The Wedding Cake

wedding cake

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “This Time is Radical”

I think of Dharma as a wedding cake with three different levels, and everyone is welcome to partake of this cake. Only some people will get to go into three-year retreat, way up at the top: three-year Dzogchen retreat, and then maybe onto seven-year retreat, and then maybe onto end-of-life retreat. Hopefully some of you will have that opportunity. And don’t waste a minute if you do. If you have that opportunity, then that’s where you are, and the cake is yours.

The next level are people who may never get to practice that deeply in retreat and may never get to three-year or seven-year retreat or whatever, but they practice every day of their lives. They learn their Phowa, and they learn their generation practice, and they do a little Dzogchen practice; and they are hooked up, because they will have an auspicious rebirth. They are making ready for their next life.

Then at the lower level… It isn’t lower in the sense of up and down. It’s bigger, if you think of how wedding cakes are. That level is every human’s level. Every human can come and have a taste of mantra, of Dharma. How do I make a cake big enough for everybody to have a bite?  We’re going to sing it. We’ll just make it big and make it happen.

I’m really looking forward to that. I have lots of hopes and dreams. Eventually when we’ve accomplished certain things that we want to accomplish with our music, which is to get the mantra out into the world, then we want to hit the road. Hitting the road means bringing mantra, chanting and drumming to all people. And so any of you who wish to join us on that, it’s time for you to practice.

You shouldn’t be thinking, ‘Well, I only want to practice this way, and not that way.’  Well, you’re not exactly thinking in Dharma terms at all if you’re like that. You should have your mind open, relaxed, joyful, following in the footsteps of your teacher in the best way that you can. So I’m asking for you at this time to keep your heart open, keep your eyes open. Try to be mindful. Try to really see patterns around you. Try to notice Dharma and what it is to you, and how you can help others. Don’t do anything by rote now. Get back into the deep end again. Don’t just say a little mantra and then walk around like you own the place. Don’t do that. Get deeper in your practice, as deep as you can. For those of you who are giving rise to the Bodhicitta, when I say these words are inspired, say, ‘Sign me up. Send me. I’ll go. I’ll sing some. I’ll bring some drums. I’ll do cartwheels if that’s going to teach Dharma.’ You could go in a certain direction and have it written on you. We’ll think of something.

I’m trying to be upbeat about this, but this is a time of great change. This year and next year are going to be stupendous in terms of change that we experience as individuals and as a temple. Not frightening change, good change; but get-your-act-together kind of change. Get ready to help beings. Get ready to minister. Those of you who are wearing robes, you’re supposed to be ministering to others in the best way you can, whatever that means. If that only means open-hearted connection, good-heartedness like the Dalai Lama wrote. if that’s all we can do, that’s great!  Let’s do that here. We can do more than that because we have training. We have lots of training and we’ve got method. With method and a solid heart, we will hold back the dark for as long as possible.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Hold Fast to What You Know Is True

goldendeer

The following is an excerpt from a teaching called “This Time Is Radical”

Some of you know that we were born together at this time because something tremendous was going to unfold. And those of you who remember those teachings from long ago that I haven’t spoken about for a long time, we’re still on. The game is still rolling. It’s time to get your waders on and jump in. You people with the robes, you are my heart’s love. You are my heart’s love. If we lose one of you, it is unbearable. To have more of you come forward and say, ‘Take me. Sign me up,’ it’s beautiful. And I look forward to the day when we can show the world what Buddhist compassion is all about. Any of you with me on that?  Sometimes I don’t know because they just look at me, and then I get scared.

I will try to speak to people in the way they understand. This is going to be a very intense time, a very beautiful time, but I’m not afraid. I get a little freaked out every now and then, but I’m not afraid. And I can say that in my very lowest possible voice, “I’m not afraid.”  So let’s go. It’s time to practice hard. It’s time to keep your vows. It’s time to stay straight on the path. It’s time to move through the door of liberation. Do not lose your focus now because it is possible. It’s possible. This is a very wiggly time as karma goes. Hold fast to what you know is true, and live your truth. Walk it every day. And that truth is Dharma.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Gathering the Courage to Care

Guru Dragpo

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “This Time is Radical”

I’ve been watching my own patterns, and I’m going to share with you my great ‘Aha!’  I realized recently in my own practice that for the past few years, unbeknownst  to myself (although maybe on some intuitive level, I understood. Yeah I did. But not in my brain, not where it registers. You know what I’m talking about?),  I realized that I have been making myself stronger; and I have been gathering my courage. Things have happened to me in the last few years that I wouldn’t dare the infinite, but when life changes and experiences come that would have terrified my little jellyfish heart before, they don’t phase me at all now. Things that used to scare me half to death, don’t scare me at all now. And I realized that I’ve been gathering my courage.

I started practicing more deeply about a year and a half ago. Not that I didn’t practice before that, but when I started to practice more deeply, just going in, going into my practice, everything outward changed, quite naturally without any effort. ‘Aha.’

There’s an understanding. If you’re mind is right and if you practice accordingly, and if you walk the path appropriately, you don’t have to worry about the outside stuff so much. It tends to take care of itself. Not if you are going, ‘Ah!’ the whole time. You’ve got to have the mind of Dharma. That’s not the mind of Dharma. If you practice four hours a day even, and the rest of the time you’re going ‘Ah,’ that’s not the mind of Dharma. If you are really into it, if you are really deep, honest, and in touch with your practice and it is a relationship in your life, more important than any other, it fills a category that nothing else can fill; and it prepares you for anything, which is good, because anything is just about to happen.

I’ve been gathering my courage and causing myself to change in ways that I never thought I could have. And though I wouldn’t want to do it over again, it’s okay. It’s always okay because it is for the benefit of sentient beings, and in my mind decisions have already been made. Whatever I can do to benefit sentient beings, I will do. I will do it. No matter what I think about it or whether I like it, or whether I feel like it, I will do it. And that’s what I have been preparing myself for, that kind of certainty.

I knew there was a time when I’d have to look samsara in the eye and say, ‘This is enough.’  And this is that time. I feel that for each and every one of us, this must be a time of courage. If we can’t gather our courage together at this time, it will be very hard to gather it together later. Right now at this time, we have a certain leisure to practice. For those of you who have full time jobs and are practicing on the go, you may say, ‘I beg to differ.’  But let me tell you the old proverb, ‘It could always get worse.’  And if in some way we end up with obstacles that cause us to have to live differently, or to scramble for existence the way much of the world has to do, then we’ll find a way to practice then too, but now’s the time to be strong. And this is the time when we can really commit to being an active Dharma presence in the world. The thing that I have come to understand is that this is no time for us to hang out in our comfort zones. And I am just about to leave mine, like Monday actually. Some of you know what I’m talking about. I think that in this time, we’ve got to give it all we’ve got. If you can give renunciation, if you can really do that, do it. This is it. Everything in samsara is falling apart, and it is time to be what you can be.

I feel that we all should take a posture of Dharma warriors. Not a warrior to harm anyone but a warrior for the path, a warrior who cares for the path, who guards the path. This is when we generate the deity. When we generate the different buddhas and bodhisattvas, we realize that each of them has qualities and activities; and it is just as important to establish their activities in the world as it is for us individually to engage in their qualities. The activity aspect of the Buddha nature is not method. It is something. So we prefer to sit on our cushions and say, ‘Ti-do-ti-do-ti-do. I’m practicing, and I look stunning doing it.’  But really we should also be active. We should not only be engaging in the extraordinary kindness of practice, but also in the ordinary human kindness of everyday caring for those around us, caring for the world at large, caring for beings who are suffering—animals, people, whatever, anything that lives—doing all that we can to end suffering. To engage in that kind of practice in this world today is very, very powerful practice.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

No Treading Water Now

watching news

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “This Time is Radical”

When I see patterns repeat themselves and when they come to no good, I wonder what’s going on. And when I see patterns externally repeat themselves and display themselves, then I say, “Oh, this is the dance of phenomena, and there’s something to be looked at here.”  And when I look at this display of phenomena, it seems to me that if we read the paper, listen to news, if we have our antenna up at all, and if we are managing not to remain so self-absorbed that we are not aware of the outside world, we may have come to understand that the world is changing very rapidly, very quickly; and that many things that groups and people who cared about social justice and about the environment and about things that us tree-hugging liberals, or some of us tree-hugging liberals care about, these warnings have come full circle and have come to be true.

I find us now in a country where our liberty has been pretty smacked around and our potency as a society is like a castle built on sand. The sand is rushing away from under us. It’s as though whatever foundation kept the people together, even in just a materialistic and commercial way, is dissipating. I see good work for good honest people going overseas. I see Americans left with shit labor. And I see people cross the border to try to make their families wealthy or make their families eat. And there’s so much hatred that we can’t understand why it is that people would want to do that. Of course to me, it is very understandable why a person would wish to feed their family.

And I also think long before lines were drawn, the people were still there; and they moved back and forth any way they wanted to. So when we draw lines, we have to have a little bit of respect for what is natural, what has always been, and what is true. Even on a less important level, the way that we insist upon thinking these days, even animals can’t cross into their own habitats; and many of their habitats are being destroyed just for the sake of boxing ourselves in. And then after we do that, we send all of our jobs overseas. That’s just America. Check out the rest of the world. As things go, it’s not too bad here yet.

Why am I talking about this ordinary stuff from the throne on ten million day?  It’s to make a point. I wish I could yell it loud enough so that you would really hear me with your whole heart and whole mind and whole being when I tell you that this time is radical. This is a time of extraordinary change. And if you think change is happening now, wait till you see what the next ten years brings. Remarkable change.

Will the change be for the better?  When I look at the causes, I have to say no. I would like to believe that something would come to us from the sky, and wipe it all away, but I really don’t think so. I think we’ve done damage to the planet. We’ve done damage to the people. And this country is not what it was. Although I love it with my heart’s essence, I am not as proud to be an American as I once was. We started a war that we just wanted to, and the American people went along with it. And lots of things have changed since then. So much has changed since then.

When I embrace the world in my heart, and I’m just telling you this from my own practice, hatred has been multiplied by some gazillion amount that I don’t even know the number. I don’t know how to call that number. There is so much hatred in the world. And in places where people had learned to get along because they had a long history together, hatred has increased beyond all measure. Brutality has increased. And while on the one hand, half of our human species, who are women were coming out, on the other hand they were being killed. Like for instance in Darfur, and in Africa, there are places where women are raped and tortured and used as sex objects, and so forth.

I feel that this time of Kaliyuga is sickening. It has come to pass that in each of our lives it matters very much. Right now, right at this time, this blue moon, this second moon, it is an amazing, important time collectively and individually. You can look at it from an astrological point of view. You can look at it from a tallying up point of view in terms of merit or non-virtue that has been accumulated. You can look at it from an intuitive point of view and really see how the world is, and you can get it for yourself. Individually, it’s the same thing. We are all at a turning point. ‘How can that be so?’ you must be asking yourself. How can it be so that everyone in this room is literally at some sort of turning point?  Because it’s true. That’s how I can say it. I’ve got some stars and planets to back me up, but beyond that, experience and perhaps a dash of wisdom. But I see the change, and I see what’s happening with people. Even those who have been on the path for a long time, as well as those who are just starting. It’s become very dramatic suddenly. The problem is you’re either in or you’re out. It’s kind of like that.

I find that while Dharma can bring great result now, it’s more difficult to follow. And if you are not actively pursuing and in love with… I don’t mean that in a romantic sense you understand, but a passionate sense, in an appropriately blissful and joyful sense. If you are not after your practice, then your practice is falling away. I can guarantee it. Because right now is one of those times where if you are not walking ahead, if you are not moving ahead, you are going backwards. You cannot afford to tread water now. There was a time when you could, maybe, for a little while, but I really feel like karma has come to ripen individually, as a group, as a nation, and as a world to the point where it is serious, and we are going to reap the rewards of what we have sewn.

For those of you who have been diligently following your practice, and of course there are the dry periods and the wet periods, the juicy periods and whatever, but practice is practice. And one thing I’ve learned about the path is that ‘path’ is a verb. You’ve got to walk it. You’ve got to live it. If you don’t live it, you’re just dressing up and you’re walking backwards.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Sustainable Foundation

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

I have found that after a certain point, if compassion is the main motivation to practice, it will sustain you; but it constantly requires inspirationbecause we sort of become drawn back into ourselves. You know how you do that. You sort of wake up in the morning and think, ‘Today I am going to live a spiritual life, and I am going to help everyone, and I am going to be nice.  I am going to be good and that is it. That is the kind of day I am going to have.’ And somewhere around 4:00 (or at least it is 4:00 for me), you need a little inspiration. Well, we are like that with our lives. We have moments of touching, moments of experience of spiritual point of view. We have precious moments; and in those moments we think, ‘This life is only important if I accomplish meditation or if I accomplish enlightenment. This is very important. This is really the meaning of life; and I have a sense of the meaning of life; and I have a sense that kindness and love are the core elements in life; and that is what it is really all about. And I am changing my life starting now.’

Two weeks after that point, maybe three days, we start to wear down a little bit. I have found that in practicing the Buddhadharma, even if in the beginning we are on fire—your heart is just on fire with compassion, and you feel so strongly the sense to benefit all sentient beings—unless inspiration is constantly experienced or given, or had in some way, that that will wear thin. At that point, even Westerners must begin to understand the foundational concepts associated with the Buddhist thinking. That foundational concept I will entitle “The Faults of Cyclic Existence.”  If a real competency in understanding the faults of cyclic existence is not adapted at this time, the foundation is incomplete. Because it is not sufficient only to practice in order to benefit beings and for compassion if one does not really understand the faults of cyclic existence. So I would like to go into that.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Preliminary Practice

guru_padmasambhava3

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

I am grateful to those who go through the Sunday prayers without having the foggiest idea what they mean. I commend you completely with all my heart and soul, if I had one. (That is a joke. You see according to the Buddhist philosophy there is no such thing as a soul.)  It is considered that there are three objects of refuge: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha, of course, is the enlightened mind. The Dharma is the speech or teaching of the Buddha, the path of the Buddha; and the Sangha is considered to be the religious or spiritual community that propagates the Dharma, that brings about a way for us to practice. And these being our objects of refuge, we consider that all of the teaching and all of the opportunity that we have to practice actually comes from the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. So we feel that before beginning any practice it is good to make offerings. And when reciting these prayers, once you understand what the prayers are about, you can visualize certain offerings.

It is considered that it is good to request the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma, or to continue to offer the path of the Dharma. It is a combination of offering and request, honoring and praising. It is our custom to do these things before we actually begin to accomplish a practice or hear a teaching. Some of the meanings of the prayers are pretty evident when you read them. Yet, you must understand that almost everything that exists on the Vajrayana path seems to exist on three levels of meaning. I am not sure why it happened that way. I think that it is just a propensity for secrecy, or drama, or something wonderful like that. It appeals to me very much.

At any rate, I think that what is addressed here are different levels of understanding. There is a preliminary level of understanding in which one first approaches the path and, almost like walking into a room, you need to figure out where the door is, how to turn the handle. We have to turn on the light; we have to figure out where the table is so that we don’t bump into it. It’s that kind of thing. We have to look at the bones of it, or the structure of it, and the inner and secret levels of meaning. One actually develops a capability for understanding as practice begins. Almost never, at least traditionally, are deeper, very mystical teachings given right at the onset of engaging in Dharma practice because it is considered that the mind needs to be deepened and gentled. At the point when that process begins through the use of preliminary practice, then additional teachings, intermediate teachings, and then ultimately the deepest teachings are givenThere are some lamas that deviate from that for their own reasons. But it is considered, from the traditional point of view, that you can give the deepest teachings to someone, but if their minds are not prepared for it they will not really accomplish the deepest teachings until they go through a period of preliminary practice and preparation. And I, for one, feel very strongly that that is the case.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Commitment

maitreya2

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Love Now, Dzogchen Later”

If you can’t be bothered to join and give some help, some support through having given rise to the bodhicitta, and having habituated oneself towards understanding the nature of samsara, which is also your responsibility, and habituating oneself towards deeply understanding the suffering of all sentient beings, which is also your responsibility, then there’s not much hope for good practice, no matter what practice you do. You can’t get away from it, no matter how wonderful you are. Compassion is in the mix. And there’s not much time. None of us knows how long we will live. It is not appropriate to say I’m going to wait, wait, wait, wait, wait until I get my stuff ironed out, and then, THEN I’ll try the bodhicitta. You’ll never get the chance. Believe me, my friend. I’ve seen it time and time again. You will never have the opportunity.

When you accept the path of the Dharma, and you commit yourself to the idea of liberation, at that point, you have to accept what has actually been taught. You can’t pick and choose what you want. You can’t make up your own little gig and call it Buddhism. Because all of the Buddhist teachings, every one, from the simplest level in the Deer Park when Lord Buddha was actually alive to this very day and whatever terma revelations may even be realized in this time, the heart beat, the essence, the blood and spirit and truth of Dharma is the bodhicitta, the great compassion. That is the way.

If you think you can simply muster up great pride in your accomplishment by keeping your ordinary qualities—pride, self-absorption, slothfulness—and yet somehow do a very high practice, and magically give rise to the perfect awakening, it won’t be so. Time and time again, we have been taught that the way of the Buddha Dharma is the way of the bodhicitta. So it is easy to say, ‘I graduated last year. I’m going to graduate this year, too.’  It is easy to say, ‘Well, I didn’t do this, and I didn’t do this, and I didn’t accomplish a bhum [one hundred thousand repetitions] of this, and I didn’t accomplish a million of that, but I’m practicing Dzogchen.’ That’s very easy to do. But it behooves us to go back and see what we’ve missed.

You are not too advanced to love. You are not too advanced to get off your duff and help somebody. You are not too sanctified to look at other beings on this planet and say, ‘I know that you are wandering in samsara. I know that we are basically human and that we share many of the same sufferings, and I find that unbearable. I wish to help.’  You are not too holy to care that there is war, that there is hunger, that there is suffering. And shame on you if all you do to honor Guru Rinpoche’s teachings is to sit on your little cushion and have it be all. Yeah, you can dedicate your practice. That’s right. You can also help. It wouldn’t kill you. Do you see what I’m saying?

It’s good to go all the way. It’s very good to get these precious inconceivable teachings, but since you are not in that perfect situation where you will be constantly reminded except by maybe me… And how much do you listen to me?  Unless you are in that perfect situation, it is up to you to make up the difference. This is the karma of our times. And you find yourself here at 18400 River Road. You can’t skip anything. You should accomplish your Ngӧndro. You should finish it even if you’re working on Togyal. You should accomplish your Ngӧndro. And that means finishing it, not just saying, ‘I did a lot of it so I accomplished it.’  And you should accomplish your Three Roots. And most especially you should give rise to the precious bodhicitta.

Read the lives of the saints. Read what they went through in order to give rise to compassion. And that in any case, in every case, no real progress was ever made unless there was compassion, unless there was bodhicitta.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

What Really Matters

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Love Now, Dzogchen Later”

You should read stories about lamas in the past, stories of the saints, where lamas in the past have gone into retreat or gone to their teachers and said, “I really want to accomplish Dharma. I’m ready. I want to accomplish Dharma right now. So what will I do?”  And the lama would say, “Take some retreat. Go into the cave and practice a certain mantra.”  And time and time again students would go to the caves and would practice mantra.  And they would come back out and they would say to the lama, “I’ve practiced this mantra and yet I don’t seem to have any result.”  “Well,” lama says,  “then you need three million more. Go back into the cave and practice some more.”  And then again more advice. “Well I’ve not been able to practice any Dharma. Not given rise to realization although I’ve said mantra repeatedly.”  Then the lama would give some other advice. “Well, go back and accomplish the bodhicitta.  Accomplish the motivation.”

There are just uncountable stories like that of these great saints who struggled like you do, like we do, to accomplish their practice. And they didn’t go and get promoted every year. They had to accomplish the underpinnings, the basics, before they could move on to the next level. And it’s according to the lama’s wisdom. The lama would be able to see whether that accomplishment had really happened. And there are also many stories of disciples who would come to the lama after practicing in a cave some time or practicing in some kind of retreat, and they would say to the lama, “I have accomplished this.”  And the lama would say, “See ya. Keep trying. Go back. Another three years for you.”  Because that’s not what you say to your lama.

So, uncountable stories, uncountable stories that seem completely ridiculous and irrelevant in this time because of the experience that we’re having. But I’m telling you that they are not irrelevant. It’s something for each of us to take personal responsibility to study. And I really think that some of the elder monks and nuns should take on the responsibility of studying the lives of these saints and then reporting on them to other students. Maybe we could take turns giving some classes on that.

But just to go every summer and say,  “I have Dzogchen. I must be okay to die now.”  Or something like that, you know?   Thinking that, you know, somehow magical thinking. You’ve got the bumpa on the head and you’re just set to go. I’m afraid not. I wish that it were so. There is no bumpa on this planet that is hard enough. I mean how many times has His Holiness said that without giving rise to Guru Yoga, to true devotion, you know, egoless devotion, the lama could literally bang you on the head with the bumpa until it was dented and you are too, and there wouldn’t be much value. Even though the lama had practiced. Even though it had been an unbroken chain all the way down to the original source of the teaching.  Because in our practice there is a call and response. The lama gives the blessing; the student is invited to respond accordingly. It’s in the call and response connection that the growth occurs. It isn’t really what the guy above you tells you to do that makes you grow.

Our concern should always be loving concern for the welfare of sentient beings. If we are so puffed up with our own view of ourselves that we cannot bother ourselves to be of benefit to sentient beings; we cannot rouse ourselves to do something that will bring benefit to all sentient beings; we cannot bring ourselves to study on the suffering of humans, of animals—these being the two that we can mainly see on this planet— and to bring some relief, let alone worry about sentient beings in other realms that we cannot see and know are suffering,… We can’t even be bothered to look at human beings and animals. But we are going to sit there and do secret teachings, and look at others and wonder why they can’t do the same. Not appropriate. Not appropriate at all, and no benefit. No benefit.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Essential Motivation

HisHolinessPenorRinpoche

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Love Now, Dzogchen Later”

Ngondro purifies the five senses to such a degree that many of the gross defilements.  The ones that you meet up in your life where you are happily going along the road of life and you get punched in the face by karma.  Those obstacles.  You know.  They purify some of that and they keep that sort of thing from happening or they make it happen more benignly pacified is the idea.  And then accumulation of the Three Roots stabilizes the mind.  Begins to ripen the mind.  At that time we are trying to accomplish the Vajra confidence of the deities, their very pure qualities.  Their ability to establish virtue.  Their ability to accomplish view.  All of these things are accomplished through this recitation.  But nowadays, we don’t even have to do that.  We go to Tsa Lung.  And we don’t even have to finish Tsa Lung.  Then we can go to Trekchod, and then we can go to Togyal.  I think that is right.  We don’t really have to graduate.  And you have to ask yourself at this point.  What has changed?  Did His Holiness change?

I think of His Holiness like the Copper Mountain.  Our perception of the Copper Colored Mountain may change.  It may be connected to our own capability but does the Copper Colored Mountain ever change?  No.  It is absolutely empty of self-nature and yet spontaneously accomplished.    Figure that one out.  So, there is no fault here.  The fault is not with His Holiness.  His Holiness made a decision based on the times and I understand his decision.  It is not for me to agree or disagree, but I absolutely understand what his method is.  But the thing that I want to express to you is that it puts the responsibility on us.  To accomplish when we are not with His Holiness what we have to accomplish in order to make what he is teaching us next worthwhile.

One of the worst things that I have seen happen, that is a terrible result, and indeed it is not unusual in the sense that it is different from the way the world is acting now.  But still I have to say that it is not a good result and that is that most people on the path blow right by giving rise to the Bodhicitta.  Giving rise to the great compassion, to the way that actually is the very essence of awakening.  The Bodhicitta.  Now, His Holiness always teaches about Bodhicitta.  He never denies an opportunity.  Never abandons an opportunity.  He teaches about the Bodhicitta every time.  Like for instance when he starts to give a teaching or he starts to do a practice, often he will remind us to establish our motivation and the Khenpos will always say that we must establish our motivation or that we must understand that we are hearing this teaching not just to hang out here or that we are doing some practice not just because we are bored or for some other self-oriented reason.  But the only valid, righteous and appropriate motivation to accomplish Dharma is for the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.  So, we can repeat that back. We’ve heard this so many times.  And we can say if I say to you, “Why are you doing this practice?”  You’ll say, “Oh, liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.”  We’ve heard this so many times that we can parrot it back.  Sort of like a Malaccan Cockatoo or an African Gray.  But have we really given rise to the Bodhicitta?  Have we really accomplished it?  Have we worked really clean?  Thank you!  Somebody said no.  I appreciate that.  You know?  Have we worked cleanly and purely with our motivation?  Do we tutor ourselves on our motivation everyday, every moment?   And when we have choices to make, do we reestablish the motivation so that we can make the correct choices by saying, “Thus for the sake of sentient beings, I will open this altar, close this altar, pray, circumambulate, do my practice, study some Dharma.  Benefit sentient beings in some way.  Feed the hungry.  Heal the sick.  Walk a dog.“ Anything!  Anything.  Do we remind ourselves that that is our reason for taking our next breath?  That other than giving rise to compassion, giving rise to the mind of Bodhicitta which by the way, is the pure awakened state, our primordial wisdom nature, that that is the reason for anything that we do.  And should remain so.  And if we do not have the proper karma to be born in a monastery amongst many learned monks and nuns and many learned Khenpos, and lamas and Rinpoches, then we must accept that as our karma.  And shouldn’t leave ourselves to say, “Oh those poor guys.  They have to work for years trying to accomplish some Dharma and all they get is a couple of maroon colored sheets and a rug.  And you know, they just stay there in the Monastery.  And gee, I get to hang out here in America with cars, and TVs, and you know, stuff.  I have a great house.  And I can buy another car if I want.  And you know there are so many things that I can do do do.  And have have have  have.  And yet I get some Dzogchen.  Whoopee!  I must be the most fabulous person in the world. “

Unfortunately, our response to being given this great blessing is a little more like the whoopee part than it is the honest internal watchfulness that makes us ask ourselves, “Have I given rise to the Bodhicitta?  Have I accomplished good qualities?”  I mean when you practice the root deities, the Three Roots you accumulate so many repetitions of the mantra and you put so much energy into visualizing their different hand held implements and even their posture, which means something.  The handheld implement and the posture are the very display of the deities’ excellent qualities and activities.  So, we practice many repetitions of the mantra of the root deity.  And we think now we have accomplished the qualities of the root deity.  What are the qualities of the root qualities of the root deity?  We study the hand implements.  We study the posture, and we begin to inhabit those qualities.  We begin to display those qualities.  We accept those qualities.  We habituate towards those qualities and even one of the qualities that we habituate toward is Vajra pride.

Vajra pride which is different from American pride.  American pride is the bullshit that knocks you off the path.  Vajra pride is the confidence in the method.  Confidence in the method through meditating on Shunyata and giving rise to the deity.  And so there is the confidence.  Not having practiced mantra like that.  Not having gone through those different accomplishments, we instead have given rise to ordinary pride.  And ordinary pride is stupid pride.  It tells us to argue with the elder sangha members, lamas, and Khenpos, thinking that we know better, or to make up our own religion.  Or to just do it the way we want to, or to just self cherish.  To meditate on self-cherishing, ego cherishing, which is giving rise to the ordinary pride and back to that ordinary cycle.  But when we accomplish the deity, something different rises up.  And then when we move on to the other levels, we move on with Vajra confidence and unshakeable Bodhicitta – compassion.

Now, when that foundation is properly laid, and we have properly practiced Bodhicitta, and we have properly accumulated mantra and we have purified our senses through the Ngondro, then when we are introduced to Dzogchen.  The mind is matured.  The blessing of the lama, particularly if we have accomplished purely the accumulation of Vajra Guru mantra within the context of Guru Yoga in Ngondro.  And what is it, 1.5 million of those?  Or 1.2, I forget.  Huh?  1.2?  Thank you.  She knows but did you do it?  Oh see!  Yeah.  So, after you accomplish that many Vajra Guru mantras in the context of Guru Yoga, you have changed.  Your capability is different.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Technology of Dharma

private-music-lessons

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

I know we’re getting older, but in truth, if you want to rush through Dharma, I have to say there is no hurry. Not that we should be at ease and think, ‘No need to accomplish Dharma now. I’m going to live forever,’ but rather think first things first. If you cannot handle your poisons, it is not time to move on yet. And I’m not saying either that you should use your poisons as a personal excuse not to go any further on the path,. because I notice that some of us cowboys like to do that. But the truth of the matter is that in order to accomplish Dharma, one has to change. For instance, the basis of Dharma, we are told, is method. Why is that?  Because method is meant to promote change. It’s a technology. And the Buddadharma supplies technology.

Let’s see, how can I explain? Let’s compare it to playing an instrument. You can learn to play an instrument sort of academically, intellectually. You can learn to read music. You can learn the ins and outs of your instrument. You can learn how to blow or pluck it or strum it effectively, whatever your instrument is. But it’s another kind of artistic capacity or another kind of depth with the music that causes the musician to be an artist. They don’t just go dah, dah, dah, dah. They use moderation in the hand. You know what I am saying?There is delicacy; there is heart in it. You can feel itYou can’t have an ego to accomplish that kind of artistry. You have to let go of that kind of egotism to allow the music to be realer to you than your own stupid ego. So Dharma compares to that, really, in the sense that it’s not so hard to learn step one, step two, step three. And you can go through the whole course. We can put the shedra up, and you can go through the whole course. And we hope to do this. But if we do that in an unthinking way, we’re never going to be an artist regarding Dharma. And who cares about that? Most of all, we’ll never really accomplish it. We’ll never really accomplish what Dharma is meant to do.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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