The Basis for Practice is the Bodhicitta: Dilgo Khyentse

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

As a preliminary to this teaching, we must consider three things: the preciousness of being born a human being, the fact of impermanence and the problem of samsaric existence.

Human Birth

We are at the moment in possession of a precious human existence endowed with eighteen characteristics which are very difficult to obtain. If the teachings of the Buddha are practiced correctly, then it is as the saying goes:

Used well, this body is a ship to liberation,
Otherwise it is an anchor in samsara.
This body is the agent of all good and evil.

From the point of view of one who seeks enlightenment, it is far better to be a human being than to be born even in the heavens of the gods, where there is nectar to live an and all wishes are granted by the wish-fulfilling tree; where there is neither fatigue nor difficulty, neither sickness or old age. It is as humans, possessed of the eight freedoms and ten endowments, and not as gods, that every one of the thousand Buddhas of this age has attained, or will attain, enlightenment. This human existence, moreover, is not to be achieved by force or mere chance; it is the result of positive actions. And because it is rare for beings to accomplish positive actions, a precious human existence is indeed difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, we have now managed to be born into such a state; we have encountered the Buddhadharma, have entered the path and are now receiving teachings. But if we are unable to practice them, simply listening to the teachings will not in itself liberate us from samsara, and will be of no help to us when we are confronted by the hardships of birth, disease, old age and death. If we do not follow the doctor’s prescription when we are sick, then if if the doctor sits constantly by our side, the pain will not go away.

Impermanence

As we have just said, if we neglect to practice the teachings, they will be of no use to us. Moreover our lives are fragile and impermanent, and because death and its causes are uncertain, we may succumb at any moment. We may think, “Oh, I will practice when I am older, but now while I am young, I will live an ordinary life, making money, getting the better of my rivals, helping my friends and so on.’ But the fact is we might not live to be very old. Just think for example of people who were born at the same time as ourselves. Some might have died as children, some as adults, at their work and so on. Our own lives might not be very long either.

Furthermore, a human existence, in comparison with that of an animal, seems almost impossible to achieve. If you examine a clod of earth in summer, you might find more creatures in it than the population of the whole of France! That is why we say that, in terms of numbers alone, a human birth is difficult to obtain. So we should make up our minds that we will practice the Dharma instead of throwing our lives away in meaningless activities.

To use our human lives to accomplish the Buddhadharma, is like crossing the ocean in search of costly jewels and afterwards returning home with every kind of precious thing; the difficulties of the trip will have been well rewarded. It would be a shame to come back empty-handed! We are now in possession of a precious human form and have discovered the Teachings of the Buddha. Through the blessings and kindness of teachers it is now possible for us to receive, study and practice the Doctrine. But if we are preoccupied only with the worldly activities of this life: business, farming, prevailing over enemies, helping friends, hoping for an important position and so on–and we die before we have made time for spiritual practice, it would be just like coming home empty-handed from the isle of jewels. What an incredible waste! Therefore we should think to ourselves, ‘I am not going to miss my chance. While I have this precious opportunity, I will practice the Dharma.’ Of course, the best thing would be to practice for the whole of our lives; but at least we should take refuge properly, for this is the essence of the Buddhadharma and closes the door to the lower realms. It is the universal antidote that can be applied in any kind of difficulty, and to practice it is therefore most important.

Although, for the moment, you do not understand me, due to the difference of our languages, you are all aware that I am giving you some instruction. After I have gone, everything will be translated for you and perhaps you will think, ‘That Lama taught us something important; I must put it into practice.’ If you really do so, in your lives from day to day, then my explanation will have had some point to it. So please take it to heart.

The defects of samsara

The experience of happiness and suffering comes about as the result of positive and negative actions; therefore evil should be abandoned and virtue cultivated as much as possible.

Even the tiniest insect living in the grass wishes to be happy. But it does not know how to gather the causes of happiness, namely positive actions, nor how to avoid the cause of suffering, which is evil behavior. When animals kill and eat each other, they instinctively commit negative actions. They wish for happiness, but all they do is to create the causes of their misery and experience nothing but suffering. This is the measure of their ignorance and delusion. But if the truth were really shown to them, then without a care even for their lives, they would accomplish that very virtue which they would recognize as the source of their own happiness. The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is to understand clearly what behavior is to be adopted and what is to be rejected.

Abandon evil-doing,
Practice virtue well,
Subdue your mind:
This is the Buddha’s teaching.

At the moment, we are all caught in the state of delusion, and so we should acknowledge all the negative actions we have perpetrated throughout our many lives until the present time. And from now on, we should turn away from all such actions big or small, just as we would avoid getting thorns in our eyes. We should constantly be checking what we do: any negative action should be confessed immediately, and all positive actions dedicated to others. To the best of our ability, we should abandon wrongdoing and try to accumulate goodness.

 

 

 

Actions and Their Consequences: From “Naked Awareness” by Karma Chagme

The following is respectfully quoted from “Naked Awareness” by Karma Chagme with commentary by Gyaltrul Rinpoche:

Homage to Avalokitesvara!

A rough explanation of actions and their consequences has been presented in the preliminaries to the instructions on the profound practical teachings of Avalokitesvara, but it is difficult to gain from that more than a practical understanding. Precise comprehension of actions and their consequences is not achieved until one has accomplished great single-pointedness. Until there arises the realization of the “one taste appearing in numerous ways,” the subtlety of actions and their consequences is not discerned. Thus, the Kagyu masters of the past prayed, “Bless me that I may discern the subtlety of actions and their consequences.” For us, all felicity and adversity and all joys and sorrows of birth and death and so forth are dominated by our karma.

–“Great single pointedness” is the state of samadhi that arises due to investigating the nature of awareness, rigpa. The “one taste appearing in numerous ways” is a specific realization which is also called the “realization of the sole bindhu.” What is this one taste that appears in numerous ways? It is the single nature of all samsara and nirvana. It is seeing all phenomena simultaneously as being of one taste and one nature.

Spiritual success and mundane success all really stem from the merit you have accumulated in the past due to virtuous activity. Without merit, even if you give tens of millions of dollars towards a particular end, you won’t have the success you are aiming for. It really comes down to your own previous actions. So it’s important not to blame our lack of success on someone else when we experience failure or disappointment. Rather we must recognize that if we want to have success, we need to plant the seeds of virtue. If we want to avoid misfortune, then we need to avoid the source, which is nonvirtue. In the meantime, instead of blaming others for our failures, we must identify our own limitations and shortcomings and dispel them.–

The Chapter on the Cycle of Existence of Birth and Death states:

Wherever one is born in the three realms,
That birth is dominated by karma.
Karma, too, is something committed in the past.
Death as well is dominated by karma.
When the time comes for birth and death,
The gods gradually fall from the heavens.
Despite their great miraculous powers, they are powerless to remain.

–You can’t give someone else either good karma or bad karma, any more than you can give them virtue or nonvirtue. These are things that we accumulate and commit for ourselves. Whether we die in the womb, have a short life or a long life, these are the result of our karma.

Even great gods, such as Indra and Brahma, with their extraordinary powers, are powerless when the karma that propelled them into their present existence is exhausted. The reason for the precept not take refuge in mundane gods such as these is that they, like ourselves, are still entrapped in this cycle of existence. Since they have not liberated themselves, it would be difficult for them to liberate anyone else, so they are not suitable objects of ultimate refuge. Moreover, if you take refuge in, or absolutely entrust yourself to, other beings who are subject to the five poisons, you really have a problem, because they can’t release you from something they are not free of themselves. So this precept is truly for your own sake.

Some mundane gods may actually be great bodhisattvas, or even emanations of the buddhas appearing in the form of Indra, Brahma, and so forth. Nevertheless, it is generally good counsel not to take ultimate refuge in any of them, for it is difficult to discern which ones are actually bodhisattvas or emanations of Buddhas. In a way, we don’t really need to worry about this. we don’t have much, if any, direct contact with such gods anyway.–

Karma: Virtual Reality

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

When you’re practicing to accomplish pure view, you realize that for you, the teacher is the appearance in the world of a method or a path, a means by which one can enter the door of liberation. This is what makes the teacher precious.  The teacher can connect you with the path, can explain the path, can ripen and deepen the mind so that one can practice on the path, and is a spiritual facilitator of a very high caliber.  Their activity is extraordinary, or beyond what is normally found in samsara.  So you begin, in pure view, to recognize the teacher as being representative of your own true face, the ground of being that is your inherent primordial wisdom nature—that nature which is free of contrivance, free of distinction, completely empty yet completely fulfilled and spontaneously complete.  You begin to understand that this teacher is a representation of that nature in the world. The teacher provides the path, the means, the method, the ability to practice, and connects you with that in a very extraordinary way.

Once you’ve determined that, the teacher becomes for you the appearance of the Buddha nature in the world, the appearance of the method or the path in the world, the appearance of the fruition or the accomplishment in the world, the appearance of your own true face in the world.  Once the teacher becomes that for you, then to take an opposite viewpoint and to determine a difference of opinion is not a sin or a nonvirtue.  It simply argues with what you have already determined for yourself.  It’s almost like walking three steps forward and two steps back in your Dharma practice.  It’s not that you should become brain dead and that you’re not supposed to have an opinion, but there’s a fine line there that has to be travelled, and it’s pretty difficult to understand what that line is.  Now on the one hand you are, and have been raised to be, a person who has a mind that thinks, and you have the ability to connect cause and effect yourself. Hopefully on the path you are developing that clarity of mind more and more and more.  Yet here you find a situation where you have also stated clearly “I have found my teacher.  Here is this vajra master that I have taken teachings from. That vajra master has facilitated me on the path of Dharma. So how is it that I feel like I have a different opinion at the same time that I have said this is the ultimate, this is the face of the Buddha, this is the Buddhas’ wisdom?  How do I negotiate that?  What’s that look like for me?  I mean, how do I do that?”

Well, let’s stop and think for a moment in a way that might be beneficial.  Don’t answer that question right now, but keep it simmering.  We’re cooking up some Thanksgiving dinner here.  We’re keeping it simmering.  Here’s the gravy. It’s simmering on low boil.  So now we’re back with the turkey in the oven.  But don’t forget, the gravy is still on the boil.  You’ve got to keep watching that one!  O.K., now, withdraw from that, but still think about answering that question.

Now think about this:  You’ve noticed haven’t you, I’m sure you have, that throughout our lives we tend to repeat certain habitual tendencies again and again and again.  Can we all agree on that?  We have seen certain habitual tendencies.  We have seen certain patterns, certain habits. It really depends on how old you are, how convinced you are of this.  The older you are, the more time you’ve had to see these things repeat again and again and again.  While you’re still young, you think, “Well I’ve only done this two or three times!  Who says there’s going to be a fourth, fifth and seventy-fourth!”  But by the time you get to be maybe midlife where I am, you’re going, “I’ve seen this movie before!!  I have seen this movie before!”  And you realize that these habitual tendencies kind of repeat themselves again and again and again, deeply ingrained.

And then if you’re the kind of person who is really insightful, you realize that you project these habitual tendencies onto the circumstances of your life, and without realizing it, will very much control situations and people in your life according to your preconceived notions and according to your habitual tendencies. A difficult situation where you may recognize this is, let’s say, a child that grows up in a house where the child is not given any dignity or any respect and the child feels not loved or abused in some way. So the child develops a certain understanding about that —I am not worthy or I am not lovable—and then goes out into their lives and tends to project some of the same information on others. Others might be perfectly willing to love, be perfectly willing to just do the best they can, not always perfect of course, but to do the best they can, loving them.  And yet this person is unable to accept that love and sees the same outcome pretty much all the time and actually is engaged in that outcome.  So that’s one situation.

Another situation is, for instance, that of a cat.  A cat is actually so strongly habituated towards killing it seems instinctive. From the Dharma point of view, we understand this to be habitual tendency reinforced many many times, life after life, a karmic kind of situation.  The cat will be reborn, and even if there is nothing to kill, if you throw a ball of yarn across the room, the cat will go after it. You know what happens when a cat sees flies against the window.  If a fly is bumping against the window, the cat will go after that.  Anything that scuttles, the cat is after it and their eyes get really big.  Have you ever seen a cat look out the window at a bird feeder?  Have you ever seen that?  The cat makes these horribles noises like “I want those hamburgers!  Give me those hamburgers!!”  For them it’s like McDonalds in the sky.  These animals are so strongly habituated towards killing, that even though they come into this life as a cute little fluffy kitty, those little ears and the little tail and those little feet, still and all, they are killers.  They are habituated towards that and the first chance they get, any stimulation, any stimulation, such as the rolling of the ball of yarn across the floor, they will interpret as the hunter and hunted scenario.

Did you know that we do the same thing?  We do exactly the same thing.  We are so deeply habituated in our own particular tendencies, whatever they are, that we project in the same way onto external stimulation.  If we have deeply habituated ideas, sometimes they are bordering on the obsessive and compulsive. Maybe not even bordering, maybe all the way in that country!  Pay the toll, we’re in!  What happens is once we are strongly habituated into habit, we interpret all stimulation outside as something that keys us into our habitual tendency.  So what I find as a teacher and a female, for instance, is that many people interpret me as their mother.  They think of me as being the authority figure, someone they have to answer to in that way.  They can’t be bad around me.  A lot of times the students will… I mean it’s one thing to have your Dharma manners going when you see the teacher—you hold that in respect, and that’s a really good thing—but what I found is that I can walk into a party and kill it, just like that!  Because my students suddenly stop functioning.  It reminds me of when I was a kid and my mother said ‘dust the living room.’  So I’d be dusting the living room, having fun, thinking about other things, like boys or whatever, and dusting and carrying on.  My mother came into the room and I’d suddenly start moving fast! It reminds me a little bit of that.

And sometimes some of my students are habituated towards authority figures in a certain way, and since I must exude some kind of authority, they look at me and interact in the same way with me that they do with other authority figures. So there is this “has to be good girl, good boy or whatever, routine” and the blaming of the teacher and making all of those “I’m mad at you authority figures” kind of scenarios going on.  There are all kinds of different gigs, You know what your gig is with authority.  Everybody has one.  And so they project that onto the teacher. But you see, what’s really happening there is you’re looking at your own habitual tendency—the way that your mind works, the way that it intersects with the time and space grid in front of you, and how you play with your own habitual tendency.  What you’re really seeing there is kind of like a bounce-back phenomena that’s actually taking place within your own mindstream.

There is nothing external happening.  There is nothing beyond you that is happening.  There’s just nothing out there that determines your fate.  You’re looking at a kind of almost internal bubble, or a virtual situation in a certain way.  You can learn a lot from that kind of virtual reality situation.  It’s almost a virtual internal situation that’s happening there.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Growing Up Spiritually

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

Every sentient being has suffering, and we should contemplate that. But not judge, as we cannot see through the fog of our own reaction.

We can use our own suffering as method. If one breaks a leg it is awful. But it gives more time to rest and Practice Dharma. There is no use in whining, blame, rumination, holding on to the idea that one has been wronged. It does no good, and it is just karma playing out. Events that affect us seem to come from outside. Seem to be caused by others. But every perception is our own mindstream, born of habit and the inability to understand and think in full equations. Such as “if this, then that” cause and effect. We also refuse to take responsibility and in that way we deny ourselves the ability to be strong, and to “grow up” spiritually and emotionally, to make progress. It is lost opportunity.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

 

The Responsibility of Choice

psychic

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why We Suffer”

I’d like to explain it in whatever way I can—even though the vocabulary is limited, and I myself am extremely limited—I’d like to explain it in whatever way I can over and over and over again. And do you know the interesting thing is that I often get caught in not understanding. It hooks me, too. Every time. Recently, I saw again, after not seeing for a very long time, someone whom I consider to be tremendously suffering, tremendously suffering, who I’ve known has had a great deal of the experience of suffering during the course of their life. Someone for whom in my heart of hearts I felt, you know, a terrible grief. Terrible grief. And for that person, I always wished that there was some hope. The idea that I had, although it was on a subtle level, was that that person had been victimized. I know that as a child that person was a victim of abuse. I know that many circumstances happened that made that person’s life very, very difficult. And during the course of that person’s adult life, there were tremendous, tremendous obstacles to overcome, tremendous difficulty. And yet, I know the Buddha’s teaching, and I know that the content of our mindstream is constantly being displayed as our lives. But caught in the trap of that idea that somehow we could suffer without cause, that somehow we were victims, that somehow circumstance could occur to us, and that we were somehow blameless and innocent, I fell prey to that idea. That’s never the case; it is never the case. Each and every person who experiences difficulty does so because of cause and effect relationships that they themselves began at some point, perhaps a point that they do not remember. The Buddha teaches us that if we have suffered a great deal, if we do suffer a great deal from loneliness, and the longing for love and approval, and that kind of need, a strong need, that somewhere in the past (and this is hard to take in), we ourselves were not kind. We ourselves were not supportive of others. We were not generous and loving. Now it may actually be that in this lifetime, we have made a real effort to be generous and loving and supportive to others, so you can’t go by that.

The Buddha teaches one thing about which I am supremely confident, and I’ve become more and more so with each passing day: You should never go to a psychic or anybody like that to find out what your past lives are about. If you want to find out what your past lives are about, look in the mirror now. Are you poor? Then you weren’t too generous. Are you not so good looking? Then in the past, you were not, with your body, faithful and loyal and virtuous. That’s the truth. Are you lonely? Because in the past, you probably were not kindly and supportive to others. Are you wishing that you had love and there isn’t much love in your life? Then, probably in the past, you were self-absorbed and really only caring about what you felt and what was going on with you and what your needs were. These are hard things to take in. But the Buddha teaches that for every single result that we are experiencing, there is a cause; and that cause is within our mindstream. Now, that’s both good news and bad news. At first, you have to look in the mirror and you have to be real brave and you have to face that. And that’s the hard part. That’s the bad news. Nobody wants to look in the mirror and say, ‘You did that. You had something to do with that.’ You have some qualities that are in seed form hidden within your mindstream that are ripening even now. Nobody wants to take responsibility. We all want to feel only good; and we only want some external force to give a blessing and then we’ll all be happy in heaven. That’s what we really want. Take a pill. Like that. So at first it’s very difficult and I think that the beginning of adapting this philosophy and accepting the Buddha’s teaching and beginning to act on it is actually an act of courage. It’s tough. It’s really tough.

What makes it tough? Is it because you have to practice for hours and hours a day?  No, that’s your choice. You can practice a little bit, or you can practice a lot according to your disposition. You can start practicing a little and you can end up practicing a lot. It’s really up to you. You can be following the Buddha’s teaching at your own level. There’s no pressure to do extraordinary amounts of practice. It’s not like that. What makes that first step so courageous is that you really have to accept the great law of cause and effect. But the good news is that suddenly you have power. There is an antidote. Before you were hopeless and helpless. If you looked at your life, and there was no love in your life, you could only say, ‘Wow, poor me! There’s nothing I can do about this. I’m really hopeless and I’m really helpless. What am I going to do?  Nobody loves me.’ And then you can start whining about it. And, of course, that will never make you happy. And what is it going to do? Is it going to change anything? It will never change anything. It will only alienate others even more, because you will be continuing the root cause of selfishness and self-absorption. It will never produce any good results. And if you were to look into your life and you were to say, ‘Well, I’m really not a happy person. I mean, I have many things, I have many physical things. I have a good house and a good car and all kinds of interesting things in my life, but I’m not happy. I don’t seem to be happy and it’s just, you know, I’m a victim. Just some people are happy, and I’m not. And I don’t know why other people get all the breaks and why I don’t get all the breaks.’ I mean, you’ve heard the litany, haven’t you? I don’t need to repeat it again. I’m sure if you haven’t said it recently, then you’ve said it in the past; and if you haven’t said it in the past, you have, but you’ve forgotten. But, anyway, you can remember somebody else doing it. So I don’t have to repeat the litany. But with understanding cause and effect relationships, you can look in the mirror and you can say, ‘Yes, up until this time, I have planted seeds that have brought bad fruit, but I have the opportunity to apply the antidote. And I can apply it, I can plant good seeds and reap good fruit.’

Happiness, love, wealth, joy, contentment and peace, relaxation in any form, even health are all habitual tendencies. They are all habitual tendencies. Those among us, and there are many, who do not seem to have the karma of happiness or contentment, who cannot achieve any kind of inner peace, cannot do so because they do not have the habit of it. And they do not have the habit of it, because in the past they have instituted many causes that bring about the result of such an occurrence. If we have the result in our lives of having no capacity to be able to engage in, for instance, a loving relationship, if it seems that we look around and there really are no loving relationships in our life, it is because we do not have the habit of it. And we do not have the habit of it, because we ourselves in the past did not engage in the giving aspect of that kind of loving relationship. Well, we all think that now, now we’re changed. Now we are engaged in the giving aspect of such a loving relationship. Yes, I’m trying to get a loving relationship. I go from person to person, and try to get a loving relationship. I get in everybody’s face that I can get my hands on, and say,  ‘You will love me.’ And so I’ve changed. Now I’m a loving person. I love everybody I can get my hands on. What are you doing? Are you generous, are you kind? Not in the least. Are you giving love? No, it’s all about you. You want, you need, you want, you need. That’s what you think about, because you have the habitual tendency of being needy and loveless due to a lack of generosity in the past. Now, the Buddha teaches us that the antidote is not to go out and join a singles club; but, rather, what we must do, instead, is to be as loving and as kindly to others as possible. To give without thought of any return. You want any thing in return. You don’t need approval; you want approval. You just give. You’re kind.

Now, at first, most people don’t know how to do that. They really are inept at that sort of thing and they will end up trying to take anyway. So the Buddha gives us an actual series of practices that are antidotal. Very, very different. There are many different kinds of practices from generating oneself as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and pouring forth compassion without exception to all sentient beings equally. And you don’t get letters back from them, believe me. Pouring out compassion to all sentient beings equally, and in that way, beginning the habit of genuine loving kindness. That’s one antidote. That’s a good one. And then you can make wishing prayers for all sentient beings. You can circumambulate the stupa going clockwise. Please do so. It’s makes me happy to know that you’ve had the opportunity. So you can circumambulate the stupa, or you make some offering on an altar; and at the same time you say, ‘By this merit, or by this offering, or by the virtue of this prayer, may all sentient beings be free of suffering.’ You’re lonely? You know what the best antidote to that is? Pray for those who are lonelier than you. Pray endlessly. And don’t expect any of them to know that you’re doing so. And don’t expect anything back for it. That really is an antidote to such suffering. And those who are the unhappiest are the ones who are most resistant to hearing that. But, there actually is an answer; there actually is an antidote. And you can begin like that.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo all rights reserved

Words of Honor: Advice from HH Penor Rinpoche

hhpr1-bmp

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Kyabje His Holiness Penor Rinpoche offered at Palyul Ling Retreat:

When I was in Tibet I studied all this Dharma with my teacher, Khenpo Nuden. He was a great Dzogchen master. We received the transmission on the four volume text called Duba Do, which he has composed. There were five of us receiving this Dharma. We all tried to maintain the disciplines of being very humble and respectful, and not disturbing the lama’s mind.

We also had another Khenpo with us. This Khenpo always had coughing fits. He was always coughing. To announce the start of class each morning, a gong would ring. But one morning nobody rang the gong. We went to the lama’s place anyway, and asked, “Why was there no gong?”  The lama was really angry and told us that there was no need to ring the gong. I went to him, and said, “It is time now. May I ring the gong?”   He said, “No.”  Then I asked, “Are you sick or something?”  And he said, “No, I’m not sick.”  Then I asked, “Did you have a disturbing dream?”  He said, “No.”  After asking a few questions, he said, “You guys are not really respecting me.”  Then I said, “We all do respect you. We are just trying to maintain good discipline.”  Then the lama said, “Well, you know Khenpo clears his throat a lot, coughing up stuff.”  What to do?  He had an illness. It was natural, but we told him not to be too loud. We made a commitment to maintain discipline, and then later the lama started the teaching. No one dared to cough loudly in front of the lama. Talking to each other or making noise or getting up and down in front of the lama never happened when we visited the lama. One should be careful when visiting the lama. There is a whole book that gives lessons on how to relate with the master.

Disturbing the lama’s mind a little bit obscures one’s path and bhumis. Once one actualizes these stages of realization and the path, then one can do whatever one wants to do. Until achieving the ultimate fruition, the Buddhahood, enlightenment, until then we must relate to and rely on a master. One should respect and follow, and through that one can receive the blessing. Then there is benefit. Even with millions of dollars, there is no way to buy the Dharma teaching  through which one can attain complete enlightenment. Because if there is even a tiny breakage of samaya, then it obscures one’s own power or realization. The life force of the Dharma is the words of honor, the samaya. Even though you guys are very good, it is still good to understand how these things should be done.

 

The Method of the Path

Merry Go Round

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Desire Blocks Happiness”

So we have a problem here.  We really have to get off the merry-go-round, and we have to look at things square in the eye. And there’s no getting away from it: One of the problems of cyclic existence is that we can’t see very clearly. Isn’t it true? Isn’t it true that even once we make the decision to lead a virtuous life, and to think as I’ve just described, then we sit there and we think hatefully in our minds. We think hateful thoughts in our minds; we think jealous thoughts in our minds; we think competitive thoughts in our minds; we think judgmental thoughts in our minds. We think “I want.” We think all of these things—angry, vengeful, whatever it is. And we think because no one else can hear it besides us, that it’s really okay as long as we can maintain a beatific exterior. You know, a sweet kind of exterior. As long as we do that, we’re okay. Isn’t that true? Don’t you think that’s true? Well, the difficulty is, you can’t even take your smile with you! Ha, ha, ha!  So when you go into the bardo, what will be there is what’s behind it—the habit of your mind, the habit of hatred or ignorance or grasping.

One of the great Bodhisattva prayers that I’ve read—and every time I hear it, it brings tears to my eyes, because it’s so true—translates to roughly like this, “If it is true that I cannot even take so much as one sesame seed with me when I die, why not offer all that I have to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings?”  Why not do that? I’m going to lose it anyway. Reminds me a little bit of the old trick of knowing that pretty soon you’re going to have to pay this enormous amount of taxes because you sold this house, so you quick gotta buy another one. It’s kind of like that. You know you’re going to lose it anyway. Why not make it something useful?

On this Path there are many different ways to do that. One can become a renunciate, as these monks and nuns are renunciates. And believe me, once you have put on these robes, that does not mean that you have renounced cyclic existence. It means that you are trying. Sometimes I catch these guys not renouncing cyclic existence. Just every now and then, I catch them clinging to cyclic existence like you can’t believe. But you can try. You can really try to practice in that way where you actually renounce cyclic existence and you take a certain form. You take an outward appearance, and you practice inwardly according to that outward appearance. In other words, they wear only the Buddhist robes, most of the time, and they practice the Buddha’s teachings; and they don’t drink, and they remain celibate, and they don’t lie. And there are many different exterior vows that they take. They also try to practice within their heart in a very pure way. And then you can also practice as a layperson, who looks very ordinary, and who engages in the ordinary activities of life with the ordinary trappings that sentient beings engage in. But inside you would practice certain kinds of meditation. Particularly you might think of practicing stabilizing the mind through meditation. That is letting thoughts come to the mind—thoughts of grasping or thoughts of hatred—and allowing those thoughts to merely dissolve. And there are certain techniques and technologies that you can apply to actually do that. Or practicing in such a way as to generate oneself as the deity, as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and in doing that, generate one’s environment as a celestial palace; and that being a celestial palace, it has only pure qualities. And therefore, having only pure qualities, there’s nothing to grasp onto. So that you might have or not have something; you might be married or not be married; you might have children or not have children. You might have objects or not have objects; but at any rate each one of these objects is seen as an emanation of the enlightened quality of the Buddha, and it’s nothing to grasp onto. It’s nothing to hold onto. It’s nothing that you would call mine. Do you see what I’m saying? So it’s an inner kind of more subtle practice.

There are many different ways to practice on this Path, as many different ways as there are people. But it starts with that little breakdown—getting off that merry-go-round. Looking at yourself, and seeing the faults of cyclic existence, and seeing that you have never yet been satisfied by it. And seeing that it’s time to pacify that inflammation within the mind. The inflammation is the problem.

This teaching is very difficult to understand unless you can apply some direct technology, unless you can really get into some substantial practice. And if you wish to do so, you should keep coming to the temple. And at some point you should ask about entering into deeper practice. This is just a practice meant to display some of the meaning of the Path to those who are not practicing so deeply at this point or who are not practicing Buddhism, actually; and also increasing the understanding of those who are practicing Buddhism.

But there is a technology that must be applied that would be beneficial. If one were to simply try to understand what I have said in this way… If one were to say, “Okay, I guess what she means is I can’t get excited about anything anymore. Or I can’t feel really happy, and really high. Or I should just make myself really passive,” then you would not be understanding what I’m saying. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m not saying that you should adopt a mask of stillness. I’m not saying that you should force yourself to roll your eyes ever skyward and appear beatific and holy from this point on. That would be a farce. That would be silly. In fact, that’s a very neurotic way to act, and I wouldn’t recommend it at all. You might think that what I’m saying that you should do is act very spiritual and very sweet and very kindly, when in your heart there’s a raging fire. And I’m not saying that. That’s a very neurotic way to do, and that will cause you to take valium very quickly. That is not the method. Valium is not the method on this Path.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo All Rights Reserved

Impact of Karma on the Experience of the Bardo

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

Now listen to how this lama [Bokar Rinpoche] explains this—I think this is excellent. “Likewise the experience of death will be different for each one of you, although there are certain fundamental rules. Consider a house of rooms in which each wall is covered with mirrors. The man living in this house is dirty, has untidy hair, wears ragged clothing, and is always making faces. He goes from room to room, and the mirrors steadily reflect the faded image of an unkempt man with a grimacing face, untidy hair and ragged clothing. Similarly, when our mind is distorted by a lot of negative karma, each of the six bardos reflects suffering, just like the mirrored rooms in that house.” And they have a footnote here about negative karma. “Negative karma: All negative deeds, ones that deliberately make other people suffer, leave an imprint in our mind and will condition our experience and our vision of the world. And that is our suffering, that is what our suffering is.” That is the content of our suffering, that is our only suffering. That is the only suffering we will experience, but it is enough.

“The house occupant could also be clean, well-dressed and smiling. Everywhere he goes, from room to room, he sees a clear and smiling face. The house remains the same, you see, but there is no more ugliness nor appalling sights. Everything you see is pleasant and peaceful. When our mind is free of negative karma and the passions that disturb it, the six bardos reflect a picture that resembles us, full of peace and happiness. Whether pleasant or not, experiences do not depend on the six rooms. An individual fills the rooms with his or her own nature. Likewise, negative experience of the six bardos does not depend on the bardos, but they do depend on our own mind.”

Now, boys and girls, this is a very important point. It’s important because you are living the result of that right now. You are passing right now through the bardo of living. The experience that you have depends on and is resulting from the habitual tendency within your mind, the karma of your own mind, the causality that you have already brought into play. The experience of your present day life is due to that. All the suffering that you will ever experience during the course of your life, , including the cause of your death, and all of the happiness,  is due to the habitual tendency of your mind and the karmic patterns of your mind. Literally, think about it this way. If your experience was that of the kind of person who is only here to see what they can get, and upon meeting other people only sees a potential source of satisfaction… And how many of us in samsara are like that? Here is a potential source of satisfaction, and we wheedle and we whine, and we feel sorry for ourselves, and ‘please love me and do this for me.’ Or we do the opposite, which is manipulative: We try to manipulate people into a position where they have nothing else to do but benefit us. And we’re real good at it. In fact, so good we hardly see it ourselves, but that’s what we do.

And then we have another kind of situation where we spend all of our life trying to dominate the people in our environment, and our environment—trying to force it to be what we want so that we can have what we want. The experience of the life passage or the bardo of living for persons like that will be very different from the experience of the person who goes through life saying, “How can I help? How can I contribute more love to the world?” The kind of person that goes through life knowing that it matters much less how much love they get than it matters how much love they give will have a very different experience from the other kind of person. And that’s what this lama is talking about there. Not only during life, but also during death. Our death depends on the habit of our lives. If we are neurotic and frightened and whiney and complaining and weepy and emotional during the course of our lives, think  What will your death be like? What has your life been like? Think. This isn’t a great mystery. Everybody has this fantasy of climbing the Himalayas to get to the dirty guy on a rug at the top who knows everything, and he’s going to tell you the secret of life. This is the secret of life. Think. You know, think about this. If this is your passage through life, what will your passage through death be? You’ve got to fix it now.

On the other hand, if you are the other kind of person, if you have been a contributor, if you have been strong, if you have been loving, if you’ve tried to do your best, if you’ve tried to contribute love to the world, if you have tried to practice, if you have tried to calm your mind, if you have tried to make your mind an attractive and virtuous vessel, your death experience is going to be quite different. Absolutely different.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Illusion of Satisfaction

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Desire Blocks Happiness”

Our minds are so unstable.  They are so inflamed, so on fire. With what? With excitement? With the idea that something is going to happen for us? What are we inflamed with? According to the Buddhist teachings, we are actually inflamed with desire. Desire. I want! I want! And I’m going to have it! I’m going to get it! I’m finally going to get it! The excitement that you feel when you’ve got that dress, and those shoes!, And those stockings! And those $150 earrings, all of it together. That same excitement is the inflammation that you feel when you’ve got the dress, but you haven’t got the shoes yet; and you want them so bad, you can taste them. It’s the same thing. It’s an inflammation. It’s like a fever. And no one can ever be happy no matter what while they’ve got that fever in their minds because it isn’t the satisfaction of that fever that composes happiness. That isn’t what makes happiness.

In fact, in cyclic existence, there ain’t no such thing. You can’t satisfy that fever. That fever is the symptom. It is the problem. Satisfying that fever would be like treating a physical fever by heating up the room to be the same temperature. Think about it. It doesn’t work. Temporarily you may feel strangely like there’s not much difference between the heat in your body and the heat in the room. I don’t really know how it would affect you physically. But I do know this: It won’t cure the fever. The fever ends when the fever ends, when it subsides. And here’s where the analogy ends, because, in an ordinary fever, if the fever doesn’t kill you, it will eventually naturally subside. It will naturally calm down. The body will rally itself to create a cure. It will come to its own defense.

But, in fact, the Buddha teaches us that cyclic existence will not naturally cure itself. We must take steps. Here’s why. Because in cyclic existence, we’re busy buying those shoes and those earrings. We’re busy finding the first perfect relationship, and convincing ourselves that it’s going to work. Or ditching it and finding another one when it doesn’t. We’re busy suffering the disappointment of watching things that have come together fall apart. We’re busy going through what we have always gone through: the ups and downs of cyclic existence. Just the cycle of death and rebirth, up and down, happy and sad, high and low, hot and cold. We’re busy doing that. And every single time we hit a certain point, whether it be high or low, at that point we are creating more cause and effect relationships and more habitual tendencies within our mind. Specifically this: Let’s say we buy the dress. We want the dress so badly. We buy the dress. Let’s say, now we want the shoes, so bad we can taste them, or in the case of men, maybe it might be… Let’s say he’s a drummer and he bought himself one drum. And he’s got to have the other one to make the set. Let’s say that’s the case. He’s just gotta have it! There’s no ifs, ands. He can just taste it! It’s just in him so bad. So let’s say that we have the one object, and we have to have its complement. We want it so bad.

Well, first of all, there’s no satisfaction there, and here’s the reason why. In getting the object in the first place, we’ve reinforced an old and very bad habit of ours. We saw something; we accepted it at face value; we took a lot of energy to secure that thing. We grasped at it, and we got it. We strengthened that habitual tendency. We strengthened it. And then, of course, what was the result of that? The result of that was that you had to have more because that habitual tendency has been strengthened. So now we’ve got to have the shoes. So okay, now we’re going to go for the shoes. Save up lots of money, buy this big pair of shoes. Well, hopefully they’re not too big, but anyway, buy this great pair of shoes. They’re really expensive; they’re really beautiful; they’re perfect for the dress. And now you have to go through this whole thing of making it practical for yourself. Now you’ve got to go through so much, so much. And in doing so, you have substantiated, you have reinforced, you have continued the cause and effect relationships within your mind that cause you to look at things on a superficial level, to reach out, to grasp for them. It continues the inflammation of desire.

So even though you might have everything that you can think of, the habit of desire and the inflammation are still there. They’re still there. How is that going to happen? What’s going to result in that? You’ll think of more. You’ll think of more. You’re endlessly creative, always have been. Endlessly creative. You will think of more. And maybe you’ll satisfy yourself by thinking that, ‘Well okay, I’m not on clothes right now.’ So now you’ll think of something else. You’ll think of something else that you must have—a certain kind of happiness even if it’s a certain kind of mental state. I don’t know what it’s going to be next. Do you? But it will be something. You’ll think of more.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Karma Is a Tool

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

We must realize that any action we take—or even merely intend to take!—will play itself out in some way. We must understand that we create every single piece of our experience, every moment of our lives. If you kill someone, you will eventually be killed. This is the Buddha’s teaching. But the subtle intention to kill, the subtle hatred that preceded the act, also has an effect on your mindstream: it will cause you to change in such a way that the mind becomes hard. This hatred begets more hatred, which begets more suffering, which, since you experience it to be external, causes you to change again, to react in ways that cause even more cycles to begin. The only way to stop them is to attain enlightenment.

When the mind no longer functions in the state of duality, subtle energies and channels throughout the body are purified. Then, when one has achieved the enlightened state, there is no karma. Wait! How can we say that karma is irrefutable and then declare that it does not exist in the enlightened state? How can it be that karma simply falls away? In that state, one realizes the cessation of the cause-and-effect relationship because there is no self and no other. There is no longer the bouncing back and forth between them that creates karma. But as long as you call this book a book and give it the reality of a book—as long as “other” appears out there—the mind is sufficiently divided that you are in the relative view.

Karma is certain and solid as a rock as long as you perceive self and other to be inherently real. In order for your mind to cease to operate in a dualistic fashion, you must understand karmic cause and effect. That is the catch. In one sense, karma might seem to be our enemy. If we suffer, that is our karma. But in another sense, karma is a tool that we must use. We must understand it fully or we are ill-equipped to practice this path and create the causes for enlightenment.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo