When We Meet the Guru

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

When we meet with our Guru, our Guru should have the capacity to ripen one’s mind, particularly where there is a close connection, where one has practiced under the guidance of this Guru before.  That’s happened to me with many of you, where I see you and I just know you instantly.  And, I know, you start crying.  And you know me as well, and you can’t deny that.  When that happens, it’s just undeniable.  For those fortunate students where that happens, often they wish to even short circuit the discrimination part because the feeling is so strong, the bond is so deep, that the recognition is prevalent. If that should happen to you, here or anywhere else, that is the most precious jewel you will ever find in this world.  Whether you are gathering wealth, or gathering intellectual knowledge or whatever you were taught is precious in this world, the connection with that Guru is the most precious jewel you will ever find.

First it’s an indication.  You have practiced with this teacher before.  Maybe an ordinary way of saying it would be, when you see this teacher, you should see the feast laid out before you.  The feast.  And you know, you have tasted this before.  It’s almost like, in an ordinary way, if you go to a giant smorgasbord, one of those places people go to in America when they really want to chow down, and you see the roast beef, and the this and the that and the cobbler, you know, and you go, ”Bingo, I’m in the right place!”  And you eat some of that, and you remember.  It’s like remembering that taste in your next life.  Nothing’s going to keep you from chowing down.  You might be even a little weird about it at first.  Really emotional, and so forth. But nothing is going to keep you from that taste.  If you’ve ever had that experience, I beg you to honor it.  Not for my sake, but for yours.


That happened to me in this lifetime when I met His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.  It was like my heart jumped out of my chest and was standing there talking to me, like I met my mind, my nature.  Like I was following something elusive my whole life and suddenly it was standing before me.  Almost unbearable.  And, of course, I did the same exact thing that you guys do when you meet your Root Teacher.  You start dancing.  Inside you start thinking, ”What should I do? I should do this and I should do this. I’ll perform in this way, or maybe that way, or maybe this way.”  And of course you’re a stumbling, bumbling fool for a little while, just like somebody who’s newly in love.


If you find that connection, then you must honor it.  And you must honor it by growing.  Be ready.  Some people say, “Oh, I really want to fall in love.”  But then when love hits you, you go, “No, I don’t want to change that much.  A little scary here.  Back off.”  And so sometimes, we’re like that when we meet, in a sense, our destiny, our unfoldment. When we meet our teacher, we go “Oh, oh, oh,” and we feel the feeling., We feel the joy; we feel the connection. Yet at the same time, we’re like, “I can hardly bear it. I have to turn away a little bit. It’s too much.  I don’t know if I can change that fast.”  But remember, the original reason for making the connection to the Path was to exit samsara, and that requires a good deal of change.  So the relationship between oneself and one’s Guru should be potent.  It’s ok if it’s a little scary.  Gives you a little respect. (smiles and laughter).

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved




Fasten Your Seatbelts: The Vajrayana Path

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

I would like to say good morning to everyone. I’m pleased to see you all here and very honored to be here again.  This is the beginning of a new trend at KPC where I will be coming here a lot more often and ultimately my plan is to spend up to six months a year here.  We may grow into it in steps and jumps, but that’s my plan.  It feels very good to be here, and in Lama talk, that means that my students have been practicing. That means that there has been some effort in the way of determining what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected, and what is precious, and what is worth one’s endeavor.  And so that kind of discrimination must be coming to pass in many of my students.  If that’s coming to pass, then the teacher will definitely come.  There is no doubt of that.

Now on the path of Vajrayana, we are given something like a rocketship rather than a slow boat to cross the ocean of samsara.  When Lord Buddha first came to the planet and taught, when he was here as Shakyamuni, he gave teachings that were absolutely necessary for that time.  During that time, we were not in Kaliyuga, which is a more degenerate age.  During that time, it was easier to practice. It was easier even to speak Dharma; and peoples’ minds were more spacious and more expanded so that if one were to accomplish Dharma, it would be easierto accomplish Dharma during that time.  And yet, there was a difficulty.  And the difficulty was that during that time, because there was more space in the mind, there was also more relaxation, maybe more joyfulness, less reason to feel compelled to exit samsara.  So there are good and bad things in both times.

True that this is Kaliyuga; true that this is the time of degeneration. There are many false teachers and many false paths and sometimes delusion rises up like a tsunami flood. It is a difficult time.  We look to the people that even guide this country, and you wonder where is the clarity, where is the morality.  So it’s difficult.  Even this country that was once the prince of countries, and can still be—the peacemaker, the one who guards the little guy—instead now we’ve changed.  So these are all indicative of this time of delusion.

And yet at the same time, we are so pressed because not only our delusion thickens and deepens, but because of our delusion, our neuroses (which means an inappropriate response to something that is not understood well anyway), our neuroses also thickens and deepens.  And with that comes an increase in pain.  Fundamental pain.  Maybe not even a particular pain about something; but rather an all-pervasive sense of suffering that we are more unhappy, Now when things are happening faster and materialism is in some ways more attainable, in many ways more attainable, still we have become more and more unhappy and continually create the causes for unhappiness.  So this pushes us to find a solution.  For some people, we look to psychology or psychiatry. For other people, we look towards creating the causes for happiness through walking the path of spirituality.  But many of us are seeking, and that’s important.  That is something that is useful and to be treasured during this time.

Many of us will think what drives us to seek is this pain, this angst, this modern angst that we all seem to carry around.  That pain, on the one hand, seems sometimes unbearable; and then other times, just there. We are uncomfortable and we can’t say exactly why.  We feel wobbly, unguided, unknowing and we really can’t understand why that is.  That suffering of course, even though painful, can ultimately become part of the blessing that brings us to the Path.  Maybe we didn’t even come here thinking, “What I need is a good Path.”  Maybe we came here for some other reason—because we heard about this place, or we’ve heard a little bit or we’ve read some books about Dharma, or maybe His Holiness the Dalai Lama has given us some wonderful teaching through his books, and something has just hooked us a little bit.  Maybe we heard about the crystals.  That brings people!  Whatever it is, it’s that sense of things not being wholesome or right.  It’s that sense of fundamental unhappiness that drives us forward.

And so, in the beginning, that’s how it feels.  It can be a very poignant kind of search and we feel deeply moved by it.  So when we begin to examine the Path of Vajrayana, we find that rather than being the gentle ship that crosses a relatively gentle ocean, as was in the time of Lord Buddha’s physical life, now we have a different situation.  We are propelled by the depth of our feeling, by our discomfort, and we’re looking for something. We seem, in this time,  to connect with something that is more potent, maybe a little fiercer in a certain way, definitely more condensed than the original teachings of Lord Buddha.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

No Better Time Than This

An excerpt from a teaching called Vajrayana’s Final Hour by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

One of the bits of information that has come out during the course of time is that cyclic existence is just that — it moves in cycles. There is a cycle during which the Buddha first appears, which is very expansive. During such a time, life is in some ways much simpler and much easier, particularly for attaining enlightenment. The fabric of our mindstreams is much more expansive due to the virtue of the Buddha’s appearance.

Then there is an intermediate time in which the Buddha has left, the Teachings are very strong, and are carried on by those who can remember the teachings, who have memorized them and can repeat them verbatim. The Teachings are taught in an unbroken lineage by those who have practiced the Teachings and achieved some result, but there is no true memory of anyone who actually has seen the historical Buddha, or even seen the Buddha’s disciples.

Now we find ourselves in a time that is considered to be a degenerate time. The fabric of cause and effect relationships, which includes the very fabric of our own mindstreams, is extremely contracted. Now it is much more difficult to achieve realization. One must work very hard at it. One has to take teachings, accumulate many repetitions of mantra and prayer, and accomplish puja. One must practice devotion to the highest degree, and accomplish Bodhicitta, the Great Compassion. One must renounce ordinary existence, whether as a monk or nun, or in a more internal way from the heart, being stable and unmovable in the mind.

Even though it is hard now, in another way enlightenment can be accomplished more surely and certainly than before, because in this time of degeneration when the content of our mindstream is extremely condensed and contracted, karma actually ripens very quickly. You may have noticed that. If you are kind and loving and if you practice the Bodhicitta toward other sentient beings, it will make you happy. And conversely, if you are unkind, selfish, angry, that too will come right back at you. Hasn’t this happened to you? You can be very unkind to someone, and in the same day you can see it come right back in your face. Your nose gets rubbed in it.

The good news in this is that the benefit of the practice comes back much more quickly as well. If one practices really intently and with fervent devotion (devotion is the key here), one can eat the fruit of one’s practice. If not during the course of one’s life, then at the time of one’s death, when the Buddha Nature reveals itself to us as the elements dissolve, one will perceive that Buddha Nature as the display of the deity and recognize that Nature accordingly. Having recognized that Nature, one will awaken.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo all rights reserved

Where Spiritual Life Begins

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Conceptual Proliferation”

We who are sentient beings are wandering in samsara, and according to the Buddha’s teaching, if we have the assumption of self-nature as being inherently real, we are all basically in the same condition of wandering. It is only the gurus and the teachers who, in their past, may have accomplished sufficient Dharma which is the teaching of the enlightened mind. Having accomplished Dharma, they actually have clarified their mind to the point that they can see through the mist in a way that we cannot. You should trust in those teachers who have themselves accomplished their practice.

Some guidelines that you might use are these. I’ve taught this before and I’d like to reiterate this, because it is important at this time. You can have two kinds of expectation about a proper teacher for yourself or about yourself, if you think you are a proper teacher. One of them is that you should have in this lifetime  totally accomplished and be, yourself, teaching pure Dharma. That is Dharma that is brought by the enlightened mind, the Buddha, one who has attained Buddhahood. This is not the kind where you make it up yourself according to the messages that you’re getting from the Pleiades. This is real Dharma, no kidding. Buddha taught it. If you are accomplishing Dharma or have accomplished it in this lifetime, and you are teaching Dharma, then you are a qualified teacher, or someone you are looking for is a qualified teacher. The only other circumstance is if there is someone who is recognized to be a reincarnate or a tulku or a great bodhisattva, who has in the past accomplished Dharma sufficiently to where, in this lifetime, their minds are the very display of Dharma and all of their activity is engaged in Dharma, and results in Dharma. And that can only be determined by being recognized by others who are themselves recognized and realized in that way. Those are the only two kinds of teachers that you should accept. And if you yourself are neither one, then you are not a good teacher. The rest are wandering in samsara and there is confusion and suffering.

That being the case, you have a choice to make now.  And the choice is based on either continuing your dream-like false assumptions and dream-like confusion, and continuing the narcotic experience of just living in super-structured conceptual proliferation—death and rebirth, death and rebirth, death and rebirth—or you can get off of that and trust in the teaching of one who has accomplished Dharma. Trust in what ends up being like a lighthouse beacon in a very dark land, and go in the direction that you are guided to go in by your teacher. You must have a proper teacher. Go in that direction, and follow those instructions implicitly. To assume that you know nothing, to think that you know nothing because of your confusion, doesn’t make you bad, doesn’t make you less than anyone else. It simply states the facts. You’re still worthy. You still, in your nature, are the Buddha. You still are equally worthy of love with all sentient beings. But you accept the condition that you actually are in and it provides a tool for you, a power, a potency that you didn’t have before. Before it was like you were wandering around in a dark room trying to find the door and it’s pitch black and there’s all kinds of furniture and things hanging, you know, and drapes and dividers and things like that, and all you could do was stumble. You should think of the teacher as being like a lighthouse that shows you the door and, in fact, also is the door; because it shines to you from outside the door. And you should go in that direction. When you start going in that direction and assuming the validity of the teacher’s mind, and assuming that that is refuge, once you actually assume that, the moment that you assume that, you have begun to accomplish view. The moment you take that directive, other than your own confusion, as the direction in which you should go, you have started to heal. You have started to make real spiritual progress. You are on the path of Dharma. That is when your spiritual life begins.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Meeting with the Vajrayana Path: His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

This vehicle of secret mantra, Vajrayana, is the principal vehicle of Buddhism that is practiced in Tibet, and now we find it spreading throughout America and other countries.  There are many Dharma centers that have been established in America, primarily by Tibetan lamas who are upholders of the Vajrayana tradition.  This means that many of the American disciples are now becoming practitioners and upholders of this tradition.  In fact, throughout this world, Vajrayana Buddhism is already firmly established in some 32 countries.

Within the secret mantra vehicle, the ultimate, absolute pinnacle, the enlightened mind of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas condensed into one essence, the heart blood of all the Dakinis, is the quintessential path known as the Clear Light Great Perfection, or Ati Yoga.  This Doctrine of the Great Perfection is dependent upon the receiving of what is termed pointing out instructions or pith essential instructions which can be passed from teacher to disciple in the form of just a word or two.  In fact, if everything is auspicious according to the way that the Clear Light Great Perfection is actually transmitted, it is taught that if those essential instructions are given in the evening, by sunrise one will be enlightened.  If they are given at sunrise, by evening one will be enlightened.  So this is considered to be the most expedient path to liberation.

To meet with the Clear Light Great Perfection is something that is so precious and rare that it is taught that just to hear the words of the Dzogchen teaching, the teachings on the level of Ati Yoga, closes the door to rebirth in the three lower realms and puts one safely and directly on the path to liberation as a Buddha.  So it is a Dharma that has the power to liberate just by contact, just by sight, just by recollection.  Even to recall the words of the Dzogchen teachings is something that is so precious and profound that it is likened to having a wish-fulfilling jewel in the palms of your hands.  It is not a Dharma that is filled with elaborations and complexities that takes a lot of time to accomplish or establish.  It is a Dharma that, if it meets with the right individual or the perfect aspirant, is something that is easy to practice and that can be applied to every aspect of life in a very simple way producing very direct results.  However, this Dharma, this Doctrine, must only fall into the hands of those disciples who have the karmic affinity for it which is something that must be established due to karmic connections.  Otherwise it is a Dharma that is meant to be kept secret or to be guarded from any other type of situation.

When we think about Tibet and how the Dharma came into Tibet originally, it was due to the kindness of the great Orgyen Rinpoche, Guru Padmasambhava, and Vimalamitra. In fact, there have never been two teachers of the likes of these two who have ever come since then.  They are so great and profound.  Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra only gave the Dzogchen teachings to their closest heart disciples and only after a tremendous kind of karmic affinity had been established.  It is not something that is just given in any other circumstances.  In Tibet there exists to the present day the eight great chariots of traditions and teachings of practice which are very sublime and extraordinary.  However, amongst them it is only in the tradition of the secret Nyingmapa that these Dzogchen teachings are found, and they are unequalled by any other.

Now I have a personal feeling about this, and I mentioned it a little bit in San Francisco. Since I’ve come to America I have seen that there is a very strong connection here for the Dzogchen teachings.  I have also had an opportunity while I’ve been in the United States to give Dharma teachings on different subjects, but I find when I teach on the subject of Dzogchen, which is the Tibetan term for this Clear Light Great Perfection, this Ati Yoga category, that I find that people become much more enthusiastic and the faith wells up inside of them in a different kind of way.  I liken this to the situation in this country at this time where the country itself is very powerful and there is much material prosperity, but also everyone is extremely busy and people don’t have too much of a chance to practice elaborate forms of religious or spiritual instructions.  So in noticing all of these coincidences coming together, I truly have seen that Americans have a strong connection with the Dzogchen doctrine and that this is probably the most important doctrine to propagate here at this time.  Therefore I have a very strong hope that each and every one of you will have an opportunity to meet with the Dzogchen doctrine and put it into practice in your lives.

If you practice the Dzogchen in this life alone, you will immediately receive the benefits of good health and mental contentment.  That’s why you can use someone like Gyaltrul Rinpoche as an example.  Even though he’s old now, much older than most of you, he’s still very happy.  His mind is filled with content and his body is still healthy too.  This is because of the point I just brought out.  I think it also might be true for Ahkön Lhamo as well.

What Do You Long For?

Guru Rinpoche

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

JNT 14 Decision Time

How much time do we spend understanding the quality, the fabric, the substance of the Buddha’s teachings so that we can make good decisions?. Have we reasoned things out for ourselves?  Do we follow the Buddha’s logic?   If we don’t follow the Buddha’s logic that cause and effect arise interdependently and at the same moment, if we don’t follow the logic that what we are experiencing now is our own karma, if we have not taken that teaching to heart, are we Buddhists?  I wonder.

How much time do you spend mixing your mind like milk with water, mixing with the mindstream of your beloved teacher?  Maybe it’s not me. I’m not that impressive. How much time do you spend mixing your mindstream with the nectar of the teaching?  How much time have you spent in courageous determination, paring the mind down the way one works the wood of one’s craft, or the metal of one’s craft? How often have we made solid and good and sensible plans for our death?  How many of us have made plans and can count on the plans we’ve made for our next life?  Isn’t it funny that after all this time, we do relatively little, and some of us nothing, to add to our virtue?  We don’t plan for the next life. We act like people who don’t believe that rebirth will occur immediately. And it will. We act like people who think there is no relationship between cause and effect. Everything we do is for satisfaction in this life and we still dance with it. We still try to control it.

How much time a day do we spend beseeching the Guru to never abandon us? And how much time each day do we spend in longing for the nectar of bodhicitta? How much time every day do we spend longing for liberation?  Compare that to the time that we spend hanging out with our own minds, like a drunk in a bar, convincing himself the next one won’t hurt. Opening the cans, pop another one, pop another one. Maybe this one will be the magic one. Or, maybe this one. Pop another one. Maybe this will be the one that there is no result for, a freebie. Only a true, bona fide alcoholic, or somebody who was awake enough to know that they are bona fide samsaraholics, understands the depth and depravity of the thinking that I’m describing. That kind of thinking tells me one thing and one thing only: One has not become a Buddhist. You might think you are, might wear the right clothes, but you ain’t there yet, because you have made samsara your guru, because you have made fear your guru, because you have made doubt your guru, because you have made the noise in your head your guru. Because of these and many other things, we’re still suffering. And we’re so deluded that we still seek answers in samsara. Do you know that’s the definition of insanity–to repeat the behavior again and again, achieving the same result?  By this time, we should have made decisions like that. But I see you listening to your heads. I see you making up your own religion in your minds.

I mean, sure, maybe it looks like Buddhism, but it’s not. Because if it were the teachings of the great Guru of Gurus, Padmasambhava, it would say to you that you are drunk, that you are mistaken, that the things that you hold onto in samsara will only betray you. The very things that you are most afraid of will come back to harm you. Guru Rinpoche would have said to you, ‘Each and every one of you have the seed of Buddhahood, but without ripening that seed, it will never manifest.’ Without taking the time, without taking this lifetime to hone one’s skills, to develop the kind of discipline and good mind, relaxed, calm mind…. This will never happen under the conditions that we are thinking now.

Guru Rinpoche’s teachings have said that we should rely on our root guru; and woe unto us if we make up something different. That’s a different religion. Our root guru represents for us the very nature of our mind; not only represents, but in fact is the very door of liberation. And for most of you, if not all, that’s your chance. There is one door to liberation and that’s one’s root guru. And if one cannot align one’s heart, body, speech and mind with the milk or the nectar of the guru, then something else is going on entirely, because this is what our faith is. This is what Vajrayana is about. It is about quick liberation. Nobody said easy. Quick liberation, by virtue of the karma and the relationship between oneself and one’s guru, which one cultivates. The work is hard, because our own minds want to remain drunk. We like the stimulation. We like the 30-minute stories. We like to control the endings. But that’s delusional. Nobody controls the ending. No matter how healthy you are, you could die tomorrow.  Or your root guru could die tomorrow.

Ego, health, control has nothing to do it. Your karma is ripening right now and that’s your experience. That is your experience. It’s yours. And should it happen that the path is difficult and long—difficult, takes a lot of work, makes us nuts sometimes—that’s the very time that Guru Rinpoche reminds us that we are hanging by one string from falling into the depths of samsara and that string is the connection that we have with our teachers. Ignore that string or cut it at your peril. I would not want to be lost in samsara. I would not want to be unknowing of what my next rebirth will be and what I’ll have to endure because I followed the wrong path.

You’ve been given a gift without measure that you have not even opened yet.. I would say in this lifetime you haven’t earned it. And so you might think that by that, you can accept it freely and you can waste it. But I say to you, if we are together and if we speak and if we love one another, then this is the result of many, many efforts in the past. And our job is to, instead of acting like an idiot farmer who is plowing the ground for nothing, rocks and dirt —maybe I can plant a bean here, a little corn—when underneath there is a diamond field, a mine of gold… We’re like poor, starving idiot farmers scraping around when the jewels are ours.

Why do you want to be beggars?  You have been invited to the feast of the Buddhas. Why would you put your fear on a throne?  Why would you put your confusion on a throne? And most of all, why in the world would you take your flawed, crippled ego and put it on the throne? But we do it, day in and day out. We think that somehow if we talk about Buddhism and we look Buddhist and we act Buddhist that somehow the cards will count and it will be fine. It will work out in the end. And I beg to differ. Do you know how it works out in the end?  You die, and you take rebirth according to what you have accomplished in this lifetime. So what are you going to put your money on? Insanity?

Some of you, I think, are beginning to get renunciation and that means you stop making up your own bullshit, and you listen. Some of us are not so young and stupid anymore. Learning the hard way is tough, but we’re good at it. The question is, though, are we learning Dharma, or are we learning to dig ourselves into samsara deeper and deeper? And that’s the question.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

What Are Your Senses Telling You?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen in Your Practice”

When you see, you react with acceptance or rejection.  You have an acceptance or rejection or even a neutrality, which would be a combination of both or a decision not to do either; but there is that first knee-jerk reaction.  It’s the same with all of our senses.  We react to what we sense.  The senses are really to keep us pacified in the belief that our lives are inherently real, that we are sitting on solid, that we are solid, we live in solid and everything’s ok.  And that’s what the senses are meant to do.  They are meant to grasp on in a way, and hold on to the time and space grid so that we can feel as though we are safe.  Because we don’t like that idea of emptiness. That’s just troublesome.

So when a Tantric practitioner sits down to meditate, he has to take the senses and open them up.  How can you do that?  Can you visualize it?  Well, you really have to go quietly in your practice and find out for yourself.  It’s very difficult for any teacher to tell you exactly how to let go of the senses or to let go of the attraction of the senses.  Yes, we can give you pointers.  But it comes down to the point really when you have to sit and you have to know your own mind.  When we know our mind, we know how to deal with it.  And it’s like feeling our way around.  Oh, we know we shouldn’t go there because there’s an object; and we know we should go there because it’s ok.  We’re kind of feeling around.

So when a Tantric practitioner meditates on emptiness, he doesn’t build emptiness.  He doesn’t make emptiness.  He doesn’t cling onto emptiness which is somewhere else and bring it here.  Instead, what the practitioner does is to simply allow the grasping to solid phenomena and solid self-nature to be appeased.  One relaxes.  One awakens to emptiness!

How does one awaken to emptiness?  Well of course, the first time you sit down and try this, you’re not going to awaken to emptiness fully because that would be like becoming practically enlightened in a very swift time, like very swift.  And so, you can’t expect that.  You must be patient with yourself and expect that this will take some work, that it will take some time.

When one relaxes the grasping, the difference is . . . Ok.  If you take a crystal and sunlight comes through the crystal and is reflected and refracted and you see a rainbow, the rainbow is the same nature as the light that came through the crystal.  In a way, what you’re going to do, is if you’re seeing a red ray and a purple ray and a blue ray or whatever color you’re seeing from this crystal, you’re going to, with intention, go to the heart of that color, as though you were peeling away the colorness of it.  Almost reversing it.  Putting it back through the crystal and understanding its source.  Like that.

I know.  That’s a little chewy.  So you have to chew on that for a little bit.  But it is very much like that.  To be a Tantric practitioner, in fact, you must have assumed the nature of emptiness.  And in one’s practice, that is what you do.  You assume the nature of emptiness.  So, you are relaxing the senses and the grasping knowing that. You don’t visualize emptiness because when you allow the relaxing and the grasping to go, emptiness is what is.  It spontaneously arises.  And even that’s a joke.  Because here I am telling you “it” spontaneously arises.  And of course, that’s not possible.  Because once it’s “it”, then it isn’t empty.  And yet I say to you that this is the trick of it. When we take that precious minute before we generate the deity to really allow the senses to unlock, to stop contriving, to cease to evaluate, to stop giving you the food that you use to react, to simply let go, the more deeply we go into our practice.  And your assumption there—and that should be your first assumption—is that separate from this grasping, there is the nature of emptiness.  That, in fact, if we can pacify this grasping, then the empty nature is visible or knowable in some way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


Understanding the Senses

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen Your Practice”

In order to practice Vajrayana, for instance, there has to be some certain capacity that the student has, or some previous karma that now comes forward and comes to bear, or Vajrayana simply would not work. Indeed, for certain kinds of students because they practice very superficially, Vajrayana , would be like just reading Sutra—just reading it, reading it, reading it, reading it. You may glean some information, but you will never accomplish any wisdom that way.

So when we first come to Vajrayana, we are expected not only to read, to learn how to pronounce, to accomplish the tune; but we also have to learn how to visualize. We also have to learn how to allow the five senses to dissolve into the sphere of truth, which is emptiness,  and that means letting go of perception.  And that’s the first step towards meditating on emptiness, or rather as we do in Vajrayana, dissolving or realizing the essence of all nature to be empty and then arising from that empty nature as the deity or as a wisdom being.  This is basically the meat and bones of Vajrayana, that generation of the wisdom being by first dissolving into emptiness.

If a person who is studying Theravada Buddhism (that’s the early stages of Buddhism that Lord Buddha taught when he was actually physically alive),  practices like that, they are letting the mind relax. They are using some kind of method like allowing the mind to rest on the breath, to simply breathe, to simply be like that.  But ideally, when a Vajrayana practitioner prepares to really generate the deity and they’ve done their taking refuge and all the steps that precede:the promising, the Bodhisattva promise and all the prayers:and they actually get to the part where there is the dissolution or the original view of emptiness, they are not, at that point, relaxing the mind.  Because if we’re simply relaxing the mind at that point, we are technically practicing Theravada Buddhism.  It’s a little different.

It’s ok to start that way, but again, we’re talking about going more deeply into our practice.  So when a Tantric practitioner meditates on emptiness in order to pave the way for the rrising of the deity, what you really do at that time is to open up the senses in the sense that the senses are grasping things.  They see “this” or “this”.  I hear “that”.  I smell “something”.  So the senses are grasping things. The senses are actually the children of the original conscious assumption of nature being essentially real, or of phenomena being essentially real.  And so the senses arise from that assumption.  It’s a chicken or egg thing.  It’s opposite what you would think.  The senses arise from the assumption of consciousness as being inherently real.  And so the senses’ job is to grasp!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Nature of Kaliyuga

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Vajrayana and Kaliyuga”

It used to be that one could learn something of the Buddha’s teaching – for instance, a beginning philosophy, such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and some of the Buddha’s basic teachings – but one could not receive teachings on the meaning of Vajrayana, and certainly one would not come across teachings on the nature of mind.  This is a very recent occurrence.  They are still thought of as secret, even though now, because this is the time of Kaliyuga, the time of great degeneration, these teachings are in fact widespread.

There is a tremendous blessing in their being widespread.  If they were not widespread, we, who are born in America, would have no access to them.  So we are truly blessed by having them.  But there is also a tremendous difficulty with their being widespread, and that is that there are many practitioners that I have seen who have heard rich and profound teachings and have not utilized them whatsoever.  It is like seeds tossed into a field: Sometimes they fall on rocks, and sometimes they fall on fertile ground.  Different students have different capacities, and the teachings are often not measured out according to what capacity each student has.  Then, of course, there are those students who come into a teaching situation and have no idea what that situation is and innocently are not aware of the gift that they’ve been given or how to use it or how to keep samaya.

So, there are obstacles and there are drawbacks.  The teaching itself becomes diluted to some degree if it is given out and it is not utilized.  When I say diluted, I don’t mean that the teachings change, I don’t mean that the tantra that we’re being taught from the books, when the lamas come, is somehow different from what was taught before.  It isn’t different at all. It’s still the same exact teaching; but the quality of empowerment, the quality of impact, the quality of our deepening, is changed in this time. Again, that has a good side and a bad side.  Since the teaching is passed out in this more casual way, it has attached to it the karma of practitioners who sincerely practice in order to attain enlightenment, and it also has the karma attached to it of students who do not utilize the teaching.  In this way there is negativity there.

On the other hand, there would be no other way for sentient beings to hear the teachings.   Furthermore, this is the time of Kaliyuga. And while Kaliyuga works against us, it also works for us, particularly when it comes to Vajrayana, in that of all the teachings that the Buddha has ever taught, of all the spiritual teachings that are available of any kind, Vajrayana teachings are the most perfectly suited for this time of Kaliyuga.  This time of Kaliyuga is extremely contracted.  Karma is thick. It isn’t spread out and dispersed over a great, long field.  Rather, it is drawn in.  It is a time of contraction, and karma ripens much more quickly than it used to ripen.  This is not because you’re in Vajrayana but because this is the time for that.  Experience is much more condensed; phenomena are much more condensed;time is much morecondensed. You can look at your life; you can walk outside and see that this is not the same world from just a hundred years ago.  It was much broader and spread apart.  This is a result of the condensed quality of Kaliyuga, which will continue, and experience will become more compacted and more condensed, not less.

Under these conditions, Vajrayana can actually do the most good in two ways, which is an amazing thought.  One way is that we can see cause and effect relationships more readily.  We are suffering and we are suffering just enough to help us be convinced that suffering is a reality, therefore we are willing to practice.  We realize the benefit of practice because we truly do wish to attain enlightenment.  In a better time, in a smoother time, in a time when there are rolling green hills around us and not much to do except to get old, when things are just more spread out and life is perhaps longer and more relaxed, under these conditions it’s hard for us to imagine why we should get up the gumption to practice. We just think we should sort of go with the flow.

So, in this regard, Kaliyuga is very compatible with Vajrayana.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Offering Oneself

Dorje Phagmo

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

In our Ngöndro practice we find the practice of offering oneself, the practice of generosity.  It’s called the practice of Chöd. Chöd can very easily be practiced constantly.  The practice of Chöd is based on eliminating ego-clinging through transforming oneself into that which is beneficial to all sentient beings and offering oneself.  In Chöd there is actually a visualization where you see all your different elements separated into piles: skin and bones and muscles and fat and eyeballs and stuff like that.  All of that stuff is put into little piles and you cook it all up and you offer it up to the Buddhas.   And you’re thinking, “That’s kind of an interesting little practice there, isn’t it?  Whoa, dude!” But just remember that this is meant to antidote our ego-clinging because as we walk through our lives, we are all about ‘what can you do for me, and what do I want?’  Remember, as we’re walking through our lives as ordinary sentient beings, our mantra is “Gimme gimme gimme, I want I want I want I want.”  So this kind of practice is meant to antidote that.

The very habit that we have of assuming self-nature to be inherently real and reacting with hope/fear, want/not-want to our environment and the things in it constantly perpetuates itself! So, we are taught instead that, wanting to make oneself useful in some way, wanting to be of benefit and awakening compassion, one way to practice that is by offering the self, offering self-nature, and transforming it into something that is useful to sentient beings.

So how can we do that as we’re walking around?  Try to remember that we’re practicing Recognition.  Here’s a great way to think about it.  Have you heard about the guy who recently had a cadaver’s hand sewn onto his arm, and it’s working?  Now those of you that have heard about that, what did you think about that?  You probably said, “Ugh!”  I mean, it sounds amazing in one way, doesn’t it, that somebody who didn’t have a hand now has a hand, but it’s not his hand.  So when we think about it, that’s kind of gnarly, right?  Just think about it: you know what your hand looks like.  You’ve seen it your whole life.  It changes, but it’s your beloved hand.  It’s so recognizable.  It has a certain shape, and it feels a certain way.  Well, now suppose you had an unmatched set, and one of them was not your hand.  Think how you’d feel.  This kind of clinging is so automatic that until we hear something like that, we don’t even know we do it. It is the very basis for our recognizing one another and ourselves as selves.

We grow attached to the shape of our face, the shape of our head.  Even if we don’t like the shape of our face and the shape of our head, we grow attached to it because it is us, (we think), and so it constantly perpetuates that idea of self-nature being inherently real.  It constantly perpetuates that ego-clinging.  Our bodies are, for us, something that we have to protect.  Even if you think that you’re very brave and not afraid of being hurt, or not afraid of even losing your life, I say to you, baloney!  I’ll start chopping, and you tell me when to stop.  We protect our bodies.  If anything scary comes around us, we react, “Aaaggh!”  And if we can’t protect ourselves any other way, we protect our head because that’s the part that keeps us going — we think.  So we have this automatic clinging.  Any sense of recognition of oneself as self is a clinging kind of phenomenon.

To antidote that, we practice Chöd, separating all the parts.  When you’re done separating all the parts, you can ask yourself, “Well, what part am I?  The skin or the bones or the fat or the muscle or the brains or the tongue or the eyeballs?  Which part am I?”  Of course, we begin to learn that that question is not answerable because ‘I,’ or self-nature, is simply a concept.  It’s simply a concept.

How can we practice this as we walk around through our lives?  Well, one way to do that is to develop the habit of when it is you notice yourself…do you notice yourself?  You notice yourself constantly!  It’s all you notice.  We notice our hands; we notice the position that we’re in; we constantly move to be in a different position, don’t we?  We think, “Do I want my hand like this or like that?”  We are constantly doing that.  It’s a constant phenomenon.

Suppose we were to develop the habit of considering the hand.  “Well, this one matches that one.  I like that.”  But what if we were to consider our hands in a different way?  Instead of thinking, “This hand is mine and it looks like this,” think, “How can this hand be of benefit to sentient beings?  What use is this hand?”  Consider it.  You can develop a sense of Recognition of the true nature of our body parts.  You can think to yourself, “Do you know what I like best about me?  I really like my eyes.” I like your eyes too, but I like my eyes, and so when I think about that, I think, “Oh, you know, wherever I go, I have these eyes, and they can see.  That’s really cool.  And other people can see me.”  And I can work those eyes, can’t I?  And that’s really something.  All we know is that our sight, our eyes, are part of us: that is us.  We cling to that.  Suppose we were able to understand our eyes in a different way.  Supposing when we think of our eyes and how wonderful the capacity to see is, or how amazing it is that we can express ourselves with our eyes, we can offer that entire scenario, that entire experience, to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas for the benefit of sentient beings. Your relationship to your own body parts, your own eyes, for instance, your own hand, becomes different.  Rather than thinking, “These are my brown eyes and I have great brown eyes,” or “This is my right hand and it’s a great hand” — rather than thinking like that as an extension of our ego, we can develop the habit of offering the whole phenomenon of sight, the whole relationship to our different body parts, by evaluating how it is that these eyes can benefit sentient beings, and how it is that we can offer them.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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