Removing the Blinders

Turn-the-lights-on

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

One thing that happens as we are turning the mind toward Dharma is we literally begin to examine the condition of cyclic existence,  We come to understand that we are not the only ones that are wandering in cyclic existence. All sentient beings that we see of all types, not only counting those that are human but also animal sentient beings and sentient beings that live in other realms, these too are wandering aimlessly and are suffering.  So we begin to develop a sense of empathy through examination.

Now some people might think “Gee, what a downer!  Why would you want to examine the suffering of others?  Better to close one’s eyes and think happy thoughts.”  There is a time and place for closing one’s eyes and thinking happy thoughts.  There is a time for joy and a time for happiness. And the kind of joy and happiness that is healthful and that increases our ability to attain liberation and to have happiness is the kind of joy that is not the same as suppression of information.  It is the kind of joy that is not the same as closing one’s eyes and being blind to cause and effect relationships.  It is an all-pervasive natural kind of joy that is in harmony with our true nature, and is the very display of our nature.  That joy promotes health and well-being, promotes longevity; and it is born of moral and ethical and compassionate conduct.

The kind of joy that we are giving ourselves when we try to fake it, literally fake it through our lives, ignoring all the bad news and just playing the way children play in the sandbox, picking and choosing what we want to think about and what we want to see, that is a joy that is an artificial recipe.  It is a joy that exists in the same world with suppression, ignorance and lack of information. That joy is not healthy for us because it does not promote longevity, it does not promote happiness.  It is literally like this: Let’s say we were to take all the chairs that are in this room and distribute them throughout the room in a haphazard way and then pile in a few more pieces of furniture, and  wait til it’s pitch-black midnight. Turn off all the lights, close all the curtains until it’s absolutely pitch dark in this room.  Then try to negotiate going through this room.  Would you like to negotiate going through this room, just trying to feel your way through with all of its furniture upturned and barricaded and brought up in your way and that sort of thing?  Would you like to go through the room, getting from this door to that door? And let’s imagine that door is the ultimate door, the one we need to get out of.  We must get out of that door for whatever reason.  Would you like to go from this door to that door with the lights off or with the lights on?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sensible, practical kind of girl and if I have to make a journey, I want to know the facts.  I want to go with the lights on.  I want to turn the lights on so that I can walk around the furniture, go under it, step over it, do whatever it takes to negotiate this scary passage through samsara. It makes no sense to close the eyes and not take in information and pretend, suppress the facts in order to go from one place to another, because you will surely fail.  You will surely hurt yourself and have a very painful journey in the process.

So for this reason we must examine cyclic existence. We must examine the condition of sentient beings, and we must examine our own condition in order to truly turn our minds toward Dharma.  Once we have seen the faults of cyclic existence and seen the good results of understanding, of growing in understanding, and the joyfulness of virtuous and moral and ethical conduct and compassion, we will develop the habit of wanting to know, of opening the mind, of having the mind be very much like a bowl, a very pure thing in which nectar can be poured.  We will crave information.  We will crave practice.  We will literally crave turning on the light so that we can understand.  If we do not crave now, if we wish to remain in ignorance and darkness because it is easier or because we like being drunk, it is simply because it is our habit to do so and that does not excuse us from the need to change.

Develop a new habit.  You can see that that young person who partied down and worshipped the porcelain god every weekend morning, literally is watching their well-being go down. We on the outside can see that that needs to change, but that person, in the flux of their own ignorance, cannot see that that needs to change.  So I am pointing these things out to you so that you can make new and acceptable decisions in your lifetime so that you can actually turn your mind toward Dharma.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

Astrology for 3/31/2017

3/31/2017 Friday by Norma

You have one more chance to yell slogans and plead your cause today. Speak your mind early as finances and business will require your attention later. During the course of the day things settle down and mental activity becomes more stable and less inflamed. Looking for a raise? Try this afternoon or tomorrow, ask earlier and you’ll hear multiple reasons why it’s not in the cards. Someone who is
unavailable will appear in time so be patient. John Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” An early purchase is a stroke of luck, partnership is excellent and an agreement or resolution of a long standing dispute is at hand. All you have to do is wait.

Cultivating Compassion

A-man-with-a-hangover-007

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

It is not foreign to our nature, and it is also not separate from the goal that we wish to achieve by practicing in this way, for us to give rise to the great Bodhicitta, or the great compassion.  The way that that is done on the Buddhist path is to consider that our own goals and the goals of sentient beings are indistinguishable, that they are nondual.  That is to say that our goal to practice in order to achieve liberation, is inseparable from the goal of sentient beings.  They also have the goal of practicing in order to achieve liberation.  Not all of them know it, in the same way that some of you don’t know it either.  You may think you know it, or you may know that you don’t know it, but many of you are still at the party, not growing out of the party, not grown up and looking back and saying “Oh, that won’t do me much good.”

You remember that situation that you found yourself in as you were growing up?  When you were a young person you had a few knockdown drag out parties, didn’t you?  I mean the kind where, at some point in your life, you probably got drunk.  Nobody makes a sound, like “Drunk?  What is that?”  At some point in your life you probably were out of control, just party down, not thinking straight, doing things that were compulsive and obsessive and not appropriate and not healthy for you, not good for your well-being—unthinking, deluded things.  This is something that we have all experienced, but particularly in the case of when we were younger, we would party hearty. And if you think about it, if any of you have done that, and I’m sure that one or two of you have, you may remember that once you’ve partied hearty, there was a period of regret afterwards, and that was primarily the next day.  Of course the, how shall I say, the cure for that is, of course, prostrations to the porcelain god; and with all of that, one comes to understand that one is literally destroying oneself, that there is no hope for happiness from doing that to oneself.  After doing that repeatedly, we tend to grow up after a while.  We tend to be unwilling to put ourselves through that kind of stuff again.

So that happens to us spiritually too. We go through the same compulsive obsessive behavior with no good result. And at some point, either through our own good fortune, through our own gathering together of merit which causes literally a kind of smarts arising in the mind, or through the instruction of our teacher, we can begin to realize that what we are doing makes no sense.  It simply makes no sense.  It is destructive.  It is painful, and it is not pleasant.  So that is the stage in which we find ourselves turning our mind towards Dharma.

What we have to realize in order to give rise to the compassion, to the great Bodhicitta, is that this is true of all of us, not just you.  If you have come to this realization, that it’s time to turn the mind towards Dharma, then what of those who have not yet come to that realization?  They are still putting themselves through that.  They are still acting in a destructive way that disintegrates their spiritual strength.  They are acting in such a way that literally brings them suffering.  What of them?  Perhaps you have heard the good word, but what of them?  Who will help them?  And so we develop a sense of compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 3/30/2017

3/30/2017 Thursday by Norma

Women, children and domestic issues take the lead today and they outperform vigorous activity and assertive talk, which is loud but ineffectual. Financial matters are important and you must listen to your common sense, not the person yelling slogans and making demands. Finances are volatile and it’s time to watch your money. Joseph Addison said, “There is nothing more requisite in business than dispatch.” Count your change and mind the store today. A diplomat knocks at a door that will not open, and persuasive arguments or pleas go unheard so redirect your energy toward successful ventures: reconciling past loves, shopping, and medical treatments.

Qualifications for Receiving Teachings

Hermitage

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

If you’re one of those lucky people who is about to embark on a journey to either a monastery in India or a monastery in Tibet where you can study the texts and receive the teachings that we as Americans literally cannot receive because they have not been translated or they are not available in this country…  If you are one of those fortunate people that can go and do that and you will learn to practice by studying Tibetan and you will literally become a Tibetan in that environment even though you will be an American, you will completely change your life into that space. If you are able to do that, perhaps it’s not so important for you to study Phowa right now.  Of course that’s assuming that you’ll live long enough to complete all of your practices.  There are a lot of assumptions we’re counting on here, aren’t there! So at any rate, if you’re one of those people, then you may not need to practice Phowa in order to attain liberation in this lifetime.

We are also assuming that you have the karmic setup, and that you are literally wired in order to be able to achieve liberation in this lifetime, because it is also the case that there are people who can come into contact with the entire volume of what is available, every single essential pith teaching, every single possible cause for realization that we are able to come into contact with, and literally they cannot go in.  The intake button is broken. The student cannot hear it. And eventually, because they cannot hear it, they will leave Dharma.  They will go away from it.  They will have to go away from it because they cannot stand to be in that presence.  Karmically they are not prepared to be in the presence of such teaching, of such potent teaching.  They will remove themselves.  They will simply remove themselves.  That’s simply how it is.

So, all of these things being the case, it sounds reasonable and sensible, does it not, to practice Phowa in order to take advantage of the most extraordinary opportunity in order to achieve the result at a time that seems reasonable to us.  It does not seem reasonable to us to practice now for a result that may not ripen for another thousand years, our time.  Ten thousand years, our time.  We’re not motivated for that, but we can understand the positive result of practicing in order to achieve liberation in one lifetime.

Now, in order to be qualified to have these teachings, there are two things that must happen.  First of all we must establish the proper motivation, and this is something we hear about again and again and again.  How many flavors can ice cream come in?  But this proper motivation absolutely makes it possible for you to receive the teaching.  With no proper motivation, the teaching is very much like seed falling on stone.  It will not take root.  It will not blossom.  There will be no result through no fault of the seed, but through the fault of the ground on which the seed is placed.   So having the proper motivation is of the utmost importance, and for that reason I want to take some time to explain.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, our own nature is not inconsistent with the Bodhicitta or what we call the great compassion.  The Bodhicitta is actually the true nature of our mind in its emanation or display form. So you can consider that our nature is, in a nondual way, wisdom, or emptiness, and method or Bodhicitta, compassion.  These things are our nature.

The way that our language works is because of the way our dualistic thinking works.  We have to mention emptiness as being separate from method.  We have to mention wisdom as being separate from Bodhicitta because of the way our minds work—because of our internal separation, because of our delusion, our belief in the separation between self and other, between subjective and objective.  But in truth, that primordial wisdom nature which is emptiness, which is wisdom, is inseparable from that which is method, from that which is the display, Bodhicitta or compassion.  It is inseparable in the same way that, on a coin, one side is inseparable from the other.  You cannot use a coin without using both sides.  You cannot take a coin in your hand without using both sides.  These are inseparable.  They are nondual.  They are indistinguishable from one another and yet, typical of our delusion and indicative of our delusion, we make distinction between that which is in truth not distinguishable.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 3/29/2017

3/29/2017 Wednesday by Norma

Today all the thinking you’ve done falls into place, and inventiveness combines with wisdom to create the perfect result. Miles Kingston said, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” Everyone wants to be the leader and nobody wants to follow, so plan to go it alone unless you have an army of like minded people with you. Similarly, everyone wants to be a participant and nobody wants to be an observer so don’t expect others to cheer you on. The task of the day is to use your energy in positive ventures, ones that generate good results.

How Keeping Commitments Fuels the Path

The following is an excerpt from a teaching given by Khenpo Tenzin Norgay at Kunzang Palyul Choling. In this excerpt Khenpo Norgay discusses how rare the opportunity to practice is, and how holding the vows assists practitioners in accomplishing both their own benefit and the benefit of others:

 

Astrology for 3/28/2017

3/28/2017 Tuesday by Norma

Everyone’s driving fast, moving fast and talking fast. Make way if you’re in the mood to dawdle, this is not a good day to personally uphold the speed limit or slow things down. John Thompson said, “It’s my inalienable right to drive 55 miles an hour in the fast lane, it’s the speed limit!” To follow this reasoning, to block others in any way, is similar to jumping in front of a moving train today. Please don’t, instead use the rambunctious peppiness to finish your project and help others with theirs. Virtually any activity that requires an output of energy is favorable today.

Astrology for 3/27/2017

3/27/2017 Monday by Norma

Things get off to a slow start today so take your time getting going, do nothing quickly. Once you are fully awake and charged up, put your recent ideas into play. This is an incredibly creative time and it’s important not to let the opportunity slip away. Writing a novel, digging a ditch, protesting? Go for it! Mars energy can go two ways: into productive activity, or into contentiousness. If you notice you’re in the wrong place with people, redirect yourself into a productive direction. This is a dream day for athletes, steel workers, police, boxers and any activity requiring strength and assertiveness. George C. Scott said, “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.”

Meditation on Impartiality: Patrul Rinpoche

Dza_Patrul_Rinpoche_500W

The following is respectfully quoted from “The Words of My Perfect Teacher” by Patrul Rinpoche

1. Meditation on impartiality

Impartiality (tang nyom in Tibetan) means giving up (tang) our hatred for enemies and infatuation with friends, and having an even-minded (nyom) attitude towards all beings, free of attachment to those close to us and aversion for those who are distant.

As things are now, we are very attached to those we think of as part of our own group–father and mother, relatives and so on–while we feel an intolerable aversion towards our enemies and those associated with them. This is a mistake, and comes from a lack of investigation.

In former lives, those whom we now consider our enemies have surely been close to us, ever lovingly at our side, looking after us with goodwill and giving us unimaginable help and support. Conversely, many of those whom we now call friends have certainly been against us and done us harm. As we saw in the chapter on impermanence, this is illustrated by the words of the sublime Kātyāyana:

He eats his father’s flesh, beats his mother off,
He dandles on his lap his own unfortunate enemy;
The wife is gnawing at her husband’s bones.
I laugh to see what happens in samsāra’s show!

Another example is the story of Princess Pema Sel, daughter of the Dharma King Trisong Detsen. When she died at the age of seventeen, her father went to ask Guru Rinpoche how such a thing could happen.

“I would have thought that my daughter must have been someone with pure past actions,” said the king. “She was born as the daughter of King Trisong Detsun. She met all of you translators and pandits, who are like real Buddhas. So how can it be that her life was nevertheless so short?”

“It was not at all because of any pure past deeds that the princess was born as your daughter,” the Master replied. “Once I, Padma, you, the great Dharma King, and the great Bodhisattva Abbot had been born as three low-caste boys. We were building the Great Stūpa of Jarung Khashor. At that time the princess had taken birth as an insect, which stung you on the neck. Brushing off with your hand, you accidentally killed it. Because of the debt you incurred in taking that life, the insect was reborn as your daughter.”

If even the children of Dharma King Trisong Detsun, who was Mañjuśrī in person, could be born to him in that way as a result of his past actions, what can one say about other beings?

At present we are closely linked with our parents and children. We feel great affection for them and have incredible aspirations for them. When they suffer, or anything undesirable happens to them, we are more upset than we would be if such things had happened to us personally. All this is simply the repayment of debts for the harm we have done each other in past lives.

Of all the people who are now our enemies, there is not one who has not been our father or mother in the course of all our previous lives. Even now, the fact that we consider them to be against us does not necessarily mean that they are actually doing us any harm. There are some we think of as opponents who, from their side, do not see us in that way at all. Others might feel that they are our enemies but are quite incapable of doing us any real harm. There are also people who at the moment seem to be harming us, but in the long term what they are doing to us might bring us recognition and appreciation in this life, or make us turn to the Dharma and thus bring us much benefit and happiness. yet others, if we can skillfully adapt to their characters and win them over with gentle words until we reach some agreement, might quite easily turn into friends.

On the other hand there are all those whom we normally consider closest to us–our children, for example. But there are sons and daughters who have cheated or even murdered their parents, and join forces with them to quarrel with their own family and plunder their wealth. Even we we get along well with those who are dear to us, their sorrows and problems actually affect us even more strongly than our own difficulties. In order to help our friends, our children and other relatives, we pile up great waves of negative actions which will sweep us into the hells in our next life. When we really want to practise the Dharma properly they hold us back. Unable to give up our obsession with parents, children, and family, we keep putting off Dharma practice until later, and so never find the time for it. In short, such people may harm us even more than our enemies.

What is more, there is no guarantee that those we consider adversaries today will not be our children in future lives, or that our purest friends will not be reborn as our enemies, and so on. It is only because we take these fleeing perceptions of “friend” and “enemy” as real that we accumulate negative actions through attachment and hatred. Why do we hold on to this millstone which will drag us down into the lower realms?

Make a firm decision, therefore, to see all infinite beings as your own parents and children. Then, like the great beings of the past whose lives we can read about, consider all friends and enemies as the same.

First, towards all those you do not like at all–those who arouse anger and hatred in you–train your mind by various means so that the anger and hatred you feel no longer arise. Think of them as you would of someone neutral, who does you neither good nor harm. Then reflect that the innumerable beings to whom you feel neutral have been your father or mother sometime during your past lives throughout time without beginning. Meditate on this theme, training yourself until you feel the same love for them you do for your present parents. Finally, meditate until you feel the same compassion towards all beings–whether you see them as friends, enemies or in between–as you do for your own parents.

Now, it is no substitute for boundless impartiality just to think of everybody, friends, enemies, as the same, without any particular feeling of compassion, hatred or whatever. This is mindless impartiality, and brings neither harm nor benefit. The image given for truly boundless impartiality is a banquet given by a great sage. When the great sages of old offered feasts they would invite everyone, high or low, powerful or weak, good or bad, exceptional or ordinary, without making any distinction whatsoever. Likewise, our attitude toward all beings throughout space should be a vast feeling of compassion, encompassing them all equally. Train your mind until you reach such a state of boundless impartiality.

2. Meditation on love

Through meditating on boundless impartiality as described, you come to regard all beings of the three worlds with the same great love. The love that you feel for all fo them should be like that of parents taking care of their young children. They ignore all their children’s ingratitude and all the difficulties involved, devoting their every thought, word and deed entirely to making their little ones happy, comfortable and cosy. Likewise, in this life and in all your future lives, devote everything you do, say or think to the well-being and happiness of all beings.

Al those beings are striving for happiness and comfort. They all want to be happy and comfortable; not one of them wants to be unhappy or to suffer. Yet they do not understand that the cause of happiness is positive actions, and instead give themselves over to the ten negative actions. Their deepest wishes and their actions are therefore at odds: in their attempts to find happiness, they only bring suffering upon themselves.

Over and over again, meditate on the thought of how wonderful it would be if each one of those beings could have all the happiness and comfort they wish. Meditate on it until you want others to be happy just as intensely as you want to be happy yourself.

The sūtras speak of “loving actions of body, loving actions of speech, loving actions of mind.” What this means is that everything you say with your mouth or do with your hands, instead of being harmful to others, should be straightforward and kind. As it says in The way of the Bodhisattva:

Whenever catching sight of others
Look on them with open, loving heart.

Even when you simply look at someone else, let that look be smiling and pleasant rather than an aggressive glare or some expression of anger. There are stories about this, like the one about the powerful ruler who glared at everyone with a very wrathful look. It is said that he was reborn as a preta living on left-overs under the stove of a house, and after that, because he had also looked at a holy being in that way, he was reborn in hell.

Whatever actions you do with your body, try to do them gently and pleasantly, endeavoring not to harm others but to help them. Your speech should not express such attitudes as contempt, criticism or jealousy. Make every single word you say pleasant and true. As for your mental attitude, when you help others do not wish for anything good in return. Do not be a hypocrite and try to make other people see you as a Bodhisattva because of your kind words and actions. Siply wish for others’ happiness from the bottom of your heat and only consider what would be most beneficial for them. Pray again and again with these words: “Throughout all my lives, may I never harm so much as a single hair on another being’s head, and may I always help each of them.”

It is particularly important to avoid making anyone under your authority suffer, by beating them, forcing them to work too hard and so on. This applies to your servants and also to your animals, right down to the humblest watchdog. Always, under all circumstances, be kind to them in thought, word and deed. To be reborn as a servant, or as a watchdog, for that matter, and to be despised and looked down upon by everyone, is the maturation of the effects of past actions. It is the reciprocal effect of having despised and looked down on others while in a position of power in a past life. If you now despite others because of your own power and wealth, you will repay that debt in some future time by being reborn as their servants. So be especially kind to those in a lower position than yourself.

Anything you can do physically, verbally or mentally to help your own parents, or those suffering from chronic ill health, will bring inconceivable benefits. Jowo Atīsa says:

To be kind to those who have come from afar, to those who have been ill for a long time, or to our parents in their old age, is equivalent to meditating on emptiness of which compassion is the very essence.

Our parents have shown us such immense love and kindness that to upset them in their old age would be an extremely negative act. The Buddha himself, to repay his mother’s kindness, went to the Heaven of the Thirty-three to teach her the Dharma. It is said that even if we were to serve our parents by carrying them around the whole world on our shoulders, it would still not repay their kindness. However, can can repay that kindness by introducing them to the Buddha’s teaching. So always serve your parents in thought, word and deed, and try to find ways to bring them to the Dharma.