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

 

Turning the Mind

zakurdayev-framed-mirrors

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “How Buddhists Think”

In the preliminary stages of this path, we must engage in a practice called “turning the mind.” What does that mean?  Our minds are fixated on gratification and self-satisfaction, on the idea that “if I dance fast enough, I’m going to get happy somehow.”  The Buddha teaches us to turn our minds to face the facts, rather than continuing this chronic, habitual fixation on delusion.  We must see that cyclic existence is an impermanent, changing process that results in death and rebirth.  And the rebirth takes a form we cannot foresee, a form determined by our karma.  Once we understand this, we must act accordingly.  Realizing that we have a choice, we can act intelligently.

The Buddha has made clear that all our suffering occurs due to habitual fixation on self-nature as inherently real, and the resultant desire.  He also gives us a way to antidote that desire: a clear look at cyclic existence and its faults.  We can see what the faults of cyclic existence are, and we can use this as a medicine, applying it till the end of our incarnation.  Then we can look back on our lives, perhaps at age eighty, and say: “I have spent that time well.”

If we remain fixated on material things (a chicken in our pot, our boat, our color TV), dancing really fast, we may still reach the age of eighty before we die.  But not even a sesame seed, as the teaching says, can we take with us.

If we choose wisely, we will reap the benefits of applying the antidote the Buddha prescribes.  These benefits will come from purifying our mindstream and thereby pacifying our habitual compulsive tendencies.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, every bit of experience you now have is the result of your karma.  Would you like to have a full-life reading about your past lives? Well, let me tell you how you can get one.  Look at yourself now.  Look at your cravings, your selfishness, your sadness.  Look at your happiness, your generosity.  Look deeply at yourself, with honesty and courage.  Look at your appearance, at how you act.  Everything about you is a reflection of your past actions, of cause-and-effect relationships.  So you don’t need to pay someone a hundred dollars to give you a fancy life reading.  Just look in the mirror.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Patience: from “The Way of the Bodhisattva” by Shantideva

The following is respectfully quoted from “The Way of the Bodhisattva” by Shantideva:

27.
That which is referred to as the Primordial Substance,
That which has been labeled as the Self
Do not come into being thinking
“That is how I will arise.”

28.
That which is not manifest is not yet there,
So what could want to come to be?
And permanently drawn toward its object,
It can never cease from being so.

29.
Indeed! This Self if permanent,
Is certainly impassible like space itself.
And should it meet with other factors,
How should they affect it since it is unchanging?

30.
If, when things occur, it stays unchanged and as as before,
What influence has action had on it?
They say that this affects the Self,
But what connection could there be between them.

31.
All things, then, depend on something else;
On this depends the fact that none are independent.
Knowing this, we will not be annoyed at objects
That resemble magical appearances.

32.
“Resistance,” you may say, “is out of place,
For what will be opposed by whom?”
The stream of suffering is cut through by patience;
There’s nothing inappropriate in wanting that!

33.
Thus, when enemies or friends
Are seen to act improperly,
Be calm and call to mind
That everything arises from conditions.

34.
If things occurred to living beings
Following their wishes and intentions,
How could sorrow ever come to them–
For there is no one who desires to suffer!

35.
Yet carelessly, all unaware,
They tear themselves on thorns and briars;
And ardent in pursuit of wives and goods,
They starve themselves of nourishment.

36.
Some hang themselves up or leap into the void,
Or eat bad food or swallow deadly poison,
Or by their evil conduct
Bring destruction on themselves.

37.
For when affliction seizes them,
They kill themselves, the selves they love so much.
So how could they not be the cause
Of pain and suffering for others?

38.
And when, as victims of defilement,
Beings even cause their own destruction,
Even if compassion does not rise in us,
We can at least refrain from being angry.

39.
If those who are like wanton children
Are by nature prone to injure others,
What point is there in being angry–
Like resenting fire for its heat?

40.
And if their faults are fleeting and contingent,
If living beings are by nature wholesome,
It’s likewise senseless to resent them–
As well be angry at the sky for having clouds!

41.
Although indeed it is the stick that hurts me,
I am angry at the one who wields it, striking me.
But he is driven and impelled by anger–
So it is his wrath I should resent.

42.
I it was who in the past
Did harm to beings such as these.
And so, when others do me mischief,
It is only just that they should injure me.

43.
Their weapons and my body–
Both are causes of my suffering!
They their weapons drew, while I held out my body.
Who then is more worthy of my anger?

44.
This human form is like a running sore;
Merely touched, it cannot stand the pain!
I’m the one who clings to it with blind attachment;
Whom should I resent when pain occurs?

45.
We who are like senseless children
Shrink from suffering, but love its causes.
We hurt ourselves; our pain is self-inflicted!
Why should others be the object of our anger?

 

Taking Responsibility for Our Path

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Neurotic Interaction to Guru Yoga” 

Today we are going to continue the process of looking at two main and fundamental foundational teachings associated with the Buddhadharma. We have examined and re-examined the Bodhicitta, which is one of the main foundational attitudes and practices and accomplishments that one should gather on the path, and now we are moving towards the Guru Yoga.  There are many areas in which these two subjects connect, and one has to develop the foundational thoughts, as I’ve indicated many times before, the thoughts that turn the mind towards Dharma. Also one has to develop the thoughts that make one understand the condition of sentient beings and the failings of samsara, or the sufferings of samsara.  If one were to understand these in a logical and realistic way, and go through the effort of contemplating them so that a real understanding is arrived at, and take responsibility for that, then it’s easy, or at least easier, to move into a deeper practice of the Guru Yoga, a deeper understanding of Bodhicitta, the twofold accomplishment of wisdom and knowledge.  These things are much more easily arrived at when one studies the foundational teachings. So try to remember that.  No matter what stage you’re at in practicing the path, one has to reorient oneself all the time.  It’s similar to, let’s say, you’re forty years old and you’ve had the experience of living for forty years so you have certain things about living that you’re comfortable with, that you’re certain about.  You know by this time the sun is most likely going to rise and set.

We find that if we are to continue to keep ourselves spiritually on the mark to where we feel satisfied about our spiritual practice, we find that periodically we have to reorient ourselves, and for some of us it might take different forms.  Many of us have realized by now that we need a certain amount of time spent alone in contemplation.  Many of us realize now that we need to reorient ourselves with nature—that one should align oneself with the cycles of life, the cycles of night and day, the cycles of the seasons, the natural directions and natural occurrences that occur in our world—and that is useful and good too.

When it comes to Dharma this is certainly the case, but the need here is more specific.  Yes, you may find that you do need a certain amount of time alone.  I think really that all people do. That you do need a certain amount of time out in nature and you do need a certain amount of meditation time and so forth and so on. But beyond that, particularly and specifically with Dharma, one needs to reorient oneself on the path by discovering and rediscovering again the faults of cyclic existence—the thoughts that turn the mind, the linking cause and effect conditions that we find in samsara.  Turning the mind—this is something that one needs to accomplish on a regular basis. There never is a time when you are actually finished with that.

So this is something that I speak about constantly. I know that you feel that you’ve already heard this.  I agree that you may have already had it meet with your ears, but the hearing part, well that’s a different story.  We don’t know if that’s actually happened yet or not, because the level of personal responsibility that I’m talking about is absolutely essential.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Words of Honor: Advice from HH Penor Rinpoche

hhpr1-bmp

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.

 

Waking Up from a Dream

An excerpt from a teaching called How to Pray by Being by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Sometimes when we dream, we know that we’re supposed to change something in the dream.  If we learn how to work in our dream state, through practices like dream yoga, we can actually wake up during the dream or hold the line between waking and dreaming and know exactly where we are.

There are many things that can be accomplished in dreams. That’s because the dream state is a bardo that’s not much different from our waking state. If we can train ourselves to wake up from a dream, why is it that we can’t train ourselves to wake up from our dualistic reality?  The reason is that we have experienced dreaming and something else—waking—so we can wake ourselves from a dream. We know where we are going. But we can’t wake ourselves up from this dream of our life because we don’t know what to awaken to. Yet it’s a dream just the same.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo All rights reserved

The Power of a Bodhisattva

An excerpt from a teaching called How to Pray by Being by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

I once asked His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, “What is a bodhisattva? What is a Buddha?” And he said, “It’s like this. Ordinary practitioner can practice their whole life and accomplish something. Perhaps they will accomplish a very auspicious rebirth or the chance to achieve a higher level of realization in their next life. But when bodhisattvas practice, even if they don’t sit down, even if they simply make a wish, (for example “I wish a temple would grow up here. I wish sentient beings would find a way to the path. I wish sentient beings would be happy on the path and revel in the strength of the path. I wish sentient beings would receive the connection of this blessing that absolves and dissipates suffering.”), the world is benefited beyond measure. That thing will be done because there is no separation between the lamas of the lineage and that bodhisattva.”

How can great bodhisattvas command that a thing be done? It comes from being fully mixed with the nectar of the bodhicitta, being fully aware that their nature is the bodhicitta. That is the power of the bodhisattvas and the Buddhas.  That’s why they can do miraculous things. When we think about His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, he just had a few monks but he built his tremendous monastery. He had nothing, and he became the king of the Nyingmapa, the king of Dharma. There is no one that surpassed His Holiness. Think about that.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo All Rights Reserved

Self-absorption Leads to Unhappiness

An excerpt from a teaching called How to Pray by Being by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The Buddhist path is not a selfish trip. It’s not a self-absorbed trip. In fact, as Buddhist practitioners, we strive to become less and less self-absorbed. Being self-absorbed is the exact opposite of prayer–180 degrees away from it.  But most of us, unfortunately, have the habit of self-absorption, and so we spend most of our lives holding a prayer that is based on samsara. That has no good result. Without exception, self-absorbed people are the unhappiest people on the face of this earth, whether they have money or they don’t. Whether they have a home and a car or they don’t. Whether they live in a simple thatched hut or they live in a mansion, the people that are self absorbed and locked up in their own inner phenomena are the unhappiest people on the face of this earth.

The tragedy is that in our culture we are taught to think more about ourselves than about others. We are taught that if we buy cars and other stuff and maybe line up a few parties and relationships and line up a few fun retreats, we will be happy. That is simply not the case. Happiness never comes from self-absorption. It comes from being concerned about the welfare of other sentient beings.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The Guru’s Three-Part Empowerment

The most important part of the practice of Guru Yoga is when we receive the threefold empowerment from the guru. We receive the white light from the Guru’s head to our head to purify our body. We receive the red light from the Guru’s throat to our throat to purify and empower our speech. We receive the blue light from the Guru’s heart to our heart to purify and empower our mind. We should be receiving these empowerments 24 hours a day. Every time our mind has a little space, we should train ourselves to remember to receive the nectar of the Guru’s blessing. Instead, we walk around saying, “I’m lonely. I need my space. I need to go out and do stuff. I need to spend some money.” And we whine and carry on in samsara. And yet every minute this amazing phenomenal connection is available.

We should develop the habit of constantly keeping that connection. Whenever we have a moment, we should recite the Seven Line Prayer and ask for the guru’s blessing. And then we have it –boom, boom, boom—because when we ask, it is always given. There is never a time that when we ask, that it is not given. It may happen that we can’t receive the blessing sometimes. But we just keep trying. It’s simply our habit, and habits can change.

This is prayer without ceasing. This is constant prayer. This is a personal version of what we’re trying to do here at KPC by having our 24-hour prayer vigil, with someone practicing all the time. It is developing a constant awareness of our non-duality with the guru.

As we practice, the experience deepens. When we do our sit-down practice, the empowerments become easier to receive. We will find that we can go deeper and deeper and deeper. Then when we receive that three-part empowerment, our mind will be mixed with the guru and all the blessings will be present.  But be careful: Pride will stop the blessing.

So we wire up. We take refuge and are anchored in our confidence. We know, “This is my guru; I am unshaken.  This is the method; I am unbroken.  This is the result that I am going toward.” We maintain that connection constantly. Any time we have a moment, we recall our root guru appearing as Guru Rinpoche and receive the empowerments, mixing our mind with the guru’s mind. That’s the way to awaken to non-duality. That’s the way to awaken to our nature. When we mix our mind with the guru’s, we are deeply empowered with the bodhicitta. We can hear the calls of the suffering ones. They will fill our ears.

When we take this empowerment and we mix our mind with the nectar of the Three Precious Jewels, then we can pray. We can see ourselves as the same as the guru in nature, not in a prideful sense. Having received the blessing of the guru and of all the masters of the lineage, we are now able to pray.  We can ease the suffering of sentient beings.  Why?  Because we have the merit of our lineage. Now we can take within us the suffering of sentient beings because we can handle it. We have the power of the vajra masters.  That is our joy, our bliss, our ecstasy. We are never separate from them.

So prayer comes when we are in a state of awakening–when the bodhicitta that is the nectar of the guru’s mind is mixed inseparably with our own mind. Then we can pray: we can speak with the authority of the bodhicitta, in the way of the bodhicitta.

Do you hear the sense of potency I am trying to describe?  It is a sense of being fully mixed with the nectar of bodhicitta, fully aware that our nature is the bodhicitta. It is the bodhicitta that benefits sentient beings. When we are aware that we are the bodhicitta, it is this that we send to others. That is the power of the bodhisattvas and the Buddhas.

When we are that bodhicitta, we can awaken the bodhicitta in others just by looking at them. I know from experience that when His Holiness Penor Rinpoche looked at my heart, my heart was his and it opened. He recognized the bodhicitta in me, and I practiced to mix my mind with his. And therefore it was done. And that’s the potency of prayer. Now I can pray.

There is no room for pride in prayer—just simple gratitude for receiving the blessing of the guru in a humble way, with confidence in that blessing. Because of that blessing, we can pray. Now we have the bodhicitta; now we are the bodhicitta. And that is the potency and power upon which we rely.

The Buddhadharma is with us every minute. It’s a path, a way of life. And it is the true method to achieve the precious awakening. When we know that other beings are suffering so terribly, and we have found this jewel and it is in our hands and this nectar is given freely, I ask you: Why not learn to pray?

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Experiencing Bodhicitta through the Guru Yoga

An excerpt from a teaching called How to Pray by Being by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

We must practice guru yoga. Without guru yoga, we will never learn to pray properly. Guru yoga is the nest in which our prayers are developed. In guru yoga we see the lama as the embodiment of all the fields of refuge—all of the excellent, extraordinary displays of Buddha nature that did not arise in samsara, that are pure and untainted.

The lama is our boat across the ocean of suffering. A proper lama, from an unbroken lineage who is free of suffering and delusion and motivated by compassion, has made that trip before and knows how to get across. If we practice the Dharma correctly, we will see that lama in a way we’ve never seen anyone else before. We can then approach the lama like a child, without judgment. We can ask kindly and without fear, “Will you help me?”

Now, of course, judgments will rise up in our mind because that is our habitual tendency. But that then becomes our battleground. That is where we take a stand and draw the line. Once we’ve put our trust in the lama, we say, “I know that you have been taught by the great lamas that have been taught by the great lamas that have been taught by the great lamas, and all of them in an unbroken lineage have achieved enlightenment.” We realize that the lama is the door to liberation, and we do whatever it takes to walk through that door—whether it’s getting down on our knees, challenging our habitual tendencies or changing.

We have to be willing to change. Dharma cuts like a knife. It’s supposed to; it’s doing a big job. And we have a lot of work to do because most of our life we’ve spent chanting the mantra of samsara, the mantra of self-absorption. So we look to the teacher. We look to the Buddha. We look to the Dharma. We look to the Sangha. We look with determination, strength and courage or vajra pride.

Vajra pride, the courage to say, “I’m going through the door of liberation,” does not come from the ego. It is not ordinary pride. Instead it is steadfastness and determination to change utterly and completely. Do you know what prayer is?  Prayer is this (makes a cutting motion and rips open her chest). That’s prayer.

Through the practice of Guru Yoga, we become absolutely non-dual with the guru. That is the wish and the hope. That is also the method and the way. We mix our mindstream with the guru like mixing milk with water. And they can mix perfectly and constantly.

We practice the ngundro Guru Yoga and we practice the Shower of Blessings, and that’s a wonderful place to start, but how many minutes do we miss? How much time do we miss playing around in ordinary puddles—ordinary reality—when the ocean of wisdom is within reach?

The lama is not a separate person who we only get to see every now and then. When we see the lama, we are looking at the Nirmanakaya form of the Buddha. Guru Rinpoche himself said, “I will be there in the form of your root guru.  When you call out to me, I will be there.”

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

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