How Keeping Commitments Fuels the Path

The following is an excerpt from a teaching given by Khenpo Tenzin Norgay at Kunzang Palyul Choling. In this excerpt Khenpo Norgay discusses how rare the opportunity to practice is, and how holding the vows assists practitioners in accomplishing both their own benefit and the benefit of others:


How Will You Live Your Life?

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

You live in human form because you now have the merit to do so. When the merit is exhausted you will die. All is impermanent. Therefore while we live, this Precious Human Rebirth must be honored as the perfect vehicle for awakening it is. Accomplish your Dharma while your mental capacity is clear and strong. This is the time to Practice Dharma! While younger, before age fades aptitude.

Please do all you can to make the world a better place. Try to satisfy the needs of all sentient beings. Feed the hungry. Clothe the poor. Share your worldly goods. Save animals from suffering. Shelter the homeless. Ease the suffering and fear of the dying. Accomplish the Phowa for yourself and others. “Do” for others what they cannot do for themselves. While doing so, please respect their dignity. Please allow other folk their own faith without meanness and disrespect. We have faith. And we try to live it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

The Value of Human Existence

The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa, with commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje and Kangyur Rinpoche, as translated by Padmakara Translation Group:

The Value of Human Existence:

1. So long enchanted in samsara’s wilderness,
Tormented by the cutting of their heads and limbs,
With seeds of future sorrow hidden in their minds,
Beings long so foolishly for bliss of higher realms.
2. From there they fall again, their states of mind destroying them,
To wander in three evil realms, or as insensate gods,
Or else in barbarous lands, with false views, handicapped,
In places where the Buddhas have not come.

3. On blazing iron grounds without reprieve,
With dreadful weapons wounded time and time again,
The denizens of hell are slain but cannot die–
Still tangled in the webs of hatred’s evil deeds.

4. What need is there to say that hungry ghosts are racked by want?
For food they find not even pus or blood or filth,
And streams and orchards dry before their eyes.
Their vitals burn in endless pain,
Their length of life uncertain,
Measured by the strength of obscuration.

5. Beasts prey on one another, are each other’s food.
And, hunter’s quarry, they are slain by cruel means;
Or caught and tamed, they are reduced to bondage.
Born to such great misery, what can they do?

6. The insensate gods, whose life-supporting karma is immense,
Live long in formlessness; no sorrow do they know.
But lacking support for learning and reflection,
At death they have false views and so lack freedom to progress.

7. Supported on the palaquin of legs and feet,
But yet with minds untouched by virtue,
Barbarous men live sunk and skilled in evil ways,
And wander in the jungles of false morality.

8. Some have senses that belie their promise.
Though they meet with teachers, holy and sublime,
They hear their words like echoes sounding from a cliff,
And suffer in the wasteland of no understanding.

9. Some achieve the great ship [of human life]
With wits like sails wherewith to cross the ocean of rebirth.
But overwhelmed by demons, the espouse false views,
Wherein the Buddha who has come takes no delight.

10. Some fall in blind and lightless chasms:
Ages where no Buddhas manifest.
And though they try to rise, they find no path
And in despair sink down from low to lower destinies.

11. Eight states therefore where beings are not free to practice Dharma,
Where world-destroying gales of sin and suffering rage,
Where merit is defiled in wariness and fear–
O think of this and profit from your freedom!

12. To be a human being in a pure and central land,
With limbs and senses whole, with faith in Buddha’s teaching,
With karmic fortune blossoming, unmarred by evil deeds–
And this is like the wishing-tree, extremely rare.

13. But rarer still, the Buddha, like an udumbara, has appeared within our world.
The flower of Dharma is in bloom. The garden of the doctrine,
Undiminished, still exists, and perfectly do holy beings enter it,
Within whose cooling shade we may find rest.

14. Such fortune in ourselves is rarer than the wishing tree;
Such outer circumstances are like udumbara flowers,
These ten together joined with eight-fold leisure–
Such coincidence will scarce be found again!

15. Examples make it clear–the turtle’s head, the floating yoke,
And numbers also, whereby humans in comparison with beasts
Are like stars that shine by day compared with those by night,
With, in a like proportion, hungry ghosts and denizens of hell.

16. If once aboard this great ship of our freedom,
We now fail to reach the far shore of this sea of pain,
This meeting with the helmsman will indeed have been in vain
For us who strive and fare upon the Dharma’s path.

A Unique Occasion at the Right Juncture: Longchenpa


The following is respectfully quoted from “Kindly Bent to Ease Us” by Longchenpa:

A Unique Occasion at the Right Juncture

Traditional philosophy has been dominated by the contrasting ideas of essence and existence. Essence is said to be that factor in finite entities which determines them and marks them off from others, while existence is the act that makes them actual and separates from nothing. As the determinate whatness of finite entities, essence was further conceived to be something universal, timeless, and inactive, and the various essences of the multiplicity of finite entities were held together by necessary logical relationships. All this led to the construction of conceptual systems, and to the assumption that essence preceded existence in the case of man determining his nature, which remained fixed for all times. Similarly existence was tied up with particular entities. When in more recent times it was claimed that existence preceded essence and that in the act of existence man determined his own essence, this existential reversal of the essentialist trend did not change the basic conceptualism.

Whether we give precedence to essence or existence, we deal with an abstraction, and this means that we have taken something smaller from something greater. It is a fact that the greater can never be caught by or reduced to the smaller. It cannot even be pointed out. Attempts to do so are more often than not attempts to dwell on elements which are merely ingredients, aspects of rationalization upon which the construction of a conceptual system rests, but which in a work of art is known as beauty and in a life situation as Being.

While we cannot point out beauty or Being, we can point to it and this pointing may help people to experience for themselves this something greater. Such pointing is indicated by the use of word ‘Being’ which is the most universal of concepts, for it covers anything and everything — even ‘nothing’ which, in the sense that it is spoken or thought, is something. Beyond the domain of this concept there is, in the strictest sense of the word, nothing more on which ‘Being’ could rest and on the basis of which it could be more specifically determined. This is tantamount to saying that the more comprehensive a concept is the more indeterminate and ’empty’ is its content. There is ‘nothing’ of either essence or existence in it, and yet there is the awareness and feeling of ‘Being’ in the sense that ‘Being’ is awareness and awareness if feeling.

Of course, terms like ‘awareness’ and ‘feeling’ are quite inadequate. We have the tendency to say that we are aware of something and we tacitly assume that this something is always something finite, as is the awareness itself. The same applies to feeling, as when I say that I feel happy or comfortable, unhappy or uncomfortable. What we have done in all these cases is that we have made up a concept and, in our efforts to bring the something greater under the concept, we have attempted to make it something smaller and have quite literally strayed away from it into fictions of our own making–whether we call it ‘essences’, ‘existences’, or ‘minds’. It is as if, and it seems almost inevitable to do so, we were desperate to fill nothingness, the ’emptiness’ of Being, with ‘essences’, fundamental characteristics, and to replace pure awareness by distinct acts of cognitions. However, rather than to see we ‘fill’ nothingness it seems more correct to say that we tend to ‘falsify’ ‘Being’ into some sort of ‘existent’ which we then further split up into essence and existence, and to ‘falsify’ Mind (as a pointer to awareness that is Being) into ‘some’ mind which also is split up into a mind and mental events. Thus the openness of Being is lost, its sheer lucency becomes dimmer and dimmer until it is as dull as the ‘existents’, the objects it deals with as mind.

This falsification, however, makes us uneasy. This uneasiness not only signals the fact that something, somewhere, sometime has gone wrong, and that something has to be done about it, it also makes clear that what is at stake is man’s humanity which cannot be defined in terms of ‘essences’ but is inseparable from, if not identical with, Being, to which, in the context of man’s being human, the name ‘Buddha nature’ is given.

Insofar as Being operates through a human existence which illustrates this working of Being as the rediscovery of Being by itself, a human existence is a ‘unique occasion’ and ‘right juncture’. To the extent that Being is allowed to penetrate man’s ‘existence’ and return it to ‘Being’ , to heal the wounds of fragmentation and to restore the wholeness of Being, a human existence is precious. This means neither more nor less than that the presence of something already there, and the direction and scope of the question (and the quest) of being human, are determined by the question and the quest of Being, which aims at making the meaning of Being explicit through its immediate experience.


Have Confidence in this Precious Opportunity

An excerpt from a teaching called “The Importance of Shakyamuni” by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

All of the blessings of the Buddhist path are available to us because of the supreme compassion of Lord Buddha.  If he had not chosen to stay and forego his parinirvana for some time, forego his entry into the state of nirvana in order to teach sentient beings, it would not be possible for us to be on this path.  At the time of his teaching, there was no path that could lead to supreme enlightenment.  Again I say there were paths that could lead to spiritual progress, but none of them truly overcame all of the six realms.

Therefore follow this path with great enthusiasm because you have a set of fortunate circumstances that very few other beings on this planet have, very few human beings and far fewer beings of any other realm of cyclic existence.  If you think about how many humans there are compared to the other five realms of beings, just having that human condition is extremely rare and is over too quickly.  What proportion of those beings that have incarnated in the fortunate human condition have been offered the true path of Lord Buddha?  Such a small portion.

You should think about these incredibly auspicious circumstances, and when you do your practice, think that you are doing this to achieve the ultimate goal possible for humankind.  Think and believe that there is every reason that you can succeed.  Think and believe that there is every reason that even if you don’t succeed now, you absolutely without fail can create the causes by which you will succeed quickly.  If not immediately after this life, then you will soon, very soon.

Your moment is now.  Are you creating the causes by which you yourself might someday appear as a Nirmanakaya Buddha to guide all beings?  This practice that you do now creates the causes.  Practice sincerely.  If you practice sincerely with the intention of guiding beings, with the intention of breaking through samsaric existence as a true renunciate, if you really renounce cyclic existence with all its betrayal and take refuge sincerely, you are creating the causes, and someday your face will be known as the face of a Nirmanakaya Buddha, and your nature will be known both by you and by all sentient beings to be the Dharmakaya.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

An Attitude of Gratitude Opens All Doors

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

Using the attitude of gratitude we can make the best use of our precious human rebirth – which goes by faster than we could ever imagine. OM AH HUNG BENZAR GURU PEDMA SIDDHI HUNG.

© copyright Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved.

Impermanence and Death: a Teaching by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso

The following is an excerpt from a teaching given by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso at Kunzang Palyul Choling on Ngondro:

Precious human birth does not mean everyone who is born as a human being.  It doesn’t mean that.  There is precious human birth and ordinary human birth.  Those who don’t do any kind of practice, those who don’t even try to go to church on weekends, those involved in New Age groups or modern ways of belief, or those who enter into some kind of entertainment and waste their lives in that manner—that is just an ordinary human birth.  You really must have accumulated some merit in your previous lifetime.  You must have done some kind of purification in your previous lifetime.  You must have made some kind of connection with the Dharma and your lamas. That is why you are here.  Otherwise there is no possibility.  That would never, ever happen.  So since you have a precious human rebirth, you must immediately think,  “I should not waste it.  I have to get some advantage from this opportunity.”

Then how can one do it?  You must then think that all phenomena which are composed of cause and condition are impermanent.  Impermanence does not just mean that everything comes to an end.  Impermanence means that each and every moment is impermanent. Each and every moment of our lives we are becoming older and older; we are getting nearer and nearer to death.  If you waste even one hour, you are one hour closer to death.  If you spend your weekend enjoying yourself, still you are getting nearer to death.  Whenever you sit idle, still you are getting nearer to death.  Even if you do practice, still you are getting nearer to death.  Even if you don’t do anything, still you are getting nearer to death.  You are always getting nearer and nearer and nearer.  Every sentient being who is born is subject to death.

At the same time, death is uncertain.  You can see many examples.  Someone will say, “Just yesterday he was talking with me, and then last night he had an accident.”  Or somebody shot him or killed him or whatever.  There are so many conditions that may bring death.  If I cannot do actual practice and if I do not have something I can carry with me, then tonight if something happens, what can I do?  What are you really going to carry with you?  You cannot pack up like when you get divorced or when you get mad at your friends and you say you’re going to leave and you take your suitcase and pack all your clothes and everything and whatever money and credit cards you have and you leave and go some other place.  When death comes, you cannot do that.  There is no way that one could do that.  Up until now in this world, even the great popes, even Milarepa, even Shakyamuni Buddha, even His Holiness Karmapa and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, they left all their belongings behind.  Even His Holiness Karmapa left his black hat behind, even his body.  Never mind about an ordinary sentient being who cannot carry all those things.  Even the great Christian popes who passed away, could not carry anything.  All the great ones and not so great ones—when death came, nobody could pack anything, nobody could carry anything along.  You could not even make a phone call.  “I’m coming very soon, so could you please reserve a place for me?”  There is no way that one can do that.  You say, “Oh please, you save a better place for me since I am coming very soon.”  Or you want to make a phone call to heaven.  “Oh God, please save a place for me.”  So you have to realize that life is like that.

In one sense, life is very long.  You can experience lots of things.  In another sense, life is gone like that.  When death comes, what one can carry is just whatever accumulation of merit or whatever negativity one has done.  That is the only thing that comes with you.  Even if you don’t want it, it is stuck there and will be coming with you.  So you have to realize that life is uncertain and death is uncertain.  At any moment it can come.  When you really consider that, you really get scared, goose bumpy.  Then you really get motivated to do practice.  Then your sleepy way of thinking and laziness and everything is gone just like that.  You cannot feel so tired if death is coming like that.  Then you can make yourself so alert. You can generate so much courage in yourself.  “Why can’t I do 100,000 prostrations in a month?  Why can’t I do that?”  Then you can have that kind of courage within yourself.  Otherwise you say, “Other people are out enjoying the weekend and going here and there and I am stuck here doing prostrations. I get pain in my legs and my knees and pain there. When can all this be finished?”  Then it feels really difficult.  When you really see that death is coming, then you can bear it.  If you think about that, then that will really help you to apply yourself into practice with full energy and with full courage.