Guarding Your Heart

Padmasambhava

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

Here in America, we have a lot of pop-psychology. We all have these little boxes about how relationships ought to be; and pop-psychology has told us how big they ought to be and what shape they ought to be in. And we are told that we should be independent in certain ways and then sharing in other ways. And then, you know, one way or another way we are told how we ought to be. I want to tell you that the relationship of Guru Yoga is not like that. For instance, in relationships we are taught, I’m ok, you’re ok. What is it? Don’t be co-dependent. So don’t be in a co-dependent relationship. Well, if you’re going to be in a co-dependent relationship, I guess it ought to be with your guru. But you don’t look at it that way, because a co-dependent relationship is where two people who are ill or not seeing clearly or deluded or neurotic in some way, are being neurotic together, and it fits.

Well, that’s not the same with one’s own root guru. You can freely and openly give your whole heart and know that you are not in danger. You can freely and joyfully walk, dance, through that door of liberation, and you will be happily and joyfully received. You can depend utterly and completely on the Three Precious Jewels and the condensed essence which is the root guru and never fall. This is the one time you should not guard your heart. A difficult habit to break for all of us.

So again, we’re not talking about personalities, because that’s ordinary. We’re not talking about you guys coming to live all at my house.  Not like that. That’s ordinary, ordinary context. We are thinking that the blessing of my teacher resides as me, in me and I am that. And like we say in The Seven Line Prayer, “Following you, I will practice.” Through that devotion, through that practice, all the blessings of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas are yours, freely given. To the deserving student, to the practicing student, the guru will always appear. And we should always today be creating the causes for the guru to appear tomorrow, in whatever form.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

 

 

Mixing the Mind with the Guru

mirror

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

Guru Yoga can always be depended on to reestablish and continue the blessing. I promise you, if we call out to the guru with full heart, with determination and with fervent regard and recognition, the guru will respond, whether it’s in the way that you would like which is ‘Hi! I’m here for lunch,’ or whatever. It may not be that way. It may be something quite different; and sometimes it’s not something that feels good right away. One of my favorite students works herself to death and forgets to practice sometimes, and then periodically does things like break her back or, you know, injure herself in some way. And then she practices and amazing things happen. I wish she wouldn’t do it that way, but she does. You know who I’m talking about, out in Sedona. I have other students that kind of orchestrate separation and return in order for that feeling of return. But I wish they wouldn’t do that, because that feeling of separation often comes with some cause and effect relationship. And again if it were my diamond, I’d be shining it up all the time. I’d be collecting that interest all the time.

We use Guru Yoga that way to create the causes for continuation on the Path. The teacher should never be frightening. The teacher is your friend, your friend who will take your hand and walk you, lifetime after lifetime, even when you stumble and you fall. Something will arise through the devotion that you practice in this lifetime to protect you even in your next life. Eventually we come to the place where we see everything as the blessing of the guru. Everything. Sometimes we feel some confusion, and maybe even confusion for a long time, but you know that that guru would not let you down. You know that. And so you count on that, even the confusion, to be a blessing. Eventually because of that devotion, the confusion will clear and the guru will appear again like an underground spring coming once again to the surface.

Guru Yoga is the most potent of all practices and it’s the most simple. One can practice Guru Yoga simply by visualizing the guru above the crown of one’s head and making offerings in a visualization way, and then receiving the blessing, real quick. The white blessing from the guru’s body to your body, and it does come in the head, white to white; the red blessing from the guru’s speech, from the throat to your throat; the blue blessing from the guru’s mind, which is the heart, from his heart to your heart (or her heart). And you can receive that blessing constantly. It’s free. It’s yours. You can receive it periodically. You can receive it every morning, every night—whatever you want, as much as you want. That’s the beauty of Guru Yoga. You should think that the guru is like your constant companion. Not in a creepy way. I don’t want you guys looking in my window, But in a wholesome way, where we understand that this nature is freely given, like method that one can use. It is indistinguishable from the ground which is full Enlightenment, the method which is Dharma, and the result which is the completion or accomplishment of the precious awakened state.

So we understand the guru is the ground, the guru is the method, the guru is the result. We begin to mix, through the devotion, through calling out our own nature, our own mind, our own qualities, willingly with that of the guru; and over time, that blessing mixes like milk with water and we understand that, indeed, Lord Buddha resides in us all. We understand that indeed each one of us is some uncontrived beginningless and endless and yet fundamentally complete luminous nature,  some state of awakened and yet uncontrived view. That we are that in our nature. And our job in this lifetime is to use the blessings of our gurus, to use their accomplishment, their qualities, their methods; to listen carefully and accordingly accomplish awakening to that, awakening to that nature. It’s the swift way. It’s the rocket ship. It’s powered because it’s like lighting something at both ends. You’re not thinking, ‘Oh I have to go there.’  We are thinking, ‘This is like a mirror and a mirror,’  inseparable in their nature.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

What Do Blessings Look Like?

Prayer Room

The following is an excerpt from a teaching called “The Guru is Your Diamond” 

If our teachers had not accomplished any Dharma, how would they be of any use to us? So we expect it of them and we rely on them to guide us in the way of Dharma. Sometimes it pisses us off. We’d rather go on vacation. We’d rather have a little more fun. I mean, it’s Sunday afternoon, isn’t it? And we have all kinds of reasons why we should maybe do something else, but we come back. There is my friend. If this teacher can bother to appear again and again for no reason other than to liberate sentient beings as my guru has, then I can at least be here. I can at least come half way, come full with devotion. When we are in the presence of our own root guru and we have that connection and we have the history and karma of the guru having ripened our mind in some way in the past, that ripening will surely come again. With faith and devotion and practice, it will surely come again. And so we have that kind of faith. We know in our hearts and our minds that we can rely on this one for that kind of help.

Should it happen that we cannot meet with the guru for some reason, or there is some difficult point in one’s path, some difficult moments, some difficult times, maybe even some difficult months or years, still, so long as the guru remains in the world, we can turn our face towards the guru and know. It’s like falling off a horse. You can always get back on.

But the problem, and there is a problem with that, is that if you waste your time with that precious jewel and don’t collect its interest, the jewel somehow becomes more distant, less potent, less present, less precious, less everything. And we think to ourselves, ‘Why is the guru not in my life so much?’  And we tend to think, ‘Oh, it’s because the guru’s over here or the guru’s over there, or the guru is not speaking right now, or the guru is this, or the guru is that.’  And you can think that way if you want to but it won’t help. We must think, ‘Now I’ve come to this place. I have chosen my guru and I am steadfast. And I have seen the door of liberation. Yet somehow things are a little mixed up here, I can’t quite get to it. I don’t feel focused. I don’t feel like I understand this blessing. I feel outsourced. I feel like I’m out to lunch somewhere on the Path here.’  And so we think, ‘Oh, what is the problem?’ Well, the first thing we have to do is correct our view and think, ‘This is the door to liberation. It is present in the world.’ Period. End of story. ‘What must I do? What must I do?’

Sometimes it takes traveling to see your guru. Sometimes it takes sitting down and doing Guru Yoga like you never did it before. And it can work out a myriad of ways according to one’s karma, according to one’s blessing. I’ve had it both ways. I’ve traveled to see my guru and the blessing was immeasurable and phenomenal. And then I’ve stayed home and practiced Guru Yoga and with amazing signs. The blessing was amazing and fundamentally life changing. And one, I saw the guru’s face; and one, I saw the guru’s face.

And that’s the nature of this blessing. It doesn’t depend on time and space. It doesn’t depend on ordinary things at all. And unless you neglect it, it cannot lose its potency. We must think, as pertaining to Guru Yoga, that every day, even while now we sit in comfort and enjoy being together, that every day, even this day, we should earn the blessing to see the guru tomorrow. How will I see the guru? Maybe I’ll see the guru’s picture and it will jump out at me and touch my heart. Maybe I’ll see Guru Rinpoche’s picture and it will jump out at me and touch my heart. Or maybe I’ll say The Seven Line Prayer.  And wow, that one really…, that one did it. Or maybe I will do my practice and it feels deep and rewarding like an underground stream that has come suddenly to the surface and has given us something precious to drink.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Extraordinary Connection

HHPR and JAL

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

When we practice Ngӧndro, one of the most important sections of Ngöndro 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 Ngӧndro book, Guru Yoga’s at the last. When I started practicing Ngӧndro, 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. And again, 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—not that 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 of recognition that connection of recognition. And that is where  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 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.

When we connect with our teacher in that way, and really give rise to that recognition, that 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 Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Rocketship

rocketship

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

Many people, when they come to the Path, they do feel the connection with some particular deity. I know of one person who felt a very strong connection to Manjushri, with his great sword cutting through ignorance. And yet that person did not practice proper Guru Yoga and understand that the nature that is Manjushri with the sword is the very nature that is our root guru; and that sword could be a word, a look, a piece of advice, some heart teaching, anything that cuts through the darkness of ignorance. Some of us can understand that and then others of us want to have our particular deity. You hear the pride in that, don’t you?  ‘I’m into Manjushri!  He’s the guy with the big sword. What a guy.’  And yet, every Buddha that we can visualize, all of the peaceful and wrathful deities that naturally appear in the bardo and are part of our own nature and can be recognized, each one of them has the complete and perfect qualities of all the Buddhas.

So, while it’s an amazing thing if you are attracted to some particular Buddha, like maybe Amitabha or Chenrezig or Tara, you might say, ‘Oh, I really love that deity.’  That’s good. Cultivate that. But do not miss the step that Guru Rinpoche gave to us when he said, “This nature, the nature of one’s teacher is unsurpassed by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions.”  Why did he say that?  To create confusion so that everyone in all our different places could look at our own particular root guru and say that’s the best one?   No, that’s crazy. That’s just more ordinary thinking. But instead, by implication, we understand that what we must do is to recognize the intrinsic nature that appears as our root guru, the promise of Guru Rinpoche fulfilled. And if Guru Rinpoche said this was going to work, well it’s going to work.

So, Guru Yoga is like a rocketship. We depend on the accomplishment, the qualities and the nature that appears as our own root guru. Early on in the relationship with our root teacher, we should practice thoughtful discrimination. That is to say, we should ask ourselves: Has this teacher really given rise to the great Bodhichitta?  Do we see that Bodhichitta is present here?  Ok. Check that box. Got that one. Ok. Do we see that this teacher has the capacity to ripen my mind?  Do I hear Dharma from this teacher?  Check that one. Is this teacher considered qualified by peers of her lineage/his lineage/their lineage, whichever?  Is this teacher properly recognized and considered properly an authority and a throne holder?  Does this teacher have good qualities? Does this teacher have the ability to communicate?  Let’s see. What else? Does this teacher have an unbroken chain that connects us to the source of the blessing, which is Guru Rinpoche?  You betcha!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We think through these things. And at that time if you decide this teacher is not for me, then there is no harm in saying, ‘I’ll keep looking.’  Maybe the connection is not quite right. So that’s when you do your discriminating and your thinking. But once you’ve decided—check boxes are all full, looks good to me and I have that feeling, I feel that connection, something is wiggling in my little heart chakra… So when we come to that place, after that point, you must put yourself on a diet, because after that point, there’s no more judgment.

 

Once we make the judgment and discrimination necessary and have that undeniable sense that one has entered the Path and met one’s root guru, after that point, judgment should be put aside. Then the ball is in your court. Not that the teacher doesn’t have a responsibility. I promise you, the teacher knows their responsibility, if they are worth their weight in salt. And that teacher not only knows their responsibility but also knows their students. A good teacher will be willing to say to a student keep looking. Go see this lama here or that lama there. See what you think. Once the teacher has accepted the student, and the student has accepted the teacher, then that bond becomes more intimate than any marriage, any mother and child relationship, any friendship. It’s hard to understand that because we think, ‘Oh, teacher. I only see you every so often, but I see my spouse and my children every day. Therefore, it must be more intimate.’

 

However, I will tell you that in order for you to be here, to be accepted as my student and to accept me as well, for that karma to mesh in that particular way, we must have known each other many times, many times. The relationship between student and teacher is not a relationship that ends in one lifetime. If we take vows together, I am responsible for you always. And so long as you remain in the world and have not yet accomplished liberation, I must appear again in samsara in order to liberate you. I must. Even if there’s only one, just you, your teacher will return for you. Under any conditions.

The Most Important Practice

Guru Rinpoche

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

The original teachings of Lord Buddha taught us to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, distinguishing between the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and ordinary phenomena, samsaric phenomena. We use that idea of taking refuge in what is wholesome and what arises straight from the Buddha nature. We take refuge in this Buddha nature as represented by the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and that starts us on a path of discrimination, where we can see what to accept and what to reject; what is wholesome; what arises from the mind of enlightenment as Dharma does, and therefore results in the fruit of enlightenment. In other words, the seed arises from enlightenment and the fruit is also then enlightenment.

So we are learning to discriminate by taking refuge. We see that we can take refuge in the Buddha and the Buddha’s Method, the Dharma, and the Buddha’s body, which is the Sangha, instead of what we used to take refuge in which was, who knows, sports or ice skating or, you know, watching TV or having three cars or twelve houses, or whatever people find their particular desire is in samsara. Now we’re beginning to understand that where we took refuge in things of desire, now we are taking refuge in something that doesn’t give immediate gratification in the way that getting a new car, say, would. Get a new car, you feel good for about six months. So good. If you get Dharma, maybe you would feel good for about six months, but then you start to feel better. And you begin to realize that you are creating the causes for continued happiness. And we begin that discrimination. Oh, the car wasn’t a cause for happiness. In fact, nothing I’ve ever bought or had has ever been a real cause for happiness. But the condition of my mind? Now that can be a cause for happiness, if I learn to accept some things and to reject others; and to live a more wholesome life; and to get a flavor of what it is to live in purity with uncompromised intentions.

Slowly, we begin to notice, ‘You know, I’m feeling better.’ Then we also begin to notice that it’s not all about me, that kind of self-absorption. Rather we are really taking refuge in the Buddha’s wisdom, the Buddha’s enlightenment, the Buddha’s compassionate and amazing intention. And it’s not all about me and what I want. And our mantra has changed from ‘Give me, give me, give me’ to maybe Om Mani Padme Hung or the Vajra Guru mantra, or even just the pure intention to practice Dharma. So little by little, we begin to move on the path.

Now in this time and in this age, we have something quite special. This is the time of the ripening of the blessing of Guru Rinpoche. In fact, most of Guru Rinpoche’s teachings that were hidden as terma, or treasures, during the time of his life, have been revealed to come due or to be potent now. They are meant for this time that is very condensed and very degenerate, where people are really lost and our cultures even are lost, and our governments and power holders are lost. During this time when it’s hard to find even a rice-grained-size of truth, of clarity, and of compassion most of all, during this time, here it is that Guru Rinpoche’s precious teachings come ripe in the form of terma revealed.

In every cycle of terma revelation, bar none, Guru Rinpoche made it clear that most important was to practice Guru Yoga. Guru Yoga becomes to us the very sustenance on the Path.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Seven Line Prayer as Practice

8_Manifestations

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

Likewise, when the student accepts the teacher, they must honor that vow and they must make a similar vow in their own way. That vow is contained in The Seven Line Prayer. “Following you, I will practice.”  Even though the prayer is directly to Guru Rinpoche, the prayer has an inner, outer and secret level of meaning. So we recite it thinking of Guru Rinpoche on a lotus and having the intention, hopefully, to understand that even though this appears as Guru Rinpoche on the lotus, it is inseparable from our own root gurus—same nature, same taste, same essence, same uncontrived primordial essence. And so, every time we recite the prayer to Guru Rinpoche, The Seven Line Prayer, we reconfirm that entire process: recognizing that Guru Rinpoche was the one who came from Orgyen; that he was born on a lotus in an extraordinary way. This is like our saying, ‘I understand that this is not ordinary. I understand that this did not happen as ordinary births, as ordinary conditions happen. And so having understood, I also promise to follow and to practice.’  And then we ask for the Guru’s blessing, Guru Pedma Siddhi Hung. Guru Pedma, grant me your blessings.

There is so much condensed into the power of that little prayer that I make you say again and again and again. There’s so much. One can go so deeply with just that one prayer. One can move through the stages of recognition to a depth that we didn’t think we could ever reach. One can create that connection by reciting again and again and again, “Following you I will practice. Following you I will practice.”  And so those meaningful words, even though they are simple, we can understand them more deeply and more deeply and more deeply. “Following you I will practice.”  What does it even mean?  Does it mean I dress like Guru Rinpoche, or act like Guru Rinpoche, or do I wear some of his funny earrings, or what do I do?  (I’ve got some funny earrings on, by the way.)

That’s not it. “Following you I will practice.”  First, we practice the way Guru Rinpoche practiced, for the sake of sentient beings. That’s how Guru Rinpoche practiced. He came and was born into the world for no reason other than to benefit beings. He didn’t have to come and learn; he didn’t have to come and hang out. Like Lord Buddha himself, he didn’t have to come and learn or hang out. And yet he came for the benefit of sentient beings. And so that’s the way in which we promise to practice. Not only throughout this prayer, throughout this hour that I am practicing, but throughout this day, throughout this week, throughout this month, throughout this year, throughout all my lifetimes, may I follow the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and liberate beings. We’re talking here about liberating beings from suffering. This is what Guru Rinpoche did. Yes, he taught. Yes, he hid termas. Yes, he gave us the means, the method. But the intention was about liberating sentient beings. Following you therefore I will practice.

And so that’s our commitment. We take on this tremendous commitment, this tremendous opportunity to liberate beings from the clutches and the ravages of samsara. And that means we’ll live the week like that, the month like that, the year like that, the decade like that, our lives like that. And at the time of our death, we will make prayers to be reborn following Guru Rinpoche. And in our next life, we are reborn again to continue and to benefit beings. This is the method. This is the way. This is the powerhouse. We rely on this promise, this blessing.

Link to The Seven Line Prayer with audio files for practice accumulations.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

Vajrayana: For This Time

GuruRinpoche3

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

On the path of Vajrayana, we are given something like a rocket ship, rather than a slow boat, to cross the ocean of samsara. When Lord Buddha first came to the planet and taught, when he was there as Shakyamuni, he gave teachings that were absolutely necessary for that time. During that time, we were not in Kaliyuga, which is a more degenerate age. During that time, it was easier to practice. It was easier even to speak Dharma. Peoples’ minds were more spacious and more expanded so that if one were to accomplish Dharma, it would be more easy to accomplish Dharma during that time. And yet, there was a difficulty. And the difficulty was that during that time, because there was more space in the mind, there was also more relaxation, maybe more joyfulness, less reason to feel compelled to exit samsara. So there are good and bad things in both times.

True that this is Kaliyuga. True that this is the time of degeneration. There are many false teachers and many false paths. And sometimes delusion rises up like a tsunami flood, and it is a difficult time. We look to the people that even guide this country, and you wonder where is the clarity, where is the morality. So it’s difficult. Even this country that was once the prince of countries, and can still be the peacemaker, the one who guards the little guy, instead now we’ve changed. So these are all indicative of this time of delusion.

Yet at the same time, we are so pressed because of our delusion, our neuroses, which means an inappropriate response to something that is not understood well anyway. Our neuroses also thicken and deepen, and with that comes an increase in pain, fundamental pain. Maybe not even a particular pain about something, but rather an all-pervasive sense of suffering.We are more unhappy, really, now when things are happening faster and materialism is in some ways more attainable, in many ways more attainable. Still we have become more and more unhappy and continually create the causes for unhappiness. So this pushes us to find a solution. And for some people, we look to psychology or psychiatry; and for other people, we look towards creating the causes for happiness through walking the path of spirituality. But many of us are seeking, and that’s important. That is something that is useful and to be treasured during this time.

For many of us, we’ll think that what drives us to seek is this pain, this angst, this modern angst that we all seem to carry around. That pain, on the one hand, seems sometimes unbearable, and then other times, just there. And we are uncomfortable and we can’t say exactly why. We feel wobbly, unguided, unknowing and we really can’t understand why that is. That suffering, of course, even though painful, can ultimately become part of the blessing that brings us to the Path. Maybe we didn’t even come here thinking, ‘What I need is a good Path.’  Maybe we came here for some other reason: Because we heard about this place; or we’ve heard a little bit; or we’ve read some books about Dharma; or maybe His Holiness the Dalai Lama has given us some wonderful teaching through his books; and something has just hooked us a little bit. Maybe we heard about the crystals. That brings people!  Whatever it is, it’s that sense of things not being wholesome or right. It’s that sense of fundamental unhappiness that drives us forward.

And so, in the beginning, that’s how it feels. It can be a very poignant kind of search and we feel deeply moved by it. So when we begin to examine the Path of Vajrayana, we find that rather than being the gentle ship that crosses a relatively gentle ocean as was in the time of Lord Buddha’s physical life, now we have a different situation. We are propelled by the depth of our feeling, by our discomfort; and we’re looking for something. And we seem to, in this time, connect with something that is more potent, maybe a little fiercer in a certain way, more condensed definitely, than the original teachings of Lord Buddha.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

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