“Patience is a strength; anger is a weakness.” ~ Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo
Jetsumna began her talk with a reminder that these texts were written for professionals, by professionals. More specifically, they were written by monks for monks. So there are a lot of assumptions about the audience. Two of the primary ones are: 1. They have a teacher, and 2. They have a lot of time.
By the medieval times, it was realized among the Buddhists, that a more accessible packaged version of the teachings needed to be made available to the beginners, aka non-professionals. I am sure the lamas felt like they were watering down and reducing the teachings as they released the product of 120,000 long prostrations as an entry gate. Rumor is that it took at least 4 to 6 continuous months to complete the prostrations.
But since everywhere the Dharma has traveled through land and time, it has been willing to shift in how it was taught, it is appropriate that a new approach be adapted for the modern practitioner. Because even more rare than having direct access to a teacher is access to time.
Therefore, Jetsumna urges us that it is essential and mandatory to allow our daily lives to become the ground of our practice, otherwise the teachings will not survive.
Another big change from when the texts were written is the audience. While it might have been mostly male monks in the audience in the past it is most definitely mostly female lay people today. The Buddha stated the necessity of study, practice and propagation of the Four Fold Sangha, which includes monks, nuns, lay male and lay females. For a long time now we have all been supporting the monks. This is changing.
The main practice in integrating our daily life and the dharma is to take everything that happens to us, especially the difficult things, on the path. “Accept what is happening, and relax as much as possible,” offers Jetsumna. “It is very important to welcome whatever comes and say, “Hello.”
Simultaneously, she encouraged us to make an effort to maintain a clear mind. “Where we live is in our minds and how much effort do we make to clear our mind, make it a pleasant place to dwell…well decorated, being careful not to bring in useless trash?...We are living in junkyards.” We can be attentive to the input we are digesting.
While the texts suggest vigilant and continual observation, Jetsumna suggests starting with 1 to 3x an hour. Simply pause and notice what the mind is doing. This will begin to train a quality of observation. Eventually, with some practice, we will know that the heart is the observer and the practice will feel much more embodied and centered in our being.
She said a lot more than this, of course. We ended with questions. The talk was held at the Rigpa UK.