Train Your Mind: All activities should be done with one intention

Judy Lief

The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #39

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.

39: All activities should be done with one intention.

It seems that every day we fall willy-nilly into a never-ending string of activities. They seem to come at us from outside, without our necessarily having anything to do about it. We keep busy with one thing after another from morning until night. 

At times we may be really organized and lay out plans day-by-day and week by-week. We have goals and deadlines. At other times, it may be more as if we are responding to requests that come up, without any clear pattern or direction. E-mails, meetings, obligations keep flooding in, and we find all the little squares in our calendars filling up.

What holds all this activity together? Is there any thread that runs through all this business? Or are we just trying to make it through another day? What do you know about your underlying intention? 

Without saying it in so many words, often the thread holding all our thoughts and activities together is: “What’s in it for me?” We wonder how we can survive, get ahead, win, succeed , overcome, take over, grab something, be recognized, appreciated, rewarded…you name it, the list is endless.

In lojong practice, the idea is to replace that unspoken intention based on fear and the need to prop up the ego with an intention of benevolence. Rather than making a few heroic or virtuous gestures or taking on some righteous cause, the idea is to have a quality of awareness, gentleness, and benefit to others color everything you do.

Such an intention should color even the way in which you do the simplest things, like picking up your teacup. Your gestures, speech, thoughts, and emotions should all be expressions of one intention: the powerful intention of benefiting sentient beings.

Today’s practice

Notice the way in which your underlying intentions color your actions.  Notice also the quality of pointlessness or aimlessness and times when whatever you are doing seems to be without any clear intention. Choose an activity, you normally do and see what happens when you link it with the intention of cultivating gentles and service to others.

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justone's picture

I ment to write "One may be service that eases suffering..."

justone's picture

I like your questions BenE,
I am reminded of something I think Trungpa Rinpoche said about "idiot compassion". Basically, he made a distinction between compassion that does not serve anyone but to create dependency, and compassion that can liberate both people. I think serving others is the same way. We can serve in ways that increase the ego's standing, or we can serve in a way that helps us break free of the limited perceptions of separateness. Both may be service that eases suffering at a root level, while the other props up the ego. By the way, serving just like compassion may not always look like we have been taught to perceive them.

Thanks for your contribution. You really got me thinking about this more deeply.


BenE's picture

If we are all equal expressions of the Divine, why is it important to serve others? Does that not act to prop up others' egos? Or is the point not benefiting others but drawing focus away from the 'I'?

Tharpa Pema's picture

I think we help others because it is intrinsically enjoyable to work in concert with others. I think you are quite right that it shifts our focus away from the pain of ego-involvement.

Also, if our helping others is not rooted directly in feeding our own ego needs, our help can reduce the other person's basic level of fearfulness ("the gift of fearlessness" ).

What goes around comes around. If I contribute to the climate of peace, others are more likely too as well, and it eventually benefits me as well, increasing the environment of peace and reducing fear of suffering for all of us.

Your point reminds me, too, of the concept of twofold selflessness. Our service is not to the selfishness but to the suffering of others. We help another by teaching the dharma, so that the other person can also reduce their suffering more effectively through service to others. Teach others to be more selfless as well and we all benefit.

With maitri, Linda

BenE's picture

I like that, the gift of fearlessness. I'll think on this more. Thanks!