The Missing Link

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Marrying a Spiritual Life with Western Culture”

What is the missing link?  What causes us to shunt ourselves off in that direction and create a scenario whereby we either don’t relate deeply to our path or it cannot nourish us, or we find ourselves feeling dead inside? How does that happen? One of the things that you have to remember—and it’s really important to think about—is that it is more and more prevalent in modern society to not see some of the natural currents of life. This is particularly true in our country with our level of technology and all the civilizing factors that have come together to make us what we are.

For instance, here we are so technologically advanced and removed from certain natural occurrences that we rarely have the opportunity to see the beginning of life carried all the way through to the end of life. Unless we ourselves have had a baby and daddy went into the birth-giving room and mommy had a mirror—unless we do that—birth to us is a mystery. We do not see what birth looks like. We have pictures of it. We may have seen a movie, but the direct sensual experience of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling, we have not experienced. Even those of us who are parents are somehow absent from this experience because many people do not have a real direct experience of their own birth-giving. They go to sleep during it or they’re drugged or something like that.

Neither do we have an experience of dying. When we die, we will have that experience; but until then, it’s hidden from us. We have no way to prepare ourselves for the reality of death in our society. We have no way to understand what is gained and what is lost during a life.  Watching someone die is an interesting experience because you can see that everything material is left behind. You have a sense, once that consciousness has left the body, has moved on, that there is a really distinct difference between what the body is like at the door of death—even if it was unconscious—and what it’s like after consciousness has actually left. It’s quite different. Any of us who have seen loved ones immediately after their death will know this. You know that there is nothing in there, unless you’re completely out to lunch, which I also have seen! But you can see that something essential has left and that everything material has been left behind. It’s such an eye-opener, particularly if the person who has died is not very old.  Perhaps they were still at the point in their life where they took a great deal of pride in their body or thought of themselves as being very vital. You might remember different things about the person. You might remember that the person didn’t like their figure, felt that they were too fat. Maybe you know that during the person’s life they obsessed about this. They felt really bad about being fat and they tried to do things about it without success. Then you see that person die. When the consciousness leaves, you realize that everything they struggled with doesn’t matter. Whether that body was fat or skinny, it didn’t go with them.

An understanding of how superficial such a struggle is occurs when you naturally see the rhythms of life and death. Do you see what I’m saying? There is a natural understanding that no one else can teach you. You have to see it yourself.

To understand what we are, it’s also good to see a number of babies being born. Babies are different when they are born. Hospital nurses who care for babies right after they’re born can tell you this for sure.  Babies are not blank slates.  Some babies are very aggressive and very active, and you can tell that they have tiny, little, confrontational personalities already. They’re just that way.  And then other babies are just wide-eyed and open. They’re like little jelly fish. My two sons have always been polar opposites—from the first moment they were born.  A mother who has had more than one child can tell you that’s how it is.

Many of us are completely separated from these natural events, yet they teach us very profound things about how to approach spirituality. Even the story about the Buddha indicates this. At first the Buddha was prevented by his father from seeing the suffering of old age, sickness and death. After having witnessed these sufferings, he found the strength to go on in his path because of compassion, because of the deeply felt recognition that occurred to him on some subtle level.  That’s a metaphor for the problem of our society. What a display Lord Buddha gave us when he showed us that, because on several different levels we are prevented from seeing suffering by our society.

We take dead bodies away and put make-up on them. (Can you believe  that? I want all my make-up on my body before I die. I do not want someone to put it on after I’m dead.  All of you can remember this? That is not the time for a face lift.) On an internal level, because of these subtle messages that we get, we do not come in contact easily with any real internal processes. We avoid them in the same way we are taught to avoid them externally. We’re told, “Don’t go there, it’s not safe. Just don’t go there!”

We are told not to approach things in a really intimate way.  Now in the story about Lord Buddha’s life, when he saw the suffering, it bothered him, hurt him, upset him, scared him and shocked him, and he had to—oh my—go through transformation, that “T” word that scares us so much.  Transformation is related to change, the other word that really scares us.  So, yes, he had to go through all of that, but what was the result?  The result was he became deeply empowered and was able to make some very difficult choices.

He decided not to live an ordinary life in which he was extremely happy. He was a prince with all the blessings. He loved his family. He had a beautiful and devoted wife, and they were very close, very intimate.  He had a beautiful newborn child and was not a distant or absent or unconnected parent. He loved his greater family as well, his father and mother—the king and queen. But for the first time he saw the suffering of old age, sickness and death, and it moved him to his core and enabled him to make choices that are very difficult. He came to the point of deep knowing within himself, that if he wanted to really love his wife and his baby, he had to find the way to liberation for their sake. The phrase “for their sake” became real to him.  It’s not real to us.

 

Astrology for 3/31/2016

3/31/2016 Thursday by Norma

Listen to the inner voice of inspiration today, not to a demanding person! You’ll know this is happening by the insistent tone and assertive manner. Politely plug your ears and excuse yourself from conversation: if pursued, power walk away or else run! Today offers conflicting scenarios, some successful and others not . Work is excellent if you follow specific guidelines and poor if you engage in creative thinking. Pioneering activity is excellent if you follow an inspiring strategy and poor if the outcome is concealed or hidden. Take another route if the way is blocked. Confusing ? Yes! Seneca said, “One should count each day a separate life.” What’s good today? Exciting thoughts, plenty of physical energy, creativity and good health!

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

Spirituality in the West

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Marrying a Spiritual Life with Western Culture”

How does our culture affect our sense of personal practice, our sense of taking refuge?  How does it connect with all of that?  We find ourselves in a difficult situation. We are really limited, and we can’t see where the limitation is coming from. We don’t know how deep we can quest or search, and how profoundly we can make the connection between the external environment, between the ordinary view, and our deepest, most intimate spiritual nature. We feel somewhat limited in knowing how we can make that connection.

Let’s look again at some very important factors.  Think of how we follow religion in our country. For the most part, here in the West, we believe religion is one of the many things that you should have in order to live a moral life.  It’s part of the palette of a moral life, but it may not be the basis of a moral life. This is kind of interesting, isn’t it?  Many of the people who are deeply religious, according to our society’s capacity, have adapted their religion from their upbringing. Somehow they got the message that in order to be part of that big, successful, materialistic picture you have to maintain a certain status quo concerning moral, ethical and spiritual issues. It isn’t your heart.  No, you wouldn’t want that, because that’s that flaky stuff. It’s really hard to have all that you’re supposed to have if this religious thing is so in your heart that it is your heart, that it speaks to you every minute, that all of your decisions are based on what you know to be true spiritually. There’s not much chance that you’re going to be the big accumulator your parents hoped you would be if you go like that. So religion is tamed.  It becomes insipid.  It becomes a thing that we do as part of the whole picture of who we are, but it does not really nourish us in the way that we want it to.  And we end up blaming the religion or the minister or the teacher or the prayers or something. In America, our religious spiritual picture is not empowered. It is not deepened, not in the way that would set us on fire. I don’t mean this in a fanatical way. I mean this in a way where we are never very far from what feels like spiritual truth, from what we know to be good, from what we know to be deep and meaningful. It is very difficult for us to maintain that kind of spirituality in this culture.

We are told, for instance, that in order to be a good person you have to do a certain amount of church-going. That church-going idea is deadly.  It’s really the antithesis of a spiritual path. And I find that here as well. Our Sangha also plays church. Whenever I see one of us do church-going, I don’t know what to do. That church-going thing drives me nuts!  When we come here, on the proper days—Sunday, during retreats and maybe for a midweek class—we think, “Well I’m here.  It’s Sunday and I’m fulfilling my spiritual obligation.”  We have that church expression: We look all spiritual and fulfilled and we say the nice things. Going to church in that way is deadening and disempowering.  It’s a very destructive way to approach our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is something that requires no church. It requires no temple. It is an ongoing, internal, profound experience to which we have to marry. We shouldn’t marry simply because we’ve come of age, which many of us do, but because we are truly wed in our hearts and our minds with a deeper kind of friendship and understanding regarding our spiritual path than we’ve ever known before.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

Astrology for 3/30/2016

3/30/2016 Wednesday by Norma

The void of course Moon means it’s better to avoid initiating new things early in the day. A sense of uncertainty and lassitude is your signal to do nothing out of the ordinary, for the time being. There’s plenty of other things to do, activity-wise. Keep up a brisk pace everywhere and you’ll feel great. Exercise, power walk, engage in physical exertion- you have the strength and the energy. Do not speak up or try to say “Just one more thing,” if you’ve been silenced. The Bible says, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content.” What’s good today? A nice combination of energy and peace. Energetically go for a peaceful walk, or peacefully engage in activity!

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

Cultivating Courage on the Path: Advice from His Holiness Penor Rinpoche


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche on Mediation, reprinted here with permission from Palyul Ling International:

The Bodhicitta we can generate right now, however vast, is beneficial. In the future, when one attains Enlightenment, according to the vastness of that Bodhicitta, that many sentient beings can benefit and liberate themselves from the sufferings of Samsara. Right now we cannot really perceive all that fruition, but if we continue to practice, then in the future we will realize it as a direct perception.
Buddha Amitabha, for example, ultimately achieved that kind of result from his generation of Bodhicitta and his accumulation over many countless years of practices of commitments and aspiration prayers. So even as the Amitabha Buddha achieved Enlightenment over a long time based on aspiration prayers and the commitment to benefit all sentient beings, so we as practitioners must constantly apply the practice of the six perfections to benefit all other beings.

The Buddha Amitabha did not just do these aspiration prayers once or twice, or make this kind of commitment just one or two times. It was over many aeons that he practiced these aspirations and commitments, such that whoever hears the Amitabha’s name and does supplication prayers to Amitabha, they will instantly be born in his pure land. If one has single-pointed devotion to Amitabha Buddha and one carries through all of these supplication prayers, then even oneself as an ordinary person with an afflicted mind can be reborn in his pure land. It is all because of Amitabha Buddha’s special aspiration prayers. So although there are countless Buddhafields, the Amitabha Buddha’s pure land is very special because of these reasons.

We all could also achieve that kind of completion when we attain Enlightenment if we continue on the path and carry through our practices, generating Bodhicitta in as vast a way as possible. So we should not lose courage, thinking, “Oh, I cannot do it. I could never attain that kind of Enlightenment.” It is not good to lose one’s courage like that. Think instead that all these past Enlightened Beings, all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they also attained Enlightenment and ultimate realization by beginning the same as us, standard beings, and if they could attain Enlightenment, we can also attain that same kind of realization.

So today, though there is much that has been taught, if one can just try to keep in one’s mind to have one hundred percent devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and if one will train one’s mind by generating Bodhicitta and carry though the practices, then one can definitely have this kind of fruition. We can all do aspiration prayers, that in the future we can all attain Enlightenment within one mandala through these Great Perfection (“Dzogchen”) meditations. Just as in the past such great Great Perfection (“Dzogchen”) realized masters like Garab Dorje and Shri Singha and so forth attained Enlightenment through these Great Perfection (“Dzogchen”) practices, similarly we can also have that aspiration prayer to attain Enlightenment.

For a short Amitabha Practice by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo click here.

Astrology for 3/29/2016

3/29/2016 Tuesday by Norma

A discussion with a wise person provides a stabilizing influence and guidelines are set that people are willing to follow. Adhere to specific instructions, not hypothetical considerations. Be as down to earth as possible in this exciting time, and that’s what it is! Overdoing, running around yelling “Ole!” and the like is fun, but don’t forget to pay attention to your surroundings. Avoid disagreeing with a public person, the blowback will be worse than you ever dreamed. Mark Twain said, “Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.” What’s good today? Encounters with magnetic people who generate enthusiasm, excellent information that’s useful, strong leaders who set things right, and love.

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

Prayer to Remove Obstacles

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Download PDF of Prayer

Prayer to Guru Rinpoche to Remove Obstacles

DÜ SUM SANGYE GURU RINPOCHE

Precious Teacher, the embodiment of all Buddhas of the Three Times:

NGÖ DRUB KÜN DAG DE WA CHEN PO’I ZHAB

To your lotus feet of Great Bliss, possessor of all spiritual attainments,

BAR CHED KÜN SEL DÜD DÜL DRAG PO TSAL

Clarifier of all obstacles, Düd¬dül Dragpo Tsal,

SÖL WA DEB SO JIN GYI LAB TU SÖL

I pray that you will grant me your blessings.

CHI NANG SANG WA’I BAR CHED ZHI WA DANG

Pacify all outer, inner and secret obstacles, and

SAM PA LHUN GYI DRUB PAR JIN GYI LOB

Grant blessings that all my wishes may be spontaneously accomplished.

OM AH HUNG BENZAR GURU PEDMA SIDDHI HUNG

Astrology for 3/28/2016

3/28/2016 Monday by Norma

Energy: you’ve got it and so does everyone else! Chasing bad guys? You’ll catch ’em! Outwitting problems? You’ll do it! Pushing back against trouble establishes boundaries appropriate for a stable environment. Mars energy is strong, so do your job and avoid the temptation to let power go to your head and intrude where you’re not needed. Anne McCormick said, “The real test of power is not capacity to make war but capacity to prevent it.” What’s good? Continuing improvement in health, deeper love, greater happiness. Try not to work too hard: you’ll ignore this, of course.

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

Descend With the View While Ascending With the Conduct: from Dakini Teachings

The following is an excerpt from Dakini Teachings: A Collection of Padmasambava’s Advice to the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal 

Master Padma said: Some people call themselves tantric practitioners and engage in crude behavior, but that is not the actions of a tantrika.
Mahayana means to cherish all sentient beings with impartial compassion.
It will not suffice to claim oneself a trantric practitioner and then refrain from adopting what is virtuous and not avoiding or shunning evil deeds. It is essential for all tantric practitioners to cultivate great compassion in their being.
Without giving rise to compassion in your being you will turn into a non-Buddhist with wrong views, even though you may claim to be a practitioner of Secret Mantra.
Master Padma said: Secret Mantra is Mahayana.  Mahayana means to benefit others.
In order to benefit others you must attain the three kayas of fruition. In order to attain the three kayas you must gather the two accumulations. In order to gather the two accumulations you must train in bodhicitta. You must practice the paths of development and completion as a unity.
In any case, a trantrika who lacks bodhicitta is totally unsuited and does not practice Mahayana.
Master Padma said: Secret Mantra and the philosophical vehicle (Mantrayana) are spoken of as two, but ultimately are one. If you lack the view or the conduct you will stray into be a shravaka. So descend with the view while ascending with the conduct. It is most essential to practice these two as a unity. This is my oral instruction.
SAMAYA

Astrology for 3/27/2016

3/27/2016 Sunday by Norma

Get up early today for best results. A loud or demanding person should be ignored, politely, or encouraged to do something elsewhere, allowing you to enjoy the happiness of a peaceful time. Listen to women and children, they have important information for you. A distressing event or piece of news is a sign of something you should not ignore. Are you responsible for a problem? If so, fess up! Don’t let others make decisions for you. De La Rochefoucauld said, “Everyone complains of his memory, and nobody complains of his judgment.” But don’t feel guilty if it’s not your fault. What’s good today? Happiness that is unstoppable, energy that is unconquerable, and private moments with those who matter most.

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