Bodhicitta in the World

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

They say that I am a Dakini.  I’m not so sure but they say I am.  The Dakini has to do with the activity of the Buddhas.  And so that being the case, I feel it is my responsibility to try to bring some benefit in the activity way.  So I try to feed everybody – animals, people, and the birds outside my house.  Everybody knows that we spend a lot of money on feeding people and feeding beings.  And it is a happy thing to do.  It makes us all happy.  So many beings are fed.  And they are having what they need because of the kindness of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, and what he taught me.  The precious bodhicitta, the nectar of kindness that is inherent in the dharma.  This is what I was taught, what I learned, and its what I practice.

We have a prison program also.  We like to forget people who have done something wrong and just throw them away, but we have a program where we can go and teach prisoners some dharma, because these men will die in prison.  And they will have no way to get any kind of help or straighten themselves out for a proper or good rebirth.  They don’t know how to die well.  They have no teachings on Phowa.  It makes us sad, and so that being so said, we’re able to go out and do these things.  And it is why KPC is always broke.  We don’t have any money because we spend it on the needs of sentient beings, and I am very happy about that.  That makes it worth it to me.

In our food program there are many people who don’t know how to cook the kind of food that we provide for them, because they are poor people and they are used to cheap food.  And so we have been trying to teach them how to cook lentils, and beans, and rice and things that are very nourishing.  We try to teach them how to make protein, and how to eat well so that they feel better.  This is a totally new thing for them.  They don’t know how to be healthy, and their children don’t know how to be healthy.  Many of them eat too much sugar and too much candy and they are unwell.  And so we are teaching them.  We are involved enough in the community to teach them how to cook, how to prepare food and what food is nourishing, and what is not.  These are great pleasurable things that we do.  Not that they are so great, but they are great pleasure.  To see people become nourished.  To see people learn some dharma, whether they understand it or not.  To even understand, Om Mani Pedme Hum.  To even repeat Om Mani Pedme Hung is so much better than anything else they could receive in the ordinary world.  Very simple things like that can make the world of difference, as you know.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

True Refuge

The Buddha is the Master who reveals the true Refuge, and the Sangha is like a true friend on the path to Enlightenment. The actual refuge is the Dharma, because it is the Dharma that will free us and pacify suffering. The absence of or freedom from delusion is cessation. If we do not apply the antidote to our faults and delusions they continue to arise. But after the remedy, if the delusion is totally uprooted, it will never rise again. That state, free from delusion and the stains of the mind is a cessation. Bottom line- anything we wish to abandon like suffering and its causes, can be eliminated by applying the opposite forces. The final cessation is called Nirvana, or Liberation.

The Buddhas, fully enlightened ones are inconceivable, as is the Dharma, their teaching. The Sangha is also inconceivable so if you develop inconceivable faith there is no doubt the result will be inconceivable. It is said in our scriptures that if the benefit of sincerely taking refuge in the Three Jewels could be measured in relative, physical terms, the entire Universe would not be able to contain its value just as a great ocean cannot be measured in a tea cup.

Having learned the value and benefit we should rejoice in the opportunity to make offerings to and take Refuge in the Three Precious Jewels of Liberation. Here in this way we will be able to alleviate the influences of our negative actions as well as karmic obstructions. All these can and will be eliminated, and we all will be counted as sublime beings, which will surely please the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and our own kind Gurus and Lineage Masters!

It is this we should focus on, not the ego or our pridefulness for results. The consequences of karma are definite. Negative actions bring suffering, always. And positive actions bring happiness and freedom, always even a small action can bring a large consequence; so mindfulness is required. And the ability to examine ourselves honestly is essential to all spiritual progress!

To all spiritual progress!

OM MANI PEDME HUNG!

OM AH MI DEWA HRI!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Cultivating a Good Heart

Eat At Joes

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo during a “Good Heart Retreat”

Seriously, I do feel that there’s something wrong with the way we’re practicing religion. I really do feel that it is the job of spiritual people, who have as a centerpiece in their religion the idea of compassion, to really move forward towards ending suffering. A great first step is a good, hot meal for someone who’s hungry; some nice warm clothes for someone that doesn’t have enough; to know for sure that there is no child in your community who doesn’t get a Christmas present, a good one, not just left over crap, a good one.

Last year I remember when I was doing a little Christmas shopping, I think it was at Borders Bookstore, that I had this great, terrific little plan. I like to buy my daughter a lot of books. She’s a big reader and they keep her really quiet, when she’s not listening to Alanis Morrisette. So anyway, I buy her a lot of books and she’s very much a lover of books. When I went in there to buy a stack of books for her Christmas present, there was this great idea. It was a Christmas tree, and the Christmas tree had kids’ names on it and what grade they were in, what sex they were. You could pick one of the ornaments with the kids’ names off of the tree and you could buy them a book right there. I bought about ten books that day. How much more trouble is it to make it 11 or 12? It was a great idea. It was just a great idea. If we really started to brainstorm and think like that, we would come up with similar ideas.

Most of the lack that we experience, most of the poverty that we profess to have is merely conceptual. You know, it kind of goes like this: You say, ‘Gee, you know, it’s Sunday night and I’d really like to go out to eat, but I already went out to eat on Friday night and my budget only let’s me go out to eat once a week. So I can’t go out to eat tonight, but I’d really like to. Well, maybe I’ll just kind of mosey on over to a very cheap place, and I’ll get a very cheap thing.’ So you go to “Eat at Joe’s” or something, and it may not be the best food in the whole world, but you’re getting to eat out tonight. That means no dishes, so this is great. So you sit down at this place and you think, ‘All right now, I’m sticking to my budget, so I’d better get a cheap thing.’ You look at the cheap things and you go, ‘Well, you know, for just $2 more I could have a nice thing. And for $1 more than that I could have a salad too.’ So pretty soon, you kind of warm up to the idea that $2 or $3 extra’s not so bad. You know? Well, that kind of thinking can be encouraged in other ways also, because that extra $2 or $3 or that thing that you did by going out to eat and treating yourself is not going to break the bank. You have a concept that it’s going to break the bank, but it’s not going to break the bank.

So what if we were able to think that way ourselves. Like for instance, what about when we go grocery shopping? Supposing when we go grocery shopping, we have to spend $150, some families $200. Hey it happens, right? When was the last time you walked out of the grocery store with less than $100 worth of food? So, let’s say we walk in there and we think to ourselves, ‘Well, I’m going in to buy $100 worth of food, $150 worth of food.’ Would it really kill us if it cost us an extra 10% this time? Maybe $15 worth of canned goods or some food that we could share with our community. How painful is that? How painful is that when we see ourselves going up and down the Keeblers little elves aisle thinking which one of these gizmos do I want, because I can have them all. Or we go by the deli and think, ‘What deli thing must I have today?’ You know, we are an affluent society and we do that. And that’s fine, that’s fine. But supposing while we’re doing that, we could also buy some food that we could share with the community.

It’s not so unimaginable. Okay, maybe you don’t have that extra 10%, or don’t think you do. Start with 5%; start with one can. Start by asking somebody else if they have a can to lend you. But start, anywhere. I mean this is something that’s just easy to do. No one in our community has to go hungry. Even if we’re living here in Montgomery County and there’s not so much hunger here. If we can’t find any here, cross the line folks. There’s plenty in D.C.. What’s wrong with that? How hard is it? It’s not hard at all. So maybe this week you get Bartlett pears rather than exotic pears, and with that extra money you can buy a can of soup for somebody. That’s okay. You’ll live.

What I’m asking you to do now is to begin to formulate how as a community we are going to move into the world. As I explained earlier in the retreat, we are to some degree following a monastic format that was presented to us in Tibet. We have our ordained community. We have our lay community. But it’s never going to fly in that format here. In Tibet, the monasteries were isolated and separate. They experienced a whole different world which did not interface with the community very much. That’s not going to work here. The majority of Buddhists are probably not going to be ordained. So Buddhists have to get involved with the lives of householders. That has to be part of the Buddhist community in as respected and as strong a way as the ordained Sangha. So it would seem to me that while we are searching for a way to express the Buddha’s teachings in our society without fear and hesitation, with compassion and equanimity, let’s also toy with the idea of, as a Sangha, as a spiritual family, as a community, being a visible presence in our world. There should be a place to go to, and someone you can count on, but mostly a good heart in our community.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Let’s Get Practical

christmasshopping

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered during a “Good Heart Retreat”

How can we possibly move in the direction of encouraging spiritual centers, churches, whatever, to take responsibility for the community around them without prejudice and without distinction? Let’s say, as Buddhists, we would be interested in the welfare of the Baptists in Poolesville, or the Catholics or the Jews, or anybody, or the people that don’t have religion. What kind of plan would it take? What would we have to implement to encourage that? What kind of power could you wield to get the attention of other spiritual organizations to ask them to join you in participating? Relatively speaking, we’re the new kids on the block. I mean who’s going to listen to us? If they were going to listen to anybody, they’d probably listen to the big religious names in this country, whatever they are. So why would they listen to us? Well, actually, I think about the worst thing that we could do is preach about it. I think that if we do that we’ll never be able to accomplish our goal. It seems to me that the best way to try something like that is quietly and humbly, and maybe even invisibly. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Simply finding ways to take care of your community.

I found out a couple of years ago that there was a family in Poolesville, just two people that one of my sons told me about, a mother and a son; and they had nothing to share with each other for Christmas. They were the kind of family where they have money for the electric bill and a certain amount for groceries, a certain amount for rent; and beyond that there is no discretionary income. So there was no way to save up for Christmas, which here is so abundant. You know, we’re not even Christians and we’re so abundant with Christmas. We love it. We think it’s a beautiful holiday, and we love the spirit of it, and we give each other gifts, and that sort of thing. But here were people who couldn’t even celebrate their own religious holiday, except in a spiritual way, I guess, for they had literally nothing to give one another. And so, actually, I’m not saying this to pin any medals on myself, but the reason why I’m telling you this is because it was easy for me to do. It was like no big deal. I had a bunch of stuff. One thing I’ve got a lot of is stuff. Stuff comes to me. I don’t know how stuff comes to me, but it comes to me a lot. Particularly, the little crystal candy dishes. For some reason, for years and years and years, my Sangha would give me crystal candy dishes. I have enough crystal candy dishes to supply an entire crystal store. So I have stuff, and I’m deeply appreciative of all the gifts that I get and I say thank you very much, put it away for somebody else, because someday I’m able to share some of that with others. It doesn’t mean you don’t get the merit. You all still get the merit, don’t worry. In fact, you get more merit.

So I put together a package of stuff for this family, and I was able to share some of the gifts that we had that we didn’t really need. And it just also so happens that this woman was the same size as I am, so I gave her a lot of clothes. So that was really great, and what happened was these people came and they spent some time with us. The karma’s not there for them to become Buddhist, but I was never expecting that. I don’t care. What I do care about was for them to be touched by a little bit of love and to look at our community and say, ‘Wow!’ Now that’s something, isn’t it? That’s something—to take care of a family in your community because they don’t have something and you do. That’s a powerful statement. You don’t have to talk about it. You certainly don’t have to preach about it. You simply have to do it.

Not all of us have a lot of stuff like me. You may not have that glorious karma that invites all those candy dishes or ducks into your house. I used to get ducks a lot, too. One of my teachers used to call me Duckie. So I got ducks you wouldn’t believe. All kinds of ducks. You may not be fortunate enough to have stuff like that, but supposing you knew how to get it. Supposing you had friends that had stuff. Or supposing you had connections with stuff. Or supposing you had an abundance of courage to where you could walk around to people that have more and say, ‘Would you share with the people that have less? Would you help us with this? We’d like you to know that your neighbor a few doors away is not having such an easy time. Would you help us with this?’ Just a simple request, yes or no. All they have to say is no if they don’t want to do it. What if we thought that way as a community? And what if we made no secret of the fact that we intend to take care of this piece of the world? You know, we could start a trend. It’s interesting to me that if you look at the media now and you look at films, you look at books, you look at what’s in the news, what’s noteworthy, Buddhism actually has become quite a fad. Who’d a thunk it! It’s become quite popular. The movie stars and the musicians are liking it now. You know what that means! We’re in.

What if this idea became a trend? It’s not so unthinkable that this could happen. Being not at all practical, being a little dumb about how things work in the world, I don’t see any reason why not. Don’t bust my bubble. I don’t want to hear that ‘no way to get there from here’ crap. What if our community could be a visible presence, like a visible good heart, that all could partake of? We’re talking about overcoming the poisons in our own mind-stream. We’re talking about demonstrating the Buddha’s teachings, the Buddha’s statement of the equality of all that lives, of the need for all beings to be happy, of their difficulty in attaining happiness. What would be so tragic about walking our talk? Why couldn’t we do this?

It seems to me that people of another faith might not be interested in giving to a Buddhist temple. Why should they? They’re doing their thing, and we’re doing our thing. Everybody’s so separate. Wouldn’t it be something if a number of community churches and temples could gather together and make some kind of non-profit organization through which funds could be funneled to mutually benefit and blanket the entire community without regard to race or religion? I don’t think it’s so impossible. The thing is there have already been studies that have shown us that in this country alone, there’s enough money to feed the world. Poverty doesn’t have to exist. We have the power now, immediately. What if the Buddhists in this country became available, really available to their community? And what if it started a trend? And what if it continued and grew?

I’d like to see that happen. And what I would like to do is to have some of you who are inclined to perhaps think of some different plans, ways to work stuff like this out. Let’s start toying with the idea. Let’s start playing with it a little bit, just to see what we can come up with. Let’s find ways that we can be available to our community without discrimination, and without ever requiring of anyone that they change their religion or anything like that. Let’s just think that as a spiritual people, as a spiritual community, the buck stops here. To me that is one of the most outrageous and gorgeous dreams that we could aspire to together. I think it’s really cool. If there’s any reason why it can’t be done, please don’t tell me, because I want to fly just like the bumblebee. I don’t want to hear it.

So let’s start tossing that idea around as a spiritual community. We have smart people here. How many of you are professional smart people in this group? Come on, don’t be shy. Okay, so you professional smart people, I’m kind of dumb. I don’t know anything very much. I don’t know too much about this world, so you’re going to have to find a way for dumb little old me to express this dream. You people who know about organizing stuff, which if any of you looked at my closets, you know I don’t know anything about it. You know about organizing stuff and you know about making foundations and you know about talking to other people, and you know about what kinds of formats we could use to spread this idea. So as part of your good heart effort on a communal level, why don’t we start thinking like this? Start pushing this idea around; start playing with it a little bit. Let’s build a big fantasy about this, and let’s do it. What could happen except we go broke? We’ve been broke for so long we wouldn’t even notice. Hey, I’ll sell my candy dishes. But I’m just dumb enough to not know why we can’t do this. And so I think that, as usual, I have the dumb, impractical, unrealistic idea and you get to make it happen.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Most Important Practice

human-kindness-11

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

The traditional fundamental ideas of all sentient beings as being equal—the realization that all sentient beings are suffering equally, that it is unacceptable to see their suffering, that all sentient beings are interrelated with us—these fundamental thoughts are really important. But go on from that and practice the mechanics of changing habitual tendency. It is not enough to be theoretical. The biggest fault that I find in Buddhist practitioners is that they keep it academic. I do not myself like academic Buddhist students. I would rather you knew nothing about the academics of practice and a heck of a lot about changing the habitual tendency of self-absorption through a real practice. Because academics is not going to get you anywhere but between your ears. On the other hand, giving rise to the bodhicitta and pure view and changing habitual tendencies will lead to profound realization, to the perfect awakening. Not only that, but it will lead to a better world.

So for my money, I feel like the best thing you can do is to begin to practice in a small and simple way. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do that either. And you don’t have to be a high falutin’ practitioner to do that either. You don’t have to wear the robes, or walk the walk or dance the dance or talk the talk, or even have a nifty mala which seems to be the highest priority when we first become a Buddhist. Big deal! The highest priority should be loving kindness and you should begin in whatever small way that you can, making no conclusions, other than the fact that you have a pattern and that you can change it. Remember the idea of the scales. That’s really important. Remember the idea of applying the method today. Now. Remember the idea of confession and restitution immediately after any breakage. How potent. What an incredibly potent way to live! Can you imagine living without the burden of guilt or the burden of the false assumption that you are a bad person?  You’d have so much spare time on your hands. You wouldn’t know what to do. Because all the things you do to prove yourself you wouldn’t have to do anymore. Isn’t that true?

Do yourself a favor. Live simply in that way. It’s the best and highest practice. In the Vajrayana tradition we are given many things that we can do. We practice Ngöndro, preliminary practice. We meditate on the Thoughts that Turn the Mind.We practice generational stage practice, completion stage practice. We visualize ourselves as the meditational deity and pronounce mantra. All of those things are meant to put more in this pile. The most important practice is that of loving kindness, that of viewing others as equal. Don’t view them as worse than you, no matter what they look like and that way there won’t be anybody better than you.  All of this has been taught by the Buddha and is absolutely true.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Foundation of Compassion

Kapala

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

You have to understand the faults of cyclic existence in order to practice the ultimate bodhicitta. One must truly come to understand and be able to make the commitment that there is a cessation to suffering, but it is not found in revolving endlessly in cyclic existence. It is found in achieving enlightenment. In the state of enlightenment, having abandoned the faults of cyclic existence, the hatred, greed and ignorance and all of those qualities that produce the suffering of cyclic existence, one has effectively ended their involvement with cyclic existence and can come back by choice as a returner in order to be of benefit to others. This is the ultimate bodhicitta, the ultimate kindness.

I think about my teachers and I cannot believe their kindness. . For instance,  when I was recognized as a reincarnate lama,people asked me how I felt about my own recognition.

I said to them, “There are days when I’m not too thrilled with it. To tell you the truth, I wish it could have some other way. It is not what it is cracked up to be.”  When I think about my recognition, I think about one thing that amazes me. I think about my guru. How in the world did he pull the strings to make it happen? I had never heard of him before. He comes from the other side of the world, from India, into my living room and recognizes me. How did he find me?  How did he do that?  What kind of compassion would make that possible?

The story that I hear is that when he was a little boy and a young lama engaging in certain practices in the temple in Tibet, he actually said prayers that he could find this incarnation because he witnessed one of the relics from the predecessor of this incarnation. Just due to that prayer because he has such enlightenment, this amazing thing happened. How could I have met him?  How could that have happened?  It’s a miracle. I think about the kindness of such an effort as that. I think of this incredible kindness to be of such a mind that can do something in such an effortless way and have it benefit sentient beings. What practice he must have engaged in! How pure that mind must be! How amazing that he would go through the trouble—ultimate compassion, incredible, ultimate compassion. Unbelievable. He is the only one that could have done that, and he didn’t fault on that responsibility. He did that. That is what I think about that recognition: It is proof of his kindness. Only with the mind of enlightenment can we affect cyclic existence in such a way as to produce enlightenment for others. That is the kind of kindness that I wish to emulate. I wish to throw myself into that. I hope that you do. I hope that you can see the value of that.

This doesn’t mean that you have to wear robes or hole yourself up in a cave somewhere. You practice as you can, the best way that you can. Just give it your best shot. But in order to make your decision you must first understand the faults of cyclic existence. You must understand how cyclic existence develops. And you must understand what the end of suffering actually is and the meaning of ultimate bodhicitta. It means the end of all of it. It means the end of all the cause and effect relationships that create this phenomena.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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