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

The Point: Pith Teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

mandarava

The following is from a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

“Calling the Tsewei Lama from afar” does not mean asking for gifts and wishes fulfilled. It’s about devotion and faith. I mostly get requests for favors. Of course I will try to fulfill anyone’s wish. But Buddhists should also practice and learn so they can help themselves. That’s the point, as there may not always be a Lama to call on.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Basis of Vajrayana

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

Today I would like to discuss the depth at which one practices. That is to say, how to avoid practicing in a superficial way where there is no mental or emotional investment. That’s really not the ideal kind of practice.  It’s a little bit like watching TV, or listening to the radio, or something like that where you do it with half-a-mind, you know, and the rest of the time, of course, the mind is involved with other things.  And so, we’ve all heard that we don’t want that to happen, that we want the mind to be gentled and stilled but yet we have a hard time understanding that really the key to that is the depth, the level, and the absorption with which we practice.  That depth or that absorption is called the Dakini’s breath.  That is actually what makes one’s practice relevant, delicious and sweet, meaningful and nourishing. Without that depth and that level of absorption, it’s very difficult to practice in any way that is more profound than say, recitation by rote.  So that’s the effort that we want to make. In order to do that, I would like to explain things a little differently, perhaps a little more deeply than you may be used to.

One of the things that I would like to mention is that in Tantrayana,  or the path of Vajrayana (which is the same thing), which is where we are now, you could say that the Path has two eyes or two legs, two supports.  Another way to say it would be that the Path can be distilled to its essential nature in two words: wisdom and compassion.  In fact one sees in many of the thangkas, the traditional paintings that are all around, pictures of a female and male in union, two lamas as consorts in union.  And of course having ordinary minds and being used to billboards and stuff like that, we think “Oh, what is this?” But we shouldn’t look at those pictures with an ordinary mind because they have a profound meaning.  The meaning of the union between lama and consort is the union of wisdom and compassion, the union of emptiness and method. The union of emptiness and method is the perfect balance, the perfect ship by which to cross the ocean of suffering.  It’s the perfect vehicle.  And of course, first we should understand what it means.  Wisdom and compassion or emptiness and method. . .  What does it really mean?

Well the meaning is this.  First of all, wisdom is something that you cannot arrive at by accumulating facts, because facts are phenomenal. They are believed to be self-existing. They are part of samsara, even if they are very smart facts.  Even if they are PhD-style facts!  Even if they’re MD-style!  No matter how many facts you know, you can never accumulate wisdom through the accumulation of facts, or what we would call the accumulation of knowledge.  It’s not to say that the accumulation of knowledge is not necessary.  If that were the case, then none of us would need training.  We would simply sit and do our best at meditating.

Of course facts are necessary.  It is necessary for us in our practice to understand how it is that the preceding lamas and excellent practitioners  accumulated merit and how they accumulated tremendous achievement.  It’s tremendously helpful to know facts, for instance, about the great lamas and the great saints and the Buddhas that have come in this time, and in other times, in order to understand with our ordinary minds what it is about them, how they come to be.  In fact, to some degree, our ordinary minds do require satisfaction.  And that’s where Vajrayana is ideal, because Vajrayana gives us ‘mental food.’  We have visualization. We have mantra recitation. We have the absorption in emptiness and then the springing from emptiness as the deity; and then the vajra confidence and the vajra pride.  It’s busy work!  Sometimes when people who are used to just sitting quietly and doing whatever it is they do, you know, when they have that habit of just sitting quietly, and there is a part of Vajrayana Buddhism in which you do sitting meditation; but if students only have that experience, they come here and they say, “Well, my mind is not calm.  I’m reciting all this stuff and I’m really stressed because I can hardly pronounce it.  And the tunes—forget about it.  And so there!”  And of course the response to that is, “Well really in Vajrayana the task is not to calm the mind.  The task is to awaken to the emptiness of all nature,to awaken to emptiness, that is, to perceive emptiness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Viewing the Spiritual Master

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Longchen Yeshe Dorje and Jigme Lingpa as translated by Padmakara Translation Group:

Spiritual masters have already accomplished their own aim. It is now their task to labor for the sake of others. It is important to understand that their various activities are displayed as appropriate to the inclinations and feelings of different beings and are the inconceivable operation of enlightened activities. Bearing this in mind, one should refrain from misinterpreting them. The siddhas of India like Saraha appeared for the most part as social outcasts. They adopted the way of life that was conventionally disreputable and lived without concern for purity or impurity, getting their livelihood as menials of the lowest caste or as “sinful” hunters and fishermen–living in the humblest way possible. But since their minds were undeluded, their actions were never wrong. We, by contrast, are as deluded as if we were under the power of hallucinogenic drugs. If we have not gained freedom through the three doors of perfect liberation, and have not realized the infinite purity of all phenomena, ascribe defects to our teacher, we commit an immeasurable fault. Bhikshu Sunakshatra committed to memory the entire twelve collections of the teachings, but, overpowered by his wrong views, he regarded as perfidious and underhand the actions of Buddha Shakyamuni himself, who was utterly without fault and possessed of every excellence. We should take all this to mind and confess and repair the slightest fluctuation in our faith.

 

True Purity

Vajrasattva

From The Spiritual Path:  A Compilation of Teachings by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

 

Let’s say you have become satisfied with an idea of what a practitioner should be. You are quiet, meek, gentle, and ever so passive. You attempt to be pure by never adorning your face, hair or body. You do what you think is right. Fine. But what if you stop there? What if you allow days, weeks, years, your whole life to pass by with no true sense of the need to eradicate hatred, greed and ignorance from your mindstream? What if you have no real understanding of the emptiness of phenomena? No true perception of the nature of mind? What have you really accomplished? What is yours to carry with you? How will you enter the afterlife state, the bardo? Will you not see as you have always seen? Will you not see the events within the bardo state as external phenomena? Will you not be excited, afraid? Will you not still be lost in the delusion of self and other?

On the Vajrayana path, true purity, true virtue is central and precious. Even one moment of true perception of the nature of mind is the only conceivable virtue. If you merely live according to the rules, you will definitely have merit. But in terms of the value of your own nature, your own mind, you will not have the purification that leads to true perception. The Vajrayana path is unique in its perspective on this. It adopts the morality and rules of the Hinayana path, as well as the Mahayana perspective of compassion and purity, yet it goes further into the understanding that true perception is the thing of value—the diamond.

The goal of the Vajrayana path is to realize the nature of mind. The nature of mind is absolute compassion. At that primordial-wisdom level, there is no good or bad. There is clear, uncontrived, pure, self-luminous nature. Primordial mind is unborn, yet perfectly complete. It is unmarked, un-measured by time or space. It is self-arising. True virtue is not a way of acting. Nor is it a way of thinking—as most people understand thought. There is only one real virtue: the realization of primordial mind. Naturally arising within that realization is a deep and abiding compassion—a compassion that is capable of manifesting in any form necessary in order to bring true benefit to beings.

Please understand that primordial mind itself is not filled with hatred, greed and ignorance. This is simply not possible. The mind is forever pure. It is unchanging. It cannot be defiled in any way. What then is the problem? Where is the defilement? Not in mind itself, but in perception. The real value of practicing on the Vajrayana path is that you are involved in a system by means of which your mind can arise with all the pure qualities of the Buddha. Think, for instance, of Buddha Vajrasattva. This is the practice of a Buddha who is the perfect union of wisdom and compassion. He represents that phase of mind as it first moves into manifestation from the primordial level. The pristine connection between the primordial nature of mind and its transition into an activity phase is not separate from that basic nature.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Generating the Deity

Chenrezig

From The Spiritual Path:  A Compilation of Teachings by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

As you generate yourself as a Buddha or Bodhisattva, reciting mantras and devotional prayers, your mind arises as a pure form. This is different from the ordinary mind that struggles to wake up each morning, dragging along its ego-clinging baggage or karma and looking for happiness in futile ways. This pure form is an expression of pure cognition, free of conceptualization and limitation. It is pure awareness, a state of pure luminosity. The deity we generate is an expression of that pure state. All phenomena are understood to be the deity’s body, voice, and activity. Thus, phenomena cease being something we grasp.

Generation-stage and completion-stage practice disassemble the entire time-and-space grid, disassemble the moment itself. You dissolve into emptiness and purify all things into their natural state. Thus, the mind relaxes from the tension that is gathered around “I,” and it becomes possible to reconstruct the moment naturally through the creation of the mandala and through allowing the mind to arise as the deity. This great skill is accomplished when the entire process becomes effortless.

“How,” you may ask, “can it be effortless? The mandala, the whole process, seems very complicated.” Actually, it is less complicated than what you are currently perceiving. You have a mandala going right now. Look around you. You sit on a world that sits in a galaxy that sits in a universe, and it is all lit up. How do you ever manage to conceive it? And on top of that, you pay your electric bill, call people on the phone, feed your pets and yourself. You enter a metal thing that flies through the air from one place to another. It is an extremely complicated mandala. In addition, you are constantly moving through a chain of lives in six major realms in a completely un-predictable pattern.

The generation of the deity is far easier. It is natural and spontaneous because it is not built on the assumption of ego. It is not constructed of tension because the deity is understood to be real but insubstantial. It is understood to be that which does not need to be constantly maintained. The tension of survival associated with desire and egocentricity is not there. With the continuation of this practice and the skill developed through good concentration and an effortless effort, all perception is purified. The five senses are not given their lead. They are not permitted to feed back information that satisfies the need of self to be self. They are purified by the mind naturally arising as the deity. The karma of endless cycles of birth and death is purified at last.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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