The Responsibility of Choice

psychic

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

I’d like to explain it in whatever way I can—even though the vocabulary is limited, and I myself am extremely limited—I’d like to explain it in whatever way I can over and over and over again. And do you know the interesting thing is that I often get caught in not understanding. It hooks me, too. Every time. Recently, I saw again, after not seeing for a very long time, someone whom I consider to be tremendously suffering, tremendously suffering, who I’ve known has had a great deal of the experience of suffering during the course of their life. Someone for whom in my heart of hearts I felt, you know, a terrible grief. Terrible grief. And for that person, I always wished that there was some hope. The idea that I had, although it was on a subtle level, was that that person had been victimized. I know that as a child that person was a victim of abuse. I know that many circumstances happened that made that person’s life very, very difficult. And during the course of that person’s adult life, there were tremendous, tremendous obstacles to overcome, tremendous difficulty. And yet, I know the Buddha’s teaching, and I know that the content of our mindstream is constantly being displayed as our lives. But caught in the trap of that idea that somehow we could suffer without cause, that somehow we were victims, that somehow circumstance could occur to us, and that we were somehow blameless and innocent, I fell prey to that idea. That’s never the case; it is never the case. Each and every person who experiences difficulty does so because of cause and effect relationships that they themselves began at some point, perhaps a point that they do not remember. The Buddha teaches us that if we have suffered a great deal, if we do suffer a great deal from loneliness, and the longing for love and approval, and that kind of need, a strong need, that somewhere in the past (and this is hard to take in), we ourselves were not kind. We ourselves were not supportive of others. We were not generous and loving. Now it may actually be that in this lifetime, we have made a real effort to be generous and loving and supportive to others, so you can’t go by that.

The Buddha teaches one thing about which I am supremely confident, and I’ve become more and more so with each passing day: You should never go to a psychic or anybody like that to find out what your past lives are about. If you want to find out what your past lives are about, look in the mirror now. Are you poor? Then you weren’t too generous. Are you not so good looking? Then in the past, you were not, with your body, faithful and loyal and virtuous. That’s the truth. Are you lonely? Because in the past, you probably were not kindly and supportive to others. Are you wishing that you had love and there isn’t much love in your life? Then, probably in the past, you were self-absorbed and really only caring about what you felt and what was going on with you and what your needs were. These are hard things to take in. But the Buddha teaches that for every single result that we are experiencing, there is a cause; and that cause is within our mindstream. Now, that’s both good news and bad news. At first, you have to look in the mirror and you have to be real brave and you have to face that. And that’s the hard part. That’s the bad news. Nobody wants to look in the mirror and say, ‘You did that. You had something to do with that.’ You have some qualities that are in seed form hidden within your mindstream that are ripening even now. Nobody wants to take responsibility. We all want to feel only good; and we only want some external force to give a blessing and then we’ll all be happy in heaven. That’s what we really want. Take a pill. Like that. So at first it’s very difficult and I think that the beginning of adapting this philosophy and accepting the Buddha’s teaching and beginning to act on it is actually an act of courage. It’s tough. It’s really tough.

What makes it tough? Is it because you have to practice for hours and hours a day?  No, that’s your choice. You can practice a little bit, or you can practice a lot according to your disposition. You can start practicing a little and you can end up practicing a lot. It’s really up to you. You can be following the Buddha’s teaching at your own level. There’s no pressure to do extraordinary amounts of practice. It’s not like that. What makes that first step so courageous is that you really have to accept the great law of cause and effect. But the good news is that suddenly you have power. There is an antidote. Before you were hopeless and helpless. If you looked at your life, and there was no love in your life, you could only say, ‘Wow, poor me! There’s nothing I can do about this. I’m really hopeless and I’m really helpless. What am I going to do?  Nobody loves me.’ And then you can start whining about it. And, of course, that will never make you happy. And what is it going to do? Is it going to change anything? It will never change anything. It will only alienate others even more, because you will be continuing the root cause of selfishness and self-absorption. It will never produce any good results. And if you were to look into your life and you were to say, ‘Well, I’m really not a happy person. I mean, I have many things, I have many physical things. I have a good house and a good car and all kinds of interesting things in my life, but I’m not happy. I don’t seem to be happy and it’s just, you know, I’m a victim. Just some people are happy, and I’m not. And I don’t know why other people get all the breaks and why I don’t get all the breaks.’ I mean, you’ve heard the litany, haven’t you? I don’t need to repeat it again. I’m sure if you haven’t said it recently, then you’ve said it in the past; and if you haven’t said it in the past, you have, but you’ve forgotten. But, anyway, you can remember somebody else doing it. So I don’t have to repeat the litany. But with understanding cause and effect relationships, you can look in the mirror and you can say, ‘Yes, up until this time, I have planted seeds that have brought bad fruit, but I have the opportunity to apply the antidote. And I can apply it, I can plant good seeds and reap good fruit.’

Happiness, love, wealth, joy, contentment and peace, relaxation in any form, even health are all habitual tendencies. They are all habitual tendencies. Those among us, and there are many, who do not seem to have the karma of happiness or contentment, who cannot achieve any kind of inner peace, cannot do so because they do not have the habit of it. And they do not have the habit of it, because in the past they have instituted many causes that bring about the result of such an occurrence. If we have the result in our lives of having no capacity to be able to engage in, for instance, a loving relationship, if it seems that we look around and there really are no loving relationships in our life, it is because we do not have the habit of it. And we do not have the habit of it, because we ourselves in the past did not engage in the giving aspect of that kind of loving relationship. Well, we all think that now, now we’re changed. Now we are engaged in the giving aspect of such a loving relationship. Yes, I’m trying to get a loving relationship. I go from person to person, and try to get a loving relationship. I get in everybody’s face that I can get my hands on, and say,  ‘You will love me.’ And so I’ve changed. Now I’m a loving person. I love everybody I can get my hands on. What are you doing? Are you generous, are you kind? Not in the least. Are you giving love? No, it’s all about you. You want, you need, you want, you need. That’s what you think about, because you have the habitual tendency of being needy and loveless due to a lack of generosity in the past. Now, the Buddha teaches us that the antidote is not to go out and join a singles club; but, rather, what we must do, instead, is to be as loving and as kindly to others as possible. To give without thought of any return. You want any thing in return. You don’t need approval; you want approval. You just give. You’re kind.

Now, at first, most people don’t know how to do that. They really are inept at that sort of thing and they will end up trying to take anyway. So the Buddha gives us an actual series of practices that are antidotal. Very, very different. There are many different kinds of practices from generating oneself as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and pouring forth compassion without exception to all sentient beings equally. And you don’t get letters back from them, believe me. Pouring out compassion to all sentient beings equally, and in that way, beginning the habit of genuine loving kindness. That’s one antidote. That’s a good one. And then you can make wishing prayers for all sentient beings. You can circumambulate the stupa going clockwise. Please do so. It’s makes me happy to know that you’ve had the opportunity. So you can circumambulate the stupa, or you make some offering on an altar; and at the same time you say, ‘By this merit, or by this offering, or by the virtue of this prayer, may all sentient beings be free of suffering.’ You’re lonely? You know what the best antidote to that is? Pray for those who are lonelier than you. Pray endlessly. And don’t expect any of them to know that you’re doing so. And don’t expect anything back for it. That really is an antidote to such suffering. And those who are the unhappiest are the ones who are most resistant to hearing that. But, there actually is an answer; there actually is an antidote. And you can begin like that.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

Examining the Causes of Suffering

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

The second cause for suffering is karma—– karma meaning cause and result. This begins with these negative causes:  beginning first with killing, the weightiest cause, which is to kill or to take a life.  Now according to Buddhism this means the life of any and all living beings.  In other religions it is more or less agreed upon that one should not kill human beings, but it is O.K. to kill other beings, that it simply doesn’t matter.  But this is not O.K.  This is incorrect understanding, and the reason for this is that all living beings have fear and all living beings suffer in the same way that human beings do.  So even the lowliest little ant has feelings and doesn’t want to lose its life  It feels suffering when it is being trod upon and so forth and smashed in this way.  We have to think about how we don’t want to suffer, and we have to understand that every creature that lives feels the same way.  Therefore this is the reason why we should never intentionally take the life of any living being.

The second cause to abandon is stealing. This means to take the possession of another without permission, whatever it may be.  Whether it is of great value or of little value, it simply doesn’t matter.  If it is something that belongs to someone else and they have every intention of maintaining that as their possession, then it should never be taken from them for any reason.

The third cause to abandon is to lie. Specifically it means here to really trick the minds of others with the specific intention to harm them by speaking that which is untrue. By doing so it immediately lowers one’s own honor and brings suffering to others. So this is something which is negative and must be abandoned.

The fourth cause to abandon is adultery or unclean sexual conduct.  This specifically refers to entering into a relationship with a male or female who already belongs to somebody else.  When we say “belongs to somebody else,” it means that that person is already committed to somebody else, and there is an understanding between them.  To break that understanding by intervening and having a relationship is considered to be ultimate stealing of a spouse of another.  Not only that. Those males and females who are already committed to one another usually have the most attachment for one another. So if someone else is with their partner, then there is nothing more painful than that because of the intensity of the attachment.  It produces even more suffering than stealing other objects.  Therefore it is considered to be extremely negative because it brings about such tremendous harm and harmful repercussion which arise from it. This must be abandoned from the root.

In addition to that, another action or activity which is considered to be ultimately destructive and which must be abandoned is the drinking of alcoholic beverages so as to become intoxicated.  The reason for this is because it is physically harmful to the body. Also if one becomes intoxicated one loses one’s own sense of control.  In that state of being out of control, all the other nonvirtues are easily accumulated.  Therefore becoming intoxicated by drinking alcoholic beverages must be abandoned.

These four root causes that correspond to physical conduct must be abandoned, and then the fifth, drinking alcohol, as well.  Any practitioner of Buddhism, whoever the person may be, must abandon these five.  These are five root precepts which are maintained, which means the abandonment of these negative causes.  Not only to abandon these five, but to guard oneself by taking the vow of what is called genyen, which is the vow of a lay practitioner who upholds these five precepts of formally vowing to abandon these five negative causes.  This is something that each and every one of you should consider taking on: to become a genyen or lay practitioner who upholds these five vows, because if you have these five vows you automatically accumulate virtue in whatever you do.  This also makes you somewhat similar to those who are holding the vows of higher ordination, such as the male and female novice practitioners and the male and female fully ordained, because they all have these five precepts as well.

There are two things which set the ordained apart from the lay upholders of these five vows.  First of all the fact that you are wearing the robes of the Buddha, the robes of ordination.  If you don’t wear your robes of ordination, you appear as a lay person  So the fact that you wear your robes sets you apart as an ordained.  The second point that sets you apart from a lay upholder of the vows is that in the case of a layman or laywoman, the vow is to abstain from adultery or unclean sexual conduct, but in the case of the ordained who are wearing the robes of the Buddha, you must abstain from any sexual conduct, particularly that of sexual intercourse.  So this is something that you all have abandoned before you have taken these vows of ordination.

I have spent some time here just now going over these four root precepts and the fifth, which is to abandon drinking alcohol, so that everyone here, especially those who are members of the Dharma center, would clearly understand what qualifies as a precept holder of the Buddhist tradition, and particularly those who are ordained.  If you are able to maintain these five precepts, that will be enough  Please understand that it includes the two particulars that you are already upholding.  Even if you can’t maintain the other vows, you must always maintain these five, and everyone else as lay practitioners should maintain the five as well.

When We Blow It

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

So little by little, you begin to change your habit. If you really blow it, and you will, … Accept that right now, too. You will. You’re bound to blow it. When you blow it, you can prepare yourself for that by saying, ‘As a sentient being, I will probably blow it again. And when I do, I’m going to get right back on the horse and I’m going to make restitution and I’m not going to form any conclusions about myself. I’m going to let my mind relax.’ And get right back on the horse by practicing bodhicitta in the very next moment, plus confess in your mind that you were wrong just there. Confession in your mind is very, very important. ‘Boy, I really blew it just then. I was really wrong just then.’ And make restitution as quickly as you can.

Sometimes we have a kind of pride that says you’re going to look like a jerk if you say, to somebody that you were just mean to, ‘Well, I’ve really been trying to practice generosity and I realize that I was not generous to you at all. I realize that was pretty sleazy, what I just did, and so I’d like to ask you if there is anything I can do for you.’ Now most of us have too much pride to do that, but it’s the very right thing to do. And you’ll feel like a new person once you begin to do that. And that will be not only a pebble in this pile, but that kind of thing—the confessing and making restitution of an already established non-virtuous habit—is like a boulder going into that pile. It’s more important than little kindnesses. That kind of acceptance and inner peace and moving forward regardless, really, really helps. It’s like a boulder going into that pile, so much more quickly when you get into the habit of kindness. So I heartily recommend that method.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Habit of Love

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

Basically what we have to do is, day by day in a gradual way, reinforce, develop and make larger the habit of loving. It is so mechanical,. You wouldn’t believe how mechanical it is. It’s like this: This hand is self absorption, listing severely to the right. Little by little, it, gets heavier on the other hand, the loving side. At some point,…  And who knows when that day will be? It’s not for you to judge. It’s not for you to know. Not for you to even care about. At some point, the balance will go in the loving direction  and you will really give rise to the bodhichitta. And there will be a time when the loving habit that you develop so outweighs anything else that there is a funny, magical thing that happens. The self absorption becomes invisible.

You won’t believe that in the beginning, especially when you first start trying the habit of true compassion, because it just seems as though the weight of self absorption keeps pulling you back and it just seems overwhelming. But you have to remember: It’s kind of like a rubber band, it’s kind of like a rubber band. It’s so hard, and the agony of feeling yourself go back to that same posture is going to be very difficult at first. But never mind, never mind. Keep putting more and more in the habit of loving kindness. You are going to break it eventually. It has to happen. It’s kind of like a spiritual law of physics, if you can imagine such a thing. Eventually one will outweigh the other. It’s just like that.

In fact, if you would spend a lot less time evaluating yourself and judging yourself and a lot more time just putting pebbles in that loving pile, you’d feel a lot better. In fact, if you take your eyes off  this self-absorption pile entirely, and move towards the loving  pile, you’d feel better still. It’s almost that once you begin to gather some weight in the area of proper virtuous habitual tendency, by magic, this thing starts to disappear. You’re not looking at it anymore.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Mixed Karma of the Human Realm

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Foundation of Bodhicitta”

Now we are getting to the egg yolk. Actually the optimum life is to be born as a human,. even more than the god realm. Interestingly the god realm seems to be more fun. Wouldn’t you rather have a nice cool glass of the elixir of life?. Or would you rather have a glass of water? Now I know the answer to that. You monks and nuns, it’s been a long time since you have had anything to drink. You would like a nice elixir of life, wouldn’t you?. So, it seems like you would want to born in the god realm. The interesting thing about the human realm is that it does have definite suffering, which you have seen (and I have explained what the suffering is). Plus it particularly has the suffering of old age, sickness, and death. They don’t mention taxes. Maybe they didn’t have them when the Buddha was here. You might escape taxes, but you will never escape death. Maybe that is why he didn’t mention it. Even though those sufferings are present in the human realm alone, there is the peculiar meshing of karma, the peculiar evolution of karma that comes together in a certain way that we can practice the Dharma. We can make a choice and practice compassion. We can practice meditation on emptiness. We can practice Dharma in such a way as to achieve realization. We have this kind of queer mixing, or spaciousness, in our mind. In some cases it is not spaciousness, but it is just that the karma is ripening in a certain way that we can practice.

The teaching says that we have time to practice. Time to practice means what? ? Time in our minds to practice, not time in the day to practice. Anyone can get so busy that you don’t have time in the day to practice; but if you can conceive of time to practice, you have time to practice. You can make time to practice. In the animal realm, there is no time to practice because they are too busy being ignorant and fearful. In the hell realm, there is no time to practice because they are too busy suffering horribly. You can’t practice, you can’t think about compassion, if someone is bonking you over the head. You can’t think about compassion, or burning up in a burning house. In the hungry ghost realm, there is no thought of practice because all you can think about is need—I need, I want, I want, I want. But in the human realm, one can consider practice. There is space to practice. In the god realm, one cannot practice very well either because you are too busy enjoying bliss. You are so filled with bliss all you have to do is drink water. Why would you want to practice? All you have to do is touch something and it feels like waves of bliss. Why would you want to practice? Why you would want to practice is that all of these six realms are impermanent, even the god realm. In the human realm, though, you can practice. We too have sufferings—old age, sickness and death.

What causes us to be born in the human realm? Two things: A lot of merit and virtue that we have accumulated in the past through eons and eons of cyclic existence happened to pull together in one big puddle and ripen in such a way as to produce a human rebirth. But there is also non-virtue that produces a human rebirth. If we had total virtue, if that was all that we had, we’d just wake up one day enlightened, I guess. But that is not what happened. We got reborn in the human realm. What is the non-virtue that accounts for a human rebirth?. The main non-virtue that produces human rebirth is doubt. Doubt. You don’t believe that, right? I knew that. See what I mean. The main suffering of the human rebirth results from doubt as well. And that is why it is possible for so many of us to have with the auspicious opportunity to meet with the Dharma, to meet with the human condition with which we can practice. And we don’t practice. We don’t. If you really believed, if you understood that these six realms of cyclic existence exist, if you understood about your death, if you understood the cause and effect relationships that bring about an auspicious rebirth, if you understood what it takes to produce enlightenment, that is what you would do. You’d practice. But you have doubt, and that is why you don’t do it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Long Life Gods – Is It the Good Life?

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Foundation of Bodhicitta”

Now there is the long life gods realm.  It is hard not to pray for rebirth in the long life god realm. First of all, it lasts a very long time, maybe two or three thousand years. Three thousand years of total bliss sounds like a nice vacation to me. That sounds better than three weeks at the beach in the summer, but I can’t figure out where to buy the ticket. There are problems with this realm, actually. There is a suffering to that realm and the suffering of that realm is that it is impermanent. In the realm itself, while it exists, there is no suffering. Water is like the elixir of life; it can cure all ills. Music when heard doesn’t sound like music to us. Music to us is either good or bad; we either like it or don’t like it. It helps, it hurts; it depends on what kind of music it is. If we are in the long life gods realm, one note can cure any ill, can result in bliss. Just one sound, one touch, brings about waves of bliss. I can’t think of a better word. Ecstasy!  Everything that happens is ecstasy.

The gods and goddesses are beautiful beyond compare. Take the most gorgeous person you can imagine in the physical realm. Think of the most gorgeous movie star or person that you have ever seen and think that in the god realm they would be dogs. They would look like fish mongers. People in the god realm would look at them and would go yeck, stinko—literally stinko—because in the god realm the fragrance that is given off of the body is like perfume coming from every pore,but sweet perfume. Estee Lauder would be nothing compared to this. It would be the perfume of virtue.

In order to be reborn in this gods realm, you have to have a lot of virtue stored up, but it is a particular kind of virtue. It is the kind of virtue where maybe you help others become rich, or help others to become full of food. You see what I am saying? It is virtue, but it is not associated with philosophical or religious ideals. It is just a different kind of more materialistic virtue. So this kind of virtue can result in this wonderful life in which you are so beautiful you just can’t believe it. There is not a flaw on your body. You never have b.o. Your b.o. will heal all sentient beings if they just catch one whiff of it. I don’t care what beautiful movie star you have imagined to be your person to compare them with, but they have b.o. sometimes. You may not believe this but everybody smells sometimes, but in the long life god realm everybody is perfect.

Everything that you see is color, not like color you see here. It looks very colorful in this room, right? You go outside and you see beautiful greens and you see beautiful blue sky. Color in the long life god realm is so gorgeous, you just look at it and you experience ecstasy. Wouldn’t you like to go there?  No, you wouldn’t because the problem is that when you are born in this long life god realm, it takes so much virtue , to be reborn there, accumulated virtue over eons and eons of cyclic existence, that when you are reborn there you begin to use up your virtue like an eight cylinder car going up a mountain. You use it up so fast. Admittedly, it is often a couple of thousand years, but in terms of cyclic existence, which is eons and eons of endless cyclic existence, that is a short time. And also while you are in the long life god realm, to a human it may seem like two thousand years, but to you it might seem like a short life time because there is so much pleasure that one’s whole experience of that pleasure becomes completely expanded. So in the same way a fun day goes by faster than a long and tedious day, it’s kind of like that, but so much greater than that.

So the long life god realm is very difficult in that at the end of that life, what happens to them is they begin to smell funny. That is how the other gods and goddesses know that their time is up. They don’t begin to age as we know aging, because aging is not one of the sufferings of that realm. They begin to lose some of their perfume. It’s not that they smell funny, it’s just that they lose some of their perfume. They have a little less of that gorgeousness, and the other gods and goddesses begin to move away because no one can bear the idea of bliss ending. . They don’t want to think about that. And the god or goddess that is experiencing the end of their time there calls out to them and says, “Please help me. Give me some of your virtue. Help me.”  And the others go, “No, I can’t, I can’t deal with the fact that I’m going to lose what I have now, so I’m going to move over here.”  What happens at that point is the karma is used up and so the rebirth in the god realm begins to decay and at some point ,because they even have the quality of clairvoyance, they are able to see the realms of cyclic existence and they are able to understand that they just finished up all of their virtue and the only place to go is down, real far down. That is the great and horrible suffering of the god realm.

This suffering is so intense because having used up all of their virtue now they have to begin from scratch. How horrible to think that you had accumulated so much virtue and could have achieved realization, but somehow missed the boat due to the kind of virtue that you have and due to the one quality that does produce rebirth as a long-life god. The one quality that does produce rebirth as a long-life god is pride. Have you seen people with lives like that?  Have you seen people who have beautiful families and beautiful homes and beautiful cars, and they are beautiful people. And it seems that everything is easy for them; and they hold themselves with a sense of pride as though they were different from the rest of us peasants. There is a lot of pridefulness about that. I even knew of a person who had a great body and didn’t have to work out; they had a gorgeous wife and didn’t have to be faithful to her in order to keep her; they had so many different things that you just want to say to them, “Why? I work like a dog.”  You look at that person and you just want to slap them upside the head because they don’t seem to produce any virtue. They are not virtuous at all. Things just ripened in such a way. They just say, “I can do what I want to because I am not going to catch hell from anybody.”  Well, that is the attitude and the mind state that would produce rebirth as a long life god—lots of virtue tied in with that kind of pridefulness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

Cultivating Virtue, Pacifying Poisons


From a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

I have always felt a good way to purify rage, is to film oneself doing it. How even an attractive person becomes ugly, and repulsive.

If one cannot give respect, one will never receive respect. All people have the right to dignity and respect.

If one lies, is unethical, hurtful, selfish, causing harm, one cannot expect to ever be truly happy!

To meditate, recite Dharma, practice kindness, generosity, to teach Dharma in order to increase the Sangha, this is meritorious, happiness follows.

If one resents or is angered or jealous of others prosperity or funds…They will never have enough, and their bank will be empty.

Rage is an addiction. It must be immediately pacified so the habit will not escalate, thereby making progress on the path.

I find if one reacts to rage with goodness, a kind heart, and compassion, one remains untouched and joyful!

If one lies, is unethical, hurtful, selfish, causing harm, one cannot expect to ever be truly happy!  If one is often sick or very sick the best remedy is loving, kindness, helping others who are sick, and praying for all beings to be free of suffering.

To those whose past is a harsh burden I say – you can change! With effort and cultivating a wholesome and loving mind!

Never gossip. It will always come around and smack one in the head. And one’s storehouse of merit will be lost. Most non-virtue is habitual, so one can only change from the inside. Be persistent and brave! Soon one’s whole life will transform!

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Opportunity and Responsibility

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

When we go to another country and we see they are poor, maybe they have no prayer, we shouldn’t think, “Oh, I’m high and you’re low.  Therefore I will teach you.”  We should think like this: Lord Buddha has taught me that you are the same as me.  You are Buddha but you have forgotten.  Let’s remember together.  This is the way.  Let’s wake up together.

I promise you I will not abandon samsara so long as there is one student with one connection, however small, and difficult to return for.  But I also promise you that you must do your part.  You must practice Dharma every day.  You must awaken to the true nature of your mind.  You must create the space in your life to awaken. This is the way of happiness; this is the way of benefit. And this is what our perfect teacher has taught us.

I’m telling you these things in American words, in American ways, because I’m speaking to you.  Therefore, I’m offering you the opportunity and the responsibility of hearing.  So please listen and please practice,  And please accept the entire banquet, not just the crumbs under the table, not just the dessert—as though you can take the dessert and not the rest of the banquet. Don’t fool yourself.  Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  Change your mind.  You are here to be changed.  You are here to be changed.  Dharma is meant to change our ordinary minds.

In Asian cultures, that’s an accepted idea, but here we resist.  And so I beg you to reconsider your habitual tendencies and to go within and to practice self-honesty.  You will have to look at your unfortunate qualities.  But when you look at them, don’t look at them like “I’m bad.  I hate myself.  I hate somebody else.  I hate something.”  Just look at them and say, “Oh, that’s that habit again.  I see that habit.  Yuck.”  Remember the kids rolling over in their beds.  You want to roll over in your bed, but you’re saying, “You know, that’s my habit.  I think I’ll go check around and see if there’s anything wrong.  Just go check around.”  In other words, you’re growing a new habit.

Expect to change.  Expect to be uncomfortable at times.  Expect to deal with the issues of individuality and democracy.  Because in America we love individuality and democracy.  But not here.  This is Dharma. And in Dharma, we have to trust our teachers. We have to trust the Three Precious Jewels.  We assume that our teacher has crossed the ocean of suffering and can show us the way.  Therefore, practice.   Don’t be foolish, taking the attitudes and posturing like Dharma but not practicing Dharma.  Because what you’re doing is looking at a feast of delicious food but choosing to eat the imitation plastic stuff from K-Mart that little kids play with—little pretend food.  That’s what you’re eating.

Instead, practice Dharma.  And if you are filled with concern for yourself and your own path, remind yourself that all beings are equal.  If you are raising yourself up to Buddhahood, thinking that you can do it without raising others up to Buddhahood, well you’re wrong.  It’s foolish because there is no separation.  To get lost in your own little Dharma world, in your own little practice, in your own little thing is only more self-absorption.  Sure, you’re practicing a little Dharma, but you’re also practicing a lot of self-absorption.  And so the way is to benefit others, to reach others, to benefit others, to test your limits.  Unfold your wings.  Help others to break through and to achieve some virtue, some merit, whether they are Buddhist or not.  Be a real practitioner. Let everything you do, everything you think and everything you say be something that contributes.  Have respect for others—animals, humans, even those beings that cannot be seen.  You can assume that they are there, and you pray for them too.

These are the recommendations that I am making to you.  And I’m asking you, practice sincerely.  We’ll see each other a lot more if you reach for the enlightenment that is your nature.  If you reach for the Three Precious Jewels, they will respond.  But you must reach. This is the removal of obstacles between the student and the teacher.  You must call out.  You must reach.

Honor the Three Precious Jewels.  On the inside this temple is clean, but on the outside it’s falling apart.  The Stupas were falling apart until we started fixing them.  What respect is that?  What loving kindness, what care for sentient beings is that? Even His Holiness house is simply falling apart.  I’d like to see one of you be a real sucker, a real dope.  Out of just pure compassion and devotion, I’d like to see you take a toothbrush and start cleaning that house.  What a sap, you’d be telling yourself.  Here I am on my knees with a toothbrush, cleaning that house.  Who could be stupider than me?  That’s what your ordinary mind would be telling you.  But on the inside, your heart is going, “Yes, yes.  This may look stupid.  But I am practicing Dharma.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Soothing Balm of Virtue

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

To cultivate a joyful mind, we should cultivate virtuous habits. We are happiest when we are busy creating merit.  We don’t realize this because the words are so dry.  We think cocktail. I like that word!  Merit? Ugh.  Happy Hour?  That sounds good!  Practice? Ugh.  That’s our ordinary thinking that we have to dispel because it’s wrong.  It’s wrong. Cocktail means ‘poison’.  It means drunk.  It means alcoholic.  It’s never been good for you and it never will be.  It’s an unfortunate addition to your body, when you can do without. Merit, on the other hand… To practice merit and joyfully meritorious behavior, to soothe the mind rather than constantly inflame it with all your manic stuff, and to be a stimulation junky…  That’s what we are.  Stimulation junkies.  It’s like psychological sugar.  We can’t get enough of it.  “Gimme something! Anything!”  That how we are psychologically.  And yet the mind is happiest when it’s relaxed, quietly joyful, mellowed out, thinking of the benefit of others, not absorbed in what I don’t have, what I want or what I think I got to get!

It turns out that what the Buddha said is true.  The life of meditation and mysticism and loving regard for others—a life of service,  a life planned to benefit others, a life in Dharma, Dharma so alive and so much a part of one’s mind that it is moist and sweet from the holy breath of the Dakinis… That is a life of joyfulness.

In a relaxed mind, colors are brighter. Did you know that? People who are locked in to their own personal phenomena, their own personal crazy phenomena, can’t see colors well.  They think they can.  They look and say, “Oh, I see red, you see red.  What’s the difference?”  But one red is different than the other.  A peaceful mind can smell better.  All the senses are purified and more alive, even though, because we are not yet enlightened they may still do the work of duality. Yet slowly slowly, we are training them in our practice.  And so the mind becomes more relaxed.  The mind becomes actually sensitized to quiet luminous joy—a state of restful luminosity that could be described as the very dance of bliss.  This is the relaxed mind, the virtuous mind.

Yet we cultivate these habits that keep us raw and inflamed.  I look at the expression on people’s faces. They’re all scrunched up because of all that inflammation, all that horrible feeling. When we suffer we say, “I feel so raw”.  No kidding.   That self-absorption, that constant selfishness and non-virtue and inflammation… It would be like taking Brillo and just constantly rubbing it on one’s skin.

And yet the joyful virtuous mind actually is more like putting a soothing balm on this same skin and allowing it to heal.  This is the reason for happiness.  This is the way for happiness.  This is the method for happiness.  Each and every one of us experiences unhappiness due to our previous non-virtuous habits.  When we switch tracks, we begin to pave the way and to move on the journey towards personal happiness, happiness for all beings which is our highest priority, and towards making the world a better place, literally.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Accepting the Offering of the Buddhas

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

I have seen amazing things.  My own students do amazing things. When they weren’t healthy or when they weren’t fit they would do amazing things and they would benefit the stupa and create the causes for continued accomplishment.  I’ve seen them do amazing things.  I saw once one nun who was determined to get to one of my teachings.  Her knees were so bad she couldn’t walk.  I saw her crawling, crawling.  And I immediately dedicated that merit to her swift enlightenment.  And you know, I didn’t think to myself, “Oh, look at that, she’s crawling to see me.”  I thought to myself, “Eh ma ho. How beautiful. How beautiful.”

So we have to stop thinking in such an ordinary way.  We have to start thinking in the way of Dharma, in the way of practitioners.  You can’t wear robes and live an ordinary life.  You have to do for the sentient beings.  You have to maintain this garden of refuge across the street for their sake as well as your own.  You have to do for the Sangha.  It’s just as much merit to do for the Sangha, to make offerings to the stupas, to make offerings to the Lamas. This is extraordinary.  To make offerings even to the Sangha. I know the wonderful Chang family has been offering food for myself and also for the Sangha here.  What a tremendous, tremendous gathering of virtue that is.  What an awesome family.  What values to teach your children.  My goodness.  What an extraordinary wealth to pass on to your young.  Sure you could pass on a few dollars, but what is that?  To pass on the wealth of how to be happy…  My goodness.

Yet we just kind of trudge around in our habitual tendencies without seeing the beauty of it all, the wonder of it all—that here in this place lives Lord Buddha himself, Guru Rinpoche himself, without doubt in Nirmanakaya form, and we can always go to pray.  You know, we might say, “Oh, I can’t practice right now, because my practice is not going very well.”  Well, that’s when you practice.   That’s when you crawl across the street to the stupa if you have to and you recite prayers to the stupa. You say, “Please, I’m begging you with tears in my eyes.  Help me in my practice.  Come to me as wisdom.  Clear my self-absorption so that I can benefit sentient beings and before I die let me do something meaningful other than to hang out with my own distorted phenomena.  Let me make this world a place with less suffering.  Please, I’ll do anything.”

You lay down your pride, you lay down your thoughts, you lay down your body, you lay down your efforts, you lay down your offerings and you rise up a practitioner.  The way of Dharma is to turn our minds from ordinary things—those things that are so relentlessly stupid as to take up all of our time and all of our effort and give us zero, zilch, nothing in return—and to pick up and accept and cherish that which is here for us, that which holds out its arms to us, like our own primordial mother, and says “Come, I’m here for you.  Bring the others.  I’m here.”

Do not turn a blind eye to these offerings that I and other lamas have given you.  They are for you.  These stupas, what we have here, is only for you.  And so I ask you to accept once again.  I ask you not to be beggars under the table lapping up crumbs, but to come to the feast.  Come to the feast at last.

That’s our Dharma talk for today.  I hope it is of some benefit to you.  And I really sincerely mean for this to result in activity.

Let me make one more mention.  We talk about creating the causes for bringing the lama back, so we maintain the house for the lama.  If the lama has a habit of putting a wrap on their legs when they’re by their chair, the wrap should be by the chair.  The lama’s slippers should be by his bed.  The lama’s favorite cup should be out on the counter.  The lama’s altar should be opened every day.  If you really want to create the causes for the lama’s return, that’s how you do it.  The lama never leaves.

When the lama is not here, the lama’s picture should be on the throne.  And we should think like that.  The lama has never left.  And that’s our practice.  That’s our guru yoga.  And we have the visible means of support using the stupas that way as well.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

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