Approaching the Dharma Like Children

An Excerpt from a teaching called Our Motivation Is For Those Who Have Hopes of Us by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

I often make prayers that all of us will approach the Dharma like children.  Because when we hold onto our own minds, our own self image, our intellectual prowess, we lose something.   Our minds become hard.  It’s especially important for long-time Dharma practitioners to approach the Dharma like children, because we get the idea that we don’t have to check on ourselves.  We don’t have to examine our minds anymore.  We don’t have to really look inside and see what’s happening.  Then we dry up.  We lose it.

If we approach the Dharma like children, we can remember the first moment we met Dharma, how it came to be important to us, how it answered our questions, and how it led us to make certain decisions.  On what did we base our turning toward Dharma?  What were the realizations that we had?  Our answers to these basic questions are still important; they should still motivate us.

We always have mixed motivation for approaching the Dharma.  What we forget is that our motivation absolutely sets the pace.  It plows the ground in which the seed will be laid.  Those who have the most trouble keeping their motivation pure and practicing accordingly seem to be those who have been practicing the longest.  Because we’ve been practicing for a long time, we think surely we’ve got it by now.  We can just jump right in and do it.  We tend to forget that every day of our lives, as practitioners, we need to go back through the same process we experienced in the beginning when we tried to turn our minds completely toward the Dharma.  The decisions that we made, the view that we had, the understandings that we came to, those have to be realized again and again and again.  We have to examine anew every day the faults of cyclic existence.  We have to examine what we’re up against.

In terms of self-examination, new practitioners have an advantage.  They are already looking at their motivation.  They have to, because they don’t know why they should become practitioners.  They don’t really understand the faults of cyclic existence.  They’re going through a process that’s very raw, very new.  It’s right on the surface.  It’s achingly important to them.  They know they’ve got to establish themselves firmly, and so they think about these matters continually.  They examine cyclic existence, even having thoughts like, “Isn’t it true that everyone you know and everyone you love will die?  Isn’t it true that everyone so far has died?  Therefore, the life that we know is utterly impermanent.  Isn’t it true that every material object that has ever made you happy has been impermanent?  Isn’t it true that you cannot count on relationships — that they, too, are impermanent?  Isn’t it true that you cannot count on any single condition, including your own appearance, your own health, your own psychological state?”

Even when you feel on top of it, even when you feel you’ve aced it, when you feel you’ve got the world right in the palm of your hand, you know that little pancake is surely going to flip right over!  We have to think like this constantly.  In the beginning we thought like that.  But Dharma practitioners who are somewhat experienced, who have some teaching under their belt, who feel they have continued on the path for some time, who feel a certain degree of confidence (if not false bravado) — these Dharma practitioners forget.  We don’t notice that we are not practicing from the depth of our being, that we are not practicing from our heart.  “Now we’re experienced in Dharma,” we say.  “We can dress like Dharma people, look like Dharma people, and we can write down Dharma words.”

But how important are these things if the mind remains hard as horn?  How important are these things if the content of the mindstream remains unchanging?  Do you think that wearing Dharma clothes and doing the Dharma dance can be important for you if the heart doesn’t change?  Absolutely not.

Unfortunately, when we approach Dharma teachings, we tend to collect them.  Like pretty things.  Like treasures.  And then not understanding the treasures, we put them on a shelf and we admire them and say, “Oh, I’ve got a hundred treasures, and that means something about me.”  But if you are not changing to the depth of your being, and if your motivation is not right, you can have a million treasures and it won’t mean anything about you except that you have missed the point.

What is the motivation you should have when you approach the teachings?  The lamas tell us again and again.  It’s Bodhicitta.  You should think, “Thus for the benefit of sentient beings, I will practice accordingly.”  And only for the benefit of sentient beings, because the value of the Dharma is that it can produce the end of suffering — a promise that Lord Buddha himself made.  If we practice sincerely we ourselves can be of some benefit to those that suffer.  And eventually we can return in a Nirmanakaya form to urge others toward enlightenment or to directly give them the teachings.

You might as well not be a practitioner if you have not yourself looked at the world and seen the suffering there and said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!  There is too much hunger, too much war, too much suffering, too much ignorance, too much hatred, and too many people who do not understand the infallible law of cause and effect.  It doesn’t matter if you are a long-time practitioner or even a monk or a nun.  If Bodhicitta is not your primary motivation every time you hear a word of Dharma, read a word of Dharma, or even see an image associated with the Dharma, you have missed the point, and the blessing will not ripen in your mindstream.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Approach Your Path With a Noble Heart

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Coming Alive

To those of you who are new on the path, this is your opportunity to remain a child.  That might not sound like a good idea, because we’re all told that it’s really cool to grow up and be sophisticated and make sense of every opportunity.  I’m not sure that I agree.   I’m not sure making sense is the best idea.  I think what is really precious and really important is to remain innocent, with a pure and noble heart.  And if you go before the stupa or go before any of these altars and offer one rose, one flower from your heart and say, “For the sake of all sentient beings, make of me whatever is necessary so that all suffering might end,” this is an empowerment.

I have seen students who have been shaken in their lives, perhaps by realizing the immediacy of their death or by being afflicted with AIDS or by having to go through some remarkable, horrible trauma or life-changing situations that have left them panting and not knowing how to go on.  You have to understand that these are times of empowerment. You have to look at them as an opportunity and a gift.  When that one stands before the altar and prays, “I now understand suffering.  I now know fear, and knowing that, I realize that all sentient beings are afflicted with the same condition now or later. Therefore, transform my life and help me to live long enough to be of benefit to others so that I might serve as an example or as a benefactor in some way.  Please erase this suffering from the world.”  That kind of heartfelt prayer makes results.

If you pray like that in front of an object of refuge, whether it is your teacher or a stupa or a statue or a crystal that you can consider to be symbolic of the absolute nature, or whether you face the four directions and pray–whatever it is that you do–if you pray with that kind of heart, you are heard.  I know that this is true because I have received the most extraordinary teachings and empowerments from my root teacher.  I have had my teacher open his heart to me and give me blessings that no one has ever received.  I have had my teacher hold me up in front of the Western world in a way that he doesn’t even hold his other tulkus up, because he had that much confidence in me.  Although I have had that kind of empowerment and every blessing, what has made me a practitioner, given me confidence, made me honor myself and made me qualified to teach you, are the times that I have gone naked and alone to my own personal mountaintop–whether it’s that cave or a sweat lodge or my room, or my altar. It was those moments of begging and pleading for the cause of sentient beings, of ripping my heart open and not caring whether it was comfortable or safe, not caring whether I could own something or not own it, or whether any happiness was going to come to me as a result of those prayers.

I also knew that I would have to deliver, that if I prayed for the blessing to be able to benefit sentient beings, I would be required to live it.  Trust me, once you’re in the water, you will swim. And I’ve lived and experienced it long enough to know that this is true. If you make the offering, you’re going to have to live with it, but it will be your joy. On the other hand, if you pray like a fat cat, you’re also going to live with that, and, believe me, it will be your suffering.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Pilgrimage to the Root of One’s Power

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Coming Alive

I want to share about the experience I had going to Tso Pema in India and meditating in Mandarava’s Cave.  I just knew by being there that it was where Mandarava prayed and offered herself for the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings again and again and again.  That is where she cried and tore out her hair and meditated on the suffering of sentient beings and could hardly bear it.  She went through it in that cave.  That cave was her spiritual incubator.  Oh man, the way she prayed!  I wish today I could pray the way Mandarava prayed then, and I will continue to try for that.

When I planned my trip to India I had specific goals to connect with the root of my power. Now periodically I’m supposed to go back to my mother monastery, connect with my root guru and get additional training and refreshment, but I decided not to do it in the traditional way. I felt like I had to birth something new.  I felt like I had to connect with this power that I know is there, at the root.  In this lifetime, because the Dharma is being taught in a foreign land where things are completely different, I sometimes feel like a stranger in a strange land. The conditions of ordinary samsaric modern reality are just a little confusing sometimes, and one can lose sight of the root of one’s power.

I went to India thinking I was going to connect with this power, give rise to myself in some way, and I was not going to give up until it happened!  I swear I had this idea I was going to sit on a rock somewhere and just freeze to death.  I knew that something needed to happen.  I felt that I was starving, and that I needed nourishment.  So I spent only two weeks at the mother monastery–even though my precious root teacher was there and even though his kindness and the nourishment that he lavished upon me was inconceivable.  I felt that I needed to go someplace where I was in charge, where I was responsible, where I knew what was going on, and where I had only myself to answer. I knew what I needed to reach for.

I wanted to go to the holy places of Mandarava and Guru Rinpoche.  I wanted to reach for what had happened at that time.  When Mandarava and Guru Rinpoche practiced, they literally changed the world.  Of course, that isn’t reported now.  We only hear Western white man’s history and story.  But, in truth, Mandarava and Guru Rinpoche changed the spiritual world, as we know it, because in their practice they gave rise to the empowerment of immortal spiritual life, and they accomplished the deathless wisdom state.  They never died.  When they left the world in that lifetime, they rose up to the sky and disappeared. Hundreds of people saw it.

It was preordained that Guru Rinpoche would accomplish the siddhi of immortal life, and it was with Mandarava that he did it. At the time of their accomplishment, Amitayus Buddha, the Buddha of Long Life, came to them and recognized Guru Rinpoche as Amitayus Buddha and Mandarava as his consort.  So their empowerment was complete because they became the deities in union.  This revolutionized spiritual practice, as we know it, because now there are options for one’s spiritual practice.  If one practices deeply enough and heroically enough- not just casually–one can prolong one’s life and even realize immortal spiritual life or the deathless state.  One can accomplish that.

I was going to go to Tso Pema, recognized as an incarnation of Mandarava. I trusted and believed it because it came from my root guru, who is my heart and my mind; yet I needed to feel it myself.  I needed to touch it.  I wanted to smell it.  I wanted to own it. My intention, when I went into that cave, was to feel that “this is happening now.” I had that sense of wonder and strong determination that you get when you are faced with the option of a miracle.  When you know that, you are a different person.

I went into that cave with determination like I’ve never had before, and I sat down and I got everything that I asked for. The consciousness of Mandarava came to me.  I realized it was indistinguishable from my own.  I realized many facts and qualities about Mandarava.  I realized much about her practice with Guru Rinpoche.  My current mindstream and the mindstream of Mandarava began to blend, and I had such a powerful life-changing and potent experience at that time that my astrological horoscope changed.  It was a spiritual rebirth.

We are talking about, not only a life-changing experience, but also a change in one’s method, one’s purpose, one’s sense of accomplishment, one’s sense of self, one’s orientation. Little by little, in the same way that a child grows, this new empowerment is growing.  It is realized.  It is present.  It is alive in the world.  It is reincarnated.  To me, that empowerment was stronger, more profound and more fruitful than any of the traditional empowerments that I’ve had.

Is that because traditional teachings and the way they are conferred are inferior to what happened in the cave?  Of course not!  That would be like saying that one side of the Sweat Lodge is more powerful than the other.  That would be ridiculous. Here’s the bottom line.  Once you get to the fat cat stage, you’re dead.  No matter what you’re doing spiritually–if you’re keeping your samaya, if you’re practicing eight hours a day, if you’re dusting the temple, if you’re cleaning out the bowls and making offerings–if you’ve gotten to the fat cat stage where you think you’re in charge or you own the business or you’ve seen it all, you’ve lost your practice. It’s gone.  You’re practicing by rote.  I have a cockatoo that can be trained to do the same thing.

Practicing by rote is so superficial that we hardly realize that we have gone spiritually dead inside. We are afraid to ask ourselves the question, “What is my practice? When I put on my robes or when I pick up my mala and I open my books, do I do so in the same way that I sit down to a bowl of cornflakes in the morning?” I use this example because you have to eat something before you leave the house, and cornflakes are soggy.  Do you feel soggy when you do your practice?  Soggy is a pretty good word for it, wouldn’t you say?  When you sit down, is it like sitting down to an exquisitely prepared meal for the first time and you’re really hungry.  What is your experience when you practice?  Do you practice with childlike delight, with fervent regard, with an awareness that’s on the front burner–that all sentient beings are suffering, that they do not understand the causes of this suffering nor how to stop them, but that there is an end to suffering and there is a method.

When you hear this beautiful news and marvel, that delight and the hunger provided by that delight is what makes your path work. The period of turning your mind towards Dharma should never end.  In fact, the older and more fat cat you get, the more you must give rise to it continuously, reminding yourself of these fundamental truths and delighting in this information. Take nothing for granted while you are on the spiritual path, because the moment you do—whether it is your practice, the result, your community, your environment, your teacher, or even the fact that you have leisure to practice–you are no longer practicing. The academic who hears all this information, memorizes it and learns how to practice very well with all the bells and whistles and ritual implements may not be even close to the practitioner who goes around the stupa, knowing his or her life is in danger, and prays Om Mani Padme Hung in a heartfelt way.  In that expectation and hope a miracle might happen. Another practitioner who is superior to the fat cat is the one who has really studied and come to the path seeing that all sentient beings are suffering and has decided that enough is enough. To this one, the suffering is unbearable. And with that heart ripped open, this practitioner circumambulates the stupa and says Om Mani Padme Hung.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Open Your Heart & Call Out

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Coming Alive

Here’s a wonderful way for each of us as older practitioners to evaluate ourselves.  Do we feel fresh and new any more?  Not much, right? We keep thinking that maybe soon some kind of refreshing experience will come to us. Oh when oh when will that be?  Will it be this teacher?  Will it be that teacher?  Will she finally teach the way I think she ought to teach?  Will she finally teach as much as I think she ought to?  Will she ever give me what I want?  All these kinds of thoughts come up.

Once in a while we have some kind of experience that gets our attention, and it really reaches into us somehow.  How does that happen?  Is it a mystery?  Is it magic?  Is the moon in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars?   No. Somewhere there was an intention.  Somewhere you called out.  Somewhere you asked.  Somewhere you opened the door.  You forgot that you did that, but somehow you were ripe for it.

These causes are interconnecting.  If your heart is not open, no matter how many hooks are sent at you, they’ll never connect.  Somewhere inside you had this precious moment of intention that you probably forgot about.  It wasn’t magic, believe me.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Making Offerings: His Holiness Penor Rinpoche


The following is adapted from an oral commentary given by His Holiness in conjunction with a ceremony wherein he bestowed the bodhisattva vow upon a gathering of disciples at Namdroling in Bozeman, Montana, November 1999:

Next, go for refuge in the sublime supports, the buddha as the embodiment of the three mayas, the dharma as the representation of all scriptural transmissions and realization, and the sangha as those who have attained the irreversible path of the sublime ones. From this moment until enlightenment, in order to liberate all parent sentient beings from their suffering, develop compassion. Realize that [in order] to accomplish your goal, aside from reliance on the Three Jewels of refuge, there is no other support for refuge. I would be impossible for you to bring all beings to liberation without the buddha, dharma, and sangha. With irreversible faith and devotion, repeat the vows of refuge.

According to the Mahayana path, we take refuge in the teacher who shows us the path to liberation: that is buddha. We engage on the path of Mahayana practice by cultivating the precious bodhicitta until we realize buddhahood: that is the dharma. The sangha is the spiritual community that is on the same path as we are on, assisting in the accomplishment of our mutual goals.

Next is the method for accumulating merit. Visualize in space in front a magnificent throne supported by eight lions, where your teacher sits, indivisible with Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. The eight arhats and a vast assembly of buddhas and bodhisattvas surround him like masses of clouds that fill the ten directions. Imagine countless emanations of yourself filling the entire pure realm of your environment, which includes the entire universe. You can countless emanations of yourself and all parent sentient beings join together to fill [all of] space. With humility, reverence, and faith, you and they all bow down and pay homage to the objects of refuge in the space in front. [Here you] prostrate by touching the five places of your body to the ground. That is the branch of prostration, a powerful antidote for pride. Having pride means having an attitude of cherishing yourself by thinking you are so great and special. Performing prostrations purifies that egoistic attitude.

Now visualize that you and innumerable emanations of yourself present boundless offerings. Offer all of your wealth and endowments, including the root of all virtue in this lifetime, all your past lifetimes, and in future lifetimes. Offer objects that are of this world and those that are transcendent. Imagine them to be inconceivably vast clouds of outer, inner, and secret offerings that completely fill space. In addition, offer the essential nature of reality.

General offerings please the senses. Imagine those offerings to be vast and inconceivable. However, if you were to [attempt to] compare the outer offerings with a single particle of the realms of buddhas and the quality of offerings made in the minds of enlightened ones, [you would find that comparison] to be beyond the scope of your imagination. That is why it is so important while presenting offerings to try to connect with the ultimate nature of offering, which is mental and not just material. Material offerings you make are supports for your mental or imagined offerings, which should be as inconceivably vast and wondrous as you are capable of manifesting. The actual offerings you use as a support should also be the best substances you are able to offer. At least they must not be old, dirty, or leftover substances; they must be suitable supports for the basis of virtue. The pure material offerings you make will be the support for the continual manifestation of inexhaustible offerings that will remain until samsara is emptied.

There is a well-known story of an accomplished practitioner named Jowo Ben. One day Jowo Ben made a very beautiful, clean, and pure offering on his altar. As he sat and looked at his offering, he thought, “What is it that makes this offering I’ve made here today excellent?” Then he remembered his sponsor was coming to visit that day, and he realized he had made the beautiful offering in order to impress his sponsor. He jumped up, picked up a handful of dirt, and threw it on the altar, saying he should give up all attachment and fixation on worldly concerns. Other lamas, on hearing what Jowo Ben had done, proclaimed his offering of throwing dirt on his altar to have been the purest offerings, because Jowo Ben had finally cleared his mind of attachment and aversion.

When offerings are made, they are rendered pure and excellent by a mind free from attachment and aversion to the ordinary, material aspect of the offerings–and they must be made with a mind that is also free from avarice. Don’t think you can throw dirt on your altar and think that will benefit you. You must adjust your mind. If your mind is free from attachment or fixation and aversion, then whatever you do will be right. If your mind is not adjusted and your intentions are impure, then no matter how beautiful and magnificent the offering is, it will be insignificant. If you present all offerings, whether abundant or meager, with fervent devotion from the core of your heart, that will produce profoundly amazing results.

In order to be free from the suffering of existence, the mind must be free from dualistic fixation. In freedom from duality, everything is inherently pure. Just imagine all the wonderful offerings that are made that are free from duality; pure water possessing the eight qualities, garlands of flowers, incense, light, superior perfume, celestial food, musical instruments, fine garments, beautiful umbrellas, canopies, victory banners, the sun, the moon–the finest and best of everything is offered. Consider those as offerings arranged in a magnificent array equal in size to Mt. Meru. Furthermore, know that those offerings are pure and free from duality. For example, if you were to pick a flower and think, “Oh, this is such a beautiful flower; I want to offer it,” but then you also think, “My flower is more beautiful than the others,” and you offer it with that dualistic thought, then that offering would be defiled by your dualistic fixation. On the other hand, if you focus on the pure nature of the offerings and present them with pure devotion, you will make offerings that are pure or free from dualistic fixation. Recite the verses of the branch for offering, and make the most excellent, immeasurable offering you are capable of with the enlightened attitude [bodhicitta], faith, and pure devotion.

It is important to understand that presenting offerings is the antidote for [having] desire. Offerings are not made to the Three Jewels because they are considered to be poverty-stricken and in need of receiving from their disciples; offerings are made to accumulate merit. By making offerings with actual material substances, we accumulate ordinary conceptual merit; by using the mind to manifest immeasurable offerings, we accumulate nonconceptual wisdom merit.

Relative Bodhicitta: HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse

The following is respectfully quoted from “Enlightened Courage” by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

If I do not give away
My happiness for others’ pain,
Buddhahood will never be attained.
And even in samsara, joy will fly from me.

Enlightenment will be ours when we are able to care for others as much as we now care for ourselves, and ignore ourselves to the same extent we now ignore others. Even if we had to remain in samsara, we should be free from sorrow. For as I have said, when the great Bodhisattvas gave away their heads and limbs, they felt no sadness at the loss of them.

Once, in one of his previous lifetimes, the Buddha was a universal monarch whose custom it was to give away his wealth without regret. He refused nothing to those who came to beg from him, and his fame spread far and wide. One day, a wicked brahmin beggar came before the king and addressed him, saying, “Great king, I am ugly to look upon, while you are very handsome; please give me your head.” And the king agreed. Now his queens and ministers had been afraid that he might do this, and making hundreds of heads out of gold, silver, and precious stones, they offered them to the beggar.

“Take these heads,” they pleaded. “Do not ask the king for his.”

“Heads made of jewels are of no use to me,” the beggar replied. “I want a human head.” And he refused to take them.

Eventually they could no longer deter him from seeing the king.

The king said to him, “I have sons and daughters, queens, and a kingdom, but no attachment do I have for any of them. I will give you my head at the foot of the tsambaka tree in the garden. If I can give you my head today, I shall have completed the Bodhisattva act of giving my head for the thousandth time.”

And so, at the foot of the tree, the king took off his clothes, tied his hair to a branch, and cut off his head. At that moment, darkness covered the earth, and from the sky came the sound of the gods weeping and lamenting so loudly that even human beings could hear them. The queens, princes, and ministers all fell speechless to the ground. Then Indra, the lord of the gods, appeared and said, “O king, you are a Bodhisattva and have even given away your head, but here I have the life restoring ambrosia of the gods. Let me anoint you with it and bring you back to life.”

Now, the king was indeed a Bodhisattva, and even though his head had been cut off and sent away, his mind was still present, and he replied that he had no need of Indra’s life-restoring ambrosia, for he could replace his head simply by the force of his own prayers.

Indra begged him to do so, and the king said: “If in all those thousand acts of giving my head away beneath the tsambaka tree there was nothing but the aim of benefiting others, unstained by any trace of self seeking–if I was without resentment or regret, then may my head be once again restored. But if regrets there were, or evil thoughts, or intentions not purely for the sake of others, then may my head remain cut off.” No sooner had the king said this than there appeared on his shoulders a new head identical to the first, which had been taken away by the brahmin. Then all the queens, princes, and ministers rejoiced and administered the kingdom in accordance with the Dharma.

For those who can practice generosity like this, there is no suffering at all. Enlightened teachers, Bodhisattvas, come into the world to accomplish the welfare of beings, and even when they are ignored by people in the grip of desire, anger, and ignorance, who stir up obstacles and difficulties, the thought of giving up never occurs to them and they are totally without anger or resentment. As it is said:

To free yourself from harm
And others from their sufferings,
Give away yourself for others;
Guard others as you would protect yourself.

Do It Because You MUST

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

Here are some thoughts that we do not accomplish because initially they are uncomfortable.  They are painful.  We do not want to know this.  We have this idea when we’re young, that by the time we get to be an adult we’re going to have all the answers.  And in fact you do have all the answers, until you’re about 25.  Before that you’re omnipotent you see, and then when you’re 25 you’re no longer omnipotent. Do you know why that is?  Because you have a brain that has finally started to grow in your cranium.  Before that it was only brain buds.  So now that you’re about 25 you’re beginning to realize that you don’t have all the answers and the omniscience, the supreme omniscience that you were afflicted with earlier, is dissipating.

That happened to me too.  When I was little I used to think when I grow up, I’m going to be completely comfortable.  I thought when I have children I’m going to raise them just this way; and I will never do this and I will always do this.  Who has had good luck with that I want to know?  Have you ever heard yourself yelling at your kid and you find out you are your mother?  You have turned into your mother for real!  Well, that kind of thing has happened.  Also, you grow up and you think, when I grow up I’m going to have all of the answers.  When I grow up I’m going to be secure.  When I grow up I’ll have financial things worked out.  It’s all going to come together for me.  When you’re young you think like that. And when you’re older you realize almost none of it is going to come together for you, almost none of it.  Some, yeah.  There are good things in life.  There are good things in samsara, but you realize that it’s not what it seems to be.

As practitioners this is really what you have to take away with you.  As a practitioner, you cannot fall into the trap that we as younger people fall into.  You can’t stay there very long.  And you that are younger, you need to create the habit of thinking about this:  Samsara is a deluded experience.  It’s like a narcotic.  It fools you.  It creates a way for you to look in the mirror at 45 with dyed hair and think “I’m not dead yet!”  Instead of pinching your cheeks for a little blush, putting on your lipstick and bouncing out of the house like you did when you were 18 or 20, after 45 minutes with the makeup, you look at yourself, blink twice, hope that the eyelashes don’t stick together, and go “I’m not dead yet!” again.  You can’t stay like that.  You cannot keep yourself in that childlike, ridiculous idea.  You must, at some point in your life, realize that life is going by very quickly and that you are going by with it, and there is not a moment to be wasted.

When it comes to who should practice and who should not practice, it is not for you to practice to impress your friends.  It is not for you to practice because I want you to practice and it would please me.  Certainly not.  It is not for you to practice because you’ll be cheek by jowl with the other people who are practicing.  It is for you to practice because this is the nature of your situation.  You are involved in the cycle of death and rebirth. Life passes quickly and if you do not prepare for your next life, your next life will not be what you want it to be.  There is a very good chance that you will end up with a lower rebirth or a rebirth of extreme suffering. So, when you think about why you should embrace spirituality, particularly when you think why you should embrace the path of Dharma, don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the temple.  Don’t do it because it’s cool.  Do it because you must.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

For Those Who Have Hopes of Us

An Excerpt from a teaching called Our Motivation Is For Those Who Have Hopes of Us by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

One of my teachers told me that he feels he has spent his whole life throwing seed out and that very little of it has landed on soil.  Most of it has landed on rocks and hard places.  That this teacher, who is so precious to me, could feel like this breaks my heart.  But it’s our fault, because we forget.  If our motivation to practice is not compassion — is anything other than realizing again and again and again, to the point where we cannot bear it, the suffering of beings — it is useless.

Every morning we should wake up knowing that others around the world are waking up hungry.  We can go down to breakfast; they can’t.  Every morning we should wake up knowing that we can practice Dharma this day.  We can do something about our condition.  We have a potency to our lives.  Others just continue — unconsciously, mindlessly, having no idea about cause and effect relationships.  Others continue with unbelievable suffering.

I remember feeling tremendous sadness watching the bullocks in India pulling huge carts from early in the morning till late at night and being whipped the whole time.  It isn’t only human suffering — it’s the suffering of all sentient beings that we should be touched by because they are all essentially the same.  They all have the Buddha nature; they have that seed.  And these are the ones that have hopes of us, because if we can think of them, there is a connection.  They have no method.  They have no practice.  They have nothing other than whatever pure intention we can muster up.  And so we can’t waste a moment.  We can’t waste even a second.  These are the ones that we are responsible for.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Sweet Intention



The following is from a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

Sensitive people should protect themselves, not become hard and mean. We are all sensitive at the core.

We grieve for the feel of love, and yet we all avoid love with responsibility, just live fast? Doesn’t work.

At this time, in my Sangha, people are dying, and people are popping awake. How? Who are you?

How hideous the dying part. How real the life, and joyful.

Waxing poetic here, still, this is Dharma thought. We bare joy and pain, and we can only control them with love. Dear sweet intention, Bodhicitta will save us all.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Let Good Intention Fill Your Life: Full Length Video Teaching

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


Offer every minute of your experience to benefit others and you will train your mind to enlightenment.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved