Who’s the Captain of Your Ship?

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Essence of Devotion”

The reasons for practice of refuge are known if you understand anything about the horror of cyclic existence.  You look outside and see the suffering.  You look at the way you are conducting yourself and the way your life is set up and the cause and effect relationships you’ve got going here, and you realize it’s just dumb, fruitless, pointless.  There is no future in this.  It’s a dead end.  At that point the mind turns.  That turning is the first step of practicing refuge.  What does it turn toward?  What does it actually turn toward?

Again, you’ve just looked out the window and you’ve looked at yourself, and the first realization is something like, “I don’t know what to do now.  I don’t really know what to do.  I know that something is terribly wrong, but I don’t know how to get out of this.  I don’t know how to leave the party.”  There is a piece of you that understands that you must leave the party.  Part of you still wants to be there.  Part of you likes to play.  Part of you likes to dress up.  Part of you likes to be unconscious of the eventuality of your own discomfort—suffering, death, old age, those things—and of the suffering of others.  We want to be kind of barefoot and ignorant.  Part of us wants that sleep, but another part of us, a stronger part of us, a more certain part of us, understands, “…not enough.  It is not enough.  I’m hungry.  They are hungry.  This is stupid.”  Part of us gets that.

That first turning is the first indication, the first movement, that is required in practicing refuge.  We have to stay kind of absorbed in that turning.  That turning should be practiced every day.  These very thoughts, these very leaving the party thoughts, should be practiced every day.  That’s called turning the mind toward Dharma.

Now we have to look for a way out.  How to leave the party?  The clue is, once again, the first thing we’ve noticed—the suffering and the trickiness and the seductiveness of samsaric existence, or the cycle of death and rebirth.  The cycle of death and rebirth must be addressed.  That’s where the suffering is.  How do we get out of that?  We look at the others suffering.  We look at ourselves suffering.  We look at how foolish we can be and we think, “What is the method?”

Ah ha!  That is the answer!  We need a method.  The answer to that is to look toward those who have actually found the way out of cyclic existence.  In other words, if you want to cross an ocean (and we’re talking about the ocean of suffering, the ocean of death and rebirth, the ocean of samsaric existence),,if you want to cross the ocean of suffering, of course you want to look for a boat.  The boat is the method, isn’t it?  The boat is the method.  Well, wouldn’t you look for a boat?  You’re about to cross an ocean.  There are no planes.  We don’t have planes.  You want to look for a boat, right?  You’re not going to try to swim it, are you?  Swimming it is like saying, “I’d like to be spiritual so I’m just going to be spiritual in my own way and I’ll do my own thing because I’m a really cool guy and I know how to do my own thing.” That’s like saying, “Oh great!  I’m going to cross the ocean of suffering.  Here I go!”  Dive in.  How long do you think you’re going to last?  A little while, but not very long.  Not very long, and the problem with that method is that you often don’t even realize when you’re drowning.

So what we need to do is we need to look for a boat.  No, not a boat. We need to look for a ship.  In fact, if you’re like me, you’re practical and you really want to protect your hide.  You do not wish to cross the ocean of suffering in a rowboat, something weak and puny.  Neither do you wish to cross the ocean of suffering in a boat that has not been proven seaworthy—a very important fact, really an important fact.  If I were to cross an ocean I would want to know that the boat I am in has crossed an ocean many times and is in good repair. And it’s pure, just in the way it was when it was originally capable of crossing an ocean.  We want to know that it’s made it back and forth.  This is proven.  We know we can make it.  Also, if you knew that you were crossing an ocean of suffering with, let’s say, the engineer of the boat, or, let’s say, the guy that swabs the decks…  Wouldn’t you be a little nervous?  I’d be real nervous!  I want to cross the ocean of suffering with the most experienced captain, the one who has crossed the ocean of suffering many times successfully, and returned for me.  That’s who I want to cross with.  I want the big ship.  I want the best ship.  I want to know that the captain has crossed.

So in this way we look for the most excellent method, that has proven again and again and again, to produce enlightenment, to produce realization.  Not an imaginary enlightenment or realization but the one with appropriate signs, the signs that are repeatable, reportable and visible.  Such as the signs that our teachers give us at the times of their death, proof of their realization, and even the signs they give us in their activities during the time of their life.  Only enlightened minds can provide enlightened compassionate results.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo.  All rights reserved


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

What You Must See

Green Tara
Green Tara

From The Spiritual Path:  a Collection of Teachings by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

How do you cultivate compassion? The first step is to open your eyes and look at the nature of suffering. In our culture, we keep ourselves removed from this. The deformed, severely handicapped, or terminally ill are often hidden from view.

There are countries where this is not so. During my trip to India, I was shocked by the poverty, the leprosy, the filth. Every time my cab stopped, someone with stubs where arms had been would stick one in the window. I started to give out all the money I had with me. Soon the driver pulled over and said, “Lady, please stop that. My cab will be mobbed. Besides, you’ll lose all your money, and they’ll still be sick and poor. Even if you buy each of them a meal, they’ll be just as hungry tomorrow.”

His words were a vivid reminder that this type of compassion, though well-meaning, is not the ultimate answer. Hunger and sickness are only two kinds of suffering. Philanthropic compassion may temporarily relieve hunger pangs, but it does not begin to address the causes.

What did the Buddha think when he saw the poor, the decrepit, and the sick? Not merely that they were suffering from poverty, old age, or sickness. With His great wisdom and compassion, He understood that all this suffering results from karma created by desire.

Where does desire come from? From the belief that self-nature is inherently real. From the compulsive tendency of the self to perpetuate itself and to see others as separate and real. This begins a process of attraction and repulsion, action and reaction. A sentient being’s every thought is built around attraction and repulsion. Desire becomes stronger and stronger, reinforcing the belief in “self” and “other” as separate—and in all phenomena as inherently real. From this, karma arises. The process continues for eons and eons of cyclic existence.

Have you ever suffered from loneliness or depression? Have you experienced violence or poverty? A pro-longed illness? The heartbreak of divorce? Have you seen deliberately deformed children? Lepers? Have you visited a slaughterhouse? According to the Buddha, there are states, or realms, in which beings suffer much more horribly.

The forms we take in these realms result from the qualities of our minds. If we are filled with hatred or anger, we are born in a hell realm. How can this happen? It is not difficult to understand. When you are filled with hate, are you not in your own private hell? We have all gone through periods of intense anger or hatred in which we found excuses to get more angry. Each of us has had moments in such private hells. If your mind is capable of producing a nightmare, rebirth in a hell realm is a possibility.

There also exists a state or realm populated by what the Buddha called “hungry ghosts.” Have you ever gone through a period of feeling terribly needy? You needed love, approval, or nourishment so badly that you were in a state of constant, restless despair. Yet when people reached out to you, they were unable to get through. It is the hungry ghost realm in which similar needy states of mind congregate.

According to the Buddha, when beings die, they experience the intermediate state between incarnations and are then reborn in a form appropriate to the qualities or the karma of their minds. If they had a great deal of hatred, that hatred will clearly manifest itself and influence their next rebirth. If they were greedy, that greed will influence their rebirth. If they had the karma of ignorance, that ignorance will determine their rebirth.

Even if you had every good intention and all the material means by which to support beings throughout their lives, you could not do anything about the process of rebirth. You cannot change what is inevitable. You cannot influence future lives because you cannot permanently change minds and hearts. Thus continues the cycle of suffering. And that is why we embrace, with all our hearts, a pure path to bring about the ultimate end of suffering.

Think Before You Leap

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

For those of us practicing the Buddha Dharma, there is the tendency to act and practice like new practitioners.  When I say new practitioners, I don’t mean practitioners that have been practicing for only a week or six months or two years.  We act like a culture of new practitioners, which we are.  The Buddha Dharma has only recently been introduced into our culture.  Our culture is more determined by Judeo-Christian thought than it is by Eastern thought and so many elements of our culture do not comfortably embrace the way the path is taught, including our language, and most especially the way that we live – our life style.  We are in a culture that is materialistic and extremely competitive.  These two ideas of competition and materialism are taught to us as virtues from childhood and so “collecting things” or “going somewhere” are very pivotal ways of viewing our progress through life.  For those of us on the path, that becomes somewhat difficult, and we have to translate what is basically innate Eastern thought into a western context or culture.   I think that I am good at that because I was born an American and I think that’s helpful, if one has some understanding of the path.

Our problem as we face either beginning on the path of Buddhadharma or continuing on the path, is the sense that the path has to become really married or bonded with the way that we utilize our mind and our perception. We have not really been able to do this yet, even if we’ve been practicing for some time, even if we are wearing the robes, even if we have a daily practice that we are extremely committed to.  It tends to be the case that we don’t actually bond or marry with the path in a way that is truly intimate and lasting.  Unfortunately, we tend to externalize the path.

What are the reasons for that and how does it manifest?  First of all, in our culture and way of thinking, we externalize everything.  This is not unusual.  Everything that we see is a road in front of us.  Of course this isn’t only typical of our culture.  It’s typical of the way that human beings perceive things altogether, but particularly in this culture we think of things that must be accomplished and things that must be collected.  We find ourselves facing something that is in front of us, a path that is in front of us.  And although the teaching of the BuddhaDharma is extraordinarily different from spiritual and esoteric philosophy as we understand it in this Judeo-Christian society, we are not able to make that transition.  We practice Buddhism like Christians, which is really not how Buddhism ought to be practiced at all.

If we understand the source of our misunderstanding and how it is that we externalize the path, we can begin to repair the damage and begin to rethink and reassess.  The great thing about us is that we can learn.  We are that particular unusual kind of computer, which can learn from its own programming, reassess and reevaluate.  We are capable of that.  If you watch us in our lives, you’d never know it, but we are capable of learning.

If you are practicing a method that did not arise from the mind of the Buddha, from supreme enlightenment, you are not practicing a path that can also result in supreme enlightenment, because the seed and the fruit have to match.  An asparagus plant will not produce an apple.  They have to match.  It’s one of those fundamental, commonsensical, “2 + 2 = 4” kinds of reality that we like to conveniently leave out on a regular basis.

Why do we do that?  Is it because we have a particular shtick that we need to fulfill about what religion is all about?  Is it preconceived notions that we have?  Yes, there are elements of that, that’s true, because we are intellectual people, we have formed ideas that are difficult to change once they are formed.  We have the habit of clinging to ideas almost in the posture that if our ideas were to change, the result would be so mind-blowingly chaotic that surely we would die.  We have this habit of wrapping ourselves around our ideas in a very firm way.    Flexibility, of course, is an unheard-of skill.

That’s certainly one reason why it is difficult for us to think logically about the path.  Another reason why it is so difficult is that, if you really examine us, we have very little familiarity with, or habits geared towards, really thinking something through, from cause to result, in any area of our lives.  We like to take these flying leaps at reality.  We like to take these great plunges thinking, “I want that and I’m here, so jump!”  It’s that kind of thinking.  Just jump!  And jump again!  But heaven forbid, don’t stop and think what cause would produce that result.  We don’t have that habit.

We spend a good deal of our lives incapacitated in certain ways because each one of us has a particular problem to deal with.  Some of us may have confused mental states.  Some of us may have really strange habitual tendencies that produce unhappiness for us again and again.  Many of us engage in patterns that we just can’t seem to shake and they always produce for us these habits that make us unhappy.  When we make ourselves unhappy, we withdraw from that unhappiness and we whine and we blame the faith and we blame the people next to us. We take these flying leaps at our lives without really thinking through any kind of cause and effect relationship.

We have been given definite teachings on what kind of virtue and activities produce happiness, but we don’t want to practice virtue.  We want to take flying leaps. We’re used to it and we don’t want to change.  Regarding the path, it’s the same way.  We see the path as being in front of us.  It has certain characteristics, and so we see ourselves as separate from that and we take a flying leap in that general direction, without thinking out what is original cause, what is the basis, what is the method.  What is the result, and how to really reason that through.  We don’t seem to be able to do that.  We seem to like to take these flying leaps.

Oddly enough, we expect that these dramatic, utterly unfounded and ungrounded flying leaps are going to make us happy. So we spend most of our lives just thrashing and flailing around.

In most regards, we don’t have the habit to understand the relationship between cause and result.  It’s a particular kind of delusion that seems to go hand-in-glove with our human reality.  When it comes time for us to really become intimate with and marry into the path, we look around for some way to do that, and the difficulty is obvious.

For many of us who have been practicing for some time, when we engage in the path we will try to make the path its own satisfaction.  If we understood the basis for the path, and what the fundamental underlying ground of the path actually is, and what the result of practicing the path in a certain way will be—not because it’s magic, not because the signs point in that direction, not because of superstition, but because ground and result cannot be separated—we would begin to understand that in fact, under those conditions, the path disappears.

The path as a separate entity then doesn’t exist, not in the way that we understand it.  It becomes inseparable from our own primordial wisdom nature, our own Buddhahood in its causative, seed form, and it becomes completely inseparable from the full-blown result of Buddhahood, actual awakening. If you understood this, you would not be engaged in thinking, the way we do now,  “Okay, today I’m really going to get into my practice.  So instead of doing an hour of practice I’m going to do two hours.”  What kind of thinking is that?  I mean, yeah, at some point you might have to decide how much time you have to put into it, but that’s not what it’s about.  That’s not going to make a bit of difference if that’s the approach.

The kind of thinking that we have now also is “I’ve been out of it with my practice and so now I have to get back into my practice.”  Even that kind of thinking is deluded thinking.  To get back into your practice means that you’ve walked away from something that is infinitely connected, completely inseparable from that which is your nature.  You can’t walk away from that.  No matter where you go, there it is.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

What’s the Point?

TK-254_Saga Dawa_6-9-09-25-M

Actually these teachings on the Four Noble Truths are the lessons that we are trying to implement here in this temple.  One of the goals that I have personally invested a great deal in is to try to create in this temple an opportunity for sentient beings to invest their effort, their kindness, their resources in whatever way in order to bring benefit to others. I feel that this is a beneficial practice. According to the Buddha’s teachings, this is one way to create the perfect interdependent cause and effect arising in order to create the kind of happiness that we wish. The efforts that we engage in here don’t seem to bring much result at this time, in this way.

Right now, for instance, we are holding a twenty-four hour a day prayer vigil. There’s always someone in that room behind the staircase, the shrine room, who’s praying for the welfare of sentient beings. There are 12 two-hour shifts a day and we go round the clock twenty four hours a day. Now what is that producing for us now? Nothing, absolutely nothing. We lose sleep, we get irritable, we’re tired. Sometimes we don’t want to get up and do this thing. Sometimes we do everything that we can to trade shifts so that we don’t have to be there on Saturday morning. But somebody gets stuck with it, I guarantee you. Where’s the payoff? Why would we want to do that?

Let’s talk about some of the other things that we do. Right now we’re building a stupa park with eight stupas in it. In the past we’ve built the stupa that is out on the grounds toward the parking lot. When we built that stupa out there, we had weather such as we’ve had in the last couple of days. For some reason, every time we build stupas this happens. I don’t know why, but it seems to be in the high nineties, if not a hundred or over, with humidity just under pouring. You know somewhere around ninety-nine point nine. It’s just beastly weather and it’s very difficult. We get out there and we work very hard and we sweat very much. And it seems as though the effort will never end. It’s very, very hard because we do everything ourselves. Sometimes we lose weekends for a whole summer. Sometimes we lose evenings for months. We don’t get much rest; we work very, very hard.

Why do we do this? What’s the benefit? What are we experiencing right now in building this stupa park that’s so wonderful, besides backaches and sore limbs.  It seems as though nothing. It seems as though we’re just working very hard for no good reason. But actually what we are doing here is we are implementing the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha teaches us that whatever we can do to benefit beings, to bring happiness and well-being to sentient beings, will bring us happiness and well-being as well. The Buddha teaches us that the point of our practice, the point of our lives, is to actually engage in meritorious, generous, wholesome and virtuous activity that will be of benefit to sentient beings. And the Buddha teaches us specifically that the only lasting permanent true cessation of suffering, and therefore benefit to sentient beings, is enlightenment. The true cessation of suffering is the state of enlightenment.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Seed of the Buddha Nature Within

A Teaching by Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

When one begins to understand some of the ideas that are presented in Dharma, one realizes that the goal that we are engaged in “moving toward,” if you’ll forgive that bad choice of words, is actually Buddha Nature itself. We tend to consider that the path is like a thing that goes from here to there, like a movement toward, and it’s very hard not to conceptualize it in that way. But, in fact, when one practices Dharma, the ability to practice Dharma is actually based on the understanding of the innate Nature. If we did not have within us right now the seed of Enlightenment, if we did not have within us the potential to actualize ourselves as the Buddha, there would be no point of practice. The very basis for practice is that understanding. This is what the Buddha himself taught – that all sentient beings have within them the seed of Buddha Nature, and that Nature is their true Nature, in fact. However, they have not awakened to that Nature and so, in order awaken to that Nature, one engages in the path. The path should not be considered a ‘thing,’ a straight line that connects from here to there. The path should be understood as a method that one uses in order to awaken to that Nature which is already our Nature; which is complete, unchanging, and will never get any bigger or any smaller. One should understand that Dharma is actually an activity that is meant to awaken that potential. But the ultimate goal that one wishes for when one engages in Dharma, is, of course, Enlightenment itself. Now, what is Enlightenment? One understands that Enlightenment is actually the awakening to the Primordial Wisdom Nature, the awakening to the Buddha nature.

The Buddha never said that he was different from anyone else. He said simply, “I am awake.” He is indicating that he has awakened to the fullness of his own Nature and is able to abide spontaneously in that awakened state without any interruption or impediment. So, from that perspective, the basis of practice, the basis of the path itself is exactly the same as the goal. They are indistinguishable from one another. The path that one uses in order to achieve the goal is also indistinguishable from the basis, which is the Buddha Nature, and is also indistinguishable from the goal, which is the Buddha Nature. So, these three things, the basis, the method and the goal are indistinguishable from one another.

For us, however, it does not appear to be so, simply because of the way our minds work, involved in discursive thought as they are. We distinguish between what is potential and movement. We distinguish between movement and the goal. But in truth, you cannot distinguish between these three. If the basis for practice is the same as the goal, then anything in which you engage in order to achieve that awakening to your own Nature, must also be indistinguishable from your own Nature. The path, then, or the method, is not separate from the Buddha Nature.

Now, where we run into trouble is when we make our Dharma practice an outward movement that goes somewhere. When we do our practice, we project that there is going to be a certain result. That very subtle concept prevents the practice from doing all that it can do to remove obstacles from our own perception, because we cling to the idea of here-ness and there-ness, of such-ness and thus-ness, and in doing so, we cling to the idea of self. It’s very hard to understand that subtle difference, but that subtle difference is very important. If we did not view our Dharma practice as a subject, object, thing or as a linear movement in some way, we would more easily understand that the goal is the un-moveable, unchangeable, fully complete and spontaneously realized Nature itself, which is already present. The potential for the realization of that Nature would be much stronger in our practice, in terms of taking responsibility for our situation and utilizing our practice to its fullest capacity.

In order for us to consider our Dharma practice, or even the ability to listen to teachings, as a movement that ‘goes somewhere’ we have to be considering it in a very superficial way. But if the practice is understood as a natural and spontaneous manifestation, arising from the Buddha Nature that is our Nature, then the practice becomes less materialistic and more meaningful in a very profound way. In the same way, if we are in an ordinary environment and an ordinary teacher comes before us, we don’t respond as we would if the Buddha himself, with all the signs and marks, were sitting in front of us. If the Buddha appeared, we would respond with, “Whoa! Whoa! This is important! Something is happening here. The Buddha is here!” In truth, we should respond that same way to our own simple practice because that practice is indistinguishable from the Buddha Nature itself. The Buddha is here. But you see, the impact is different. Why the impact is different is because of the way that we consider and understand what we’re doing.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

The Path: Are We There Yet?

An excerpt from a teaching called The Seed of Your Buddha Nature Within by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

When one begins to understand some of the ideas that are presented in Dharma, one realizes that the goal that we are engaged in “moving toward,” if you’ll forgive that bad choice of words, is actually Buddha Nature itself. We tend to consider that the path is like a thing that goes from here to there, like a movement toward, and it’s very hard not to conceptualize it in that way. But, in fact, when one practices Dharma, the ability to practice Dharma is actually based on the understanding of the innate Nature. If we did not have within us right now the seed of Enlightenment, if we did not have within us the potential to actualize ourselves as the Buddha, there would be no point of practice. The very basis for practice is that understanding. This is what the Buddha himself taught – that all sentient beings have within them the seed of Buddha Nature, that that Nature is their true Nature, in fact. However, they have not awakened to that Nature and so, in order awaken to that Nature, one engages in the path.

The path should not be considered a ‘thing’, a straight line that connects from here to there. The path should be understood as a method that one uses in order to awaken to that Nature which is already our Nature; which is complete, unchanging, and will never get any bigger or any smaller. One should understand that Dharma is actually an activity that is meant to awaken that potential. But the ultimate goal that one wishes for when one engages in Dharma, is, of course, Enlightenment itself.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Your Life Demonstrates the Result

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

You can only know the result of the path when you have actually accomplished the path. Your life demonstrates result. The mirror.

It is easy to be deluded by the circus in one’s head. Awakening is inexplicable, too many words aren’t needed.

A foundation must be well laid before the house can actually be even dreamed of.

When the three accomplishments are complete, ground, path and fruit, then all are known as a great primordial spontaneous array.

That is the way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

What is Buddhahood?

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


In the path of Dharma, we are guided to the ultimate state of Budhahood. Along the way, we pacify poisons, develop compassion, and gradually ascend the bhumis as Bodhisattvas, cultimating in supreme Buddhahood. Jetsunma explores what that looks like along the way.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Each Moment Like a Kiss

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

If you are living a sacred life, which is a life truly connected with meaning, nature, cause, and result, then each moment becomes like a kiss.  Every moment is something that you have a sacred relationship with because you move into the awareness that there is nothing that you can do that is separate from your own nature.  And nothing that you can do, unless you will it to be so and close your eyes and turn away, that is separate from the result of awakening.  In order to establish this truth as being real and relevant in your life, you need to understand the path as being inseparable from your nature.

We run into all kinds of traps when we practice the BuddhaDharma.  One of them is that we feel like we’re doing somebody a favor when we practice.  We feel like we’re doing our teacher a favor.  We feel like we’re doing the people around us a favor and our compassion becomes tainted with that.  We feel like we’re doing everybody a favor by praying for the world.

When we move through the vehicle of our lives, we adapt a posture, which is very much like putting on clothing or a false crown.  We put on an appearance as though it were not ours.  We think of practicing the path as a constraint or something that we do that isn’t naturally part of us and so the path eventually becomes like a burden to carry, something that isn’t you that you have to pull with you and that becomes weighted.  It becomes too heavy.  It becomes unnatural.  It becomes an issue in your life.

What if we understood the path as something that we were unable to walk away from, so natural like our own breath?  In the same way that life is displayed as movement, breath, activity and its result is that we live.  That natural process of understanding ourselves to be that kind of creature makes it pretty easy for us to breathe, doesn’t it?  If you understand the basis of our life, and you understand cause and effect, you’re not likely to say, “Oh God, I’m so tired of breathing all the time.  I’m just sick of it.  I mean it’s really a pain.  You have to do it from the moment you’re born to the moment you die.  It’s just not fair.  Why does everybody have to do that?”  We would never think like that, of course, because your breath, your movement, is an expression of the fact that you live.

It is possible for the path to be the same kind of living reality to you.  I know that in my own practice (and I’m certainly not holding myself up as the best practitioner in the world.  There are times when I don’t have time to practice at all), I have never for a moment felt separate from the path.  That seems to me impossible.  It seems to me my entire life is an expression of the path and it is.  It seems to me that everything that I know for sure is something that the Buddha brought to the world.   I don’t know anything else for sure.  I may know something about the nature of mind, but I really couldn’t get you into D.C.  I can’t find the place.  It’s the truth.

And yet, I wouldn’t know how to take action, no matter what it looks like, that is separate from what I know as sacred.  I wouldn’t know how to remove myself from the path.  The path for me is inborn, connected, married, and I’m convinced that there would be no reason for me to live if there were no path to be displayed.  I don’t think I’d be here.  Why is that?  Is it because I’m such a great practitioner?  No, I don’t think so.  I think that somehow perhaps, it has been my good fortune, as my teachers have said, to have practiced many, many lifetimes and it has become natural and habitual for me by this time.  Perhaps that’s what it is.  But the one thing that I know for sure that I don’t see is anything that is separate from the Buddha nature.

We, as practitioners who are trying to mature in our own spirituality, have to learn how to do that, how to live a truly sacred life. There are many different ways to put that thought into practice.  I know that with native Americans, for instance, everything that they do in a ceremonial way they offer to the four directions, they offer to the spirits and powers associated with the transcendent and with earth.  Everything first is offered to the creator.  Everything is done in a ritual and ceremonial way so that it is in alignment with what we know to be our nature.

How does a Buddhist practice that kind of sacred life?  A large part of it would be to understand that the path should never be viewed as a thing that is composed of ordinary elements as we know them.  It should be understood as being inseparable from everything you see, everything that is precious to you, and which someday will be even more precious as your understanding increases.  Most importantly, the path cannot be and is not separate from that which is your primordial wisdom nature.  The voice that is the path, the method that is the path, the direction, the confidence of the path, this is all a miraculous display of Buddha nature.  Each and every aspect of the path is a means by which one can develop or awaken to that natural, innate potency that is your potency and that you cannot walk away from, that you cannot abandon or destroy.

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo