Path of the Bodhisattva

Being grateful for the many gifts I have been endowed with in this very lifetime, I now wish to offer a prayer usually associated with vows:

Today I have picked the fruit of this lifetime. The meaning of this human existence is now realized. Today I am born into the family of buddhas and have become an heir of the enlightened ones!

Now, no matter what occurs hereafter, my activities will be in conscientious accord with the family, and I shall never engage in conduct that could possibly sully this faultless family! Like a blind man in a heap of refuse, suddenly by chance finding a precious jewel, similarly this occasion is such that today I have given rise to the awakened mind!

Today, before all of my objects of refuge, the sugatas as well as all beings, I call to bear witness where the guests of this occasion- the devas, Titans and others- all join together to rejoice! The precious Bodhicitta, if unborn, may it arise; when generated may it never diminish and may it always remain ever-increasing!

Never apart from Bodhicitta, engaged in the conduct of the awakened ones, being held fast by all of the buddhas, may all demonic activities be fully abandoned!

May all the bodhisattvas accomplish the welfare of others, according to their wisdom mind’s intentions.

Whatever wisdom intention these protectors may have, may it come to pass for all sentient beings.

May all sentient beings be endowed with bliss, may the lower realms be permanently emptied! May all the bodhisattvas, on whatever bhumi they remain, fully accomplish all of their aspirations!

From “THE PATH of the Bodhisattva: A Collection of the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva and Related Prayers” With a commentary by Kyabje Pema Norbu Rinpoche on the Prayer for Excellent Conduct

Compiled under the direction of Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche Vimala Publishing 2008

I find that prayer soothing, comforting, and dedicate it to all who are suffering in any way. May all beings benefit!

Religion of Cause and Effect

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Turning Adversity Into Felicity

We try very hard as practitioners to practice Guru Yoga clearly and purely, the practice of fervent regard toward the Guru, utilizing the Guru as a tool of benefit in one’s life.  One thing that we should be perfectly clear about when we are trying to practice in this way, is which religion we’re actually practicing.  Our tendency as Westerners is to repeat the patterns and ideas that we have seen before in the religions that have been in our culture far longer than Buddhism has been.  In the religions that our parents practiced and their parents before them, that are native to our Western culture, the idea of looking at the object of refuge, might be, perhaps, if one is a Christian, Jesus, or if one were a Muslim, Mohammed.  I don’t know enough about the other religions to really say clearly.  If I’m making a mistake, please pardon me.  But I will say that generally the pattern that we have been taught is that you have faith, and the declaration of faith is simply enough, that you embrace this idea of faith, and the faith itself– there’s an element of magic to it, in a sense.  It seems as though the faith itself will simply carry us through.

In Buddhism we don’t feel like that, although faith is certainly an element, and it certainly has the capacity to carry us.  Buddhism is, uniquely, a religion of cause and effect relationships.  When we go into life situations, we do so with our brains intact and our eyes open.  We clearly are aware that without creating the causes for happiness there will not be the condition of happiness, that you cannot create an apple tree through a grape seed.  It simply doesn’t happen.  Cause and result seemingly arise one after the other, but in fact we are taught in Buddhist teaching that they arise at the same time, interdependently.  And we are a religion of realizing that we must create the auspicious causes in order to receive the appropriate results.  So while we want to adopt the idea of faith, we wouldn’t do a practice or hold an inner mind posture that would be what I call “idiot faith.”  We would not engage in a practice that, well, quite frankly, makes us look a bit like a bliss-ninny.  We would not engage in a practice that was mindless and not thought through.

Faith is definitely a component, but the way that it is used when we are using the practice of Guru Yoga, is like this.  All conditions have within them a mixture.  Even the best conditions, the most wonderful conditions, have within them, because they arise in samsara, the seed or inherent causes by which equal amounts of unhappiness as well as happiness will arise.  And so, when unhappiness comes to us, we absolutely should engage in curative measures.

Primarily we would engage in curative measures through establishing faith and confidence in the Guru, but it doesn’t stop there.  It isn’t simply holding the idea of faith and confidence in the Guru.  At that point, with faith and confidence in the Guru, we actually have to rely on the teachings that the Guru has given us.  That’s how you have faith and confidence in the teacher.  You don’t just say it and proclaim it and go back into some deluded “oh-don’t-worry-everything’s-going-to-be-fine” kind of idea.  You would, with faith and confidence in the Guru, begin to use what the Guru has taught.

The Guru teaches us first of all, of course, that in order to create the result of happiness and freedom, we must create the causes of happiness and freedom.  The causes of happiness and freedom are given to us in our Dharma practice.  They’re not a secret.  You can come here; you can learn; you can begin today, this very moment, to engage in creating the causes that will create your future happiness.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

In a Nutshell

From a series of tweets from @ahkonlhamo

If one cannot practice even ordinary human kindness, how can one EVER hope to give rise to Bodhicitta?

If one has no strength to keep even one moral precept, how will that one EVER awaken to Buddhahood?

If one cares not one bit for the welfare of sentient beings, how will that one EVER attain Buddhahood?

If one knows no discrimination, knows not what to accept and what to reject, that being will revolve in cyclic existence endlessly.

Whoever seduces someone away from their sacred vows, that one is reborn in Vajra Hell, as well as the vow breaker.

If one does not offer food to the hungry, that one will be endlessly hungry. Their food will do no good. Or cause homelessness, no shelter

These are quotes from me, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, based on years of study, practice, and inborn wisdom. My life bears witness, and I offer this to you.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

With Fervent Regard

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

One of the problems that we Westerners have is that we’ve grown up with religions that say God is external.  That is not what the Buddha teaches.  The Buddha teaches us not that our supreme object of refuge is an external God, but that ultimately, in the deepest sense, our supreme refuge is enlightenment, the uncontrived natural state free of desire.  According to the Buddha’s teaching, it is possible to achieve realization; that desire-free state, that natural uncontrived wisdom state is attainable. According to which path you take, it is attainable in many lifetimes, it is attainable in some lifetimes, it is attainable in a few lifetimes, or according to the Vajrayana, with sincere practice it is attainable in one lifetime.

You have to decide for yourself what you’re going to do.  It’s a difficult job, because we are so filled with ideas from our upbringing.  People say, “I’m moved by what you say, but I just don’t know if I can renounce everything.  I just don’t know if I can give everything up.”  That’s not what’s being talked about here.  What’s being talked about is that you have to determine your objects of refuge.  You have to determine what your refuge is, and from that you should make your own decisions.  There are many different levels at which you can practice.  You can become a full renunciate, taking vows, taking robes.  You can also practice in a more casual way, laying the pathway for eventual deeper practice.  Nobody’s making a rule for you.  The point is that you should think for yourself and you should think past the ways in which you were brought up.  You should look courageously at suffering, at the causes for suffering, and at the end of suffering.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, there is nothing on this Earth that can end suffering for all sentient beings.  If we found the cure for cancer, AIDS, for everything, something else would happen, because the karma of sickness is there.  If we found the cure for poverty, something else would happen.  If we found the cure for war…. and all these ifs are mighty big. The karma of suffering is desire.  It is the root cause for all suffering.  Having determined that, we have to think that to get rid of it from our mindstreams will take something more profound than manipulating our external environment.  The problem cannot be solved in that way.

I think it behooves us as Westerners to think deeply about these things. From my point of view, I have seen Westerners adapt the Buddhist religion, and I am not satisfied in the way that they are doing it.  They’re practicing Buddhists, they know the mudras, they know the mantras, and they know how to ring the bells. They know how to do all the ceremonial things that come with the Buddhadharma; and I am not happy with their minds.  Because maybe they didn’t take long enough to decide for themselves what the object of refuge is and what the cause of suffering is.

You can collect Dharma in a materialistic way just as well as you can collect cars and TVs.  You can collect Lamas and the blessings of Lamas in a materialistic way just as easily as you can do anything else.  You can collect new thoughts and new ideas and spiritual truths and books and all kinds of things, and never change.  Or you can come from a really pure place and examine these things with courage and with pure intention. You can be determined to awaken the seed and the fire of compassion in your mind by examining the suffering of all sentient beings. You can encourage that flame, that fire, fanning it into life so that it burns away all obstacles to your practice. And you’ll find for yourself your object of refuge, and you’ll go…just go.  You can do that.  It takes courage and it takes pure intention and it takes determination to really think about these things, in a logical and real way.  That’s what I hope you will do.

I am a Buddhist, and I always will be. But I’m not trying to sell Buddhism.  What I would like to see is a world without suffering.  That is the point, hopefully, of all religions; certainly of mine.  I wish to talk about the same thing Lord Buddha himself talked about: the causes of suffering and the end of suffering. If we start there, thinking of these things and thinking of them with what Buddhists call fervent regard, we can make a lot of progress.

Contemplating these things creates a great deal of virtue and merit. After you think about these things, please dedicate the time that you spent and the effort that you took, to benefit all sentient beings.  In other words, offer the virtue or the merit that you have accomplished by even just wanting to love.  There’s a tremendous amount of virtue in that.  Offer that as food and drink to all sentient beings so that the karma of that can be shared with a world that is suffering.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Determine How You Will Spend Your Life

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

I wish from my heart that it would be okay to be a renunciate.  Because to be a renunciate is to renounce the things that one has desire for, the objects that one grasps, and instead seek only a true source of refuge.  To renounce the sources of suffering.  There ought to be a place for that in our society.  It ought to be okay for anyone to do what they want. It ought to be okay if they want to remain as they are and continue to function in the ordinary ways that we are used to in our society.  But it ought to be okay if a person sincerely becomes discontented and wants to seek a supreme refuge that is the end of suffering, which is enlightenment.

You don’t necessarily have to be a Buddhist to adopt these kinds of ideas, although I found for myself that the Buddha’s teaching was the best way to do it.  But not only Buddhists can do this kind of thing.  In order to do this successfully you have to determine what your supreme refuge is.  You have to really review that.  This is why I like what the Buddha said, because in the foundational teachings you are never asked to buy something with blind faith.  You’re asked to think things out logically.

This is what I suggest you should do.  Think to yourself, “Really, how do people suffer? How do sentient beings suffer?”  Sentient beings of all kinds, not only people. If you can learn anything about non-physical sentient beings, do that.  The Buddha has many teachings on non-physical realms.  But, even about just the ones that you know, human beings and animals.  Check books out from the library on different life forms and different conditions around the world.  Check out books about India.  Check out books about Ethiopia.  Check out books about different cultures and different ways in which people live.  Check out books about different animals and different life forms.  How they grow, how they evolve, from insects to lions.  Study them all carefully.

You will see that animals are consumed: that they are eaten, and that they eat.  That human beings grow sick, grow old, and that they die.  That so far, no one has definitely proven they can keep from doing that.  Even within that, there are sub-sufferings and different kinds of sufferings.  While you are studying all of those things, develop a deep sense of compassion for the endlessness of it. Compassion for the lack of resolution and that everything around you will have its moment of intense suffering; everything and everyone.  Develop a deep sense of compassion, that their suffering is endless.  That it is unbearable at times.  And that there is yet no solution.  Think for yourself, what could be the possible solution; try to think one up.  Really work that through, down to the place where you’re into the planning stages. You will find it will never work, because we are all filled with the karma of desire.  Every one of us.

Having decided for yourself that all sentient beings are suffering so greatly that you can no longer bear it, and having understood that there is nothing else but to end this suffering, then maybe you might also think there’s no other way to spend your life other than to accomplish that for yourself and other sentient beings.  Because the only way you can truly benefit beings is if you yourself have achieved some realization and understanding of the causes of their suffering.

Having understood all these things, then you must determine for yourself how you will spend the rest of your life.  You must determine this, and it will take every day of your life, because we’ve been trained to do the opposite.  You must think for yourself again and again and again, of what use is this life?  If I am constantly filled with more suffering, if I am constantly participating in a scenario that always ends up with suffering, how will this life be of any value?  And if you come to the solution that this life has value if it is a vehicle for enlightenment, then you should think for yourself, how should I do this?  You should examine what you do now; how you spend your day.  Then you should think, how have I spent my years? Then you should think, what should I do?

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Red-blooded Buddhist

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

Now, I’m a red-blooded American.  You can’t get any more American than born in Brooklyn to an Italian father and a Jewish mother.  That’s as American as they come in this world.  So I understand our culture. I don’t claim to have any special powers or abilities; in fact I could study Lord Buddha’s teachings for the next twenty thousand lives. It’s the same for everyone: until you reach supreme enlightenment, you don’t understand the Buddha’s teaching, because to do that you must understand the Buddha’s mind.  I feel that I am a beginner.  But one thing I do understand is that as Westerners we have not yet come to understand what our objects of refuge are.  One of our main sufferings, and the cause of more suffering, is that we take refuge in the wrong things.

As a culture we have not come to understand the value of using this life as a vehicle to achieve supreme realization.  Even for those of us practicing Dharma, it takes a long time to understand that the only value of this precious human rebirth is to achieve enlightenment.  Here in America we have the most precious jewel of all: the leisure to practice.  If we don’t have the time, we can make the time.  You can.  Try it.  You can.   We have the leisure to practice.  We have the ability to study.  We have within our grasp a true path that has proven again and again and again it can produce enlightenment.  We have these precious things, and yet we don’t understand that the only point of this life is to end suffering, not only for ourselves but for all sentient beings.  Because once we ourselves achieve realization, we can contribute to the end of suffering in a real way for all sentient beings.  For all others.

We tend to think of our lives in a very different way, because we don’t understand what our objects of refuge are.  We try to live our lives with immediate gratification. We think, “Well, I have to be busy because I have to have this and this and this and this and this and this.  I have to buy this, and I have to have this and I have to attain this.”  We don’t accept that maybe it is possible to live a completely successful life under a completely different set of rules.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Renunciate in the USA

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

The idea of renunciation is not popular in our country because we don’t understand it.  In America we believe in accumulation; that’s our source of refuge: we accumulate.  The minute we have that coffee pot and that microwave and that big- screen TV and all those different things, we’re going to be happy.  If you don’t have a car, if you’re not rich, if you don’t have a toaster, if you don’t have a dishwasher, if you don’t have all of these things, that is the cause of suffering.  Yet the Buddha says, “No, that’s not the case. The cause of suffering is the desire for those things.”  Having devoted ourselves to accumulation, it becomes uncomfortable to think that we might have to dedicate our lives to renunciation.

It depends on your objects of refuge.  If you really think that the coffee percolator, the TV, the anti-aging cream, the microwave, the big car and all the money are your source of refuge, then most Americans are practicing their religion correctly.  But if you believe that enlightenment is the end of suffering, then that is your object of refuge. All the teachings and the supports to the Path to enlightenment – the Buddha, the Dharma or the Buddha’s teaching, and the Sangha or the Buddha’s community – are the objects of refuge.  That is what you see as the solution.  The things like toaster, can only make toast.  The things like coffee pot can only make coffee.  The things like TV can only show whatever they show.  They are not sources of refuge; they never, ever, end suffering for more than a short period of time.  If we understand that our sources of refuge are those things which end suffering, we’ll be able to perceive in a logical and real way.

We are a hard-working people.  We get up very early in the morning.  We quickly get ready under stressful conditions, putting on as much of those Estee Lauder things as we possibly can, before seven o’clock.  Then we leave and stay on the road for a very long time, under terrible conditions.  Then we get somewhere and we work very hard with people we don’t know very well, doing very strange things that are very different from our nature, all day long.  Then we come home on a very long road that is also very difficult to travel.  Then we eat very quickly, and don’t feel very well, watch TV and go to bed.  That’s what most of our culture does.  And it’s a very hard road.

We use so much energy doing things that we are told we must do.  We must have a certain level of education.  We must have a certain level of accumulation.  We must care for these things that we have accumulated. We must cultivate certain kinds of relationships.  That’s a big job. According to our culture there are certain lines that we have to cross in order to be successful and happy.  We work very hard at these things.

But chronically and repeatedly at certain ages of our lives we go through phases or passages when we are dissatisfied. Marriages go through the seven-year itch.  We go through middle age and we go through menopause.  We go through all these different stages, and they’re so common and usual that our psychologists are beginning to recognize and document them and consider some of them normal.

What are they really?  We work very hard to get to a certain phase of our life and then we find that it’s basically empty.  We didn’t get the satisfaction we were promised. Then we gear ourselves up for another phase.  When we get there, suddenly we find: uh oh.  That’s not to say we don’t have our little joys and happiness’s along the way.  But basically as a people we work very hard and yet are becoming deeply disappointed and disillusioned.

The way that some of us have chosen to deal with it is to think more positively and convince ourselves that we really are happy.  We go to friends or support groups or some New Age groups or a psychologist; all the different avenues that people explore when they’re really hurting.  What you basically come out with is, “Oh you have to change your thinking around.”  You are told to think, “My life is full, my life is fruitful, I am really happy and I like being busy like this because it means that I’m having many experiences.”  There are so many people doing that kind of thing it’s painful to watch.  Some people are okay with that; it’s their karma to live a good and simple life, and throughout their life they try to be kind to others.  But some people are really struggling.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

In Pursuit of The Real Cure

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

For Westerners, one of the basic teachings of the Buddha, that all sentient beings are suffering, is very difficult to understand.  Our culture doesn’t buy the idea of suffering. Most of us seem to have everything, or if we don’t have everything we can get it if we really try. There are books that say if you really want to do thus and such, you can do it.  That implies something about the understanding of suffering in our culture. There is also a movement that developed gradually with the idea that if you constantly think positively, you can make your life into something that is completely pleasurable all the time. This became the New Age movement.

The Buddha says that if you honestly and with courage look around, you will see that idea doesn’t hold up. No matter what people’s thoughts are, or how they try to live a life with positive thinking or master their emotions in that superficial way by saying, “Right now I am happy.  I am constantly happy.  I am always happy, therefore I will be happy.”  No matter how they try to do that, we are getting old.  We are getting sick.  Eventually, everyone will die.

These are the thoughts we are given when we begin to study Buddhism, which turn the mind.  The three sufferings of the human realm: old age, sickness and death, and also the suffering of suffering.  Because even within that, there are different kinds of suffering: the suffering of loneliness, the suffering of poverty, the suffering of hunger.

We are not instructed by the Buddha to meditate on suffering to make ourselves miserable and increase our suffering.  That isn’t the point. The point of understanding suffering and courageously viewing suffering is that finally you will have the tools to do something about it.  Because at the same time that Lord Buddha teaches us there is suffering, he also says, “And there is an end to suffering.  And the end to suffering is enlightenment.”

Here in the West we do everything else in order to end our suffering.  We stand in front of the Estee Lauder counter for thirty years, and every year we buy a new product.  We do this in order to not suffer aging; that’s how we think as Westerners.  We develop new and better medical techniques in order to not suffer sickness.  When people die, we quickly take them off the streets and out of view and stick them in boxes. Then we claim that according to psychology one can safely grieve for nine weeks before it becomes neuroses.  We have done all of these things in order to deal with old age, sickness and death.  Of course we have social services and we try not to let people be too poor. If they are poor we put them all in the same part of the city so that nobody can see them.  All of these things exist in our society and yet we managed to cover them up. That’s really our psychology.

But if you understand a timeless and very simple truth, and look around you with courage at humans and animals all over the world, you will see suffering exists.  Has Estee Lauder cured aging yet?  Have we found a cure to death?  Have we found a cure to sickness?  We may have found a way to manipulate sickness, but it still exists.  These sufferings are still there, although we have managed to delude ourselves that they don’t exist.  The problem is that it’s not the cure.  The cure is realization, enlightenment.  In order to accomplish the end of all suffering, we as a culture have to turn some of our attention away from the grand cover up, and more to the pursuit of the real cure.  We have to finally understand our objects of refuge.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 10/25/2015

10/25/2015 Sunday by Norma

A burst of energy allows you to fix a longstanding problem: take prompt action and then stop. Resist the temptation to wonder what else you can do. Relax, calm down and enjoy your privacy. Someone trusts you and confides a secret which you must not reveal. An unexpected conversation or bit of news is upsetting but transient. If you can’t be diplomatic remain silent. You may need to do something differently. Benjamin Franklin said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” A wide-ranging sense of happiness and peace is here. Enjoy it and carry it with you in all you do today.

The astrology post affects everyone differently, based on individual horoscopes. Look to see how this message impacts your life!

10/24/2015

10/24/2015 Saturday by Norma

Certainty and stability have arrived and not a moment too soon! It’s time to pull back from the frantic pace and flow with the situation at hand, which isn’t easy given that everyone is hardwired to work! Relax, rest, take a bath or a walk. Water is important as is meditation and every kind of creativity. A change occurs that allows something skewed in one direction to balance out evenly. After all the preparation, the magic moment is at hand. Lucius Seneca said, “As is a tale, so is life; what matters is not how long it is but how good it is.” What’s good today? Widening perspective, inspiration, rest, creativity and a job well done. Go with the flow.

The astrology post affects everyone differently, based on individual horoscopes. Look to see where this message affects your life!