No Better Time Than This

An excerpt from a teaching called Vajrayana’s Final Hour by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

One of the bits of information that has come out during the course of time is that cyclic existence is just that — it moves in cycles. There is a cycle during which the Buddha first appears, which is very expansive. During such a time, life is in some ways much simpler and much easier, particularly for attaining enlightenment. The fabric of our mindstreams is much more expansive due to the virtue of the Buddha’s appearance.

Then there is an intermediate time in which the Buddha has left, the Teachings are very strong, and are carried on by those who can remember the teachings, who have memorized them and can repeat them verbatim. The Teachings are taught in an unbroken lineage by those who have practiced the Teachings and achieved some result, but there is no true memory of anyone who actually has seen the historical Buddha, or even seen the Buddha’s disciples.

Now we find ourselves in a time that is considered to be a degenerate time. The fabric of cause and effect relationships, which includes the very fabric of our own mindstreams, is extremely contracted. Now it is much more difficult to achieve realization. One must work very hard at it. One has to take teachings, accumulate many repetitions of mantra and prayer, and accomplish puja. One must practice devotion to the highest degree, and accomplish Bodhicitta, the Great Compassion. One must renounce ordinary existence, whether as a monk or nun, or in a more internal way from the heart, being stable and unmovable in the mind.

Even though it is hard now, in another way enlightenment can be accomplished more surely and certainly than before, because in this time of degeneration when the content of our mindstream is extremely condensed and contracted, karma actually ripens very quickly. You may have noticed that. If you are kind and loving and if you practice the Bodhicitta toward other sentient beings, it will make you happy. And conversely, if you are unkind, selfish, angry, that too will come right back at you. Hasn’t this happened to you? You can be very unkind to someone, and in the same day you can see it come right back in your face. Your nose gets rubbed in it.

The good news in this is that the benefit of the practice comes back much more quickly as well. If one practices really intently and with fervent devotion (devotion is the key here), one can eat the fruit of one’s practice. If not during the course of one’s life, then at the time of one’s death, when the Buddha Nature reveals itself to us as the elements dissolve, one will perceive that Buddha Nature as the display of the deity and recognize that Nature accordingly. Having recognized that Nature, one will awaken.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo all rights reserved

Climbing the Mountain

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

As many of you know, I like to climb the same mountain that you like to climb—the mountain of wisdom or understanding—so that we can get to the top and really have the full vista of understanding.  I find it’s best to climb the mountain, not in a linear way, but in a way that opens up to us true meaning on a conceptual level. It’s a good thing to climb that mountain from every possible angle you can think of because on each side there will be a different experience of going up the mountain. One can truly understand the mountain by moving in those various ways as opposed to having only one narrow means of approach.

In order to broaden and to deepen, then, one has to have the intention to really know and understand more deeply, so that Dharma will be real and focused and meaningful and will carry weight in one’s life. That’s what I’d like to talk about today. In order to do so, I’d like to talk about where we’re coming from and how our culture is different from a culture in which the Buddha naturally appeared and naturally emanated and naturally gave rise to certain teachings. The Buddha did not appear in Missouri—not in the way we understand.  Although in truth the Buddha is everywhere in Missouri, the historical Buddha did not appear in Missouri or Indiana or Brooklyn, not in the same way.  The original teachings, the path of Dharma that we practice, were brought to us by Lord Buddha himself.

The Dharma began in India in a culture that is very different from ours. It’s where Lord Buddha appeared. Even if it is not the most potent religion in India now, it still has had some effect on shaping and forming that culture. Here in America there are religious factors that have shaped our culture, but they are different.

So I would like to examine some of the ways in which the cultures are different, just briefly enough to have a certain idea that we can examine for ourselves. The best thing to do is to look at these cultures today, with just an idea of where they came from and how they progressed. Culture in America today is materialistically oriented. We are a culture of attainers. We accumulate things. We are given a definition of success that is handed down from generation to generation and, oddly enough, it has more to do with substance than it has to do with spirit, more to do with material gain or loss than it ever has to do with joy. Joy—what a concept!

When we are coming up, we are prepared and schooled to accomplish things that have to do with getting stuff—even if we study to become something that seems to be non-materialistically oriented, such as, for instance, a social worker. You would think that a social worker would be looking at our culture with different eyes.  You would think that a social worker would be asking, “Well, what are these social factors?  How can we organize them into something that is meaningful and deep for us? How can we express within our culture the gamut of human expressions? How can we integrate it? How can we make it work for us? How can we discard those things that do not work for society?” Yes, that is some of the training of a social worker. But why does somebody become a social worker?  And how do we approach that kind of thing? Well, we always think about how the job market is doing: “When I get out of school after I learn all of this, will I really be able to get a job?” We think of ourselves as having an office, and we think of ourselves as having that little square on the office door that says you are somebody. Then we think about whether that would be a really profitable occupation. So even if we were to approach something that could, by its nature, be fundamentally non-materialistic, we approach it from a materialistic point of view.

That’s one thing that is interesting and unique about our culture. It is so all-pervasive that it’s invisible, and you don’t really notice it until you go to other places. If you really want to learn something about your culture, leave it and come back. If mainstream America does not have that kind of experience, they cannot really see very well what the factors are. It’s more difficult. So to leave one’s culture and have another taste or another experience gives one a sense of comparison.

We approach everything in a collecting or accumulating way, in a materialistic way. We measure success by material substance.  Nobody’s parents tried to raise a great mystic because you wouldn’t do that to your kid in our society. You see what I’m saying?  You want to prevent your kid from the dark night of the soul.  You want to prevent your kid from the ambiguous, vague, cloudy, uncharted waters of mysticism.  You want your kid to be on the straight and narrow.  They know where to get a loaf of bread.  They know how to put some butter on it.  They know how to eat it.  They know how to feed it to their kids.  They know how to buy a car—that kind of thing.  You want your kid to be prepared for that.  You do not raise a mystic.  A mystic is something you have to contend with in our society.  It is an avocation that is fraught with suffering.

Now why is that?  Well, partially because a mystic goes into a very deep sense of connection.  In order to do that, the mystic has to plow through issues or plow through whatever it is that one plows through.  The other reason why being a mystic is so darn painful is because no one has any respect for that kind of thing.  A mystic in our society probably is a dreamer or a ne’er-do-well who can’t dress, who has no sense of self whatsoever, is socially inappropriate, can’t figure out how to catch a cab. Or maybe a mystic is someone who is depressed, possibly should be on Prozac. These are the kind of things that we associate with a mystic’s life and that is why nobody has ever been encouraged to be like that. The idea of really profound, deep mysticism scares the patooties out of us.

But in another culture where that kind of ideal is held up as being something pure, something wonderful, something significant, one’s experience regarding mysticism is entirely different. There is a dignity and nobility about it. There is a sense that this is a worthwhile occupation. There is definitely less fear of having the freedom to utilize one’s life as a vehicle for true deep mysticism and spirituality. One of the reasons why it’s more comfortable and easier to get connected to it is because one isn’t socially ostracized.

Now the great thing about being a mystic in America is that, once you get to the point where you’re really good at it and somebody finds you and you can market it—maybe write a book or two, maybe sell something that you’ve given rise to—then you can be a success.  Mystics in our society can also be successful after they’re dead. I really don’t know why. If any of you know why, tell me. But while we’re alive, we don’t have too much hope.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

Astrology for 10/31/2017

10/31/2017 Tuesday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Emotions in motion.

A person or incident shapes your view of the world today by challenging you in a good way. Don’t be afraid of challenges. Sometimes we are called to step up to the plate when we don’t feel we’re quite ready – but we are!  It’s kind of like a subtle inner alignment to enable one to leave the past behind – a past that has been preventing you from moving forward. As Alice in Wonderland said: “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” 

Astrology for 10/30/2017

10/30/2017 Monday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Swim towards enlightenement

A good day to connect with the water element and spiritual sustenance.  Your emotions and sense of purpose are in harmony. It’s a good week to travel – and as well today – explore the meaning of life and the universe. Smell the roses and meditate on the sky. As Gautama Buddha said: Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

Requesting the Nectar of Dharma

An excerpt from a teaching called Viewing the Guru:  The Seven Limb Puja by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo on October 18, 1995

We should be in the posture of requesting teachings.  Think about that.  Many students will have what they think is a nice relationship with the Guru.  They think that they are on good speaking terms with the Guru.  That tells you what’s going, doesn’t it?  They think they are on good speaking terms with their teacher, and they think that,  “Oh, I have a really good relationship with my teacher.  I practice every day, and I come to teachings.  And I pretty much keep up, and my teacher smiles at me and I give offerings and altogether  I would say that things at the temple are going pretty well.”  But the same student actually — and this is the case with literally every student that I have — the student does not come to the teacher and just throw open their hearts and their lives and say, “Take me and change me and fill my life with your blessing.”  I have had students come and say that to me.  “Oh Lama, make of me whatever I should be!”  And their hair is nicely done, if you notice, when they do it.  And then they pose a little.  You know, they do it from their best side!  “Okay, Lama? Watch me while I do this, mommy!”  They do that with their mouth, but with their mind, with their hearts, not once, not ever.  Not in any case have I had a student truly say to the Guru, “I request the nectar that you hold.  I request what you have.”  And the reason why is that we are still clinging to our ordinary samsaric experience, our ordinary samsaric lives.  We say that we come to Dharma so that we can achieve realization, yet we don’t want to change.  Now how is that going to happen?  You come to Dharma so that you can change into a fully awakened realized being.  But you don’t want to change.  How’s that going to happen then?  It is illogical!  You can’t do that!  It’s never going to happen!

Literally we find ourselves sitting at the feet of that miraculous appearance which somehow, magically, has appeared.  Even through the thickness of our non-virtue, the thickness of our karma, yet still, like the sun penetrating these black storm clouds, somehow the teacher has appeared.  And we know now from the teachings: this is the very face of the primordial wisdom nature.  This is the very display of natural luminosity.  This is the appearance, this is the magical, mystical appearance.  And yet, we go away from it.  We say, “Okay, you want to give me this fabulous teaching.  Are you telling me that this is fabulous?  Okay,  I’m going to really listen up for this because I am a good girl.”  And then, at the end of that, we close our minds, fold them up and go home.

If we thought of the Guru as an ordinary being, then we could say that the Guru only teaches two days a week.  You can say that’s how it is.  You can only hear the Guru’s words so often.  Maybe you can make an extra effort.  Maybe you could go back and hear some tapes.  If the Guru were an ordinary sentient being, then perhaps that would be the only avenue open to you.  But we have just learned that we are looking at our own primordial nature.  We are looking into the face of our true nature.  What are the limitations of that primordial wisdom nature?  There are none.  There are none whatsoever.  So suppose, then, we were in the posture of understanding in a deep and profound way the correct view of how to see, how to know, how to experience devotional yoga.  We see the Guru, we understand through correct vi

Astrology for 10/29/2017

10/29/2017 Sunday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Grounded and flexible

Emotional stability and versatility are themes today. A few communication challenges persist early in the day and by later in the day good conversations can be had.  Similarly there are harmonious connections for most of the day.  It’s a good day for research. There could be unexpected good fortune physically and materially. As Kermit the frog said: “Times fun when you’re having flies.”

Disclaimer: We do not condone swatting flies!

 

Does Desire End?

ailmentPhotoNervousBreak

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Desire Blocks Happiness”

What is the end of it? Where does it end? It ends when you take yourself in hand and begin to practice stabilizing the mind. The Buddha teaches us that the cause of all suffering, every part of it, no matter what it is, if you trace it down to its root, is desire. How can you kick desire? Everybody’s got desire. You have the desire for life itself, don’t you? I mean, you don’t want to die or anything. You have the desire to be happy. All sentient beings have the desire to be happy. That’s one thing we all share. Do you realize that? We share with every life form that there is. All sentient beings have their common familyhood, brother- and sisterhood. They all wish to be happy. They’re all doing it in different ways, but we all wish to be happy. We have that desire, and we are inflamed with it.

How can we reduce that inflammation? It’s like we have to step off the conveyor belt. You know what I’m saying? We have to step off the merry-go-round that just makes us want and fulfill and want and keep trying to fulfill, and keep doing that round and round and round and round endlessly. It’s like you just have to stop for a minute. Step off of it and look at what you’re doing. Look at the habit pattern. Look at the pattern. Just look at it.  This is sometimes more difficult for younger people to do, because they just honestly haven’t lived long enough to see their patterns. For people who have reached maturity, it’s much easier to see the quality of the relationships and friendships that you’ve had. It’s much easier to see the level of fulfillment that you’ve had from material goods. It’s much easier to understand that you have been going through the same thing since you can remember. For younger people, it’s more difficult. But for older people, it’s very obvious. And the people that it’s easiest for are the people who are coming to the end of their life who have reached an advanced age, or an elderly age. And at that point, they’re carrying, perhaps hidden inside of them, a disappointment. There are things that we become very disappointed about. Things that have just not come together that we always assumed would. We always thought that they would.

When we come to that fantastic point, where the old gig, the old game doesn’t work for us anymore, we become disillusioned. It’s a heart-breaking time in one way, isn’t it? It’s really heart-breaking. It’s hard to bear, hard to face. But you know something? It’s the best time for you, the best time that you have ever experienced. Until you have come to that moment, you really haven’t been born yet. You’re like an egg, you know, just revolving around in your little shell, kind of a big yolk. Ha, ha. Hey, that was pretty good. You have to admit. A little levity there to cheer you up in the middle of your suffering. But anyway, revolving around inside your shell, and not getting anywhere. The moment that you become dissatisfied and panicky because your gig isn’t working any more, terrified because it may never work, uptight because you don’t know what to do next, grieving because nothing’s ever worked… At that moment, when you feel like you’re about to have a nervous breakdown, you’re on your way, kid. It’s probably the best and most mature moment of your life because you have to come to that moment to get anywhere. You can’t do this while you’re on the merry-go-round. You can’t do this unless you fall apart a little bit. You can’t get the big picture. You have to see the faults of cyclic existence. You have to look at it square on.

You must see. You must look cause and effect relationship in the eye. And you’ve got to really face one very sad fact about cyclic existence: No matter what we accumulate during the course of our lives, we can’t take even so much as a sesame seed with us. None of it. We can’t take relationships with us. We can’t take objects with us. We can’t take even ideas with us, those things that we spend so much time building up. We certainly can’t take emotions with us. And how much time do we spend watching our emotions and reacting to them? We can’t take any of that with us. We take one thing with us: the condition of our mindstreams, our own habitual tendencies. And if we have the habit of grasping, trying to satisfy ourselves, to the exclusion of virtuous living, and then being disappointed, that is the habit, that is the content of our mindstreams that we will take with us into the intermediate state, and into our next rebirth. The habits of our mindstream—that is what we take with us.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Astrology for 10/28/2017

10/28/2017 Saturday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme: Feeling well but don’t tell.

A feeling of emotional well being is synonymous with good health today.  But best to keep your feelings to yourself because communication is not a strength today. That’s because when you open your mouth there is a tension between feelings and thoughts. There may also be a desire to control others or others controlling you.  There are skillful ways of dealing with this situation. As Katsumoto said in ‘The Last Samurai’: “The way of the Samurai is not necessary anymore.”

Discernment: Taking the Time to Examine the Spiritual Path

The following is an excerpt from a public talk given by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:

When we think about the validity of religions—in terms of traditions, in terms of sciences internal and external, and in terms of pith essential pointing out instructions—there is no religion that equals that of Buddhism.  At this time there is no opportunity to really go into it; but in terms of the validity of the tradition which goes back for thousands of years and is documented in pechas, or scriptures, which are available at this present time, if one were really to investigate the qualities of the Buddha’s path, it is something quite extraordinary and unequalled by any other religion.  I would be more than happy to explain every single reason why in absolute detail, but there wouldn’t be time for that today, nor would there be time in the days that I have here, and you probably would become quite bored with listening to it.  So we’ll leave it at that, but please understand that these points are fully documented in the scriptures that we have available to us which date back some thousands of years.

Because of my own qualifications and so forth, at this time I can tell you all that I am a practitioner of the Buddhist religion. I am a Buddhist, and yet I can assure you that at no time in my life have I ever felt a sense of attachment to Buddhism because that is my own religion, nor have I ever felt a sense of aversion to any other religion because it was not the religion that I specifically pursue.  So please do not feel that I have any partial attitude towards my own tradition or a biased attitude towards any other tradition being inferior to it because I never have felt this way.  However, for a very long period of time I have examined not only the Buddhist religion but many other religions, and Buddhism, as practiced in the land of Tibet, is practiced according to three great lineages or rivers of this tradition which have come down over the centuries from India, China and Tibet.  Maybe many of you have heard of the Panchen Rinpoche who asked me to be personally responsible for examining the lineages and updating them and correcting any sort of discrepancies that may occur in present times.  Due to that I spent a lot of time going into further examinations of the traditions, and I came to the conclusion that the path of Buddhism is absolutely unequalled by any other.  It is absolutely superior.

Therefore I would encourage each and every one of you to carefully examine the spiritual path that you are involved in to make sure that you have not made any mistake. If you don’t examine your spiritual path and you just sort of mindlessly enter into a tradition which has no validity or true source, this is what is called delusion, ignorance. We Tibetans have a saying, “Don’t be like a dog.” If you put fresh lungs in front of a dog, the dog will just devour those lungs without even thinking for a moment, will just scarf them down.  Don’t be like this in terms of pursuing a spiritual tradition.  One should be very careful to examine in minute detail. And once one has found out for oneself through that process of analytical investigation that this is a true path and a path that is valid and has a true origin, then one can enter.  But please don’t just aimlessly enter a spiritual path without thinking.

 

 

Astrology for 10/27/2017

10/27/2017 Friday by Jampal & Wangmo

Theme:  Zest and Zing!

The feeling of wellness continues. There’s also a bit of zaniness in the day. Expect emotional infusions of an unexpected kind tinged with good fortune.  On a practical front there may be a restriction on how you manage resources today. As Lucille Ball sagely said: “In life, all good things come hard, but wisdom is the hardest to come by.”