Train Your Mind: Observe these two, even at the risk of your life

Judy Lief

The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #43

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.

Read all the lojong slogans here.

43. Observe these two, even at the risk of your life

The two primary vows or commitments of the Buddhist path are the refuge vow and the bodhisattva vow. More generally, the two primary commitments one makes on the spiritual path are to work on oneself and to help other beings. These two vows provide fundamental guidelines for how to approach your practice and your daily life.

You can take the refuge and bodhisattva vows in a formal setting, but the main commitment takes place in your heart. The ceremony is simply an acknowledgement of the pledge you have already made. 

With the refuge vow, you promise to honor and respect the Buddha, to study and to practice the teachings of Buddhism, and to work with the sangha, or community of practitioners.  On an inner level, you make a commitment to awakening, to cultivating knowledge, and to connecting with fellow seekers of wisdom and knowledge.

With the bodhisattva vow, you dedicate you life to the welfare of all beings. You make a commitment to develop the wisdom, compassion, and skillful means to be of real benefit to the world.

We don’t take many vows, but when we do, we need to take them seriously. To observe these two vows, it is not enough to go to a ceremony, celebrate, and then forget about it.  They need to be woven into the fabric of your life. And you do not just take such vows once, but you do so repeatedly. In that way, you place everything you do in the context of these two simple but profound underpinnings of the dharma: working on oneself and helping others. 

Today’s practice
What would change if you took seriously the two principles of working on yourself and helping others as the measure of your actions? How committed are you to yourself or to others?

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myers_lloyd's picture

I practice Zen with a community in which English is the minority tongue, and after a week of silence the final, social supper is all French. Unless you come with other English speaking friends-then you can hunch together-fake it and eat.
My solution has been in part to take up French conversation and prepare to sound kindergarten while there.
As to getting emotional needs met by this sangha, it's not going to happen-although I've liked them all very well for decades.
But during the Refuge Ceremony, I vow to take heart from their neverfailing help, wisdom and spunk-and I do receive much from our common presence.

No sangha, no teacher, no practice: ergo, thanks, sangha!!

tetunney's picture

Basically, I am with you Brother Ricardo. For generally we, in this 'modern' age, are opposed to rituals as archaic and waste of time. However, over 30 years ago, because I saw little progress in other meditative efforts, I decided to hang-in with some rituals to see what, if anything would happen. I did, and IT did! I first stuck my toe it to test the water and gradually waded in and began to "float."

A real purpose is served or rituals would not have evolved. But the purpose itself may well be completely out of your particular life style. For me the secret was, and is, a full commitment to what ever I am doing. (would that I could more faithfully follow my advise!) But 'right effort' is so necessary for positive results.

Rituals developed for good reason. To bow, to prostrate, slows us down and brings pause to the constant discursive thoughts; It brings us back to the moment at hand. "what are we doing and why?" It affords an opportunity to see and contemplate our usual negative thought-patterns and only when we can see clearly do we have the option to change. It allows us to realize and therefore break the unskillful patterns and life-habits we have developed.

Ricardo54's picture

I agree. Where does one hook up with with a sangha that meets one's secular needs? I have experienced session that were fine but filled with bowing and chanting. Not for me.

Anreal's picture

Maybe you are going to the wrong place ... Have you investigated the different paths thoroughly? You might find something more suited to your nature if you investigate more.
It will be hard for you to find a Sangha if you are not into the traditional thing, but don't give up, if you continue to refine your search your needs will be met eventually.

Also remember that in the strictest sense, a sangha does not have to be a community of Buddhists necessarily. It translates as 'community of enlightened beings' so from a non-traditional perspective a group of friends who are all on their own path toward enlightenment but who support each other with love and understanding can suffice as well. :)

rinchen_wangmo's picture

You know Ricardo, I am not sure the sangha's purpose is to meet our secular needs. I think it's more about supporting each other around spiritual needs. So, if bowing and chanting are not for you, what is? And where are the people who practise that?