And Yet We Still Ignore It

The following is respectfully quoted from “What Makes You Not Buddhist” by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche:

Two thousand five-hundred thirty-eight years after Siddhartha walked out the palace door–at the time of year when many millions of people are celebrating, making merry, and anticipating a fresh start, the time to remember God for some, the time to take advantage of discount sales for others–a catastrophic tsunami shook the world. Even the most coldhearted of us gasped in horror. As the story unfolded on television, some of us wished that Orson Wells would interrupt to announce that it was all fabrication, or that Spiderman would sweep down to save the day.

There is no doubt that Prince Siddhartha’s heart would have broken to see the tsunami victims washed ashore. But his heart would have been even more broken by the fact that we were taken by surprise, proof of our constant denial of impermanence. This planet is made of volatile magma. Every land mass–Australia, Taiwan, the Americas–is like dew, about to drop from the grass. Yet construction of skyscrapers and tunnels never stops. Our insatiable deforestation for the sake of disposable chopsticks and junk mail only invites impermanence to act more quickly. It should not surprise us to see signs of the end of any given phenomenon, but we are very difficult to convince.

Yet even after a devastating reminder like the tsunami, the death and devastation will soon be camouflaged and forgotten. Luxurious resorts will be erected on the very spot where families came to identify the corpses of their loved ones. The people of the world will continue to be caught up in compounding and fabricating reality with hopes of achieving long-lasting happiness. Wishing for “happily ever after” is nothing more than a desire for permanence in disguise. Fabricating concepts such as “eternal love,” “everlasting happiness,” and “salvation” generates more evidence of impermanence. Our intention and the result are at odds. We intend to establish ourselves and our world, but we forget that the corrosion begins as soon as creation begins. What we aim for is not decay, but what we do leads directly to decay.

At the very least, Buddha advised, we must try to keep the concept of impermanence in mind and not knowingly conceal it. By maintaining our awareness of assembled phenomena, we become of aware of interdependence. Recognizing interdependence, we recognize impermanence. And when we remember that things are impermanent, we are less likely to be enslaved by assumptions, rigid beliefs (both religious and secular), value systems, or blind faith. Such awareness prevents us from getting caught up in all kinds of personal, political, and relationship dramas. We begin to know that things are not entirely under our control and never will be, so there is no expectation for things to go according to our hopes and fears. There is no one to blame when things go wrong because there are countless causes and conditions to blame. We can direct this awareness from the farthest regions of our imaginations to subatomic levels. Even atoms cannot be trusted.


Impermanence: From “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa, with commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje and Kangyur Rinpoche, as translated by Padmakara Translation Group:


1. The stable world with all its moving occupants is said to last a kalpa.
Which, by its nature, has four ages: forming, dwelling, ruin and the void.
It is disparaged with the name of Basis of Decay,
For it will be assailed by seven conflagrations and one flood.
2. The teachers of gods and humankind perceive our trust in permanence
And therefore, though they have supreme and adamantine forms,
Relax their hold on indestructibility
And joyfully display their passing into peace.

3. Those perfect in samadhi may sustain great spans of life,
But all to no avail, they must endure mortality.
Brahma, Shiva, Ishvara and all the Chakravartins
Find no way to flee the demon Lord of Death.

4. For those who flock so carefree in the wholesome vales of higher realms,
The hunter lies in wait, his weapon in his hand,
Conspiring how to rob them of their lives.
He thinks and thinks of it and has no other thoughts.

5. Tormented by the summer’s heat, beings with pleasure
In the clear light of the autumn moon.
They do not think, and it does not alarm them
That a hundred of their days has passed away.

6. A powerful bowman’s shaft is swift indeed,
But not as swift as pretas moving on the earth.
The pretas in the air are swifter still,
And swifter yet the gods of sun and moon.
But swiftest of them all is human life.

7. The prime of youth is ravaged and brought low by age.
Disease disturbs health’s equlibrium
And perfect situations are all ruined by decay.
So soon does death lay siege to life!

8. Defeated in their struggle with the Lord of Death,
Beings plunge protectorless and friendless down in the abyss.
The glow of life is dimmed; the senses fail;
And doctors with their cures all turn away.

9. Then comes feeble twitching of exhausted limbs,
The failing breath that rattles in the throat,
The family and friends who stand around and grieve
And pray their useless prayers that death might be delayed.

10. The movement of breath, now fine as horse’s hair,
Is severed by the sharp ax of the Deadly Lord.
All beauty now departs; the grin of death appears;
And karma brings the bardo’s deep, black night.

Hearty Exhortation toward the Practice

This is respectfully quoted from “Drops of Nectar: Collection of Spiritual Advice from Great Tibetan Masters” Rigdzod Editorial Committee Ngagyur Nyingma Institute, Namdroling 2004

Chapter V

Again, at this very time, seeing the essential nonexistence, I sang this song of diligence in solitary practice.

Ignorance is as vast as the sky and
The might of grasping and fixation is extremely dark,
As the affliction of unknowing is beginingless and endless,
Confused one, I now offer you this counsel!

Today, in this life, though you are pursuing the path of liberation,
You are not diligent in your practice, and are still distracted by entertainment and diversions.
What is the use of the activities of this life, mere illusory appearances?
Today, I urge you to the practice of the essential meaning!

The joy and happiness of this life are just like phenomena in dreams.
None will be of any benefit and must definitely be abandoned when you depart.
Leaving behind your food and wealth, what will you do?
Today, I urge you to the practice of the profound truth of Dharma!

Although meetings end in partings, like visitors to a market place,
One by one, various kinds of friends and companions tie us up.
What is the use of having many people around you?
Today, I urge you to practice truth constantly.

Wondrous renown and praise is like a dream.
This delusion beguiles ordinary people and their conceptualizing grows.
What’s the use of the esteem and respect of others?
Today, I urge you to practice the essential luminosity!

Any activity of this present life, whatever it may be,
Such deeds are all meaningless and the cause of suffering.
As activities are delusory, what use are they to you?
Today, I urge you to practice the truth of nothing to be done!

Leaving all that is close to you, at the time of departure, you will go alone.
Your various activities, whatever they were, will not help you in the slightest.
The phenomena of this life, what use will it be to you?
I urge you to practice what will benefit during the great going forth.

Whoever is near, whatever you possess, as much as there is,
Nothing except your virtue and negativity will follow after you
So what’s the use of your friends and relatives, your possessions and wealth?
All that is born will die, so I urge you to practice the sublime view of dharma.

In the outer world there are many objects of bliss and happiness
But however, great the experiences of mental and physical joy and pleasure,
At the time of death what use will they be to you?
I urge you to gain confidence in what will help when body and consciousness separate!

Note fearful when sick, nor regretful when dying,
The profound essential meaning of Dharma frees one from remorse at the moment of death.
In the space of the nature of reality of one familiar with self-cognizant awareness,
I urge you to achieve the stability of the true natural state!

You are not free because of constantly being born again and again in samsara.
So, today, here in this life, by capturing the throne of reality itself
In the primordial space-like sphere of unchanging Dharmakaya,
I urge you to achieve the level of the Dharmakaya of self-cognizant awareness!

These are suggestions from my heart, so listen with respect!
Practice diligently in solitude and the attainments will arise!
Nurture the state of awareness and confidence will be born!
This is condensed oral instruction of the key point of the profound meaning!

As my mind was disheartened by distraction,
In order to encourage myself to practice tranquility in solitude,
These stages of instructions as advice for myself,
Are also offered to the ears of the fortunate ones who have come!

May their virtue fill my peaceful mind
With the vast wealth of qualities of profound treasure!
And may the four precious doors of the gathering place of oceans of Dakinis,
The hidden land, be open!

From the Vajra Song of Instruction for Rousing Myself, this completes the fifth chapter of urging wholehearted practice. The “Vajra Song of Instructions for Rousing Myself,” was sung by the great yogi of the Mahayana teachings, Longchen Rabjam, at the slope of Gangri Thodkar, known as Orgyen Dzang, the excellent abode of Buddha Samantabhadra, which is glorified by the crystal reflection of the moon. Shubam!

Why Practice Dharma?

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Stabilizing the Mind”

Do you really understand why you are practicing Buddhism?

Ultimately, when you come to understand what the Buddha and all the great lamas have taught, you will come to understand that it basically boils down to the fact that all sentient beings are suffering, that desire is the cause of suffering, that there is an end to suffering, and that end is enlightenment.  There are different ways that you can attain enlightenment, but they all have to do with ending attachment and desire in the mindstream.  They have to do with realizing that one’s nature is not the same as the conceptual proliferations that we live with, the desire that we live with, and the ego that we perceive as ourselves.  I really think that once you understand enough so that you can look at your life – with all its emotional highs and lows – and realize that it is impermanent, that you’re just riding on your own concepts and that by doing that you can’t make your mind stable enough to break free of the compulsion to revolve in cyclic existence for eons and eons that awareness becomes the taskmaster.  That realization becomes the teacher.

If you don’t realize that circumstances are impermanent, if you’re practicing because you have some crazy idea that you’re going to be a great being some day or that you’re going to triumph in the end, and that it’s all about self and self-cherishing, if you have some romantic notion about ordination or about practicing at all, you won’t be stable in your practice.  Understanding the teachings about impermanence is the stabilizer, the real teacher.  Understanding from the depth of your heart that desire really is the cause of suffering is the taskmaster.  Looking at your mind in some stable way so that you can understand that the mind just floats helplessly, constantly, on its own concepts, whichever way the concepts go, up or down, and that these concepts are the cause for suffering and that there’s no lasting happiness in them, gives you a firm foundation.  It is then that you understand why you practice, and although the circumstances of your life may change, you will never turn away from practice.  You may go to work or you may stay home; you may have children or you may not; you may take robes or you may not. Whatever the circumstances are of your life, as long as you know these things, you will remain firm.  Your infatuation with the culture, with the music, with the color, with the ritual of Tibetan Buddhism will never be enough.  You have to understand the heart of the Buddha’s teaching.  You have to understand the value of compassion.  You have to understand how important it is to end suffering and what the means are to end suffering in order to stay with the Dharma, in order to be stable and safe in the Dharma.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Contemplating Impermanence

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Western Chod”

I tried to think to myself: So this life, what is it? What could it be like?  I thought, “What is the best case scenario.” You know, this whole scene that I have right here?  What’s the best way this could work out?  I really played with this a little bit. (See “Best Case Scenario”)

I thought about what are the probable scenarios that will actually happen. Then I had to be more realistic and I really looked at my life. I didn’t fall out of love with it or anything. I just really examined it, in as dispassionate a way as I could. I also examined what the potential pitfalls are. I understood that you can eat health food, exercise all the time, sleep 10 hours per day, no matter what, and put yourself in a bubble where there are no chemicals in your environment,.You can do anything you want to, and no matter what, you are still going to experience the same end result and it’s still going to be samsara that we are caught in.

You cannot guarantee that even if you do all those things, the minute you step out into the street a truck’s not going to hit you. You can’t guarantee that. That’s why I understood that even though many things about this life appear stable, in fact they are not stable. So I prepared myself for that kind of understanding in that way. I would do that kind of contemplation everyday.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Best Case Scenario

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Western Chod”

I began to think, “This nature, this is something, this is really something.” So the practice that I engaged in (and this is how I was instructed to do so) was a practice of initially realizing the nature and then examining the cycle of death and rebirth, or what I now understand is called samsara. So I examined the cycle of death and rebirth. And even that term I didn’t have—cycle of death and rebirth. You have to understand I hadn’t heard any of these words before. So I was penning my own words to this idea or concept or reality that I was sensing and the concept that I was thinking about. So I began to think out what is this life that we are living then?  This is this absolute nature. What is this life we are living now where we remain kind of blind to this nature?  I began to really probe this life and tried to see: What is the best thing this life can give me or give anyone and what’s the worst? I began to examine all the different scenarios associated with ordinary life.

At that time I was living on a beautiful farm in North Carolina and I was 20, so I would have to say that I was a potentially aging hippy girl. I was living on this farm and I had the idea of going to back to the land. I was growing food. I was learning how to grow a garden. At the time I thought that I was so cool with that and so sophisticated. Later I found out that the farmers around us really thought that we were going to starve to death if we were any dumber. But, anyway, we were doing our best, and I learned how to can beans and all that stuff. So I had this wonderful thing going on. I was living at the foot of the mountains. I could walk out on my porch and see the mountains. I had a beautiful little baby boy, beautiful blonde hair. He looked like an angel. I had a wonderful husband and everything was just great.

I tried to think to myself: So this life, what is it? What could it be like?  I thought, “What is the best case scenario.” You know, this whole scene that I have right here?  What’s the best way this could work out?  I really played with this a little bit.

I thought, okay, first of all, this is my initial demand: I never get old. No aging happens here. In my fantasy, these things weren’t going to happen, and when I am queen, they won’t. So I really thought that I am not going to age. This is the first thing: Nobody ages in this. We don’t age or, at least, I personally find the secret of how to use Este Lauder products perfectly, this secret which I am ever questing. I find the way to use them perfectly and finally she comes out with that new product, the one that I am waiting for, the one that makes everything better.

The same thing with my husband. There’s the male version of Este Lauder. We put it on him and he is great, too. My child does grow up, but, of course, he never ages either. Of course, my  child grows up to be president or maybe first a doctor and then president. At his inauguration speech and, as well as when he receives his medical degree, at both of those occasions, he says, “It was my mom that made it possible.”  Of course, I still look very young, and, of course, I am much more beautiful than I have ever been in my life.

So far this is working out pretty well, don’t you think?  My husband and I never get into that place in marriage where you wake up next to each other and go “Hi”, ummm. We never got to that point. In this fantasy, it was always like those old Breck shampoo commercials. Every time we’d see each other we’d come bounding across the room and jump 10 feet into each other’s arms and land on our feet comfortably. It would all be very elegant. It would be choreographed perfectly, and we would both know our parts. I have a lot of romance in me, you see.

So after that we always had really good food to eat and everything is perfect. We live well—two cars and a chicken in every pot, or whatever, and all this kind of stuff. So everything is perfect. Then I thought to myself, “All this happens. Then what is the end of the story?”  Well, the end of the story is just like the end of any other story that you can find in the human realm. No matter what Este Lauder does, we are going to get old because time is going to pass. She had not figured out the chemistry of time yet. So time’s going to pass. The end is going to be the same. We are going to be old. We’re going to, at some point, get sick and then we are going to die. I began to meditate on the fact that whatever comes together in samsara has to separate. That’s just the nature of it; it’s never been otherwise. Whatever is born, dies. Whatever is young, gets old. It’s the nature of it.

I meditated on that constantly. Then I would try all these other different scenarios. I tried to develop five or six best case scenarios and I gave myself total freedom. Well, suppose none of this here in front of me works out but, supposing the ultimate man of every woman’s dream rides up on a white horse and that horse does not do-do in the lawn, which white horses are likely to do. So all of that happens and the whole children thing works out where everybody’s rich and everybody’s happy, everybody’s famous or whatever. Well, in my case, it would be private not famous, but that would be the best case scenario.

With all of them, I thought of what it could be like. Every time I explored it, I found that the end result was always the same. It was always old age, sickness and death. The best ones, even if I had one of those funds where you prepare for your old age and even if it’s just prosperous and wonderful right up until the very end—I’d take up golf and die with a gold club in my hand, or something like that, whatever —it’s still going to end up the same way.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Identifying What is Important

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Commitment to the Path:

These two particular teachings about the preciousness of this human rebirth and the impermanence of all things samsaric are supposed to make us see, recognize and call to mind and to be mindful of the difference between what is ordinary and what is extraordinary.  What is ordinary experiences birth and death.  It doesn’t travel with you.   It’s a product of samsara and its building blocks, which are delusion, and the senses, which are also deluded.  And while this is what builds samsara (and this is nothing to feel comfortable in), once you identify that, you can also identify what is extraordinary. And what is extraordinary is the Buddha nature.

We think about the Buddha nature as it appears in the world as the ground, the method and the fruit.  The ground is that the Dharma, Buddhism—the way that the Buddha enters into the world—always comes from the mind of enlightenment.  Whenever the Buddha speaks, the Buddha speaks from enlightenment, from the Buddha nature that does not experience rebirth. All teachings in Dharma, then, arise from the foundation, the ground. All teachings in Dharma are expressed as the method, or path.  One thing that distinguishes us from other religions is that we have method, real solid method and many different methods, to suit different karmic propensities.  But the method is given rise by the Buddha nature, so the method and the Buddha nature are not only similar; they are the same taste, the same stuff.  So the path is enlightened as well.  The result, of course, is Buddhahood, liberation from ordinary death and rebirth and the realization of the primordial wisdom nature, that awakened state that the Buddha described.  That’s the result—Buddhahood which arises from Buddhahood, which is Buddhahood and remains Buddhahood. The ground, the method and the result are indistinguishable.

So now we have identified what is impermanent.  We have identified what is useless.  Now we begin, because of that teaching, to identify what is extraordinary, what is of benefit. From that knowledge we can begin to make choices about how to practice our path.  You can see how it would be difficult to make a real commitment without understanding that.  It would be a fad for you, a thing.

Tibetan Buddhism is really kind of stylish right now.  We’re in vogue, but that’s not how we should approach this.  We have to approach it with eyes open. And believe me, as you get older, you’re going to realize that, just like the Buddha taught, our lives are like a waterfall rushing down a mountain.  Oh, you might think, that’s not bad.  Waterfalls last a long time, but don’t you get it?  You’re looking at a condition.  When you see a waterfall, you’re looking at a condition.  The cup of water that falls from the top reaches the bottom in a heartbeat and we’re like that.   We look at life and we think, oh, it’s constant.  Been here for a while.  Probably be here for a while.  But that cup of water falls down so fast that we come to the point at the end of our lives and we wonder. We look in the mirror and we see ourselves.  We have graying hair and like I said, everything is falling south and all these changes are happening. For me, I look in the mirror and here is this middle age woman and I go, how did that happen.? I am just a kid.  I’m just learning something here.  How did that happen?  And that is the experience that we have.  It goes that quickly.

And while life seems like a jewel to be enjoyed, we do not understand that if we spend our time enjoying it, it will be over in a flash and we will have gone to a precious continent and brought nothing back.  And it’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy it.  I’m trying to enjoy my life, but I get the big picture.  And that’s the thing we need to do here.  We need to get the big picture. If we are in this place of great benefit and we have met with the teacher and met with the path, we must encourage ourselves to take advantage of this precious opportunity. I hope that you’ll think about this again and again and again.

Lord Buddha teaches us that all sentient beings are suffering, that all of samsara is pervaded with suffering, that we are wandering in cyclic existence helplessly.  We are taught that all sentient beings are the same in their nature and the same in the fact that they all wish to be happy. Even when they do crazy things, they are trying to be happy, to feel good.  And we realize while there is all this suffering, there is an end to this suffering and that end is liberation.  And that’s the only good news in all of life.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved.


Foundation of Faith

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Commitment to the Path”

The Buddha teaches that we never really know for sure when death will occur.  Maybe a great bodhisattva or a great lama with some wisdom can predict a day.  That often happens, but that is a different story.  We’re talking about sentient beings in samsara.  You think, well, I’m pretty healthy and I’ve had a checkup and I’m OK. But you know,  you can get hit by a car.  You can get hit by a truck.  You can fall out of a plane.  There are all kinds of ways to go.  So none of us really knows when that time will come. Will it happen then that we disappear from this earth having had this jewel in our hands and it’s just gone?   Then we’re no longer on this precious continent.  We’re back in poverty and we have nothing. So we contemplate on this to make us aware that we need, want and find precious every blessing that we can get our hands on, and that we need, want and really care about our practice. Because it is this and this alone that provides the stable foundation that we can build a strong house of faith upon.

There is one other thing that the Buddha teaches us that is hard to understand, and this one is the toughest, the very, very toughest.  It’s even tougher than you’re going to die someday.  It’s the teaching about impermanence.  Just when you think it is safe to go in the water, there’s another shark.  Isn’t it the truth?  You know, after a while you get a little punchy with samsara, sort of twitchy.  After you get to be a certain age, you realize that there have been times that you have been blissfully happy, I mean, like really turned on.  Up.  But where are you now?  This thing never lasts.  You get so punchy that you get to the point where when you start to go up and you start to feel really happy and you start to think, “I’m handling things here. Everything is looking good,” that you are looking over your shoulder. You know the rest is right behind you and there is no sense getting too excited about too much of anything because it is all temporary.  Of course, you have to live a while to understand that, until it beats you over the head.  But we do get it eventually.

The Buddha teaches us that nothing is permanent.  What comes together must go apart.  What goes up must go down.  Everything that has a beginning has an ending. And everything that we experience in this lifetime has a beginning  so there will be an end to every experience.

Now fortunately we use that information when we’re really in tough shape.  Because in tough shape, you know it’s not going to be permanent.  Nothing is permanent.  So we are taught that we are living in this kind of drunken, conditioned, narcotic state where we are wandering through experience not knowing why experience is coming to us. How has this happened to me? Why is this happening to me?  It’s always in our minds, because we can only see the content of this lifetime.  We do not understand and appreciate that the reason this is happening to us now is that we have previously created the causes.  Cause and effect arise interdependently, so there is no other way for anything to happen to us.  So we realize that everything that is happening to us now is kind of a flow of dreamlike, narcotic, dualistic perception that appears outwardly pointed at us. It appears that it is happening to us because of the nature of our delusion, because of the nature of our ignorance—that we are wandering through this experience. From time to time you get the feeling that gosh, you’d like to wake up.  Wouldn’t it be great to just wake up?  You can’t. You’re just wandering through this.  And so, Lord Buddha uses the teaching of impermanence to help us recognize that, because we as sentient beings like to hang onto false stability.

I feel really good because I’m sitting on a chair that is very solid.  It’s very solid, because I am pretty high off the ground here.  If I were to fall down this far, I’d probably hurt myself, so I feel pretty good about the solidity of this chair.  And it’s a great analogy, because really in my mind, the solidity of this chair has more to do with my lineage than it has to do with the wood.  I’m really kind of interested in physics and stuff like that.  If I didn’t become who I am and I didn’t follow my secondary occupation of being a Motown backup singer, which I wanted to be, I think I would have been a scientist, because I like to study a little bit about physics, What I realize about physics is that this chair has more space in it than it has wood.  It’s a bunch of atoms and stuff (I don’t remember their names),all strung together. They are empty things;  they are spacious things.  They are not solid things.  I am really sitting on a bunch of space right now..  What keeps it together is the karma of the situation.  What keeps it together is our capacity for perception.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved


Understanding Death and Rebirth

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Commitment to the Path”:

The Buddha wants us to understand that the only thing that has lasting value, that is actually truly and really good for us, that will lead us to the door of liberation, that will lead us into spiritual reality, are the Three Precious Jewels— the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. And in Vajrayana the Lama is the condensed essence of all those three.

We are taught that everything is impermanent and nothing can be trusted, because nothing goes with you when you die. There is only one thing that you can gather and accumulate that has any value and that is virtuous habitual tendencies, the dissolution of the poisons.  One’s karmic propensities and habitual tendencies are the only thing that leave with us when we die, continue with us in the bardo and return with us and form our next life.  It is this package of habitual tendencies and karmic material that actually experiences death and rebirth.  The Buddha teaches that it isn’t even the fact that you reincarnate.  The Buddha teaches us that we experience rebirth and death.  There is a difference.  What is experiencing that birth and death is this package of habitual tendencies and karmic propensities. And that is how the experience happens.  But you, in your nature, are the primordial wisdom Buddha.  You cannot die and be reborn.  But if you are dead to that reality, asleep to that reality, you only experience death and rebirth.

If we really take the Buddha’s teachings on impermanence and carry them to a deeper level, we begin to understand this.  The Buddha teaches us that due to delusion we experience rebirth, death and rebirth.  That which you are does not reincarnate.  It’s like saying that what we are experiencing are the waves on top of an ocean.  You can’t keep anything still there—it’s all wavy. But the truth of our nature, the meaning of the path, is the sanctity and solidity of the ocean floor that never changes.  That is why the Buddha teaches us about impermanence. Not to scare us, not to make us unhappy.  To tell somebody a thing is a certain way doesn’t make them any unhappier if it is that way.  It makes them able to cope, to deal, to decide.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved


There is No Refuge in Samsara

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Commitment to the Path”

Lord Buddha teaches us about the impermanence of all things so that we can appreciate that fact and so that we are not duped. And folks, we are so duped. Everything in our lives is geared to dupe us by false stability.  Watch the commercials.  Commercials are fascinating.  Someday, for Dharma practitioners, they ought to have the commercials going and knock out the shows because commercials will teach you everything.  They will teach you that when you have a new car, you will be safe.  They will teach you that if you have air bags, you will be safe.  They will teach you that if you have Gap clothes, you will be cool, because groups of people will form around you and start dancing.  And that feels really cool.  And they’ve told you that if you have, let’s see, if you invest online then you are like the coolest dude in the world and it’s just so cool.  You’ll find great stability there.  So from commercials, from information, you’re always getting this “There, there little kid.  It’s all going to be fine.”  And you are left impotent, unable to understand.  So Lord Buddha teaches us, don’t find your security in that.  All that stuff is impermanent.  All of that stuff is as good as truthless; it’s so impermanent, without validity, without stability.  Money does not provide stability.  Relationships do not provide stability.  Things that we do both occupationally and recreationally do not provide stability.  Comfort food does not provide stability.  None of the things we use provide stability.  And this is what the Buddha is trying to say. He’s not trying to break your heart.

When you first wake up to this, it’s kind of sad.  It does break your heart a little bit and you find yourself in the position of needing maybe to grieve just a little. It’s like waking up from a dream where everything is promised to you.  You wake up and it’s all gone.  Nothing was delivered and you have a sense of grief.  Have you ever had a dream like that? When something really precious and important came to you and when you woke up it was gone?  Maybe a person returned to you or some money came to you or whatever.  So that’s how it is.

Lord Buddha is not in the business of breaking our hearts.  We have to think of Lord Buddha in this case like  a dedicated physician, or like the supreme mother or parent who guides us like a good parent would, through our confusion into clarity and healing.  That is what the Buddha is doing when the Buddha speaks about impermanence.  The Buddha goes through all kinds of teachings about impermanence.  It’s really important to get this, whether you are a beginning student, or whether you have practiced for years.  You will go dry in your practice if you do not constantly review these teachings that everything is impermanent, because we are so habituated to find security right here, right now, where this is absolutely none.  We even see our bodies as stable.  I feel very safe right now because I can look in the mirror and see that I am healthy.  What kind of delusion is that?  How much have I changed in the last 20 years?  Have I gotten healthier?  I don’t think so.  Nothing about the body is stable, nothing.  Nothing about anything that we have built up around ourselves is stable, and yet we find stability thinking that it’s always going to be this way.  Even having seen the change from babyhood to childhood to young adulthood to maturity, even having seen that, we still don’t believe.  We still try to find safety in false things, temporary things. So Lord Buddha really spends a lot of time on that in order to condition us so that we will have the opportunity to focus and be mindful, and begin to wake up from that narcotic sleep,  The Buddha wants us to see the truth, wants us to understand that this is not refuge.  Here in samsara there is no refuge.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved


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