The Method of the Path

Merry Go Round

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Desire Blocks Happiness”

So we have a problem here.  We really have to get off the merry-go-round, and we have to look at things square in the eye. And there’s no getting away from it: One of the problems of cyclic existence is that we can’t see very clearly. Isn’t it true? Isn’t it true that even once we make the decision to lead a virtuous life, and to think as I’ve just described, then we sit there and we think hatefully in our minds. We think hateful thoughts in our minds; we think jealous thoughts in our minds; we think competitive thoughts in our minds; we think judgmental thoughts in our minds. We think “I want.” We think all of these things—angry, vengeful, whatever it is. And we think because no one else can hear it besides us, that it’s really okay as long as we can maintain a beatific exterior. You know, a sweet kind of exterior. As long as we do that, we’re okay. Isn’t that true? Don’t you think that’s true? Well, the difficulty is, you can’t even take your smile with you! Ha, ha, ha!  So when you go into the bardo, what will be there is what’s behind it—the habit of your mind, the habit of hatred or ignorance or grasping.

One of the great Bodhisattva prayers that I’ve read—and every time I hear it, it brings tears to my eyes, because it’s so true—translates to roughly like this, “If it is true that I cannot even take so much as one sesame seed with me when I die, why not offer all that I have to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings?”  Why not do that? I’m going to lose it anyway. Reminds me a little bit of the old trick of knowing that pretty soon you’re going to have to pay this enormous amount of taxes because you sold this house, so you quick gotta buy another one. It’s kind of like that. You know you’re going to lose it anyway. Why not make it something useful?

On this Path there are many different ways to do that. One can become a renunciate, as these monks and nuns are renunciates. And believe me, once you have put on these robes, that does not mean that you have renounced cyclic existence. It means that you are trying. Sometimes I catch these guys not renouncing cyclic existence. Just every now and then, I catch them clinging to cyclic existence like you can’t believe. But you can try. You can really try to practice in that way where you actually renounce cyclic existence and you take a certain form. You take an outward appearance, and you practice inwardly according to that outward appearance. In other words, they wear only the Buddhist robes, most of the time, and they practice the Buddha’s teachings; and they don’t drink, and they remain celibate, and they don’t lie. And there are many different exterior vows that they take. They also try to practice within their heart in a very pure way. And then you can also practice as a layperson, who looks very ordinary, and who engages in the ordinary activities of life with the ordinary trappings that sentient beings engage in. But inside you would practice certain kinds of meditation. Particularly you might think of practicing stabilizing the mind through meditation. That is letting thoughts come to the mind—thoughts of grasping or thoughts of hatred—and allowing those thoughts to merely dissolve. And there are certain techniques and technologies that you can apply to actually do that. Or practicing in such a way as to generate oneself as the deity, as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and in doing that, generate one’s environment as a celestial palace; and that being a celestial palace, it has only pure qualities. And therefore, having only pure qualities, there’s nothing to grasp onto. So that you might have or not have something; you might be married or not be married; you might have children or not have children. You might have objects or not have objects; but at any rate each one of these objects is seen as an emanation of the enlightened quality of the Buddha, and it’s nothing to grasp onto. It’s nothing to hold onto. It’s nothing that you would call mine. Do you see what I’m saying? So it’s an inner kind of more subtle practice.

There are many different ways to practice on this Path, as many different ways as there are people. But it starts with that little breakdown—getting off that merry-go-round. Looking at yourself, and seeing the faults of cyclic existence, and seeing that you have never yet been satisfied by it. And seeing that it’s time to pacify that inflammation within the mind. The inflammation is the problem.

This teaching is very difficult to understand unless you can apply some direct technology, unless you can really get into some substantial practice. And if you wish to do so, you should keep coming to the temple. And at some point you should ask about entering into deeper practice. This is just a practice meant to display some of the meaning of the Path to those who are not practicing so deeply at this point or who are not practicing Buddhism, actually; and also increasing the understanding of those who are practicing Buddhism.

But there is a technology that must be applied that would be beneficial. If one were to simply try to understand what I have said in this way… If one were to say, “Okay, I guess what she means is I can’t get excited about anything anymore. Or I can’t feel really happy, and really high. Or I should just make myself really passive,” then you would not be understanding what I’m saying. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m not saying that you should adopt a mask of stillness. I’m not saying that you should force yourself to roll your eyes ever skyward and appear beatific and holy from this point on. That would be a farce. That would be silly. In fact, that’s a very neurotic way to act, and I wouldn’t recommend it at all. You might think that what I’m saying that you should do is act very spiritual and very sweet and very kindly, when in your heart there’s a raging fire. And I’m not saying that. That’s a very neurotic way to do, and that will cause you to take valium very quickly. That is not the method. Valium is not the method on this Path.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo All Rights Reserved

The Ticking Clock

feast

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why We Suffer”

The next piece of information that you really have to take in is that not only are you responsible for being where you are now, and not only are you responsible for what’s going to happen next, but you don’t have much time. This precious human rebirth goes by as quickly as a waterfall falling down rocks. Depending on how old you are, you’ll know that. You partially know that already. I’m forty-one and I think to myself constantly how it was only yesterday that I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty.  Only yesterday. In my mind I feel like a child; I’m not fully grown yet. I feel like I’m not grown up, not mature yet. And I’m halfway through this bugger. Now that’s true of all of us; and some of us are further along than others. We don’t have much time. It’s going by very quickly. If you don’t take a hold of this opportunity now, you will not be able to utilize it.

Please understand that you are deeply involved in a habitual reactive process. The mind is tight, and it is tightly ingrained in its compulsive habitual tendencies. That you will be able to take advantage of one small moment of spaciousness, that you will be able to really absorb the nectar and really able to use it, according to the teachings, is really as unlikely as a sea turtle surfacing in a great ocean and coming up through a round circle that is afloat on the ocean. How rare is that? So please do what you can to make this opportunity as auspicious as possible. Please accept the fact that even though you’re hearing the teachings, and you’re hearing them as well as you can, you’re only hearing a little bit of them. The mind is hard. Soften the mind. Go for the nectar of the teaching that leads to enlightenment as though you were a starving and thirsty being on a desert where there is no other water to be found. Generate that thirst. Generate that thirst as though your throat were parched, as though there were nothing else. And then aim truly. Try not to make up your own religion. Actually, we’ve been doing that for eons and eons in cyclic existence. We have been making up the religion of self. This is the religion of ego. We have a religion, it’s true. Time to convert. Now we need to follow the method that leads to enlightenment, not the one that leads to further self-absorption and more suffering. Remember that all the experiences that you’ve had are phenomena; that they are direct displays of your own habitual tendency, and, therefore, as meaningless, really; that the meaningful truth about you is the most glorious truth and the one that you keep forgetting. In your nature, you are the Buddha; and it is possible to awaken, and therefore to be free from cyclic death and rebirth and from samsaric suffering. It is possible. But it will not happen without great effort. And it will not happen if you don’t begin now.

So please do utilize the opportunity. Do utilize the teaching. If you go away from this and you change in some way… And, of course, the idea is to change. If you didn’t want to change, you probably wouldn’t be here. If you go away from this and change in some way, change sufficiently to where the mind becomes more relaxed, the heart becomes more receptive… If these things begin to happen and you actually begin to practice, begin to make wishing prayers, begin to make kindness the cornerstone, the backbone, of your incarnation, of your life, then this day has been worth something. But if you just wanted to sample the wares here, your mind probably is like a bowl turned over and the nectar, once again, has escaped you. Please take a hold of yourself. Please utilize this precious human rebirth. Please understand the nature of cyclic existence and its faults. And please understand the beautiful and bountiful feast that awaits you upon awakening.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

What Do Blessings Look Like?

Prayer Room

The following is an excerpt from a teaching called “The Guru is Your Diamond” 

If our teachers had not accomplished any Dharma, how would they be of any use to us? So we expect it of them and we rely on them to guide us in the way of Dharma. Sometimes it pisses us off. We’d rather go on vacation. We’d rather have a little more fun. I mean, it’s Sunday afternoon, isn’t it? And we have all kinds of reasons why we should maybe do something else, but we come back. There is my friend. If this teacher can bother to appear again and again for no reason other than to liberate sentient beings as my guru has, then I can at least be here. I can at least come half way, come full with devotion. When we are in the presence of our own root guru and we have that connection and we have the history and karma of the guru having ripened our mind in some way in the past, that ripening will surely come again. With faith and devotion and practice, it will surely come again. And so we have that kind of faith. We know in our hearts and our minds that we can rely on this one for that kind of help.

Should it happen that we cannot meet with the guru for some reason, or there is some difficult point in one’s path, some difficult moments, some difficult times, maybe even some difficult months or years, still, so long as the guru remains in the world, we can turn our face towards the guru and know. It’s like falling off a horse. You can always get back on.

But the problem, and there is a problem with that, is that if you waste your time with that precious jewel and don’t collect its interest, the jewel somehow becomes more distant, less potent, less present, less precious, less everything. And we think to ourselves, ‘Why is the guru not in my life so much?’  And we tend to think, ‘Oh, it’s because the guru’s over here or the guru’s over there, or the guru is not speaking right now, or the guru is this, or the guru is that.’  And you can think that way if you want to but it won’t help. We must think, ‘Now I’ve come to this place. I have chosen my guru and I am steadfast. And I have seen the door of liberation. Yet somehow things are a little mixed up here, I can’t quite get to it. I don’t feel focused. I don’t feel like I understand this blessing. I feel outsourced. I feel like I’m out to lunch somewhere on the Path here.’  And so we think, ‘Oh, what is the problem?’ Well, the first thing we have to do is correct our view and think, ‘This is the door to liberation. It is present in the world.’ Period. End of story. ‘What must I do? What must I do?’

Sometimes it takes traveling to see your guru. Sometimes it takes sitting down and doing Guru Yoga like you never did it before. And it can work out a myriad of ways according to one’s karma, according to one’s blessing. I’ve had it both ways. I’ve traveled to see my guru and the blessing was immeasurable and phenomenal. And then I’ve stayed home and practiced Guru Yoga and with amazing signs. The blessing was amazing and fundamentally life changing. And one, I saw the guru’s face; and one, I saw the guru’s face.

And that’s the nature of this blessing. It doesn’t depend on time and space. It doesn’t depend on ordinary things at all. And unless you neglect it, it cannot lose its potency. We must think, as pertaining to Guru Yoga, that every day, even while now we sit in comfort and enjoy being together, that every day, even this day, we should earn the blessing to see the guru tomorrow. How will I see the guru? Maybe I’ll see the guru’s picture and it will jump out at me and touch my heart. Maybe I’ll see Guru Rinpoche’s picture and it will jump out at me and touch my heart. Or maybe I’ll say The Seven Line Prayer.  And wow, that one really…, that one did it. Or maybe I will do my practice and it feels deep and rewarding like an underground stream that has come suddenly to the surface and has given us something precious to drink.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Extraordinary Connection

HHPR and JAL

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

When we practice Ngӧndro, one of the most important sections of Ngöndro is the Guru Yoga. It is beautiful. The cries to Guru Rinpoche are plaintiff and haunting and just moving. How can you describe it any other way? The Lama Khyen No. And yet in the Ngӧndro book, Guru Yoga’s at the last. When I started practicing Ngӧndro, I asked for special permission to practice the Guru Yoga first; and I was given that because of my special connection with Guru Rinpoche in the past. And to me, it was the most beautiful and pure and worthwhile time I’ve ever spent.

For most people, we want to start with the Taking Refuge and the Bodhichitta. And the reason why, again, is because the first need is to discriminate between what is extraordinary and what is ordinary. We cannot really practice Guru Yoga effectively unless we’ve made that discrimination. Because if we can’t make that discrimination, we’re basically practicing to a cartoon image that we do not have the depth yet to understand; or maybe we are practicing on a personality level—that my personality is worth worshipping the Guru’s personality. And again, that’s a baby step. It’s not to be sneezed at, but it’s not where we stay either. We go further than that.

When we practice Guru Yoga, that’s the rocketship of tantric Buddhism. That’s the shortcut. The luckiest practitioners on the Path of Vajrayana are those who feel—not that they have to display it in any outward way or even see their guru that often—but who feel they have, and who have cultivated a special connection with their teacher, a connection not of persona to persona, but of recognition that connection of recognition. And that is where  we go in our practice and we visualize our teachers and say, ‘I understand that this is the very nature of enlightenment; that this is the same nature as Guru Rinpoche; that this is the same nature as all the Buddhas of the ten directions. That this Buddha, this teacher that I have, has been taught to me by Guru Rinpoche to be the Buddha in Nirmanakaya form.’ And we think like that, that kind of recognition, that kind of intention; and a kind of—I hate to use the word passion, because people think of passion in only a certain category—but one develops a passion for the nectar that one’s teacher has to offer. That person is ripe. That person is ripe, not only to enter the Path, but blessed in such a way that not only will they continue, but very likely they will find completion stage practice, as well.

When we connect with our teacher in that way, and really give rise to that recognition, that says that, indeed, this is exactly what Guru Rinpoche promised. Guru Rinpoche said, “I will be there with you as your root teacher. If you call to me, I will be there.” And so, of course he’s saying that in the presence of one’s root guru, having been given the blessings, now we practice Guru Yoga. And that is the very nectar of Guru Rinpoche’s blessing. How fortunate for those of us who have that sense, even in some small form, enough to where you know, like an ember, you can fan the flame. That’s the most fortunate connection of all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Rocketship

rocketship

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

Many people, when they come to the Path, they do feel the connection with some particular deity. I know of one person who felt a very strong connection to Manjushri, with his great sword cutting through ignorance. And yet that person did not practice proper Guru Yoga and understand that the nature that is Manjushri with the sword is the very nature that is our root guru; and that sword could be a word, a look, a piece of advice, some heart teaching, anything that cuts through the darkness of ignorance. Some of us can understand that and then others of us want to have our particular deity. You hear the pride in that, don’t you?  ‘I’m into Manjushri!  He’s the guy with the big sword. What a guy.’  And yet, every Buddha that we can visualize, all of the peaceful and wrathful deities that naturally appear in the bardo and are part of our own nature and can be recognized, each one of them has the complete and perfect qualities of all the Buddhas.

So, while it’s an amazing thing if you are attracted to some particular Buddha, like maybe Amitabha or Chenrezig or Tara, you might say, ‘Oh, I really love that deity.’  That’s good. Cultivate that. But do not miss the step that Guru Rinpoche gave to us when he said, “This nature, the nature of one’s teacher is unsurpassed by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions.”  Why did he say that?  To create confusion so that everyone in all our different places could look at our own particular root guru and say that’s the best one?   No, that’s crazy. That’s just more ordinary thinking. But instead, by implication, we understand that what we must do is to recognize the intrinsic nature that appears as our root guru, the promise of Guru Rinpoche fulfilled. And if Guru Rinpoche said this was going to work, well it’s going to work.

So, Guru Yoga is like a rocketship. We depend on the accomplishment, the qualities and the nature that appears as our own root guru. Early on in the relationship with our root teacher, we should practice thoughtful discrimination. That is to say, we should ask ourselves: Has this teacher really given rise to the great Bodhichitta?  Do we see that Bodhichitta is present here?  Ok. Check that box. Got that one. Ok. Do we see that this teacher has the capacity to ripen my mind?  Do I hear Dharma from this teacher?  Check that one. Is this teacher considered qualified by peers of her lineage/his lineage/their lineage, whichever?  Is this teacher properly recognized and considered properly an authority and a throne holder?  Does this teacher have good qualities? Does this teacher have the ability to communicate?  Let’s see. What else? Does this teacher have an unbroken chain that connects us to the source of the blessing, which is Guru Rinpoche?  You betcha!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We think through these things. And at that time if you decide this teacher is not for me, then there is no harm in saying, ‘I’ll keep looking.’  Maybe the connection is not quite right. So that’s when you do your discriminating and your thinking. But once you’ve decided—check boxes are all full, looks good to me and I have that feeling, I feel that connection, something is wiggling in my little heart chakra… So when we come to that place, after that point, you must put yourself on a diet, because after that point, there’s no more judgment.

 

Once we make the judgment and discrimination necessary and have that undeniable sense that one has entered the Path and met one’s root guru, after that point, judgment should be put aside. Then the ball is in your court. Not that the teacher doesn’t have a responsibility. I promise you, the teacher knows their responsibility, if they are worth their weight in salt. And that teacher not only knows their responsibility but also knows their students. A good teacher will be willing to say to a student keep looking. Go see this lama here or that lama there. See what you think. Once the teacher has accepted the student, and the student has accepted the teacher, then that bond becomes more intimate than any marriage, any mother and child relationship, any friendship. It’s hard to understand that because we think, ‘Oh, teacher. I only see you every so often, but I see my spouse and my children every day. Therefore, it must be more intimate.’

 

However, I will tell you that in order for you to be here, to be accepted as my student and to accept me as well, for that karma to mesh in that particular way, we must have known each other many times, many times. The relationship between student and teacher is not a relationship that ends in one lifetime. If we take vows together, I am responsible for you always. And so long as you remain in the world and have not yet accomplished liberation, I must appear again in samsara in order to liberate you. I must. Even if there’s only one, just you, your teacher will return for you. Under any conditions.

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

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