I Am Awake

Buddha Shakyamuni

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

The Buddha simply displayed enlightened activity and he gave teachings on enlightened activity. It has not been the custom of those who have truly obtained realization or those who have obtained a high level of realization (perhaps not complete realization but a high level of realization), and certainly has not been the custom of any of the Lamas in my lineage, to speak of themselves in that regard. It has only been their custom to give of themselves unceasingly and to strive constantly to do better.  To strive constantly to give more and more and more. They do not speak of themselves in that way. So compassion has many different facets; but the way that Bodhicitta should be understood in the world is that it should be understood as a display of the primordial wisdom nature. But again we are not able to display that nature because we are not acquainted to it. The difference between ourselves and the enlightened Buddha is that the Buddha only described himself as, “I am awake.” He said, “I am awake.”  Students asked him, “What is it about you? Are you a king?Are you a master? Are you an enlightened one? Are you a great being? What are you? ”  He only said, “I am awake.” That is all. Awake to that nature, awake to that nature that is inherent in each one of us. And being awake to that nature absolutely ensures that effortless enlightened activity will be shown. That activity will always lead to enlightenment. The Buddha’s teaching has lead to enlightenment in students many, many uncountable times—full visible enlightenment with all the signs. And so that activity must be understood as the very essence of compassion. Any activity that leads to enlightenment is the essence of compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Bliss Happens

An excerpt from a teaching called Awakening from Non-Recognition by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

There are so many amazing ways that you can practice. I’ve seen it again and again in the greatest practitioners, but only in the greatest, so we aspire to this. I think about stories I’ve heard about the Tibetan Bodhisattvas. For instance, during the tragedy when Tibet fell, literally 20,000 Tibetans (my teachers among them) tried to cross the Himalayas to get to India to safety, and only 20 arrived. These people endured incredible amounts of death, killing, all kinds of terrible sufferings. And then you think about great Lamas like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and my teachers who have said that instead of hating the Chinese who caused them so much loss and so much suffering, they feel almost worshipful in a sense, recognizing that the Chinese are their gurus. Now how does that happen? Are you thinking, “Well, this is maybe more than I can swallow? You know, if anybody is going to destroy me and my culture, I think I’d rather not like them, thank you very much!”

What has happened here is that these great Bodhisattvas recognize that everything is the mandala of the guru. With faith, everything is the display of the guru. So this tragic event is understood as a wrathful display that gives us the opportunity to cut off ego clinging at the root. Whatever they decided to do with this information, Tibet fell. Those things happened, so you basically have two ways to go with this. You can use this as an excuse to fall deeper and deeper into samsara with hatred and prejudice, or you can use it as a ladder to climb out of samsara through practicing renunciation and the cessation of ego clinging. It’s already happened. Those are the only two choices you have! Now, if we were a good practitioner and broke a leg, we’d say, “This is truly the display of the mandala of the guru. This is the guru’s blessing because now I can’t hop around the way I normally do. I have to sit my butt down and pray.” You can use that opportunity or you can sit that same butt down in front of the TV and watch soap operas all day long and wail and gnash your teeth about it.

In my situation I think like this. Many of you know I came from an alcoholic and abusive home. To me that is my most precious gift, my most precious empowerment. I have received until this date no more precious empowerment than that. It’s not to say I want to do it over again. It was a nightmare. It was horrible. The days of suffering were endless, but I understand what I could not have understood any other way: that samsara is something to be reckoned with, that all sentient beings are suffering, that I wish to see suffering end. I don’t think I could ever have understood this as well if I had not experienced what I experienced. So that has become my empowerment, and I feel that this is the guru’s blessing. Hopefully, I have come to a point in my practice where I can say this without resentment. I feel that I can look to the face of my guru and say, “Thank you for this skillful means that you have offered me so that I will benefit sentient beings. Thank you for this.” Without resentment I can truly say that. In the next breath I’m also likely to say, “Please let’s not do this again by the way, if you don’t mind.” But the recognition is there. So it has become for me an empowerment.

The bottom line message of Guru Yoga isn’t about subservience or about losing power or losing strength. If anything, it’s about recognizing that the ball is in your court. You have and will have the experiences of samsara. What are you going to do about that? Even if you lay down and die, you still have to go through the bardo and then you do it all over again.

You have choices, but they’re not the kind you’d like to have. You’d like to choose to be either here or not be here, choose to be happy or be sad, choose to have one experience or another happen to you. What you can choose is what you do with what happens to you. If you were to enter into the practice of Guru Yoga deeply and be truly empowered by that, this entire life could be an empowerment. We can transform all of the whining and moping and gnashing of teeth that we do into strength.

Often students will come to me and say, “I have this particular problem. This particular problem makes me unusual and unfit. My mind is stuck on it. So let’s make a big deal about my particular problem so that we can talk about it together and then we don’t have to practice. We can just have this particular problem.” Well, my answer to that is great, because if you have that particular problem, when you solve that problem, you’re going to have that particular strength. That’s what you’re going to have. This is golden. This is gravy. So we take this problem and we transform adversity into bliss, and the bliss occurs when we move into a state of recognition. We understand that we are not victims anymore. We understand that this kind of dualistic thinking is unreasonable and unwarranted and pointless, and we begin to understand “I am here. I am that. And the capacity to display this nature is something holy, a gem, a jewel that I possess.”

We learn this within the context of Guru Yoga, through the friendship of our teacher, through recognizing what is not ordinary. But try to remember, if we insist on maintaining the same habitual tendency and interact with that which is holy as though it were ordinary, and are not able to make that bridge or that transformation, it’s like taking a precious jewel—the most precious in the world, in all worlds, that could buy you anything that you want, a wish-fulfilling jewel—and making, as a six-year-old would make, a play pretty out of it.

It’s not that one way of being would make you a bad person and the other not. It’s that one is a terrible tragedy, a terrible waste, a terrible loss, and the other is empowerment. That’s the difference.

As we hold in our mind the intention to awaken as the Buddha is awake, as we hold in our minds the information about the difference between what is ordinary and what is extraordinary, as we begin to move into a state of recognition through the practice of Guru Yoga, this will facilitate every happiness, every result of the path. Gradually, over time, we will prepare for the opportunity of recognition, and it will occur. This is the truth. I would not lie to you. I have no reason to lie to you. These are the Buddha’s teachings. Again you have the opportunity to pit your ordinary process of conceptualization, as it arises from samsaric tendencies and samsaric means, against what the Buddha speaks, which is the truth of your own nature. This the Buddha has taught, “I will appear as your root teacher.” This Guru Rinpoche has taught, again, “I will appear as your root teacher.”

Perhaps this teaching will give you some beginning understanding of how to approach the practice of Guru Yoga. I hope that it is helpful to you, and I hope that it helps you to move across certain stuck places that we as practitioners find ourselves arriving at again and again. Thank you very much.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The Ultimate Technology

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Compassion is the Only Lasting Antidote to Suffering

We were raised to believe that reality can be manipulated.  Our libraries are filled with books of great American success stories.  These tend to be about material successes.  But the spiritual aspirant must ask: Will this success last?  Even if it lasts for an entire life, will it survive death?  If we had the power to bring peace to the world, to disarm nations and maintain order and harmony, would that peace last beyond our lifetime?  Many leaders have exhausted their lives forging great nations and empires only to have them destroyed shortly after their deaths.

To provide beings with the ultimate benefit of freedom from all suffering, one must apply the ultimate technology.  The aspiration to be of benefit to beings, the cultivation of pure intention, the continued observance of human kindness, the making of wishing prayers, and constantly hoping from the core of one’s mind and heart to be of lasting benefit to others, are practices to develop compassion.  Yet at some point the ultimate step must be taken.  This begins with the realization that temporary happiness is not enough, that feeding and clothing people, along with other acts of kindness, are not enough.  These things cannot undo the certainty of death, which puts people beyond our reach.  How can we follow them into future incarnations to ensure their safety?

There is only one way to cease the ripening of the seeds of suffering: enlightenment, which dissolves the belief in ego, pacifies all cause-and-effect relationships or karma, and reveals one’s true primordial nature.  The Diamond Path utilizes many techniques to purify the five senses and the mindstream itself.  When these practices are engaged in, not only for one’s own benefit but also to purify the karma and suffering of others, the practical aspect of the Awakening Mind — practical compassion — is engaged.  This is “practical” because it is the technology to completely rid oneself and others of the causes for suffering.  Buddhists view this type of compassion as the act of ultimate kindness.

While ordinary kindness is a valid undertaking and should be part of the activity of every spiritual aspirant, one must address the question of ultimate benefit, of eliminating suffering at its roots.

We should take to heart what the great Indian Buddhist Shantideva wrote a thousand years ago.  “May I act as the mighty earth or like the free and open skies to support and provide the space whereby I and all others may grow.  Until every being afflicted by pain has reached to nirvana’s shores, may I serve only as a condition that encourages progress and joy.”

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Enlightenment is Awakening

An excerpt from a teaching called How Buddhists Think by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

In their Nature, all sentient beings are essentially the Buddha––all humans, all animals, even all the microscopic little beings   running around on the tips or our noses.  We should regard that Nature as the basis or seed of the Path.  The Buddha’s revelation of the Path came directly from his awareness of this Nature.  Even though we ourselves are this Nature, we have a fixation on self-nature as inherently real.  Any idea we have now, any conceptualization, anything that comes from us, arises from thinking of ourselves as a self.

The Buddha gave the Path after he attained Enlightenment, and it arose from his Enlightened intention, from Enlightenment itself.  The Path is considered to be “the method.”  All the Dharma teachings you receive, even the commentary teachings I may give, all derive from the Buddha’s teachings, or have as their basis the Buddha’s teachings.  They are considered precious because they are the “method” that arises from the mind of Enlightenment.

You can only achieve the result of Enlightenment if the method you use arose from the mind of Enlightenment.  And you can be certain that this is the case only if you know that the result has been proven again and again.  This is because we ourselves cannot recognize the Buddha Nature––not in ourselves, not in any other being.  Not yet.  All we have to go on is a proven, result-bringing method.

The basis, or cause, brings forth the method, or Path, which is not separate from the goal, the fruit––which is the Awakening into our inherent primordial wisdom state.  These three (the basis, the method, and the goal) are inseperable, indistinguishable one from the other.  Therefore, we Buddhists never consider that we are moving towards an external goal.  We never make the mistake of those involved in a more Western idea of linear development––thinking that they are building a higher self, or even making a connection to a higher self.  And we never make the mistake of thinking that we are becoming great beings, or Masters, as those who are involved with linear thinking may do.  From our point of view, we haven’t moved at all.  Attaining Enlightenment is not gathering together a bunch of facts, as you might do in college.  Nor is it the gathering of a bunch of experiences.  We are indeed the total of our experiences, but only in a karmic sense.

Enlightenment is actually the “Awakening” to the naked state––the state that is free of all experience, the state that is pure luminosity.  We don’t go anywhere.  There is no building, no tearing down.  There is nothing of the accumulation we value in our life.  We have only pacified our chronic, compulsive fixation on self-nature, the fixation we have had since time out of mind.  This constitutes a profound difference between Buddhist philosophy and Western metaphysical or religious thinking.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

To download the complete teaching, click hereand scroll down to How Buddhists Think

The Benefits of the Awakening Mind

1000 Armed Chenrezig Mandala

Here is another excerpt from the first chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life called “The Benefits of the Awakening Mind.”  May these words written by Shantideva inspire all who encounter them.


How can I fathom the depths

Of the goodness of this jewel of the mind,

The panacea that relieves the world of pain

And is the source of all its joy?


If whoever repays a kind deed

Is worthy of some praise,

Then what need to mention the Bodhisattvas

Who do good without it being asked of them?


The world honors as virtuous

One who sometimes gives a little, plain food

Disrespectfully to a few beings,

Which satisfies them for only a half a day.


What need be said then of one

Who eternally bestows the peerless bliss of the Sugatas

Upon limitless numbers of beings,

Thereby fulfilling all their hopes?


The Buddha has said that whoever bears a harmful thought

Against a benefactor such as a Bodhisattva

Will remain in hell for as many aeons

As there were harmful thoughts.


However, if a virtuous attitude should arise (in that regard),

Its fruits will multiply far more than that.

When Bodhisattvas greatly suffer they generate no negativity,

Instead their virtues naturally increase.


I bow down to the body of those

In whom the sacred precious mind is born.

I seek refuge in that source of joy

Who brings happiness even to those who bring harm.

The Way Out

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Turning Adversity Into Felicity

When we practice Guru Yoga, we actually begin to develop the view that the lama is the source of liberation.  We begin to understand using traditional, prescribed images.  For instance, we are taught that we should think of samsara as being like a burning room. In samsara there is a great deal of suffering, and it’s actually just as probable that you will experience adversity as it is probable that you will experience felicity.  It is just as probable that you will experience suffering as it is that you will experience happiness and joy.  So we think of samsara as being untrustworthy, and we think—and this is true—that within samsara, because of our confusion and our lack of awareness about what our nature actually is,  we are constantly giving rise to the causes for more suffering.  This is constantly the case.  So we think of samsara as being like a burning room with no windows, that there is no escape except for this one door.  In our practice we think that the Lama is like that door.

The Lama is considered to be the door to liberation, the very means by which the blessing comes to us.  Without the Lama, we would not have been hooked onto the path.  Without the Lama, we would not receive the teaching.  Without the Lama, we would not understand the teaching.  Without the Lama, our minds would not be empowered and ripened and matured.  That is the responsibility of the relationship between the guru and disciple.  The mind must be matured in order to progress on the path.  So we rely on the Lama for all of these things without which we remain wandering in samsara experiencing birth/death/birth/death/birth/death with very little control.

Of course, when life is going well we think that this must not be true.  It looks like we have a lot of control in our life.  But if you think that, then you should read the newspaper more frequently, and you should talk to people who have been inflicted with incurable, diseases, who were afflicted completely out of the blue, not expecting that their lives would come to this.  You should talk to people who have suffered through circumstances that seemed to come from outside, misfortune, the loss of a job, the loss of loved ones.  These are terrible sufferings for us as human beings, and until we have experienced our fair share of them — and we will, eventually; old age, sickness and death, these things occur to all of us — we have the delusion of a certain kind of control in our life.  Ordinarily that kind of delusion comes with youth, and then later on, as we pass the age of supreme omniscience at about 30, we begin to discover that, in fact, we are not totally in control, that life seems to control us.

So we think of samsara as being this untrustworthy, inescapable difficulty, and we think of the lama as being the door to liberation.  We hold that kind of regard.  It isn’t that we worship a personality.  Of course, it’s not like that.  That would be very superficial and useless.  What good is a personality?  If we conceive of the Lama as a personality, what good would that do us?  We are a personality, and look where it’s gotten us!  That’s nothing to rely on.  So we rely on the Guru as the condensed essence of all the objects of refuge: all the Buddhas, all the Bodhisattvas, all the Lamas, all the meditational Deities, the Dakinis and the Dharma protectors all rolled into one, including all of the teachings.  These are the liberating truths of Dharma.  These are the objects of refuge.  So the Lama becomes the door through which we exit samsara.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Your Guru

Ven Gyaltrul Rinpoche

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

In Vajrayana Buddhism, the Teacher is the cornerstone of all practice. The Teacher is everything—the underlying strength and the means by which transmission and understanding occur.

Let us compare the Teacher’s function with the function of various other objects of refuge. All people—not just Buddhists—have such objects. Try for a moment to determine your own. If you think that the accumulation of material wealth is the way to happiness, money has become your guru. The material things you treasure are your guru. If, on the other hand, you choose the beer-and-sports routine, watching ESPN every night until you fall asleep, you have accepted the TV as your guru. It pacifies you. It makes you temporarily happy. You betray yourself: these things are unreliable, impermanent, and deceptive. Yet you put your trust and faith in them. Nothing in our impermanent realm of phenomenal existence can lead to happiness. Nothing—even if it seems ideal, like the perfect job or the perfect relationship in a perfect split-level, with 2.5 perfect children surrounded by a perfect white picket fence. At the moment of death, you are alone.

According to Buddhist teaching, there is a lasting happiness: enlightenment. It is the only end to all forms of suffering, including impermanence. Enlightenment cannot be tainted; it cannot be eaten by moths. It cannot rust; it cannot be destroyed. Enlightenment is the true source of refuge, the only thing that will not allow you to be betrayed. True happiness cannot be taken away. It is permanent and unchanging—the steadfast, stable reality of the enlightened mind. When you achieve enlightenment, what is revealed is your own primordial-wisdom nature. Some people think that they must give birth to enlightenment or that they have to find it. Actually, the primordial-wisdom nature has never left you, nor is it unborn. It remains in the way that a crystal is still a crystal, even though covered by dirt and mud.

Once you accept enlightenment as your goal, you should understand that the Guru is someone who can get you there. What should you look for in a Guru? A Teacher should not be seeking power or personal gain. Your Guru should have profound compassion, profound awareness. Most important, your Teacher should be able to transmit to you a true path. Suppose you go to a psychiatrist who helps you to be happier, more effective. This is very useful, but it is only a temporary way to cope, whereas the Guru offers you supreme enlightenment. This has nothing to do with coping. In fact, it has nothing to do with satisfying the ego.

Do not be fooled by charisma, saying: “I can tell by my feelings. This is the Teacher for me!” Instead, ask: Does this person teach a path that has been proven, time and time again, to stabilize the mind to the extent that miraculous activity can occur? Does this Teacher offer a technology that can stabilize the mind during the death experience? Can this technology result in miraculous signs at the time of passing? Are there indications that others have had success with this path and can now return in an emanation form in order to benefit beings? Look at the people who have practiced before you. Look at their successes or failures. Examine the history of the path, including the accounts of any enlightenment it has produced. At their passing, practitioners may produce miraculous signs: rainless rainbows, sweet scents, the transformation of the body into a rainbow of light, leaving only the hair and nails, the mysterious formation of relics or other unusual substances. On the Vajrayana path, such miraculous signs have been witnessed and recorded by many. People have seen the rainbow body; they have smelled the sweet scents; they have seen these extraordinary events.

The Buddha Himself said that we should use logic in choosing a Teacher or a path. After that, however, you begin to rely on the Teacher for everything. Why? Because you make a god out of your Teacher? Do you lose your brains and become a drone or a bliss ninny? Not at all. We Americans like to think we are unique, important, the best in the world. We think that to be happy, we must develop our individuality, so the idea of following a Guru is unappealing. But a teacher should not be chosen with blind faith or rampant emotion. You should exercise both intelligence and surrender. They are not in conflict. They can coexist very comfortably within the same mind, the same heart.

Note that you do not surrender to a person. It is not about a person. Your Teacher represents the door to liberation, the path that leads to enlightenment. Your relationship with the Guru is the most precious of all relationships. This is you talking to you—and finding out that you are not you at all. This is a glimpse, a taste, of true nature. At last we have arrived at the correct way to understand the Teacher.

Cultivate the precious relationship with your Guru through devotion. Make sure, however, that it really is devotion—not merely the kow-towing to a physical being. Devotion is an understanding of refuge, an understanding of your goal, plus the courage to walk through the door you have chosen. Choose only once, and choose correctly. From then on, allow yourself the grace to love deeply and gently.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Compassion – The Foundation of the Path

An excerpt from the Vow of Love Series by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

In a superficial way the idea of compassion can seem very simple, and we might make the mistake of thinking that we understand it. But if we study compassion deeply, eventually we will come to understand that the ultimate view of compassion is enlightenment itself. It is the natural, primordial wisdom state itself. That’s why compassion isn’t truly known until we reach supreme enlightenment.

Compassion is the foundation of the Buddhist path. Without it, like any house that does not have a firm foundation, the house will crumble. It will not stand. One’s motivation to practice must be compassion. If your motivation is not compassion, it will be very difficult to firmly stick to the commitment to practice and meditate every day. I feel for those who say, “I’d really like to practice. I would really like to have a time in my life everyday to meditate, and yet I don’t have the discipline. I don’t have the strength. I don’t have the commitment.”  If you have the right motivation, if you want to do this solely and purely from the point of view of compassion, you will find the time and you will find the commitment and you will find a way to do it. For those who have tried to meditate everyday or be consistent in their practice, if they can’t do it, my feeling is somehow the foundation of compassion isn’t strong enough.

If we could make the idea of compassion so strong that it becomes a burning fire consuming our hearts, until we are nothing but a flame. If the need to benefit others becomes so strong that it’s irresistible. If the understanding that others are suffering so unbearably in realms that we cannot even see, let alone the realms we can, that we cannot rest until we find a way to be of some lasting benefit to them. If these things can truly become part of our minds, we will find the strength to practice.

How do you find the strength to breathe? “Well,” you say, “that’s easy. Breathing is a reflex. I have to breathe. If I don’t breathe, I die.” What if you could cultivate the understanding that all sentient beings are filled with suffering that is inconceivable in its magnitude and that there are non-physical realms of existence we are not even aware of, filled with suffering? What if you could cultivate this understanding so deeply that, because of your realization, compassion and profound generosity became as much a reflex as breathing?  That is possible.

“Well,” you say, “I don’t have that kind of understanding. I’m just not like that. I can’t make myself really buy into that.” Let me comfort you with this awareness. Unless you are supremely enlightened you are not born with that perfect understanding. No one is. No one is born with enough understanding of the suffering of others, and an affinity with the idea of compassion, to create that perfect discipline naturally. That understanding comes only through its cultivation, and we must cultivate that understanding consistently every day.

The Beginning of Awakening

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

One of the practices that we are taught as Buddhists is that always, always, Guru Rinpoche should be above the crown of our heads.  We should be mindful that Guru Rinpoche is always there, seated on his lotus throne.  Upon going to sleep, we should visualize that Guru Rinpoche becomes like light or liquid and then pours into the top chakra and through the central channel, and remains in the heart throughout the night.  We fall asleep with Guru Rinpoche in the heart.  This kind of mindfulness is the best part of practice.  No matter what else I do, even if I don’t sit down and practice formally, I practice like that all the time.  That’s the backbone that I rely on.

When I talk to any of my students, the way that I practice View is that, as a Lama, I consider that the students are higher than me.  (You should never do that!  But I can do that.)  I consider that the students are higher than me because there are many of them and I am only one and our nature is the same.  It’s a little bit like the posture of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. There is an element of sacrifice, there is an element of viewing the propagation of Dharma and the display of Bodhicitta to be all there is, the highest.  There is nothing else higher.  So I practice in such a way that the students are higher.  I hold them in high regard.  They are more precious to me than the other stuff that I do. I hold the students much higher than I hold myself.

It is the student’s job to practice that discrimination constantly.  One thing that we should do is consider that every event, every moment, every hour, every day, every breath has as its core nature Guru Rinpoche, the blessing of Guru Rinpoche, the appearance of Guru Rinpoche.  How does one practice that?  It is the kind of thing that you have to grow into.  You can’t just think all of a sudden, “Well, I’m never going to think about anything else.  I’m just going to think about Guru Rinpoche from now on, and therefore that’ll be real easy.  He’ll just always be on my mind.” That would make you crazy, wouldn’t it?  Trying to force that little monkey in a cage to do what you want? You don’t have to do it that way.

We start by creating habitual patterns that include body, speech and mind.  We want to include these three elements.  One way to practice this kind of mindfulness is to have an altar in your home.  If you don’t have an altar in your bedroom, perhaps you can have a picture by your bedside of Guru Rinpoche or your Root Teacher, maybe both. That’s a good visualization. Then, when you first wake up in the morning, the first thing you do — even before you go to the bathroom, even before the coffee — the first thing you do is look at that picture and reorient yourself: that this day the Guru is above the crown of my head.  This hour, this day, right now, the Guru is above the crown of my head and you make three prostrations.  You have it in your mind that this day is therefore sacred and then you dedicate the sacredness of this day to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings. No one can take that away from you no matter what happens during the day.  If you get hit by a car and both your legs come off, they still can’t take that away from you.  Even if you were to lose your life, the sacredness could not be taken away from you.

Any time you go into a specific event, whether it’s ordinary or whether it’s a spiritual event, hold the picture of Guru Rinpoche or the Root Guru in your mind, reestablish the picture above the top of your head, and know that this experience begins and ends with the Guru.  If you’re going to the grocery store to buy food for your children or your family, this is an excellent thing to do. Gradually, over time, even in ordinary experiences that had no flavor, that seemed to have no connection between this ordinary activity and spirituality, you will begin to establish more of a View and begin to see every experience as spiritual.  Whatever job you have, whatever activities you engage in, look for the Guru there.  If you look, you’ll find him.  If you don’t look, you’ll never find him.

With that kind of discrimination and Guru Yoga, I find that the amazing opportunities and blessings come through the most ordinary experiences.  To the degree that I see all phenomena as the mandala of the Guru, and I hold to be in union with the Guru constantly, then ordinary people, like gas station attendants, will say things that will blow your head off.  That has happened to me, where I’ve been in that frame of mind, looking for the Guru and constantly mindful, and then pull into a gas station, and the gas station attendant says something that just rocks your world.  And it’s about something weird, like renunciation or karma or something like that, and you say to yourself,  “I’m listening, OK!”  That happens.  That doesn’t make the gas station attendant your Guru.  You see the difference, don’t you?  But it does mean that you are beginning to discriminate that nature.  You’re beginning to awaken to that nature.  It’s just a little thread, but it’s something.  It is the beginning of awakening to that.

Somehow we have to think of incorporating this distinction of what is extraordinary into our lives.  It has to be an effort that we actually provide for and make substantial, that we actually create in our lives.  This opportunity to practice like that will never simply come to you.  You may simply meet your Guru, but that’s because you practiced in your last life.  That’s because you practiced before, that’s because you earned it, but once you meet the Guru, once you are on the path, this practice of Guru Yoga becomes your responsibility.  To the degree that you really address it in a very profound, deep and heartfelt way, to that degree, it will benefit and it will awaken the mind.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Get Real

Yeshe Tsogyal

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


The Vajrayana path is a great gift. Your mind can be purified through the practice of allowing it to arise naturally with those qualities of perfect union and perfectly purified perception. “Well,” you may say. “That sounds good, but will it work?” Yes, it will work. It will work by the power of the transmissions, by the intensity of your effort and faith, and through the power of the mantra and through devotion. These mantras are not invented by ordinary people. They come from primordial wisdom itself.

Though your perception is still faulty, understand that within the center of this confused mandala you have found the perfect path. You have found your teacher and you have received initiation. Something is happening. Therefore the process is not as endless as you may think. This is your precious opportunity, and you should take advantage of it. Where will you find another like it? You have so much help and all the necessary tools and nourishments. Keep in mind the choice. Do you wish to be a practitioner seeking that one precious virtue, or are you just a person wearing a costume? If you are a serious Vajrayana practitioner, you will stop dancing around with rules and regulations and, pardon the slang, “get real about it.” Get real about this path. Understand that you must have the only thing of value—the perception of primordial mind, the realization of the natural state of all phenomena. This is true purity, true virtue.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo