The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”
When we go to another country and we see they are poor, maybe they have no prayer, we shouldn’t think, “Oh, I’m high and you’re low. Therefore I will teach you.” We should think like this: Lord Buddha has taught me that you are the same as me. You are Buddha but you have forgotten. Let’s remember together. This is the way. Let’s wake up together.
I promise you I will not abandon samsara so long as there is one student with one connection, however small, and difficult to return for. But I also promise you that you must do your part. You must practice Dharma every day. You must awaken to the true nature of your mind. You must create the space in your life to awaken. This is the way of happiness; this is the way of benefit. And this is what our perfect teacher has taught us.
I’m telling you these things in American words, in American ways, because I’m speaking to you. Therefore, I’m offering you the opportunity and the responsibility of hearing. So please listen and please practice, And please accept the entire banquet, not just the crumbs under the table, not just the dessert—as though you can take the dessert and not the rest of the banquet. Don’t fool yourself. Practice. Practice. Practice. Change your mind. You are here to be changed. You are here to be changed. Dharma is meant to change our ordinary minds.
In Asian cultures, that’s an accepted idea, but here we resist. And so I beg you to reconsider your habitual tendencies and to go within and to practice self-honesty. You will have to look at your unfortunate qualities. But when you look at them, don’t look at them like “I’m bad. I hate myself. I hate somebody else. I hate something.” Just look at them and say, “Oh, that’s that habit again. I see that habit. Yuck.” Remember the kids rolling over in their beds. You want to roll over in your bed, but you’re saying, “You know, that’s my habit. I think I’ll go check around and see if there’s anything wrong. Just go check around.” In other words, you’re growing a new habit.
Expect to change. Expect to be uncomfortable at times. Expect to deal with the issues of individuality and democracy. Because in America we love individuality and democracy. But not here. This is Dharma. And in Dharma, we have to trust our teachers. We have to trust the Three Precious Jewels. We assume that our teacher has crossed the ocean of suffering and can show us the way. Therefore, practice. Don’t be foolish, taking the attitudes and posturing like Dharma but not practicing Dharma. Because what you’re doing is looking at a feast of delicious food but choosing to eat the imitation plastic stuff from K-Mart that little kids play with—little pretend food. That’s what you’re eating.
Instead, practice Dharma. And if you are filled with concern for yourself and your own path, remind yourself that all beings are equal. If you are raising yourself up to Buddhahood, thinking that you can do it without raising others up to Buddhahood, well you’re wrong. It’s foolish because there is no separation. To get lost in your own little Dharma world, in your own little practice, in your own little thing is only more self-absorption. Sure, you’re practicing a little Dharma, but you’re also practicing a lot of self-absorption. And so the way is to benefit others, to reach others, to benefit others, to test your limits. Unfold your wings. Help others to break through and to achieve some virtue, some merit, whether they are Buddhist or not. Be a real practitioner. Let everything you do, everything you think and everything you say be something that contributes. Have respect for others—animals, humans, even those beings that cannot be seen. You can assume that they are there, and you pray for them too.
These are the recommendations that I am making to you. And I’m asking you, practice sincerely. We’ll see each other a lot more if you reach for the enlightenment that is your nature. If you reach for the Three Precious Jewels, they will respond. But you must reach. This is the removal of obstacles between the student and the teacher. You must call out. You must reach.
Honor the Three Precious Jewels. On the inside this temple is clean, but on the outside it’s falling apart. The Stupas were falling apart until we started fixing them. What respect is that? What loving kindness, what care for sentient beings is that? Even His Holiness house is simply falling apart. I’d like to see one of you be a real sucker, a real dope. Out of just pure compassion and devotion, I’d like to see you take a toothbrush and start cleaning that house. What a sap, you’d be telling yourself. Here I am on my knees with a toothbrush, cleaning that house. Who could be stupider than me? That’s what your ordinary mind would be telling you. But on the inside, your heart is going, “Yes, yes. This may look stupid. But I am practicing Dharma.”
Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved