The Search for I

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the Vow of Love Series

All conceptualization, all phenomena arise from the belief in self-nature and from the compulsion, at that point, to make self appear separate from other, making a reactive relationship necessary. Your entire mind consists of the phenomena of hope and fear, of discrimination in a subtle and dense way. But the nature of mind itself remains steadfast, clear, uncontrived. When there is no concept of self.  It is pure, perfect.  It is only suchness. Only that. It cannot be altered. It remains unchanged. And the weird thing about it is, the minute that you start talking about it, you’ve removed yourself from the potential to understand it.

When you look at a crystal, it might be understood as a symbol of suchness. Now, if you were wearing a blue shirt and you put your arm behind the crystal, you would then see blue. Has the crystal become blue? Well, you have to look at it on two levels. With your arm behind it, the crystal looks blue. So, in that sense, the crystal appears to have become blue. But if you move your arm away does the crystal change? Is it still blue? So what is blue? Who perceives blue? The crystal is the same. It is the same. It is completely unaltered. What is this appearance of blue? What is this appearance of phenomena in general? This appearance of phenomena, in general, is merely conceptualization. Who perceives it?

Here is a very crude example, but then I told you I was born in Brooklyn. I’m not making any apologies. That’s it. Let’s take two objects: we have chocolate, and we have shit. Yes, shit, you heard it right! We have chocolate and we have shit. Okay, they’re both brown. I’m sorry, but we have to do this. They’re both brown, right? They both have a creamy consistency. So sorry! They both have a strong aroma. What makes one chocolate and the other one shit? Who determines the difference? Who is the taster? Who sees this? Who sees that? What is happening here?

How do you get free then of distinction between shit and chocolate? How do you stop seeing the blue in the crystal? How do you perceive that true nature? Little by little, you have to disengage the idea of self, and you have to meditate on that. I recommend that you begin in this way, whether you are a dyed-in-the-wool Buddhist, or whether you are a person that has never even heard of any of this before. I don’t recommend that you taste both shit and chocolate, but you can try, let’s say, honey and lemon juice. Look for yourself and ask, “Who is the taster?” You say, “I taste.” Then, “Where am ‘I’?” Well, “I’m right here.” Okay, where are you here? Let’s take you apart. Let’s find out where ‘I’ is. We’ll look first in the feet. We’ll start low and work up. Did you find ‘I’ in your feet? Take them apart. Really, you have to make slides of everything. You have to buy yourself a microscope and make slides and see if you can find ‘I,’ okay? Go all the way up. Look everywhere that you can, examine every single molecule. Go all the way up to the heart. Everybody thinks hearts are big these days. Let’s look in the heart and see if we can find ‘I.’ Then, we’ll look in the throat. What part do you identify with the most? Do you have great legs? We’ll look at your legs. Do you have a beautiful figure? We’ll look at every part of it. Look at everything! Let’s look in the brain. Everybody thinks they come from their head, right? So we’ll look in the brain. Where is ‘I’? You can even look in your eye, in your eyeball. See if you can find ‘I’ there.

No matter how hard you look, even if you make microscopic slides of every single part, you will not find ‘I’ in this body. You will not find it! Well, you say there must exist an ‘I,’ because how else can I go from lifetime to lifetime? And, I’m telling you that the idea of ‘I’ is only that. It is a conceptualization that has built around it so much karmic flatulence that the profundity of it has managed to exist for lo these many eons. At that point, you can begin to understand that, essentially, nothing has happened. In truth, nothing has happened. And you can begin to meditate on the emptiness of all phenomena.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 02/24/2018

02/24/2018 Saturday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Ethereal communication!

It’s emotional discovery time, especially around mid-day.  This may include deep insights into how you operate today including your habits. With Mercury, the planet of communication so close to Neptune, the planet of dissolution of the ego, you may not finish your sentences or have memory lapses! There is a lot of subtle aspects to communication at this time and you might be better of contemplating the nature of the universe and expressing yourself artistically. As Dory said in the movie ‘Finding Nemo’, ‘I suffer from short-term memory loss. It runs in my family…at least I think it does…hmm, where are they?’

Today the Moon is Void of Course from 2.59 pm EST USA until 10.07 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.

Crystal Clear

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the Vow of Love Series

Do you remember the innocent sense of longing you felt when you first started to seek the spiritual path? You must have felt it at one point or another, or you could not receive this teaching. You could not. You must have longed to purify suffering. You must have longed to be of benefit to someone, sometime. You must have longed to attain the end of suffering, and there must have been the desire to do that in order to help others. It has to be.

Remember how happy you were when you felt that innocence, that beautiful longing? There was a time when you were really happy when you thought that. Now, of course, we’re too sophisticated. We’re on the path, and we’re already practitioners. So we tend not to continue with that thought in our minds, but we should. We should constantly, with great longing, make prayers in that direction. That’s how you begin aspirational Bodhicitta. You begin to make prayers of longing: “I long to benefit beings. I pray with all my heart that I can take whatever form necessary in order to bring peace to the world, in order to benefit beings, in order to end the suffering of beings.” You should cultivate that longing, really and truly. You should do that until tears are in your eyes. You will find when you begin to develop that ability those tears are not sad tears. They are the happiest tears you’ll ever cry, and they are a heck of a lot more happy than going to the shopping mall and buying something new. I mean, really, that sounds like a superficial comparison, and it is. But we spend much more time at the shopping mall than we do longing to be of benefit; we should long constantly to end suffering.

You begin in that way. Then you start to think of the emptiness of self-nature, even if you don’t know how to meditate. If you haven’t the technique, then you might contemplate upon the emptiness of self-nature. This goes hand in hand with living the extraordinary life of compassion. They are inseparable, because along with the emptiness of self-nature is the understanding that all suffering is born of delusion. The antidote to that suffering is the annihilation of delusion. It’s the same as the meditation on emptiness.

For instance, let’s take a crystal. It looks really, really clear. A crystal is exactly like your mind. It is exactly like the nature of your own mind in its clarity. In its natural state, it is free of any form. There is no form in there. It is said that the nature of mind is clear, self-luminous, that it exists in such a form that once any distinction is made, it is not understood. It is free of any contrivance, in the same way that a crystal is free. When you look inside a crystal, you see only clarity. A better example, of course, is a crystal that is perfectly clear without any flaw, because that crystal is exactly like your mind, perfectly clear, without any flaw. You, in the natural state, are that. You are pure suchness. The moment you began to appear as you do now, was the moment you began to make distinction. In the natural state it is not so. The mind is clear, self-luminous, free of contrivance, completely relaxed. It is not gathered around itself, because it has no conceptualization of self. It’s completely relaxed. It is suchness.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 02/23/2018

02/23/2018 Friday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Stabilizing your Mind

Today is full of challenges around changeable, conflicting energy . This too shall pass. Avoid getting caught up in the ‘washing machine’ of feelings and thoughts that can surface today. There is a stabilizing force with the planet of cause and effect – Saturn – acting as an anchor on the above.  Stay the course and don’t flake out. Taking the opportunity to meditate, even if it is difficult today will bring good result. Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo instructs ‘light attention on the breath‘ when meditating and goes on describe the result: ‘The feeling I had was of simply allowing it not to be, of letting it go, as thought I recognized it was my own construction in the first place.’


With Prayers of Longing

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the Vow of Love Series

Let’s say you’re not up to following a qualified teacher. Let’s say you don’t go that route. You can still meditate. You can still follow those basic precepts that are brought to us through the enlightened mind of the Buddha without going that route, if you wish. You may wish to bite off a small piece, and then see if you want another piece. There’s no problem with that. You might realize some of the basic teachings, such as all sentient beings are suffering; there is an antidote to that suffering, which is supreme enlightenment. When we reach enlightenment there is no conceptualization of self, therefore there is no desire. Therefore, there is no discursive thought. Therefore, there is not the cause that creates the effect of suffering.

You must also realize that all sentient beings desire happiness, no matter what they are doing. Even if they are robbers, rapists and murderers, and they are doing things that look to you like all they’re trying to do is hurt people. They are confused. They have the karma of murder in their minds. They are completely deluded. They are whatever you want to call them. But in their deluded way, in their feverous way, they too desire happiness. All sentient beings desire happiness. Yet, all of us, whether we are murderers, rapists and robbers, or if we are the nicest little New Age flower children you have ever seen in all your bliss-ninny days – we are just so sweet and we walk around with flowers in our hair and only eat vegetables and tofu – even if we are like that, we are still creating the causes for unhappiness. I’m giving it to New Age people, but I’m just making fun. It’s no big deal. I’ve been known to eat tofu on occasions also! Anyway, even if you’re that kind of person, you are still creating the causes for more suffering. You know that’s true, because while you may not be murdering anybody, if you look at your life and look at the probability of the continuation of your life, you will at some time be sick, you will certainly age, and you will certainly die. There will certainly be circumstances you cannot avoid describing as suffering.

In order to get to the depth of this awareness we can begin to practice as the Buddha practiced. We can begin to take the antidote for desire. We can begin to take the antidote for the belief in self-nature as being inherently real. Therefore, the antidote will also be applied to the clinging and the reactive relationship of hope and fear, the attraction and repulsion syndrome, which is the mother of karma and circumstance. These are what cause circumstance and they will become eliminated.

How should we apply the antidotes? First of all, by living a life that is as selfless as possible and by beginning to purify our minds in such a way that we really honestly examine ourselves. Just how much of an ego do we have, anyway? If we can sit there and think, “Oh God, such an ego, you can’t believe it!” If we can do that, then we’re on our way, and we probably have less of an ego than the next person. If we’re truthful with ourselves, we’ll discover that any one of us has an ego that is so enormous; we’re surprised we can fit in a room. We have to begin to examine ourselves as carefully, diligently and purely as we possibly can.

How do we do that? Do we just sort of go through our stuff and process it? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think the thing to do is to process it and be sorry that we have a big ego. What we want to do, actually, is to begin to practice in such as way that we say, “Okay, I have this ego. I want to apply the antidote. What is the antidote? The antidote is to strive to constantly live a life in which my welfare becomes less important – because I am only one – than the welfare of others, who are many.” Again, it doesn’t mean you roll your eyes heavenward, become extremely thin and become a martyr. I don’t think that is the answer. The answer is that you live a life in which you consider how you can best benefit beings. You can start by aspiration, the aspiration to be truly compassionate. If you don’t have the technique, if you don’t know what to do first, begin through prayers of longing.

The Vow of Love is available on Amazon in both kindle and paperback formats

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 02/22/2018

02/22/2018 Thursday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Recovering blessings

A day to feel more optimistic about life. You may get encouragement from women today.  Some healing is in the atmosphere. You may feel more resolved about any past hurts you’ve experienced. With the sun, three planets and one asteroid in Pisces there is a lot of energy around to deepen in your spiritual practice and nourish yourself with compassionate activity. However, selfish pursuits could lead to ‘flat on face’ syndrome for the next few weeks. ‘Gratitude opens all doors.‘~ Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo

Today the Moon is Void of Course from 6.47 am EST USA until 7.09 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.

Offer It Up

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo from The Spiritual Path

We never lose sight of how we feel. We are always monitoring ourselves. We want to feel free of suffering, free of stress. Sentient beings strive endlessly to be happy, so it is very difficult to achieve a sustained, sincere practice of generosity. Think what you have done over the last 24 hours. Work? Practice? Television? Family time? Social obligations? Was your first and foremost thought to benefit sentient beings? Or were you doing things to strengthen your ego in some way, to make you feel better? Mostly the latter, I think. Even our Dharma activity is often done to make us feel better about ourselves—to make us feel busy, wanted, necessary, energetic. Or, perhaps, spiritual, holy, and pure. We always have our selfish purposes, so it is difficult to be generous.

How should one be generous? How should we think about generosity? To begin with, we should not consider phenomena something we can have or not have, something that attracts or repels us. We should view all phenomena as a pure celestial offering that we can actually make to the Three Precious Jewels. We should view our entire world as an exquisite, vast celestial mandala. We should think of phenomena as Mt. Meru, surrounded by its beautiful continents. We should think of all sights, smells, sounds, sensations as precious jewels that we offer to the Three Precious Jewels themselves. It is a more profound version of what we do in our Ngöndro as mandala offering. The deepest way to engage in the practice of generosity is to offer one’s environment continually. But how many of us do that?

Think, for instance, about the way we react to food. We eat food with desire. We taste it with lust, more lust than we think. Shopping for food, we want the best apples, don’t we? The purest, the finest. We want the best carrot cake, the best vegetables. We even lust after color. Our eyes, our feelings are drawn to it. We think we look good or bad in a certain color. We perceive color with attraction or repulsion. All our senses function like that. Actually, generosity should be practiced in such a way that we offer the very senses that we have. But do we offer our taste? Our hearing? Well, we might say that. But we can’t wait for the next sound, the next taste. We cling to our existence as a sentient being, a feeling being.  We long for the next touch, the next sight. When you go for a walk, what do you do? You look at the flowers and trees. You sniff the air, smelling everything. The senses are yours. And you have no idea of offering, no intention of offering them to the Three Precious Jewels. And yet, that would be true generosity.

What is the basis of that generosity? How can such an offering be of benefit? You may think: “If the Buddha wanted my taste, my sight, my hearing, my touch, he’d get his own! A truly enlightened being can manifest all kinds of incredible siddhis, or powers. So why do I have to offer this phenomenal existence to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas?”

Well, why do you have to do that? There’s a real logic behind it. How long are you going to have your senses? You’re going to have sight until your eyes go. Even if your eyes last until the end of your life, they will die when your head dies. You will only have touch as long as you have skin to touch with. Your perceptual experiences will not outlast your body. So what are you holding on to? The traditional teaching says that at the time of death, we cannot take with us so much as a sesame seed. You take only your cause-and-effect relationships and habitual tendencies. So if you have clung to your experiences, establishing your particular neuroses at every moment, that is what you will continue to do in the bardo. If it has been your habit to look for approval and to gather things, situations, people around you for that purpose, you will not be able to take any of that into the bardo. All you will have is the habit of that longing, that desire—and the karma you have engendered from reacting to that need.

How much better to practice generosity—to offer your five senses and all phenomenal existence to the Three Precious Jewels. Why? You create a stream of merit. Offering is one of the major ways to accumulate merit, and that merit can be dedicated to benefit sentient beings. In fact, you can visualize yourself and all sentient beings offering the five senses, offering consciousness itself as we know it. You can think of all sentient beings gathered together with you making offerings of the three thousand myriads of universes purified into a precious jeweled mandala.

What is the value of such an offering? It cuts to the bone. It is so profound that it transforms the entire perceptual process. This deep level of offering pacifies our habit of clinging to cyclic existence. It purifies our self-absorption and selfishness, and we can offer the merit to the countless beings who are themselves constantly involved in selfishness and self-absorption, unaware that they can make any offering at all.

Unfortunately, we are afraid. If we offer something, the Buddha might take us up on it. If I offer the experience of being the mother of my beautiful daughter, maybe they’ll take her away. If I offer all my clothing to the Three Precious Jewels, they might take that away. We fear that something will be lost to us. But you can see that this is a product of our delusion. Our experience of phenomena depends entirely upon karma. As our karma becomes more purified, more virtuous, as our minds become more spacious, more relaxed—our experience can only be better. Suffering only happens due to clinging and desire. In our delusion, we continue to lust after experience, and that lust continues to cause our suffering.

The practice of generosity is an antidote to all that. There is literally nothing to hold on to and no one to do the holding.    Everything you have ever experienced—all you will ever experience—is the result of the condition of your mind. Why not then practice this deep level of generosity? Why not view phenomenal existence for what it is? You will in the end, anyway. You’ll see it disappear before your eyes. At the time of your death, you will see the elements disappear, dissolve. Whether or not you will recognize what is happening is another story. (You may merely pass into unawareness, and that would be for one reason only: you lived in unawareness.)

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Astrology for 02/21/2018

02/21/2018 Wednesday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Sharing creature comforts

The Moon is in Taurus which emphasizes the senses. It’s an opportunity to care for the body that cares for you. Self-education is a theme today and the getting of wisdom from books, radio, web-streaming etc. Responsibilities can be handled with more ease than usual today because practical matters are emphasized. The prevalence of Pisces energy still gives that touch of the spiritual. The lower vibration of Pisces is addictions. How can you transcend your addictions today? If you’re addicted to food it’s a complicated day today! ‘Cook more often. Don’t study; just cook.’ ~Masaharu Morimoto

Go Deeper

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the The Vow of Love series

In Buddhism, we explore the idea of suffering first. In that regard, Buddhism has been given a bad rap here in America. Many of the New Age philosophies support the idea that one should think only positive thoughts, and use affirmations. “Just resolve your conflict in a very loving way.” “Live a life that is free of conflict.” “Try to keep your mood elevated.” “Be happy all the time.” The idea, according to many of these systems, is that if you have happy thoughts and meditate on happiness all the time, you somehow will be happy all the time.

Buddhism has a different approach. We shouldn’t think that because it has a different approach, it has a different goal. Basically, according to the Buddha’s teaching, all sentient beings want to be happy. That is something that you have to understand before you do anything in the Buddhadharma. Before you do any kind of studying, you have to meditate on the fact that all sentient beings desire happiness. Because we don’t realize that. We forget. We tend to blame and judge and hate, because we forget that all sentient beings desire happiness, but they don’t know how to be happy. They don’t know how to create the causes for happiness.

This is not different from what New Age people think. They think that everyone has the right to be happy, and that we should try to be happy. But the Buddha’s approach is slightly different, and it goes something like this: all sentient beings desire happiness, but are constantly creating the causes of unhappiness. Witness this is so by the fact that everybody you know has periods of unhappiness, if not constant unhappiness. That being the case, we must be creating the causes of unhappiness. Unhappiness doesn’t come out of the clouds. It doesn’t manifest out of nowhere. It has a cause. There is a cause and effect for everything.

The approach, then, is to study suffering and how suffering comes about, as well as how all sentient beings essentially are suffering. We can’t understand how we create the causes of suffering, and we can’t understand what the antidote to suffering might be, if we don’t accept the fact that sentient beings are suffering. If we gloss over it, it gets away from us. The Buddhist approach to happiness is to study suffering in order to understand what the antidote might be. A Buddhist would say that if you go around saying affirmations and thinking positive thoughts all the time, perhaps it won’t work as well as you would like.

A New Age thinker believes the superficial level of conscious thought, and the resultant underlying thoughts, cause unhappiness. The Buddha, however, says what causes suffering and discomfort is something far beyond the level of thought, and therefore cannot be excised simply through moderating your thoughts. It can be modified by thought, but the root of the causes of suffering cannot be removed. One has to go much, much deeper than that. What actually causes suffering is the belief in self-nature as being inherently real. The belief in self-nature as being inherently real leads to clinging and desire, and it is desire that causes suffering.

Now, let’s say the New Age thinker might agree with this. He might say, “Yes, if you get attached to things, if you grasp onto things, they’ll cause suffering. I get that.” The difference is that the Buddha says you have to go really deeply into understanding the nature of mind, into realizing the nature of the emptiness of all phenomena, and the emptiness of self-nature, in order to excise that desire. You have to go much deeper than just ordinary thinking.

The reason I am inclined to believe what the Buddha taught is, first of all, he beat the game. That’s a really good sign, as far as I’m concerned. He beat the game and he attained supreme realization. Secondly, I know people who have adhered strictly, diligently, faithfully and loyally to New Age philosophy. If they get hit by a car, they will tell you it was fortunate, and they learned a great deal from it. That’s fine. I’m not going to argue. But two broken legs is not a good way to learn. Whatever happens to them, they just tend to gloss over it, and the problem is, they’re still suffering. They’re still suffering! My personal feeling is they’re in worse shape than they were before, because they have no means by which to get hold of the causes of their suffering. Whether they merely gloss things over, or force themselves to think in a certain way, they still get old, get sick and die. They are still helpless in the face of circumstances. I feel that it’s necessary to go deeper and to think in the way that the Buddha thinks.

What then is the cause of suffering? Why do circumstances appear as they do? Why are there old age, sickness and death? Why are there six realms of cyclic existence? All forms of life are impermanent. All of them experience some form of suffering. Animals certainly do. Animals grow old, get sick and they die. They get run over by cars. They get worms. They get mistreated. They get hooked up to yokes and made to pull carts and things like that. If you think that teaching animals to think positive is going to be the answer, good luck! I hope that you can do that, and I hope that you reincarnate again and again as a great Bodhisattva who can teach animals to think positive so that they won’t suffer anymore. But, it may not be possible. Like the suffering in the animal realm, we must think that there are other realms of existence where beings are also suffering.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 02/20/2018

02/20/2018 Tuesday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Unpredictability

With Uranus close to the Moon today expect unexpected emotional events as people seek to express their definition of freedom and separate. On a less challenging front it could simply be a a self-expressive zany day. With Mars square Neptune, continuing physical energy could be up and down for the rest of the month But Venus the planet of love is a counter-balancing force. Spiritual activities continue to bear fruit through understanding we are part of a greater whole. ‘All human plans are subject to ruthless revision by Nature or Fate, or whatever one prefers to call the powers behind the universe.’~Arthur C. Clarke.

Today the Moon is Void of Course from 6.12 am EST USA until 2.13pm. 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.