Train Your Mind: Abandon Any Hope of Fruition

Atisha's 59 Lojong slogans with commentary

Judy Lief

The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #28

Acharya   Judy            LiefEach 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.
Read all the lojong slogans here.

 

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

When we do anything, we usually do it for a purpose. We have some aim in mind and we hope to accomplish that aim. We hope to succeed rather than fail. That is fine. But what then happens is that our thoughts of success or failure begin to overpower the task at hand. The fear of failure can make us timid and unwilling to take risk our clinging to a successful outcome can make us more and more tight. We become impatient and grit our teeth trying to force our desired outcome. The hope of fruition and the fear of failure go hand-in-hand.

So much education and so much of the conventional thinking about how to motivate people is based on that model of hope and fear. We learn to expect some kind of reward or confirmation any time we succeed and to expect some form of punishment when we do not.  But according to this slogan, it is better to abandon that whole approach. In that way, when we act, there are no hidden agendas or ulterior motives.

Even the practice of developing loving kindness through slogan practice could be tainted by this desire to be recognized and confirmed. Our attempts to develop loving kindness may begin to be more about cultivating an image of being wise and compassionate than actually helping other people. Because of our need to confirm ourselves, to prove to ourselves that our efforts have been successful, we may try to force a reaction of appreciation or gratitude on those we are supposedly selflessly helping. According to this slogan, there is more room for real kindness and compassion to arise if let go of our attachment to results, or at least loosen it a little.

Today’s practice

How is it possible to maintain your focus, to “keep your eyes on the prize,” without getting fixated on results? As you go about your activities, pay attention to the difference between having a goal and being taken over by your hopes, fears, and speculations.

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Alex Kelly's picture

There is a folk wisdom that goes around in modern Buddhism which says that having goals is going to ultimately be an obstacle to the attainment of the path. This isnt really supported by what the Buddha really taught about ones effort in th...e practice.

The Buddha gives a similie for someone who makes the wrong kind of effort in the practice: they are twisting the horn of a cow to get milk. If you dont apply your effort in the right way then you dont get milk. Its the same with having goals. Its not the case that letting go of the goal is the solution when you find that you are not getting the results you hoped for - you need to use your ingenuity and discrimination to apply effort in the right way to attain one goals.

A similie occured to me in connection with having goals. If one is learning a skill then there is going to be a certain amount of stress and effort involved to in trying develop that skill but one doesnt become skilfull by abandoning ones effort, even though by abandoning that effort ones doesnt experience that stress and can be at ease. You try to see what are the obstacles to you becoming more skilfull and use whatever powers of discerment you presently have to apply your effort so that you do get better. Take a potter for instance. When learning to throw a pot at the beginning one may only occasionally throw a good pot, but its by perserverance and discernment that one can reach the goal of throwing a good pot every time - then one is skilled at it. The Buddha uses the analogy of learning a skill many times in the canon for the path of practice. One of these is the case of developing the skill of concentration (jhana):

"I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana... the second jhana... the third... the fourth... the dimension of the infinitude of space... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of nothingness. I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception...

...Suppose that an archer or archer's apprentice were to practice on a straw man or mound of clay, so that after a while he would become able to shoot long distances, to fire accurate shots in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses. In the same way, there is the case where a monk... enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'"

AN 9.36 Jhana Sutta: Mental Absorption

Without the desire to attain that goal of skilfulness in concentration then there is no development, and no culmination of that skilfullnes leading to release.

Reliquishment, letting go of the goal is only described after the goal has been reached. The raft is not abandoned before attempting to cross the river, nor mid stream but only after the safety of the other side is reached.

An interesting occurance which seems to justify that the idea of not holding to goal orientated practice is the case of Ananda who attains arahantship on the night before the First Council. At the time he was a stream-winner, not fully awakened. All the monks who were attending the meeting were arahants. So he practiced and made a great effort to become fully awakened so that he could attend the meeting as an arahant. Despite his efforts he didint reach his goal but just as he 'gave up' his efforts and went to lie down and sleep he attained full awakening - arahantship. Now from this it seems to show that the goal of attaining was the obstacle to that attainment. But that neglects the fact that it was because of Ananda's previous efforts that he got into a position of equanimous balance where there was the opportunity for mind attain the goal - without that effort then the skilfulness of the mind would not have been raised to a sufficient level for full awakening to occur.

earthmother49's picture

most helpful to me is attention to the breath during everday life. Having first learned mindful breathing to help with chronic pain, I notice hundreds of times during the day where my breath is going, where I feel it, and how it brings me back to the present moment. During a very stressful job situation last year, my breath kept me connected with the people I was helping - not with the dissatisfactory nature of rules/no rules, support/no support, and very long hours. Yes, the breath is always with me, and is a generous friend with its wisdom.