Taking On Suffering: Story of Maitriyogin and the Dog’s Pain


The following is respectfully quoted from “Enlightened Courage” by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

There is a story that one day, when Maitriyogin was teaching, a dog barked at someone, who, losing his temper, threw a stone at it. The dog was hit in the ribs and yelped. Feeling great sorrow for the animal, the teacher cried out and fell down from the throne. “This is taking things a bit too far,” thought his disciples. Knowing what was in their minds, Maitriyogin said, “Look here, at my ribs.” And on his body, exactly where the stone had hit the dog, he had a bruise. He had taken the suffering of the animal upon himself.

Then I Asked The Dakinis: From “Mother of Knowledge”


The following is respectfully quoted from “Mother of Knowledge” translated by Tarthang Tulku and J. Wilhelms:

Yeshe Tsogyal recounts entering the Mandala of the Dakinis:

“Eight cemeteries formed a ring, rimmed by walls of beautiful lotuses. Predatory flesh-eating birds and wild blood-drinking animals wandered about, and demons and demonesses, roaming in great numbers, stood out vividly against the landscape.

“Although the beings there did not attack me or threaten me, neither did they make friendly overtures. As I advanced upwards, I passed along a path that circled in a zigzag fashion three times, and ended at a door. Within were many dākinīs whose external appearance was that of women but they were of many different colors. They were carrying offerings to present to the principal dākinī.

“Some of the dākinīs had cut their bodies into small pieces with razor-sharp knives and prepared offerings of their own flesh; others were giving their streaming blood. Some were giving their eyes, some their noses. Some were giving their tongues, still others, their ears. Some were giving their hearts, others were giving their viscera. Some were giving their outer muscles, some their inner organs. Still others were giving their bones and marrow.

“Some were giving their life energy, others their breath, and still others, their heads. Some had cut off their limbs, and so on. They had cut up their own bodies and had prepared offerings of them for the principal dākinī, who appeared Yab-Yum before them. The offerings were then blessed as signs of their faith.

“Then I asked the dākinīs: ‘Why do you suffer in this way? To what purpose? If one lives in accordance with the Dharma until death, is that not sufficient?’ And they answered me:

‘Dear woman of irresolute mind!
The compassion of a great teacher who has all the qualifications may only be available briefly.
If you do not offer whatever he wishes when he looks upon you,
later nothing you do may lead to fulfillment.
If you procrastinate, obstacles will multiply.

‘Your insight and certainty may last only a moment;
natural and spontaneous faith may not stay long.
If you do not make the offering when Pristine Awareness arises,
later nothing you do may lead to fulfillment.
If you procrastinate, obstacles will multiply.

‘Now, at least you have a human body–you may not have it long.
The chance to practice Dharma seldom arises;
if you do not make offerings when you meet a qualified teacher–
if you procrastinate–obstacles will multiply.

‘The teacher may only be here briefly;
only now can you be certain to enter the door of the secret teachings.
If you do not offer yourself
when you have access to the highest Dharma–
if you procrastinate–obstacles will multiply.’

“Thus they spoke, and I felt ashamed. Then, as each dākinī presented her offering, the Vajra Yoginī appeared before her, snapping her fingers. Instantly each supplicant was healed and became as before. After requesting a regular Dharma practice from the principle dākinī, each one returned to her own meditation place.”



Relative Bodhicitta: HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse

The following is respectfully quoted from “Enlightened Courage” by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

If I do not give away
My happiness for others’ pain,
Buddhahood will never be attained.
And even in samsara, joy will fly from me.

Enlightenment will be ours when we are able to care for others as much as we now care for ourselves, and ignore ourselves to the same extent we now ignore others. Even if we had to remain in samsara, we should be free from sorrow. For as I have said, when the great Bodhisattvas gave away their heads and limbs, they felt no sadness at the loss of them.

Once, in one of his previous lifetimes, the Buddha was a universal monarch whose custom it was to give away his wealth without regret. He refused nothing to those who came to beg from him, and his fame spread far and wide. One day, a wicked brahmin beggar came before the king and addressed him, saying, “Great king, I am ugly to look upon, while you are very handsome; please give me your head.” And the king agreed. Now his queens and ministers had been afraid that he might do this, and making hundreds of heads out of gold, silver, and precious stones, they offered them to the beggar.

“Take these heads,” they pleaded. “Do not ask the king for his.”

“Heads made of jewels are of no use to me,” the beggar replied. “I want a human head.” And he refused to take them.

Eventually they could no longer deter him from seeing the king.

The king said to him, “I have sons and daughters, queens, and a kingdom, but no attachment do I have for any of them. I will give you my head at the foot of the tsambaka tree in the garden. If I can give you my head today, I shall have completed the Bodhisattva act of giving my head for the thousandth time.”

And so, at the foot of the tree, the king took off his clothes, tied his hair to a branch, and cut off his head. At that moment, darkness covered the earth, and from the sky came the sound of the gods weeping and lamenting so loudly that even human beings could hear them. The queens, princes, and ministers all fell speechless to the ground. Then Indra, the lord of the gods, appeared and said, “O king, you are a Bodhisattva and have even given away your head, but here I have the life restoring ambrosia of the gods. Let me anoint you with it and bring you back to life.”

Now, the king was indeed a Bodhisattva, and even though his head had been cut off and sent away, his mind was still present, and he replied that he had no need of Indra’s life-restoring ambrosia, for he could replace his head simply by the force of his own prayers.

Indra begged him to do so, and the king said: “If in all those thousand acts of giving my head away beneath the tsambaka tree there was nothing but the aim of benefiting others, unstained by any trace of self seeking–if I was without resentment or regret, then may my head be once again restored. But if regrets there were, or evil thoughts, or intentions not purely for the sake of others, then may my head remain cut off.” No sooner had the king said this than there appeared on his shoulders a new head identical to the first, which had been taken away by the brahmin. Then all the queens, princes, and ministers rejoiced and administered the kingdom in accordance with the Dharma.

For those who can practice generosity like this, there is no suffering at all. Enlightened teachers, Bodhisattvas, come into the world to accomplish the welfare of beings, and even when they are ignored by people in the grip of desire, anger, and ignorance, who stir up obstacles and difficulties, the thought of giving up never occurs to them and they are totally without anger or resentment. As it is said:

To free yourself from harm
And others from their sufferings,
Give away yourself for others;
Guard others as you would protect yourself.

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche: Compassion in Action

The following is an excerpt from a teaching given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo at Palyul Ling Retreat in the summer of 2012:

I am very pleased by all the effort that you’ve put forth to make this place grow and shine as it has, keeping it going even in great adversity, for instance the passing of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.  We all suffered and now we’re doing what we can to bring about the causes that he can return to us.

I remember back in the beginning when I first met His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.  It was on his first visit to the United States.  He wanted to see me.  Back in those days dharma was kind of confusing.  We didn’t understand each other when the lamas first came to America.  It took awhile for us to come to that point, where we really understood each other.  Mostly it was our lack of understanding as Westerners that made the problems.

You all have beautiful, nice, and condensed practice books.  I want to show you what we were working with.  We mostly had loose-leaf sheets of paper, pictures, and books stuck together.  [Shows an old practice binder]  There are things here that I don’t even recognize anymore.   We all made our own books.  We were all new and we did our very best.  I wanted to show you this because I thought, ‘What a mess.’  I thought you’d get a kick out of it.  Those were my first practice books.  And it was a long time ago.

Personal reflections on His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

I had the happiness of knowing His Holiness for a long time, and had many wonderful experiences with him.  I don’t mind sharing them with you if you’d like to hear some of them.  I’d like to tell you about one time when I was in India and we were traveling around looking for statues.  It was so unbearably hot.  We were staying in this hotel and it was about 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more.  His Holiness was used to heat but he made sure to put me in a hotel with an air conditioner, which I stuck to, and that was very nice.  While at the hotel, I met the woman who cleaned my room, and she told me about her husband.  He was sick, had cancer and was dying.  She said, “Would you come and give a blessing to my husband before he dies?”  And I said, “Oh, it’s worthless if I give him a blessing, but if His Holiness gives him a blessing, that’s something. That’s definitely worthwhile.”  And so she said, “Oh!  Would he do that?”  And I said, “I don’t know.  I’ll ask.”

They were Hindu.  When I asked His Holiness, he said, “I don’t think Hindus like Tibetans very much.  We eat meat.”  And I said, “With due respect, Holiness, I think in this case it doesn’t matter.  These people so want to see you.  They so want the blessing.  These people are going through misery.  They live in a tin box on top of the roof, and she has to raise children by herself.”  His Holiness was very wrathful with me.  He said, “I had to leave Tibet and come to America.  I watched my own people die.  And now I am supposed to think that this is important?”  He was very wrathful.  But I know what he was doing.  He was creating the merit, and clearing the obstacles for this event to happen.  But as you know, His Holiness was very kind.  So finally he stomped his foot and he said, “Ok.  I’ll go.”

We climbed up to the roof, and it was hellish really.  His Holiness’ knees were bad then too.  I was so sorry and embarrassed that I had put His Holiness through that, but then I was so happy for the people that would receive the blessing.

When he came to the door of the tin shack they were living in on top of the building, it must have been 115 degrees inside.  It was so horrible.  We said, “His Holiness is here to give the blessing.  And the woman got down on the floor, and put her head to his feet and then she prostrated again at his feet.  She couldn’t stop.  She just kept doing it.  It was heart breaking to see the devotion that she felt for someone who would not abandon her in this terrible time; who would provide comfort and some help.  And His Holiness did that.

He spoke to her in Hindi.  And he asked her, “What is the problem?  How long has he been sick?”  She could hardly speak.  They were both so grateful and happy to have his blessing, and that he would think of them, because they were lowly people according to the caste system in India.  They were lowly people and poor beyond belief.  They said that some days he didn’t even eat, because there was no food.  And so His Holiness was told the condition of this man, and you could see in his face that he had great compassion.  The man had cancer of the mouth.  You could see that something was terribly wrong, but he had no medicine.  The agony that he was experiencing was hard to understand.

Here’s the kicker.  His Holiness said, “Open your mouth.”  When he said this, I tried to peak, and what I saw in there was horrible.  His Holiness said, “Open your mouth wide.”  He started pounding out mantras. Nothing I recognized.  He really pounded out the mantras.  And as he did that, he was blowing, blowing, blowing in the man’s mouth.  Holiness pounded out more mantras, and blew in the man’s mouth.  He kept doing this for quite a long time.

The couple was so thankful.  They offered Holiness food and drink, which of course he didn’t take.  They offered him food and drink.  He was working his heart out for them.  As we were leaving, they were bowing and bowing, and bowing.  It was so beautiful.  When we got down towards the room, I said to him, “Holiness is he going to live now?”  And he said, “No, there’s no chance.  The merit is gone.  There’s no chance for him to live now,” he said, “But he will have no pain.”

Already the man’s mouth was chewed up with cancer, and yet His Holiness said he would have no pain, and I know that’s true, because I met the woman again on the next day of our travels.  She said he had no pain that day.  I was so happy that happened.  I was just thrilled.

I left the my room door open so I could see where His Holiness was, and he could see where I was, and when he went passed by room, I just went down to him and I said, “Holiness, I know that was difficult, but thank you.  On behalf of them, thank you so much.  I don’t know how to express my gratitude.”  And he said, “No, I thank you.”

I will never forget that story.  He was grateful that I had insisted that he take this opportunity to help them.  He saw the value of it.  He saw that these people were helped and that they were just regular, innocent people.  His Holiness helped them so much that to my knowledge the man never had pain.  The woman and I wrote back and forth for a little while after that, and she said that he never had pain.  To me that am the most moving story about His Holiness that I know.  And I find it impossible to have seen that and not understand that he was Buddha, that he is Buddha.  No one but a Buddha would or could do something like that.  I miss him so much.  I know that you do too.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved


A Teaching on the Four Immeasurables

The following is respectfully taken from “How to Follow a Spiritual Master” edited by Ngagyur Nyingma Institute.

The following story of King Tsangpa Lha (Brahma Deva) and his son Gyaltshab Dhampa provides insights into the way bygone great practitioners have followed and practiced with their own Masters. The Prince was seeking dharma teachings but could not find any, feeling very saddened. Indra, the King of Gods knew clairvoyantly the mind of the Prince and assumed the guise of a Brahmin. He came to sit near the gate of the palace announcing he could give teachings. The Prince came to hear about it and requested them. The Brahmin answered that he would give teachings if the Prince were to jump into a deep fire pit and then make offerings.

The Prince accepted without hesitation and set about digging the fire pit at the dismay of the The King, Queen, Ministers and courtiers. Yet the Brahmin maintained his condition and the Prince his resolve so all was set for the Prince to jump. All his subjects requested him to abandon the idea to which the Prince replied, “I have been born in Samsara countless times and taken rebirth in higher realm of God and humans. There I have suffered under desire, in the lower realm I had undergone immense suffering. All to no avail and further I have never sacrificed my life in order to receive Teachings. Now I am going to offer this impure body. Please do not hold me back and alter this pure motivation in order to achieve enlightenment. I will give you the Teachings as soon as I have gained enlightenment. The subjects saw that the Prince was very determined and they could not press the matter further.

The Prince was ready to jump staying close to the pit as he spoke to Brahmin. O great Teacher! Please give me the teachings now as I may die and not be able to receive them from you. Then the Brahmin gave the following teachings on the Four Immeasurable,

Practice loving kindness,
Abandon anger
Protect the beings through great compassion
Shed tears of Compassion
With all sentient beings never to be separated from happiness
and the causes of happiness
By protecting all the beings through great compassion
You will become a genuine Bodhisattva

As soon as he finished these teachings, the Prince jumped into the fire pit. Both Indra and Brahma held him back holding him on both sides from falling into the pit. They said, “You are the Protector of beings who is very kind and compassionate. What will happen to your subjects if you jump now? It will be like the death of our parent.” The Prince replied, “Don’t hold me back from entering the path to Buddhahood, and all became silent as the Prince jumped into the firepit.

The earth shook and the Gods in the sky lamented shedding a shower of tears like rainfall transforming the firepit into a lake at the center of which the Prince stood on a lotus and the Gods showered flowers to praise him.

Flower of Gods: From “Sutra of the Wise and Foolish”

The following is respectfully quoted from “Sutra of the Wise and Foolish” by Stanley Frye 

Flower of the Gods

Thus have I heard at one time: the Enlightened One was residing in the sity of Śrāvastī at Jetavana monastery in Añathapindika’s park together with an assembly of one-thousand two-hundred and fifty monks. At that time, in that country, when a handsome and comely son was born to the wife of a householder of the highest caste, a shower of flowers of the gods fell from the sky and filled the house, and the boy was named Flower of the Gods. When he had come of age, he went to the Buddha, and seeing the Lord’s body endowed with the incomparable signs, rejoiced greatly and thought: “I have been born into this world where I have met the Supreme Among the Noble Ones, I shall invite the Lord and his assembly”, and said: “Lord, tomorrow I shall prepare alms-food in my home. In order to lay the foundation for Enligthenment, I beseech the Lord and his Sangha to deign to come”. The Buddha, seeing the boy’s pure and firm intention, said: “We accept your invitation”.

Thereupon the boy called Flower of the Gods returned to his home and in his mansion caused a great throne of jewels to magically appear along with many other seats, and adorned the dwelling with various kinds of decorations.

Upon the morrow the Enlightened One and his Sangha came, and when each had taken his seat according to seniority, the boy though: “Now I shall offer various kinds of food,” and, because of his virtue many different kinds of food appeared by themselves and these he offered to the Lord and Sangha.

When the Buddha had taught the boy the Dharma, the house became filled with flowers of the gods and the boy requested permission of his parents to become a monk. When his parents consented, he went to the Buddha, bowed his head at his feet, and said: “Lord, I request ordination”, and when the Buddha said: “Welcome, monk”, his hair and beard fell away by themselves and he was dressed in the red robes. Exerting himself in the word of the Buddha, he became an arhat.

When Ānanda saw what had taken place, he knelt and said: “Lord, this monk Flower of the Gods–by reason of performing what former good deeds did a shower of flowers descend and jeweled thrones and various kinds of good appear? I beg the Lord to explain the reason for this.”

The Buddha said: “Ānanda, if you wish to hear this, listen carefully. In aeons long past, when the Buddha Kāśyapa was in the world and was visiting the cities for the weal of beings, a householder of the highest caste honored and made offerings to the Sangha. When a poverty-stricken beggar saw the Noble Sangha, great faith was born in him and he thought: ‘I have nothing with which to make an offering to the Sangha’. He gathered various kinds of grasses and flowers and with a mind of faith showered them on the monks, bowed, and venerated the Sangha. Ānanda, this monk Flower of the Gods was that beggar who at the time made offerings of flowers. Because he sought Enlightenment with a mind of firm faith and gathered flowers and showered the Sangha with them, for sixty aeons, wherever he was born he was always handsome and comely and endowed with whatever he wished to eat and drink. As a result of that merit he has attained bliss. Therefore, Ānanda, one must not think that there is no merit when one gives, even if it is very little. As was the case with the boy Flower of the Gods, the fruits will come by themselves.”

Thereupon Ānanda and the assembly believed what the Lord had taught and rejoiced.


Early Practices: The Life of Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The following is respectfully quoted from “Reborn in the West”  by Vicki Mackenzie as she recounts Jetsunma’s life story. This section begins as Jetsunma describes her early practice:

‘I left the party at that point,’ was how she put it. ‘I felt “There’s nothing here.”‘ Her meditation then took a quantum leap–right to the heart of mysticism, to the fount of truth.

‘In my next dream I was guided to meditate on the question “If what I have here does not amount to much because it is so finite, then what is there of value?”‘ Suddenly she found herself contemplating absolute reality, or ultimate truth, the primordial wisdom state and the most profound and difficult subject of all Buddhist meditations.

‘I didn’t have the words for it but I knew it wasn’t like God, the old-man-on-the-throne idea. What I was meditating on was a non-dual, all-pervasive essence–that is, form and formless, united, indistinguishable from one another. I saw that it was the only validity–that and the compassionate activity that was an expression of it.’

What Jetsunma was telling me was, I recognized, quite exceptional. What yogis and scholars in Tibetan monasteries take years to achieve after long intellectual delving and even longer years of retreat, Jetsunma had arrived at entirely of her own accord. Tucked away on her farm in North Carolina without any guru, any book, any established doctrine or example to follow, she had not only discovered but realized the two essential truths–wisdom and compassion, the two wings of Tibetan Buddhism that are said to fly you all the way to Enlightenment. Without them you can barely get off the ground. It was an amazing feat.

But she didn’t stop there. While she continued to meditate on absolute nature and compassion she simultaneously began to offer up her body, part by part.

‘This is going to sound strange,’ she said, laughing, ‘but I would lie down–I didn’t know you were suppose to do all of this sitting up–and I would look down at my feet and say, “OK, here they are, ten toes.” And I would really look at my feet and consider all the things that my feet could do for me. And then I  would contemplate what was the ultimate good of these things–no ultimate use at all!” ‘ She would continue in that vein throughout her body, staying longer on the parts she felt attached to. ‘No one wants to give up their head, for instance. Our head is like the last bastion of our individuality. And I’d pay special attention to my female parts and my hands. You don’t want to do without them!’

She didn’t know it then, but what she was doing was no less than Chöd, another profound Tibetan meditation whereby you relinquish your body to emptiness for the good of all. It is considered the ultimate physical surrender. How she had come across such a strange meditation in the middle of North Carolina, with only a baby and husband for company, adds to the mystery. I asked again, to make sure, if there were any outside influences that could have been directing her.

‘We were in Ashville in the seventies and nothing metaphysical was happening there,’ she replied. ‘Actually there was one thing–a small transcendental meditation centre had started and friends kept urging me to join. But I resisted. It didn’t feel as though it was the right place for me. They said I had to have a guru, that I couldn’t get anywhere without one, and I replied, “That may be true, but I haven’t found my teacher yet and I will know when I do.” ‘

She continued these intense periods of individual meditation over several years. ‘I would meditate for hours at a time. Luckily I had a baby who was peaceful and slept a lot, and a husband who was supportive of what I was doing. I am eternally grateful for that. But it was still a householder’s retreat. I had a husband, a child and all the chores to do. Even so, I had a much stricter schedule of meditation than I do now.’

The meditations grew in strength and clarity, and when she was around thirty she had a spiritual experience which showed that the time to begin her work had begun. She was reluctant to tell me about it, except to say that she entered a long period of meditation from which she emerged knowing that her personal life had finished and that she had been born solely to be of benefit for others. ‘I never said anything to anyone about it. But oddly, after that people started coming to me.’