An excerpt from a teaching called Dharma and the Western Mind by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo
As Westerners practicing the Dharma, we have a hard job ahead of us. If we want to accomplish Dharma, and make Dharma stable, if we want to be fully instated in our practice, and if we want to be successful, we are doing so in a culture that is not really sympathetic to it. It is hard. It is really hard. We are doing so under circumstances in which we have to work, we have to eat and where nobody is going to pay us to pray. It is not going to be easy. We have to stabilize ourselves with that pure intention to love and to do that we have to do three things.
These are my three rules of etiquette for newly starting practitioners and also for old ones. First of all, give yourself a break, there are things on this path that you will not understand and you should not fall into the trap of saying, “This can’t be right, or this isn’t right.” Give yourself a break, take time to let it fall into the slot that your Western mind is, just give it time to settle in. These concepts are very logical, they all make sense, they all work, and they are given to us by a fully enlightened mind which makes me think that they are worth more than a lot of other things that I have heard. And they work. It is a workable path. If there is something that confuses you just say, “Okay I will just give myself some time about this. If I am not comfortable with the idea about being empty of self-nature let me first find out what that means before I decide that this is not good and once I find out I can make a better decision.” So give yourself a break.
The next thing is to do the best that you can. Don’t try to slide into Dharma, and don’t think that you can slide by. Do the best that you can. Cultivate that loving every day. Don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that you are too old, or too experienced, or too educated to learn the simple lessons that Buddha gives us that are associated with loving. Do not think that you are too far advanced that you can no longer be taught compassion. Don’t ever think that and please don’t think that you have come too far to learn and re-learn renunciation of ordinary things, because no one ever comes that far until we have reached supreme enlightenment. So do the best that you can.
The third thing is to take it slow and take it easy. Try not to burn like paper – hot and fast. Try not to burn like pinewood. Try to burn like good aged oak or maybe even coal – slow and hot and stable. The way that you build the stability on this path, as a Westerner, is by cultivating that slow, hot fire of loving. Keep it going. You don’t have to do anything crazy but you have to do something steady and stable.
Remember you have to practice this path till the end of your life so that you can fully accomplish it and so that you can truly be of benefit to sentient beings. It is going to take some juice so please try to burn like good oak or coal, slow and hot. Just think of yourself as a vehicle. Think of yourself as a bowl, turned up, clean, pure, with no cracks, not turned over, and no poison of judgment or delusion at the bottom of it. Your mind is like a bowl. Let yourself receive teachings in a very pure and uncontrived way. In this way you will understand Dharma better.
Look for a good teacher and when you find that teacher you should take time to examine that teacher. What is the teacher’s motivation? Can this teacher really offer me the path? Is this teacher really teaching the path that leads me to supreme enlightenment? You should examine these things and in a stable way, slow and easy, begin to accomplish Dharma.
In this way there is no doubt that you will achieve supreme realization. There is no doubt that you will in this life and in all future lives be of some benefit to sentient beings. Ultimately you will be of ultimate benefit to sentient beings, there is no doubt.
Keeping these things in your heart I hope that you will be cultivating that stability. Do that and remember what a glorious and wonderful opportunity you have. Please don’t waste this life. It is so precious.
© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo