Eat the Feast

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

How amazing it is to have everything line up: to come to the path, to have a teacher that you can relate to, a teacher who can give you the path and provide the necessary components of the path and its blessings; to have a path that can bring the auspicious result.

We would all be fools not to take full advantage. In this time when it is almost too late, this is the time when we should take advantage. There is no better time than this, particularly to meet with this Vajrayana path which has some specific element that is meant for this time.

How many times have you found yourself during the course of your life being faced with some bountiful feast and you take the posture of being a peasant who takes only the crumbs of that feast? You missed out because you did not know how to take hold. You found yourself dancing on the sidelines, holding back.  Isn’t that what’s happening now? Aren’t we in the midst of a bountiful feast, holding a precious jewel that takes endless lifetimes to find, and we just don’t know what to do. We sort of look around. We can’t help ourselves.

So take hold of it, use it. You’re standing at the threshold of the door of liberation, looking at the very mind of liberation, the face of Guru Rinpoche. Every day Guru Rinpoche is touching your life; Lord Buddha is touching your life. That Nature is revealed to you, but you cannot see it because you have the habit of being a beggar at a feast. You have to stop that now. Sit at the table like the king or queen that you are and eat the feast. It doesn’t get any better than this, or any easier. Take advantage of it.

When I say something like this to you it is with concern for the well-being of sentient beings, and for you. Accomplish ultimate compassion by becoming Bodhisattvas or Buddhas so that you can return again and again for the others. I and other lamas cannot find the way to speak to the others that do not have the karma to hear about the Path. But someday you will. In some future life those that you have karma with will come to that moment and you will be their only hope. They will have hopes of you. Will you be ready, or will you have missed the brass ring? I’m trying to make you hear this for their sake. Begin now before it’s too late.

Do What Makes Sense

An excerpt from a teaching called True Motivation for Kindness by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Let’s take a look at compassion. The Buddha teaches us that in cyclic existence suffering is all-pervasive and that there is one thing we have in common: we all equally wish to be happy. We are all working so hard to be happy.

The Buddha teaches us as well, that in our nature we are the same. Every sentient being that you see has within them the Buddha seed or the potential to be Buddha. Many have attained Buddhahood. And when you consider that each one of us has that same innate potential, you must follow logically and understand that, at some point, each one of us will be a Buddha. And at that point, who is to say who or what is better than any other? How interesting!

According to the Buddha, we all weigh the same in terms of importance, significance and value. That means men and women are the same, blacks and whites are the same, rich and poor are the same, people of different nationalities, different religions are the same, caterpillars and humans are the same. Yes! They all have the same nature. That’s a prejudice you don’t want to give up, isn’t it? But, according to the Buddha, all sentient beings are equal, and we are especially equal in that all wish to attain happiness.

Now, imagine what it would accomplish to think only of our own happiness. Not only are we the same, but we are, in our nature, indistinguishable from one another. If we were to look at each other from the enlightened perspective, we could not determine where it is that you end and I begin. These lines are drawn up by ignorant minds. In truth, Buddha nature is all-pervasive. So it doesn’t pay to think of my benefit and not yours. What would I accomplish? Only the reinforcement of my ego. I would tell myself that I am somebody important and separate. It would not accomplish enlightenment.

Logically, the Buddha tells us we should work endlessly for the benefit of all sentient beings until they are free of suffering. Logic tells me that there are many more of you than there are of me, that collectively you weigh more than I do. Therefore, I should dedicate my life to your well-being, not to my own. That’s logic. That’s the only thing that makes sense.

Kindness is not such that we’re doing anybody a favor by practicing it. Do you realize that? People will say, “You know, I understand this idea of practicing compassion, but I don’t feel particularly kind. I just don’t have it in me. I’m selfish a lot.” My answer is always the same: “Welcome to the world. Do you think you’re different from anyone else?” We’re all like that. It is this habitual tendency. Where you begin to change this habitual tendency is the intellectual examination of this information and the creation of a new activity pattern based upon it.  When you come to the realization that kindness isn’t a favor you’re doing anyone, or something you do when you want to be a good person, you will understand that kindness is the only thing that makes sense. At this point your habits will begin to change, and little by little you will begin to act in a compassionate manner.

You’ll know you have it when you don’t remember whether you’ve been compassionate or not, when someone says to you, “That was so nice of you, you were so kind” and you can only think, “What else would I have done? That was the only thing to do.”

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo all rights reserved


In the Posture of Honesty

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

We should always be in the posture of confession.  We love confession, don’t we?  It’s so Catholic!  Well, no, we do it differently here.  In Buddhism confession need not be heard by any other person.  When we first got into the teachings about confession, there was a line of people waiting to come to confess to me.  I thought I was going to have to build one of those booths! Now you know that confession need not be done in front of anyone else.  We’re talking about spiritual confession. It need not be done in front of anyone else, but one should always be in the posture of confession.  Why is that so?

First of all, we know that since beginningless time until now when we have received the teachings, we have tried to be happy but we have not known how to be happy.  Isn’t that right?  That means there’s a pretty good chance we have blown it, big time.  And judging from the fact that we are still suffering in samsara, we know that it’s true.  We know that at least 50% of the time, we have committed non-virtuous acts: at least 50% of the time, just by the law of chance.

Suppose you came to see the Guru but you didn’t change your clothes.  And you had shit all over you, really stinky.  You walked through mud and you had mud all over you, and maybe you even shit in your pants.  That’s what we did until we got here.  We just shit in our pants.  We didn’t care.  We didn’t know.  So you=ve got a load, like a kid with a slung-low diaper.  We’re walking in like that!  And we stink and we’re nasty.  If you were going to see Guru Rinpoche, don’t you think you would clean up a bit?  Do you think you might clean up a bit?

Think of confession in the same, exact way.  Think that you’re always in the face of the Guru, that you are always in the presence of that primordial nature.  Yet you know that to simply fake it and put on a quasi-pseudo spiritual face is not going to cut it because you’re not looking at a being, you’re not looking at something samsaric that wouldn’t know the difference.  You are in the presence of the primordial wisdom nature.  All things are revealed.

Being in a posture of confession doesn’t mean that you’re constantly repeating verbal confessions in your head.  That would make you nuts, especially if you’re trying to offer and pay homage at the same time!  But the posture of confession is a little bit different, and here we’re talking about subtleties.  For those of you that love to be black and white, this is going to take some cooking on the back burner for a while.  We’re talking here about a subtleness, a posture of confession.  That means that for the first time in our samsaric lives we are not trying to hide our non-virtue, and play the game of acting spiritual on top of that.  There is a natural to-the-bone honesty of realizing that you are a being wandering lost in samsara, realizing what it took to get that wandering and that lost in samsara, and realizing that that’s what you’re holding here.  With that kind of awareness, there is the profound wish for all such causes of suffering, all such non-virtue, to be purified.  So that would be a posture of confession:  I know that I have engaged in non-virtuous conduct of all kinds.  I have no illusions and I do not try to pretend or shut it down or make nicey-nice with with my superficial face.  I do not pretend that none of this has happened.  I am truly, within the deepest part of my heart, a penitent person.  I am constantly in that posture.  I am realizing that I have performed non-virtue and in the face of the Guru I wish to hold that up as though dewdrops were being held up in the sun.  And that sun has the same capacity that the sun has naturally: that by the light of midday those dewdrops will all be gone — if we don’t hide them under a rock, pretend they don’t exist and put them away somewhere.  Instead, we hold them up in the act of penitence and compassion and honesty. With complete confidence that this non-dual emptiness and luminosity, like the sun, will burn away all such poison.

Rather than being somebody who is doing shuck and jive, trying to dance, trying to pretend that we’re all goody two-shoes, rather than committing that horrible non-virtue, instead, we are in a posture of honesty.  And in that posture of honesty, the heart is relaxed and the mind is opened.  The non-virtue, in that posture, begins to evaporate like the dewdrops do.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Observe the Equation

An excerpt from the Mindfulness workshop given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo in 1999

Lamas and bodhisattvas have taught time and time again that one’s practice must be part of one’s life.  They have taught that it has to be an ongoing thing, and that you can’t separate it from whatever else it is that you do.  The opportunity to practice exists in our lives, and so therefore, to only utilize sit-down time and completely separate that from the rest of our lives without any effort toward recognition or mindfulness is really pretty useless.  It’s like trying to drive down the street with no air in your tires.  You’re not going to get that far. This mindfulness, like changing any habitual tendency, can be a little bit painful or tight at first – that happens – but you know that, and you’ve broken through things like that before when they were important to you.  For those of you that have quit smoking, when you first quit smoking, that was a raw and painful thing, but you pushed through it because you knew that established the new habit pattern was going to be the way to go.  That was the only way to get to that goal.

Why don’t we think the same way about our practice?  Why do we think that we just have to wait for the glory?  If you decide you’re going to exercise, you have a goal: you don’t want to be a blob anymore.  That’s your goal, and you’re fervent about it.  When you first exercise, you’re going to hurt.  It’s going to ache.  If you’re really committed and you’re really not into being a blob, you’re going to take two Tylenol, and you’re going to continue.  You’re going to push through it.  Why can’t we push through our own habitual tendencies?  Why can’t we push through into some kind of ritual of recognition?  If we can ritualize working out, if we can ritualize stopping smoking, if we can ritualize crossing the street safely, if we can ritualize occupational training, why can’t we ritualize the state of recognition so that we make it part and practice of our walking, waking lives?  We trained to become whatever we are now.  Are you a doctor?  Are you a nurse?  Are you trained for that?  Wasn’t it hard when you first started taking in all that information?  Sure it was.  Are you a professional in any way?  You trained for that.  It was hard when you made those new habits, but you saw a goal and you had to get there because everything in you told you you’re supposed to be successful at that.  Why won’t we accept this responsibility in our practice?  That’s what it takes.  It takes really accepting that responsibility in our practice.

If you want to play guitar, your fingers are going to hurt for a while.  You’ve got to build calluses, but ordinary human beings, perfectly ordinary human beings, can do that because they observe the equation.  They can see that if they want to get there, they have to go through this uncomfortable zone of practice.  Why can’t we do that in our spiritual practice?  Why is it up to our teacher to push us through to realization?  Why do we hang around like limp practitioners and say, “Well, after I do this practice, what practice should I do after that?” without really ever trying in the least little way to have any recognition of the nature of phenomena, of the nature of reality?  We’re perfectly able to do this.  We do this in other areas of our lives.  Why is this so hard?

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

What’s Your First Thought?

An excerpt from a teaching called How Buddhism Differs from Other Religions by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The way to become happy is somewhat counterintuitive, particularly when you’re first starting out on the path.  When we first start out on the path, we come because we are generally interested, but also because we have issues.  We have problems.  Our life does not make sense in some way.   Generally something is a little bit off, and what’s off is the old habit.  You know the old habit that says materialism makes you happy, and getting is what you need to do.  And it’s you first and nobody else.  That kind of materialism is what we walk in here with.   Whether we realize it or not, we are brought up with it.   Even your parents told you to go to school so you could make more money than the slob next door.   It’s that kind of idea.  I don’t know if your parents said that, but you get the idea.

When we start to break that habit, it’s a little bit difficult.  One of the things we do when we begin is to make aspirational prayers, and you should start that this very night.  You don’t have to have any particular training or empowerment, and yet it’s quite profound to start making aspirational prayers.  Everyone that enters onto the path of the Buddha Dharma begins that way, by making aspirational prayers for happiness and well-being for all that lives.  You can do that any way you want to.  There’s no instruction necessary.  You don’t have to read a prayer from a book.   You can simply speak what is on your heart.

For instance, you might begin by saying, “As I walk around the stupa, may all sentient beings know the opportunity of this blessing.”  Like that.  If you wake up sick, instead of saying, “Oh, I’m sick.”  Instead you say, “May all sentient beings experience radiant health.   May they not suffer the way I’m suffering now.”  And if you’re hungry, before you eat, you say your aspirational prayer, “May all sentient beings be nourished.  May they have the fullness of Dharma.  May they have plenty to eat and plenty to wear.”  If you find that you lose your job, and you’re poor and you just can’t pull it together, you make stronger and stronger prayers, “May no one go without good work, and good occupation.  May no one suffer as I am suffering now.”  If you break a leg, before you start cussing or crying, you say, “May no sentient being suffer this pain, ever.  May all sentient beings walk strong, and have full use of all their limbs.”

At first when you do it, you think, “This is kind of namby pamby.  I mean when do you get into the deep stuff?”  Oh, you’ll get into the deep stuff.  Trust me.  But it behooves us to start at the beginning.  That’s where you start.  You begin to break the old habits, and give rise to some new habits of generosity and mindfulness, thoughtfulness, and caring.   And we do this through aspirational prayers.

I know when I read the paper, that’s a great opportunity to make aspirational prayers.  “May this suffering end in Burma.  May this terrible situation give rise to new purpose, and may the people find their empowerment and rise up.”  That kind of thing.  Whatever comes to your mind.  In this way, you break the habit of selfishness, neediness, and the inability to connect the dots and see how your actions do create result and other people’s actions do create result.

I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, “I have been generous for two weeks!  And there’s no result. So what the hell is this?”  First of all, if you come to me and say that, I doubt that you were truly generous even for those two weeks.  Second of all, it’s just two weeks!  How many years did it take you to be as miserable as you are?  It’s going to take some time.  It does not happen overnight.

When people first try to make these aspirational prayers, they don’t have the feel for it yet.  It’s not really in their heart yet.   So, they basically say through gritted teeth, “May all sentient beings be happy.  I’m in a really bad mood.  May all sentient beings be really happy.”  If you do that it shows you how it is not your habit to care for others.   That right there is the proof in the pudding.  That’s the reason why we are suffering.   If we just persevere through the two-week mark, through the six-month mark, through the twenty-year mark, we become happy, and we do change.  And our lives do change.  But it takes persistence, and it takes getting to the point where you are not saying it through your teeth.  It’s really so natural to you that even if you wake up in a bad mood, you say, “Oh, I’m in a bad mood.  Boy, I hope nobody else feels like this.”  Now you know you’re getting somewhere.  If your first thought is, “I hope nobody else feels like this.  And your first thought is for the consideration of others.  That’s really one of the main beginning points in the Buddha Dharma – to give rise to compassion.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

True Refuge

Dharma and Buddhist teachers should unite in giving, and support each other. A true Dharma teacher will unceasingly give to other people and to one another, support. Any Dharma is good if it is pure in intention.

If we develop a good heart, we will progress to true compassion and awaken Bodhicitta. This is the way of the Buddha’s method.

Buddhism in any form is precious. And the forms are many, all lovely and useful. And can lead to Enlightenment. It is taught that VajrayanaIs the quickest and most profound. But I think Buddhism works. Period. And all types are profound.

My leadership is Nyingma, Palyul.All my effort goes to Palyul, and serving the poor as well as animals who need it. Many need help, and refuge.

The trick is keeping the ego in check. Because you sit under a tree does not make you Buddha. Being true refuge does, and the seed is your primordial nature. Unborn and spontaneously complete. You cannot contrive primordial nature. It is as it is. Pristine. And your accomplishment is as as it is and also cannot be contrived. Or maybe briefly, but only to dummies. It all comes out eventually. My advice: stick with Palyul, and wait upon His Holiness. His Holiness Penor Rinpoche and His Holiness Karma Kuchen. Stay pure. Honor the Boddhicitta before all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo. All rights reserved


Let’s Be Honest

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo on October 18, 1995

When one regards the Lama, we see that the causes or seeds for suffering are not there.  However, when we regard our own mind and our own perception, and the way that we think, the seeds for all suffering are within that.  Our normal waking consciousness, our ego, our samsaric nature, whatever it is that we think of ordinary ourselves as being right now, that does indeed arise from samsaric causes, from causes that we have actually created and which are, for the most part, non-virtuous.  We have not understood the view, nor have we understood any way to be happy.  So, when it comes to our state and our mind, there is the cause for suffering.  We need to distinguish between these, because when we look at the Guru we have to understand that there in that place, there is no cause for suffering.

This is an antidote to the tendency for practitioners who wish to completely open their minds to pure perception but are unable to do so. They wish to completely practice surrender to the devotional yoga.  They wish to open their hearts to the Guru, and receive the blessing without any obstacle or inhibition, but are unable to because they themselves have experienced trauma, hurt, and different kinds of suffering associated with samsaric life.  The antidote is to think and concentrate on the Guru as that which arises from the Mind of Enlightenment that does not have within it the causes for suffering.  It is our own ordinary mind, our samsaric personality ego structure that has within it all of the causes for suffering.

Because we are speaking about our perception, of course we can perceive anything any way that we want, and therefore, we are likely to experience suffering.  Even if it seems as though we experience suffering from an enlightened source, we know that this cannot be so.  Learning to distinguish, learning to understand what that actually means for us is the first step in learning how to practice spiritual surrender.  We have to give up our old habit of blame.  We have to really attain self-honesty.  We will depend on self-honesty in order to not exert the tendency of placing blame on something external.  If we have not attained any self-honesty, the pain that we suffer, the trauma that we live through, still comes from “out there.”  However, once we have learned self-honesty, we learn that what we are suffering from is our own inability to practice those causes, which create happiness.  So, we accept personal responsibility for that.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

The Morning After…

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Essence of Devotion”

Let’s say that you have suddenly woken up at the party. And you looked outside and you saw this horror—horror that people that you love and respect and know are doing their very best, are trying so hard, are not able to make themselves happy. And you see the suffering.  You see hunger.  You see poverty.  Read the paper, it’s all there—hunger, poverty, sickness, diseases that we can’t cure, and more coming every day.  So many different kinds of horrible suffering!  Let’s say at the party you woke up and you saw that. And then suddenly you looked at yourself and you thought, “Why am I dressed like this!  I look more stupid than I can possibly imagine!  This is stupid!”  And you realize that you put so much effort into this, beating yourself up and getting the right connections and going to the party, and getting there in time, having a good time.  You realize you’ve spent so much energy on that and you feel like… I hate to use this example but, let’s say you ate a couple of tablespoons of nice warm mayonnaise. Bleh. That kind of cloying feeling in your mouth. Isn’t that disgusting?  That’s how you’d feel.  That’s how you’d feel.  You look at yourself, and you look at what’s going on, and you look at the suffering out there and you look at the silly amusement—the silly things that hook us, that make us respond, the ridiculous things that make up our particular individual kind of party—and suddenly you feel like you’re sick of it.

There’s a feeling once you study the suffering of sentient beings and the horror of cyclic existence. It becomes a little bit nauseating, sickening in your mouth.  You’ve been eating it your whole life, sickening.  You look at yourself go through cycle after cycle of unfulfilling or sometimes negative bad relationships and you just wonder when you’re going to get the big picture, when you’re going to wise up.  It suddenly seems like your own lust and your own neediness are kind of like a little sickening.  Maybe not all the way yet, but not so cool.

Suddenly you look at yourself and you realize that you’re kind of like a kid, just wearing clothes that are inappropriate.  It reminds me of what little kids do.  My daughter is not here so I can talk about her again. Sometimes she likes to play dress up, you know.  She’s goes into a closet and pulls out everything that doesn’t match and all of the funny clothes that young people think are very dramatic.  We took her out for dinner with her friend last night and what they wanted to wear was a funny-looking skirt and blouse that didn’t match, cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and pants underneath it. It was just a very strange outfit.  At this party you kind of look like that.  You know, we look at ourselves and we go, “Who put this on me?  How did this happen?”  It’s that kind of feeling.

So at that point one needs to build on that first inkling of reality, that first inkling of renunciation.  That first inkling is precious.  It’s like the first taste of pure water in your mouth.  Let’s say you are a person who, for your whole life, has had nothing to eat or drink other than, let’s say, salt water, sugar water, nasty foods, warm mayonnaise, things like that that just don’t feel good in your mouth, and suddenly someone gives you just a bit of this precious, sweetest, coolest water to drink—mountain water, pure mountain water.  How delicious would that be!  Cool and sweet in a natural way.  Your mouth maybe can’t even take it in.  You’re used to that other stuff and you can’t even take it in, but something inside of you says, “Yes.  Yes.  This is it!”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Following in the Footsteps of the Guru

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

While we are constantly in the face of the Guru, we should remain constantly in the posture of understanding that we should return the favor of the Guru’s kindness.  What kindness is it, I wonder, that would cause the Buddhas to appear, having emanated from the state of nirvana, in the world for the sake of sentient beings, experiencing all the conditions that are worldly and ordinary?  Experiencing all those conditions, for the sake of sentient beings, rather than remain constantly in the bliss of nirvana.  Amazing and wonderful, isn’t it?  What kind of kindness would that take?  When we think of the Bodhisattvas who remain poised on the brink of realization, emanating constantly into the world, endlessly:  because how long will it take to empty samsara?  These holy ones know that we are talking about what seems to sentient beings like forever.  What kind of love would it take?  We think about the kind of love it takes for a mother to suffer and bear her young. We think of the kind of love it takes for a mother to feed and care for her young.  We think of the kind of love it takes for a mother to patiently explain, patiently teach, patiently go through what needs to be gone through.  We’re talking about the quintessential mother, and this mother would patiently explain, because all the mother would care about is raising the child so that it is fully functional, fully competent, fully happy, fully blossomed in every conceivable way.  Now that’s a lot of love, isn’t it?  Just think what kind of love it would take for a loving parent to give, give, give in that way.  Hardly any of us can imagine such a thing because the samsaric parents that we have, although their kindness is evident because we are here, many of them have not known how to love.  They simply haven’t known how.  And so their love was never perfect, not any of them.  But we’re talking about a perfect mother.  What would that be like?  What kind of love would that be?

Then, if you can imagine that, which is practically unimaginable, how much more so would it take to imagine the kind of love and compassion that it takes for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to appear in the world for the sake of sentient beings under ordinary conditions again, and again, and again uncountable times?  What kind of love is that?  We who give and take love like we change our underwear; we who give and take love according to what’s in it for us, we can’t even understand that.  And yet we must try.  We must try to understand that level of compassion.  Not only do they return for our sake, but they practice for our sake.  These Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have accomplished supreme realization, many under terrible conditions, going through terrible tests and trials, which is part and parcel with their coming into their own.  They’ve crossed this ocean of suffering under extreme effort.  Lifetime after lifetime of practice and accomplishment, and they did so for the sake of sentient beings.  They literally did so for the sake of those who have need of them, who have hopes of them.  And then, having accomplished that, on top of that they return again and again and again for the sake of sentient beings and would return for even one, for you.  What kind of love is that?  What kind of compassion is that?

We should contemplate and meditate on that, and then we should think that we must repay that kindness.  In order to repay that kindness we have to think: what is the goal of the Lama?  Why does the Lama appear in the world?  Of course the answer is, for the sake of sentient beings; because it is unbearable that sentient beings remain suffering in the world; because the Lama cannot bear it; because it is unthinkable that sentient beings should continue to wander helplessly in samsara.  It is for that reason that the Lama returns to the world, that the Lama appears in the world.  Therefore, every bit of merit that we can manage to accomplish, merit that we have accomplished in the past, in the present, and even counting on the merit that we will accomplish in the future — we call that ‘the merit that we have accomplished in the three times, past, present and future’ —  this we should constantly offer for the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.   We should be constantly looking for ways to accomplish merit, constantly looking for meritorious activities so that we can offer that for the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.  We should never think, “Oh, that was good.  Got some!”   We should never think things like that, ever, because that’s not how the Lama thinks, and we are wishing to repay the kindness of the Lama.

Dedication of merit in this case can be understood as repaying the kindness of the Lama.  The Lama has given the nectar to you.  You must, in turn, find a way to give the nectar to the Lama, to the same degree that the Lama has done.  We’re not talking sloppy.  That doesn’t mean, “Oh, the Lama has given me the nectar so I’ll practice and I’ll dedicate the merit.  Period.”  Doesn’t that kind of thud a little dully when it hits the floor?  We are talking about going through the same extraordinary activity that the Lama has gone through in order to accomplish their practice; achieving supreme realization, and then returning for the sake of sentient beings.  This you must do in order to repay the kindness of the Guru.  And this is the ultimate dedication of all merit to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings:  the gathering together of extraordinary merit, the accomplishment of meritorious activity, and the returning for the sake of sentient beings, offering that merit as a gift, as a feast, just as you have been offered the feast of Dharma by the Lama.

So instead of the lovely feast that we have offered to the Lama so far: that feast of hatred, greed, ignorance, jealousy and pride, now we pay homage; we make offerings; we offer confession; we rejoice in the capacity of those who have accomplished; we request the nectar of the teachings; we beseech the Lama, the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas to remain in the world for the sake of sentient beings; and we pay back the great kindness of the Guru by dedicating all the merit that we have ever accomplished, or will ever accomplish in the three times, for the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.  And we make the commitment here and now — not a moment from now, but right now, right this moment that we ourselves will not rest until we achieve supreme realization so that we can return for the sake of sentient beings:

“Following in the footsteps of my Guru, I will accomplish.”

This is the prayer.  This is how we practice.

This teaching and the others from Viewing the Guru:  The Seven Limb Puja (type “Viewing the Guru” into the blog search bar to find all related posts) contain pointing-out instructions that I would consider to be concentrated, important and many-layered teaching.  If you really comb through it in a responsible way, extracting from it every single bit of nectar that you can, you will receive a lot more than perhaps you have even received reading it.  Please read these teachings and accomplish the practice in that way and think that this is how you should be from this moment forward: in this posture, in this way, inside, this is your practice.  You need not look any different at all on the outside.  In fact, it would be best if you didn’t!  Because then if you were, I would say that it was an act.  There doesn’t have to be any words, there doesn’t have to be any show.  You don’t have to walk around saying, “Oh yes, I’m doing this!”  The thing should begin within you, quietly, in a deep and profound way, indicating that, at last, you have entered into the well of your own natural mind, and have begun to draw up the nectar, the nectar of the Guru.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Pick Your Poison

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo on October 18, 1995

We have made many offerings to the Guru.  Mostly what we have offered the Guru are five cups:  five cups of poison.  We have offered the Guru hatred, because there in the presence of the primordial nature, there in the presence of the display of the Bodhicitta, there in that non-dual pristine purity, we have shamelessly hated, abused, and neglected.  We have committed horrible sins against others who are innocent —  against motherly sentient beings — not only in this lifetime, but previously as well.  And we have done this bold-faced in the presence of that which is so holy as to be indescribable.

We have offered the cup of greed and grasping.  Every single day in the presence of our own mind, the face of the Guru, in the great silent sound of primordial emptiness, there in the great quiet light of the display of luminosity, right there in the place of Bodhicitta, from our mouth, we have offered the cup of greed instead of the speech of comfort.  This is what we have offered to the Guru.  This is the offering that we have made.  Without shame we grasp. We are filled with greed.  We do nothing but think about me, me, me, and “What I can have?” and “What I can do?” and “How great I am!” and “Don’t you want to give me some more approval?” “Don’t you want to give me some more?”  This is what we do in the face of the Guru.

And then the third cup that we offer to the face of the Guru is our ignorance.  Not only do we begin with ignorance —  which is forgivable, in the sense that we are born; we wake up; at five or six years old we come to consciousness.  Later on, we figure out that we’re as dumb as posts.  We just don’t know.  We are ignorant.  We don’t have the teaching yet.  But now we have come to the point where we have received the teaching.  We have received enough of the teaching where you could say that while we still abide in samsara, we are moving away from ignorance.  We are bringing down, or quelling, the poison of ignorance.  Yet, in the face of the Guru, in the face of the primordial empty nature that is our nature, in the face of the very display of Bodhicitta, we have willfully remained ignorant.  Willfully.  We have not accomplished our practice.  We have turned away from our practice.  We have not tried very hard.  We have not listened to the teachings.  We have not taken the advice of our Gurus.  We continue to listen to the teaching as though it was water rolling off of our back

Imagine that you had one chance to listen to Guru Rinpoche and that was the only contact with Dharma that you were ever going to have in your whole life, and Guru Rinpoche offered to give you the keys to liberation, everything that you need.  What would that listening look like?  Hopefully, if you are not dumber than a post, you would listen to the Guru as though it were your very breath.  You would listen with your whole heart and every word would be like food, like nectar to you.  You would take every bit of it home and work with it all the time.  If that were the only opportunity you would ever receive and you were receiving these teachings from Guru Rinpoche, maybe you might think like that.

But in the face of our root Guru that’s not what we do.  We report dutifully for class and we hear the teachings.  I used to walk around and ask students, “What was the teaching about that I taught the other night?”  But I stopped that because that used to break my heart, when there was no answer.

We are faulted in the way that we make offerings.  We cling to our ignorance.  We have heard the method, we have heard the teachings, and yet we do not practice accordingly, to the best of our abilities.  And so, we have offered the cup of ignorance to our Guru.  And that has been the best that we could do.

The next cup that we have offered to the Guru is jealousy.  Bold faced, in the face of our very nature, in the very display of Bodhicitta we have looked at the accomplishments of others, and we have said, I can do that.  We have competed and we have been jealous.  We have looked to other’s belongings and we have said, “I wish I had that instead of you.”  We try to make ourselves feel better, to practice self-aggrandizement, by lifting ourselves up and putting others down.  These things we have done in the very face of the Guru who is indistinguishable from us and from our nature, and indistinguishable from the nature of all beings.  There is only nature. It is not divided into pigeon holes.  Its not like an ice-cube tray where its all divided into sections.  So when we look into the face of any other sentient being, any motherly sentient being, and perform our usual ritual of jealousy and competitiveness, then this is the game that we are actually playing with the root Guru.  We have, therefore in truth, been jealous and competitive toward the root Guru, because there is no distinction.  And if we think that it’s okay to be that way in front of other sentient beings but not okay to be that way in front of the Guru, then we are holding up the cup of ignorance as well.  By now we should know better than that.  We have been taught more than that.  By now we know that all sentient beings have within them the Buddha nature, the Buddha seed, and that is inseparable from the Guru’s nature.  So, if we harm, or ignore, or treat badly or abuse others, this is what we have done to the Guru. We have held up the cup of jealousy.

And the last wonderful offering that we have made to the Guru is the cup of pride.  In front of the Guru, that nature which is all-pervasive, fundamentally undifferentiated, free of any kind of conjecture, or contrivance, or distinction; in front of that pure display, we have held ourselves up as great, special and superior.  We have held ourselves up as that which requires special attention.  We have held ourselves up as that which requires approval because we are so wonderful.  And we have not been ashamed, in front of the face of the Guru, to indicate that we are superior to others.  We have not been ashamed to do that.  Strangely, we feel shame and embarrassment at the idea of surrender in devotion, but we have no shame about showing our stinking nasty pride in front of the face of the Guru.  That doesn’t bother us at all.  Our thinking is completely backwards.

Now, this is not good news.  We like hear good inspiring things.  We like to be entertained.  This is not the kind of thing that we like to hear.  But you know, if you really are honest with yourself, if you really examine yourself, you know that what I am saying is true.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo