The Nature of the Guru

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

The Lama gives us not only a way to have single-pointed concentration, but the Lama also offers their own accomplishment.  When one practices the Guru Yoga really deeply, whether it be in the Guru Yoga in Ngndro, or Shower of Blessings, or in any of the pujas that have Guru Rinpoche as the main focal point or Guru Rinpoche and consort as the main focal point, we should think thatthis is the way to practice Guru Yoga.  And in each one of those practices, whichever it is, we understand nondual nature.  That’s what we’re working on.

We see the arising from the nature of emptiness appearing in a real, but insubstantial gossamer-like light form, first as the seed syllable, and then as the Guru.  We are telling ourselves our own story, because it is we also who have arisen from emptiness.  It is our nature that is indeed also the seed syllable. Ultimately we are the same nature as the Guru.  By the power of the Guru’s accomplishment, through their many lifetimes of amazing practice, many lifetimes of looking out after sentient beings and accomplishing the needs of sentient beings and liberating sentient beings, they offer themselves and their accomplishment in that way to be the very door to liberation.  And so we should think of our teachers in that way—that we are in a burning house, no other way to get out except that one door.  Boy, would you ever be devoted to that door.  That door would be on your mind if your house were burning, and there were no other way to get out, wouldn’t it?  And that’s how we should think. We should think that here we are in samsara. This is indeed the time of Kaliyuga.  We have, at best, as many habitual tendencies guaranteed to bring us suffering as we do to bring us happiness.  At best.  50/50.  And that is so unusual.  We tend to make ourselves more unhappy than we do happy.  So we are in this burning house and we look to the teacher to provide the door to liberation.

So when we give rise to that devotion, it’s not to the person Guru.  It’s not to that person.  It doesn’t matter if you like what they’re wearing or how they smell or what they look like or how they walk or anything like that.  It doesn’t matter.  That’s just the stuff you do in regular life.  So you can just sweep it over. Instead you think, “This one has appeared and will appear throughout time out of mind until all suffering has ended, until samsara is emptied, as the door to liberation.  What kind of dope am I that I wouldn’t walk through it?”  It’s that kind of fervent regard.  Think of it that way—more than like-dislike, that kind of judgment, but rather, fervent regard.

We rely on the accomplishment of our teachers. If our teachers had not accomplished any Dharma, how would they be of any use to us?  So we expect it of them and we rely on them to guide us in the way of Dharma.  Sometimes it pisses us off.  We’d rather go on vacation.  We’d rather have a little more fun.  I mean, it’s Sunday afternoon, isn’t it?  And we have all kinds of reasons why we should maybe do something else.  But we come back.  There is my friend.

If this teacher can bother to appear again and again for no reason other than to liberate sentient beings as my Guru has, then I can at least be here. I can at least come half way, come full with devotion.  When we are in the presence of our own Root Guru and we have that connection and we have the history and karma of the Guru having ripened our mind in some way in the past, that ripening will surely come again.  With faith and devotion and practice, it will surely come again.  And so we have that kind of faith.  We know in our hearts and our minds that we can rely on this one for that kind of help.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Guru as the Path to Recognition

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

How do we use the Guru Yoga as this rocketship?  How do we understand the way it is used?  Well, first of all, if we look at the Guru Yoga in our Ngöndro book, the prayers are achingly beautiful.  The tune, Lama Khyen No, that beautiful tune… You could almost hear it being sung on misty mountain tops.  There’s something about it that’s just so haunting.  And you get the idea when you’re doing this practice that it’s kind of geared that way.  It’s geared to bring tears to one’s eyes.  It’s geared to create an interdependent relationship that’s so intimate, it’s more than what we are accustomed to.  We wouldn’t take an ordinary relationship and sing Boyfriend Khyen No, (laughter) Girlfriend Khyen No. We wouldn’t do that.  And why?  Because there wouldn’t be any result.  You might as well twiddle your thumbs.  There just simply would be no benefit.

We are given this method and it should cause us some benefit.  Why?  Why is that?  Because we are opening the eyes of recognition.  What is it Lord Buddha said when he was asked how it was he was different?  He said, “I am awake”.  Awake in recognition.  We are opening the inner eyes of recognition to understand the difference between the precious connection with one’s Root Guru, the ultimate nature that we share, that we depend upon utterly, and what is ordinary. You know, the stuff we get lost in so easily.

We have this single-pointedness that we can whip ourselves back to.  That’s how we use the Guru, when we get lost and wobbly and we’re kind of out in space… You know how we get—the noises in our head and everything. We get lost in that.  We can use the Guru as our centering back to the single-pointedness.  We think this is none other than Guru Rinpoche, the second emanation of Lord Buddha, himself.  This is the way.  This is that nature.  This is what is precious.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

How to Cherish What is Precious

The following is respectfully quoted from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

We should understand that if we feel that connection with the Guru, and that it is heartfelt, that is like a diamond that you should invest.  To hold onto it and to keep it stagnant is not the way.  One should not say, “I’ve got this connection, therefore I’m in like flint.”  One has to take that connection and build on it.  You have to use it for investment. You use that connection to create more virtue through learning the Buddha Dharma and practicing accordingly, through going to the teacher for guidance and advice, and then practicing that accordingly.

There’s no use going to the teacher for guidance and advice if you don’t practice accordingly.  Then you’re simply cashing in that diamond for nothing.  You’re throwing it out the window and it’s too precious to waste.  Instead again, you should invest in it, build on it.  That’s cash.  That’s money in the bank.  That’s the most precious thing you own in this lifetime, no matter how wealthy you are.

So you go to that teacher for guidance, for advice.  You allow that teacher, and ask for that teacher, to open and prepare your mind, and to deepen the mind and to mature the mind; and you depend on that teacher similarly to… Let’s say you had somehow a cash cow in the bank, you know a diamond or some fabulous thing that could be earning interest. In the same way that that diamond might be the nugget and maybe you’re living off the interest, you think like that about the teacher.   But you’re always making the moves and doing the things that never harm the principal and only increase the interest.  See what I’m saying.  I’m using a funny money analogy here, but it’s like that.

That diamond must be kept in a sacred place, enthroned upon the Lotus of one’s heart where it cannot be harmed.  And if you find that that diamond is somehow misplaced and it’s in your mouth and you’re talking about it in a non-virtuous way, get it back down there again.  Do your practice.  Recite The Seven Line Prayer.  Reestablish that connection.  Think that it lives in you, as it does.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

The Responsibility of Choice

psychic

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why We Suffer”

I’d like to explain it in whatever way I can—even though the vocabulary is limited, and I myself am extremely limited—I’d like to explain it in whatever way I can over and over and over again. And do you know the interesting thing is that I often get caught in not understanding. It hooks me, too. Every time. Recently, I saw again, after not seeing for a very long time, someone whom I consider to be tremendously suffering, tremendously suffering, who I’ve known has had a great deal of the experience of suffering during the course of their life. Someone for whom in my heart of hearts I felt, you know, a terrible grief. Terrible grief. And for that person, I always wished that there was some hope. The idea that I had, although it was on a subtle level, was that that person had been victimized. I know that as a child that person was a victim of abuse. I know that many circumstances happened that made that person’s life very, very difficult. And during the course of that person’s adult life, there were tremendous, tremendous obstacles to overcome, tremendous difficulty. And yet, I know the Buddha’s teaching, and I know that the content of our mindstream is constantly being displayed as our lives. But caught in the trap of that idea that somehow we could suffer without cause, that somehow we were victims, that somehow circumstance could occur to us, and that we were somehow blameless and innocent, I fell prey to that idea. That’s never the case; it is never the case. Each and every person who experiences difficulty does so because of cause and effect relationships that they themselves began at some point, perhaps a point that they do not remember. The Buddha teaches us that if we have suffered a great deal, if we do suffer a great deal from loneliness, and the longing for love and approval, and that kind of need, a strong need, that somewhere in the past (and this is hard to take in), we ourselves were not kind. We ourselves were not supportive of others. We were not generous and loving. Now it may actually be that in this lifetime, we have made a real effort to be generous and loving and supportive to others, so you can’t go by that.

The Buddha teaches one thing about which I am supremely confident, and I’ve become more and more so with each passing day: You should never go to a psychic or anybody like that to find out what your past lives are about. If you want to find out what your past lives are about, look in the mirror now. Are you poor? Then you weren’t too generous. Are you not so good looking? Then in the past, you were not, with your body, faithful and loyal and virtuous. That’s the truth. Are you lonely? Because in the past, you probably were not kindly and supportive to others. Are you wishing that you had love and there isn’t much love in your life? Then, probably in the past, you were self-absorbed and really only caring about what you felt and what was going on with you and what your needs were. These are hard things to take in. But the Buddha teaches that for every single result that we are experiencing, there is a cause; and that cause is within our mindstream. Now, that’s both good news and bad news. At first, you have to look in the mirror and you have to be real brave and you have to face that. And that’s the hard part. That’s the bad news. Nobody wants to look in the mirror and say, ‘You did that. You had something to do with that.’ You have some qualities that are in seed form hidden within your mindstream that are ripening even now. Nobody wants to take responsibility. We all want to feel only good; and we only want some external force to give a blessing and then we’ll all be happy in heaven. That’s what we really want. Take a pill. Like that. So at first it’s very difficult and I think that the beginning of adapting this philosophy and accepting the Buddha’s teaching and beginning to act on it is actually an act of courage. It’s tough. It’s really tough.

What makes it tough? Is it because you have to practice for hours and hours a day?  No, that’s your choice. You can practice a little bit, or you can practice a lot according to your disposition. You can start practicing a little and you can end up practicing a lot. It’s really up to you. You can be following the Buddha’s teaching at your own level. There’s no pressure to do extraordinary amounts of practice. It’s not like that. What makes that first step so courageous is that you really have to accept the great law of cause and effect. But the good news is that suddenly you have power. There is an antidote. Before you were hopeless and helpless. If you looked at your life, and there was no love in your life, you could only say, ‘Wow, poor me! There’s nothing I can do about this. I’m really hopeless and I’m really helpless. What am I going to do?  Nobody loves me.’ And then you can start whining about it. And, of course, that will never make you happy. And what is it going to do? Is it going to change anything? It will never change anything. It will only alienate others even more, because you will be continuing the root cause of selfishness and self-absorption. It will never produce any good results. And if you were to look into your life and you were to say, ‘Well, I’m really not a happy person. I mean, I have many things, I have many physical things. I have a good house and a good car and all kinds of interesting things in my life, but I’m not happy. I don’t seem to be happy and it’s just, you know, I’m a victim. Just some people are happy, and I’m not. And I don’t know why other people get all the breaks and why I don’t get all the breaks.’ I mean, you’ve heard the litany, haven’t you? I don’t need to repeat it again. I’m sure if you haven’t said it recently, then you’ve said it in the past; and if you haven’t said it in the past, you have, but you’ve forgotten. But, anyway, you can remember somebody else doing it. So I don’t have to repeat the litany. But with understanding cause and effect relationships, you can look in the mirror and you can say, ‘Yes, up until this time, I have planted seeds that have brought bad fruit, but I have the opportunity to apply the antidote. And I can apply it, I can plant good seeds and reap good fruit.’

Happiness, love, wealth, joy, contentment and peace, relaxation in any form, even health are all habitual tendencies. They are all habitual tendencies. Those among us, and there are many, who do not seem to have the karma of happiness or contentment, who cannot achieve any kind of inner peace, cannot do so because they do not have the habit of it. And they do not have the habit of it, because in the past they have instituted many causes that bring about the result of such an occurrence. If we have the result in our lives of having no capacity to be able to engage in, for instance, a loving relationship, if it seems that we look around and there really are no loving relationships in our life, it is because we do not have the habit of it. And we do not have the habit of it, because we ourselves in the past did not engage in the giving aspect of that kind of loving relationship. Well, we all think that now, now we’re changed. Now we are engaged in the giving aspect of such a loving relationship. Yes, I’m trying to get a loving relationship. I go from person to person, and try to get a loving relationship. I get in everybody’s face that I can get my hands on, and say,  ‘You will love me.’ And so I’ve changed. Now I’m a loving person. I love everybody I can get my hands on. What are you doing? Are you generous, are you kind? Not in the least. Are you giving love? No, it’s all about you. You want, you need, you want, you need. That’s what you think about, because you have the habitual tendency of being needy and loveless due to a lack of generosity in the past. Now, the Buddha teaches us that the antidote is not to go out and join a singles club; but, rather, what we must do, instead, is to be as loving and as kindly to others as possible. To give without thought of any return. You want any thing in return. You don’t need approval; you want approval. You just give. You’re kind.

Now, at first, most people don’t know how to do that. They really are inept at that sort of thing and they will end up trying to take anyway. So the Buddha gives us an actual series of practices that are antidotal. Very, very different. There are many different kinds of practices from generating oneself as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and pouring forth compassion without exception to all sentient beings equally. And you don’t get letters back from them, believe me. Pouring out compassion to all sentient beings equally, and in that way, beginning the habit of genuine loving kindness. That’s one antidote. That’s a good one. And then you can make wishing prayers for all sentient beings. You can circumambulate the stupa going clockwise. Please do so. It’s makes me happy to know that you’ve had the opportunity. So you can circumambulate the stupa, or you make some offering on an altar; and at the same time you say, ‘By this merit, or by this offering, or by the virtue of this prayer, may all sentient beings be free of suffering.’ You’re lonely? You know what the best antidote to that is? Pray for those who are lonelier than you. Pray endlessly. And don’t expect any of them to know that you’re doing so. And don’t expect anything back for it. That really is an antidote to such suffering. And those who are the unhappiest are the ones who are most resistant to hearing that. But, there actually is an answer; there actually is an antidote. And you can begin like that.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

For This Time

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

The original teachings of Lord Buddha taught us to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha,distinguishing between the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and ordinary phenomena, samsaric phenomena. We use that idea of taking refuge in what is wholesome and what arises straight from the Buddha Nature. We take refuge in this Buddha Nature as represented by the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and that starts us on a path of discrimination where we can see what to accept and what to reject—what is wholesome, what arises from the mind of enlightenment as Dharma does, and therefore results in the fruit of enlightenment. In other words, the seed arises from enlightenment and the fruit is also then enlightenment.

So we are learning to discriminate by taking refuge. We see that we can take refuge in the Buddha and the Buddha’s method, the Dharma, and the Buddha’s body, which is the Sangha, instead of what we used to take refuge in which was, who knows, sports or ice skating or you know, watching TV or having three cars or twelve houses or whatever people find their particular desire is in samsara. Now we’re beginning to understand that where we took refuge in things of desire, now we are taking refuge in something that doesn’t give immediate gratification in the way that getting a new car, say, would. Get a new car, you feel good for about six months, So good. If you get Dharma, maybe you would feel good for about six months, but then you start to feel better. And you begin to realize that you are creating the causes for continued happiness. And we begin that discrimination…”Oh, the car wasn’t a cause for happiness, in fact nothing I’ve ever bought or had has ever been a real cause for happiness, but the condition of my mind… Now that can be a cause for happiness. if I learn to accept some things and to reject others and to live a more wholesome life and to get a flavor of what it is to live in purity with uncompromised intentions.

Slowly, we begin to notice, “You know, I’m feeling better.”  Then we also begin to notice that when it’s not all about “me”, that kind of self-absorption, and rather we are really taking refuge in the Buddha’s wisdom, the Buddha’s enlightenment, the Buddha’s compassionate and amazing intention, and it’s not all about “me” and what I want, our mantra has changed from “Give me, give me, give me” to maybe “Om Mani Padme Hung” or the “Vajra Guru” mantra, or even just the pure intention to practice Dharma. So little by little, we begin to move on the path.

But now in this time, and in this age, we have something quite special. This is the time of the ripening of the blessing of Guru Rinpoche. In fact, most of Guru Rinpoche’s teachings that were hidden as terma, or treasures, during the time of his life, have been revealed to come due, or to be potent now. They are meant for this time that is very condensed and very degenerate, where people are really lost and our cultures even are lost, and our governments and power holders are lost. During this time when it’s hard to find even a rice-grained size of truth, of clarity, and of compassion most of all, during this time, here it is that Guru Rinpoche’s precious teachings come ripe in the form of terma revealed.

In every cycle of terma revelation, bar none, Guru Rinpoche made it clear that most important was to practice Guru Yoga. Guru Yoga becomes to us the very sustenance on the Path.

Words of Honor: Advice from HH Penor Rinpoche

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Kyabje His Holiness Penor Rinpoche offered at Palyul Ling Retreat:

When I was in Tibet I studied all this Dharma with my teacher, Khenpo Nuden. He was a great Dzogchen master. We received the transmission on the four volume text called Duba Do, which he has composed. There were five of us receiving this Dharma. We all tried to maintain the disciplines of being very humble and respectful, and not disturbing the lama’s mind.

We also had another Khenpo with us. This Khenpo always had coughing fits. He was always coughing. To announce the start of class each morning, a gong would ring. But one morning nobody rang the gong. We went to the lama’s place anyway, and asked, “Why was there no gong?”  The lama was really angry and told us that there was no need to ring the gong. I went to him, and said, “It is time now. May I ring the gong?”   He said, “No.”  Then I asked, “Are you sick or something?”  And he said, “No, I’m not sick.”  Then I asked, “Did you have a disturbing dream?”  He said, “No.”  After asking a few questions, he said, “You guys are not really respecting me.”  Then I said, “We all do respect you. We are just trying to maintain good discipline.”  Then the lama said, “Well, you know Khenpo clears his throat a lot, coughing up stuff.”  What to do?  He had an illness. It was natural, but we told him not to be too loud. We made a commitment to maintain discipline, and then later the lama started the teaching. No one dared to cough loudly in front of the lama. Talking to each other or making noise or getting up and down in front of the lama never happened when we visited the lama. One should be careful when visiting the lama. There is a whole book that gives lessons on how to relate with the master.

Disturbing the lama’s mind a little bit obscures one’s path and bhumis. Once one actualizes these stages of realization and the path, then one can do whatever one wants to do. Until achieving the ultimate fruition, the Buddhahood, enlightenment, until then we must relate to and rely on a master. One should respect and follow, and through that one can receive the blessing. Then there is benefit. Even with millions of dollars, there is no way to buy the Dharma teaching  through which one can attain complete enlightenment. Because if there is even a tiny breakage of samaya, then it obscures one’s own power or realization. The life force of the Dharma is the words of honor, the samaya. Even though you guys are very good, it is still good to understand how these things should be done.

 

The Spiritual Teacher

GuruRinpoche3

The following is respectfully quoted from “The Great Perfection: Buddha in the Palm of the Hand” by Gyaltrul Rinpoche

The first root downfall is to disrespect one’s root guru or gurus. If we belittle or disrespect our spiritual teacher, our guru, then not only do we shut the door to liberation, but probably we will have a difficult time getting out of the lower realms.

What makes someone your guru, your spiritual teacher? To begin with, an empowerment. Once you have received an empowerment from a teacher, the teacher becomes the guru, the object that this first vow pertains to. When it comes to inner tantric empowerments this is especially so. If a person has been your teacher from childhood onward, has taught you dharma continuously, or has been an important catalyst for the development of your insight, or has given you teachings on the generation and completion stages, or has openly revealed to you the secret oral instructions on the great perfection atiyoga, this person can be considered your guru. This kind of teacher is said to be one who has been kind to you in three ways: by giving  you empowerment, by giving you teachings on generation and completion stage practice, and by giving you teachings on the great perfection. Whether the teacher has given you only one, two, or all three of these, if you disparage or belittle that teacher in any way the samaya is lost.

Now how is this done? For instance, if you feel that you are more learned than the teacher, and that you could have done it better. In the extreme case you would eliminate your teacher so that you could take his place. Or, with a mind of jealousy, anger, or attachment, any of the poisons, to speak badly about the teacher to others, to tease the teacher, to disrespect teacher from the door of your body (such as ignoring the teacher), to disturb the teacher, upset the teacher’s mind, or cause the teacher to be displeased–of all broken samaya this is the heaviest. Very difficult.

As it has been taught, as an antidote to these problems, and to avoid them, you must always see the spiritual teacher as a living buddha and the embodiment of all buddhas, in all situations.

The Importance of Faith

Gyaltrul Rinpoche

The following is respectfully quoted from “Great Perfection: Buddha in the Palm of the Hand” commentary by Gyaltrul Rinpoche:

Faith cannot be forced in the disciple’s mind. You must understand the qualities of the objects of your faith; only then is there a ground for faith. Because these are difficult times, if a disciple has true, firm faith that isn’t wishy-washy but is based on a true wish to practice on the path, and if a teacher at least possesses impartial compassion, then these two make a suitable connection–the faithful disciple and the compassionate teacher–and it is appropriate to nurture that connection and practice on the path.

Obviously, these are not all of the qualities mentioned above, but it is very difficult if not impossible, in these degenerate times, for both lama and disciple to have all the qualifications and to come together at the same time. What is obvious and true for you now is what you call your “luck,” which is actually the force of good karma accumulated in the past; you only call it “luck” because you know nothing about it. It’s just an accumulation that you’ve unknowingly made.

Look at your present situation and compare yourself with millions of people in this and other countries who have no time for any kind of spiritual pursuit. This karma you have is really quite strong because it’s remarkably natural and easy for you–at least for these Nam Cho transmissions. Sofr these particular transmissions there’s a great amount of karma that we’re all a part of, and a great amount since the Nam Cho revelations are teachings of the ninth vehicle, the peak of the path, the atiyoga transmissions, you should rejoice in having this kind of natural, spontaneously arising karma to make these kinds of connections.

Padmasambhava said, “My dharma of the secret mantra is extremely dangerous, like taking a wish-fulfilling jewel off the head of a poisonous snake.” If you’re able to get the wish-fulfilling jewel it has the power to fulfill all your wishes. But you risk your life trying to get it. Padmasambhava gave this analogy for the path of secret mantra, and it pertains especially to the path of terma revelations. There is also the analogy of the snake in the bamboo shaft with only two directions to go: up or down. If you keep samaya and practice well, you go straight up and experience very swift results. If you don’t keep samaya and don’t practice, then just as good results are swift, so are negative ones.

To be a suitable disciple, the main quality you need is faith. It doesn’t matter which dharma you’re receiving–Kagyu, Nyingma, Sakya, Gelugpa; hinayana, mahayana–you don’t even need to be smart. You just need faith.

Impact of Karma on the Experience of the Bardo

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

Now listen to how this lama [Bokar Rinpoche] explains this—I think this is excellent. “Likewise the experience of death will be different for each one of you, although there are certain fundamental rules. Consider a house of rooms in which each wall is covered with mirrors. The man living in this house is dirty, has untidy hair, wears ragged clothing, and is always making faces. He goes from room to room, and the mirrors steadily reflect the faded image of an unkempt man with a grimacing face, untidy hair and ragged clothing. Similarly, when our mind is distorted by a lot of negative karma, each of the six bardos reflects suffering, just like the mirrored rooms in that house.” And they have a footnote here about negative karma. “Negative karma: All negative deeds, ones that deliberately make other people suffer, leave an imprint in our mind and will condition our experience and our vision of the world. And that is our suffering, that is what our suffering is.” That is the content of our suffering, that is our only suffering. That is the only suffering we will experience, but it is enough.

“The house occupant could also be clean, well-dressed and smiling. Everywhere he goes, from room to room, he sees a clear and smiling face. The house remains the same, you see, but there is no more ugliness nor appalling sights. Everything you see is pleasant and peaceful. When our mind is free of negative karma and the passions that disturb it, the six bardos reflect a picture that resembles us, full of peace and happiness. Whether pleasant or not, experiences do not depend on the six rooms. An individual fills the rooms with his or her own nature. Likewise, negative experience of the six bardos does not depend on the bardos, but they do depend on our own mind.”

Now, boys and girls, this is a very important point. It’s important because you are living the result of that right now. You are passing right now through the bardo of living. The experience that you have depends on and is resulting from the habitual tendency within your mind, the karma of your own mind, the causality that you have already brought into play. The experience of your present day life is due to that. All the suffering that you will ever experience during the course of your life, , including the cause of your death, and all of the happiness,  is due to the habitual tendency of your mind and the karmic patterns of your mind. Literally, think about it this way. If your experience was that of the kind of person who is only here to see what they can get, and upon meeting other people only sees a potential source of satisfaction… And how many of us in samsara are like that? Here is a potential source of satisfaction, and we wheedle and we whine, and we feel sorry for ourselves, and ‘please love me and do this for me.’ Or we do the opposite, which is manipulative: We try to manipulate people into a position where they have nothing else to do but benefit us. And we’re real good at it. In fact, so good we hardly see it ourselves, but that’s what we do.

And then we have another kind of situation where we spend all of our life trying to dominate the people in our environment, and our environment—trying to force it to be what we want so that we can have what we want. The experience of the life passage or the bardo of living for persons like that will be very different from the experience of the person who goes through life saying, “How can I help? How can I contribute more love to the world?” The kind of person that goes through life knowing that it matters much less how much love they get than it matters how much love they give will have a very different experience from the other kind of person. And that’s what this lama is talking about there. Not only during life, but also during death. Our death depends on the habit of our lives. If we are neurotic and frightened and whiney and complaining and weepy and emotional during the course of our lives, think  What will your death be like? What has your life been like? Think. This isn’t a great mystery. Everybody has this fantasy of climbing the Himalayas to get to the dirty guy on a rug at the top who knows everything, and he’s going to tell you the secret of life. This is the secret of life. Think. You know, think about this. If this is your passage through life, what will your passage through death be? You’ve got to fix it now.

On the other hand, if you are the other kind of person, if you have been a contributor, if you have been strong, if you have been loving, if you’ve tried to do your best, if you’ve tried to contribute love to the world, if you have tried to practice, if you have tried to calm your mind, if you have tried to make your mind an attractive and virtuous vessel, your death experience is going to be quite different. Absolutely different.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Start From the Beginning

leprosy-hands

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”

Today then I will talk about something that is necessary as a foundational understanding in order to begin the Buddhist path. In order to understand what the Buddha is talking about, in order in fact to begin to meditate or accomplish anything spiritual, on any level, there has to be, of course, a motivation. This motivation varies from culture to culture and certainly it varies from individual to individual.

I have stated this before and I will state it again. In third world countries there is a tremendous amount of very visible suffering. Of course, we have suffering here too. And I believe in my heart that the suffering is actually equal, but it is a different kind of suffering. Our suffering is not as visible. We are sophisticated and therefore we hide certain aspects of our culture. There are certain particular, very obvious forms of suffering that we traditionally put away and hide in institutions, or hide in certain parts of town that we never go to. There are certain ways in which we deal with suffering that third world countries do not have. In third world countries, and it really isn’t fair but I don’t want to spend too much time naming a specific situation, suffering is often seen very visibly on the streets. I remember when I went to India, landing in Bombay, and never having seen a case of leprosy in my life, suddenly seeing hundreds of people on the street with different degrees of leprosy, different levels of advancement—some without arms and legs scooting around on little carts, because leprosy had done away with their limbs, and others with just the beginnings of leprosy and open sores and different extremities beginning to show decay. Poverty is unbelievably evident. I am a little on the hefty side, as you may have noticed, and I remember being unbelievably ashamed of that when I saw that on the streets of Bombay, you could count everyone’s ribs. It was completely unbelievable that hunger is so prevalent there and so much a part of society. The suffering of the lack of education, of ignorance, of hunger, of sickness, these are all very obvious and they are right there in front of us. People literally do lay down and die in the street. The suffering of the animals there, the bullocks that constantly have to, from dawn to night time, pull huge carts that are so much greater than their body weight. And seeing that is quite shocking because we don’t have that here.

So in a culture like that when we look at the motivation to accomplish Dharma, it is very simply that the people in that culture do not wish to suffer anymore. They are very much aware that they are suffering. They are very much aware that this suffering is constantly with them. They are very much aware that it is completely possible to be reborn as a human being and still experience terrible suffering. They are very much aware that they don’t have a sense of control; they feel that having been born into a certain situation there is really no way out. In America, we are taught from birth that there is a way out. We can take education or we can do one thing or another. If we really work hard, we can achieve the American dream. We can build a better mouse trap and sell it to the American public and become rich. And we can work for Amway or whatever it is that we do and have a geometrical progression into wealth. We always have that hope. But people in these cultures do not have that hope. They are trying to survive from day to day, and the tremendous amount of suffering that goes with that is very evident to them.

So when you bring to a culture such as that a philosophy such as the Buddha brought where he clearly taught that all sentient beings are trying to be happy. They wish to be happy, yet they do not have the means to accomplish happiness. In a culture like that, it is understood. When the Buddha teaches that all sentient beings are suffering and even if they feel temporary happiness, even if we are able to accomplish an entire life time of temporary happiness, that because we are involved in cyclic existence, and because it is cyclic that that happiness is impermanent. It is always coupled by the other side of the coin which is suffering; that, in cyclic existence, suffering is inescapable. In a culture like that it is clearly understood. It is very evident to them that there is always suffering. Even if we managed to get enough firewood, get enough food, and even store it for awhile and even have a little celebration and even if we lose ourselves temporarily in the phenomena of life, such as falling in love, getting married—all of the different things that bring us temporary joy—that still we are very much involved in suffering. That is evident there.

But here in our culture, I have found it personally very difficult to convince Westerners, Americans at least, that this is a good reason to practice. And I understand why this is. We are brought up with the idea that we don’t have to suffer. We are brought up with the idea that here in America one need not suffer. Here in America the streets are paved with gold. Literally, there is a wonderful and golden opportunity. And if you are willing to buy a book, there is a book about how to have that opportunity. There are all kinds of books about how to have those opportunities. The sufferings that we have are very hidden. What they don’t tell you in those books is that even if you get rich, even if you become popular with the opposite sex, even if you learn to make friends and influence people, even if you become politically powerful, even if you become well educated that these things do not bring ultimate happiness. Or what happiness that they do bring is very impermanent. That often the people who accomplish these things never feel a sense of fulfillment, never feel truly happy, never feel as though they had aced it, always feel a sense of longing and a kind of suffering that is very hard to describe. In fact there is another book that is written, the book that I know personally is Passages. It talks about different periods in one’s life during which one traditionally breaks down, and breaks down because all of your life they told you, in these other books, that you could be happy doing these various things; and you could be happy if you were popular with the opposite sex, and you could be happy if you made lots of money, and you could be happy if you did all these things. But right around 35 or 38, somewhere around there, you discover that in fact you have done all these things and you are not happy.

And so it becomes traditional to break down at that time. So that is another book that we write. But we do it in such a crafty way that we don’t even realize that this is a cyclic thing, that this is a constant event. That we constantly strive and work very hard and accomplish these things that seem as though they are going to be the answer; and then ultimately they are not the answer. Ultimately we continue to suffer, but the way that our society is structured these things are very hidden. So, for Americans, for Westerners, I have found that it is very hard to convince them of this. The expression that we use in the Buddhist tradition is hook, or hook of compassion. Sounds devious, I know. Americans are afraid of hooks. If you think of it as a hook of compassion, maybe you will be more comfortable. But the hook that seems to really work for Westerners is compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved