Be Honest

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

Now, when we talk about practical compassion, it actually occurs on two levels. There’s a universal level, in the sense you care so much for all sentient beings that your goal is to do whatever is necessary to eliminate suffering for them all. But does that mean that if you see a hungry child you shouldn’t feed him? Or does that mean you shouldn’t be kind in an ordinary, human way? Ordinary compassion, ordinary human kindness is very important. But in understanding the Buddha’s teaching, it shouldn’t be the only thing you do. You have to live an ordinary, virtuous life, but you have to live an extraordinary life as well. The activity of kindness and compassion should have both a universal and an ordinary level.

On the other hand, I don’t believe in ‘idiot compassion.’  Have you ever heard of idiot compassion?  It is when you look at people who are needy and you see them going through their stuff, and you try to be so kind to them and give them what they need, or what they say they need. You actually don’t help them because you increase their dependency. You increase their willingness to tell you how much they need. You’re just helping them along; you’re playing with them. So I don’t believe in idiot compassion because it doesn’t help them. I believe that sometimes, real compassion has to be harsh.

In Buddhism, you see as many wrathful deities as you do peaceful deities. Why is that? Is it because the Buddha is half mean and half nice? I don’t think so. It’s because sometimes compassionate activity has to be a little wrathful. Sometimes it has to be a little aggressive. It depends. If you really are pure and your determination is to really be of benefit, and not just to be a nice guy, after training yourself in this way, you’ll know what to do. You won’t get hooked on idiot compassion. Everybody likes ‘feel-good’ stuff, but that doesn’t always help. You should, however, be a human being of virtue. You should be kind. You should be honest.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Compassion: The Root Commitment – How Will It Look for You?

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

What form will your compassion take? Making compassion your root commitment to sentient beings must take some form. How can you begin to do that? First, I recommend again that you be courageous enough to study the nature of suffering: how it has evolved, what it means, where it exists. See for yourself. Go through a logical thought process. What will bring about the end of suffering? If I did this and this and this and this, will suffering really end? What can the possible results be? Allow yourself to really go through an examination of suffering. Come to your own understanding of suffering so that you can decide what your next action must be. Allow yourself to think, “Well, if I did this good thing for somebody, or if I fed the world and got everybody out of poverty, what would the result be?” Follow this line of reasoning to its logical end, and see if there’s any specific action that you could take that would truly end suffering completely.

Then, think of the Buddha’s logic and try to understand what that might mean. What if what the Buddha says is true? What if hatred, greed and ignorance are the root causes for suffering? What if you could completely remove the seeds of suffering from the fabric of reality? What if it were possible, through the extensive practices given by the Buddha, to accomplish that for yourself first, and then reincarnate in a form by which you could benefit others by offering that same method again and again? Might that be a solution? It’s a slow one, but it’s a big universe. Is it possible that might work? According to the Buddha’s teaching, when you take a vow as a Bodhisattva, you vow to liberate your own mind from hatred, greed and ignorance. You vow to liberate your mind from the very idea of self-nature as being truly valid. You agree to liberate yourself from any form of desire, and you do that specifically so that you can return again and again, in whatever form necessary, in order to be of benefit to sentient beings. You agree to propagate the Dharma. It doesn’t mean that you become a born-again evangelist. It means that you reincarnate and allow yourself to return in whatever form necessary in order to bring teachings to beings that will finally help them out of the sea of delusion that comes from the belief in self.

You should contemplate this and think, “Is this solution really useful?” You have a couple of different options at that point. If you decide that the Buddha’s teaching is valid and useful, you can begin to develop aspirational compassion. Right now, if I were to say to you, “Do you want to help people? Do you want to help the world?” You’d say, “Yeah, I’m on! Look at what I’ve done. I’ve done a lot!” But I tell you, until we reach supreme enlightenment – and I’m talking about bona fide, rainbow-body, walk-on-the-water, supreme enlightenment – we must continue courageously to develop the mind of compassion in every moment. Until we can liberate the minds of others just through a breath, just through a glance, just through a moment of being with them, just through a prayer, we have not truly attained the liberating mind of compassion.

We must continue with this effort throughout all of our lives. Even though we may have the idea of compassion, we must develop aspirational compassion. We must aspire to be anything that would bring true and lasting benefit to beings. We must offer ourselves and our minds again and again and again. I think of one prayer of a Western Bodhisattva that touched me very much as a child, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” That’s the kind of thought that we as Westerners must have within our minds. As we begin to become more comfortable with Eastern terminology, then we can think, “Let me be born in whatever form necessary, under any conditions in order that beings should not suffer. If there is the need for food, let me return as food. If there is the need for drink, let me return as drink. If there is a need for a teacher, let me return as the teacher. If there is a need for shade, let me return as the tree. If there is the need for love, let me return as arms.” You must continue to develop this idea in such a selfless way that it doesn’t matter to you in what form you can give this love.

Your job would be to liberate your mind to such an extent that you achieve realization through strenuous activity. Yes, the Dharma is difficult. Any path that promises to lead to enlightenment has to be difficult because it’s a long way from here. Let’s face it, any path that leads to bona fide, no-kidding, walk-on-the-water, rainbow-body enlightenment – I’m not talking about a psychological “a ha!,” I’m talking about the real juice – must be very involved, very profound.

So your first thought must be, “Let me then liberate my mind to such an extent that I achieve some realization, and then I wish to return in whatever form is necessary. May I be able to emanate in many bodies. May these emanations fill the earth, and, if necessary, one-on-one, through those emanations, let suffering be ended. Or if it can be done in some other way, I don’t care. It has no meaning to me. Only that suffering should end. What is important is that all sentient beings should themselves achieve liberation and go on to benefit others as well, until there are no more, until all six realms of cyclic existence are free and empty.”

When you get up in the morning, think, “As I rise from this bed, may all sentient beings rise from the state of ignorance and may they be liberated until there is no more suffering.” When you brush your teeth, think, “As I brush my teeth, may the suffering of all sentient beings be washed away.” When you take your shower, think, “As I take this shower, may all sentient beings be showered with a pure and virtuous path by which they themselves can be liberated.” When you walk through your door, think, “May all sentient beings walk through the door of liberation.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Are You Willing?

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

You cannot be a ‘sugar daddy’ in this world; there are no ‘sugar daddies’ in this world. You cannot be the conqueror or the savior as you cannot conquer someone else’s mind. Each person has to relieve themselves of the hatred, greed and ignorance in their own minds. But you can be the savior, and you can be the conqueror, in the sense that you, yourself, can liberate your own mind from hatred, greed and ignorance. In so doing, you can be a way or a path or an instrument by which the hatred, greed and ignorance in the minds of others can also be liberated. Therefore, your prayers have to consist, at least in part, of liberating your own mind from the causes of suffering. At the end of every practice, at the end of every teaching, at the end of every empowerment or anything that you do as a Buddhist, the prayer is this: “May I attain liberation in order to benefit beings.”

It’s very difficult for Americans to hear this kind of thing. It is a real struggle. We don’t like to hear about suffering; it’s so hard for us to hear about suffering. Yet, if you go to different parts of the world, they know about suffering. They know it exists. There are lots of people in the world that can say, “Hey, I’ve heard about this. I know this song.” But we who live comfortably don’t like to talk about it. We think it’s beneath us somehow to speak of suffering. We’ve become hardened to the idea.

You might say, “Well, I don’t believe that it does any good to talk about suffering. I think it does good to think positive thoughts and to constantly create a positive world.” I don’t think that’s the answer. We have become hardened to the idea of suffering, and we must first cultivate within ourselves a willingness to understand the nature of suffering so deeply and profoundly that we can do something other than scratch the surface.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Compassion in Action: Bodhicitta in Real Life

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

Everything that you do should have meaning. It’s important that your life be understood as a vehicle for practice. It’s the only thing that is meaningful: to make this life, which is so rich in opportunity, a vehicle by which you can come to benefit beings. This is the development of aspirational Bodhicitta. Every time you do something good, use that opportunity to dedicate it to the liberation of all beings. If you pat a little child on the head and it makes them smile, that’s a good thing. So you must think, “I dedicate the virtue of this action to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.” If you give money to somebody, pray, “I dedicate the virtue of this act to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.” You should continue like that in everything that you do. Make up your own prayer. You don’t have to use mine. Dedicate everything that you do so that it might go on, and grow, and be of use to benefit beings. Wean yourself from empty activity, activity that is useless and meaningless. Wean yourself from the need for ‘feel-good’ junk. Learn how to live a life in which your only concern is to liberate beings from the causes of suffering, because doing this is the only thing you can really feel good about. You aspire constantly through these prayers. You really train yourself to do this, and it should never stop.

After you are stable on the path of aspirational compassion, you have to think about concrete or practical compassion. You don’t forget aspirational compassion, saying, “Oh, I did that for a little while when I was a younger practitioner.” You should never stop. Never. I will never stop, and you should never stop. That’s not baby stuff. That’s the real stuff. Then you expand this to include practical compassion.

First you have to decide that the Buddha was right. You look at the Buddha’s teachings and you say, “If he’s right, then I have to think of some practical way to eliminate hatred, greed and ignorance from the world and from the mindstreams of myself and all sentient beings.”

Based on that you begin, and your practice should be deep and true. If you choose to be a Buddhist, the path is laid out, and the path is secure. It goes all the way to supreme realization. If you choose not to be a Buddhist, you still have to find a way to live a life of practical compassion, based on the goal of rooting hatred, greed and ignorance out of the mindstreams of yourself and all sentient beings. You should think that reciting many prayers on a regular basis for others could be of use. You should think activities that cause you to realize the emptiness of self-nature and therefore eliminate desire from your own mindstream would be of benefit. And that, finally, free of desire, when you are truly awake, as the Buddha said, you can go on to benefit others. You should be determined to liberate your own mind, and you should pray every day that you will return in whatever form necessary in order to liberate the minds of all sentient beings.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Love Like the Sun

Most people love with a “hook” at the end, better to love like the sun, radiating in all directions.

Why remain angry and disturbed? Watch a tree and it’s attendant breezes. And know that you are loved!

Why argue with the moon? The moon only reflects it’s Master’s lighr. Better to gaze in peaceful contemplation!

Why grasp at the love of a lover? Better to gaze with wonder at the face of the beloved!

Why fight with one’s friend? Better to sit at the stream and talk of gentle things!

From a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Unconditional Love

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Keeping Heart Samaya”

When we consider the student’s relationship with the teacher on this path, we are talking about very high stakes.  We are not talking about a student-teacher relationship in order to get through a six week course.  We are not talking about a student-teacher relationship with which to graduate with so many credits from college.  We are talking about a student-teacher relationship wherein the end result is the ultimate fruit or jewel, the crown of cyclic existence, that is, the potential or capacity to enter into the door of liberation and be free of suffering at last.  These are enormous stakes.

So both parties in the student-teacher relationship have to take that relationship very seriously, very seriously.  I know for a fact that the teachers regard the students with great seriousness.  Their love for the students is unconditional.  Once that student-teacher relationship has taken place, the teacher has become, for the student, Guru Rinpoche’s appearance in the world, Lord Buddha’s appearance in the world.  Once that happens, there is a love there or a bonding that cannot be undone by anything in the world.  There is nothing in the world that can take Lord Buddha’s blessing, Guru Rinpoche’s blessing out of your heart.  Nothing can do that.

Even if the students themselves were to act in a very inappropriate way, breaking the samaya bond, acting out of accordance with what the teacher has taught, even committing really negative actions like harming the teacher in some way, it is always the truth that if the student were to make restitution, were to turn their face towards Dharma again and truly wish to accomplish Dharma, and wish to separate themselves from their previous non-virtuous acts, the teacher would immediately respond to that.  There is no question.

As parents we do that with our children, don’t we?  Sometimes children will do pretty bad things, throw baseballs through windows, knock the cookie jars over, and really much worse things. So even though these acts may occur, the parent will always accept the child again.  The parent will not stop loving the child.  It may be true that there is a difficulty there, a burden, a strain, a suffering, but that is your child.  A good parent would never turn their face away from their child just because their child made a mistake.  Parents know that children are immature with very little discrimination.  They are learning, and it’s the parents’ job to teach them.  Exactly the same with the student and the teacher.

The teacher knows that students are sentient beings.  According to the Buddha’s teaching, all sentient beings are suffering.  They all wish to be happy, but they do not know how to make the causes of happiness occur.  They don’t understand cause-and-effect relationships.  So isn’t it to be expected that mistakes will be made?  Of course mistakes will be made. It’s only reasonable and logical.  So the teacher would never hold it against the student.  That relationship is like the Buddha’s compassion, all pervasive, beginningless, conditionless, without end.  That is the nature of that love.

So when we look to the student’s commitment, or samaya, to the teacher, we should look to see the same depth, the same bonding, the same beauty in that commitment as well.  And that commitment should be a joy on both parts.  Less the flavor of duty and responsibility than the flavor of love.  The love between the student and teacher is like the Buddha’s compassion.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Sweet Intention



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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

A New Wind

From a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo originally tweeted on April 21, 2011:

For the last two to three days I’ve felt a change in the wind. As some of you know I have taken time off to heal. In these last days I realize I have not worked so hard at it. But I’ve been reading about people who have had similar challenges and have broken through into better balance. And they seem happy and engaged. The stories of how their lives are remind me so much of my own, and their beginnings seem to be like mine. I feel very inspired by these courageous Tribal people, yet I also feel guilty, and disappointed in myself. I see that I have been waiting for something, someone to heal and re-inspire me, unconsciously. For this I am ashamed, for I myself have allowed my mind to fall into a disempowered state. The last three to four years have been devastating and I’ve let myself down by letting them take my confidence, courage, hope. I see that I have begun to feel that I cannot help others, have no strength to do so. I have allowed fear to rule my life. And I’ve been keeping this to myself, just waiting for the cure. How ridiculous! There is healing all around. But I did not reach for it, I just let others decide if I was worth anything or not. For some reason my mind is like a mirror, I absorb what others tell/show me about myself. When with my Lineage and teacher I feel good. But around gossip and hurt, negativity, being put down constantly by ordinary view – it just knocks me to the ground.

I have, as you know, also been greatly concerned with the condition of our Earth Mother, and the rampant poisoning of her precious body. So I call out night and day for her relief from suffering, and for all her children. But have not done one thing to help myself. Therefore I’ve let not only myself, but all creation down. I am deeply ashamed. I am working now to see what can be done for me.

Since my guru Kyabje His Holiness Penor Rinpoche found and recognized me, and well before, I saw how much people were suffering, mostly spiritually. So even as a teenager I tried to help others. And others were drawn naturally to come to me. After the recognition I understood why and took off with my feet already running. That was, sadly late in life, I was a mother, etc, so I could not just run off to India, although I did go to be taught, and many teachers have come to teach me Buddha Dharma. I never learned how to nurture myself. So when others knock me down I have a hard time getting back up. Maybe because of my ugly childhood, but I only blame myself.

I worry about others, and must help in my intended way. I am seeing that we are connected to Earth and it matters very much that we take care of ourselves and each other. We think the Japanese radiation is ruining Earth or maybe pollution, so many things are happening. But here is the truth: we live in and on the Earth, our Mother and the Earth also lives within us! As do the Sun, Moon, Stars, all elements! We live within each other, and are one human family. So how can Japan’s problems happen? War? Pollution? Because we feel separate from it all and each other. We even become separated from our own minds and hearts. A shame we were taught badly by teachers with nothing but ordinary view, but we have. Thus we must seek connection, wisdom and truth. I’m going to use what I have been given, and seek more. I must lead myself out of this sorrow, and keep on learning and growing. Oh, true, I’ve built the Temple, a bunch of powerful Stupas, taught a lot. But I’m not dead yet, so I cannot let fear rule. It is compassion, responsibility, connection I must go to, to pacify this hard time. How? I don’t know yet. But there is a change in the wind, I feel it, hear it, smell it and feel I can trust it. Come with me, we all need to learn, search, pray, and love. Because a new wind is coming. And I feel it. Kye HO!



Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Precious Gifts

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

I like reading my followers and meeting many kind hearted people out there. It nourishes me , too, that connection. I feel the love. So I come bearing gifts of compassion, community, and Dharma.


I feel the ripple of union with you all and thank you for your friendship. If I can help you that’s the best. Or you can help me, even that, but I’d rather it were you. Plus, since we are one, it’s got to be that way. That’s the way it is.

Silly beach talk from me to you. Although you already had it, and it was born and accomplished. I love you.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

We the People

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

Tons of people partying now, paying crazy prices for the Superbowl.
The poor and hungry are still hungry. The homeless have no homes.

I feel ashamed. So much money to entertain the “haves.” While the poor weep, we mindlessly party. Chips? Pizza? Not food groups. Hunger needs real food.

Does USA still have a heart? I can’t tell. But I see the eyes of the poor, hungry, cold and they haunt me. Where is the love?

It is hard to celebrate America’s games while so many are in dire need. Are we celebrating the great divide? Some get seats, others not! When did American values get turned upside down? Wait. I remember. Not worth blaming. Only worth fixing.

Anyway, I once wrote songs about the truth.

So we feed and clothe the poor and sing our songs, desperately praying for relief. For their sake –  we the people.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved.