The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #58
Each Friday, Acharya Judy Lief, teacher in the Shambhala tradition of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, comments on one of Atisha's 59 mind-training (Tib. lojong) slogans, which serve as the basis for a complete practice.
Atisha (980-1052 CE) was an Indian adept who brought to Tibet a systematized approach to bodhicitta (the desire to awaken for the sake of all sentient beings) and loving-kindness, through working with these slogans. Judy edited Chogyam Trungpa's Training the Mind (Shambhala, 1993), which contains Trungpa Rinpoche's commentaries on the lojong ("mind-training") teachings.
Each entry includes a practice.
58. Don’t be frivolous.
To work with this slogan, it is necessary to look at how you spend your time, what you think about, and how your invest your energy. It is easy to fritter away your time in frivolous pursuits that do not lead anywhere. But living in this way is like eating junk food: it is ultimately unsatisfying.
Frivolity comes across as light-hearted and innocent, but it is not. It is not real openness, but a form of aggression towards your own buddha nature. Keeping things on the surface level helps you prevent any discovery arising that might rock the boat. It is seemingly more comfortable to float about in the shallows of life than to pursue its depths. But since the power of buddha nature is that it keeps wanting to arise, suppressing that instinct takes work. To maintain your narrow field of comfort, you have to keep pushing it down.
It is tricky to work with frivolity. First, it is easy to confuse it with the kind of openness, light-heartedness and playful childlike mind that is cultivated by meditative practice. Frivolity can seem to be a virtue, but it isn’t. Second, it is possible to overcorrect, to counter frivolity with an overblown display of seriousness. But the mind/heart cultivated by mind training is neither stodgy nor frivolous. The idea is to avoid both those extremes.
You could say that the play between seriousness and frivolity is a kind of Buddhist humor. The most solemn occasions have an undercurrent of absurdity; and the silliest interactions have an undertone of profundity.
Do a little census of what you think about and how you spend your time. How do you distinguish between what it frivolous and what is worthwhile?