The Importance of Samaya

The following is respectfully quoted from “Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows” by Dudjom Rinpoche:

6.b.1(e.4) Restoring through the general cleansing of three yogas:
As is taught in the Hasti-upapraveśya-tantra, the general cleansing yoga of the nest of remorse is the “Stirring the Depths.” By confessing in this way, there is nothing that cannot be purified. Practice this accordingly.

According to the tantra called Hasti-upapraveśya and the Vimaladeśanā contained within it, this is the sole text for practitioners of all three yogas who, having engaged on the path and then allowed their samaya to deteriorate, wish to confess and perfectly restore it. The king of all confessions is Narakakhadāpravāsaprasphotana (Stirring the Depths of Vajra Hell). Here, it is clearly taught that by offering the external gathering of substances, the internal gathering of own’s own aggregates, and the secret gathering of the awakened mind of bodhicitta on the fifteenth, thirtieth, or eighth day of the lunar month, all deteriorations will be fully purified. If that is not possible, but one still makes prostrations and recalls the deity in order to confess, purification will occur. It is important to persevere in this practice as much as possible.

As is said in this text, “To all the enlightened peaceful and wrathful deities and to their mandalas, I pay homage. I pray that I may cleanse all of my broken commitments without exception. There is no doubt that the five limitless non-virtues can be cleansed and that even the lower realms can be emptied from their depths and that beings will be led to the well-known pure realm of the enlightened beings of pure awareness. Since Vajrasattva is the essential nature of secret mantra and cleanses all of our karmic obscurations and obscurations caused by broken commitments, in order to empty the realms of cyclic existence, recite the mantra.”

Accordingly, if one just hears the names of the deities in this mandala, all deteriorations of one’s root and branch words of honor can be repaired. Signs of accomplishing the purification through confession include indications in the dream state; indications from the lama or deity; and dreams of bathing, putting on white clothing, ascending to the peak of a mountain, and the arising of the sun and moon and so forth. Until such signs arise, one should continue to make confession and apply the four remedial powers.

6.b.2 The faults of failing to restore broken words of honor:

If one fails to make confession in this life, extremely unpleasant consequences will ensue. In the next life, one will be born in the vajra hell of irreversible torment and suffering.

If mantra words of honor are left unconfessed, this becomes a cause for rebirth in what is called “vajra hell.” There is no place of greater suffering. As it says in the Guhyagarbha, “If the root or branch of words of honor deteriorate, the result is that falls to the lower realm.”

In the Prakativavictra-tantra, it states: “If a root word of honor deteriorates and no effort is made to restore it, one will fall to the vajra hell. If all the suffering of the ordinary hells were to be combined, that suffering would not equal one fraction of one hundred-thousandth of the suffering experienced in vajra hell.”

It can thus be understood that even an association with an individual who has accrued this degree of negativity can cause one’s own words of honor to deteriorate. Strong adverse effects may occur for those who even come into contact with such an individual. As it says in the Sarvasamudita, “Just as spoiled milk will taint are pure milk with which it mingles, a singe mantra practitioner who has allowed his words of honor to deteriorate can spoils the words of honor of everyone with whom he comes into contact.” Even if one precedes the breaking of samaya by discussing this with others as a means to communicate one’s intention, this too must be immediately confessed. As it says in the Mahānyūha, “If one harms lama, his or her retinue, or the vajra brothers and sisters by casually speaking negatively or by just a subtle sign of dissent, even if only in the dream state, this must be confessed and cleared from the mind. Actual and inadvertent neglect of samaya that remains unconfessed will cause one to fall headfirst into the hells.”

According to these teachings, it is clear that the loss of any root or branch word of honor is a cause for rebirth in vajra hell. However, there are differences in the degree and duration of the suffering experienced, which vary according to the severity of the downfall.

7. The benefits of guarding the words of honor:

With no deterioration, the maximum will be sixteen consecutive rebirths; the minimum will be in this life, at death, or in the intermediate period. Other benefits include accomplishment of the eight common powers; and obtainment of the seven features of a divine embrace. For this purpose, spontaneously accomplish the twofold purpose of self and others.

The words of honor are the source of all noble qualities and are the very support for the stability and presence of such qualities. As it says in the Samānya-sūtra, “Just as the planting of a seed is dependent upon the earth in order for the result to mature, the life essence of the Dharma remains within the words of honor, which fully mature into the unsurpassed state of awakening as the precious life-essence of virtue.”

Temporary benefits include the accomplishment of all that one aspires to obtain; an appearance that is pleasing to all; becoming an object of the veneration of others, including the most powerful worldly gods; and being blessed by the buddhas, bodhisattvas, dākas, dākinis, and all objects of refuge, who guard one like their own child. Having understood the importance of pure samaya by entering the path of all the buddhas, one will quickly ascend the stages of vidyādharahood to realize enlightenment.

If in one’s immediate life one is unable to persevere in the accomplishment of the two stages, yet never allows the words of honor to become defiled, then after taking sixteen successive rebirths enlightenment will be realized. This is the longest possible period of time it will take just through the force and purity of the words of honor alone. After at least seven rebirths, one will meet with the profound path of the two stages and gradually be liberated. The speediest result occurs if one maintains pure words of honor coupled with diligence in the two stages of practice, resulting in the realization of nondual vidyādharahood in that very life. Those of average sensibility will realize the illustrative clear light, which will become the actualization of absolute clear light at the time of their death, and the obtainment of nondual kāya that arises from training. If absolute clear light itself is realized, then at death the nondual kāya (arising from no-training) will be obtained. Those of common sensibility, due to their practice, faith in the lama, and strong aspiration for the pure realms, will be liberated in the bardo (antarābhava) [intermediate state] by arriving in the natural nirmānakāya pure realm.

These are not the only noble qualities that arise from pure samaya. In addition, both extraordinary and mundane spiritual attainments are obtained. The eight mundane spiritual attainments include the power to make an eye medicine, which, when applied, allows one to see without impediment or physical obstruction; speed walking; the sword accomplishment; seeing underground; making power pills; flying in space; disappearing; and extracting the essence. These eight powers are called mundane because they are still of this world and can also be accomplished by non-Buddhists. They qualify as accomplishments belonging to the paths that are both worldly and transcendental. According to Vajrayāna, these qualities are developed during the two yogic states and are thus termed common because they are not the ultimate result. In addition, the eight sovereign qualities are achieved.

Purifying One’s Intention

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

Another aspect of our Ngöndro practice is purification, the prayers to Vajrasattva. How would it be if we were to sit for maybe an hour and practice the purification and confession of Vajrasattva and accumulate the mantra and then just put our books aside and consider it’s over?  That’s it.  I confessed.  I said all the prayers, the short ones and the long ones, short confession, long confession.  Remember, if you practice like that, you never have to revisit it again.  It’s a lazy, cop-out way to practice.

Instead, we should think, “I’m deeply involved in the practice of purification and confession which does not stop at the end of my practice.”  There are so many ways to practice that kind of purification: by being mindful, by making offerings in the way that I’ve described, by moving into a state of better recognition about what is precious and what is ordinary, and ultimately moving into the state of Recognition of the nature of all phenomena.  Automatically one is constantly purifying the senses, constantly purifying one’s intention, which is the very thing that needs purifying even more than everything else.  If we practice in that way as we’re walking around, it complements any confessional prayers that we make.

In most of the confessional prayers, if you really read the meaning and content of the prayers, there is talk about broken samaya in the confessional prayers.  Nobody really knows what that means.  Does that mean you didn’t do your mantra today?  Well, maybe on one level it means that, but on a deeper level, it is referring to the state of non-recognition.  So in everything that we do, if we continually make offerings, as we continually give rise to a deeper Recognition, then the five senses are being purified constantly. The habit that I’m suggesting you develop will antidote the automatic reaction that is so natural for us, so habitual.   Remember, we can insert this way of thinking or this way of practicing because we are human.

I really like animals, but one thing I’ve noticed about animals, even if they are trainable and very smart, they cannot change or alter the way they perceive their environment.  They can’t do that.  The dog can’t say, “Wait a minute, before I lift that leg, let’s think about the nature of that fire hydrant.”  The dog is not capable of this.  You are.  That is one of the great blessings of being a human being, and yet the habits that we tend to cultivate are the habits that you don’t even need to be a human being to do: that habit of automatically reacting, not taking oneself in hand, not creating any kind of space or a moment where we can Recognize the nature of reality, not making any offerings.  We tend to just automatically move through life like an automaton, like a robot.

However, being human, we can develop a little bit of space in our minds to antidote that constant clinging and reactivity, and yet we’re all about collecting things.  Well, you know, crows collect things.  We’re all about having relationships.  Well, even animals can bond for life.  We’re all about having children.  Well, dogs and cats do that, too.  Isn’t it wonderful that here in Dharma practice, if we choose to, if we practice sincerely, we can do that which only humans can do?  How amazing!

© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Inescapable Cause and Effect: The Importance of Buddhist Teaching


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Inescapable Cause and Effect”

Each of us has really difficult karma, tremendous obstacles, and each of us also has the karma for tremendous bliss. We cannot ripen them all in one lifetime. However, when one leaves this lifetime it is up for grabs what ripens in the next incarnation; and there are many factors that are a catalyst for the ripening in the next incarnation. Some of them are the condition under which you die;  the thoughts that are in your mind as you die; the mind state that you have as you die; the ability to be able to negotiate the consciousness after the death state; the ability to remain aware, to not faint, to remain aware and with it during the after-death state, which almost no one has. The desire that you have experienced in this lifetime will act as a catalyst to ripen the events for the next lifetime. Everything that you have done in this lifetime will act as a catalyst to ripen the events for the next lifetime and in all future lifetimes. So according to the Buddha’s teachings, it is not necessarily a linear progression in that it is not possible to account for all the ripening karma in the course of one lifetime, and even in the course of the next lifetime and the next lifetime.

So you can actually be reborn under any circumstances. This is one of the main faults of cyclic existence. Even though we have a circumstance here that seems relatively bearable in that we are not very hungry, we are not very ugly, we are not very sick, and we are okay, still we will experience death in order to take rebirth at another time. Not knowing what the conditions of that rebirth will be can be considered an unbearable circumstance. I want to know where I am going. I find it unbearable to think that I wouldn’t know where my next incarnation would be: To not have the option to prepare for the next incarnation; to not be able to know that I would not be reborn in some other life form that is offensive to me or that is ugly to me or is not at all pleasing to me; or to be reborn as a human being where I would experience intense suffering. These things I find not bearable. So if we understand that cyclic existence is structured in that way, or seems to occur in that way, we might find that even the idea that we might take rebirth becomes something that we can use as a motivation to practice.

The thing about cyclic existence is that it is unpredictable. You must know this by now; and this should give you a clue as to how we hide these things from ourselves. But I know that you know this by now because all of you have had experiences, I have certainly, where, , things will be going along just fine in a way that looks like everything is under control and it looks as though you have what you need. You have the relationships that you need, the money that you need; you are doing okay. It looks like things are progressing nicely. And then suddenly something will hit you right out of the blue, whether it is a terrible mood or whether it is a circumstance or whether it is a death, somebody that you know, or a loss of some kind, some experience that will seem as though it came from nowhere. And if only this hadn’t happened everything would be just fine. We have at least a million of, ‘Oh, if this only hadn’t happened,’ in our lives and we don’t see where they come from. And so cyclic existence is extremely unpredictable and there are always things that can ripen in an instant way and bring about change that is unbearable to us.

Another fault of cyclic existence is that there is nothing in cyclic existence that brings about the end of cyclic existence. That is hard to understand. And if you examine it yourself, you will find that you think that if you just keep playing along with it eventually it will work itself out. We think that if we just kind of live through our lives it will just sort of guide its way through or naturally flow in such a way that we will reach a threshold of wisdom, and suddenly all of our problems will be solved. This is Western thought. This is what we are brought up to believe. We are taught, however, by the Buddha, who has experienced both cyclic existence and also the awakening called supreme enlightenment, that this is not true. There is nothing inherent in cyclic existence that will bring about its end. Cyclic existence is simply that, cyclic.

In cyclic existence there are the root causes such as the belief in self nature as being inherently real and the clinging to ego that bring the perception of self and other and the constant compulsion to reinforce the perception of self and other, that bring about desire. And desire is the root cause of all suffering. But from those root causes are begun the next level of root causes which are hatred, greed and ignorance. And hatred, greed and ignorance, we constantly experience to some degree or another. We constantly need to reinforce ourselves by putting down someone else or experiencing a negative feeling toward someone else. We need to judge something in some way in order to understand our own nature. We constantly have the experience of not realizing the profound nature of enlightenment or the nature of primordial wisdom, and that we call ignorance. We constantly experience greed and we constantly need to define ourselves by what we have. We constantly need that and from these points come the other forms that continue cause and effect relationships, continually experiencing one cause begetting an effect, begetting another cause and begetting an effect. We experience that constantly and consistently. According to the Buddha’s teaching, whenever we experience a moment of hatred or whenever we experience a moment of anger…. Anger. Who among you has not experienced anger? How many times a day?  According to the Buddha’s teaching, even when we experience even a moment of anger it has within it the potential for worlds of karmic interaction.

One cause continually creates, always and always. There is never any exception. Cause will create effect. There is no cause that does not create effect; and effect will actually act as another cause. If someone, for instance, strikes you, that must have a cause. You may not know what the cause for that is, but it didn’t just happen. It has a cause. And if you get angry when that person strikes you, then that continues and that is an effect from the striking, but it is also another cause and it will begin new circumstances. This relationship of cause and effect constantly perpetuating itself is called interdependent origination. It is such an interdependence it is almost like the weaving of a fabric; and cyclic existence is actually made of this fabric that is woven together, a constant cause and effect. There is no circumstance within cyclic existence that brings about the end of cyclic existence.

The exception to that—it isn’t really an exception—is that within cyclic existence one can begin to strive to purify the mind. One can begin to strive to practice in such a way that one’s own pure nature is realized. One can begin, very importantly, to accomplish compassionate activity to purify the mind through kindness, to begin to experience loving kindness and compassion. And through that, cause and effect will happen so that one can meet a pure path; and a pure path is the means by which one can exit cyclic existence. There is nothing within cyclic existence itself that will naturally begin the end of cyclic existence, that will actually bring about the end of cyclic existence. But in fact one can actually begin to purify the mind in such a way that you can meet with a pure path. And the pure path is actually considered an emanation, the miraculous intention of the Buddha, or the mind of enlightenment. It intersects with cyclic existence in such a way that one can practice this pure path, and having practiced this pure path can thereby exit cyclic existence and accomplish enlightenment.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


True Confession

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Longing for the Guru”

If you feel that you have become deadened to that longing you once felt, if you think that you don’t long for your Teacher or long for the Buddha, if you think that you don’t long with a heartfelt longing for that awakening, then you should try to remember your childhood and the different feelings that you had.

What are some of the things that you did?  Were you promiscuous?  Did you become involved in drugs or alcohol?  Did you become very materialistic in certain ways?  And if you can remember the beginning of that, was it based on longing?  Was it based on something that you could hardly remember, but remember that it was sharp and poignant?  Was it really based on that?

If you can remember a time like that, you should spend time becoming reacquainted with the purity of that urging.  Cultivate that longing.  Not cultivate it in a false way or in a contrived way, but search for what was already there.  Feel what was felt.  Don’t make up a feeling.  That’s important, because then you’ll blame yourself again.  Instead, try to remember that feeling, even if it just numbs you to think that you have gone so far astray, you should not be ashamed because your karma is that you were born into a culture where what you felt was not acceptable and you tried to fit it into ways that were acceptable.  Those ways did not work for you and then you shut down.  You should try to go back to that original feeling and find a way to forgive yourself.  You have to confess in order to be able to fully forgive yourself.  Don’t confess: Oh, I’ve been a bad girl, or I’ve been a bad boy, I’ve done this and I’ve done that.

The confession that you should make to the primordial root Guru is: You were everywhere, and I tried to find you here.  The true confession is the lack of understanding the nature of the Guru.  The true confession is the lack of understanding as to what you are.  That’s the real confession, and that’s the real sin that was committed.  Yes, karma happened.  But that core confession and purification can bring about the end of all the karma that arose from that, truly.  It can bring about the end of all sufferings that came from that point.  You should allow yourself to remember the longing that you felt and learn to live with it.

In learning to live with it and having it be the warmth in your heart, allowing yourself to be with that and to live with that, then that longing will bring the proper result.  So long as it is diverted, so long as you refuse to feel it, so long as you do not allow yourself to be pure and then constantly cover up with feelings of impurity, so long as that condition continues, the longing cannot be satisfied.

That longing, if it’s felt in its pure way and if you can manage to get your ego out of the way, can be the very bread by which you are nurtured to continue in a firm way on your path.  That longing can be the way that provides the actual, undeniable connection with one’s own root Guru.  It perfects that relationship so that one can realize the nature of the primordial Guru and realize that they are the same.  You can understand that what you see in front of you is the miraculous touch of Lord Buddha, that the relationship with the Teacher, the relationship with the path, the relationship with all of the teaching, the relationship with your own practice can only be a result of the miraculous intention of the Buddha.  So long as we continue to understand our teaching and our path as something external, we will never understand the nature of it.  We will never be able to truly drink of the taste of that nature.  Instead, we will continue to feel separate from the mandala.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved


[Adapted from an oral commentary given by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche in conjunction with a ceremony wherein he bestowed the bodhisattva vow upon a gathering of disciples at Namdroling in Bozeman, Montana, November 1999. —Ed.]

From beginningless time, throughout countless lifetimes, we amassed negative karma and nonvirtue before we encountered the dharma. As followers of the teachings in this lifetime, we still engage in nonvirtue and accumulate negativity. Consider all that negativity to be like [the result of] having ingested poison. Knowing that as poison that will certainly end your life unless you apply an antidote to neutralize it, you immediately apply the antidote. That is exactly how you should feel about the nonvirtue accumulated in the past and present.

With tremendous remorse, confess your accumulation of nonvirtue and vow that from this time onward, even at the cost of your life, you will no longer repeat the same pattern of negativity. Then focus on the objects of refuge in the space in front, the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. Supplicate, knowing that in their omniscience they will always look upon you and bless and purify you. Pray to them with heartfelt faith and devotion, and with genuine remorse for your accumulation of negativity, feel confident that all negativity is completely purified. Confession is the antidote for anger. In anger, people commit many grave errors, such as even the taking of others’ lives.

From “THE PATH of the Bodhisattva: A Collection of the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva and Related Prayers” with a commentary by Kyabje Pema Norbu Rinpoche on the Prayer for Excellent Conduct

Compiled under the direction of Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche Vimala Publishing 2008

21 Homages to Tara: Verse 18 Commentary Khenpo Tenzin Norgay

Thupten Shedrub Gyatso, who was a Tulku in one of the Palyul Monasteries, wrote this commentary. His present incarnation, Rago Chogtrul currently lives in Tibet.

Translation by Khenpo Tenzin Norgey ~ Spring, 2004,
Palyul Retreat Center, Mc Donough, NY USA ~Wood Monkey Year 2131

Homage to you, holding a hare-marked full moon,
Shaped like the god’s ocean of nectar
By uttering TARE twice and PHAT
You dispel all poison without exception.

The eighteenth homage is to Maja Chenmo,Tib the “Great Peahen”, who averts and pacifies poison.  She is as white as the moon, and sits on a blue lotus.  In her left hand, she holds a full moon marked with a rabbit, which is the shape of the ocean of nectar of the god realm.  With her radiance and her chanting of the mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SARVA VETRA TARA PHAT SVA HA, which has two TARES and a PHAT syllable, she clears all poisons, both animate and inanimate, without a trace.  Generally, all obstacles arise from poisons, and the base of all the animate and inanimate poisons is our afflictions.  She clears all the poisons of sentient beings without a trace with the medicine of the truth of reality.

21 Homages to Tara: Verse 17 Commentary Khenpo Tenzin Norgay

Thupten Shedrub Gyatso, who was a Tulku in one of the Palyul Monasteries, wrote this commentary. His present incarnation, Rago Chogtrul currently lives in Tibet.

Translation by Khenpo Tenzin Norgey ~ Spring, 2004,
Palyul Retreat Center, Mc Donough, NY USA ~Wood Monkey Year 2131

Homage to you whose seed syllable is HUNG
Who utters TURE and stamps your feet.
Causing Meru, Mandhara and Vindhya mountains
And the three worlds to tremble.

The seventeenth homage is to Dolma Pagmed Nonma,Tib the “Unfathomable Suppressor”, who averts harm from hunters, thieves, robbers and enemies.  She is orange like saffron, sits on a blue lotus and holds a stupa[i].  By saying TURE, stamping on the ground, and the radiating seed syllables from the HUNG at her heart, she shakes all the abodes of the great gods, including Mount Meru, Mandhara and Vindhya.  The effect of her actions extends beyond the three thousand worlds.  Her stamping causes the three realms: desire, form and formless, on the subterranean, terrestrial and celestial worlds, to quake and quiver.  By the power of her frightening forces, she crushes butchers, thieves, and other enemies under her feet and gives peace to all beings.  The ultimate meaning is that the quavering of the three worlds is purification of the three doors, (body, speech and mind).

[i] stupa skt ~ Buddhist sacred monument and reliquary, built to represent the enlightened mind.

Karma and Purification on the Path

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

I personally know a story about a young lady who took robes of ordination as an Ani years ago. Deep habitual tendencies caused her to fall off her path and break the vows very seriously, more than once. As a lay woman she continued the pattern, there was so much rage in her, the events seemed neurotic, obsessive. She was determined to ruin her Teacher, as she imagined the downfall was her Teacher’s fault. The breakage seemed to spiral and worsen until she lost friends, and suffered terribly, as did the ones she attacked. It was a terrible mess! But she went to other Lamas and asked for advice, and to become their student. All told her she must return to her own Tsawei Lama and make amends.

How terribly difficult when so much damage to so many had been done. But she persisted. Correcting lies, doing purifying practice, applying the proper antidotes. She went to retreat and was welcomed and treated kindly. Her Guru had already taken her back. Except for one elder Lama who, when she served tea, poured it on the ground and said “you may not serve me!” as he himself had witnessed what she’d done personally, and had known the effect on all. She accepted and bowed low, wondering why everyone didn’t treat her just the same. But it was through that Lama’s activity she was instantly able to see the depth of her betrayal and was able to make confession without leaving out any details at all. She was given kind instruction from His Holiness Palyul Karma Kuchen Rinpoche and is now taking advanced teachings, much happier and her mind continues to be freed from the imprisonment of the cycle of hatred, greed and ignorance. Stage by stage she grows more free!

She repeatedly asked why she was so compelled, so intensely obsessed with harming her Teacher and Dharma. The answer, repeatedly, was a real kicker. In past lives she had made up her own path and convinced (skillfully) others to follow and practice what she taught. So in this life, although she is skillful and brilliant, it was impossible for her to keep the robes of the Buddha or to follow the path of Buddhism nicely or purely. It will take time to repair, but she is diligently applying herself. She was instructed to tell truth always and make an unshakable commitment to never behave that way again.

There is always a way to purify mistakes, but so much better to never make them in the first place. To try to teach a made-up path that causes downfall for others results in great mental instability and even insanity. Emotional equilibrium is lost. And it continues into future lives. Suffering of others is experienced by the false teacher. You will always know them by their current lives and experience. Sadly, still ignorant, they cannot see it for themselves. Karma is real, if you believe it or not. And you are experiencing it right now, and will continue until Supreme Enlightenment.

One more thing. I am so proud of her. And love her so deeply, she is a miracle.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved