The Guru as the Path to Recognition

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

How do we use the Guru Yoga as this rocketship?  How do we understand the way it is used?  Well, first of all, if we look at the Guru Yoga in our Ngöndro book, the prayers are achingly beautiful.  The tune, Lama Khyen No, that beautiful tune… You could almost hear it being sung on misty mountain tops.  There’s something about it that’s just so haunting.  And you get the idea when you’re doing this practice that it’s kind of geared that way.  It’s geared to bring tears to one’s eyes.  It’s geared to create an interdependent relationship that’s so intimate, it’s more than what we are accustomed to.  We wouldn’t take an ordinary relationship and sing Boyfriend Khyen No, (laughter) Girlfriend Khyen No. We wouldn’t do that.  And why?  Because there wouldn’t be any result.  You might as well twiddle your thumbs.  There just simply would be no benefit.

We are given this method and it should cause us some benefit.  Why?  Why is that?  Because we are opening the eyes of recognition.  What is it Lord Buddha said when he was asked how it was he was different?  He said, “I am awake”.  Awake in recognition.  We are opening the inner eyes of recognition to understand the difference between the precious connection with one’s Root Guru, the ultimate nature that we share, that we depend upon utterly, and what is ordinary. You know, the stuff we get lost in so easily.

We have this single-pointedness that we can whip ourselves back to.  That’s how we use the Guru, when we get lost and wobbly and we’re kind of out in space… You know how we get—the noises in our head and everything. We get lost in that.  We can use the Guru as our centering back to the single-pointedness.  We think this is none other than Guru Rinpoche, the second emanation of Lord Buddha, himself.  This is the way.  This is that nature.  This is what is precious.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

How to Cherish What is Precious

The following is respectfully quoted from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

We should understand that if we feel that connection with the Guru, and that it is heartfelt, that is like a diamond that you should invest.  To hold onto it and to keep it stagnant is not the way.  One should not say, “I’ve got this connection, therefore I’m in like flint.”  One has to take that connection and build on it.  You have to use it for investment. You use that connection to create more virtue through learning the Buddha Dharma and practicing accordingly, through going to the teacher for guidance and advice, and then practicing that accordingly.

There’s no use going to the teacher for guidance and advice if you don’t practice accordingly.  Then you’re simply cashing in that diamond for nothing.  You’re throwing it out the window and it’s too precious to waste.  Instead again, you should invest in it, build on it.  That’s cash.  That’s money in the bank.  That’s the most precious thing you own in this lifetime, no matter how wealthy you are.

So you go to that teacher for guidance, for advice.  You allow that teacher, and ask for that teacher, to open and prepare your mind, and to deepen the mind and to mature the mind; and you depend on that teacher similarly to… Let’s say you had somehow a cash cow in the bank, you know a diamond or some fabulous thing that could be earning interest. In the same way that that diamond might be the nugget and maybe you’re living off the interest, you think like that about the teacher.   But you’re always making the moves and doing the things that never harm the principal and only increase the interest.  See what I’m saying.  I’m using a funny money analogy here, but it’s like that.

That diamond must be kept in a sacred place, enthroned upon the Lotus of one’s heart where it cannot be harmed.  And if you find that that diamond is somehow misplaced and it’s in your mouth and you’re talking about it in a non-virtuous way, get it back down there again.  Do your practice.  Recite The Seven Line Prayer.  Reestablish that connection.  Think that it lives in you, as it does.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

That Kind of Love

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

In Palyul, my teacher, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche…you all know him, is known as having rather wrathful moments.  I’ve met with a couple of them, and I still flinch.  But that’s ok, ‘cause it gets my attention.

Ultimately, we come to understand that there is no friend like one’s Guru, nobody in one’s life.  Nobody in our lives, even if they take care of you and feed you and clothe you until the time of your death, is so willing and so eager to look out for your welfare.  Our Root Gurus are more interested in our well-being than we can understand.  I personally can tell you that I had a difficult time with that.  I was an American.  I know that I had all this old karma with the Path.  I was recognized as this one and that one and the other one, and all that, but I was still a 38-year-old American.  (Yes, I was 38 when I met His Holiness.)  So, I was an old dog with old habits.  And I have to tell you that I didn’t understand that kind of love at first.  I mean I understood that I felt this commitment to my students even though I had not met with the Buddhist teachers yet.  I already had students and I understood the commitment to them, My teacher told me that apparently I was teaching Buddha Dharma and I didn’t know it because I hadn’t read any books on it.  But then, when I actually met him, and he became so intimately involved in my body, speech and mind, my whole life began to circumambulate my Guru.  I thought, “What is this? I’ve never seen love like this.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  That this Lama would come all the way across the world to find me?  That he came all the way from India and the first thing he said when he hit California was, “Take me to that woman in Maryland.”  And so, that’s how it happened.

I didn’t understand that every year he wanted to see me, and so I missed some years.  I didn’t understand how much he is invested in my well-being and the well-being of my students.  I didn’t understand when he built that place up in New York…  Now I understand that he built it for us.  Because I can teach you during the year what I have to give you—the ripening and the deepening—and then you can receive empowerment and take the next steps on the Path with His Holiness, my Root Teacher.  After we established this place here, he did that.  I didn’t understand that, bBut now I do.

I’ve never had that kind of love in this lifetime.  I don’t know anyone else that has either.  The kind of love that will… Let me explain to you.  When His Holiness was here last year, one of his particularly devoted and very close disciples passed on, Kunzang Lama.  His Holiness just abruptly left even though he knew he wouldn’t make it in time, just left.  For that one man.  And when he got there, the man, Kunzang, had left him a note.  The note said, “Guru, wherever you are, you are with me and I am with you.  Please do not grieve.”  Like that.  Can you imagine?  They were so close.  They came out of Tibet together.  They had that kind of devotion to each other.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Why Guru Yoga

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

One of the most important sections of Ngöndro practice is the Guru Yoga. It is beautiful. The cries to Guru Rinpoche are plaintiff and haunting and just moving. How can you describe it any other way? The Lama Khyen No…  And yet in the Ngöndro book, Guru Yoga’s at the last. I know when I started practicing Ngöndro, I asked for special permission to practice the Guru Yoga first, and I was given that because of my special connection with Guru Rinpoche in the past. And to me, it was the most beautiful and pure and worthwhile time I’ve ever spent.

For most people, we want to start with the Taking Refuge and the Bodhichitta. And the reason why, again, is because the first need is to discriminate between what is extraordinary and what is ordinary.

We cannot really practice Guru Yoga effectively unless we’ve made that discrimination. Because, if we can’t make that discrimination, we’re basically practicing to a cartoon image that we do not have the depth yet to understand; or maybe we are practicing on a personality level—. that my personality is worth worshipping the Guru’s personality. That’s a baby step. It’s not to be sneezed at, but it’s not where we stay either. We go further than that.

When we practice Guru Yoga, that’s the rocketship of tantric Buddhism. That’s the shortcut. The luckiest practitioners on the Path of Vajrayana are those who feel— it doesn’t mean they have to display it in any outward way or even see their Guru that often—but who feel they have, and who have cultivated a special connection with their teacher, a connection not of persona to persona, but one of recognition. That connection of recognition  is where we go to our teachers and we say, or we go in our practice and we visualize our teachers and say, “I understand that this is the very nature of Enlightenment, that this is the same nature as Guru Rinpoche, that this is the same nature as all the Buddhas of the ten directions, that this Buddha, this teacher that I have, has been taught to me by Guru Rinpoche to be the Buddha in Nirmanakaya form. And that we think like that, that kind of recognition, that kind of Intention, and a kind of—I hate to use the word passion, because people think of passion in only a certain category—but one develops a passion for the nectar that one’s teacher has to offer.  . That person is ripe. That person is ripe, not only to enter the Path, but blessed in such a way that not only will they continue, but very likely they will find completion stage practice, as well.

Because, when we connect with our teacher in that way, and really give rise to that recognition it says that indeed, this is exactly what Guru Rinpoche promised. Guru Rinpoche said, ” I will be there with you as your root teacher. If you call to me, I will be there”. And so, of course he’s saying that in the presence of one’s Root Guru, having been given the blessings, now we practice Guru Yoga. And that is the very nectar of Guru Rinpoche’s blessing.

How fortunate for those of us who have that sense, even in some small form, enough to where, you know, like an ember, you can fan the flame. That’s the most fortunate connection of all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Importance of Faith

Gyaltrul Rinpoche

The following is respectfully quoted from “Great Perfection: Buddha in the Palm of the Hand” commentary by Gyaltrul Rinpoche:

Faith cannot be forced in the disciple’s mind. You must understand the qualities of the objects of your faith; only then is there a ground for faith. Because these are difficult times, if a disciple has true, firm faith that isn’t wishy-washy but is based on a true wish to practice on the path, and if a teacher at least possesses impartial compassion, then these two make a suitable connection–the faithful disciple and the compassionate teacher–and it is appropriate to nurture that connection and practice on the path.

Obviously, these are not all of the qualities mentioned above, but it is very difficult if not impossible, in these degenerate times, for both lama and disciple to have all the qualifications and to come together at the same time. What is obvious and true for you now is what you call your “luck,” which is actually the force of good karma accumulated in the past; you only call it “luck” because you know nothing about it. It’s just an accumulation that you’ve unknowingly made.

Look at your present situation and compare yourself with millions of people in this and other countries who have no time for any kind of spiritual pursuit. This karma you have is really quite strong because it’s remarkably natural and easy for you–at least for these Nam Cho transmissions. Sofr these particular transmissions there’s a great amount of karma that we’re all a part of, and a great amount since the Nam Cho revelations are teachings of the ninth vehicle, the peak of the path, the atiyoga transmissions, you should rejoice in having this kind of natural, spontaneously arising karma to make these kinds of connections.

Padmasambhava said, “My dharma of the secret mantra is extremely dangerous, like taking a wish-fulfilling jewel off the head of a poisonous snake.” If you’re able to get the wish-fulfilling jewel it has the power to fulfill all your wishes. But you risk your life trying to get it. Padmasambhava gave this analogy for the path of secret mantra, and it pertains especially to the path of terma revelations. There is also the analogy of the snake in the bamboo shaft with only two directions to go: up or down. If you keep samaya and practice well, you go straight up and experience very swift results. If you don’t keep samaya and don’t practice, then just as good results are swift, so are negative ones.

To be a suitable disciple, the main quality you need is faith. It doesn’t matter which dharma you’re receiving–Kagyu, Nyingma, Sakya, Gelugpa; hinayana, mahayana–you don’t even need to be smart. You just need faith.

Samaya and Guru Yoga

The following is an excerpt from “Dakini Teachings: A Collection of Padmasambhava’s Advice to the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal”  
“Lady Tsogyal asked the master: How severe is the misdeed of breaking
the master’s command?

The master replied: The misdeeds of the three levels of existence do
not match even a fraction of the evil of breaking the command of your
master. Through this you will take birth in the Unceasing Vajra Hell
and find no liberation.

Lady Tsogyal asked the master: How should we regard the master
possessing the oral instructions from whom we request teachings?

The master replied in verse:
You should know that the master is more important
Than the buddhas of a hundred thousand aeons,
Because all the buddhas of the aeons
Appeared through following masters.
There will never be any buddhas
Who have not followed a master.

The master is the Buddha, the master is the Dharma,
Likewise the master is also the Sangha.
He is the embodiment of all buddhas.
He is the nature of Vajradhara.
He is the root of the Three Jewels.

Keep the command of your vajra master
Without breaking even a fraction of his words.
If you break the command of your vajra master,
You will fall into Unceasing Vajra Hell
From which there will be no chance for liberation.
By serving your master you will receive the blessings.”

Guarding Your Heart

Padmasambhava

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

Here in America, we have a lot of pop-psychology. We all have these little boxes about how relationships ought to be; and pop-psychology has told us how big they ought to be and what shape they ought to be in. And we are told that we should be independent in certain ways and then sharing in other ways. And then, you know, one way or another way we are told how we ought to be. I want to tell you that the relationship of Guru Yoga is not like that. For instance, in relationships we are taught, I’m ok, you’re ok. What is it? Don’t be co-dependent. So don’t be in a co-dependent relationship. Well, if you’re going to be in a co-dependent relationship, I guess it ought to be with your guru. But you don’t look at it that way, because a co-dependent relationship is where two people who are ill or not seeing clearly or deluded or neurotic in some way, are being neurotic together, and it fits.

Well, that’s not the same with one’s own root guru. You can freely and openly give your whole heart and know that you are not in danger. You can freely and joyfully walk, dance, through that door of liberation, and you will be happily and joyfully received. You can depend utterly and completely on the Three Precious Jewels and the condensed essence which is the root guru and never fall. This is the one time you should not guard your heart. A difficult habit to break for all of us.

So again, we’re not talking about personalities, because that’s ordinary. We’re not talking about you guys coming to live all at my house.  Not like that. That’s ordinary, ordinary context. We are thinking that the blessing of my teacher resides as me, in me and I am that. And like we say in The Seven Line Prayer, “Following you, I will practice.” Through that devotion, through that practice, all the blessings of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas are yours, freely given. To the deserving student, to the practicing student, the guru will always appear. And we should always today be creating the causes for the guru to appear tomorrow, in whatever form.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

 

 

Mixing the Mind with the Guru

mirror

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

Guru Yoga can always be depended on to reestablish and continue the blessing. I promise you, if we call out to the guru with full heart, with determination and with fervent regard and recognition, the guru will respond, whether it’s in the way that you would like which is ‘Hi! I’m here for lunch,’ or whatever. It may not be that way. It may be something quite different; and sometimes it’s not something that feels good right away. One of my favorite students works herself to death and forgets to practice sometimes, and then periodically does things like break her back or, you know, injure herself in some way. And then she practices and amazing things happen. I wish she wouldn’t do it that way, but she does. You know who I’m talking about, out in Sedona. I have other students that kind of orchestrate separation and return in order for that feeling of return. But I wish they wouldn’t do that, because that feeling of separation often comes with some cause and effect relationship. And again if it were my diamond, I’d be shining it up all the time. I’d be collecting that interest all the time.

We use Guru Yoga that way to create the causes for continuation on the Path. The teacher should never be frightening. The teacher is your friend, your friend who will take your hand and walk you, lifetime after lifetime, even when you stumble and you fall. Something will arise through the devotion that you practice in this lifetime to protect you even in your next life. Eventually we come to the place where we see everything as the blessing of the guru. Everything. Sometimes we feel some confusion, and maybe even confusion for a long time, but you know that that guru would not let you down. You know that. And so you count on that, even the confusion, to be a blessing. Eventually because of that devotion, the confusion will clear and the guru will appear again like an underground spring coming once again to the surface.

Guru Yoga is the most potent of all practices and it’s the most simple. One can practice Guru Yoga simply by visualizing the guru above the crown of one’s head and making offerings in a visualization way, and then receiving the blessing, real quick. The white blessing from the guru’s body to your body, and it does come in the head, white to white; the red blessing from the guru’s speech, from the throat to your throat; the blue blessing from the guru’s mind, which is the heart, from his heart to your heart (or her heart). And you can receive that blessing constantly. It’s free. It’s yours. You can receive it periodically. You can receive it every morning, every night—whatever you want, as much as you want. That’s the beauty of Guru Yoga. You should think that the guru is like your constant companion. Not in a creepy way. I don’t want you guys looking in my window, But in a wholesome way, where we understand that this nature is freely given, like method that one can use. It is indistinguishable from the ground which is full Enlightenment, the method which is Dharma, and the result which is the completion or accomplishment of the precious awakened state.

So we understand the guru is the ground, the guru is the method, the guru is the result. We begin to mix, through the devotion, through calling out our own nature, our own mind, our own qualities, willingly with that of the guru; and over time, that blessing mixes like milk with water and we understand that, indeed, Lord Buddha resides in us all. We understand that indeed each one of us is some uncontrived beginningless and endless and yet fundamentally complete luminous nature,  some state of awakened and yet uncontrived view. That we are that in our nature. And our job in this lifetime is to use the blessings of our gurus, to use their accomplishment, their qualities, their methods; to listen carefully and accordingly accomplish awakening to that, awakening to that nature. It’s the swift way. It’s the rocket ship. It’s powered because it’s like lighting something at both ends. You’re not thinking, ‘Oh I have to go there.’  We are thinking, ‘This is like a mirror and a mirror,’  inseparable in their nature.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

What Do Blessings Look Like?

Prayer Room

The following is an excerpt from a teaching called “The Guru is Your Diamond” 

If our teachers had not accomplished any Dharma, how would they be of any use to us? So we expect it of them and we rely on them to guide us in the way of Dharma. Sometimes it pisses us off. We’d rather go on vacation. We’d rather have a little more fun. I mean, it’s Sunday afternoon, isn’t it? And we have all kinds of reasons why we should maybe do something else, but we come back. There is my friend. If this teacher can bother to appear again and again for no reason other than to liberate sentient beings as my guru has, then I can at least be here. I can at least come half way, come full with devotion. When we are in the presence of our own root guru and we have that connection and we have the history and karma of the guru having ripened our mind in some way in the past, that ripening will surely come again. With faith and devotion and practice, it will surely come again. And so we have that kind of faith. We know in our hearts and our minds that we can rely on this one for that kind of help.

Should it happen that we cannot meet with the guru for some reason, or there is some difficult point in one’s path, some difficult moments, some difficult times, maybe even some difficult months or years, still, so long as the guru remains in the world, we can turn our face towards the guru and know. It’s like falling off a horse. You can always get back on.

But the problem, and there is a problem with that, is that if you waste your time with that precious jewel and don’t collect its interest, the jewel somehow becomes more distant, less potent, less present, less precious, less everything. And we think to ourselves, ‘Why is the guru not in my life so much?’  And we tend to think, ‘Oh, it’s because the guru’s over here or the guru’s over there, or the guru is not speaking right now, or the guru is this, or the guru is that.’  And you can think that way if you want to but it won’t help. We must think, ‘Now I’ve come to this place. I have chosen my guru and I am steadfast. And I have seen the door of liberation. Yet somehow things are a little mixed up here, I can’t quite get to it. I don’t feel focused. I don’t feel like I understand this blessing. I feel outsourced. I feel like I’m out to lunch somewhere on the Path here.’  And so we think, ‘Oh, what is the problem?’ Well, the first thing we have to do is correct our view and think, ‘This is the door to liberation. It is present in the world.’ Period. End of story. ‘What must I do? What must I do?’

Sometimes it takes traveling to see your guru. Sometimes it takes sitting down and doing Guru Yoga like you never did it before. And it can work out a myriad of ways according to one’s karma, according to one’s blessing. I’ve had it both ways. I’ve traveled to see my guru and the blessing was immeasurable and phenomenal. And then I’ve stayed home and practiced Guru Yoga and with amazing signs. The blessing was amazing and fundamentally life changing. And one, I saw the guru’s face; and one, I saw the guru’s face.

And that’s the nature of this blessing. It doesn’t depend on time and space. It doesn’t depend on ordinary things at all. And unless you neglect it, it cannot lose its potency. We must think, as pertaining to Guru Yoga, that every day, even while now we sit in comfort and enjoy being together, that every day, even this day, we should earn the blessing to see the guru tomorrow. How will I see the guru? Maybe I’ll see the guru’s picture and it will jump out at me and touch my heart. Maybe I’ll see Guru Rinpoche’s picture and it will jump out at me and touch my heart. Or maybe I’ll say The Seven Line Prayer.  And wow, that one really…, that one did it. Or maybe I will do my practice and it feels deep and rewarding like an underground stream that has come suddenly to the surface and has given us something precious to drink.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Accomplishment of the Teacher

Guru Rinpoche Face

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

How do we use the Guru Yoga as this rocketship? How do we understand the way it is used? Well, first of all, if we look at the Guru Yoga in our Ngӧndro book, the prayers are achingly beautiful. The tune, Lama Khyen No, that beautiful tun, you could almost hear it being sung on misty mountain tops. There’s something about it that’s just so haunting. And you get the idea when you’re doing this practice that it’s kind of geared that way. It’s geared to bring tears to one’s eyes. It’s geared to create an interdependent relationship that’s so intimate. It’s more than what we are accustomed to. We wouldn’t take an ordinary relationship and sing Boyfriend Khyen No, Girlfriend Khyen No. We wouldn’t do that. And why? Because there wouldn’t be any result. You might as well twiddle your thumbs. There just simply would be no benefit.

And yet we are given this method and it should cause us some benefit. Why? Why is that? Because we are, again, opening the eyes of recognition. What is it Lord Buddha said when he was asked how he was different? He said, “I am awake.” Awake in recognition. We are opening the inner eyes of recognition to understand the difference between the precious connection with one’s root guru—the ultimate nature that we share, that we depend upon utterly—between that and what is ordinary. You know, the stuff we get lost in so easily. We have this single-pointedness that we can whip ourselves back to. That’s how we use the guru when we get lost and wobbly and we’re kind of out in space. You know how we get in our own particular, you know, the noises in our head and everything. We get lost in that. We can use the guru as our centering back to that. We think this is none other than Guru Rinpoche, the second emanation of Lord Buddha, himself. This is the way. This is that nature. This is what is precious.

And so the lama gives us not only a way to have single-pointed concentration, but the lama also offers their own accomplishment. When one practices the Guru Yoga really deeply, whether it be the Guru Yoga in Ngӧndro or Shower of Blessings, or in any of the pujas that have Guru Rinpoche as the main focal point or Guru Rinpoche and consort as the main focal point, we should think thatthis is the way to practice Guru Yoga. And in each one of those practices, whichever it is, we understand non-dual nature. That’s what we’re working on. We see the arising from the nature of emptiness appearing in a real, but insubstantial, gossamer-like light form, first as the seed syllable and then as the guru.

We are telling ourselves our own story, because it is we also who have arisen from emptiness. It is our nature that is indeed also the seed syllable, and ultimately we are the same nature as the guru. And by the power of the guru’s accomplishment, through their many lifetimes of amazing practice, many lifetimes of looking out after sentient beings and accomplishing the needs of sentient beings and liberating sentient beings, they offer that. They offer themselves and their accomplishment in that way to be the very door to liberation. And so we should think of our teachers in that way: that we are in a burning house and there’s no other way to get out except that one door. Boy, would you ever be devoted to that door. That door would be on your mind. If your house were burning, and there were no other way to get out, wouldn’t it? That door would be…  And that’s how we should think. We should think that here we are in samsara; this is indeed the time of Kaliyuga. We have, at best, as many habitual tendencies guaranteed to bring us suffering as we do to bring us happiness. At best. 50/50, and that is so not usual. We tend to make ourselves more unhappy than we do happy. So we are in this burning house and we look to the teacher to provide the door to liberation.

So when we give rise to that devotion, it’s not to the person guru. It’s not to that person. So it doesn’t matter if you like what they’re wearing or how they smell or what they look like, or how they walk or anything like that. It doesn’t matter. That’s just the stuff you do in regular life. So you can just sweep it over. Instead you think, ‘This one has appeared and will appear throughout time out of mind until all suffering has ended, until samsara is emptied, as the door to liberation. What kind of dope am I that I wouldn’t walk through it?’  It’s that kind of fervent regard. Think of it that way. More than like/dislike, that kind of judgment, but rather fervent regard. And we rely on the accomplishment of our teachers.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

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