Cultivating Compassion


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

It is not foreign to our nature, and it is also not separate from the goal that we wish to achieve by practicing in this way, for us to give rise to the great Bodhicitta, or the great compassion.  The way that that is done on the Buddhist path is to consider that our own goals and the goals of sentient beings are indistinguishable, that they are nondual.  That is to say that our goal to practice in order to achieve liberation, is inseparable from the goal of sentient beings.  They also have the goal of practicing in order to achieve liberation.  Not all of them know it, in the same way that some of you don’t know it either.  You may think you know it, or you may know that you don’t know it, but many of you are still at the party, not growing out of the party, not grown up and looking back and saying “Oh, that won’t do me much good.”

You remember that situation that you found yourself in as you were growing up?  When you were a young person you had a few knockdown drag out parties, didn’t you?  I mean the kind where, at some point in your life, you probably got drunk.  Nobody makes a sound, like “Drunk?  What is that?”  At some point in your life you probably were out of control, just party down, not thinking straight, doing things that were compulsive and obsessive and not appropriate and not healthy for you, not good for your well-being—unthinking, deluded things.  This is something that we have all experienced, but particularly in the case of when we were younger, we would party hearty. And if you think about it, if any of you have done that, and I’m sure that one or two of you have, you may remember that once you’ve partied hearty, there was a period of regret afterwards, and that was primarily the next day.  Of course the, how shall I say, the cure for that is, of course, prostrations to the porcelain god; and with all of that, one comes to understand that one is literally destroying oneself, that there is no hope for happiness from doing that to oneself.  After doing that repeatedly, we tend to grow up after a while.  We tend to be unwilling to put ourselves through that kind of stuff again.

So that happens to us spiritually too. We go through the same compulsive obsessive behavior with no good result. And at some point, either through our own good fortune, through our own gathering together of merit which causes literally a kind of smarts arising in the mind, or through the instruction of our teacher, we can begin to realize that what we are doing makes no sense.  It simply makes no sense.  It is destructive.  It is painful, and it is not pleasant.  So that is the stage in which we find ourselves turning our mind towards Dharma.

What we have to realize in order to give rise to the compassion, to the great Bodhicitta, is that this is true of all of us, not just you.  If you have come to this realization, that it’s time to turn the mind towards Dharma, then what of those who have not yet come to that realization?  They are still putting themselves through that.  They are still acting in a destructive way that disintegrates their spiritual strength.  They are acting in such a way that literally brings them suffering.  What of them?  Perhaps you have heard the good word, but what of them?  Who will help them?  And so we develop a sense of compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

As Many Paths…

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

Society will teach you wrongly until it understands your nature.  The Buddha is the perfect teacher—the perfect one because he so thoroughly understood our nature.  It is said that when a student came to him for the first time, and said, “I would like to become Buddhist,” or “I would like to take teaching with you,” he could see in an instant all the causes and conditions that brought that student to that moment where he faced the Buddha.  He could see every cause and condition and could give each and every student the antidote necessary to provide the blessings for enlightenment.

That being the case, we can trust in the Buddha’s teaching.  He doesn’t say, “You’re a bag of chemicals.  Now you’re breathing. So good, go get a job. Make yourself happy. Have a chicken in your pot, or a pot with some chicken”.  I don’t know…” Have a drink on Friday nights.”—whatever it is that makes people happy.  He doesn’t say, “Follow in your culture.” He tears the veil apart and he says, “Based on your nature, this is what must be done.  Based on your path, this is what must be done.”  And there are as many methods in the Buddhadharma as there are sentient beings to follow them.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved



Merit & the Karma of Happiness

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

You are able to practice because you had the karma to receive teachings. Merit has come to the surface of your mind; good karma is ripening. But linked with some of this ripening merit are some bubbles of not-so-good karma. So what happens? You sit down with the intention to practice, but now you’re just too tired. You start to fall asleep. Or you decide that you need to do some other things. You externalize what you think are the causes for your inability to practice. Maybe you even begin to doubt that you’re happy in the Dharma. You wish you were surfing in California, and this thought is like a little rat, gnawing in your head. It gnaws at you slowly and steadily.

You need to understand that good karma is ripening, but some negative karma is linked to it. Embedded in your mindstream is some non-virtuous activity associated with the intention to practice. Now you have repeated that pattern, in seed form, and it will ripen in the future. Sometime in the future, you will again sit down with the intention to practice, and you won’t be able to do it. So the sensible thing to do is to persevere, to push through as well as you can. Understand that your tiredness, sleepiness, and other excuses have no basis. They are puffballs.

When you find yourself making excuses why you are unable to practice, why you don’t really want to hear the teachings, the best thing to do is to break through by accumulating merit. By doing virtuous things. Study Dharma. Pray. Practice kindness and generosity. Meditate. Contemplate the teachings. Try to understand them more deeply. Be attentive. Make offerings. Repeat the Seven Line Prayer many times. Repeated with faith, it is an antidote that can end all your suffering. It can, the teaching says, lead to enlightenment. All these things are ways to accumulate merit. You must understand how merit (and lack of it) works, or you will have a difficult time maintaining potency on the Path. It will even be difficult, on an ordinary level, to have a good life. For you won’t have any way to understand what is happening to you. You will always blame external things, other people. It is true that when you encounter misfortune, other people are usually involved, and you may well have some mixed karma with those people. But the karma arises within your own mindstream; it isn’t somewhere outside.

Pull out of your addiction to reaction. Think of your mind as something like a mechanism, and you yourself as a mechanic. Understand that you can work with its levers, pulleys, and gears. To most people, their own minds are a mystery, a complete mystery. And they search for someone who can understand them.

What should you do? Persevere in your practice. What else? Create more merit. The big mystery of “me” is solved. Almost reluctantly, too, because it’s so lovely to remain a mystery. It’s so pleasant to think that there is something mysterious, special, and unique about us. How often we try to obtain something that seems just out of reach. Or we have it in our hands, and it slips away. What is going on here? Lack of merit, of course. And yet we keep on reaching and grabbing and forcing, all in vain. Sometimes we think we have made something happen by forcing it. And yet, we have merely rearranged our karma. The basic problem remains unsolved. Suppose you want a new car, but the cost is just out of reach. Both merit and lack are coming to the surface. Even if you contrive to get the car, you will still have, ripening, some non-virtue associated with lack. That lack will always show up somewhere—with the car itself, or in your relationships, your health, or in missed opportunities. So the key, whenever you lack something, is to accumulate merit.

Some people are unaware that it takes merit to be happy. Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to be happy, no matter what? And others … well, happiness seems to elude them. And it’s because there is no karma of happiness, no karma of having made others happy, ripening in their minds. You can’t even lighten them up with a joke. They just don’t have any happy bubbles ripening to the surface. “How are you today?” you ask them. “Not so good,” they reply. “Umm … Nothing seems to go right.”  But if we haven’t got the karma for happiness, whose fault is that? Who did it to us? Someone else? No, but it’s a problem we can fix. The problem is within our own minds. We can create the karma of happiness by creating merit.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

What Are You Gathering?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Bodhisattva Ideal”

In the view of the Bodhisattva, we realize that everything in life is impermanent, that nothing we can gather has any meaning other than the collection of virtuous habitual tendencies within our mindstream. Having realized that, one travels a moderate path in which one’s own enlightenment and the enlightenment of others become the same weight, and nondual.

Further, we come to understand that we are one and others are many. Even in this room, let’s say, if I am practicing as a Bodhisattva, I think that yes, my happiness is equal to the happiness of any one of you. But there are so many more of you than there are of me that it only makes sense for me to do what is beneficial for you rather than what is beneficial for me.  This I try my best to live by. As a Bodhisattva, I consider this to be the most precious understanding that I have.  It’s my treasure and my wealth. It’s reasonable and logical that the needs of the many would outweigh the needs of the one.   Because we are the same, and because we all wish to be happy, and because in our nature we are absolutely inseparable and indistinguishable from one another, I find that I cannot be happy without you. So all of the different gatherings and collections that one can make during the course of one’s lifetime have to be understood in that way.  Are they really worth anything?  Or are they the gaudy childlike baubles that we play with until we have a better understanding of what the Buddha has taught.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Big Picture

An excerpt from a teaching called True Motivation for Kindness by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The Buddha teaches us that everything a sentient being does has a little hook on the end of it. And the hook is: I…me…always about me. So you have to watch when you’re being kind that you’re not being kind just to be a certain way. What you really want to do is to alleviate the suffering of sentient beings. It’s about them, not about you. Get the big picture. All sentient beings are suffering. Get that they, like you, don’t wish to suffer.

You can help others understand the value of kindness. You can demonstrate it. You can begin to show people the value of being of benefit to others. You can help people to understand in some simple way that there is something better than the superficiality that they are revolving in. You can pray for their enlightenment. Make prayers for the end of hunger, prayers for the end of war, prayers for the end of suffering in all its forms. You can do that, and in doing that, you have actually entered onto the Path. It’s just a baby step, but a good one. It is one thing that you can do quietly in your heart. No one ever sees it. You can do it without expecting anyone to pay you back.

The upshot of all of this then is to consider compassion in a new way, in a sense to consider it in an ordinary way, in that you can truly practice it within the context of your life. But more than that, know yourself! See what your motivation is. On this path your motivation is everything. Examine the faults of cyclic existence so that when you accept the hard work of this path, even if it’s just simply acting in a compassionate way, accomplish it for the right reasons.

Take into yourself the fundamental truth that cyclic existence is faulted, but that the Buddha said there is an end to suffering, and it is attainable to you if you open your eyes and act appropriately. Don’t waste your time gathering unto yourself things that you cannot take with you. Don’t waste your time. Practice the Path.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Many are More Precious than One

A Teaching from Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Three thousand years ago Lord Buddha introduced the idea of great compassion to an unknowing world. After his enlightenment he was asked to teach others the means to supreme realization. Although he was tempted to simply leave — knowing that almost no one would be interested in his teachings, and of those who were, few would try to follow them and fewer still would succeed — he nonetheless replied, “For those few, I will remain.”

Buddha is the exceptional teacher who teaches the development of great and selfless compassion as part of the technology of the path to enlightenment. But to develop such great love, it is first necessary to familiarize oneself with the nature of suffering and especially with its causes. Amidst the array of spiritual teachings, this perspective is unique because most people do not understand the reasons for suffering or how suffering appears in the world.

The Buddha taught us that human happiness through ownership, eating, drinking, gaining love, stature, approval, or even the happiness of engaging in pleasurable activities is at best temporary. These experiences do not prevent suffering because between these happy times we can experience times of distress.

Nor do happy times solve questions concerning the nature of suffering and why it arises. The Buddha taught that the happiness of enlightenment is not composed of impermanent things but occurs when one cuts out the sources of all unhappiness. Through understanding and meditation, one liberates the mind into true awareness, a state free of conditions and defilements. This pure awareness is a lasting state.

Ultimately, the attitude of care-taking or being responsible for the wellbeing of others, of caring for planet earth, its inhabitants and all the 3,000 myriads of universes described in Buddhist cosmology  is the true cause for ultimate and permanent happiness. Being responsible for all sentient beings is a spiritual technology the Buddha taught to be the supreme antidote to selfishness, compulsive desire, self absorption and all other symptoms of the ego.

When we remain selfish and neurotically fixated in the ego, we remain deeply unhappy. When we are in a state of profound generosity, having a relaxed mental attitude and pure motivation, we remain stable in a state of joy. Yet if we view caring for others only as a medicine, we may miss the beauty of it.

No sentient being is born with pure, unconditional, constant love. In the beginning, selflessness and generosity require discipline. Like all things, they must arise from a cause. One must break old habitual tendencies, and this requires discipline. Initially, one must understand the values of generosity and the pitfalls of selfishness. One cannot then rely on one’s feelings, because they are products of an ego distorted by the self-centered habits that produce unhappiness and disregard for others. It is necessary to understand the cause and effect relationship here.

Happiness does not just appear. Enlightenment does not just appear. Neither do unhappiness or suffering just appear. When one understands this apparently simple truth, it is possible to make generosity part of one’s activity in a true and lasting way, because one has a basis of understanding that will support and uphold the discipline necessary in the initial stages.

Ultimately, through persistence one can soar. There is a point at which a great leap takes place and one moves into an experience of effortlessness. This is because ultimately, in the pure state, compassion is part of one’s nature. We each, in fact, live in a world of our own making and have the choice of living selfishly, trying in a futile way to get happiness through gaining or having more phenomena (whether external or internal)  or we can live a life of generosity and responsibility, cognizant that there are many more sentient beings than just our selves.

Because their value is equal, many pieces of gold are worth more than a single coin. So it is with sentient beings. Many are more precious than one. Fortified with that awareness, one can live and act accordingly with simplicity, generosity and respect for life. The attitude of cherishing all sentient beings as though they were truly the same as you is a deeply moving and personal experience. It is a life changer. It is also the cause of happiness.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Creating Happiness

An excerpt from a teaching called How Buddhism Differs from Other Religions by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

If all we want is happiness, how do we do it?  It’s a little, but there’s a real trick to it, but you can create happiness.  Here’s how it’s done.  First of all, all sentient beings are equal.   And in our nature, we are not only the same, we are one.  From the point of view of Buddhahood, if the Buddha were to look out at everyone, and look from the mind of awakening, in the state of enlightenment, it would not be possible to see where one of us ends, and the other begins, because our true nature is pure, pristine, primordial light.  It’s not visible light in the way that we understand light, because when you see light then you are standing away from it.  You would call it undifferentiated, nonconceptual illumination – radiance.  That is our nature.  So when we defile that nature in our relationships with others, and cause harm to others, we suffer.  If we could do the opposite, and try to benefit others, we would create happiness.

It doesn’t seem to be the truth because we think, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”  This is what America has taught us.  This is what our culture says to us.  “Gimme a car.  I’ll be happy.  Give me a boyfriend, I’ll be happy.  Give me another boyfriend, I’ll be twice as happy.”  That’s what we’re taught. We’re taught that gimme, gimme, gimme is the way to happiness.  It’s kind of the modern mantra, isn’t it?  “Gimme, gimme, gimme hung.”  We try very hard, and it doesn’t work that way.

What we find out is that in our oneness, we must uphold one another.   We must not only practice kindness towards one another, but practice recognition.  So, let’s say in my desire to be happy, I decide the only thing that’s going to work for me is a new car.  In my materialistic American psyche that’s what I’ve decided.  I saw this new car on TV, and I’ve got to have it.   Whatever I do to get money for that car, even if it’s honest, even if I go to my credit union, and borrow, make my payments,  and I do everything right, it’s ordinary.  It’s just regular.  It’s the stuff that you move around when you move an apple from here to there.  It’s nothing but ordinary, worldly gobbledygook.

So you go to your credit union, and you get the dollars, and you get the car, and then what happens?  You’re happy for a little while, and then the car gets old.  The baby throws up in it.   The dog shits in it.  You spill milk in it.  You drive it, and it gets old, or you smash it up.  Or now that you’ve bought it and gone to the credit union and cleaned all your money out, you don’t have money for gas!  This is not the way to create happiness.  Even though the car might cheer you up for a little while, it is not going to change your life.  It is not going to do what you hope it’s going to do.  And it’s the same with the big ticket items – the house.  And the non-buyable items like relationships, and marriages, and boyfriends, and girlfriends and all that stuff.  All are like band aids in samsara – quick fixes.  When you’re unhappy and you grab for something like that, your intuition tells you you’re going to feel better, but the real solution is counterintuitive.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Ordinary or Extraordinary?

An excerpt from a teaching called How Buddhism Differs from Other Religions by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

In the Buddha Dharma there are mainly two kinds of compassion.   There is ordinary compassion, and there is extraordinary or sublime compassion, also called ordinary bodhicitta or sublime bodhicitta.   Bodhicitta is the great display of compassion, which is our own primordial nature.   Ordinary bodhicitta is the caring for others through the means that we can find on this earth.  In other words, caring for others through ordinary means.  Like for instance, if you see somebody that’s hungry and you give them a sandwich.  That’s compassionate, but it’s ordinary compassion because you know you didn’t get the sandwich from the sublime realms.  You got it from a kitchen or you bought it somewhere.  It’s ordinary stuff that went into it – baloney or salami or peanut butter and jelly. It’s ordinary even if you make 150 sandwiches and you pass them out to the hungry homeless.  That’s a real good day, but still ordinary compassion because it’s easily attainable.

There are many hungry people now in Burma.  No matter what the junta says, the people are not eating, and they are sick and dying.  Let’s say somehow we magically can put together everything they need, and just bust through the blockades and give it to the people.  Let’s say we airdrop everything they need, and the whole place is satisfied. The people have tents or homes or something to live in.  They have the means to get food.  They have food.  They have bedding; they have everything because of this magnificent airdrop that you made.  Let’s say that’s possible.  That would take an awful lot of money, but still in all it’s ordinary human compassion.  We never see ordinary humans doing that very much, and that goes to show you the pickle we’re in.  But it’s still ordinary human compassion.

Now, what is supreme or extraordinary compassion?  That is compassionate activity that concerns and offers that which is not of this world.  The great bodhisattvas that return again and again are considered to demonstrate the great bodhicitta, because the nature of the bodhisattva is such that once they attain certain bhumis, which are levels of realization, then at that time they can step into enlightenment or step into nirvana and attain the rainbow body at any moment.  But they hold back because they wish to benefit sentient beings.  They look at the suffering of sentient beings.  They see this terrible suffering and it moves them, and they return to earth to show them the way out of that suffering.  That is considered extraordinary compassion.  So then translating, teaching, creating the books of Dharma, offering these ancient teachings in a modern world so that modern people can continue to benefit from something that would ordinarily be lost to them, that is considered extraordinary compassion.

When I held my little new born son in my arms, I thought, “I would do anything for you.  I will care for you. I will keep you warm.  I will give you my milk, and when you’re done with that, I will bake pies.  I’ll do anything for you.”  And then I realized I was lying to him, because if my son were to get gravely ill, I would have no power to help him.  Or if my son were to die, even though I told him I would never abandon him, I would not be able to follow him into the next rebirth.  I would not be able to see to his welfare.  So, there’s my baby in my arms, and I have lied to him.

That was one of the main things that made me practice really hard when I was young.  I made it my business to learn how to provide the Phowa, which is the transference of consciousness from one level to the next, or from one life to the next rebirth.  I made myself learn to do that so that I could help people, and dogs, and cats, and anybody in the dying process, and so I could even follow my own child into the next life, and make sure that his rebirth is good.  I’ve attained that goal.  And I’m very happy for it.  Do you see the difference there?  A mother’s love is so powerful, so extraordinary.  You would feed your child your own body if they were hungry.   And you look in the eyes of your child and you think, “Never has there been love like this.  I would do anything for you.”  But until that compassion applies to all sentient beings, and we have the skills through our own realization, we are lying.   And we are not able to do very much for those we love.  That is the one of the differences between ordinary and supreme bodhicitta.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

What We All Want

An excerpt from a teaching called How Buddhism Differs from Other Religions by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

When we study Buddhism, the first thing we come to understand is the equality of all that lives.  This is a direct teaching from none other than Shakyamuni Buddha himself.  He taught that all beings are essentially equal in their nature and that they all have the same exact desires that we have.  We want to be happy.  We strive for happiness in our own way everyday.  We go here and go there to be happy.  We rest to be happy.  We wake up to be happy.  We have our weekends to be happy.  We hope the weekdays will be happy.  It’s something that’s a theme in us and whether we consciously realize that we are striving for happiness or not, it is an underlying fuel that runs the machine.  And when we are not happy, we are filled with desire.  And when we are not happy, we are suffering.

The Buddha taught us that each and every sentient being – humans, animals, and even nonphysical beings mainly wish to be happy in the simple way that we do.  I watch MSNBC news sometimes, and I watch Chris Matthews and Keith Oberman. And Chris Matthews always says in one of his commercials, “This is something uniquely American.  This is something that really shows us who we are.”  We are Americans, because in America there is the hope that this day is going to be the best day.  And that this is going to be our favorite day, and that we are going to be really happy today.  And so we wake up in America with that hope because we have the freedom to gain that happiness.  We’re not oppressed or starving or homeless or something where there is no real potential for true happiness, comfort, or ease.  I disagree with Chris Matthews even though I am a fan.  I don’t think that only in America do we wake up with that thought.  Maybe in America it seems more attainable.  But the truth of the matter is, no matter where we are, what diseases we suffer from, what poverty or hunger or disability we endure, or what oppression or warlike conditions, every single person has the wish for the freedom to be happy, and wishes for happiness.

When we realize that all sentient beings are exactly the same in that way, an understanding comes up in our minds.  It is a sense of the equality of all that lives.  Perhaps it is a sense of budding compassion or understanding.  That’s the goal anyway.

So, how does that work?  Sometimes we hear about really terrible situations, and really terrible people, such as a serial killer who has murdered like Jeffrey Dahmer.  Have you ever heard about him?  He was a serial killer that used to cannibalize people, and live with their dead bodies, and stuff like that.  Now, of course our understanding of that is that the man was extremely sick.  We can understand that, but do we understand that as strange and abhorrent and bizarre, and as ghastly his behavior was, he was striving to be happy?   But the confusion, the delusion in his mind was so thick, that in order to be happy, he had to completely dominate another life form.   Yet underlying that, even while killing, maiming and torturing people, he was striving to be happy.  That’s a bizarre thought, but it helps us to understand a little bit about the nature of suffering sentient beings.

Then we think about animals.  For those of you that don’t know, I just adore animals.  I feel very close to them, and I have a bunch.  They are my family.   Animals suffer too, and I have come to understand through my own experience, not just from the teachings, that animals also strive every day to be happy.  I see my dogs move from a hot place to a cool place, from a cool place to a warm place, and it’s about wanting to feel comfortable, to be happy.  Whenever you buy them a new toy or a new treat, they are gung-ho on it because they want to be happy.  I’ve seen for myself that desire for happiness in humans and in animals.  And so I absolutely and totally understand that what the Buddha has said is true.  While we are striving to be happy, we have absolutely no understanding as to how to go about it.  And therein lies the rub, as they say.   Therein lies the problem.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Your Life: A Vehicle of Blessings

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Turning Adversity Into Felicity

There is happiness in watching one’s mind change from that which was tightly constricted, self-absorbed and contracted into that which is spacious, lifted, calm, receptive, generous, and has a strong degree of clarity!  Watching oneself grow in that way, haven’t you ever noticed that there are so many things that bring us joy?  Like I said, we can have love, we can have money, we can have good food, we can have a great car, there are so many things that make us happy for a little while.  But my experience has been—and maybe this is the same for you as well—that nothing makes me feel more joy and more happiness than watching my own practice mature, watching my mind transform into something it wasn’t before, watching the mind grow into something which is relaxed, which has a kind of sophistication to it.  A sophistication that’s based not on closing the eyes, but engaging in a purposeful way, to watch myself develop new habits, to watch myself grow through things that I could not grow through before and suddenly I have mastered.

These are the real joys in my life.  These are the things that sustain me, and I think if you think about it, you’ll notice that every time you’ve gone through a period of spiritual development and growth, you will find that you have become much more satisfied with yourself than anything else could have made you.  Happier.  Oh, it may not be the jump-up-and-down kind of happy we get when we get that new car, but it’s a quiet, supportive, dignified, noble kind of happiness.

And what else brings us the motivation to practice that way, brings us the necessary components that unfortunately do what we need, gives us that old kick in the butt, other than adversity?  It’s adversity that ultimately comes to be the greatest blessing in our lives.  Not that you want it.  You don’t go, “Hey!  Bring on the adversity!  Bring it on!”  That’s not what you want to do.  Of course, we’re not going to think like that.  Nobody wants adversity, but the trick here–and the point of this teaching–is that we can transform adversity into extraordinary benefit through utilizing the gifts that were given to us by the Guru, through using all the objects of refuge as our ultimate support and our true refuge, through not relying on the unpredictable, temporary, mixed events of samsara and grasping at them as though they were our object of refuge, but instead relying on the Guru as the supreme object of refuge, and engaging in the Guru’s teachings, following in the Guru’s example, using that method that was given.  If we do that and transform adversity into great benefit, the benefit is extraordinary.

It’s extraordinary.  It has a depth to it that can’t be gotten any other way.  That’s all I can say about it.  If, let’s say, in Never-Never Land—we’re back to our Peter Pan thinking—it is possible to experience poverty, to wish upon a star and suddenly a million dollar check is in our hand, the superficiality of that kind of happiness would be evident from that point on through the rest of your life because all you have there is a million dollars, and a million dollars in a mind that is completely dissatisfied, untrained, unhappy, not relaxed, and does not make happiness.  And the first people who will tell you that are people with a million dollars who are not happy.

But if, on the other hand, you experience impoverishment and begin to create through your practice, in a disciplined, compassionate and honest way, the causes for prosperity, the causes for riches of all kinds to enter into your life through the practice of generosity, through the practice of offering, through the practice of the discipline of engaging in Dharma practice, through all of the many means that have been prescribed by the teacher, then not only will the impoverishment cease, but there are layers and layers and dimensions and dimensions of supportive change that intertwine and are part of and are inseparable from the feeling of opulence and wealth.  And they all become a part of you.  You develop new habits that are a part of your awareness, a part of your perception, a part of the cause and effect relationships that are the karma of your experience of continuum.  And these are the blessings that when you actually die and enter into the bardo remain with you, not the million dollar check.  You can’t take that with you.  But the practice that you have engaged in, that has created the cause for happiness and prosperity, the habit of that, the merit of that, the virtue of that, the karma of that, the causes, these seeds go with you into the bardo experience and ripen there.  They go with you into your next incarnation and ripen there.  This is the method.

And I’ll tell you that if you, with faith and confidence and patience, engage in that kind of practice, not making up your own religion, not having bliss-ninny thinking or being forever Peter Pan,  if with faith and confidence and fervent regard you actually engage in what the Guru has taught you, then it’s as though you have accomplished the most extraordinary spiritual practice.  You are actually at that point a Dharma practitioner, an intelligent one, creating cause and effect relationships that are beneficial.  When you have accomplished in that way and you have done so with the idea that with faith and fervent regard you are entering that door of liberation, out of that burning room and into happiness, then at that point it’s as though you have the very thumbprint of the guru on the fabric of your mind and on the fabric of your heart.  You have become like one of the Buddha’s sons and daughters.  You have become disciples of the Lamas who have accomplished, who have achieved all of the necessary components of enlightenment and have returned for the sake of sentient beings.  You have accomplished what the Guru has come to the world to invest in you, and it’s the only way to do it.

Simply repeating phrases, simply blinding yourself to reality, simply warping your own mind and denying what you see, simply skating through life on the surface as though there were no cause and effect relationships, as though you were basically a complete idiot, this is not receiving the blessing of the Guru.  This is not transforming adversity into felicity.

To open the eyes, to open the heart with confidence and patience, to accomplish the teachings that were actually given to us with courage, the courage of accepting responsibility, the responsibility of your own life, of your own reality, and holding that responsibility like a treasure, because once it is in your hand, it is yours.  No one can take that away from you.  Guru Rinpoche himself, if he was inclined to do so, could not take away from you the potency of how you can transform your life through practice.  No one can take that away from you.  It is the one thing that you have now in your hand that you will never be parted from unless you yourself give it up, and even then, although you’ve denied it, it’s still there.  In that way you are practicing this teaching that is so often spoken of, “turning and transforming adversity into felicity”.  Having practiced in that way, you come out of the experience of lack (or whatever it was that you had), deeper, more relaxed, more spacious, more sophisticated, more developed and happier.

You know in your heart when you have achieved that kind of success, when you have practiced in that way, and you also know when you’re faking.  My advice to you, therefore, is to look within with honesty and clarity and practice what you have been taught, and in this way your life will be transformed into a vehicle of blessings.  And it will always be that way.  And it is the one wealth that you have that you can actually take with you.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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