The Stupor

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

Even though we may have practiced some preliminary practice and received some preliminary teaching, still the delusion hangs on. One of the things that is characteristic of samsaric beings or beings that are caught in the wheel of death and rebirth—that’s everyone here—is that samsaric beings tend to kind of fall into a stupor. A stupor.  And we fall into a stupor about every, oh, 30 seconds or so.  We can be temporarily reminded, and those of you who are practicing Ngöndro, which are actually those very preliminary teachings that we are going to discuss today, will notice that you can practice Ngöndro, meaning that you can read those lines, turning the mind towards Dharma, reading them oh so carefully.  What happens here is that repeatedly we are falling into the same stupor.  We are just losing it.  We just constantly lose it.

If I were to say to you now, O.K., you’ve finished your preliminary practice and you’ve accomplished your Ngöndro for today, so now we are going to go into Phowa practice, you have to organize your mind and your thinking and direct yourself so that you understand very clearly why we should practice, how Phowa is suitable for you and why it is necessary to put so much effort into this one particular practice.  The student who is not reminded, in the traditional way, how to approach these teachings, even though they have just been practicing their Ngöndro, will literally forget.  Or they will have that other wonderful remarkable trait that samsaric beings have which is to be able to literally repeat the text back to the teacher and say, this is why, du du du du du du, dudu dudu dudu, and they give you back exactly what they have just read.  But nothing is happening.  Those words are somehow coming out the mouth, not going in the brain.  They are simply not being internalized, and that is another kind of stupor that we fall into.

Therefore, in order to have the best result from our teaching, from our Phowa retreat this week and in order to keep in tune and in harmony with the way the teachings are traditionally taught, we will cover and re-cover some of the most fundamental traditional teachings in order to prepare ourselves; but we will do this in a condensed form and almost kind of conversationally because I have found that westerners who have the intention of absorbing a practice in order to utilize it in their everyday lives, in order to mesh it into their everyday lives, respond better to being taught conversationally, to being spoken to in a way that they are normally spoken to, not in a strange and archaic way.  Then they are able to knit things together much better. So that’s the way that we will approach our teaching for today and it will be useful for those of you who are not intending to pursue Phowa.

For those of you who are curious about what Phowa may be, Phowa is actually the science and the how-to, the traditional Buddhist teaching, the Buddhist view, on death and dying.  It is literally how to die.  The Vajrayana path, which is the path that we are on, is a subsection of the Mahayana path which is one of the many ways in which the Buddha has taught It is considered that our path, the Vajrayana path, is the only way that one achieve liberation within one lifetime.  Using any of the Buddhist teachings, one can surely attain liberation, but in Vajrayana one can attain liberation within the course of one lifetime.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 3/24/2017

3/24/2017 Friday

Venus and the Sun travel together bringing happiness into the picture; use this natural charm and graciousness to brighten your corner of the world. This is an excellent day for socializing, group events and diplomatic encounters. People are cooperative and willing to put the best spin on matters. Dress attractively and smile at everyone you meet. Pope John Paul II said, “The worst prison would be a closed heart.” Avoid dark places and anything that gives you an uncomfortable feeling. Stay in the light and you’ll be fine today.

Love Affair With Samsara

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa”

There are certain preliminary teachings that must be taken into account, that must be part of our menu, in order to proceed into a deeper level of practice.  Traditionally on the Buddhist path, these teachings are often heard again and again and again.  It’s kind of interesting the way it happens.  It will seem as though you will have absorbed and taken in certain preliminary teachings well enough to know them and recognize them, but the student will also notice that, upon getting ready to take on another deeper and more profound level of teaching or level of practice, they will always be given at least in a condensed form, those same preliminary teachings again and again.  This is completely necessary, because in order to ready oneself for deeper levels of practice, in order to sort of tenderize the mind, soften the mind and prepare the mind in the same way that one plows a field in order to prepare it to receive a seed, we have to prepare our minds. And we have to think in a certain logical pathway in order to proceed to these deeper levels of teaching.

The thought behind that is that the deeper levels of teachings, and particularly the practice, will have no context if we don’t go through these certain preliminary ideas, certain preliminary passages, before we go further.  Without context, there will be no deep understanding.  In order for Dharma to be appropriate for the student, the student has to have accomplished what we call ‘turning the mind toward Dharma.’  Turning the mind toward Dharma means, actually, that we have stood back, in a sense, from our lives in order to gain some perspective with the help of someone who has, before us, stood back from their life in order to gain some perspective.  Having stood back from our lives, we are able to look at cyclic existence and we are able to see our position in cyclic existence.  We are able to see the situation of other sentient beings in cyclic existence and, having viewed all of that, we are able to understand then the problems associated with cyclic existence, literally the faults of cyclic existence.

Then, and only then, are we capable of turning away from cyclic existence.  Literally it is somewhat like a love affair in the sense that we are infatuated with cyclic existence.  Cyclic existence tricks us into showing us bright, shiny, feel-good things that cause us to react in a characteristic way, in the same way a new love affair would bring us a new toy to play with, something bright and shiny in our lives, something that we can say “Oh, things are not so bad!  I have that!”  That’s kind of how we think as human beings.  We need a toy to play with, and for a very long time we become playful in samsara.  We think of samsara as a toy much as a child would think of a bright and shiny object.  In the same way that we do not always think our intimate love relationships through to the end, very rarely in fact, neither do we think samsara through to the end. So we are in love in a stupid childlike way, an unthinking way, an idiot way, with samsara, in the same way that many of the love affairs and infatuations that we have engaged in have been kind of stupid and unthinking and basically guided by bright lights or who knows what.  We have no idea what makes us fall into the situations that we fall into.

At any rate, we have to address this problem of being in love with cyclic existence without being able to see what cyclic existence actually is.  We cannot see its faults in the same way as in a new relationship if someone, an outsider who is knowledgeable, were to point out the fault of the relationship that one were engaged in, and even point out the fault of the beloved and, most of all, point out the fault of the interaction between oneself and the beloved. Of course you would not accept that information.  You would reject it. In fact, you would kill the message bearer, literally.  You would kill the message bearer in your mind. You would toss that out and that would be the end of it. So we have that kind of situation in our lives and it causes us to revolve in cyclic existence endlessly, unthinkingly, in a kind of rapture, kind of stupid-like, in a daze.

We also say that an appropriate way to understand our relationship with samsara is to think that we are drunk, that literally samsara is like a drug, like a narcotic.  It dupes us in the same way that narcotics do.  Narcotics cause us to not be aware of the pain.  The same situation is going on, but we are not aware of the pain.  If you think of having surgery or something like that —taking in first barbituates and another kind of drug in order to make that surgery less painful or to make it possible.  Our relationship with samsara is very much like that.  You may be asleep and you may not know that you are feeling the pain; but actually the way barbituates work, in fact, you are feeling the pain, but it’s blocked off from the part of your brain that registers that in a way where you can react to it.  So, in fact, you are feeling the pain and, in fact, you are under the knife.  Surgically you are being cut open and your parts are laying out on the table; but to you, that’s not an uncomfortable experience.  In fact, surgery seems quite a wonderful thing because you go to sleep and you wake up and it’s all finished.  You weren’t there.  It was neat and clean.  You have no idea whether you had respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest or ingrown toenails or any of your teeth fell out.  You have no idea what happened to you while you were on that table, and that’s because of the influence of the narcotic.

A narcotic makes us approach things that can be not only detrimental to our health and well-being, but can literally kill us—to make us even approach our own death with a calm mind.  But a calm mind not in a smart way.  A calm mind would be literally a prepared mind, ready to go through a door that we have rehearsed going through and we know how to go through.  In this way, we have a drunk mind, a mind that is incapable of feeling anything besides the kind of delusion and calm that goes with narcotics. And that’s how our relationship with samsara is right now.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

Astrology for 3/23/2017

3/23/2017 Thursday by Norma

Friends, groups, science, machines and technical matters take center stage today, and a move forward is possible. At the same time, a difficult incident from the past is being transformed into something positive. There is a likelihood of coming to peace about a matter that always bothered you. Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward.” Wait three days before discussing this as you’ll tell the wrong person, or express it in a way that brings discomfort to others. This is a great day to spend time with someone special, to bond with your closest friends, to notice that you’re happy and to feel that you’ve made good choices.

Opportunity and Responsibility

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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

Astrology for 3/22/2017

3/22/2017 Wednesday by Norma

Be on the lookout for mood swings, emotional outbursts and sudden upsets before noon today. Something is a sudden game changer, after which you’ll go in a different direction. Aries planets are out running stop signs, waving at everyone and chasing attractive strangers. Have fun today but tone it down when an authority figure shows up. Alban Goodier said, “The enthusiastic, to those who are not, are always something of a trial.” Ebullience and stodginess compete for dominance today, which role will you play? It is up to you, but happiness has the edge. What’s good today? Shopping, being out and about, enjoying life with friends and special time with a partner.

The Soothing Balm of Virtue

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

To cultivate a joyful mind, we should cultivate virtuous habits. We are happiest when we are busy creating merit.  We don’t realize this because the words are so dry.  We think cocktail. I like that word!  Merit? Ugh.  Happy Hour?  That sounds good!  Practice? Ugh.  That’s our ordinary thinking that we have to dispel because it’s wrong.  It’s wrong. Cocktail means ‘poison’.  It means drunk.  It means alcoholic.  It’s never been good for you and it never will be.  It’s an unfortunate addition to your body, when you can do without. Merit, on the other hand… To practice merit and joyfully meritorious behavior, to soothe the mind rather than constantly inflame it with all your manic stuff, and to be a stimulation junky…  That’s what we are.  Stimulation junkies.  It’s like psychological sugar.  We can’t get enough of it.  “Gimme something! Anything!”  That how we are psychologically.  And yet the mind is happiest when it’s relaxed, quietly joyful, mellowed out, thinking of the benefit of others, not absorbed in what I don’t have, what I want or what I think I got to get!

It turns out that what the Buddha said is true.  The life of meditation and mysticism and loving regard for others—a life of service,  a life planned to benefit others, a life in Dharma, Dharma so alive and so much a part of one’s mind that it is moist and sweet from the holy breath of the Dakinis… That is a life of joyfulness.

In a relaxed mind, colors are brighter. Did you know that? People who are locked in to their own personal phenomena, their own personal crazy phenomena, can’t see colors well.  They think they can.  They look and say, “Oh, I see red, you see red.  What’s the difference?”  But one red is different than the other.  A peaceful mind can smell better.  All the senses are purified and more alive, even though, because we are not yet enlightened they may still do the work of duality. Yet slowly slowly, we are training them in our practice.  And so the mind becomes more relaxed.  The mind becomes actually sensitized to quiet luminous joy—a state of restful luminosity that could be described as the very dance of bliss.  This is the relaxed mind, the virtuous mind.

Yet we cultivate these habits that keep us raw and inflamed.  I look at the expression on people’s faces. They’re all scrunched up because of all that inflammation, all that horrible feeling. When we suffer we say, “I feel so raw”.  No kidding.   That self-absorption, that constant selfishness and non-virtue and inflammation… It would be like taking Brillo and just constantly rubbing it on one’s skin.

And yet the joyful virtuous mind actually is more like putting a soothing balm on this same skin and allowing it to heal.  This is the reason for happiness.  This is the way for happiness.  This is the method for happiness.  Each and every one of us experiences unhappiness due to our previous non-virtuous habits.  When we switch tracks, we begin to pave the way and to move on the journey towards personal happiness, happiness for all beings which is our highest priority, and towards making the world a better place, literally.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 3/21/2017

3/21/2017 Tuesday by Norma

A serious interaction solves a lingering problem and sensitivity is required, which is completely at odds with the exuberant tone of the times. Know when to be jaunty and when to be tender and the day goes well. Avoid the tendency to blurt out private information during a happy conversation. Maintain professional dignity at work and cut loose elsewhere. Keep your attention on your own behavior for best results today. Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This is a good day to exercise, to initiate a new venture, to cure a malady and to share agreeable information.

The House is On Fire

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

The Buddha teaches us tenderly and gently, as though we were his own children.  There’s a story about a king who had many children. He loved his children dearly, but they were children, you know, children involved with children things, bright shiny play objects and things that make them happy.  So the father left the children, hopefully in good care; he had to go off and do something in his kingdom (I think I’m telling the story right, I hope so. Om Benzar Satto Hung. So he goes away for a while and when he comes back to his house, his house is on fire. It’s a big house and his children don’t even realize it.  The children are comfortably asleep in their little children beds.  The king is outside. He can’t get to his children and he’s hollering, “Come out children. Hurry up. Get out of that burning house now. Quick wake up. Run.”  The kids, they’re not used to being in trouble.  They’re the king’s children.  They’re used to being safe; and they have that habit of being safe in their beds so they’re not worried about anything.  They hear somebody shouting, but they just turn over in their covers and go back to sleep.

The king becomes frantic. They’re his children!  So he says, “Children come out now or I’ll beat you with a stick! Come out or I’ll go in there and I’ll just beat you with a stick and knock your heads off.  So come out right now.”  And the kids go, “Oh, that’s dad.  You know, he’s not really going to beat us with a stick, because we’re the king’s kids. He’s just saying that, so we’re not too worried about it.”  And so the kids get out of their beds and they start playing with their toys. The king is making so much noise, and they’re in the back room and they’re just playing with their little toys, preoccupied, you know, the way we are, and playing with little things.  And then the king goes, “Children, I have beautiful toys for you out here.  Treasures.  Beautiful things.  I have a grand elephant for you to ride.  I have a whole herd of horses for you to enjoy.  I have beautiful umbrellas and shiny jewels and so many objects for you to come and play with.”  Naturally, the kids are attracted by that and go running out of the house. At which time the father, being part Italian goes, “Aye!”  (That would have been me.  That’s not what the father did.)  The father embraced his children and said, “Oh I’m sorry I had to lie to you.  I’m sorry I had to promise you things.  I’m sorry I had to threaten you.  But see, your house is burning.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 3/20/2017

3/20/2017 Monday by Norma

Ready, set, go! It’s time to charge into action, or at the very least step aside to avoid being trampled. Spirited debates predominate and everyone has an opinion about everything! Men are fired up
and assertive, women are talkative and everyone is interested in spending money. Five planets in fire signs are invigorating and inspiring. Get an early start today, as you will need to get serious in the afternoon when a blockage pops up. Avoid the temptation to charge into trouble, to talk back to a peace officer giving you a traffic ticket, etc, it’s a time waster. But you won’t care. Carl Jung said, “If you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself.” Create yourself happy and enthusiastic today.

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