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

The Wedding Cake

wedding cake

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “This Time is Radical”

I think of Dharma as a wedding cake with three different levels, and everyone is welcome to partake of this cake. Only some people will get to go into three-year retreat, way up at the top: three-year Dzogchen retreat, and then maybe onto seven-year retreat, and then maybe onto end-of-life retreat. Hopefully some of you will have that opportunity. And don’t waste a minute if you do. If you have that opportunity, then that’s where you are, and the cake is yours.

The next level are people who may never get to practice that deeply in retreat and may never get to three-year or seven-year retreat or whatever, but they practice every day of their lives. They learn their Phowa, and they learn their generation practice, and they do a little Dzogchen practice; and they are hooked up, because they will have an auspicious rebirth. They are making ready for their next life.

Then at the lower level… It isn’t lower in the sense of up and down. It’s bigger, if you think of how wedding cakes are. That level is every human’s level. Every human can come and have a taste of mantra, of Dharma. How do I make a cake big enough for everybody to have a bite?  We’re going to sing it. We’ll just make it big and make it happen.

I’m really looking forward to that. I have lots of hopes and dreams. Eventually when we’ve accomplished certain things that we want to accomplish with our music, which is to get the mantra out into the world, then we want to hit the road. Hitting the road means bringing mantra, chanting and drumming to all people. And so any of you who wish to join us on that, it’s time for you to practice.

You shouldn’t be thinking, ‘Well, I only want to practice this way, and not that way.’  Well, you’re not exactly thinking in Dharma terms at all if you’re like that. You should have your mind open, relaxed, joyful, following in the footsteps of your teacher in the best way that you can. So I’m asking for you at this time to keep your heart open, keep your eyes open. Try to be mindful. Try to really see patterns around you. Try to notice Dharma and what it is to you, and how you can help others. Don’t do anything by rote now. Get back into the deep end again. Don’t just say a little mantra and then walk around like you own the place. Don’t do that. Get deeper in your practice, as deep as you can. For those of you who are giving rise to the Bodhicitta, when I say these words are inspired, say, ‘Sign me up. Send me. I’ll go. I’ll sing some. I’ll bring some drums. I’ll do cartwheels if that’s going to teach Dharma.’ You could go in a certain direction and have it written on you. We’ll think of something.

I’m trying to be upbeat about this, but this is a time of great change. This year and next year are going to be stupendous in terms of change that we experience as individuals and as a temple. Not frightening change, good change; but get-your-act-together kind of change. Get ready to help beings. Get ready to minister. Those of you who are wearing robes, you’re supposed to be ministering to others in the best way you can, whatever that means. If that only means open-hearted connection, good-heartedness like the Dalai Lama wrote. if that’s all we can do, that’s great!  Let’s do that here. We can do more than that because we have training. We have lots of training and we’ve got method. With method and a solid heart, we will hold back the dark for as long as possible.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Roots of Anger

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

For most of us, when we are wrathful or angry, it’s not wrathful. It’s not righteous wrath, you know, in order to help that person. The only time I can see where it would be useful for an ordinary person to be wrathful would be to maybe encourage somebody else to stand on their own two feet or to be less dependent or something like that. Now look, I really want you to do that, and you can talk sternly. But otherwise, where in your life should hatred be?  Hatred is one of the three things that binds you to this world of samsara in which you will get old, you will get sick and you will die. And so we are taught that we must handle this hatred.

So when we approach hatred and look at it, we have to really examine our habitual tendencies. We can’t just say, you know, ‘I’m not going to hate anybody,’ or it’s kind of like a recovering alcoholic. It’s difficult, very difficult, to just say, ‘I’m not going to drink anymore. I’m going to use will power and I’m not going to drink anymore.’ You know, they say some people can do that, but most people can’t. And why is that?  Because you have to learn about yourself. Because there is a reason why you drank in the first place. Because you have to learn to look inside of yourself and see what’s in there and you have to work it. What do they say in the program?  ‘It works if you work it.’ What do I say about Buddhism?  ‘It works if you work it.’ It’s the same deal. We are addicted to our habitual tendencies like a bunch of alcoholics. That’s why I love recovering alcoholics, because I feel such a kinship with them. And it’s beautiful that it’s so obvious to them that they are recovering addicts. Those of us who maybe have a little shot every now and then or whatever, a little wine every now and then or we’re teetotalers, we think, ‘Oh well, I’m not an addict. Oh, I’m pure, because I take vitamins and I eat bananas,’ and whatever.

But I tell you what. It’s that recognition that from the point of view of recovering from the addiction to the five poisons and from that awakening to Buddhahood, most of us are still at the stage where we are living like bag ladies and men under the bridge, because we ain’t recovered yet. We still have our hatreds; we still have our resentments. And we practice them.

When a Buddhist approaches ridding themselves of hatred, it can’t be done through willpower. It must be done through understanding, through practicing and ultimately through attaining view. Understanding means looking within oneself with honesty. None of us have been perfect. We’ve hurt others. We’ve killed bugs, people; I don’t know what, swatted flies, whatever. None of us has been perfect. And when we approach that, we need to look at that without excuses, bald-faced, you know?  Where have I fallen down here?

Now we don’t want to look at in a harsh and miserable way.  When I say take oneself to task, I mean have a long, sobering talk with oneself. I don’t mean self-hatred. That is useless and I don’t like it. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to talk about it; and I will slap you next week if I see it, because you are just as worthy as anyone else, and that’s just a game. When we get into self-hatred, it’s because we have bad qualities and we don’t want to deal with them. So I say, accomplish those qualities and your image of yourself will rise up like a mountain.

Most people that have poor self-image are stuck in a kind of fearful narcissism where they do not respect or understand what is outside. They do not respect or understand what is inside. They can’t tell the difference between outside and inside. And they are so internally focused, focused on their own needs, wants and dramas, particularly dramas, that it is really very difficult for these people to step out of their shell, their shell of narcissism, and begin to truly try to be of benefit to others.  This narcissism, this kind of fearful self-absorption, often is one of the causes of a kind of hatred. If you are fearful and self-absorbed in your own drama, it’s really, ultimately when you trace it down, pretty much all about you. You know? If you have that kind of thing, there is never the opportunity to understand the nature of phenomena. There is never the opportunity to understand the primordial naturally luminous wisdom state that is our nature because of the drama. And there is even a posture with that. Forthe people who have that kind of thing, as they grow older, their body tends to go like that. It caves in like that. And it’s the protecting that we’re doing of something that we feel is inherently real–ego.

When you think, ‘Oh, what can I do about this? I’m so fearful. Of course she’s saying I’m narcissistic, but it’s really that I am afraid.’ Well, what can we do about that?  I think one step is to notice that are there are other people who are afraid, also. Notice that everybody is afraid. Notice that there is a humanity that we share of brother-sisterhood, a humanness that we share, human experiences that we will all have together. We will grow old. We will be sick. We will die. This is the condition that humanity shares in samsara. So learn to recognize in others that connection, even if it’s a sad one, that we all suffer the same; and we have the same wants, too. That narcissistic self-absorbed person who is very fearful wants desperately to be happy but doesn’t know how. And so in order to make themselves better, they stay frozen. They have hatreds and fears toward everybody else. And that’s the reaction.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Challenge of Self Honesty

buddhists-prostrating-outside-the-temple

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

We must take ourselves to task more. I don’t want to speak harshly because harshness doesn’t help, but I want to say succinctly and directly, we have to take ourselves to task regarding our faults and our poisons.   When I think of the Tibetan culture, that’s a lot easier because there isn’t that attachment to materialism.  Even in terms of the roots of the culture itself without religion, they were a nomadic people and they had things, but you couldn’t carry much.  You had your yaks and your yurts and that was it.There wasn’t that much variety in food; there wasn’t that much variety in clothing.  It’s true that the aristocratic Tibetans used to collect jewelry—some of the strangest looking jewelry.  It was intense jewelry, and that was considered a status thing. But for the most part, culturally, a Tibetan Buddhist would not have a hard time understanding that hatred, greed and ignorance and particularly desire, as the Buddha taught, keep us revolving endlessly in samsara.  We, unfortunately, are programmed quite differently.

I know in my household and in those of many people that I’ve talked to, there was confusion.  My mother was sort of a lox and bagel Jew and my father was a twice a year Catholic; and we were supposed to somehow dance in the middle. So when mama won we were going one way and when daddy won we were going the other way. I think that this happens with a lot of people.  They are raised with a lot of confusion around religion.  And even when they are taught that faith and religion should be a part of their life, and even when they are given the Western ten commandments, still there is so much confusion because we seem to find ways around that.

Thou shalt not kill.  But you can kill bugs, animals and enemies.  So who are you not supposed to kill?  I will not kill you.  That will do it.  So there is tremendous confusion around that.  How does one venerate these absolute laws that have to do with a moral and ethical human when there is so much confusion around them?  I mean, thou shall not kill but go to war.  How does that make sense to a child?   And so, as we grow up with religion, even though we have been founded in religion, or have some foundation in it, the information that we’re given is very confusing.  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Whose family hasn’t had a little bit of that? You know, it’s just crazy.

And so, first of all, we’ve learned to be a little bit hypocritical; but most of all, we’ve learned that these laws don’t really matter, and that’s really sad.  So when we become Buddhist, we hear that there is a Vinaya and there are certain things that we must not do. And that if we take a life,  we understand that we will be giving our lives someday from having taken a life because karma works like that. Karma is exacting. When the cause arises, the results arise independently and simultaneously.  It’s our misjudgment through having the mind of duality that makes it seem like time stretches out. So even though you may not have the result of that bad karma until later on in life or even some future life, definitely we know from studying, at least. And every once in a while we get blessed with a little instant karma, so we have sometimes the opportunity to learn; but still that confusion is rampant, really rampant.

We want to practice Buddhism, so we take the teachings. We get to all the retreats; we see the right teachers; we try to do the practices. Yet we don’t really change ourselves.  It is an amazing thing to me that students can be on the path for so long and even try to go to the completion stage practices,  the tsa lung and the trekchod and togyal, and go to those levels and practice them with some part of their mind, and yet the rest of them is somehow remaining the same.  To me that is probably the worst tragedy on the path.  It’s the one that makes me not like to teach, but that’s the battle I fight with myself, you know. I’m just being honest.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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