The Technology of Dharma

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

I know we’re getting older, but in truth, if you want to rush through Dharma, I have to say there is no hurry. Not that we should be at ease and think, ‘No need to accomplish Dharma now. I’m going to live forever,’ but rather think first things first. If you cannot handle your poisons, it is not time to move on yet. And I’m not saying either that you should use your poisons as a personal excuse not to go any further on the path,. because I notice that some of us cowboys like to do that. But the truth of the matter is that in order to accomplish Dharma, one has to change. For instance, the basis of Dharma, we are told, is method. Why is that?  Because method is meant to promote change. It’s a technology. And the Buddadharma supplies technology.

Let’s see, how can I explain? Let’s compare it to playing an instrument. You can learn to play an instrument sort of academically, intellectually. You can learn to read music. You can learn the ins and outs of your instrument. You can learn how to blow or pluck it or strum it effectively, whatever your instrument is. But it’s another kind of artistic capacity or another kind of depth with the music that causes the musician to be an artist. They don’t just go dah, dah, dah, dah. They use moderation in the hand. You know what I am saying?There is delicacy; there is heart in it. You can feel itYou can’t have an ego to accomplish that kind of artistry. You have to let go of that kind of egotism to allow the music to be realer to you than your own stupid ego. So Dharma compares to that, really, in the sense that it’s not so hard to learn step one, step two, step three. And you can go through the whole course. We can put the shedra up, and you can go through the whole course. And we hope to do this. But if we do that in an unthinking way, we’re never going to be an artist regarding Dharma. And who cares about that? Most of all, we’ll never really accomplish it. We’ll never really accomplish what Dharma is meant to do.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Buddhist Way

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

And then, of course, you can do it the Buddhist way. And the Buddhist way is:Wait a minute. Where is this anger?  Show me the anger. OK. It’s coming out of my mouth, but I can’t quite hold it. Where is it?  Take time and play with it. Is this anger solid?   Well, who is the person I’m angry at?  I’m angry at her or him or somebody. Let’s see. I’m angry at her.  (This is a pretend person I’m pointing at.) I’m angry at her. OK. Where exactly is her?  I’m going to go through the Buddhist teaching: Where is the ‘I’ in her?  Where is the part that is actually her?  Is it the ear?  Is it the mouth?  What part of the mouth?  The teeth?  The tongue?  Is it the brain?  Slice the brain and find her.

Do yourself a favor. Take yourself off the track of hatred and work the method, because the more you let that go,… You think you feel better after you’ve had a rage thing because it’s addictive. It’s like alcohol. The more you drink, the more you want. The thing to do is to keep yourself from that by stepping back, taking a breath and examining what you are doing. Just examine the basis of it. Just take a minute and examine the basis of it. It will be very hard to do at first, very hard to stop yourself, first of all. But you must practice and you must learn. And the first time you are successful at it, yes!  And the second time you are successful at it, yes again; and the third time it’s a little easier. And you begin to start noticing things. It’s a step upon step upon step sort of building process of awareness that is actually happening, because in fact, there is no enemy, there is no self, there is no anger. And we just need to wake up to that.

Our nature is the pure primordial luminosity—that spontaneous nature which is utterly empty and absolutely complete, that emptiness which is not empty within which is all phenomena, all potential . So that emptiness is our living, dynamic nature. Having forgotten it, we are asleep. Being asleep, we act like criminals, while we should be acting like the celestial deities with the vajra pride that we visualize, giving rise to those good qualities of helpfulness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Warrior of Virtue

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

For myself, I have that commitment. I made it a long time ago. There’s no backing out now. Every time I try, my commitments are made. It’s a done deal. I’ve always known that. My aspiration is to leave the footprint of bodhicitta every time I incarnate, to leave it so it is undeniable , and to help others so that they can leave that same footprint. And I don’t intend for that to ever stop until all sentient beings are free. Now why is that?  It is because I am such a great kid? I am  such a doll? Iam such a wonderful person?  That may all be true, but that’s not why. It’s because I cannot be truly free without you. There are many gurus of different kinds who are self-realizers. They realize mastery of self. But that is not our gig here. That is not what we do in Buddhism. At least not Vajrayana. We don’t do that in Vajrayana. In Vajrayana, our goal is to understand and give rise to the primordial nature in display, which is the great bodhicitta. End of story. And so I will not abandon you. I cannot abandon you, because you are me and I am you and I cannot be free without you.

That’s the understanding we should all aspire to. In our selfishness and our self absorption, we forget and we commit this abomination of even fighting with each other when if we could only truly look in each other’s eyes, if we could truly see,… We are the same, we are the same, we are the same taste. And so, this is why we need to break our habitual tendencies, train ourselves thoroughly, look at ourselves honestly and most of all, if any of you are in that childbearing age, anyone who is listening, please, raise your children right. Raise your children right. Teach them responsibility for what they do. The ‘I help with the household chores’ is one thing. Teach them to clean up their own messes. Teach them that pencils were made with erasers for reasons—so that we can correct ourselves. We can erase our mistakes and correct them and make better. Teach them ethics. Teach them the ethics of liberation.

The reason why we have so much difficulty teaching people proper values and how to stick with the beginning stages of the Buddhadharma, which is about virtue and conduct, the reason why that is so hard is that most of weren’t raised up. We were kind of dragged up. You know? We weren’t raised up with thoughtfulness and regard and respect. Many of us were just kind of fed and watered and whatever. When you raise a child, you must teach the child to be a good citizen in the world and to leave the world better than they found it.

So that’s my hope for you and that’s my hope for anybody’s children and that’s my hope for all sentient beings. Just think if we could really just get that message across. Forget the big practices and the bells. Just think. The most fundamental of the Buddhist teachings allows one to be whatever faith they wish, but teaches us how to live with good qualities.

So take up your sword, take up your shield and beat the crap out of your bad qualities, lest I have to do it for you. That wasn’t a threat. I am a nice person.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Learning to Step Back

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

I study sentient beings.  I must have done it in another life, because as a child I knew this. I sort of woke up from my childhood knowing that all beings are suffering. And I understood somehow that it was a spiritual thing and that they needed love. No matter what it looked like, they needed love. That was as a child; as a child I understood that. Now as a woman and a practitioner, I understand what the Buddha has taught and it’s the same. And I understand that my fervent prayer is that should I leave a footstep in this world, it will be a living display of the bodhicitta through my students, through any works that I might do. That’s what I care about. And each one of us should participate in that dream. If you are really my student, then you must care. We should all care to advance the aspirations of our teacher. That’s part of Vajrayana. We may not individually have the power to give rise to a stupa or to give rise to an ordained Sangha, but we are part of that and we should take responsibility for making that dream come true. My dream is love. It is bodhicitta. Temporary love. Feed the birds. Feed people. Feed somebody that’s hungry. I feed everything that moves. If there was sputum in a jelly dish and I could prove that it needed food, I would feed it. This is how I am. I am crazy with it.

And then, you know, beyond that recognize them because they’ll never recognize themselves without a little help. Recognize them as being Buddha. Know that they are suffering because they don’t know what to do—not because they want to suffer—and do what you can to give rise to compassion. Make it a commitment. Disallow those rage things. Disallow that anger that we have to have when we have to go and punch a wall or something like that.

The way to do that is to get a little space from that. No suppression. We don’t like suppression. Suppression is bad. It makes us all crazy, and we’re crazy enough. You work it, you work it, you work it. The rage that we have, step back from it. The way you step back from it is you question yourself. And there are two different ways you can do it. You can do it the good old American way or you can do it the Buddhist way. The good old American way works too. You can say, ‘Now what’s really making me mad here?  Do I really mean what I am saying about this person?’ You can sort of take a step back and analyze it a little bit. Just look at it sort of cool, calm and collected if you can. I mean, you let yourself go back to your rage if you need to, but step back and tell yourself you can go back to the rage if you need to. But if you really do well and you think it through, you won’t. The rage will be gone because your understanding will have come up and your mind will be smoother. The mind gets inflamed like an arthritic joint, like with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s kind of like that. The mind gets inflamed.  The more we are emotional, up and down, up and down, and full of hatred, and judgmental and gossipy and stuff like that, the more inflamed the mind gets, the more unhappy we get and the more we blame other people for it, and the more unhappy we get and the more inflamed we get. That is the cycle of samsaric existence.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Seed and the Fruit

fruit

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

The fruit of potential and method is the awakening.  But in Buddhism we see all three as the same and it is taught that all three are the same. And in truth, there is no realization without understanding the sameness of these three,. It is easy to think that we are evolving in a step by step way; and it is easy to think that we’re on the ladder. See, I am up here and somebody else is down there and some of the people are over here. And we get into that view, and that’s not what the Buddha taught. The Buddha did not teach that someone is higher and someone is lower. The Buddha taught that we should recognize the appearance of the Buddha nature in the world as our root gurus. The root guru gives us the method, and therefore we have the result. But nobody is better than anybody else. That is a different religion or a different idea, or something else. I don’t know what that is, but we don’t have that here.

Ridding ourselves of hatred is based on that kind of thinking, that kind of view.  Really understanding the Buddha’s teaching that there is the foundation, the method and the fruition, and that is the path. Succinct, boom, right here. This is it. And we understand that, again, according to the Buddha’s teachings we are all suffering. We are all in the same place. Here we are. Even the people that are not in this room, we are in samsara together. They want to be happy like you do.  You struggle for happiness, don’t you? Come on, don’t you?  Every day. Every day. And we do it sometimes rightly or wrongly. It’s a mixed bag because we lack understanding. But the method is to recognize that all beings wish to be happy. If there are three people sitting in front of you, and two or three of them are unhappy, you come out of yourself and try to help. Efforts like that are what move us along on the path. Not just doing the fancy practices and knowing the fancy words.

Of course, we do not achieve realization by deeds alone. That is a long and difficult path. We have the Dzogchen path, which is so remarkable. It not only gives us method and the opportunity to give rise to the bodhicitta, but we also are given the wisdom to understand the empty nature of phenomena. Through that method we can understand that in samsara we are in a bit of a bubble, or an echo chamber. It’s kind of like that. Unfortunately, it’s also the nature of samsara to be somewhat blinded to that. Again, we are still asleep. It’s like a dream. It has a dream-like quality. You know how in dreams crazy things happen? And it’s OK. It makes sense somehow. Like you could be somewhere and then you are somewhere else, and it makes sense. But that dream-like quality exists right here and right now. We literally do not understand that when we gossip about a fellow vajra brother or sister, or any sentient being of any quality, or put them down, at the same time, we create that energy, that cause. Somewhere in samsara, the result is also being born. Right then. Something will change because of that hatred. Now we often don’t see it immediately, but it comes back to us; and the way it comes back to us is according to our conceptual belief. We believe in relative phenomena being solid as it is until we become practitioners, hopefully. So when somebody sends a negative energy at us, like their anger, we think, ‘Oh, it’s coming from them. Everybody hates me.’ But in fact, what has happened is that you have sent out hatred. It echoes back and it will come through somebody else’s mouth. Do you know why it’s nobody else’s fault?. Because there is nobody else. Bingo. There is nobody else. And how you can sit there and say you are practicing trekchod and togyal and you don’t know that yet, I can’t figure out.

We must take responsibility for our experiences. How will we ever awaken if we don’t understand the unhappiness that comes to us is of our own making? It may have been in the past, the past in some past life. It may have been recent. I see you guys creating the causes of suffering all of the time. And so, get back to the basics. Follow the Buddha’s teachings. To antidote hatred,… And I know, hatred is my big one today, OK? We’ll do greed and ignorance some other time and the other ones as well. To antidote hatred, the antidote has to be very strong, because hatred is such a strong energy that it brings about war in places where there is a lot of emotional, egocentric agitation that has hatred as part of it. Any time there is emotional, egocentric agitation, there will be hatred. Places like that often have a lot of earth movement and strange weather and that sort of thing. And war.  Who would have guessed it?.

And so, we have to understand that we want to awaken, but we don’t want to take responsibility. We want to awaken, but we don’t want to stop dreaming. We want to awaken, but we don’t want to go through that effort of bringing ourselves into truer awareness, something that is more profound and deeper and more real than our own simple habitual tendencies.

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

 

The Challenge of Self Honesty

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

We must take ourselves to task more. I don’t want to speak harshly because harshness doesn’t help, but I want to say succinctly and directly, we have to take ourselves to task regarding our faults and our poisons.   When I think of the Tibetan culture, that’s a lot easier because there isn’t that attachment to materialism.  Even in terms of the roots of the culture itself without religion, they were a nomadic people and they had things, but you couldn’t carry much.  You had your yaks and your yurts and that was it.There wasn’t that much variety in food; there wasn’t that much variety in clothing.  It’s true that the aristocratic Tibetans used to collect jewelry—some of the strangest looking jewelry.  It was intense jewelry, and that was considered a status thing. But for the most part, culturally, a Tibetan Buddhist would not have a hard time understanding that hatred, greed and ignorance and particularly desire, as the Buddha taught, keep us revolving endlessly in samsara.  We, unfortunately, are programmed quite differently.

I know in my household and in those of many people that I’ve talked to, there was confusion.  My mother was sort of a lox and bagel Jew and my father was a twice a year Catholic; and we were supposed to somehow dance in the middle. So when mama won we were going one way and when daddy won we were going the other way. I think that this happens with a lot of people.  They are raised with a lot of confusion around religion.  And even when they are taught that faith and religion should be a part of their life, and even when they are given the Western ten commandments, still there is so much confusion because we seem to find ways around that.

Thou shalt not kill.  But you can kill bugs, animals and enemies.  So who are you not supposed to kill?  I will not kill you.  That will do it.  So there is tremendous confusion around that.  How does one venerate these absolute laws that have to do with a moral and ethical human when there is so much confusion around them?  I mean, thou shall not kill but go to war.  How does that make sense to a child?   And so, as we grow up with religion, even though we have been founded in religion, or have some foundation in it, the information that we’re given is very confusing.  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Whose family hasn’t had a little bit of that? You know, it’s just crazy.

And so, first of all, we’ve learned to be a little bit hypocritical; but most of all, we’ve learned that these laws don’t really matter, and that’s really sad.  So when we become Buddhist, we hear that there is a Vinaya and there are certain things that we must not do. And that if we take a life,  we understand that we will be giving our lives someday from having taken a life because karma works like that. Karma is exacting. When the cause arises, the results arise independently and simultaneously.  It’s our misjudgment through having the mind of duality that makes it seem like time stretches out. So even though you may not have the result of that bad karma until later on in life or even some future life, definitely we know from studying, at least. And every once in a while we get blessed with a little instant karma, so we have sometimes the opportunity to learn; but still that confusion is rampant, really rampant.

We want to practice Buddhism, so we take the teachings. We get to all the retreats; we see the right teachers; we try to do the practices. Yet we don’t really change ourselves.  It is an amazing thing to me that students can be on the path for so long and even try to go to the completion stage practices,  the tsa lung and the trekchod and togyal, and go to those levels and practice them with some part of their mind, and yet the rest of them is somehow remaining the same.  To me that is probably the worst tragedy on the path.  It’s the one that makes me not like to teach, but that’s the battle I fight with myself, you know. I’m just being honest.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Understanding Duality

Fly

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

So what happens in the awakening? Well, we’ve worked with our poisons sufficiently. We have some inner knowledge and honesty. We’ve worked some method and now we’re accomplishing view. That’s where we really start to get cooking is where we practice the view. The view is—I love this part—every woman you see is a goddess and I’m the queen. We see that all beings are Buddha. We see that the females, whether they look like goddesses or act like goddesses, are goddesses in their nature. They are Tara. They are, as are you, the primordial pristine state. We look at men, and rather than list their faults, which most of us do, we look at them and think, ‘This is Buddha. When you think of your husband, your child, your friend, your enemy and even President Bush, you think, ‘Yeah, this is Buddha, in his nature.’ And when we look around and we see that the appearance in relative view doesn’t look like Buddha, we shouldn’t take that as proof that the teaching is wrong and that we have a good excuse to hate.  We should take that as a reasonable display of the fact that we are lost in samsara. Here we are in our nature, the very Lord Buddha. When we awaken, we are Buddha. And yet we are in prisons; we are in hell realms; we are in abusive situations; we are hungry; we are angry; we are at war; we suffer. And yet we are the very Buddha we aspire to follow.

In Buddhism we are taught there are the ground, the path, and the fruit. All three must be present in order for liberation to be possible. And this is one way in which we understand our natures. The ground is the basis of accomplishment. If you did not arise as phenomena from the fundamental primordial self-luminous view, if you did not arise from that, if you were not the very bodhicitta in its display form, if the Buddha seed did not rest within you, if it were not so that each and every cell of your body is replete with the entire mandala of peaceful and wrathful deities, if that were not true, there would be no basis for accomplishment. But in our nature, we are Buddha. That is the basis.

And then there is the path. The path is as important as the basis, because while we have the Buddha seed, we may not have method or a way in which to awaken to that or to bring it forth. A fly is Buddha. He also arises in the display of duality in the samsaric world; and yet his nature is Buddha. His nature is the very same, no different. We each of us stand in the presence of our root teacher, whether it’s in our private practice or whether it’s here at the temple, and we could be a fly. But the difference between you and the fly is the fly has no method. The fly cannot practice method. The thing he is doing is not prostrations. He’s wiping his thighs or something. So we have to apply method. That’s what the Buddha’s teaching is all about. It’s all about different methods at different stages for different people.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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