What Makes Buddhism Different?

An excerpt from a teaching called “The Importance of Shakyamuni”

Without the teachings of Lord Buddha, there would be no perfect path by which to achieve supreme enlightenment. There have been and still are paths on this planet by which one can move forward spiritually. There are many ways in which one can accumulate merit. There are many ways in which it is possible to make some kind of spiritual progress. But the kind of spiritual progress that produces supreme enlightenment is quite different.

Lord Buddha said that all beings are suffering, and he didn’t say that to be negative. He said that because he looked around and saw that even those beings that were most happy, most beautiful, and most productive would still get old, sicken, and ultimately die. Each being of the six realms of cyclic existence ultimately gets old, gets sick, and dies.

That is why Lord Buddha said that there is no comfort and no happiness in cyclic existence. He wasn’t denying the possibility of achieving some sort of momentary happiness or fleeting joy. Everyone knows we feel really good when we can eat a piece of chocolate cake or watch our favorite TV program or go swimming or have some friendly conversation or something like that. But the kind of joy that Buddha wished for all sentient beings was long lasting, one that ultimately did not betray us. The kind of joy that is available in cyclic existence has a beginning and therefore an end.

When Lord Buddha saw that, he wished in his great kindness and great compassion to present a way by which we could overcome cyclic existence, not merely make progress. That really is the difference between the teachings of Lord Buddha and other spiritual teachings. The teachings of Lord Buddha have one goal and one goal only: supreme realization – ultimate liberation from samsaric existence and the final overcoming of the mind of duality that produces the conditions of samsara. This is the path that Lord Buddha created.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo. All rights reserved

Astrology for 05/24/2018

05/24/2018 Thursday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Gaining wisdom through effort

There is cause for optimism today. It’s a good time for intellectual pursuits. Directions regarding vocation and/or home-life are clearer today. For the past few days and a few days to come you may feel the weight of others opinions, a feeling of isolation and proneness to criticism. But for today there is balancing positive energy for socializing. It’s also an opportunity to reign in, and soften your mind with kindness. You can help others understand the value of kindness. You can demonstrate it. You can begin to show people the value of being of benefit to others.~Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo

 

Our Guide In Difficult Times

From a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

Ngundro, or preliminary practice consists of several parts:

  • Refuge, or entering the gate of protection of the “three precious ones” – the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
  • Bodhicitta, the practice of the six perfections and the generation of the aspiration to realize Enlightenment.
  • The offering of the Mandala, the accumulation of merit through skill.
  • Vajrasattva, the purification of obscurations through wisdom.
  • And Guru Yoga, receiving the blessings through which one can attain enlightenment in a single lifetime.

Nothing is more precious than this. Even a cache of jewels, a palatial home, a beautiful and healthy body, nothing is more precious than Guru Yoga, the means to awaken. I have always been taught this: that in these deteriorating times Guru Yoga is the swiftest and most powerful method as it is so easy to be distracted, make mistakes, forget to be mindful. Our Spiritual Guide is the method to keep our path as straight as an arrow and as powerful as the mightiest sword. One should always keep samaya with the Tsawei Lama, even at the cost of one’s very life. If one cannot do even that, even after the precious Dharma has been offered, there is absolutely no way to accomplish the path.

One should remain within their Lineage as well, as there is the certainty of receiving pure unstained empowerment. If we cannot do even that, we are in delusion and ignorance. The fruit of Enlightenment will not come to your mouth. Body, speech and mind, the three doors will be corrupted. Speech will be ordinary, and without any benefit or virtue.

This teaching is a combination of Kyabje His His Penor Rinpoche and my humble self. Forgive me, Guru Padma for any mistakes, and for my presumption. Lama Kyen No! To the lotus feet of the Guru I make extensive offerings! Happy Losar to all! Kye HO!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo. All rights reserved

Astrology for 05/23/2018

05/23/2018 Wednesday by Wangmo & Jampal

Theme: Inner stability

Practical matters are addressed more easily today. Your mind is more agile and prepared to dig deeper into things. With the planet of communication, Mercury, still opposite the planet of expansion, Jupiter, watch out you don’t over do things or get grandiose in your thinking. But with this check in mind it is an auspicious time to think big and plan accordingly. Learning, travel and philosophy are all good themes to pursue. There continues to be disruptive energy that challenges expectations and can effect physical safety. When you want to know how things really work, study them when they’re coming apart.~William Gibson

Today the Moon is Void of Course from 10.56 am EST USA until 2.53am the following day. If you’re in another country check what that means for you time-wise. It’s best to avoid making major decisions or signing contracts during this time.

 

 

Break Free

An excerpt from a teaching called Bodhicitta by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

One thing I like about all of you is your great compassion. You really want to help people. I’ve always loved that about you. There are some of you that are less interested than others, but everyone here really wants to help all sentient beings. But you know what? You can’t help anyone until you yourself are free of cyclic existence, because what you have there is the blind leading the blind. While you have hatred, greed and ignorance in your mind stream, you cannot help anyone. You can generate the deity all day long. You can help little old ladies cross the street all you want. You can make them bliss out and have a beautiful experience and sing songs and play music, and rub their backs and wiggle their toes and everything, but you can’t help them, because you may give them a short experience of happiness, and sometimes that’s worse because you can give them hope where there is no hope. The only hope is to break the cycle of cyclic existence and to be free of it. Sometimes the worst thing you can do for people is to give them a lot of blissful experiences, because sometimes it causes them to be satisfied and complacent and they don’t try to grow spiritually. Sometimes it can inspire them. But very often it can do the opposite.

The most profoundly beautiful thing about you is that you really want to help people. You really do. Then doesn’t it seem logical, that you would therefore take complete responsibility for your realization? If you can help somebody by achieving liberation in such a way that you can consciously reincarnate and come back in a form to teach others to achieve liberation, wouldn’t it seem rational that you would take profound responsibility for that and say, “I will do anything. So I am going to eradicate this grasping from my mind. I’m going to practice so hard and so sincerely.” And still I see people mouthing prayers. How do you do that? Still I see you trying to have a powerful experience. How can you do that? So what if you have a powerful experience? If you are going to be reborn as a cow, what’s the big deal? Is that what you want?

You have to have courage. You have to say, “I’m finished. I’m finished with all this junk that betrays me, with all of this stuff that ends up to be a bauble and nothing more with all this distraction that I’m wasting my life on. I’ve got 20 or 30 or 40 years to live. Am I going to waste it on this kind of distraction?” Just think about that. Then what will you do? You’ll have to realize the faults of cyclic existence. You’ll have to realize how impermanent it is. You’ll have to realize how fraught with pitfalls it is. You’ll have to realize how completely unconscious you are. You are tossed about. You have no control over where you are going to be born in the next incarnation. You have no control over any of that stuff until you seriously practice Dharma in such a way that you are able to break free of dualistic mind and therefore break free of the prison of samara. That’s what it takes. It’s the only thing you can do.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo. All rights reserved

Astrology for 05/22/2018

05/22/2018 Tuesday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Energetic and compassionate connections

You may have more bounce for the next few days and feel you can accomplish your goals. There are nice emotional connections with others today and you can communicate how you feel to others. It’s time to think big but not too big.  There are however, still triggers for anger and irritation – and dealing with a sudden change in plans. Religion, philosophy and long distance travel continue to be topics of interest including how we make a better world. [Compassion] No one’s got a corner on it. Compassion is not a word that the Buddha invented.~Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo

Prisoner of Mind

An excerpt from a teaching called Bodhicitta by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Some of you here are not young anymore. I’m not young anymore and some of you are older than me. I don’t know where you are going to be, because you have not renounced samsaric existence. I cannot guarantee that in your next incarnation you won’t be reborn as a cow because you are so ignorant. And believe me, cows in India and Nepal do not have a good life. I cannot guarantee you that you won’t be reborn as a hungry ghost because even in the presence of the Lama, even in the presence of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, even with this absolutely precious human rebirth, you are still grasping, having not renounced samsaric existence thoroughly. I cannot guarantee that you will not be reborn a hungry ghost.

Sometimes I think about those of you that are not getting any younger. That’s all of us, of course. I tend to think of the older members of the group with great love. Sometimes I lose sleep thinking about you all. That’s the truth. And I wonder, “What can we do? Maybe I’ll get them to practice Phowa really consistently, so even if they really screw up in this lifetime, at least in the bardo state there is a chance for liberation.” I think about this. Well, why aren’t you thinking about this?

You people that have the leisure to practice, where the heck are you? It doesn’t make any sense. Here is a beautiful and comfortable place to practice. You can make time to practice, and you have your teacher with you, and you have the direct empowerment of the Nam Cho lineage. Why in the world haven’t you renounced cyclic existence? Why haven’t you taken the teachings that you have now to purify your mind of grasping? You have everything. In the Ngondro practice, you have everything you need to purify your mind of grasping and need.

Now the shallowness that I hear is people doing their practice and saying, “OK, I’m going to visualize this milk coming down. Oh I feel so good that this milk is coming down.” They’re having a wonderful experience. But are they saying, “I know that my life is impermanent and I’m going to die soon. When? Ten years, 20 years, 30 years? That’s soon. And in the meantime I still have this greed in my mind. I am going to visualize that non-dual nature of Vajrasattva completely purifying me of that greed, of that grasping so that I can fully renounce cyclic existence, so that I will be safe and not imprisoned in my own dualistic mind.”

You are imprisoned in your own dualistic mind. You are not safe. I can take a running guess at how many of you will achieve liberation, if not in this lifetime, then soon, but I don’t know, because you can change that. You can break samaya with me or with any of your Vajra teachers tomorrow and that’s it. You’re a goner. Unless you fix it somehow, there’s nothing I can do for you. Then you are in the same position as everybody else. You surfaced here in this beautiful place, but where are you going to be the next time?

Death is not a beautiful experience and a release like some of the New Age metaphysicians like to pretend it is. You enter into the bardo and all the demons of your mind are there with you and unless you have enough wisdom to understand what is in front of you, you’ll throw yourself into a rebirth that’s horrible out of fear and compulsion. And you don’t know where, I don’t know where you will be next incarnation.

Now we have this wonderful manduk. Manduk is precious stuff because it absolutely ensures that you will not take a lower rebirth. Of course if you don’t have faith in it, maybe it won’t work. Your faith is everything. Do you know what makes people not have faith? Bad karma. And do you know what makes bad karma? Broken samaya. Do you see what I am saying? You’re not safe until you’re safe. A deep practitioner is one that looks at the situation and says, “Holy cow. I’ve got to do something about this and I am going to ensure that in this lifetime I am removed from cyclic existence and I am safe so that I can benefit beings and myself.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo. All rights reserved

Astrology for 05/21/2018

05/21/2018 Monday by Wangmo & Jampal

Theme: Communication and Curiosity

Happy Birthday all Geminis! With the Sun entering Gemini communication of all kinds is highlighted. Today you might look for some excitement. However, with the Moon Void of course for most of the day it’s not the day to start anything new or try new things. The theme of creative expression and gaining wisdom from relationships is strengthened by improving your confidence. Even Geminis can learn to slow down their mind. Morgan Freeman, a well known Gemini said, Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.

Today the Moon is Void of Course from 11:31 pm EST  USAthe day before right through to 10:04 pm. If you’re in another country check what that means for you time-wise. It’s best to avoid making major decisions or signing contracts during this time.

The Heart of Dharma

An excerpt from a teaching called Dharma of Technology by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

I really hope from the depth of my heart that all of you really fully intend to accomplish Dharma. What comes to your mind when you think, “accomplish Dharma?” One of the dangers, I think, when you see monks practice in the traditional way, especially if they are really polished in their practice is that we think that must be accomplishing Dharma. We think that what accomplishing dharma is getting the hand movements right and looking very disciplined and very ordered and in sync. And it’s part of it. That is the mechanical part, the skill that is necessary. Pujas and practices, all the different kinds of practices, whether they are recitations of different kinds, the making of tormas to all of the different kinds of offerings that you would make, to accomplishing tsog properly, to doing the mudras properly. These things are all the technical side of practice and they’re all important.

There is a reason why they are in the practices that we do. They all have a specific role to play in ripening the mind. And one of the things that makes tantra tantra, is that there is this outer, inner and secret level of meaning and that there is actually a physical thing that you do in order to accomplish what you’re doing, such as making a torma or making a certain kind of food offering at the same time that you’re accomplishing on the inside. And they’re done together, hand in glove and one is meaningless without the other. Not completely in the sense that you can make an offering in your heart and if you don’t have anything physical to give, it’s still a valid offering, but still, it’s universal in the Vajrayana path that you do all these different things together. So it’s a great skill and it’s really good to learn these things and that’s part of accomplishing Dharma.

Don’t be overwhelmed by watching people play bells and damarus in sync. Don’t be overwhelmed by watching the different technical things that you can do in Dharma and think that if you could just learn to make your hands go smoothly and do all this stuff at one time or if you could learn all the different parts of puja and do them absolutely correctly, then you will automatically have accomplished Dharma. If you have any understanding of Dharma by now, you’ll understand that Dharma is in the heart.

If you have the heart of Dharma, then to accomplish the technical side of Dharma is extraordinary. If you could have both of these components, it’s extraordinary. It’s a tremendous blessing. It’s a blessing beyond description. On the other hand, if you have the heart of Dharma without the technical side, you still have the heart of Dharma and that heart remains with you. It’s not something that dies at this lifetime. It’s something that remains with you and it changes you and it brings about the results that you want. But if you only have the mechanical part of Dharma, if you only have that without the meaning, without the heart of it, then you come away unchanged, and there again you’re in danger of collecting these skills in a material way. And if you collect them in a material way, it will be like any other form of materialism. It has the danger of pride, it has the danger of greed, it has the danger of lots of different things.

Now hear me. I am not saying that you should not become proficient in accomplishing these physical parts of Dharma, but I’m saying that if you do, be certain that you don’t lose an inch, a centimeter of your understanding of what Dharma is and in fact, be sure that your understanding of the heart of Dharma increases accordingly.

I’m not saying don’t bother to learn the technical side. I hope from the depth of my heart that we can learn the technical side. I really encourage all the monks and nuns to learn the technical side of Dharma, but I warn you not to do it without the heart.

In truth I have to tell you there have been one or two of you doing the offering mudras every chance you get and I see that there is no concentration and no real fixation or stabilization of your mind so that as you do the mudras you remember that you’re actually making an offering to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas or an offering to the specific deity. I think that’s sad. I think it’s sad if you pay a lot of attention to what your hands are doing and very little attention to what your heart is doing. I think that’s kind of like a shell. Do you see what I am saying? So I think it is very important for you to accomplish Dharma from the heart.

When I say “from the heart,” I don’t mean in an emotional way. I don’t mean that you should think about Dharma in such a way that you make it into a vast, blissful experience. It isn’t like that at all. The real heart of Dharma is compassion and it’s the very hardest part. If you had a teacher that sat there beside you, you could learn all the different parts of Dharma practice and you could learn them very well. Relatively speaking, even though there is a lot to learn and even though we’re actually technically too old to start now and learn it all. But even if we could, we could accomplish it sufficiently to be pretty good at it or to look pretty good at it.

From that point of view, that kind of accomplishment is relatively easy. It’s doable. It’s doable to anyone of normal intelligence or perhaps a little bit above. But the heart of Dharma – if you sat with a teacher and yet you were not receptive or you had any of the karmic obscurations that I have described in previous teachings, it may be that you could sit with an excellent teacher for many years and never accomplish the heart of Dharma, which is compassion. Of all of the things that you can practice in Dharma, compassion is the very hardest. As a monk or nun, you can keep your vows exactly. You could read them every day and you can measure your bed and you can never clean a toilet again in your life. You could do all these things that would keep your vows exactly. But I bet anything if you examined your heart, you have not kept the bodhisattva vow for one hour.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo. All rights reserved

Astrology for 05/20/2018

05/20/2018 Sunday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Don’t over react

Seeing things in proportion today will be a challenge. Everyone appears to be holding to their position and so flexibility is needed. Peoples emotional responses make things bigger than they are. Generosity creates more spaciousness in this situation. The stakes are high today whether you bring out the best or worst. With Venus in Cancer for 3 weeks there is a softness in relating to others that can prove nurturing. Only in an open space where we’re not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with them and communicate with them properly.~Pema Chodron