Habitual Tendency


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

If you have the habit of gossip, go through the method. Fix it. Understand that if you allow that hatred in any form to continue, you will get more and more unhappy as you age. The people who are youthful and beautiful when they are elderly are the people who kept something alive, even if they aren’t Buddhist. I’ve met people like that. A duty, a responsibility, an ethical responsibility they feel to be kind. Maybe they don’t understand extraordinary kindness, but they are kind. An ethical responsibility to not put shit in the pool of earth. Some people just seem to have that karma to understand that even without the Buddhadharma. I respect that so much.

And that’s true of all of us, too. As we get older, we get the wrinkles. and this is crazy, the wrinkles, and this is crazy, the wrinkles, and this is crazy, the wrinkles. It’s a symbol, if you think about. It’s a symbol of how much deeper the lines of our habitual tendencies get over time. Do you see what I am saying?  Our habitual tendency is in our posture; it’s in our face. We screw up our faces when we are doing our habits, and all of this aging stuff is phenomena—our phenomenal habitual existence becoming more solid and more real and more heavy in samsara as we get older. That’s unfortunately how most people age. They get stiffer. They get harder. They get querulous, frightened to death, frightened of death. And for many people, it’s an ugly, humiliating time.

I don’t want that for you. But it’s going to happen if you don’t take yourself in hand and say, ‘Let’s walk through this.’ Really look to benefiting yourself. Instead of being steeped in habitual hatred, conquer that monster. It’s a bubble; it’s a dream; it’s not a solid thing. There’s no elephant in this room, not really. We have to practice away from that.  Start simple. If you can’t find anything good about a person, first of all, that’s your fault right there.  If you can’t find anything good about the person, make it your business to find something. If it’s just you like the way they tie their shoes, work from there. If that is where you are starting from, if that is what you have to do, forgive yourself and move on from that point. But start. If you can go a little further and understand through practicing and contemplating, and through the method that we teach here, that all sentient beings wish to be happy and in their nature they are the very Lord, and that there is an end to the suffering and that is liberation. With understanding, we can then give rise to the bodhicitta and compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Roots of Anger


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

For most of us, when we are wrathful or angry, it’s not wrathful. It’s not righteous wrath, you know, in order to help that person. The only time I can see where it would be useful for an ordinary person to be wrathful would be to maybe encourage somebody else to stand on their own two feet or to be less dependent or something like that. Now look, I really want you to do that, and you can talk sternly. But otherwise, where in your life should hatred be?  Hatred is one of the three things that binds you to this world of samsara in which you will get old, you will get sick and you will die. And so we are taught that we must handle this hatred.

So when we approach hatred and look at it, we have to really examine our habitual tendencies. We can’t just say, you know, ‘I’m not going to hate anybody,’ or it’s kind of like a recovering alcoholic. It’s difficult, very difficult, to just say, ‘I’m not going to drink anymore. I’m going to use will power and I’m not going to drink anymore.’ You know, they say some people can do that, but most people can’t. And why is that?  Because you have to learn about yourself. Because there is a reason why you drank in the first place. Because you have to learn to look inside of yourself and see what’s in there and you have to work it. What do they say in the program?  ‘It works if you work it.’ What do I say about Buddhism?  ‘It works if you work it.’ It’s the same deal. We are addicted to our habitual tendencies like a bunch of alcoholics. That’s why I love recovering alcoholics, because I feel such a kinship with them. And it’s beautiful that it’s so obvious to them that they are recovering addicts. Those of us who maybe have a little shot every now and then or whatever, a little wine every now and then or we’re teetotalers, we think, ‘Oh well, I’m not an addict. Oh, I’m pure, because I take vitamins and I eat bananas,’ and whatever.

But I tell you what. It’s that recognition that from the point of view of recovering from the addiction to the five poisons and from that awakening to Buddhahood, most of us are still at the stage where we are living like bag ladies and men under the bridge, because we ain’t recovered yet. We still have our hatreds; we still have our resentments. And we practice them.

When a Buddhist approaches ridding themselves of hatred, it can’t be done through willpower. It must be done through understanding, through practicing and ultimately through attaining view. Understanding means looking within oneself with honesty. None of us have been perfect. We’ve hurt others. We’ve killed bugs, people; I don’t know what, swatted flies, whatever. None of us has been perfect. And when we approach that, we need to look at that without excuses, bald-faced, you know?  Where have I fallen down here?

Now we don’t want to look at in a harsh and miserable way.  When I say take oneself to task, I mean have a long, sobering talk with oneself. I don’t mean self-hatred. That is useless and I don’t like it. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to talk about it; and I will slap you next week if I see it, because you are just as worthy as anyone else, and that’s just a game. When we get into self-hatred, it’s because we have bad qualities and we don’t want to deal with them. So I say, accomplish those qualities and your image of yourself will rise up like a mountain.

Most people that have poor self-image are stuck in a kind of fearful narcissism where they do not respect or understand what is outside. They do not respect or understand what is inside. They can’t tell the difference between outside and inside. And they are so internally focused, focused on their own needs, wants and dramas, particularly dramas, that it is really very difficult for these people to step out of their shell, their shell of narcissism, and begin to truly try to be of benefit to others.  This narcissism, this kind of fearful self-absorption, often is one of the causes of a kind of hatred. If you are fearful and self-absorbed in your own drama, it’s really, ultimately when you trace it down, pretty much all about you. You know? If you have that kind of thing, there is never the opportunity to understand the nature of phenomena. There is never the opportunity to understand the primordial naturally luminous wisdom state that is our nature because of the drama. And there is even a posture with that. Forthe people who have that kind of thing, as they grow older, their body tends to go like that. It caves in like that. And it’s the protecting that we’re doing of something that we feel is inherently real–ego.

When you think, ‘Oh, what can I do about this? I’m so fearful. Of course she’s saying I’m narcissistic, but it’s really that I am afraid.’ Well, what can we do about that?  I think one step is to notice that are there are other people who are afraid, also. Notice that everybody is afraid. Notice that there is a humanity that we share of brother-sisterhood, a humanness that we share, human experiences that we will all have together. We will grow old. We will be sick. We will die. This is the condition that humanity shares in samsara. So learn to recognize in others that connection, even if it’s a sad one, that we all suffer the same; and we have the same wants, too. That narcissistic self-absorbed person who is very fearful wants desperately to be happy but doesn’t know how. And so in order to make themselves better, they stay frozen. They have hatreds and fears toward everybody else. And that’s the reaction.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


What Creates a Hell Realm?

  1. Anger

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

The realms of cyclic existence are depicted in . the Wheel of Life and Death.   The Buddha teaches us that there are six realms. Now one of the reasons that people like to become Buddhist and to get away from Christianity is they don’t like the idea of heaven and hell. Guess what?  Guess what?  But here in Buddhism we view it a little bit differently.

This is the hell realm. This is a noxious picture. I don’t want to describe it to you because you are new and you are delicate. But it is rough. It is rough. In Buddhist tradition, we are taught that there are hot hells and there are cold hells, and there are people-cutting-each- other-up hells; and there are horrible burning things and yucky terriblenesses. And if you look at this picture, you will see terriblenesses that you cannot believe. I don’t mean to make light of the hell realm. I personally have no intention of going there, that is why I am working very hard to create virtue. But anyway these hell realms are considered to be very difficult. In Christianity if you are not saved, you will go to hell, I think. I am not sure; I am not a very good Christian. I am not any kind of Christian actually, and so I don’t really know exactly what the teachings are. In Buddhism, this hell realm here is arrived at due to hatred and anger. Now think about that for a minute. Do you think that it is so inconceivable that one will experience a hellish rebirth? That’s what we consider in terms of rebirth—not that you go to hell forever but [that you will experience] a hellish rebirth. Is it so inconceivable that due to hatred and anger you will experience a hellish rebirth?

Think about the capacity to experience nightmares. Have any of you ever had a nightmare?   Where you were suffering horribly?  Did you ever dream where a monster was after you?  Did you ever dream where somebody really hurt you?   Maybe you even dreamed that you hurt somebody else. Most of the time we project, though, our own hatred and we dream that somebody is hurting us. Everyone has had nightmares, different kinds of nightmares—nightmares like monsters getting us and even getting stuck in a burning house, or nightmares of falling, or nightmares of not being able to get ourselves out of a situation. Have you ever had a nightmare where you were stuck and unable to run and you were suffering greatly because of that or even stuck in some horrible tight place? Something like that. People have described many different kinds of nightmares. When you are in that nightmare are you saying, “Heh, I am having a nightmare, no problem. I’m out of here. As soon as I wake up, I am going to have my cereal.”  No. You are thinking,” Aah!  Let me out!”  That is the same as a hell realm. The mind can produce a short event like that, of being stuck in a nightmare. The mind can produce amazing, elaborate nightmare scenarios.. For some reason, students love to tell me their dreams. It is just unbelievable what some of you dream. It’s just like you all should have cameras and movies. You would put a Friday the 13th to shame.

So if it is possible for the mind to create a scenario of a nightmare, then you must understand that it is possible for the mind to experience rebirth in a hell realm. It is the same thing. The same capacity is at work there. Psychologists say that nightmares are probably due to fear, probably due to anxiety, probably due to hostility. And Buddhists say that rebirth in a hell realm is due to the same thing basically; But we tend to think more that this kind of rebirth is produced due to hate and anger. The mind experiences its own hate and anger projected outward on a screen in the same way that your own anxiety is projected outward on a screen in your dream experience. So that is how it happens. Just as you have the capacity to have been reborn as a human, each one of us has the capacity to be reborn in a hellish realm while we have anger. So long as there is even one drop of anger in our minds that capacity is there. Anger is the seed of that unfortunate lower rebirth. That anger is the seed of that low rebirth. You don’t think you have anger?  Let someone back you into a corner, you come out fighting every time. Let someone put you down, let someone treat you in a way that you don’t think is right, let someone challenge your ideas, then anger comes up. So we all have it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved



Right Mindfulness

An excerpt from a teaching called the Eightfold Path by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Right mindfulness has to do with cognition.  Everybody perceives.  We all have perception.  If you took any two people and asked them what their perception of a certain situation was, or even to describe a certain situation, it would be radically different.  And it’s not that they remember differently, it’s that they saw differently.  That’s the interesting thing.  The cognitive process begins with the impact of phenomena and how it meets our habitual tendencies.  It’s that meeting which is our perception.  If we were able to perceive something, such as a person, without moving forward in cognition and having opinions, and concepts and ideas about that person, life would be beautiful.  If we could just meet each other metaphysically naked and accept one another and let it go at that without hatred, greed or ignorance. Oh mani pedma hung.  What a wonderful world that would be.

But that’s not our habit.  Our habit is that when we see a person, we decide, “I don’t like what he’s wearing.  That’s not my color.  I don’t like that haircut.  I don’t like him.  I don’t like the way you wear your robes.”  You know?  We have all these opinions.  And of course we keep them to ourselves and smile but it’s those opinions rattling around in our brains that are causing us so much trouble.  We never stay with a mere impression and leave it wholesome.  It never happens unless we are practicing right mindfulness.  It takes a supreme effort to practice like that.  We conceptualize.  We write our own inner script for instance.  We have an original perception and we react toward it.  Reaction is the name of the game of the five senses.  Whatever that reaction is we build a story about it.  And then you have a whole house of conceptualization wrapped around that person.  And it has nothing to do with them.  But you projected your whole brain onto them.

What we do is we interpret according to our own thoughts and experiences.  And here’s where the conundrum is.  If we haven’t practiced proper view for instance or engaged in proper effort, then when we come down to mindfulness, its going to be really hard to unscramble things, and what we are going to have left is our usual habit.  And that is conceptual proliferation.  Two people can have exactly the same experience and react 180 degrees different.  And it’s all because of our previous habits, our previous judgments.  Judgments don’t go away.  They pile on top of each other.  And pretty soon, you have a formula, and once you have a formula, it’s over.  So, the mind then posits concepts.  Joins concepts into constructs and weaves those constructs into complex interpretive schemes. Its what we do.  We can get all turned around and wrapped up in our little mental conflagrations, and somebody can come up and say, “Well, I saw it this way, boom, boom, boom.”  And suddenly your whole game is down.  What do you do now?  Another person has a completely different view about it.  But you’re still circling around the path.

That’s how sentient beings do.  And on the path the job is to bust that game.  Really bust that game.  Very difficult to do but its possible.  And does it take a short time?  Can you do it in a weekend?  No!  It will take the rest of your life and then some more lives, if you don’t go to Vajrayana, and then achieve liberation in the bardo.  If not, you have to practice the Eightfold Path for lifetime after lifetime after lifetime.  That’s how long it takes.  Nobody is being mean to you.  That’s how long it takes.

We make up all these complex constructions.  Most of it happens only half consciously and for some people it is completely unconscious, but for some of us, its only semi conscious.  I’ve come to understand that sometimes a person acts oblivious.  They act like they do not know the effect that they’re having on another person, and you corner them.  You break it down with them.  You find out that they actually know.  But they don’t want to deal with it.

You know on some level.  It can be a very subtle level, and maybe somebody like a friend or a therapist has to help you bring it out or point it out for you, because it may be so subtle that you didn’t catch it.  It’s not that you don’t see it, it’s that you don’t catch it.  That’s why it helps to work with your Vajra brothers and sisters and be willing to receive their thoughts about you.  For instance, the ordained practice sojong, and sojong is wonderful because you really open up in front of the other ordained and you become metaphorically naked in front of your brothers and sisters.

Sometimes it helps when someone points it out, but really if you sat down and honestly little by little practiced self-honesty and looked at yourself, you could get a long way ahead.  Be willing to love yourself through seeing how naughty you can be.  What an absolute jerk you can be from time to time. “Oh God, I can’t stand that I did that!”  But you have to see it. It helps.

So, when we practice right mindfulness, we become aware of the conceptualization part because in order to practice right mindfulness, you have to study your own reaction.  Play this game with a friend.  Have somebody brought over that you’ve never met before.  Bring them into the room when everybody’s eyes are closed, and then open your eyes and look at the person.  And watch what your mind does.  Don’t obsess about the person.  Watch what your mind does.   Your mind is going to run all over that person from the shoelaces to the hair barrettes.  You’re going to notice how they dress, how they smell, how they look, what their expression is.  And all of these things are going to form into a pattern for you that means something for you, and probably is your projection on that person that has nothing to do with that person.  It’s really interesting.  I think one of the most fascinating parts of the path is when you really get to know your own perception and you can see how it works, and then you can move on.  You can forgive yourself for it, and move on.

What we are trying to do is practice mindfulness, which is a clear perception.  A perception, which is free of all these constructs.  A perception that’s more naked.  Where you just behold a person.  If you could manage not to engage in all that impression stuff, and construct stuff and story making and all of that, you could actually see that person’s true face.  You could actually behold their capacity, their Buddha nature.  Nothing would stop you from loving them.  What’s not to love in the primordial wisdom nature?  The fact that we don’t have that kind of love is because we are stuck in wrong mindfulness.  We are literally wrong-headed because we let our minds run away with these concepts and ideas, even to the degree that we say, “This person’s really got it in for me.” Even your own child, you think, “God, this is a plot.  This kid is plotting to drive me nuts.”  What parent hasn’t thought that? Of course we all have, but that’s crazy thinking.  That’s your human projection.  So, when you catch yourself with that, back up. Ask yourself, “What do we have here?  We have a child.  A child that does what children do.”  Or if it’s an adult human, “What do you really here?  Well, you have a human being with all that amazing potential and that capacity to be Buddha.”  Wow!  What if you could look at everyone and perceive that?  What a joyful state to be in.

If we give rise to right mindfulness, we become aware of our process of conceptualization and the way that we can construct it into scenarios and stories and use that as the foundation for mindfulness.  Just as I’ve been saying.  You use it to examine every reaction that you have.  You look at it from a distance.  You say, “Oh, that’s me having that reaction again.  Oh.  Interesting.  Where does that come from?  Wonder about that?”  The very act of stepping back from an instant reaction gives you something that’s called spaciousness in the mind.  The very act of just stepping back.

Most creatures have no space in their mind at all.  I don’t mean literal space.  I mean metaphorically there’s no relaxation.  Everything is automatic reaction.  Take for instance, a snake. A snake is like a reaction machine.  If you stick a rat in front of it, it’s going to act predictably.  And if a snake in the wild is frightened, it’s going to act predictably.  Species wide, you can predict how a snake is going to act.  There’s no space in that’s animal’s mind. It doesn’t even have enough space in its mind to say, “I’m hungry.  I’m going to catch me a rat.”  It doesn’t do that.  It just goes.  It goes and does what it does as a response to feelings.  And the response is bam, bam bam!  It’s like a nerve firing.  Almost plant like in the sense that a plant will react to stimulus.  Too much sun, it will go down.  Too much cold, it will go down, but it is an automatic thing, like a Venus Flytrap.  Did you ever see one of those when you were a kid? Do you think the Venus Fly Trap says, “I’m hungry.  I want a fly!”  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t even have that capacity.  If anything touches it, it could be a toothpick, and it will grab it.  So, that’s having no space in the mind.  Plants don’t have any mind, but a snake is a being that has a brain but has no space.  When you are able to practice being able to step back and say, “Oh.  Look at that reaction.  Wow.  Well, that’s a whole load of horseshit I had connected to that.  My goodness.  Well let’s back that up and unpack it, shall we? “  When you start thinking like that, you start to develop some spaciousness in your mind, and you have a little bit of time between perception and reaction.  That’s when you start to practice!  That’s it!  Once you have that going, and not every practitioner does, that’s when you’ve got it.  Stepping back from reaction is a real milestone in practice, and it comes by right mindfulness.  By perceiving, and catching your perception.  What’s your perception?  What’s the trigger?  What’s going on here?  What do you perceive?  What’s the story that you are living?  Step back and see what’s really happening.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Right Intention

An excerpt from a teaching called The Eight-Fold Path by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

All of us have intention, and intention refers to mental energy.  We have intention now, but we are not really conscious of our intention.  We don’t think of it that way other than when we say, “I intend to go to the movies tonight.  I intend to wear my new dress tomorrow.  I intend to eat broccoli for dinner.” We have that kind of understanding.  But what we don’t understand is that intention goes with mind power.  They are the same.  And mind power when it is expressed, has intention.  Whether we like it or not, if we have mind, we have intention.  So, the mental energy that controls our actions is our intention, and that intention.  Maybe we have a nihilist point of view.  We don’t really think that life is cause and effect.  We don’t have any understanding of that.  “Wherever life takes me; I’m going to go there.”  That’s kind of neutral.  And of course, with that kind of neutrality, life will take you anywhere it wants to.  You have no control.  You are like a doughnut on the ocean. You are going to take on water and sink.

Right intention is about formulating an appropriate intention, and it has to do with ethics.  Ethics in the Buddha dharma are absolutely foundational.  Once we get into the higher practices, we neglect, I think too much, to talk about it.  Right intention is absolutely important to cultivate.  Otherwise the mind is simply wild.  It wants what it wants.  It just does what it does.  There is nothing to think about.  If we have bad intention, of course that gives rise to great suffering.  Like if we wish to be higher than everybody else, or we wish to be more powerful than everybody else, or we wish to be richer than everybody else.  That’s kind of a negative intention.  It is okay to have wealth, it is okay if you have some power, and it is okay if you’re pretty, but to have that wish to be prettier or more powerful or wealthier than everybody else, that’s not good intention.  And that will cause you to suffer because someone’s always going to be prettier than you.  Someone’s always going to be richer than you.  Someone’s always going to be smarter.  And so you’ll suffer.  It brings about suffering.  Negative intention should not be tolerated.  Not only does it bring about suffering for oneself, but also it brings about suffering for sentient beings because if we have poor ethics or if we have bad intention, we tend to harm others, as well as ourselves.

So we are supposed to train ourselves with good intention, for instance, the intention of renunciation.  To have the intention of renunciation again is so important and foundational on the path.  What are we renouncing?  Well, you could go and renounce things piece by piece, and get absolutely nowhere.  “I renounce bottle tops.  I renounce red drinks.” And then get totally neurotic about it, “But I want it.” That obviously is not the right approach.  The intention of renunciation actually refers to resistance to the pull of desire and attachment.  You begin to practice that resistance.  I promise you that when you just start to practice it, you won’t be good at it, if you have no experience with it.  It takes time.  You have to examine desire.

Now, you understand that desire is all-pervasive.  I’m not talking about what happens in people’s bedrooms.  I’m talking about all-pervasive desire.  Desire for everything that we want. And we want a lot.  We want good days, we want good experiences, we want good friends, and we want good times.   None of which are bad, but if you’re addicted and attached to them, then you will suffer.  And again the Eight-Fold Path is about liberating from suffering.  So, it is the renunciation to the pull of desire and the poison of attachment.

Right intention also is the intention of good will.  Meaning resistance to the feelings of anger and aversion.  We all have that.  It starts in the morning.  “God, who made this coffee?  It tastes awful.”  “I’m having a really terrible hair day.  I’m averse to my hair.”   We have this aversion, and then we just don’t like things. Don’t like people.  Don’t care.  Just don’t give the big hoop.  I would call that wrong intention.  If someone were to approach you and say to you, “I think it would be healthy for you to practice more compassion.”  Of course, our natural thing is to react with “Shut up!” and to react with anger. But that is the exact instinct we need to fight.  That is the exact thing we need to fight.  Now, if somebody comes up to you even if they are somebody you may feel doesn’t have that much compassion, and they give you the piece of advice, “I think you should have more compassion.”  You cultivate patience and right intention.  You think, “Well, it is good that person is talking about compassion, even if it is a left-handed gift.  Still there is something there, and you can have some good intention, good attitude about it.

Basically you develop good will towards all sentient beings.  You don’t think that animals should be killed or harmed. You don’t think that dogs should be put to death.  You don’t think that people should be at war.  You don’t think that suffering should occur.  You don’t think that poverty should exist.  These are right intentions.  These are right thoughts.  Right thoughts that can be cultivated even on a very personal level while the path you’re traveling is still very personal.  You think like that.

You start to pacify anger and rage.  So many of us have so much rage stored up.  Some of it is from childhood.  Some of it is from the stress of everyday living. Were we really meant to go 60 million miles everyday?  You know that kind of stress.  We hold rage inside.  And so part of the Eight-Fold Path is to begin not to suppress the rage, but to contemplate it, be aware of it, and look through it.  Suppression equals neuroses.  We are looking for you to be awake to perceive more correctly what the nature of attraction and repulsion actually is, how they are not conducive to happiness and are the antithesis of the path.

The last part of right intention is the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.  We forget that.  Again a foundational truth on the path, and we forget it.  We walk around with our malas and our robes, and we think, “I’m so cool.  I’m a Tibetan Buddhist.”  Well, you are not Tibetan.  And if you act like that, you’re not much of a Buddhist either.  So, forget it. And of course cruelty, if we have any cruelty in our mind, it may be a reflection of past habit or past incidences.  We have the power to examine that cruelty, to see its root, to see its fruit, to push it away, to see through it in other words, into the true nature of the Eight-Fold Path and of the Buddha dharma.  We have that power.  We shouldn’t think, “Oh, I’ve got this rage, and I’m stuck with it.  It’s just there.”  We have the power to change that by practicing this right intention.

We give up the thoughts of violence, of aggressiveness, and we begin to develop compassion.  And again what is it based on?  It’s based on the Four Noble Truths.  The compassion comes from the realization that all sentient beings are suffering.  That suffering is all-pervasive, and that it is not necessary because there is an Eight-Fold Path.  That is our way to contemplate and to bring ourselves up to snuff with right intention.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo All rights reserved

Working with Anger and Ingratitude: Commentary by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

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

No evil is similar to anger,
No austerity to be compared to patience.

Never give way to anger, therefore. Be patient–and, moreover, be grateful to someone who humiliates you, as they give you a precious opportunity to strengthen your understanding and practice of bodhicitta. The great Jigme Lingpa said:

Ill treatment by opponents
Is a catalyst for meditation;
Insulting reproaches you don’t deserve
Spur your practice onward;
Those who do you harm are teachers
Challenging your attachment and aversion–
How could you ever repay their kindness?

Indeed, you are unlikely to make much spiritual progress if you lack the courage to face you own hidden faults. Any person or situation that helps you to see those faults, however uncomfortable and humiliating it may be, is doing you a great service. As Lord Atisha says,

The best spiritual friend is one who attacks your hidden faults.
The best instructions are the ones that hit your hidden faults.
The best incentives are enemies, obstacles, and sufferings of illness.

and the Kadampa master Shawopa used to warn his disciples as they came to see him, saying, “I only show people their hidden defects. If you can avoid getting annoyed, stay; but if not, go away!”

Of the eight ordinary concerns, therefore, even from the relative point of view there are many ways of eliminating the distinction between the good an bad, those you want to happen and those you do not. From the point of view of absolute truth, there is not the slightest difference between gain and loss, pleasure and pain, fame and disgrace, praise and disparagement. They are all equal, all empty by nature. As Shantideva says:

Thus, with things devoid of true existence,
What is there to gain, and what to lose?
Who is there to pay me court and honors,
And who is there to scorn and revile me?

Pain and pleasure–whence do they arise?
And what is there to give me joy and sorrow?

b. Using on the path the two things that are difficult to bear.
The two things that are difficult to bear are (i) being wronged in return for kindness and (ii) humiliation.

i. How to use on the path being wronged in return for kindness


Even if one I’ve lovingly cared for like my own child
Regards me as an enemy,
To love him even more,
As a mother loves a sick child, is the practice of a bodhisattva.

If you do something good for others, it is a mistake to expect anything in return, or to hope that people will admire you for being a bodhisattva. All such attitudes are a long way from the true motivation of bodhicitta. Not only should you expect nothing in return; you should not be disturbed in the slightest when people respond ungratefully. Someone for whom you have risked your very life may return your kindness with resentment, hatred, or harm. But just love him all the more. A mother with an only child is full of love for him no matter what he does. While she is suckling him, he may bite her nipple and badly wound it, but she will never get angry or love him any less. Whatever happens, she will continue to care for him as best she can.

Many people do not have the good fortune that you enjoy of having met a spiritual teacher, and thus cannot find their way out of delusion. They need your help and your compassion more than anyone else, no matter how badly they may behave. Always remember that people who harm you are simply the victims of their own emotions. Think how good it would be if they could be free of those emotions. When a thoughtless child wrongs a thoughtful adult, the adult will not feel resentment, but will try with great love to help the child improve.

To meet someone who really hurts you is to meet a rare and precious treasure. Hold that person in high esteem, and make full use of the opportunity to eradicate your defects and make progress on the path. If you cannot yet feel love and compassion for those who treat you badly, it is a sign that your mind has not been fully transformed and that you need to keep working on it with increased application.

A true bodhisattva never hopes for a reward. He responds to the needs of others spontaneously, out of his natural compassion. Cause and effect are unfailing, so his actions to benefit others are sure to bear fruit–but he never counts on it. He certainly never thinks that people are not showing enough gratitude, or that they ought to treat him better. But if someone who has done him harm later changes his behavior, is set on the path, and achieves liberation, that is something that will make a bodhisattva rejoice wholeheartedly and be totally satisfied.


How to Pacify Hatred, Anger and Attachment

The following is from a twitter conversation between Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo and one of her followers:

Questioner to Jetsunma: That’s very true. I have to work hard not to hate. It hurts the hater most of all.

Jetsunma: Here is a method to pacify hatred and too much attachment, which are often combined. This sounds gross but it works!

Okay, let’s find out about this person. First, imagine the eyeballs hanging on a branch. Head sliced thin. One arm near your feet the other about a mile away. Torso also sliced thin. Imagine legs dumped in ocean. Now, where is the one you hate or love? Are they in the hanging eyeballs? The arms here and there? The floating legs? The slices? Where is the person? The mind? What do you hate/love? Can you find them? This will loosen the attachment that causes the emotion by recognizing it’s all just phenomena and fundamentally void. Keep doing it until you feel better and see how odd it all is. You cannot harm the other person or yourself unless the motivation is malevolent. You are trying to learn and heal. That is an ethical and useful method, then dedicate the merit to the healing of you both, and the end of all hate and war.

Best wishes, sending Prayers.


Questioner: That’s a great method! Also reminds that all is fleeting except for eternity itself? Thanks I will remember.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Contempt Toward the Vajra Family: The Third Root Downfall

The following is respectfully quoted from “Perfect Conduct” with commentary by Dudjom Rinpoche:

4.b.3.(b.3) Expressing contempt toward the vajra family:

The third is becoming angry toward general, distant, close and immediate relatives; holding a grudge; and showing jealousy, disrespect and so forth.

In general, all sentient beings are considered to be our relatives. Even closer are those who have entered the path of Dharma. Closer still are those who have entered Vajrayana, since those who have the same lama are considered to be children of the same father. Those who have received empowerment together at the same time are children of the same parents. Those who received empowerment first are the elders, and those who received it at the same time are likened to twins born into the mandala simultaneously. To express or to hold anger in one’s mind toward any of these near or distant vajra relatives, or out of jealousy to harm them with body and speech, to speak harshly to them, or to argue with them and express their faults, constitutes the third root downfall. It is especially important to be careful toward the innermost vajra family, because to fight with or abuse them in any way accrues extremely negative karma that is difficult to remove.


[Adapted from an oral commentary given by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche in conjunction with a ceremony wherein he bestowed the bodhisattva vow upon a gathering of disciples at Namdroling in Bozeman, Montana, November 1999. —Ed.]

From beginningless time, throughout countless lifetimes, we amassed negative karma and nonvirtue before we encountered the dharma. As followers of the teachings in this lifetime, we still engage in nonvirtue and accumulate negativity. Consider all that negativity to be like [the result of] having ingested poison. Knowing that as poison that will certainly end your life unless you apply an antidote to neutralize it, you immediately apply the antidote. That is exactly how you should feel about the nonvirtue accumulated in the past and present.

With tremendous remorse, confess your accumulation of nonvirtue and vow that from this time onward, even at the cost of your life, you will no longer repeat the same pattern of negativity. Then focus on the objects of refuge in the space in front, the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. Supplicate, knowing that in their omniscience they will always look upon you and bless and purify you. Pray to them with heartfelt faith and devotion, and with genuine remorse for your accumulation of negativity, feel confident that all negativity is completely purified. Confession is the antidote for anger. In anger, people commit many grave errors, such as even the taking of others’ lives.

From “THE PATH of the Bodhisattva: A Collection of the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva and Related Prayers” with a commentary by Kyabje Pema Norbu Rinpoche on the Prayer for Excellent Conduct

Compiled under the direction of Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche Vimala Publishing 2008

Like Vibes With Like

From The Spiritual Path:  A Compilation of Teachings by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Let’s say that your immediate family consists of four people, so you have a particular karma with three others. Those three all have both negative and positive karmic seeds coming to the surface, just as you do. When you four came together, you did so because certain karma was ripening. You could not marry; a child could not be born to you, unless that particular karma was ripening in your mindstream, and in someone else’s. When this karma comes together, it has a kind of interactive characteristic. Like tends to attract or “vibe with” like.

Perhaps you have some horrible negative karma associated with cruelty to animals. You may have a child, or there may be someone else in your family, who has a similar negative karma. Though you won’t understand why, it is likely that something will happen to reinforce the catalyzing effect of your relationship. For instance, you might get a dog that both of you abuse. Or you might develop a terrible animosity toward animals that you would not have experienced so overwhelmingly, if you had not been with that particular person. In your past, you also have karma of being kind to animals. And had you come together with a person with strong kind-to-animals karma, that relationship might have catalyzed something completely different. Let’s say that you have a period of intense anger: the karma of anger is coming to the surface. If you let yourself fall into that anger, really wallow in it, then you will tend to ripen still more anger from the deeper past, and those bubbles will continue to come forward. On a superficial level, the anger will seem to feed on itself. You will feel compelled to be angry.

But suppose you do everything you can to overcome your anger. Though angry at someone, you tell yourself: “This person is suffering just as all sentient beings are, and doesn’t really mean to act that way.” If you truly try to circumvent the anger by reasoning it out, what will happen? Instead of having more anger ripen and come forward, you will ripen a different kind of karma. Perhaps the karma of clear thought. Basically, you can prevent future ripenings of negative karma by taking hold of yourself at any given point. You have a precious human rebirth; you have the Dharma; and you can think logically. You are able to choose how to cope with any anger that arises.

When some people have an unpleasant feeling, such as anger, hatred, or grief, they habitually cover it over. If they become angry, for example, they say, “I feel only love.” Or: “There is only love.” This is like slapping a Band-Aid on an ulcer, which only continues to ripen and grow deeper. By plastering one thought on top of another, you actually link them together. And what happens? Either your anger and hatred will remain inflamed on an underlying level (a frequent result), or you may ripen the karma of delusion. Your mind will be very unclear. Those who use such methods over a long period of time become deeply set in delusion. It seems as if they have gone somewhere else, and one is tempted to ask, “Are you still in there? Anybody home?” There are just too many layers of Band-Aids. What you need is to examine the contents of your mindstream. And begin to view your own mind as something you can work with, something you can take responsibility for.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo