An excerpt from the Mindfulness workshop given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo in 1999
Before I ever learned about the Buddha dharma, I actually used to do a practice that my teachers have told me was a natural kind of Chöd. What I would do is contemplate on different body parts and it took me months and months and months to do this. I practiced it for months because I felt like the deeper I went into it, the more involved it became. I would think about a certain body part, like my feet, and I would say, “Thinking of these feet in one way, here are their limitations,” and it’s easy to see what the limitations of feet are. You can’t walk on fire with them. Well, not most of us. You can’t walk on water with them – not most of us either. There are so many things you can’t do with your feet, but there are also many things that you can do with your feet. So thinking of feet in those ways, I would see all of the limitations of feet, being used as they are presently being used, and then I would think about all the possible ways that feet could be of benefit to beings. How could my feet be of use? That’s what I want. I want my feet to be of use. So I would think, “How can my feet be of use? Well, I can go to people that need me with my feet. I can go to do some meditation. I can make my body go and comfort someone that’s sick or feed someone that’s hungry through moving my feet.”
After I had examined both the down side and the opportunity associated with feet, I would then practice this kind of deep offering, and I would make many prayers. I would say, “I offer my feet to (back then I didn’t say Buddhas and bodhisattvas), Absolute Nature. I offer my feet to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in order that they might be used to benefit sentient beings. Other than that, they have no meaning for me.” I would practice that until I felt like I had given up my feet and they were no longer mine; they were offerings. I went through my entire body. Then I found that that wasn’t enough, so I went through all my emotions. And then I found that wasn’t enough, so I went through all the different ways of thinking and attributes of mind. I would see the potential of each and I would see the downfall of each and I would contemplate on that very, very carefully. Then I would spend a great deal of time offering that particular quality or attribute or body part to be used for the benefit of sentient beings, to be used to accomplish some good.
It seemed to me that, generally speaking, the body is a marvelous thing, but if it’s not accomplishing any good, it’s kind of limited, so it seemed logical and reasonable to me to want to offer all of my limitations, all of my ordinary perceptions, all of my attachments in the hope that every part of me would be used to benefit sentient beings.
Think about your speech. Speech is a wonderful thing; it’s an amazing thing. It’s one of those human attributes that make it possible for us to teach and learn, so it makes it possible for us to practice Dharma. So although speech is an amazing thing, what do we use our speech for? For the most part, we use our speech to help us suffer. For the most part, our speech is like vomit coming out of our mouths. What I mean by that is, the stuff that comes out of our mouth often is not connected to any thought anywhere. We use our speech for blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and yet this precious thing could be used to teach Dharma. This precious capability could be used to receive teachings of Dharma. How amazing!
Practicing this kind of nontraditional Chöd was when I really learned about speech. That was really important. When I learned about speech, I found out that if I were really to offer my speech and be constantly mindful of its power, constantly mindful of this blessing, and if I really, ultimately offered my speech to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas, that instead their holy speech might be here. That makes the speech worth something. That makes it powerful.
I used to spend a lot of time considering the pros and cons, the limitations and the attributes of different aspects of what I considered ‘myself,’ and eventually, after offering all my parts and all my qualities and all my different attributes, at that point I felt that something was changed. I had done this so deeply that I got into the habit of thinking like this, to the point where, when it comes to benefiting sentient beings, I don’t have to make that choice because it’s already been made. I don’t own this stuff. It’s already given away. I developed this habit of constantly offering, and I’m telling you about the way that I did this is not so that you can say, “Ooh, aah, wasn’t she a great practitioner!” I’m not a great practitioner by any means. What I’m telling you is that as a Westerner, even if we don’t have perfect translations, even if we haven’t accumulated all the teachings, even if it seems to us strange to practice Chöd in a way where we boil stuff and offer it and all those things, even if we’ve never heard of that teaching, it is still possible for us to practice the same principles and to establish a sacred view. It’s still possible.
I feel like my main job is to speak to Westerners because Westerners have a particular outlook, a particular take on things, and I think one of the greatest blessings that I have is that I’m a Westerner and I think like you. I really do think exactly like you, so maybe I can help you, not just to follow the books by rote, not just to repeat everything like a magpie, but maybe instead to practice more deeply. Maybe I can help you practice in such a way that the practice becomes married with your life, with your body, with your speech, with your mind, with your consciousness, until they are so one that it’s like mixing milk with water. That is how practice becomes potent.
© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo