Finding Our Way Home


By the time you have grown and begun to find your path, you have already lost yourself somewhere.  You don’t understand yourself any more.  You have already done things for which you do not forgive yourself.  You have already substituted something else for the longing that you felt.  You have already substituted something else for your Teacher.  In having done that, it is difficult to find your way home.  It is difficult to reach what was originally very pure in your mind.  It is difficult to rebirth what was very pure and tender inside of you.

And now, you can’t just say, “Oh, I found it at last.  The longing is finished.  I found what I’m looking for.  I found my path, but in the meantime, I’ve been promiscuous and I don’t forgive myself or I’ve become tough, or numb or I’ve become materialistic.”

What happens is that because you see what’s in front of you, it’s so precious and it’s just what you’ve been waiting for, instead of being able to just grab it and eat it, what we do, then, is try to deal instead with the numbness or the hardness or the promiscuity or the materialism.  Because we have become used to this feeling of longing, the longing remains, and we are not able to truly be one with the path and with a Teacher.

We’ve forgotten how to satisfy ourselves.  We’ve forgotten how to do anything except blame ourselves and be angry.  We make lots of mistakes, compulsively make mistakes.  We do not follow the path purely and with a full heart.  You have to ask yourself: Is the person who says I’ve got to get my Three Roots practice done today,  is that the same person, who, as a child, was waiting for something, was just hungry for something?  It’s not the same person.  We feel differently now than we did back then and we don’t know how to get back to that original place of purity.  We feel something is amiss when we think we’ve found our path because we feel anger, guilt and we feel dirty.  We feel different, impure.  Then we try to approach the Teacher and the teaching and the path itself in an impure way, because we believe that we are somehow impure.

Having longed for the taste of our own nature for such a long time, now when we look at the Teacher and the teaching, we see it as something altogether different.  We see the Teacher as a human being, and we try to get close to a human being.  Why do we do that?  We do that because we spent our whole lives trying to fit that longing into an acceptable picture, and now we’re trying to do the same thing.

We are afraid to long.  We are afraid to experience the depth of that longing and instead, we try to get close to the person.  We are afraid to experience the bliss of the union between the meditator, the meditating mind and the nature that is meditated on.  The bliss of that union is so strong and we are afraid to experience it. So instead, we long for some kind of union with the person who is our Teacher at this time.  It is even common to feel a strong sexual urging for our Teacher.  It doesn’t matter if the Teacher is the same sex.  Students can have dreams and they will have strong sexual urgings for the Teacher.  If you think of the Teacher as a mother or father figure, or an authority figure, or a therapist that you come to with your ordinary stuff, there will never be satisfaction, because that isn’t the truth.  That is not the nature of the Teacher.  That longing has once again been diverted into a way that you understand.  It becomes a perpetuation of the suffering that you had as a child where the longing was not understood, where it was diverted and where it could not be satisfied.

So, the feeling of longing is mistaken.  The longing is for union, not for sexual behavior.  It is misunderstood. And what generally happens is a feeling of rejection, because the Teacher does not comply with our wishes.  There is a feeling of guilt.  There is a feeling of wondering what’s wrong with you.  There’s a feeling of a lack of acceptance of yourself.  There’s a feeling of a lack of confidence, a feeling that you are somehow impure in your motivation.  The longing sometimes becomes so strong that one is unable to practice.

You want the Teacher to hold you and love you, or you want the Teacher to be with you as a friend.  You are unable to practice because you are so busy watching how your Teacher acts towards you.  Does he or she smile at me?  Does he or she hold my hand when I’m lonely?  Does he or she notice when I’m ailing?  Does he or she come after me when I’ve strayed?  You’re so busy noticing that that you do not practice.  The practice is the caring for you.  The practicing is the coming after you when you have strayed.  The practice is the taking you home into that acceptance and awakening to that nature.  The teachings that you receive are the relationship with the Teacher.  They are the fruits the Teacher brings to you.  If you are longing for union with the Teacher, when the Teacher teaches you from his or her mind, and offers you the essence of what they know, that is the union, far more so than any physical friendship could ever be.  There is nothing more intimate than that.

Yet, we continue to not understand.  We continue to divert the longing, not accept ourselves and blame ourselves.  We continue to create a bad relationship with our Teacher.  If we understood what was happening, we would run to the teacher, run to the path, run to the experience of being on the path and of practicing in order to achieve enlightenment with open arms and with an open heart.  But instead, we are doing these other things that do not accomplish the awakening that we wish.

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Longing for the Guru”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

What Does Love Taste Like?

In this excerpt from a teaching called The Dharma of Technology, Jetsunma is speaking to her students who had recently received the Rinchen Terzod from His Holiness Penor Rinpoche who conferred the Rinchen Terzod at Kunzang Palyul Choling in 1988

Do you remember in the empowerments in the Rinchen Terzod we had the opportunity to taste different things, something sweet and something bitter, then His Holiness said, “Who is the taster?  You know what makes this sweet and this bitter?”  The taster does, because if you tried to find the essence of the thing that you’re looking at, remember, if you divided it down and looked at it under the microscope you would never find its thing-ness.  In fact, you would never find its sweetness.  Which molecule is the sweet one?  You would never really find that.  What is sweet is sweet to the tongue and the tongue is the determiner of that taste.  Who does the tongue belong to?   The tongue belongs to you.  So you, in fact, are the one that determines whether the thing is sweet or not.  You are the taster.  And so when you examine yourself and you boil everything down and smear it on the microscope, you can’t find where you are, then you realize that sweet and sour, sweet and bitter are concepts and they are just proliferations of the mind.

In the same way, this person that drives you crazy and this person that is the precious jewel in your life are equal.  It is the hatred and the desire, the hope and fear, the attraction and aversion in your mind that causes you to make a difference between them.  If you looked at them with the mind of enlightenment, you would see that they are the same.  Yet we all have our likes and dislikes.  But somehow through our practice, we have to accomplish such pure view, free of desire and on fire with love that they are the same.  We have to give our lives equally for both of them.  We have to be willing to eat an ocean of suffering for the ones we can’t stand and for the ones we truly love.  It’s easy to make sacrifices for the ones you love.  It’s easy to make sacrifices for your children.  That’s not hard.  Anyone can do that.  I was reading the other day about a creature called a midge.  It conceives its children inside its belly and then as the children grow, they eat the mother from inside out and the mother dies.  It’s a shell and it opens up and the children come out.   And then after a while they reproduce in the same way.  If a little bug can do that, if it can give its life to nurture its children, you can do that.  That’s not hard.  That happens even on the lowest realms.

What’s really hard is to give your life for all sentient beings, the ones that you know and the ones that you don’t know and to do so in a way so that the ones that you can’t stand are equal to the precious pearls in your life.  They have to be the same.  If you give only so much and you stop giving, only extending your love to your family or friends and to the people that you know here, or your nation or your planet or even your universe — what about the other 2,999 myriads of universes?  What about all of the sentient beings who are, with hatred in your heart, not worthy of your love, but with love in your heart, the same as you?

That’s when you have accomplished Dharma, when your love is that great, when you are that mindful of compassion, when through your meditation and through your practice, and through your understanding of the Buddha’s teachings, you have come to understand the equality of all that lives, that they are the same mind, the same uncontrived primordial wisdom nature, that they only appear to be different.  They suffer, they live and they die because of their confusion.  What makes the ones you hate so hateful?   First of all, it’s your vision of them.  You are the taster.  Someone else loves them.  Who loves them is the same as you and you’re the same as them.  The difference is the particular karmic pattern of attraction and repulsion, of desire that manifests in your life.

The one that you hate is the same nature as you with the same capabilities, with the same desire to be happy.  The difference is that this person may be confused and the only way they know how to reach for happiness is in the ways that make them unhappy.  And of course you, in your hatred and your greed and your ignorance interpret their activity because of the karma of your mind.  This sounds like elementary stuff. The sun pours forth and it doesn’t say, “Well, I think I’ll go to violets today and roses are going to be in the dark.”  The sun doesn’t do that.  Its nature is to pour forth and embrace all life and it is the source of life.  Your compassion, your mind is like that in its natural state.  It is that all-pervasive compassionate reality, that all pervasive non-dual mind state and so your love has to be that way.  Your accomplishment of Dharma has to be like that, with that understanding.

It sounds elementary.  It sounds simple.  But we still hate.  We still judge.  We still have the seeds for war in our bodies and in our minds.  We still have the seeds for old age, sickness and death.  We still have the seeds for all the six kinds of suffering in all of the six realms, and so in that way, we have not accomplished Dharma.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Path is Love

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

Is the Bodhisattva unafraid?   Heck no!  The Bodhisattva is afraid just like anyone else.  Why not?  Nobody wants to be challenged.  Nobody wants to have difficulty or obstacles.  Nobody wants to suffer.  The Bodhisattva is not less afraid than anyone else. But what is fear in the face of the needs of the many?  What is fear, knowing that what I might collect out of my fearfulness will ultimately lead to my unhappiness and disappointment?

I’ve been practicing the Bodhisattva Path for some time.  I am afraid of everything.  Everything frightens me.  I’m a jellyfish by nature.  But I don’t stop, because it doesn’t make any sense to stop.  Does the Bodhisattva no longer want anything or need anything?  No!  I want and need everything!  Anything you want to give me would be much appreciated!  But I do not concern myself with gathering such things.  I concern myself with the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.  That’s what I concern myself with.

I’m not a perfect Bodhisattva, but there have been perfect Bodhisattvas. And I can tell you that with the understanding that the Bodhisattva naturally obtains through this kind of conduct: There is a natural kind of internal ease or lightness of being, a kind of quiescence that is a natural byproduct of that lack of emphasis on self-concern and increased emphasis on the well-being of all sentient beings, and the reasonableness of accumulating only those virtuous characteristics which can benefit in all future times.  There is a reasonableness about that and, as we emphasize that reasonable method, and do not emphasize ego-cherishing and ego-clinging, there is a natural lightness of being that occurs that, even while if someone punches us we will be punched and we will roll over, it isn’t so heavy because, as a Bodhisattva, although you may experience phenomenal reality in the same way that others do, there is not the suffering of suffering, which only actually occurs when one is filled with desire, just like the Buddha taught—filled with self-cherishing and ego-clinging, filled with hatred, greed and ignorance. The deep neurosis of acting inappropriately according to what you actually are, the suffering of suffering, comes from that.  It comes from acting like something that is death-oriented, that is contracted, that is separate and limited as opposed to acting as though you understood that you are that primordial wisdom nature, that ground of being, that Buddha nature, that state of innate wakefulness, that quiescent light.  That is the great Bodhicitta that is your nature.

If we could act in accordance with that, that deep neurosis that is characteristic of samsara, that suffering of suffering, could not exist in such a life.  So then, for such a one who practices in that way, all efforts become a benefit to sentient beings, no matter what they appear like.  Ultimately they will result in benefit.  This is the life of the Bodhisattva and this is the practice of the Bodhisattva, and this is what each one of us must attain to because I will tell you, no matter how good you are at sitting in the lotus position or how good you are at looking like a meditator or how many of the rules of meditation you know or how many of the books on spiritual practice you have read and can memorize, if you do not have the Bodhicitta, if you are not alive in love, you have no path.  If you do not consider others before you, you have no path, because the path is love.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Abandoning Love: The Fourth Root Downfall

The following is respectfully quoted from “Perfect Conduct” with commentary by Dudjom Rinpoche:

4.b.3(b.4) Abandoning love:

The fourth is wishing that any sentient being should be separated from happiness and losing heartfelt love for them.

To wish any sentient being should be separated from happiness and to stop feeling heartfelt love for them is the fourth root downfall. The object can be one sentient being or many. To wish for them to be separated from happiness and to meet with suffering or misfortune, thus forsaking them and giving up any love for them at all, constitutes this downfall.

Light of Compassion

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the Vow of Love series

Somehow you have found yourself in this fortunate, amazing position where this feast of possibility is laid before you. How did you come to this point? How is it possible that you have this option? You must have done something right in the past, and I suggest that you now build on it. If you don’t cultivate the mind of extraordinary compassion and such a burning love that compassion is the most important force in your life, then the natural inclinations of a mind filled with desire will overcome you. This is Kaliyuga, the age of degeneration, and that’s how it is. You must practice and cultivate that mind of compassion, of love, so thoroughly that you are moved to the core by even the faint possibility that you might achieve liberation in order to benefit beings. You think of nothing else. You must cultivate that until you burn with it. Don’t be afraid of that kind of love.

In the West we are taught, “Be cool. Hey, I’m an intellectual, I don’t think like that. I’m kind of special.” That’s what we’re taught, that’s our value system. That is the same value system we will take to our graves, and only the selfishness of that kind of idea will survive, not the intelligence. There is one thing that will survive this life, and will create the karma for your next life. It is the purity of your mind and the degree of love that you have accomplished. This will be the determining factor for how you will return time and time again in a form that will benefit beings until someday there is no more suffering.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

The Door of the Heart

The following is from a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

It is difficult when we love one person especially. Might as well poison yourself, grief comes. Love all beings equally, you will never be alone. There is nothing outside your own heart that will make you truly happy. Without training our hearts to love altruistically we will never recognize love. The door of heart opens from within.

Why do I say this? Because I love you. You, you.

Why do people doubt the motivation and truth of love? Because they cannot feel it. They cannot imagine it. To some, love is the enemy; the proof that all sentient beings are equal. One ego is nothing.

In truth without altruistic love we are not truly alive. This is the mark of a human life! Our capacity. Oh, Father Sun, Sister Moon kindly bless us and our Mama Earth at this time of change, deciding and endurance. Prayer needed.

May wind come as a caress. May rain gently cleanse and nurture. May the sun show his wisdom. May all sentient beings be happy.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Foundation of Benefiting Beings

Excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the Vow of Love series

To truly understand the mind of compassion is to understand suffering. To be willing to cultivate aspirational compassion and act in accordance with those aspirations, so that you fully intend to liberate your mind from the causes of suffering and fully intend to return in whatever form necessary in order to benefit beings.  In so doing, you’re on your way. Whether you call yourself a Buddhist or not, kindness is a universal term. No one’s got a corner on it. Compassion is not a word that the Buddha invented.

I am a Buddhist because I found this religion is the most useful way to benefit beings. This is my own determination. If you also determine this for yourself, then continue to do what you’re doing. Perhaps you’re heading towards studying Buddhism, or perhaps you are already studying it. But if you don’t want to become a Buddhist, that doesn’t let you off the hook! You still have to live a life of compassion.  No matter what path you’re following, compassion is the only way to realization. No matter whom you’re listening to, hatred, greed and ignorance are the causes for suffering. There is universality about all this. Whether you call yourself Buddhist or not, you still have a job to do. I suggest doing it by first cultivating the firm foundation of fervent aspiration to be of ultimate benefit, and by having the courage to look at the content and meaning of suffering and determining how best to overcome it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Be Honest

Excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the Vow of Love series

Now, when we talk about practical compassion, it actually occurs on two levels. There’s a universal level, in the sense you care so much for all sentient beings that your goal is to do whatever is necessary to eliminate suffering for them all. But does that mean that if you see a hungry child you shouldn’t feed him? Or does that mean you shouldn’t be kind in an ordinary, human way? Ordinary compassion, ordinary human kindness is very important. But in understanding the Buddha’s teaching, it shouldn’t be the only thing you do. You have to live an ordinary, virtuous life, but you have to live an extraordinary life as well. The activity of kindness and compassion should have both a universal and an ordinary level.

On the other hand, I don’t believe in ‘idiot compassion.’  Have you ever heard of idiot compassion?  It is when you look at people who are needy and you see them going through their stuff, and you try to be so kind to them and give them what they need, or what they say they need. You actually don’t help them because you increase their dependency. You increase their willingness to tell you how much they need. You’re just helping them along; you’re playing with them. So I don’t believe in idiot compassion because it doesn’t help them. I believe that sometimes, real compassion has to be harsh.

In Buddhism, you see as many wrathful deities as you do peaceful deities. Why is that? Is it because the Buddha is half mean and half nice? I don’t think so. It’s because sometimes compassionate activity has to be a little wrathful. Sometimes it has to be a little aggressive. It depends. If you really are pure and your determination is to really be of benefit, and not just to be a nice guy, after training yourself in this way, you’ll know what to do. You won’t get hooked on idiot compassion. Everybody likes ‘feel-good’ stuff, but that doesn’t always help. You should, however, be a human being of virtue. You should be kind. You should be honest.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Compassion: The Root Commitment – How Will It Look for You?

Excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the Vow of Love series

What form will your compassion take? Making compassion your root commitment to sentient beings must take some form. How can you begin to do that? First, I recommend again that you be courageous enough to study the nature of suffering: how it has evolved, what it means, where it exists. See for yourself. Go through a logical thought process. What will bring about the end of suffering? If I did this and this and this and this, will suffering really end? What can the possible results be? Allow yourself to really go through an examination of suffering. Come to your own understanding of suffering so that you can decide what your next action must be. Allow yourself to think, “Well, if I did this good thing for somebody, or if I fed the world and got everybody out of poverty, what would the result be?” Follow this line of reasoning to its logical end, and see if there’s any specific action that you could take that would truly end suffering completely.

Then, think of the Buddha’s logic and try to understand what that might mean. What if what the Buddha says is true? What if hatred, greed and ignorance are the root causes for suffering? What if you could completely remove the seeds of suffering from the fabric of reality? What if it were possible, through the extensive practices given by the Buddha, to accomplish that for yourself first, and then reincarnate in a form by which you could benefit others by offering that same method again and again? Might that be a solution? It’s a slow one, but it’s a big universe. Is it possible that might work? According to the Buddha’s teaching, when you take a vow as a Bodhisattva, you vow to liberate your own mind from hatred, greed and ignorance. You vow to liberate your mind from the very idea of self-nature as being truly valid. You agree to liberate yourself from any form of desire, and you do that specifically so that you can return again and again, in whatever form necessary, in order to be of benefit to sentient beings. You agree to propagate the Dharma. It doesn’t mean that you become a born-again evangelist. It means that you reincarnate and allow yourself to return in whatever form necessary in order to bring teachings to beings that will finally help them out of the sea of delusion that comes from the belief in self.

You should contemplate this and think, “Is this solution really useful?” You have a couple of different options at that point. If you decide that the Buddha’s teaching is valid and useful, you can begin to develop aspirational compassion. Right now, if I were to say to you, “Do you want to help people? Do you want to help the world?” You’d say, “Yeah, I’m on! Look at what I’ve done. I’ve done a lot!” But I tell you, until we reach supreme enlightenment – and I’m talking about bona fide, rainbow-body, walk-on-the-water, supreme enlightenment – we must continue courageously to develop the mind of compassion in every moment. Until we can liberate the minds of others just through a breath, just through a glance, just through a moment of being with them, just through a prayer, we have not truly attained the liberating mind of compassion.

We must continue with this effort throughout all of our lives. Even though we may have the idea of compassion, we must develop aspirational compassion. We must aspire to be anything that would bring true and lasting benefit to beings. We must offer ourselves and our minds again and again and again. I think of one prayer of a Western Bodhisattva that touched me very much as a child, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” That’s the kind of thought that we as Westerners must have within our minds. As we begin to become more comfortable with Eastern terminology, then we can think, “Let me be born in whatever form necessary, under any conditions in order that beings should not suffer. If there is the need for food, let me return as food. If there is the need for drink, let me return as drink. If there is a need for a teacher, let me return as the teacher. If there is a need for shade, let me return as the tree. If there is the need for love, let me return as arms.” You must continue to develop this idea in such a selfless way that it doesn’t matter to you in what form you can give this love.

Your job would be to liberate your mind to such an extent that you achieve realization through strenuous activity. Yes, the Dharma is difficult. Any path that promises to lead to enlightenment has to be difficult because it’s a long way from here. Let’s face it, any path that leads to bona fide, no-kidding, walk-on-the-water, rainbow-body enlightenment – I’m not talking about a psychological “a ha!,” I’m talking about the real juice – must be very involved, very profound.

So your first thought must be, “Let me then liberate my mind to such an extent that I achieve some realization, and then I wish to return in whatever form is necessary. May I be able to emanate in many bodies. May these emanations fill the earth, and, if necessary, one-on-one, through those emanations, let suffering be ended. Or if it can be done in some other way, I don’t care. It has no meaning to me. Only that suffering should end. What is important is that all sentient beings should themselves achieve liberation and go on to benefit others as well, until there are no more, until all six realms of cyclic existence are free and empty.”

When you get up in the morning, think, “As I rise from this bed, may all sentient beings rise from the state of ignorance and may they be liberated until there is no more suffering.” When you brush your teeth, think, “As I brush my teeth, may the suffering of all sentient beings be washed away.” When you take your shower, think, “As I take this shower, may all sentient beings be showered with a pure and virtuous path by which they themselves can be liberated.” When you walk through your door, think, “May all sentient beings walk through the door of liberation.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

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