When Obstacles Arise

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

The thing to do when entering the path, in order to take responsibility and to stabilize your mind and your practice, is to begin to accumulate merit in a consistent and intelligent way.  That doesn’t mean talk about it. That doesn’t mean dress up for it, like, “I’m a Dharma practitioner and the first thing I need are coral beads because that’s what she has.” People do think like that when they come to the path, and it’s a little silly. Just back off from that.

Think to yourself, “How can I accumulate virtue and merit? How can I stabilize my mind and my practice through providing the causes and the nourishment that I need?” You could for once be your own friend! Just for once give yourself the food, the nourishment, the fuel that you need. The way to do that is to accumulate virtue and merit through acts of generosity, through contemplation, through study, through providing a way for others to hear Dharma, through making offerings, through kindness, through following the instructions of your teacher.  Your teacher has given you methods to accumulate merit and virtue, so do them consistently in a calm and relaxed way. In this way, your first moving onto the path will be relatively painless.

One of the things that students experience when they first come onto the path is hidden body karma. You see, it’s already there. Can you understand that concept? You already have this body karma. It will ripen anyway at some point. Better that it should ripen under the guidance and tutelage of your teacher and of the path.

Let’s say that you have some body karma near the surface of your mind. Sometimes a person will come to the path and literally catch the flu or a disease, cut themselves, or maybe even break a leg, something like that. I’ve seen that happen. Usually it’s not a big deal, but I’ve seen it happen. The thing to do then is to immediately turn the mind, in a relaxed way, toward accumulating virtue and merit rather than freaking out. Most people freak out. “I went to Dharma, and I broke my leg! Screech!” That’s their intelligent response. Hey, you would have broken the leg anyway, maybe both legs, but at least you had some merit going there. So who knows what could have happened? The intelligent thing to do is to thank Guru Rinpoche for this blessing—a benign ripening that indicates to you what the condition of your present cause-and-effect relationships actually are—and for having been given the tool to work through this. So you begin to practice and accumulate merit.

Some people come to the path and they seem really, really nice. You think, “Isn’t that a nice person! Such a nice person!” And then they’re on the path maybe six months, and suddenly it’s like they grow fangs and turn into something completely different. And you wonder whatever happened to that nice, easygoing person. They turn into something that looks like Freddy Krueger or something, I don’t know. You know who Freddy Krueger is? He’s that really scary guy. So they turn into somebody really, really horrible. Why is that ? Right underneath the surface of their mind, there was sort of a bag or a ball of ripening non-virtue that was going to come to the surface anyway.

It might have come in dribs and drabs and made them just periodically mean throughout the rest of their life, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Or who knows? They might have put themself in a very wonderful situation and maybe – here’s a hypothetical situation – gotten married and then turned into the nightmare on Elm Street. Who knows what could have happened? Who knows how it might have ripened? But sometimes it happens that a deep disturbance in the mind will simply come to the surface, and for a while, that person will not seem like themselves at all.

What do you think needs to happen then? If a big obstacle comes to the surface and ripens when you first meet the path, you can see how endangered you are, can’t you? That’s a terrible danger because if you’re sick and your mind become disturbed, there’s no telling what you’ll do.  You have seen yourselves react in unpredictable ways. You think you know yourselves. Then you’re faced with a situation in which you act completely unpredictably due to your emotions being really roused up. We all think we know how we’re going to act, but then we see ourselves when we really get an emotional head of steam going.  We often act differently than we think we might have acted.

Well, if you have that kind of mental ripening when you first come to the path, that’s the most dangerous obstacle of all because the mind changes. Being of clear mind and clear thought coming to the path, you might say, “Yes, I have earned this. This is the method. I wish to abandon samsara. I wish to do this for the sake of sentient beings.” It sounds like pretty decent, logical and sound thinking to me. Then when the obstacle hits, your mind might be in a completely different place, and you might say, “I don’t have to. I don’t want to. I won’t!” Your mind just changes, and a part of you that you hardly ever relate to, that you mostly suppress, comes out and takes over. I’ve seen it happen. It will simply take over. What should you do at that point? Once an obstacle like that has begun to ripen, it’s very, very, very hard, particularly in the beginning when you’re an infant on the path and unable to really utilize all the tools.

But I say to you that the best thing to do at that time is to take refuge in the Guru, in the Buddha, in the Dharma and in the Sangha with all your heart. Take refuge. In your own mind say, “These are impure qualities. Samsara is not perfect. Therefore I take refuge and wish to be free.” Just like that. Hold on to that. Don’t let go of that. It is precious and important and necessary.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Freedom Isn’t Free: Understanding Merit and the Path

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

It is important to remember that when you enter the path you have earned the right to be here. This is absolutely the case. I can swear to it because you are here. You have absolutely accumulated the necessary virtue and merit within your mindstream in order to be able to hear these teachings and to do these practices, and even to prepare for your own death.

Yet, there is a Catch-22 situation that’s very difficult with Dharma. You have absolutely earned this opportunity and it is your right and your responsibility to take advantage of it. Now think about this: You could not be hearing these teachings from me if you had not made extensive prayers in some way at some time. It has to be so or you would not be here. You must have made prayers to Tara. You must have made prayers to Guru Rinpoche. You must have made prayers to meet your teacher and to be with your teacher and to hear these words. This must be so, or you could not have created the causes by which you are enjoying this opportunity.

So what does that mean then? That means that you’re here. Simply that, only that. That means that you’re here, and you’re ready to rock and roll. Now think about this. This is something else that’s important and something to think:  our Dharma, and particularly the Vajrayana path, is the singular most potent and powerful method that exists on this planet. That is to say that one can achieve true enlightenment, not what New Age people call enlightenment, but the real thing, like the Buddha, like great Bodhisattvas. One can achieve enlightenment within the context of one lifetime or immediately following this lifetime in the bardo state – that’s what the practice of Phowa is about – or within three lifetimes or within seven lifetimes. But surely, if one were to practice Vajrayana, and one were to practice it faithfully, one would achieve the ultimate result relatively quickly. That makes this the most potent path on the planet at this time, the most potent. We know this because we have seen that there are those who have achieved enlightenment in one lifetime. This is not true of other systems.

Now, that being the case, if it has that kind of weight, what kind of virtue or merit would be needed to keep that coming in, to keep that blessing flowing? An enormous amount. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? It’s like the you-get-what-you-pay-for kind of philosophy. If we were to think in materialistic terms, if you want the best, the absolute best, you have to pay the highest price. It’s expensive. Good quality costs money. In material terms you think like that. Doesn’t it follow then, logically, that that which is potent and of highest quality spiritually would also require the highest spiritual investment?

On the path, there is the necessity to accumulate merit and virtue in an extensive and responsible way because when we first come to the path is we immediately expend our accumulated merit. Here’s the picture: What has come forward to us, what has ripened in our mindstream, is the accumulation of some meritorious virtuous activity we’ve done in the past that allows us to hook into the path in this lifetime.

Upon using up that tremendous amount of merit that fortunately has risen to the surface in order to bring us to the path, an obstacle may arise. It takes such an enormous amount of merit in order to travel on the path, particularly to begin the path, that we may not have at the surface of our mind, or at the surface of our expressive continuum, enough merit to sustain us. So immediately upon coming to the path, the teacher gives instruction. The teacher says accumulate many repetitions of the Seven-Line Prayer. That is a merit-making machine. It is a way to accumulate the most merit. Then immediately after that, we are told to practice Ngöndro, preliminary practice. In Ngöndro, you are given five different ways to accumulate merit, and they are extremely potent. It is actually meant to guide you through the shoals of beginning practice until the mind becomes sufficiently purified and deepened to the degree that it will sustain itself through the shining qualities of its own virtue and merit.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

How Do You Respond to the Path?

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

Upon first meeting with the path there can be all sorts of emotional responses. This isn’t always the case. Again, everything I say is modified by the kind of person you are, that is, your own habitual tendency. When I say, the kind of person you are, actually, according to Buddha’s doctrine that doesn’t really mean that there are many different kinds of persons. According to the Buddha’s teaching, there is, if we understand our nature, actually no place where I end and you begin, or you end and I begin. There is only one nature. There is simply that–suchness, thusness. But in our relative world we do see individualization. So what are we talking about when we say how a person is? When we’re talking about how a person is, we’re actually talking about the sum total of that person’s habitual tendencies because that is the only thing that appears to differentiate us. In our nature we are the same. In our needs we are the same. In our hopes and fears we are the same. In our problems we are the same, really. Old age, sickness and death, who is going to escape that? It’s one of the problems of the human realm, and we all share it, you see.
So here we are experiencing all things together but we appear very, very different, and that’s due to our habitual tendency. It is our habit to think in a certain way; it is our habit to act in a certain way; it is our habit to respond in a certain way. Some people habitually respond very emotionally. It’s their nature to be emotional. It’s their habit to be emotional, and it has no meaning other than the fact that it’s the way that they habitually act. Other people habitually act without emotion, or they habitually think things through in a more logical or mental way. That has no meaning either other than to say that that is their habitual tendency. These wonderful characteristics that we hold so personal and so dear actually aren’t anything. They’re like speaking into the wind. The words are simply carried where they are, and it means nothing. It isn’t heard, it isn’t loud, it isn’t quiet, it’s just what it is, speaking into the wind.

Each of us seems to have different ways of coping with things. In terms of coming to the path for the first time, we are stimulated. That’s for sure! That’s one thing that’s universal. It’s across the board. We are stimulated! How are we stimulated? Again, it’s according to our habitual tendency. For many of us, when we first come to the path we are simply so happy to be finding something that appears to us like a rock of solidity and depth and perceptiveness, of purity, something that appears to be like a shining light in a very dark place. So we feel joy and relief and gratitude that this is happening. Then for other people, when they first come to the path, they are impressed with its exoticness. It does seem very exotic. They have strong feelings about that. They always feel that they are drawn to the exotic, and they always feel that they are special or different or unique in some way. To be in something exotic when everybody else isn’t doing something exotic feels very satisfying in some way.

Then other people, when they come to the path, come to the path with a great deal of fear. They are almost drawn despite themselves. They’re drawn because they know they need to be here. They know they want to be here. In some way they are pulled toward being here, and yet in another way it’s almost as though they’re walking in the door backwards because they’re so afraid of confronting it in a true and honest way. They almost wait for circumstances to drag them in by the throat. I’ve seen that pattern many times. Students will wait until their lives are literally falling apart before they will try to come to Dharma and understand cause and effect relationships.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Upon first meeting with the path there can be all sorts of emotional responses. This isn’t always the case. Again, everything I say is modified by the kind of person you are, that is, your own habitual tendency. When I say, the kind of person you are, actually, according to Buddha’s doctrine that doesn’t really mean that there are many different kinds of persons. According to the Buddha’s teaching, there is, if we understand our nature, actually no place where I end and you begin, or you end and I begin. There is only one nature. There is simply that–suchness, thusness. But in our relative world we do see individualization. So what are we talking about when we say how a person is? When we’re talking about how a person is, we’re actually talking about the sum total of that person’s habitual tendencies because that is the only thing that appears to differentiate us. In our nature we are the same. In our needs we are the same. In our hopes and fears we are the same. In our problems we are the same, really. Old age, sickness and death, who is going to escape that? It’s one of the problems of the human realm, and we all share it, you see.

So here we are experiencing all things together but we appear very, very different, and that’s due to our habitual tendency. It is our habit to think in a certain way; it is our habit to act in a certain way; it is our habit to respond in a certain way. Some people habitually respond very emotionally. It’s their nature to be emotional. It’s their habit to be emotional, and it has no meaning other than the fact that it’s the way that they habitually act. Other people habitually act without emotion, or they habitually think things through in a more logical or mental way. That has no meaning either other than to say that that is their habitual tendency. These wonderful characteristics that we hold so personal and so dear actually aren’t anything. They’re like speaking into the wind. The words are simply carried where they are, and it means nothing. It isn’t heard, it isn’t loud, it isn’t quiet, it’s just what it is, speaking into the wind.

Each of us seems to have different ways of coping with things. In terms of coming to the path for the first time, we are stimulated. That’s for sure! That’s one thing that’s universal. It’s across the board. We are stimulated! How are we stimulated? Again, it’s according to our habitual tendency. For many of us, when we first come to the path we are simply so happy to be finding something that appears to us like a rock of solidity and depth and perceptiveness, of purity, something that appears to be like a shining light in a very dark place. So we feel joy and relief and gratitude that this is happening. Then for other people, when they first come to the path, they are impressed with its exoticness. It does seem very exotic. They have strong feelings about that. They always feel that they are drawn to the exotic, and they always feel that they are special or different or unique in some way. To be in something exotic when everybody else isn’t doing something exotic feels very satisfying in some way.

Then other people, when they come to the path, come to the path with a great deal of fear. They are almost drawn despite themselves. They’re drawn because they know they need to be here. They know they want to be here. In some way they are pulled toward being here, and yet in another way it’s almost as though they’re walking in the door backwards because they’re so afraid of confronting it in a true and honest way. They almost wait for circumstances to drag them in by the throat. I’ve seen that pattern many times. Students will wait until their lives are literally falling apart before they will try to come to Dharma and understand cause and effect relationships.

Experimenting

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

When we first come to the path, there are some events that characteristically happen for which new practitioners are not necessarily prepared. Remember, we’re just starting, so we’re still thinking in a superficial way. One of the most difficult aspects is that when we first come to the path we hear a few ideas. We hear karma, we hear cause and effect, we hear hope and fear, we hear ego and grasping, but as a new practitioner we really don’t understand. We’ve got the words and can probably repeat a few sentences about them by rote, but we really don’t understand them. That’s easily seen when we actually talk to new practitioners.

When little babies first play with toys, the first thing they do is to pick them up and throw them down so they can understand what the toy is and what reality actually is. Then they begin to build with blocks, and then crash them down. They’re experimenting. Just like that, new practitioners will begin to experiment with Dharma ideas and Dharma terms, but they won’t yet have the depth to really understand what they’re saying. I’ve even had the experience of Dharma practitioners that are here for a very short time come and talk to me and try to razzle-dazzle me with their Dharma vocabulary. Actually, if you listen to it, it makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s not that the person is stupid and unable to understand Dharma. It’s just that they’re being exactly like that child who is trying out the new toy, building it up and knocking it down. They’re just kind of working the kinks out of the system, and that’s OK in the beginning.

At the beginning, we’re struggling to hold on to, to really compute, to compile deeper concepts than we ordinarily do. Having heard the teaching, however, we are truly responsible for going deeper. As a beginning student there are certain things that we need to understand with some depth. As new students, we don’t have all that depth just yet in terms of our understanding of the Buddhadharma, so we have to rely on our teachers. Actually we always have to rely on our teachers, but in this case specifically, we really have to put aside the “game playing” of our own mind in order to understand something a little bit deeper so that we can be prepared. As though we were a good king or queen of our country, we have to always be in charge. Even if it’s just the beginning of our reign, we still have to be on top of it and in charge.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Four Noble Truths – An Introduction

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

One of the things that I have learned since I met with my teacher is to follow the fundamental thoughts as taught by the Buddha very carefully, starting with the thought that all sentient beings are suffering, and that suffering is all pervasive.  According to the Buddha’s teachings, we are all suffering from desire.  It seems as though we are suffering from external circumstances, but, in fact, we are suffering from desire.  In fact, we are suffering from our response to desire as well.  So we have a complicated, dualistic, or I should say double-edged, kind of suffering.  We have the suffering that comes from desire, and we also have the suffering that is invoked when desire is not met.  So it is two-edged and more complicated than one would think.

All sentient beings are suffering. They are suffering from desire, but there is an end to suffering.  This is the news that is so good it is almost hard to take in.  This is the news that is so magnificent that it is actually hard to understand when we have had an entire life, and we have noticed that there is always something. There is always something.  Everything that comes together separates.  Everything that is really good and has brought a lot of joy and a lot of benefit, gone.  Even if we find ourselves in the most joyous, gorgeous, fabulous mood, it lasts about, oh, ten minutes.  So we have noticed that happiness is ephemeral.  It comes and goes. It sort of burns away and returns, and in between there is that suffering.

So when we hear that there is an end to suffering, a cessation to suffering, we wonder, how can this be?  How can this possibly be?

The Buddha teaches us the next thought then, that the end or cessation of suffering is called enlightenment.  Yes, that is true because none of us, being ordinary sentient beings, have experienced enlightenment yet.  Sentient beings simply have not experienced that, so they do not know what the cessation of suffering actually feels like.

Then after introducing these thoughts, Lord Buddha teaches us how to accomplish the cessation of suffering, or enlightenment.  In many forms of Buddhism, this is called the Eightfold Path.  In our system of Buddhism, this is condensed into the accomplishment of two things: wisdom and knowledge. We are taught that in order to accomplish the cessation of suffering we must exit samsara and enter into that precious awakened state called enlightenment.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Mystical Bond

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

The Lama, being the condensed essence of all three objects of refuge, is also considered to be inseparable from the Dharma.  The Buddha is like the Lama’s mind in this case.  The Dharma is like the Lama’s speech.  So as a student, together with one’s Lama, one takes on the responsibility of learning Dharma.  It really isn’t enough to go around and say, “I have a Buddhist teacher!  Oh, I have a Buddhist teacher!  This is very good!”  And feel really happy about that.  That is great.  I hope you do feel happy about it, but it is not enough to do that and no more because it really isn’t that valuable to have met with your teacher, which is really very precious, if you do not follow the Buddha’s teaching, which is the Dharma.  Otherwise, what you are doing is coming to the temple to be entertained once a week for roughly an hour and a half, or longer, if you engage in other activities.  So a relationship where only entertainment occurs is really not that valuable.  You can get that from Blockbuster.  You don’t need a Buddhist teacher for that.

What you need a Buddhist teacher for is to connect you to the method, the Dharma, which is the Buddha’s speech.  You need a teacher so that you can travel on this path in order to accomplish the supreme result of liberation.  So the second commitment that the student must make to the teacher is to practice and learn Dharma, to maintain a healthy spiritual interest in Dharma and that means, once again, reflecting on the Buddha’s foundational teachings–realizing the faults or flaws of cyclic existence.  Then we practice a kind of renunciation that makes us eager to drink the nectar of the Buddha’s teaching for our self and for all sentient beings.  We begin to develop the mind of compassion.  For our self and for all sentient beings this Dharma practice represents the end of suffering, so we are eager and pleased to learn Dharma, to learn to think like a Dharma practitioner.  That is the second commitment.

The Lama, as the condensed essence of all three objects of refuge, is also considered to be the Sangha.  The mystical relationship between the Lama and the Sangha is quite profound, quite beautiful.  The Sangha is like the Lama’s body in that the Sangha has the samaya, or the responsibility, of holding or anchoring the Buddha’s teachings in the world in the same way that the Lama’s body, or appearance or presence, establishes the Buddha’s teachings right here, in the world.  Teachings are here in the world, being conferred here in the world.  The Sangha becomes an extension of that appearance.

Here in this Sangha for instance, primarily the ordained, but other Sangha members as well are trained as umdzes, or chant leaders.  We have the chopön, who handles ritual objects during the puja.  The Sangha are all well-trained, and all of them have different jobs.  We have archivists who keep our books in good, healthy order and keep them in a respectable and clean place.  There are many, many different functions, and these are all considered extensions of the Lama’s body.  This is the Lama’s wheel of activity.  The entire Dharma community then is the Lama’s extended body or wheel of Dharma activity.  So the mystical bond between the Lama and the student is closer than one’s own breath, more essential than one’s own essence, more relevant than one’s own mind, speech, body, anything.

As the Lama’s body, the Sangha also has a certain responsibility to one another, and this responsibility is a very important part of the samaya or commitment to the Lama,.  Remember, there is the responsibility to uphold and propagate the Buddha’s teachings, to follow and learn more about Dharma, the responsibility to uphold and protect the Sangha, and the responsibility of the Sangha to be the extension of the Lama’s activity.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Caring for the Precious Sangha

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

As a student, one of your responsibilities is to uphold and protect the Sangha, one of the Three Precious Jewels.  The way that works is this. The Sangha is one body.  If one part of the human body goes sour, if there is some negative consciousness rattling around somewhere – and nowadays even doctors know that there is some connection – the body will develop a cancer.  If even one part of it has become disorganized, then the whole body becomes sickened.  So the Sangha’s responsibility to one another is virtuous conduct.

By virtuous conduct I mean that in the Sangha there should never, ever be gossip and slander. NEVER!  I cannot say this strongly enough.  If there will ever be a time when the Buddha’s teachings are destroyed, it will be from the inside because there is nothing on this earth, other than Buddhist practitioners, that have that power.  If the Buddha’s teachings and their purity are ever destroyed, it will be by Dharma practitioners committing non-virtuous acts.  Gossip and slander that are harmful and disruptive to the Dharma community is a heinous crime because the Sangha is like a beautiful, virtuous, supreme and exalted body; not an ordinary body, but a body that leads to liberation, a body that walks to liberation, a body whose sole purpose is to bring about the liberation of all sentient beings.  This is purity itself.  This is truth itself.  If instead of upholding that truth by keeping samaya with the Lama, the Sangha instead engages in this kind of non-virtuous conduct, this cancer is created. This is such a heinous crime because of what is lost.  Where else in samsara can we find such great benefit as from the Sangha or spiritual community?  Where else will such help and support come than from the Lama’s extended body, this pure activity in the world?  So because something very pure and precious has been harmed, the weight of the crime is very great.

I particularly have a strong dislike for gossip and slander.  I have seen what kind of harm it can do in religious communities.  Even in the ordinary context in this day and age, gossip and slander have gotten to be so stylish and so outrageously prevalent and hip that we don’t even seem to mind closing down our government so that we can do it.  We don’t seem to mind paying any price, including completely disrupting the responsibility between people in office and the people they serve.  Not to say that any of these things that are said aren’t right, but this kind of gossip has become such a thing, such a fad.  In other religious communities as well as Buddhist communities, it is a general religious phenomena.  But there is always gossip and slander.  It seems to be that if people think a teacher is pure, other people have to knock that teacher down.  Or if people think a particular faith is pure, other people have to gossip about it.  Why does it have to be that way?

As far as I am concerned, if you bring gossip and slander into this community, which is the Lama’s body, being the Lama here, I take it very personally.  If you bring gossip or slander into this community, you are wrong, wrong because you brought it.  Even if the story you are telling is right, you are wrong because what we are doing here by creating gossip and slander, is to harm the body of the Sangha, and there is a breakage of samaya.  We have not upheld the three objects of refuge.

Now, of course, if there is ever a problem with misconduct on the part of any religious leader, anything like that, we hope that those who are engaged in this conduct will turn to their teachers and receive spiritual guidance.  But the antidote to that is support and compassion.  The antidote to that is not the hatred, disease and sickness of gossip and slander.  That only harms the body and creates a cancer in the Dharma community.  So part of the samaya between students and teachers – and I will tell you that if I could legislate that it would be 100 times as strong here – for any of you who are truly committed to being my students, you must cut out gossip and slander from your life immediately, whatever it takes.  Purify that non-virtue.  Stop now.  You help no one and you harm yourself.  It brings nothing but unhappiness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Beginning to Look Deeper

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

What I would like to talk a little bit about is how it is when one first comes to the path. Many of you new students, as well as those of you who are not new students, find that eventually things come full cycle. And when you meet with certain problems on coming to the path, it’s likely that you don’t completely solve them.  When we first come to the path we’re generally not equipped to make the great gains that we need to in order to solve most problems, and we come to another cycle of meeting with a certain kind of problem. So let’s talk about that just briefly.

As a Dharma practitioner, or as a beginning Dharma practitioner, or perhaps as a practitioner who is simply testing the waters and hasn’t committed yet to practicing Dharma, it is no longer suitable, now that you have begun to study, to think of things in a superficial way.  The way that we used to think of our lives, the way that we used to try to understand the events in our lives, was on a very superficial level.  We did not look for depth.  We did not understand.  Our minds were filled with ignorance, and we simply tried to determine the events of our lives with a value system that could not possibly understand what was happening because we were looking only at the surface.

For instance, if something happened to us in our lives and it was uncomfortable or caused us suffering, we would simply look at that as being an external phenomenon that was happening to us. We did not try to understand the deeper ramifications of what was actually occurring. Now we’re way past that, or at least we should be past that, and it is no longer suitable to take phenomena and events within our lives at face value.  It is time now to plumb the depths of our practice in order to understand more deeply what is actually occurring.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, all things are a display of the primordial nature.  It is the lack of understanding of the primordial nature that makes the display unclear and deluded.  It is the lack of the awareness of the primordial wisdom nature and the belief in duality instead that absolutely ensures that we are going to see events happening to us as though projected from the external, and it’s going to be very difficult for us to understand.  Now, as practitioners we begin to understand in a different way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved


Respecting the Three Jewels

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

When we examine the student’s responsibility in the teacher/student relationship, we have to think like this: First of all, according to the teaching, the lama, as the spiritual teacher or spiritual master, is the condensed essence of the external and most familiar objects of refuge–the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.  So, regarding the student’s samaya or commitment to the teacher, there are three aspects of commitment.

As the lama is the condensed essence of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the first commitment is to honor and uphold the Buddha’s teachings.  That is to say that if we are practicing the Buddhadharma, we should never disrespect the Buddhist prayers and the Buddhist text. We love and respect them as the Buddha’s own speech, the Buddha’s own speech emanation.  We should never throw them around or put them under our seats or step on them or treat them as though they were any like other object in samsara, like a rag or something.  We should never treat any objects that are representative of the objects of refuge like that, such as statues, Dharma texts, and images of the Buddhas.

It’s not that Buddhists have a superficial, external, worship of images.  It is not like that.  This rule or practice is meant to develop discrimination in the student’s mind so that the student can discriminate between what is precious and extraordinary and what is ordinary.  Ordinary things are things that arise in samsara and result in samsara, even things that we need, like enough water to live on.  Water is in the world, you can get it from the world and it results in the satisfaction of worldly thirst.  Water is not the same as Dharma.  Dharma arises from the mind of enlightenment, results in enlightenment and is not ordinary.  Water will support my life temporarily, so it is impermanent.  If I drink a glass of water and then don’t drink any more, I will last four or five days. But even though it may be necessary for me to drink that water in order to stay alive long enough to read the Buddha’s teaching, I won’t forget the teaching because it is extraordinary and does not arise from samsara.

This commitment not only supports my life temporarily and in this moment, but it also provides a path or a method by which I can accomplish Dharma, by which I can enter into the door of liberation and be free.  This is a miracle.  This is a treasure that doesn’t only last one life or one moment or four days.  Life after life after life this treasure lasts,.  So these things are held up as extraordinary. Part of the student’s commitment to the student/teacher relationship is to honor this external object of refuge–the Buddha image, to honor the Buddha’s presence in the world, to propagate the teaching, to hold it up and protect it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Supplication to Mandarava

“Dissolving in the expanse of space
like a rainbow, without remains,
She departed to the
Akanishta Paradise of Pamavyuha.
She transformed into the embodiment
of the supreme consort,
The secret primordial wisdom dakini.
To the feet of Mandarava, I supplicate!
Together with nine hundred
pure awareness holder disciples,
After dissolving into a rainbow body,
she manifested herself once again
for the benefit of others.
Mandarava emanated unceasingly,
manifesting herself as a dakini to tame
the minds of beings in
every essential way.
To the feet of Mandarava I supplicate!”
— Guru Padmasambava
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