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

 

You Get What of You Pay For

Jetsunma_3-23-13

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

Who are you?  Is being busy your guru?  Good luck. Good luck. Is being fearful your guru?  Is keeping your heart in a place where it doesn’t have to mingle with the cry that I hear from samsara that says help me now, help me? You have to ask yourself because this is the time. Who am I?  How many people will suffer at my hand?  How many people will slip through my fingers that I did not offer Dharma?  These are the questions that you have to ask yourself.

You get what you pay for. That rule is as good in Dharma as it is anywhere else. And if you don’t do the work, the work does you. Each of us has karma and we will experience it. Karma is exacting. There is no way out of it, unless we rely completely and utterly upon the teachings and our teachers as the door of liberation. To delude yourself into thinking that you are practicing that you are Buddhist or that your life has meaning whatsoever, unless you are walking through the door of liberation, is a waste of time. My time and yours.

So I’m asking you, won’t you please let go of your habitual tendencies?  Won’t you please let this precious nectar of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas enter your heart and heal you?  Won’t you please respond in kind to the cries of sentient beings, because if you are not helping them onto the path of Dharma, not your make up stuff… You can’t have a bunch of people that sit there and talk Dharma to you and think you’ve done your job. Unfortunately, you haven’t practiced that well and you are not the Buddha yet, and you’re not awake. So when you talk about Dharma, it’s just you talking about Dharma. People learn by your practice. They don’t learn by your ego talking about Dharma and saying, ‘I’m so great, I have some Dharma.’ They learn by watching your humility, your qualities, your practice. What is your practice?  How do you change week by week, month by month. That’s what people learn  That’s when people can learn by your example. But if you yourself are lost in samsara, you have nothing for anybody. Nothing. Your little gifts that you give when you say, ‘Here’s a little Dharma. I know a little Dharma. Try that, I know a little Dharma.’ It’s nothing. It’s a little kabuki dance. You know, you’re playing your little ego thing and they’re playing their little ego thing and everybody’s doing their little ego thing. Real Dharma is not like that. Real Dharma is a method. It is method that must be practiced every day. If you do not rely 100 percent upon your guru, then you are not practicing that path—relying on the teachings, relying on the wisdom, and most of all, relying on the compassion.

Our teachers understand our minds without being inside of them. Did you know that?  Teachers can look a certain way, and we can see what you think you’re hiding. In fact, we see it so well that we find that what you’re hiding is running your life. It’s in charge. Whatever you are doing in your mind is in charge.

And I’ll tell you that the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas love you. You know in the East, they talk more about the bodhicitta and it sounds very intellectual. They talk about compassion, and that sounds good. They talk about respect and devotion, and these are all good things. But being a female I can tell you this, I know this from my own experience: You are loved, each and every one of you. Your egos and your stupid stuff, that’s not the part we love the best. We can be patient with that, but we see it killing you. Clinging to life is the very cause of death.

We see you scratching on top of that dirty field and we see the diamonds, and those diamonds are calling to you, ‘Go deeper, go deeper. You can’t see me, but I’m here; and you can’t see me because you are scratching.’ Like beggars under the table of a great feast, we pick up a little crumb, we think, ‘Oh, I got a crumb,’ while the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are saying to us, ‘Come to this feast, eat everything. Have enough for your whole life. Take it all. Take me.’ I’d take everything. And like beggars, we just have a little piece; and we’re so proud. Show it to everybody, got this little piece. And that’s the nature of human beings. Your teachers understand. There’s no question of forgiveness. It’s not like that. There’s no question of guilt. There’s no question at all, actually. It’s simple. The nectar is here and because your teacher has been recognized as the consort of Guru Rinpoche, we’re speaking of the nectar of immortality. That’s the offer. The feast is here, but you have to want to eat, and you have to be willing to chew.

And the love and respect is real. I don’t know of any teacher that purposely gives a student a hard lesson that is so unbearable that they cannot bear it. The teachers hold us as close as they can, like a bond, a bond that is a tether of love; but at the end of that tether of love, if we are not looking to our root gurus with faith and with good mind and proper thinking and proper view, then we will never receive the blessing. It will never come. And instead, what happens is we dance at the end of that tether. And that is what I see. From my heart, I tell you this. You’re dancing at the end of a tether of love, absolutely ensuring that you will never, never come to the feast. It’s decision time. You have to decide who is on the throne: your ego, your fear, your idiot mind, selfishness, delusional thinking. Whatever is on the throne, you’ve got to fix it. No one else can fix it but you. And no one else can come to this table and eat with me  this beautiful feast but you.

He who I love beyond all measure lives in you, my teacher, and you betray him every moment. You do not seat him on your throne. He is Guru Rinpoche, teacher of teachers, Buddha of Buddhas; and I tell you this because I have mixed my mind with his.

You are wandering in samsara, my darlings, and I’m asking you, please come back. Please practice the teachings. Please abandon the world. You will do so soon enough. Soon enough we will leave this world and then there will be no choices, only results.

I don’t think there is anybody more qualified than me, forgive me, to tell you that it’s not easy to be a true disciple, that it’s not easy to mix one’s mind with the mind of the guru; it’s not easy to learn. But I can tell you, and nobody is more qualified to tell you this, that when you give up, you win. When you let go, you have it all. And when you stop wiggling, the tether of love binds you so tight, there is nothing else. Please don’t forget the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and please invite the guru to be seated upon the throne of your heart. I can tell you that there is bliss and happiness in doing so and I can tell you that samsara will always, always be the whore she is and will continue to let you down.

So that’s my teaching for this evening and I’m really thrilled that I had the opportunity to give it to you. And I thank you for listening.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

What Do You Long For?

Guru Rinpoche

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

JNT 14 Decision Time

How much time do we spend understanding the quality, the fabric, the substance of the Buddha’s teachings so that we can make good decisions?. Have we reasoned things out for ourselves?  Do we follow the Buddha’s logic?   If we don’t follow the Buddha’s logic that cause and effect arise interdependently and at the same moment, if we don’t follow the logic that what we are experiencing now is our own karma, if we have not taken that teaching to heart, are we Buddhists?  I wonder.

How much time do you spend mixing your mind like milk with water, mixing with the mindstream of your beloved teacher?  Maybe it’s not me. I’m not that impressive. How much time do you spend mixing your mindstream with the nectar of the teaching?  How much time have you spent in courageous determination, paring the mind down the way one works the wood of one’s craft, or the metal of one’s craft? How often have we made solid and good and sensible plans for our death?  How many of us have made plans and can count on the plans we’ve made for our next life?  Isn’t it funny that after all this time, we do relatively little, and some of us nothing, to add to our virtue?  We don’t plan for the next life. We act like people who don’t believe that rebirth will occur immediately. And it will. We act like people who think there is no relationship between cause and effect. Everything we do is for satisfaction in this life and we still dance with it. We still try to control it.

How much time a day do we spend beseeching the Guru to never abandon us? And how much time each day do we spend in longing for the nectar of bodhicitta? How much time every day do we spend longing for liberation?  Compare that to the time that we spend hanging out with our own minds, like a drunk in a bar, convincing himself the next one won’t hurt. Opening the cans, pop another one, pop another one. Maybe this one will be the magic one. Or, maybe this one. Pop another one. Maybe this will be the one that there is no result for, a freebie. Only a true, bona fide alcoholic, or somebody who was awake enough to know that they are bona fide samsaraholics, understands the depth and depravity of the thinking that I’m describing. That kind of thinking tells me one thing and one thing only: One has not become a Buddhist. You might think you are, might wear the right clothes, but you ain’t there yet, because you have made samsara your guru, because you have made fear your guru, because you have made doubt your guru, because you have made the noise in your head your guru. Because of these and many other things, we’re still suffering. And we’re so deluded that we still seek answers in samsara. Do you know that’s the definition of insanity–to repeat the behavior again and again, achieving the same result?  By this time, we should have made decisions like that. But I see you listening to your heads. I see you making up your own religion in your minds.

I mean, sure, maybe it looks like Buddhism, but it’s not. Because if it were the teachings of the great Guru of Gurus, Padmasambhava, it would say to you that you are drunk, that you are mistaken, that the things that you hold onto in samsara will only betray you. The very things that you are most afraid of will come back to harm you. Guru Rinpoche would have said to you, ‘Each and every one of you have the seed of Buddhahood, but without ripening that seed, it will never manifest.’ Without taking the time, without taking this lifetime to hone one’s skills, to develop the kind of discipline and good mind, relaxed, calm mind…. This will never happen under the conditions that we are thinking now.

Guru Rinpoche’s teachings have said that we should rely on our root guru; and woe unto us if we make up something different. That’s a different religion. Our root guru represents for us the very nature of our mind; not only represents, but in fact is the very door of liberation. And for most of you, if not all, that’s your chance. There is one door to liberation and that’s one’s root guru. And if one cannot align one’s heart, body, speech and mind with the milk or the nectar of the guru, then something else is going on entirely, because this is what our faith is. This is what Vajrayana is about. It is about quick liberation. Nobody said easy. Quick liberation, by virtue of the karma and the relationship between oneself and one’s guru, which one cultivates. The work is hard, because our own minds want to remain drunk. We like the stimulation. We like the 30-minute stories. We like to control the endings. But that’s delusional. Nobody controls the ending. No matter how healthy you are, you could die tomorrow.  Or your root guru could die tomorrow.

Ego, health, control has nothing to do it. Your karma is ripening right now and that’s your experience. That is your experience. It’s yours. And should it happen that the path is difficult and long—difficult, takes a lot of work, makes us nuts sometimes—that’s the very time that Guru Rinpoche reminds us that we are hanging by one string from falling into the depths of samsara and that string is the connection that we have with our teachers. Ignore that string or cut it at your peril. I would not want to be lost in samsara. I would not want to be unknowing of what my next rebirth will be and what I’ll have to endure because I followed the wrong path.

You’ve been given a gift without measure that you have not even opened yet.. I would say in this lifetime you haven’t earned it. And so you might think that by that, you can accept it freely and you can waste it. But I say to you, if we are together and if we speak and if we love one another, then this is the result of many, many efforts in the past. And our job is to, instead of acting like an idiot farmer who is plowing the ground for nothing, rocks and dirt —maybe I can plant a bean here, a little corn—when underneath there is a diamond field, a mine of gold… We’re like poor, starving idiot farmers scraping around when the jewels are ours.

Why do you want to be beggars?  You have been invited to the feast of the Buddhas. Why would you put your fear on a throne?  Why would you put your confusion on a throne? And most of all, why in the world would you take your flawed, crippled ego and put it on the throne? But we do it, day in and day out. We think that somehow if we talk about Buddhism and we look Buddhist and we act Buddhist that somehow the cards will count and it will be fine. It will work out in the end. And I beg to differ. Do you know how it works out in the end?  You die, and you take rebirth according to what you have accomplished in this lifetime. So what are you going to put your money on? Insanity?

Some of you, I think, are beginning to get renunciation and that means you stop making up your own bullshit, and you listen. Some of us are not so young and stupid anymore. Learning the hard way is tough, but we’re good at it. The question is, though, are we learning Dharma, or are we learning to dig ourselves into samsara deeper and deeper? And that’s the question.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Calling to the Guru – Yeshe Tsogyal

The following is an excerpt from Mother of Knowledge translated by Tarthang Tulku

Yeshe Tsogyal is calling out to Guru Rinpoche as he prepares to leave Tibet to tame the land of savages:

The sun that warms the land of Tibet,
shining over both gods and men, has set.
Now who will warm us, who are totally naked?
The luckless Tibetans have lost their eyes.
Now who will lead us, who are blind and alone?
Our hearts have been torn from our breasts.
Now who will guide the mindless corpses?
You came here to benefit beings.
Why couldn’t you stay just a little while longer?

Kye Hud! Orgyan Rinpoche!
A time of thick darkness has come to Tibet:
A time when hermitages are empty;
a time when the Dharma throne is vacant;
a time when vase initiations are no more.
Now we can only guess as to the nature of the teachings;
now we must look to books for teachings;
now we can only visualize the lama;
now we must use images as his substitute;
now we must rely on dreams and visions;
now a grievous time has come!

 

Devotion in the Bardo

MG-0002-JAl Rigzin Pema-L

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered during a Phowa retreat:

Now we’ll speak about the bardo of becoming. I forgot to mention to you that I’ve had many opportunities to practice Phowa on other people, and I’ve noticed that in every case, even if the person had been something of a practitioner or had tried to meditate, or had minimal experience, in every case, if you were not there exactly at the moment of death to facilitate the person at that time, there would always be a period of about three, three and a half days where the person was unreachable. Where you could literally practice Phowa for them and it would do no good whatsoever. You cannot rouse them out of the deep slumber or death-like sleep that they have once they do not recognize that clear light. You cannot rouse them at that time. You have to wait until they come to the bardo of becoming. Then the lama will appear to them or try to reach them and guide them out of the bardo.

How well is that done? There are two situations upon which how well that works out are dependent. One of them is, of course, the qualities of the lama—whether the lama has awakened, whether the lama is capable, whether the lama has realization in their practice. That is, of course, one of the conditions. The other one is, of course, the degree to which the student or the person who has died has any connection, even if it’s only a residual connection, with devotion. If the person has no connection with the practice of devotion, if the person has never practiced devotion or has no capacity for devotion, the best of lamas will not be able to reach them in the bardo. It is not possible. They may be able to afford some blessing for them, but they will not be able to rescue them. They may be able to guide them in a better rather than less good direction, but they cannot prevent them from going through the bardo of becoming.

Generally, you have to rely on the student’s connection with devotion.If the student has a great deal of devotion, the lama will be able to appear clearly as their spiritual guide during the bardo of becoming. The lama will be recognizable. The student will have faith in the lama; they will go toward the lama without fear. The force of their devotion will propel them toward the lama. They will enter into the lama’s heart, and they will experience the wisdom that the lama has to afford them. They will be rescued from the bardo and liberated in the state of becoming. So sharpen up that devotion, you guys.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Accepting the Offering of the Buddhas

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Lama Never Leaves”

I have seen amazing things.  My own students do amazing things. When they weren’t healthy or when they weren’t fit they would do amazing things and they would benefit the stupa and create the causes for continued accomplishment.  I’ve seen them do amazing things.  I saw once one nun who was determined to get to one of my teachings.  Her knees were so bad she couldn’t walk.  I saw her crawling, crawling.  And I immediately dedicated that merit to her swift enlightenment.  And you know, I didn’t think to myself, “Oh, look at that, she’s crawling to see me.”  I thought to myself, “Eh ma ho. How beautiful. How beautiful.”

So we have to stop thinking in such an ordinary way.  We have to start thinking in the way of Dharma, in the way of practitioners.  You can’t wear robes and live an ordinary life.  You have to do for the sentient beings.  You have to maintain this garden of refuge across the street for their sake as well as your own.  You have to do for the Sangha.  It’s just as much merit to do for the Sangha, to make offerings to the stupas, to make offerings to the Lamas. This is extraordinary.  To make offerings even to the Sangha. I know the wonderful Chang family has been offering food for myself and also for the Sangha here.  What a tremendous, tremendous gathering of virtue that is.  What an awesome family.  What values to teach your children.  My goodness.  What an extraordinary wealth to pass on to your young.  Sure you could pass on a few dollars, but what is that?  To pass on the wealth of how to be happy…  My goodness.

Yet we just kind of trudge around in our habitual tendencies without seeing the beauty of it all, the wonder of it all—that here in this place lives Lord Buddha himself, Guru Rinpoche himself, without doubt in Nirmanakaya form, and we can always go to pray.  You know, we might say, “Oh, I can’t practice right now, because my practice is not going very well.”  Well, that’s when you practice.   That’s when you crawl across the street to the stupa if you have to and you recite prayers to the stupa. You say, “Please, I’m begging you with tears in my eyes.  Help me in my practice.  Come to me as wisdom.  Clear my self-absorption so that I can benefit sentient beings and before I die let me do something meaningful other than to hang out with my own distorted phenomena.  Let me make this world a place with less suffering.  Please, I’ll do anything.”

You lay down your pride, you lay down your thoughts, you lay down your body, you lay down your efforts, you lay down your offerings and you rise up a practitioner.  The way of Dharma is to turn our minds from ordinary things—those things that are so relentlessly stupid as to take up all of our time and all of our effort and give us zero, zilch, nothing in return—and to pick up and accept and cherish that which is here for us, that which holds out its arms to us, like our own primordial mother, and says “Come, I’m here for you.  Bring the others.  I’m here.”

Do not turn a blind eye to these offerings that I and other lamas have given you.  They are for you.  These stupas, what we have here, is only for you.  And so I ask you to accept once again.  I ask you not to be beggars under the table lapping up crumbs, but to come to the feast.  Come to the feast at last.

That’s our Dharma talk for today.  I hope it is of some benefit to you.  And I really sincerely mean for this to result in activity.

Let me make one more mention.  We talk about creating the causes for bringing the lama back, so we maintain the house for the lama.  If the lama has a habit of putting a wrap on their legs when they’re by their chair, the wrap should be by the chair.  The lama’s slippers should be by his bed.  The lama’s favorite cup should be out on the counter.  The lama’s altar should be opened every day.  If you really want to create the causes for the lama’s return, that’s how you do it.  The lama never leaves.

When the lama is not here, the lama’s picture should be on the throne.  And we should think like that.  The lama has never left.  And that’s our practice.  That’s our guru yoga.  And we have the visible means of support using the stupas that way as well.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Discerning the Extraordinary

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Lama Never Leaves”

Now, we have these amazing stupas.  How amazing!  Even when the lamas are not here, we have this occurrence of the living Buddha here on this property.  The living Buddha remains on this property.  The problem is that our mind is so deluded and so lacking in wisdom that we don’t see that.  We let the Buddha sit there with no company. Not that they need company, but we need them.  Rarely do we go and visit the Buddhas. Rarely do we make them offerings. Rarely do we offer them a little cleaning, you know, to take a little cloth and say, ”Even though the Buddha doesn’t need to be cleaned, may I offer you this. May I take this dirt from you.  And by that merit, may all sentient beings be free of suffering.”  We don’t do that because we’ve forgotten. Because we go to sleep in our minds whenever our living lama is not around to shake us awake.

The teaching that I want to give to you today is how to avoid that.  First of all, let me tell you the way that Asian cultures, particularly Tibetans (I can speak for them), that have stupas, chortens, available in their land, normally incorporate them into their lives. Usually once a year, around the time of New Years, Losar, there are certain days when one does religious activity and that religious activity is increased by 100,000 or 10,000. And of course, we have our 10,000,000 days where we look to accomplish a great deal of practice.  Tibetans always think of times like that as a very joyful occasion, particularly during Losar, a time to celebrate.  They all get out and the wealthier patrons (by the way, that’s how they get to be wealthy) buy the gold wash or the white wash or whatever color they are going to repaint the stupas with. They clean the stupas and give them a fresh coat of gold or white wash.  And that’s a very joyful thing because they realize how much merit they are accomplishing, and they are already, because of their confidence, enjoying the fruits of that.  Because of their confidence!

We’re saying, “Boy, when’s it gonna happen?”  And they’re saying, “I rejoice in my future merit.  By this merit, there will be plenty of clothing, I will be warm and comfortable. All sentient beings will be pleased and this is tremendous.  I am so happy about that.”  And so with the simplicity of just the joyful accomplishment, they are able to experience the happiness right away.  It’s like a festival.  After they finish doing that, there’s always a lovely dinner; and maybe the great patrons will offer a beautiful dinner for the Sangha. And there is always a beautiful tsog offered to the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas. It’s a gathering of the Sangha and the Lamas and all the people that is extremely joyful.  Because we all say, “By this merit, may we never be separated,”  it becomes a very joyful event.  And so, of course then, the stupas are living Buddhas that are brought into the occasion because they are washed, they are cared for. We offer great offerings to them—of course the eight auspicious offerings of water to drink, water to bathe in, all the different offerings and their different meanings.  We make offerings of food and butter lamps or candles. Sometimes Tibetans will make Mani rocks—write the Mani mantra on rocks and offer many of those.  So there are many things that the Tibetans do during that time to celebrate and to incorporate the stupas as living beings in their lives.

Plus, the Tibetans that care for stupas would not think of letting the sun rise without offerings being present on the stupas.  To let the sun rise without these offerings would be unthinkable.  That would be, in the way Tibetans have been taught, in the way that they teach us, that would be like if your Root Guru had spent the night outside and was cold and hungry and needed her attendants or his attendants to come and no one brought him any tea to warm him.  It would be like that.  Would you do that to your Root Guru?  Even before you took your own coffee in the morning, wouldn’t you bring your Guru his tea?  I certainly would.  I certainly would.

What does that say if we have our own coffee in the morning before we make an offering to the Buddha. That says ‘my ego is more important.’ That says, ‘I take refuge in me’ or ‘I take refuge in my coffee,’ which I know is not hard to do.  Of course, we don’t all of us live with the stupas, and so each in our own way, in our homes, maintain altars and, hopefully, we make offerings to the Buddhas before we take any offering ourselves.

Traditionally, lamas have a little cup. It looks like a protector cup but it’s not exactly.  It’s a little tiny cup, and it has a removable top that you can turn over. A lot of times the lamas will take their first tea of the morning and offer it in the little top and put it up on the altar for the Buddhas.  Such a simple gesture but so beautiful.  And so profound.  To do that every day of one’s life is quite beautiful.  Some have the custom that whenever a family gathers for a big meal, the Buddha always gets the first portion. Perhaps for the Sunday meal here at the temple, we can make the first portion and give it to the stupa outside.  Or in a home family situation, the householder family can celebrate their lives together as Buddhists by creating a meal, whether it’s an ordinary family meal or whether it’s Hanukkah or whether it’s Easter or whether it’s Christmas and offering the first portion to the Buddhas.  That’s the way that a householder practices.

We should always think of the objects of refuge as being so sacred to us that we care for them very mindfully, so mindfully that we, through thought, word, and deed,  indicate to ourselves in our own practice and also to all sentient beings, that our caring is such that our eyes are opened. Spiritually our eyes are open and we see the preciousness and the value of the objects of refuge.  We recognize their exquisiteness and extraordinariness and how much more important they are than our own phenomena.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Heart Samaya

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Keeping Heart Samaya”

We’ve talked about the commitment made by the teacher when accepting a new student. What about the commitment by the student to the teacher, the samaya between the student and the teacher?  What is that all about?  There must be some kind of reciprocal relationship.  Obviously the teacher cannot insist on the student’s progress without the student’s willingness.  The student has to be willing to follow Lord Buddha’s teachings, has to be willing to accept the objects of refuge as their true refuge from the sufferings of samsara.  So there is a reciprocal commitment that is required.

It is extremely important that the teacher maintain their ethical and moral responsibility to the student.  That is to say, the teacher honors the student and thinks of the student with such high regard and such respect that actually it is said that a pure teacher will consider the student to be worth more than their own safety or comfort.  In a sense, they hold the student up in the same way that a parent holds up their child, not necessarily as superior, but as vitally important and cared for.  Any of you who have been parents know that in a dangerous situation, before you think of your own safety, if you have that bonding and love with your child, you’ll think about the safety of the child first. That is always the case.  And when the mother hears the cry of her baby child for food, she doesn’t say, “I am not ready to feed you now.  It’s not convenient for me to feed you now.  I have no wish to feed you now.” Instead, the mother wants to answer the child’s call as though the mother were filled with milk and the child were very hungry.  It is very instinctive and very natural.

So the relationship occurs in that way on the teacher’s side of the fence.  Now what about the student, what is the student’s part in the equation?

Well, there are certain teachings and certain rules that one must follow, but I don’t like to think of them as merely following dogmatic rules.  I like to think of this samaya, or this commitment, as a samaya of the heart.  Something that is deep and profound,  instead of like a cheap and gaudy display. It doesn’t burn hot like paper, quick and then gone.  It burns deep and slow like good strong hardwood or even better, good strong coal-something that burns hot for a long time, steadily without interruption.  This is how the relationship between the Guru and disciple should be.

When the student learns about the samaya they are keeping with the teacher, they should hold that samaya not so much as a duty and responsibility but more as a jewel, just as the teacher holds the student as a jewel.  So that relationship then is considered precious, valuable, from the heart.  Not a methodical thing, not a thing done by rote, not a thing done blindly without any understanding, but a deep and pervasive samaya or commitment that is a heart connection that ultimately enhances the practice and the level of accomplishment that comes from practicing Guru Yoga.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Every Experience Is a Blessing

We’re all sleeping until we reach supreme enlightenment, but most are really sleeping in a very profound way.  In that coma, they are not even able to say, “I want”.  They merely act out, and they act out in different ways.

While we are still asleep and until we achieve supreme realization, the fact that you are here listening to teachings is the evidence to know that you have felt that longing.  You should find it and relate to it purely.  You should encourage it in that it is a dynamo of energy by which to really touch the nature that you are seeking, that the bliss that you want, the union between the student and the teacher.

But you are so ashamed to feel that feeling directly, because you’re so macho, you’re so tough, or you’re so cool or you’re so advanced.  You are so ashamed to feel that feeling that you want to say, “Oh, the longing for the Teacher is only me longing for my own nature”.  Well, yes, it is that, but you should face directly the longing for the teacher on the deepest level.  You should not be ashamed of that.  You were ashamed of it as a child and you were taught not to feel it and this longing created a lot of mistakes for you.  You should not be ashamed of that now.

I have that longing.  I have it, it is the strongest longing, I cannot imagine another longing like it.  I live with that longing constantly.  I use that longing to provide the means by which I can accomplish Dharma, or I can accomplish kindness for all sentient beings.  I realize that the true longing is the longing for the Guru, it’s the longing for my Teacher, for the Guru on all of the different levels, on the apparent level as well as the deepest, most primordial level.  And I realize that I will only find that longing satisfied so long as I try to live the qualities that are my Guru.

So, if I were to turn away from students and say, “Oh, I don’t want to do this anymore, I’m tired,” or, “I’m lonely doing this.  I don’t want to do this anymore.”  If I were to do that, I would never find my Guru.  I would never be with my Guru, because those are the qualities of my Guru.  My Guru never leaves me.  He cannot turn his face from me.  And so, that being the case, if I were to turn my face away from anyone that had hopes of me, it would be hopeless.  I would never find the Guru.  The longing would never be satisfied, because I would have turned my face away.

You must begin to practice in such a way that the face of the Teacher is understood in everything that you do.  No matter what you experience, whether it is loss or whether it is having, whether it is joy or whether it is sadness, whether it is life or it is death, whether it is sickness or health, poverty or wealth, whatever you experience, you should think that everything you experience is a blessing from the root Guru.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Finding Our Way Home

 

By the time you have grown and begun to find your path, you have already lost yourself somewhere.  You don’t understand yourself any more.  You have already done things for which you do not forgive yourself.  You have already substituted something else for the longing that you felt.  You have already substituted something else for your Teacher.  In having done that, it is difficult to find your way home.  It is difficult to reach what was originally very pure in your mind.  It is difficult to rebirth what was very pure and tender inside of you.

And now, you can’t just say, “Oh, I found it at last.  The longing is finished.  I found what I’m looking for.  I found my path, but in the meantime, I’ve been promiscuous and I don’t forgive myself or I’ve become tough, or numb or I’ve become materialistic.”

What happens is that because you see what’s in front of you, it’s so precious and it’s just what you’ve been waiting for, instead of being able to just grab it and eat it, what we do, then, is try to deal instead with the numbness or the hardness or the promiscuity or the materialism.  Because we have become used to this feeling of longing, the longing remains, and we are not able to truly be one with the path and with a Teacher.

We’ve forgotten how to satisfy ourselves.  We’ve forgotten how to do anything except blame ourselves and be angry.  We make lots of mistakes, compulsively make mistakes.  We do not follow the path purely and with a full heart.  You have to ask yourself: Is the person who says I’ve got to get my Three Roots practice done today,  is that the same person, who, as a child, was waiting for something, was just hungry for something?  It’s not the same person.  We feel differently now than we did back then and we don’t know how to get back to that original place of purity.  We feel something is amiss when we think we’ve found our path because we feel anger, guilt and we feel dirty.  We feel different, impure.  Then we try to approach the Teacher and the teaching and the path itself in an impure way, because we believe that we are somehow impure.

Having longed for the taste of our own nature for such a long time, now when we look at the Teacher and the teaching, we see it as something altogether different.  We see the Teacher as a human being, and we try to get close to a human being.  Why do we do that?  We do that because we spent our whole lives trying to fit that longing into an acceptable picture, and now we’re trying to do the same thing.

We are afraid to long.  We are afraid to experience the depth of that longing and instead, we try to get close to the person.  We are afraid to experience the bliss of the union between the meditator, the meditating mind and the nature that is meditated on.  The bliss of that union is so strong and we are afraid to experience it. So instead, we long for some kind of union with the person who is our Teacher at this time.  It is even common to feel a strong sexual urging for our Teacher.  It doesn’t matter if the Teacher is the same sex.  Students can have dreams and they will have strong sexual urgings for the Teacher.  If you think of the Teacher as a mother or father figure, or an authority figure, or a therapist that you come to with your ordinary stuff, there will never be satisfaction, because that isn’t the truth.  That is not the nature of the Teacher.  That longing has once again been diverted into a way that you understand.  It becomes a perpetuation of the suffering that you had as a child where the longing was not understood, where it was diverted and where it could not be satisfied.

So, the feeling of longing is mistaken.  The longing is for union, not for sexual behavior.  It is misunderstood. And what generally happens is a feeling of rejection, because the Teacher does not comply with our wishes.  There is a feeling of guilt.  There is a feeling of wondering what’s wrong with you.  There’s a feeling of a lack of acceptance of yourself.  There’s a feeling of a lack of confidence, a feeling that you are somehow impure in your motivation.  The longing sometimes becomes so strong that one is unable to practice.

You want the Teacher to hold you and love you, or you want the Teacher to be with you as a friend.  You are unable to practice because you are so busy watching how your Teacher acts towards you.  Does he or she smile at me?  Does he or she hold my hand when I’m lonely?  Does he or she notice when I’m ailing?  Does he or she come after me when I’ve strayed?  You’re so busy noticing that that you do not practice.  The practice is the caring for you.  The practicing is the coming after you when you have strayed.  The practice is the taking you home into that acceptance and awakening to that nature.  The teachings that you receive are the relationship with the Teacher.  They are the fruits the Teacher brings to you.  If you are longing for union with the Teacher, when the Teacher teaches you from his or her mind, and offers you the essence of what they know, that is the union, far more so than any physical friendship could ever be.  There is nothing more intimate than that.

Yet, we continue to not understand.  We continue to divert the longing, not accept ourselves and blame ourselves.  We continue to create a bad relationship with our Teacher.  If we understood what was happening, we would run to the teacher, run to the path, run to the experience of being on the path and of practicing in order to achieve enlightenment with open arms and with an open heart.  But instead, we are doing these other things that do not accomplish the awakening that we wish.

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Longing for the Guru”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

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