Karma: Virtual Reality

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Neurotic Interaction to Guru Yoga”

When you’re practicing to accomplish pure view, you realize that for you, the teacher is the appearance in the world of a method or a path, a means by which one can enter the door of liberation. This is what makes the teacher precious.  The teacher can connect you with the path, can explain the path, can ripen and deepen the mind so that one can practice on the path, and is a spiritual facilitator of a very high caliber.  Their activity is extraordinary, or beyond what is normally found in samsara.  So you begin, in pure view, to recognize the teacher as being representative of your own true face, the ground of being that is your inherent primordial wisdom nature—that nature which is free of contrivance, free of distinction, completely empty yet completely fulfilled and spontaneously complete.  You begin to understand that this teacher is a representation of that nature in the world. The teacher provides the path, the means, the method, the ability to practice, and connects you with that in a very extraordinary way.

Once you’ve determined that, the teacher becomes for you the appearance of the Buddha nature in the world, the appearance of the method or the path in the world, the appearance of the fruition or the accomplishment in the world, the appearance of your own true face in the world.  Once the teacher becomes that for you, then to take an opposite viewpoint and to determine a difference of opinion is not a sin or a nonvirtue.  It simply argues with what you have already determined for yourself.  It’s almost like walking three steps forward and two steps back in your Dharma practice.  It’s not that you should become brain dead and that you’re not supposed to have an opinion, but there’s a fine line there that has to be travelled, and it’s pretty difficult to understand what that line is.  Now on the one hand you are, and have been raised to be, a person who has a mind that thinks, and you have the ability to connect cause and effect yourself. Hopefully on the path you are developing that clarity of mind more and more and more.  Yet here you find a situation where you have also stated clearly “I have found my teacher.  Here is this vajra master that I have taken teachings from. That vajra master has facilitated me on the path of Dharma. So how is it that I feel like I have a different opinion at the same time that I have said this is the ultimate, this is the face of the Buddha, this is the Buddhas’ wisdom?  How do I negotiate that?  What’s that look like for me?  I mean, how do I do that?”

Well, let’s stop and think for a moment in a way that might be beneficial.  Don’t answer that question right now, but keep it simmering.  We’re cooking up some Thanksgiving dinner here.  We’re keeping it simmering.  Here’s the gravy. It’s simmering on low boil.  So now we’re back with the turkey in the oven.  But don’t forget, the gravy is still on the boil.  You’ve got to keep watching that one!  O.K., now, withdraw from that, but still think about answering that question.

Now think about this:  You’ve noticed haven’t you, I’m sure you have, that throughout our lives we tend to repeat certain habitual tendencies again and again and again.  Can we all agree on that?  We have seen certain habitual tendencies.  We have seen certain patterns, certain habits. It really depends on how old you are, how convinced you are of this.  The older you are, the more time you’ve had to see these things repeat again and again and again.  While you’re still young, you think, “Well I’ve only done this two or three times!  Who says there’s going to be a fourth, fifth and seventy-fourth!”  But by the time you get to be maybe midlife where I am, you’re going, “I’ve seen this movie before!!  I have seen this movie before!”  And you realize that these habitual tendencies kind of repeat themselves again and again and again, deeply ingrained.

And then if you’re the kind of person who is really insightful, you realize that you project these habitual tendencies onto the circumstances of your life, and without realizing it, will very much control situations and people in your life according to your preconceived notions and according to your habitual tendencies. A difficult situation where you may recognize this is, let’s say, a child that grows up in a house where the child is not given any dignity or any respect and the child feels not loved or abused in some way. So the child develops a certain understanding about that —I am not worthy or I am not lovable—and then goes out into their lives and tends to project some of the same information on others. Others might be perfectly willing to love, be perfectly willing to just do the best they can, not always perfect of course, but to do the best they can, loving them.  And yet this person is unable to accept that love and sees the same outcome pretty much all the time and actually is engaged in that outcome.  So that’s one situation.

Another situation is, for instance, that of a cat.  A cat is actually so strongly habituated towards killing it seems instinctive. From the Dharma point of view, we understand this to be habitual tendency reinforced many many times, life after life, a karmic kind of situation.  The cat will be reborn, and even if there is nothing to kill, if you throw a ball of yarn across the room, the cat will go after it. You know what happens when a cat sees flies against the window.  If a fly is bumping against the window, the cat will go after that.  Anything that scuttles, the cat is after it and their eyes get really big.  Have you ever seen a cat look out the window at a bird feeder?  Have you ever seen that?  The cat makes these horribles noises like “I want those hamburgers!  Give me those hamburgers!!”  For them it’s like McDonalds in the sky.  These animals are so strongly habituated towards killing, that even though they come into this life as a cute little fluffy kitty, those little ears and the little tail and those little feet, still and all, they are killers.  They are habituated towards that and the first chance they get, any stimulation, any stimulation, such as the rolling of the ball of yarn across the floor, they will interpret as the hunter and hunted scenario.

Did you know that we do the same thing?  We do exactly the same thing.  We are so deeply habituated in our own particular tendencies, whatever they are, that we project in the same way onto external stimulation.  If we have deeply habituated ideas, sometimes they are bordering on the obsessive and compulsive. Maybe not even bordering, maybe all the way in that country!  Pay the toll, we’re in!  What happens is once we are strongly habituated into habit, we interpret all stimulation outside as something that keys us into our habitual tendency.  So what I find as a teacher and a female, for instance, is that many people interpret me as their mother.  They think of me as being the authority figure, someone they have to answer to in that way.  They can’t be bad around me.  A lot of times the students will… I mean it’s one thing to have your Dharma manners going when you see the teacher—you hold that in respect, and that’s a really good thing—but what I found is that I can walk into a party and kill it, just like that!  Because my students suddenly stop functioning.  It reminds me of when I was a kid and my mother said ‘dust the living room.’  So I’d be dusting the living room, having fun, thinking about other things, like boys or whatever, and dusting and carrying on.  My mother came into the room and I’d suddenly start moving fast! It reminds me a little bit of that.

And sometimes some of my students are habituated towards authority figures in a certain way, and since I must exude some kind of authority, they look at me and interact in the same way with me that they do with other authority figures. So there is this “has to be good girl, good boy or whatever, routine” and the blaming of the teacher and making all of those “I’m mad at you authority figures” kind of scenarios going on.  There are all kinds of different gigs, You know what your gig is with authority.  Everybody has one.  And so they project that onto the teacher. But you see, what’s really happening there is you’re looking at your own habitual tendency—the way that your mind works, the way that it intersects with the time and space grid in front of you, and how you play with your own habitual tendency.  What you’re really seeing there is kind of like a bounce-back phenomena that’s actually taking place within your own mindstream.

There is nothing external happening.  There is nothing beyond you that is happening.  There’s just nothing out there that determines your fate.  You’re looking at a kind of almost internal bubble, or a virtual situation in a certain way.  You can learn a lot from that kind of virtual reality situation.  It’s almost a virtual internal situation that’s happening there.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Seduction of the Five Senses

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Tools to Deepen Your Practice”

All the practices, no matter what they look like or sound like or seem like, are heading in that direction of gradually awakening more and more to the awareness of the sphere of truth.  Wisdom is then the accomplishment of a state of such non-attachment that one realizes the emptiness of phenomena by simply [Jetsunma effortlessly and blissfully breathes out, her eyes and body completely relaxing].  I don’t know how else to describe it except to just show you that posture.  Just…[Jetsunma once again breathes out as noted above].

Because the same as your touch is bliss.  The same as your smell is bliss.  The same as your tongue is bliss.  How does it happen then that we’re so darned uncomfortable?  How does it happen then, according to the Buddha’s teachings, that so many sentient beings are revolving so helplessly in samsara, so lost, so unable to understand how to understand, or how to awaken, or even how to live virtuously so that in the future they’ll be happy?  How does this all happen?

Lord Buddha said it during the course of his actual physical life, when he said, “All suffering arises from desire.”  So while you can say that the fundamental space of the five lights is the same as the five primordial Dakinis, they are activity not separate from the Buddha nature.  And yet these five senses hold on to us. Well we think they do, although we did create them.  But with their grasping nature, they cause us, because we have the strong habitual tendency,  to constantly react and constantly react and act really neurotically because we don’t understand.  To be neurotic is to not understand the situation and to act inappropriately repetitively.  That’s pretty much us.  We do not understand the emptiness of self-nature and so we constantly act differently.

So, these five primordial Dakinis that are your senses and that someday you will awaken to are now—because we are clinging, because we have not renounced, because we believe in phenomena and we believe in the solidity of everything, and because we are really revolving in dualism—we would have to consider them like five nasty whores.  Because they trick us.  They seduce us.  They say to us, “Come and play with me and I will give you anything.”   And when’s the last time you got anything from a skanky whore. (laughter)  [Jetsunma: I did not say that!”]  Our five senses actually keep us in a constant state of inflammation, because while we’re grasping to the solidity of phenomena, we’re constantly reacting.  While we’re constantly reacting, we’re constantly acting neurotically, out of accordance with the nature of reality.  And so we’re being tricked, seduced.

The senses have many tricks. As front runners for our consciousness of duality, they like to trick us by building us up. You know, we can see and hear things that make us feel very proud and make us feel as though we are worthy of praise. You know, we can arrange phenomena any way we want.  That’s the amazing thing about it.  And it can become very seductive.  We can absolutely crap out on our practice and yet with our five senses, we can manage to create in our consciousness of duality a scenario in which we’re looking pretty good.  We can wear the right clothes and have the right beads, and you know we can look pretty good.  And so that’s the deceptive nature of the five senses.

How difficult it is to understand that that which helps us negotiate around is actually the very nature of bliss.  How to understand that the opposite side of the very clinging that we do so tightly that prevents us from awakening to the primordial wisdom state,  is liberation?  Well, that’s wisdom and that is the kind of wisdom that we strive for as we practice.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


Caught in a Dream

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Stabilizing the Mind”

In order to practice the Buddha’s teaching with any meaning, you first have to understand that all sentient beings are suffering.  Now I have to ask you: Have you really seen that with your own heart, with your own eyes, with your own mind?  Have you seen that all sentient beings are suffering?

If you have seen that you are suffering, then let me describe a funny little thing that you still do that cannot coexist with that knowledge.  You have circumstances throughout the day (and throughout the month, the year, your life) that either please you or displease you, that either make you happy or make you unhappy.

You may think, “Oh, I’m really down today.”  Then you talk to someone, and someone has an upbeat thing to say to you.  It’s meaningful, it’s good, and it pleases you.  So what happens to you?  You go up, right?  There’s a nice sense of warm fuzzies, and you go up.

Or let’s say you are a renunciate, a monk or nun, and when you wake up in the morning, it’s a ho-hum day.  You’re in a flat-line zone, a kind of grey zone.  And let’s say you manage to get in all of the practices that you want to do in the morning, and you manage to have a pretty good experience with them.  You feel buoyant in your practice.  You feel stable in your practice.  You’re able to hold your visualization.  Somehow that magical thing that happens every now and then happens.  You had a good practice.  Then you have your breakfast, eating your cereal by the window like a guy in a commercial, and you say, “Morning is my time!”  But later on the dog urinates on your one robe, you are too busy to eat any lunch or any dinner, and you have a bad practice.  That’s the worst thing – you have a bad practice – and things are no longer going so well.

These things happen to all of you, and yet, although you say you know that there is suffering from the depth of your heart, you have looked to satisfy the end of suffering in a way that is different from what the Buddha taught.  We let our minds float on an ocean of waves like a buoy, up and down.  What is “up”?  What is “down”?  And who is feeling it?  Who says morning is your time?  Who says evening is not?  Who says life is good when you go out to a restaurant and have a glass of wine?  These are concepts that are part of your mind, and your consciousness floats on them.  For some of you, there is not a moment of spaciousness in your mind where your consciousness is not floating on some circumstance you contrived all by yourself.  Why does that happen?

You say that all sentient beings are suffering and that the end to suffering is enlightenment, yet you allow your mind to be satisfied going up and down according to circumstances.  All of the beings that you say are suffering are doing the same thing.  Has anyone achieved happiness by allowing the mind to float on that ocean of concept that we call samsara, affected by circumstances, lifted up by what we call high circumstances, put down by what we call low circumstances?

No one.  Never.  The Buddha tells us that samsara is not happiness, that the contrivances of the mind are not happiness, that sentient beings are suffering, and that the only end to suffering is enlightenment.  Yet we allow ourselves to slide up and down every day.  We get excited about some project, we get enthusiastic, but it always comes to a dead stop.  It always ends.  It has never, never, never, never, never continued until it gave you supreme happiness.

So here’s the point I am trying to make.  First brick: All sentient beings are suffering.  Now, we’ll put the next one on top of it: There is an end to suffering, and it is enlightenment.  Just two bricks, and already we find that we are not secure behind those two bricks, that we don’t believe.  Yes, you say that you believe that all sentient beings are suffering.  Yes, you say that you believe enlightenment is the end of suffering.  Can you tell me how that can coexist with the tendency to let your mind drift, relying on circumstances to make it happy, being the victim of circumstances that make it unhappy?  How do we allow that?

We forget.  We’re caught in a dream, and we lose faith.  So how are you going to practice this Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle, the Tantric teachings of Buddhism, passed from teacher to disciple, that can lead to the attainment of enlightenment in one lifetime, a path with sincerity and stability for the rest of your life until some potential comes for you to achieve supreme enlightenment?  Do you believe that that can happen?

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Examining Attachment

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Western Chod”

I found, interestingly enough, that as I moved through the different body parts that each one of us are kind of attached to certain parts of us that we identify with more. I don’t need to tell you which ones they are, do I? I found that this assumption of self nature as being inherently real actually eventually leads to this sort of foundational sense of identity. According to our programming and according to our habitual tendency, not only in this lifetime but also in past lifetimes, we have a sense of self; and that self, of course, seems to be contained within the physical form of the body.

Maybe some women or some men, either one,, might really develop a sense of their lower body, for instance their legs and feet, as being very much a part of them. Maybe some women might receive a lot of praise because they have beautiful legs or something. Or maybe some men or women might be track stars, really really into track and really like to run, really like to exercise. So in that sense they would develop a really fine awareness of their legs. If you know someone who has been in sports to that degree or competitive sports, you know that generally in terms of their body and specifically the parts of their body that they are very much involved with, they develop a very keen sense of what that body part is.

For instance, a runner would have a keen sense of the musculature of their legs. A body builder would have a keen sense of what is the bicep, what is the tricep. You know, that kind of thing. They would have a really keen sense of that almost as though the mind and the body were somewhat closer than maybe to people who don’t think like that. So for some of us we may have a really strong sense of our legs.

Then for many of us, we identify very strongly with gender. So when we come to the parts of us that identify us as either male or female, we’re thinking, “Well, maybe I won’t give that up today. As far as I can tell this does me a lot of good. So it may not be the time to give this up just yet.” Of course I am being funny and flip about it. But, in fact, I found that in my own practice it was something of a struggle to give up that which identifies you as a woman or a man. My goodness that’s a big thing to do! That’s scary!

So I asked myself,  “Well, okay then we really have to examine what this part of me can actually accomplish.” I don’t think I want to do that for you publicly. But I did honestly and truly go through the whole thing. It does some good and it does some harm. So my experience was that while we cling to that part of our bodies  and while it identifies us, it is like anything else. It has its benefits. It has its pluses. It has its responsibilities. But it definitely has its limitations. There is definitely a lot that it can’t do and, in fact, like anything else in samsara, it definitely causes lots of problems as well, which some of you may have noticed.

Then I went further. I found that another part that is very hard to think of as renounced is the head.because most of us feel as though we live in our heads. We feel like that’s really where we are centered. And maybe in some case you might find that the heart is also hard to give up, because we think “Oh, the heart stops beating, I’m dead.” There’s a panic that comes up there. So there are different things that we have to work through at any time, but I found that the best way to proceed through that is slowly, slowly. Always preceding it with meditation on the condition and suffering of sentient beings so that the motivation is there. And really seeing that no matter what, even if you have 10 hearts and 25 genitalia and 16 feet and all the different parts of you, you had them in extraordinary condition and many of them interchangeable in different colors and maybe even one print… Even if you had all of that, still the result is pretty much the same.

So I would meditate on that until I was really secure and certain in that. Then sometimes in my practice I would have to go back and maybe that day I didn’t even make the offering of that body part. Maybe in that day I simply had to remain in contemplation on these issues because I could feel that there was attachment there that needed to be dealt with.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved