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

Devotional Yoga

An excerpt from a the teaching, When the Teacher Calls, by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

In Buddhist tradition and particularly in Vajrayana Buddhism, there is a kind of practice called devotional practice. One of its most meaningful and foundational aspects is developing a relationship of pure devotion with one’s lama or teacher. In Vajrayana, the teacher is considered to be the door to liberation because even though the Buddha was once on the earth and even though the Buddha’s teachings are written in books, it is just about impossible to enter onto the Path without the blessings of the teacher. The lama, who is necessary for empowerment, transmission and teaching, is considered to be the blessing that is inherent in the Path.

In the Vajrayana tradition there is a devotional aspect to every practice that is done,from the most preliminary to the most superior practice, and it is considered to be the means by which blessing is actually transmitted. In the Nam Chö Ngöndro, the preliminary practice accomplished at this temple, there is a beautiful song of invoking the lama’s blessing called “Calling the Lama from Afar.” It has haunting melody, and it is done from one’s heart in order to soften the ego and make the mind like a bowl ready to receive any blessing.

This type of practice functions like a cultivator. Think of planting a field of grain.  One has to plow the field and work the soil so that it’s capable of receiving the seed.  Otherwise, if the soil were not ready, when seed was thrown out it would just bounce, as on a hard surface. Likewise, devotional practice is considered to make one ready. Its benefit is immeasurable. Without it there is no possibility of the blessing being fully received.

Devotional yoga is meant to benefit the student. The teacher is not “pleased” by devotional yoga. Rather, the teacher is pleased by movement and the softening, the gentling and the change that occurs within the student.  In the  same way as the student calls the lama from afar in traditional practice by putting one’s heart in a position of surrender, we may talk about what the lama experiences when the lama calls the student from afar and the student responds to that call.

When a student calls the teacher, with his or her mind and heart like a bowl, many things are happening. First, there is fantastic auspicious karma ripening. In order for a student even to make that step, he or she must have accumulated a tremendous amount of merit or virtue in the past. A nonvirtuous mind cannot call the teacher with devotion.

When the student calls the lama, it’s because the student has realized certain things. First of all, they have looked around and have seen that cyclic existence or ordinary life is flawed or faulted. Sometimes it’s older students who, in some ways, are able to do this more readily because they’ve seen their lives pass, and they have looked around and said, “What have I done? I’ve worked so hard my entire life, and what have I really accomplished? What am I going to take with me?”

At any rate, the student that is prepared to call the teacher has been awakened, stimulated, has understood that much time has passed and that very little can be really accounted for. There has been some fun. It’s been up and down. We’ve all experienced getting older; we’ve all experienced sickness, and we will certainly experience death. At some point we look at all of this and ask ourselves, “Isn’t there something more? There must be something!”  We begin to think in this way, and then we see someone who can give us a path, not just thoughts about the path, not just ideas that are popular in the New Age, but a technology that is succinct and exacting, a method that has shown itself to give repeatable results. When students see this they become hopeful and joyous. Suddenly they’re excited, and they begin to want to come in closer to this experience. It’s a beautiful, precious moment, but that moment can only happen due to the virtue of the student’s previous practice.

Eventually students will come to the point, due to the virtue of their practice, where they will do anything because they know their time is short. They know that they’ve tried everything and nothing has worked. Nothing has produced permanent happiness, so they are looking at the door to liberation, and in part, that is how the teacher is considered. They want to walk through that door.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Extraordinary Relationship

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Neurotic Interaction to Guru Yoga”

If we rely purely on an emotional level, not much will come of the path.  If we do not challenge ourselves to truly understand all of the thoughts that turn the mind (and you’ve been taught them many, many times.  You can go back and re-listen to the teachings if you aren’t sure what they are), if we do not require of ourselves to really recognize this precious opportunity, we won’t get very far.  And now the recognition has to go even deeper than that. Number one, understanding that the teacher is a spiritual ally, a spiritual friend—someone on whom you can depend as a spiritual guide or a spiritual friend—is a really important first realization.  Secondarily, you must understand that this reality that you are looking at when you see your teacher, when you see the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, is to be considered separate from ordinary samsaric cause and effect conditions, or separate from the wheel of death and rebirth,  because this is all the result of the Buddha’s teaching which arises from the mind of enlightenment and, like a seed, it must always create a fruit that is appropriate to that seed.  So if this reality rises from the mind of enlightenment, it results in enlightenment as well.  The seed and the fruit are always consistent.

That being the case, this is understood as something different.  Now, if you wish you can, like that Tibetan man with His Holiness Penor Rinpoche regarding his opinion on my enthronement (this student did not agree with His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s recognition of Jetsunma) waste the opportunity by just playing out your little intellectual ‘here’s my idea, what’s your idea.  I’ll see you as something equal to my common ordinary intellectual mind in the world.  You know, I’ll see you as that.’  Or you can play the game where “O.K., you’re the Guru, so I’m going to call you the real thing, but in my heart, in my mind, I’m pretty much just going to keep doing exactly what I’m doing, but I’ll have a teacher,”  rather than gathering oneself together in order to understand something about this primordial wisdom nature, rather than trying to move further on the path of accomplishing pure view, rather than utilizing the teacher as a way to untangle some of our neuroses and actually seeing the condition of our mind and how different that is from what the Buddha described when the Buddha said simply, “I am awake.”  The Buddha didn’t say, “I’m different from you.”  The Buddha didn’t say “I am better than you.”  The Buddha said “I am awake.”  Awake to that nature that is also your nature.

Now supposing that you could use the relationship with the teacher to puzzle that out, to work that out.  It’s such a fine line how to you give rise to or at least, shall I say not suppress, not give rise to, conflicting thoughts that you may have.  How can you not suppress them and still utilize the teacher faithfully in the best possible way? Not as something common and ordinary that is equal to your own conceptual proliferation because then you could do that with anything.  We do that with all of our relationships.  We do that with all of the areas in life that we work with.  We have preconceived ideas that we play out in our lives.  Why would the teacher be different then?  Why would it be precious?  What’s the value then of having a teacher?

So it becomes the student’s responsibility to harness their mind.  It isn’t about going brain dead.  It isn’t about suppressing your ideas and your thoughts and your feelings.  It’s about recognition between what is ordinary, habitual, definitely part of birth and death cyclic existence, that which arises from ordinary cyclic existence, and always therefore results in more ordinary cyclic existence, or that which arises from the precious primordial awakened state that is also your nature, and therefore always results in that precious primordial state that is also your nature—enlightenment.  You are the one that must make the distinction.

So the Buddha recommends this:  Take a long time determining your relationship with your teacher.  If at first you have an emotional reaction, that’s fine.  You don’t just suppress that either, but don’t stop there.  It’s a big mistake just to stop there, because otherwise you just stay in some kind of wacko bliss thing.  You could get that wacko over a cute little puppy or something, or a new car, or a new honey.  You gets lots more wacko about a new honey, don’t you?  Way more wacko about that!  So your responsibility then becomes the responsibility of recognition.  You have determined that this teacher has the necessary qualities to give you what you need.  You can travel on the path now.  You can understand very clearly.  The teacher has a way of explaining to you and you can understand.  You can hear it.  You mind is opening.  It is ripening.  It’s deepening.  Your compassion is increasing.  Something is happening here and you are able to determine that this is not ordinary because this didn’t come from ordinary experience.

You’re travelling the path of Dharma and this is precious.  This teacher has hooked you onto the path of Dharma, placed your feet there, deepened and ripened your mind, provided for you all of the necessary accoutrements. Therefore this is precious.  You then must determine that this is different for you.  You see, it’s not up to the teacher to provide proof for you.  It’s not up to the teacher to convince you.  It’s up to you to determine for yourself. Take your time, do it right, move through all the foundational teachings and decide for yourself: Is this precious to me?  Then if it is, treat it like it is.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

Responsibility Begins With Recognition

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Neurotic Interaction to Guru Yoga”

Responsibility begins with recognition.  Simply that.  Recognition.  There are some fundamental truths that must be recognized here in order to stop the game of projecting your own neuroses onto yet another external object.  Because that is not the practice of Dharma.  That is not going to lead you to liberation.  That will continue to lead you to more and more neuroses.  So you must play the game correctly.  The first thing that happens is recognition.  It begins with the recognition of the fundamental foundational truth that we call turning the mind toward Dharma—the faults of cyclic existence, cause and effect relationships, impermanence, these kinds of thoughts, and then the realization that in all the six realms of cyclic existence there is suffering.  Then the recognition that there is the appearance of the Buddha, which brings the element of enlightenment and supreme realization and the visage or face of our own primordial wisdom nature, and  puts that into the world.  That’s the Buddha, the Dharma, which is the Buddha’s method, inseparable from the Buddha like the rays are inseparable from the sun, and the result, which is enlightenment, also inseparable from the Buddha.  You begin to recognize that this has in fact happened.

In the world there is the Buddha.  There is the Dharma.  There is the Sangha, and there is the Lama as the condensed essence of all three.  That recognition alone puts you into position where you have to choose between continuing in samsara and neurotic redundancy which is what samsara really is.  Isn’t that a great term?  Neurotic redundancy.  Don’t you just love that?  Neurotic redundancy,.Or you can choose Buddha, and Dharma, and Sangha—this three-legged stool, or chariot we should say, by which we travel through the door of liberation into enlightenment, into realization, the precious awakened state that the Buddha named.

So we’re in a position now where we make that choice.  That choice is based on this recognition.  You can’t make that choice on an emotional level.  Big mistake!  And some people try to do that.  They come to the temple and they say, “I like this stuff!  It’s all weird.  I like the colors.  I like the shape.  I like the material over there.  Look how they built that up there.  Isn’t that cute?  Those books… You know, I like that they don’t turn this way.  I like that they turn this way.  It’s so exotic.  I think it’s really cool, don’t you?  And then all the statues and crystals!  Look at this!  This is really cool to be with the crystals!” Really I’m describing a silly mindstate, but many students, when they first begin, will come here and say, “Oh this stuff is so cool.  I really want to do this.  O.K., you’re my teacher.”  So on that emotional level, really not much has happened.  Or they might come in and have an emotional reaction.  I’ve seen that happen too.

In fact, this is another story that you’ll be amazed at.  This is an amazing story. A woman once walked into the bookstore.  I happened to be there, checking out the earrings as usual!  So I was in the bookstore and she turned around.  She got immediately who I was.  She had never been around Dharma before, knew nothing about Dharma, knew nothing about anything like that and she just was entranced.  She was transfixed.  She looked at me and then she did three perfect prostrations. Then when she got up she said “I don’t know what that is.  I don’t know what I just did.”  No idea what happened there, no idea.  And then I never saw her again.  And she was crying, crying, just like “My teacher.  My teacher at last!  My teacher!”  Crying.  Big emotional thing, and I never saw her again.

What happened there was unfortunate.  I would call that an obstacle to her practice.  She obviously had enough inner purity to remember a former relationship with her teacher.  Something bled through and yet the obstacle was that she could only, in that moment of meeting, relate on a purely emotional level.  She could not lay down the foundation.  She could not make any connecting thought.  Really, as beautiful as that story is, it broke my heart that she never came back.  It really did.  I love you all, but I have to tell you I have many stories about the ones that got away!  You see, she could have been very close to me and it broke my heart that she didn’t come back.  But what you’re seeing there is just purely an obstacle.  She was only able to relate on this emotional level, and really, it’s not that much different from what you see your dog do when your dog barks to go out or sits there looking at the door.  It is an immediate emotional hit that you’re just overwhelmed with.  It’s not that different from what animals do.  But animals can’t practice Dharma, because what’s needed here is to make these connecting thoughts, these cause and effect thoughts, by creating the kinds of awareness and thinking that causes you to move into a deeper level on the path, and causes you to get the lay of the land, to really get what’s going on here.

This is what’s necessary.  She was not able to, at that time, to think of the faults of cyclic existence, to think of impermanence and that this opportunity might not come again.  She was not able to think “Now that I’ve found my teacher, I have found a way to travel the path of Dharma and pass through the door of liberation.”  Just not able to think like that.  This is a big obstacle that arose in her path at the same time as the blessing of meeting with her teacher again.  So this is the difficulty that we all have, but now we are here and we are in a learning and teaching situation.  We’re in a situation where we have time to think.  We have the leisure to think.  We have the ability to put two and two together, and this is how we have to approach the path.  This is how we have to do this.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Navigating the Path with Guru Yoga

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

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 is—and there is a problem with 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.  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.  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.

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 everyday, even while now we sit in comfort and enjoy being together, that everyday, 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.

Guru Yoga can always be depended on to reestablish and continue the blessing.  I promise you, if we call out to the Guru with a 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.

I’ve seen one of my favorite students work herself to death and forget to practice sometimes and then periodically she 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.  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.  So 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 feel 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.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche: Compassion in Action

The following is an excerpt from a teaching given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo at Palyul Ling Retreat in the summer of 2012:

I am very pleased by all the effort that you’ve put forth to make this place grow and shine as it has, keeping it going even in great adversity, for instance the passing of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.  We all suffered and now we’re doing what we can to bring about the causes that he can return to us.

I remember back in the beginning when I first met His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.  It was on his first visit to the United States.  He wanted to see me.  Back in those days dharma was kind of confusing.  We didn’t understand each other when the lamas first came to America.  It took awhile for us to come to that point, where we really understood each other.  Mostly it was our lack of understanding as Westerners that made the problems.

You all have beautiful, nice, and condensed practice books.  I want to show you what we were working with.  We mostly had loose-leaf sheets of paper, pictures, and books stuck together.  [Shows an old practice binder]  There are things here that I don’t even recognize anymore.   We all made our own books.  We were all new and we did our very best.  I wanted to show you this because I thought, ‘What a mess.’  I thought you’d get a kick out of it.  Those were my first practice books.  And it was a long time ago.

Personal reflections on His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

I had the happiness of knowing His Holiness for a long time, and had many wonderful experiences with him.  I don’t mind sharing them with you if you’d like to hear some of them.  I’d like to tell you about one time when I was in India and we were traveling around looking for statues.  It was so unbearably hot.  We were staying in this hotel and it was about 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more.  His Holiness was used to heat but he made sure to put me in a hotel with an air conditioner, which I stuck to, and that was very nice.  While at the hotel, I met the woman who cleaned my room, and she told me about her husband.  He was sick, had cancer and was dying.  She said, “Would you come and give a blessing to my husband before he dies?”  And I said, “Oh, it’s worthless if I give him a blessing, but if His Holiness gives him a blessing, that’s something. That’s definitely worthwhile.”  And so she said, “Oh!  Would he do that?”  And I said, “I don’t know.  I’ll ask.”

They were Hindu.  When I asked His Holiness, he said, “I don’t think Hindus like Tibetans very much.  We eat meat.”  And I said, “With due respect, Holiness, I think in this case it doesn’t matter.  These people so want to see you.  They so want the blessing.  These people are going through misery.  They live in a tin box on top of the roof, and she has to raise children by herself.”  His Holiness was very wrathful with me.  He said, “I had to leave Tibet and come to America.  I watched my own people die.  And now I am supposed to think that this is important?”  He was very wrathful.  But I know what he was doing.  He was creating the merit, and clearing the obstacles for this event to happen.  But as you know, His Holiness was very kind.  So finally he stomped his foot and he said, “Ok.  I’ll go.”

We climbed up to the roof, and it was hellish really.  His Holiness’ knees were bad then too.  I was so sorry and embarrassed that I had put His Holiness through that, but then I was so happy for the people that would receive the blessing.

When he came to the door of the tin shack they were living in on top of the building, it must have been 115 degrees inside.  It was so horrible.  We said, “His Holiness is here to give the blessing.  And the woman got down on the floor, and put her head to his feet and then she prostrated again at his feet.  She couldn’t stop.  She just kept doing it.  It was heart breaking to see the devotion that she felt for someone who would not abandon her in this terrible time; who would provide comfort and some help.  And His Holiness did that.

He spoke to her in Hindi.  And he asked her, “What is the problem?  How long has he been sick?”  She could hardly speak.  They were both so grateful and happy to have his blessing, and that he would think of them, because they were lowly people according to the caste system in India.  They were lowly people and poor beyond belief.  They said that some days he didn’t even eat, because there was no food.  And so His Holiness was told the condition of this man, and you could see in his face that he had great compassion.  The man had cancer of the mouth.  You could see that something was terribly wrong, but he had no medicine.  The agony that he was experiencing was hard to understand.

Here’s the kicker.  His Holiness said, “Open your mouth.”  When he said this, I tried to peak, and what I saw in there was horrible.  His Holiness said, “Open your mouth wide.”  He started pounding out mantras. Nothing I recognized.  He really pounded out the mantras.  And as he did that, he was blowing, blowing, blowing in the man’s mouth.  Holiness pounded out more mantras, and blew in the man’s mouth.  He kept doing this for quite a long time.

The couple was so thankful.  They offered Holiness food and drink, which of course he didn’t take.  They offered him food and drink.  He was working his heart out for them.  As we were leaving, they were bowing and bowing, and bowing.  It was so beautiful.  When we got down towards the room, I said to him, “Holiness is he going to live now?”  And he said, “No, there’s no chance.  The merit is gone.  There’s no chance for him to live now,” he said, “But he will have no pain.”

Already the man’s mouth was chewed up with cancer, and yet His Holiness said he would have no pain, and I know that’s true, because I met the woman again on the next day of our travels.  She said he had no pain that day.  I was so happy that happened.  I was just thrilled.

I left the my room door open so I could see where His Holiness was, and he could see where I was, and when he went passed by room, I just went down to him and I said, “Holiness, I know that was difficult, but thank you.  On behalf of them, thank you so much.  I don’t know how to express my gratitude.”  And he said, “No, I thank you.”

I will never forget that story.  He was grateful that I had insisted that he take this opportunity to help them.  He saw the value of it.  He saw that these people were helped and that they were just regular, innocent people.  His Holiness helped them so much that to my knowledge the man never had pain.  The woman and I wrote back and forth for a little while after that, and she said that he never had pain.  To me that am the most moving story about His Holiness that I know.  And I find it impossible to have seen that and not understand that he was Buddha, that he is Buddha.  No one but a Buddha would or could do something like that.  I miss him so much.  I know that you do too.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

Your Guru

Ven Gyaltrul Rinpoche

From The Spiritual Path:  A Compilation of Teachings by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

In Vajrayana Buddhism, the Teacher is the cornerstone of all practice. The Teacher is everything—the underlying strength and the means by which transmission and understanding occur.

Let us compare the Teacher’s function with the function of various other objects of refuge. All people—not just Buddhists—have such objects. Try for a moment to determine your own. If you think that the accumulation of material wealth is the way to happiness, money has become your guru. The material things you treasure are your guru. If, on the other hand, you choose the beer-and-sports routine, watching ESPN every night until you fall asleep, you have accepted the TV as your guru. It pacifies you. It makes you temporarily happy. You betray yourself: these things are unreliable, impermanent, and deceptive. Yet you put your trust and faith in them. Nothing in our impermanent realm of phenomenal existence can lead to happiness. Nothing—even if it seems ideal, like the perfect job or the perfect relationship in a perfect split-level, with 2.5 perfect children surrounded by a perfect white picket fence. At the moment of death, you are alone.

According to Buddhist teaching, there is a lasting happiness: enlightenment. It is the only end to all forms of suffering, including impermanence. Enlightenment cannot be tainted; it cannot be eaten by moths. It cannot rust; it cannot be destroyed. Enlightenment is the true source of refuge, the only thing that will not allow you to be betrayed. True happiness cannot be taken away. It is permanent and unchanging—the steadfast, stable reality of the enlightened mind. When you achieve enlightenment, what is revealed is your own primordial-wisdom nature. Some people think that they must give birth to enlightenment or that they have to find it. Actually, the primordial-wisdom nature has never left you, nor is it unborn. It remains in the way that a crystal is still a crystal, even though covered by dirt and mud.

Once you accept enlightenment as your goal, you should understand that the Guru is someone who can get you there. What should you look for in a Guru? A Teacher should not be seeking power or personal gain. Your Guru should have profound compassion, profound awareness. Most important, your Teacher should be able to transmit to you a true path. Suppose you go to a psychiatrist who helps you to be happier, more effective. This is very useful, but it is only a temporary way to cope, whereas the Guru offers you supreme enlightenment. This has nothing to do with coping. In fact, it has nothing to do with satisfying the ego.

Do not be fooled by charisma, saying: “I can tell by my feelings. This is the Teacher for me!” Instead, ask: Does this person teach a path that has been proven, time and time again, to stabilize the mind to the extent that miraculous activity can occur? Does this Teacher offer a technology that can stabilize the mind during the death experience? Can this technology result in miraculous signs at the time of passing? Are there indications that others have had success with this path and can now return in an emanation form in order to benefit beings? Look at the people who have practiced before you. Look at their successes or failures. Examine the history of the path, including the accounts of any enlightenment it has produced. At their passing, practitioners may produce miraculous signs: rainless rainbows, sweet scents, the transformation of the body into a rainbow of light, leaving only the hair and nails, the mysterious formation of relics or other unusual substances. On the Vajrayana path, such miraculous signs have been witnessed and recorded by many. People have seen the rainbow body; they have smelled the sweet scents; they have seen these extraordinary events.

The Buddha Himself said that we should use logic in choosing a Teacher or a path. After that, however, you begin to rely on the Teacher for everything. Why? Because you make a god out of your Teacher? Do you lose your brains and become a drone or a bliss ninny? Not at all. We Americans like to think we are unique, important, the best in the world. We think that to be happy, we must develop our individuality, so the idea of following a Guru is unappealing. But a teacher should not be chosen with blind faith or rampant emotion. You should exercise both intelligence and surrender. They are not in conflict. They can coexist very comfortably within the same mind, the same heart.

Note that you do not surrender to a person. It is not about a person. Your Teacher represents the door to liberation, the path that leads to enlightenment. Your relationship with the Guru is the most precious of all relationships. This is you talking to you—and finding out that you are not you at all. This is a glimpse, a taste, of true nature. At last we have arrived at the correct way to understand the Teacher.

Cultivate the precious relationship with your Guru through devotion. Make sure, however, that it really is devotion—not merely the kow-towing to a physical being. Devotion is an understanding of refuge, an understanding of your goal, plus the courage to walk through the door you have chosen. Choose only once, and choose correctly. From then on, allow yourself the grace to love deeply and gently.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Mixing Milk With Water: Cultivating Qualities on the Path

The following is from a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

Often when people begin practicing Buddhism it feels fresh and wonderful. But our expectations may be unreasonable. Often I hear that folks can’t “feel” devotion or compassion. Neither of these are a “feeling.” They are both method. Same with Emptiness. If we could “feel” it, it would not be emptiness, but some sort of contrivance. We seem to want to imagine it all, think about what it must be, rather than to see primordial nature just as it is. No amount of talk or even study can make that happen. We can discuss Guru Devotion with hearts as cold as ice. We can want to be “good” without ever being generous and kind. We can want to be anything that sounds great without doing the work, and then we are lost. That is very much like reading fitness books and dreaming of a fabulous new body without ever leaving the sofa and eating like a pig.

There is no bodhicitta without human compassion, as that is the display of it. There is no Guru Devotion without respect and view. And Guru Devotion is not a “feeling” but is based on a clear comprehension that the mind of the Guru and our own must mix like milk with water. This precludes judgment and hate, or putting down other Vajra bros and sistas because the mind of the Guru is as vast and clear as space. If we are hateful we are dishonoring the Vajra Master, who teaches us differently than that. If we do not take the trouble to master the qualities of the Three Roots we have broken samaya. No numbers of mantra repetitions will ever make up for quality and depth. No vow ever taken will ever make up for the absence of actually fulfilling that vow. If you are mean spirited, selfish and filled with arrogance you are not what you profess to be. And that is raw truth. Silly rabbit! Tricks are for kids!!!

OM AH HUNG BENZAR GURU PEDMA SIDDHI HUNG!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

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