The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Love Now, Dzogchen Later”
Remember I used to give this old teaching years ago about how being enlightened doesn’t mean you are suddenly too stupid to catch a cab?. Remember I used to? You know that suddenly you don’t become blissed out somehow. His Holiness personified that.
When I went to India, I stayed there for a while. His Holiness used to have this white car that looked like a beetle, a Volkswagen, on steroids, you know, kind of kind of roundish and puffed out like it had muscles. And that was his car, and he would drive it. And he was very spontaneous, very different from the way he is here in America, like terribly spontaneous. Like one morning he came to my house, looked in the window(there is only a cloth covering the window), and it was like 5:30 a.m. “Ahkon Lhamo! Wake up! We’re going to town!” “Okay, alright. We’re going to town.” So, we went to town. We bought stuff, went shopping. And he said, “You Americans, you like shopping, uh? I just want to go back to bed. I didn’t say that to him, but you know. So he was like that. And we would drive. He would do a lot of driving. His favorite thing was to drive his car. And when he would drive, he would talk excitedly. And his hands would be all over the place. If you’ve ever been in a car in India, the traffic is so terrifying. But you know, hey you can steer my ship anytime you want to. So, he’s driving the car. He’s talking. And His Holiness when he talks, he has like a funny accent lisp thing where he spits if he’s talking really excitedly. So I’m in the back and I’m getting showers of blessing. And I’m thinking what is this fabulous karma I have that I’m in the back seat with His Holiness getting this shower of blessings; and I was just holy spit all over me. So I was really happy. I didn’t have my coffee that morning, but that worked. So I knew him well enough to know that he didn’t change his ways very easily, even though he is spontaneous. He is flexible. He is awake.
It was hard for me to understand how he could go from being very protective of Dzogchen to suddenly handing it out year after year. And it made me think a lot. And I thought, ‘That is His Holiness telling us these truly are degenerate times. And that in these times, there is so much spiritual sickness that only the most powerful medicine can work. The most powerful Dharma medicine can work.’ And of course there are the teachings that Guru Rinpoche himself has given that said that in the future in times of great darkness Dzogchen would be the method that would cut through darkness. And so I thought to myself, ‘You know, most people may not be thinking that, may not realize that. But that’s what his giving this out means. That this is something important, something to pay attention to.’
And then I began to,… Well, I talked about it with my teachers. I talked about it with other lamas that I had been connected to at that time, and studied on it myself a great deal and realized that at the monastery there is shedra and there is a different subject in every year of shedra. It’s kind of like in a college where you have a semester; then you wait a year and then you have a semester. And it’s kind of like that. So when you’re ready, between the times that you are entered into a specific solid learning semester, they have the elder monks and other Khenpos and other lamas that are constantly there at the monastery keep the monks in line and keep them progressing. They don’t let them get out of control. They don’t let them get sloppy. They don’t let them get, you know, non-virtuous. They don’t let them lose their way. They watch them. It’s a communal family that works well together so that students can progress from year to year. And even that is different from the old days, and I mean the old days when in order to progress to the next step, you had to accomplish the step before. In other words, if you were given Ngӧndro to do, you had to complete your Ngӧndro.
Nowadays you get promoted whether you complete it or not. And it is a dangerous position in one way. Well, it’s not dangerous because you have His Holiness’ blessing; but it is a dangerous position in one way because you don’t have time to do the five accumulations, and they are so important. They are so important. That many Vajra Guru mantras, that many prostrations, that many vows of Bodhicitta, that many Vajrasattva, that many of all the countables, the mandala offering. They are so needed to stabilize the path. So needed to stabilize one’s mind. And to go on to the next phase before finishing the baby steps is a difficult thing to do. And the reason why it is happening now is because these are difficult times. It’s a rather explosive combination, don’t you see? Difficult times and not having the underpinning that you need.
And then after Ngӧndro, students would usually practice the Three Roots and that would mean you would have the Lama deity, the Yidam deity, the Dakini deity and protectors. And for the Three Roots, Lama, Yidam and Dakini, you would have to do 100,000 accumulations of each. Bare minimum. Usually it was a million of each mantra. And that’s what they call accomplishing mantra, when you do like a gazillion of them. Nowadays we think it means accomplishing mantra when we say I’ve done this mantra. I do it everyday. Therefore I have accomplished it. How many have you actually done? 25,000. I’m sorry. I don’t think so. Back in the old days, it was more like 100,000 or a million, depending on how the lama taught you to practice.
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