Short Confession from Nam Cho Ngondro Vajrasattva

The following prayer is a short confession from the Nam Cho Dzogchen Ngondro Vajrasattva practice:

In the View, I confess all commitments broken through mental activity. Knowing the View is the all-pervasive foundational Bodhicitta; realizing that the View exists in non-existence, and practicing meditation that is non-existent, realizing that activity is neither existent nor non-existent, the Bodhicitta is without expectation or disappointment. All root and auxiliary commitments, breaches and failure to uphold them, are unborn, ungenerated, and liberated in the indivisibilty of the object to confess and the confession itself.

OM BENZAR SATO SAMAYA
MA NU PA LA YA
BENZAR SATO TE NO PA
TISH TRA DRI DHO ME BHA WA
SUTO KHAYO ME BHAWA
SUPO KHAYO ME BHAWA
ANU RAKTO ME BHAWA
SARWA SIDDHIM ME PRA YATTSHA
SARWA KARMA SU TSA ME
TSITTAM SHRI YAM KU RU HUNG
HA HA HA HA HO
BHAGAWAN SARWA TATHAGATA
BENZAR MA ME MUNTSA
BENZAR BHA WA MA HA
SAMAYA SATO AH

 

Sentient “Beingness”

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

In traditional Buddhist doctrine, we are given certain methods that will be helpful in alleviating our condition of suffering. These methods are pretty cut and dry, pretty simple. For instance, if we begin to practice preliminary practice, or Ngöndro, and we examine the thoughts that turn the mind ,in those thoughts are not only the four main thoughts, but there are also many different sort of auxiliary thoughts. Some of the ideas that we are lead to examine are first of all, the idea that all sentient beings are equal,  and we are led to examine that in this way. First of all, we all contain within us the Buddha seed, our inherent Buddha nature, and the reality that, at some point, each one of us will attain to that nature and will become awake, even as the Buddha has become awake. Each of us will attain that reality. For some of us it will be relatively soon, only ten thousand lifetimes from now. Piece of cake. For some of us, it will be a lot longer. Sometimes we have to think that for some people it almost seems like it will never happen, because you’re talking about aeons of cyclic existence. But the Buddha teaches us that each one of us has that inherent reality, and therefore we are, in our nature, the Buddha.

So, in that sense, we are exactly the same. We are also the same in our sentient beingness, if you can coin a phrase with me for a little while. And in our sentient beingness, we have certain things in common: We do have the ego cherishing. We do have self absorption. We do have confusion. We do have an inability to abide spontaneously in the primordial wisdom nature. We do experience death and rebirth in some form. All sentient beings do, even if they are not in the human realm. We all experience these certain conditions; we all experience suffering. We all experience hope and fear in some way.

So the Buddha teaches us to understand that we are all very much alike. And in that situation of alikeness, we can find a certain companionship with one another, a certain understanding or empathy toward one another, so that we don’t judge as severely. If we do understand that we all are revolving in cyclic existence, and that we all have hatred, greed, and ignorance and all those things running around, self-absorption and such, then when we look at someone else with hatred, greed and ignorance, we might think, ‘Oh, that’s kind of like me. I can understand that. I can see where that happens.’ So we develop a kind of patience, a tolerance, a kindness, and it’s the fundamental step that must be taken before true compassion arises.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Realm of the Jealous Gods

Jealous God Realm

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered during a Phowa retreat:

Now, the next realm of cyclic existence is the realm of jealous gods. And unfortunately the jealous gods have a mixed bag of tricks. The jealous gods are kind of interesting, because in one way they are powerful. They’re a little bit like the story of the old Jehovah god as demonstrated in the Old Testament. They’re very powerful. They can turn someone into a pillar of salt. They could do that sort of thing. They manifest magical powers, and they are very powerful. There is a certain buzz or excitement or happiness, or something, that goes with that kind of power. You know what I mean? In the experience of the person who is impoverished to the point where they simply cannot do anything, they have no power in their lives. They can’t even buy a loaf of bread; they don’t have the power to do that. The quality of that person’s life is going to be different from the rich person’s life where they have the power to get whatever they want. And in the jealous god realms they have a lot of power.

However, the reason for being born as a jealous god is literally competitiveness, egocentricity, and jealousy. And these jealous gods do nothing all day long but what is their habitual tendency: They compete with one another. But when jealous gods compete with one another they don’t just try to outdress each other. These guys have power, and they are constantly waging war with one another. The jealous gods are constantly waging war.

There is actually a terrible and immense suffering that comes with the jealous god realm. Even though you know you are powerful, you are powerful in an odd way. Powerful like the person who has built a fortress, an impenetrable fortress, and nothing can come in. Yes, nothing can come in, but everybody knows  you really can’t build an impenetrable fortress, you see. Everybody knows that. We have it in our minds that we’ve done this, but it’s not true and we know it. Because death can come in, sickness can come in. Nobody can build an impenetrable fortress. So we know this. Their kind of suffering is like that. They feel powerful because they’ve build this powerful realm; they have this powerful experience and they have this protection.

On the other hand, they also know that there’s no such thing, and that the other gods are just as powerful and can come in. And so they are jealously guarding their safety. What does ‘jealously guarding your safety’ feel like? Is it a happy experience? No, it is an experience of intense suffering, and it only increases the suffering that they feel. It only increases the jealous god’s need to go out and attack the other guy, compete with the other guy, and get on top of the other guy. Their experience is warlike. Constantly warring, warring, warring, warring; nobody wins. You win, you lose, you win, you lose. Kind of like that. That is the experience of the jealous gods. They love to dominate others. That’s their habit.

In the realm of the jealous gods, they are so concerned with their own safety and jealously guarding their safety, as well as competing with others for that safety, that they have not one moment with which to practice Dharma. Dharma would be to them the same as if you were to, say, talk to a warrior type that was schooled only in being a warrior. Okay, back to Star Trek, whaddya say? Let’s say you talk to a Klingon, like Warf, and you say to Warf, “Yo, Warfy-baby, here’s what we need to do. Instead of you being a warrior with all your stuff on (you know, he wears all this stuff and looks pretty powerful), why don’t you sit down and meditate gently, like a little girl? Why don’t you sit down and meditate very quietly, and in that way you can be very strong.” What would Warf say about that? Warf would say, “Pleeease!”  Warf wouldn’t have time to hear about this. Neither would any warrior who was trained to think of being strong and protecting one’s turf, and only thought like that. Neither could a person like that ever think that meditation or Dharma practice or anything like that is strength. And so they will push that away, not having time for it. They have to do what they have to do. That’s the way that a sentient being in the jealous god realm would think. They simply don’t have the instinct and they will not practice Dharma. They just will not practice Dharma. They’re too busy.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Value of Human Existence: Treasury of Precious Qualities

WM-198-23 Shakyamuni altar-M

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” a commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje, Kangyur Rinpoche:

SAMSARIC EXISTENCE

For ages we have lingered in samsara, unaware of its defects, believing that this is a wholesome, beneficial place. And yet it is a state in which suffering and its causes abound and where the qualities of liberation languish and wither. It is a desolate wilderness in which many times in the past our bodies and minds have burned in agony and have endured pains of mutilation and decapitation. Moreover, latent within us, there are still many karmic seeds that will provoke such sufferings in the future. Human beings generally do not see this and are thus not only without regret for their condition but actually crave the transient and futile pleasures of the higher realms. Totally unaware that they should engage in virtue and refrain from evil, they pass their lives sunk in negativity. Theirs is what is called a “mere human existence.” By their negative actions of thought and deed, they destroy themselves and render meaningless the freedoms and advantages of their human condition. From their lofty position in samsara they plunge again into evil circumstances. Thus they wander in the three lower realms, in heavens of insensate gods without perception, or in barbarous regions (where the Dharma is not heard); they are born physically or mentally handicapped, have wrong views, and take birth in places where no Buddha has appeared.

EIGHT CONDITIONS IN WHICH THERE IS NO FREEDOM TO PRACTICE DHARMA

On the ground of burning iron, without a single moment of relief, beings are slain again and again by the henchmen of the Lord of Death, who brandish frightful weapons, swords, and hammers and inflict terrible pain. Until their evil karma has been exhausted, these beings in hell are unable to die, and, due to karmic effects resembling the cause–in other words, their compulsive tendency to negativity–they are caught in a web of evil karma inspired by hatred, and their infernal life span is measureless.

Pretas generally are completely deprived of food and drink; they do not find even the slightest filthy fragment of pus, blood, or excrement to eat. No need to say, then, that they are tormented by hunger and thirst. The cooling effect of the moon in summer and the warming effect of of the sun in winter are all reversed; rain and hail are misperceived as lightening and thunderbolts; and the rivers are filled with pus and blood. For pretas that are afflicted outwardly, streams and orchards dry up as soon as they look at them. Those afflicted inwardly have heads that are not in proportion to their bodies: their mouths are as small as the eye of a needle, while their bellies are the size of an entire country. If they swallow a little food and drink, it scorches their intestines and they suffer intolerable pain. Their lifespan is uncertain, depending on the strength of obscurations due to former avarice. Generally speaking one of their days is equal to a month by human reckoning, and they live for five hundred of their own years.

In the depths of the great oceans, fish and sea monsters devour each other, the bigger ones gulping down the smaller. Animals scattered over the surface of the earth, wild and unclaimed, are the prey of hunters with their nets, traps, their poisoned arrows and their snare, and they die cruel deaths. Animals domesticated by man are slaves to their masters. They are tamed and subjugated with saddles, bridles, and nose-ropes. Their masters ride on them, tether them, and place burdens on their backs. They herd and castrate them, shear off their hair, and bleed them while still alive. And through such treatment, animals are reduced to every extremity of suffering. Being without intelligence, they cannot recite even a single mani. When beings are born in such a condition, they are helpless, and we are told the lifespan of animals ranges from the momentary existence of insects to that of nagas and such-like that can live for a kalpa.

Since the unwavering action that sustains their life-principle is extremely protracted, and their lives are therefore very long, lasting twenty intermediate kalpas, the gods of the formless realm have no occasion to cultivate a sense of disgust for samsara and a desire to leave it. Moreover, the consciousness of the insensate gods, who are without perception, does not operate throughout the duration of their existence. They are therefore deprived of any basis for hearing and reflecting on the Dharma. Their abode is far removed from that of the gods of the fourth samadhi, just as a solitary place is remote from a populous city. These divine beings have no notion of Dharma, and thus when their thoughts begin to stir at the end of their existence, they conceive the false view that there is no path to liberation, and as a consequence they fall to the lower realms. To be born in these states is to be deprived of the freedom to practice Dharma.

The inhabitants of so-called barbarous lands do indeed have a human aspect, walking upright on their two feet. But they live practically like animals are are utterly ignorant of the Doctrine. Virtue is foreign to their minds and they are given over to negativity. They live immersed in various kinds of evil activity such as wounding others with poisoned arrows, and even making it a tenet of their religion. They wander in the undergrowth of false views and, worse than animals, turn upside down the moral principles of what is to be adopted and what is to be rejected. The way of liberation is unknown to them.

Those whose faculties are impaired, who lack, for instance, the ability to speak, and especially those who are mentally handicapped, may encounter a spiritual guide who is on the supreme level of accomplishment, and they may even hear his or her teaching. But what is said is unintelligible to them, like the booming of an echo. The sense of the teaching is lost to them, and they fail to grasp the vital point of what actions are to be adopted and what should be forsaken. Thus their fortune is marred and they suffer greatly in this desolate and fearful wasteland of samsara.

To be born in samsara through the effect of karma and defilements is like being adrift upon a vast ocean, unfathomable and shoreless. To obtain a human form is like having a great boat with which to cross this ocean and reach the island of liberation. But though people may possess all their faculties, and though they may have intelligence, like a sail to propel them in the direction of freedom, this excellent support is wasted when the mind is clouded by false beliefs. As a result, such people fail to enter the Dharma and do not undertake the path to liberation so pleasing to the Buddha, who appeared in the world to set it forth. Denying the karmic principle of cause and effect, and claiming that there is no afterlife and so forth, they are beset by demons hindering them from the path of liberation. They fall under their power and lose their freedom.

To take human birth during a dark kalpa is once again of no avail, for these are periods when the light of Dharma does not shine, when no Buddhas appear in the world from the time of its formation until its destruction. To take such a birth is to be like a man who has fallen into a pitch-dark crevasse and has broken his legs. However much he tries to get out, he can neither see the way nor even move, for his legs are shattered. In just the same way, without the light of the path of freedom, people are unaware of the three trainings that could lead them to liberation. They constantly pursue false paths because of their ignorance and defilements. Not only have they fallen into a dreadful place from which they cannot escape, but by degrees they fall deeper and deeper, from the states of animals and pretas down to the infernal realms. The freedom to practice Dharma is totally absent.

In all such terrible circumstances, in which evil actions bring forth results in manifold suffering, whirling like the all-destroying hurricane at the end of time, the body is worn away with pain, and fear is the natural condition of the mind. Beings indulge in negative habits; they turn their backs on the sacred teaching. Thus we are advised to reflect again and again on how we might avoid being born in the eight conditions in where there is no freedom to practice the Dharma. Jigme Lingpa calls us to follow the path of liberation with diligence, so that by relying on the teacher and his profound instructions, we might make meaningful the opportunity we now possess.

FIVE INDIVIDUAL AND FIVE CIRCUMSTANTIAL ADVANTAGES

To have taken birth in a “central” land where the Dharma is proclaimed is like being a sapling planted in pure soil. To have fully functioning sense faculties and healthy limbs, and thus to have the basis for the reception, meditation, and practice of the teachings, is to be like a healthy tree in leaf and branch. To have confidence in the Doctrine of the Victorious One; to have the karma of one’s body, speech, and mind in perfect flower, undamaged by the hail of evil actions contrary to the Dharma (sins of immediate effect and false views concerning the Three Jewels); to have been born a human being able to uphold the Dharma and acquire the qualities of liberation: all this is like a miraculous, wish fulfilling tree. It is exceedingly rare and significant, and to put these five individual advantages to good effect is of the highest importance.

The fact that a Buddha has appeared in our world, an occurrence that is rare as the flowering of the udumbara; the fact that he proclaimed the Doctrine and that the three turnings of the Dharma wheel have blossomed into flower; the fact that through explanation and practice this Doctrine in both transmission and realization still exists in our day without decline; the fact that there are still teachers who have perfectly embraced the Dharma; and finally the fact that we have been welcomed into the “cool shade” of a virtuous friend, a perfect guide on the path to liberation: these five advantages are even rarer than the five individual ones.

THE RARITY OF A PRECIOUS HUMAN EXISTENCE

Why is it so necessary to treat the path with diligence and without delay? As we have said, the five individual advantages are as rare as the wish-fulfilling tree, while the five circumstantial advantages are like the udumbara flower, even rarer than the earlier five. These ten taken together form the special characteristics, and the eight freedoms form the basis, of what we call a precious human existence. If we do not take advantage of this now, an opportunity such as this will not be found again. The reason for saying this may be illustrated with examples. One could imagine, for instance, an ocean, vast as the three-thousandfold universe. In the depths of this ocean lives a blind turtle that rises to the surface only once every century. To attain a human birth is rarer than the chance occurrence of the turtle surfacing to find its head inside a yoke drifting at random on the water’s surface. Or again, one could suggest the difficulty of attaining a precious human existence by using numerical illustrations. Compared with the number of beings in the animal kingdom, humans are like stars seen during the day as compared with stars seen at night. And the same ratio may be applied between animals and pretas, and again between pretas and the denizens of the realms of hell.

This precious human existence is thus most rare and extremely meaningful. If those who journey on the pathways of the Dharma with liberation as their goal, who now have in their possession the great ship of freedom and advantage, and who have met with a holy teacher who is the guide and, as it were, the navigator of such a ship–if such people fail to cross the ocean of the boundless and unfathomable sufferings of samsara to the dry land of liberation, their opportunity will have been completely squandered. All this should be a subject of reflection and a spur to greater exertion.

The Stupor

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

Even though we may have practiced some preliminary practice and received some preliminary teaching, still the delusion hangs on. One of the things that is characteristic of samsaric beings or beings that are caught in the wheel of death and rebirth—that’s everyone here—is that samsaric beings tend to kind of fall into a stupor. A stupor.  And we fall into a stupor about every, oh, 30 seconds or so.  We can be temporarily reminded, and those of you who are practicing Ngöndro, which are actually those very preliminary teachings that we are going to discuss today, will notice that you can practice Ngöndro, meaning that you can read those lines, turning the mind towards Dharma, reading them oh so carefully.  What happens here is that repeatedly we are falling into the same stupor.  We are just losing it.  We just constantly lose it.

If I were to say to you now, O.K., you’ve finished your preliminary practice and you’ve accomplished your Ngöndro for today, so now we are going to go into Phowa practice, you have to organize your mind and your thinking and direct yourself so that you understand very clearly why we should practice, how Phowa is suitable for you and why it is necessary to put so much effort into this one particular practice.  The student who is not reminded, in the traditional way, how to approach these teachings, even though they have just been practicing their Ngöndro, will literally forget.  Or they will have that other wonderful remarkable trait that samsaric beings have which is to be able to literally repeat the text back to the teacher and say, this is why, du du du du du du, dudu dudu dudu, and they give you back exactly what they have just read.  But nothing is happening.  Those words are somehow coming out the mouth, not going in the brain.  They are simply not being internalized, and that is another kind of stupor that we fall into.

Therefore, in order to have the best result from our teaching, from our Phowa retreat this week and in order to keep in tune and in harmony with the way the teachings are traditionally taught, we will cover and re-cover some of the most fundamental traditional teachings in order to prepare ourselves; but we will do this in a condensed form and almost kind of conversationally because I have found that westerners who have the intention of absorbing a practice in order to utilize it in their everyday lives, in order to mesh it into their everyday lives, respond better to being taught conversationally, to being spoken to in a way that they are normally spoken to, not in a strange and archaic way.  Then they are able to knit things together much better. So that’s the way that we will approach our teaching for today and it will be useful for those of you who are not intending to pursue Phowa.

For those of you who are curious about what Phowa may be, Phowa is actually the science and the how-to, the traditional Buddhist teaching, the Buddhist view, on death and dying.  It is literally how to die.  The Vajrayana path, which is the path that we are on, is a subsection of the Mahayana path which is one of the many ways in which the Buddha has taught It is considered that our path, the Vajrayana path, is the only way that one achieve liberation within one lifetime.  Using any of the Buddhist teachings, one can surely attain liberation, but in Vajrayana one can attain liberation within the course of one lifetime.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Freedom Isn’t Free: Understanding Merit and the Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Power of Ngondro

The following is respectfully quoted from “Natural Liberation” by Padmasambhava:

OM VARJASATTVA SAMAYAM ANUPĀLAYA VAJRASATTVA TVENOPATISTHA DRDHO ME BHAVA SUTOSYO ME BHAVA SUPOSYO ME BHAVA ANURAKTO ME BHAVA SARVA SIDDHIM ME PRAYACCHA SARVA KARMASU CA ME CITTAM ŚRĪYAM KURU HŪM HA HA HA HA HOH BHAGAVAN SARVATATHĀGATA VAJRA MĀ ME MUŃCA VAJRA BHAVA MAHĀSAMAYA SATTVA ĀH

This is an extremely important practice. It’s dealt with quite concisely here, but more more elaborate instruction can be found in other teachings on the preliminary practices. This practice is of very tangible benefit. There are other teachings on Atiyoga and so forth that we may consider more esoteric or advanced, but it’s questionable how deeply benefited we can be by those and how much we can truly enter into experience of the Great Perfection. Here, though, is something of practical benefit. If you are familiar with this practice, it’s good to share it with others who may be beginners. By such a practice as this, the two types of obscurations can be purified. Once all of your obscurations have been completely purified, you are a buddha; and that means you have realized the Great Perfection.

Due to ignorance, delusion and stupidity,
I have transgressed my samayas, and they have degenerated.
O spiritual mentor, protector, protect me!
Glorious Lord Vajradhara,
Merciful being of great compassion,
Lord of the world, protect us!
Please cleanse and purify the whole mass
Of sins, obscurations, faults, downfalls, and taints.
By this virtue, may I now
Swiftly actualize Vajrasattva
And quickly bring every sentient being
Without exception to that state.
O Vajrasattva, may we become exactly
Like your form, with your retinue, life span, pure realm,
And with your supreme , excellent signs.

OFFERING THE MANDALA

Once you have begun purifying the two types of obscurations, there is the task of accumulating the two collections of merit and of knowledge for one’s own benefit and the benefit of others. The welfare of others is accomplished in the realization of the Rūpakāya, or form embodiment, of the Buddha; and it is toward accomplishing that end that one offers the mandala.

OM VAJRA BHŪMI ĀH HUM
The basis becomes the powerful golden ground.
OM VAJRA REKHE ĀH HŪM
On the periphery is a surrounding jeweled iron fence.
In the center is the supreme king of mountains,
Majestic in its composition from the five kinds of precious substances.
Lovely in shape, beautiful, and delightful to behold,
Seven golden mountains are surrounded by seven concentric seas.
In the east is the continent Videha, in the south, Jambudvipa,
The west is adorned by Godàniya,
And in the north is the great Uttarakuru;
With the eight sub-continents of Deha and Videha,
Cāmara and Aparacāmara,
Śāthā and Uttaramantrina,
Kurava and Kaurava,
The sun, moon, Rāhu and kālāgni,
And this bounty of wealth and enjoyments of gods and humans
I offer to the precious spiritual mentor and his retinue.
Out of compassion, please accept this for the sake of the world.

Be Your Own Best Friend

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

Understanding what is in front of you is like, I’ve used this analogy before, it’s like walking through a dark room. Let’s say that the life span that you have can be symbolized by a room. It’s dark because you don’t know what it’s going to be like. So let’s say the room is perfectly pitch dark. All the shades are drawn. It’s dark outside. No moon. Lights are off. We’re talking dark. And it’s like that because no one can predict the future. We have no idea what our lives are going to be like. But you have to walk through that room.

So you have a choice there. You can either do what we’re used to doing which is, eyes closed, you don’t turn on the light. You just take it the way it is and, like a fool, just walk through the room. Now unfortunately in that room, there’s a sofa, there’s a couch, there’s a table, lots of tables, there’s stuff on the floor. It’s like any other room. It’s furnished. Just like your life. It’s furnished. So you’re going to walk through that room what, with the light off?  With your eyes closed?  Guess what’s going to happen. Try it in your room. Try it in your house. Just walk around a while with all the lights off and your eyes closed. You are going to hurt yourself. You’re going to fall down.

There’s another choice, and this is the choice that Buddhism offers to you, or that this kind of practice specifically offers you—examining the faults of cyclic existence and examining what is the more noble way.This kind of practice offers you another alternative and that is turning on the light. Having seen the faults of cyclic existence that’s like you’re walking through this room, yes, but you know where the couch is. You can walk around the couch. You know where the chair is. You can walk around the chair. You know where the table is. You can walk around the table. Something on the floor. You can step over that. So while it may not be our natural tendency to look at life in that way, it behooves us to have that kind of courage because ultimately it would be like walking through your life really seeing what it is, being able to avoid the obstacles, taking advantage of what is there to take advantage of, and not hurting yourself.

It isn’t like you’re sentencing yourself to several months of the worst practice you’ve ever experienced. In a way, for the first time, maybe for the only time, you’re being your own best friend. You’re really looking, really seeing, not copping out. And because of that you will be more competent to move through your life than you might have been otherwise. And not only that, you’ve given rise to the great Bodhicitta, the great compassion, and you have understood that while you are alive in this world, you cannot accept, you cannot bear the suffering of sentient beings. You see that it becomes somehow disgusting and unacceptable to you, that your two feet, that your self could be here in this world, and sentient beings are suffering. That’s why, in the practice, we give rise to renunciation, true renunciation. We totally give up the self for the purpose of benefitting sentient beings.  Practice like that will produce that excellent result.

According to my teachers, this is a combination of preliminary practice called Ngöndro, which is where we see the faults of cyclic existence and give rise to the Bodhicitta, and it’s also the practice of Chöd. There’s no reason why any of you can’t begin to practice like that right now, immediately, tomorrow, today. That practice can be done deeply as I have just given instruction, but it can also be done in more casual way, as you’re walking around. Examine everything you see, and even if you are not a Buddhist, that’s fine with me. Even if you’re not planning on being a Buddhist but you’re interested in these words and you have some connection with them, great. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice in this way, because when I practiced in this way, I wasn’t. But it is the same ethics, the same morality and the same beauty that I have later come to find in my religion, Buddhism. So I offer this to you as a gift and I really hope that you take it with you wherever you go, and that, for my friend, it will bring you back safely, and that for all of you, you will have the most excellent result practicing in that way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Time To Practice

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Antidoting the Mantra of Samsara”

New students keep saying “Well this is amazing. I’ve been looking for something that’s that deep and that profound and this sounds really good, and as soon as I have time, you know, I’ll get into it. But right now I have children, and I have wife and I have a job and I have a car to support and all these things. So you know, I’m really for you and I hope lots of people become Buddhists and do all this. But right now for me I have to wait. I have to wait for a while. I have to wait ‘til my kids grow up. I have to wait ‘til my car is paid for. Right before I get the next one. And I have to wait for…, I just have to wait, you know, because waiting is what I do.”  And so the thought that we have when we’re waiting is that somehow this is all going to work out well. We’ll be exposed to the Buddha’s teachings and we’ll hear something. It’s that magical thinking: It’ll just sort of come together eventually.

Actually, if you really think about it, the Buddha’s teachings are so extensive, so developed, so profound, so deep that they take time to contemplate, to understand, to prepare for, to even build the foundation that causes you to practice foundational preliminary teachings. It takes time. Why? Because you have to change in the process!  We’re not in the business of applying bandaids here. It takes time for you to change. Some of you change faster than others. And it takes time to do the practice. The practice is extensive. So, I’m looking around the room now and I’m seeing that most of us are not under 10 years old. Therefore, whether we’re 20, 25, 35, 45, 55, 75 or however old we are, and it seems like there’s a mixture here, you need to start right now. Because there’s not much time.

There are two reasons: First of all the Buddha taught that there is no guarantee as to how long any of us are going to live, and you can’t understand this. For some reason it is beyond human capacity to understand this kind of thing, unless you yourself have been struck with a terrible illness or a terrible accident where you could have died or may still, or unless you’ve seen someone near you just kick off. Once you’ve had that experience you may understand, but before that, it’s very hard to understand what the Buddha has taught. There is no guarantee that you’re going to wake up tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year.

The second reason is the cause and effect relationships that constantly engage our own sea of karma. That sea of karma that is already hooked up and functional within our mindstream is very fluid and it’s constantly being catalyzed by other events. Each one of you most likely has the karma to live for a very long time and also the karma to die quickly. Which one will ripen?  Well, that’s up to you, according to how you practice, according to how you live, according to how you determine your mind state because everything you do, everything you think, everything you engage in is an additional cause and effect relationship and an additional catalyst. Everything you do is important.

So for each and every one of us the wisest thing to do is to begin to practice now. You know yourself very well. You know when you tighten up. You know what you need. You know when you get scared. You know when you do your best. You like to think you don’t know and you kind of get limp and act like you need guidance for everything, but in fact you do know. You do know how to take care of yourself if you stop and think about it and engage in some self-honesty. So do whatever it takes to mother yourself through, to nurture yourself through, to get to the point where you can actually practice.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

Why Such Effort?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Antidoting the Mantra of Samsara”

When you come here and you ask yourself what has to be done here, the answer is: It’s not just hanging out being a Buddhist. I don’t really care if you’re Buddhist. I just want you to be liberated. You can call yourself whatever you want. To hang out here and be a Buddhist is probably equal to going to a movie; but to hang out here and really practice and really apply the antidote, now that’s worth something. And that’s the kind of frame of mind you have to be in and think yourself in when you actually approach the path. You can see, however, how confusing it must be. As sentient beings, we can’t understand why it takes such an extraordinary effort. I mean, the other religions are much easier. So why wouldn’t we want to practice that?  Because according to the Buddha’s teaching, we are much more complicated than that. We are samsaric beings and we have been for a very long time. We are filled with delusions. Our minds are just jammed with discursive thoughts of all kinds. We are constantly engaging in conceptual proliferations, superstructuring. We cannot relax in our nature and awaken to the primordial state.

This is why it’s so complicated to practice Dharma as we do. These are the kinds of things that people ask: Well, why can’t we get through this easier?  And then we want to know, why do we have to do prostrations?  Why prostrations?  I mean, couldn’t we just be devoted standing up?  Well, then you have to ask yourself why you’re asking that question. And you might say “Well, it’s because I don’t like the getting up and down business. It’s too hard. It’s too tiring. It makes my back hurt and I just don’t want to do it.”  And so that’s your answer. You get up and down every day—dance the jig, carry on, do all kinds of amazing effortful activity in order to continue in samsara. How many calories do we burn every day?  What are we doing when we’re burning those calories?  Are we plowing forward towards Dharma?  Are we moving through the door of liberation?  No. No. No, we are going deeper and deeper into samsara. That is where our effort is involved every single day. So when we ask ourself, “Why does it take such an extraordinary effort?”, then we have to go back ourself. Do we understand what the goal is, what the point is? Until we understand why we’re doing this, and why we’re here… And it isn’t just to hang out.

There is something that actually needs doing in order to attain liberation. Otherwise liberation is not a fact, not a certainty, not a state, not a real goal. It’s simply an idea just like any other idea. Something that’s floating around. It’s just a word, it has no meaning. So instead, depth is required. Repetition is required. Contemplation is required. Thought is required. Attentiveness is required. Determination is required. Understanding is required. You must go into this path more deeply than perhaps you’ve ever done anything else. It doesn’t mean that you have to spend every single moment of every day in the beginning simply contemplating the Buddha’s teachings. I’m not asking you to forget how to catch a cab. That’s not what I’m saying. Or to forget how to cook dinner. But I am saying that we should be aware in the beginning that what we are trying to accomplish is possible, but only if we really understand what it is, what the goal is, and how extraordinary the goal is and therefore how extraordinary the effort must be in order to achieve the goal. Because it must be that extraordinary or you’re just doing something, another something other than the other somethings that you’re already doing.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

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