Taking Responsibility for Our Path

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

Today we are going to continue the process of looking at two main and fundamental foundational teachings associated with the Buddhadharma. We have examined and re-examined the Bodhicitta, which is one of the main foundational attitudes and practices and accomplishments that one should gather on the path, and now we are moving towards the Guru Yoga.  There are many areas in which these two subjects connect, and one has to develop the foundational thoughts, as I’ve indicated many times before, the thoughts that turn the mind towards Dharma. Also one has to develop the thoughts that make one understand the condition of sentient beings and the failings of samsara, or the sufferings of samsara.  If one were to understand these in a logical and realistic way, and go through the effort of contemplating them so that a real understanding is arrived at, and take responsibility for that, then it’s easy, or at least easier, to move into a deeper practice of the Guru Yoga, a deeper understanding of Bodhicitta, the twofold accomplishment of wisdom and knowledge.  These things are much more easily arrived at when one studies the foundational teachings. So try to remember that.  No matter what stage you’re at in practicing the path, one has to reorient oneself all the time.  It’s similar to, let’s say, you’re forty years old and you’ve had the experience of living for forty years so you have certain things about living that you’re comfortable with, that you’re certain about.  You know by this time the sun is most likely going to rise and set.

We find that if we are to continue to keep ourselves spiritually on the mark to where we feel satisfied about our spiritual practice, we find that periodically we have to reorient ourselves, and for some of us it might take different forms.  Many of us have realized by now that we need a certain amount of time spent alone in contemplation.  Many of us realize now that we need to reorient ourselves with nature—that one should align oneself with the cycles of life, the cycles of night and day, the cycles of the seasons, the natural directions and natural occurrences that occur in our world—and that is useful and good too.

When it comes to Dharma this is certainly the case, but the need here is more specific.  Yes, you may find that you do need a certain amount of time alone.  I think really that all people do. That you do need a certain amount of time out in nature and you do need a certain amount of meditation time and so forth and so on. But beyond that, particularly and specifically with Dharma, one needs to reorient oneself on the path by discovering and rediscovering again the faults of cyclic existence—the thoughts that turn the mind, the linking cause and effect conditions that we find in samsara.  Turning the mind—this is something that one needs to accomplish on a regular basis. There never is a time when you are actually finished with that.

So this is something that I speak about constantly. I know that you feel that you’ve already heard this.  I agree that you may have already had it meet with your ears, but the hearing part, well that’s a different story.  We don’t know if that’s actually happened yet or not, because the level of personal responsibility that I’m talking about is absolutely essential.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Waking Up From the Deep Slumber of Ignorance

The following is a prayer from the Bodhisattva Vow Ceremony as translated in the Nam Cho Daily Practice Book from Palyul Ling International:

Alas! Fortunate ones!

Do not let ignorance overwhelm you.

Wake up now and be diligent.

Since beginningless time to this very moment

You have been sleeping in ignorance. Enough!

Now sleep no more and devote your three doors to the practice of Dharma.

Don’t you understand the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death?

No moment of what is called “today” is permanent.

Now the time has arrived to practice diligently.

This is the moment to accomplish permanent happiness.

And not the moment to fritter away in the state of laziness.

Contemplate death and strive to accomplish your practice.

Life is uncertain, as the causes and conditions for death are innumerable.

If you do not attain the confident state of fearlessness in this very life,

Then what is the use of being alive?

All phenomena are selfless, empty by nature and free of elaboration.

They are like magical illusions, mirages, dreams, reflections, the cities of Ghandarvas, echoes,

Reflections of the moon in water, bubbles, optical illusions and manifested illusions.

By these ten known examples of the illusoriness of phenomena,

Understand all worldly and transcendental phenomena as these.

Thus sang the wisdom dakinis who then dissolve into space with sharp whistling sounds. By being mindful of the meaning and importance, generate awareness and determination to wake up immediately from the slumber if ignorance.

Sentient “Beingness”


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

In traditional Buddhist doctrine, we are given certain methods that will be helpful in alleviating our condition of suffering. These methods are pretty cut and dry, pretty simple. For instance, if we begin to practice preliminary practice, or Ngöndro, and we examine the thoughts that turn the mind ,in those thoughts are not only the four main thoughts, but there are also many different sort of auxiliary thoughts. Some of the ideas that we are lead to examine are first of all, the idea that all sentient beings are equal,  and we are led to examine that in this way. First of all, we all contain within us the Buddha seed, our inherent Buddha nature, and the reality that, at some point, each one of us will attain to that nature and will become awake, even as the Buddha has become awake. Each of us will attain that reality. For some of us it will be relatively soon, only ten thousand lifetimes from now. Piece of cake. For some of us, it will be a lot longer. Sometimes we have to think that for some people it almost seems like it will never happen, because you’re talking about aeons of cyclic existence. But the Buddha teaches us that each one of us has that inherent reality, and therefore we are, in our nature, the Buddha.

So, in that sense, we are exactly the same. We are also the same in our sentient beingness, if you can coin a phrase with me for a little while. And in our sentient beingness, we have certain things in common: We do have the ego cherishing. We do have self absorption. We do have confusion. We do have an inability to abide spontaneously in the primordial wisdom nature. We do experience death and rebirth in some form. All sentient beings do, even if they are not in the human realm. We all experience these certain conditions; we all experience suffering. We all experience hope and fear in some way.

So the Buddha teaches us to understand that we are all very much alike. And in that situation of alikeness, we can find a certain companionship with one another, a certain understanding or empathy toward one another, so that we don’t judge as severely. If we do understand that we all are revolving in cyclic existence, and that we all have hatred, greed, and ignorance and all those things running around, self-absorption and such, then when we look at someone else with hatred, greed and ignorance, we might think, ‘Oh, that’s kind of like me. I can understand that. I can see where that happens.’ So we develop a kind of patience, a tolerance, a kindness, and it’s the fundamental step that must be taken before true compassion arises.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Removing the Blinders


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

One thing that happens as we are turning the mind toward Dharma is we literally begin to examine the condition of cyclic existence,  We come to understand that we are not the only ones that are wandering in cyclic existence. All sentient beings that we see of all types, not only counting those that are human but also animal sentient beings and sentient beings that live in other realms, these too are wandering aimlessly and are suffering.  So we begin to develop a sense of empathy through examination.

Now some people might think “Gee, what a downer!  Why would you want to examine the suffering of others?  Better to close one’s eyes and think happy thoughts.”  There is a time and place for closing one’s eyes and thinking happy thoughts.  There is a time for joy and a time for happiness. And the kind of joy and happiness that is healthful and that increases our ability to attain liberation and to have happiness is the kind of joy that is not the same as suppression of information.  It is the kind of joy that is not the same as closing one’s eyes and being blind to cause and effect relationships.  It is an all-pervasive natural kind of joy that is in harmony with our true nature, and is the very display of our nature.  That joy promotes health and well-being, promotes longevity; and it is born of moral and ethical and compassionate conduct.

The kind of joy that we are giving ourselves when we try to fake it, literally fake it through our lives, ignoring all the bad news and just playing the way children play in the sandbox, picking and choosing what we want to think about and what we want to see, that is a joy that is an artificial recipe.  It is a joy that exists in the same world with suppression, ignorance and lack of information. That joy is not healthy for us because it does not promote longevity, it does not promote happiness.  It is literally like this: Let’s say we were to take all the chairs that are in this room and distribute them throughout the room in a haphazard way and then pile in a few more pieces of furniture, and  wait til it’s pitch-black midnight. Turn off all the lights, close all the curtains until it’s absolutely pitch dark in this room.  Then try to negotiate going through this room.  Would you like to negotiate going through this room, just trying to feel your way through with all of its furniture upturned and barricaded and brought up in your way and that sort of thing?  Would you like to go through the room, getting from this door to that door? And let’s imagine that door is the ultimate door, the one we need to get out of.  We must get out of that door for whatever reason.  Would you like to go from this door to that door with the lights off or with the lights on?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sensible, practical kind of girl and if I have to make a journey, I want to know the facts.  I want to go with the lights on.  I want to turn the lights on so that I can walk around the furniture, go under it, step over it, do whatever it takes to negotiate this scary passage through samsara. It makes no sense to close the eyes and not take in information and pretend, suppress the facts in order to go from one place to another, because you will surely fail.  You will surely hurt yourself and have a very painful journey in the process.

So for this reason we must examine cyclic existence. We must examine the condition of sentient beings, and we must examine our own condition in order to truly turn our minds toward Dharma.  Once we have seen the faults of cyclic existence and seen the good results of understanding, of growing in understanding, and the joyfulness of virtuous and moral and ethical conduct and compassion, we will develop the habit of wanting to know, of opening the mind, of having the mind be very much like a bowl, a very pure thing in which nectar can be poured.  We will crave information.  We will crave practice.  We will literally crave turning on the light so that we can understand.  If we do not crave now, if we wish to remain in ignorance and darkness because it is easier or because we like being drunk, it is simply because it is our habit to do so and that does not excuse us from the need to change.

Develop a new habit.  You can see that that young person who partied down and worshipped the porcelain god every weekend morning, literally is watching their well-being go down. We on the outside can see that that needs to change, but that person, in the flux of their own ignorance, cannot see that that needs to change.  So I am pointing these things out to you so that you can make new and acceptable decisions in your lifetime so that you can actually turn your mind toward Dharma.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


Hearty Exhortation toward the Practice

This is respectfully quoted from “Drops of Nectar: Collection of Spiritual Advice from Great Tibetan Masters” Rigdzod Editorial Committee Ngagyur Nyingma Institute, Namdroling 2004

Chapter V

Again, at this very time, seeing the essential nonexistence, I sang this song of diligence in solitary practice.

Ignorance is as vast as the sky and
The might of grasping and fixation is extremely dark,
As the affliction of unknowing is beginingless and endless,
Confused one, I now offer you this counsel!

Today, in this life, though you are pursuing the path of liberation,
You are not diligent in your practice, and are still distracted by entertainment and diversions.
What is the use of the activities of this life, mere illusory appearances?
Today, I urge you to the practice of the essential meaning!

The joy and happiness of this life are just like phenomena in dreams.
None will be of any benefit and must definitely be abandoned when you depart.
Leaving behind your food and wealth, what will you do?
Today, I urge you to the practice of the profound truth of Dharma!

Although meetings end in partings, like visitors to a market place,
One by one, various kinds of friends and companions tie us up.
What is the use of having many people around you?
Today, I urge you to practice truth constantly.

Wondrous renown and praise is like a dream.
This delusion beguiles ordinary people and their conceptualizing grows.
What’s the use of the esteem and respect of others?
Today, I urge you to practice the essential luminosity!

Any activity of this present life, whatever it may be,
Such deeds are all meaningless and the cause of suffering.
As activities are delusory, what use are they to you?
Today, I urge you to practice the truth of nothing to be done!

Leaving all that is close to you, at the time of departure, you will go alone.
Your various activities, whatever they were, will not help you in the slightest.
The phenomena of this life, what use will it be to you?
I urge you to practice what will benefit during the great going forth.

Whoever is near, whatever you possess, as much as there is,
Nothing except your virtue and negativity will follow after you
So what’s the use of your friends and relatives, your possessions and wealth?
All that is born will die, so I urge you to practice the sublime view of dharma.

In the outer world there are many objects of bliss and happiness
But however, great the experiences of mental and physical joy and pleasure,
At the time of death what use will they be to you?
I urge you to gain confidence in what will help when body and consciousness separate!

Note fearful when sick, nor regretful when dying,
The profound essential meaning of Dharma frees one from remorse at the moment of death.
In the space of the nature of reality of one familiar with self-cognizant awareness,
I urge you to achieve the stability of the true natural state!

You are not free because of constantly being born again and again in samsara.
So, today, here in this life, by capturing the throne of reality itself
In the primordial space-like sphere of unchanging Dharmakaya,
I urge you to achieve the level of the Dharmakaya of self-cognizant awareness!

These are suggestions from my heart, so listen with respect!
Practice diligently in solitude and the attainments will arise!
Nurture the state of awareness and confidence will be born!
This is condensed oral instruction of the key point of the profound meaning!

As my mind was disheartened by distraction,
In order to encourage myself to practice tranquility in solitude,
These stages of instructions as advice for myself,
Are also offered to the ears of the fortunate ones who have come!

May their virtue fill my peaceful mind
With the vast wealth of qualities of profound treasure!
And may the four precious doors of the gathering place of oceans of Dakinis,
The hidden land, be open!

From the Vajra Song of Instruction for Rousing Myself, this completes the fifth chapter of urging wholehearted practice. The “Vajra Song of Instructions for Rousing Myself,” was sung by the great yogi of the Mahayana teachings, Longchen Rabjam, at the slope of Gangri Thodkar, known as Orgyen Dzang, the excellent abode of Buddha Samantabhadra, which is glorified by the crystal reflection of the moon. Shubam!

Be Your Own Best Friend

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

Understanding what is in front of you is like, I’ve used this analogy before, it’s like walking through a dark room. Let’s say that the life span that you have can be symbolized by a room. It’s dark because you don’t know what it’s going to be like. So let’s say the room is perfectly pitch dark. All the shades are drawn. It’s dark outside. No moon. Lights are off. We’re talking dark. And it’s like that because no one can predict the future. We have no idea what our lives are going to be like. But you have to walk through that room.

So you have a choice there. You can either do what we’re used to doing which is, eyes closed, you don’t turn on the light. You just take it the way it is and, like a fool, just walk through the room. Now unfortunately in that room, there’s a sofa, there’s a couch, there’s a table, lots of tables, there’s stuff on the floor. It’s like any other room. It’s furnished. Just like your life. It’s furnished. So you’re going to walk through that room what, with the light off?  With your eyes closed?  Guess what’s going to happen. Try it in your room. Try it in your house. Just walk around a while with all the lights off and your eyes closed. You are going to hurt yourself. You’re going to fall down.

There’s another choice, and this is the choice that Buddhism offers to you, or that this kind of practice specifically offers you—examining the faults of cyclic existence and examining what is the more noble way.This kind of practice offers you another alternative and that is turning on the light. Having seen the faults of cyclic existence that’s like you’re walking through this room, yes, but you know where the couch is. You can walk around the couch. You know where the chair is. You can walk around the chair. You know where the table is. You can walk around the table. Something on the floor. You can step over that. So while it may not be our natural tendency to look at life in that way, it behooves us to have that kind of courage because ultimately it would be like walking through your life really seeing what it is, being able to avoid the obstacles, taking advantage of what is there to take advantage of, and not hurting yourself.

It isn’t like you’re sentencing yourself to several months of the worst practice you’ve ever experienced. In a way, for the first time, maybe for the only time, you’re being your own best friend. You’re really looking, really seeing, not copping out. And because of that you will be more competent to move through your life than you might have been otherwise. And not only that, you’ve given rise to the great Bodhicitta, the great compassion, and you have understood that while you are alive in this world, you cannot accept, you cannot bear the suffering of sentient beings. You see that it becomes somehow disgusting and unacceptable to you, that your two feet, that your self could be here in this world, and sentient beings are suffering. That’s why, in the practice, we give rise to renunciation, true renunciation. We totally give up the self for the purpose of benefitting sentient beings.  Practice like that will produce that excellent result.

According to my teachers, this is a combination of preliminary practice called Ngöndro, which is where we see the faults of cyclic existence and give rise to the Bodhicitta, and it’s also the practice of Chöd. There’s no reason why any of you can’t begin to practice like that right now, immediately, tomorrow, today. That practice can be done deeply as I have just given instruction, but it can also be done in more casual way, as you’re walking around. Examine everything you see, and even if you are not a Buddhist, that’s fine with me. Even if you’re not planning on being a Buddhist but you’re interested in these words and you have some connection with them, great. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice in this way, because when I practiced in this way, I wasn’t. But it is the same ethics, the same morality and the same beauty that I have later come to find in my religion, Buddhism. So I offer this to you as a gift and I really hope that you take it with you wherever you go, and that, for my friend, it will bring you back safely, and that for all of you, you will have the most excellent result practicing in that way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

To What Do You Aspire?

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo from the Vow of Love series

In the Vajrayana tradition one contemplates very deeply on certain thoughts before you ever go on to any deeper practice, and these thoughts are called the ‘Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind.’  The idea is that your mind becomes turned in such a way that your intention to practice is firm, like a rock.  If you were wishy-washy about why you should practice meditation, your meditation will be wishy-washy.  There’s no doubt about it.  If you were convinced that your job could bring you more eternal and natural happiness than enlightenment, you would practice your job with greater fervor than you would practice enlightenment.  Therefore you try to turn your mind so that it has a firm foundation, hard as a rock, upon which you can build your practice.

It’s that way with aspirational Bodhicitta.  You have to turn your mind in such a way that you understand the value of compassion and you have to actually ignite your mind.  You have to set it on fire, and that fire has to be stronger and hotter and fiercer than any other feeling or idea that you have.  It has to burn so strongly that you can’t put it out.

In order to practice aspirational Bodhicitta, you must first of all look around you with courage.  Because we Americans, even New Age Americans, don’t like to look around and see that others are suffering.  We hate to think about that.  We think somehow it’s bad to think like that. According to the Buddha, it isn’t bad to think like that.  In fact, you must think like that in order to go on to the next level of practice.  You must look around you and be honest and be courageous. If you don’t see suffering in your life, if you don’t know that the people around you are lonely or getting old or getting sick, that they live with worry and with fear, then what you need to do is go to the library and check out books about other cultures and other forms of life, and see what the rest of the world is like.  Have you ever seen pictures of Calcutta, India?  Have you ever seen pictures of Bangladesh?  Have you ever seen pictures of Africa?  If you don’t believe that suffering exists in the world, you’ll see it there.  Have you ever studied the lives of people who continually do non-virtuous activity? Even though they might look like they’re tough and in control, they are deeply suffering. It behooves you to be courageous enough to examine that.  You should look at other life forms. You should look at animals.  You should look and see how oxen are treated in India.  I speak of India a lot, not because it’s a bad place, but because I’ve been there, and I was shocked.  I had no idea how sheltered Americans are from suffering.  I had no idea until I saw lepers in the street with no limbs and with open sores.

Having studied these things, you will come to understand that there is suffering in the world.  You should cultivate in your heart and mind a feeling of great compassion. You shouldn’t stop until you’ve come to the point that you are on fire and you cannot bear that they are suffering so much.  The Buddha says that we have had so many incarnations in so many different forms that every being you see, every one, has been your mother or your father.    Whether you believe that or not, it’s a great way to think.  Because you look at other beings and see how they are suffering helplessly, with no way to get out of it.  And that they, at one time, had given you birth.  In that way, you can come to love them in a way that you can practice for them.

You should allow yourself to become so filled with the urgency to practice loving that your heart is on fire and there’s no other subject that interests you as much.  Even if it’s uncomfortable; we Americans think we should never be uncomfortable. Sometimes discomfort is very useful.  Be uncomfortable and let yourself ache with the need to practice Bodhicitta.  Cultivate in yourself that urgency and that determination.  You might get to the point where you feel something, and you feel sort of sorry for all sentient beings.  You might think, “Okay, now I’ve got it.  I’ll go on to the next step.”  No, you haven’t got it.  You should cultivate compassion from this moment until you reach supreme enlightenment.

Unless they are supremely enlightened no one is born with the perfect mind of compassion.  I, and everyone I teach and everyone I know, including my teachers, practice aspirational Bodhicitta everyday, reminding ourselves that all sentient beings suffer unbearably and that we find it unbearable to see.  You should continue to cultivate compassion every moment of your life. It will begin to burn in your heart. It’s like love.  It’s beautiful.  You won’t want ever to be without that divine fire in your heart.  It will warm you as no other love can.  It will stabilize your mind as no other practice can.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

The Value of Human Existence

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa, with commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje and Kangyur Rinpoche, as translated by Padmakara Translation Group:

The Value of Human Existence:

1. So long enchanted in samsara’s wilderness,
Tormented by the cutting of their heads and limbs,
With seeds of future sorrow hidden in their minds,
Beings long so foolishly for bliss of higher realms.
2. From there they fall again, their states of mind destroying them,
To wander in three evil realms, or as insensate gods,
Or else in barbarous lands, with false views, handicapped,
In places where the Buddhas have not come.

3. On blazing iron grounds without reprieve,
With dreadful weapons wounded time and time again,
The denizens of hell are slain but cannot die–
Still tangled in the webs of hatred’s evil deeds.

4. What need is there to say that hungry ghosts are racked by want?
For food they find not even pus or blood or filth,
And streams and orchards dry before their eyes.
Their vitals burn in endless pain,
Their length of life uncertain,
Measured by the strength of obscuration.

5. Beasts prey on one another, are each other’s food.
And, hunter’s quarry, they are slain by cruel means;
Or caught and tamed, they are reduced to bondage.
Born to such great misery, what can they do?

6. The insensate gods, whose life-supporting karma is immense,
Live long in formlessness; no sorrow do they know.
But lacking support for learning and reflection,
At death they have false views and so lack freedom to progress.

7. Supported on the palaquin of legs and feet,
But yet with minds untouched by virtue,
Barbarous men live sunk and skilled in evil ways,
And wander in the jungles of false morality.

8. Some have senses that belie their promise.
Though they meet with teachers, holy and sublime,
They hear their words like echoes sounding from a cliff,
And suffer in the wasteland of no understanding.

9. Some achieve the great ship [of human life]
With wits like sails wherewith to cross the ocean of rebirth.
But overwhelmed by demons, the espouse false views,
Wherein the Buddha who has come takes no delight.

10. Some fall in blind and lightless chasms:
Ages where no Buddhas manifest.
And though they try to rise, they find no path
And in despair sink down from low to lower destinies.

11. Eight states therefore where beings are not free to practice Dharma,
Where world-destroying gales of sin and suffering rage,
Where merit is defiled in wariness and fear–
O think of this and profit from your freedom!

12. To be a human being in a pure and central land,
With limbs and senses whole, with faith in Buddha’s teaching,
With karmic fortune blossoming, unmarred by evil deeds–
And this is like the wishing-tree, extremely rare.

13. But rarer still, the Buddha, like an udumbara, has appeared within our world.
The flower of Dharma is in bloom. The garden of the doctrine,
Undiminished, still exists, and perfectly do holy beings enter it,
Within whose cooling shade we may find rest.

14. Such fortune in ourselves is rarer than the wishing tree;
Such outer circumstances are like udumbara flowers,
These ten together joined with eight-fold leisure–
Such coincidence will scarce be found again!

15. Examples make it clear–the turtle’s head, the floating yoke,
And numbers also, whereby humans in comparison with beasts
Are like stars that shine by day compared with those by night,
With, in a like proportion, hungry ghosts and denizens of hell.

16. If once aboard this great ship of our freedom,
We now fail to reach the far shore of this sea of pain,
This meeting with the helmsman will indeed have been in vain
For us who strive and fare upon the Dharma’s path.

Commitment to the Dharma Path

The following is a full length video teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered at Kunzang Palyul Choling:


In an upbeat manner, Jetsunma describes the faults of cyclic existence and how to make the most of the path that Dharma offers to end that suffering.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved


The Choice

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Bringing Virtue Into Life”

Whether you are contemplating teachings, offering, practicing, praying, meditating, whatever it is that you are doing, you’re doing it because you must.  You are preparing for your next rebirth.  I’m not a dope.  I’m preparing for my next rebirth.  Are you a dope?  You have to prepare for your next rebirth.  If I have to prepare, so do you.

That’s what is beautiful about your human existence right now.  You have the capacity to prepare for your next rebirth.  Other life forms cannot do that, but you can.  So I am asking you please, at whatever level you practice, whether you are just sniffing around, kind of interested, whether you’re really getting with the program and you’re starting to practice, or whether you’re an old-time practitioner, the thoughts that turn the mind—those beginning thoughts that are in the beginning of your Ngondro practice—there is never a day in your life when you don’t need to practice them, because the day that you don’t practice those thoughts, the day that you don’t think about those thoughts is the day you’re going to start deluding yourself again, and basically drinking the alcohol or the drug of samsara which dupes you and tells you that there is no connection between cause and effect, and, in fact, you are not getting older every day, and your life is going to go for a very long time—these deluding thoughts.

Don’t wait until a life challenging catastrophe, to you or someone close to you, teaches you this hard lesson.  Please don’t wait for that, because it will happen.  Some day you’re going to find out that you’re dying, or someday you’re going to find out that someone near and dear to you is dying or has died.  That is a life changing experience, and it will teach you Dharma.  It will teach you to prepare for your next rebirth, if you’re listening at all.

On the other hand, there are even those that are so deluded—and this has happened to students of mine—that they have been diagnosed as terminal, have been at death’s door and have decided they didn’t want to spend their last months practicing Dharma.  They wanted to spend their last months having fun.  This is the kind of delusion that is within our hearts and our minds now. And if you don’t think that you have that in your mind, listen to your thoughts.  Engage in some self-honesty and listen to how you think.  This is what we’re doing every day, tossing it back, tossing it back—the drink of samsara.  Keep it numb.  Keep it numb, because when we’re numb we don’t have to face it.

There is another way, you see.  You can be the kind of person that wants to keep it numb.  You keep all the lights in your house off and try to walk around in there (if you can), and what is ultimately going to happen is you are going to hurt yourself.  You’re going to fall over stuff.  You’re going to trip and you’re going to bang into walls.  You’re going to burn yourself.  All kinds of things are going to happen if you try to live with the lights off.  But on the other hand, if you go through the effort—and this is like practicing Dharma—if you go through the effort of getting the big picture and you switch on the lights, even though it’s effortful to go through the regimen of doing this and pay attention, and learn where the things are in your house, at least you know how it stands.  And you can negotiate around in your house without bumping into walls and falling over the furniture.  Our lives are like that.  We have a choice.

We can live our lives as the walking dead, and then die, unprepared, like going to a continent filled with precious jewels and coming back empty-handed.  Or, we can switch on the lights, face facts and do what it takes to negotiate the shoals of samsara as painlessly as possible.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved