“Instead of responding to events with the same afflictive habitual response, respond in a new, less self-oriented manner.”
This one threw me at first, trying to coordinate and make sense of the various translations. Here are the translations:
Avoid yet practice getting tough (Gyalwa Gendun Druppa)
Don’t rely (on disturbing thoughts) as my excellent mainstay (Alex Berzin)
Don’t be so predictable (Chogyam Trungpa, Pema Chodron, and Judy Lief)
Don’t be consistent (Web Archive)
Don’t rely on consistency (Jamgon Kongtrul)
Do not devote yourself kindly to the central object (Alan Wallace)
Do not serve the central object leniently (Rabten & Dhargyey)
Do not be hidebound by a sense of duty (Dilgo Khyentse)
A good summary, I think is Alex Berzin’s:
But Alan Wallace’s translator’s perspective helped the most:AB (“Don’t rely (on disturbing thoughts) as my excellent mainstay”) wrote: We’ve got to be kind to others, and really unkind to our disturbing emotions.
After that, the other translations and comments fell into place a little better. For example, Gyalwa Gendun Druppa says,AW (“Do not devote yourself kindly to the central object”) wrote: This pledge also seems obscure at first. The Tibetan word translated here as central object refers to a central pillar or support, and is interpreted here as our own mental distortions. In other words, we should not bear a gentle, lenient attitude towards our own mental distortions. If we find ourselves responding with resentment to another person's disagreeable or unkind action, we should not treat our own distortion casually, saying, "What's a little bit of hostility or arrogance now and then?" This genial attitude to our own afflictions is to be abandoned, because it nurtures the distortion and prolongs it for days, years, and even decades, causing suffering for ourselves and others.
Alex Berzin goes on to say,GGD (“Avoid yet practice getting tough”) wrote: There is no need to get tough with humans or non-humans; in fact, to do so is harmful to us both conventionally and spiritually. With what should we get tough? With the self-cherishing attitude, which is the root of all our suffering. We should make this the target of our every spiritual endeavor.
Pema Chodron talks about predictable behavior and how it affects our practice.AB wrote: This means that we don’t devote the major highway in our minds to disturbing thoughts rather than to positive thoughts and cherishing others. As soon as anger, attachment or self-cherishing arises, don’t play with it -– just shut it down immediately. If we think, “Well, let’s take it easy on ourselves, it’s not so bad that I’m getting angry,” it means we’re allowing disturbing emotions to drive in the main lane. Then, it’ll get stronger and stronger until it takes over and we lose control. …
There’s no need to go overboard with self-evaluation, but if we see that we have been acting negatively, then we can feel regret and resolve to improve. Remember that progress is non-linear –- some days are better than others. Still, we can try our best to act in a positive, less selfish way each day.
Chogyam Trungpa’s comments remind me of GGD’s translation when he refers to the “twist”.PC wrote: The next is "Don't be so predictable," which has also been translated as, "Don't be so trustworthy." It's an interesting one. It's getting at how predictable we are, as everybody in the advertising world knows. They know exactly what to put on those billboards and those ads to make us want to buy their products. Even intelligent people like ourselves are sometimes magnetized by this propaganda because we're so predictable. …
If someone does something nice for you, you always remember it and you want to repay their kindness. But if somebody hurts you, you remember it for the rest of your life and you always want to get revenge in one way or another. That's the meaning of this slogan "Don't be so predictable." Don't always react so predictably to pleasure and pain. Don't keep taking the wrong medicine for the illness.
Judy Lief breaks it down quite well, I think, in terms of intentionally disrupting our habitual reactions.CT wrote: This slogan has an interesting twist. To begin with, we could use the analogy of the trustworthy friend. Some people are trustworthy people, traditional people, maybe you could say old-fashioned people. When you become friends with people like that, they always remember your friendship, and the trust between you lasts for a long time. In the example of the trustworthy person, you SHOULD always remember your connection with him or her and his or her connection with you. But if somebody gives you a bad deal, or if you have a lot of conflict with somebody, you should not constantly hold a grudge against him. In this case, the point is that you should NOT always remember somebody's bad dealings with you.
And as in previous comments, she again brings up that “gap” where freedom can change predictable patterns.JL wrote: When we work with mind training and the development of bodhichitta, we are interrupting our usual way of going about business. We find that many of our actions are programmed and extremely predictable and we notice that in other people as well. …
If we do not make an effort to do otherwise, if we do not pay attention, then much of what we do will be in the form of automatic reactions. We can see this whole process as it is happening, although often we do not. …
This kind of predictability is fueled by the self-centered undercurrent of fascination with our own concerns and disinterest in others except to the extent that they either threaten or feed our own desires. When someone does us harm, we hang onto our grudge about that for a very long time. But when someone helps us, we take it for granted, and soon forget it.
Sometimes (not always!) the most tradition explanation is the clearest:JL wrote:If we cultivate awareness enough to step back a bit from simply reacting, we can insert a gap or a pause before being carried away. In that little gap there is the freedom to respond in a fresh way, less predetermined. … When you feel threatened, don’t get defensive, pause, and then react. When you are praised, don’t just lap it up, pause, and then react.
2776Geshes Rabten & Dhargyey wrote: This does not mean that we should not act kindly or gently toward other beings, but that we should not be lenient toward our emotional afflictions. It is entirely due to our indulgence in the afflictions of greed, aggression, and ignorance that we remain caught in the net of confusion; hereafter, we must stop being gentle with these true enemies and instead be gentle with other sentient beings.