The Foundation of Devotion

Guru Rinpoche

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Experiencing The Hook of Compassion”

Now I’m going to dive into the adult portion of our teaching, but you might have gotten something out of the children’s portion even though we’re adults, and some of us are even past 38. It looks like maybe some of us might be, and we’ve already learned some bad habits. Don’t we still move through whole passages in our lives when we just forget that we can be of benefit? We just move through and live in a way that’s relatively meaningless. We simply move through time, marking time by births, deaths, and anniversaries and summer reruns, and all kinds of things that are really pretty insignificant. We too can take hold of our lives and really become firm-, really practice accordingly.

So in the Buddhist tradition, particularly in Vajrayana, there is a kind of practice that is called devotional practice, and devotional practice has many components. But one particularly meaningful and important component is that one develops a relationship of pure devotion with one’s guru, with one’s teacher. In the Vajrayana tradition, the teacher is considered to be like the door of liberation because, even though there has been a Buddha on the earth and there has been the Buddhist teaching, even though the teaching is written in the books, even though there are many ways in which you can approach the Buddhadharma, it’s really, according to Vajrayana tradition, just about impossible to enter into the Path, into the meat of the Path, into the thick of the Path without the blessing of the teacher.

The lama is considered to be the blessing that is inherent in the Path. The lama is necessary for empowerment; the lama is necessary for transmission; the lama is necessary for teaching; the lama is necessary to make a bridge. Almost like the lama is the nurse that administers the medicine. The doctor might prescribe, the doctor might be considered the Buddha; but the lama is considered to be the nurse that actually administers the medicine while we ourselves may be too weak or too unaware to be able to hold onto the medicine or take it into our own mouths without some help. In Vajrayana tradition, from the very most preliminary practice to the very most superior practice, there is a devotional aspect to every practice that is done; and that is considered to be the vehicle or the means by which the blessing is actually transmitted.

In preliminary practice, there is actually a section of devotional yoga, guru yoga. This is something that is widespread not only in our particular tradition, but is widespread across all the traditions in Vajrayana Buddhism— the tradition of calling the lama, beseeching the lama, of invoking the lama’s blessing. Now in our particular Ngöndro, we have a beautiful passage, a beautiful song of invocation, called “Calling the Lama from Afar.” It has a very haunting melody and it’s done with one’s heart. Actually the recommendation is that one should do it until tears arise in one’s eyes. One should do that in order to soften the ego, in order to soften the mind and to make the mind like a bowl that is turned up, not turned over, hard, you know, and unable to receive any blessing; but a bowl that is turned up that doesn’t have any poison or dirt in the bottom of it, that’s kept purely; so that when the nectar comes in, it won’t be mixed with the poison or dirt. And it isn’t cracked, cracked through the distraction that we all feel when we can’t really keep our minds on any kind of devotional practice and our minds wander too much. That kind of bowl could not hold the blessing, could not hold the nectar. And, of course, if our minds are hard and filled with anger and hatred, and that anger surfaces, the bowl is turned over and the nectar simply runs off so there is no blessing to be had. We might fool ourselves thinking that we have a blessing, but in fact, no blessing has been received.

So we practice this devotional yoga; we practice it very sincerely. The benefit of this practice is immeasurable in that it softens the mind. It’s almost like planting a field of grain, you know? One has to plow the field; then one has to harrow it or disc it, turn it over. One has to soften it and rake it and work the soil so that it’s capable of receiving the seed. Otherwise if the soil were not ready, and the seed were thrown out, it would just bounce, like on a hard surface. It would not do much good. Any of you who have planted things know the truth of that. So devotional yoga is a cultivator. It’s considered to make one ready. Without devotional yoga, there is no possibility, really, of the blessing being fully received.

The devotional yoga is meant to benefit the student. It never benefits the teacher. If the teacher needs devotional yoga, the teacher is inadequate and impure; the teacher is without value. So the devotional yoga is purely for the benefit of the student. The teacher is not pleased by the devotional yoga. The teacher is pleased by the movement and the softening and the gentling and the change that occurs within the student, and that‘s because the teacher wishes to benefit the student. It isn’t because the teacher requires any kind of devotional yoga, or any kind of notice, really, at all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


Astrology for 8/31/2017

8/31/2017 Thursday by Norma

An early decision involving actions you must take is excellent, follow through with it.  Your future depends on what you do now. Perhaps you already know the drill and plan to skip things, but really you can’t. You must re-learn the alphabet and you’re in med school?  Start singing, “ABCDEFG , HIJK, LMNOP,” and so on. You know the tune.

Tomorrow you’ll feel cheered up, happy and ready to go. This is an excellent day to do some serious thinking, to have AHA moments about your life, to engage in activities that boost your sense of well being.  Love is the gift of the day and people admire you for what you’re doing.  Be happy; you are cleaning up old business, doing what you should have done before. George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Heart Advice from His Holiness Penor Rinpoche: Watching the Mind


The following is a Heart Teaching offered by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche at Palyul Ling Retreat in 2003 – lightly edited for posting on this blog:

Carry through the Guru Yoga practice with your body, speech, and mind in proper position and without having any conceptual thoughts.  Place your hands in the meditative position and concentrate on the practice.  If you start conceptualizing, it causes lots of negative problems.  Always try to cut through past, present and future thoughts, and then try to abide in the nature.

Even if one’s physical body is in a meditative position, if one’s mind goes on creating thoughts and conceptualizing, then there is no benefit, because the mind is more important than the physical body.

In the past there were two lamas known as Drupa Sangye Khenpa and Drupa Kunley.  Drupa Kunley normally traveled around all over the place.  One day Drupa Sangye Khenpa told Drupa Kunley that he shouldn’t wander everywhere and that they both should try to do some retreat and settle down.  They both carried on their retreat individually.  Then Drupa Sangye Khenpa thought that after completing the retreat he would go to the city to beg for food.  He had a horse to ride horse, but at that time based on one’s rank people would put a red feather on the horse, but Drupa Sangye Khenpa didn’t have one.  So Drupa Sangye Khenpa thought, “I should go to the city and get that feather.”  Meanwhile Drupa Kunley was in retreat, and somehow read Drupa Sangye Khenpa’s mind, so he went to see Drupa Sangye Khenpa.  When Drupa Sangye Khenpa saw Drupa Kunley, he said, “Actually we haven’t completed our retreat.  Why are you coming here?”  Then Drupa Kunley told Drupa Sangye Khenpa, “Well, you are going to the city to get that horse feather, so I thought the retreat was over.“   It is in that way that if one’s mind starts giving rise to thoughts, it has its own activity.

Of course these lamas are bodhisattvas who have realization, and don’t give rise to any afflictive emotions.  We are not equal to them, but still don’t let your mind wander.    Externally we look the same, like human beings, but their enlightened mind is not the same as ours.  Whatever thoughts we give rise to or verbalize or any action we take, are bound by afflictive emotions and have all kinds of grasping and clinging.  We mostly have impure thoughts.  It is very difficult to have even 1% pure perception.

Even when we carry through the generation stage of the deity, during the practice all kinds of thoughts arise.  Even when we try to do some meditation, during the actual meditation itself, still thoughts constantly arise.  That it is how our mind is.

The moment any thoughts arise, they naturally will be in the form of attachment or aversion.  Even in our day-to-day lives, it is important to try not to give rise to many thoughts and to try to sit and have control over one’s mind.  In the future when one carries through practices like Shamatha Meditation or Mahamudra or Dzogchen, one will need to have a single-pointed mind.  If one’s mind is constantly giving rise to thought then it doesn’t really help.

In our normal worldly life we think of material wealth, our jobs, work and so forth.  Our senses are more external, but when we are trying to apply our spiritual practices, then it is important to turn one’s mind inward, to examine one’s own mind to see what it is doing and how it is following the practice.

Astrology for 8/30/2017

8/30/2017  Wednesday by Norma

A serious but stabilizing moment comes when you make a decision that improves your life. Accept that in order to expand you must leave something behind.   Fine -tuned thinking comes with the territory today so go over everything carefully as you verify that all figures and details are in order.  Accuracy really matters now.  Correct any mistakes you uncover and don’t waste time defending yourself if the mistakes were yours. This is a remarkably stable day, one where concentrated energy takes you where you want to grow.  Paying attention is the best tool in your bag of tricks now.  George Washington Carver said, “If you listen carefully enough to anything it will talk to you.”

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The Wedding Cake

wedding cake

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “This Time is Radical”

I think of Dharma as a wedding cake with three different levels, and everyone is welcome to partake of this cake. Only some people will get to go into three-year retreat, way up at the top: three-year Dzogchen retreat, and then maybe onto seven-year retreat, and then maybe onto end-of-life retreat. Hopefully some of you will have that opportunity. And don’t waste a minute if you do. If you have that opportunity, then that’s where you are, and the cake is yours.

The next level are people who may never get to practice that deeply in retreat and may never get to three-year or seven-year retreat or whatever, but they practice every day of their lives. They learn their Phowa, and they learn their generation practice, and they do a little Dzogchen practice; and they are hooked up, because they will have an auspicious rebirth. They are making ready for their next life.

Then at the lower level… It isn’t lower in the sense of up and down. It’s bigger, if you think of how wedding cakes are. That level is every human’s level. Every human can come and have a taste of mantra, of Dharma. How do I make a cake big enough for everybody to have a bite?  We’re going to sing it. We’ll just make it big and make it happen.

I’m really looking forward to that. I have lots of hopes and dreams. Eventually when we’ve accomplished certain things that we want to accomplish with our music, which is to get the mantra out into the world, then we want to hit the road. Hitting the road means bringing mantra, chanting and drumming to all people. And so any of you who wish to join us on that, it’s time for you to practice.

You shouldn’t be thinking, ‘Well, I only want to practice this way, and not that way.’  Well, you’re not exactly thinking in Dharma terms at all if you’re like that. You should have your mind open, relaxed, joyful, following in the footsteps of your teacher in the best way that you can. So I’m asking for you at this time to keep your heart open, keep your eyes open. Try to be mindful. Try to really see patterns around you. Try to notice Dharma and what it is to you, and how you can help others. Don’t do anything by rote now. Get back into the deep end again. Don’t just say a little mantra and then walk around like you own the place. Don’t do that. Get deeper in your practice, as deep as you can. For those of you who are giving rise to the Bodhicitta, when I say these words are inspired, say, ‘Sign me up. Send me. I’ll go. I’ll sing some. I’ll bring some drums. I’ll do cartwheels if that’s going to teach Dharma.’ You could go in a certain direction and have it written on you. We’ll think of something.

I’m trying to be upbeat about this, but this is a time of great change. This year and next year are going to be stupendous in terms of change that we experience as individuals and as a temple. Not frightening change, good change; but get-your-act-together kind of change. Get ready to help beings. Get ready to minister. Those of you who are wearing robes, you’re supposed to be ministering to others in the best way you can, whatever that means. If that only means open-hearted connection, good-heartedness like the Dalai Lama wrote. if that’s all we can do, that’s great!  Let’s do that here. We can do more than that because we have training. We have lots of training and we’ve got method. With method and a solid heart, we will hold back the dark for as long as possible.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 8/29/2017

8/29/2017  Tuesday by Norma

Today gets off to a shaky start;  you are blocked at every turn.   You get lost, forget your keys, write down the wrong phone number or misplace your watch. Avoid self-criticism for perceived faults , which is harder than it sounds. (” If you’re so smart, why did you ……? “) Remember everyone else is in the same boat, so be kind to the person who shows up two hours late.  Anonymous said, “If someone were to pay you ten cents for every kind word you ever spoke and collect five cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?”  You are about to make a brilliant discovery and open new spaces with your thinking, so just bide your time for now.  Love is grand, partnership is wonderful and a serious project is making slow but steady progress.

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Hold Fast to What You Know Is True


The following is an excerpt from a teaching called “This Time Is Radical”

Some of you know that we were born together at this time because something tremendous was going to unfold. And those of you who remember those teachings from long ago that I haven’t spoken about for a long time, we’re still on. The game is still rolling. It’s time to get your waders on and jump in. You people with the robes, you are my heart’s love. You are my heart’s love. If we lose one of you, it is unbearable. To have more of you come forward and say, ‘Take me. Sign me up,’ it’s beautiful. And I look forward to the day when we can show the world what Buddhist compassion is all about. Any of you with me on that?  Sometimes I don’t know because they just look at me, and then I get scared.

I will try to speak to people in the way they understand. This is going to be a very intense time, a very beautiful time, but I’m not afraid. I get a little freaked out every now and then, but I’m not afraid. And I can say that in my very lowest possible voice, “I’m not afraid.”  So let’s go. It’s time to practice hard. It’s time to keep your vows. It’s time to stay straight on the path. It’s time to move through the door of liberation. Do not lose your focus now because it is possible. It’s possible. This is a very wiggly time as karma goes. Hold fast to what you know is true, and live your truth. Walk it every day. And that truth is Dharma.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Astrology for 8/28/2017


8/28/2017  Monday by Norma

If you now feel  that you are truly more intelligent than anyone else in the room sit down, take a deep breath and don’t talk until the moment passes. You can avoid a world of trouble by keeping your mouth closed;  everyone else feels exactly the same, and not about you!   Anonymous said, “Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.”  Remember your ethics as something beckons and you won’t betray yourself or others.  Use physical energy and a strong sense of dignity to move your best projects forward today.  This is a good day for athletic competitions, for partnerships and for detailed work.  Dress up and smile at everyone, you’ll make a big impact on others’ happiness as you do.

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Four Contemplations That Turn the Mind to Dharma #Palyul

Wheel of Life

The following is a prayer from the Nam Chö Ngondro Practice Book:


I prostrate to the glorious Samantabhadra.

Vajra Verses

This precious human rebirth is extremely difficult to obtain.

All things born are impermanent and must die.

Perseverance in the practice of virtuous Dharma is cause for becoming a Buddha.

Whatever negativity is produced will cause one to wander in the six realms.

Hungry spirits suffer from hunger and thirst; animals from stupidity;

Hell beings from heat and cold; humans from birth, old age, sickness and death;

Demigods from warefare; and even gods (Devas) have their suffering.

Astrology for 8/27/2017

8/27/2017  Sunday by Norma

Get moving early in the day, a lot can be accomplished before noon.  Sensitivity and tolerance are everywhere and a passing conversation can change someone’s viewpoint about life. Integrate new information and save it for later. A conversation with someone who is not normally available is enlightening and your readiness to listen is a factor. Louis Pasteur said, “Inspiration is the impact of a fact on a well-prepared mind.” This is a great day to declare your loyalty to one who deserves it and to thank people who have helped you in some way.

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