Lineage in the West

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Love Now, Dzogchen Later”

Well, today I’d actually like to tell you a story. And I think it is seasonal in one way in that this time of year we generally think about what we want or what we want to give or how, or maybe family relationships and what needs to improve in our lives. And a lot of times at the end of the year during this holiday season and at the beginning of the next upcoming year, we kind of reassess ourselves;. reassess our lives, and kind of take stock. And I would like to tell you this story to help you take stock a little bit, and to give you some motivation, you know, some perspective. Because I think that if you come to this temple and you practice, you may not necessarily understand or know what’s going on in the greater Dharma community. Some people travel around but some people don’t. Some people stay here down on the farm with me. And so you might need to be exposed to some context in the Dharma community.

When I first met His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, that was quite a while ago, almost twenty years. I met him the first time that he came to the United States. And one of the reasons actually that he came to the United States, besides being invited, was that he heard that there was this American woman over there and he heard stories about me. And he knew in his mind that this was someone that he had been looking for for a long time. I came to find out later on that when he was a very young monk the first time he held the kapala, or the skull cup, of the first Ahkön Lhamo, it was before the Chinese invasion, and so it was whole, in one piece.  First time he held that cup, he said, “Oh.”  He made prayers:  “If there is any way I can find this dakini in this lifetime, I would like to do that.” He set his goal that way. And so of course with a mind such as his, when the goal is set, the deed is done. When he heard my name, and heard something about me, he knew immediately. But of course he didn’t tell me immediately. All I knew was that this lama was coming to my house. He’d never been to America before, and I really did not know what a lama actually was. I thought, “Guy sitting on rug. Guy wearing sheet.” I really didn’t know. I mean I had a great deal of respect for Buddhist thought and it was coming to my mind naturally. In fact, I was teaching meditation that I later found out to be based on Mahayana Buddhism. So, it was pretty interesting that this all came about so naturally. But then when he came to the house, we didn’t know protocol. We didn’t know respect. We didn’t know nothing. I knew how to barbeque, that’s what I knew. And so we had a barbecue and we moved my two sons to another room, and put Penor Rinpoche and Lobsang in the same room; and Lobsang’s like, “Oh God!  Save me!  Don’t you have another room?”  “Well, why? Is it crowded in there?”  “But you don’t understand.”

But you know, they were very nice. And then they asked for some tea. So, I thought, “These are Buddhists. They want to be calm.”  What did I know? So, I made chamomile tea, and I gave the teapot to Lobsang to give to His Holiness on a tray nicely set up. and His Holiness sent back a message, “What is that?  Bugs floating on top?”  You know how the little flowers float? “No.”  “Don’t you have some other kind of tea?”  “We have regular tea.”  “Oh yeah, we want regular tea.”  I thought, you know, Buddhists like to be peaceful. I thought.

And then the worst, the worst. He was so gracious and so kind. He never put himself up in any way or, you know, was anything less than the most humble of monks. I mean he never indicated that he was such a spectacular lama. And besides I didn’t even understand what the term meant—high lama, you know, lineage holder. I mean, I could understand the English words, but I didn’t have any way to put them all together. So, we had this barbeque and I served him a plate of hotdogs. And you know just the old America food, which he was pretty interested in actually. He sort of liked it. You know, he ate it. But then I remember plopping down right next to him and saying, “So, what’s Tibet really like?” or something like that, you know. You know him now. He’s such a righteous, orthodox, holy kind a guy. Can you imagine?  Can you imagine this Injee twit comes and plops down next to him and says, “So, how’s it going?”

I was used to Southern hospitality. So, I made another big meal (and I was a pretty good cook back then) and had some friends bring some stuff too. We sat him at the head of the table and said to His Holiness, “Please, help yourself to everything we have.”  He gets served. I didn’t know that. And so Lobsang’s going,… Lobsang was a lot younger then. “No, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.”  Well, that was back in the day and the reason why I’m telling you this funny story is because things have changed so much since then.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Technology of Dharma

private-music-lessons

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

I know we’re getting older, but in truth, if you want to rush through Dharma, I have to say there is no hurry. Not that we should be at ease and think, ‘No need to accomplish Dharma now. I’m going to live forever,’ but rather think first things first. If you cannot handle your poisons, it is not time to move on yet. And I’m not saying either that you should use your poisons as a personal excuse not to go any further on the path,. because I notice that some of us cowboys like to do that. But the truth of the matter is that in order to accomplish Dharma, one has to change. For instance, the basis of Dharma, we are told, is method. Why is that?  Because method is meant to promote change. It’s a technology. And the Buddadharma supplies technology.

Let’s see, how can I explain? Let’s compare it to playing an instrument. You can learn to play an instrument sort of academically, intellectually. You can learn to read music. You can learn the ins and outs of your instrument. You can learn how to blow or pluck it or strum it effectively, whatever your instrument is. But it’s another kind of artistic capacity or another kind of depth with the music that causes the musician to be an artist. They don’t just go dah, dah, dah, dah. They use moderation in the hand. You know what I am saying?There is delicacy; there is heart in it. You can feel itYou can’t have an ego to accomplish that kind of artistry. You have to let go of that kind of egotism to allow the music to be realer to you than your own stupid ego. So Dharma compares to that, really, in the sense that it’s not so hard to learn step one, step two, step three. And you can go through the whole course. We can put the shedra up, and you can go through the whole course. And we hope to do this. But if we do that in an unthinking way, we’re never going to be an artist regarding Dharma. And who cares about that? Most of all, we’ll never really accomplish it. We’ll never really accomplish what Dharma is meant to do.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Most Important Practice

human-kindness-11

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

The traditional fundamental ideas of all sentient beings as being equal—the realization that all sentient beings are suffering equally, that it is unacceptable to see their suffering, that all sentient beings are interrelated with us—these fundamental thoughts are really important. But go on from that and practice the mechanics of changing habitual tendency. It is not enough to be theoretical. The biggest fault that I find in Buddhist practitioners is that they keep it academic. I do not myself like academic Buddhist students. I would rather you knew nothing about the academics of practice and a heck of a lot about changing the habitual tendency of self-absorption through a real practice. Because academics is not going to get you anywhere but between your ears. On the other hand, giving rise to the bodhicitta and pure view and changing habitual tendencies will lead to profound realization, to the perfect awakening. Not only that, but it will lead to a better world.

So for my money, I feel like the best thing you can do is to begin to practice in a small and simple way. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do that either. And you don’t have to be a high falutin’ practitioner to do that either. You don’t have to wear the robes, or walk the walk or dance the dance or talk the talk, or even have a nifty mala which seems to be the highest priority when we first become a Buddhist. Big deal! The highest priority should be loving kindness and you should begin in whatever small way that you can, making no conclusions, other than the fact that you have a pattern and that you can change it. Remember the idea of the scales. That’s really important. Remember the idea of applying the method today. Now. Remember the idea of confession and restitution immediately after any breakage. How potent. What an incredibly potent way to live! Can you imagine living without the burden of guilt or the burden of the false assumption that you are a bad person?  You’d have so much spare time on your hands. You wouldn’t know what to do. Because all the things you do to prove yourself you wouldn’t have to do anymore. Isn’t that true?

Do yourself a favor. Live simply in that way. It’s the best and highest practice. In the Vajrayana tradition we are given many things that we can do. We practice Ngöndro, preliminary practice. We meditate on the Thoughts that Turn the Mind.We practice generational stage practice, completion stage practice. We visualize ourselves as the meditational deity and pronounce mantra. All of those things are meant to put more in this pile. The most important practice is that of loving kindness, that of viewing others as equal. Don’t view them as worse than you, no matter what they look like and that way there won’t be anybody better than you.  All of this has been taught by the Buddha and is absolutely true.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Buddhist Way

magnifying-glass1

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

And then, of course, you can do it the Buddhist way. And the Buddhist way is:Wait a minute. Where is this anger?  Show me the anger. OK. It’s coming out of my mouth, but I can’t quite hold it. Where is it?  Take time and play with it. Is this anger solid?   Well, who is the person I’m angry at?  I’m angry at her or him or somebody. Let’s see. I’m angry at her.  (This is a pretend person I’m pointing at.) I’m angry at her. OK. Where exactly is her?  I’m going to go through the Buddhist teaching: Where is the ‘I’ in her?  Where is the part that is actually her?  Is it the ear?  Is it the mouth?  What part of the mouth?  The teeth?  The tongue?  Is it the brain?  Slice the brain and find her.

Do yourself a favor. Take yourself off the track of hatred and work the method, because the more you let that go,… You think you feel better after you’ve had a rage thing because it’s addictive. It’s like alcohol. The more you drink, the more you want. The thing to do is to keep yourself from that by stepping back, taking a breath and examining what you are doing. Just examine the basis of it. Just take a minute and examine the basis of it. It will be very hard to do at first, very hard to stop yourself, first of all. But you must practice and you must learn. And the first time you are successful at it, yes!  And the second time you are successful at it, yes again; and the third time it’s a little easier. And you begin to start noticing things. It’s a step upon step upon step sort of building process of awareness that is actually happening, because in fact, there is no enemy, there is no self, there is no anger. And we just need to wake up to that.

Our nature is the pure primordial luminosity—that spontaneous nature which is utterly empty and absolutely complete, that emptiness which is not empty within which is all phenomena, all potential . So that emptiness is our living, dynamic nature. Having forgotten it, we are asleep. Being asleep, we act like criminals, while we should be acting like the celestial deities with the vajra pride that we visualize, giving rise to those good qualities of helpfulness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Warrior of Virtue

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

For myself, I have that commitment. I made it a long time ago. There’s no backing out now. Every time I try, my commitments are made. It’s a done deal. I’ve always known that. My aspiration is to leave the footprint of bodhicitta every time I incarnate, to leave it so it is undeniable , and to help others so that they can leave that same footprint. And I don’t intend for that to ever stop until all sentient beings are free. Now why is that?  It is because I am such a great kid? I am  such a doll? Iam such a wonderful person?  That may all be true, but that’s not why. It’s because I cannot be truly free without you. There are many gurus of different kinds who are self-realizers. They realize mastery of self. But that is not our gig here. That is not what we do in Buddhism. At least not Vajrayana. We don’t do that in Vajrayana. In Vajrayana, our goal is to understand and give rise to the primordial nature in display, which is the great bodhicitta. End of story. And so I will not abandon you. I cannot abandon you, because you are me and I am you and I cannot be free without you.

That’s the understanding we should all aspire to. In our selfishness and our self absorption, we forget and we commit this abomination of even fighting with each other when if we could only truly look in each other’s eyes, if we could truly see,… We are the same, we are the same, we are the same taste. And so, this is why we need to break our habitual tendencies, train ourselves thoroughly, look at ourselves honestly and most of all, if any of you are in that childbearing age, anyone who is listening, please, raise your children right. Raise your children right. Teach them responsibility for what they do. The ‘I help with the household chores’ is one thing. Teach them to clean up their own messes. Teach them that pencils were made with erasers for reasons—so that we can correct ourselves. We can erase our mistakes and correct them and make better. Teach them ethics. Teach them the ethics of liberation.

The reason why we have so much difficulty teaching people proper values and how to stick with the beginning stages of the Buddhadharma, which is about virtue and conduct, the reason why that is so hard is that most of weren’t raised up. We were kind of dragged up. You know? We weren’t raised up with thoughtfulness and regard and respect. Many of us were just kind of fed and watered and whatever. When you raise a child, you must teach the child to be a good citizen in the world and to leave the world better than they found it.

So that’s my hope for you and that’s my hope for anybody’s children and that’s my hope for all sentient beings. Just think if we could really just get that message across. Forget the big practices and the bells. Just think. The most fundamental of the Buddhist teachings allows one to be whatever faith they wish, but teaches us how to live with good qualities.

So take up your sword, take up your shield and beat the crap out of your bad qualities, lest I have to do it for you. That wasn’t a threat. I am a nice person.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Habitual Tendency

anger

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

If you have the habit of gossip, go through the method. Fix it. Understand that if you allow that hatred in any form to continue, you will get more and more unhappy as you age. The people who are youthful and beautiful when they are elderly are the people who kept something alive, even if they aren’t Buddhist. I’ve met people like that. A duty, a responsibility, an ethical responsibility they feel to be kind. Maybe they don’t understand extraordinary kindness, but they are kind. An ethical responsibility to not put shit in the pool of earth. Some people just seem to have that karma to understand that even without the Buddhadharma. I respect that so much.

And that’s true of all of us, too. As we get older, we get the wrinkles. and this is crazy, the wrinkles, and this is crazy, the wrinkles, and this is crazy, the wrinkles. It’s a symbol, if you think about. It’s a symbol of how much deeper the lines of our habitual tendencies get over time. Do you see what I am saying?  Our habitual tendency is in our posture; it’s in our face. We screw up our faces when we are doing our habits, and all of this aging stuff is phenomena—our phenomenal habitual existence becoming more solid and more real and more heavy in samsara as we get older. That’s unfortunately how most people age. They get stiffer. They get harder. They get querulous, frightened to death, frightened of death. And for many people, it’s an ugly, humiliating time.

I don’t want that for you. But it’s going to happen if you don’t take yourself in hand and say, ‘Let’s walk through this.’ Really look to benefiting yourself. Instead of being steeped in habitual hatred, conquer that monster. It’s a bubble; it’s a dream; it’s not a solid thing. There’s no elephant in this room, not really. We have to practice away from that.  Start simple. If you can’t find anything good about a person, first of all, that’s your fault right there.  If you can’t find anything good about the person, make it your business to find something. If it’s just you like the way they tie their shoes, work from there. If that is where you are starting from, if that is what you have to do, forgive yourself and move on from that point. But start. If you can go a little further and understand through practicing and contemplating, and through the method that we teach here, that all sentient beings wish to be happy and in their nature they are the very Lord, and that there is an end to the suffering and that is liberation. With understanding, we can then give rise to the bodhicitta and compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Learning to Step Back

contemplation

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

I study sentient beings.  I must have done it in another life, because as a child I knew this. I sort of woke up from my childhood knowing that all beings are suffering. And I understood somehow that it was a spiritual thing and that they needed love. No matter what it looked like, they needed love. That was as a child; as a child I understood that. Now as a woman and a practitioner, I understand what the Buddha has taught and it’s the same. And I understand that my fervent prayer is that should I leave a footstep in this world, it will be a living display of the bodhicitta through my students, through any works that I might do. That’s what I care about. And each one of us should participate in that dream. If you are really my student, then you must care. We should all care to advance the aspirations of our teacher. That’s part of Vajrayana. We may not individually have the power to give rise to a stupa or to give rise to an ordained Sangha, but we are part of that and we should take responsibility for making that dream come true. My dream is love. It is bodhicitta. Temporary love. Feed the birds. Feed people. Feed somebody that’s hungry. I feed everything that moves. If there was sputum in a jelly dish and I could prove that it needed food, I would feed it. This is how I am. I am crazy with it.

And then, you know, beyond that recognize them because they’ll never recognize themselves without a little help. Recognize them as being Buddha. Know that they are suffering because they don’t know what to do—not because they want to suffer—and do what you can to give rise to compassion. Make it a commitment. Disallow those rage things. Disallow that anger that we have to have when we have to go and punch a wall or something like that.

The way to do that is to get a little space from that. No suppression. We don’t like suppression. Suppression is bad. It makes us all crazy, and we’re crazy enough. You work it, you work it, you work it. The rage that we have, step back from it. The way you step back from it is you question yourself. And there are two different ways you can do it. You can do it the good old American way or you can do it the Buddhist way. The good old American way works too. You can say, ‘Now what’s really making me mad here?  Do I really mean what I am saying about this person?’ You can sort of take a step back and analyze it a little bit. Just look at it sort of cool, calm and collected if you can. I mean, you let yourself go back to your rage if you need to, but step back and tell yourself you can go back to the rage if you need to. But if you really do well and you think it through, you won’t. The rage will be gone because your understanding will have come up and your mind will be smoother. The mind gets inflamed like an arthritic joint, like with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s kind of like that. The mind gets inflamed.  The more we are emotional, up and down, up and down, and full of hatred, and judgmental and gossipy and stuff like that, the more inflamed the mind gets, the more unhappy we get and the more we blame other people for it, and the more unhappy we get and the more inflamed we get. That is the cycle of samsaric existence.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

When We Blow It

oops

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

So little by little, you begin to change your habit. If you really blow it, and you will, … Accept that right now, too. You will. You’re bound to blow it. When you blow it, you can prepare yourself for that by saying, ‘As a sentient being, I will probably blow it again. And when I do, I’m going to get right back on the horse and I’m going to make restitution and I’m not going to form any conclusions about myself. I’m going to let my mind relax.’ And get right back on the horse by practicing bodhicitta in the very next moment, plus confess in your mind that you were wrong just there. Confession in your mind is very, very important. ‘Boy, I really blew it just then. I was really wrong just then.’ And make restitution as quickly as you can.

Sometimes we have a kind of pride that says you’re going to look like a jerk if you say, to somebody that you were just mean to, ‘Well, I’ve really been trying to practice generosity and I realize that I was not generous to you at all. I realize that was pretty sleazy, what I just did, and so I’d like to ask you if there is anything I can do for you.’ Now most of us have too much pride to do that, but it’s the very right thing to do. And you’ll feel like a new person once you begin to do that. And that will be not only a pebble in this pile, but that kind of thing—the confessing and making restitution of an already established non-virtuous habit—is like a boulder going into that pile. It’s more important than little kindnesses. That kind of acceptance and inner peace and moving forward regardless, really, really helps. It’s like a boulder going into that pile, so much more quickly when you get into the habit of kindness. So I heartily recommend that method.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Seed and the Fruit

fruit

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

The fruit of potential and method is the awakening.  But in Buddhism we see all three as the same and it is taught that all three are the same. And in truth, there is no realization without understanding the sameness of these three,. It is easy to think that we are evolving in a step by step way; and it is easy to think that we’re on the ladder. See, I am up here and somebody else is down there and some of the people are over here. And we get into that view, and that’s not what the Buddha taught. The Buddha did not teach that someone is higher and someone is lower. The Buddha taught that we should recognize the appearance of the Buddha nature in the world as our root gurus. The root guru gives us the method, and therefore we have the result. But nobody is better than anybody else. That is a different religion or a different idea, or something else. I don’t know what that is, but we don’t have that here.

Ridding ourselves of hatred is based on that kind of thinking, that kind of view.  Really understanding the Buddha’s teaching that there is the foundation, the method and the fruition, and that is the path. Succinct, boom, right here. This is it. And we understand that, again, according to the Buddha’s teachings we are all suffering. We are all in the same place. Here we are. Even the people that are not in this room, we are in samsara together. They want to be happy like you do.  You struggle for happiness, don’t you? Come on, don’t you?  Every day. Every day. And we do it sometimes rightly or wrongly. It’s a mixed bag because we lack understanding. But the method is to recognize that all beings wish to be happy. If there are three people sitting in front of you, and two or three of them are unhappy, you come out of yourself and try to help. Efforts like that are what move us along on the path. Not just doing the fancy practices and knowing the fancy words.

Of course, we do not achieve realization by deeds alone. That is a long and difficult path. We have the Dzogchen path, which is so remarkable. It not only gives us method and the opportunity to give rise to the bodhicitta, but we also are given the wisdom to understand the empty nature of phenomena. Through that method we can understand that in samsara we are in a bit of a bubble, or an echo chamber. It’s kind of like that. Unfortunately, it’s also the nature of samsara to be somewhat blinded to that. Again, we are still asleep. It’s like a dream. It has a dream-like quality. You know how in dreams crazy things happen? And it’s OK. It makes sense somehow. Like you could be somewhere and then you are somewhere else, and it makes sense. But that dream-like quality exists right here and right now. We literally do not understand that when we gossip about a fellow vajra brother or sister, or any sentient being of any quality, or put them down, at the same time, we create that energy, that cause. Somewhere in samsara, the result is also being born. Right then. Something will change because of that hatred. Now we often don’t see it immediately, but it comes back to us; and the way it comes back to us is according to our conceptual belief. We believe in relative phenomena being solid as it is until we become practitioners, hopefully. So when somebody sends a negative energy at us, like their anger, we think, ‘Oh, it’s coming from them. Everybody hates me.’ But in fact, what has happened is that you have sent out hatred. It echoes back and it will come through somebody else’s mouth. Do you know why it’s nobody else’s fault?. Because there is nobody else. Bingo. There is nobody else. And how you can sit there and say you are practicing trekchod and togyal and you don’t know that yet, I can’t figure out.

We must take responsibility for our experiences. How will we ever awaken if we don’t understand the unhappiness that comes to us is of our own making? It may have been in the past, the past in some past life. It may have been recent. I see you guys creating the causes of suffering all of the time. And so, get back to the basics. Follow the Buddha’s teachings. To antidote hatred,… And I know, hatred is my big one today, OK? We’ll do greed and ignorance some other time and the other ones as well. To antidote hatred, the antidote has to be very strong, because hatred is such a strong energy that it brings about war in places where there is a lot of emotional, egocentric agitation that has hatred as part of it. Any time there is emotional, egocentric agitation, there will be hatred. Places like that often have a lot of earth movement and strange weather and that sort of thing. And war.  Who would have guessed it?.

And so, we have to understand that we want to awaken, but we don’t want to take responsibility. We want to awaken, but we don’t want to stop dreaming. We want to awaken, but we don’t want to go through that effort of bringing ourselves into truer awareness, something that is more profound and deeper and more real than our own simple habitual tendencies.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The “How To” of the Method

LeavingTibet

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

There is no confusion regarding Dharma. It’s spelled out that conduct is everything, that working with one’s poisons is everything. And there are no modifications on not killing. Not killing is all pervasive. It means bugs. It means worms. It means enemies. In fact, we are the only ones that I know of who are taught to raise our enemies in loving concern higher than ourselves. Not that we do a personality cult thing, you know. We don’t do the wave every time we see our enemies. It’s not like that. But if our enemies are harming us, then they must be harming themselves also. So our compassion for them should be even greater. Tibetans were thrown out of their own country. They were killed; they saw their lamas abused; they saw their lamas murdered; they saw their texts being walked on by Chinese boots, their precious Dharma texts, and then many destroyed, as Palyul was destroyed. And yet because their culture is so different, rather than going to war or hating, from the Dalai Lama on down, they all say, “The Chinese are our gurus.  They taught us that we must have had some fault or we wouldn’t have been thrown out of Tibet, or there wouldn’t have been this huge problem.”  That’s the way Tibetans think. They think, “Oh, now maybe the problem is that we kept our faith to ourselves and we were happy just in our country, Shambala,.” And so the lamas said, “Go out and teach others. This is what we must do.”  And now they are grateful for that happening, although of course we want Tibet back. No doubt about that. But they are grateful for what happened there, for what they learned, for what they taught. It is no less a travesty. It is no less genocide than it was when it happened, yet this speaks to the quality of our faith. This speaks to the quality of our practitioners and our lamas. And so, now that we see it, we see that, in fact, it was the Chinese that sent Buddhist lamas around the world. And so we find out there are never any exceptions.

There were powerful practitioners at that time whose blessing was so strong (and I’ve heard stories about this from other lamas), whose powers were so strong that they would go out when the Chinese were shooting and they would stand in front of people with their robes held out to protect them. And then they would come inside and shake the bullets out because the blessing was so strong, their power was so strong; but they never fought. They died, but they never fought. There were many lamas who knew when the Chinese were coming, and it was hopeless. They simply did phowa and left. They didn’t wait. They knew the Chinese would kill them.  So rather than allow the Chinese to take on that non-virtue, they did phowa. And phat! they left their bodies. What was the year when the Chinese came into Tibet?  ’49?  I was born in ’49. So that’s what happened there. But there was never the thought of revenge. Never the thought of hatred or barbarism, because this is not our way. And what is great is that we can teach our children there are no exceptions. It’s black and white. That’s what is really great. Never kill. Each sentient being values its life just as much as you do. I really like that about our faith.

I see a problem in people who are trying to defeat their own poisons in this lifetime, even you guys whose faces and hearts I know so well. We tried this. We’ve given a lot to be Buddhists,  on the one hand. Yet we’ve gained a lot more by being Buddhists, on the other hand. And we’re very much involved; and each person is as committed as they can be to their path. So I know that the willingness is there. I think the caring is there, but there is so much confusion. How in the world are we supposed to defeat our poisons when it is not clear to us how we should live?

For instance, we are told in Buddhism that we must conquer hatred, greed and ignorance, and let’s see, lust and competitiveness, or warlike behavior. Let’s see. What else? Did I say sloth?  Well, that one, too.  So, we are supposed to conquer all of these things; and yet we’re not even clear what hatred is. We’re not even clear on that, because of how we were brought up.   If we acted out ,you know, few of us had parents that would sit down and say, ‘This is why this isn’t working.’  Most of us had a backhand or time out, or go away, or watch TV, or something like that; but there is never any clarity, because we ourselves don’t understand. So when we look at abolishing hatred in our mind stream, which we must do, which we’ve committed to do for the sake of sentient beings, where do we even start?  It’s so confusing. And not only where do we start? What are the perimeters?  . What does that mean, not hating?  Ok. I don’t hate you outright, but you know, if we mush with that a little bit and fool around and dance a little a bit, there’s a lot of leeway in there according to the way ordinary people think. But, in fact, that’s not true, because if you just look at the one poison, which is hatred, it’s much more widespread than you think, my poor little lambs. You know, when you go ballistic sometimes, because somebody let you down or somebody was rude to you or whatever the particular thing is?  That’s hatred. You can say it’s not because you don’t hate the person, but the rage, the thing that comes out of you is the same energy, just a little tweaked to fit our culture. It’s that same thing when you go off on somebody, . Or when you gossip. Like when you gossip to put another person down, you indicate that their qualities are down: They are not a good practitioner, they are not a good person, they are mean, they are mean to me, they are just bad. You have that kind of gossip, you know. Somebody looks at you cross-eyed and you’re going to hold a grudge for the rest of your life. That kind of thing. And every chance you get, you’re going to tell somebody how bad that person is. Or maybe you are a lightweight gossiper. You just do it with a smile on your face,  ‘She never practices.’

However you do it, whether you smile, or whether its grudge-oriented or whether you do it because there is nothing in your head but gossip, well, it’s still hatred. Now here’s where we get lost, because we think, ‘I’m not hating.’ But still, we are putting others down in order to raise ourselves up in our mind. Now there are a couple of unfortunate things that are happening there. First, the hatred. Any time that you need to raise yourself up at the expense of anyone else, that is about as far away from Buddhadharma as you can get. The instructions from Buddhadharma are that we should gain so much compassion from giving rise to the bodhicitta. And when is that going to happen?  When it feels right?   No. You have to practice. You have to make it happen, even if you’ve got to grit your teeth. One step at a time, you give rise to the bodhicitta. And eventually, hopefully, you lose the habit of putting someone else down in order to climb on top of them, because the bodhicitta requires that we understand this: We are one being. Out there is everybody else, so it seems, in relative phenomenal reality. That being the case, there are more of them than there is of me. They are therefore more important. That is what the Dharma teaches.

The basis for that is not martyrdom.  We’re not going to go to the heaven of 87 virgins or whatever. Not that I would be interested in that. Anyway, I think it was only for men. You know, that’s not going to happen to us. We don’t think of it in terms of martyrdom. We think of it in terms of view. According to what the Buddha teaches, the idea of duality, the idea that we are separate, the idea that time and space are separate, the idea that mind is separate from time and space, these are all the confusions that we live with. And so, because of that, it looks like there are so many of us out there and me over here. But in truth, if I were to meditate the way the Buddhas and bodhisattvas meditate, with pure Dzogchen view, I literally could not find a place where I end and you begin. And so I am you. I look into your eyes and I see Guru Rinpoche. How much do I love Guru Rinpoche?  That’s how much I love you. Like that.

And so sometimes, I have the occasion to speak very harshly to my students. On occasion, I’ve had to, figuratively speaking, slap them around. I mean really. Here is half of a piece of rice. You must know there there is not even that much hatred in that, none whatsoever. When I come to the point that I feel like a student needs a spanking, it’s because they are at a probability point. It could go this way or it could go that way, and I like to whap them over them that way. And that’s my job—to keep my eye on those probability points.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

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