Practice

AS-x-21 Charlie Grant-M

The following is an excerpt from a teaching offered by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered during a Phowa retreat:

I want to remind you. For many people, when they come to a retreat, the teaching section, to them, is the most important section. I can see why: Because you have to have commentary teaching; you have to have instruction.  It is that instruction which prepares the mind and ripens the mind. And you have to be in the presence of your root guru in order for the mind to ripen. It simply will not ripen without that. So this is necessary. Plus, teaching is more entertaining. You know, we’re listening, and it’s interesting. So we think the teaching is the superior part of the retreat. Some of us may think, “Well, I’ll come to the teaching but I won’t come to the practice.” Don’t do that. Because while receiving this teaching is the first step and it will help you to recognize that you at least are in a bardo, and you may remember some of the things that I’m teaching you now while you’re in the bardo, the likelihood that you’re going to even remember what I’m saying now ten years from now is not so good. What has to be accomplished in Phowa practice is the practice. When you die, you won’t be doing this practice. You’ll be dying. You will be Phowa-ing for sure, but you won’t be practicing this practice. You will be dying. Get that.

The reason why you want to practice this practice now is because it’s the only chance you’ll have. You need to practice this practice until we receive the desired result: You become familiar with the images; you become entrusting of the images. You create the virtue and karmic connection within this; you gather the virtue and create the karmic connection with Amitabha; you create the karmic connection with this state. But most of all, you need to do the practice because the practice is going to purify your inner channels.

Now, once again, none of you are perfect visualizers, so you’re given a general visualization. That’s all Westerners are ever given. Did you know that? That’s all we are ever given, because there are extensive visualizations for every practice. Every practice has an extensive visualization, an intermediate visualization, and a condensed visualization. The extensive visualization is for people in retreat that have extraordinary capabilities for practice. We don’t even have that capability. There are many people that don’t even consider that they can visualize at all. So we are given a very condensed, abbreviated visualization, and even that you’re not going to be able to visualize clearly. Naljorma, the inner channel, Lord Buddha Amitabha, the little disc, all of that together is a big load to visualize, particularly for those of us who have not locked ourselves into a cave anytime in the last decade in order to visualize. But that’s not the point. Again, trust in your spiritual mentor.

If it were left up to the attributes of the sentient beings to accomplish Dharma, there would be no accomplishment of Dharma, because the Catch 22 is that as sentient beings we don’t have those qualities. It is only through the implementation of the path that we begin to awaken to our nature, that we are in touch with those sorts of qualities. So we’re not depending on your good qualities. You are depending on the good qualities of your teachers. And then eventually others will depend on your good qualities. That’s how it goes.

So, you can do the visualization as simply and as profoundly as you are capable of doing. Relax your mind. Do not allow your mind to become tense if you forget one aspect of the visualization. The tension is more detrimental to your practice than the absence of visualization. So rather than becoming tense, do not make a big deal. Don’t be such heavy breathers. Lighten up. Just relax. Do what you can. If all you can visualize is the tube, the jump, and the intention, and maybe even just knowing that Lord Buddha Amitabha, because of what I have said, is the kindest and most motherly, in a sense, of all the Buddhas—that confidence. You know, we pride ourselves on being so sophisticated: We’ve gone to school; we can think anything through; we are so proud of our Piled Higher ‘n Deeper little pieces of paper and all that stuff. We’re just so proud of that. And yet, here, in this case, if you can’t visualize, and you don’t have a brain of a goose, which I’m not sure any of us do, if you don’t have any kind of brains whatsoever, I mean, nothin’, (I get New York-y when I do this, I’m sorry, it sneaks up on me!), but common sense is common sense. Let’s think about this. If you don’t have the brains of a flea, and all you have is the simple trust that an infant would have when they cry and they have learned and they know that their mother will answer, that is superior to the kind of mind that’s going, “Let’s see now. What color was Wuma, and what color Amitabha? Oh, he’s red. Now what shade of red?” We have to know these things. And let’s see, “How is he facing, and where was his leg?” And that sort of thing. And that heavy energy that you’re using to fixate yourself in the mud of your own ego clinging is not very useful. So, drop it. Better to have the simple image, simple intention, and innocent visualization of a child who knows its mother will answer their cry. That will get you into Dewachen a heck of a lot faster than trying to be correct. Okay?

So remember that your spiritual guides, the teachers that give you these practices, do not expect you to be Buddhas now. It is not to be hoped for that you will do this practice excellently, but it is to be hoped for that you will do it with confidence and faith. Even if you cannot visualize at all, the simple intention is helpful. So you try to do the best that you can, and the more you visualize the more you learn. The easiest are the singular visualizations like this, where you have one character, then on top there’s another character, but basically you just have, in one line, two main characters. There are many practices where you have so many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that you have to visualize so many different things. This is meant to be very simple. At the time of your death you may not even have the where-with-all to visualize anything, because, remember, as the elements begin to dissolve, those qualities which  go to make up the kind of consciousness that can visualize will also be dissolving, and at that time you will have only your former training. When you actually do practice your final Phowa, when it is time to die, you will be relying on the training that you’re doing now. So this training you should do with faith, simplicity, strength of purpose, conviction, pure intention to benefit beings. Those are the things that matter. And the simple doing of the practice, the simple moving of the winds through the central channel, with the intention of devotion toward Amitabha, and understanding, this is the result that cleans out the central channel. And that’s what you want. Because when you get ready to die, you will need that central channel cleaned out.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 5/31/2017

5/31/2017 Wednesday by Norma

Take prompt action and a prize is yours for the taking today. Sign papers, negotiate contracts, make your deal and move on. Two modes are a factor today: one is exciting, rambunctious and flashy, the second is careful thoughtful and shrewd. Use both for good results. A wild-appearing person gives the best advice you’ll ever hear. Don’t be fooled by appearances today. Daniel Bernstein said, “Just because it’s automatic doesn’t mean it works.” Partnership is wonderful, thinking is solid and physical activity is highlighted today. Keep moving!

Voyage to Recognition

An excerpt from the teaching called Awakening from Non-recognition by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

In this time of intense confusion called Kaliyuga, when our being’s discursive mind and thoughts run rampant and out of control, when even the reality that we are projecting onto our environment becomes progressively more and more decadent—in this day and time Vajrayana has appeared in the world. According to the teachings of Guru Rinpoche, Vajrayana is the best practice for this time, the most potent and most powerful. It relies on a very strong ripening. It relies on the very condition of Kaliyuga, when things become more and more contracted. Yet the obstacle that we face—and here’s where we need to prepare for our lives and for our deaths—is that we do not understand the Guru Yoga. We do not understand why we should practice it or how it might lead to this moment of recognition.

Yes, we want to awaken. We want to move into a state of recognition once we understand what the concept means. But we don’t want to practice Guru Yoga because in our materialistic society we have negative programming concerning some ideas about Guru Yoga. We are brought up in a democratic society, in a materialistic society, and we learn certain rules that we apply wrongly to this situation.

Now I think these rules are good. These rules teach us that we should think for ourselves, that we should be independent. You could not get anyone in this world to agree with that more than me. I am a Brooklyn girl, and I do not believe in following anything blindly. I do believe that to be strictly dogmatic, with no understanding and no ability to determine for oneself what is true and what is right, is completely absurd. I agree with the Buddha’s teaching, plain and simple, although that’s an arrogant thing to say. If I didn’t, what would it matter? But I do. The Buddha taught us that we should determine everything for ourselves, but we apply this wrongly. I am going to talk about how we should apply this process to the practice of Guru Yoga.

In the practice of Guru Yoga, we should think for ourselves, we should be smart people, we should not go brain dead, we should not blindly follow the leader. We should not think that this is simply a translation of another religion where you just do lots of prostrations and act like you’re brain dead around your teacher and go completely limp in your head, saying, “I believe! I believe! Save me, I believe!” In our religion, if you do that, there won’t be much result. So I don’t recommend doing that because in our religion we believe in cause and effect relationships.  In order to achieve that state of recognition, one has to apply the causes that will produce that result—in the same way that, if one wants an apple, one has to plant an apple seed that will grow into an apple tree. Until we develop replicators like they have on Star Trek, there’s no other way to get an apple. I have no idea how they’re going to teach Dharma once we have replicators, because we have been taught that the seed always produces the fruit.

In order to accomplish this state of recognition, this precious, awakened state, we have to have practiced, and applied the causes by which the mind is ripened and ready for such a thing. One doesn’t do that by simply being a good little boy or girl or by being a spiritual person meek and mild. It is through practicing, and one such practice is the Guru Yoga. When done correctly, it can lead to this result of recognition. Now the practice of Guru Yoga is not one of submission to another person’s will or acting as though you are a nobody and the teacher is a somebody, or acting as though you’re a kid and the teacher is mama, or simply following things around in some sort of mindless way. But rather, in the appropriate practice of Guru Yoga, there are certain determinations that one must make.

There is a whole long list of ways to understand this, but Americans don’t do well with grocery lists. We don’t remember them. We get bored and we move onto something else, like wondering if we left the oatmeal boiling on the stove this morning. So let’s look at it this way. When we first meet with our teacher and grapple with the idea of practicing Guru Yoga, it is not about some sort of emotional display of dropping to your knees and never having a normal thought in your head again. It’s not like that. It’s not some sort of funny, emotional, weird, dumb thing. Instead, it is a determination for oneself: What is this relationship? What does it provide, as opposed to what other relationships in my life provide?

Different relationships supply as many different things as there are relationships. Some supply sorrow and difficulty. Some supply support and happiness. Some supply nurturing. Some supply financial help. There are relationships where there is a back and forth, giving and receiving, but everything that is given or received—even affection, even human caring—arises from the world, from samsara. You think to yourself, “Well love? I don’t know about love. Love doesn’t.”  The kind of love you’re talking about in ordinary human relationships absolutely arises from samsara, even the best parts of it, because a lot of it has to do with chemistry. A lot of it has to do with karmic fitting together. We don’t even understand how animal-like we are. A lot of it has to do with pheromones, all kinds of things that are absolutely worldly, and they come together to create a certain feeling. A feeling is also something that is a worldly experience.

Although our relationship with our teacher may be cloaked or surrounded by experiences that are in relationship to or in accordance with our senses—we will see our teacher, our teacher may hand us something that’s physical, we will have emotional experiences and reactions concerning our teacher—yet there is something different going on.

The teacher provides you with a way to connect with our ultimate teacher, with the Buddha, with Guru Rinpoche, with the entire lineage of lamas—all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Through the relationship with our teacher, through empowerment, wind transmission (or lüng), and commentary teachings that ripen and direct our minds, we become familiar with the Buddha. Outwardly, that seems to be the physical manifestation of the Buddha as we have heard about the Buddha in history. Inwardly, it is a gradual familiarity with our own nature that is Buddha.

The teacher provides us with the path, the method—not the method to go from one side of the room to the other, not the method to make lasagne, not the method to brew a cup of tea, not anything ordinary that you can learn in the world, but the method that is Dharma practice and the necessary understanding and deepening that goes with it. This method that is Dharma practice is not ordinary because it arises from the mind of the Buddha. Therefore, in the relationship with the teacher there is something happening that is not of the world. It is extraordinary. You can’t get it anywhere else. Particularly in relationship to one’s own root guru there is a nourishment — the recognition that this teacher speaks my language, speaks to me.  This teacher enables my inner recognition, matures and ripens my mind so that I can hear, and not just theoretically. That’s the particular relationship that happens between oneself and one’s root guru.

Also, this teacher is the one who hooks us. This is very valuable and potent. Although life will hook us, alcohol will hook us, sex will hook us, food will hook us, TV will hook us, Star Trek will hook us, X-files will hook us, Christmas will hook us, love will hook us, lots of stuff will hook us, these are all things that can be found in the world.

When the teacher hooks us, what is coming into play is recognition of the nature as Buddha, the appearance of the path. This hook is about things that are not ordinary, things that are not of this world. What is the result that the teacher offers, desires for you, tries to communicate to you as being important? That you’ll be a good cook? That you’ll be pretty? That you’ll be healthy? That you’ll be fit? That you’ll be rich? That you’ll be a good artist? That you’ll learn how to use the computer? I wish all those things for you. I hope the Bluebird of Happiness nests in your armpits never to leave again. The teacher wants you to have every temporary happiness, but that isn’t what’s happening here.

What is happening here? The result that is desired, that is implemented by this relationship, is the result of your recognition of awakening. You have to look at this for yourself. You can’t just listen to me and go, “OK, I see what you’re saying.” You have to do it in your head. I can’t get into your head.

All of the rules that you have about ordinary relationships should not apply here anymore because you determine that this is something different. This relationship is not in the ordinary category. It does not arise from the world. It does not necessarily bring the result of worldly gain, although virtuous activity always brings about better things, but that’s not the plan here. As I said, every teacher, every Bodhisattva wishes you to be happy, but the result that we are about together as student and teacher is that of recognition, of awakening. Once you’ve determined that this is a different category, please don’t be a dummy, going on like a beast of burden that simply cannot think things through and cannot change your habitual tendencies. Don’t engage in this relationship within an ordinary context because it simply won’t work, and you won’t receive the blessing.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Astrology for 5/30/2017

5/30/2017 Tuesday by Norma

Avoid saying the wrong thing today and avoid making an impulse purchase that you’ll regret later. Do spend as much time as possible with a partner discussing business options and making deals. Go deeper in your thinking, consider factors beyond prestige in financial matters and you will make excellent investments. Long term plans are favored now and beneath the surface items matter most these days. Look for the foundation or structure in any situation ignore the cosmetics and you won’t go wrong. Pat Riley said, “Don’t let other people tel you what you want.” Magnetic people and things appear today, keep an eye out for them. The news from afar is troubling and it’s best to handle the things you directly control and let the rest go.

Astrology for 5/30/2017

5/30/2017 Tuesday by Norma

Avoid saying the wrong thing today and avoid making an impulse purchase that you’ll regret later. Do spend as much time as possible with a partner discussing business options and making deals. Go deeper in your thinking, consider factors beyond prestige in financial issues and you will make excellent choices. Long term plans are favored and beneath-the-surface matters are more important than cosmetic or superficial items. Work on the the structure or foundation of things, ignore the rest and you won’t go wrong. Pat Riley said, “Don’t let other people tell you what you want.” Magnetic people appear today, keep an eye out for them. The news from afar is troubling and it’s best to handle what is under your direct control and let the rest go.

Astrology for 5/29/2017

5/29/2017 Monday by Norma

The moon enters Leo today, bringing flash and zip to everything. Confidence is on the menu and you’re able to fly through the day with a smile on your face, toes tapping. Use your curiosity and intelligence to imagine future plans as an obstacle has been cleared and you now know what you need to do to move ahead successfully. A fortunate communication comes and love is on the horizon. Confucius said, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” It’s a holiday, but an excellent financial deal is in the works. Accept an offer that comes. Friendship is highlighted today as well as groups, so attend a party, a barbecue, a get together and you’ll have a ball.

Cultivating Virtue, Pacifying Poisons


From a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

I have always felt a good way to purify rage, is to film oneself doing it. How even an attractive person becomes ugly, and repulsive.

If one cannot give respect, one will never receive respect. All people have the right to dignity and respect.

If one lies, is unethical, hurtful, selfish, causing harm, one cannot expect to ever be truly happy!

To meditate, recite Dharma, practice kindness, generosity, to teach Dharma in order to increase the Sangha, this is meritorious, happiness follows.

If one resents or is angered or jealous of others prosperity or funds…They will never have enough, and their bank will be empty.

Rage is an addiction. It must be immediately pacified so the habit will not escalate, thereby making progress on the path.

I find if one reacts to rage with goodness, a kind heart, and compassion, one remains untouched and joyful!

If one lies, is unethical, hurtful, selfish, causing harm, one cannot expect to ever be truly happy!  If one is often sick or very sick the best remedy is loving, kindness, helping others who are sick, and praying for all beings to be free of suffering.

To those whose past is a harsh burden I say – you can change! With effort and cultivating a wholesome and loving mind!

Never gossip. It will always come around and smack one in the head. And one’s storehouse of merit will be lost. Most non-virtue is habitual, so one can only change from the inside. Be persistent and brave! Soon one’s whole life will transform!

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Astrology for 5/28/2017

5/28/2017 Sunday by Norma

A dream or observation early in the day gives clarity for what comes later. Use your rational mind, not not your emotions, to make financial decisions and you will avoid impulsively buying the Brooklyn Bridge (“The sales pitch was so touching!!”), or committing yourself to something you’ll have to back out of later. Dress well and move quickly today to avoid getting stuck in one place or with one person too long. Rumi said, “You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?” What’s good today? Exciting adventures, meeting interesting people and making new discoveries. A leader who has been sidelined or staying behind the scenes is preparing to re-emerge, be ready! When that happens you’ll learn who is in charge and who has been an interim leader.

Understanding Our Root Guru

I agree wholeheartedly with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa when he says it is most important to keep one’s samaya with the root Guru. I was once told a story where a dedicated and educated practitioner emerged after several years of retreat and went to his Lineage Master to complain of his lack of progress.

The Guru sent the retreatant back to the cave, saying five more years were needed. In five years this happened again. This time the Guru said, concentrate on the Root Guru!  So the practitioner went back for five more years. Still almost no result! No Bodhicitta, no Wisdom or Recognition. The Guru then shouted, “You did not meditate on your root Guru!”

“Well,” said student “I most certainly did.”  The High Lama said, “I am not your root Guru! I am one of your teachers and you favor me because I have a high throne! That makes you feel that you certainly are high yourself!”

The great lama in his clarity and mercy said, “You fool! The old poor Ani who fed, raised and dressed you also taught you the four contemplations that turn the mind to Dharma, as well as Bodhicitta, the Four Noble Truths, including the Eight-Fold Path! How stupid and arrogant to think you must have the highest Lama! Such pride! A downfall! So go back and meditate on mixing your mind with that old ragged Ani. She is your Tsawei Lama and was also a wisdom Dakini. Her Qualities were peerless, sublime! But pride has closed your eyes.” Then with fury he cast the practitioner away, saying, “Come back when you have thrown away your pride.”

Five years later the retreatant returned with gifts and prostrations. He was, much to the delight of the Great Lama, awake. He had mixed his mind with his true Guru, had given rise to pure Bodhicitta, and had no pride.

Both the Great Lama and the disciple rejoiced together, and could hear the joyous cries of the wisdom Dakini throughout the entire monastery- Kye Ho!

So the Root Guru only needs to be awakened herself, be able to communicate, and have lineage teachings to pass on. “High Seats” are another issue entirely.  It is that one who hooks and aligns you with pure Dharma, connects you with method and result who is the true Root Guru. Praise to the Root of Accomplishment!

Astrology for 5/27/2017

5/27/2017 Saturday by Norma

Take nothing head-on today, instead use a circuitous route, one that goes around a problem. Mars wants to run a barrier but this you should not do. Back up if you meet a road block. You’ll make a sentimental journey back to a time, place or person that changed your life. Shunryu Suzuki remarked that tears came out of his eyes, nose and mouth when he visited his mother monastery in Japan and he was surprised by the emotion he felt. Everyone has something to say and it’s necessary to set limits to ensure everyone gets their chance to interact. This is an excellent time for sensitive meetings, conversations that solve problems, artistic and creative activities and financial decisions.