Note: This blog is part of a series sharing the teachings of the Atisha's Lojong Root Verses on Training the Mind as shared by Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo in London May 28 & 29, 2016. These are not transcriptions of the lectures, rather a collection of her thoughts sewn together.
18. The Supreme inspiration is enemies, hindrances, disease and suffering.
The word being translated here is “kumna”. It is a sense of something that incites us to action, that urges us to get going, like a slap on the ass of a horse to go. Note that there is a difference between incitement and excitement.
When difficulties arise, they wake us up to the need for practice. And difficulties are our greatest opportunity to put our practice to work.
As human beings, we tend to gravitate towards that which brings us pleasure and shy away from that which causes suffering. We want to be comfortable. Yet, we don’t learn that much when we are comfortable. Jetsumna recycled the gym metaphor here, reminding us that our physical well being depends on us enduring a little bit of suffering to stay strong and limber.
“Our spiritual well being depends on our ability to face spiritual challenges.” ~ Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo
in the Buddhist system, there are 18 realms of Hell of varying degree of cold and hot and 26 realms of heaven, varying in rarefied subtlety. These are still within the realm of birth and death.
The Heaven Realms are blissful. Everybody has a body of light. There is no sickness or old age. Everyone is beautiful and there is no sadness. It’s a spiritual dead end, and it eats up all our good karma.
Jetsumna told the funniest story of a monk who while meditating one day in the forest was bitten by a poisonous snake. He died and was reborn in a heavenly realm. When he opened his eyes and saw the 16 nymphs in front of him, his first thought was, “devotees!” and he began to teach them the Dharma. But they were not interested and kept trying to get him to party. He did not understand until he looked down at himself and saw that he was in silks and covered in jewels. Then he knew what had happened. Furious, he went straight the the Buddha and complained that he did not become a monk to be reborn into some low brow cheesy heavily realm. The Buddha agreed and sent him and all his 16 nymphs, now devotees, into Nirvana.
Without the challenges, there is no opportunity to earn good karma and transform. And we are too bound in the lower realms to make real progress either. The Human Realm is understood as the ideal realm in which to make spiritual advancement.
The one thing certain in this life is that we are going to die. We always think its other people who are going to die. While we have our life, we should make full use of it. While we have this opportunity, don’t waste it. Remember that seeing old age, sickness and death is what inspired the Buddha on his path. Our grasping and clinging mind causes the pain. Its not the external circumstances that are the problem, its our response.
Jetsumna shared about the nuns and monks that spent 20 – 30 years in jail after the Chinese took over Tibet. They were not shaken, infact everyone was amazed at their joyfulness.
This teaching is how we go beyond hope and fear, by taking everything on the path. Fearlessness is based on the confidence that whatever happens we can take it on the path. A bodhisattva has that inner confidence. We are 40 and we act like we are 4. Happy when things go our way, having a meltdown when they do not. We do not have mastery over the inner rage. This is a part of growing up and becoming an adult.