The Nature of the Guru

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

The Lama gives us not only a way to have single-pointed concentration, but the Lama also offers their own accomplishment.  When one practices the Guru Yoga really deeply, whether it be in the Guru Yoga in Ngndro, or Shower of Blessings, or in any of the pujas that have Guru Rinpoche as the main focal point or Guru Rinpoche and consort as the main focal point, we should think thatthis is the way to practice Guru Yoga.  And in each one of those practices, whichever it is, we understand nondual nature.  That’s what we’re working on.

We see the arising from the nature of emptiness appearing in a real, but insubstantial gossamer-like light form, first as the seed syllable, and then as the Guru.  We are telling ourselves our own story, because it is we also who have arisen from emptiness.  It is our nature that is indeed also the seed syllable. Ultimately we are the same nature as the Guru.  By the power of the Guru’s accomplishment, through their many lifetimes of amazing practice, many lifetimes of looking out after sentient beings and accomplishing the needs of sentient beings and liberating sentient beings, they offer themselves and their accomplishment in that way to be the very door to liberation.  And so we should think of our teachers in that way—that we are in a burning house, no other way to get out except that one door.  Boy, would you ever be devoted to that door.  That door would be on your mind if your house were burning, and there were no other way to get out, wouldn’t it?  And that’s how we should think. We should think that here we are in samsara. This is indeed the time of Kaliyuga.  We have, at best, as many habitual tendencies guaranteed to bring us suffering as we do to bring us happiness.  At best.  50/50.  And that is so unusual.  We tend to make ourselves more unhappy than we do happy.  So we are in this burning house and we look to the teacher to provide the door to liberation.

So when we give rise to that devotion, it’s not to the person Guru.  It’s not to that person.  It doesn’t matter if you like what they’re wearing or how they smell or what they look like or how they walk or anything like that.  It doesn’t matter.  That’s just the stuff you do in regular life.  So you can just sweep it over. Instead you think, “This one has appeared and will appear throughout time out of mind until all suffering has ended, until samsara is emptied, as the door to liberation.  What kind of dope am I that I wouldn’t walk through it?”  It’s that kind of fervent regard.  Think of it that way—more than like-dislike, that kind of judgment, but rather, fervent regard.

We rely on the accomplishment of our teachers. If our teachers had not accomplished any Dharma, how would they be of any use to us?  So we expect it of them and we rely on them to guide us in the way of Dharma.  Sometimes it pisses us off.  We’d rather go on vacation.  We’d rather have a little more fun.  I mean, it’s Sunday afternoon, isn’t it?  And we have all kinds of reasons why we should maybe do something else.  But we come back.  There is my friend.

If this teacher can bother to appear again and again for no reason other than to liberate sentient beings as my Guru has, then I can at least be here. I can at least come half way, come full with devotion.  When we are in the presence of our own Root Guru and we have that connection and we have the history and karma of the Guru having ripened our mind in some way in the past, that ripening will surely come again.  With faith and devotion and practice, it will surely come again.  And so we have that kind of faith.  We know in our hearts and our minds that we can rely on this one for that kind of help.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

In the Posture of Honesty

An excerpt from a teaching called the Seven Limb Puja:  Viewing the Guru by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo on October 18, 1995

We should always be in the posture of confession.  We love confession, don’t we?  It’s so Catholic!  Well, no, we do it differently here.  In Buddhism confession need not be heard by any other person.  When we first got into the teachings about confession, there was a line of people waiting to come to confess to me.  I thought I was going to have to build one of those booths! Now you know that confession need not be done in front of anyone else.  We’re talking about spiritual confession. It need not be done in front of anyone else, but one should always be in the posture of confession.  Why is that so?

First of all, we know that since beginningless time until now when we have received the teachings, we have tried to be happy but we have not known how to be happy.  Isn’t that right?  That means there’s a pretty good chance we have blown it, big time.  And judging from the fact that we are still suffering in samsara, we know that it’s true.  We know that at least 50% of the time, we have committed non-virtuous acts: at least 50% of the time, just by the law of chance.

Suppose you came to see the Guru but you didn’t change your clothes.  And you had shit all over you, really stinky.  You walked through mud and you had mud all over you, and maybe you even shit in your pants.  That’s what we did until we got here.  We just shit in our pants.  We didn’t care.  We didn’t know.  So you=ve got a load, like a kid with a slung-low diaper.  We’re walking in like that!  And we stink and we’re nasty.  If you were going to see Guru Rinpoche, don’t you think you would clean up a bit?  Do you think you might clean up a bit?

Think of confession in the same, exact way.  Think that you’re always in the face of the Guru, that you are always in the presence of that primordial nature.  Yet you know that to simply fake it and put on a quasi-pseudo spiritual face is not going to cut it because you’re not looking at a being, you’re not looking at something samsaric that wouldn’t know the difference.  You are in the presence of the primordial wisdom nature.  All things are revealed.

Being in a posture of confession doesn’t mean that you’re constantly repeating verbal confessions in your head.  That would make you nuts, especially if you’re trying to offer and pay homage at the same time!  But the posture of confession is a little bit different, and here we’re talking about subtleties.  For those of you that love to be black and white, this is going to take some cooking on the back burner for a while.  We’re talking here about a subtleness, a posture of confession.  That means that for the first time in our samsaric lives we are not trying to hide our non-virtue, and play the game of acting spiritual on top of that.  There is a natural to-the-bone honesty of realizing that you are a being wandering lost in samsara, realizing what it took to get that wandering and that lost in samsara, and realizing that that’s what you’re holding here.  With that kind of awareness, there is the profound wish for all such causes of suffering, all such non-virtue, to be purified.  So that would be a posture of confession:  I know that I have engaged in non-virtuous conduct of all kinds.  I have no illusions and I do not try to pretend or shut it down or make nicey-nice with with my superficial face.  I do not pretend that none of this has happened.  I am truly, within the deepest part of my heart, a penitent person.  I am constantly in that posture.  I am realizing that I have performed non-virtue and in the face of the Guru I wish to hold that up as though dewdrops were being held up in the sun.  And that sun has the same capacity that the sun has naturally: that by the light of midday those dewdrops will all be gone — if we don’t hide them under a rock, pretend they don’t exist and put them away somewhere.  Instead, we hold them up in the act of penitence and compassion and honesty. With complete confidence that this non-dual emptiness and luminosity, like the sun, will burn away all such poison.

Rather than being somebody who is doing shuck and jive, trying to dance, trying to pretend that we’re all goody two-shoes, rather than committing that horrible non-virtue, instead, we are in a posture of honesty.  And in that posture of honesty, the heart is relaxed and the mind is opened.  The non-virtue, in that posture, begins to evaporate like the dewdrops do.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Pick Your Poison

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo on October 18, 1995

We have made many offerings to the Guru.  Mostly what we have offered the Guru are five cups:  five cups of poison.  We have offered the Guru hatred, because there in the presence of the primordial nature, there in the presence of the display of the Bodhicitta, there in that non-dual pristine purity, we have shamelessly hated, abused, and neglected.  We have committed horrible sins against others who are innocent —  against motherly sentient beings — not only in this lifetime, but previously as well.  And we have done this bold-faced in the presence of that which is so holy as to be indescribable.

We have offered the cup of greed and grasping.  Every single day in the presence of our own mind, the face of the Guru, in the great silent sound of primordial emptiness, there in the great quiet light of the display of luminosity, right there in the place of Bodhicitta, from our mouth, we have offered the cup of greed instead of the speech of comfort.  This is what we have offered to the Guru.  This is the offering that we have made.  Without shame we grasp. We are filled with greed.  We do nothing but think about me, me, me, and “What I can have?” and “What I can do?” and “How great I am!” and “Don’t you want to give me some more approval?” “Don’t you want to give me some more?”  This is what we do in the face of the Guru.

And then the third cup that we offer to the face of the Guru is our ignorance.  Not only do we begin with ignorance —  which is forgivable, in the sense that we are born; we wake up; at five or six years old we come to consciousness.  Later on, we figure out that we’re as dumb as posts.  We just don’t know.  We are ignorant.  We don’t have the teaching yet.  But now we have come to the point where we have received the teaching.  We have received enough of the teaching where you could say that while we still abide in samsara, we are moving away from ignorance.  We are bringing down, or quelling, the poison of ignorance.  Yet, in the face of the Guru, in the face of the primordial empty nature that is our nature, in the face of the very display of Bodhicitta, we have willfully remained ignorant.  Willfully.  We have not accomplished our practice.  We have turned away from our practice.  We have not tried very hard.  We have not listened to the teachings.  We have not taken the advice of our Gurus.  We continue to listen to the teaching as though it was water rolling off of our back

Imagine that you had one chance to listen to Guru Rinpoche and that was the only contact with Dharma that you were ever going to have in your whole life, and Guru Rinpoche offered to give you the keys to liberation, everything that you need.  What would that listening look like?  Hopefully, if you are not dumber than a post, you would listen to the Guru as though it were your very breath.  You would listen with your whole heart and every word would be like food, like nectar to you.  You would take every bit of it home and work with it all the time.  If that were the only opportunity you would ever receive and you were receiving these teachings from Guru Rinpoche, maybe you might think like that.

But in the face of our root Guru that’s not what we do.  We report dutifully for class and we hear the teachings.  I used to walk around and ask students, “What was the teaching about that I taught the other night?”  But I stopped that because that used to break my heart, when there was no answer.

We are faulted in the way that we make offerings.  We cling to our ignorance.  We have heard the method, we have heard the teachings, and yet we do not practice accordingly, to the best of our abilities.  And so, we have offered the cup of ignorance to our Guru.  And that has been the best that we could do.

The next cup that we have offered to the Guru is jealousy.  Bold faced, in the face of our very nature, in the very display of Bodhicitta we have looked at the accomplishments of others, and we have said, I can do that.  We have competed and we have been jealous.  We have looked to other’s belongings and we have said, “I wish I had that instead of you.”  We try to make ourselves feel better, to practice self-aggrandizement, by lifting ourselves up and putting others down.  These things we have done in the very face of the Guru who is indistinguishable from us and from our nature, and indistinguishable from the nature of all beings.  There is only nature. It is not divided into pigeon holes.  Its not like an ice-cube tray where its all divided into sections.  So when we look into the face of any other sentient being, any motherly sentient being, and perform our usual ritual of jealousy and competitiveness, then this is the game that we are actually playing with the root Guru.  We have, therefore in truth, been jealous and competitive toward the root Guru, because there is no distinction.  And if we think that it’s okay to be that way in front of other sentient beings but not okay to be that way in front of the Guru, then we are holding up the cup of ignorance as well.  By now we should know better than that.  We have been taught more than that.  By now we know that all sentient beings have within them the Buddha nature, the Buddha seed, and that is inseparable from the Guru’s nature.  So, if we harm, or ignore, or treat badly or abuse others, this is what we have done to the Guru. We have held up the cup of jealousy.

And the last wonderful offering that we have made to the Guru is the cup of pride.  In front of the Guru, that nature which is all-pervasive, fundamentally undifferentiated, free of any kind of conjecture, or contrivance, or distinction; in front of that pure display, we have held ourselves up as great, special and superior.  We have held ourselves up as that which requires special attention.  We have held ourselves up as that which requires approval because we are so wonderful.  And we have not been ashamed, in front of the face of the Guru, to indicate that we are superior to others.  We have not been ashamed to do that.  Strangely, we feel shame and embarrassment at the idea of surrender in devotion, but we have no shame about showing our stinking nasty pride in front of the face of the Guru.  That doesn’t bother us at all.  Our thinking is completely backwards.

Now, this is not good news.  We like hear good inspiring things.  We like to be entertained.  This is not the kind of thing that we like to hear.  But you know, if you really are honest with yourself, if you really examine yourself, you know that what I am saying is true.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Ever-Present Blessings

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

Guru Yoga is the most potent of all practices and it’s the most simple. One can practice Guru Yoga simply by visualizing the Guru above the crown of one’s head and making offerings by visualizing them, and then receiving the blessing, real quick. The white blessing from the Guru’s Body to your body comes in the head, white to white; the red blessing from the Guru’s Speech, from the Guru’s throat to your throat; the blue blessing from the Guru’s Mind, which is the heart, from his heart (or her heart) to your heart). You can receive that blessing constantly. It’s free. It’s yours. You can receive it periodically. You can receive it every morning, every night. Whatever you want, as much as you want. That’s the beauty of Guru Yoga. And you should think that the Guru is like your constant companion. Not in a creepy way. I don’t want you guys looking in my window (laughter). But in a wholesome way, where we understand that this nature is freely given, like method that one can use. It is indistinguishable from the ground which is full enlightenment, the method which is Dharma, and the result which is the completion or accomplishment of the precious awakened state.

So we understand the Guru is the ground, the Guru is the method, the Guru is the result. And we begin, through the devotion, through calling out our own nature, our own mind, our own qualities, to mix willingly with that of the Guru. Over time, that blessing mixes like milk with water and we understand that indeed, Lord Buddha resides in us all. We understand that indeed each one of us is some uncontrived beginningless and endless and yet fundamentally complete luminous nature, some state of awakened and yet uncontrived view. That we are that in our nature. Our job in this lifetime is to use the blessings of our Gurus, to use their accomplishment, their qualities, their methods, to listen carefully and accordingly accomplish awakening to that nature. It’s the swift way. It’s the rocketship. It’s powered because it’s like lighting something at both ends. You’re not thinking, “Oh I have to go there.”  We are thinking, “This is like a mirror and a mirror”—inseparable in their nature.

Here in America, we have a lot of pop-psychology. We all have these little boxes about how relationships ought to be. Pop-psychology has told us how big they ought to be and what shape they ought to be. We are told that we should be independent in certain ways and then sharing in other ways. One way or another way, we are told how we ought to be. I want to tell you that the relationship of Guru Yoga is not like that. For instance, in relationships we are taught, I’m ok, you’re ok. What is it? Don’t be co-dependent. So don’t be in a co-dependent relationship. Well, if you’re going to be in a co-dependent relationship, I guess it ought to be with your Guru (laughter). But you don’t look at it that way. Because a co-dependent relationship is where two people who are ill or not seeing clearly or are deluded or neurotic in some way, are being neurotic together, and it fits.

Well, that’s not the same with one’s own Root Guru. You can freely and openly give your whole heart and know that you are not in danger. You can freely and joyfully walk, dance through that door of liberation, and you will be happily and joyfully received. You can depend utterly and completely on the Three Precious Jewels and the condensed essence which is the Root Guru and never fall. This is the one time you should not guard your heart. A difficult habit to break for all of us.

So again, we’re not talking about personalities, because that’s ordinary. We’re not talking about you guys all coming to live at my house. Not like that. That’s ordinary, ordinary context. We are thinking that the blessing of my teacher resides as me, in me, and I am that. And like we say in The Seven Line Prayer, “Following you I will practice.” Through that devotion, through that practice, all the blessings of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas are yours. Freely given. To the deserving student, to the practicing student, the Guru will always appear. And we should always today be creating the causes for the Guru to appear tomorrow. In whatever form.

So, I guess that’s it for today. It will give you something to think about. And I hope when I give teachings like this that you will really take them in. Don’t bar the way. Let them come in. And if you are moved to go recite The Seven Line Prayer and open your heart and feel that blessing, then I ask you please to fill up. Don’t deny yourself. You’ve done that for too long. Instead welcome to the banquet of Dharma and the yummy good food of Guru Yoga. I invite you to partake.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Guru as the Path to Recognition

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru is Your Diamond”

How do we use the Guru Yoga as this rocketship?  How do we understand the way it is used?  Well, first of all, if we look at the Guru Yoga in our Ngöndro book, the prayers are achingly beautiful.  The tune, Lama Khyen No, that beautiful tune… You could almost hear it being sung on misty mountain tops.  There’s something about it that’s just so haunting.  And you get the idea when you’re doing this practice that it’s kind of geared that way.  It’s geared to bring tears to one’s eyes.  It’s geared to create an interdependent relationship that’s so intimate, it’s more than what we are accustomed to.  We wouldn’t take an ordinary relationship and sing Boyfriend Khyen No, (laughter) Girlfriend Khyen No. We wouldn’t do that.  And why?  Because there wouldn’t be any result.  You might as well twiddle your thumbs.  There just simply would be no benefit.

We are given this method and it should cause us some benefit.  Why?  Why is that?  Because we are opening the eyes of recognition.  What is it Lord Buddha said when he was asked how it was he was different?  He said, “I am awake”.  Awake in recognition.  We are opening the inner eyes of recognition to understand the difference between the precious connection with one’s Root Guru, the ultimate nature that we share, that we depend upon utterly, and what is ordinary. You know, the stuff we get lost in so easily.

We have this single-pointedness that we can whip ourselves back to.  That’s how we use the Guru, when we get lost and wobbly and we’re kind of out in space… You know how we get—the noises in our head and everything. We get lost in that.  We can use the Guru as our centering back to the single-pointedness.  We think this is none other than Guru Rinpoche, the second emanation of Lord Buddha, himself.  This is the way.  This is that nature.  This is what is precious.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

How to Cherish What is Precious

The following is respectfully quoted from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

We should understand that if we feel that connection with the Guru, and that it is heartfelt, that is like a diamond that you should invest.  To hold onto it and to keep it stagnant is not the way.  One should not say, “I’ve got this connection, therefore I’m in like flint.”  One has to take that connection and build on it.  You have to use it for investment. You use that connection to create more virtue through learning the Buddha Dharma and practicing accordingly, through going to the teacher for guidance and advice, and then practicing that accordingly.

There’s no use going to the teacher for guidance and advice if you don’t practice accordingly.  Then you’re simply cashing in that diamond for nothing.  You’re throwing it out the window and it’s too precious to waste.  Instead again, you should invest in it, build on it.  That’s cash.  That’s money in the bank.  That’s the most precious thing you own in this lifetime, no matter how wealthy you are.

So you go to that teacher for guidance, for advice.  You allow that teacher, and ask for that teacher, to open and prepare your mind, and to deepen the mind and to mature the mind; and you depend on that teacher similarly to… Let’s say you had somehow a cash cow in the bank, you know a diamond or some fabulous thing that could be earning interest. In the same way that that diamond might be the nugget and maybe you’re living off the interest, you think like that about the teacher.   But you’re always making the moves and doing the things that never harm the principal and only increase the interest.  See what I’m saying.  I’m using a funny money analogy here, but it’s like that.

That diamond must be kept in a sacred place, enthroned upon the Lotus of one’s heart where it cannot be harmed.  And if you find that that diamond is somehow misplaced and it’s in your mouth and you’re talking about it in a non-virtuous way, get it back down there again.  Do your practice.  Recite The Seven Line Prayer.  Reestablish that connection.  Think that it lives in you, as it does.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

That Kind of Love

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

In Palyul, my teacher, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche…you all know him, is known as having rather wrathful moments.  I’ve met with a couple of them, and I still flinch.  But that’s ok, ‘cause it gets my attention.

Ultimately, we come to understand that there is no friend like one’s Guru, nobody in one’s life.  Nobody in our lives, even if they take care of you and feed you and clothe you until the time of your death, is so willing and so eager to look out for your welfare.  Our Root Gurus are more interested in our well-being than we can understand.  I personally can tell you that I had a difficult time with that.  I was an American.  I know that I had all this old karma with the Path.  I was recognized as this one and that one and the other one, and all that, but I was still a 38-year-old American.  (Yes, I was 38 when I met His Holiness.)  So, I was an old dog with old habits.  And I have to tell you that I didn’t understand that kind of love at first.  I mean I understood that I felt this commitment to my students even though I had not met with the Buddhist teachers yet.  I already had students and I understood the commitment to them, My teacher told me that apparently I was teaching Buddha Dharma and I didn’t know it because I hadn’t read any books on it.  But then, when I actually met him, and he became so intimately involved in my body, speech and mind, my whole life began to circumambulate my Guru.  I thought, “What is this? I’ve never seen love like this.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  That this Lama would come all the way across the world to find me?  That he came all the way from India and the first thing he said when he hit California was, “Take me to that woman in Maryland.”  And so, that’s how it happened.

I didn’t understand that every year he wanted to see me, and so I missed some years.  I didn’t understand how much he is invested in my well-being and the well-being of my students.  I didn’t understand when he built that place up in New York…  Now I understand that he built it for us.  Because I can teach you during the year what I have to give you—the ripening and the deepening—and then you can receive empowerment and take the next steps on the Path with His Holiness, my Root Teacher.  After we established this place here, he did that.  I didn’t understand that, bBut now I do.

I’ve never had that kind of love in this lifetime.  I don’t know anyone else that has either.  The kind of love that will… Let me explain to you.  When His Holiness was here last year, one of his particularly devoted and very close disciples passed on, Kunzang Lama.  His Holiness just abruptly left even though he knew he wouldn’t make it in time, just left.  For that one man.  And when he got there, the man, Kunzang, had left him a note.  The note said, “Guru, wherever you are, you are with me and I am with you.  Please do not grieve.”  Like that.  Can you imagine?  They were so close.  They came out of Tibet together.  They had that kind of devotion to each other.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Who Is the Guru

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

Many people, when they come to the Path, feel the connection with some particular deity.  I know of one person that felt a very strong connection to Manjushri with his great sword cutting through ignorance.  And yet that person did not practice proper Guru Yoga and understand that the nature that is Manjushri with the sword is the very nature that is our Root Guru, and that sword could be a word, a look, a piece of advice, some heart teaching—anything that cuts through the darkness of ignorance. Some of us can understand that and then others of us want to have our particular deity. You hear the pride in that, don’t you?  “I’m into Manjushri!  He’s the guy with the big sword.  What a guy!” And yet, every Buddha that we can visualize, all of the peaceful and wrathful deities that naturally appear in the bardo and are part of our own nature and can be recognized, each one of them, has the complete and perfect qualities of all the Buddhas.

It’s an amazing thing if you are attracted to some particular Buddha, like maybe Amitabha or Chenrezig or Tara. You might say, “Oh, I really love that deity.”  That’s good.  Cultivate that.  But do not miss the step that Guru Rinpoche gave to us when he said, “This nature, the nature of one’s teacher is unsurpassed by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions.”  Why did he say that?  To create confusion so that everyone in all our different places could look at our own particular Root Guru and say, “That’s the best one!”   No.  That’s crazy.  That’s just more ordinary thinking.  But instead, by implication, we understand that what we must do is to recognize the intrinsic nature that appears as our Root Guru, the promise of Guru Rinpoche fulfilled.  And if Guru Rinpoche said this was going to work, well it’s going to work. So, Guru Yoga is like a rocketship.  We depend on the accomplishment, the qualities and the nature that appear as our own Root Guru.

Early on in the relationship with our Root Teacher, we should practice thoughtful discrimination.  That is to say, we should ask ourselves: Has this teacher really given rise to the Great Bodhichitta?  Do we see that Bodhichitta is present here?  Ok.  Check that box.  Got that one.  Do we see that this teacher has the capacity to ripen my mind?  Do I hear Dharma from this teacher?  Check that one. Is this teacher considered qualified by peers of her/his/their lineage?  Is this teacher properly recognized and considered properly an authority and a throne holder?  Does this teacher have good qualities? Does this teacher have the ability to communicate?  Let’s see. What else? Does this teacher have an unbroken chain that connects us to the source of the blessing, which is Guru Rinpoche?  You betcha!

We think through these things.  And if you decide this teacher is not for me, then there is no harm in saying, “I’ll keep looking.”  Maybe the connection is not quite right.  So that’s when you do your discriminating and your thinking.  But once you’ve decided—check boxes are all full, looks good to me and I have that feeling, I feel that connection, something is wiggling in my little heart chakra…After that point, you must put yourself on a diet, because after that point, there’s no more judgment.

Once we make the judgment and discrimination necessary and we have that undeniable sense that one has entered the Path and met one’s Root Guru, after that point, judgment should be put aside.  Then the ball is in your court.  Not that the teacher doesn’t have a responsibility.  I promise you, the teacher knows their responsibility, if they are worth their weight in salt. That teacher not only knows their responsibility but also knows their students;  and a good teacher will be willing to say to a student, “Keep looking.  Go see this Lama here or that Lama there.  See what you think.”  Once the teacher has accepted the student, and the student has accepted the teacher, then that bond becomes more intimate than any marriage, any mother and child relationship, any friendship.  It’s hard to understand that because we think, “Oh, teacher,  I only see you every so often, but I see my spouse and my children everyday. Therefore, it must be more intimate.”

However, I will tell you that in order for you to be here, to be accepted as my student and to accept me as well,for that karma to mesh in that particular way, we must have known each other many times, many times.  The relationship between student and teacher is not a relationship that ends in one lifetime.  If we take vows together, I am responsible for you always.  So long as you remain in the world and have not yet accomplished liberation, I must appear again in samsara in order to liberate you.  I must.  Even if there’s only one.  Just you.  Your teacher will return for you.  Under any conditions.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Blessings of the Wrathful Display

Wrathful deity

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo offered during a Phowa retreat:

This is not separate from you when you see the Buddhas in their wrathful state. Do you really think that it is separate from you, that it is unfamiliar to you, that you yourself are not like that and should run? In fact, this is an indication to you, and a display of your own nature when you become a Buddha. Intrinsic within your Buddha nature is the capacity to liberate sentient beings in a forceful and active way. This is the aspect of your nature that you will come to rely on when you have completed giving rise to the bodhicitta, and your only hope is to be able to liberate sentient beings from suffering. You will look to that part of you, that element of your nature, that is forceful and dramatic and able to dominate samsara, to suppress samsara through a wrathful display.

Again, we can’t have the superficial view. We don’t understand wrathful display. Maybe a wrathful display to us might be having a temper tantrum. But you must understand that we are talking about the force and power, the enlightened force and power, and potential necessary to liberate beings, particularly during this age, which is the age of kaliyuga, the age of decay and degeneration. At this time, the wrathful beings are even more powerful, even more forceful, because their display is more in line with this time. It is more necessary. This being the time of degeneration, wrathful force is needed. And so in the bardo we should not only not be afraid of the wrathful deities, but we should look to them, look for them, expect them, and rely on them with confidence, because they may be the ones who are able to break through our own ignorance. This is the aspect of our own nature. Again, it is not external, but we have to talk in that way. We say we look to them to be able to break through our ignorance. In fact, we are relying on that aspect of our own Buddha nature to stamp out the hatred, greed and ignorance in our own minds, and the degree to which the hatred, greed and ignorance are ripening. These things are what we rely on the wrathful deities for, and so they are precious to us. And even though many of us like the pictures of the peaceful deities, we like to practice the peaceful deities, we just think they’re ‘friendlier’; we just like them better (prettier, better outfits, friendlier), it is, in fact, the wrathful deities upon which we should rely ultimately. We will need them at some point. There is not one of us that will not rely on that very power, that very display at some point in our spiritual development, to crush the ego, to pierce the veil of delusion, to whip apart the thick covering of grasping and desire that covers us and keeps our eyes closed to our inner awareness, to the awareness of our nature. Guaranteed, there is some point in your development, whether it is during the course of your life where you will have to practice some wrathful deity in order to remove obstacles, or whether in the course of your going through the bardo, it is that very force, that very energy on which you will rely to move you into enlightenment.

That very energy can also be seen sometimes in the guise of our teachers. Sometimes our teachers, in order to break through limitations that happen within our mind, will be very firm with us, very stern with us, very very forceful. I’ve had that happen to me. WhenHis Holiness Penor Rinpoche came here to give the Rinchen Terdzod, he saw an obstacle to my life. There are many reasons for that, and one of them is that I am teaching Dharma from my own habit of practicing Dharma life after life. I have had very little academic training in this lifetime, and so there are obstacles that come with that. These obstacles must be purified, and they are purified through continuing to gather the merit of teaching students as I am doing, and to fulfilling the instructions of my teachers, which is to continue teaching as I am doing. And in that way the obstacles are overcome.

In another way, I rely on my spiritual mentor, just as you rely on your spiritual mentor, and he relies on his spiritual mentor. That is how we look to our own innate nature. That is how we do it when we are physical: We look to our spiritual mentor. So he came and gave a wrathful display. He was extremely wrathful, and it would seem, from the ordinary samsaric point of view, unjustly so. My lama actually accused me of something that both he and I knew I would never do, and he knew that I did not do it, and I did not do it. And other people came and said, “But Rinpoche, she would never do that. She never did that,” There was no proof that it was done. There was no one who told him it had been done; he just picked it up somewhere. Manufactured it. Just pulled it out. So he threw this at me, and all I could do, as a good student, was to just take it, and try to understand how I could improve myself. There was no way to defend myself, because there was nothing to defend myself against. So when his wrathful display was finished, I, of course, was shaken and changed and crying and needing my spiritual mentor—his love and his guidance and his help. At that point he saw that he was finished and that the job was done, and he reached over and he touched my face, and he said, “Now, Ahkön Lhamo, that’s over with. Now don’t get mad.” And I was like, “Mad?” I was just trying to survive this moment. “We’re not mad, we’re trying to live through this!” So I didn’t get mad. And he said that because I didn’t get mad or have any judgment or anything like that, and because I understood what he was trying to do, then those obstacles to my life could be erased. And I remember that after he did that I felt ten or twenty years younger. I felt wonderful, really good, after I understood what had happened.

That is the kind of activity that we may even see on a physical level. That is the wrathful activity of a Buddha. It is necessary to be seen in that way because the obstacles that it is meant to crush are also violent and dramatic and forceful. The force of our own karma is violent, dramatic, and forceful. And so in order to be skillful we have to use that which is equal in strength and superior in strength to all the forces of samsara. That is the nature of that kind of wrath. Therefore you should not be afraid.

Train yourself, then, to recognize the images of the wrathful deities, to recognize their nobility, their purpose, their generosity, their kindness, the love that emanates from them, in order to remain ever ready, as they do, to suppress the obstacles that sentient beings face.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

When We Meet the Guru

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Guru Is Your Diamond”

When we meet with our Guru, our Guru should have the capacity to ripen one’s mind, particularly where there is a close connection, where one has practiced under the guidance of this Guru before.  That’s happened to me with many of you, where I see you and I just know you instantly.  And, I know, you start crying.  And you know me as well, and you can’t deny that.  When that happens, it’s just undeniable.  For those fortunate students where that happens, often they wish to even short circuit the discrimination part because the feeling is so strong, the bond is so deep, that the recognition is prevalent. If that should happen to you, here or anywhere else, that is the most precious jewel you will ever find in this world.  Whether you are gathering wealth, or gathering intellectual knowledge or whatever you were taught is precious in this world, the connection with that Guru is the most precious jewel you will ever find.

First it’s an indication.  You have practiced with this teacher before.  Maybe an ordinary way of saying it would be, when you see this teacher, you should see the feast laid out before you.  The feast.  And you know, you have tasted this before.  It’s almost like, in an ordinary way, if you go to a giant smorgasbord, one of those places people go to in America when they really want to chow down, and you see the roast beef, and the this and the that and the cobbler, you know, and you go, ”Bingo, I’m in the right place!”  And you eat some of that, and you remember.  It’s like remembering that taste in your next life.  Nothing’s going to keep you from chowing down.  You might be even a little weird about it at first.  Really emotional, and so forth. But nothing is going to keep you from that taste.  If you’ve ever had that experience, I beg you to honor it.  Not for my sake, but for yours.

 

That happened to me in this lifetime when I met His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.  It was like my heart jumped out of my chest and was standing there talking to me, like I met my mind, my nature.  Like I was following something elusive my whole life and suddenly it was standing before me.  Almost unbearable.  And, of course, I did the same exact thing that you guys do when you meet your Root Teacher.  You start dancing.  Inside you start thinking, ”What should I do? I should do this and I should do this. I’ll perform in this way, or maybe that way, or maybe this way.”  And of course you’re a stumbling, bumbling fool for a little while, just like somebody who’s newly in love.

 

If you find that connection, then you must honor it.  And you must honor it by growing.  Be ready.  Some people say, “Oh, I really want to fall in love.”  But then when love hits you, you go, “No, I don’t want to change that much.  A little scary here.  Back off.”  And so sometimes, we’re like that when we meet, in a sense, our destiny, our unfoldment. When we meet our teacher, we go “Oh, oh, oh,” and we feel the feeling., We feel the joy; we feel the connection. Yet at the same time, we’re like, “I can hardly bear it. I have to turn away a little bit. It’s too much.  I don’t know if I can change that fast.”  But remember, the original reason for making the connection to the Path was to exit samsara, and that requires a good deal of change.  So the relationship between oneself and one’s Guru should be potent.  It’s ok if it’s a little scary.  Gives you a little respect. (smiles and laughter).

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved