When We Blow It

oops

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

So little by little, you begin to change your habit. If you really blow it, and you will, … Accept that right now, too. You will. You’re bound to blow it. When you blow it, you can prepare yourself for that by saying, ‘As a sentient being, I will probably blow it again. And when I do, I’m going to get right back on the horse and I’m going to make restitution and I’m not going to form any conclusions about myself. I’m going to let my mind relax.’ And get right back on the horse by practicing bodhicitta in the very next moment, plus confess in your mind that you were wrong just there. Confession in your mind is very, very important. ‘Boy, I really blew it just then. I was really wrong just then.’ And make restitution as quickly as you can.

Sometimes we have a kind of pride that says you’re going to look like a jerk if you say, to somebody that you were just mean to, ‘Well, I’ve really been trying to practice generosity and I realize that I was not generous to you at all. I realize that was pretty sleazy, what I just did, and so I’d like to ask you if there is anything I can do for you.’ Now most of us have too much pride to do that, but it’s the very right thing to do. And you’ll feel like a new person once you begin to do that. And that will be not only a pebble in this pile, but that kind of thing—the confessing and making restitution of an already established non-virtuous habit—is like a boulder going into that pile. It’s more important than little kindnesses. That kind of acceptance and inner peace and moving forward regardless, really, really helps. It’s like a boulder going into that pile, so much more quickly when you get into the habit of kindness. So I heartily recommend that method.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Compassion as Antidote

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

There’s a funny thing about the human mind that we don’t realize. Do you know how in your mind you think you’re concentrating on a million things at once? Some of you can chew gum, watch TV, listen to the radio and write in a book at the same time. I’ve seen people do this. It’s amazing. I have a son, oh, my god, you can’t believe this son. It looks like he can watch TV, listen to the radio, talk and really carry on a conversation, dance while he’s talking, and if he knew how to fry an egg, he could probably do that at the same time. I mean, talk about a Mongolian juggler. Each of us feels likewe can do so many things at one time; but what we don’t realize about the human mind is that’s not true. It can only do one thing at a time. But what happens is that we do these things in such rapid succession, that if we think about ten things at once, it feels like what is actually happening is that we are thinking about this, switch to this, switch to this, switch to this, very quickly; and our minds actually become inflamed and agitated with the switching from one picture to the other. That’s why it becomes valuable and precious to meditate on bodhicitta and to practice bodhicitta. Because while you are practicing bodhicitta, putting your mind in this pile, while you are doing that, no matter how simplistic it is, even if it’s just opening the door for somebody, while you’re doing that, you aren’t doing the other thing. And the great thing about the human continuum is that if you aren’t continuing it, it doesn’t continue.

The funny thing about continuum is that it loses its definition, its essence, if it’s not being continued. So we are taught to practice kindness and to begin where we can and to increase it moment by moment. Because while you are doing that, you can’t be doing the other. But believe me, when you are not doing that, you are doing the other. You are doing the other. So the bodhicitta becomes now not a great mystical attribute that we all hope we are going to get, it becomes a remedy. It becomes a method. It becomes an antidote. And you should see compassion as an antidote. There is no excuse, none, for you not to start right now. And you can’t get into what is kind of like the diet syndrome with bodhicitta. I don’t know how many of you have actually been on a diet, but if you’re on a diet, you’re like this: You go through, ok, a thousand calories a day. So you’re making your little chart and you’re eating your boiled egg or whatever it is, celery and ice or, whatever horrible thing they are making you eat. And then at one point during the day, you just can’t stand it and you go back to the old habit and think, ‘Ok, I’ve eaten celery all day, now I’m going to eat a piece of chocolate cake.’ What happens in our minds is that we think, ‘Now I’m off my diet. And it doesn’t matter.’ Well, you can’t have that kind of diet mentality with your bodhicitta. For instance, if you practice bodhicitta for a good period of time and suddenly you blow it, not only blow it, blow it big time, you know, I mean, big time, you really blow it, then you think, ‘I’m not a compassionate person. I’m not good, I’m bad. It’s gone for today. I’ll try maybe next week sometime. I’m hopeless. I’m helpless. I’ve blown my bodhicitta diet.’ You begin to form all these exaggerated conclusions based on what has just happened.

If you could approach yourself in a relaxed way, moment by moment, and you did practice bodhicitta for a certain period of time, then when you really, really blow it, there would be no inner tension to prevent you from simply going back to the bodhicitta. What you’ve done is expressed both of your habits, your new one, which is difficult, and your old one, which is easy and you can fall into it any time you don’t practice your new one. It doesn’t mean anything. It only means that you’re expressing both habits and at every given moment you have a choice. You can practice bodhicitta the very next moment right after you’ve blown it. And you should, because the best way to prevent blowing it again is to climb right back on that horse and make restitution. That’s the best way, to get right back on it. If you don’t’ do that, you carry a tremendous burden as a spiritual person, the burden of hypocrisy. You feel like a hypocrite. You feel like you’ve really messed up. You have this idea that you’ve been kind and then this monster in you comes out and then you’re faking it again. You can’t think like that. You can’t think in terms of good and bad, high or low. Think in terms of habitual tendency. Give yourself a break. You have both. Accept it now. Accept it now. And this way, no matter what happens, you’re not going to have to think something vile about yourself. And you have the freedom to make a choice at any moment.

My recommendation is that should you begin to practice bodhicitta and find it extremely difficult, do not form conclusions about it. Only continue. The only conclusion you should form really is the one that I’m giving you: That’s my habit. I understand that about myself. I accept. And I accept that I can change it, little by little. And it’s hard. It’s all right if it’s hard. One day at a time, you know?

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Bit by Bit: Cultivating Compassion

kindness

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

We have been revolving in cyclic existence for literally aeons and all during that time, in some form or another, we have conceived the idea of self-nature. Our habit, then, is to hold the idea of self-nature as being very, very solid and very, very real. Our habit, absolutely from the get-go, is to distinguish between self and other. Our habit is to react toward other with hope and fear. Our habit is to think in that relative sense and that comparative sense.  There is no compassion in any of that, and it’s not going to happen.

In order to truly develop compassion, we have to first get the idea and really take to heart the idea that the only thing blocking us from giving rise to the great bodhicitta, or great compassionate activity, is our habitual tendency. So no matter what we feel, if we have the stupid idea that we are good or bad (or whatever our ideas are about life if you have them), set them aside for a moment, and address the singularly important fact that you simply don’t have the habit of truly empathizing and having compassion for the condition of other sentient beings in any consistent and real sense. It’s a question of habit and not a question of good or bad. Are you able to feel compassion?  Many students have come to me and said, ‘Well, I love the idea of compassion. I think it’s wonderful. I hope you are good at it. I hope you continue to teach it to others. But I just don’t really feel compassion for other people.  So I don’t think I can be a Mahayana Buddhist.’ And, really, I cannot count on all of your fingers how many times it has happened to me that a person has said, ‘I love it, but it won’t work for me. I just don’t have any compassion.’

You can’t hide out in that any longer. That’s not a valid excuse, because the fact of the matter is that we are all in the same condition. No one here truly has the habit of compassion. Well, we have a little. Every now and then a jigger of compassion gets mixed into the cocktail of life. (Pretty cute, huh?)  But in truth, we have very little. If we had a great deal of compassion, our whole lives would be given over to benefiting others. There would never be another choice. There would never be another choice. Everything that we do would come out as benefit to others. It would be like magic. You wouldn’t even have to think about it if you had really given rise to the bodhicitta and broken the habit of self-absorption. There would never be another option.

But that’s not the case for sentient beings. We are all in the same condition. So what we have to do is stop waiting to feel compassion, because you are always going to paint yourself into a corner with that one. You are never going to be satisfied with what you are feeling. Until enlightenment, we are never going to be satisfied with anything. So you can’t hide out in that excuse. You simply have to develop a new habit. Sometimes when you are developing that new habit, it can look like this: OK, it doesn’t so much matter what I want here. There are other people that want things in this room, and I’m going to give it up. It can look like that at first. That doesn’t mean that you’re not doing a good job; and it doesn’t mean that you are wrong. It doesn’t mean that you’re bad, and it doesn’t mean that you are a martyr either. It doesn’t mean that you are making an extremely valiant effort and should be rewarded. It doesn’t mean anything. It only means that you are developing a new habit, bit by bit.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Observe the Equation


An excerpt from the Mindfulness workshop given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo in 1999

Lamas and bodhisattvas have taught time and time again that one’s practice must be part of one’s life.  They have taught that it has to be an ongoing thing, and that you can’t separate it from whatever else it is that you do.  The opportunity to practice exists in our lives, and so therefore, to only utilize sit-down time and completely separate that from the rest of our lives without any effort toward recognition or mindfulness is really pretty useless.  It’s like trying to drive down the street with no air in your tires.  You’re not going to get that far. This mindfulness, like changing any habitual tendency, can be a little bit painful or tight at first – that happens – but you know that, and you’ve broken through things like that before when they were important to you.  For those of you that have quit smoking, when you first quit smoking, that was a raw and painful thing, but you pushed through it because you knew that established the new habit pattern was going to be the way to go.  That was the only way to get to that goal.

Why don’t we think the same way about our practice?  Why do we think that we just have to wait for the glory?  If you decide you’re going to exercise, you have a goal: you don’t want to be a blob anymore.  That’s your goal, and you’re fervent about it.  When you first exercise, you’re going to hurt.  It’s going to ache.  If you’re really committed and you’re really not into being a blob, you’re going to take two Tylenol, and you’re going to continue.  You’re going to push through it.  Why can’t we push through our own habitual tendencies?  Why can’t we push through into some kind of ritual of recognition?  If we can ritualize working out, if we can ritualize stopping smoking, if we can ritualize crossing the street safely, if we can ritualize occupational training, why can’t we ritualize the state of recognition so that we make it part and practice of our walking, waking lives?  We trained to become whatever we are now.  Are you a doctor?  Are you a nurse?  Are you trained for that?  Wasn’t it hard when you first started taking in all that information?  Sure it was.  Are you a professional in any way?  You trained for that.  It was hard when you made those new habits, but you saw a goal and you had to get there because everything in you told you you’re supposed to be successful at that.  Why won’t we accept this responsibility in our practice?  That’s what it takes.  It takes really accepting that responsibility in our practice.

If you want to play guitar, your fingers are going to hurt for a while.  You’ve got to build calluses, but ordinary human beings, perfectly ordinary human beings, can do that because they observe the equation.  They can see that if they want to get there, they have to go through this uncomfortable zone of practice.  Why can’t we do that in our spiritual practice?  Why is it up to our teacher to push us through to realization?  Why do we hang around like limp practitioners and say, “Well, after I do this practice, what practice should I do after that?” without really ever trying in the least little way to have any recognition of the nature of phenomena, of the nature of reality?  We’re perfectly able to do this.  We do this in other areas of our lives.  Why is this so hard?

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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