The Opportunity to Practice Phowa


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

The signs that you must see in order to know that you are prepared for death have to happen now. They don’t happen before you die; they will not happen before you die. You will not have time at the moment of death to prepare for your death. That isn’t going to happen. So the signs that have to happen now must be received at this time. We want them now. This book, this preparation, this Ngöndro, which helps us to gather merit and helps us to purify karma, and helps us to make it possible for our minds to have the kind of quality to be able to hold, like a good bowl without a crack, such a practice, this is for now.  Now is when you have to do this. The winds have to be purified now. The channels have to be unkinked now. Your mind has to be stabilized now. You have to learn not to be such whiners now. You have to learn to renounce cyclic existence now. You won’t have time at the time of death. You’ll have time for maybe a quick thought. If you’ve already practiced renouncing cyclic existence, at the moment of death you will have time to simply give all of that to the Three Precious Jewels. That you will have time for. That kind of inclination, that kind of giving, you will still, even after the elements dissolve, have the wherewithall to practice. But of course you will not have time to practice every aspect of the visualization and the prayers.

Forgive my language, but I have to scold you a little bit. Do you think that the Dharma was written by enlightened beings that were so anal, excuse me, that they said, “Well, if you do every one of these prayers, especially the ones that I’ve written, then we’ll let you in! But if not,…” What are you thinking! You know it’s not like that. It can’t be like that. That would not be logical or realistic or sensible. What superficial view of reality do we have if we hold such bizarre and crazy ideas? What we are doing now is to prepare ourselves—through gathering merit, through accumulating virtue; through purifying our inner winds, channels and fluids; through understanding what bardo is, through studying and contemplating the nature of cyclic existence including the bardo, through having preparation as to how the bardo experience will actually take place; through developing devotion. All of these things have to happen now. If you’re waiting ’til, oh, a week before you drop dead, what is that? First of all, you don’t know when that will be, and second of all, what’s a week? Even if you have that much time, you don’t have enough time during the course of a week, or month, or even a year. Preparation starts now, and you do what you can as quickly as you can with as much devotion as you have now. With as much devotion as you can now. So that’s what has to happen.

At the time of one’s death, if you are fortunate enough to have spent a long time dying, and you have been in the bardo of the condition of your death, which means that the cause of your death is already within your body and is active in your body, so you’ve known for a long time that you’re going to die… And let’s say you have the good fortune that a physician—this would have to be a heck of a physician, wouldn’t it—would come into your room and say, “Well, looks like four o’clock today. That’s what I say. Four o’clock you’re on your way out. Toes up kid, four o’clock.” And let’s say everything is perfect, and somewhere around two thirty you still have your mental faculties complete so you pick up your book and think, “I’m just going to open my practice.” This could happen. I mean, it could happen; but really, what is the likelihood? There’s no likelihood that that’s going to happen. The rarity of such a situation is ridiculous. Plus the fact that when people are getting ready to die they’re not at their best condition, you know. They’re not necessarily right with the program. There are some people that remain alert right until they cross that threshold. Lucky them, but it is not [usually] the case. So don’t you think that, since this Phowa was authored and given to us by those who have achieved enlightenment, who have practiced Phowa successfully, that they would have taken into consideration that this Phowa is written for you, for sentient beings? It is written for sentient beings that have not solved their problems yet, haven’t got renunciation down, haven’t got anything down yet. In fact, this kind of Phowa is kind of Last Hopeville. It’s really designed for those who could not practice generation and completion stage practices excellently. Those kinds of practitioners who can practice those practices excellently probably will not [need] the Phowa. So you must understand that this is not only possible, it is not only accomplishable, do-able, but is also necessary; and it is necessary for you to step back and have a proper view about it. Lighten up. Give yourself a break. Give me a break. It will come to you; We’ll get it done, don’t worry.

So, now that I’ve finished spanking you I’ll teach you some more. That’s not a bad spank, is it? Nah.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Necessity of Training in Phowa


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

Last time I saw you guys you were dead; and the Buddhas appeared to you, and you were still dead. We spoke last about the section of the bardo where the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas appear, and we spoke of the forty-two peaceful deities and the fifty-eight wrathful deities. I explained yesterday that on the appearance of the peaceful deities, one should understand, first of all, that one is unfamiliar with that. Remember, to understand in terms of Vajrayana why we act the way we do and how we should practice, we have to understand what an important part habitual tendency takes. Remember, when the Buddhas appear to us, the peaceful Buddhas that is, in the bardo state, they appear to us with extraordinarily brilliant lights. I have explained to you that in that state of the bardo those lights may even be so impactful that they will also impact the other senses—like a light so bright that you can almost hear it, if you can imagine such a thing. I actually had an experience like that. I once had a pulse of light flash to me from one of those newfangled flashlights that have big halogen bulbs in them. You’re not supposed to look at them. If you look at them, they will damage your eyes. You can’t look at them. I had a pulse of that sent at me and it actually registered in my ears. I don’t know whether, scientifically, it meant there was like a pulse of blood in my ears, as a strong reaction, or whatever. But your senses do shift like that, particularly in the bardo. There are no clean cut lines for your senses in the way there are now. Clearly, smell goes through your nose now; clearly hearing goes through your ears now. Well, of course, in the bardo, although you have those same habitual tendencies, you do not have the same definite places for this information to come into, and so there is something of a bleed through.

When the Buddhas come to you, again, that will be very unfamiliar if you have not practiced. The brilliance of the light of the Buddhas will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen; and it will be somewhat terrifying if there is no preparation. It will be much more comfortable to look at the corresponding other lights that come at the same time. We talked about Buddha Vairochana. He appears on the first day and his light is the blue light, and it will be so brilliant it will almost hurt—so brilliant—because it is not our habitual tendency to have awakened to that element of our mind, of our nature, that is in fact identical to and inseparable from that blue light nature that is Vairochana, you see. We will not have had time to do that so we are not familiar. It will be exactly the same phenomena that causes us not to see the black, or clear, path in the first part of the bardo experience. Unfamiliarity. We will, however, as I said yesterday, be familiar with the other light that shows at the same time, and that is the light of the god realm. In a sense, the light of the god realm, which at that point will be a very soft, welcoming, and very sweet kind of white, will be much more familiar because we will have exhibited some of the qualities that it takes to get into the god realm—that is, some accumulation of merit—and we will also have accumulated some of the unfortunate problems, or the obstacles, that cause us to be born into the god realm. So we have much more familiarity with them than we do with our own primordial wisdom nature. Interestingly, as the different Buddhas appear, and then as the different realms appear, you’re also looking in a sense at the flip side of the same cointwo different sides of the same coin. One is our pure nature, and the other is a display of our nature in defilement, in confusion. Of course, we will have the strong habitual tendency to go toward our nature in defilement, stronger than we will to go toward the purity of our own buddha nature because, simply, we have more familiarity and more habitual tendency with our samsaric nature than we do with our awakened nature.

So, of course, this is something that you are being prepared for right now. When you hear something like that you think, “Oh, that scares me. Of course I’m going to want to go towards a soft, glowing white light more than I’m going to want to go towards something that’s almost painful it’s so bright. So I want to be really prepared for that. How can I prepare for that?” Those of us that have no spaciousness in our mind and have not practiced very much, and have a tendency or habitual pattern for our minds to act in a very neurotic way will think things like, “Oh, I have to practice liking bright lights, . I have to practice not looking at soft lights and not liking them anymore.” really, that [kind of thinking] is completely unnecessary. Again, have faith in your spiritual mentor. You must know that you are already, right now, applying the antidote for whatever fear you might have had about going into the bardosimply training in the knowledge that there is a bardoand to the degree that when you hear this information, you hear it as a respectful student would hear it, hearing it from someone who has crossed the ocean of suffering, hearing it from the Buddha who has given us this information based on his many experiences of crossing the ocean of suffering himself, and also helping others to cross the ocean of suffering. So as a student our posture would be to listen and go, “Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, yes.” That really would be the perfect posture.

Of course our training tells us, “Well, we have to think things through. We have to be individuals.” But that very thought will prevent you from absorbing these teachings that you have to remember on a very deep level—a memory that is really deeper than the mind that you use to call yourself ‘I’ with. It will have to go much deeper than that. And the only way it’s going to go deeper than that is if the student practices devotion while hearing. Devotion is the bridge; devotion is the method. That is why it is a useful practice that connects the student and the teacher and makes the information, in a sense, go in even more. The student who does not take advantage of their teacher’s teaching simply has no devotion. It doesn’t have anything to do with how good a practitioner they are or how lazy or slothful they are. Of course, those are elements, but really, it has to do with the lack of devotion. The student does not have the karmic scenario to make a bridge by which the lama can reach them and touch them. We assume that the lama you have chosen is qualified. Once you have chosen a lama, you should have chosen them on the basis of their qualifications, on the basis of their ability to speak to you. Once that happens there is no room for any doubt. You should have spent your time considering and thinking and wondering and asking yourself, and looking and checking. But once you have chosen, there is no more time for the head games that you play as a student. Now you have to apply yourself, and that’s the only reasonable thing to do at that point. The time for doubt is finished. The time for practice and preparation has now begun. Now that responsibility becomes yours. The teacher can lead you; the teacher cannot force you. It is up to you to follow. So that is what has to be done.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


The Time to Practice Phowa is Now

AS-x-21 Charlie Grant-M

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

I would like to explain one question that I think is necessary to clear up at this point, because if it isn’t cleared up, you will assume you know more than your spiritual mentor. You will assume that you know how things will go at the time of your death, and you will not follow through with your practice. Many people look at their books and they think, “Well, here’s a pretty thick book and here’s a kind of thin book. I have no idea whether, at the time of my death, I will have time to open my practice.” Well, you’re right, you don’t have any idea whether at the time of your death you will have time to open your practice. Now do you really think that wasn’t thought of? I mean, c’mon guys, lighten up. Remedial Dharma 101. This has been thought of. Really. Lots of people have died. We pretty much got it down. So worry not. Now here’s what actually has to happen. This book [thick] and this book [thin] are not for the time of your death; they are for now. They must be practiced now. There’s a really good chance that at the time of your death you will not be able to pick the books up in time. And you may drop them. And you may not have enough breath to finish. Really. This has all been thought of. Don’t worry. These books are for now.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Peaceful Deities


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

On the third day Ratnasambhava Buddha appears with yellow light. Again, same scenario: too brilliant, scary. At the same time, the blue light of the world of humankind is also manifested, and you will feel very familiar with the blue light of the world of humankind. Although being reborn as a human is considered a very auspicious rebirth, if you have a chance to either go to Ratnasambhava’s pureland or experience that nature that is Ratnasambhava, or be reborn as a human, take Ratnasambhava.

Amitabha Buddha appears on the fourth day with red light. The red is so brilliant and so luminous and so pulsatingly brilliant that we can hardly bear it. And at the same time the yellow light of the world of hungry ghosts will appear. We’re used to yellow light because we’re used to desire. It is vibrationally familiar to us, and it will seem, therefore, like a softer and more welcoming light. Do not follow the yellow light of the hungry ghost realm.

Amogasiddhi Buddha appears on the fifth day with green light. At the same time, the red light of the worlds of animals and demigods are manifested. Again, do not follow the red light. In this case, it is softer, easier to live with, and yet it is Amogasiddha that you want to follow, with the brilliant green light. Always choose that brilliant light.

On the next day, the sixth day, all five Buddhas appear at the same time, with the lights of the six classes of beings. All of the forty-two manifestations of the Buddha that are considered the peaceful deities will then appear. They will be manifested because they are all representative and they are displays of the very elements that are intrinsically within our own nature, so therefore they must appear. It is the nature of the bardo that what appears subjective then becomes objective. What appears to be our own intrinsic nature is seen in an external form. So all of the forty-two peaceful deities will be manifested in our mind, and then they are followed by the fifty-eight wrathful ones. These manifestation scenarios last for about three weeks, unless you take one of the doors. One of the doors would either be, again, recognizing and going toward the Buddha nature in whatever form it appears, or it will be taking one of the doors of the six realms that constantly appear as a more seductive and more familiar light. This goes on for about three weeks.

Now you say to yourself, “When the peaceful deities show up, sounds to me like a good day at the park. I can live with that, being surrounded by all the deities.” But again, it will be unfamiliar; remember that—for a non-practitioner, and even for a practitioner who has not really accomplished their practice very well, or not yet. How are you going to deal when the wrathful deities come in, and what is their nature? What are they? Are the peaceful deities the pleasant and friendly ones and the wrathful deities the punishing ones? Who are the wrathful deities and how should they be understood? How can we avoid being frightened of them? Because they are terrifying. This is what we are going to learn in our next session.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Vajrasattva in the Bardo


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

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

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Bardo of Dharmata


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

After the three and a half days of unconsciousness occur, another period begins which is called the bardo of dharmata. It’s also called the bardo of becoming. It looks or feels as though a person is emerging from a deep sleep. It is at that time that a person actually fully realizes that they are dead. If they have no training, then they have no capacity to realize beforehand. This is, again, three days after, and in some cases the body has been handled, or the body has been cremated. The person, although they are unconscious at that time, still has enough of a connection that when they wake up they are aware (and they are even residually aware in their sleep) of what the body is experiencing. Do not cremate the body before three days. Do not do that. Giving body organs? It depends on how you feel about it. There’s a lot of virtue in that. The timing? Well, you have to do that immediately; there’s no choice. But in that case you would be doing something compassionate, and even though it wouldn’t be the best for your own death situation, you would wait until the inner death ceased. The wise thing to do would be to have a lama come and practice Phowa with you. The inner wind would have ceased. If the lama is worth their salt and you have any devotion, you should be all right by that time, and you can then donate the organ within a reasonable amount of time. But for myself, my decision is that even though I would love to just keep manufacturing organs for lots of people to have, I would love to just keep giving them out, my decision is that I feel I can help people better during the course of my life; and I also want to achieve for myself, again and again, the most auspicious birth so that I can return again and again in a form to benefit sentient beings. I feel that that is ultimate benefit for sentient beings, rather than what my eyes could give, or something like that. So it’s a question of how you want to benefit sentient beings.

It is during this period, in the bardo of dharmata, that the Buddhas of the five families begin to manifest themselves. Now when you think of the Buddhas of the five families manifesting themselves, what do you think happens? Do you think that they have some sort of warning bell that tells them when you die, and they sort of know,“Oh, she’s dead. Better hurry up,” so they run from the five different directions and they come over and visit you, and they just sort of hang out, wave at you? No, it’s not like that. Actually, the Buddhas of the five families are seen as separate displays and separate emanations, but they are intrinsically present in our minds as our own nature, our own five wisdoms. So you can say that the Buddha families each represent our own subtle intrinsic wisdoms. Whether we have them developed or not, that’s another story. For instance, we think about Amitabha Buddha. That family, the Lotus family, is associated with discriminating wisdom. Ratnasambhava Buddha, associated with the Ratna family, is the wisdom of equanimity. Amoghasiddhi Buddha, associated with the Karma family, is accomplishing plain wisdom, and Vairochana Buddha accomplishes the wisdom of the dharmadhatu. That’s the awareness of what is and what is not, as one. Akshobya Buddha is considered the Buddha of mirror-like wisdom. So each one of these is our own intrinsic awareness, our own intrinsic wisdom. As to whether or not we have them developed, that is another thing.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


Preparing for the Journey


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

When they are unreachable during this three and a half [days] period time, according to traditional teachings, it says, “Care should be exercised not to touch the body for at least three days. That is the optimum. But certainly not while the event of death is occurring.” Remember what I told you about that yesterday. Certainly you must not do that. The best case scenario—and this is what the lamas all ask for—is that the body should not be touched at all, other than perhaps up here [crown] while they are dying, for three days. Many lamas arrange for that to happen. You have the right to arrange for that to happen as well, but you have to write it down legally. You have to have it notarized; it has to be legal. You have to register that with someone. You have to give that to someone who is interested in protecting you and who will fight for you at that time, because the relatives that do not understand, the friends that do not understand, will want things differently, you see. They will not accept. So you have to make your wishes known; and your wishes will be respected if they are legally written down. You should prepare for your death in that way.

It is considered that actual death starts when the external breathing ceases, but it’s only final at the moment of the black path. It is during the event of the black path that the internal wind ceases. That’s when the white tigle and the red tigle have joined and the black path ensues. At the moment when the mind falls into unconsciousness, the cessation of the internal winds then occurs. And in the case of accidental death, all of these things that happen very gradually must happen very much more quickly. So although some people pray to be hit by a truck and have it over and done with quickly, do not pray for that, do not ask for that. If you want to pray for anything, pray for a slow and knowledgeable death—one that you know and understand, and can track and relate to, and be the captain of. That’s what you should ask for. It’s so different from the way we think ordinarily. We think, ‘get out of here quick,’ you know, make it easy. But again, that’s like trying to go through your life with all the lights off, trying to go through your death with all the lights off. It isn’t wise. It will not bring a good result, and you will be afraid.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


Devotion in the Bardo

MG-0002-JAl Rigzin Pema-L

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

Now we’ll speak about the bardo of becoming. I forgot to mention to you that I’ve had many opportunities to practice Phowa on other people, and I’ve noticed that in every case, even if the person had been something of a practitioner or had tried to meditate, or had minimal experience, in every case, if you were not there exactly at the moment of death to facilitate the person at that time, there would always be a period of about three, three and a half days where the person was unreachable. Where you could literally practice Phowa for them and it would do no good whatsoever. You cannot rouse them out of the deep slumber or death-like sleep that they have once they do not recognize that clear light. You cannot rouse them at that time. You have to wait until they come to the bardo of becoming. Then the lama will appear to them or try to reach them and guide them out of the bardo.

How well is that done? There are two situations upon which how well that works out are dependent. One of them is, of course, the qualities of the lama—whether the lama has awakened, whether the lama is capable, whether the lama has realization in their practice. That is, of course, one of the conditions. The other one is, of course, the degree to which the student or the person who has died has any connection, even if it’s only a residual connection, with devotion. If the person has no connection with the practice of devotion, if the person has never practiced devotion or has no capacity for devotion, the best of lamas will not be able to reach them in the bardo. It is not possible. They may be able to afford some blessing for them, but they will not be able to rescue them. They may be able to guide them in a better rather than less good direction, but they cannot prevent them from going through the bardo of becoming.

Generally, you have to rely on the student’s connection with devotion.If the student has a great deal of devotion, the lama will be able to appear clearly as their spiritual guide during the bardo of becoming. The lama will be recognizable. The student will have faith in the lama; they will go toward the lama without fear. The force of their devotion will propel them toward the lama. They will enter into the lama’s heart, and they will experience the wisdom that the lama has to afford them. They will be rescued from the bardo and liberated in the state of becoming. So sharpen up that devotion, you guys.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Faint


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

Now I want to refer back to this book [Death and the Art of Dying by Bokar Rinpoche] to give you a couple of statements that I think may be helpful. When we last were together we spoke about the white path or the white bindu that dropped from the top of the head to the heart, and we spoke about the white light that is shown. The white method would be to move toward and expect and recognize that white light; that would be the white method. According to this book, the white method or the white path results in the body of emanation or the nirmanakaya form. It is considered that when a tulku appears in the world that a tulku is a nirmanakaya form of the Buddha. So recognition of the white path results in the body of emanation and the nirmanakaya form. Recognition of the red path results in the body of perfect experience or the sambogakaya, also called the bliss form. And recognition of the black path, which is also the clear light that we spoke about, results in the absolute body or the dharmakaya. Now it is considered, actually, that of these, the black path or the clear path, the one that we spoke of last, the recognition of the dharmata, the recognition of the clear light is the most difficult of all of the recognitions. It’s considered that the black path or the clear path is usually available only to those who have practiced mahamudra, which you are learning to practice even as we speak.

I wanted to read to you exactly how this lama put it, but I’m not seeing it. Well, then I’ll explain it to you in my own words, which may not be quite as dramatic but the meaning will be there. It is considered that the great vast majority—that is to say, 99.999 percent—of sentient beings who experience death, and remember, they all do, will not be able to recognize either the white, or the red, or the clear, or black, method. They will not be able to recognize any of those three stages. This is really, really interesting. During each of the times that the lights appear—first the white light, the red light, and the clear light—after those events are finished and you have not recognized any of those lights (and it is very likely that that will happen), it is at that time that you continue on into the bardo. It is then that you actually slip into the bardo of becoming.

If you do not recognize the white light, if you do not recognize the red light, and then if at the end the fundamental clear light is not recognized, then the lama says here, “The mind slips into a deep state of unconsciousness of variable duration, which is generally said to last three and a half days.” Now I have had the experience and the good fortune to have the opportunity to do phowa for a number of other beings. The clear or dark light is, in fact, the appearance of one’s true buddha nature, appearing just so. Just as it is. It is the true face of the primordial Buddha, but those of us who have no training to be able to witness the face of the primordial Buddha literally will not see it. It will be much like going to some sort of desert tribe that has never seen a picture of a boat or large body of water. If you show them a picture of a boat and a large body of water, they won’t be able to recognize it. They do not have the brain pathways or something that will help them to recognize that. And in our case, even though the very face of our true nature, which to a practitioner would be as recognizable as the mother is to the infant or to the child, for a non-practitioner it would be, again, like the child who was adopted out right at birth and never saw the face of their mother. They would not be able to recognize their mother; they would not be able to connect. They would not be able to have the force of surety in conviction to be able to move toward and direct themselves with their own inner force to be able to move toward that reality. They will not be able to slip into meditation on that nature. They will not be able to slip into that non-dual state, even though all of their distracting elements will be dissolved at that point. Literally, if you were a meditator and had that experience, that would be the time, ironically, during the course of your whole life and death experience, where you would be able to meditate the best. If you had experience. But 99.999 percent of the people go to sleep at that time. They have a faint, or sleep, because it looks like darkness to them, rather than light clarity. Their mind is not awake in their meditation. Not awake. When that happens there is no choice and nothing for it, but that we have to go on into the bardo of becoming.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Generation Stage Practice and the Bardo


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

There is one way that you can help yourself to prepare for the bardo state. As I begin to explain the bardo of becoming now, which is the next stage in the bardo, and a very important one, you will see how important it will be to you if you can successfully practice generating yourself as the deity. That’s called generation stage practice. That is a practice that is available for you to learn right now, even before practicing your Ngöndro. It is permissible, acceptable and desirable for each of you to practice, first of all, the Shower of Blessings, which is the generation of Guru Rinpoche—not oneself as Guru Rinpoche, but a generation of Guru Rinpoche in front of oneself giving blessings. That brings about a definite firming and developing of one’s relationship with Guru Rinpoche—one’s relationship with the appearance—the nirmanakaya form of all the Buddhas, in fact, because it gives us a relationship with the appearance form of that which is actually enlightenment itself. So there is that. There is also, even before Ngöndro, the opportunity to practice generating oneself as Chenrezig. Chenrezig is considered to be one of the main bodhisattvas who can block rebirth in the lower realms.

Phenomena is not solid and concrete the way we think it is. So we find that in generation stage practice we have the wonderful opportunity to be able to meditate on our true nature, allowing ourselves to dissolve into emptiness. Subtly we dissolve into emptiness and remain meditating on emptiness just momentarily, meditating on the emptiness or illusory quality of our own nature. Then we give rise to our self as the deity, and that takes different forms. Generally, it starts with a seed syllable which is symbolic of the qualities and mind state of the deity. Then after that, we begin to actually give rise to our self as the deity. But the deity is understood to be only as solid as, say, a bubble, or as gossamer thin, if you will, as a whisper. It has all of the solidity of dew, just before the sun dries it up. We generate ourselves as that deity and we are subtly meditating on a dis-attachment to the heaviness of our own consideration of what we are.  We’re also seeing ourselves in a completely different way.

Now why does generation stage practice prepare us for the bardo? First of all, it gives us enough spaciousness in our mind to have another idea besides ‘I am, and I want,’ which is probably the only idea we ever have, if you boil it all down—‘I am, I want, I think.’ So here we are in the bardo able to take a step back from that, and perhaps that will give us the spaciousness, the moment of space, that we need. Somewhere inside that knee jerk reaction tendency, we need to have a moment of space where we can consider where we are and what to do about it. And the lightening up that we have in generation stage practice will help with that. Furthermore, and most importantly, we will begin to recognize these displays, these many displays of the Buddha nature that appear as the meditational deities. These are forms, these are display forms which are actually pictures of, or movements that express, or dances that show, or colors that display or indicate, the qualities of enlightenment. That’s actually what the meditational deities are, if you think about it. They are enlightenment in display or emanation form. What they are holding in their hands, what they’re doing, indicates to us those particular qualities that are being isolated and demonstrated at that time. So we become familiar with the many different ways in which our Buddha nature is demonstrated, is displayed, and that prepares us for the bardo of becoming, because it is in the bardo of becoming that the BBuddhas actually come to meet us.  We will see them, and we can have liberation through recognition. It is actually the easiest form of liberation in the bardo. That is liberation through recognition. For most of us, that will be the easiest form.

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