Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness
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Wow, Wow. I love this.
Foreword - Pema Chödrön
I have contemplated Trungpa Rinpoche’s commentaries on the slogans almost daily, and I can say without exaggerating that they have transformed my life.
one that Trungpa Rinpoche recommended to his students. Using a set of cards printed with each of the slogans, I shuffle the stack each morning and draw the slogan for the day. Then I read from this book about what Rinpoche has to say, sometimes jotting down notes on the back of the card.
This is followed by my best try to live by the meaning of the slogan throughout my day. Sometimes I forget the slogan all day long, only to be reminded of its message when I come back to my room at night. Usually, however, if something challenging arises, the slogan of the day or perhaps a different one altogether will come to mind and provide me with “on the spot” instruction.
This always introduces me to a bigger perspective. I begin to have increasing confidence that I can utilize the slogans to be less reactive and to see things more clearly throughout my whole life. Slogan practice indeed continues to help me transform all circumstances into the path of enlightenment.
The more I get hooked by what is going on, the more these challenges become a remarkable teacher, one that can open and soften me and make me wiser.
We are all experts at escalating our emotional reactivity, fanning the fire with habitual thoughts and predictable strategies. For me, the slogan contemplation interrupts this momentum and brings a fresh take into the dynamic.
My gratitude to this practice and to my teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is limitless. I feel there is no way I could sufficiently repay his kindness in introducing me to these profound yet simple teachings and encouraging me to practice them. As Rinpoche says in his introduction, “You can just follow the book and do as it says, which is extraordinarily powerful and such a relief.”
The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind is a list of fifty-nine slogans, which form a pithy summary instruction on the view and practical application of mahayana Buddhism.
The study and practice of these slogans is a very practical and earthy way of reversing our ego-clinging and of cultivating tenderness and compassion.
They provide a method of training our minds through both formal meditation practice and using the events of everyday life as a means of awakening.
Mind training, or slogan practice, has two aspects: meditation and postmeditation practice.
“Sending and taking should be practiced alternately. / These two should ride the breath.”
Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged them to work with the postmeditation practice of joining every aspect of their lives with meditative discipline through the application of the slogans.
the development of mindfulness and awareness, as the foundation.
Through slogan practice, we begin to realize that our habitual tendency, even in our smallest gestures, is one of self-centeredness.
That tendency is quite entrenched and affects all of our activities, even our so-called benevolent behavior.
The practice of tonglen is a direct reversal of such a habit pattern and is based on the practice of putting others before self.
Starting with our friends, and then extending to our acquaintances and eventually even our enemies, we expand our field of awareness to accept others and be of benefit to them. We do this not because we are martyrs or have suppressed our self-concern, but because we have begun to accept ourselves and our world.
Slogan practice opens up a greater field of tenderness and strength, so that our actions are based on appreciation rather than the ongoing cycle of hope and fear.
Coming face to face with this most basic contrast of altruism and self-centeredness takes considerable courage and daring. It gets right to the heart of the spiritual path and allows no room for even the slightest deception or holding back. It is a very basic, nitty-gritty practice.
The formal practice of tonglen, like mindfulness-awareness practice, works with the medium of the breath. In order to begin, it is essential first to ground oneself by means of mindfulness and awareness training. That is the foundation upon which tonglen is based.
Tonglen practice itself has three stages. To begin with, you rest your mind briefly, for a second or two, in a state of openness. This stage is somewhat abrupt and has a quality of “flashing” on basic stillness and clarity.
Next, you work with texture. You breathe in a feeling of heat, darkness, and heaviness, a sense of claustrophobia, and you breathe out a feeling of coolness, brightness, and lightness—a sense of freshness. You feel these qualities going in and out, through all your pores. Having established the general feeling or tone of tonglen, you begin to work with mental contents. Whatever arises in your experience, you simply breathe in what is not desirable and breathe out what is desirable. Starting with your immediate experience, you expand that to include people around you and other sentient beings who are suffering in the same way as you. For instance, if you are feeling inadequate, you begin by breathing that in and breathing out your personal sense of competence and adequacy. Then you extend the practice, broadening it beyond your personal concerns to connect with the poignancy of those feelings in your immediate surroundings and throughout the world. The essential quality of this practice is one of opening your heart—wholeheartedly taking in and wholeheartedly letting go. In tonglen nothing is rejected: whatever arises is further fuel for the practice.
Trungpa Rinpoche stressed the importance of the oral tradition, in which practices are transmitted personally and directly from teacher to student.
The essential living quality of practice being conveyed is a very human one and cannot be acquired simply from books.
Therefore, it is recommended that before embarking on the formal practice of sending and taking, if at all possible, one should meet with an experienced practitioner to discuss the practice and receive formal instruction.
The postmeditation practice is based upon the spontaneous recall of appropriate slogans in the thick of daily life.
Rather than making a heavy-handed or deliberate effort to guide your actions in accordance with the slogans, a quality of spontaneous reminder is evoked through the study of these traditional aphorisms.
If you study these seven points of mind training and memorize the slogans, you will find that they arise effortlessly in your mind at the oddest times. They have a haunting quality, and in their recurrence they can lead you gradually to a more and more subtle understanding of the nature of kindness and compassion.
removing obstacles of limited vision, fear and self-clinging, so that one’s actions are not burdened by the weight of self-concern, projections, and expectations. The slogans are meant to be “practiced.” That is, they need to be studied and memorized. At the same time, they need to be “let go.” They are merely conceptual tools pointing to nonconceptual realization.
As is usual in Buddhist teachings, there is an element of playfulness and irony in the way one slogan often undermines its predecessor and thereby enlarges one’s view. They form a loop in which nothing is excluded. Whatever arises in one’s mind or experience is let go into the greater space of awareness that slogan practice generates. It is this openness of mind that becomes the basis for the cultivation of compassion.
The view of morality presented through the Kadampa slogans is similar to that of Shakespeare’s famous lines, “The quality of mercy is not strained, it falleth as the gentle rain from heaven.”
The traditional Buddhist image for compassion is that of the sun, which shines beneficently and equally on all. It is the sun’s nature to shine; there is no struggle. Likewise, compassion is a natural human activity, once the veils and obstacles to its expression are removed.
May they provoke fearlessness in overcoming the tenacious grip of ego. May they enable us to put into practice our most heartfelt aspirations to benefit all sentient beings on the path of awakening.
a sense of gentleness toward ourselves, and a sense of friendliness to others begins to arise. That friendliness or compassion is known in Tibetan as nyingje, which literally means “noble heart.”
The obstacle to becoming a mahayanist is not having enough sympathy for others and for oneself—that is the basic point.
“training the mind.” That training gives us a path, a way to work with our crude and literal and raw and rugged styles, a way to become good mahayanists.
Ignorant or stupid students of the mahayana sometimes think that they have to glorify themselves; they want to become leaders or guides. We have a technique or practice for overcoming that problem. That practice is the development of humility, which is connected with training the mind.
The basic mahayana vision is to work for the benefit of others and create a situation that will benefit others. Therefore, you take the attitude that you are willing to dedicate yourself to others. When you take that attitude, you begin to realize that others are more important than yourself. Because of that vision of mahayana, because you adopt that attitude, and because you actually find that others are more important—with all three of those together, you develop the mahayana practice of training the mind.
Hinayana discipline is fundamentally one of taming the mind.
When we are thoroughly tamed by the practice of shamatha discipline, or mindfulness practice, we begin to develop a complete understanding of the dharma. After that, we also begin to develop a complete understanding of how, in our particular state of being tamed, we can relate with others.
Having domesticated our mind, then we can use it further. It’s like the story of capturing a wild cow in the old days. Having captured the wild cow, having domesticated it, you find that the cow becomes completely willing to relate with its tamers. In fact, the cow likes being domesticated. So at this point the cow is part of our household. Once upon a time it wasn’t that way—I’m sure cows were wild and ferocious before we domesticated them.
Training the mind is known as lojong in Tibetan: lo means “intelligence,” “mind,” “that which can perceive things”; jong means “training” or “processing.” The teachings of lojong consist of several steps or points of mahayana discipline. The basic discipline of mind training or lojong is a sevenfold cleaning or processing of one’s mind.
This book is based on the basic Kadampa text, The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind, and on the commentary by Jamgön Kongtrül. In Tibetan the commentary is called Changchup Shunglam. Shung is the word used for “government” and also for “main body.” So shung means “main governing body.”
It is the highway that everybody goes on, a wide way, extraordinarily wide and extraordinarily open. Changchup means “enlightenment,” shung means “wide” or “basic,” and lam means “path.” So the title of the commentary is The Basic Path Toward Enlightenment.
The main text is based on Atisha’s teachings on lojong and comes from the Kadam school of Tibetan Buddhism, which developed around the time of Marpa and Milarepa, when Tibetan monasticism had begun to take place and become deep-rooted.
In my own case, having studied philosophy a lot, the first time Jamgön Kongtrül suggested that I read and study this book, Changchup Shunglam, I was relieved that Buddhism was so simple and that you could actually do something about it. You can actually practice. You can just follow the book and do as it says, which is extraordinarily powerful and such a relief.
And that sense of simplicity still continues. It is so precious and so direct. I do not know what kind of words to use to describe it. It is somewhat rugged, but at the same time it is so soothing to read such writing. That is one of the characteristics of Jamgön Kongtrül—he can change his tone completely, as if he were a different author altogether. Whenever he writes on a particular subject, he changes his approach accordingly, and his basic awareness to relate with the audience becomes entirely different.
Jamgön Kongtrül’s commentary on the Kadampa slogans is one of the best books I studied in the early stages of my monastic kick.
What has been said is a drop of golden liquid. Each time you read such a book it confirms again and again that there is something about it which makes everything very simple and direct. That makes me immensely happy.
POINT ONE - The Preliminaries, Which Are a Basis for Dharma Practice
First, train in the preliminaries.
In practicing the slogans and in your daily life, you should maintain an awareness of
- the preciousness of human life and the particular good fortune of life in an environment in which you can hear the teachings of buddhadharma;
- the reality of death, that it comes suddenly and without warning;
- the entrapment of karma—that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, only further entraps you in the chain of cause and effect;
- the intensity and inevitability of suffering for yourself and for all sentient beings.
This is called “taking an attitude of the four reminders.”
With that attitude as a base, you should call upon your guru with devotion.
A pure love affair can only take place with one’s teacher.
you relate to the teacher as someone who cheers you up from depression and brings you down from excitement.
This slogan establishes the contrast between samsara—the epitome of pain, imprisonment, and insanity—and the root guru—the embodiment of openness, freedom, and sanity—as the fundamental basis for all practice.
POINT TWO - The Main Practice, Which Is Training in Bodhichitta
ULTIMATE AND RELATIVE BODHICHITTA
Ultimate Bodhichitta and the Paramita of Generosity