The Way Out


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Faults of Cyclic Existence”

According to the Buddha’s teaching, the only end to the sufferings of cyclic existence in a permanent way is the cessation of cyclic existence. There is no intermediate or impermanent means that can accomplish the end of suffering that we experience in cyclic existence. Only the termination of the causes by which we are reborn in cyclic existence actually produces the end of suffering.

So the fault of cyclic existence is that there is suffering, and even happiness is impermanent; that it is unpredictable, and that its causes and effects are so interdependent that it is inescapable. The means by which one can escape cyclic existence is the miraculous intention of the enlightened mind, kind of penetrating into cyclic existence as a light being would penetrate into a tunnel and give us the means to go out of the tunnel. There is nothing about the tunnel, or the darkness in the tunnel that brings about the end of the tunnel. It is the light at the end of tunnel that brings about the end; and it is toward that light that we walk. In the same way, it is the practicing of a pure path, such as the Buddhadharma that brings about the cessation of the causes of being entrapped in cyclic existence. That is the cessation of desire, the cessation of the belief in self nature as being inherently real through meditation and practice. These things are actually the ones that bring about the end of the tunnel, or the end of cyclic existence and its sufferings.

It is necessary for us to examine the faults of cyclic existence. I believe that. Even if our intention is so kind, even if we have extreme kindness, even if we are so completely tuned into the suffering of the world that we are willing, at least initially, to practice til the end of our lives until we accomplish Dharma for the sake of sentient beings. And we should hold to that practice. I have taught again and again and again that our hearts need to be on fire with that love. I have tried to describe that fire as being the only allowable passion, the one that should warm you and should sustain you in every way. Still we must also discipline ourselves, really, or cause ourselves, or allow ourselves to experience what the faults of cyclic existence truly are. We must have an understanding of that in order to gain a firm foundation in our practice.

If we do not understand that all the joys of cyclic existence are impermanent, as well as the sufferings, that all of the circumstances are constantly changing and unpredictable, and if we do not understand that cause and effect are never ending and inescapable, we may not understand that nothing that we do in an intermediate way will really help the situation. And we will continue to do what we are doing now which is to try to solve our problems by moving things around a lot.

You know how we manipulate the circumstances of our lives. We will change our job, or we will find a new loved one or find a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and have another baby, or take ourselves out or go on vacation. These things are great. You should do them all. I don’t care. Have ten million babies. Have a hundred thousand lovers. Do whatever you want to. I don’t mean any of that. You will find out that ultimately all of these are very impermanent; and at that point we have to understand that it doesn’t matter how we manipulate the circumstances of our lives. Ultimately we have to understand that cause and effect relationships continue to cause cause and effect that continues and perpetuates cyclic existence. That’s it. The only way to really end suffering, to really bring about the cessation of suffering, is through accomplishing enlightenment. Nothing intermediate can work. In fact it tends to bring about more disappointment.

Haven’t you ever understood or seen yourself when you experience great happiness? Say you do have the boyfriend or girlfriend, and say you do have that new baby, and you do find yourself on vacation, almost afraid to experience how happy you are at that moment because you know that pretty soon that happiness will be terminated. There is almost a superstition that we have that if we are too happy right now that pretty soon that happiness will wear off real quick. And you know there is something to that in that if we think of that happiness as the end of suffering, we will be disappointed. You should allow yourself to be happy. Every moment that you can have a moment of happiness, by golly, be happy. Don’t worry, be happy just like the song says. One of my favorite songs. However, while you are not worrying and while you are being happy, please understand the faults of cyclic existence. Please understand that in order to accomplish the end of suffering truly and completely and permanently, and in order to be in a place and to be at a level of wisdom and understanding that you yourself can actually bring about the end of suffering for all sentient beings, that you yourself can experience the competency and the qualities necessary to bring about the end of suffering for all sentient beings, in order for that to occur, you must understand the faults of cyclic existence.

There is nothing in cyclic existence that brings about the end of suffering. It is the cessation of desire and of all causes that trap us in cyclic existence. These things brought to an end will bring about the end of suffering. And the name of the end of suffering is enlightenment. It is the only name of the end of suffering. There is no other way to look at it. Anything else is impermanent. It is okay, but it is merely phenomena. The end of suffering is enlightenment.

Please hold that in your mind as you catch yourself manipulating your life. Use that manipulation as you catch yourself trying to make yourself happy through intermediate ways or through holding on to instant gratification or doing all the things that we do so habitually. I don’t expect that we will change overnight, but use those situations as a catalyst to motivate yourself, to really hold on to and accomplish a true path. Use these things as a means to make your understanding move in the direction of a true path so that you can begin to establish a firm foundation or motivation in order to accomplish enlightenment. This is really the end of suffering, and in fact the only one.

So I hope that you will take these things to heart and use them. They are no good if you don’t use them. It doesn’t do you a bit of good if you just come here to listen. You really have to use these insights and try to develop for yourself a way to bring about your own enlightenment.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


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