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

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

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

Requesting the Nectar of Dharma

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

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

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

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

Light of Recognition

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

What would it be like for you if Guru Rinpoche himself, appearing in a way that you could understand, were to actually walk through every day with you?  In your mind, in your heart, seeing what’s in there?  Walk through all your efforts, and watch you when you turn away and say, AO.K. that’s enough of that.  I’m going to go and do what I want to do.  Enough of that high thinking.  Let me feel the way that I naturally feel, the hell with all of you.   You know, that kind of thing?

If we actually had the eyes of the Guru, if they could be felt watching us, you know what you would feel like if you had seen that happen.  If you had felt that even for one day.  There would never be an end to your grief.  There would never be an end to the sorrow that you would feel knowing that in the face of the Guru you had made such a stinking offering.

We remain content with our self-cherishing, content with our pride, content with our ego and our hatred and our bigotry and our bad qualities.  We remain content with these while the eyes of the Guru watch.  Because there is no moment that you exist, that you can have a thought, that you are alive in samsara that the eyes of the Guru are not watching. And I don’t mean this like you should think of yourself as a little kid thinking, “Oh no, Mommy’s watching.” It’s not like that.  The Guru doesn’t get mad at you. It isn’t an approval thing. It isn’t like your mother or your father.  It’s that these eyes are like a radiant connection through which we can see directly the primordial nature, which is free of any kind of contrivance and separation and ugliness and superficiality and any of the possibilities that make it likely that we are going to practice any kind of non-virtue.  This nature is so pure that it’s like having the eyes of supreme, unnamable, unspeakable sweetness looking at us always, looking at us with love and compassion.  And we are taking shit and throwing it against the wall and wiping it all over ourselves: scratching and burping and farting and hitting and killing and carrying on.  And yet, these eyes that hold us up, watch us always, even while we, like apes in a zoo, fling shit on them.

And yet, we wonder why it is that we cannot awaken to the Buddha nature.  “When is ‘it’ going to happen? When is ‘it’ going to come from ‘out there?’  How old am I going to be when ‘it’ happens to me?” —  as though it were going to be visited upon you like something air-dropped;  as though it were going to come to you from another city, or another state or another world.  And all the time, we are turning away from those eyes, those loving, perfect pure eyes, that are actually like guiding beams of light, if you can imagine such a thing.

When we turn our face away from the Guru, we are only creating more suffering.  There is no other result that can come from that, no matter what it looks like.  You might say that there are extenuating circumstances.  All right, name them!  I’d like to see an extenuating circumstance that’s going to change what I’ve just said,  because it doesn’t exist.  You might say, “Well, I did my practice from this time to this time and I really tried very hard with my Guru Yoga.  I worked very hard at that and I kept it mindful as much as I could and then, well, you know, you have other things to do.  You have to go work, and you have to go do this, and you have to go do that.” This is the kind of thinking that we have.  Basically, what we have done is, while we were in the state of devotional practice, while we were aware of being in the presence of the Guru, while we were practicing that kind of view, we have only created causes of future bliss and happiness.  The moment we turned away, that act of saying, “Okay, that’s that.  Now on to this” — the moment we said that, we have practiced that non-virtue which has caused us unthinkable suffering in this and every life that we have experienced up until this point. The moment we turn away from the face of the Guru and find “something else”: in that moment we have turned away from the primordial nature that is our nature, and found suffering. The moment that we go on to the next thing, is the moment that we go on to our suffering.  The moment that we move away from our practice into another state, at that moment we have moved away from what causes bliss and moved into what will only bring about more suffering.  This is true even if our activity is just as pure and clean as apple pie.  Let’s say we ended our practice to go feed the baby.  You can’t argue with that.  You got to feed babies, right?  Of course, you’ve got to go feed the baby, but the problem is that you had to turn away from the Guru in order to do it.

Now you haven’t actually figured all of this out yet, but now it’s time to practice so deeply that you understand that it is possible not to turn away ever.  It is possible to be in that space, to be with that face and of that face, to be inseparable, to be constantly in union with that which is union itself, to be inseparable with the Guru. This is the goal!

Why wouldn’t it be the goal?  Is it samsara that you wish to be inseparable from?  Is it suffering?  Is it non-virtue?  Do you like to turn away?  Maybe you like the result, the suffering that comes after!  Of course, now that I say it this way, it seems ridiculous!  Of course, you don’t want that!  Yet, in our practice, in our lives, what do we do?  We offer the five cups of poison.  This is our standard offering, every day. And then we read the text and the text says if we could just offer one butter lamp, we would remain in unmovable samadhi.  And we wonder, “I’ve offered lots of butter lamps!  What is the hold up? What’s the problem?”  I’ll tell you what the problem is.  It’s those five other cups that you offer so much more of than that butter lamp.

Maybe the butter lamp needs to be understood as a symbol, not only as a literal butter lamp on an altar, but like a light in the window, a constant reminder.  When you know that a loved one is nearby and you’re trying to create the connection whereby the loved one would be guided home. In this case, we’re trying to create the connection.  You would keep a lamp in the window, wouldn’t you?  Keep a light on?  Maybe that’s what we need to do. Maybe the butter lamp we need to offer, the one that brings us to immovable samadhi is the light that never extinguishes: the light of recognition.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Viewing the Guru

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

This teaching is meant to help us correct our view and deepening in Guru Yoga.  We will be thinking about how to deepen in our practice and how to practice with a deeper and more profound sense of view.  Remember that the antidote that we are trying to apply now is the one that addresses our superficiality.

As materialists, modern people, and sentient beings in general, our minds are very superficial.  In fact, our superficiality is literally invisible to us simply because we have no sense of what anything other than superficiality might be.  As you listen to this, you should listen with your “doors” open.  That means, don’t just listen lightly the way most people do. Most people, when they listen to either conversation or teaching, listen to it just skimming the surface, picking out the main points.  In this case, you don’t want to use that technique.  That’s okay for ordinary listening, but in this case you want to not only hear everything that is actually said, but at the same time, you also want to try to understand the concept that’s being presented in a deeper way.  It’s as though you want to receive the totality of the idea, not just the top of it.  You don’t want to try now to determine what are the most important parts.  In other words, accept the entire teaching, and then, later on, as you begin to digest it, you’ll be able to determine what the important parts are more readily.


Generally, when we walk around in our normal waking consciousness, we think that we are with the Guru only when we are praying or doing our practice. We visualize the Guru in front of us.  We think, “Oh, now the Guru must be here by the force of my devotion.”  That’s appropriate, that’s what I’ve taught you.  Then we think also that we are with the Guru whenever we see the Guru’s face.  We think that when the Guru is actually in the room and we see the face, we see the form, and we think that we are with the Guru.  If we see a picture of the Guru, maybe we have a moment of devotion, and perhaps we feel a connection because of our past practice.  We think, “Oh, now we are with the Guru.”  In fact, if we are really to examine the way that we are thinking at that point, it is extremely superficial.  There’s no view in that at all.  It’s superficial.  It’s completely inaccurate.  If we think in that way, it goes to show us that we have not accomplished pure view.  We have not accomplished a deeper view.  So this would give us a lead as to how to practice more deeply.

When we think about when we are with the Guru, we have to try to understand the meaning of our relationship with the Guru in the deepest possible sense.  We try, hopefully, to move past our perception of the Guru as an individual person.  This is our goal.  This is what we’re trying to do, generally speaking, in our devotional yoga.  We are trying to see past the personality, past the superficiality, into a more profound understanding, a more profound view.

Let’s go back to that question that we might have answered differently while we were thinking more superficially: when is it that we are with the Guru?

We are with the Guru every moment that we have the Buddha nature.  We are with the Guru so long as we appear in the world but still have within us the Buddha seed.  What that actually means is that the Guru represents for us all sources of refuge: all Lamas, all Buddhas, all Bodhisattvas, these three that arise from the primordial nature.  The Lama represents for us the Dharma: all of the Dharma, every word that was ever uttered of Dharma teaching.  The Lama represents for us as well the entire Sangha: every monk, every nun, every Lama that has ever taken robes, that has ever practiced the Dharma.  The Lama represents as well all the meditational deities with all their qualities and all their particular incarnations and all of their activities.  The Lama represents as well all of the dakinis and all of the Dharma protectors.  So when we think of the Lama, we think that everything that arises from the fundamental Buddha nature, from the pure primordial nature, that which is our Buddha nature is represented by the Lama.  Everything that the Lama represents arises from the Mind of Enlightenment.

Conversely, the Lama does not represent those things that are present in samsara.  The Lama does not represent those things that increase our five poisons, that increase our delusions.  The Lama, therefore, cannot cause suffering.  The Lama cannot cause an increase in ignorance.  In a natural way, the Lama is not capable of giving rise to more suffering and more delusion.  If somehow within the relationship that we have with our Lama there is some suffering, then we have to look to ourselves as having impure perception, as having incorrect view, incomplete understanding and the tendency to project outward what is actually happening within our own minds.  The reason why we know that the Lama cannot increase our suffering or increase our poisons, or harm us in any way, is that the Lama actually appears as a display arising from the very Mind of Enlightenment and within the Mind of Enlightenment there is no cause for suffering.  There is actually no cause for suffering, so the seed is not there.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Booboos and the Guru’s Blessing

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

Since we are in the face of the Guru constantly the next posture we should keep ourselves in is beseeching the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the Lamas to remain.  Where would you be now if suddenly your root Guru disappeared?  You should ask that question of someone who has experienced the horrible, horrible occurrence of knowing the death of their Guru.  There are many students who have actually experienced the death of the Guru.  If you think practice is hard now, you should think what it must be like to go through the pain of knowing that your Guru is no longer in the world.  Then one has to reach even more deeply, and if you think that we are weak now, try to imagine how it would be if we have to reach even more deeply, in a more profound way, into our practice: knowing that the Guru is no longer in the world, knowing that there will not be physical teachings forthcoming.  How can we find the Guru?  It’s very frightening; it’s very scary, to think that there might be a time like that.

On one level we think how awful it would be not to be in the physical presence, the here and now presence, with constant teachings occurring from the Guru in a physical way. But now we should think in a broader sense.  What would it be like if our Gurus had simply attained realization, and then gone on and remained in nirvana?  What if they had attained realization and then never appeared in samsara again?  What would that be like?  Well, that would mean that in samsara there would be no teaching.  There would be no method.  There would be no means by which to accomplish Dharma.  There would only be the means to accomplish non-virtue.  There would be endless suffering that would be constantly compounded every single moment as though it were like a geometric progression — constantly increasing, with no leveling off, with no cessation, with no chance, no opportunity, no change.  Life would be constantly miserable.  All of the poisons: hatred, greed, ignorance, jealousy, pride, war, suffering, all of the results of those would only be ripened.  And there would be no relief, no method by which to accomplish relief.  We can’t even imagine that: no means by which to accomplish virtue.  We can’t even imagine that.  It is so unthinkable that we can’t even imagine that.

And yet, we can’t even give a moment to think how miraculous it is that our Guru has returned to face us in the world in our confusion.  Because we can’t see the Guru in our mind, because we can’t see the Guru in our inner channels, winds and fluids, because we can’t see the Guru in our nature, the Guru then appears to us through the shit and thickness of our stinking delusions and in this face, with this skin, this flesh, appears as the miraculous.  And we don’t even have a minute to request that this never be any different; that it is always the case that the Gurus, the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas will return for the sake of sentient beings.  We never think how miraculous it is, how marvelous it is, how unequalled by any other gift or any other miracle. So concerned with our own superficial lives we have not even a moment to spare to thank the teacher for returning to us.  To thank them.  Think what they did!  They did not pass into nirvana. But it doesn’t mean that they haven’t accomplished their practice.  It doesn’t mean that, in truth, they do not actually spontaneously abide in nirvana now.  But it also means that they appear in the world, under samsaric conditions, for our sake.  And we don’t even have a minute a day to rejoice in that, and request them to remain.  We should contemplate on what it would be like to remain in the world without any source of liberation.  We should constantly be thinking what it would be like if the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas did not enter into samsara for us, did not enter into the world for our sake, did not appear among us, as us, in a form that we could understand, and digest, and empathize with.

We should think what that would be like, and having contemplated on that, realize it would be unthinkably, horribly, worse than any suffering we have ever experienced or could ever imagine experiencing.  Try to imagine what it would be like with no help.  Having thought about that, with that kind of energy, the energy that comes from that, every time we see our teacher, we should think in our mind, “Please remain in the world.  Oh, please, remain in the world.  Oh, please remain in the world.”  We should be thinking like that when we say our teachers long life prayers.  We should think like that constantly, be in the posture of constantly requesting the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, those who have attained realization, to remain within the world; constantly requesting that.

Now, how would you be constantly requesting that?  By expressing, knowing and facing with purity and honesty your dependence upon the Guru for liberation.  A little child lets its need of the mother be known.  A little child has a booboo and brings it to the mother to be kissed, and the mother knows– the mother knows even if the child doesn’t say, “I love you” how much the child needs the mother.  The mother knows; it’s a natural communication that they have.  And when the child says to the mother with total confidence, “I am hungry,” the mother knows.  There are no spoken words of love there, there’s no effusiveness, but the mother knows that the child is utterly and completely dependent.  The mother knows that the child is confident, that the child sees the mother as a fountain of blessing.  The mother knows that the child’s life would be lost without the support of the mother.  And so the mother knows that love.  And when the child is cold, the child goes to the mother and asks to be held, warmed up.  When the child is lonely and afraid, the child goes to the mother and asks to be rocked and loved and sung to.  And even though the child may not say, “I love you, Mother,” still, the mother sees the child’s need and understands the relationship.

If that is so with ordinary mothers and ordinary children, then if we express our need for the Guru, without shame, without pride, without fear of being humble, if we constantly express our need and our appreciation and our confidence in the Guru, then in that way we are also expressing that we wish the Guru to remain.  But if our hearts are hard and we say, “Oh, nice teaching.  Now I’ll go and do what I need to do,” and there is no relationship of that intimate nature, like a mother and a child, then there is no practice.  And there’s the question:  is the love so strong in your heart, is the understanding so profound and so wise, that, in fact, you really do wish the Buddhas to remain in the world?  We don’t know.  There is the question.  And the practice I’ve just given you, the way I’ve just given you to hold your mind and hold yourself, this would be the answer to that.  Think of yourself like a child and the Guru is like your dear, dear mother who gives you everything.  We bring all our booboos, our coldness, our loneliness, our fear, our hunger, our hurt, everything.  These things we bring, because in the face of the primordial empty nature, in the face of luminosity, in the face of the great miraculous Bodhicitta, these things disappear, and all our booboos are kissed.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

The Graceful Movement of Offering

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

In the face of the Guru, which is always, we should always be making offerings.  Do you make offerings when you come to temple?  Nice, but not enough.  Do you make offerings when you put water into the little bowls on your altars in the morning?  Nice, but not enough.  Do you make offerings of the first portions of your food?  Great, but not enough.  We should be making offerings constantly.  But how can we do that?  You think,  “Oh, my hands are busy. I can’t always be making offerings.”  Well, of course, most of the offerings, therefore, are going to be mental offerings.  If we are making mental offerings appropriate to the information that I have just given you, which is that the Guru’s face is indistinguishable from our own nature, and that we are always in the presence of the Guru, then there should never be a moment that we do not make offerings.  Now, what would that look like?  How could you practice that way?


In the face of the Guru you must not grasp or cling to anything.

That means, if you smell something and it’s a delicious smell, you offer it immediately, rather than keeping it for yourself. You know how, when we smell food, we go (sniff sound) “Mmm Delicious!  I’m keeping that; that’s mine!  I get that!”   So instead of that, you smell it, you enjoy it, and you offer the nectar of that to the Lama; every smell that you take in that is beautiful;  even the smells that you take in that are not beautiful,  you think of them as being instantly transformed into the very essence of bliss and offer that to the Guru.  Offer everything that you see.

You know how we see things and say, “How beautiful!  Good, I’ll take that!” We walk outside like we own the day.  “Beautiful day!  My eyes are drinking it in! I’m getting this!”  That’s how we enjoy the day.  We eat it, eat it, eat it.  The habit of greed is so strong.  Instead of doing that, remember that you are in the presence of the Guru constantly; that the Guru literally abides within your channels, winds and fluids, within your psychic spiritual inner structure.  That nature which is your nature IS the Guru. So whenever you see something with your eyes that is beautiful, instantly offer your eyes, offer the vision, offer the feeling, offer the pleasure to the Lama, to the holy one who has crossed the ocean of suffering for your sake.  Instantly offer it up.

Eventually, you get into a habit.  At first it’s like,  “I saw that!”  Quick, “Okay, I saw that!  Okay!”   In the beginning we get a little spastic and a little nuts.  But, later on, it becomes a natural, graceful, spontaneous movement.  You actually change the way your perception works. It takes a little time, it takes some practice, but there will come a day when naturally you do not cling to your sight.  Yes, you see; yes, it registers in your brain; yes, your pupils and your irises and all those things work just right, but the difference is that there is a kind of graceful offering up that naturally occurs.  It’s as though you didn’t grab onto everything in front of you.  Eventually it becomes a natural, graceful movement of offering.

Do you remember when you first started practicing Bodhicitta and you didn’t feel like it?   It was like, “Yeah, I’m grateful to all motherly sentient beings.  May they all rest in peace.” in the same tone of voice that you would say, “Rot in hell!”   That’s the kind of thing we did when we first started practicing Bodhicitta and we didn’t have the habit of it. I watched; I saw it.  And then, after a time it became more natural, didn’t it?  It becomes more natural to think kindly, to think of compassion regarding other sentient beings.  It’s like that now with your perception.  You make offerings constantly to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and to the Lama who embodies all the objects of refuge.  Anything that you receive, consistently offer.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t get to keep it.  I mean if it disappears in front of you, I would take that as a sign that somebody wanted it!  Please understand that we are not looking at this in a limited, superficial way!  We know that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas don’t actually need our offerings.  They are content and complete.  They are perfect.  So when we offer to the objects of refuge we are doing so for our sake, not for their sake.  Isn’t that true?  So, of course, you think in that way.  Obviously then, if you make an offering, it probably won’t disappear!  But you never know!

You get in the habit of thinking that whatever you have, “Ultimately belongs to the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas.  Ultimately, everything that I own I have given.”  There is this posture that naturally occurs over time of peacefulness and lack of tension regarding personal possessions.  We begin to think that it’s already been offered and therefore, there’s nothing to cling to.  And so, slowly, slowly, over time, we develop that habit and the habit becomes very real.  Our minds become very smooth and more joyful.  It isn’t having that makes us joyful, it’s freedom from the need to have that makes us happy.

Therefore, we make constant offerings because we are constantly in the presence of the Guru and we should think like that.  We should actually think that here, in the presence of the primordial empty nature, non-dual as the display of luminosity, here in the presence of the fundamental Bodhicitta, the miraculous Bodhicitta, the unbelievably potent, pure uncontrived Bodhicitta, it is simply not appropriate to cling and grasp. It becomes filthy and disgusting.

Suppose Guru Rinpoche were sitting right in front of you, and there was some tea or some food put in front of you.  Would you say, “Gimme, gimme?”  I mean, how could you even think of eating with Guru Rinpoche in front of you?  You would offer, “Please take, please, take everything.  Please take everything that I have!  Please eat.  Please let me offer this to you!” You must think that, in fact, that is the case.  That the precious Bodhicitta is always with us, that the Lama is always with us, and so it is never appropriate to grasp; it is never appropriate to keep for ourselves what should naturally be offered.   In this way, we get ourselves into the habit and the grace of constant offering.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Precious Nectar of Enlightenment

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

When we meditate on Buddhahood or contemplate on what it would be like to achieve realization, what do we think we are after?  What do we think the result will be?  Eventually, through the force of our practice, we are hoping, (and if we practice well, this will surely be the result), that someday we will awaken as the Buddha has awakened.  So we are actually looking to give rise to the very same thing that we are looking at when we see the Guru. We are looking to give rise to the primordial empty nature. We are looking to give rise to this nature which is free of contrivance, free of distinction; this primordial empty nature that is the innate nature, the Buddha nature.  We are trying to give rise to that in such a way that it appears, even within samsara.  We wish to attain realization now.  So it is that very union of emptiness and display, of emptiness and luminosity, of wisdom and method that we wish to give rise to in our practice.  This is the very ultimate object of refuge.

From the Vajrayana point of view we are told that realization will never happen without the necessary ripening that is provided by the root Guru.  We are told that in our practice we are dependent upon the root Guru to transmit this blessing and to lead us through the door of liberation.  But we must understand that it is more than that.  Practicing devotion in the way that we do opens the door, creates the connection, creates the habit, creates the karma, creates the cause by which we will awaken to our own primordial wisdom nature in the future.  And that nature will appear in samsara as the enlightened appearance.  This is the goal.  This is the very wish.  Understood in that way, the Lama then becomes even more the center of our mandala – the mandala of our practice, of our hope, of our prayers, of our devotion, of our lives.  The Lama, then, becomes the very core of our lives.

You must understand that there is never a time that you are not in the presence of the Lama. Not for a moment is there a time that you are not in the presence of the Lama.  If you refuse, if through ignorance you doubt, if through habit you ignore, if through slothfulness you simply put no effort into accomplishing that view, then you are not actually turning away from the Guru “out there.”  This is not an act that is happening between you and somebody else.  You are not slighting the person that is sitting on the throne.  That is not what is happening.  What is happening is that you are turning your own mind away from the very face of your Enlightenment, away from your nature. You are splitting yourself away from salvation. You are wrenching yourself away from the very hope that will bring future happiness and realization.  You are cutting yourself away from the root of your accomplishment.

Now that I have told you this, you cannot in good faith and good conscience remain superficial in your practice any longer.  You must understand that every moment that you say, “Oh, well, I can do this,” or every time you push away the Lama in order to live in your ordinary samsaric mental posture; every time you do that, you are spitting in the face of your own Buddha seed.  You are turning yourself away from primordial emptiness, from the Buddha nature, from the pure luminosity that is the very display of that nature, that luminosity that we also know as the Bodhicitta.  So then you have abandoned the root of your accomplishment.  You have abandoned the very milk of your nature, and you have shut the door to the great Bodhicitta. That is what we do when we forget and deny that we are always sitting at the feet of the Guru.  We are always looking into the eyes of the Guru. And so, we have to train ourselves to keep the Guru above the crown of the head, on the throne within our hearts, in our eyes, in our ears, in our hands.  We have to train ourselves as though we were some kind of precious vessel that was carrying around this most precious nectar of Enlightenment.  We can’t spill a drop; neither can we turn away from it.  And we’ve spilled so many drops already.

But now we know what we have in our hands, and like practitioners that have perhaps moved from childhood to adulthood, we can now expect ourselves not to drop the ball, not to drop our practice, whereas before, we were like children.  You know, when you teach children to prostrate, you do not worry whether their form is perfect.  When you teach them to say mantra, you know they are going to make mistakes.  But now we’re moving past that regarding our devotional yoga.  We can no longer allow ourselves to be the children that we once were.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo