Daily Lojong

Forum for discussion of Tibetan Buddhism. Questions specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
Jeff H
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Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:09 pm

15. The Four Practices Are the Best Methods
“1. Accumulate merit — the actions that relate you to what is sacred; 2. Lay down unwholesome deeds; 3. Return to mindfulness when possessed by overwhelming emotions; and 4. When unanticipated obstacles arise, turn to this practice.”

Gyalwa Gendun Druppa seems to give a somewhat different set of the “four”. He lists them as, first, practice Dharma in every situation, and more so each day. Second, while applying the first, ensure that your thoughts are of bodhichitta and your actions consistent with the accumulations and purifications. Third, accumulate positive karma by spreading your joy, meditating on joy for all beings. Fourth, purify negative karma by applying the four opponent forces (regret, reliance, remedy, and resolve). And he comments,
GGD wrote:This method of training the mind on the path to enlightenment is especially exalted, for it enables the practitioner to take any sufferings and hardships that arise as friends in the development of the two bodhiminds.
Alex Berzin and Judy Lief both have the same list, which seems (to me) to differ from GGD and today’s slogan blurb.

Berzin lists them as:
AB wrote:1. Building up positive force (collecting merit); …
2. Purifying our negative force; …
3. Making offerings to harmful spirits -- to bring us more suffering; … [and]
4. Requesting the enlightening influence of the Dharma protectors -- to bring more suffering and destroy our self-cherishing.
He clarifies the first practice (collecting merit) like this:
AB wrote:We’re not collecting points or stamps and if we get enough, we’ll win a prize. What it refers to is how we can strengthen our networks of positive potential, by acting in constructive ways and using our positive qualities. In this way, we can transform negative circumstances into positive ones.
For the second he illustrates applying the four opponent forces (regret, resolve, reliance, and remedy).
AB wrote:If we’ve acted in a negative way and hurt someone, for instance, we might feel guilty afterwards. We can change this circumstance into a positive one by doing more purification practices. Rather than feeling guilty, we acknowledge … regret that we acted how we did. We make a decision to try and not repeat it, reaffirm our safe direction in life, and then do something constructive to counteract it.
Here’s what he says about the third:
AB wrote:In many texts we pray for harmful spirits to give us even more harm, this way of feeding the spirits is … extremely effective. It shows us that we already have inside of us the things we feel we are lacking and in need of, we just need to draw on our own inner strength to provide them for ourselves.

As with any practice, the way we enter and finish it is important. Just like a computer program, if we don’t do it properly, the computer might crash. Likewise, when doing meditation practices that deal with powerful emotions, we have to enter and exit gently, or we might crash! The way to enter and exist is to focus on the sensation of the breath going in and out of the nose, or the sensation of the abdomen going up and down as we breathe. This connects us with our body and the earth, and is really helpful if we’re dealing with really negative or terrifying emotions.
Regarding the fourth, he says that, besides requesting more suffering from dharma protectors,
AB wrote:A less skillful way of working with these protectors is to make offerings to help our positive potentials to ripen –- in other words, to make things go well for us. This isn’t the best way to work with Dharma protectors because then that positive potential will be finished, and we’ll crash and be left with negative potential. The better way is to make offerings and perform pujas to help our negative potentials ripen, but in a minor way. …
Our wishes and prayers help to create the conditions for our own karma to ripen. It’s actually quite practical!
Judy Leif agrees with Berzin’s list and explains:
JL wrote:The first practice is to accumulate merit. This is pretty tricky. It sounds as if you should try to pile up good deeds as credentials, like scouts collecting merit badges. But here the idea of merit has a twist. It is not just that if you are good you will be rewarded. Conventional acts of merit such as practicing good deeds, revering sacred images and texts, and supporting the sangha, are encouraged here as a way to disrupt egotism, not build a holy persona that is even worse than normal egomania.

The second practice is to lay down evil deeds. You do not need to be heavy-handed or guilt-ridden about it. You just need to reach the point of getting tired of your neurosis, embarrassed and fed up enough to do something about it. Then you can refrain from what you have been doing, and let go not just of the evil but the evil doer as well.

The third practice is to offer to the döns. Döns are sudden attacks of neurosis that seem to come from nowhere in a sudden burst. When you are taken aback by such a dön, the idea is to take that as a gift. It shakes you out of your complacency so you should be grateful.

The fourth practice is to make offering to the dharmapalas, or “dharma protectors.” Dharmapalas are said to protect the integrity of the teachings and keep an eye on practitioners who lose their way. They are guardians of awareness. When we are caught in self-deception or unmindfulness, the world strikes back. The idea is that we should not only appreciate that, but invite it.
Judy Lief says of this slogan that it “is very straightforward and action oriented”. Personally, I don’t find it so straightforward, or even that consistently presented. I did not find this verse in any of the commenters’ collections on the online Web Archive we’ve been using. :shrug:

We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 900
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:46 pm

16. Whatever You Meet with Unexpectedly, Join with Meditation
“When an unexpected pleasure or pain occurs, meditate on the event to avoid an afflictive habitual response. Instead, practice sending and taking.”

Once again I’m observing some apparent discrepancies in the commentaries. Berzin includes this advice as a response to the previous one (the four protective practices) and doesn’t comment further. Gyalwa Gendun Druppa gives a detailed comment which seems to differ from the other resources I’m using.
GGD wrote:We should in general train our mind using all sentient beings as the object; but in particular we should show special care with the five following types of people: close companions; competitors who have harmed us; those who, even though we have not harmed them, cause harm to us; those who, even though they haven’t harmed us, seem unpleasant and repulsive to us; and those who have brought us great benefits, such as our spiritual teachers, parents and so forth. With the first four of these groups there is a strong danger that we could mistake the training by mixing the afflicted emotions into our dealings with them; as for the fifth category, we should be especially careful because here a small mistake can have heavy ripening karmic results due to the great kindnesses that these people have shown to us. These are special cases and we should meditate with special intensity when in their company.
However, on closer inspection, GGD gets at the heart of categorizing the ways different kind of encounters can blindside us, and urges us to be constantly present, ready to recognize such situations and respond rather than react. And that corresponds with what the other commentators say with different emphasis.

My main reaction to this slogan is that it’s about finding the “gap” between a feeling that arises and the plunge into my habitual wallowing that usually follows. It corresponds with something that occurred to me early in my Buddhism study and practice, but I haven’t seen corroborated since. Something I read (in Reginald Ray, I think) led me to believe that “freedom” lies in the gap between Feeling and Craving in the twelve links. The point, to me, was that since Feelings (positive, negative, and neutral) in response to sensory Contacts are karmic effects and Craving is a karmic cause, it means that right there, in that gap between something we can’t help feeling and our response to it, we have the opportunity to choose something other than our habitually reactive craving. If we have instilled Dharma deeply in our mindstream, and if we can recognize the gap when it occurs, then we can choose to crave something virtuous instead of non-virtuous. Of course, the "choosing" is not overtly conscious in the brief moment of this gap; it has to be something we've pre-programmed to be instinctual.

Overall, my take-away for this slogan is threefold: 1. Find the gap; stop the mind; 2. Apply tonglen in that gap, in all circumstances; and 3. This is the constant, practical application of Dharma meditation in daily life.

Judy Lief says it best today. in my opinion:
JL wrote:According to this slogan, taking an attitude of compassion and awareness does not need to be some formal or long drawn-out process. It can be done in an instant, in the tiny gap that occurs at the very moment we are surprised by something unexpected, whether positive or negative. Of course, that is the same point where we are most apt to “lose it.”

When we are at that point of just about to lose it, before we have gone into reaction mode or dragged out our usual arsenal of habits, we can pause. We can interrupt that momentum. Instead of joining whatever we meet with our bundle of preconceptions, self-absorptions, fixed views, and programmed responses, we can immediately join it with meditation. We can insert awareness and compassion.

Throughout the slogan teachings, we keep being reminded that each and every situation is an opportunity for growth and awakening. To take advantage of such opportunities, we need to keep expanding the boundaries of our meditation to include more and more aspects of our life. By cultivating an attitude of ongoing mindfulness, by becoming genuine practitioners, it is as if we create a well of loving-kindness and awareness that we can tap even in the midst of sudden changes and challenges.
Pema Chodron emphasizes “the gap”.
PC wrote: This is the slogan about surprises as gifts. These surprises can be pleasant or unpleasant; the main point is that they can stop your minds. You're walking along and a snowball hits you on the side of the head. It stops your mind. …

The instruction is that when something stops your mind, catch the moment of that gap, that moment of big space, that moment of bewilderment, that moment of total astonishment, and let yourself rest in it a little longer than you ordinarily might. …

Usually we're so caught up in ourselves, we're hanging on to ourselves so tightly, that it takes a Mack truck knocking us down to wake us up and stop our minds. But really, as you begin to practice, it could just take the wind blowing the curtain.
In the end, it seems, all the lojong guidances come back to tonglen. Whatever we encounter in the world, accept the pleasant aspects casually, but welcome and celebrate the unpleasant aspects as purifying gifts which steadily build our ability to transform negativity into goodness. And then immediately send that goodness back into the world.

Jamgon Kongtrul emphasizes this aspect.
JK wrote:When illness, demons, interruptions, or disturbing emotions come unexpectedly, or if you see someone else troubled by some unpleasant situation, think, "I shall just practice taking and sending." In all your virtuous thoughts and actions think: “May all sentient beings come to engage naturally in much greater dharma activity than this.”

Do the same when you are happy and comfortable. If you have some evil thought or are forced to engage in some form of evil activity, think: “May every evil thought and action of every sentient being be gathered in this one.

In summary, maintain the motivation to help others whatever you are doing: eating, sleeping, walking, or sitting. As soon as you encounter a situation, good or bad, work at this practice of mind training.
Chogyam Trungpa expounds on it.
CT wrote:Generally speaking, Western audiences have a problem with that kind of thing. It sounds love-and-lighty, like the hippie ethic in which "Everything is going to be okay. Everybody is everybody's property, everything is everybody's property. You can share everything with everybody. Don't lay ego trips on things." But this is something more than that. ... It is simply to be open and precise, and to know your territory at the same time. You are going to relate with your own neurosis rather than expanding that neurosis to others.

In a sense, when you begin to settle down to that kind of practice, to that level of being decent and good, you begin to feel very comfortable and relaxed in your world. It actually takes away your anxiety altogether, because you don't have to pretend at all. ...

There is so much accommodation taking place in you. And out of that comes a kind of power: what you say makes sense to others. The whole thing works so wonderfully. It does not have to become martyrdom. It works very beautifully.
Alan Wallace and Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey emphasize the aspect of practical meditation in the world.
”AB” wrote:This final verse of the third point is a contemplative practice to be implemented between formal sessions, as we are out and about in daily life.
R&D wrote: Wherever we are -- alone in the mountains or in a crowded and bustling city, under whatever circumstances, favorable or not -- and whether others harm us or whether we enjoy perfect health and peace of mind, we should utilize all situations to speed us along the path to liberation. … Frequently, Milarepa would say: “In any circumstance, whether I am sleeping, walking, or eating, I pursue my meditations uninterruptedly.” … Whether the situation seems conducive to Dharma practice or not, it will be used solely for developing the mind.
And Dilgo Khyentse wraps it up as Geshe Langri Tangpa intended it.
DK wrote:If you bind a crooked tree to a large wooden stake, it will eventually grow straight. Up to now, our minds have always been crooked, thinking how we might trick and mislead people, but this practice, as Geshe Langri Tangpa said, will make our minds straight and true.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 900
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:40 pm

17. Practice The Five Strengths: The Condensed Heart Instructions
“1. Be determined to maintain relative and absolute bodhichitta; 2. Become familiar with the teachings; 3. Persevere in the practice; 4. Reproach yourself for egotistic thinking; 5. Aspire to save all sentient beings.”

This is the first of two slogans in Point Four: Utilizing the Practice in One’s Life. Respectively, the two slogans deal with five condensed powers for living (#17) and five condensed forces for dying (#18). In fact, it is the same five forces in both cases, just with different emphasis during life and when dying.

Point Four is something of a review. Like a good professor who emphasizes the most important points repeatedly, here we are shown the essence of the lojong and how essential it is that we integrate it with whatever we do from now until we die, and beyond.

The Web Archive, which has so conveniently collected individual comments on all the lojong slogans from several highly qualified sources, presents these five condensed instructions under one entry called “Life and Death”, stating “Practice these five forces and you are ready for death at any moment.”

Gyalwa Gendun Druppa lays out the traditional method, approaching the five powers separately for ongoing life and at the time of death (tomorrow’s slogan #18).
GGD wrote:The doctrine of collecting all essential practices together and arranging them into a format for systematic and effective practice in one lifetime is given as follows in the root text.
1. White Seed: Dedicate all creative energies to the goal of generating ever higher levels of bodhichitta and never letting them decrease. (Be determined to maintain relative and absolute bodhichitta)
2. Resolve: Pray resolutely that sentient beings may have happiness, avoid suffering, and that I will attain Buddhahood to facilitate this. (Persevere in the practice)
3. Transcendence: Cultivate the steadfast attitude to transcend self-cherishing. (Reproach yourself for egoistic thinking)
4. Familiarity: Meditate constantly on the preliminaries, the bodhichitta practice, and transforming negativity, as described in the previous three lojong points. (Become familiar with the teachings)
5. Aspiration: In all devotions and spiritual activities pray like this, “In this life, at death, in the bardo, in the next life and in all future reincarnations may the forces of the two bodhiminds not become weakened with me, but may they manifest with an ever-increasing strength. Should any difficult circumstances or hardships arise, may I take these as friends in the cultivation of the two bodhiminds. May I always remain in touch with the Mahayana masters who teach this sublime path.” (Aspire to save all sentient beings)
(Parentheses at the end of each instruction above shows how I think they align with today’s slogan blurb)

GGD elaborates on #3, Transcendence:
GGD wrote:Because of the influence of self-cherishing, many of the practitioners famed for their learning, gentleness, meditational endeavor and knowledge nonetheless remain prone to the delusions. Consequently they harbor feelings of jealousy for those more advanced than themselves, disrespect for those less advanced, and competitive with those on the same level. … Determine therefore, “I will transcend this self-cherishing habit.”
In The Way of the Bodhisattva Shantideva provides a marvelous meditation on exactly this practice at 8:140-155 (I’m not including the quote due to length).

Alex Berzin gives the list this way:
1. Intention: Set the right intention for the day and for every spiritual and mundane action we perform all day.
2. White Seed: The “seeds” are our karmic actions; assiduously choose to sow positive seeds.
3. Habituation: Habituate ourselves to consciously performing every activity for the wellbeing of others in some way.
4. Eliminating all at once: Immediately get rid of any delusion that appears, as if a cat jumped onto the dining table.
5. Prayer: This is not supplication for outside help, but summoning our inner strength and expressing intolerance for our own delusions.
AB wrote:Serkong Rinpoche said that we should not ask our lamas to pray for us to not have sickness, or that our businesses go well. Rather, the best request for prayers from a lama is to pray that you’re able to develop bodhichitta as quickly as possible.
I thought Judy Lief was pretty succinct and offered an insightful point about exertion in her presentation:
JL wrote:The two slogans of Point Four are a blanket approach: you are blanketing your entire life with exertion. It takes exertion to live properly and it also takes exertion to die properly. No matter how much we have studied or how many ideas we may have, without exertion, our understanding will be superficial, not transformative.
Determination. First, instead of drifting through each day in a haze, you should consciously choose a course for your activities. You should set a direction and try to stick with it, whether it is for an hour, a day, or a longer period of time.
Familiarization. By engaging with exertion over and over again, the practice of mindfulness and loving-kindness becomes familiar territory for you, and is no longer a big deal. It is a part of you and not a project, but a way of life.
Virtue. In terms of loving-kindness, you keep setting your sights higher, and are not content with a half-hearted or partial approach to practice.
Reproach. With reproach you are willing to call a spade a spade. You recognize that it is your fascination with yourself, or your ego fixation, that causes you so much suffering and keeps you from developing loving-kindness and compassion. You don’t try to pretend otherwise. You are willing to reproach the ego and are determined to tame it and undermine its power.
Aspiration. Every time you practice, you should end by recommitting yourself to the service of others. You should aspire to attain enlightenment and cultivate mindfulness and loving-kindness so that you are capable of saving yourself and others, no matter what obstacles may arise.
Pema Chodron gives a good synopsis:
PC wrote:The five strengths are instructions on how to live and how to die. Actually, there's no difference. The same good advice applies to both... Suzuki Roshi said, "Just be willing to die over and over again." As each breath goes out, let it be the end of that moment and the birth of something new.
She describes Determination like diligence, joyous effort. She says it is like Native American warriors going into battle thinking, “Today is a good day to die”. It is equally a good day to live.
Familiarization, she says occurs when the Dharma stops being foreign; when enlightenment isn’t a big deal, just relaxing into what’s really there already.
The Seed of Virtue is something within ourselves to be seen clearly and gently nurtured.
Reproach requires that we distinguish between our harmful ego-clinging and the person of our awareness.
Aspiration is giving voice to your bodhichitta intention; it’s an internal prayer.
PC wrote:All five of these strengths are ways to empower yourself. Buddhism itself is all about empowering yourself, not about getting what you want.
Jamgon Kongtrul drives home the importance of these heart instructions,
JK wrote:The five forces summarize the crucial points of practice and, in a single phrase, contain numerous profound key instructions for the practice of the holy dharma.
And gives this particular advice regarding Virtuous Seeds,
JK wrote:Never be content with your efforts to arouse and strengthen bodhicitta.
Alan Wallace also gives a good commentary, which I highlight here.
AW wrote: 1. THE POWER OF RESOLUTION ... We can establish this continuity of mind most earnestly when we appreciate the depth and magnificence of these two qualities of mind: ultimate bodhicitta that probes into the nature of reality with such depth, and relative bodhicitta, born of loving kindness and compassion, that aspires to full awakening for the benefit of all creatures. Until these two are brought to culmination, we resolve never to be parted from the practice of cultivating them.

2. THE POWER OF FAMILIARIZATION. Looking to the present rather than the future, the author encourages us never to be distracted from the cultivation of ultimate and relative bodhicitta. Profound spiritual transformation occurs only with persistent practice, for it is through familiarizing ourselves with fresh ways of viewing reality and fresh ways of responding to situations that old, harmful patterns are broken up. …

3. THE POWER OF THE WHITE SEED … Cultivate this seed by welcoming any opportunity to transform unfavorable circumstances into spiritual growth. … With so many options presented, we need to seek out what is most meaningful for the cultivation of these bodhicittas and then strive in that.

4. THE POWER OF ABANDONMENT. In this practice what is being abandoned is self-grasping. We are reminded again that since beginningless time beyond all imagination, self-grasping has lain at the very core of all mental distortions and afflictions. … Recognize when self-grasping manifests in daily life. …

5. THE POWER OF PRAYER. Like the dedication of merit, this is a directing of the spiritual momentum of merit that we have accumulated by engaging in wholesome behavior. ...
Dilgo Khyentse appropriately concludes:
DK wrote:If we possess these five strengths, Bodhicitta will arise in us.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 900
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sun Nov 12, 2017 3:17 pm

18. The Mahayana Instruction for the Ejection of Consciousness at Death Is the Five Strengths: How You Conduct Yourself Is Important
“Perfecting the five strengths will make a friend of death.”

As I mentioned yesterday, this is the second of the two slogans in Point Four: Utilizing the Practice in One’s Life. These two slogans are a review of the first three Points (Point Five, starting tomorrow, is the test!). They provide five condensed forces to apply in life (#17) and at the time of death (#18).

In the traditional Gelug presentation of these two heart instructions, the five powers are presented in a different order and with slightly different emphasis when applied to ongoing daily life versus when one knows that death is approaching. During life these five powers immerse our minds in habitual Dharma as preparation, and at death they constitute the means to propel our Mahayana practice forward, through the bardo and into a fortunate rebirth or enlightenment. That is the Mahayana transference.

For today’s verse, Gyalwa Gendun Druppa gives this perspective on the five forces at death:
GGD wrote:The names of the five are the same as with the five forces explained [in slogan #17], although the order and the interpretation are somewhat different.
1. White Seed: As death nears, put your spiritual affairs in order –- distribute your possessions to those who will benefit from them, do purifications, take refuge, generate bodhichitta, renew your spiritual goals.
2. Aspiration: Pray for aspiration, just as explained in yesterday’s verse.
3. Transcendence: At the time of death, transcending self-cherishing is more urgent than ever.
4. Resolve: Meditate now even more rigorously on bodhichitta and prepare to realize, in the bardo, the clear light of mind and to manifest the kayas.
5. Familiarity: When the time arrives, lie in the position of Buddha when he passed and meditate deeply on death, bodhichitta, and emptiness.
GGD wrote:Pass away in the sphere of this meditation on compassion and wisdom combined.
Some of the other commentators I’m consulting for this lojong exercise explain the five powers the same for living and dying. (See yesterday’s post for a digest of their presentations.) Here are the high points made by those who modify the instructions for the time of death.

Chogyam Trungpa actually places the primary focus of his commentary on using the five forces as preparation for dying.
CT wrote:This slogan tells us that it is important for us to realize that death is an important part of our practice, since we are all going to die ... the instruction for how to die in Mahayana is the five strengths.
STRONG DETERMINATION, number one, is connected with taking a very strong stand: "I will maintain my basic egolessness, my basic sanity, even in my death."
FAMILIARIZATION is developing a general sense of mindfulness and awareness so that you do not panic when you are dying.
The SEED OF VIRTUE is connected with not resting, not taking any kind of break from your fear of death*. It also has to do with overcoming your attachment to your belongings.
REPROACH means realizing that this so-called ego does not actually exist. Therefore, you can say "What am I afraid of, anyway? Go away, ego."
And the last one, ASPIRATION, is realizing that you have tremendous strength and desire to continue and to open yourself up. Therefore, you have nothing to regret when you die. You have already accomplished everything that you can accomplish.

*[Note: fear as a motivator for Dharma practice]
Alex Berzin provides some pretty intense comments on Mahayana transference.
AB wrote:At the time of death we can also apply these five forces, and this is considered as the best type of powa, or transference of consciousness ...
1. Intention: The best thing to keep in mind when we die is the aspiration, “May I be able to develop bodhichitta further … What is powa, and where do we want to transfer our minds to? We don’t want to go to paradise –- that’s not Buddhist. We want to transfer our consciousness to enlightenment.
2. White Seed: … Give everything away, to our families and friends and the needy –- that’s much better than everything being chucked into the garbage after we’re gone. …
3. Habituation: Meditating on bodhichitta over and over again so that at the moment of death, as our mind becomes subtler and subtler, we’ll be able to stay focused on bodhichitta and enlightenment. …
4. Eliminate all at once: Overcoming, at the time of death, our tendencies of cherishing our own bodies. It’s taught that we should die like a bird taking off from a rock, without looking back. …
And here’s where it gets intense:
AB wrote:5. Prayer: This is difficult because it’s a prayer to be reborn in a hell realm to take on the suffering of all others, and to not be separated from bodhichitta. How on earth could we be sincere about that?! Just as we ask the help of Dharma protectors to provide the circumstances to burn off negative potentials, likewise by being reborn in a hell realm, we would burn them off and get it over with. …

It’s not that we want to go because we’re bad people, or we deserve it. The wish to be reborn there is motivated by the desire to benefit others as much as possible, for which we need to get rid of our karmic obstacles. … Because of the positive motivation, the negative potentials will ripen into something very minor. … Naturally, it only works if the motivation is sincere: “I really really really want to get rid of these obstacles so I can help others more.” If we have the motivation of just not wanting a really long stay in a hell realm, then it won’t work.
However, as he did with the tonglen verse, #7, he’s presenting a highly advanced practice and each person must adapt it to their own capability.
AB wrote:If we do fear rebirth in hell, however, then we shouldn’t do this practice by any means. It’s stated very clearly in the Buddha’s teachings, that a lower-stage bodhisattva should not attempt the practices of higher-stage bodhisattvas. The fox doesn’t jump where the lion can. These are very difficult and advanced practices.
I'll conclude with Judy Lief's sound guidance about how to thoroughly integrate the five forces into our general conduct.
JL wrote:… It may seem that living and dying are two very different things, but they are completely interconnected. We learn how to live by learning how to die and we learn how to die by learning how to live. Each informs the other.

According to this slogan “how you conduct yourself is important.” This is actually quite provocative. We usually divide our experience, viewing some things we do as a big deal and very important and viewing other things as trivial or insignificant. It is easy to think of dying as an end to our ability to do anything of significance and living as what really matters and where we get things done. But the idea here is that how we conduct ourselves in every single action matters and is important in and of itself.

… Acting properly takes strength and exertion. To start with, you have to set your mind in the right direction. If you are just drifting along in a haze, you will easily be thrown off course. It takes real determination to maintain a sane and compassionate approach even in the face of death. When we are threatened, it is so easy to lose both our sanity and our compassion.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 900
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:12 pm

19. All Dharmas Agrees at One Point
“The goal of all wisdom teachings is to help shed the ego. You can measure your progress by the extent to which you indulge your ‘self ’.”

Yesterday we completed the first four of seven Points, comprising 18 verses. They outlined the essence of Dharma practice: 1. The Preliminaries; 2. Bodhichitta; 3. Transforming Negativity; and 4. A rigorous review. Now we arrive at Point Five: how to evaluate whether your practice is successful or not.

This verse, #19, states the first thing to check: how’s your ego-clinging now? Gyalwa Gendun Druppa puts it simply and directly:
GGD wrote:All teachings of the enlightened beings have but one purpose: to tame ego-grasping, the habit of reifying a truly existent self. It is the extent to which our so-called Dharma practice is curing us of ego-grasping that determines whether or not our training is maturing, whether or not we are really practicing the Dharma. When our study and application have become a remedy to ego-grasping, it has achieved at least a basic degree of maturity.
All the commentators make the same point.
Chogyam Trungpa wrote: We could say that all teachings are basically a way of subjugating or shredding our ego. And depending on how much the lesson of the subjugation of the ego is taking hold in us, that much reality is being presented to us. All dharmas that have been taught are connected with that. There is no other dharma, particularly in the teachings of Buddha.
Dilgo Khyentse wrote:The Buddha gave 84,000 different teachings, all of them designed to subdue ego-clinging. ... The extent to which we have been able to overcome our self-attachment will show the degree to which we have used the Dharma properly. So let us try very hard.
Jamgon Kongtrul wrote: Since this is the one criterion that determines whether dharma practice is effective or not, it is said to be the yardstick by which a dharma person is measured.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey wrote:[If we see no lessening of the self-cherishing attitude and self-grasping ignorance] then just as we would add weight to one side of an unbalanced scale to bring it to equilibrium, we should add more energy to our practice by applying the appropriate methods and meditations more diligently than before.
Alex Berzin offers advice about our observations regarding progress.
AB wrote: All of the various aspects of this entire literature on the seven points, as well as all other lojong texts, aim at overcoming selfishness and self-preoccupation. We know if we’re heading in the right direction and whether our practice is successful with this one intention: lessening our self-cherishing. If it’s getting less, then we’re making progress.

When we’re talking about progress on the path, we have to understand that it’s not linear. We’re organic beings living in an organic world, and things don’t happen in a linear fashion, as in, things always get better and better every day. … Of course, we do progress from one stage to the next, but it’s not as if we’ll have steady, day-to-day progress. … It’s good to know that this is completely normal, so we shouldn’t be discouraged, nor have unrealistic expectations.
Judy Lief applies the standard of ego-clinging to something recent DW threads have examined in depth.
JL wrote:There are a lot of trappings in the realm of spirituality. Some teachers have many followers and others only a few. There are all sorts of costumes, titles, and robes. Teachers compete for students, and students evaluate teachers and sanghas by all kinds of criteria. Sometimes one style of Buddhism becomes trendy for a while and then fades out of fashion. Cultural and gender biases abound. People speculate on how enlightened this teacher or that may be, and look for signs of official recognition, status, and power. So what should we look for in a teacher or a sangha?

According to this slogan, in looking outward, it is important not to be misled by trappings of popularity or spiritual power, and in looking inward it is important not to be caught up with our shifting moods or superficial changes. Instead, we must never forget the essential point of the dharma altogether, which is to give up ego clinging. That is the one and only true measure of a teacher or a practitioner.
And Pema Chodron gives a long, but very good, graphic description of ego and the process of opening up (full text here).
PC wrote:Ego is like a room of your own, a room with a view, with the temperature and the smells and the music that you like. You want it your way. …

But the more you think that way, the more you try to get life to come out so that it will always suit you, the more your fear of other people and what's outside your room grows. Rather than becoming more relaxed, you start pulling down the shades and locking the door. …

To begin to develop compassion for yourself and others, you have to unlock the door. … Sure enough, in come the music and the smells that you don't like. … [But] now you begin to relate with those feelings. You develop some compassion, connecting with the soft spot.

When you begin to practice in this way, you're so honest about what you're feeling that it begins to create a feeling of understanding other people as well. ... The lojong teachings give us the means to connect with the power of our lineage, the lineage of gentle warriorship.

All the teachings and all the practices are about just one thing; if the way that we protect ourselves is strong, then suffering is really strong too. If the ego or the cocoon gets lighter, then suffering is lighter as well. …

One might think that we're talking about ego as enemy, ego as original sin. But this is a very different approach, a much softer approach. Rather than original SIN, there's original SOFT SPOT. The messy stuff that we see in ourselves and that we perceive in the world as violence and cruelty and fear is not the result of some basic badness but of the fact that we have such a tender, vulnerable, warm heart of Bodhicitta.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:48 pm

20. Of the Two Witnesses, Hold the Principal One
“You know yourself best, so trust the witness of your own intelligence to evaluate whether your practice is authentic and progressing. Consider what other people say, but only in the light of your own self-knowledge.”

For this slogan we need to remember that this is Point Five: Evaluating Our Progress. It’s our mid-term exam and we’re expected to have absorbed at least some of the prior lessons. We have to grade our own papers, but it’s not an excuse to cheat!

My wife is very skeptical of religions and religious people, and I think it’s largely because you can never really tell whether someone is just putting up a front to hide their uglier intentions or is genuinely loving and ethical. Buddhism says it doesn’t matter whether others know that your intentions are sincere, only that they are sincere. There is a certain value in “faking it till you make it”, but as long as you are faking it you haven’t achieved anything.

Like so many familiar quotes, I’m not sure (and neither does it matter) who actually said it, but this slogan means, “Know thyself and to thine own self be true.” Well, I can quote one person who said it:
Chogyam Trungpa wrote:The practice of this slogan is always be true to yourself.
Gyalwa Gendun Druppa makes it sound almost easy.
GGD wrote: What witness can discern the extent to which our ego-grasping has been tamed? Of course other sentient beings can serve as a witness to our progress, and they can perceive some signs concerning our spiritual development. But they are not the principal witness, for they cannot know our thoughts. It is possible that they may over-estimate us merely because some of our mannerisms seem agreeable to them. We are our own best witness. All we have to do is to look inside ourselves and check to see if our ego-grasping is big or small.
Most of the commentaries mention how easily we can fool others, but they assume we’re at an advanced enough stage to be able to know when we’re fooling ourselves.

Dilgo Khyentse does address the danger of self-deception here:
DK wrote:The important thing is not to do anything that we might have to regret later on. Therefore we should examine ourselves honestly. Unfortunately, our ego-clinging is so gross that, even if we do possess some small quality, we think that we are wonderful. On the other hand, if we have some great defect, we do not even notice it.
Nevertheless, when we receive compliments from others,
DK wrote:If we think about it, we can see that unless such people have the ability to read our minds, our mental processes are hidden from them; they cannot know whether or not we have applied all the antidotes. Therefore we should examine ourselves, to see whether in fact we are less angry, less attached to ego, and whether we have been able to practice the exchange of happiness and suffering.
Alex Berzin even includes our teachers among the outer witnesses.
AB wrote:Actually, we don’t need to ask our teachers or the people around us if we’re practicing properly. We know ourselves because we can tell from the internal signs, and so the commentaries talk of being a witness ourselves to see if we’ve achieved the five signs of greatness.
However, Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey’s comment seems to qualify Berzin’s statement a bit:
R&B wrote: Therefore, the second witness is our spiritual master who embodies the Three Supreme Jewels and who is not separate at all from the intrinsic nature of our mind. If we are aware of this inner witness, who understands everything that is to be known, we shall realize that he is more strict and exact than the external one. If we are fully confident in the purity of our motivation and have no reason to feel ashamed in regard to this inner witness, this is a certain sign that we are truly following the teachings. However, if our practice is superficial and we deceive others into thinking we are sincere, we shall be concerned that the outer witness will see through our pretension. In this case we have convinced one witness, but not the most important one. Both should be present and undeceived.

The most essential thing is actually to practice by applying the truth of the teachings to every aspect of our life. Although learning Dharma is virtuous conduct, it is insufficient. We must meditate and cultivate the awakening mind continually.
Jamgon Kongtrul also mentions the lack of a cause for shame, or regret as Dilgo Khyentse said.
JK wrote:One sign of proficiency in mind training is that there is never any shame or embarrassment about your state of mind. Consequently, do not be attached to the judgment of others, but rely principally on the judge of mind itself.
Alan Wallace and Pema Chodron both comment on utilizing but not relying upon feedback from others.
AW wrote: Others are to be taken into account, but the chief witness is our own internal awareness. With careful, honest introspection we can judge the quality not only of our physical and verbal behavior, but also of our own private mental activity. We ourselves are the principal witness of whether our Mind Training is authentic and working properly.
PC wrote:One witness is everybody else giving you their feedback and opinions (which is worth listening to, there's some truth in what people say) but the principal witness is yourself. You're the only one who knows when you're using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you're opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is -- working with it rather than struggling against it. You're the only one who knows.
Here’s what Shantideva says about it.
In chapter 5 Shantideva wrote:74. When useful admonitions come unsought
From those with skill in counseling their fellows,
Welcome them with humble gratitude,
And always strive to learn from everyone.

76. Extol [others’] qualities discreetly;
When they’re praised by others, praise them too.
But when the qualities they praise are yours,
Reflect upon their skill in recognizing qualities.
This contribution from Judy Lief is a bit longer, but I think worth the read. She really gets at the implied underlying principle of this verse.
JL wrote: This slogan is about aloneness and confidence. It gets to a core issue on the path of practice, which is the fact that each of us must travel it alone and by ourselves. Of course, we may be in a community or a sangha, but within a sangha of one hundred members, there are a hundred different paths. We may be in one tradition, but the way we each go about it is unique. Life altogether has that same quality. We come in alone, we go out alone, and in between no matter how many friends and acquaintances we may have, we are still alone at a fundamental level.

It is hard to accept this kind of existential aloneness in ourselves or in others. We want people to really know us, and we want to have some way of truly understanding others. But no matter how much we bare our hearts, we can never convey the fullness of our experiential reality. And no matter how much we probe, we can never fully penetrate another person’s experience.

According to this slogan, if we want feedback as to how we are doing, we must rely on our own judgment. But it is unsettling to realize that no one else really knows what is going on with us. So we look around for confirmation. We look to others for feedback and to find clues as to how we are doing from others. Instead of looking directly at our own experience, we try to find it in what is reflected back to us from outside. But that reflection is not all that trustworthy. People are easily fooled by appearances and judge what is going on according to their own biases and preconceptions.

It is easy to become so used to looking for the approval of others that we lose confidence in our own self-knowledge. But according to this slogan, we must learn to trust what we know and not rely so heavily on others. Only we really know when we are being phony or genuine, aware or unaware, compassionate or uncompassionate. No matter what may be going on at the surface, and how confused we may feel, deep down we know exactly what is going on and what we are up to. That is the witness we must hold.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Soma999 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:05 pm

Thank you. Very interesting.

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by KeithA » Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:45 pm

Popping in to say thanks for this thread. I have been reading it from the beginning and it is full of wisdom.

Much love,

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Wed Nov 15, 2017 4:02 pm

21. Always Maintain Only a Joyful Mind
“Successful practice means responding to favorable and unfavorable events with the two bodhichittas. Doing so will keep you in a state of cheerful equanimity.”

This thread has been getting about 20 hits a day (not counting a little upsurge today). I don’t know how many of those visitors actually read the slogans and comments, or even how many might be repeat visitors. It was nice to hear from Soma999 and KeithA yesterday, good to know you agree about the value of this material.

As a side note, this little project has been enriching for me and I'm grateful to Monlam Tharchin for starting it. I'm quite certain he did not drop out; something important must have come up. He was enthusiastic both in his posts and in our PMs about the thread just before he stopped posting. I hope things are ok with him.

Slogan 21:
Gyalwa Gendun Druppa says, “The mind constantly relies upon joy alone.”
GGD wrote:The real sign of maturity in the training is one’s inner joy. When one naturally regards any obstacles and unpleasantness that arise as friends come to help in the development of the two bodhiminds, and is able to do this with a mind that does not become diverted from a stream of constant joy, maturity in the training has been achieved.
So, first of all, Geshe Langri Tangpa, the author of the lojong teaching Eight Verses for Training the Mind, which was Geshe Chekawa's inspiration for the Seven Point Mind Training, was said never to smile -- except once. He was known as "gloomy face". There are different stories about the incident that made him smile, but the first one I heard was this. Because of Langri Tangpa’s reputation for never smiling, due to all the sorrow in samsara, the lay people around him took to using his name as an epithet when anything went wrong. Like the way people these days might say, “Jesus H. Christ!” One day, from his mountain retreat he saw a man with a heavy load struggling along a muddy, uneven trail. All at once the man slipped and fell in the mud, dropping his burden and yelling “Langri Tangpa!!” Geshe-la found this quite amusing.

In any case, this verse is not about mindless joviality. Rather, this is like G.K. Chesterton’s misquote of Oscar Wilde, “Life is much too important to be taken seriously”. It is about transforming misery into the promise and practice of overcoming samsara, which requires a light touch, the gentle path, not overbearing seriousness. It’s about not taking ourselves and the path too seriously.

As Judy Lief puts it,
JL wrote:We tend to associate [joy] with idiocy or with people who are spaced out or stupid, people who are blithely ignorant of the state of the world or simply too self-absorbed to bother. How can you be joyful when there are so many problems? What about the truth of suffering, the problem of greed and craving? ...

Clearly this slogan is not referring to an ignorance-is-bliss type of joy. And it does not imply that everything is okay. Buddhism is known for telling it like it is and for not being afraid to face hard truths — and the truth is that everything is not okay. Yet we are still advised to be joyful.

… It is a direct challenge to our usual earnest and heavy-handed approach to the path, to the world, and to ourselves. It is a challenge to the assumption that the way to fight heavy-handed problems is with heavy-handed solutions. And it is a challenge to our desire to make everything a big deal and of utmost importance and seriousness.
Alex Berzin adds,
AB wrote: Tibetans love down-to-earth examples, so they say that when you don’t get tea in the evening, rather than being upset, just be happy that you won’t have to get up to pee in the middle of the night! We can use these tricks to look at things from the good side, rather than the negative side. Then we won’t be so upset when things don’t go our way. It’s a good sign when we’re able to do this just naturally.
Chogyam Trungpa refers to the joyous effort of diligence, meaning that we take on the tasks of the path with gusto and a light heart:
CT wrote:Exertion is like the minute before you wake up on a holiday trip: you have some sense of trusting that you are going to have a good time, but at the same time you have to put your effort into it.
The point of this slogan is continuously to maintain joyful satisfaction.
Shantideva mentions this in various places. Here’s one example.
In chapter 7 Shantideva wrote: 63. Like those who take great pleasure in their games,
Whatever task the Bodhisattvas do,
Let them devote themselves without reserve,
With joyfulness that never knows satiety.

64. People labor hard to gain contentment
Though success is very far from sure.
But how can they be happy if they do not do
Those deeds that are the source of joy to them?

65. And since they never have enough of pleasure,
Honey on the razor’s edge,
How could they have enough of merit,
Fruits of which are happiness and peace?

66. The elephant, tormented by the noonday sun,
Will dive into the waters of a lake,
And likewise I must plunge into my work
That I might bring it to completion.
Chogyam Trungpa continues:
CT wrote:In some sense the whole thing is ridiculously trippy. But if somebody doesn't begin to provide some kind of harmony, we will not be able to develop sanity in this world at all. Somebody has to plant the seed so that sanity can happen on this earth.
And Judy Lief passes on some advice from CT:
JL wrote:I would simply like to pass on a practice I received from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche which is simplicity itself, but oddly effective: No matter what you are feeling or what is going on, smile at least once a day.
Pema Chodron throws in some of the residual benefits.
PC wrote:The key to feeling at home with your body, mind and emotions, to feeling worthy to live on this planet, comes from being able to lighten up.

When your aspiration is to lighten up, you begin to have a sense of humor. Things just keep popping your serious state of mind. In addition to a sense of humor, a basic support for a joyful mind is curiosity, paying attention, taking an interest in the world around you. You don't actually have to be happy. But being curious without a heavy judgmental attitude helps. If you ARE judgmental, you can even be curious about that.
Not only that …
PC wrote:This practice is about repatterning ourselves, changing the basic pattern and unpatterning ourselves altogether. You can also just go to the window and look out at the sky. You can splash cold water on your face, you can sing in the shower, you can go jogging -- anything that's against your usual pattern. That's how things start to lighten up.
Jamgon Kongtrul speaks of the culmination of maintaining a happy mind.
JK wrote: When there is never any fear or despair no matter what adversity or suffering is encountered, when difficulty is taken as an aid to mind training and you always have the help of a joyful mind, then you have acquired proficiency in mind training. When adverse conditions come, meditate joyfully and, in addition, learn to take joyfully all the adversity others experience*.

*[Like Geshe Langri Tangpa? :)]
Alan Wallace ties a little bow on it:
AW wrote:The sign of a fruitful spiritual practice is the attenuation of mental distress.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Thu Nov 16, 2017 3:54 am

These two verses are not included in the 59 slogans, but they are found in other root texts. I think they are worth consideration here in Point Five, about assessing one’s progress. I’m just posting the full text of the two commentaries I have (GGD and Berzin), without comment of my own, in case anyone is interested. I’ll post slogan #22 tomorrow.

21a. The Indication of Having Trained is Reversal
“We begin to notice our old attitudes reversing themselves.”

21b. There are five great signs of accomplishment
”The Five Great Beings: Bodhisattva (great motivation); Holder of Moral Discipline (practitioner of purity); Ascetic (bearer of suffering); Trainee in Virtue (application of effort); and Yogi (realized one).”

Gyalwa Gendun Druppa:
21a (“The measure of the training is read from its reverse”): The measure to which progress has been made along this path is the reverse of the intensity of the manifestations of those factors that are contradictory to the nature of the path. For example, the measure of the success of one’s meditations upon the preciousness of human life adorned with the freedoms and endowments is the opposite of one’s lack of aspiration and effort to take the spiritual essence of the opportunity provided by this extraordinary incarnation.

Similarly, the measure of one’s training in the meditations upon emptiness can be determined by calculating the opposite of the level to which grasping at true existence manifests.

21b (“There are five great signs of accomplishment”): These five are as follows: one becomes a great bodhisattva, who through the lojong training is enabled to take any challenges and unpleasantness that arise in such a way that one’s meditation upon the two bodhiminds is not weakened; One becomes a great master of self-discipline who, having ascertained the coarse and subtle levels of the nature of the nature of the karmic laws of cause and effect, protects oneself against becoming stained by even minor transgressions of the trainings; one becomes a great ascetic, able to accept with patience whatever harships and unpleasant circumstances arise; one becomes a great practitioner, whose body, speech and mind are constantly focused on the spiritual path; and one becomes a great yogi, whose mind has become lined to the principal sentiment expressed by all the enlightenment teachings.

Alex Berzin (attaches his comments on the verse about 5 greatnesses to slogan 20, the two witnesses):

20: The two witnesses we have, to know whether we’re making progress or not, are other people and ourselves. The main one we use is ourselves. Actually, we don’t need to ask our teachers or the people around us if we’re practicing properly. We know ourselves because we can tell from the internal signs, and so the commentaries talk of being a witness ourselves to see if we’ve achieved the five signs of greatness.

21b: The first sign of greatness is being a great-hearted one, which is usually translated as having a “great mind,” but it refers to the heart. The Sanskrit word is mahasattva, which we find in The Heart Sutra. Are we someone who thinks of others as our main focus, and not ourselves? That is someone with a great heart. Other people can’t really tell what’s going on inside of us, so we have to look at ourselves to see if we think primarily of others or not. If there’s a nice cake for dessert, are we thinking how wonderful it would be for the other people in the room to enjoy it, or are we thinking of how much we love that cake, hoping that no one else likes it. When there’s a long queue in the store or the cinema, are we hoping that the people in front of us get good seats, or do we want to get to the front so we can get them for ourselves? To reach this great-hearted stage isn’t easy at all! We mustn’t fool ourselves, but be honest about where we are.

The approach here is without guilt or judgment. We don’t think, “I’m acting selfishly, so I’m a bad person,” or, “I’m not doing this right, I’m so stupid.” There’s no moral judgment, or anyone saying that we should think of others and not ourselves. There’s no concept of “should” in Buddhist. It’s simply more beneficial to think of others; it causes less problems and suffering, simple as that.

In the stages we go through before we get to tonglen practice, we have contemplation of the disadvantages of cherishing oneself, and the advantages of cherishing others. It is based on the realization that acting selfishly is just going to cause more problems for us. When we’re depressed and feeling extra sorry for ourselves, it just magnifies our suffering. On the other hand, if we were to call someone or try to help others, it would definitely make us feel better. It’s a simple matter of seeing the advantages and disadvantages and deciding which one we want. When we’re training our attitudes, one thing we need to get rid of is guilt and moral judgment, otherwise the whole process can become quite distorted. This is the first sign of greatness.

The second sign of greatness is being trained in constructive behavior. Again, we can tell ourselves whether we’re acting in any of the destructive ways. We need to be quite broad-minded in our understanding of the ten destructive actions. It’s not just about going out and murdering people; even thinking in any way of being physically or verbally rough with other people is destructive. Walking too quickly with an old person so they can’t keep up is a destructive action based on thinking just of ourselves and not the other person. If we act constructively, and refrain from harming others, this is a sign of progress.

The third greatness is being able to endure difficulties, especially those that arise when we’re trying to overcoming our disturbing emotions. We ourselves know best how we are doing at this. Are we really working hard and going through all the difficulties and not acting under the influence of anger and greed? When we act under the influence of these mental poisons, we’re thinking of ourselves and not others. If we really want to think of others, then we do really need to work hard to overcome disturbing attitudes.

The fourth type of greatness is the great holder of discipline, which refers to keeping our vows. There are the various individual liberation or pratimoksha vows, taken as either a monastic or lay person, which ask us to refrain from taking the lives of others, stealing, lying, indulging in inappropriate sexual behavior, and taking alcohol and other intoxicants. Then we have the bodhisattva vows, which make us refrain from different behaviors that prevent us from helping others. Finally, we’ve got the tantric vows to refrain from behaviors that create obstacles for achieving enlightenment through the tantric path. It’s important to understand this intention, because there is no God saying, “Thou shalt not do this,” and we just have to obey it without asking questions. That’s not Buddhism. There is no obligation to take any vows. But, if we want to be able to reach enlightenment to benefit others, then we have these constructive actions that can help us do so. It means we need to think of these destructive actions and how they would prevent us from helping others. Then, if we take vows, we need to be our own witnesses to see whether we’re keeping them.

The fifth type of greatness is the great yogi, or someone who is totally joined to bodhichitta. It’s someone whose minds, hearts and behavior are completely joined with bodhichitta. Only we can know if we’re like this. We need to be particularly careful not to become proud as we train, thinking, “I’m helping others. I’m spending so much time at the hospital. I’m such a bodhisattva!” Thinking that helping others is due to how great we are, is a clear sign that we’re not doing it right. Really, it’s due to the inspiration of our teachers and the great lineage figures, but still that doesn’t mean we think, “Well, I’m nothing, just a worm,” either. We need to be balanced. Striving in a balanced manner, without pride, is a sign of progress.

There are many other signs of progress, too. One comes from the contemplation of our precious human life, and feeling that it would be a disaster to waste this opportunity to help others. Likewise, when we’re not so attracted to the pursuit of wealth and possessions in this life, but rather seek circumstances to make our future lives conducive to helping others, then that’s a good sign. Of course, we need a certain level of material welfare and favourable circumstances in this life to be able to help others, but we mustn’t ever see these as ends in themselves. We need to have a long-term view, looking at all of the lifetimes leading to enlightenment. Throughout all of them, we’ll need proper circumstances if we want to be able to help others. Our aim should be intertwined with the thought of helping others, like having enough money to help poor people, or having a house big enough to offer places to stay for people who need it.

If we’re actually turned off by material pursuits and our main goal is to gain liberation from disturbing emotions, that for sure is a good sign. It means that we’re not really attached to living in a certain place or being with certain people, because we see that wherever we are or whoever we’re with, it’s all the same in terms of having advantages and disadvantages. It doesn’t matter where we are or who we’re with, because there is always the danger of getting caught up in attachment and repulsion, which prevent us from really helping others. This is not to say that we have no connection with people or our environment, it just means that our connection is based around how we can help them, rather than what we can get out of them.

Seeing that nobody is special actually allows us to see that everybody is special – nobody is better than anybody else. This helps us to have an even attitude, equanimity, so that wherever we are or whoever we’re with, we can put our full energies into helping that person. We can see with some of the great lamas how the person they’re with seems to become their best friend in that moment; they treat others with a full, open heart, and yet no one is uniquely special. This is yet another sign that the teachings are taking hold in us.

If we feel that we don’t have anything to be ashamed of in front of our lamas when they see us, that’s a good sign. It means we’re sincere and relaxed inside. In general, if our mood is good and doesn’t always go up and down, it’s a very good sign. This doesn’t mean that we don’t respond to others. If we need to respond in a certain emotional way, then of course we should not sit stone-faced and silent. I always remember an incident with my sister, who’s always been a lot of help to me. I’d been in India for a few years, I went back to the U.S. and spent some time with her. After a while, her comment was, “You’re so calm, I could vomit.” Being just calm and not really responsive is not the proper way to practice. We should be enthusiastic and alive with others, and not just be like a statue. Calmness is inside.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Thu Nov 16, 2017 3:41 pm

22. If You Can Practice Even When Distracted, You Are Well-Trained
“Being distracted from mindfulness by thoughts, emotions, or events should serve only as a reminder to return to practice.”

I’d like to introduce this one with a comment from my Shantideva notebook. When I was studying chapter five of The Way of the Bodhisattva this analogy occurred to me, and it still resonates with me.
In my notes I wrote:This chapter’s discussion of mindfulness and vigilant introspection reminds me of driving a car. Mindfulness is like understanding and remembering how to operate the vehicle and the rules of the road; introspection is like applying that knowledge as we drive. We must be fully aware of what we are doing at all times as we drive. Certain situations require more conscious attention than others. In many cases we can drive almost automatically and talk or do other things while maintaining perfectly adequate concentration on traffic, road conditions, and the tasks of driving. At times we can even let our concentration lapse briefly and, depending upon the circumstances, we may escape disaster.

Too often, however, we become over confident or under attentive. We think it’s ok to read a map or send text messages while driving. We allow ourselves to drive while emotionally wrought by anger, sorrow, or stress. In these cases our vigilance has left us and it is impossible to be adequately mindful of the road. The more we fail to apply what we know, the more likely we are to have or cause accidents.

I think this principle is very similar to knowing Dharma (mindfulness) and applying it (introspection). Chapter five is like using an understanding (mindfulness) of defensive driving (vigilant introspection) to monitor and control every aspect of our driving (actions of body, speech, and mind) at all times, and utilizing the car (body) as a mere vehicle rather than an extension of ego or a power-toy. Whatever else we do while driving our primary concern must always be driving. Whatever else we do in life our primary concern must always be Dharma.
Of course, most of the commentators use a horse riding analogy, as Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey do.
R&D wrote: A person in deep meditation is less distracted by outer situations, and any emotional afflictions tend to lie latent. When we can remain unmoved by desire and aggression, even though distracting circumstances conducive to such afflictions arise, we have attained control over our mind, further indicating our acquaintance with the practice. It is similar to learning to ride a horse. Initially, we have to hold on tightly, but after our acquaintance and skill grow, we no longer have to worry about falling off. In fact, we will be able to eat, talk, and even sleep while riding.
Alex Berzin applies this verse to a crowded train platform.
AB wrote:It might be easy to abandon self-cherishing and to think of others when we’re focused and the situation is calm and easy. When we’re helping someone get on a train when there are no crowds and there’s plenty of time is one thing, but what if the whistle blows and the train is about to leave, and there are still a bunch of people who need to get on? Are we still interested in making sure that everybody gets on the train, or are we just shoving past everyone to make sure we get on? Even in these distracting situations, can our main concern still be others and not ourselves? If so, then we really have changed our attitudes.
Judy Lief points out something I think most of us have experienced about our practice:
JL wrote: When you begin to do mindfulness or bodhichitta practice, one of the first things you notice is how distracted you are. It can seem as if a veritable avalanche of thoughts, fleeting moods, memories, plans, judgments, and all sorts of mental folderol is pouring through your mind continually. People say such things as “I was fine before I started meditating, but now my mind is just a jumble.” However, none of that is really new, it was just you never noticed before.
And she shows us how we can develop beyond the controlled ability to remain focused.
JL wrote:What could it possibly mean to practice even while distracted? Isn’t the idea not to be distracted? Here is where the interesting twist of this slogan comes in. According to this slogan, instead of waging a kind of battle with distractions you can co-opt them as supports for your practice. It is like setting a default tendency toward mindfulness and bodhichitta, so that the moment a distraction arises, it brings us right back. The instant we notice we have lost our attention, we have regained it. So for a well-trained mind, when sudden distractions arise, they do not interrupt your practice, but reinforce it.
Chogyam Trungpa describes a kind of integration of mindfulness within unmindfulness:
CT wrote: The idea of this slogan is the realization that whenever situations of an ordinary nature or extraordinary nature come up -- our pot boiled over, or our steak is turned to charcoal, or suddenly we slip and lose our grasp -- a sudden memory of awareness should take place. … When something hits you, which is the result of unmindfulness, then suddenly that unmindfulness creates a reminder automatically. So you get back on track, so to speak, able to handle your life.
Pema Chodron mentions using this ability to reflexively apply, for example, tonglen when we are caught up in a “misery scenario”, and she says,
PC wrote:You can use the distraction to bring yourself back to the present moment. … Being well trained means you can catch yourself and come back to the present.
Commenting on slogan #22, the last verse of Point Five, Jamgon Kongtrul adds a caveat.
JK wrote: The two bodhicittas arise clearly and effortlessly along with everything that appears -- enemies, friends, troublemakers, happiness, or suffering. These four lines [slogans #19-22] describe signs that your training in bodhicitta has been effective and that proficiency has developed. They are not signs that you need not train further. Until buddhahood is attained, you should train to strengthen bodhicitta.
Dilgo Khyentse wraps it up on a similar note:
DK wrote:If uncomfortable situations can be used to advantage in our lives -- that is a sign that we have accomplished something in the Mind Training. So it is vitally important for us to continue in our efforts. … Experiences like this indicate a familiarity with the Mind Training; they do not, however, mean that the work is finished. … A mind, moreover, which has been subdued and calmed through practice will naturally reveal itself in external activities. As with the different proverbs, 'When you see ducks, you know that water is near' and 'There is no smoke without fire', so too Bodhisattvas can be recognized by outward signs. ... Signs like this will arise in us as well, but they do not mean that there is nothing more for us to do.
And that’s why we still need to cover all the aphorisms of Points Six and Seven, the commitments and precepts.

We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Fri Nov 17, 2017 4:26 pm

23. Always Abide by the Three Basic Principles
“1. Maintain the moral precepts of your spiritual path; 2. Practice compassion; 3. Extend your practice equally to everyone.”

This is the first verse in Point Six. It might seem that the first five Points covered everything in 22 verses. But we still have Points Six and Seven, comprised of 37 additional verses under the headings of “Commitments” and “Precepts”. The Lojong Online site calls them “Disciplines” and “Guidelines”. GGD calls Point Seven “Advice”. Alex Berzin calls Point Six “Close-Bonding Practices” and Point Seven “Points to Train In”. Here’s how he introduces them:
AB wrote:The sixth point consists of 18 practices that will bond us closely to this attitude training and the seventh contains 22 points for cleansing and training our attitudes. These are long lists, but they’re also wonderful guidelines for how to be less selfish and more concerned for others.
[NOTE: He counts each of the three principles in this verse separately to get 18 instead of 16 verses, and the 59 Slogans version excludes one verse from Point Seven making 21 instead of Berzin’s 22.]
Basically these last two Points are sets of flash cards to carry around with us and apply throughout each day, handy aphorisms to drive home and augment all the lessons of mind transformation.

Regarding this verse, #23, I’ve had some difficulty sorting out the variations in naming the three principles and finding threads through the different commentaries. So I made a chart comparing the translations of the three principles (see below), then I address each principle one at a time. But first I want to set the stage using Dilgo Khyentse’s comments as a sort of “executive summary”. I feel he offers a simple expression encompassing all the interpretations.
DK wrote:1. Consistency in the Mind Training. … Never forgetting the Mind Training, we should nevertheless respect and practice all the commitments that we have promised, drawing them all together into a single way of life.

2. Not Being Affected. In our daily lives, our words should correspond with the actual way we practice Dharma. Moreover, we should avoid doing things in front of others in order to give the impression that we are renunciates and which therefore redound to our advantage.

3. No Double Standards. … Do not be partial! Love and compassion should be universal toward all beings.
Lojong 23 - Principles Chart.jpg
Lojong 23 - Principles Chart.jpg (324.8 KiB) Viewed 931 times

Principle 1:
The overall thrust of this principle is to keep all our Dharma commitments. Judy Lief says,
JL wrote: In general, this means that when you make a commitment to train your mind, you do not back down but you stick with it. More formally, it means that you keep the two basic vows of mind training: the refuge vow and the bodhisattva vow. In the first, you vow to work with yourself and to develop mindfulness and awareness. In the second, you vow to work with others and to develop wisdom and compassion.
Gyalwa Gendun Druppa emphasizes the danger of thinking one practice, such as lojong, supersedes the other practices. He warns not to think like this:
GGD wrote:[Do not think,] “I can meditate upon the lojong teachings and that is all I need to do. There is no need for me to engage in the other trainings.”
Alex Berzin uses an example of drinking alcohol.
AB wrote: A controversial example could be that of avoiding alcohol, which is one of the pratimoksha vows of a layperson. We could say, “I’m a bodhisattva, and I’m trying to help others. It’s a social custom in my country to drink, so if I don’t drink with my friends they’re not going to be open or receptive to me. … Of course there can be circumstances in which this might be an appropriate way of thinking, but we need to be careful not to use it as an excuse to drink alcohol, simply because we like drinking it.
Chogyam Trungpa says it’s quite straightforward:
CT wrote: The first [general principle] is keeping the promises you made when you took the refuge and Bodhisattva vows, keeping them completely.
So that leads me to believe that if one takes the vow to refrain from alcohol they are obligated to keep it. After all, certainly at the level of pratimoksha, we can choose not to take a vow we don't think we can keep yet. The vows are not imposed rules but voluntary aids to achieving the mind training we seek. The general principle here is not to flip flop on important matters like vows. When I was in the army they had an expression in the mess hall: "Take all you want but eat all you take."

Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey emphasize the importance of even seemingly minor commitments.
R&D wrote: There are many major and minor obligations concerning thought transformation, and if we consider the infraction of one to be insignificant we are contradicting our precepts.
Pema Chodron has what, at first, sounded to me like an out-lying interpretation in this context; finding identity as a “refugee” in the refuge vows. I think what she means is that we sincerely commit ourselves to the alien land of fundamentally changing our minds.
PC wrote:The refuge vow is basically about making a commitment to become a refugee, which in essence means that rather than always wanting security, you begin to develop an attitude of wanting to step into uncharted territory.
Jamgon Kongtrul puts it this way:
JK wrote:[don’t] break the promises you have made in mind training, that is, [don’t] be tarnished by any fault or failing in any vow you have taken.
Alan Wallace reiterates,
AW wrote: The author here emphasizes that, even if the Mind Training becomes the central core of our practice, it does not substitute for other commitments that we have taken upon ourselves, or allow us to ignore them.

Principle 2:
This one is about humility versus affectations. Judy Lief says,
JL wrote: The advice here is to be steady and modest. It is not necessary to be all that dramatic, and you do not need to draw attention to yourself.
Alex Berzin applies it to matters of propriety.
AB wrote:It’s like going to a high lama’s teaching dressed in a tiny mini-skirt, with everything showing. That would be outrageous, and beyond the level of propriety.
Chogyam Trungpa warns against being overzealous and disingenuous in our practice of lojong.
CT wrote: When you begin to practice lojong, you realize that you shouldn't have any consideration for yourself; therefore, you try to act in a self-sacrificing manner. But often your attempt to manifest selflessness becomes exhibitionism.
Pema Chodron hammers that home:
PC wrote: If you have this idea of yourself as a hero or helper or doctor and everyone else as the victim, the patient, the deprived, the underdog, you are continuing to create the notion of separateness.
I found Jamgon Kongtrul’s comment a little difficult:
JK wrote:Refrain from scandalous acts such as destroying shrines, disturbing trees and other plants, polluting streams or rivers, associating with lepers and beggars, and other ways you might behave in the hope that others will think that you have no ego-clinging. Instead, make your way of life and practice utterly pure and faultless.
Difficult, perhaps, because I may have focused on the examples while overlooking the qualifier about faking selflessness. Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey helped me understand with a fuller explanation of the traditional examples for this principle.
R&D wrote: The text actually says that we should not become a 'supernatural force' (tho-cho); this is explained in the following manner. Often near trees and water there live Spirits which, if disturbed, can be harmful. People who are aware of this, therefore, exercise care not to interfere with them, and avoid cutting down trees and digging the ground at such places. We might consider that such precautions are only for superstitious people and that strong practitioners like ourselves need not observe them. As a result, we might cut down trees that should not be cut, agitate and pollute water that should remain tranquil, enter an area of plague, or even eat food that is contaminated. This would be a grave mistake. All such arrogant deeds committed with the conceited thought that the strength of our practice renders us invulnerable to the consequences of such actions are contradictory to the practice. We should never be like a person who not out of compassion but out of arrogance visits someone with a contagious disease, thinking, "I'm immune to this because of the force of my mental development." Actions like this are a contradiction to the training.
Alan Wallace puts it in these terms:
AW wrote: As we develop greater courage in this practice and become skilled at transforming unfavorable circumstances, we may as a result become overconfident, ostentatiously seeking out dangerous situations. … Avoid this false sense of invulnerability.

Principle 3:
The third principle reminds us that lojong, and Dharma generally, must be applied universally with complete equanimity. Alex Berzin brings up a good point about this:
AB wrote: Tibetans generally think it’s easier to practice with friends and relatives than with strangers, and so we should equally practice with the two sets of people. Many people in the West, however, find it the other way round. We often find it much more difficult to practice with relatives, because they annoy us far more than a stranger or our friends would. In terms of not being partial, of course we need to apply it in both ways.
Judy Lief and others use the term “Patience” for this principle. I believe they mean it in the sense of universal forbearance and compassion in the face of people we see as problematic, the way Shantideva uses the term in his chapter six. She adds a comment about being steadfast in our practice of lojong. In this case she uses “patient” in the sense of persistence and perseverance.
JL wrote: Mind training is not something you zoom through and then move on to something else. It is a lifelong occupation. You need to be patient and without bias as you go about it, both with yourself and with others.
Chogyam Trungpa says this one warns against the “cult of yourself”.
CT wrote: Usually, there is extreme confusion about patience. That is to say, you can be patient with your friends but not with your enemies; you can be patient with people whom you are trying to cultivate or your particular proteges, but you cannot be patient with people who are outside of your protege-ism. That kind of extreme is actually a form of personality cult, the cult of yourself, which is not such a good idea.
Pema Chodron returns to the idea of recognizing the “gap”, taking a step back.
PC wrote: Patience and non-aggresssion are basically encouragement to wait. Sometimes I think of tonglen that way. You learn to pause, learn to wait, learn to listen, and learn to look, allowing yourself and others some space -- just slowing down the camera instead of speeding it up.
I was a race walker in my youth, and I had a coach who taught me to “work the downhills, too”. Jamgon Kongtrul advises something similar.
JK wrote:Maybe you can be patient in all sorts of difficult situations but let your practice of dharma lapse when you are happy and comfortable. The commitment is to avoid any bias or one-sidedness in mind training, so always practice that.
I’ll conclude by quoting Judy Lief in full. Like Dilgo Khyentse, I think her comments capture the true sense of all three general principles in a succinct and easily digestible way.
JL wrote: Honoring your commitments. In general, this means that when you make a commitment to train your mind, you do not back down but you stick with it. More formally, it means that you keep the two basic vows of mind training: the refuge vow and the bodhisattva vow. In the first, you vow to work with yourself and to develop mindfulness and awareness. In the second, you vow to work with others and to develop wisdom and compassion. When you first take such vows, they are highly inspiring and a bit intimidating, but it is easy to drift away and forget what you have vowed to do. So it is important to refresh those commitments daily.

Refraining from outrageous actions. The advice here is to be steady and modest. It is not necessary to be all that dramatic, and you do not need to draw attention to yourself. You should recognize the desire to be seen as special, to be noticed as “advanced” or “spiritual” as a stumbling block, and not give in to its seduction.

Developing patience. Mind training is not something you zoom through and then move on to something else. It is a lifelong occupation. You need to be patient and without bias as you go about it, both with yourself and with others. You should know yourself and not think more or less of yourself, but be straightforward, steady and realistic.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sat Nov 18, 2017 3:20 pm

24. Change Your Attitude, but Remain Natural
“As your attitude changes to allow others to come first, don’t show off your new self and don’t force your attitude on others.”

I don’t have any Buddhists near me. I have to travel some distance to be with Buddhists -- or come online. So right from when I first learned this verse it has fit perfectly for me. People around me know I’m a Buddhist, but even my wife doesn’t know the full extent of my practice. I’m happy to discuss it with anyone who asks, but I don’t bring it up and I rarely get asked. I do hope that my natural actions reflect my Buddhist practices, but the key is that, even though I’m working very hard internally, my behavior should always be natural. It’s only when the Dharma view becomes naturally integral to my everyday activity that I have accomplished anything -- and that is nothing special, just regular. This slogan says two things: Change your selfish attitude; And don’t make a big deal of it.

Alex Berzin talks about showing off.
AB wrote: The point here is not to be self-indulgent with our strong emotions, not to show them off when it would be inappropriate. A lot of people get involved with Buddhism and start walking about with a rosary around their arms or necks as if it’s a piece of jewelry. They might see someone with problems and say, “Let’s get together and say Om Mani Padme Hum!” … It’s so important that we remain normal. We can do mantras in our heads, we don’t need to say it out loud and we certainly don’t need a rosary in our hand. … Remain normal so nobody knows what we’re doing.
The primary attitude to change is ego-grasping. The primary normality to maintain is relaxation which, for most of us, is probably a change too. Judy Lief addresses this:
JL wrote: This slogan targets one attitude in particular: the attitude that you yourself are more important than others. The attitude that you come first and others come second. It is rather embarrassing, but crude as it may sound, most of us carry this attitude or assumption with us all the time. It is definitely our default position, and deeply ingrained. [But] there is absolutely no room for exhibitionism or spiritual posturing. Slogan practice is not focused on grand gestures. Instead, the idea is to make small but consistent moves in the direction of awareness and loving kindness. And then … get over yourself and just relax! … Don’t punish yourself for your selfishness or give yourself a gold star for your altruism. Simply apply the slogan and move on.
This, of course, reflects a verse from Shantideva I referenced in an earlier post in this thread.
In chapter 8 Shantideva wrote: 116. Thus when I work for others’ sake,
There’ll be no sense of boasting self-congratulation.
It is just as when I feed myself —
I don’t expect to be rewarded!
Pema Chodron again reminds us of the dualism of self-congratulation.
PC wrote:The notion "I am the helper and you are the one who needs help" might work in a temporary way, but fundamentally nothing changes because there's still one who has it and one who doesn't. That dualistic notion is not really speaking to the heart. … This approach is a lot more playful than that -- like dancing with it. We realize that this separateness we feel is a funny kind of mistake. We see that things were not dualistic from the start.
Previously in this lojong exercise (here) I responded to one of MT’s posts with a reference to Jeffrey Masson’s book, Against Therapy in which he made a similar case against the usual, hierarchical assumptions of therapeutic relationships.

Alan Wallace expands on PC’s point.
AW wrote: There are many cases when overt wholesome action is appropriate, but the advice here is to be discreet about it, without calling attention to ourselves.

Why? Because we are gratified when people notice how much we have changed, it is very easy for our spiritual practice to become tainted by the eight mundane concerns. Even though we start out with pure motivation, we may still wind up concerned with our reputation. … It is very easy to feel superior when we see actual transformations in our being. Showing off our virtue to others feeds this, and this should not be where the priority lies.
I especially like the way Jamgon Kongtrul and Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey express it. Here are their unedited comments.
JK wrote: To change and reverse your previous attitude of concern with your own welfare and lack of concern for the welfare of others, take only the welfare of others as being important. Since all mind training should be practiced with little fanfare but great effectiveness, remain as natural as possible, keeping your manners and conduct like those of your friends and associates in dharma. Work at maturing your own experience without making others aware of your efforts.
R&D wrote: To cultivate our mind spiritually means for us to work constantly to transform incorrect attitudes. Until we attain complete realization, we should cultivate thoughts that hasten the development of wholesome qualities. But while we progressively change our motivation, we should continue to blend our behavior with that of others; it is unnecessary to be conspicuous. We shouldn't alter our habits ostentatiously to show that a great inner change has occurred when actually there has been only a slight modification in our thoughts.
Once again, echoes of Shantideva, who puts his own special twist on it.
In chapter five Shantideva wrote: 73. Herons, cats, and burglars
Achieve what they intend
By going silently and unobserved.
Such is the constant practice of a sage.
And Dilgo Khyentse provides a pithy closing:
DK wrote: Mind Training should be engaged in discreetly. It should not be done with external show, in a way that attracts attention and creates a reputation; it should act as the inward antidote to our self-clinging and defiled emotions. We should bring our minds to ripeness without anybody knowing.

We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:24 pm

25. Don’t Talk About Injured Limbs
“Just as you wouldn’t condemn someone because they are missing an arm or otherwise disfigured, don’t gossip about other’s psychological or spiritual defects. Always show compassion and understanding.”

I was surprised by Gyalwa Gendun Druppa’s comments because they struck me as uncharacteristically simplistic.
GGD wrote:Perhaps we know people who, from the viewpoint of worldly beings, suffer from physical handicaps such as having only one eye or being deaf, or who suffer from failures in spiritual practice, or who appear as immoral, and so forth. Do not make these an object of your mockery, for to do so generates discomfort in the minds of the recipients of your poor wit, and it also creates hindrances to your own meditation on lojong.
I have trouble imagining that the people who need that particular advice would be practicing lojong. On the other hand, it reminds me that I often think mockingly of Donald Trump.

Judy Lief read my mind!
JL wrote: It may seem a kindergarten level of advice to be told not to poke fun of people. Of course, most of us don’t outright do that. But at a subtler level, we are both fascinated and repulsed by other people’s deformities and weak points. This leads us to dwell on those defects, and in turn, our focus on their defects turns the people themselves into kinds of defect-appendages. So although we may not be talking behind their backs or poking fun at them, we are still distancing ourselves from them. We are engaging in a technique of subtle rejection.
Alex Berzin addresses this directly.
AB wrote: This is interesting because we venture into the topic of humor and sarcasm. We could be very sarcastic towards others and we might find it really funny, but we might actually be hurting their feelings quite a lot.
It reminds me, too, of when I first met my wife’s parents. In the ride from the airport her father kept making low-key and fairly subtle comments about her mother. I found what he was saying to be genuinely hilarious, but at her expense and in her presence. It was quite awkward. And now … here I am posting a comment about his “injured limb”! This advice is a very slippery one indeed! I find myself to be exactly the person GGD was addressing.

Even more so because, as Berzin continues,
AB wrote: Some people even feel that being sarcastic with each other is a sign of friendship, but here we have to examine the culture we’re in, and what the intention is.
He generalizes the point:
AB wrote: In the U.S., people are very sarcastic, making fun of each other’s big noses or ugly wives. There’s slapstick comedy, where people fall down the stairs and everybody laughs. Pies get thrown in faces and everyone laughs. Then we’ve got violent cartoons, with cats being smashed by big hammers and so on. That’s for children! It’s quite strange to think about it.
And Lief goes on to bring the point home:
JL wrote: It seems to be endlessly entertaining to dwell on other people’s faults. There are so many to choose from. We can take pride in how astute we are and how wittily critical. Each little jab makes us feel just a tad more superior. For some reason it seems so much easier to pick out what is wrong with someone than what is right, and far juicier. But that approach not only exaggerates the other person’s problem but also heightens our own smugness and arrogance.
Then she hits us with the essential point, "combining awareness with acceptance ... meeting people where they are."
JL wrote:This slogan does not imply that you should not notice the problems or deformities people have, or that you should pretend everything is okay. It does not mean you should simply vague out or not be interested in what is going on around you. The point is to examine how you react to such things.

This slogan is based on combining awareness with acceptance. It points to a way of viewing the world that takes people, no matter what condition they are in, at face value pure and simple. You don’t look away, you don’t stare, you don’t poke fun or make awkward jokes or small talk. When you see people in this straightforward way, you are not embarrassed by their ugliness, weakness, or infirmity. Instead, you simply meet them where they are.
[Emphasis added.]
Chogyam Trungpa says,
CT wrote: This is not a puritanical approach to reality, but simply realizing that if a person has problems in dealing with his or her life, we do not have to exaggerate that by making remarks about it. We could simply go along with that person's problems.
Pema Chodron calls attention to our games.
PC wrote: Sometimes we sugarcoat it and pretend we're not really doing it. We say something like "Hi there. Did you know Juanita steals?" Then we say "Oh no, I shouldn't have said that. Excuse me, that was really unkind for me to say that, and I won't say any more." We'd love to go on and on, but instead we say just enough to get people against Juanita but not enough for them to disapprove of us for slandering her.
Alan Wallace, rather tenuously, introduces the qualifier “constructive kindness”.
AW wrote: There may conceivably be very rare occasions when it is appropriate, provided that kindness is the motivation. Even more rarely would it be appropriate to speak of Joe's faults when Joe is not present. But how often when we speak of the faults of others is it really motivated by constructive kindness, by a yearning that the person may be free of this affliction? Perhaps not so often.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey provide the context for constructive kindness. At the same time they hint that we all know that we’re doing this and we need to stop ignoring it.
R&D wrote: We should never accuse, criticize, or try to seek out and exaggerate the faults of others. However, we can offer advice so that others will understand the advantages of acting more skillfully in the future. It is another contradiction to our practice if we speak with the intention of praising ourselves while accusing, mocking, or belittling others. Since these points are easy to understand, we should not ignore them, but should apply them to our daily activities.
I think Dilgo Khyentse’s advice, while generally true, needs some qualification.
DK wrote: In brief, we should not say anything that is unpleasant for others to hear.
The qualification is in today’s slogan blurb: “Always show compassion and understanding.”

We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by jkarlins » Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:40 pm

I won't make a nuisance of myself here, but just know that I really really appreciate this thread. It is SO good to come back to lojong after a few years of not thinking about it.


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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:49 pm

jkarlins wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 4:40 pm
I won't make a nuisance of myself here, but just know that I really really appreciate this thread. It is SO good to come back to lojong after a few years of not thinking about it.

Thanks for saying so, and I am having exactly that experience myself.

BTW, I don't consider any contributions to be a nuisance.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:20 pm

26. Don’t Ponder Others
“Don’t waste time dwelling on the faults of others. Concern yourself only with correcting your own shortcomings.”

There seems to be something too absolute about this one. For example, here’s how Gyalwa Gendun Druppa expresses it.
GGD wrote: Do not say things about others, such as, “That person is utterly unacceptable company.” From our side we have undertaken to cultivate the lojong tradition; if we allow ourselves to pick out faults in others, we contradict the lojong trainings. There is no need to observe shortcomings in others, and certainly there is no spiritual benefit in speaking of others’ faults.

Should you allow yourself to become dominated by the thought wishing to see only faults in others, or wishing to speak about others’ faults, there is no way to use the occasion as a method for abiding in the lojong training.

Thus do not observe nor speak about faults of others in general, nor of Dharma practitioners and those on the Great Way in particular. To do so has many unpleasant ripening effects; it cuts off the root of one’s meritorious energy and creates the seeds of a lower rebirth. Should you accidentally notice a shortcoming in someone, think to yourself, “This appearance is a reflection of my own impure mind. How can that person possibly have such a fault!”

Samsara is by its very nature faulty, as are we who have produced it. If I choose to “not observe nor speak about faults of others in general”, if I respond to every misdeed by saying, “How can that person possibly have such a fault!”, I think I would end up violating my bodhisattva vow of striving to ease the suffering of samsara in whatever limited way I can. I can’t stop samsara for others, and I’m nowhere near the wisdom that knows the correct responses in every case (or any case?), but while my primary focus is on my own enlightenment, my sole motivation is to relieve the suffering I see all around me. That can best be done as a buddha but there are some things I can do to help now. Some of them require critical discernment and, at times, harsh response.

I’ve had a lot of trouble composing this post because I felt the slogan and the commentaries were lacking important qualifiers. In other translations, the slogan says: Don’t concern yourself with others’ business; Never think about others’ faults; Do not judge others; and Don’t think anything about others’ faults. It’s so all-encompassing and apparently lacking nuance. Chogyam Trungpa says,
CT wrote: This slogan is very simple: don't do that.
But his statement follows a very specific example of someone feeling arrogant due to their efforts in lojong and then criticizing others for not having done as much. Such obvious, simplistic examples, which appear in many of the commentaries, don’t address situations such as observing that someone is acting out Nazi principles, saying that is wrong, and acting to prevent it from harming too many people.

I didn’t find any satisfying qualifiers in the commentaries, but Judy Lief brought context, which helped make greater sense of it for me.
JL wrote: This slogan is very similar to the last, in that it points to how easy, entertaining, and totally distracting it can be to muse about what is wrong with everybody else. The habit of faultfinding is part of a larger pattern of insecurity in which we always feel the need to compare ourselves to other people. It is as though we need to convince ourselves that we are okay, which we can only do indirectly, in comparison to people who are less okay.
That context means, in my opinion, that this slogan is to be understood specifically as it applies to myself. It’s a reflective guidance: Whenever I label, judge, or criticize someone, the lojong practice is to immediately stop and examine where I’m coming from. Put any reactive, critical thought that arises into its proper context, and consider what role my ego had. Lief continues.
JL wrote:There is an old blues song with the line, “Before you ’cuse me, take a look at yourself.” In mind training that is the focus: taking a good look at yourself. However, the point is not to dwell on your own faults — or your own virtues, for that matter. It is to see yourself and others in a clear and unbiased way. It is to see, but not to dwell on the seeing, as though you were a cow chewing its cud.
[Emphasis added.]
This context is saying that even when confronted with a Nazi it is necessary to step back and see an individual human being. If I take my general concept of “Nazi” and categorically apply it to this person, I’ve necessarily lost contact with the person. What does that say about me?

Lief then explains this slogan generally within the context of the lojong thrust of self-examination.
JL wrote:The point of this slogan is that you should trust your own experience, and not always have to compare it to that of other people. It is to loosen the tendency to be so fascinated with what is wrong with everybody else that you are unable to see what is right and good about them. Instead of covering up your own faults and highlighting the faults of others, you should do the exact opposite. … Pay particular attention to the qualities of comparison mind and faultfinding mind. What is the difference between simply seeing a flaw and dwelling on it or using it to prop yourself up?
And with this perspective, I’m better able to observe the qualifier in GGD’s comments, quoted above:
GGD wrote: Should you allow yourself to become dominated by the thought wishing to see only faults in others, or wishing to speak about others’ faults, there is no way to use the occasion as a method for abiding in the lojong training.
For me, this covers today’s slogan adequately and there’s no need to reference the other commentaries, except to insert a quote by Wallace regarding yesterday's slogan, #25. It speaks to the golden standard by which we need to judge our own actions:
AW wrote:How often when we speak of the faults of others is it really motivated by constructive kindness, by a yearning that the person may be free of this affliction? Perhaps not so often.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
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Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:08 pm

27. Work with the Greatest Defilements First
“Begin to work on your biggest obstructions immediately. Don’t assume that they’re just the junk of spiritual progress that in time will disappear on their own.”

Geshe Tashi Tsering uses a zone method for teaching about afflictive emotions in the “Buddhist Psychology” module of his Foundations of Buddhist Thought course (see chart below). Zone One consists of the subtlest causes of our suffering. Zone Two is the kitchen of our mind where we cook up ways to apply the subtle ignorance of Zone One. Geshe-la calls Zone Three “our workshop”, where we actually experience the afflictions and where we must begin to combat them. This is the most coarse or gross level of our minds.

I mention this because we might think this slogan refers to the greatest problem, which is ignorance, the root cause in zone one. But we can’t simply start there. We begin by nibbling at the branches, then hacking at the trunk, and finally, uprooting the tree of samsara altogether. Here we are working with the manifestations of ignorance in zone three. And of those, this verse tells us we need to start with the worst, not the easiest.

Chogyam Trungpa most memorably emphasizes the necessity for decisive action:
CT wrote: You should not just say "I will sit more first, and I will deal with that later." Working with the greatest defilements means working with the highlights of your experience or your problems. You do not just want to work with chicken shit, you want to work with the chicken itself.
Dilgo Khyentse tells us why.
DK wrote: In this endeavor to subdue these defilements, we should concentrate all our Dharma practice. For if we are able to free ourselves of our grosser defilements, the lesser ones will also naturally subside.
To which I think can be added, as we subdue each grossest defilement, the next one in line will become apparent.

Alex Berzin talks about method and technique. How do we go about this?
AB wrote: Our various disturbing emotions hinder us from helping others, so we need to honestly examine ourselves to see what our biggest problem actually is. Rather than being afraid to face it, as it says in the tonglen instructions, we should take the problem head-on. For this, we can learn many methods, some of which will work sometimes, and some of which will work other times. It’s important that we have a variety of methods that we can use. …

This means that we need to be very introspective, which many people, of course, aren’t. They need someone to tell them that they’re acting selfishly or being stupid, because they don’t realize it on their own. … Even if we turn to our best friend to evaluate us, they are not the main witness. They might give us the clue, but we need to check ourselves to see if what they say is true or not.
(I'm pretty sure he is not saying to tell others they're selfish and stupid. I think that sentence should be read as, "We need someone to tell us that we're acting selfishly or being stupid, because we don’t [necessarily] realize it on our own.")

Pema Chodron also includes the time: which is right now.
PC wrote: The time is now, not later. This slogan is suggesting that you start where you feel most stuck. … We may so take for granted the multitude of daily irritations that we don't even think of them as something to work with. To some degree they are the hardest obstacles to work with because they don't reveal themselves. The only way you know that these are arising is that you feel righteous indignation. Let righteous indignation be your guide that someone is holding on to themselves, and that someone is probably you.
Judy Lief provides a very practical working definition to help identify our defilements.
JL wrote: According to this slogan, defilements refer to patterns of thought, habits, and emotions that sap our energy and keep us from thriving. Defilements prevent us from awakening our wisdom or compassion. They pollute what is by nature pure, and block our instinct to grow and develop. They are powerful inner obstacles. Of course we may have outer obstacles, as well, but the idea is to start with what is close at hand, something we could actually have some influence over.
Because of my attachment to food, typically I first eat whatever on my plate I like least. That way I can spend more time savoring what I like best. (Shantideva calls that “honey on a razor’s edge”, 7:65ab.) But regarding my wish to overcome afflictions, if I applied the same logic of enhancing gratification, I’d follow Judy Lief’s advice here:
JL wrote: On a mundane level, you may notice that some things always seem to end up at the bottom of your to do list, and just stay there. Sometimes they migrate to a new improved to-do list, but once again they end up on the bottom. This slogan is a reminder to shake this pattern up and to go straight to the most difficult task. Although we may have a variety of things to do, it is pretty easy to figure out what that particular task might be. We can feel the quality of avoidance in our bodies.
Yes, I feel that “quality of avoidance” but I still don’t follow this good advice (which Shantideva identifies as leading to the fruits of merit, 7:65cd).

Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey speak about applying specific antidotes, or opponent forces.
R&D wrote: If attachment or desire is most intense, we should meditate specifically on impermanence and the impurity of the body. If hatred and aggression dominate, we should cultivate love. If it is ignorance or blank indifference, we must meditate on emptiness and cultivate intelligent awareness. For pride and arrogance, we meditate on impermanence, the suffering of our own life, cyclic existence, and especially the misery of the three lower unfortunate realms. If jealousy predominates, we should practice rejoicing in the virtues of others.
They conclude with sage advice:
R&D wrote: Our afflictions are countless, and since they are active in no other place than within us, their destruction can only take place internally.
In chapter 4 Shantideva wrote: 35. And if the jail guards of the prisons of saṃsāra,
The butchers and tormentors of infernal realms,
All lurk within me in the web of craving,
What joy can ever be my destiny?
Lojong 27 - Affliction Zones1.jpg
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We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 900
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:19 pm

28. Abandon Any Hope of Fruition
“If you show compassion for others because you think it will ‘buy’ you happiness you are not practicing Buddhism but commerce. Learn to let loving-kindness spring from deep within your heart without thought of personal gain.”

Gyalwa Gendun Druppa starts off with this:
GGD wrote: The person who practices meditation in accordance with this lojong tradition will experience a vast array of temporary and lasting beneficial effects.
He then provides a list of such beneficial effects, and concludes with this:
GGD wrote: But we should avoid having hopes or expectations for these things. Instead, dwell within the aspiration to achieve liberation and enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings …
Sort of saying, “Here’s what you can expect, but don’t expect it.” It’s like, keep your eye on the prize, but focus on the journey.

Alex Berzin addresses this slogan in terms of personal interactions; the idea of quid pro quo, or "commerce" as today's slogan blurb puts it; getting something from those we serve.
AB wrote: Hoping for fruits refers to wanting something in return for helping others. This is very difficult, as so often behind us helping others lie very subtle disturbing emotions. It might not be as gross as, “I’m helping you because I want you to help me later,” but often we want to be appreciated, thanked, or loved in return. … We need to check to see if our motivation is mixed with some self-cherishing, because if it is and the other person says, “I don’t need your help,” or doesn’t appreciate us, then we get upset. … Although we want to help others, we shouldn’t do it in such a way that they become dependent on us, or that they constantly take advantage of us. If our help makes others dependent on us, then it’s not so beneficial.
Certainly that kind of attitude falls under this slogan and it’s quite important, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the primary issue.

Judy Lief expands it beyond personal interaction to hopes of success and fears of failure.
JL wrote: This slogan undercuts our attachment to either success or failure. It is a kind of positive giving up. Abandoning any hope of fruition does not mean abandoning our projects and ambitions. Instead it points to a way of going about things that is present focused rather than fixated on results.

When we do anything, we usually do it for a purpose. We have some aim in mind and we hope to accomplish that aim. We hope to succeed rather than fail. That is fine. But what then happens is that our thoughts of success or failure begin to overpower the task at hand. … The hope of fruition and the fear of failure go hand-in-hand.
Pema Chodron expands on that thought a bit:
PC wrote: One of the most powerful teachings of the Buddhist tradition is that as long as you are wishing for things to change, they never will. As long as you're wanting yourself to get better, you won't. As long as you have an orientation toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are.
Jamgon Kongtrul gives a concise, pithy summary.
JK wrote: Give up the hope of subduing gods and demons by meditating on mind training, or the hope that you will be considered a good person when you try to help someone who has hurt you. These are hypocritical attitudes. In a word, give up all hope for any result that concerns your own welfare...
As do Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey:
R&D wrote: When we work to develop the awakening mind, all our efforts must be dedicated for the benefit of all sentient beings. Our practice is impure if we hope for personal gratification and reward. Such hope is not only selfish, but is useless and should be renounced. Our personal benefit is a natural side effect from sincere practice of Dharma performed for the good of all beings.
Alan Wallace explains it in terms of developing a buddhadharma practice.
AW wrote: In the beginning stages of a practice, self-centeredness is a useful incentive. Instead of simply abandoning it, we gradually strain it out. … There is a natural tendency, when our practice starts to go well, to get excited at the prospect of attaining wonderful results very quickly. … The results will come from correct practice done with earnestness, a proper level of intensity, and continuity over a long period of time. They will not come faster by anticipating or longing for them. … We can dispense first with some very mundane hopes that are not worth nurturing at all: the hope, for example, that others might esteem us more highly as a result of our practice, or offer us service or devotion. Geshe Chekawa identifies other hopes that should not be cultivated: the hope of being invulnerable to harm, or the self-centered hope of attaining a fortunate rebirth, or liberation, or even Buddhahood, as a result of practice. Most important, we are encouraged not to cultivate hopes for great or swift benefits as the result of practice.
[Passages separated by ellipses are presented here in a different order than the original text.]
At this point, perhaps it is similar to this zen story about expectations:
theunboundedspirit.com/10-short-zen-stories wrote: A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it.”
The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.”
Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?”
The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”
But then, Chogyam Trungpa, and Pema Chodron drive a big truck right through all the fine points to smash our ego-hopes:
CT wrote: This slogan means that you should give up any possibilities of becoming the greatest person in the world by means of your training. In particular, you may quite impatiently expect that because of lojong practice you will become a better person. … Working with the slogans does not mean looking for temporary revelation or trying to achieve something by doing smart little things that have managed to quell people's problems in the past.
PC wrote: Our next slogan is "Abandon any hope of fruition." You could also say, "Give up all hope" or "Give up" or just "Give." The shorter the better.

In one of the first teachings I ever heard, the teacher said, "I don't know why you came here, but I want to tell you right now that the basis of this whole teaching is that you're never going to get everything together." I felt a little like he had just slapped me in the face or thrown cold water over my head. But I've always remembered it. He said, "You're never going to get it all together." There isn't going to be some precious future time when all the loose ends will be tied up.

Even though it was shocking to me, it rang true. One of the things that keeps us unhappy is this continual searching for pleasure or security, searching for a little more comfortable situation, either at the domestic level or at the spiritual level or at the level of mental peace. … Many people feel wounded and are looking for something to heal them. To me it seems that at the root of healing, at the root of feeling like a fully adult person, is the premise that you're not going to try to make anything go away, that what you have is worth appreciating.
We’ve already seen repeatedly, throughout the 59 slogans, that the essence of lojong is to abandon self-grasping and self-cherishing, and to exchange self with others. So this slogan brings to my mind the idea that this literally means ego death. I haven’t heard it stated quite like that from an authorized source, so it’s just a speculation. But if true, it means that as you succeed in lojong, it isn’t “you” at all; you have an idea and a goal as to why you practice buddhadharma and lojong, but “you” can never get there. This slogan is saying to me that I need to get my selfish self out of the way and just do the work of benefiting others.
Dilgo Khyentse wrote: The general effect of Mind Training is to free the practitioner from hope and fear. … We should rid ourselves of all selfish ideas and ulterior motives, such as working for others but with the wish for our own individual liberation or rebirth in a pure realm.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 900
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Thu Nov 23, 2017 3:48 pm

29. Abandon Poisonous Food
“Practicing Buddhism in order to build up your ego is as absurd as eating poisonous food to build up your body. Always direct your practice towards others and away from your ‘self’.”

Breaking news: self-cherishing is poison! Imagine that. The take-away here is to continually search for and root out egoism because it can infect any of our efforts if we aren't vigilant.

Most of the commentators I’m referencing for this exercise are quite brief on this one, so I’m just going to quote them in toto.
Gyalwa Gendun Druppa wrote: Wholesome food supports our body and life, but should poison become mixed into it, this same food then has the reverse effect. Similarly, spiritual practice is the life force supporting higher being and final goodness; yet when we mix the poison of self-cherishing into our practice it harms our capacity to achieve higher being and final goodness. Therefore avoid mixing the poison of self-cherishing into the food of spiritual practice.
Geshes Rabten & Dhargyey wrote: When we know that the food we relish is tainted with poison, we reject it immediately. In our practice we must be sure that any wholesome conduct is not tainted by the twin poisons of the self-grasping ignorance and the self-cherishing attitude. If the former infects our practice, we should immediately apply the antidote of meditation on emptiness. Should our practice be stained by the latter, we should cultivate the altruistic mind and compassion.
Chogyam Trungpa wrote: If the practice of egolessness begins to become just another way of building up your ego -- building your ego by giving up your ego -- it is like eating poisonous food; it will not take effect. In fact, rather than providing an eternally awakened state of mind, it will provide you with death, because you are holding on to the ego. So if your reason for sitting or doing post-meditation practice is self-improvement, it is like eating poisonous food. "If I sit properly, with the greatest discipline and exertion, then I will become the best meditator of all" -- this is a poisonous attitude.
Jamgon Kongtrul wrote: Since all virtuous thoughts and actions motivated by clinging to a concrete reality or to a self-cherishing attitude are like poisonous food, give them up. Learn not to cling, but to know the phantomlike nature of experience.
Dilgo Kyhentse wrote: There is a saying: 'Wholesome deeds performed with selfish aims are just like poisoned food.' Poisoned food might look delicious and even taste good, but it quickly leads to certain death. Thinking of an enemy as someone to be hated, thinking of a friend as someone to be loved, being jealous of others’ happiness and good fortune: all this is rooted in ego clinging. And wholesome actions, infiltrated by a clinging to the 'I' conceived as something real and solid, turn to poison. We should try to forsake all self-centeredness.
Pema Chodron is also brief and foreshadows slogan #37; in both, something potentially positive is spoiled by self-oriented attitudes.
PC wrote:"Abandon poisonous food" and "Don't make gods into demons" are warnings that only you know whether what you are doing is good practice ("gods" or "good food"). Anything could be used to build yourself up and smooth things over and calm things down or to keep everything under control. Good food becomes poisonous food and gods become demons when you use them to keep yourself in that room with the doors and windows closed.
The others are not as brief, so I’ve cherry-picked what I think augments the above comments. Berzin's comments about "networks of positive potential" make me think of the good karma which brought us to a precious human life as inherited capital. We must decide whether to indulge ourselves in it or reinvest it.
Alex Berzin wrote: Constructive behavior has two types: one that is mixed with confusion (namely self-cherishing) and one that is not. Constructive behavior mixed with self-cherishing is a cause for a fortunate rebirth, but it still perpetuates samsara. On the other hand, constructive action not mixed with confusion builds up the positive potential to achieve liberation and enlightenment. We already have the networks of positive potential from previous constructive behavior, and we need to strengthen these.
Lief's comments remind me that we can't weaken ego by aiming at it like a solid target. That just strengthens the opportunistic habit of "fattening" the ego.
Judy Lief wrote: In Buddhism there is a great respect for the power of self-centeredness to co-opt even the most magnanimous or sublime experience for its own self-aggrandizement. The idea of ego is not so much a thing as a habit of using whatever experience arises to solidify and prop up our feeling of a solid and separate identity. It is literally a form of ingesting experience to fatten our own self-absorption.
Wallace's remind me that merely coming to terms with our afflictions, without then dismissing them, is like Shantideva's comment, "And yet you slumber on so soundly, Like a buffalo beside its butcher." (7:5cd)
Alan Wallace wrote: As we engage in spiritual practice, we pollute our spiritual food with poison by remaining unaware of self-grasping and the egotism and self-centeredness that derive from it. If we do not discard these as enemies that afflict us but instead simply accept them, our practice is like eating poisoned food. … We may be trying to do something of benefit, but self-grasping pollutes the spiritual practice like a poison. It acts as a cause of further suffering and therefore should be abandoned.
And I conclude with a familiar, illustrative story as Lama Zopa tells it.
In "How to Practice Dharma: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dharmas", page 120, Lama Zopa Rinpoche wrote:There’s also the story of the day [Ben Gungyal’s] benefactor was coming to his hermitage. He cleaned his room ahead of time, set up his altar nicely and made sure everything was very neat and clean. Then, as soon as he sat down and examined his motivation, he saw that he’d cleaned the room in order to impress his benefactor so that he’d continue supporting him and that his motivation was the thought of the eight worldly dharmas. Realizing this, he suddenly stood up, took a handful of ashes from the fireplace and threw them all over his altar, making a real mess. He had recognized that what he had done had the form of a Dharma action but in reality wasn’t. So, to immediately practice the antidote and let go of the attachment, he scattered ash over his altar.
And while I was looking that up, I recalled this great quote from Lama Zopa in the same book.
Lama Zopa wrote:Not following desire is practicing Dharma; following desire is not practicing Dharma. It is as simple as that.
For today's slogan, any indulgence of self-cherishing whatsoever is following desire.

We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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