The Seduction of the Five Senses

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen Your Practice”

All the practices, no matter what they look like or sound like or seem like, are heading in that direction of gradually awakening more and more to the awareness of the sphere of truth.  Wisdom is then the accomplishment of a state of such non-attachment that one realizes the emptiness of phenomena by simply [Jetsunma effortlessly and blissfully breathes out, her eyes and body completely relaxing].  I don’t know how else to describe it except to just show you that posture.  Just…[Jetsunma once again breathes out as noted above].

Because the same as your touch is bliss.  The same as your smell is bliss.  The same as your tongue is bliss.  How does it happen then that we’re so darned uncomfortable?  How does it happen then, according to the Buddha’s teachings, that so many sentient beings are revolving so helplessly in samsara, so lost, so unable to understand how to understand, or how to awaken, or even how to live virtuously so that in the future they’ll be happy?  How does this all happen?

Lord Buddha said it during the course of his actual physical life, when he said, “All suffering arises from desire.”  So while you can say that the fundamental space of the five lights is the same as the five primordial Dakinis, they are activity not separate from the Buddha nature.  And yet these five senses hold on to us. Well we think they do, although we did create them.  But with their grasping nature, they cause us, because we have the strong habitual tendency,  to constantly react and constantly react and act really neurotically because we don’t understand.  To be neurotic is to not understand the situation and to act inappropriately repetitively.  That’s pretty much us.  We do not understand the emptiness of self-nature and so we constantly act differently.

So, these five primordial Dakinis that are your senses and that someday you will awaken to are now—because we are clinging, because we have not renounced, because we believe in phenomena and we believe in the solidity of everything, and because we are really revolving in dualism—we would have to consider them like five nasty whores.  Because they trick us.  They seduce us.  They say to us, “Come and play with me and I will give you anything.”   And when’s the last time you got anything from a skanky whore. (laughter)  [Jetsunma: I did not say that!”]  Our five senses actually keep us in a constant state of inflammation, because while we’re grasping to the solidity of phenomena, we’re constantly reacting.  While we’re constantly reacting, we’re constantly acting neurotically, out of accordance with the nature of reality.  And so we’re being tricked, seduced.

The senses have many tricks. As front runners for our consciousness of duality, they like to trick us by building us up. You know, we can see and hear things that make us feel very proud and make us feel as though we are worthy of praise. You know, we can arrange phenomena any way we want.  That’s the amazing thing about it.  And it can become very seductive.  We can absolutely crap out on our practice and yet with our five senses, we can manage to create in our consciousness of duality a scenario in which we’re looking pretty good.  We can wear the right clothes and have the right beads, and you know we can look pretty good.  And so that’s the deceptive nature of the five senses.

How difficult it is to understand that that which helps us negotiate around is actually the very nature of bliss.  How to understand that the opposite side of the very clinging that we do so tightly that prevents us from awakening to the primordial wisdom state,  is liberation?  Well, that’s wisdom and that is the kind of wisdom that we strive for as we practice.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

What Are Your Senses Telling You?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen in Your Practice”

When you see, you react with acceptance or rejection.  You have an acceptance or rejection or even a neutrality, which would be a combination of both or a decision not to do either; but there is that first knee-jerk reaction.  It’s the same with all of our senses.  We react to what we sense.  The senses are really to keep us pacified in the belief that our lives are inherently real, that we are sitting on solid, that we are solid, we live in solid and everything’s ok.  And that’s what the senses are meant to do.  They are meant to grasp on in a way, and hold on to the time and space grid so that we can feel as though we are safe.  Because we don’t like that idea of emptiness. That’s just troublesome.

So when a Tantric practitioner sits down to meditate, he has to take the senses and open them up.  How can you do that?  Can you visualize it?  Well, you really have to go quietly in your practice and find out for yourself.  It’s very difficult for any teacher to tell you exactly how to let go of the senses or to let go of the attraction of the senses.  Yes, we can give you pointers.  But it comes down to the point really when you have to sit and you have to know your own mind.  When we know our mind, we know how to deal with it.  And it’s like feeling our way around.  Oh, we know we shouldn’t go there because there’s an object; and we know we should go there because it’s ok.  We’re kind of feeling around.

So when a Tantric practitioner meditates on emptiness, he doesn’t build emptiness.  He doesn’t make emptiness.  He doesn’t cling onto emptiness which is somewhere else and bring it here.  Instead, what the practitioner does is to simply allow the grasping to solid phenomena and solid self-nature to be appeased.  One relaxes.  One awakens to emptiness!

How does one awaken to emptiness?  Well of course, the first time you sit down and try this, you’re not going to awaken to emptiness fully because that would be like becoming practically enlightened in a very swift time, like very swift.  And so, you can’t expect that.  You must be patient with yourself and expect that this will take some work, that it will take some time.

When one relaxes the grasping, the difference is . . . Ok.  If you take a crystal and sunlight comes through the crystal and is reflected and refracted and you see a rainbow, the rainbow is the same nature as the light that came through the crystal.  In a way, what you’re going to do, is if you’re seeing a red ray and a purple ray and a blue ray or whatever color you’re seeing from this crystal, you’re going to, with intention, go to the heart of that color, as though you were peeling away the colorness of it.  Almost reversing it.  Putting it back through the crystal and understanding its source.  Like that.

I know.  That’s a little chewy.  So you have to chew on that for a little bit.  But it is very much like that.  To be a Tantric practitioner, in fact, you must have assumed the nature of emptiness.  And in one’s practice, that is what you do.  You assume the nature of emptiness.  So, you are relaxing the senses and the grasping knowing that. You don’t visualize emptiness because when you allow the relaxing and the grasping to go, emptiness is what is.  It spontaneously arises.  And even that’s a joke.  Because here I am telling you “it” spontaneously arises.  And of course, that’s not possible.  Because once it’s “it”, then it isn’t empty.  And yet I say to you that this is the trick of it. When we take that precious minute before we generate the deity to really allow the senses to unlock, to stop contriving, to cease to evaluate, to stop giving you the food that you use to react, to simply let go, the more deeply we go into our practice.  And your assumption there—and that should be your first assumption—is that separate from this grasping, there is the nature of emptiness.  That, in fact, if we can pacify this grasping, then the empty nature is visible or knowable in some way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Sphere of Truth

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen in Your Practice”

When it comes to gathering wisdom and to understanding the difference between wisdom and knowledge, knowledge would be all the facts that you absorb from your text or from reading or from your teacher or from tapes that you might have heardthat allow you to accomplish that ‘letting go of the senses.’  The actual opening the senses and relaxing them is like a hand. If my hand is like this, it’s around something; the shape is defined.  And here in your meditation on emptiness, it’s more like this (Jetsunma relaxes the hand grip) and the hand is open.  And while the hand is open, if it were possible to truly do this in a profound way, it would be like it says in the Guru Yoga generation stage in the Shower of Blessings: ”His great bliss flashes in the fundamental space of the five lights.” That’s it.

If you could really read and understand that line, that would be so good.  “His great bliss flashes in the fundamental space of the five lights.”  Well, what are the five lights?  They are the senses.  While we are considering them solid, we can name them and describe them.  But it says here, “…the fundamental space of the five lights”. So the senses become ‘fundamental space’.  The trick is that when we are not grasping and reacting, the natural state of bliss arises.  And so here they’re talking about Guru Rinpoche, and they’re saying, “His great bliss flashes in the fundamental space of the five lights”.  Such renunciation of the grasping of phenomena is implied in that line.  Such renunciation.  Such accomplishment.  And true understanding of what the five senses are.  Because like the light coming through the crystal, they all arise from the fundamental bliss that is our uncontrived primordial nature.  That’s an amazing line.  And of course, by going deeply into your practice, one would want to read again and again the different words that you are reciting in Tibetan in English, so that you can really understand what it is that you are doing.

So for a Tantric practitioner, it’s all about practicing the awareness of the fundamental sphere of truth that we habitually perceive as phenomena.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Understanding the Senses

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen Your Practice”

In order to practice Vajrayana, for instance, there has to be some certain capacity that the student has, or some previous karma that now comes forward and comes to bear, or Vajrayana simply would not work. Indeed, for certain kinds of students because they practice very superficially, Vajrayana , would be like just reading Sutra—just reading it, reading it, reading it, reading it. You may glean some information, but you will never accomplish any wisdom that way.

So when we first come to Vajrayana, we are expected not only to read, to learn how to pronounce, to accomplish the tune; but we also have to learn how to visualize. We also have to learn how to allow the five senses to dissolve into the sphere of truth, which is emptiness,  and that means letting go of perception.  And that’s the first step towards meditating on emptiness, or rather as we do in Vajrayana, dissolving or realizing the essence of all nature to be empty and then arising from that empty nature as the deity or as a wisdom being.  This is basically the meat and bones of Vajrayana, that generation of the wisdom being by first dissolving into emptiness.

If a person who is studying Theravada Buddhism (that’s the early stages of Buddhism that Lord Buddha taught when he was actually physically alive),  practices like that, they are letting the mind relax. They are using some kind of method like allowing the mind to rest on the breath, to simply breathe, to simply be like that.  But ideally, when a Vajrayana practitioner prepares to really generate the deity and they’ve done their taking refuge and all the steps that precede:the promising, the Bodhisattva promise and all the prayers:and they actually get to the part where there is the dissolution or the original view of emptiness, they are not, at that point, relaxing the mind.  Because if we’re simply relaxing the mind at that point, we are technically practicing Theravada Buddhism.  It’s a little different.

It’s ok to start that way, but again, we’re talking about going more deeply into our practice.  So when a Tantric practitioner meditates on emptiness in order to pave the way for the rrising of the deity, what you really do at that time is to open up the senses in the sense that the senses are grasping things.  They see “this” or “this”.  I hear “that”.  I smell “something”.  So the senses are grasping things. The senses are actually the children of the original conscious assumption of nature being essentially real, or of phenomena being essentially real.  And so the senses arise from that assumption.  It’s a chicken or egg thing.  It’s opposite what you would think.  The senses arise from the assumption of consciousness as being inherently real.  And so the senses’ job is to grasp!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Why We Practice

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered at Palyul Ling Retreat in 2012:

So I think as we ascend to the higher teachings, we have to remember the bodhicitta.  We have to remember that if we are not kind, there’s nothing that we are doing that’s useful.  If we are not kind, there’s no way we are going to be able to keep our practice going, because we will forget the suffering of sentient beings.  And if we do that, we are lost.  We forget why we are practicing.  We don’t practice.  And then if we are lucky, we may see a person whose suffering can be read on their face.  You can see that.  And if you are fortunate enough to see that, it may remind you that it is time to do your practice.

I promise you, you won’t forget to do your practice for the rest of the year if you meditate on the suffering of sentient beings every day – even just for five minutes.  Ten minutes is better.  But if we can manage to do that, that’s what keeps us going.  Otherwise our practice becomes dry.  It’s too intellectual.  We reason with our practice, and we kind of argue with our practice.  And yet with bodhicitta, it’s impossible to do that.  How can bodhicitta be the wrong thing to do?  How can bodhicitta be something that you can skip?  We must be kind.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all the high lamas that I have ever heard have always said that you must be kind.  That’s what’s happening.  So I have pretty much stuck with teaching bodhicitta all my life, and I’ve been doing this for about 30 years.

Bodhicitta is beautiful.  It is nourishing.  It’s like food.  If you keep yourself nourished by practicing the bodhicitta, you’ll continue to be full and have confidence, and be able to benefit sentient beings even though it seems so hard to keep going.  We all have jobs.  It seems so hard to keep going but if you remember the bodhicitta, and that it is your reason for practicing, you absolutely will not give up.  I promise you. That is the answer.

Everyone I’ve talked to has this problem—practicing for part of the year, and keeping that going.  Although it’s not true of Tibetans necessarily, it is true of Americans.  Tibetans were brought up in a culture that is all about loving-kindness, and the Dharma is part of their entire system.  It’s in their blood and it’s in their brains and it’s everywhere.  But we Americans like to have reasons for things.  The best thing to do is to stop being so prideful and go back to the very reason why you are here.  You are not here to wear a fancy robe.  You are not here to receive high teachings and walk around so prideful.  No, you are here first of all because you love His Holiness; and then you are here because you know that sentient beings suffer and that you can help.  I know of nothing that is more precious than that.  You can help.  We forget that.  We think the practice is about us, making advances.  We should make advances in our practice.  It’s true.  We should.  And yet we have to remember that the true reason why we practice is love.

Now if there is anything that I’ve said that offends you, I’m sorry, but not really.  I will sit here and pound bodhicitta into your heads until I no longer have the opportunity because it is what I believe and what I know will bring benefit to the world.  It’s what brought His Holiness to us.  It is what will bring him back.

If we keep our promises and benefit sentient beings, he will return to us.  Maybe he already has.  Who knows?  But it is our job to call him with our hearts by practicing in the way that he taught us.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Kindness is the Way

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered at Palyul Ling Retreat 2012:

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche was one of the most stubborn lamas in the beginning. He did not want to teach Dzogchen yet, because he didn’t want to throw Dharma on the floor. Instead he wanted everybody to learn the great bodhicitta, and he made you understand that there is no power anywhere stronger than the bodhicitta.

When Tibetan kids are young, their moms or their Amas, their nannies, or whoever takes care of them, teaches them about kindness. It’s customary. It’s what happens. That doesn’t happen here in America. It’s so fortunate that Tibetan Amas and mommies teach their children that way from birth.

I think in some ways we should think of our own mothers who have taught us like that to be like a root guru to us. The first one that taught you to be kind, that’s a root guru. The first one that taught you to love, that’s a root guru. The first one that taught you that bodhicitta is the most important power in the universe, that’s a root guru. His Holiness taught me that, and he is my root guru.

I wish the fashion would turn around, and that there would be more teachings given out constantly about bodhicitta. I wish we would not set it aside. I wish Tibetan lamas would not listen to us, because we are so prideful and so willing to think that we know what’s best. His Holiness was one of the last ones that gave in and began to teach some Dzogchen. I think he felt the way I do—that bodhicitta is the most important thing. Once when he saw the dogs and the parrots that we were saving, he said, “That’s Dharma. That’s Dharma.” That’s what His Holiness said, and I believe it. I know it to be true. Kindness is the way.

. . . Sometimes we can be so prideful. We think that having practiced so well it is not necessary for us to be kind. We can concentrate on the academic part, the intellectual part, and then we will have it all down perfectly. But that is not really the truth.  Academics is part of the teaching. Meditation is part of the teaching. Taking vows, that’s part of it. Please don’t forget, most important is the great bodhicitta. It is the very display of all that is light and pure. It is the very display of goodness. We like to forget it and let it go, but please don’t. I beg of you. Don’t do that.

Your mind will stay fresh and sweet if you are always concerned for sentient beings. And we must always be concerned for sentient beings because they don’t know how to take care of themselves. They don’t know how to do what is necessary to accomplish any Dharma or anything really meaningful in their lives. Many people get a scholarship and they go to college and then that’s it. They’ve done it. But it’s not true. It is most important to develop kindness. It is most important to be kind.

For those of you who are unforgiving in your demeanor and not so kind, you don’t give Buddhism a good image. That should be what it is all about to you. I will assume that probably isn’t pleasant to hear, but it is what I believe and what I know. If you did nothing else but take the bodhisattva vow and spend the rest of your life praying and benefitting sentient beings, you will have accomplished a lot. When you go back home, whether it is New York City or Kalamazoo or wherever it is, bring this little bit of information with you.

. Look around. Stop closing your eyes. Are you going out to dinner this evening?  Then notice the person sitting on the street with nothing to eat. Maybe bring them what’s left or give them some money for some food. If you are going to the movies, think about it twice. Go to the movie but then take the same amount of money and give it to someone who really needs it. I believe in that. It is called paying it forward. And it is the best display that you can possibly give people about what the Dharma is. If you display your activity like that, they will understand. They will understand what Dharma is. But if we are self-important, prideful and in love with ourselves, we will never see the beauty of Dharma. Never. We must see this. We must understand that Dharma is not different from loving-kindness, and it is not different from our nature.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Even Small Kindnesses Matter

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo given at Palyul Ling Retreat 2012:

One way that I teach people is online.  I have a Twitter account and many times we just tweet.  Do you know what Twitter is?  Some of you do?  Maybe?  Ok.  So what we do is we teach them Om Mani Pedme Hung, and then show them how the letters look in Tibetan and have them see blessing mantras so that they will, you know, experience liberation through seeing.  They will receive the blessing of that because these people will never ever practice Dharma.  So should we throw them out?  No, of course not.  People like urban people.  People in countries that probably have never even heard of Dharma.  Inner city people.  Outer city people.  People down the bible belt in the middle of the country.  All of them.  All of them hear a little bit of the Dharma and the kindness that it shows and they want to learn.  They want to learn.  So I do the best that I can to teach them online. We make films, and sort of document some small teachings.  Nothing very deep because that would require another kind of opportunity, but we are able to teach them just so that there is a blessing in being human.  So that as human beings there will be some use, that they have the capacity to think and to understand.

Of course I love animals.  We all know that, but animals cannot learn the Dharma.  As much as I would love to see my animals achieve liberation, that will never happen through practicing Dharma.  If I practice and I dedicate, maybe that’s something.  If you practice and you dedicate, maybe that’s something.  But still they cannot practice.  They don’t have that part of the brain that can make them practice, but they can hear mantra and receive the blessing.  We even tell people, “Say this blessing to your animals as they die.  Om Ami Dewa Hri.”  Of course you all know that , but that’s a revelation to someone who has never heard Dharma before, or to someone who didn’t know there was some way that they could help their little dogs and their cats as they die.  And their little birds and so forth.  They didn’t know that there was any real way to do that.  So we’ve told them that if they are coming close to death, if death is coming, at this time you should say in their ears, “Om Ami Dewa Hri.”  And we even put up recordings of how it sounds so that they can recite it correctly.   They will get the closest thing possible to a lung.  It’s not the same, but it’s the best we can do.

I’m not proud.  If anything I’m shy and I’m not proud.  One thing that I feel is if what you can do is a small thing, you should do it.  If all you can do is give a little bit, you should give it.  If all you can do is say, “Well, my dog can’t have any blessing,” and you give nothing, that’s not so good.  But instead, why not do for them what you can do for them?  They can hear the sound of mantra.  They can see the letters.  They don’t cognize them.  They can’t understand what it means, but they can see it.  They can see images.

I have made an Amitabha recording of singing the mantra so that it can be played for people who are dying or who have just died.,so the Amitabha mantra will be in their ears as they are dying.  These are all the things that I know how to do.  They are very simple, but these are not people who will ever come here.  And their pets—they will never come here.  How can they receive a blessing if we don’t reach out and make it possible?

I’m very interested in R&B music and hip hop.  Sorry.  If that disappoints you, I’m really sorry.  But I’m interested in that kind of music.  I’ll be honest with you and say that.  And what I’ve noticed is that when I reach out—I have 65,000 followers, no 68,000 followers—and when they contact me and ask me, “What is the answer to this question?”  You know.  “You said this. Does that mean that or does that mean this?”  And these are people that have never heard of Dharma before, just know nothing about it.  And then they want to know.  And I recommend books for themand that sort of thing.  We send out pictures of stupas, all the stupas that I’ve built so that they’ll have that contact of being able to see. So I’m proud of that.  I’m happy about that.  And I think that even as we get to the higher levels of teachings, we should never ever think that it’s inappropriate to lower oneself to do simple goodness for all beings.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Go Back to Bodhicitta

The following is an excerpt from a teaching given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo at Palyul Ling Retreat in New York 2012:

In the beginning, all the lamas, including His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, ever taught us about was the bodhicitta. All we ever got was the bodhicitta. People would ask for Dzogchen. Give us Dzogchen. And the lamas would say, “No, you’re not ready. You’re not ready. Let’s start with the bodhicitta.”  After awhile, Americans got really sick of the bodhicitta. It’s really sad, but they did. I never did. In fact, I never stopped teaching bodhicitta. I know that now the bodhicitta is kind of reduced to a small bit of speech or teaching that comes right at the beginning of a practice or a wang or teaching. It is very condensed compared to what it used to be. When the lamas first came to America, it was just bodhicitta, and really nothing else. But the American students were insistent that they were ready for the Dzogchen. Eventually the lamas gave in. And I am sorry that happened, because I think we missed something.

I notice that when some practitioners practice, they’re calm and that’s good, but they are also solemn. They are not so happy looking, not so joyous. Dharma is joyous. To be able to practice Dharma is a feast.  There’s nothing in the world more joyous than that, because you have something—. \you have Buddha in the palm of your hand. You have something that nobody else has here in America. Other people have other teachers. And they have other lineages and that’s great, but we have this. And we should be thrilled and happy, and try to maintain the understanding of how precious this is.

The day we decide that we are too advanced for bodhicitta is the day that we’ve lost our way. Because if all we ever studied from this point on was the bodhicitta, it would be enough. Sometimes when we go into the higher teachings, we forget what the root is. Bodhicitta is the root. Bodhicitta is the root of everything that comes after. If you cannot develop the bodhicitta, it will be very difficult to stay on the path. As they say, the bodhicitta is like the dakini’s warm breath. It is what we consider to be the activity of the Buddhas, the nature of the Buddhas, like the sun’s rays—part of the sun and yet coming out to bless all. So when we think about the bodhicitta and we think that maybe it’s an early practice, and maybe we are being insulted by being taught this practice or maybe we should be allowed to go on, don’t hurry.

If I had my choice, I would teach nothing but bodhicitta. I used to do that, almost like Baskin Robbins’s 51 flavors of ice cream. I used to think about 51 different ways, as many ways as I could, to teach bodhicitta. I would get really creative so that it wouldn’t be boring. And what I found is that most people didn’t notice that they were only being taught the bodhicitta, because I would teach it in such a way that it would seem different and interesting. And I would make people laugh, and that always helped. You can’t be stiff when you are laughing. I made it joyful. All of us felt great joy to be together, as I see you do too. I think it is the most beautiful part of the Dharma. If we say that it is the smallest part, or the least of the parts, it is a mistake. Do all of you understand that?  It is a mistake if we put bodhicitta lower than anything else, because in order to practice we need the bodhicitta desperately. It is what keeps us going. It is nourishment.

My philosophy is that if we are on the path and every year we practice really hard and really purely here and then go home, but then forget about it, as so many of us do, then in my experience we need to go back to the bodhicitta and study the suffering of sentient beings again, again and again. Study the suffering of sentient beings so that you can understand why it is that you are practicing. You’ll have strength to practice because you will see them, and they are suffering terribly.

Seeing that woman and her husband on the roof was for me a great motivator. It was a great strengthener. It gave me spiritual muscle so that whatever I did, bodhicitta was always the crown on the head of my practice. And then above that, of course, is Tsawai Lama—above the crown of my head, and in my heart, as I know he is in yours.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

This Very Moment

Monk at MD Stupa2

To begin to develop Aspirational Bodhicitta is to understand the faults of cyclic existence, to understand the cessation of cyclic existence, to understand something of the nature of awakening or at least to understand that that is the cessation of suffering; and then to begin to develop from these foundational thoughts a caring and concern for all parent sentient beings. Aspirational Bodhicitta can take the form of just thinking as you ordinarily think. In the same way that you think of what will I have for dinner tonight, or in the same way that you think of what you would like to wear, or the ordinary things that we think of that concern ourselves. in that same ordinary way, without any kind of high-falutin’ dogma, you can begin now to develop a sense of the need and plight of sentient beings. And you can begin to speak what is in your heart, because it is in there somewhere in the natural state—the hope that all sentient beings will be free of suffering.

Each of you has a seed potential of that hope. You could not approach a truly spiritual path; you could not approach the Buddha’s teaching. You would have no karma to hear anything of the Buddha’s teaching if you did not have the hope that all sentient beings would be free of suffering. Because in order to be involved in these auspicious conditions, in order to hear the Buddha’s teaching, in order to have the opportunity to practice and the inclination to do so, in order to even begin the idea of moving onto a path that leads to supreme enlightenment, you must have accumulated an enormous amount of virtuous karma in the past and to accumulate an enormous amount of virtuous karma, there had to be kindness. So you should not be afraid thinking that you have no compassion.

Some people tell me they have no compassion.  That is completely erroneous. That is impossible. But you must begin to dust off that jewel. You must begin to consider these foundational teachings, and to begin in whatever way you are comfortable with, to amplify and systematically develop Bodhichitta, the Aspirational Bodhicitta. You can begin to make wishing prayers for other sentient beings. One of the reasons why we built the Stupa that we built outside was to have a place here in this area that would have the fortunate quality of being able to enhance our prayers. Because of the cosmology of the Stupa—the way in which it is built, the empowerment that goes into actually consecrating it, and the wonderful relics that are present in it—because of the blessings of the prayer, the blessings of the mantra, because of all of these things, the Stupa actually has the ability, with faith, to amplify our prayers. We are taught to circumambulate in a clockwise direction making wishing prayers for all sentient beings. You can begin to do that. You can begin to make wishing prayers on your own, at any time. You can just think wishing prayers as you walk about. You can begin right now to developAspirational Bodhicitta in the same way that you develop muscle. You have the muscle fiber. You only need to strengthen it through use. That discipline is essential.

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Bodhicitta”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

What Causes Happiness?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”

In order to understand what to do, we have to understand the definition of the cessation of suffering. The cessation of suffering doesn’t happen when everything external gets all right. Can you learn this?  Can we all learn this, please?  If we learn this, it will change your life!  The solving of this problem occurs when we are able to cut off the causes of suffering at the root. And the causes of suffering have to do with desire and the experience of duality.

So now we have to find a solution that is not anywhere in samsara. How in the world are you going to fix this? Well, you’re not… in the world. Where in the world is your solution?  Guess what?  Nowhere. Then we have to find something else. And what is that something else?  Well, now we are looking to understand that desire and this original ideation is the cause for all suffering. So the way to cut that would be to cut it off at the root. We have to move beyond the realm of cyclic existence in order to get any satisfaction, in order to get an answer, in order to understand, literally in order to prevent the causes from manifesting. In order to cut them off at the root, we have to move outside of the realm of samsara.,  So we look to see if everything we’ve known and experienced arises from the idea of self-nature being inherently real. What is outside of samsara?  Well, it is the one thing that, as samsaric beings, we cannot perceive. It is our own Buddha nature, the primordial wisdom nature that is the innately wakeful , sheer luminosity called Buddha.

While we are revolving in the realm of duality, we cannot see this nature.  Yet it is this very nature that is the cessation of the causes of suffering.. In order to cut off suffering at the root, one would have to cut off the connection to the potency of the desire realm. We, as samsaric beings, are desire beings. We are motivated solely by desire. and  the Buddha teaches us that this is the very cause of suffering. So what we’re hearing here is that everything we know, everything we call “me”, every habitual tendency, everything that has come together to knit the tapestry of our lives, is of that cause for suffering.

What monumental effort should happen in order to reach beyond that? How to even define what is beyond that when, by definition, we are the samsaric beings whose first assumption is that of self-nature being inherently real? This is where the power and the majesty and the potency of the practice of refuge comes into play. Because when we look at the appearance of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha in the world, and the inner and secret refuges as well, we can see that that which we call Buddha nature, that which we call Buddha, does not originate from the desire realm. It is that ground—uncontrived, innately wakeful luminosity—that is the underlying primordial wisdom state, suchness, from which all display, all emanation actually comes.

This that we are caught in and experiencing is simply some offshoot, some manifestation in a way, whereas the fundamental all-pervasive truth of our nature, is to us unseen. Yet it is that nature, that which we are naturally, which we must strive toward in order to be awakened, That is the clue; that is the key. In our natural state as Buddha, as that sheer luminosity, there is no distinction, no distortion, no conceptualization, no idea that self is separate from other, no understanding that it could even occur that way. No distinction. Only suchness, one taste, that nature which is conditionless. As we are now we cannot even imagine a conditionless state, a conditionless nature, and yet this is our nature.

So when we practice refuge, we do it in stages. The ultimate refuge is when we understand and awaken to our own face, our own true nature. But in the beginning we practice by conceptually isolating that which is without conception. We have to. On an ordinary level, let’s say the goal was physical fitness and strength. Well, that’s an abstract concept. How do you get that?  You can’t buy that. You can’t hold that in your hand, but you can do the exercises, you see?  Same thing. Buddhahood. We can’t buy it, we can’t hold it in our hand, but we can establish the method.

The method begins with the recognition of the Buddha which is the primordial, uncontrived nature that happens to have appeared in cyclic existence at this time, during this aeon, as a man. But the man is not the thing. Lord Buddha is the display of that nature. We use his image and his teachings as a way to understand because he speaks directly from that nature. But we understand that we are awakening, awakening, awakening. That’s the understanding of refuge. We are looking for that which is not composed of the causes of suffering. And here while we are suffering and revolving endlessly, and watching others revolve endlessly, here while this occurs, we are that, in truth, which is the cessation of suffering, Buddhahood.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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