Daily Lojong

Forum for discussion of Tibetan Buddhism. Questions specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
User avatar
Monlam Tharchin
Posts: 1539
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Wed Oct 25, 2017 9:13 pm

Here's an inspiring passage from Lama Yeshe's teachings on dedication, which are linked in my previous post:
Lama Yeshe wrote:Then also think like this, “If I offer this bowl of water, all sentient beings receive one extra merit, the cause of happiness. If I do not offer this bowl of water, there are less causes of happiness for other sentient beings. If I make this prostration to Buddha, they get that much merit, that many causes of happiness. If I don’t do even one prostration, they don’t get this merit.” So it inspires us, and it also destroys our laziness and clinging to our own comfort. When we think the merit is for others and not for us, we can’t stand not accumulating it. If we do this, other sentient beings get one more cause for happiness, and if we don’t do it, they don’t get this cause of happiness, so it makes a big difference.

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Thu Oct 26, 2017 3:08 pm

1. First, Train in the Preliminaries
“Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of this human life, the reality of death, entrapment of karma, and the intensity of the suffering of sentient beings.”

I’ve always liked the profound implication of the First Point of the Seven-Point training. The category is Preliminaries and it contains only one advice: “First, learn the preliminaries”. If someone reads that and doesn’t know what’s meant by “the preliminaries”, it’s a hint that they should find out before going on to Point Two.

I practiced karate in New Orleans for a few years then moved to New York. In New York I selected a karate school and before my first lesson I carefully prepared all my katas to show the teacher how proficient I was. It turned out he couldn’t have cared less. My first private lesson was a humiliation of strength and endurance exercises. He yelled at me like a drill sergeant and berated my physical condition. He was saying, “First, learn the preliminaries!” I didn’t return for two months, during which time I maintained a grueling training regimen so that I’d be ready for what he really had to teach me.

Here with the very first of fifty-nine verses we are reminded that, in fact, lojong practice is quite subtle and advanced. The goal is to literally transform our minds. All fifty-nine verses are based on certain foundational concepts that need to be well understood before we begin. The preliminaries are so important Gyalwa Gendun Druppa, for example, spends fifty pages of his commentary on this one verse. Then he uses forty pages for the next eight verses covering Point Two, Bodhichitta. The fifty verses of the remaining five points are all addressed in only thirty pages.

Alex Berzin emphasizes the nature of lojong training.
AB wrote:The lojong teachings are actually very advanced. They’re not for beginners at all! … So we need to know that lojong practices go very deep, very far, and are long-term practices. We can get some benefit from them if we start now, but since the practices are progressive, we should keep the perspective that as we go further with them, we’ll want to come back again and again to go deeper into certain points.
He gives a concise definition of lojong:
AB wrote:The essential purpose of lojong practices is to cleanse our minds and hearts of negative attitudes, and to train in positive ones to replace them.
Gyalwa Gendun Druppa gives the basic division of two preliminary practices:
GGD wrote:[Training in the preliminaries] involves two phases: 1. The meditation of guruyoga, which is a method for establishing blessings on the mindstream; and 2. The methods for preparing oneself and making oneself into a vessel capable of undergoing the actual training.
Jamgon Kongtrul also emphasizes guruyoga, then provides this description of the key elements in becoming a suitable vessel:
stating the four essential reminders, JK wrote:The difficulty of obtaining a free and well-favored existence [precious life], death and impermanence [rebirth], consideration of the shortcomings of samsara [pervasive suffering], and action as seed and result [karma]
According to Chogyam Trungpa, these are called “Taking the attitude of the four reminders”. Jamgon Kongtrul advises anyone who is not at least somewhat familiar with these four to do some study before beginning lojong practice and goes on to say,
JK wrote:You should energetically train yourself in this kind of thinking. At the end of every period of meditation, perform the seven-branch prayer as many times as you are able to. In post meditation periods, put the points of your reflections into practice. These instructions apply to all forms of preparation and actual practice.
Several of the comments excerpted on the Web Archive’s Lojong page provide cursory summaries of the four points. (I especially like Alan Wallace’s entry, even though it is truncated abruptly at the end.)

Here’s Berzin’s simple summary statement of the four reminders,
AB wrote:Simply put, it’s fantastic that we have a precious human life and an opportunity to help others. But it’s impermanent! We’re definitely going to die, and we never know when. That’s so horrible! This motivates us to help people as much as possible now, before we get Alzheimer’s and can’t even use our minds, and then we die. To help others, we have to take genuine safe direction or refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and avoid destructive behavior. Because of the disadvantages, we should also avoid the lure of samsaric rebirth in general, with attachment to ephemeral pleasures and frustration from problem after problem. It’s quite straightforward: we are going to try and help people and not get caught up in our own disturbing emotions. So, the preliminaries are to be understood in the context of bodhichitta.
So, as we begin at the beginning, I want to throw in one verse that Gyalwa Gendun Druppa gives as the last advice of Point Seven (although I haven't found it in any other version of the seven points):
GGD wrote:"In future always wear the bodhisattva armor": Generate loving and compassion for all living beings … and determine to accomplish buddhahood in order to be of greater benefit to the world. And … meditate on the two bodhiminds … six times every day.
That is, when practicing lojong, think "Bodhisattva Warrior". :jedi:

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

User avatar
Monlam Tharchin
Posts: 1539
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:56 pm

Excellent post, Jeff :smile: You really did all the heavy lifting!

Now that we're about halfway through the slogans, I want to remind any readers that this thread was started not only to share the slogans, but also discuss them and share our experiences in daily life. So don't be shy! :twothumbsup: We have only 32 slogans left.

As for why we're back at the slogan #1 again, we're following along with the daily lojong slogan site. That way, you can just load up the site during the day for an easy reminder. We started with #33, and the slogans have wrapped back to #1.

As Jeff said, the slogan refers to the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind. They describe our situation and encourage us to seize the unique chance we have to do something about it.
Here's an easy to follow explanation by Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Why review something we've already heard, maybe a hundred times? The article starts with why:
Tsoknyi Rinpoche wrote:I want to speak about The Four Thoughts That Change the Mind, but I think many of you will chant the Western mantra, “I know, I know.” I’ve heard the “I know” mantra chanted 100 times in a single conversation. Really! I think it means, “I’ve got it, so don’t make me listen to it again.” You’re all really smart, but in the case of the Dharma, repeating a teaching is not just for your conceptual mind. Once your conceptual brain understands, you think you understand. But that kind of understanding is not enough because repetition is for your mind’s emotional understanding. In order to feel the teachings deep down, the Dharma needs to take root in the alaya, your unconscious mind. Only then can the Dharma grow from the inside out and be true nourishment for how you live. I think this takes a lot of repetition. That’s why you need to hear the teachings 100,000 times or more, even a million, a billion times. Then the preciousness of a teaching will stay with you. It’s the same as conceptually understanding the View and then meditating on it. It takes many, many, many years until it becomes part of you. First you contemplate and then you rest in the View. The same thing is true of The Four Thoughts That Change the Mind. So please listen…again.
With that in mind, here are some additional readings on the Four Thoughts (some already linked previously in the thread):
* A brief summary on Rigpa Wiki
* As taught by Lama Ganga
* As taught by Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche
* As taught by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche
* As taught by Dr. Alexander Berzin

On the theme of reviewing the basics in general, some ideas:
* Read introductory instructions for your sadhana or practice, as though you were a beginner.
* Devote extra time and attention to the preliminaries of a practice session, like taking refuge, dedicating merits, prayers.
* Pick a Buddhist teaching and learn something new about it today, like the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Origination, the Five Skandhas, the Six Realms, karma, etc.
* See if you can give a simple elevator version of a teaching. How would you explain rebirth succinctly?
* Ensure that bodhicitta motivates ever more of your daily activities, even the most mundane. If there's a way to tie your shoes with bodhicitta, find out how!

The more we understand and absorb the foundational teachings, the more we can embody them and help others through how we live our lives, not just through words and promises.

I'm doing kind of a preliminaries week. For example, I'm adding extra time for calm abiding before visualization practice. I'm also starting on a book about tonglen recommended by another poster, "To Dispel the Misery of the World".

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Fri Oct 27, 2017 3:23 pm

First, I want to thank MT for that extremely important message from Tsoknyi Rinpoche and the list of lojong think-and-do projects! As Suzuki Roshi said, "If you lose the spirit of repetition, your practice will become quite difficult."

2. Regard All Dharmas As Dreams
“Whether we experience happiness or sadness, pleasure or pain, they are products of our mind and not fundamental reality.”

This begins Point Two: The Actual Practice, Bodhichitta.

It’s interesting to me that some versions of the seven points address conventional bodhichitta first and others, like these slogans, address ultimate bodhichitta first. I guess, as “gradualist”, it just seems to me that the conventional should come first. I think of Buddhism as always starting wherever the practitioner is. Judy Lief addresses that concern like this:
JL wrote:It is intriguing that this slogan comes right at the beginning, because it sets a tone that is a little intimidating. If we want to work with the slogans, we need to allow our reality to be bit more shifty. This slogan challenges our desire to make our world solid and reliable — solid objects, solid self, solid views, solid ideologies, solid opinions, solid relationships, solid everything!
Of course, as yesterday's verse implied, we should be coming to lojong practice with some background, so the conventional/ultimate order is of little significance. Versions of the seven points that address conventional bodhichitta first, like Gyalwa Gendun Druppa’s root text, include a transitional verse not found in the fifty-nine slogans: “When proficiency is attained, teach the secret methods.” By “secret methods” is meant meditation on emptiness. This and the next three slogans outline the essence of that method. Regarding today’s slogan, he says,
GGD wrote:Although the external objects such as mountains, houses, men, women and so forth appear to truly exist, in fact they do not. They are like the mountains, houses and people seen in a dream.
Alex Berzin summarizes the need to understand our existence in a more dream-like manner from the bodhichitta perspective.
AB wrote:Simply put, voidness, or emptiness, refers to an absence of impossible ways of existing. … We need to stop projecting impossible ways of existing onto the process of trying to help others. … We need to stay mindful that what we think is true is actually like a dream or an illusion. The fact is, we’re all interrelated; we don’t exist as isolated beings in a vacuum. We interact with each other, and so we can help each other.
Judy Lief addresses a possible misunderstanding of this verse:
JL wrote:If the point is not to sleepwalk through life, but to be awake to our life, why would we want to regard all dharmas, or all phenomena, as dreams? …
Seeing the dreamlike quality of experience is not sloppy or vague, and it is not just spacing out. It is just the opposite. In fact, it is our habit of imagining ourselves and the world around us not to be dreamlike that is the delusion.
So the starting point of working with the slogans is to face up to our desire to make everything solid. When we lighten up on that particular scheme even momentarily, our mind opens up a bit and relaxes. And the more openness there is, the more slogan practice becomes gentle and natural rather than heavy handed or moralistic.
Pema Chodron kind of riffs on the theme a bit:
PC wrote:Life is a dream. Death is also a dream, for that matter; waking is a dream and sleeping is a dream. Another way to put this is: "Every situation is a passing memory".
And then she throws in this excellent advice about lojong:
PC wrote:It is said that with these slogans that are pointing to absolute truth -- openness -- one should not say "Oh, yes, I know," but that one should just allow a mental gap to open, and wonder, "Could it be? Am I dreaming this?" Pinch yourself. Dreams are just as convincing as waking reality. You could begin to contemplate the fact that things are not as solid or as reliable as they seem. [Emphasis added]
And furthermore,
PC wrote:This compassion, this clarity, this openness are like something we've forgotten. Sitting here being gentle with ourselves, we're rediscovering something. It's like a mother reuniting with her child; having been lost to each other for a long, long time, they reunite. The way to reunite with Bodhicitta is to lighten up in your practice and in your whole life.
That's the essential meaning of the absolute Bodhicitta slogans -- to connect with the open, spacious quality of your mind, so that you can see that there's no need to shut down and make such a big deal about everything.
Jamgon Kongtrul puts it in more traditional terms.
JK wrote:Actual phenomena -- that is, the world and its inhabitants -- are objects that we grasp at with our senses. These appearances are simply our mind's manifestations of confusion. In the end, they are not actually existent in any way whatsoever, but are like the appearances in a dream. By thinking along these lines, train yourself to have some feeling for looking at the world this way.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey provide the perspective from Tsongkhapa’s “inherent existence as the object of negation” teaching (which some on DW object to, but others consider valuable).
R&D wrote:The initial step in the meditation on emptiness is to spend many months simply trying to recognize the object of ignorance and see how ignorance functions by grasping on to the self. Only after we have gained this understanding shall we be able to refute this object and not be swayed by the detrimental influence of grasping at it. Seeing the emptiness of the object of ignorance, then, is a way to approach an understanding of the true meaning of emptiness. ...
The first point of this meditation is to see how ignorance grasps at an ego-identity of our own being. Only after familiarizing ourselves with this can we turn our meditation toward examining the concept of how all outer phenomena seem to exist in the same way -- that is, as independently existing selves or units.
And they bring it back to today’s slogan here,
R&D wrote:Even though the images that appear in dreams seem to be very real, they are actually illusions of our mind. Likewise, viewing each phenomenon as existing by itself, completely independent of its surroundings, causes, conditions, and our mental labeling of it, is the same as regarding dreams as real. This view, although apparently based on reality, is completely mistaken
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

User avatar
Monlam Tharchin
Posts: 1539
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Oct 27, 2017 8:06 pm

Additional translations: Regard all phenomena as dreams. Consider the world as dreamlike.

Chogyam Trungpa wrote:You can experience that dreamlike quality by relating with sitting meditation practice. When you are reflecting on the breath, suddenly discursive thoughts begin to arise; you begin to see things, to hear things, and to feel things. But all those perceptions are none other than your own mental creation. In the same way, you can see that your hate for your enemy, your love for your friends, and your attitude toward money, food, and wealth are all part of discursive thought.
Regarding things as dreams does not mean that you have become fuzzy or woolly, that everything has an edge of sleepiness to it. You might actually have a good dream, vivid and graphic... For instance, if you have participated in group meditation practice, your memory of your meditation cushion and the person who sat in front of you is very vivid, as is your memory of your food and the sound of the gong and the bed you slept in. But none of those situations is regarded as completely invincible and solid and tough. Everything is shifty.

Things have a dreamlike quality. But at the same time, the production of your mind is quite vivid... what you perceive is a product of your mind, using your sense organs as channels for the sense perception.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche wrote:If we have enemies, we tend to think of them as permanently hostile.. Maybe this is what we think, but the reality is quite different. At present we might have every confidence in our parents who are so dear to us, but when they go from this life, who is to say that they will not be reborn among our enemies?
If we consider this carefully, we might picture a situation where many people are at work on some elaborate project. At one moment, they are all friends together, feeling close, trusting and doing each other good turns. But then something happens and they become enemies, perhaps hurting or even killing one another. Such things do happen, and changes like this can occur several times in the course of a single lifetime - for no other reason than that all composite things or situations are impermanent.

"Dreamlike" in what way? Compared to the way we usually perceive phenomena and act in response, "dreamlike" as a means of correcting our misperception of some phenomena as "real life". Upon waking, we know even the most vivid dreams were mind-made. But then say everything else isn't.
That is, we not only think but act as though people, things and circumstances are, due to some enduring essence, exactly what we believe them to be.

An obvious example is thinking someone is actually a terrible person, rotten to the core, that it's the way they are which makes us suffer.
A more subtle example is the impression that we, a subject, are passively perceiving an object: I hear a sound, I have a thought. "I" is felt to be like a persisting empty vessel which is filled by an object. As Bokar Rinpoche states below, even this much is a mistake, a mistake which is at the root of suffering:
Bokar Rinpoche wrote:Within illusion, the mind functions in this way: six sense objects and six consciousnesses, each apprehended as a separate reality. This separation is the space in which the play of conflicting emotions takes place.
These six objects and consciousnesses are not, however, actually separate entities. For instance, while perceiving a form, although we grasp at two entities independent of each other, a perceived object and a perceiving mind, we are making an error. In reality, the form grasped as object is nothing other than the manifestation of the clarity aspect of the mind while the I-subject is nothing other than the emptiness aspect of the same mind. Within the mechanics of illusion, one finds oneself in the situation of looking at oneself as other. It is a little like walking in tthe sun; our shadow is detached from us and appears as other.
The externally grasped object and the internally grasping subject who clutches it, in truth, are never separated: there is no duality. The subject and object are not two; but because we do not realize it, we enter into a duality with ourselves. This causes the play of conflicting emotions and illusory thoughts.
Therefore, one must purify oneself of this polarity of I-other.
One way to come at this dream-like, empty quality of our lives is to consider the scope of rebirth. As DKR says, even in this one life, our enemy may become our friend, and the same is certainly true for how others perceive us. Over eons, every being has been our mother.

Lama Yeshe expands on this point:
Lama Yeshe wrote:Some people think it is not really possible for another sentient being to have been their mother—especially those who do not accept the belief in past rebirths. But this is a different matter. As long as we accept the existence of past lives, then we have to implicitly accept that there have been other mothers. Birth in a past life did not arise, like stones and pebbles, without a mother. As long as we have taken rebirth in the past, there must have been a mother. In the past we have taken countless numbers of rebirths since beginningless time—even the Buddha has not been able to see the beginning of our existence. If we have taken one hundred thousand rebirths, for instance, then there must have been the same number of mothers.

We could, however, have the belief that all sentient beings may have been our mother in the past, but the past has gone and so there is only the mother of this life. But the same reasoning would apply to this life’s mother, because the time when we were born is now the past. This mother who gave birth to us 50 years ago is still our mother and the mother who gave birth to us 250 years ago is still our mother, and the one who gave birth to us countless aeons ago is still our mother.
Having 250, even countless, mothers! With all these changes over many lifetimes, it's impossible to say "here is my true essence, here is what I am under it all." And yet, even though we can't find that essence, we still aren't "nothing." Here I am, writing an overly long forum post, and here the one or two of you are, reading it :smile:

That strange middle ground, appearing yet without essence, without essence yet appearing, is the way life is dream-like. Nagarjuna explains: "all experienced phenomena are empty (sunya). This did not mean that they are not experienced and, therefore, non-existent; only that they are devoid of a permanent and eternal substance (svabhava). Since they are experienced, they are not mere names (prajnapti)."

Until we one day experientially see the emptiness of the world and ourselves, I find the thought "this is a dream too" is a great practice. One even a distracted dummy like me can do :thumbsup:

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:36 pm

3. Examine the Nature of Unborn Awareness
“Simply view, without analyzing, alaya or ‘unborn awareness’. Practice mindfulness by looking beyond the thoughts and perceptions of which you are aware to awareness itself.”

“Simply view … unborn awareness”. Hmm. That sounds simple.

Step two in the “secret method” of emptiness is to consider the awareness that perceives the dream-like phenomena observed in yesterday’s slogan. Gyalwa Gendun Druppa says,
GGD wrote:You may accept that external objects have no true existence, yet feel that the mind apprehending those objects does truly exist. When we examine the nature of awareness we soon see that it too lacks true existence, for it was never born in the ultimate sense. Neither self nor others nor both [nor neither] are produced without their respective causes (and thus they are dependent, and not “ultimate” or “independent” phenomena).
Judy Lief hammers the point:
JL wrote:If the unnerving experience of dharmas being dreamlike is not unsettling enough, when you try to examine the nature of unborn awareness, it is beyond unsettling. These two slogans undermine our attempts to establish inner and outer solidity, and liberate the energy we invest in that pursuit.
She asks the crucial question and describes the practice, clarifying the notion of its “simplicity”:
JL wrote:What is awareness and how does it arise? … It seems to be intimately connected with the physical brain, yet not identical to it—and when you are aware of something, it doesn’t seem to be the brain that is perceiving, but you! But who or what is that you?

Consciousness can be considered philosophically or studied scientifically, but in this slogan the idea is to examine it personally and directly. It is to look at your own experience. When you look, what do you see? And where does that seeing come from? What is its nature? Where does it abide? Where does it go?

Over and over look at your own mind, and then look again. Don’t think too much but keep it simple, nothing but dispassionate, inquisitive observation. Is it inside you? Outside you? Both?
Chogyam Trungpa explains the term “unborn”.
CT wrote:The reason our mind is known as UNBORN awareness is that we have no idea of its history. We have no idea where this mind, our crazy mind, began in the beginning. It has no shape, no color, no particular portrait or characteristics. It usually flickers on and off, off and on, all the time. Sometimes it is hibernating, sometimes it is all over the place. Look at your mind. That is a part of ultimate Bodhicitta training or discipline. Our mind fluctuates constantly, back and forth, forth and back. Look at that, just LOOK AT THAT! …

To begin with, you are mindful of some THING; you are mindful of yourself, you are mindful of your atmosphere, and you are mindful of your breath. But if you look at WHY you are mindful, beyond WHAT you are mindful of, you begin to find that there is no root. Everything begins to dissolve. That is the idea of examining the nature of unborn awareness.
Sometimes, after having read about and discussed emptiness for some time, people walk away with a feeling like, “Ok, so now I know everything is dependent and not independent, but luckily the world is still in place.” The comments on this third slogan share a certain hardline “punch”, like CT’s all-caps emphasis, meant to dispel any business-as-usual ideas about emptiness. As Pema Chodron says,
PC wrote:The real purpose of this slogan is to pull the rug out from under you in case you think you understood the previous slogan. If you feel proud of yourself because of how you really understood that everything is like a dream, then this slogan is here to challenge that smug certainty. It's saying: "Well, who is this anyway who thinks that they discovered that everything is like a dream?"
The message is, don’t be satisfied with a cursory, conceptual understanding of emptiness. Yes, the world is here, operating interdependently, but not the way we think it is. If meditation on emptiness hasn’t shaken your world, don’t think you’ve gotten it yet.
PC wrote:If you think this big burden of ego, this big monster cocoon, is something, it isn't. It's just passing memory. Yet it's so vivid. The more you practice, the more vivid it gets. It's a paradox -- it can't be found, and yet it couldn't be more vivid.

When we awaken our hearts, we're changing the whole pattern, but not by creating a new pattern. We are moving further and further away from concretizing and making things so solid and always trying to get some ground underneath our feet. This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into the unknown, uncharted, and shaky -- that's called enlightenment, liberation.
As Alan Wallace puts it,
AB wrote: Both the objective world [slogan 1] and the subjective world [slogan 2] do exist. Their ontological status is fundamentally the same: both exist as matrices of mutually interdependent events, but in neither do we find an absolute foundation for reality. This is neither materialism nor idealism, but something different.
Dilgo Khyentse emphasizes the radical nature of realizing emptiness in another way.
DK wrote: When you have truly attained the realization of this emptiness, you will be like the venerable Milarepa or Guru Rinpoche, who were unaffected by the heat of summer or the cold of winter, and who could not be burned by fire or drowned in water. In emptiness there is neither pain nor suffering. We, on the other hand, have not understood the empty nature of the mind and so, when bitten by even a small insect, we think, 'Ouch! I've been bitten. It hurts!' or, when someone says something unkind, we get angry. That is a sign that we have not realized the mind's empty nature.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

User avatar
Monlam Tharchin
Posts: 1539
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:13 pm

Other translations are almost identical.

A subtle trap can occur in viewing things as dreamlike, as empty. And that is, due to lifetimes-long conditioning, we do not notice that the same applies to our thoughts, feelings, and so on. We end up in the strange position of saying the world is empty of own-being, yet still getting angry, feeling sad, attaching to joy and pleasure, or nestling into a comfortable sense of a witness observing phenomena from a safe distance. This is described in Zen as Emptiness Sickness, because one has made a teaching which liberates into a poison.

Any sense of an underlying watcher, one who examines, one who gets distracted then returns to the object, one who is aware, is also an appearance dependent on causes (such our practice or taking a posture of "I am watching for distractions"). For those reasons, even the subtlest states of watching cannot be called "unborn." The aim of a practice isn't to somehow condition the Unconditioned, but to release our sticking points.

As for the sense of being "a witness" to phenomena, it's a trap I've fallen into many times. It too is a subtle division of phenomena into subject/object, privileging delicate spiritual feelings and thoughts as "my true self", growing fond of them, while other phenomena come to be seen as a hindrance.

This passage by Bokar Rinpoche below touches on the idea of today's slogan:
Bokar Rinpoche in Lord of Love wrote:Appearances arise having two aspects:
- external appearances-forms, sounds, smells, and so on.
- internal appearances-thoughts and creations resulting from reflection and imagination.

Now we confer an intrinsic reality to these two types of appearance. We perceive them as objects endowed with an actual reality and we also attribute this quality to the subject, the ”I.” This subject-object duality fixates on appearances and makes them self-captive, bound by our belief in their reality.

How can one be free of these bonds? Let appearances be ”self-liberated.” This means one does not negate them, but does not affirm them either. Appearances are just what they are, beyond any concept.

To be able to take this middle position, one should understand, as it is said, that the ”master of appearances” is the mind. When an appearance arises and we affirm its reality, meaning that we are convinced of its real existence, it is the mind that makes this affirmation. If we negate its reality, it is the mind that makes this negation. Appearances do not affirm or negate themselves; the mind only intervenes to attribute existence or non-existence to them. If we now look at the essence of the mind itself, we cannot find anything. We are not able to assign any identification to it; this essence is inexpressible, it is empty.

When the mind does not dwell in its essence, we may believe that the appearances actually exist or that they are completely devoid of existence. Even the essence of the person who affirms or negates is not an identifiable object, a "thing" that one can discover. Having no actual existence, it is empty. Therefore one does not fall into eternalism which is the belief in the mind as an individual entity and in the reality of ego. This does not mean, however, that there is only nothingness, a total non-existence. In this emptiness itself arise all appearances and all thoughts. Therefore one does not fall into the extreme of nihilism.

In this view, free of the two extremes, appearances are self-liberated, the free expression of the emptiness of mind.
I don't claim to have this kind of stable awareness of emptiness, but I do know we can't intellectualize or read our way to it. It takes practice and guidance over time, plain and simple. Why? Because we've spent eons believing and acting otherwise, so we're deeply conditioned.

A teaching which I find really helpful to bring home how "I" could possibly be empty is The Five Skandhas.

I'd also like to mention the danger of falling into nihilism by thinking "so the world has no self and I don't either, nothing matters, I don't exist and neither do you or your problems!"
The Nagarjuna quote from yesterday bears repeating:
All experienced phenomena are empty (sunya). This did not mean that they are not experienced and, therefore, non-existent; only that they are devoid of a permanent and eternal substance (svabhava). Since they are experienced, they are not mere names (prajnapti).
Unborn awareness is a very optimistic teaching.
Because this awareness is not book-ended by even our current human birth and death, the people we are now and the problems we have do not define, stain, or constrain unborn awareness. What binds us to samsara then? Our afflictions. In addressing them through practice, unborn awareness is revealed: it is not something we create, build up, or have to maintain like a house of cards.
This teaching is wonderfully optimistic because despite our afflictions, the cure is within reach. The Buddha is sometimes called a doctor and his Dharma the medicine to cure our suffering.

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:18 pm

4. Self-Liberate Even the Antidote
“Knowing that all phenomena are inherently empty is the primary antidote to the poison of afflictive emotions. But an antidote only cures the current problem — it doesn’t stop it from happening again. We need to get over our delusions not just practice antidotes.”

Here we read, “Self-Liberate Even the Antidote.” Gyalwa Gendun Druppa’s root text says, “The opponent is free on its own ground.” Pabongka’s says, “The remedy itself is released in its own place.” These versions are foreign to my ears. There are some versions that seem clearer to me. One is the index phrase on the Web Archive website, which isn’t attributed to any of the specific commentator’s root text: “Let Even the Remedy Itself Drop Away Naturally.” Or Dilgo Khyentse’s, “The Antidote Will Vanish of Itself.” Also Jamgon Kongtrul’s, “Even the Remedy is Freed to Subside Naturally.”

Here’s how Gyalwa Gendun Druppa explains the meaning of this third level of negation.
GGD wrote: Perhaps you can see how both objects and consciousness are not truly existent, but feel that the opponent force, the wisdom that perceives the non-true existence of objects and consciousness, itself truly exists.

This too is without real status, for both objects and consciousness have been seen to lack true existence; and there is no phenomenon, including any opponent force, that is not encompassed within the twofold heading of ‘objects and consciousness,’ which would not be subsumed under one of these two categories. When this is understood, the mind that grasps at the true existence of the opponents is liberated on its own ground.
Before unpacking this, we should remind ourselves that this Lojong Point Two is the "Actual Practice: Bodhichitta". When we last looked in on Alex Berzin, he said this about realized emptiness applied to bodhichitta:
AB wrote:The fact is, we’re all interrelated; we don’t exist as isolated beings in a vacuum. We interact with each other, and so we can help each other.
As we join him today, for slogan four, he gives the other side of this bodhichitta point about helping, in terms of self-liberation:
AB wrote:Another impossible way of existing is to think that we’re all-powerful and can instantly cure everybody’s problems. That’s obviously impossible. In order for others to overcome their problems, they need to eliminate the cause of them, which is confusion. We need to understand reality, and everyone else needs to understand reality, too. No one else can do it for us. We can show the way and try to make life a bit easier for others, but in the end they have to understand reality themselves.
Such a "savior complex" is another layer of clinging to delusions. Once again, Judy Lief puts the business of "understanding reality" in terms that seem to resonate with me.
JL wrote:The problem this slogan addresses is the tendency to cling to the insight uncovered by the previous two slogans. That is, you may have recognized the dreamlike nature of the world and the ungraspable nature of awareness, but you still cling to that recognition itself, and the sense of having figured all this out.

The need to find solid ground is so strong that you can even make the groundless nature of inner and outer experience into some kind of ground. You can make emptiness into a catch-all explanation for everything. It is almost instantaneous — as soon as one thing slips away, you have already grasped onto something else. You may have all sorts of realizations, but as soon as you make a realization yours, it is no longer a realization, but another obstacle to overcome.
And she goes on to show the irony that this is all so difficult because it requires effortlessness.
JL wrote:The point of self-liberating the antidote is that you don’t need to do anything to liberate it. You just need to realize that there are no antidotes. When you do so, the antidote liberates itself. It is because we keep trying to latch on to each and every meditative experience, realization, or insight that arises that this slogan is so important. It is a reminder not to do that.
As I interpret her advice, it means we made the problems in the first place through our efforts to protect and comfort ourselves, and we thwart our escape through the effort we apply to escaping the trap of our own delusions.

Chogyam Trungpa relates this to practitioners he sees in the real world.
CT wrote:The antidote is the realization that our discursive thoughts have no origin. ... [W]e need to go beyond that antidote. We should not hang on the so-what-ness of it, the naivete of it. … [T]here is something very tricky about the whole approach. That dwelling on emptiness is a misinterpretation, called the 'poison of shunyata'.

Some people say that they do not have to sit and meditate, because they have always 'understood.' But that is very tricky. I have been trying very hard to fight such people. I never trust them at all -- unless they actually sit and practice. You cannot split hairs by saying that you might be ... driving your Porsche and meditating away; you might be washing dishes (which is more legitimate in some sense) and meditating away. That may be a genuine way of doing things, but it still feels very suspicious.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey provide the classical explanation, that the point here is the “emptiness of emptiness”.
R&D wrote:After meditating for some time on outer phenomena and also on the consciousness that is meditating, we should attain an insight into emptiness. However, with this limited insight, another wrong concept leading to difficulties will arise, because emptiness itself will then appear to be independently existent. At such a time, we should meditate on emptiness itself in the same way.

Emptiness does not exist by itself, because it is completely dependent on its base. Without this base of emptiness, there can be no emptiness. For example, this page or any other phenomenon is known as the base of emptiness (stong-gzhi chos-can). Since the base, or this page, is not independently self-existent, its essential nature is empty. However, emptiness also does not exist independently by itself because it too is dependent on the base and cannot possibly exist by itself. …

Both emptiness and the base of emptiness, form and so forth, totally depend on each other in a way similar to two planks of wood leaning together and giving mutual support to each other. Without one, the other will fall down.
The realization of emptiness is the most effective remedy for curing the chronic disease of ignorance. However, holding the remedy to be something exceptional and self-existent is one of the grossest ignorant conceptions. The remedy itself must also dissolve into emptiness and be released in itself. [Emphasis added]
They summarize thus:
R&D wrote:The Madhyamaka view proposes the thesis that any dependently related event is devoid of intrinsic existence. Conversely, any entity that is devoid of intrinsic existence is by that very fact a dependently related event. This sums up the ultimate and conventional natures of all phenomena.
Jamgon Kongtrul’s comment echoes Shantideva:
JK wrote:When you look at the presence of the remedy itself, these thoughts about the absence of true existence, there is nothing for mind to refer to and they subside naturally on their own. Relax in this state.
Here’s how Shantideva makes it poetry:
In chapter nine, Shantideva wrote: 29. If the mind indeed is free of objects,
All beings must be Buddhas,
Thus-Gone and enlightened.
And so, what purpose can there be
In saying thus, that there is “Only Mind”?

30. “Even if we know that all is like illusion,
How,” you ask, “will this dispel afflictive passion?
Magicians may indeed themselves desire
The mirage-women they themselves create.”

31. The reason is they have not rid themselves
Of habits of desiring objects of perception;
And when they gaze upon such things,
Their aptitude for emptiness is weak indeed.

32. By training in this aptitude for emptiness,
The habit to perceive real things will be relinquished.
By training in the thought “There isn’t anything,”
This view itself will also be abandoned.

33. “There is nothing”—when this is asserted,
No thing is there to be examined.
How can a “nothing,” wholly unsupported,
Rest before the mind as something present?

34. When something and its nonexistence
Both are absent from before the mind,
No other option does the latter have:
It comes to perfect rest, from concepts free.
Ahhhhhhhhh... :meditate:

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

User avatar
Monlam Tharchin
Posts: 1539
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:16 pm

Jeff's got the commentaries covered today, so I'll just share some reflections. :smile: I'd love to see others' reflections on these slogans as we go, too.

I take this slogan as a reminder not to get stuck on one antidote or view.

I've been giving special attention to my hatred this month. I never used to hold grudges. Suddenly, I turned 30 and realized I had managed to pick up several somewhere along the way. Just ignoring the feelings of betrayal and hurt didn't make them go away.

Through the practice of tonglen thinking about these people, I've noticed a gradual lessening of the hurt. At the very least, my heart no longer races thinking about wrongs from years ago. But is giving up active hatred the best I could do?
If the hatred is less one day, then I take that opportunity to actively cultivate metta for them.
If the hatred is worse another day, then I reflect on our plight together in samsara instead.
Soon I'll reach out to some of these people and apologize, when the moment's right.
If I don't release the antidotes as I go, moving from hatred to neutral to friendly to motherly love, how will that day ever come?

And of course, in overly dwelling on antidotes to hatred, I might forget that there's plenty of depression and doubt in there needing attention, too :smile: Afflictions have a funny way of staying quiet until the conditions are ripe.

I also really like the advice on the Daily Lojong card. "An antidote only cures the current problem — it doesn’t stop it from happening again. We need to get over our delusions, not just practice antidotes."

According to the teaching of the 12 Links (nidanas) of Dependent Origination, quite a bit is actually going on beyond the perception of a thought or sensation. The ball gets rolling even before this birth as a human being with a name.
This root conditioning (ignorance) is what binds us to repeated birth and gives rise to the afflictions which the antidotes address.
Think of a blackberry repeatedly sending up new shoots from deep roots. We first chop down the brambles (apply antidotes) but then must also dig up the roots (practice) if we want to actually prevent new shoots.

Here is a very in-depth exploration of the 12 Links.

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:24 pm

6. In Post-Meditation, Be a Child of Illusion
“Continue the spacious experience of meditation into post-meditation by practicing mindfullness and awareness. Be willing to accept the illusory nature of phenomenon and realize it is all ‘no big deal ’.”

On first reading the slogan I figured, “I’m already there. I’ve got this one made!!” But no, that isn’t what is meant by “child of illusion”.

Instead, as Gyalwa Gendun Druppa explains, this means to consciously apply the recollection of your meditation experience in your daily activities.
GGD wrote: In those times when you have arisen from your meditation cushion, and consciousness and its objects seem to truly exist, meditate on the thought, “They seem to exist, yet they are like an illusion and like things seen in dream.”
That is known as the post-meditation practice.

Judy Lief clearly and succinctly defines the post-meditation practice in terms of the expression “child of illusion”.
JL wrote: Once you embark on the meditative path, once you are called a practitioner, everything you do should be seen as practice. The problem is that this could be taken in a very heavy-handed way, which would cloud ordinary activities with a pall of earnestness. It could be taken in an overly precious way, in which everything takes on deep import and a quality of icky religiosity. The trick is to maintain an attitude of practice and at the same time be light and ordinary.

In this slogan, the particular post-meditation practice is to “be a child of illusion.” It is to play within an environment that we recognize to be shifty and illusory. So rather than trying to make our world solid and predictable, and complaining when that is not the case, we could maintain the glimpses of the illusory nature of experience that arise in meditation practice, and touch in with that open illusory quality in the midst of our daily activities. That looser more open quality is the ground on which the compassionate actions of the bodhisattva can arise.
Then Chogyam Trungpa reminds us of Wallace’s previous admonition to retain vivid clarity.
CT wrote: Illusion does not mean haziness, confusion, or mirage. Being a child of illusion means that you continue what you have experienced in your sitting practice [resting in the nature of alaya] into post-meditation experience. … If things become heavy and solid, you flash mindfulness and awareness into them. In that way you begin to see that everything is pliable and workable. ... It's a very strong phrase, 'child of illusion'. Think of it. Try to be one. You have plenty of opportunities.
Pema Chodron uses a marvelous expression, “the atmosphere of your experience”. To me it means that rather than struggling and striving to force myself into a Dharma-mold, I need to bathe gently in the concepts until they permeate the subconscious workings of my mental continuum; where Dharma principles arise naturally.
PC wrote: The view and the meditation are encouragements to relax enough so that finally the atmosphere of your experience just begins to come to you. … These supports are often likened to a raft. You need a raft to cross the river, to get to the other side; when you get over there, you leave the raft behind. That's an interesting image, but in experience it's more like the raft gives out on you in the middle of the stream and you never really get to solid ground. This is what is meant by becoming a child of illusion.

The "child of illusion" image seems apt because young children seem to live in a world in which things are not so solid. You see a sense of wonder in all young children, which they later lose. This slogan encourages us to be that way again. … Being a child of illusion also has to do with beginning to encourage yourself not to be a walking battleground. ... We generally interpret the world so heavily in terms of good and bad, happy and sad, nice and not nice, that the world doesn't have a chance to speak for itself. When we say "Be a child of illusion," we're beginning to get at this fresh way of looking where we're not caught up in our hope and fear.
Alan Wallace relates this verse to the essence of lojong: the transformative power of the mind.
AW wrote:In dharma, the creativity of spiritual practice lies in transforming our responses to the myriad events that present themselves to us. A profound aspect of this practice is to recognize how we have created, and are still creating, the events, objects, and people we encounter by the manner in which we mentally identify them. Our daily spiritual practice is profoundly empowered when we bring to it this insight into the emptiness of intrinsic identity of phenomena.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey present the classic illustration of a magician and his audience. But rather than quote them, I think this post-meditation recognition of the illusion-like quality of existence can be illustrated with a movie set. The people creating the illusion (like the magician) know all the behind-the-scenes tricks and are aware of the illusion. Audiences in the theater are captivated by the illusion without seeing what happened on set. They are like ordinary beings grasping at the illusion of reality, without recognizing that it is an illusion. The cast and crew are like people who have inferred or realized emptiness. They see the illusion but understand all the causes and conditions and therefore don’t believe in it. The late-comers to the shoot are like arya beings in meditative equipoise: the illusion does not appear, so neither does the grasping at it.

For me, the movie analogy reminds me that, in fact, we go to the movies in order to be taken in. We want to cry, laugh, be shocked, swoon -- whatever afflictive emotions are offered, that’s why we go. Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey go on to remind us that in life it is a big mistake to indulge those delusions.
R&D wrote:Most serious emotional afflictions arise not when we are meditating intensively but when we are engaged in daily activities. Therefore, if we treat the appearances of phenomena and our ego with the same attitude as that which a magician has toward his own illusory creations, then even if emotional afflictions do arise, we shall not grasp them with as much ignorance as we would have before we practiced meditation. Such intelligent awareness is extremely precious and will help to diminish the force of the ignorance that clings to the independent existence of all phenomena. Thus, meditation and post-meditation sessions will be mutually beneficial.
Finally, Dilgo Khyentse provides a caveat to sober us up, lest we go skipping merrily and stupidly into the still adversarial world of our own making. He reminds us there’s a difference between the awareness of being intentionally child-like and being naively childish.
DK wrote: It is said that when one arises from meditation, all phenomena, oneself and others, the universe and its inhabitants, appear in the manner of an illusion. This however should be properly understood.

When great Bodhisattvas come into the world to accomplish the benefit of beings by establishing them on the path to liberation, it is not through the power of their karma or defiled emotions that they do so. As we read in the stories of his previous lives, Lord Buddha, while still a Bodhisattva, took birth among the birds and deer and so forth, in order to teach and set them on the path to virtue. He was born too as a universal ruler who practiced great generosity, and later in his quest for the Dharma, for the sake of hearing only a few lines of teaching, he would burn his body, or jump into fire or water, unconcerned for his life. Because he had realized emptiness, he experienced no suffering at all. Until we achieve the same degree of realization, however, that will not be the case for us. This is something we should bear in mind as we go about our daily lives.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:50 pm

7. Sending and Taking Should Be Practiced Alternately — These Two Should Ride the Breath
“Exchange yourself for others by breathing out everything good in you and breathing in the suffering of others.”

We completed ultimate bodhichitta yesterday, and now we begin conventional bodhichitta. Up first is the principal practice, namely tonglen. Chogyam Trunga says,
CT wrote:Sending and taking is a very important practice of the Boddhisattva path. It is called tonglen in Tibetan: 'tong' means 'sending out' or 'letting go' and 'len' means 'receiving' or 'accepting'. 'Tonglen' is a very important term; you should remember it. It is the main practice in the development of relative Bodhicitta.
All the commentators have a great deal to say about this one. Gyalwa Gendun Druppa is no exception, but he gives a concise description of formal tonglen meditation.
GGD wrote:In the meditation of “sending and receiving” one places awareness on the breath and inhales, together with the visualization of drawing in a black cloud of suffering and negativity that comes to one’s heart and attacks one’s self-cherishing attitude. One contemplates that the visualized models, beginning with one’s mother and then proceeding to one’s father, friends, enemies, etc., are thus freed from negativity and sorrow.

The breath is held at the heart for a few moments and then slowly expelled, together with the visualization of sending out all happiness and meritorious energy to others. This goes forth in the form of a white cloud that dissolves into the visualized model (i.e., mother, friend, strangers, etc.) and causes him/her to gain happiness and move toward enlightenment.
I remarked at the beginning of Point Two that I felt maybe conventional bodhichitta should come before ultimate bodhichitta. But Alex Berzin explains why, in lojong, the ultimate comes first. It is because lojong is such a very advanced practice.
AB wrote:[An important] point about tonglen is that it’s based on an understanding of deepest bodhichitta, voidness. If we think in terms of a solid me, then we’ll be way too scared to take on someone else’s suffering. We have to dissolve this strong sense of “me” that prevents us from practicing on a sincere level, where we take on the suffering of others and actually experience it, but are able to handle it. To do this, we need an understanding of voidness and a basic ability with mahamudra practice on the nature of the mind to be able to dissolve the suffering into the natural purity of the mind. …

Without the actual realization of voidness and a lot of practice in mahamudra, it’s very difficult to do tonglen sincerely. This is not meant to discourage anyone from practicing it, because even at the earlier levels of development it is very helpful.
Alex Berzin’s discussion of tonglen was a real eye-opener for me! He relates the gory details of having witnessed the deepest training in and practice of true tonglen, up to and including his own teacher’s selfless death as a result of tonglen practice. He also describes how it works.
AB wrote:[Tonglen practice] provides circumstances for the other person’s negative karma to ripen in a much smaller way and for their positive karma to ripen much sooner. The recipients don’t have to know about it –- in fact, it’s best if they don’t. To take in and feel the suffering of others, and to let it dissolve into the pure nature of our minds, requires the immense energy of bodhichitta and inspiration from our own teachers, as with any Mahayana practice. Before practicing tonglen, then, we need to have gone through all the stages for developing bodhichitta. Naturally we need to have some level of compassion and love to even consider taking on other people’s problems. On a deeper level, we need loving compassion not just to be willing to take on problems, but to be able to get to the clear light level of mind. It’s a very deep practice! …

How can we actually experience someone else’s something*? Basically, it’s the strong wish to take on the suffering and experience it that acts as a circumstance for our own negative karma to ripen into suffering. We want this to happen, so we can burn off our negative karma –- another level we need to work with in tonglen practice. It’s not that we’re taking suffering as if we’re taking someone’s sandwich and eating it ourselves. It’s much subtler than this, working in terms of circumstances and conditions.
*The word “something” appears on the website. I don’t know if it’s a typo that should be “suffering”.

Chogyam Trungpa balances Berzin’s comments for the majority of us.
CT wrote:But tonglen should not be used as any kind of antidote. You do not do it and then wait for the effect -- you just do it and drop it. It doesn't matter whether it works or not: if it works, you breathe that out; if it does not work, you breathe that in. So you do not possess anything. That is the point.
Or as Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey put it,
R&D wrote:The essential point is that giving and taking helps to develop and train our mind, and it is through mental development that we reach enlightenment. Whether such a practice helps directly or has any immediate effect on other beings is not the primary consideration. It is by a gradual process that we develop our mind until it is fully compassionate, powerful, and wise -- until it is fully awakened. At that point we shall be able to realize our wish to help less fortunate beings.
Judy Lief continues addressing us beginners, who are much more likely to merely practice tonglen, in the sense of using it to train in or cultivate our aspirations to bodhichitta, rather than apply the true tonglen practice. For example:
JL wrote:It feels great to pray for others and to be all warm and loving. But that is not all there is to it. The practice of sending and taking, or tonglen in Tibetan, brings to light the boundaries of that love and caring. If you pray for your friends and family, how about other people and other families? If you pray for those you like or admire, how about those who you dislike or reject? What about those you disagree with, or simply find annoying? What about those who do harm? The idea is to go beyond bias, to include more and more, to let the heart grow and expand. …

The idea is to practice completely reversing the habit of getting rid of what we don’t want and holding on to what we do. It seems like such a nice idea to pray for others, but dealing with ourselves is another whole story. It is quite embarrassing when we begin to see the extent of our self-regard, the level of our attachment, and the amount of energy we invest in the ongoing project of looking out for Number One.
The point here is to consider where we’re starting from, as Chogyam Trungpa reminds us.
CT wrote:Usually you would like to hold on to your goodness. you would like to make a fence around yourself and put everything bad outside it: foreigners, your neighbors, or what have you. You don't want them to come in. You don't even want your neighbors to walk their dogs on your property because they might make a mess on your lawn. So in ordinary samsaric life you don't send and receive at all. You try as much as possible to guard those pleasant little situations you have created for yourself. You try to put them in a vacuum, like fruit in a tin, completely purified and clean. You try to hold on to as much as you can, and anything outside of your territory is regarded as altogether problematic. You don't want to catch the local influenza or the local diarrhea attack that is going around. You are constantly trying to ward off as much as you can.
That’s what we need to work on at the “amateur tonglen-ist” level, in distinction from the "professional" level Berzin tells us about.

Pema Chodron describes tonglen in four stages. First “flash” on ultimate bodhichitta for an instant, as in slogan 5; taste the “foundation of all”. Second, distinguish between the poisons we naturally take in as we live out our pervasive suffering, and the spacious harmony of relief from suffering. Recognize their different “textures”: the former is thick, black, oily; the latter is light and refreshing. Third, focus on specific individuals, one at a time, and breathe in all their black-tar-suffering, then breathe out white-cloud-relief to them. Fourth, expand the circle and scope of beings for whom you perform this giving and taking. From a single, intimate person gradually include more and more people in more and more distance relationship to you. Aim, eventually, for all living beings.

She adds,
PC wrote: If you were only to extend out to all sentient beings, the practice would be very theoretical. It would never actually touch your heart. On the other hand, if you were to work only with your own or someone else's fixation, it would lack vision. it would be too narrow. Working with both situations together makes the practice real and heartfelt; at the same time, it provides vision and a way for you to work with everyone else in the world.
And don’t forget to take the practice on the road. Apply it throughout the day in actual situations with real people.

Alan Wallace brings up a point I’ve often heard expressed in Dharma centers.
AW wrote:It seems crucial, and profoundly beneficial, that [many teachers choose] to begin with our own mother. If we do not have a loving relationship with our own parents, something is going to be awry at the very core of our spiritual practice, creating disharmony throughout our lives. I say this not naively, but knowing that some parents abuse their children sexually, physically, and psychologically. Those of us with ill-feeling towards a mother or father may be tempted to say: "This is hard for me because I had a rotten childhood. I'll skip my parents and begin instead on firmer ground, with a close friend, or my wife or husband."

There is, of course, no law against this. But as long as our feelings remain unresolved towards our own parents, we lack a firm foundation for other relationships. Regardless of how our parents have treated us, it is crucial for a balanced and harmonious life that we come to terms with any resentment we feel, and so bring insight to bear on the relationship that loving kindness and compassion can arise from our heart. By beginning with our mother, we establish a root to let this compassion flow out to our father, to other relatives and friends, to people about whom we feel indifferent, and finally to our enemies. …

If a mother is an alcoholic, it naturally follows that sometimes she is not a very conscientious mother; and thirty or forty years later the child may still suffer resentment. But as we feel compassion for her, we can empathize with the sorrow and anxiety that gave rise to the affliction of alcohol dependency. And we can wish from our hearts, sincerely and without hypocrisy, "May you be free both from the dependency, and from the unsatisfied need that gave rise to it. May you be free of the suffering as well as its inner source."
Dilgo Khyentse provides a fitting conclusion:
DK wrote:Enlightenment will be ours when we are able to care for others as much as we now care for ourselves, and ignore ourselves to the same extent that we now ignore others. Even if we had to remain in samsara, we should be free from sorrow.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Wed Nov 01, 2017 1:20 am

[Oops!! I seem to have gotten myself mixed up on the days. I should have posted slogan 5 on Monday. So here it is. #6 should have been today, and #7 tomorrow. So I'll take tomorrow to get myself organized. See you Thursday with #8.]

5. Rest in the Nature of Alaya, the Essence
“Free yourself from the sevenfold mind and rest in the clear and non-discriminating mind. Resting in alaya is the actual practice of absolute bodhichitta.”

First, I mistakenly referred to there being only four slogans grouped under ultimate bodhichitta in previous posts. In fact, this is the fourth of five.

So for these first four instructions on ultimate bodhichitta we’ve been told to: negate true objects; negate true consciousness; negate the negating wisdom; and, now, rest and repeat.

Here’s how Gyalwa Gendun Druppa explained this verse in the 15th century:
GGD wrote:Where should one place the essence of one’s practice? It should be placed on the foundation of all, the sphere of emptiness. The reason that emptiness is called ‘the foundation of all’ is that it is the foundation of everything in samsara and nirvana. Those who do not understand emptiness continue to wander in cyclic existence; those who understand it become free from cyclic existence.
In modern times, Judy Lief says,
JL wrote:In this weary striving world, rest is hard to come by. … [W]hen we think of cultivating kindness, and the activities of a bodhisattva of compassion warrior, we think “Lights, camera, action!” We don’t think “Rest!” But bodhisattva activities are not like regular activities — they come from a place of rest.

The previous slogans undermined not only our fixed views of the substantiality of self and other, but also any attempt to hold onto that realization or even onto the realizer. Having broken though such falsely constructed reality, we reach a desolate but beautiful place. It is by acquainting ourselves with this place that we can prepare the ground for truly compassionate action.

In your sitting practice, notice the tendency, even when you have seemingly stopped, to keep moving mentally, psychologically, and physically. As soon as you notice the impulse to move, let it go, relax, and return to stillness.
She says “return to stillness” because it’s there already; we need to allow it to manifest. Chogyam Trungpa says it’s a home coming.
CT wrote:You begin to feel that sight, smell, sound, and everything else is just a production of home ground, or headquarters. You recognize them and then come back to headquarters, where those productions begin to manifest. You just rest in the needlessness of those productions.

The whole logic to process is based on taking it for granted that you trust yourself already, to begin with. You have some kind of relaxation with yourself. This is the idea of ultimate Bodhicitta. You don't have to run away from yourself all the time in order to get something outside. you can just come home and relax. The idea is to return to home-sweet-home.
Dilgo Khyentse explains why it seems so distant to us, and why practicing the three prior slogans is necessary.
DK wrote:[W]hen the eye apprehends a form, sight occurs by virtue of the eye consciousness. If the form is something pleasant, we think, 'This is good, I like it.' If we see something frightening, a ghost, for instance, or someone with a gun ready to shoot us, we think that we are going to be killed and react with horror. The truth is, however, that these outer events apparently happening 'over there' are in fact occurring 'here', 'within' they are fabricated by our minds. We cling to the notion that our minds are real entities. … [T]herefore rest in the empty nature of the mind beyond all mental elaborations, in that state which is free from clinging, a clarity which is beyond all concepts.
Then Alan Wallace discusses the meditative experience, emphasizing the importance of clarity within restfulness.
AW wrote:Once we have arrived at this point honestly, with insight and intelligence, the nature of the meditative practice shifts. Now we free the mind of the conceptualizations we were using before, free it of any kind of ideation or discursive thought, any conceptual grasping to past, present, or future. The mind relaxes in the nature of non-grasping, and yet we maintain a state of vivid clarity, free of dullness or agitation. …
The nature of the path is our own mind and the foundation of all is shunyata, or emptiness. The ontological foundation (or absence thereof) of all phenomena is emptiness of inherent existence; and from emptiness arise myriad phenomena, whether objective, subjective, or transcendent. Having arrived at the awareness of that emptiness, you then abide in it free of conceptualization, with the mind at rest, without tension but with vivid clarity.
We are also encouraged, he says,
AW wrote:to limit this phase of the meditation to relatively brief periods. This avoids that spaced-out, non-conceptual state we have all experienced, where the mind is peaceful but not very clear, with no real vividness or insight. We may also return to the more analytical, investigative meditation, arrive once again at the insight, and then again enter the non-conceptual, non-grasping state of awareness. During one session we may have numerous short periods of this meditative equipoise.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Wed Nov 01, 2017 10:24 pm

Just a bump to keep this thread on the first page of active topics and remind anyone interested that today's slogan should have been #7, "Sending and Taking Should Be Practiced Alternately — These Two Should Ride the Breath", which I mistakenly posted here yesterday.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Thu Nov 02, 2017 2:58 pm

8. Three Objects, Three Poisons, and Three Seeds of Virtue
“Agreeable, disagreeable, and neutral objects elicit the poisons of attraction, aversion, and indifference. Turn each of these poisonous responses into a seed of virtue through tonglen practice.”

Gyalwa Gendun Druppa’s root text says this,
GGD wrote:Practice on the three objects,
Three poisons, and three roots of virtue.
This in brief is the oral precept
For the periods between meditation sessions.
The version I originally learned for this verse is, “The three objects, three poisons, and three virtuous roots are the brief instruction for the subsequent attainment.” It’s meaning was taught as, “Great effort is needed to properly restrain the doors of the sense powers during the meditation break.” GGD’s instruction is as follows,
GGD wrote:During formal meditation sessions we should meditate on exchanging self-awareness for the awareness of others. Then between sessions, watch the mind closely and proceed accordingly. …

This training is very powerful and has profound effects upon the practitioner, for when the mind is cultivated in this way, the expressions of body and speech automatically become transformed and adopt more sensitive and wholesome modes.

As is said in a scripture, “Wherever the mind goes, the body and speech spontaneously follow.” By refining and elevating the mind, our expressions of body and speech are immediately and effortlessly refined.
He goes on to describe the subsequent attainment in terms of the seven-fold method for exchanging self and other. One version of the seven steps is this: Prerequisite, Equanimity; 1) Recognize all beings as one’s mother; 2) Remember the kindness of all; 3) Develop the wish to repay all beings with loving-compassion; 4) Equalize self and other; 5) Abandon self-cherishing; 6) Cherish others; 7) Exchange self with others. These steps lead directly to Great Compassion and Bodhichitta by means of tonglen practice. This slogan gives the method to apply in our daily lives.

Judy Lief gets right to the point, "the power of labels":
JL wrote:One way of looking at this slogan is that it is about the power of labels. It is about the way we categorize our world and what happens as a result. At a crude level and very quickly we are always sizing people up. We put the people we deal with into mental bins such as “friend,” “enemy” or “not worth bothering with.” We do this both individually and collectively.

There are times when this ability to categorize may be crucially important for our survival, which depends on knowing whom we can trust and whom we need to avoid. Simply recognizing that someone is a friend or enemy or neither in that way is not in itself particularly problematic. But what happens is that those labels take on a life of their own. They change from being simple observations of a current situation or interaction to become unchanging definitions of the way things are. They become the world according to us. [emphasis added]
When the labels we apply to objects become fixed, our reactions become poisonous. The antidote, when we are able to recognize what we’re doing, is to apply the virtuous seed that understands the label is our own creation. Only then can we take personal responsibility and in that way transform them.

Chogyam Trungpa explains this process of taking responsibility a little more deeply:
CT wrote:Whatever aggression our enemy has provided for us -- let that aggression be ours and let the enemy thereby be free from any kind of aggression. Whatever passion has been created by our friends, let us take that neurosis into ourselves and let our friends be freed from passion. And the indifference of those who are in the middle or unconcerned, those who are ignorant, deluded, or noncaring, let us bring that neurosis into ourselves, and let those people be free of ignorance.
The purpose of that is that when you begin to hold the three poisons as yours, when you possess them fully and completely, when you take charge of them fully, you will find, interestingly enough, that the logic is reversed. …
By holding the poison, you let go of the object, or the intent, of your poison ... if your anger is not directed TOWARD something, the object of aggression falls apart.
That seems to echo "I will practice accepting defeat and offering the victory to them", the verse from Langri Thangpa's Eight Verses that inspired Geshe Chekawa to write the Seven Points when Geshe Sharawa told him understanding that verse was essential to attaining Buddhahood.

Pema Chodron highlights the irony of this and many other slogans (and Dharma in general):
PC wrote:In the Buddhist teachings, the messy stuff is called klesha, which means poison. ... The pith instruction of all the Buddhist teachings and most explicitly of the lojong teachings is, whatever you do, don't try to make these unwanted feelings go away. That's an unusual thought; it's not our habitual tendency to let these feelings hang around. Our habitual tendency is definitely to try to make those things go away.
But no, Buddha says, “Take it in and transform it!”

Jamgon Kongtrul puts it in slightly different terms:
JK wrote:Recognize these poisons as soon as they arise. Then, for example, when attachment arises, think: May every bit of every sentient beings' attachment be contained in this attachment of mine. May all sentient beings have the seed of virtue of being free of attachment. May this attachment of mine contain all their disturbing emotions and, until they attain buddhahood, may they be free of such disturbing emotions.
I like how Alan Wallace calls the transformation “nurturing”.
AW wrote:The point is to use these poisons as opportunities to nurture the roots of virtue.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey tell us to soar like a bird with this method.
R&D wrote:Just as a bird flaps its wings to fly higher and is further assisted by the wind blowing from beneath, in the same way we too are assisted by two vital forces as we develop the awakening mind: these are accepting all the trouble and suffering of others upon ourselves, and giving them all our merit, virtues, and excellent qualities such as wisdom and compassion. We should practice this not only in our imagination, but when circumstances arise and there is a chance to help others; in fact, we must spontaneously do whatever we can to assist them. If we do not apply our practice to our everyday actions, we are being hypocritical and deceiving ourselves.
Dilgo Khyentse tells us to bear the load of this method.
DK wrote:Many people, like myself, are infected by the three poisons! Therefore we should pray, 'May the obscurations of all beings, arising through these three poisons, come upon me as a load to bear. May all beings live virtuously, performing positive actions, and be free from the three poisons of attachment, anger and ignorance.' We will be greatly benefited if we constantly train ourselves in thinking like this.
There are many ways to look at it, but it all arises from the brief instruction: “Three Objects, Three Poisons, Three Virtuous Roots”. Part two of this method tomorrow.

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

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Fri Nov 03, 2017 2:41 pm

9. In All Activities, Train with Slogans
“Be mindful of the first moments of egotistic activity so that the appropriate slogan appears in your thoughts.”

Some versions of this verse link it directly to yesterday’s slogan, “Three Objects, Three Poisons, Three Virtuous Roots”, but it applies to all the words by which we can instill Dharma principles deeply in our mental continua.

Remember, Recite, Repeat. Act. Remember, Recite, Repeat. Act. And so forth…

Chogyam Trungpa & Judy Lief: “In all activities train with slogans”
Dilgo Khyentse: “In all your actions, train yourself with maxims”
Rabten & Dhargyey: “Practice every activity by these words”
Alan Wallace: “In all activities train with words”
Jamgon Kongtrul: “Use sayings to train in all forms of activity”
Gyalwa Gendun Druppa: “(Practice on the three objects, three poisons, and three roots of virtue. This in brief is the oral precept for the periods between meditation sessions.) In order to remember this, recite it verbally in all daily activities”
Alex Berzin: “(In regard to the three objects, take the three poisonous attitudes and give the three roots of what is constructive) while training with words in all paths of behavior”
Pabongka Rinpoche: “(The brief instruction concerning the three objects, three poisons and three virtues is to be mindful of the practice in general) by taking these words to heart in all activities”

Judy Lief:
JL wrote:Slogan practice is practical. It applies to everything that we do. There is guidance for meditation practice as well as for all the hassles of daily life. Slogan practice applies to the times when we drop our guard, and we see where we are really coming from. It applies to how we are, as opposed to how we think we should be. The point of mind training is not to smooth everything out, but to work with what is not smooth. It is to work with what is challenging, embarrassing, intense, and confusing. Slogan practice is an uncovering process. It includes everything! In whatever we do, it is possible to flip our perspective from self to other.
I would add from my personal experience that words help even when distracted. I began reciting the brief refuge and bodhichitta prayers six times a day from the beginning of my journey in Tibetan Buddhism. Since then I’ve added to them and included some 1x daily recitations too. I don’t skip days or repetitions, but there are times (many times) when I’m doing something else and not actually focused on the words or the meanings. I squeeze them in no matter what –- sometimes even discontinuously and under my breath in the middle of a conversation or other activity with people! To me it’s like taking a long drive and regularly, though often casually, checking the route signs to make sure I’m going the right way.

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

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sat Nov 04, 2017 2:22 pm

10. Begin the Sequence of Sending and Taking with Yourself
“Whatever the experience, take the pain of others upon yourself first. Then send out compassion.”

Most of the versions I’m familiar with group this verse with alternating giving/taking and mounting them on the breath. In these 59 slogans it comes as the last slogan of Point Two, the Actual Practice of Bodhichitta, following the “three objects” and “remembering with words” verses.

I think the verse is fairly self-explanatory, but nuanced. And I think the blurb on today’s slogan card misses one of the most important nuances: taking on one’s own suffering.

In Gyalwa Gendun Druppa’s root text we see, “Meditate on interwoven sending and receiving; and begin the receiving with yourself”. He explains,
GGD wrote:The words “begin the receiving with yourself” refer to the practice of accepting all suffering, afflictions and delusions that arise within oneself as forces that purify and bring one release from the karmic seeds that otherwise would cause harm in future lives.
Alex Berzin tells us why:
AB wrote:If we can’t face our own problems, we might just focus on dealing with others’ problems as an escape.
Looking inward as an aspect of tonglen is a deep dive. Judy Lief says,
JL wrote:It is not always easy to look into our own discontent. But if we are to work with others we should try to understand our own suffering as deeply as possible. We need to look into our many layers of suffering, including everything from physical pain, emotional confusion, regrets, anxieties, fears, the whole deal. We cannot hide out. We may prefer to think that we are beyond that, and our situation may be very fortunate, but we need to bring out whatever is there. …

Be compassionate to yourself as well as other beings. Seeing clearly the nature of your own suffering is a way to understand more clearly the suffering of others.
Chogyam Trungpa points out that this slogan gets at the heart of what makes a precious human life precious and joyous:
CT wrote:The basic idea of the practice is actually very joyful. It is wonderful that human beings can do such a fantastic exchange and that they are willing to invite such undesirable situations into their world. It is wonderful that they are willing to let go of even their smallest corners of secrecy and privacy, so that their holding on to anything is gone completely. That is very brave. We could certainly say that this is the world of the warrior, from the Bodhisattva's point of view.
For Pema Chodron, the key point is jumping in immediately, and not waiting, right from wherever you are:
PC wrote:Start where you are. This is very important. Tonglen practice (and all meditation practice) is not about later, when you get it all together and you're this person you really respect. You may be the most violent person in the world -- that's a fine place to start. That's a very rich place to start -- juicy, smelly. You might be the most depressed person in the world, the most addicted person in the world, the most jealous person in the world. You might think that there are no others on the planet who hate themselves as much as you do. All of that is a good place to start. Just where you are -- that's the place to start.
Tonglen (and lojong) are about exchanging self and other. But Jamgon Kongtrul adds the interesting perspective that our future selves are also “other”, so start by willingly accepting your own future suffering.
JK wrote:In order to be able to take on the sufferings of others, begin the sequence of exchange with yourself. Right now, take on mentally all the suffering that will ripen for you in the future. When that has been cleared away, take up all the sufferings of others.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey expand on that theme as a form of basic training or boot camp.
R&D wrote:At first we may experience some difficulty in imagining or thinking about taking on the suffering of all other beings. We should begin the meditation by accepting all the difficulties that may happen to us today, tomorrow, and on into the next life. Although the prime object of giving and taking is to accept the misery of others, we train our mind by imagining our own immediate suffering. Only after our mind has become accustomed to this do we begin to take suffering from others. …
In the army, soldiers practice in mock battles, and it is only after repeated training among themselves that they develop the desire and ability to defeat their real enemy.
And perhaps the reason the 59 slogans places this as the last verse of Point Two, the Actual Practice of Bodhichitta, is as Dilgo Khyentse sums it all up:
DK wrote:We should think like this: 'May all the torments destined for me in the future, the heat and cold of the hells and the hunger and thirst of the famished spirits, come to me now. And may all the karma, obscuration and defilement causing beings to fall into an infernal destiny sink into my heart so that I myself might go to hell instead of them. May the suffering of others, the fruit, as the teachings say, of their desire and ignorance, come to me.' We should train ourselves like this again and again until we have such signs as that of Maitriyogin, who was wounded in the place where the stone had hit the dog.

Bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment, is the heart of all the practices of the Sutra and Mantrayana, and it is easy to implement. If one has it, everything is complete, and nothing is complete without it.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:38 pm

11. When the World Is Filled with Evil, Transform All Mishaps into the Path of Bodhi
“Be confident and generous. Your resources are adequate to deal with all situations. See misfortunes as opportunities to further practice.”

Now we move on to Point Three of the seven points, Transforming Negativity. The main point of slogan 11 is that for anyone on the path, for example practicing lojong, every problem we encounter is a training moment. What would a bodhisattva do?

This slogan addresses the feeling of being overwhelmed and beset by the world. At times when it just seems like too much to bear what happens? Do we immediately think of Dharma and remember that this is business-as-usual in samsara? Judy Lief says no, we think “poor, poor, pitiful me!!” (I paraphrase).
JL wrote:When things go wrong, when we encounter obstacles, the last thing on our minds is the dharma. Instead, what is the first thing on our minds? Ourselves! It is all about how we are being inconvenienced, burdened, put upon, attacked, misunderstood, rejected—you name it. …

Instead of viewing mishaps as personal attacks, you can include them in your practice. … Transformation does not mean that all our problems go away or that we overcome all our difficulties. It does not mean that the world is suddenly all rosy. It means that the path of dharma is big enough to accommodate whatever arises, good or bad.
Chogyam Trungpa helps us turn the table, look at the other side of the problem, using generosity because outer problems are a sign of inner poverty.
CT wrote:You might feel inadequate because you have a sick father and a crazy mother and you have to take care of them, or because you have a distorted life and money problems ... They could all be regarded as expression of your poverty mentality. ... You should also begin to build up confidence and joy in your own richness. ... We can expand our vision by means of generosity. We can give something to others. We don't always have to receive something first in order to give something away. ... The nature of generosity is to be free from desire, free from attachment, able to let go of anything.
Pema Chodron says (I paraphrase) “Arise and shine! Even on the bad days.”
PC wrote:This is the precious gift of the lojong teachings, that whatever occurs isn't considered an interruption or an obstacle but a way to wake up. This slogan is very well suited to our busy lives and difficult times. In fact, it's designed for that: if there were no difficulties, there would be no need for lojong or tonglen.

The path includes all experiences, both serene and chaotic. … When the fire alarm rings and confusion erupts, we feel irritated and upset ... we've done something wrong, or more usually someone ELSE has done something to ruin our beautiful meditation. … Exchanging yourself for others ... doesn't happen because you're better than they are but because human beings share the same stuff. The more you understand your own, the more you're going to understand others.
Her approach echoes Shantideva speaking about patience.
In chapter six Shantideva wrote:99. Those who stay close by me, then,
To damage my good name and cut me down to size —
Are surely there protecting me
From falling into realms of grief.

100. For I am one who strives for freedom.
I must not be caught by wealth and honors.
How could I be angry with the ones
Who work to free me from my fetters?

101. They, like Buddha’s very blessing,
Bar my way, determined as I am
To plunge myself headlong in sorrow:
How can I be angry with them?

102. I should not be irritated, saying,
“They are obstacles to my good deeds.”
For is not patience the supreme austerity,
And should I not abide by this?

103. And if I fail to practice patience,
Hindered by my own shortcomings,
I myself create impediments
To merit’s causes, yet so close at hand.

104. If something does not come to be when something else is absent,
And does arise, that factor being present,
That factor is indeed its cause.
How can it, then, be said to hinder it?

105. The beggars who arrive at proper times
Are not an obstacle to generosity.
We cannot say that those who give the vows
Are hindrances to ordination!

106. The beggars in this world are numerous;
Assailants are comparatively few.
For if I do no harm to others,
Others do no injury to me.

107. So, like a treasure found at home,
That I have gained without fatigue,
My enemies are helpers in my Bodhisattva work
And therefore they should be a joy to me.
Alan Wallace points out the mental transformation involved in applying this slogan.
AB wrote:Those who have truly entered the door of dharma will begin to respond actively to unfavorable circumstances in a way that transforms them. How? By cultivating the attitude that whatever misfortune may arise is a blessing of the spiritual mentor and the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This is not to say that your teacher is throwing you curve balls in an effort to mess up your life, or that the Buddhas are out to get you. Buddhism does not attribute the vicissitudes of life to the whims of an ultimate being.

Instead, bear in mind that this teaching assumes that we have begun to cultivate ultimate bodhicitta, and to understand the lack of intrinsic identity of phenomena. Misfortunes and obstacles to practice do not exist intrinsically. For something to be a misfortune for me, I must identify it as such. If I refuse to identify something as an obstacle but say instead, "I accept this illness as a blessing of my spiritual guide and of the Buddha," then it becomes so. It takes much courage and knowledge of dharma to say that, to mean it, and to act accordingly, but it is extremely potent. We can then rebound from these calamities with courage and understanding, instead of wilting under their pressure; and this is necessary for a deep and fruitful practice.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey bring the discussion of the state or our present world around to the collective karma that created it, which arose from self-cherishing.
R&D wrote:[All] unfortunate occurrences result from a deep reason and cause, for we are directly receiving the fruition of unwholesome deeds that we, in this and previous lifetimes, have collectively committed. The result is that we are born into this specific era and these conditions of life and are all suffering together.

For those who are unfamiliar with the process of thought transformation, these difficult circumstances are a great burden and appear to be extremely unfavorable to the practice of spiritual development. However, for those transforming their outlook, especially by cultivating the awakening mind, these situations become an encouragement for the accomplishment of the practice.
Dilgo Khyentse emphasizes the way we typically identify the source of trouble outside ourselves, affecting us without our involvement. That is the attitude that needs transforming. Luckily, all our problems are opportunities to practice that transformation.
DK wrote:We might however think that in order to carry everything onto the path to enlightenment, we need to be someone like Guru Rinpoche, with high realization and miraculous power, qualities which, alas, we do not have. We should not discourage ourselves with thoughts of that kind! By following these instructions, we will be able to make use of every difficult situation in our spiritual training. …

When the hordes of demons tried to obstruct the Buddha as he was on the point of attaining enlightenment, sending their armies and hurling their weapons, he meditated on kindness towards them, whereupon his great love overwhelmed their hatred, turning their weapons into flowers and their curses and war cries into praises and mantras. Other beings are in fact the best occasions for the accumulation of merit.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Mon Nov 06, 2017 4:53 pm

12. Drive All Blame into One
“Don’t blame others or wallow in guilt. Calmly take responsibility for all your problems and realize they are only problems because of your own attachments and aversions.”

The self-cherishing attitude is the primary cause of all suffering.
In chapter 8 Shantideva wrote:129. All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others.
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.

134. All the harm with which this world is rife,
All fear and suffering that there is,
Clinging to the “I” has caused it!
What am I to do with this great demon?

135. If this “I” is not relinquished wholly,
Sorrow likewise cannot be avoided.
If they do not keep away from fire,
People can’t escape from being burned.

136. To free myself from harm
And others from their sufferings,
Let me give myself to others,
Loving them as I now love myself.
Verse 136 foreshadows tomorrow’s slogan which is closely tied to slogan 12.

Gyalwa Gendun Druppa states it clearly.
GGD wrote: Whenever any external hardships manifest, such as unprovoked aggression form humans, non-humans, malicious forces and so forth, or internal hardships such as illness, distorted emotions and so forth, do not place the blame on others. Rather, place it squarely on the self-cherishing attitude.

Think to yourself, “This self-cherishing attitude has caused me to experience countless sufferings since beginningless time. Even now it continues to draw me into limitless suffering and unpleasantness. And if I do not transcend it, it will continue to bring me misery without end. I should therefore make every effort to transcend it.”
This one is tricky to apply (not that the other slogans are easy!). But this one makes the difficult distinction of the Christian slogan, “hate the sin but love the sinner”. It’s got a nice ring, but efforts to apply it very often look a lot like hating the sinner.

We are trying to distinguish between behaviors and causes. There are behaviors, in ourselves and others, that need to be stopped. But this slogan reminds us that when we take action to subdue negativity, we must be sure we understand the underlying cause –- the rightful object of anger and hatred. That underlying cause is self-cherishing, ego-clinging, both ours and the perpetrator’s. Shantideva illustrates the difference using the case of being attacked with a stick. No one hates the stick for the pain; instead we consider the person wielding the stick to be the primary cause and so we direct our anger there. But this slogan reminds us that we are all driven by the ignorance of ego-clinging and that is what we should hate and seek to destroy.
In chapter 6 Shantideva wrote:41. Although it is their sticks that hurt me,
I am angry at the ones who wield them, striking me.
But they in turn are driven by their hatred;
Therefore with their hatred I should take offence.
We still have to stop the negative action, but lojong is all about the mental attitude behind any of our actions.

Judy Lief plays this kind of situation out a little further.
JL wrote:We live in a society and world filled with blames and complaints of all kinds. When something goes wrong — and there is always something going wrong — we look for someone to blame. If we can’t find who is responsible, and our urge to blame is still lingering around, we choose someone willy-nilly. …

It is true that if we are trying to solve a problem, we need to uncover its source, to discover who or what is responsible. That is pragmatic, and gives us a way to correct the problem. But our attempt to find someone to blame is often not all that straightforward and not very helpful, either. … And even in looking outward, once we have assigned the blame, we go no further. So we do not get to the root of the problem. We stop short, satisfied that we are off the hook and someone else is at fault.

This slogan is quite radical. Instead of blaming others, you blame yourself. Even if it is not your fault, you take the blame. It is important to distinguish this practice from neurotic self-blaming or the regretful fixation on your own mistakes and how much you at fault. It also does not imply that you should not point out wrongdoing or blow the whistle on corruption. Instead, as you go about your life, you simply notice the urge to blame others and you reverse it.
Here, while I agree with Judy Lief that part of lojong is “accepting defeat and giving the victory to others”, I don’t think that is the primary point of this slogan about identifying the "one to blame". In fact, in some ways that constitutes the same subtle error: blaming others or ourselves instead of going past the immediately apparent cause to the primary, underlying cause, which is the self-cherishing attitude.

Looking at the Lojong Online site, from which we are working, the Daily Card page says “Drive all blame into one”, but the list of all 59 slogans gives it as, “Drive all blame into oneself”. It’s a subtle difference. Chogyam Trunga illustrates the nuance like this:
CT wrote:It is we who are not letting go, not developing enough warmth and sympathy -- which makes us problematic. So we cannot blame anybody. ... This slogan applies whenever we complain about anything, even that our coffee is cold or our bathroom is dirty. It goes very far. Everything is due to our own uptightness, so to speak, which is known as ego holding, ego fixation. Since we are so uptight about ourselves, that makes us very vulnerable at the same time. ... We get hit, but nobody means to hit us - we are actually inviting the bullets. [emphasis added]
Here’s how Pema Chodron puts it.
PC wrote: It doesn't mean, instead of blaming other people, blame yourself. It means to touch in with what blame feels like altogether. Instead of guarding yourself, instead of pushing things away, begin to get in touch with the fact that there's a very soft spot under all that armor, and blame is probably one of the most-perfected armors that we have. You can take this slogan beyond what we think of as 'blame' and practice applying it simply to the general sense that something is wrong. When you feel that something is wrong, let the story line go and touch in to what's underneath.
Jamgon Kongtrul goes further to point out that the self we cherish is non-existent, and that is where the blame belongs.
JK wrote:This mind grasps at a self where there is no self. From time without beginning until now, it has, in following its own whims in samsara, perpetrated various non-virtuous actions. All the sufferings I now experience are the results of those actions. No one else is to blame; this ego-cherishing attitude is to blame. I shall do whatever I can to subdue it.
Alan Wallace ties it up in a neat little paragraph.
AW wrote:[This] verse instructs us to blame everything bad that happens to us, from tragedy to ingrown toenails, on one thing alone: self-centeredness. This is a very powerful antidote to a very natural tendency. When we experience misfortune, we almost invariably look outward and say, "Who did this to me?" If we identify a perpetrator, myriad mental distortions arise in response. Another person may well have acted as a cooperative condition contributing to our unhappiness, but that person is not the real cause.
He uses an excellent example of someone ramming his parked car.
AW wrote:What is the real issue here? Was I at fault in this particular context? Both the law and my insurance company would say that I was not. Someone has damaged a possession of mine and I have no freedom to choose whether or not I experience this particular circumstance. On a deep level I have stacked the cards to experience this through my own previous actions. But here lies the freedom: How do I respond? The dent in the car has no power to cause me any suffering unless I yield to it. The dent is only an external catalyst, a contributing circumstance, but by itself it is not sufficient to cause me suffering. The suffering actually arises from the stuff of my own mind. If I were mindless there would be no suffering, but that is not an option. I cannot decide to reject my mind. Instead I must apply my intelligence: What element of my mind was responsible for my suffering?

The real source of my suffering is self-centeredness: my car, my possession, my well-being. Without the self-centeredness, the suffering would not arise. …

[In the case of the damaged car] what needs to be done? Get the other driver's license number, notify the police, contact the insurance agency, deal with all the details. Simply do it and accept it. Accept it gladly as a way to strengthen your mind further, to develop patience and the armor of forbearance. There is no way to become a Buddha and remain a vulnerable wimp. Patience does not suddenly appear as a bonus after full enlightenment. Part of the whole process of awakening is to develop greater forbearance and equanimity in adversity. Shantideva, in the sixth chapter of his Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, eloquently points out that there is no way to develop patience without encountering adversity, and patience is indispensable for our own growth on the path to awakening. …
Recognize that anger or resentment is superfluous mental garbage, and that clutter and distortion serve no useful purpose in our minds.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey identify the enemy.
R&D wrote: When we feel uncomfortable from even a slight thirst or discomfort in the heat, our self-centered attitude desiring immediate relief from this annoyance leads us to crave a cold drink. Yet our self-cherishing attitude -- the enemy -- allows us time for only brief and comparatively unsympathetic thoughts for the numberless beings who have greater misfortunes than we.

The accumulation of karmic debts that we owe other beings can be terminated either through intensive meditation or by our own acceptance of the fruit of such debts. This last method is the easiest and is the technique taught in this text.

We should view any person who appears to be harming us as an intermediary who, in causing us difficulty, frees us from a more serious ripening of our past unskillful actions. In such situations those who harm us are, in reality, our benefactors.
Dilgo Khyentse pinpoints the message:
DK wrote: We should not blame anything on others. Even if some enemy were to come and cut our heads off or beat us with a stick, all he does is provide the momentary circumstance of injury. The real cause of our being harmed is our self-clinging and is not the work of our enemy.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:56 pm

13. Be Grateful to Everyone
“Be grateful towards those who love and help you and towards those who present you with obstacles. Remember it is difficult people who most help us to grow in compassion and face our own negative attributes.”

Dilgo Khyentse sets the tone for this one.
DK wrote:We should be thankful to all beings, for enlightenment depends upon them, and have as much love and compassion towards our enemies as we have towards our friends. This is the most important thing. … For the one who wishes to attain enlightenment, the Buddhas and sentient beings have an equal kindness.
Geshes Rabten and Dhargyey establish the basis.
R&B wrote:If we train our minds to recognize the great kindness of all sentient beings, then despite any physical discomforts we shall always be joyful and happy, both mentally and spiritually. … We must therefore look closely at all others and understand what they wish to have and what they wish to avoid. This is simple: all beings desire happiness and wish to avoid suffering.
Judy Lief clarifies “gratitude” in this context.
JL wrote:This slogan assumes that we at least have basic gratitude for the good things that befall us. It then challenges us to extend that feeling of gratitude to include not just gratitude for what is positive, but gratitude for the negative also. … Conventional gratitude is based on distinguishing what we like from what we do not, good fortune from bad fortune, success from failure, opportunities from obstacles. … According to this slogan, we should be especially grateful for having to deal with annoying people and difficult situations, because without them we would have nothing to work with. … It is by dealing with such challenges that we grow and develop. So we should be very grateful to have them.
Pema Chodron explains the psychology of this. People who push our buttons and know how to hurt us are unearthing our own buried negativities, all the garbage we never want to see or deal with: our “backpacks full of boulders”.
PC wrote:If we were to come up with one word about each of the troublemakers in our lives, we would find ourselves with a list of descriptions of our own rejected qualities, which we project onto the outside world. The people who repel us unwittingly show the aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable, which otherwise we can't see. In traditional teachings on lojong it is put another way: other people trigger the karma that we haven't worked out. They mirror us and give us the chance to befriend all of that ancient stuff that we carry around like a backpack full of boulders.

"Be grateful to everyone" is getting at a complete change of attitude. This slogan is not wishy-washy and naive. It does not mean that if you're mugged on the street you should smile knowingly and say "Oh, I should be grateful for this" before losing consciousness. … [It] means that all situations teach you, and often it's the tough ones that teach you the best.
For me, Alan Wallace really nails it, though. He shows exactly what we have to be grateful for from the most difficult people and the most threatening situations.
AW wrote:Having engaged in this Mind Training, we can recognize that a person who has harmed us thereby kicks us out of our complacency and pushes us into practice. If we are surrounded by friends, our mental distortions may rarely be triggered and we can easily exaggerate our sense of the progress we have made in our practice. But when hostility triggers animosity, it is like a bucket full of cold water in the face, making it very clear that we have something here to work on.
If we retaliate to harm, we thereby multiple the harm and everyone loses. If we merely grit our teeth and try to bear harm bravely, we gain nothing.
AW wrote:When someone harms us or otherwise repels us, we can simply say, "This will pass," and distract ourselves with happier thoughts, turning our minds away. But this leaves us no less vulnerable the next time around.
But if we seize the moment with Dharma and apply lojong, then we have received the most precious gift.
AW wrote:The greatest kindness another person can show us is to help transform our minds so that contentment arises more readily from the nature of the mind itself, without pleasant stimuli. A dharma teacher or a spiritual friend can do that. Our enemies can as well. They show us the truest, innermost kindness, and without them the teachings of books and spiritual friends are insufficient for our spiritual growth. We need these people. They serve an indispensable role in our lives. And what do they get out of it? Nothing, at best. They receive no benefit from the act of giving us harm, and if they are doing something really unwholesome, they get nothing but misfortune. There is ground here for both gratitude and compassion. …

Inasmuch as the inflictors of harm are truly aiding our practice, they are great friends and helpers in our spiritual growth, and in this sense, we can regard them gladly and from our hearts as emanations of our spiritual mentor or of the Buddha. [emphasis added]

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

Jeff H
Posts: 650
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:56 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Daily Lojong

Post by Jeff H » Wed Nov 08, 2017 3:23 pm

14. Seeing Confusion as the Four Kayas is Unsurpassable Shunyata Protection
“Protect the clarity and openness of your mind (shanyata) by meditating on the four kayas.”

Of the 33 slogans I’ve examined so far in this exercise, this is the most difficult for me to find resonance with. Here’s how Gyalwa Gendun Druppa characterizes it.
GGD wrote:Investigate the [confusing] situation deeply and ask how the event is produced in the beginning, how it resides in the middle, and how it ceases to exist in the end.
I didn’t really connect with Pema Chodron’s comments on this slogan, but she said some things that reminded me of two incidences in my childhood, which I think are related to this slogan.
PC wrote:This slogan is saying that when confusion arises not only do you practice tonglen and connect with the heart, but also you flash on the non-solidity of phenomena at any time. In other words, you can just drop it. Out of the blue, you just drop it. … Not through any particular effort, you just drop it. … We have the ability to drop the story line, to rouse ourselves.
When I was a young kid, one day I was crying for some perceived injustice my parents had inflicted on me. I went off to my room to sulk and, for no reason I could identify, I just thought, “What’s the point?” My tears and the injustice suddenly had no context. I stopped crying and made my bed (not sure why I remember that as part of the event). Everything was ok.

Later, in my early teens, I enjoyed the Red Skelton TV show and the next day in school my friends and I would share the things that made us laugh. One evening I was in a very bad mood (sulking again, though probably not crying), and the show just wasn’t funny -- not at all. But from that I realized that my mood was always a component in whether I enjoyed the show or not. I actually discovered that, even in a bad mood, I could decide that it was Red Skelton time and I was going to enjoy myself -- and the show would be funny. Anyway, I think those two events might be similar to the application of this slogan.

Alex Berzin translates the term “confusion” as “deceptive appearances” and says
AB wrote:We can also transform difficult circumstances into positive ones with our view or outlook, namely our view of voidness or reality. Deceptive appearances here refer to the appearance of our suffering as if it were self-established.
  • Reminiscent of a Dharmakaya -– the omniscient mind of a Buddha, namely the natural, pure state of the mind -– which is not created by causes and conditions, our suffering never has a self-established arising, because there is no such thing.
  • Reminiscent of a Sambhogakaya -– subtle manifestations of a Buddha –- which never stop teaching in pure lands, our suffering can never have a self-established ceasing.
  • Reminiscent of a Nirmanakaya –- forms of a Buddha that appear in our world –- which never stay still, but are always helping others in continually changing ways, our suffering never has a truly established abiding.
  • Reminiscent of a Svabhavakaya –- the inseparability of these three Buddha Bodies, our suffering can never have a self-established arising, abiding and ceasing. Because suffering arises, abides and ceases dependently on causes and conditions, it is totally devoid of a self-established arising, abiding and ceasing.
Jamgon Kongtrul summarizes the four kayas this way:
JK wrote:When you rest in a state in which appearances simply arise but there is no clinging to them, the dharmakaya aspect is that they are empty in nature, the nirmanakaya aspect is they appear with clarity, the sambhogakaya aspect is that this emptiness and clarity occur together, and the swabhavakaya aspect is that these are inseparable. This key instruction, to rest evenly without grasping at origin, location, or cessation, points out the four kayas. It is the armor of view, the protection circle of emptiness, and the supreme instruction that cuts off confusion.
And Alan Wallace describes them like this:
AW wrote:In this particular context, dharmakaya is understood as the absence of intrinsic birth and existence of all phenomena: that phenomena neither arise nor exist autonomously of their own accord. Whatever has no intrinsic birth or existence can have no intrinsic cessation. This lack of intrinsic cessation is called sambhogakaya, roughly translated as the Enjoyment Body of the Buddha. If phenomena are empty of intrinsic arising and intrinsic cessation, there can be no intermediate period of abiding in existence, and that very lack of abiding or dwelling, is called here nirmanakaya, or the Emanation Body. Such phenomena then are not real: not intrinsically existent in the past, present, or future. This lack of inherent reality is called svabhavikaya, or the Nature Body.
And the practice point is:
AW wrote:Thus, nothing has any existence apart from the Four Bodies: neither illness, nor one's own mind, nor any inflictor of harm, nor any cause, nor any effect. In this way we can regard all phenomena, including every thought that arises, as the Four Bodies. Granted, it takes considerable background to practice this with understanding rather than simply as if following a formula.
But the real take-away point (as far as I can tell) is stated by Dilgo Khyentse:
DK wrote:If deluded perceptions are understood in terms of the four kayas, it follows that in that which is termed deluded, there is nothing impure, nothing to rid ourselves of. Neither is there something else, pure and undeluded, which we should try to adopt. For, indeed, when illusion dissolves, undeluded wisdom is simply present, where it always has been.

When gold is in the ground, for example, it is blemished and stained, but the nature of gold as such is not susceptible to change. When it is purified by chemicals or refined by a goldsmith, its real character increasingly shines forth. In the same way, if we subject the deluded mind to analysis, and reach the conclusion that it is free from birth, cessation and abiding existence, we will discover, then and there, a wisdom which is undeluded. Furthermore, the deluded mind, being itself illusory, is unstable and fluctuates, like experiences in a dream, whereas the true and undeluded nature of phenomena, the Buddha-nature or Tathagatagarbha, has been present from unoriginated time. It is exactly the same in ourselves as it is in the Buddhas. It is thanks to it that the Buddhas are able to bring help to beings; it is thanks to it, too, that beings may attain enlightenment.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 52 guests