Crystal Clear

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

Do you remember the innocent sense of longing you felt when you first started to seek the spiritual path? You must have felt it at one point or another, or you could not receive this teaching. You could not. You must have longed to purify suffering. You must have longed to be of benefit to someone, sometime. You must have longed to attain the end of suffering, and there must have been the desire to do that in order to help others. It has to be.

Remember how happy you were when you felt that innocence, that beautiful longing? There was a time when you were really happy when you thought that. Now, of course, we’re too sophisticated. We’re on the path, and we’re already practitioners. So we tend not to continue with that thought in our minds, but we should. We should constantly, with great longing, make prayers in that direction. That’s how you begin aspirational Bodhicitta. You begin to make prayers of longing: “I long to benefit beings. I pray with all my heart that I can take whatever form necessary in order to bring peace to the world, in order to benefit beings, in order to end the suffering of beings.” You should cultivate that longing, really and truly. You should do that until tears are in your eyes. You will find when you begin to develop that ability those tears are not sad tears. They are the happiest tears you’ll ever cry, and they are a heck of a lot more happy than going to the shopping mall and buying something new. I mean, really, that sounds like a superficial comparison, and it is. But we spend much more time at the shopping mall than we do longing to be of benefit; we should long constantly to end suffering.

You begin in that way. Then you start to think of the emptiness of self-nature, even if you don’t know how to meditate. If you haven’t the technique, then you might contemplate upon the emptiness of self-nature. This goes hand in hand with living the extraordinary life of compassion. They are inseparable, because along with the emptiness of self-nature is the understanding that all suffering is born of delusion. The antidote to that suffering is the annihilation of delusion. It’s the same as the meditation on emptiness.

For instance, let’s take a crystal. It looks really, really clear. A crystal is exactly like your mind. It is exactly like the nature of your own mind in its clarity. In its natural state, it is free of any form. There is no form in there. It is said that the nature of mind is clear, self-luminous, that it exists in such a form that once any distinction is made, it is not understood. It is free of any contrivance, in the same way that a crystal is free. When you look inside a crystal, you see only clarity. A better example, of course, is a crystal that is perfectly clear without any flaw, because that crystal is exactly like your mind, perfectly clear, without any flaw. You, in the natural state, are that. You are pure suchness. The moment you began to appear as you do now, was the moment you began to make distinction. In the natural state it is not so. The mind is clear, self-luminous, free of contrivance, completely relaxed. It is not gathered around itself, because it has no conceptualization of self. It’s completely relaxed. It is suchness.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

With Prayers of Longing

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

Let’s say you’re not up to following a qualified teacher. Let’s say you don’t go that route. You can still meditate. You can still follow those basic precepts that are brought to us through the enlightened mind of the Buddha without going that route, if you wish. You may wish to bite off a small piece, and then see if you want another piece. There’s no problem with that. You might realize some of the basic teachings, such as all sentient beings are suffering; there is an antidote to that suffering, which is supreme enlightenment. When we reach enlightenment there is no conceptualization of self, therefore there is no desire. Therefore, there is no discursive thought. Therefore, there is not the cause that creates the effect of suffering.

You must also realize that all sentient beings desire happiness, no matter what they are doing. Even if they are robbers, rapists and murderers, and they are doing things that look to you like all they’re trying to do is hurt people. They are confused. They have the karma of murder in their minds. They are completely deluded. They are whatever you want to call them. But in their deluded way, in their feverous way, they too desire happiness. All sentient beings desire happiness. Yet, all of us, whether we are murderers, rapists and robbers, or if we are the nicest little New Age flower children you have ever seen in all your bliss-ninny days – we are just so sweet and we walk around with flowers in our hair and only eat vegetables and tofu – even if we are like that, we are still creating the causes for unhappiness. I’m giving it to New Age people, but I’m just making fun. It’s no big deal. I’ve been known to eat tofu on occasions also! Anyway, even if you’re that kind of person, you are still creating the causes for more suffering. You know that’s true, because while you may not be murdering anybody, if you look at your life and look at the probability of the continuation of your life, you will at some time be sick, you will certainly age, and you will certainly die. There will certainly be circumstances you cannot avoid describing as suffering.

In order to get to the depth of this awareness we can begin to practice as the Buddha practiced. We can begin to take the antidote for desire. We can begin to take the antidote for the belief in self-nature as being inherently real. Therefore, the antidote will also be applied to the clinging and the reactive relationship of hope and fear, the attraction and repulsion syndrome, which is the mother of karma and circumstance. These are what cause circumstance and they will become eliminated.

How should we apply the antidotes? First of all, by living a life that is as selfless as possible and by beginning to purify our minds in such a way that we really honestly examine ourselves. Just how much of an ego do we have, anyway? If we can sit there and think, “Oh God, such an ego, you can’t believe it!” If we can do that, then we’re on our way, and we probably have less of an ego than the next person. If we’re truthful with ourselves, we’ll discover that any one of us has an ego that is so enormous; we’re surprised we can fit in a room. We have to begin to examine ourselves as carefully, diligently and purely as we possibly can.

How do we do that? Do we just sort of go through our stuff and process it? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think the thing to do is to process it and be sorry that we have a big ego. What we want to do, actually, is to begin to practice in such as way that we say, “Okay, I have this ego. I want to apply the antidote. What is the antidote? The antidote is to strive to constantly live a life in which my welfare becomes less important – because I am only one – than the welfare of others, who are many.” Again, it doesn’t mean you roll your eyes heavenward, become extremely thin and become a martyr. I don’t think that is the answer. The answer is that you live a life in which you consider how you can best benefit beings. You can start by aspiration, the aspiration to be truly compassionate. If you don’t have the technique, if you don’t know what to do first, begin through prayers of longing.

The Vow of Love is available on Amazon in both kindle and paperback formats

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Offer It Up


An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo from The Spiritual Path

We never lose sight of how we feel. We are always monitoring ourselves. We want to feel free of suffering, free of stress. Sentient beings strive endlessly to be happy, so it is very difficult to achieve a sustained, sincere practice of generosity. Think what you have done over the last 24 hours. Work? Practice? Television? Family time? Social obligations? Was your first and foremost thought to benefit sentient beings? Or were you doing things to strengthen your ego in some way, to make you feel better? Mostly the latter, I think. Even our Dharma activity is often done to make us feel better about ourselves—to make us feel busy, wanted, necessary, energetic. Or, perhaps, spiritual, holy, and pure. We always have our selfish purposes, so it is difficult to be generous.

How should one be generous? How should we think about generosity? To begin with, we should not consider phenomena something we can have or not have, something that attracts or repels us. We should view all phenomena as a pure celestial offering that we can actually make to the Three Precious Jewels. We should view our entire world as an exquisite, vast celestial mandala. We should think of phenomena as Mt. Meru, surrounded by its beautiful continents. We should think of all sights, smells, sounds, sensations as precious jewels that we offer to the Three Precious Jewels themselves. It is a more profound version of what we do in our Ngöndro as mandala offering. The deepest way to engage in the practice of generosity is to offer one’s environment continually. But how many of us do that?

Think, for instance, about the way we react to food. We eat food with desire. We taste it with lust, more lust than we think. Shopping for food, we want the best apples, don’t we? The purest, the finest. We want the best carrot cake, the best vegetables. We even lust after color. Our eyes, our feelings are drawn to it. We think we look good or bad in a certain color. We perceive color with attraction or repulsion. All our senses function like that. Actually, generosity should be practiced in such a way that we offer the very senses that we have. But do we offer our taste? Our hearing? Well, we might say that. But we can’t wait for the next sound, the next taste. We cling to our existence as a sentient being, a feeling being.  We long for the next touch, the next sight. When you go for a walk, what do you do? You look at the flowers and trees. You sniff the air, smelling everything. The senses are yours. And you have no idea of offering, no intention of offering them to the Three Precious Jewels. And yet, that would be true generosity.

What is the basis of that generosity? How can such an offering be of benefit? You may think: “If the Buddha wanted my taste, my sight, my hearing, my touch, he’d get his own! A truly enlightened being can manifest all kinds of incredible siddhis, or powers. So why do I have to offer this phenomenal existence to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas?”

Well, why do you have to do that? There’s a real logic behind it. How long are you going to have your senses? You’re going to have sight until your eyes go. Even if your eyes last until the end of your life, they will die when your head dies. You will only have touch as long as you have skin to touch with. Your perceptual experiences will not outlast your body. So what are you holding on to? The traditional teaching says that at the time of death, we cannot take with us so much as a sesame seed. You take only your cause-and-effect relationships and habitual tendencies. So if you have clung to your experiences, establishing your particular neuroses at every moment, that is what you will continue to do in the bardo. If it has been your habit to look for approval and to gather things, situations, people around you for that purpose, you will not be able to take any of that into the bardo. All you will have is the habit of that longing, that desire—and the karma you have engendered from reacting to that need.

How much better to practice generosity—to offer your five senses and all phenomenal existence to the Three Precious Jewels. Why? You create a stream of merit. Offering is one of the major ways to accumulate merit, and that merit can be dedicated to benefit sentient beings. In fact, you can visualize yourself and all sentient beings offering the five senses, offering consciousness itself as we know it. You can think of all sentient beings gathered together with you making offerings of the three thousand myriads of universes purified into a precious jeweled mandala.

What is the value of such an offering? It cuts to the bone. It is so profound that it transforms the entire perceptual process. This deep level of offering pacifies our habit of clinging to cyclic existence. It purifies our self-absorption and selfishness, and we can offer the merit to the countless beings who are themselves constantly involved in selfishness and self-absorption, unaware that they can make any offering at all.

Unfortunately, we are afraid. If we offer something, the Buddha might take us up on it. If I offer the experience of being the mother of my beautiful daughter, maybe they’ll take her away. If I offer all my clothing to the Three Precious Jewels, they might take that away. We fear that something will be lost to us. But you can see that this is a product of our delusion. Our experience of phenomena depends entirely upon karma. As our karma becomes more purified, more virtuous, as our minds become more spacious, more relaxed—our experience can only be better. Suffering only happens due to clinging and desire. In our delusion, we continue to lust after experience, and that lust continues to cause our suffering.

The practice of generosity is an antidote to all that. There is literally nothing to hold on to and no one to do the holding.    Everything you have ever experienced—all you will ever experience—is the result of the condition of your mind. Why not then practice this deep level of generosity? Why not view phenomenal existence for what it is? You will in the end, anyway. You’ll see it disappear before your eyes. At the time of your death, you will see the elements disappear, dissolve. Whether or not you will recognize what is happening is another story. (You may merely pass into unawareness, and that would be for one reason only: you lived in unawareness.)

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

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 the Math

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

If we wish to enter onto the path of a Bodhisattva and become that which benefits beings, we must have a heart that yearns for compassionate activity. We must want to help, or we wouldn’t be able to receive teachings like this. This being the case, the first thing we have to do is let go of the concepts we have about how cool we are going to be when this process is finished. We cannot hold on to the rigid kind of thinking that honors only self. We must think of others.

How many of you are there? One, right? Look down, how many do you count? It’s easy. So far as you know, there is only one of you. Now look around at the human beings in your immediate environment. Then think about all the human beings on this earth: 5.9 billion, at least. If your mind is really that of a Bodhisattva, you couldn’t think for a moment of going around telling others how great you are. You couldn’t think for a moment that it could be in any way important that you do the dance, or sing the song, or appear in some certain way that satisfies you, because there’s only one of you, and there are 5.9 billion of them. If you have a mind that’s free of the attachment to self, free of the burden of believing strongly in self-nature, then you must realize that weighed against 5.9 billion human beings, you simply don’t weigh very much.

If you really wish to fulfill the idea of a Bodhisattva that is free of attachment to ego, free of the delusion that self-nature is relevant and important, and if you really wish to consider living a life of compassion, then serving others must become more important than even your own life. It is not that you become like a martyr. We’re not talking about the Christian concept of a martyr. It’s really different than that. It’s just mechanics. It’s just logic. It’s just math. There are more of them than there are of you, so they matter more. With that idea, you seek only to benefit others.  That being the case, as an aspiring Bodhisattva, you must begin to examine what the mind of Bodhicitta really is.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Only Purpose

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

If we studied Bodhicitta, or the mind of compassion, every single day for the rest of our lives, we wouldn’t even scratch its surface because it is so profound. There are many different levels at which we might come to understand its meaning.  The word Bodhicitta can’t really be translated into English very well. It means enlightenment. It also means compassion. Compassion to us means something quite ordinary. We might think that we already understand compassion. We may think, “I don’t eat meat anymore, and I try not to kill things. I try not to hurt anybody, and I feel sorry for most everybody, you know. Therefore I fully understand compassion.” Unfortunately, if we think like that, we’re probably missing a lot, and we fail to understand the real meaning of enlightenment. If we think we understand enlightenment the way most Americans do, I’m afraid we don’t have a clear view of it, because we haven’t had teachings on what that mind, which is free of conceptualization as well as discursive thought, is really like. We just haven’t had that kind of teaching.

When we think of an enlightened being, we think of someone who dresses up a certain way. He or she wears robes and almost always has their eyes turned skyward. We have many different ideas about enlightenment and, unfortunately, none of them are true. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who are reported to appear in the world, for instance, take many different forms. They don’t have to be a Buddhist to be a Bodhisattva; they just have to have realization. They take whatever form is necessary in order to benefit beings, because that is how the mind of compassion works. That is how the mind of enlightenment functions. It does not cling to the idea of self. It does not cling to egocentricity. Literally, a Bodhisattva might appear in the world as food or drink, offering its body in that way to benefit beings. It might appear in the world as a teacher. It certainly might do that. It might appear in the world as an ordinary, funky-style person. I mean funky beyond belief! Unless you have traveled in India and Nepal, you don’t know what funky means yet! A Buddha or a Bodhisattva might appear in such a way that is funky beyond belief, and yet within the context of that life, has an incredible impact on many people, or on just two or three people who themselves go on to achieve realization and have an incredible impact on beings.

You see, the mind of the Bodhisattva is such that it doesn’t cling to the idea of greatness. There is no thought of greatness. The moment we think we have to be great, or have to wear a certain kind of robe, or look a certain way, or do a certain dance, we have lost the entire idea and the main reason why a Bodhisattva would wish to incarnate in the world. A Bodhisattva’s only purpose is to benefit beings, and that is done without attachment to form and content. It is done in whatever way is necessary.

Copyright ©  Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Cars, Sunrays, and Choicelessness

An excerpt from a teaching called Intimacy with the Path by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

The path of Buddhadharma can only bring about the result that is consistent with and the same as, the seed or its essence.  We’re looking at essence, we’re looking at movement and we’re looking at result.  Try to imagine how we see things ordinarily.  When we are doing what seems right, moving through linear time, isn’t it the case where if something happens to you—let’s say, your car breaks down—that’s it.  The car broke down.  It’s out there. It’s isolated.  It has no connection with anything else.  Did the car break down because you forgot to put oil into it?  No, no.  It just broke down.  Did the car break down because you never gave it a checkup or a tune up?  No, no, no.  It just broke down.  It just happened that way.  Did the car stop because it had no gas in it?  No, no.  It just stopped.  It’s that kind of thing.  When we see events in our lives, we see them like that.  They happen out there.

Now as time passes, often there are these connecting things that happen to the events in our lives.  Maybe a year after the car broke down, several things might have happened.  You might have learned something about how to take care of a car.  Let’s say your husband or wife yelled at you for not taking care of the car and you learned because they yelled real, real loud!  Or, let’s say a year after the car broke down, a series of events happened in which you were challenged, and you put in some overtime so that you could make some more money so you could get a new car.  And so, a couple of years down the road, when you think about the day that car broke down, it’s no longer an isolated situation.  The car didn’t just break down!  It didn’t just happen.  There is meaning and importance that is somehow connected with all of that.

You can see a movement from even before the car broke down, because by that time you have enough distance from the chaos of your mind to be willing to look at things that you weren’t looking at before.  You can see that the car broke down, but you also know, in hindsight that in fact you didn’t take care of the car very well.  But now you see this as a total learning process.  It isn’t just that the car broke and you’re living with that horrible reality.  You’re not seeing this isolated, neurotic situation.  You’re seeing a trend, a movement.  You didn’t know how to take care of the car.  You didn’t do such a good job.  The car broke down.  Certain events happened by which you became naturally empowered to get another car, but that natural empowerment only happened because your first car disappeared.  It broke.

So now, in retrospect, you’re seeing this slow, beautiful movement, which started with your incompetence and led to your empowerment.  In retrospect, you can see the wholeness of it.  Doesn’t that give you a clue as to how we think?

We have this kind of an ignorance that plagues us, a kind of short-sightedness.  It’s not being able to understand whole pictures or abstract conceptualizations or how to see around things.  I don’t know how better to describe it.  So we only see something right in front of us and this is a kind of manic little posture we put ourselves in.

The path is like that also.  From the point of view of Buddhahood, one can see the primordial basis, the ground, which is uncontrived, beginningless, endless, unfounded and perfectly complete – Buddha nature, the primordial wisdom state.  We see that.  We see a dance or a movement, which is very much like having the same relationship with the ground as the rays of the sun have with the sun.  You can’t really say where the sun ends and the rays begin.  There’s no real way to say that.  There’s only a matter of opinion as to where one ends and the other begins.  And so we understand that sun’s rays are the same reality as the sun itself.

In the same way, the BuddhaDharma is understood as this radiance or display, which is inseparable from the source.  You can’t have sunlight without the sun.  It doesn’t exist.  They are married in the most intimate fashion.  There’s no separation.  This is seen from the point of view of Buddhahood.  We see the primordial wisdom state.  We see display as being inseparable from the natural resting state and we see this from the point of view of result, which is completely dependent on and based on the ground, the primordial wisdom state.  In other words, if we did not have this primordial wisdom state, which is Buddhahood, there could be no result of Buddhahood.  How would you accomplish it?  You couldn’t build it out of sticks and stones.  There would be no result.

So from the point of view of Buddhahood, this is seen as a three-legged stool or something that has three facets that are completely inseparable from one another.  The idea of whether or not one should practice, of whether one should be spiritual today or not, the idea of becoming stagnant on the path would not be possible if we didn’t see the path as being something separate from us in such an essential way that it becomes something we either walk on or put on.  Should one approach this particular problem in a spiritual way or do we simply let ourselves get away with it?

If we were to understand something of our own primordial nature, if we were to understand that the method is not separate from the result, then the hunger that we feel that brings us to the path would also sustain us.  There is a hunger that brings us to the path.  Something that makes us reach out, throughout the course of our lives. There is some kind of urging towards a natural, open, awakened state of wisdom and poise, a state that is free of the components of suffering.  We know that there is something.  We can feel it.  There is a natural urge and yet, even with all that urging and all that crying out in our hearts which we all do in some way or another, why is it that we are not able to sustain ourselves on the path?

What I’m describing is a very strong and powerful need to have our understanding of our spiritual life be so natural, so connected, so married, with every primal impulse that we have towards spiritual growth that we move past the point of making a choice.  That’s where you want to go on the spiritual path.  You want to get past the point of needing to make that choice again and again, because so long as you have to re-choose and reaffirm your path, you’re going somewhere that isn’t you.  You’re doing something you feel is separate from your nature.  You’re doing something still that is unnatural and so all these dilemmas come into play.

We become impotent upon the path then and we get to the point where we need to be inspired on a regular basis, because when you’re traveling a journey that is separate from you, inspiration is necessary.  On the other hand, do you need to be inspired to continue living, generally speaking?  Do you need to be inspired to take your next breath?  It’s true that sometimes we can fall into a confusion that is so thick and so deep that we don’t even understand whether we want to live anymore.  That happens.  There are people that commit suicide, but generally speaking most of us understand intuitively that life itself is simply a display of our nature.  On some level we’re beginning to understand that in order to continue living we’ve got to engage in the method of breathing and moving through our lives.

If we could only do that with the path, if it could be seen as natural for us and as inseparable from us as our own breath, then practicing the Dharma would be much more potent, much more natural for us, much easier.  Not easier in that you’d practice it in a schlocky way, or you would practice it without really caring how well you do.   Easy in the sense that it becomes as natural as scratching an itch or as natural as the intuitive knowledge that if you want to get out of bed in the morning you’ve got to swing your legs over the edge. It’s such a natural movement.

But that’s not how we practice Dharma.  We practice Dharma like it’s a big issue, something we have to do that is not us, a girdle that we have to put on, a thing that we have to suffer through, a ritual that we have to impress somebody with, something we have to set aside time for.  And ultimately, we lose touch with and have no sense of what it actually is to to live in spirit, to live a sacred life.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo,

Eat the Feast

An excerpt from a teaching called Vajrayana’s Final Hour by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

How amazing it is to have everything line up: to come to the path, to have a teacher that you can relate to, a teacher who can give you the path and provide the necessary components of the path and its blessings; to have a path that can bring the auspicious result.

We would all be fools not to take full advantage. In this time when it is almost too late, this is the time when we should take advantage. There is no better time than this, particularly to meet with this Vajrayana path which has some specific element that is meant for this time.

How many times have you found yourself during the course of your life being faced with some bountiful feast and you take the posture of being a peasant who takes only the crumbs of that feast? You missed out because you did not know how to take hold. You found yourself dancing on the sidelines, holding back.  Isn’t that what’s happening now? Aren’t we in the midst of a bountiful feast, holding a precious jewel that takes endless lifetimes to find, and we just don’t know what to do. We sort of look around. We can’t help ourselves.

So take hold of it, use it. You’re standing at the threshold of the door of liberation, looking at the very mind of liberation, the face of Guru Rinpoche. Every day Guru Rinpoche is touching your life; Lord Buddha is touching your life. That Nature is revealed to you, but you cannot see it because you have the habit of being a beggar at a feast. You have to stop that now. Sit at the table like the king or queen that you are and eat the feast. It doesn’t get any better than this, or any easier. Take advantage of it.

When I say something like this to you it is with concern for the well-being of sentient beings, and for you. Accomplish ultimate compassion by becoming Bodhisattvas or Buddhas so that you can return again and again for the others. I and other lamas cannot find the way to speak to the others that do not have the karma to hear about the Path. But someday you will. In some future life those that you have karma with will come to that moment and you will be their only hope. They will have hopes of you. Will you be ready, or will you have missed the brass ring? I’m trying to make you hear this for their sake. Begin now before it’s too late.

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

 

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