Go Deeper

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

In Buddhism, we explore the idea of suffering first. In that regard, Buddhism has been given a bad rap here in America. Many of the New Age philosophies support the idea that one should think only positive thoughts, and use affirmations. “Just resolve your conflict in a very loving way.” “Live a life that is free of conflict.” “Try to keep your mood elevated.” “Be happy all the time.” The idea, according to many of these systems, is that if you have happy thoughts and meditate on happiness all the time, you somehow will be happy all the time.

Buddhism has a different approach. We shouldn’t think that because it has a different approach, it has a different goal. Basically, according to the Buddha’s teaching, all sentient beings want to be happy. That is something that you have to understand before you do anything in the Buddhadharma. Before you do any kind of studying, you have to meditate on the fact that all sentient beings desire happiness. Because we don’t realize that. We forget. We tend to blame and judge and hate, because we forget that all sentient beings desire happiness, but they don’t know how to be happy. They don’t know how to create the causes for happiness.

This is not different from what New Age people think. They think that everyone has the right to be happy, and that we should try to be happy. But the Buddha’s approach is slightly different, and it goes something like this: all sentient beings desire happiness, but are constantly creating the causes of unhappiness. Witness this is so by the fact that everybody you know has periods of unhappiness, if not constant unhappiness. That being the case, we must be creating the causes of unhappiness. Unhappiness doesn’t come out of the clouds. It doesn’t manifest out of nowhere. It has a cause. There is a cause and effect for everything.

The approach, then, is to study suffering and how suffering comes about, as well as how all sentient beings essentially are suffering. We can’t understand how we create the causes of suffering, and we can’t understand what the antidote to suffering might be, if we don’t accept the fact that sentient beings are suffering. If we gloss over it, it gets away from us. The Buddhist approach to happiness is to study suffering in order to understand what the antidote might be. A Buddhist would say that if you go around saying affirmations and thinking positive thoughts all the time, perhaps it won’t work as well as you would like.

A New Age thinker believes the superficial level of conscious thought, and the resultant underlying thoughts, cause unhappiness. The Buddha, however, says what causes suffering and discomfort is something far beyond the level of thought, and therefore cannot be excised simply through moderating your thoughts. It can be modified by thought, but the root of the causes of suffering cannot be removed. One has to go much, much deeper than that. What actually causes suffering is the belief in self-nature as being inherently real. The belief in self-nature as being inherently real leads to clinging and desire, and it is desire that causes suffering.

Now, let’s say the New Age thinker might agree with this. He might say, “Yes, if you get attached to things, if you grasp onto things, they’ll cause suffering. I get that.” The difference is that the Buddha says you have to go really deeply into understanding the nature of mind, into realizing the nature of the emptiness of all phenomena, and the emptiness of self-nature, in order to excise that desire. You have to go much deeper than just ordinary thinking.

The reason I am inclined to believe what the Buddha taught is, first of all, he beat the game. That’s a really good sign, as far as I’m concerned. He beat the game and he attained supreme realization. Secondly, I know people who have adhered strictly, diligently, faithfully and loyally to New Age philosophy. If they get hit by a car, they will tell you it was fortunate, and they learned a great deal from it. That’s fine. I’m not going to argue. But two broken legs is not a good way to learn. Whatever happens to them, they just tend to gloss over it, and the problem is, they’re still suffering. They’re still suffering! My personal feeling is they’re in worse shape than they were before, because they have no means by which to get hold of the causes of their suffering. Whether they merely gloss things over, or force themselves to think in a certain way, they still get old, get sick and die. They are still helpless in the face of circumstances. I feel that it’s necessary to go deeper and to think in the way that the Buddha thinks.

What then is the cause of suffering? Why do circumstances appear as they do? Why are there old age, sickness and death? Why are there six realms of cyclic existence? All forms of life are impermanent. All of them experience some form of suffering. Animals certainly do. Animals grow old, get sick and they die. They get run over by cars. They get worms. They get mistreated. They get hooked up to yokes and made to pull carts and things like that. If you think that teaching animals to think positive is going to be the answer, good luck! I hope that you can do that, and I hope that you reincarnate again and again as a great Bodhisattva who can teach animals to think positive so that they won’t suffer anymore. But, it may not be possible. Like the suffering in the animal realm, we must think that there are other realms of existence where beings are also suffering.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Do What Makes Sense

An excerpt from a teaching called True Motivation for Kindness by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Let’s take a look at compassion. The Buddha teaches us that in cyclic existence suffering is all-pervasive and that there is one thing we have in common: we all equally wish to be happy. We are all working so hard to be happy.

The Buddha teaches us as well, that in our nature we are the same. Every sentient being that you see has within them the Buddha seed or the potential to be Buddha. Many have attained Buddhahood. And when you consider that each one of us has that same innate potential, you must follow logically and understand that, at some point, each one of us will be a Buddha. And at that point, who is to say who or what is better than any other? How interesting!

According to the Buddha, we all weigh the same in terms of importance, significance and value. That means men and women are the same, blacks and whites are the same, rich and poor are the same, people of different nationalities, different religions are the same, caterpillars and humans are the same. Yes! They all have the same nature. That’s a prejudice you don’t want to give up, isn’t it? But, according to the Buddha, all sentient beings are equal, and we are especially equal in that all wish to attain happiness.

Now, imagine what it would accomplish to think only of our own happiness. Not only are we the same, but we are, in our nature, indistinguishable from one another. If we were to look at each other from the enlightened perspective, we could not determine where it is that you end and I begin. These lines are drawn up by ignorant minds. In truth, Buddha nature is all-pervasive. So it doesn’t pay to think of my benefit and not yours. What would I accomplish? Only the reinforcement of my ego. I would tell myself that I am somebody important and separate. It would not accomplish enlightenment.

Logically, the Buddha tells us we should work endlessly for the benefit of all sentient beings until they are free of suffering. Logic tells me that there are many more of you than there are of me, that collectively you weigh more than I do. Therefore, I should dedicate my life to your well-being, not to my own. That’s logic. That’s the only thing that makes sense.

Kindness is not such that we’re doing anybody a favor by practicing it. Do you realize that? People will say, “You know, I understand this idea of practicing compassion, but I don’t feel particularly kind. I just don’t have it in me. I’m selfish a lot.” My answer is always the same: “Welcome to the world. Do you think you’re different from anyone else?” We’re all like that. It is this habitual tendency. Where you begin to change this habitual tendency is the intellectual examination of this information and the creation of a new activity pattern based upon it.  When you come to the realization that kindness isn’t a favor you’re doing anyone, or something you do when you want to be a good person, you will understand that kindness is the only thing that makes sense. At this point your habits will begin to change, and little by little you will begin to act in a compassionate manner.

You’ll know you have it when you don’t remember whether you’ve been compassionate or not, when someone says to you, “That was so nice of you, you were so kind” and you can only think, “What else would I have done? That was the only thing to do.”

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo all rights reserved


What’s Your First Thought?

An excerpt from a teaching called How Buddhism Differs from Other Religions by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The way to become happy is somewhat counterintuitive, particularly when you’re first starting out on the path.  When we first start out on the path, we come because we are generally interested, but also because we have issues.  We have problems.  Our life does not make sense in some way.   Generally something is a little bit off, and what’s off is the old habit.  You know the old habit that says materialism makes you happy, and getting is what you need to do.  And it’s you first and nobody else.  That kind of materialism is what we walk in here with.   Whether we realize it or not, we are brought up with it.   Even your parents told you to go to school so you could make more money than the slob next door.   It’s that kind of idea.  I don’t know if your parents said that, but you get the idea.

When we start to break that habit, it’s a little bit difficult.  One of the things we do when we begin is to make aspirational prayers, and you should start that this very night.  You don’t have to have any particular training or empowerment, and yet it’s quite profound to start making aspirational prayers.  Everyone that enters onto the path of the Buddha Dharma begins that way, by making aspirational prayers for happiness and well-being for all that lives.  You can do that any way you want to.  There’s no instruction necessary.  You don’t have to read a prayer from a book.   You can simply speak what is on your heart.

For instance, you might begin by saying, “As I walk around the stupa, may all sentient beings know the opportunity of this blessing.”  Like that.  If you wake up sick, instead of saying, “Oh, I’m sick.”  Instead you say, “May all sentient beings experience radiant health.   May they not suffer the way I’m suffering now.”  And if you’re hungry, before you eat, you say your aspirational prayer, “May all sentient beings be nourished.  May they have the fullness of Dharma.  May they have plenty to eat and plenty to wear.”  If you find that you lose your job, and you’re poor and you just can’t pull it together, you make stronger and stronger prayers, “May no one go without good work, and good occupation.  May no one suffer as I am suffering now.”  If you break a leg, before you start cussing or crying, you say, “May no sentient being suffer this pain, ever.  May all sentient beings walk strong, and have full use of all their limbs.”

At first when you do it, you think, “This is kind of namby pamby.  I mean when do you get into the deep stuff?”  Oh, you’ll get into the deep stuff.  Trust me.  But it behooves us to start at the beginning.  That’s where you start.  You begin to break the old habits, and give rise to some new habits of generosity and mindfulness, thoughtfulness, and caring.   And we do this through aspirational prayers.

I know when I read the paper, that’s a great opportunity to make aspirational prayers.  “May this suffering end in Burma.  May this terrible situation give rise to new purpose, and may the people find their empowerment and rise up.”  That kind of thing.  Whatever comes to your mind.  In this way, you break the habit of selfishness, neediness, and the inability to connect the dots and see how your actions do create result and other people’s actions do create result.

I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, “I have been generous for two weeks!  And there’s no result. So what the hell is this?”  First of all, if you come to me and say that, I doubt that you were truly generous even for those two weeks.  Second of all, it’s just two weeks!  How many years did it take you to be as miserable as you are?  It’s going to take some time.  It does not happen overnight.

When people first try to make these aspirational prayers, they don’t have the feel for it yet.  It’s not really in their heart yet.   So, they basically say through gritted teeth, “May all sentient beings be happy.  I’m in a really bad mood.  May all sentient beings be really happy.”  If you do that it shows you how it is not your habit to care for others.   That right there is the proof in the pudding.  That’s the reason why we are suffering.   If we just persevere through the two-week mark, through the six-month mark, through the twenty-year mark, we become happy, and we do change.  And our lives do change.  But it takes persistence, and it takes getting to the point where you are not saying it through your teeth.  It’s really so natural to you that even if you wake up in a bad mood, you say, “Oh, I’m in a bad mood.  Boy, I hope nobody else feels like this.”  Now you know you’re getting somewhere.  If your first thought is, “I hope nobody else feels like this.  And your first thought is for the consideration of others.  That’s really one of the main beginning points in the Buddha Dharma – to give rise to compassion.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

With Loving Concern

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

The result of poverty and not having enough is due, according to the Buddha’s teachings, to not having been particularly generous or forthcoming in our support or caring for others in the past, perhaps even before this lifetime.  So we might look at our lives now with a sense of honesty.  Is that the case now?  Perhaps it’s also the case now, and we just haven’t thought of it that way.  Or perhaps if we really look in our heart of hearts we might discover that there is a certain dark corner in there somewhere that has a strong element of selfishness and lack of giving.  We might see it sneak out every now and then.  Maybe not all the time, but it’s in there.  Or we might discover that perhaps in our past, in our deep past, we have been less than generous.

So, in order to create the causes of having plenty, to open the doors and liberate the conditions under which support and wealth and prosperity would come to us, we would create the causes, by transforming our minds through practice into that which is supremely generous.  If we have only $5 to our name, a good idea is to give maybe 50¢ of that, maybe a dollar of that, to somebody who doesn’t have 50¢ or a dollar.   If you have nothing, I’m sure you can get it together to have enough to place a simple candle on the altar and make prayers that the merit generated by offering this light would help all sentient beings see their way through the darkness.  A small offering like that and prayers to benefit sentient beings begins the process of creating the causes by which our suffering or lack begins to change, and as well our minds begin to transform into that which is filled with kindness.  We begin to create the habit of caring for others, of kindness.

The idea is that we proceed with confidence in the teachings and in the teacher who has given them to us.  That’s how you have faith in the Guru—not by making some bland statement with no depth, not by faking your way through samsara, not by controlling your mind with positive thoughts so that delusion only increases and you have no idea what you are perceiving—but instead by creating the causes through acts of generosity.

On the other hand, if we have experienced great disappointment in love, let’s say, the first thing that we think is, “Oh, now I’ve lost my boyfriend, or girlfriend or whatever, so I have to do everything I can to get them back.”  Grasp, grasp, grasp!  And when that doesn’t work—it doesn’t, you know—then what you do is you make prayers to the Guru: “Oh please, oh please, oh please!”  And we hope and pray that the lotto will come for us on the romantic level.  And then we even think stupid thoughts like, “Oh, please deliver him or her to me now!  Along with the check, put him in the mailbox.  I’ll pick him up tomorrow.”  You know that’s the kind of thinking that we have.  It’s like magical thinking, but that’s a different religion.  That’s not our religion.

In our religion, if that had happened, we would look for the causes.  What are the causes of such a loss?  Perhaps I have not been kind and loving.  I’ll tell you how it is, if no love is given, no love will be received.  It’s like that.  If we do not invest in generosity and caring and loving concern and regard for others in an unselfish way, there will not be a great deal of love forthcoming freely into our lives because we have not created the causes.  We have not held up our part of the bargain.  And so we begin, therefore, to create the causes: a real concern, a real interest in the welfare and well being of others.  Not just the one you want back.  That’s easy.  Others, all others, with kindness and love and generosity coming forth from our hearts.  That’s the investment that’s needed here, that we ourselves would be responsible for not abandoning and leaving without comfort, loved ones and friends, not just the one we want, but all our loved ones and friends.  And then take it further than that.  Not only our friends and loved ones, but also our not-so-friendly friends, maybe the people we don’t have much concern for, maybe even our enemies.  A loving concern for them is what’s required here.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Self-absorption Leads to Unhappiness

An excerpt from a teaching called How to Pray by Being by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The Buddhist path is not a selfish trip. It’s not a self-absorbed trip. In fact, as Buddhist practitioners, we strive to become less and less self-absorbed. Being self-absorbed is the exact opposite of prayer–180 degrees away from it.  But most of us, unfortunately, have the habit of self-absorption, and so we spend most of our lives holding a prayer that is based on samsara. That has no good result. Without exception, self-absorbed people are the unhappiest people on the face of this earth, whether they have money or they don’t. Whether they have a home and a car or they don’t. Whether they live in a simple thatched hut or they live in a mansion, the people that are self absorbed and locked up in their own inner phenomena are the unhappiest people on the face of this earth.

The tragedy is that in our culture we are taught to think more about ourselves than about others. We are taught that if we buy cars and other stuff and maybe line up a few parties and relationships and line up a few fun retreats, we will be happy. That is simply not the case. Happiness never comes from self-absorption. It comes from being concerned about the welfare of other sentient beings.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

What We All Have in Common

Shakyamuni Altar

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Antidote to Suffering”

The precepts that the Buddha lays down are precepts that are real and workable for everyone. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to hold to those precepts—the precepts of being compassionate and the realization that all sentient beings want to be happy, yet don’t have the skills or knowledge as to how to be happy. Because of that ineptness at capturing happiness, we often make ourselves stress out.In fact, the Buddha teaches us that all sentient beings are suffering because we don’t know how to attain happiness. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to notice that these things are true. You don’t have to be a Buddhist if you are willing to look with courageous eyes and see that these are so. Also, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to use the antidote.

The antidote is purity in conduct. The antidote is purity in practice, whatever your practice might be. The antidote is the realization of compassion. It certainly should be the core of one’s life. Of course, the Buddha’s teaching is more involved than that but still one doesn’t have to be a Buddhist to hold to those teachings. I think they are very universal. So the idea is to have these classes as a way for everyone to participate in what is happening here at KPC. For those of you who may not know, we also maintain a 24-hour prayer vigil here and have been doing that since 1985. There is never a moment in this place when there is not prayer being done. The prayer is specifically dedicated to the end of suffering in all its forms. Our original intention was to keep up this prayer vigil until none of us are here anymore or there is the end of suffering on this planet, the end of war on this planet specifically. Anyone can join in the vigil and you don’t have to be a Buddhist to join in. And if you understand that you have the capacity to apply the antidote to suffering and you can do that through sincere practice, through dedication, through compassion and through prayer, then there is no way for you to feel separate from what is happening here. So the original thought about this class would be to present some of the more foundational Buddhist teachings in a way that anyone could apply them and understand them.

The tricky thing about it is that we have both Buddhists and non-Buddhists here in this room. In a way it would seem tricky because if you have been studying here for some time and you’ve gone on to deeper teachings, specifically to the technology of Buddhism, you’ve gone on to the method. If you’ve gone on to the method, you tend to think that you no longer need to remind yourself why you are here in the first place. You tend to think that you have learned already the Buddha’s basic teaching that all sentient beings are suffering, that there is an antidote to suffering; already learned that all sentient beings are trying to be happy and that one needs to apply and to live a compassionate viewpoint. But that is not true. That is why you see several of the ordained Buddhist Sangha here and why it is good, even for a long time Buddhist practitioner, even one who has studied in really extensive ways, to come to a teaching like this.

I myself have decided very firmly that no matter how long I teach personally, and no matter whom I teach, whether the people whom I teach are brand new to anything metaphysical or whether they have gone on twenty year retreats, I will continue to teach the basics. I don’t know if anyone like that is going to show up here, but even if I had someone like that here in this class I would still always first and foremost speak of the root reasons why you should practice.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Cultivating Compassion


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

It is not foreign to our nature, and it is also not separate from the goal that we wish to achieve by practicing in this way, for us to give rise to the great Bodhicitta, or the great compassion.  The way that that is done on the Buddhist path is to consider that our own goals and the goals of sentient beings are indistinguishable, that they are nondual.  That is to say that our goal to practice in order to achieve liberation, is inseparable from the goal of sentient beings.  They also have the goal of practicing in order to achieve liberation.  Not all of them know it, in the same way that some of you don’t know it either.  You may think you know it, or you may know that you don’t know it, but many of you are still at the party, not growing out of the party, not grown up and looking back and saying “Oh, that won’t do me much good.”

You remember that situation that you found yourself in as you were growing up?  When you were a young person you had a few knockdown drag out parties, didn’t you?  I mean the kind where, at some point in your life, you probably got drunk.  Nobody makes a sound, like “Drunk?  What is that?”  At some point in your life you probably were out of control, just party down, not thinking straight, doing things that were compulsive and obsessive and not appropriate and not healthy for you, not good for your well-being—unthinking, deluded things.  This is something that we have all experienced, but particularly in the case of when we were younger, we would party hearty. And if you think about it, if any of you have done that, and I’m sure that one or two of you have, you may remember that once you’ve partied hearty, there was a period of regret afterwards, and that was primarily the next day.  Of course the, how shall I say, the cure for that is, of course, prostrations to the porcelain god; and with all of that, one comes to understand that one is literally destroying oneself, that there is no hope for happiness from doing that to oneself.  After doing that repeatedly, we tend to grow up after a while.  We tend to be unwilling to put ourselves through that kind of stuff again.

So that happens to us spiritually too. We go through the same compulsive obsessive behavior with no good result. And at some point, either through our own good fortune, through our own gathering together of merit which causes literally a kind of smarts arising in the mind, or through the instruction of our teacher, we can begin to realize that what we are doing makes no sense.  It simply makes no sense.  It is destructive.  It is painful, and it is not pleasant.  So that is the stage in which we find ourselves turning our mind towards Dharma.

What we have to realize in order to give rise to the compassion, to the great Bodhicitta, is that this is true of all of us, not just you.  If you have come to this realization, that it’s time to turn the mind towards Dharma, then what of those who have not yet come to that realization?  They are still putting themselves through that.  They are still acting in a destructive way that disintegrates their spiritual strength.  They are acting in such a way that literally brings them suffering.  What of them?  Perhaps you have heard the good word, but what of them?  Who will help them?  And so we develop a sense of compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

As Many Paths…

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

Society will teach you wrongly until it understands your nature.  The Buddha is the perfect teacher—the perfect one because he so thoroughly understood our nature.  It is said that when a student came to him for the first time, and said, “I would like to become Buddhist,” or “I would like to take teaching with you,” he could see in an instant all the causes and conditions that brought that student to that moment where he faced the Buddha.  He could see every cause and condition and could give each and every student the antidote necessary to provide the blessings for enlightenment.

That being the case, we can trust in the Buddha’s teaching.  He doesn’t say, “You’re a bag of chemicals.  Now you’re breathing. So good, go get a job. Make yourself happy. Have a chicken in your pot, or a pot with some chicken”.  I don’t know…” Have a drink on Friday nights.”—whatever it is that makes people happy.  He doesn’t say, “Follow in your culture.” He tears the veil apart and he says, “Based on your nature, this is what must be done.  Based on your path, this is what must be done.”  And there are as many methods in the Buddhadharma as there are sentient beings to follow them.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved



Merit & the Karma of Happiness

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

You are able to practice because you had the karma to receive teachings. Merit has come to the surface of your mind; good karma is ripening. But linked with some of this ripening merit are some bubbles of not-so-good karma. So what happens? You sit down with the intention to practice, but now you’re just too tired. You start to fall asleep. Or you decide that you need to do some other things. You externalize what you think are the causes for your inability to practice. Maybe you even begin to doubt that you’re happy in the Dharma. You wish you were surfing in California, and this thought is like a little rat, gnawing in your head. It gnaws at you slowly and steadily.

You need to understand that good karma is ripening, but some negative karma is linked to it. Embedded in your mindstream is some non-virtuous activity associated with the intention to practice. Now you have repeated that pattern, in seed form, and it will ripen in the future. Sometime in the future, you will again sit down with the intention to practice, and you won’t be able to do it. So the sensible thing to do is to persevere, to push through as well as you can. Understand that your tiredness, sleepiness, and other excuses have no basis. They are puffballs.

When you find yourself making excuses why you are unable to practice, why you don’t really want to hear the teachings, the best thing to do is to break through by accumulating merit. By doing virtuous things. Study Dharma. Pray. Practice kindness and generosity. Meditate. Contemplate the teachings. Try to understand them more deeply. Be attentive. Make offerings. Repeat the Seven Line Prayer many times. Repeated with faith, it is an antidote that can end all your suffering. It can, the teaching says, lead to enlightenment. All these things are ways to accumulate merit. You must understand how merit (and lack of it) works, or you will have a difficult time maintaining potency on the Path. It will even be difficult, on an ordinary level, to have a good life. For you won’t have any way to understand what is happening to you. You will always blame external things, other people. It is true that when you encounter misfortune, other people are usually involved, and you may well have some mixed karma with those people. But the karma arises within your own mindstream; it isn’t somewhere outside.

Pull out of your addiction to reaction. Think of your mind as something like a mechanism, and you yourself as a mechanic. Understand that you can work with its levers, pulleys, and gears. To most people, their own minds are a mystery, a complete mystery. And they search for someone who can understand them.

What should you do? Persevere in your practice. What else? Create more merit. The big mystery of “me” is solved. Almost reluctantly, too, because it’s so lovely to remain a mystery. It’s so pleasant to think that there is something mysterious, special, and unique about us. How often we try to obtain something that seems just out of reach. Or we have it in our hands, and it slips away. What is going on here? Lack of merit, of course. And yet we keep on reaching and grabbing and forcing, all in vain. Sometimes we think we have made something happen by forcing it. And yet, we have merely rearranged our karma. The basic problem remains unsolved. Suppose you want a new car, but the cost is just out of reach. Both merit and lack are coming to the surface. Even if you contrive to get the car, you will still have, ripening, some non-virtue associated with lack. That lack will always show up somewhere—with the car itself, or in your relationships, your health, or in missed opportunities. So the key, whenever you lack something, is to accumulate merit.

Some people are unaware that it takes merit to be happy. Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to be happy, no matter what? And others … well, happiness seems to elude them. And it’s because there is no karma of happiness, no karma of having made others happy, ripening in their minds. You can’t even lighten them up with a joke. They just don’t have any happy bubbles ripening to the surface. “How are you today?” you ask them. “Not so good,” they reply. “Umm … Nothing seems to go right.”  But if we haven’t got the karma for happiness, whose fault is that? Who did it to us? Someone else? No, but it’s a problem we can fix. The problem is within our own minds. We can create the karma of happiness by creating merit.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

What Are You Gathering?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Bodhisattva Ideal”

In the view of the Bodhisattva, we realize that everything in life is impermanent, that nothing we can gather has any meaning other than the collection of virtuous habitual tendencies within our mindstream. Having realized that, one travels a moderate path in which one’s own enlightenment and the enlightenment of others become the same weight, and nondual.

Further, we come to understand that we are one and others are many. Even in this room, let’s say, if I am practicing as a Bodhisattva, I think that yes, my happiness is equal to the happiness of any one of you. But there are so many more of you than there are of me that it only makes sense for me to do what is beneficial for you rather than what is beneficial for me.  This I try my best to live by. As a Bodhisattva, I consider this to be the most precious understanding that I have.  It’s my treasure and my wealth. It’s reasonable and logical that the needs of the many would outweigh the needs of the one.   Because we are the same, and because we all wish to be happy, and because in our nature we are absolutely inseparable and indistinguishable from one another, I find that I cannot be happy without you. So all of the different gatherings and collections that one can make during the course of one’s lifetime have to be understood in that way.  Are they really worth anything?  Or are they the gaudy childlike baubles that we play with until we have a better understanding of what the Buddha has taught.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved