A Nontraditional Chod Practice to Establish a Sacred View

An excerpt from the Mindfulness workshop given by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo in 1999

Before I ever learned about the Buddha dharma, I actually used to do a practice that my teachers have told me was a natural kind of Chöd.  What I would do is contemplate on different body parts and it took me months and months and months to do this. I practiced it for months because I felt like the deeper I went into it, the more involved it became.  I would think about a certain body part, like my feet, and I would say, “Thinking of these feet in one way, here are their limitations,” and it’s easy to see what the limitations of feet are.  You can’t walk on fire with them.  Well, not most of us.  You can’t walk on water with them – not most of us either.  There are so many things you can’t do with your feet, but there are also many things that you can do with your feet.  So thinking of feet in those ways, I would see all of the limitations of feet, being used as they are presently being used, and then I would think about all the possible ways that feet could be of benefit to beings.  How could my feet be of use?  That’s what I want.  I want my feet to be of use.  So I would think, “How can my feet be of use?  Well, I can go to people that need me with my feet.  I can go to do some meditation.  I can make my body go and comfort someone that’s sick or feed someone that’s hungry through moving my feet.”

After I had examined both the down side and the opportunity associated with feet, I would then practice this kind of deep offering, and I would make many prayers.  I would say, “I offer my feet to (back then I didn’t say Buddhas and bodhisattvas), Absolute Nature. I offer my feet to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in order that they might be used to benefit sentient beings.  Other than that, they have no meaning for me.”  I would practice that until I felt like I had given up my feet and they were no longer mine; they were offerings.  I went through my entire body.  Then I found that that wasn’t enough, so I went through all my emotions.  And then I found that wasn’t enough, so I went through all the different ways of thinking and attributes of mind.  I would see the potential of each and I would see the downfall of each and I would contemplate on that very, very carefully.  Then I would spend a great deal of time offering that particular quality or attribute or body part to be used for the benefit of sentient beings, to be used to accomplish some good.

It seemed to me that, generally speaking, the body is a marvelous thing, but if it’s not accomplishing any good, it’s kind of limited, so it seemed logical and reasonable to me to want to offer all of my limitations, all of my ordinary perceptions, all of my attachments in the hope that every part of me would be used to benefit sentient beings.

Think about your speech.  Speech is a wonderful thing; it’s an amazing thing.  It’s one of those human attributes that make it possible for us to teach and learn, so it makes it possible for us to practice Dharma.  So although speech is an amazing thing, what do we use our speech for?  For the most part, we use our speech to help us suffer.  For the most part, our speech is like vomit coming out of our mouths.  What I mean by that is, the stuff that comes out of our mouth often is not connected to any thought anywhere.  We use our speech for blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and yet this precious thing could be used to teach Dharma.  This precious capability could be used to receive teachings of Dharma.  How amazing!

Practicing this kind of nontraditional Chöd was when I really learned about speech.  That was really important.  When I learned about speech, I found out that if I were really to offer my speech and be constantly mindful of its power, constantly mindful of this blessing, and if I really, ultimately offered my speech to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas, that instead their holy speech might be here.  That makes the speech worth something.  That makes it powerful.

I used to spend a lot of time considering the pros and cons, the limitations and the attributes of different aspects of what I considered ‘myself,’ and eventually, after offering all my parts and all my qualities and all my different attributes, at that point I felt that something was changed.  I had done this so deeply that I got into the habit of thinking like this, to the point where, when it comes to benefiting sentient beings, I don’t have to make that choice because it’s already been made.  I don’t own this stuff.  It’s already given away.  I developed this habit of constantly offering, and I’m telling you about the way that I did this is not so that you can say, “Ooh, aah, wasn’t she a great practitioner!” I’m not a great practitioner by any means.  What I’m telling you is that as a Westerner, even if we don’t have perfect translations, even if we haven’t accumulated all the teachings, even if it seems to us strange to practice Chöd in a way where we boil stuff and offer it and all those things, even if we’ve never heard of that teaching, it is still possible for us to practice the same principles and to establish a sacred view. It’s still possible.

I feel like my main job is to speak to Westerners because Westerners have a particular outlook, a particular take on things, and I think one of the greatest blessings that I have is that I’m a Westerner and I think like you.  I really do think exactly like you, so maybe I can help you, not just to follow the books by rote, not just to repeat everything like a magpie, but maybe instead to practice more deeply.  Maybe I can help you practice in such a way that the practice becomes married with your life, with your body, with your speech, with your mind, with your consciousness, until they are so one that it’s like mixing milk with water.  That is how practice becomes potent.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

The Happiness Machine


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

Sometimes the ordained have problems with desire. When you take on robes, it doesn’t mean that desire ceases. Why not make that desire meaningful? You can offer desire to the Three Precious Jewels. It’s not a big secret that you’re feeling it. Use it as an offering! It is the most profound and auspicious offering. Of course, this is true for lay people as well. All the ego-clinging that you participate in can be offered. But what do you do instead? How many precious minutes do you waste? You sit there and think about how profound your understanding of the Dharma is, and you juggle your insights in the air. Aren’t you just continuing the habitual tendency of perceiving phenomenal reality according to you? You use your insights to increase your ego-clinging. Maybe you’re doing it right now, contriving your own version of the insight you think I want you to have. What you are not doing is offering your perception to the Three Precious Jewels. You aren’t, are you? You forgot. With this practice, you can break through the seduction of phenomenal existence. It is a way to break the cycle of desire and ego inflation. It is a way to awaken to the Nature. If you did that and nothing else, you would be an excellent practitioner, and you would achieve the auspicious result.

How can you break the cycle? If you remember just three times during the course of one day, three minutes of generosity, that’s a start. If you lose it after a minute, don’t give up. Keep climbing back on. When you fall off the horse, climb back on. That’s how you establish generosity in your mind. Write yourself a note. Put it on all your favorite places: your mirror, refrigerator, CD player. Whenever you turn on your CD player, you’ll remember to offer the experience of sound. A little at a time, day by day, you can have that experience. I have had the experience of going for a walk and doing that for an extended period of time. Each time I sensed the experience of perception, I would turn it over immediately, turn it over.

Your habit is to take a perception, hold on to it, and make something. Have you noticed that? But you can come between that moment of perceptual experience and making something. It’s tricky, and you have to practice it, but you can learn to put a little space in there. And you can use that space to turn it over, to dedicate it, to offer it. You can develop a repeatable experience. It can even become automatic. Just remember: the moment you experience your own perception, avoid forming it into a superstructure that enhances your ego. Turn it over, turn it over, offer it. What will happen? Your whole personality will change. Your behavior will change. It will have to change—because your behavior has been based on desire and on inflating your ego. Not only that, but if you engage in this kind of practice for an extended period, you can have something like a blissful experience. I say this with dread in my heart because I know what’s going to happen. You’ll go for a walk. You’ll put some minimal effort into this practice, and you’ll contrive for yourself an amazing, blissful experience. And then you’ll seize upon that experience and have a more meaningful self because of it. Don’t do that! Just engage in the practice and continually make that offering. You’ll find there’s a happiness that comes with it. There’s a joy, a spontaneous feeling of joy. But don’t cling to it. The minute you see yourself sensing the feeling, you’ve got to turn that over too. You simply make an offering. That experience of joy is an offering.  See all your connections with the world through the five senses as a kapala filled with precious jewels. But don’t contrive something out of it. Instead, find the subtle moment right before the experience. Then, once you find it, simply use that moment to make the offering.

I hope all this is helpful to you. I hope you will use it. This is the kind of teaching that can change your life. It can change everything about your practice. I don’t think it is arrogant to say that. It is my personal experience. This practice, I think, has contributed more to my well-being than anything, even though, if I tried, I could find reasons to be unhappy. But for me, this practice has been like a happiness machine. I feel it has deepened my mind. I feel it has made my mind more spacious, more relaxed, more peaceful. I feel it has created a lot of merit. I visualize an altar in my mind at which I can constantly make offerings. You should think of your consciousness as an altar—and all phenomenal experience as the offering. The instant you decide that you must have the best apples, make those apples count for something. Offer them and everything that is delicious and beautiful and satisfying. Offer as well all experience, in its purest form. Dedicate the value of that offering to the end of suffering for all sentient beings. You have entered the path of ultimate happiness.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Warriorship on the Path

mindfulness-istock-prv

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

The theme that we will work on today is working through one’s five poisons. I think it’s an important one. And I think what we should do is take our time and pick through it.  That doesn’t mean working through one’s five poisons.  That means getting rid of them.  In a sense when we take to the path, we think that, ‘Oh, I am going to be like the picture of the Buddhist where I get to sit on top of the Himalayan Mountains somewhere all by myself, and eventually people will climb up and ask me profound questions.’  But it really doesn’t work out like that.  When we enter upon the path we want to go forward with the most exotic practices and wear the most exotic robes and collect all the implements and learn how to use them.  I know there is the tendency to want to get into the customs and trappings and surroundings of Dharma. But really the first thing that should be done when we enter onto the path is to take hold of and begin to think of ourselves as a warrior regarding our own poisons.

Now when we say “warrior” everybody thinks they can’t be very Buddhist, because Buddhists are peaceful.  Well, Buddhists are peaceful.  We’ve never had a war that I know of.  We’ve been attacked, but we’ve never had a war.  There is no other religion that can say that.  Every other religion has brought about war and that has never happened in Buddhism. Yet we are warriors. And we consider ourselves warriors in the sense that we must take to task that which prevents us from attaining liberation, because the goals here are very different.  In other religions, there are lots of materialistic ideas about possessions, like how much land a certain religion should have or how many pieces of gold they should collect.  There is a certain materialism in it.  But with Buddhism, there is really no materialism.  In truth, students will give their last dime to make an offering to the three precious jewels.  There are many stories of practitioners whose generosity and unthinking faith—no, not unthinking, more like spontaneous faith—is so strong that they would offer even their last garment at the altar to give to the three precious jewels knowing that it is so much more important to gather the merit of making that kind of offering. That it is important to have done it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Making Offerings: His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

Offerings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right in Front of You

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Lama Never Leaves”

What I would like to talk about today is our opportunity right here.  We have a tremendous opportunity.  Whenever lamas come to this temple, they say, “This is a living jewel in America.”  That’s what they say.  They say that this temple is a living jewel; that it’s the real thing. They use phrases like that.  This is really Dharma; this is the right stuff. They also say that we have all the objects of support here.  We don’t really know what that means, but we’re glad we have it.  So I’ll tell you.

We have these visible objects of support, meaning that, for instance, right in front of us, we have the cosmological display of the mind of enlightenment.  That is the sand mandala that remains there.  His Holiness [Penor Rinpoche] allowed it to remain so that we can have with us that display and take refuge and meditate and be mindful of that and to learn.  It is the very display of the mind of enlightenment.  Each object in the mandala has specific meaning and so we are delighted to have this.

Then we also have beautiful statues.  The statues are not specifically the objects of refuge, but they are physical supports for the objects of refuge.  In other words, our eyes are allowed to rest on these objects. Our eyes are allowed to, for instance, study the hand positions, the objects that are being held and to learn from them the meaning of the objects, because each of the objects that any of the statues hold has to do with a quality of the Enlightened Buddha.  So each and every object that is held has to do with quality or maybe in some cases activity, like in the case of, statue of Mahakala that may hold a great lasso. He lassoes the negativity and pacifies itSo it has to do with the qualities and the activities of the enlightened mind.  We ourselves use the same images in our practice so that we can practice these very qualities and these very activities.  For instance, if we generate ourselves as Manjushri, we then are holding the sword that cuts the darkness of ignorance.

Then we have an altar where we can make many offerings.  We try to make the offerings as extensive and as beautiful and as exceptional as possible.  Maybe we wouldn’t think to have so many flowers in our own home.  Maybe we wouldn’t think to offer so many bowls of rice. Why would you want to have so much rice or so much water or so many candles? Why would you put so many sweets and delicacies and things on the cabinets like that?  You wouldn’t do that in your own home.  And that reminds you that here we are in this amazing temple with these objects of refuge and we are making many offerings.  It reminds us that these are offerings; and we again, in some subtle way, offer them when we see them being offered that way.  So that is a condition by which we can practice virtue and gather merit.  Anytime we make an offering to an altar, there is a great deal of merit in that, and our minds become more purified and more virtuous.  And so that is a cause for happiness.

Here are the statues. They’re not just ordinary statues, that is to say, lumps that are formed to look like the Buddha.  Each of them has been empowered, and there are specific mantras that are within each one of them. Usually there are mantras that are general and there are mantras that are specific to the deity.  Inside there is a central channel, as though it were a living deity where the central channel is the beginning emanation of the deity’s form.  Inside each and every one of them is a  a copper tube, or maybe it can be wood, like the spine of the deity.  And so in every single one, there are profound prayers and many offerings.  Some of them have relics in them.  Some of them have jewels, no really fabulous diamonds, so there’s no sense stealing any of them.  We actually had somebody in Poolesville steal a ring from the stupa once and he lost his finger—the finger with the ring on it— so he returned the ring.  You don’t want to do thatYou want to think of whatever offerings are in there as being the very jewel of enlightenment and that that is something precious.

By the lama’s power, each and every statue is empowered; that is to say, the lama generates the deity and invites the deity to remain.  And so the deity actually remains as this statue.  That doesn’t mean Guru Rinpoche is here and not there, or there and not here.  It doesn’t mean that, but it does mean that these statues should be treated like living Buddhas.  And that is the cause for great merit.  There are many practices that are done, particularly during Losar [Tibetan new year], where we take a statue of the Buddha and we carefully wash it and say many prayers. We say, “Although the Buddha does not need washing, by this washing may all sentient beings be cleansed of the suffering of non-virtue.” And so the cleansing of the Buddha is a tremendous virtuous offering to make, you know, to cleanse the Buddha with saffron water and to offer the Buddha a cloak.  Although the Buddha is never cold, one would offer that cloak in the hopes that, “By this offering may all sentient beings be free of the suffering of want, of nakedness or of cold, or of not having any clothing, and may they be clothed eventually with the gorgeous array of Dharma.”  So we make these kinds of wishing prayers.

When we make these wishing prayers for others, we are making them for ourselves, as well.  In fact, there’s almost no need to include ourselves in those prayers, although we certainly may, and many of the prayers have words like that, “May I and all beings…,” or “May all beings and myself included…,” like that.  But whenever we make prayers for the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings, for the end of their suffering, for their continued advance upon the path, then surely you must know that by the merit of that, we also are accumulating a great deal of merit to do that very same thing. So that merit is ours as well.   In fact, when you accomplish something meritorious, by dedicating that merit, the minute you dedicate it, you can no longer burn it up in an adverse way.  It’s like you put it in the bank.  You can’t spend it anymore.  And even though it goes to benefit all sentient beings, it’s still in your bank.  It’s awful we have to explain it that way, but ours is a materialistic society, and that’s how we understand things.

So whenever we commit some kind of virtuous act, we should immediately think, “This I dedicate to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.”  Whenever we go round and round the stupas—even trying to relieve our own suffering, which many of us do and should really, because we have had cures around the Stupas—we have had amazing turn-arounds in people’s mental states, their habitual tendencies, even mental illness.  We’ve had amazing events come about through circumambulating the stupas and making many prayers.  The minute we do that, we should absolutely dedicate that to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings.

When we pray for our own health, we should not do so without praying for the health of others as well.  When we pray for our own happiness, we should think, “Oh, here I am in this land of great fortune; and here I am securely, hopefully, upon the path, and here I am in front of the objects of refuge and yet I can be so miserable. If this is possible, then how much more miserable than I am must other sentient beings be—those who have no food, who have no home, who are in war, who experience earth changes or tsunami or terrible events.  Here I am in comfort and I am suffering, then therefore I pray that their suffering will cease also.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved
 

Going Deeper

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Western Chod”

I thought about my ears in the same way. I would listen to some music, and I really like music so I could become hypnotized by the music; I could become entranced. I could become sort of addicted to music, and maybe that’s all that I think about is music. In my head is always this music. Have you had it happen where you get a song stuck in your head and you think it will drive you out of your mind?  That kind of thing. So what if I were really to do that with music and just remain in that “music is so wonderful” state. You might think the benefit of that would be that it could be relaxing. It could be pleasurable. Maybe if I shared the mood music with someone else, it might make them feel temporarily better. But, ultimately if I use my ears to just give myself some kind of narcotic experience like that, what good are they?  I am going to stay in samsara and I’m never going to get out. It’s not going to produce any real result.

Ultimately, I came to understand, here in this day and age, that my ears are precious because I can hear the voice of my teacher. I can hear the prayers. I can hear the sound of mantra.  So my ears became to me precious; but I’ve also understood that in truth while they may be a beautiful and precious animal, they are a work horse. They should not dominate me. I must dominate them.So I am thinking like that even with the five senses. I learned how to renounce them and how to experience them as something that will lead to ultimate benefit rather than to something that is temporary.

I thought that way about touch as well. Touch can be very seductive. We can live our entire lives wishing nothing but to be in love and to touch our loved ones, to have that wonderful sensual type of experienceMany of us have the kind of lives where we simply go from one of those experiences to another.  It can be very seductive.  Touch is good. I can comfort my baby.  I can sooth someone who is not feeling well. I can make someone that I can touch temporarily happy.  But I came to understand that touch has its limitations and that it can be seductive.  I came to understand ultimately it is touch that enables me to turn my page. I can tell where the pages are. Touch tells me how to get to the prayer that I want. So I have come to understand that touch is another animal that can be ridden and that can bring about benefit.

In every case, from the different parts of my body to the whole total sense of my identity to all of my senses as I understood them at that time, even to the external circumstances of my life like the clothing that I wore, or the food that I ate, the car that I drove, the house that I lived in, all of these things that I examined, I thought of in the same way as having some temporary benefit, but that ultimately whatever one receives one will also lose. And that these things are very limited.

You might say to yourself, “Well, gee, did you develop a kind of cynicism?  Did you just sit around making yourself miserable all day long?”  And I have to tell you that, in truth, there are moments when I felt the grief of sentient beings. I recommend doing this, and I don’t recommend letting yourself off easy. It is like exercise. You know that if you don’t put any weight in your hand, but you just keep going like that [pumping your arm], maybe that muscle will get some blood in it. But if you take some weight in your hand and you really think about it, and you really work it, you will develop a very tuned, very strong muscle. So it is like that. I have to tell you that I would spend some days thinking about the suffering of sentient beings and it would not be happy. It would be really sad.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Offering the Body: A Practical Approach

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Western Chod”

Then I began to examine parts of my body.  I thought to myself, “Well, if this absolute nature is the only thing that makes sense, if this absolute nature is the only thing that seems precious and worthy and noble to me, and everything else that I find in this cycle of death and rebirth seems chancy at best, even when it ends happy, it seems to me that it’s nothing to take safety from.” So I examined like that. What about my body?  I take a lot of safety from body. After all, if I didn’t have it, where would I be?  So I examined my body, and I tried to examine it piece by piece so that I wouldn’t leave anything out.

I remember that I started with my feet. I thought that it was best to start down and work up. So I started with my feet. I really tried to do this purely, and this is my recommendation: If you want to practice in this way, try to do this as logically and purely and as dispassionately as possible. You won’t be satisfied with your practice if you don’t really cover all the bases. It is really necessary to go deeply into this.

So I thought about my feet. I thought, “Well, what can my feet do? What are they good for?”  Well, I like shoes a lot. They can wear shoes. So that’s one good thing that feet can do. I can wear shoes that match my outfit. Isn’t that wonderful? Yeah. So what’s the next thing that feet can do? Feet can walk. So if my baby’s crying and he needs me, I can use these things to walk over and pick him up and help him. This is good. Feet are good. We are getting good now. Feet are good. They have toenails on them. We can paint those. They can match my outfit, too. More good news. So what else… We can roller skate with feet. I am personally addicted to foot massage. So we have that. That’s a good thing. Feet can take me anywhere I can go within reason. Within walking distance, feet can take me. They press the pedals on the car. Feet are good for that also. It sounds silly. I went through everything I could think of that feet were good for.

Then I thought to myself, “Well considering all the sufferings in the world, considering what I have thought about already, what I have contemplated, what is it that feet can’t do?”  Well, if my child became very ill, really ill, there’s nothing that my feet can do about that. In a way they could contribute. They could maybe carry him to a doctor, but ultimately they can’t really do anything. Then I thought to myself,”Well, if I saw somebody suffering right in front of me, what could my feet do?”  Well, they could contribute again. They could take me to that person, but ultimately my feet don’t solve any problems.

I thought to myself, ”Well, these things are really limited then. I really kind of developed a feeling of “so what” about my feet, like non-attachment, like it didn’t seem to me like I should feel about this part of my body as though I were attached. So I thought to myself, “Well, if these feet are so limited, what would be better?  What would be better here instead of my feet?” I thought to myself, “If somehow that absolute nature, if somehow that primordial wisdom nature were here in this place instead of these feet, that would be something. That would be something.”

I would actually meditate on my feet, and I would go from the skin to the muscle to the tissue inside of it, to the bones, down to the very cellular level. And I would think, “This I offer to this absolute nature; and I pray that in exchange somehow the blessing of that nature would be here and that where I am, there would be some comfort in the world.” I used to pray that. And every single day I would pray that with such longing because I took time to meditate on the faults of cyclic existence and the nobility and the blessing of that primordial wisdom nature, and I could see the difference. I was so moved. Here in this world there is nothing of that. There’s only the ordinary stuff. I would pray so hard I felt like this whole thing is on my shoulders. I really took this responsibility for everything. I just prayed so hard that somehow this absolute nature would be here.

I felt like I completely renounced my feet. I looked at my feet and they looked like something else. They became to me very foreign. Suddenly I looked at my feet, and I thought, “I’ve given them up. I don’t own them anymore.” If someone were to say to me, “Would you walk over here to help me?” There’s not even any point of saying yes or no. I’ve already offered my feet. They’re going to do it. So I feel this sense of non-attachment, or the realization that my feet are nothing to cling to.

I would meditate like that until I felt really satisfied that I had given these things up. Sometimes it would take a couple of days. Sometimes it would take a week. Sometimes it would take a month for just one element. And I would go from my feet to my ankles to my legs to my torso to my upper body and my head, as well as different external circumstances of my life. Like, for instance, my car. What good is my car?  What can it actually do?  Drive. Big deal! What can it actually do to benefit the world? That kind of thing. I thought like that.

I would spend this whole time of preparation simply getting ready for what I didn’t know. I really didn’t have a sense of what the work was going to be, but I knew that this was the truth and that it had to be done this way. I really knew that what I was meditating on was the absolute truth.

So I went through all the different parts of my body. In each case, everyday I would not be satisfied to stop my practice until tears had come to my eyes. Sometimes I would really cry. I would sometimes cry for the condition of other sentient beings, or I would sometimes cry that this primordial nature is so noble and yet none us have awakened to it. It seemed so pitiful to me that we are so close yet so far away to this nobility that is our true nature. Sometimes I would cry about that. Sometimes I would just cry as a kind of offering.

I would offer my feet. “Please accept my feet. Please don’t let this be all there is. Please don’t let this be the whole story. It can’t be where we leave ourselves. It just can’t be like this.” So I was crying, “Please accept these feet as an offering. Please, in exchange, let that absolute nature be here.” I would never be satisfied with my practice until I was actually crying or I felt that I had really understood to the depths of my heart that this was the way it had to be, and that this was a kind of necessary generosity that was performed for the sake of beings.

 Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Then I Asked The Dakinis: From “Mother of Knowledge”

yeshe-tsogyal-sergey-noskov

The following is respectfully quoted from “Mother of Knowledge” translated by Tarthang Tulku and J. Wilhelms:

Yeshe Tsogyal recounts entering the Mandala of the Dakinis:

“Eight cemeteries formed a ring, rimmed by walls of beautiful lotuses. Predatory flesh-eating birds and wild blood-drinking animals wandered about, and demons and demonesses, roaming in great numbers, stood out vividly against the landscape.

“Although the beings there did not attack me or threaten me, neither did they make friendly overtures. As I advanced upwards, I passed along a path that circled in a zigzag fashion three times, and ended at a door. Within were many dākinīs whose external appearance was that of women but they were of many different colors. They were carrying offerings to present to the principal dākinī.

“Some of the dākinīs had cut their bodies into small pieces with razor-sharp knives and prepared offerings of their own flesh; others were giving their streaming blood. Some were giving their eyes, some their noses. Some were giving their tongues, still others, their ears. Some were giving their hearts, others were giving their viscera. Some were giving their outer muscles, some their inner organs. Still others were giving their bones and marrow.

“Some were giving their life energy, others their breath, and still others, their heads. Some had cut off their limbs, and so on. They had cut up their own bodies and had prepared offerings of them for the principal dākinī, who appeared Yab-Yum before them. The offerings were then blessed as signs of their faith.

“Then I asked the dākinīs: ‘Why do you suffer in this way? To what purpose? If one lives in accordance with the Dharma until death, is that not sufficient?’ And they answered me:

‘Dear woman of irresolute mind!
The compassion of a great teacher who has all the qualifications may only be available briefly.
If you do not offer whatever he wishes when he looks upon you,
later nothing you do may lead to fulfillment.
If you procrastinate, obstacles will multiply.

‘Your insight and certainty may last only a moment;
natural and spontaneous faith may not stay long.
If you do not make the offering when Pristine Awareness arises,
later nothing you do may lead to fulfillment.
If you procrastinate, obstacles will multiply.

‘Now, at least you have a human body–you may not have it long.
The chance to practice Dharma seldom arises;
if you do not make offerings when you meet a qualified teacher–
if you procrastinate–obstacles will multiply.

‘The teacher may only be here briefly;
only now can you be certain to enter the door of the secret teachings.
If you do not offer yourself
when you have access to the highest Dharma–
if you procrastinate–obstacles will multiply.’

“Thus they spoke, and I felt ashamed. Then, as each dākinī presented her offering, the Vajra Yoginī appeared before her, snapping her fingers. Instantly each supplicant was healed and became as before. After requesting a regular Dharma practice from the principle dākinī, each one returned to her own meditation place.”

 

 

Chöd: by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

Vajrayogini

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche offered during retreat at Palyul Ling in New York:

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

Heart Teaching HT22

About Guru Yoga 

In the beginning of the practice, try to watch your mind and thoughts.  If you have any afflictive emotions or negative thoughts, try to abandon them.  Then try to give rise to virtuous thoughts, such as devotion, faith and inclination; and in that way try to have the right intention.

Guru Yoga practice is something that we need to carry through until we attain enlightenment.  Some think that we just need to do the Guru Yoga practice during Ngӧndro and the Four Foundations practice, but other than that, we don’t need it.  We should not think that way.  To attain complete enlightenment, Buddhahood, we have to completely depend upon the Guru’s instructions, and rely on the Guru.  As we apply that instruction and teaching into practice, then we could have that fruition.  That is why the Guru Yoga practice is important.  So, without fabrication in one’s mind, abide in the great unelaborated empty nature, and carry through with the supplication prayers.

About Chӧd – Cutting through thoughts and afflictive emotions 

In Ngӧndro, there actually is a Chӧd practice.  Before we didn’t have enough conditions to really do it.  In general, you do the practice with damarus and bells.  Evening is a good time to do some of the Chӧd practices.  At that hour the chant master and other lamas do the Chӧd practices.  As you do the Chӧd, follow along and chant the tunes together.  And when you use your big damarus and bells, follow together as a group in sync, instead of some doing it this way and some doing it that way, which sounds very strange.  Doing it haphazardly like that is a joke.  So always try to do the practice together with everything working together.

The Chӧd practice in the Namchö is only one page, so it is easy and good in that way.  The Tibetan word, “Chӧd,” means cutting through all the afflictive emotions and thoughts, and then establishing the nature of emptiness.  In the Chӧd visualization, as one chants with faith, everything is cut through in the nature of emptiness.

When you say the second Phet, your consciousness shoots out onto the ground as Vajravarahi (Dorje Phagmo), the size of a pea.  When you say Phet again, then Vajravarahi becomes about the size of a finger.  After that when you say Phet, then you visualize Vajravarahi about the size of a cubit.  After that when you say Phet, Vajravarahi becomes huge, filling all space.

In her right hand, Vajravarahi holds a curved knife and in her left hand, she holds a skull cup.  She has all the bone ornaments.  Your consciousness is manifested or transformed into Vajravarahi, and your body is like a corpse.  When you say Phet again, Vajravarahi takes the curved knife and with just one motion your skull becomes a skull cup in front.  Then Vajravarahi with the curved knife places your corpse inside the skull cup.  Then dualistic mind and negative thoughts in the form of bubbles are purified, and everything transforms into the five nectars and five meats, which is very pure substance.  The skull cup becomes as huge as three thousand myriads of universes.  The nectar is whitish with a radiant reddish hue.  Steam rises from the nectar, which symbolizes the five desirable objects of the five senses.  Underneath that skull cup, there are three skull cups, two dry and one wet, which symbolize the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya.    Beneath that, wisdom fire burns. As it burns, everything within the skull cup heats up, purifying all the afflictive emotions and dualistic mind and impure substances, transforming everything into wisdom nectar that fills three thousand myriads of universes.

Then after saying two Phets, instantly Vajravarahi, holds a golden spoon in her right hand and a skull cup in her left.  Then from that skull cup she ladles nectar and pours it, making offerings first to the lamas, and then to the meditational deities, and then the dakinis, and so forth.  After that when one says Phet, Vajravarahi makes offerings to all the local beings and the owners of the land, and so forth.  And then after saying another Phet, Vajravarahi makes offerings to all sentient beings of the six realms.

As one makes all these offerings, one can purify all the debts and loans and negativities from past lifetimes.  After making offerings to all those beings that are owners of sickness, demonic forces, creators of obstacles and negative forces, they are completely satisfied and pleased.  In that way by making offerings to all the gurus and meditational deities and dakinis, one could have complete accomplishment and receive all the blessings.  And by making offerings to all the negative forces and all other evil beings, they are completely satisfied and pleased. One feels as though all karmic debts have been repaid, and everything is purified.

At the end when one says Phet, then all the offerings, the objects of the offerings, and the offeror, all three, cease to exist and dissolve into emptiness.  After that one can do all the dedication and aspiration prayers.

 

Incense Offering

The following is a prayer from the Namchö Daily Practice Book from Palyul Ling International:

TSUL TRIM DRI DEN PÖ CHOG DAM PA DI
This pure supreme incense, which bears the scent of pure moral self-discipline,

TING DZIN NGAG DANG CHAG JYAI JYIN LAB KYI
By the blessings of mantra, mudra and samadhi

SANG GYÉ SHING DU PÖ DRI NGED DANG WA
Is offered to the realms of the Buddhas. May this fragrant incense

GYAL WA GYA TSÖI TSOG NAM NYE GYUR CHIG
Completely please and satisfy the ocean-like assembly of Buddhas!

NAMA SARWA TATHAGATA BENZA DUPE PRATITSA PUDZA MEGHA SAMUDRA SA PHA RA NA SAMAYE AH HUNG