The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Entering the Path”

When we first come to the path, there are some events that characteristically happen for which new practitioners are not necessarily prepared. Remember, we’re just starting, so we’re still thinking in a superficial way. One of the most difficult aspects is that when we first come to the path we hear a few ideas. We hear karma, we hear cause and effect, we hear hope and fear, we hear ego and grasping, but as a new practitioner we really don’t understand. We’ve got the words and can probably repeat a few sentences about them by rote, but we really don’t understand them. That’s easily seen when we actually talk to new practitioners.

When little babies first play with toys, the first thing they do is to pick them up and throw them down so they can understand what the toy is and what reality actually is. Then they begin to build with blocks, and then crash them down. They’re experimenting. Just like that, new practitioners will begin to experiment with Dharma ideas and Dharma terms, but they won’t yet have the depth to really understand what they’re saying. I’ve even had the experience of Dharma practitioners that are here for a very short time come and talk to me and try to razzle-dazzle me with their Dharma vocabulary. Actually, if you listen to it, it makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s not that the person is stupid and unable to understand Dharma. It’s just that they’re being exactly like that child who is trying out the new toy, building it up and knocking it down. They’re just kind of working the kinks out of the system, and that’s OK in the beginning.

At the beginning, we’re struggling to hold on to, to really compute, to compile deeper concepts than we ordinarily do. Having heard the teaching, however, we are truly responsible for going deeper. As a beginning student there are certain things that we need to understand with some depth. As new students, we don’t have all that depth just yet in terms of our understanding of the Buddhadharma, so we have to rely on our teachers. Actually we always have to rely on our teachers, but in this case specifically, we really have to put aside the “game playing” of our own mind in order to understand something a little bit deeper so that we can be prepared. As though we were a good king or queen of our country, we have to always be in charge. Even if it’s just the beginning of our reign, we still have to be on top of it and in charge.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 1/31/2017

1/312017 Tuesday by Norma

Something sad leads to something happy today, watch for both and be aware that one leads to the other. A shocking bit of news changes your agenda, and a new way of doing things is necessary. Road to your destination washed out? Take an alternative route. Friends and groups are fun but don’t connect specifically with the rest of your life now. Direct action is very effective in every situation you meet, so don’t dawdle with things or take too long making up your mind. Thomas Huxley said, “Act decidedly and take the consequences. No good is ever done by hesitation.” Home is fun, family is great and film, water and music make a powerful impression today.

The Four Noble Truths – An Introduction

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Keeping Heart Samaya”

One of the things that I have learned since I met with my teacher is to follow the fundamental thoughts as taught by the Buddha very carefully, starting with the thought that all sentient beings are suffering, and that suffering is all pervasive.  According to the Buddha’s teachings, we are all suffering from desire.  It seems as though we are suffering from external circumstances, but, in fact, we are suffering from desire.  In fact, we are suffering from our response to desire as well.  So we have a complicated, dualistic, or I should say double-edged, kind of suffering.  We have the suffering that comes from desire, and we also have the suffering that is invoked when desire is not met.  So it is two-edged and more complicated than one would think.

All sentient beings are suffering. They are suffering from desire, but there is an end to suffering.  This is the news that is so good it is almost hard to take in.  This is the news that is so magnificent that it is actually hard to understand when we have had an entire life, and we have noticed that there is always something. There is always something.  Everything that comes together separates.  Everything that is really good and has brought a lot of joy and a lot of benefit, gone.  Even if we find ourselves in the most joyous, gorgeous, fabulous mood, it lasts about, oh, ten minutes.  So we have noticed that happiness is ephemeral.  It comes and goes. It sort of burns away and returns, and in between there is that suffering.

So when we hear that there is an end to suffering, a cessation to suffering, we wonder, how can this be?  How can this possibly be?

The Buddha teaches us the next thought then, that the end or cessation of suffering is called enlightenment.  Yes, that is true because none of us, being ordinary sentient beings, have experienced enlightenment yet.  Sentient beings simply have not experienced that, so they do not know what the cessation of suffering actually feels like.

Then after introducing these thoughts, Lord Buddha teaches us how to accomplish the cessation of suffering, or enlightenment.  In many forms of Buddhism, this is called the Eightfold Path.  In our system of Buddhism, this is condensed into the accomplishment of two things: wisdom and knowledge. We are taught that in order to accomplish the cessation of suffering we must exit samsara and enter into that precious awakened state called enlightenment.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 1/30/2017

1/30/2017 Monday by Norma

Sensitive conversations and interactions with others characterize this day. Listen attentively, someone can reveal a long held secret and it’s a statement about your trustworthiness that you are the hearer. Respect confidences and treat others with care. Dreams, hunches, music and water all have messages for you, if you’re paying attention. Look at the trees, the leaves and the sky, and you’ll learn something directly relevant to your life. Jodie Foster said, “I hope your experience will take you out these doors, out into the open air.You will breathe it in and say, “From now on, this life will be what I stand for.” Friendship is great, partnership is excellent and vigorous activity is energizing.

The Mystical Bond

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Keeping Heart Samaya”

The Lama, being the condensed essence of all three objects of refuge, is also considered to be inseparable from the Dharma.  The Buddha is like the Lama’s mind in this case.  The Dharma is like the Lama’s speech.  So as a student, together with one’s Lama, one takes on the responsibility of learning Dharma.  It really isn’t enough to go around and say, “I have a Buddhist teacher!  Oh, I have a Buddhist teacher!  This is very good!”  And feel really happy about that.  That is great.  I hope you do feel happy about it, but it is not enough to do that and no more because it really isn’t that valuable to have met with your teacher, which is really very precious, if you do not follow the Buddha’s teaching, which is the Dharma.  Otherwise, what you are doing is coming to the temple to be entertained once a week for roughly an hour and a half, or longer, if you engage in other activities.  So a relationship where only entertainment occurs is really not that valuable.  You can get that from Blockbuster.  You don’t need a Buddhist teacher for that.

What you need a Buddhist teacher for is to connect you to the method, the Dharma, which is the Buddha’s speech.  You need a teacher so that you can travel on this path in order to accomplish the supreme result of liberation.  So the second commitment that the student must make to the teacher is to practice and learn Dharma, to maintain a healthy spiritual interest in Dharma and that means, once again, reflecting on the Buddha’s foundational teachings–realizing the faults or flaws of cyclic existence.  Then we practice a kind of renunciation that makes us eager to drink the nectar of the Buddha’s teaching for our self and for all sentient beings.  We begin to develop the mind of compassion.  For our self and for all sentient beings this Dharma practice represents the end of suffering, so we are eager and pleased to learn Dharma, to learn to think like a Dharma practitioner.  That is the second commitment.

The Lama, as the condensed essence of all three objects of refuge, is also considered to be the Sangha.  The mystical relationship between the Lama and the Sangha is quite profound, quite beautiful.  The Sangha is like the Lama’s body in that the Sangha has the samaya, or the responsibility, of holding or anchoring the Buddha’s teachings in the world in the same way that the Lama’s body, or appearance or presence, establishes the Buddha’s teachings right here, in the world.  Teachings are here in the world, being conferred here in the world.  The Sangha becomes an extension of that appearance.

Here in this Sangha for instance, primarily the ordained, but other Sangha members as well are trained as umdzes, or chant leaders.  We have the chopön, who handles ritual objects during the puja.  The Sangha are all well-trained, and all of them have different jobs.  We have archivists who keep our books in good, healthy order and keep them in a respectable and clean place.  There are many, many different functions, and these are all considered extensions of the Lama’s body.  This is the Lama’s wheel of activity.  The entire Dharma community then is the Lama’s extended body or wheel of Dharma activity.  So the mystical bond between the Lama and the student is closer than one’s own breath, more essential than one’s own essence, more relevant than one’s own mind, speech, body, anything.

As the Lama’s body, the Sangha also has a certain responsibility to one another, and this responsibility is a very important part of the samaya or commitment to the Lama,.  Remember, there is the responsibility to uphold and propagate the Buddha’s teachings, to follow and learn more about Dharma, the responsibility to uphold and protect the Sangha, and the responsibility of the Sangha to be the extension of the Lama’s activity.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 1/29/2017

1/29/2017 Saturday by Norma

Spend time with friends today, you’ll have a ball, and make it something energetic. Snowshoe around the mall, run relay races, stay active! Mars in Aries needs something to do, and if you don’t get busy your excess energy will cause trouble. Think of housebound kids bouncing off the wall: take them roller skating, bowling, anything! Will Rogers said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Absolutely avoid reviewing a past disappointment, you’ll bring it back and blame the wrong person. What’s good today? The energy to do whatever you want, the fire of enthusiasm, good friends and a partner willing to join you.

Caring for the Precious Sangha

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Keeping Heart Samaya”

As a student, one of your responsibilities is to uphold and protect the Sangha, one of the Three Precious Jewels.  The way that works is this. The Sangha is one body.  If one part of the human body goes sour, if there is some negative consciousness rattling around somewhere – and nowadays even doctors know that there is some connection – the body will develop a cancer.  If even one part of it has become disorganized, then the whole body becomes sickened.  So the Sangha’s responsibility to one another is virtuous conduct.

By virtuous conduct I mean that in the Sangha there should never, ever be gossip and slander. NEVER!  I cannot say this strongly enough.  If there will ever be a time when the Buddha’s teachings are destroyed, it will be from the inside because there is nothing on this earth, other than Buddhist practitioners, that have that power.  If the Buddha’s teachings and their purity are ever destroyed, it will be by Dharma practitioners committing non-virtuous acts.  Gossip and slander that are harmful and disruptive to the Dharma community is a heinous crime because the Sangha is like a beautiful, virtuous, supreme and exalted body; not an ordinary body, but a body that leads to liberation, a body that walks to liberation, a body whose sole purpose is to bring about the liberation of all sentient beings.  This is purity itself.  This is truth itself.  If instead of upholding that truth by keeping samaya with the Lama, the Sangha instead engages in this kind of non-virtuous conduct, this cancer is created. This is such a heinous crime because of what is lost.  Where else in samsara can we find such great benefit as from the Sangha or spiritual community?  Where else will such help and support come than from the Lama’s extended body, this pure activity in the world?  So because something very pure and precious has been harmed, the weight of the crime is very great.

I particularly have a strong dislike for gossip and slander.  I have seen what kind of harm it can do in religious communities.  Even in the ordinary context in this day and age, gossip and slander have gotten to be so stylish and so outrageously prevalent and hip that we don’t even seem to mind closing down our government so that we can do it.  We don’t seem to mind paying any price, including completely disrupting the responsibility between people in office and the people they serve.  Not to say that any of these things that are said aren’t right, but this kind of gossip has become such a thing, such a fad.  In other religious communities as well as Buddhist communities, it is a general religious phenomena.  But there is always gossip and slander.  It seems to be that if people think a teacher is pure, other people have to knock that teacher down.  Or if people think a particular faith is pure, other people have to gossip about it.  Why does it have to be that way?

As far as I am concerned, if you bring gossip and slander into this community, which is the Lama’s body, being the Lama here, I take it very personally.  If you bring gossip or slander into this community, you are wrong, wrong because you brought it.  Even if the story you are telling is right, you are wrong because what we are doing here by creating gossip and slander, is to harm the body of the Sangha, and there is a breakage of samaya.  We have not upheld the three objects of refuge.

Now, of course, if there is ever a problem with misconduct on the part of any religious leader, anything like that, we hope that those who are engaged in this conduct will turn to their teachers and receive spiritual guidance.  But the antidote to that is support and compassion.  The antidote to that is not the hatred, disease and sickness of gossip and slander.  That only harms the body and creates a cancer in the Dharma community.  So part of the samaya between students and teachers – and I will tell you that if I could legislate that it would be 100 times as strong here – for any of you who are truly committed to being my students, you must cut out gossip and slander from your life immediately, whatever it takes.  Purify that non-virtue.  Stop now.  You help no one and you harm yourself.  It brings nothing but unhappiness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 1/28/2017

1/28/2017 Friday by Norma

A feisty, go get’em attitude urges you to get moving, be active and express yourself! Competition is in the mix, replacing the grin-and-bear-it mode of the recent past. En garde! It’s time to get out there and show the folks what you can do, strut your stuff and look good. All sports are highlighted, debates are great and forward motion goes well. This is the day to launch your satellite, to race your sports car and to take action. “Heinrich Boll said, Something must happen!” Activity is the antidote to everything that ails you nowadays. Partnership is great, friends are wonderful and it’s a whole new world.

Beginning to Look Deeper

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Entering the Path”

What I would like to talk a little bit about is how it is when one first comes to the path. Many of you new students, as well as those of you who are not new students, find that eventually things come full cycle. And when you meet with certain problems on coming to the path, it’s likely that you don’t completely solve them.  When we first come to the path we’re generally not equipped to make the great gains that we need to in order to solve most problems, and we come to another cycle of meeting with a certain kind of problem. So let’s talk about that just briefly.

As a Dharma practitioner, or as a beginning Dharma practitioner, or perhaps as a practitioner who is simply testing the waters and hasn’t committed yet to practicing Dharma, it is no longer suitable, now that you have begun to study, to think of things in a superficial way.  The way that we used to think of our lives, the way that we used to try to understand the events in our lives, was on a very superficial level.  We did not look for depth.  We did not understand.  Our minds were filled with ignorance, and we simply tried to determine the events of our lives with a value system that could not possibly understand what was happening because we were looking only at the surface.

For instance, if something happened to us in our lives and it was uncomfortable or caused us suffering, we would simply look at that as being an external phenomenon that was happening to us. We did not try to understand the deeper ramifications of what was actually occurring. Now we’re way past that, or at least we should be past that, and it is no longer suitable to take phenomena and events within our lives at face value.  It is time now to plumb the depths of our practice in order to understand more deeply what is actually occurring.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, all things are a display of the primordial nature.  It is the lack of understanding of the primordial nature that makes the display unclear and deluded.  It is the lack of the awareness of the primordial wisdom nature and the belief in duality instead that absolutely ensures that we are going to see events happening to us as though projected from the external, and it’s going to be very difficult for us to understand.  Now, as practitioners we begin to understand in a different way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 1/27/2017

1/27/2017 Friday by Norma

Friends and groups are fun, fun, fun! “The more the merrier,” is the correct phrase for today. Going to the post office? Take your four best buddies! Everything goes better with a group. A final push on a sensitive matter comes and tomorrow everything changes. Water is highlighted, things are in flux, and medical treatments turn out differently than advertised so be careful. Pay attention to the here and now rather than to the past. Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “He who lives in the present lives in eternity.” What’s good today? A surprising sense of freedom and excitement, and renewed opportunities.