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

Motivated by Kindness

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

We have been brought up to understand that we are the most powerful country in the world. And we are, of course, the most enlightened people in the world; and we are, of course, the most advanced people in the world; and we are, of course, because we have Estee Lauder, the most beautiful people in the world. We are brought up with all these different beliefs. And whether we swallow them consciously or not, subconsciously they are in there somewhere rattling around, and we have this faith in our way of life. One thing that we can do is to think of ourselves as able to help others. One thing that is very popular in our society is the idea that it is a beneficial thing and a good thing and a virtuous thing and a fulfilling thing to help others. We are always looking for fulfillment.  So the idea of compassion is a way to move ourselves into a foundation for meditation and practice. In my own experience (and I don’t claim to be such an experienced teacher), but in my own experience I have found that if I go to a new place that has never heard about the Buddha’s teaching, or if I go to a place that has heard a little bit and wants to hear more, or even if I have gone to students that have studied Buddhism for some time, if I want to touch them or refresh them so that they can continue in a determined way in their practice, or have them open up to the potential of practice and be stabilized to the extent that they can begin to practice earnestly, I can always rely on the idea of compassion to do that.

Westerners are excited by the idea that they might be able to benefit others. They are aware to some extent that the rest of the world is suffering. We don’t like to think about it, but to some extent we are aware that poverty exists, and hunger and sickness. I have found that Westerners are kind people. We are kind people. We want very much to end suffering; we very much want to help others. And there are many people who will practice if they really understand that this meditation will help them bring about the end of suffering for other people, will help them be a helper to others. They will practice for that reason. But strangely they will not practice to end their own suffering. They will continue to try to manipulate the circumstances in their life, or change things around, or try this or try that; but they will not really develop a firm foundation of practice because they themselves are suffering. They are not sufficiently motivated by their own suffering. It is a strangeness in our culture. It is not found in other cultures. But we will practice to benefit others.

This group, the core group of people who have been practicing in this temple for some time, came together because the people of earth were suffering, and the group wished to maintain a 24-hour a day prayer vigil. That is a dynamic of this organization. It came about so quickly and in such a stable way because the people here were greatly moved by the suffering of sentient beings. They knew that this kind of practice—the practice that brings about the end of desire and brings about supreme enlightenment—is ultimately the way to bring about the end of all suffering. For this reason, this family, or group of people, actually came together to practice.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Sustainable Foundation

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

I have found that after a certain point, if compassion is the main motivation to practice, it will sustain you; but it constantly requires inspirationbecause we sort of become drawn back into ourselves. You know how you do that. You sort of wake up in the morning and think, ‘Today I am going to live a spiritual life, and I am going to help everyone, and I am going to be nice.  I am going to be good and that is it. That is the kind of day I am going to have.’ And somewhere around 4:00 (or at least it is 4:00 for me), you need a little inspiration. Well, we are like that with our lives. We have moments of touching, moments of experience of spiritual point of view. We have precious moments; and in those moments we think, ‘This life is only important if I accomplish meditation or if I accomplish enlightenment. This is very important. This is really the meaning of life; and I have a sense of the meaning of life; and I have a sense that kindness and love are the core elements in life; and that is what it is really all about. And I am changing my life starting now.’

Two weeks after that point, maybe three days, we start to wear down a little bit. I have found that in practicing the Buddhadharma, even if in the beginning we are on fire—your heart is just on fire with compassion, and you feel so strongly the sense to benefit all sentient beings—unless inspiration is constantly experienced or given, or had in some way, that that will wear thin. At that point, even Westerners must begin to understand the foundational concepts associated with the Buddhist thinking. That foundational concept I will entitle “The Faults of Cyclic Existence.”  If a real competency in understanding the faults of cyclic existence is not adapted at this time, the foundation is incomplete. Because it is not sufficient only to practice in order to benefit beings and for compassion if one does not really understand the faults of cyclic existence. So I would like to go into that.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Covering the Bases

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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

 

Preliminary Practice

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

I am grateful to those who go through the Sunday prayers without having the foggiest idea what they mean. I commend you completely with all my heart and soul, if I had one. (That is a joke. You see according to the Buddhist philosophy there is no such thing as a soul.)  It is considered that there are three objects of refuge: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha, of course, is the enlightened mind. The Dharma is the speech or teaching of the Buddha, the path of the Buddha; and the Sangha is considered to be the religious or spiritual community that propagates the Dharma, that brings about a way for us to practice. And these being our objects of refuge, we consider that all of the teaching and all of the opportunity that we have to practice actually comes from the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. So we feel that before beginning any practice it is good to make offerings. And when reciting these prayers, once you understand what the prayers are about, you can visualize certain offerings.

It is considered that it is good to request the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma, or to continue to offer the path of the Dharma. It is a combination of offering and request, honoring and praising. It is our custom to do these things before we actually begin to accomplish a practice or hear a teaching. Some of the meanings of the prayers are pretty evident when you read them. Yet, you must understand that almost everything that exists on the Vajrayana path seems to exist on three levels of meaning. I am not sure why it happened that way. I think that it is just a propensity for secrecy, or drama, or something wonderful like that. It appeals to me very much.

At any rate, I think that what is addressed here are different levels of understanding. There is a preliminary level of understanding in which one first approaches the path and, almost like walking into a room, you need to figure out where the door is, how to turn the handle. We have to turn on the light; we have to figure out where the table is so that we don’t bump into it. It’s that kind of thing. We have to look at the bones of it, or the structure of it, and the inner and secret levels of meaning. One actually develops a capability for understanding as practice begins. Almost never, at least traditionally, are deeper, very mystical teachings given right at the onset of engaging in Dharma practice because it is considered that the mind needs to be deepened and gentled. At the point when that process begins through the use of preliminary practice, then additional teachings, intermediate teachings, and then ultimately the deepest teachings are givenThere are some lamas that deviate from that for their own reasons. But it is considered, from the traditional point of view, that you can give the deepest teachings to someone, but if their minds are not prepared for it they will not really accomplish the deepest teachings until they go through a period of preliminary practice and preparation. And I, for one, feel very strongly that that is the case.

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

 

 

What Really Matters

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

You should read stories about lamas in the past, stories of the saints, where lamas in the past have gone into retreat or gone to their teachers and said, “I really want to accomplish Dharma. I’m ready. I want to accomplish Dharma right now. So what will I do?”  And the lama would say, “Take some retreat. Go into the cave and practice a certain mantra.”  And time and time again students would go to the caves and would practice mantra.  And they would come back out and they would say to the lama, “I’ve practiced this mantra and yet I don’t seem to have any result.”  “Well,” lama says,  “then you need three million more. Go back into the cave and practice some more.”  And then again more advice. “Well I’ve not been able to practice any Dharma. Not given rise to realization although I’ve said mantra repeatedly.”  Then the lama would give some other advice. “Well, go back and accomplish the bodhicitta.  Accomplish the motivation.”

There are just uncountable stories like that of these great saints who struggled like you do, like we do, to accomplish their practice. And they didn’t go and get promoted every year. They had to accomplish the underpinnings, the basics, before they could move on to the next level. And it’s according to the lama’s wisdom. The lama would be able to see whether that accomplishment had really happened. And there are also many stories of disciples who would come to the lama after practicing in a cave some time or practicing in some kind of retreat, and they would say to the lama, “I have accomplished this.”  And the lama would say, “See ya. Keep trying. Go back. Another three years for you.”  Because that’s not what you say to your lama.

So, uncountable stories, uncountable stories that seem completely ridiculous and irrelevant in this time because of the experience that we’re having. But I’m telling you that they are not irrelevant. It’s something for each of us to take personal responsibility to study. And I really think that some of the elder monks and nuns should take on the responsibility of studying the lives of these saints and then reporting on them to other students. Maybe we could take turns giving some classes on that.

But just to go every summer and say,  “I have Dzogchen. I must be okay to die now.”  Or something like that, you know?   Thinking that, you know, somehow magical thinking. You’ve got the bumpa on the head and you’re just set to go. I’m afraid not. I wish that it were so. There is no bumpa on this planet that is hard enough. I mean how many times has His Holiness said that without giving rise to Guru Yoga, to true devotion, you know, egoless devotion, the lama could literally bang you on the head with the bumpa until it was dented and you are too, and there wouldn’t be much value. Even though the lama had practiced. Even though it had been an unbroken chain all the way down to the original source of the teaching.  Because in our practice there is a call and response. The lama gives the blessing; the student is invited to respond accordingly. It’s in the call and response connection that the growth occurs. It isn’t really what the guy above you tells you to do that makes you grow.

Our concern should always be loving concern for the welfare of sentient beings. If we are so puffed up with our own view of ourselves that we cannot bother ourselves to be of benefit to sentient beings; we cannot rouse ourselves to do something that will bring benefit to all sentient beings; we cannot bring ourselves to study on the suffering of humans, of animals—these being the two that we can mainly see on this planet— and to bring some relief, let alone worry about sentient beings in other realms that we cannot see and know are suffering,… We can’t even be bothered to look at human beings and animals. But we are going to sit there and do secret teachings, and look at others and wonder why they can’t do the same. Not appropriate. Not appropriate at all, and no benefit. No benefit.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Essential Motivation

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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 Tether of Bodhicitta

StupaFoundation

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

I have the great pleasure of watching the aviary building being built from my deck. How carefully these skilled workers laid the foundation. How carefully they smoothed the ground. How carefully they measured, so exacting, so perfectly, looking through instruments and laying strings and then putting in wood to mark the way, and then, you know, stage by stage, one bit of strength after the other. How skillfully, and now the walls are coming up. And these are very heavy walls made of concrete, but they are all built up to the top, and I think to myself, ‘If that firm foundation had not been built, since that land slopes right there and it is screaming wet all the time, guess what?  That little building would just slide right off the edge; but not the way it’s built.’

And we find ourselves in the same position. I regret to tell you that I have seen time and time again students who have taken the Dzogchen teaching but have not accomplished Vajra qualities. They have not given rise to the bodhicitta. They may have put on the garb of renunciates, but they are not renunciates. They have not renounced the grasping of samsara. They have not stabilized their mind. So it’s like they are traveling the great ship of Dharma and even though the ship itself is fairly stable, it is on an ocean and it is going to rock and roll a little bit, you know?  And it is like you’re the practitioner on roller skates who’s not holding on on top of a sheet of ice on the boat. It’s not going to work. You’re going to go overboard. And they do. They get thrown off. Whereas if we had taken time to practice properly with depth, not so superficially, taking responsibility for the accomplishment that you know in your heart has always been required of a proper disciple… And it’s not like it’s news to you. I’ve been yapping about this for years. So, in that case, maybe you would be more seaworthy. You’d have your sea legs. I’m pretty sure of it. You would be hanging onto a rail. You’d be properly equipped to travel this ship of Dharma to the other shore. And that would be like the seed of Dzogchen being planted in a field that is rich and fertile and moist.

So having given rise to the Bodhicitta, we would be different than we are. How would we be different?  Would we look funny?  I don’t know.  We look funny now sometimes. I look funny. You should see me in the morning. That’s all silly stuff. How would you be different?  I think better. To accomplish excellent qualities, to establish virtue in the mind stream, to give rise to the Bodhicitta?  A lot better.

So the point is that you find yourself in a particular situation where you can go to New York every summer, and you can study, and you can sit down and practice for the rest of the year. But we do not find ourselves in the perfect situation where we are in a monastic environment constantly where the reality of Dharma is constantly reflected to us, where the method of Dharma is constantly reminded to us. where the way is constantly pointed out, and where our limited capabilities, you know, are constantly guided. It would be like a child growing up without the advice of a parent. It is not very effective. And the reason why I’m telling you this is not so you can go, ‘Oh bummer! Here I’ve had Dzogchen and now I find out it’s not happening,’ or something.  That’s not what I’m saying. I hope you understand that. Dzogchen is the very nectar of Dharma. It is the distilled substance that is empty of substance-ness. It is awakening. It is the way to move towards realization. It is the way to give rise to one’s best capabilities. It is the way to accomplish the Buddha nature. But like any other method, if you do not accomplish the steps that lead to strengthen that method, you’ve missed out.

Lineage in the West

WM-99-22 JAL VGR HHPR kapala-M

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

Well, today I’d actually like to tell you a story. And I think it is seasonal in one way in that this time of year we generally think about what we want or what we want to give or how, or maybe family relationships and what needs to improve in our lives. And a lot of times at the end of the year during this holiday season and at the beginning of the next upcoming year, we kind of reassess ourselves;. reassess our lives, and kind of take stock. And I would like to tell you this story to help you take stock a little bit, and to give you some motivation, you know, some perspective. Because I think that if you come to this temple and you practice, you may not necessarily understand or know what’s going on in the greater Dharma community. Some people travel around but some people don’t. Some people stay here down on the farm with me. And so you might need to be exposed to some context in the Dharma community.

When I first met His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, that was quite a while ago, almost twenty years. I met him the first time that he came to the United States. And one of the reasons actually that he came to the United States, besides being invited, was that he heard that there was this American woman over there and he heard stories about me. And he knew in his mind that this was someone that he had been looking for for a long time. I came to find out later on that when he was a very young monk the first time he held the kapala, or the skull cup, of the first Ahkön Lhamo, it was before the Chinese invasion, and so it was whole, in one piece.  First time he held that cup, he said, “Oh.”  He made prayers:  “If there is any way I can find this dakini in this lifetime, I would like to do that.” He set his goal that way. And so of course with a mind such as his, when the goal is set, the deed is done. When he heard my name, and heard something about me, he knew immediately. But of course he didn’t tell me immediately. All I knew was that this lama was coming to my house. He’d never been to America before, and I really did not know what a lama actually was. I thought, “Guy sitting on rug. Guy wearing sheet.” I really didn’t know. I mean I had a great deal of respect for Buddhist thought and it was coming to my mind naturally. In fact, I was teaching meditation that I later found out to be based on Mahayana Buddhism. So, it was pretty interesting that this all came about so naturally. But then when he came to the house, we didn’t know protocol. We didn’t know respect. We didn’t know nothing. I knew how to barbeque, that’s what I knew. And so we had a barbecue and we moved my two sons to another room, and put Penor Rinpoche and Lobsang in the same room; and Lobsang’s like, “Oh God!  Save me!  Don’t you have another room?”  “Well, why? Is it crowded in there?”  “But you don’t understand.”

But you know, they were very nice. And then they asked for some tea. So, I thought, “These are Buddhists. They want to be calm.”  What did I know? So, I made chamomile tea, and I gave the teapot to Lobsang to give to His Holiness on a tray nicely set up. and His Holiness sent back a message, “What is that?  Bugs floating on top?”  You know how the little flowers float? “No.”  “Don’t you have some other kind of tea?”  “We have regular tea.”  “Oh yeah, we want regular tea.”  I thought, you know, Buddhists like to be peaceful. I thought.

And then the worst, the worst. He was so gracious and so kind. He never put himself up in any way or, you know, was anything less than the most humble of monks. I mean he never indicated that he was such a spectacular lama. And besides I didn’t even understand what the term meant—high lama, you know, lineage holder. I mean, I could understand the English words, but I didn’t have any way to put them all together. So, we had this barbeque and I served him a plate of hotdogs. And you know just the old America food, which he was pretty interested in actually. He sort of liked it. You know, he ate it. But then I remember plopping down right next to him and saying, “So, what’s Tibet really like?” or something like that, you know. You know him now. He’s such a righteous, orthodox, holy kind a guy. Can you imagine?  Can you imagine this Injee twit comes and plops down next to him and says, “So, how’s it going?”

I was used to Southern hospitality. So, I made another big meal (and I was a pretty good cook back then) and had some friends bring some stuff too. We sat him at the head of the table and said to His Holiness, “Please, help yourself to everything we have.”  He gets served. I didn’t know that. And so Lobsang’s going,… Lobsang was a lot younger then. “No, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.”  Well, that was back in the day and the reason why I’m telling you this funny story is because things have changed so much since then.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

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