Right in Front of You

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Lama Never Leaves”

What I would like to talk about today is our opportunity right here.  We have a tremendous opportunity.  Whenever lamas come to this temple, they say, “This is a living jewel in America.”  That’s what they say.  They say that this temple is a living jewel; that it’s the real thing. They use phrases like that.  This is really Dharma; this is the right stuff. They also say that we have all the objects of support here.  We don’t really know what that means, but we’re glad we have it.  So I’ll tell you.

We have these visible objects of support, meaning that, for instance, right in front of us, we have the cosmological display of the mind of enlightenment.  That is the sand mandala that remains there.  His Holiness [Penor Rinpoche] allowed it to remain so that we can have with us that display and take refuge and meditate and be mindful of that and to learn.  It is the very display of the mind of enlightenment.  Each object in the mandala has specific meaning and so we are delighted to have this.

Then we also have beautiful statues.  The statues are not specifically the objects of refuge, but they are physical supports for the objects of refuge.  In other words, our eyes are allowed to rest on these objects. Our eyes are allowed to, for instance, study the hand positions, the objects that are being held and to learn from them the meaning of the objects, because each of the objects that any of the statues hold has to do with a quality of the Enlightened Buddha.  So each and every object that is held has to do with quality or maybe in some cases activity, like in the case of, statue of Mahakala that may hold a great lasso. He lassoes the negativity and pacifies itSo it has to do with the qualities and the activities of the enlightened mind.  We ourselves use the same images in our practice so that we can practice these very qualities and these very activities.  For instance, if we generate ourselves as Manjushri, we then are holding the sword that cuts the darkness of ignorance.

Then we have an altar where we can make many offerings.  We try to make the offerings as extensive and as beautiful and as exceptional as possible.  Maybe we wouldn’t think to have so many flowers in our own home.  Maybe we wouldn’t think to offer so many bowls of rice. Why would you want to have so much rice or so much water or so many candles? Why would you put so many sweets and delicacies and things on the cabinets like that?  You wouldn’t do that in your own home.  And that reminds you that here we are in this amazing temple with these objects of refuge and we are making many offerings.  It reminds us that these are offerings; and we again, in some subtle way, offer them when we see them being offered that way.  So that is a condition by which we can practice virtue and gather merit.  Anytime we make an offering to an altar, there is a great deal of merit in that, and our minds become more purified and more virtuous.  And so that is a cause for happiness.

Here are the statues. They’re not just ordinary statues, that is to say, lumps that are formed to look like the Buddha.  Each of them has been empowered, and there are specific mantras that are within each one of them. Usually there are mantras that are general and there are mantras that are specific to the deity.  Inside there is a central channel, as though it were a living deity where the central channel is the beginning emanation of the deity’s form.  Inside each and every one of them is a  a copper tube, or maybe it can be wood, like the spine of the deity.  And so in every single one, there are profound prayers and many offerings.  Some of them have relics in them.  Some of them have jewels, no really fabulous diamonds, so there’s no sense stealing any of them.  We actually had somebody in Poolesville steal a ring from the stupa once and he lost his finger—the finger with the ring on it— so he returned the ring.  You don’t want to do thatYou want to think of whatever offerings are in there as being the very jewel of enlightenment and that that is something precious.

By the lama’s power, each and every statue is empowered; that is to say, the lama generates the deity and invites the deity to remain.  And so the deity actually remains as this statue.  That doesn’t mean Guru Rinpoche is here and not there, or there and not here.  It doesn’t mean that, but it does mean that these statues should be treated like living Buddhas.  And that is the cause for great merit.  There are many practices that are done, particularly during Losar [Tibetan new year], where we take a statue of the Buddha and we carefully wash it and say many prayers. We say, “Although the Buddha does not need washing, by this washing may all sentient beings be cleansed of the suffering of non-virtue.” And so the cleansing of the Buddha is a tremendous virtuous offering to make, you know, to cleanse the Buddha with saffron water and to offer the Buddha a cloak.  Although the Buddha is never cold, one would offer that cloak in the hopes that, “By this offering may all sentient beings be free of the suffering of want, of nakedness or of cold, or of not having any clothing, and may they be clothed eventually with the gorgeous array of Dharma.”  So we make these kinds of wishing prayers.

When we make these wishing prayers for others, we are making them for ourselves, as well.  In fact, there’s almost no need to include ourselves in those prayers, although we certainly may, and many of the prayers have words like that, “May I and all beings…,” or “May all beings and myself included…,” like that.  But whenever we make prayers for the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings, for the end of their suffering, for their continued advance upon the path, then surely you must know that by the merit of that, we also are accumulating a great deal of merit to do that very same thing. So that merit is ours as well.   In fact, when you accomplish something meritorious, by dedicating that merit, the minute you dedicate it, you can no longer burn it up in an adverse way.  It’s like you put it in the bank.  You can’t spend it anymore.  And even though it goes to benefit all sentient beings, it’s still in your bank.  It’s awful we have to explain it that way, but ours is a materialistic society, and that’s how we understand things.

So whenever we commit some kind of virtuous act, we should immediately think, “This I dedicate to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.”  Whenever we go round and round the stupas—even trying to relieve our own suffering, which many of us do and should really, because we have had cures around the Stupas—we have had amazing turn-arounds in people’s mental states, their habitual tendencies, even mental illness.  We’ve had amazing events come about through circumambulating the stupas and making many prayers.  The minute we do that, we should absolutely dedicate that to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.

When we pray for our own health, we should not do so without praying for the health of others as well.  When we pray for our own happiness, we should think, “Oh, here I am in this land of great fortune; and here I am securely, hopefully, upon the path, and here I am in front of the objects of refuge and yet I can be so miserable. If this is possible, then how much more miserable than I am must other sentient beings be—those who have no food, who have no home, who are in war, who experience earth changes or tsunami or terrible events.  Here I am in comfort and I am suffering, then therefore I pray that their suffering will cease also.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Going Deeper

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

I thought about my ears in the same way. I would listen to some music, and I really like music so I could become hypnotized by the music; I could become entranced. I could become sort of addicted to music, and maybe that’s all that I think about is music. In my head is always this music. Have you had it happen where you get a song stuck in your head and you think it will drive you out of your mind?  That kind of thing. So what if I were really to do that with music and just remain in that “music is so wonderful” state. You might think the benefit of that would be that it could be relaxing. It could be pleasurable. Maybe if I shared the mood music with someone else, it might make them feel temporarily better. But, ultimately if I use my ears to just give myself some kind of narcotic experience like that, what good are they?  I am going to stay in samsara and I’m never going to get out. It’s not going to produce any real result.

Ultimately, I came to understand, here in this day and age, that my ears are precious because I can hear the voice of my teacher. I can hear the prayers. I can hear the sound of mantra.  So my ears became to me precious; but I’ve also understood that in truth while they may be a beautiful and precious animal, they are a work horse. They should not dominate me. I must dominate them.So I am thinking like that even with the five senses. I learned how to renounce them and how to experience them as something that will lead to ultimate benefit rather than to something that is temporary.

I thought that way about touch as well. Touch can be very seductive. We can live our entire lives wishing nothing but to be in love and to touch our loved ones, to have that wonderful sensual type of experienceMany of us have the kind of lives where we simply go from one of those experiences to another.  It can be very seductive.  Touch is good. I can comfort my baby.  I can sooth someone who is not feeling well. I can make someone that I can touch temporarily happy.  But I came to understand that touch has its limitations and that it can be seductive.  I came to understand ultimately it is touch that enables me to turn my page. I can tell where the pages are. Touch tells me how to get to the prayer that I want. So I have come to understand that touch is another animal that can be ridden and that can bring about benefit.

In every case, from the different parts of my body to the whole total sense of my identity to all of my senses as I understood them at that time, even to the external circumstances of my life like the clothing that I wore, or the food that I ate, the car that I drove, the house that I lived in, all of these things that I examined, I thought of in the same way as having some temporary benefit, but that ultimately whatever one receives one will also lose. And that these things are very limited.

You might say to yourself, “Well, gee, did you develop a kind of cynicism?  Did you just sit around making yourself miserable all day long?”  And I have to tell you that, in truth, there are moments when I felt the grief of sentient beings. I recommend doing this, and I don’t recommend letting yourself off easy. It is like exercise. You know that if you don’t put any weight in your hand, but you just keep going like that [pumping your arm], maybe that muscle will get some blood in it. But if you take some weight in your hand and you really think about it, and you really work it, you will develop a very tuned, very strong muscle. So it is like that. I have to tell you that I would spend some days thinking about the suffering of sentient beings and it would not be happy. It would be really sad.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Offering the Body: A Practical Approach

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

Then I began to examine parts of my body.  I thought to myself, “Well, if this absolute nature is the only thing that makes sense, if this absolute nature is the only thing that seems precious and worthy and noble to me, and everything else that I find in this cycle of death and rebirth seems chancy at best, even when it ends happy, it seems to me that it’s nothing to take safety from.” So I examined like that. What about my body?  I take a lot of safety from body. After all, if I didn’t have it, where would I be?  So I examined my body, and I tried to examine it piece by piece so that I wouldn’t leave anything out.

I remember that I started with my feet. I thought that it was best to start down and work up. So I started with my feet. I really tried to do this purely, and this is my recommendation: If you want to practice in this way, try to do this as logically and purely and as dispassionately as possible. You won’t be satisfied with your practice if you don’t really cover all the bases. It is really necessary to go deeply into this.

So I thought about my feet. I thought, “Well, what can my feet do? What are they good for?”  Well, I like shoes a lot. They can wear shoes. So that’s one good thing that feet can do. I can wear shoes that match my outfit. Isn’t that wonderful? Yeah. So what’s the next thing that feet can do? Feet can walk. So if my baby’s crying and he needs me, I can use these things to walk over and pick him up and help him. This is good. Feet are good. We are getting good now. Feet are good. They have toenails on them. We can paint those. They can match my outfit, too. More good news. So what else… We can roller skate with feet. I am personally addicted to foot massage. So we have that. That’s a good thing. Feet can take me anywhere I can go within reason. Within walking distance, feet can take me. They press the pedals on the car. Feet are good for that also. It sounds silly. I went through everything I could think of that feet were good for.

Then I thought to myself, “Well considering all the sufferings in the world, considering what I have thought about already, what I have contemplated, what is it that feet can’t do?”  Well, if my child became very ill, really ill, there’s nothing that my feet can do about that. In a way they could contribute. They could maybe carry him to a doctor, but ultimately they can’t really do anything. Then I thought to myself,”Well, if I saw somebody suffering right in front of me, what could my feet do?”  Well, they could contribute again. They could take me to that person, but ultimately my feet don’t solve any problems.

I thought to myself, ”Well, these things are really limited then. I really kind of developed a feeling of “so what” about my feet, like non-attachment, like it didn’t seem to me like I should feel about this part of my body as though I were attached. So I thought to myself, “Well, if these feet are so limited, what would be better?  What would be better here instead of my feet?” I thought to myself, “If somehow that absolute nature, if somehow that primordial wisdom nature were here in this place instead of these feet, that would be something. That would be something.”

I would actually meditate on my feet, and I would go from the skin to the muscle to the tissue inside of it, to the bones, down to the very cellular level. And I would think, “This I offer to this absolute nature; and I pray that in exchange somehow the blessing of that nature would be here and that where I am, there would be some comfort in the world.” I used to pray that. And every single day I would pray that with such longing because I took time to meditate on the faults of cyclic existence and the nobility and the blessing of that primordial wisdom nature, and I could see the difference. I was so moved. Here in this world there is nothing of that. There’s only the ordinary stuff. I would pray so hard I felt like this whole thing is on my shoulders. I really took this responsibility for everything. I just prayed so hard that somehow this absolute nature would be here.

I felt like I completely renounced my feet. I looked at my feet and they looked like something else. They became to me very foreign. Suddenly I looked at my feet, and I thought, “I’ve given them up. I don’t own them anymore.” If someone were to say to me, “Would you walk over here to help me?” There’s not even any point of saying yes or no. I’ve already offered my feet. They’re going to do it. So I feel this sense of non-attachment, or the realization that my feet are nothing to cling to.

I would meditate like that until I felt really satisfied that I had given these things up. Sometimes it would take a couple of days. Sometimes it would take a week. Sometimes it would take a month for just one element. And I would go from my feet to my ankles to my legs to my torso to my upper body and my head, as well as different external circumstances of my life. Like, for instance, my car. What good is my car?  What can it actually do?  Drive. Big deal! What can it actually do to benefit the world? That kind of thing. I thought like that.

I would spend this whole time of preparation simply getting ready for what I didn’t know. I really didn’t have a sense of what the work was going to be, but I knew that this was the truth and that it had to be done this way. I really knew that what I was meditating on was the absolute truth.

So I went through all the different parts of my body. In each case, everyday I would not be satisfied to stop my practice until tears had come to my eyes. Sometimes I would really cry. I would sometimes cry for the condition of other sentient beings, or I would sometimes cry that this primordial nature is so noble and yet none us have awakened to it. It seemed so pitiful to me that we are so close yet so far away to this nobility that is our true nature. Sometimes I would cry about that. Sometimes I would just cry as a kind of offering.

I would offer my feet. “Please accept my feet. Please don’t let this be all there is. Please don’t let this be the whole story. It can’t be where we leave ourselves. It just can’t be like this.” So I was crying, “Please accept these feet as an offering. Please, in exchange, let that absolute nature be here.” I would never be satisfied with my practice until I was actually crying or I felt that I had really understood to the depths of my heart that this was the way it had to be, and that this was a kind of necessary generosity that was performed for the sake of beings.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Then I Asked The Dakinis: From “Mother of Knowledge”


The following is respectfully quoted from “Mother of Knowledge” translated by Tarthang Tulku and J. Wilhelms:

Yeshe Tsogyal recounts entering the Mandala of the Dakinis:

“Eight cemeteries formed a ring, rimmed by walls of beautiful lotuses. Predatory flesh-eating birds and wild blood-drinking animals wandered about, and demons and demonesses, roaming in great numbers, stood out vividly against the landscape.

“Although the beings there did not attack me or threaten me, neither did they make friendly overtures. As I advanced upwards, I passed along a path that circled in a zigzag fashion three times, and ended at a door. Within were many dākinīs whose external appearance was that of women but they were of many different colors. They were carrying offerings to present to the principal dākinī.

“Some of the dākinīs had cut their bodies into small pieces with razor-sharp knives and prepared offerings of their own flesh; others were giving their streaming blood. Some were giving their eyes, some their noses. Some were giving their tongues, still others, their ears. Some were giving their hearts, others were giving their viscera. Some were giving their outer muscles, some their inner organs. Still others were giving their bones and marrow.

“Some were giving their life energy, others their breath, and still others, their heads. Some had cut off their limbs, and so on. They had cut up their own bodies and had prepared offerings of them for the principal dākinī, who appeared Yab-Yum before them. The offerings were then blessed as signs of their faith.

“Then I asked the dākinīs: ‘Why do you suffer in this way? To what purpose? If one lives in accordance with the Dharma until death, is that not sufficient?’ And they answered me:

‘Dear woman of irresolute mind!
The compassion of a great teacher who has all the qualifications may only be available briefly.
If you do not offer whatever he wishes when he looks upon you,
later nothing you do may lead to fulfillment.
If you procrastinate, obstacles will multiply.

‘Your insight and certainty may last only a moment;
natural and spontaneous faith may not stay long.
If you do not make the offering when Pristine Awareness arises,
later nothing you do may lead to fulfillment.
If you procrastinate, obstacles will multiply.

‘Now, at least you have a human body–you may not have it long.
The chance to practice Dharma seldom arises;
if you do not make offerings when you meet a qualified teacher–
if you procrastinate–obstacles will multiply.

‘The teacher may only be here briefly;
only now can you be certain to enter the door of the secret teachings.
If you do not offer yourself
when you have access to the highest Dharma–
if you procrastinate–obstacles will multiply.’

“Thus they spoke, and I felt ashamed. Then, as each dākinī presented her offering, the Vajra Yoginī appeared before her, snapping her fingers. Instantly each supplicant was healed and became as before. After requesting a regular Dharma practice from the principle dākinī, each one returned to her own meditation place.”



Chöd: by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche offered during retreat at Palyul Ling in New York:

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

Heart Teaching HT22

About Guru Yoga 

In the beginning of the practice, try to watch your mind and thoughts.  If you have any afflictive emotions or negative thoughts, try to abandon them.  Then try to give rise to virtuous thoughts, such as devotion, faith and inclination; and in that way try to have the right intention.

Guru Yoga practice is something that we need to carry through until we attain enlightenment.  Some think that we just need to do the Guru Yoga practice during Ngӧndro and the Four Foundations practice, but other than that, we don’t need it.  We should not think that way.  To attain complete enlightenment, Buddhahood, we have to completely depend upon the Guru’s instructions, and rely on the Guru.  As we apply that instruction and teaching into practice, then we could have that fruition.  That is why the Guru Yoga practice is important.  So, without fabrication in one’s mind, abide in the great unelaborated empty nature, and carry through with the supplication prayers.

About Chӧd – Cutting through thoughts and afflictive emotions 

In Ngӧndro, there actually is a Chӧd practice.  Before we didn’t have enough conditions to really do it.  In general, you do the practice with damarus and bells.  Evening is a good time to do some of the Chӧd practices.  At that hour the chant master and other lamas do the Chӧd practices.  As you do the Chӧd, follow along and chant the tunes together.  And when you use your big damarus and bells, follow together as a group in sync, instead of some doing it this way and some doing it that way, which sounds very strange.  Doing it haphazardly like that is a joke.  So always try to do the practice together with everything working together.

The Chӧd practice in the Namchö is only one page, so it is easy and good in that way.  The Tibetan word, “Chӧd,” means cutting through all the afflictive emotions and thoughts, and then establishing the nature of emptiness.  In the Chӧd visualization, as one chants with faith, everything is cut through in the nature of emptiness.

When you say the second Phet, your consciousness shoots out onto the ground as Vajravarahi (Dorje Phagmo), the size of a pea.  When you say Phet again, then Vajravarahi becomes about the size of a finger.  After that when you say Phet, then you visualize Vajravarahi about the size of a cubit.  After that when you say Phet, Vajravarahi becomes huge, filling all space.

In her right hand, Vajravarahi holds a curved knife and in her left hand, she holds a skull cup.  She has all the bone ornaments.  Your consciousness is manifested or transformed into Vajravarahi, and your body is like a corpse.  When you say Phet again, Vajravarahi takes the curved knife and with just one motion your skull becomes a skull cup in front.  Then Vajravarahi with the curved knife places your corpse inside the skull cup.  Then dualistic mind and negative thoughts in the form of bubbles are purified, and everything transforms into the five nectars and five meats, which is very pure substance.  The skull cup becomes as huge as three thousand myriads of universes.  The nectar is whitish with a radiant reddish hue.  Steam rises from the nectar, which symbolizes the five desirable objects of the five senses.  Underneath that skull cup, there are three skull cups, two dry and one wet, which symbolize the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya.    Beneath that, wisdom fire burns. As it burns, everything within the skull cup heats up, purifying all the afflictive emotions and dualistic mind and impure substances, transforming everything into wisdom nectar that fills three thousand myriads of universes.

Then after saying two Phets, instantly Vajravarahi, holds a golden spoon in her right hand and a skull cup in her left.  Then from that skull cup she ladles nectar and pours it, making offerings first to the lamas, and then to the meditational deities, and then the dakinis, and so forth.  After that when one says Phet, Vajravarahi makes offerings to all the local beings and the owners of the land, and so forth.  And then after saying another Phet, Vajravarahi makes offerings to all sentient beings of the six realms.

As one makes all these offerings, one can purify all the debts and loans and negativities from past lifetimes.  After making offerings to all those beings that are owners of sickness, demonic forces, creators of obstacles and negative forces, they are completely satisfied and pleased.  In that way by making offerings to all the gurus and meditational deities and dakinis, one could have complete accomplishment and receive all the blessings.  And by making offerings to all the negative forces and all other evil beings, they are completely satisfied and pleased. One feels as though all karmic debts have been repaid, and everything is purified.

At the end when one says Phet, then all the offerings, the objects of the offerings, and the offeror, all three, cease to exist and dissolve into emptiness.  After that one can do all the dedication and aspiration prayers.


Incense Offering

The following is a prayer from the Namchö Daily Practice Book from Palyul Ling International:

This pure supreme incense, which bears the scent of pure moral self-discipline,

By the blessings of mantra, mudra and samadhi

Is offered to the realms of the Buddhas. May this fragrant incense

Completely please and satisfy the ocean-like assembly of Buddhas!


Message from Gyaltrul Rinpoche to Jetsunma: Pure Offerings

The following is a message from Gyaltrul Rinpoche to Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo and her sangha given on November 11, 2011:

VGR to JAL 11.11.11

In November 2011 Venerable Gyaltrul Rinpoche offered the following spontaneous teaching about Jetsunma at a sangha gathering at Tashi Choling in Oregon.

Gyaltrul Rinpoche began by asking Jetsunma’s student who was in attendance at the gathering to stand and to convey this message to Jetsunma.

“You opened your center.  Then you bought a house, and then you invited Holiness Penor Rinpoche. Then you sponsored the whole Rinchen Terzod, and invited so many high lamas.

You got really sick, but still you are upholding that center.  Right now you miss Holiness, but it doesn’t matter.  I heard that you offered your center to two tulkus who are His Holiness’ successors. You are the servant.  You have merit.  In that way you succeeded in growing your center. Now you have the merit to offer it to Holiness’ successors – two tulkus and the whole lineage.  You gave everything to them purely, cleanly, and without attachment. You don’t make claims.  You dedicated that merit to sentient beings to cleanse obscurations.  Thank you so much.  This is the way of dharma, not just the way of “mine.”  The way of “mine” is, “We need to practice.”  Mine is “We need to generate merit and cleanse obscurations.”  That’s mine. You took a big step that is opposite of the American brain.  You didn’t say “mine.”  You said that according to Buddha it belongs to sentient beings.   It is the Buddha’s offering for sentient beings.  You dedicated it. Thank you so much.

Speaking to the student, Gyaltrul Rinpoche continued.  

Students at the center need to maintain it for sentient beings.  Note what your teacher His Holiness did.  At the same time follow what Jetsunma did.  She offered the center and everything back to the lineage for your benefit.  Now you have to maintain it.  Don’t crack.  Don’t damage it.  How do you crack it?  How do you damage it?  By the breaking of samaya.  By fighting.  This is “my” way, your way, this way, that way.  Whose way?  His Holiness’ way.  Your way as a human being is Holiness’ way.  Penor Rinpoche is Holiness.  As non human beings it is Shakyamuni Buddha’s Way, Guru Rinpoche’s Way.

Through the whole Rinchen Terzod you got the whole lineage.  You guys need to maintain that benefit for all the sentient beings that are connected with you.  You have to open up for them, as much as you can for sentient beings.  Not only for him that you like or her that you like or not, but for all sentient beings, even bugs.  Do according to Shakyamuni, according to Guru Rinpoche and according to your root lama, Penor.  We don’t have anything to be ashamed of with the wonderful way of our root lama, the Dalai Lama.  Follow that example.  I pray for you guys.

Right now we have the amazing fortune in this life and next life to offer some benefit for others.  Almost nobody has that kind of merit.  Therefore don’t forget how fortunate, how lucky we are.  This is our luck, all of our fortune.  Therefore don’t throw away your luck.  Don’t throw away your merit.  Continue.  There are lots of obstacles up and down, but try.  Be patient. Be more compassionate for sentient beings.  We have this opportunity only one time – this time.  If we lose this one, we won’t get another.  Recognize this.  Try that.  Tell all the centers that this is my request.  Thank you.  Tashi Deleg.

I’m so happy she [Jetsunma] offered it, you know?  It is amazing that way.  She has freedom.  So you have heard this example.  You guys are working for the sentient beings.  Don’t be proud working for yourself.  Everybody is working hard.

Some of you guys came here today.  Some didn’t come.  One way – snow.  One way -laziness.  One way – excuse.  One way is saving next life’s merit, and cleansing obscurations.  We need to keep that savings.  We don’t want to clear it out.  We don’t want to save the merit too much.  Therefore we need to save space.

Everybody is working so hard but I’m not embarrassed.  I don’t have any regrets about it.  I’m happy.  The reason is not that I am happy using you guys in ten directions.  I’m not satisfied that you guys are tortured.  Look at Philip, how old his body is.  And Ani here is an old lady.  Everyone says these guys torture themselves from working so hard.  The reason is to generate merit – purification.  Anytime you have an opportunity, don’t ignore that opportunity.  We don’t know how short our life is.  You may think, “I’m not like that ugly old man.  I’m quite handsome.”  Anyway one day you are going to be cranky like me, ugly like me, a bozo like me.  You will look like that.  It’s not only me.  I’m not the only one being punished from old age.

The nature of samsara is like that.  We trust.  You think samsara is trustable, even more than your boyfriend, more than your husband, more than your wife or girlfriend.  You guys trust so much.  I love you. This is the real reason for our shorter life that we have that idea.  The bottom line is reaching another life. Everybody try.  Help each other practice.  Dedicate.  Nothing is more useful or better.  It all is temporary, but we have a chance, an opportunity.

You need to go.  You guys need to go because there is snow, but try in the future.   You have an opportunity.  You have amazing good fortune.  I’m not saying you are pretty or handsome or smarter.  I’m not saying you’re richer.  Being rich means nothing.  Look at how rich Qadaffi was.  All sentient beings are going to die, even Shakyamuni’s father and mother.  When we read the history of Shakyamuni, do we think of Shakyamuni as a poor guy?  No.  Did he get drunk or crazy?  No.  Read that history carefully.  I’m not asking you guys to become a nun or monk.  Nun means nothing.  Monk means nothing.  If you follow Shakyamuni’s footsteps then yes, but lots of monks are about ritual.  Lots of monks are samsara leaders.  This is more cheating of Shakyamuni.  Actually we are cheating ourselves.

It’s the same thing with Guru Rinpoche.  Guru Rinpoche is not a poor guy.  G. Rinpoche is not a poor guy.  I’m not asking you to give up your position, or money or anything.  But recognize first what is of benefit and what that means.  What is good or bad?  Check everything.  Don’t jump over this.

Look at how many countries are fighting and for what?  Power, money, and that kind of thing.  You guys are smart.  Look carefully.  Don’t think its all Funky Rinpoche.  “He’s dying.  He’s losing his life.”  Yeah.  You are right.  But it’s not only me.  You too.  I don’t have preparation so don’t follow me.  Wake up.  Stand up.  You have an opportunity and you have the blessing of Holiness Dalai Lama, Dudjom Rinpoche, Penor Rinpoche, and the Karmapa.  Sunshine shows your hand or behind or friend or whatever.  You are not in the darkness.  All dharmas – Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana – everything is there blazing on you. At that time don’t go Qadaffi style.  Don’t go down dark tunnels.  Still your “bad” is showing.  Therefore, everybody try.  Don’t be smart.  You want to be smart?  Understand cause and effect.  You need someone smart who can benefit you?  Know who can help or harm you.  That’s smart.  You don’t need the scholar going blah, blah, blah.  A hundred thousand pages you do for one second, but everything is blah blah blah.  You don’t follow that meaning or result, or you don’t care.  It’s just blah blah blah.  Therefore everybody try.

Goodnight.  We have snow, so I’m not going to blah no meaning.  I don’t want to make obstacles for you.”

Deepening on the Path: The Importance of “Caring”

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called, “Bringing Virtue into Life”

If your eyes are open at all, you have seen that you have often boxed your own ears, that you have often hurt yourself by engaging in non-virtuous activity that has brought you suffering.  Maybe you’ve had time to see a little bit of that.  But I’ll tell you that according to the Buddha’s teaching, and this is the truth, every bit of non-virtuous behavior that you have engaged in will bring about unhappiness. So it’s not logical to engage in non-virtuous behavior and that includes the lesser non-virtuous behaviors.  The big ones like killing, we can get that.  Killing, stealing, that sort of thing, but what about simple selfishness?  What about judgment of others?  What about just not giving a big flip?  Not caring?  What about reading the newspaper and thinking “Wow millions of people are starving over there.  Too bad.”  You don’t think that’s a non-virtue?  That’s how we read the paper, every day.  Of course that’s a non-virtue. We’re not caring.  We’re not praying for them.  We’re not sending them anything.  We’re not doing anything to help.

The Buddha also taught us that virtuous behavior brings about happiness, but we have exactly the opposite idea.  Most of us don’t like to practice, for instance.  We don’t like to sit down and practice.  Who likes to sit down for two hours at a stretch?  I don’t know about you, but I get fanny fatigue big time.  Two hours at a stretch.  That is not how I want to spend the day.  So we think like that.  We think “Oh, you know, if I sit down today and practice for two hours, I’m really going to suffer!”  So we have this weird idea that virtuous activity like practice is going to bring about unhappiness, and it’s because of our lack of understanding.  What we don’t realize is that yes, while we have maybe the antsy-ness or the fanny fatigue or whatever it is that we get, ultimately that two hours of practice will ripen. And when it ripens it will be like a precious jewel within your life.  At some point there will be an event or a change or a lift or a gift or something that you very much need in your life. It will appear as though out of nowhere. and it can be directly traced to previous virtuous behavior.

The Buddha also teaches us that if we offer even something, if we’re very poor and all we have is something simple like a candle or a butter lamp. If we offer only that, placing it on an altar and with a full and generous heart visualize it as being everything that we have, everything that we could ever have and offer it to the Buddha and the Dharma and the Sangha and particularly to the Lama as the representative of all three, then let that merit be used to benefit sentient beings.  What we don’t realize is that while that took some time out of our busy day, yes, and we did have to prepare a butter lamp or light the candle or whatever hardship we had to engage, still we have created unbelievable happiness for ourselves. Actually, the Buddha has taught that if we could manage to make that offering with complete and total absorption in the expanse of that generosity, then we would be reborn eventually in unmovable samadhi, complete happiness, because we are engaging in the kind of activity that creates the habitual tendency of supreme generosity.

We are taught also to make offerings of our body, speech and mind.  For instance, we visualize that our body becomes like food and we offer our bodies.  Of course, we don’t cut off pieces of ourselves.  Nobody would want to eat that anyway, I don’t think. But we do visualize our body as being transformed into this nectar that nourishes all sentient beings, and without holding on to ourselves, we offer ourselves in that way. So we offer our bodies to benefit sentient beings.  We offer our speech to benefit sentient beings.  We practice so that what comes out of our mouth will be of benefit to others, such as mantra or teaching about Dharma or some spiritual advice.  We try very hard to give our speech to benefit sentient beings. And we offer our minds as well to benefit sentient beings.  We make that offering. The way that we practice that offering is by no longer using our mind as a vehicle by which to accomplish nonvirtue. Instead we use our mind as a vehicle by which to accomplish virtue for the sake of sentient beings. That is the true meaning of offering our body, our speech and our mind.

Many practitioners unfortunately say that.  They say “I offer my body, speech and mind” and they make all kinds of grand gestures but, boy, when it comes down to the clinch, they ain’t offering nothing, and that’s the truth.  Not a thing.  It isn’t happening.  So we, as Dharma practitioners, have to learn how to practice more deeply than that in order to assimilate the causes for true happiness.  It is that kind of virtuous activity that we have to engage in.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Baby Steps to Recognition

An excerpt from the Mindfulness workshop given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo in 1999

Sometimes when we begin to make offerings of what we experience to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we may think it’s not a good idea to offer something that’s not ours, but that’s only because we’re materialists and have this idea of ownership.  We really don’t understand how things are.  We’re kind of sick and deluded with this idea of the self being the center of all experience.  So that being the case, when we offer a tree or a field of flowers that isn’t ours or even offer an experience that you have with someone else that’s wonderful and pleasurable to you or to see a friend of yours that has not one, not two, but three cars — for you to offer any of those things to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas in your mind, is that illegal because you don’t own them?  Of course not.  The idea isn’t about ownership.  It isn’t about defining that, yet again.  It’s about allowing these five senses to participate in Recognition in some way, even if it’s only in a small way.  To offer anything that one sees, any image that is formulated in the eyes, any sound – the sound of the beloved’s voice, maybe your beloved friend, your beloved spouse or child – the sound of that voice that is so comforting and so wonderful to us, that very sound can be offered when it meets your ears.  Rather than owning it and saying this is about me and my children or me and my spouse or me and my stuff, instead make that kind of ongoing process of offering.

In a very real sense, you’re not so much offering the object as you are offering your response to the object.  You’re allowing your senses, your thoughts, and your sensibilities to work in a different way than they have worked before, so then you can feel free.  You can offer someone else’s money.  You can do anything you want to in that way as long as you are truly sincere and it’s done in a profound way.  Remember, we’re keeping in mind the faults of cyclic existence, and practicing that kind of renunciation because we have seen the faults of cyclic existence.

Perhaps you meet somebody really rich, and you may notice, because of the contemplations you’ve been doing on the faults of cyclic existence, that those people are so connected to their money that there is some real clinging going on there. Maybe you notice that that person is all about their money and maybe, because you’ve practiced Recognition, you can see that this is a non-virtue.  You can see that this is not making that person happy, that literally the money has no power to make that person happy.  So knowing that, in your practice you can visualize that money and offer it to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas.  What good does that do?  Does the money disappear out of the banks?  No.  Perhaps there is some small blessing.  Perhaps more importantly, you, by making such an offering and by thinking that way, can begin to differentiate, to distinguish between clinging and some form of Recognition that there is something more precious than our egos. Maybe it’s a baby step, but many of those baby steps make for big movements.

Cultivate the habit of constantly offering everything that you see, all pleasure, and even hardship.  When we come into a place in our life where it’s very uncomfortable, where there’s some hardship and we survive and perhaps overcome that hardship, that very event can also be offered.  That event can be considered practice, a manifestation of an opportunity to have made offerings, to have been more mindful, and to have been in a better state of Recognition.  Then, that very difficulty that you just survived becomes a form of practice.  It becomes sacred.

For Westerners, our biggest problem is that lack of a deeper understanding of how to practice.  We still think that you go to church on Sunday, and so you practice on Sunday.  You do your religious thing on Sunday and maybe on the other holidays.  We still have that division in our mind.  We are deeply materialistic people, and that is the worst, most horrible delusion that we’re stuck in: that inability to recognize any distinction because of our material outlook.  Practicing in the way I’ve described gives us the opportunity to develop constant mindfulness, purification of the mind, and constantly creating new habitual tendencies.  It’s perfect for Westerners to practice in this way in addition to their sit-down practice because we have such limited time to sit down.  In addition, in this culture we’re taught that when you’re sitting down, you’re being lazy, and our whole commitment, therefore, is to be busy all the time.  So one way to begin to counteract that is to practice in this way of constantly making offerings.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

A Nontraditional Chod Practice to Establish a Sacred View

An excerpt from the Mindfulness workshop given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo in 1999

Before I ever learned about the Buddha dharma, I actually used to do a practice that my teachers have told me was a natural kind of Chöd.  What I would do is contemplate on different body parts and it took me months and months and months to do this. I practiced it for months because I felt like the deeper I went into it, the more involved it became.  I would think about a certain body part, like my feet, and I would say, “Thinking of these feet in one way, here are their limitations,” and it’s easy to see what the limitations of feet are.  You can’t walk on fire with them.  Well, not most of us.  You can’t walk on water with them – not most of us either.  There are so many things you can’t do with your feet, but there are also many things that you can do with your feet.  So thinking of feet in those ways, I would see all of the limitations of feet, being used as they are presently being used, and then I would think about all the possible ways that feet could be of benefit to beings.  How could my feet be of use?  That’s what I want.  I want my feet to be of use.  So I would think, “How can my feet be of use?  Well, I can go to people that need me with my feet.  I can go to do some meditation.  I can make my body go and comfort someone that’s sick or feed someone that’s hungry through moving my feet.”

After I had examined both the down side and the opportunity associated with feet, I would then practice this kind of deep offering, and I would make many prayers.  I would say, “I offer my feet to (back then I didn’t say Buddhas and bodhisattvas), Absolute Nature. I offer my feet to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in order that they might be used to benefit sentient beings.  Other than that, they have no meaning for me.”  I would practice that until I felt like I had given up my feet and they were no longer mine; they were offerings.  I went through my entire body.  Then I found that that wasn’t enough, so I went through all my emotions.  And then I found that wasn’t enough, so I went through all the different ways of thinking and attributes of mind.  I would see the potential of each and I would see the downfall of each and I would contemplate on that very, very carefully.  Then I would spend a great deal of time offering that particular quality or attribute or body part to be used for the benefit of sentient beings, to be used to accomplish some good.

It seemed to me that, generally speaking, the body is a marvelous thing, but if it’s not accomplishing any good, it’s kind of limited, so it seemed logical and reasonable to me to want to offer all of my limitations, all of my ordinary perceptions, all of my attachments in the hope that every part of me would be used to benefit sentient beings.

Think about your speech.  Speech is a wonderful thing; it’s an amazing thing.  It’s one of those human attributes that make it possible for us to teach and learn, so it makes it possible for us to practice Dharma.  So although speech is an amazing thing, what do we use our speech for?  For the most part, we use our speech to help us suffer.  For the most part, our speech is like vomit coming out of our mouths.  What I mean by that is, the stuff that comes out of our mouth often is not connected to any thought anywhere.  We use our speech for blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and yet this precious thing could be used to teach Dharma.  This precious capability could be used to receive teachings of Dharma.  How amazing!

Practicing this kind of nontraditional Chöd was when I really learned about speech.  That was really important.  When I learned about speech, I found out that if I were really to offer my speech and be constantly mindful of its power, constantly mindful of this blessing, and if I really, ultimately offered my speech to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas, that instead their holy speech might be here.  That makes the speech worth something.  That makes it powerful.

I used to spend a lot of time considering the pros and cons, the limitations and the attributes of different aspects of what I considered ‘myself,’ and eventually, after offering all my parts and all my qualities and all my different attributes, at that point I felt that something was changed.  I had done this so deeply that I got into the habit of thinking like this, to the point where, when it comes to benefiting sentient beings, I don’t have to make that choice because it’s already been made.  I don’t own this stuff.  It’s already given away.  I developed this habit of constantly offering, and I’m telling you about the way that I did this is not so that you can say, “Ooh, aah, wasn’t she a great practitioner!” I’m not a great practitioner by any means.  What I’m telling you is that as a Westerner, even if we don’t have perfect translations, even if we haven’t accumulated all the teachings, even if it seems to us strange to practice Chöd in a way where we boil stuff and offer it and all those things, even if we’ve never heard of that teaching, it is still possible for us to practice the same principles and to establish a sacred view. It’s still possible.

I feel like my main job is to speak to Westerners because Westerners have a particular outlook, a particular take on things, and I think one of the greatest blessings that I have is that I’m a Westerner and I think like you.  I really do think exactly like you, so maybe I can help you, not just to follow the books by rote, not just to repeat everything like a magpie, but maybe instead to practice more deeply.  Maybe I can help you practice in such a way that the practice becomes married with your life, with your body, with your speech, with your mind, with your consciousness, until they are so one that it’s like mixing milk with water.  That is how practice becomes potent.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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