience of that pleasure becomes completely expanded. So in the same way a fun day goes by faster than a long and tedious day, it’s kind of like that, but so much greater than that.

So the long life god realm is very difficult in that at the end of that life, what happens to them is they begin to smell funny. That is how the other gods and goddesses know that their time is up. They don’t begin to age as we know aging, because aging is not one of the sufferings of that realm. They begin to lose some of their perfume. It’s not that they smell funny, it’s just that they lose some of their perfume. They have a little less of that gorgeousness, and the other gods and goddesses begin to move away because no one can bear the idea of bliss ending. . They don’t want to think about that. And the god or goddess that is experiencing the end of their time there calls out to them and says, “Please help me. Give me some of your virtue. Help me.”  And the others go, “No, I can’t, I can’t deal with the fact that I’m going to lose what I have now, so I’m going to move over here.”  What happens at that point is the karma is used up and so the rebirth in the god realm begins to decay and at some point ,because they even have the quality of clairvoyance, they are able to see the realms of cyclic existence and they are able to understand that they just finished up all of their virtue and the only place to go is down, real far down. That is the great and horrible suffering of the god realm.

This suffering is so intense because having used up all of their virtue now they have to begin from scratch. How horrible to think that you had accumulated so much virtue and could have achieved realization, but somehow missed the boat due to the kind of virtue that you have and due to the one quality that does produce rebirth as a long-life god. The one quality that does produce rebirth as a long-life god is pride. Have you seen people with lives like that?  Have you seen people who have beautiful families and beautiful homes and beautiful cars, and they are beautiful people. And it seems that everything is easy for them; and they hold themselves with a sense of pride as though they were different from the rest of us peasants. There is a lot of pridefulness about that. I even knew of a person who had a great body and didn’t have to work out; they had a gorgeous wife and didn’t have to be faithful to her in order to keep her; they had so many different things that you just want to say to them, “Why? I work like a dog.”  You look at that person and you just want to slap them upside the head because they don’t seem to produce any virtue. They are not virtuous at all. Things just ripened in such a way. They just say, “I can do what I want to because I am not going to catch hell from anybody.”  Well, that is the attitude and the mind state that would produce rebirth as a long life god—lots of virtue tied in with that kind of pridefulness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

The Animal Realm: Ignorance

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Foundation of Bodhicitta”

The next realm is the animal realm. Now we have a strange understanding of the animal realm. We think, ‘Now that won’t be so bad.’  I have actually had people say to me, “I wish I could be a dog in my next life so that people would pet me.”  And I go, “Oh, no. Please don’t say that because you are not going to be a dog. You are going to be a hungry ghost.”  Don’t do that. That kind of neediness, that kind of idea,… You don’t want to express that. Let’s understand the animal realm better.

It isn’t like our little puppies and our little kitties and our little birdies. It isn’t cute little fluffy stuff like that. You have to think about what the animal realm is really like. Animals are completely at the mercy of the higher life form of humans. They are completely at the mercy of one another. In animal realms, there is the predator and the victim. And even amongst those animals that do not engage in that kind of activity, they are victimized by their own stupidity. I think about the bullocks in India. They have to pull these huge carts. Their owners whip them all day long in order to make them pull these huge carts; and they decorate their horns and think of them as their objects. They are their objects; and really they are more valuable than their wives because the bullocks can make it possible to pull these large amounts of things that the owners need to pull in order to make their livings. So I think about that kind of suffering. I think about camels that are ridden across deserts, not ever being able to go where they want to go. I think of horses that are never permitted to do what they want to do, never permitted to live naturally. I think about even our own domestic pets that are at our mercy as to whether or not we remember to feed them, whether or not we remember to take them to the vet. It’s our decision whether or not we want them fixed. It’s a dog’s life. It is a terrible thing to be engaged in the animal realm, because in the animal realm the chief suffering is that of ignorance. An elephant, for instance, could easily escape from a man who was dominating it, you see, in order to make it work all its life; but the elephant is too stupid to know that. It is too stupid to understand that. The human has developed a method to demonstrate his mastery, and therefore the elephant, although it is ten times bigger than the human, thinks that it is a victim of the human. That kind of stupidity leads to terrible suffering.

Animals in the animal realm are constantly fearful. They are constantly fearful of being eaten. All of their instincts guard against being eaten. They are constantly fearful of being left without food. They are constantly fearful. There is no space in their minds other than the fear that they have; and that fear is the result of ignorance.

So, do we have any ignorance in our minds, do you think?  Now, I don’t mean ignorance like you didn’t go to college. Not like that kind of ignorance. But the ignorance that makes you say, “Where did the day go?”  That dullness that makes you go through a day and you get the impression that you rode or skimmed on the surface of that day. You just kind of skimmed, just kind of floated on it, and your mind didn’t dig in anywhere in particular too much. You sort of ran around in your head a little bit. And then maybe you spent another day where you kind of floated on the sensuality of that day. I ate, and I slept. I spent time with my family, and I spent time with my husband or wife. And put on some new clothes. I worked and it felt good to work; or maybe it didn’t feel so good to work, and it felt like this. That kind of dullness where you don’t say, “Yo, let’s look at the faults of cyclic existence and figure out what we can do to make this day count.”  That kind of dullness is the kind of dullness that will cause us to be reborn in the animal realm. That dullness and ignorance.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Vajrasattva in the Bardo

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

On the second day, here they’re saying Vajrasattva Buddha appears. This is Vajrasattva, the very same one that you are practicing in your Ngöndro. Think how ready you will be for him! The minute he shows up you’re going to go, “Yes! I know who you are!” In this case, Vajrasattva Buddha is also associated with Akshobya Buddha, but he will appear as Vajrasattva Buddha on the second day with white light. And again, the white light will be unnaturally brilliant, according to what we have understood, dazzling, frightening in its dazzling light; and at the same time a softer, easier on the eyes (even though there are no eyes, we have that kind of perception in the bardo at that point), black light, the softer black light of the hell world, will manifest. Now listen to how tricky this is. We are faced with an unnaturally white, unnaturally bright, scary light, or a softer, black light that, because we have felt hatred more than we have felt Vajrasattva, we are more familiar with. It will not be so frightening to us. It will be softer, and it will seem to be seductive, more so than the white light. So what we have to do is to be sure and avoid that black light, because that black light results in rebirth in one of the hell realms.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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