No Better Time Than This

An excerpt from a teaching called Vajrayana’s Final Hour by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

One of the bits of information that has come out during the course of time is that cyclic existence is just that — it moves in cycles. There is a cycle during which the Buddha first appears, which is very expansive. During such a time, life is in some ways much simpler and much easier, particularly for attaining enlightenment. The fabric of our mindstreams is much more expansive due to the virtue of the Buddha’s appearance.

Then there is an intermediate time in which the Buddha has left, the Teachings are very strong, and are carried on by those who can remember the teachings, who have memorized them and can repeat them verbatim. The Teachings are taught in an unbroken lineage by those who have practiced the Teachings and achieved some result, but there is no true memory of anyone who actually has seen the historical Buddha, or even seen the Buddha’s disciples.

Now we find ourselves in a time that is considered to be a degenerate time. The fabric of cause and effect relationships, which includes the very fabric of our own mindstreams, is extremely contracted. Now it is much more difficult to achieve realization. One must work very hard at it. One has to take teachings, accumulate many repetitions of mantra and prayer, and accomplish puja. One must practice devotion to the highest degree, and accomplish Bodhicitta, the Great Compassion. One must renounce ordinary existence, whether as a monk or nun, or in a more internal way from the heart, being stable and unmovable in the mind.

Even though it is hard now, in another way enlightenment can be accomplished more surely and certainly than before, because in this time of degeneration when the content of our mindstream is extremely condensed and contracted, karma actually ripens very quickly. You may have noticed that. If you are kind and loving and if you practice the Bodhicitta toward other sentient beings, it will make you happy. And conversely, if you are unkind, selfish, angry, that too will come right back at you. Hasn’t this happened to you? You can be very unkind to someone, and in the same day you can see it come right back in your face. Your nose gets rubbed in it.

The good news in this is that the benefit of the practice comes back much more quickly as well. If one practices really intently and with fervent devotion (devotion is the key here), one can eat the fruit of one’s practice. If not during the course of one’s life, then at the time of one’s death, when the Buddha Nature reveals itself to us as the elements dissolve, one will perceive that Buddha Nature as the display of the deity and recognize that Nature accordingly. Having recognized that Nature, one will awaken.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo all rights reserved

Requesting the Nectar of Dharma

An excerpt from a teaching called Viewing the Guru:  The Seven Limb Puja by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo on October 18, 1995

We should be in the posture of requesting teachings.  Think about that.  Many students will have what they think is a nice relationship with the Guru.  They think that they are on good speaking terms with the Guru.  That tells you what’s going, doesn’t it?  They think they are on good speaking terms with their teacher, and they think that,  “Oh, I have a really good relationship with my teacher.  I practice every day, and I come to teachings.  And I pretty much keep up, and my teacher smiles at me and I give offerings and altogether  I would say that things at the temple are going pretty well.”  But the same student actually — and this is the case with literally every student that I have — the student does not come to the teacher and just throw open their hearts and their lives and say, “Take me and change me and fill my life with your blessing.”  I have had students come and say that to me.  “Oh Lama, make of me whatever I should be!”  And their hair is nicely done, if you notice, when they do it.  And then they pose a little.  You know, they do it from their best side!  “Okay, Lama? Watch me while I do this, mommy!”  They do that with their mouth, but with their mind, with their hearts, not once, not ever.  Not in any case have I had a student truly say to the Guru, “I request the nectar that you hold.  I request what you have.”  And the reason why is that we are still clinging to our ordinary samsaric experience, our ordinary samsaric lives.  We say that we come to Dharma so that we can achieve realization, yet we don’t want to change.  Now how is that going to happen?  You come to Dharma so that you can change into a fully awakened realized being.  But you don’t want to change.  How’s that going to happen then?  It is illogical!  You can’t do that!  It’s never going to happen!

Literally we find ourselves sitting at the feet of that miraculous appearance which somehow, magically, has appeared.  Even through the thickness of our non-virtue, the thickness of our karma, yet still, like the sun penetrating these black storm clouds, somehow the teacher has appeared.  And we know now from the teachings: this is the very face of the primordial wisdom nature.  This is the very display of natural luminosity.  This is the appearance, this is the magical, mystical appearance.  And yet, we go away from it.  We say, “Okay, you want to give me this fabulous teaching.  Are you telling me that this is fabulous?  Okay,  I’m going to really listen up for this because I am a good girl.”  And then, at the end of that, we close our minds, fold them up and go home.

If we thought of the Guru as an ordinary being, then we could say that the Guru only teaches two days a week.  You can say that’s how it is.  You can only hear the Guru’s words so often.  Maybe you can make an extra effort.  Maybe you could go back and hear some tapes.  If the Guru were an ordinary sentient being, then perhaps that would be the only avenue open to you.  But we have just learned that we are looking at our own primordial nature.  We are looking into the face of our true nature.  What are the limitations of that primordial wisdom nature?  There are none.  There are none whatsoever.  So suppose, then, we were in the posture of understanding in a deep and profound way the correct view of how to see, how to know, how to experience devotional yoga.  We see the Guru, we understand through correct vi

Discernment: Taking the Time to Examine the Spiritual Path

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

When we think about the validity of religions—in terms of traditions, in terms of sciences internal and external, and in terms of pith essential pointing out instructions—there is no religion that equals that of Buddhism.  At this time there is no opportunity to really go into it; but in terms of the validity of the tradition which goes back for thousands of years and is documented in pechas, or scriptures, which are available at this present time, if one were really to investigate the qualities of the Buddha’s path, it is something quite extraordinary and unequalled by any other religion.  I would be more than happy to explain every single reason why in absolute detail, but there wouldn’t be time for that today, nor would there be time in the days that I have here, and you probably would become quite bored with listening to it.  So we’ll leave it at that, but please understand that these points are fully documented in the scriptures that we have available to us which date back some thousands of years.

Because of my own qualifications and so forth, at this time I can tell you all that I am a practitioner of the Buddhist religion. I am a Buddhist, and yet I can assure you that at no time in my life have I ever felt a sense of attachment to Buddhism because that is my own religion, nor have I ever felt a sense of aversion to any other religion because it was not the religion that I specifically pursue.  So please do not feel that I have any partial attitude towards my own tradition or a biased attitude towards any other tradition being inferior to it because I never have felt this way.  However, for a very long period of time I have examined not only the Buddhist religion but many other religions, and Buddhism, as practiced in the land of Tibet, is practiced according to three great lineages or rivers of this tradition which have come down over the centuries from India, China and Tibet.  Maybe many of you have heard of the Panchen Rinpoche who asked me to be personally responsible for examining the lineages and updating them and correcting any sort of discrepancies that may occur in present times.  Due to that I spent a lot of time going into further examinations of the traditions, and I came to the conclusion that the path of Buddhism is absolutely unequalled by any other.  It is absolutely superior.

Therefore I would encourage each and every one of you to carefully examine the spiritual path that you are involved in to make sure that you have not made any mistake. If you don’t examine your spiritual path and you just sort of mindlessly enter into a tradition which has no validity or true source, this is what is called delusion, ignorance. We Tibetans have a saying, “Don’t be like a dog.” If you put fresh lungs in front of a dog, the dog will just devour those lungs without even thinking for a moment, will just scarf them down.  Don’t be like this in terms of pursuing a spiritual tradition.  One should be very careful to examine in minute detail. And once one has found out for oneself through that process of analytical investigation that this is a true path and a path that is valid and has a true origin, then one can enter.  But please don’t just aimlessly enter a spiritual path without thinking.

 

 

Spiritual Nature

Buddha with Blue Lotuses Paul Heussenstamm

An excerpt from Marrying Spiritual Life with Western Culture by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

How to understand that your faith is alive?  Try being alive in your faith.  The ball’s in your court, and you’re not going to get away from that.  You cannot change the religion and think that it’s going to suit your needs, because then you’re doing something else entirely.  You’ve already decided what it’s going to look like and how you’re going to act.  You’re on a track, that is unbendable, unmovable, unadaptable, and you’re going to bend things around you to fit.  You cannot do that to the world any more than you can do that to yourself.  Bash-to-fit and paint-to-match doesn’t work.

So our job then is to get in, to make this faith more than a formalized external thing just like an exoskeleton.  The only way to get in it is by really understanding it, by really going through the process that empowers you, to see what the truth actually is.  For instance, we’re told that cause and effect is for real.  Cause and effect should be blatantly obvious to us by this time because most of us here are above five years old.  But we don’t get it.  Lord Buddha tells us that cause and effect really matter.  If you engage in virtuous, loving, generous, kind acts, the results will be love, happiness, fulfillment, higher rebirth, all of these kinds of things.  That seems pretty reasonable to me.

But if we don’t go through what it takes to truly understand this on a deep level, if we end up approaching even this very visible piece of truth by saying, “Oh this is another thing I have to learn.”  I’ve seen my students do this – from my very oldest to the brand new ones.  “From now on I’m going to do good things, because good things will get good results and I’m going to be happy.  Okay.  Let’s see now.  It’s 7 o’clock in the morning.  I will be out of bed by 7:15.  Can I get a good thing done by 7:20?  This is the way that we think, you know.  It’s by rote.  A chicken can do this!  A parrot that can be taught to talk can learn these rules, but where is the heart of the parrot?

What if we could hear the Buddha’s teaching and say, “This is amazing wisdom that has come into the world.  The Buddha organizes this wisdom and says to us, ‘Virtuous actions produce excellent results.’”  What if we went through the process of really looking at this?  What if we really tried to connect the dots?  What if we looked at our own life experience?  Yes, its’ hard to do.  We know that.  The reason it’s hard to do is that in order for you to examine what virtuous conduct looks like and how it relates to result, you have to determine what is nonvirtuous conduct.  In order to do that you have to face some terrible truths about yourself, for example, that you don’t always engage in virtuous conduct.  The minute we get near that sucker we back off fast, because isn’t religion supposed to make us feel better?  Well, yes, if it’s an opiate.  Well, yes, if it’s a drug – one of your many drugs.

Religion can be compared more to exercise.  When we first start to exercise, especially nowadays, we join a club and get an outfit.  (I have some killer workout outfits, I want you to know.)  We get an outfit and everything matches, the socks, the headband.  Or else we jock out about it.  Maybe everything doesn’t match, but it’s all cool.  And then we get in there, and we don’t work out or exercise because it feels good to lift vast amounts of weight over and over again.  Not at first.  In fact at first there’s a lot of pain.  You get on those machines, and the next thing you know you can’t move.  So starting never feels good but afterwards – when you’re in shape and your body is tuned up and you’re strong – you feel great!  It’s an organic thing.  It benefits all your systems.  It comes up from inside of you.  It changes everything about your life.  It feels great.  But initially no.  Most people stop with that initial stuff, don’t they?  The minute it doesn’t feel good, that’s when they stop.

We do the same thing with religion.  Can you see that?  We go into it with an outfit, and we do it until it’s a little uncomfortable, such as changing something about our lives or seeing something.  Then we’re out of there, because we have the don’t wannas.  We don’t wanna; it doesn’t feel god.  We think, “I thought this was going to make me happy, and it really doesn’t.  It’s kind of depressing to think about reality.  I don’t want to.”

Now let’s look at a person who moves into making exercise part of their lives.  You do it in a more directly related way.  You learn something about it.  You learn about the physiology of exercise.  You learn that there are certain problems your body has that it doesn’t have when you exercise.  Well, that’s one thing that will empower you to keep on going:  You go for that goal of producing a certain result.  Have you ever thought of that in your practice?  Producing a certain result, instead of just putting in your time?  There is a difference.  With exercise we get to a certain point where we just begin to see because we’re looking inside of ourselves and we’re looking in the mirror.  Suddenly, we notice that there is some result.  The first time you see a result, it can be a life-changing experience, if you work to integrate it into your life.

It’s just exactly like that with religion.  Initially, you have to change.  Change is not comfortable.  We already know this.  So initially you change and then after that you begin to connect the dots.  You begin to see some cause and effect relationships.  You begin to see that virtuous behavior actually does make you feel pretty good, and you explore that.  You don’t take it for granted like a big dope.  You work it out in your mind – work the numbers, work the equations.  What feels good?  Does it feel good to be in charge of your own internal progress?  I think so.  It doesn’t feel good to walk through life and just let life hit you like a truck.  It feels good to walk through life in my practice, knowing in my heart that I am deeply empowered by this direct intimate relationship to spirituality.  I know what kindness tastes like.  I can see direct results from certain kinds of behavior patterns, behavior changes.  I can see them directly in my mind.  I feel comfortable with that.  How is it that Tibetan monks have the same restrictions as our ordained and they are so much more comfortable with them?  How is it that Tibetan lay people feel so much more comfortable with their lives?  It’s because they have some kind of direct experience that makes it sensible and realistic and reasonable to conduct themselves in a certain way.

We have not developed that sense.  I don’t know how many times I can present this same teaching.  It’s about understanding that the ball is in our court.  It’s about having a direct hands-on experience, not about being a good boy or girl.  Aren’t you sick of that?  This moralizing stuff has got to go!   Instead, have a direct understanding, a natural wisdom – your wisdom – that dry times cannot take away from you, that broken hearts cannot take away from you, that no one else can take away from you?  Your wisdom.  You don’t look to anyone else to get your wisdom.  You’ve got it inside.  You understand the path in a deep way.  You are empowered.

I’m not talking about ritual empowerment.  I’m talking about a deeper, truer kind of empowerment.  How wonderful if we can know that spiritual empowerment deeply within ourselves, to then go through the process of ritual empowerment according to the teaching and know what it’s about.  It’s not just a vase (or a bhumpa) being knocked on your head.  You could do that from now until your head and the bhumpa are both flat, and there would be no direct relationship.  If it’s all academic and intellectual then it’s the same as getting a Ph.D.  Anywhere in technical sciences or whatever.  It’s not really a path.  A path is a way to go.  A path is not an object that you consume or collect or put in your crock-pot and boil all day until it makes a gravy at night.  A path is where you are.  Where are you then?

What I’m talking about is carefully considering how to overcome the limitations of confinement of our kind of society, of our kind of culture; how to go more deeply to have a more direct relationship with our spiritual nature – a real mystical relationship with that nature.  And I don’t mean just meditating on some sort of internal cartoon circus where you think you’re getting messages from the Pleiades or some baloney like that.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Happiness Machine


An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo from The Spiritual Path

Sometimes the ordained have problems with desire. When you take on robes, it doesn’t mean that desire ceases. Why not make that desire meaningful? You can offer desire to the Three Precious Jewels. It’s not a big secret that you’re feeling it. Use it as an offering! It is the most profound and auspicious offering. Of course, this is true for lay people as well. All the ego-clinging that you participate in can be offered. But what do you do instead? How many precious minutes do you waste? You sit there and think about how profound your understanding of the Dharma is, and you juggle your insights in the air. Aren’t you just continuing the habitual tendency of perceiving phenomenal reality according to you? You use your insights to increase your ego-clinging. Maybe you’re doing it right now, contriving your own version of the insight you think I want you to have. What you are not doing is offering your perception to the Three Precious Jewels. You aren’t, are you? You forgot. With this practice, you can break through the seduction of phenomenal existence. It is a way to break the cycle of desire and ego inflation. It is a way to awaken to the Nature. If you did that and nothing else, you would be an excellent practitioner, and you would achieve the auspicious result.

How can you break the cycle? If you remember just three times during the course of one day, three minutes of generosity, that’s a start. If you lose it after a minute, don’t give up. Keep climbing back on. When you fall off the horse, climb back on. That’s how you establish generosity in your mind. Write yourself a note. Put it on all your favorite places: your mirror, refrigerator, CD player. Whenever you turn on your CD player, you’ll remember to offer the experience of sound. A little at a time, day by day, you can have that experience. I have had the experience of going for a walk and doing that for an extended period of time. Each time I sensed the experience of perception, I would turn it over immediately, turn it over.

Your habit is to take a perception, hold on to it, and make something. Have you noticed that? But you can come between that moment of perceptual experience and making something. It’s tricky, and you have to practice it, but you can learn to put a little space in there. And you can use that space to turn it over, to dedicate it, to offer it. You can develop a repeatable experience. It can even become automatic. Just remember: the moment you experience your own perception, avoid forming it into a superstructure that enhances your ego. Turn it over, turn it over, offer it. What will happen? Your whole personality will change. Your behavior will change. It will have to change—because your behavior has been based on desire and on inflating your ego. Not only that, but if you engage in this kind of practice for an extended period, you can have something like a blissful experience. I say this with dread in my heart because I know what’s going to happen. You’ll go for a walk. You’ll put some minimal effort into this practice, and you’ll contrive for yourself an amazing, blissful experience. And then you’ll seize upon that experience and have a more meaningful self because of it. Don’t do that! Just engage in the practice and continually make that offering. You’ll find there’s a happiness that comes with it. There’s a joy, a spontaneous feeling of joy. But don’t cling to it. The minute you see yourself sensing the feeling, you’ve got to turn that over too. You simply make an offering. That experience of joy is an offering.  See all your connections with the world through the five senses as a kapala filled with precious jewels. But don’t contrive something out of it. Instead, find the subtle moment right before the experience. Then, once you find it, simply use that moment to make the offering.

I hope all this is helpful to you. I hope you will use it. This is the kind of teaching that can change your life. It can change everything about your practice. I don’t think it is arrogant to say that. It is my personal experience. This practice, I think, has contributed more to my well-being than anything, even though, if I tried, I could find reasons to be unhappy. But for me, this practice has been like a happiness machine. I feel it has deepened my mind. I feel it has made my mind more spacious, more relaxed, more peaceful. I feel it has created a lot of merit. I visualize an altar in my mind at which I can constantly make offerings. You should think of your consciousness as an altar—and all phenomenal experience as the offering. The instant you decide that you must have the best apples, make those apples count for something. Offer them and everything that is delicious and beautiful and satisfying. Offer as well all experience, in its purest form. Dedicate the value of that offering to the end of suffering for all sentient beings. You have entered the path of ultimate happiness.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

American Dharma – The Prayer Vigil

Kunzang Palyul Choling has maintained a 24 hour Prayer Vigil since 1985. In this video Jetsunma describes how engaging in the Prayer Vigil is a way to stand up against the suffering in the world today. Making that commitment and dedicating the effort to bringing an end to war, or peace to beings, is a powerful way to practice the Dharma. She talks about how every visiting Lama, including His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, all comment how precious and rare this vigil is, that it happens nowhere else. Jetsunma talks about how it is part of integrating traditional Dharma Practice into our American, modern lives.

The Power of Intention

[Adapted from an oral commentary given by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche in conjunction with a ceremony wherein he bestowed the bodhisattva vow upon a gathering of disciples at Namdroling in Bozeman, Montana, November 1999. —Ed.]

Sometimes, although you are maintaining the bodhisattva vow internally and your intention is purely to benefit others, externally it may appear through [your] conduct or speech that you are breaking the vow. Although it may seem that a failure is occurring, if your actions and speech are motivated by bodhicitta, then no failure is occurring. That is referred to as a “reflection of failure.” For example, if it is necessary to commit a nonvirtue of the body or speech for the sake of benefiting others, that is permissible. In fact, not to do so could constitute a breakage of the bodhisattva vow. The motivation must be very clear. Whether your actions constitute a failure or not is determined by your own mind’s motivation. Here it is crucial to be careful, since losing the vow means taking lower rebirth.

From “THE PATH of the Bodhisattva: A Collection of the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva and Related Prayers” with a commentary by Kyabje Pema Norbu Rinpoche on the Prayer for Excellent Conduct

Compiled under the direction of Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche Vimala Publishing 2008

Voyage to Recognition

An excerpt from the teaching called Awakening from Non-recognition by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

In this time of intense confusion called Kaliyuga, when our being’s discursive mind and thoughts run rampant and out of control, when even the reality that we are projecting onto our environment becomes progressively more and more decadent—in this day and time Vajrayana has appeared in the world. According to the teachings of Guru Rinpoche, Vajrayana is the best practice for this time, the most potent and most powerful. It relies on a very strong ripening. It relies on the very condition of Kaliyuga, when things become more and more contracted. Yet the obstacle that we face—and here’s where we need to prepare for our lives and for our deaths—is that we do not understand the Guru Yoga. We do not understand why we should practice it or how it might lead to this moment of recognition.

Yes, we want to awaken. We want to move into a state of recognition once we understand what the concept means. But we don’t want to practice Guru Yoga because in our materialistic society we have negative programming concerning some ideas about Guru Yoga. We are brought up in a democratic society, in a materialistic society, and we learn certain rules that we apply wrongly to this situation.

Now I think these rules are good. These rules teach us that we should think for ourselves, that we should be independent. You could not get anyone in this world to agree with that more than me. I am a Brooklyn girl, and I do not believe in following anything blindly. I do believe that to be strictly dogmatic, with no understanding and no ability to determine for oneself what is true and what is right, is completely absurd. I agree with the Buddha’s teaching, plain and simple, although that’s an arrogant thing to say. If I didn’t, what would it matter? But I do. The Buddha taught us that we should determine everything for ourselves, but we apply this wrongly. I am going to talk about how we should apply this process to the practice of Guru Yoga.

In the practice of Guru Yoga, we should think for ourselves, we should be smart people, we should not go brain dead, we should not blindly follow the leader. We should not think that this is simply a translation of another religion where you just do lots of prostrations and act like you’re brain dead around your teacher and go completely limp in your head, saying, “I believe! I believe! Save me, I believe!” In our religion, if you do that, there won’t be much result. So I don’t recommend doing that because in our religion we believe in cause and effect relationships.  In order to achieve that state of recognition, one has to apply the causes that will produce that result—in the same way that, if one wants an apple, one has to plant an apple seed that will grow into an apple tree. Until we develop replicators like they have on Star Trek, there’s no other way to get an apple. I have no idea how they’re going to teach Dharma once we have replicators, because we have been taught that the seed always produces the fruit.

In order to accomplish this state of recognition, this precious, awakened state, we have to have practiced, and applied the causes by which the mind is ripened and ready for such a thing. One doesn’t do that by simply being a good little boy or girl or by being a spiritual person meek and mild. It is through practicing, and one such practice is the Guru Yoga. When done correctly, it can lead to this result of recognition. Now the practice of Guru Yoga is not one of submission to another person’s will or acting as though you are a nobody and the teacher is a somebody, or acting as though you’re a kid and the teacher is mama, or simply following things around in some sort of mindless way. But rather, in the appropriate practice of Guru Yoga, there are certain determinations that one must make.

There is a whole long list of ways to understand this, but Americans don’t do well with grocery lists. We don’t remember them. We get bored and we move onto something else, like wondering if we left the oatmeal boiling on the stove this morning. So let’s look at it this way. When we first meet with our teacher and grapple with the idea of practicing Guru Yoga, it is not about some sort of emotional display of dropping to your knees and never having a normal thought in your head again. It’s not like that. It’s not some sort of funny, emotional, weird, dumb thing. Instead, it is a determination for oneself: What is this relationship? What does it provide, as opposed to what other relationships in my life provide?

Different relationships supply as many different things as there are relationships. Some supply sorrow and difficulty. Some supply support and happiness. Some supply nurturing. Some supply financial help. There are relationships where there is a back and forth, giving and receiving, but everything that is given or received—even affection, even human caring—arises from the world, from samsara. You think to yourself, “Well love? I don’t know about love. Love doesn’t.”  The kind of love you’re talking about in ordinary human relationships absolutely arises from samsara, even the best parts of it, because a lot of it has to do with chemistry. A lot of it has to do with karmic fitting together. We don’t even understand how animal-like we are. A lot of it has to do with pheromones, all kinds of things that are absolutely worldly, and they come together to create a certain feeling. A feeling is also something that is a worldly experience.

Although our relationship with our teacher may be cloaked or surrounded by experiences that are in relationship to or in accordance with our senses—we will see our teacher, our teacher may hand us something that’s physical, we will have emotional experiences and reactions concerning our teacher—yet there is something different going on.

The teacher provides you with a way to connect with our ultimate teacher, with the Buddha, with Guru Rinpoche, with the entire lineage of lamas—all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Through the relationship with our teacher, through empowerment, wind transmission (or lüng), and commentary teachings that ripen and direct our minds, we become familiar with the Buddha. Outwardly, that seems to be the physical manifestation of the Buddha as we have heard about the Buddha in history. Inwardly, it is a gradual familiarity with our own nature that is Buddha.

The teacher provides us with the path, the method—not the method to go from one side of the room to the other, not the method to make lasagne, not the method to brew a cup of tea, not anything ordinary that you can learn in the world, but the method that is Dharma practice and the necessary understanding and deepening that goes with it. This method that is Dharma practice is not ordinary because it arises from the mind of the Buddha. Therefore, in the relationship with the teacher there is something happening that is not of the world. It is extraordinary. You can’t get it anywhere else. Particularly in relationship to one’s own root guru there is a nourishment — the recognition that this teacher speaks my language, speaks to me.  This teacher enables my inner recognition, matures and ripens my mind so that I can hear, and not just theoretically. That’s the particular relationship that happens between oneself and one’s root guru.

Also, this teacher is the one who hooks us. This is very valuable and potent. Although life will hook us, alcohol will hook us, sex will hook us, food will hook us, TV will hook us, Star Trek will hook us, X-files will hook us, Christmas will hook us, love will hook us, lots of stuff will hook us, these are all things that can be found in the world.

When the teacher hooks us, what is coming into play is recognition of the nature as Buddha, the appearance of the path. This hook is about things that are not ordinary, things that are not of this world. What is the result that the teacher offers, desires for you, tries to communicate to you as being important? That you’ll be a good cook? That you’ll be pretty? That you’ll be healthy? That you’ll be fit? That you’ll be rich? That you’ll be a good artist? That you’ll learn how to use the computer? I wish all those things for you. I hope the Bluebird of Happiness nests in your armpits never to leave again. The teacher wants you to have every temporary happiness, but that isn’t what’s happening here.

What is happening here? The result that is desired, that is implemented by this relationship, is the result of your recognition of awakening. You have to look at this for yourself. You can’t just listen to me and go, “OK, I see what you’re saying.” You have to do it in your head. I can’t get into your head.

All of the rules that you have about ordinary relationships should not apply here anymore because you determine that this is something different. This relationship is not in the ordinary category. It does not arise from the world. It does not necessarily bring the result of worldly gain, although virtuous activity always brings about better things, but that’s not the plan here. As I said, every teacher, every Bodhisattva wishes you to be happy, but the result that we are about together as student and teacher is that of recognition, of awakening. Once you’ve determined that this is a different category, please don’t be a dummy, going on like a beast of burden that simply cannot think things through and cannot change your habitual tendencies. Don’t engage in this relationship within an ordinary context because it simply won’t work, and you won’t receive the blessing.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

My Three Rules

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

You Can Make It

An excerpt from a teaching called Bodhicitta by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo given after her return from India and Nepal in 1996

In Nepal, right next to one of Guru Rinpoche’s caves where he practiced chemchok, lives a wonderful Dakini.  She is the consort of Lama Tulku Orgyen.  And she’s been there for years and years, practicing and practicing.  We had the pleasure of meeting her.  Whenever you go there, you can hear her ringing those bells and practicing.  She never stops.  She’s so beautiful. She’s actually kind of old, but when you look at her, her face is completely unlined, she’s got beautiful black hair and really deep eyes.  She’s just gorgeous. We went in there and gave her a scarf and tried to do prostrations, but she wouldn’t let us. Sangye Khandro came with us to translate, since the Dakini doesn’t speak any English, of course.  And she just practices all the time. She sat us down and we talked for a little while.

I told her that we have a Sangha here and that a large percentage is women.  And I said, “Would you give some advice to women practitioners in the West?”  She said first of all that there’s no difference between women and men practitioners.  There is no difference.  Women tend to think that they are held back by certain issues – family issues, lover issues, blah, blah issues, stupid issues.  There is no difference between women and men.  In fact, she said, women actually have a deeper sense of primordial wisdom.  They are closer to that Dakini archetype.  They have a deeper sense of that.  They’re more internal in some way.  She said women have an excellent chance to be practitioners.   And she said, “I would give this advice to both men and women equally.  You have to be courageous.  You have to never stop.  You have to decide that you are going to achieve the rainbow body and you will do whatever it takes because you really want to incarnate in such a way that you can help this world or any world that you land on.  You have to have courage.  You have to never let any circumstance stop you.  You have to practice as though it’s the most important thing in your life.  You have to remember that this is the only important thing there is.”  And she said, “Practice constantly with great faith and great courage.  Then you need to be sure that you are with a teacher that you have absolute faith in.  And you need to be with a lama who can give you initiation that can ripen your mind.  With all those factors, especially great courage, you can make it, even in this degenerate time.” She said, “You can make it.”

It was one of the most moving speeches I ever heard.  But she kept saying, “Have courage; don’t stop.  Break through whatever stops you.  Have courage.”  And my feeling when I watched her is that it must have taken tremendous courage for her to completely renounce the world that she lived in.  She is right up there in that little building right next to the cave.  It’s one room.  She’s got thangkas and rugs, it’s kind of nice, but there is no place to go to the bathroom.  You have to wash out of a bucket.  She has renounced the world and all the stupid trappings that go with it.  She’s going to make it.  When that Dakini dies, you are going to see signs and they’ll find her again when she reincarnates.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

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