Voyage to Recognition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Understanding Our Root Guru

I agree wholeheartedly with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa when he says it is most important to keep one’s samaya with the root Guru. I was once told a story where a dedicated and educated practitioner emerged after several years of retreat and went to his Lineage Master to complain of his lack of progress.

The Guru sent the retreatant back to the cave, saying five more years were needed. In five years this happened again. This time the Guru said, concentrate on the Root Guru!  So the practitioner went back for five more years. Still almost no result! No Bodhicitta, no Wisdom or Recognition. The Guru then shouted, “You did not meditate on your root Guru!”

“Well,” said student “I most certainly did.”  The High Lama said, “I am not your root Guru! I am one of your teachers and you favor me because I have a high throne! That makes you feel that you certainly are high yourself!”

The great lama in his clarity and mercy said, “You fool! The old poor Ani who fed, raised and dressed you also taught you the four contemplations that turn the mind to Dharma, as well as Bodhicitta, the Four Noble Truths, including the Eight-Fold Path! How stupid and arrogant to think you must have the highest Lama! Such pride! A downfall! So go back and meditate on mixing your mind with that old ragged Ani. She is your Tsawei Lama and was also a wisdom Dakini. Her Qualities were peerless, sublime! But pride has closed your eyes.” Then with fury he cast the practitioner away, saying, “Come back when you have thrown away your pride.”

Five years later the retreatant returned with gifts and prostrations. He was, much to the delight of the Great Lama, awake. He had mixed his mind with his true Guru, had given rise to pure Bodhicitta, and had no pride.

Both the Great Lama and the disciple rejoiced together, and could hear the joyous cries of the wisdom Dakini throughout the entire monastery- Kye Ho!

So the Root Guru only needs to be awakened herself, be able to communicate, and have lineage teachings to pass on. “High Seats” are another issue entirely.  It is that one who hooks and aligns you with pure Dharma, connects you with method and result who is the true Root Guru. Praise to the Root of Accomplishment!

Extraordinary Blessings

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

One of the main practices that we have to do in order to make progress on the path is Guru Yoga.  There are many ways to practice Guru Yoga. There is a tremendous focus on Guru Yoga in the preliminary practice or Ngondro phase, and then as you move into the different forms of practice in the intermediate and advanced stages, there is still a great deal of focus on Guru Rinpoche, and there is still a great deal of dependence on the Natural Blessing that is transmitted from his miraculous compassion.

Guru Rinpoche is considered to be the Nirmanakaya form, that is the body or the form that one sees in physical existence.  He incarnated into physical existence, and when he appeared on the earth, he was in solid form.  According to the history of his life, he was not born.  He did not have a mother.  He appeared in the middle of a lake on a lotus and he did not appear as an infant, but as a young child.  And when he left, he didn’t die; his body didn’t cease to function.  He was seen to rise up into the sky and leave.

So his activity, his display, is considered to be extraordinary, not  ordinary.  It isn’t like what we usually see.  We do not usually see that kind of event.  None of us has managed to be born on a lotus in the middle of the lake.  Most of us have mothers. I have a mother.  If any of you don’t have a mother, please let me know.  I’d like to meet you, get to know you.

Probably, when we die, our bodies will do the ordinary thing which is “die.”  Perhaps a few of us will do something wonderful, but my guess is that we’ll die.  It’s very rare to be born as a young child on a lotus, or rise up into the sky and leave.  We don’t usually see that kind of display.  And so from that, we can understand that he is, in fact, the physical display of enlightenment.

It’s so easy for us to look at Guru Rinpoche, to think about his teachings, to think about what he has accomplished and think, “Oh, there was a great man that was born sometime, and he did this thing”, to think of Guru Rinpoche in a superficial way.  So when we practice, our practice is deluded really, and it’s kind of confused or even defiled, if you will, by our thinking, “What kind of man was he?  What was he really like?  What did he look like?”  I look at his statue and I think, “Gee he had a funny little mustache.”  We have those kinds of thoughts.  We can’t help but think like that.  We think as ordinary people do.  We look at each other in ordinary ways.  We’ve learned to evaluate things in that way.

If we hold Guru Rinpoche in that regard, we miss the point.  We think of a being that’s much like an ordinary being.  We think of an event that is not so different from ordinary events.  Man goes to Tibet, man teaches. Well, that’s happened before!  So we don’t understand.  We’re very shallow in our perception.  And what happens then is that the transmission that comes to us, the blessing that comes to us through faith, the blessing that comes to us through practicing Guru Yoga is very minimal.  And in fact, it’s an ordinary blessing.  It is the ordinary blessing perhaps of having the opportunity to practice, and of actually having the practices in hand so that we can do them.  Well, you could say that’s not exactly ordinary.  Lot’s of people don’t have that blessing.  And you’re right about that.  But it’s a limited blessing.  What we need beyond this opportunity,  beyond the practice, is the ripening.  And in order to have that, we must begin to understand the Nature of the Lama in a more profound way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon 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

When the Teacher Meets the Student

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

Guru Yoga is a very important, very fundamental aspect of the practice of Vajrayana. When a student and a teacher come together, following in the footsteps of Guru Rinpoche as he taught, the relationship between the student and the teacher is upheld by the teacher in a very profound way.  Once the teacher accepts the student as their very own and takes them into their heart and actually into their body, speech and mind, it is the teacher’s commitment to bring blessings and benefit to that student, not only in this lifetime but in every future lifetime.

The student then becomes extremely important to the teacher, in that the teacher, upon accepting the student fully once that relationship has been established, promises to return lifetime after lifetime in whatever form is necessary in order to be of benefit to that student.  So there is a heart commitment or heart “samaya.”  When the teacher looks into the face of the student, the teacher says to the student or thinks to the student in their heart and in their mind, “I will not abandon you.  I will not abandon you to remain alone in cyclic existence.”

So, the commitment is that the teacher promises to see the student through until supreme realization.  This then becomes a “samaya,” or commitment, that lasts life after life, from life to death, from life to death, from life to death.  Again and again and again this relationship returns. There are many stories about how lamas, recognizing their students or seeing their students from the time before, whatever that time might be, feel great joy at seeing the face of the student again, tremendous joy,  as though seeing and having the opportunity to nurture their beloved child once more.  And this is a very beautiful and happy thing.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

What Do You Reach For?

There are three different levels on which you can recognize your Teacher.  One is an extremely poor level, a common, ordinary level.  One is an intermediate level in which you see that the teacher holds the teachings purely and gives the teachings purely and you really admire the Teacher and feel great respect for the Teacher.  That, however, is only an intermediate level of recognition.

The deepest and supreme level of recognition is recognizing the Teacher not as a person, but rather, as a door to liberation, as one’s own nature.  This supreme level recognizes the Teacher as one’s mind, recognizes the Teacher as the miraculous intention of the Buddha, appearing in a manifest way in order to benefit beings.  It recognizes the Teacher as that original longing, the longing to know that nature, to recognize the Teacher as the answer, to recognize the Teacher and primordial wisdom itself in some incarnate form, in the same way that your own relationship to the path becomes not an ordinary thing, but a very profound and mystical thing, a thing of truth, a thing able to bring about awakening.

The relationship with the Teacher is especially difficult for Westerners.  We have lots of training on authority figures, we have lots of training on mothers and fathers, but we have no training on to how to deal with this longing.  The way we have dealt with it in the past has hurt us.  It has brought us a great deal of pain and suffering.  It has made us act in ways that we do not understand.  We are people who had a particular karma and it did not quite fit in with the karma of the society in which we were brought up.  If that were not so, then more of the society in which we were brought up would be able to approach the idea of awakening, would be able to approach the idea of having a Teacher in order to follow a supreme path in order to achieve the great awakening.

So, if we can reprogram ourselves by looking back at that original longing and understanding its depth, understanding the ways in which we compensated and forgiving ourselves and confessing the lack of recognition, we will then be able to establish a relationship with the Teacher, the path, the Buddha and with the meditational deities that we practice.  If we can establish that relationship anew in that way, the quality of the path that we practice will be completely different.  The quality of the experience that we have will be completely different.  We will feel healed, and the need for that healing is very sharp and very strong.

It’s my job to watch over my students.  Some of you spend 75 percent of your energy blaming yourself for the way you are.  Some of you spend a lot of energy trying to act out things that will never bear fruit concerning the Dharma and concerning your Teacher.  Some of you spend 75 percent of your energy trying to pretend that you don’t feel or trying to take issue with one thing or another so you don’t have to feel that longing.

I look at you and I have a sense of how you’re managing that longing.  It’s like you come so far and you’re right here, almost to my heart, and then you turn away.  Some of you stand in the background and look from afar, look hungry, peek out from behind the door, close the door again, stand back there and be hungry for some more.  Then you open the door and do like that.  Each one of you has a particular and peculiar different way that you deal with this, but you are all living with this.

You were born with the longing to awaken.  You were born with a longing to know your own nature, to taste that nature.  You were born with a longing and a homing instinct to find your Teacher.  You were born with a longing to find a pure path and there were no words like that when you grew up.

You compensated by substituting other things and trying to make them the object of your longing.  You made lots of mistakes because of it.  That’s not the point, though.  There is nothing you can do in one lifetime that is as meaningful a miscalculation as simply reaching for that nature and trying to find it in something small.  That is the biggest miscalculation that any of us can make and we do it constantly.  That’s what keeps us revolving endlessly in cyclic existence.

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

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

Listen to Your Life

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Longing for the Guru”

One of the great difficulties we have as practitioners and people involved in a materialistic culture is that we have very little understanding of the longing we feel for the Guru.  In a culture that has a spiritual foundation, in a culture that recognizes the role of the Guru, that recognizes the role of the Teacher or that recognizes and approves of a tendency to long for spiritual fulfillment, it is much easier to put a name and a label on that longing.

But in our culture, in order for us to survive that kind of longing, we have to make believe that it’s something else.  We have to pretend that it has to do with human relationships.  We have to pretend that it has to do with prosperity.  We have to pretend that it has to do with a certain lifestyle.  We have to pretend that it has to do with intelligence or that it has to do with mental health.  We have to pretend all sorts of different things in order to put the longing into some slot that our society recognizes, because if not, as we grow up in the formative years, it’s crushing to know in your heart of hearts that you are very different from others.  No one seems to have quite the same feeling that you do.

And so, because it is so crushing, because it is such a lonely thing, often, the very people that longed the most are the ones that diverted that longing into, perhaps, promiscuity, or perhaps becoming almost fanatical about this thought or that thought or this idea or that idea.  They could have diverted that longing into drugs or alcohol.  They could have diverted that longing into making themselves into a way that they are not, such as a superficial way or a hard way or a tough way or a dull way or a dead way.  They might have pretended that they had no feelings in order to deal with the ones that they did have.

Now, it’s true that lots of people have these same feelings and lots of people have these same ways of dealing with feelings.  For instance, it’s very possible that someone whose mother or father didn’t love them could become promiscuous simply for that reason.  Yet, that does not preclude what I’m saying.  You should listen to your life.  You should listen to what you did and what was underneath it and you should come to understand that perhaps there was something a little different in your heart and in your mind. It was there and it was with you always.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Light of Recognition

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo on October 18, 1995

What would it be like for you if Guru Rinpoche himself, appearing in a way that you could understand, were to actually walk through every day with you?  In your mind, in your heart, seeing what’s in there?  Walk through all your efforts, and watch you when you turn away and say, AO.K. that’s enough of that.  I’m going to go and do what I want to do.  Enough of that high thinking.  Let me feel the way that I naturally feel, the hell with all of you.   You know, that kind of thing?

If we actually had the eyes of the Guru, if they could be felt watching us, you know what you would feel like if you had seen that happen.  If you had felt that even for one day.  There would never be an end to your grief.  There would never be an end to the sorrow that you would feel knowing that in the face of the Guru you had made such a stinking offering.

We remain content with our self-cherishing, content with our pride, content with our ego and our hatred and our bigotry and our bad qualities.  We remain content with these while the eyes of the Guru watch.  Because there is no moment that you exist, that you can have a thought, that you are alive in samsara that the eyes of the Guru are not watching. And I don’t mean this like you should think of yourself as a little kid thinking, “Oh no, Mommy’s watching.” It’s not like that.  The Guru doesn’t get mad at you. It isn’t an approval thing. It isn’t like your mother or your father.  It’s that these eyes are like a radiant connection through which we can see directly the primordial nature, which is free of any kind of contrivance and separation and ugliness and superficiality and any of the possibilities that make it likely that we are going to practice any kind of non-virtue.  This nature is so pure that it’s like having the eyes of supreme, unnamable, unspeakable sweetness looking at us always, looking at us with love and compassion.  And we are taking shit and throwing it against the wall and wiping it all over ourselves: scratching and burping and farting and hitting and killing and carrying on.  And yet, these eyes that hold us up, watch us always, even while we, like apes in a zoo, fling shit on them.

And yet, we wonder why it is that we cannot awaken to the Buddha nature.  “When is ‘it’ going to happen? When is ‘it’ going to come from ‘out there?’  How old am I going to be when ‘it’ happens to me?” —  as though it were going to be visited upon you like something air-dropped;  as though it were going to come to you from another city, or another state or another world.  And all the time, we are turning away from those eyes, those loving, perfect pure eyes, that are actually like guiding beams of light, if you can imagine such a thing.

When we turn our face away from the Guru, we are only creating more suffering.  There is no other result that can come from that, no matter what it looks like.  You might say that there are extenuating circumstances.  All right, name them!  I’d like to see an extenuating circumstance that’s going to change what I’ve just said,  because it doesn’t exist.  You might say, “Well, I did my practice from this time to this time and I really tried very hard with my Guru Yoga.  I worked very hard at that and I kept it mindful as much as I could and then, well, you know, you have other things to do.  You have to go work, and you have to go do this, and you have to go do that.” This is the kind of thinking that we have.  Basically, what we have done is, while we were in the state of devotional practice, while we were aware of being in the presence of the Guru, while we were practicing that kind of view, we have only created causes of future bliss and happiness.  The moment we turned away, that act of saying, “Okay, that’s that.  Now on to this” — the moment we said that, we have practiced that non-virtue which has caused us unthinkable suffering in this and every life that we have experienced up until this point. The moment we turn away from the face of the Guru and find “something else”: in that moment we have turned away from the primordial nature that is our nature, and found suffering. The moment that we go on to the next thing, is the moment that we go on to our suffering.  The moment that we move away from our practice into another state, at that moment we have moved away from what causes bliss and moved into what will only bring about more suffering.  This is true even if our activity is just as pure and clean as apple pie.  Let’s say we ended our practice to go feed the baby.  You can’t argue with that.  You got to feed babies, right?  Of course, you’ve got to go feed the baby, but the problem is that you had to turn away from the Guru in order to do it.

Now you haven’t actually figured all of this out yet, but now it’s time to practice so deeply that you understand that it is possible not to turn away ever.  It is possible to be in that space, to be with that face and of that face, to be inseparable, to be constantly in union with that which is union itself, to be inseparable with the Guru. This is the goal!

Why wouldn’t it be the goal?  Is it samsara that you wish to be inseparable from?  Is it suffering?  Is it non-virtue?  Do you like to turn away?  Maybe you like the result, the suffering that comes after!  Of course, now that I say it this way, it seems ridiculous!  Of course, you don’t want that!  Yet, in our practice, in our lives, what do we do?  We offer the five cups of poison.  This is our standard offering, every day. And then we read the text and the text says if we could just offer one butter lamp, we would remain in unmovable samadhi.  And we wonder, “I’ve offered lots of butter lamps!  What is the hold up? What’s the problem?”  I’ll tell you what the problem is.  It’s those five other cups that you offer so much more of than that butter lamp.

Maybe the butter lamp needs to be understood as a symbol, not only as a literal butter lamp on an altar, but like a light in the window, a constant reminder.  When you know that a loved one is nearby and you’re trying to create the connection whereby the loved one would be guided home. In this case, we’re trying to create the connection.  You would keep a lamp in the window, wouldn’t you?  Keep a light on?  Maybe that’s what we need to do. Maybe the butter lamp we need to offer, the one that brings us to immovable samadhi is the light that never extinguishes: the light of recognition.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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