The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #56
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.
56. Don’t wallow in self-pity.
When your practice is not going well, or you feel it is too hard, you may begin to regret undertaking it in the first place. It is easy to start to feel sorry for yourself. The anti-lojong slogan, “Ignorance is bliss,” begins to sound pretty appealing. You think, why not just live a “normal life” and forget about all this? Why take on this extra burden of mind training and the cultivation of loving-kindness?
You realize that mindfulness practice is hard, mind training is hard, practicing compassion is hard, even developing kindness is hard. It is challenging and painful to care about any of this. So you begin to speculate about how easy other people have it. You think about how great it would be if you could just go about your life without lojong practice. It would be such a relief to forget about trying to wake up, uncover deception, practice kindness, help others, and all the rest!
The problem is that once you begin to see things through the eyes of lojong, it is very difficult to turn that off. If you have an insight, it is almost impossible to erase it, or to make the insight an un-insight. What you see, you see. And insight is a good thing, so why feel sorry for yourself?
The point of this slogan is not to wallow in self-pity. In fact, in regard to lojong, it makes no sense, for you are the one who is benefiting. More generally, self-pity is simply a distraction and an energy drain. If someone is better off than you, who cares? If you are better off than someone else, who cares? Why make a fuss in either case? Instead of wallowing in your own fascination either with being special or not getting what you deserve, you could practice thinking of others for a while.
We expect so much from the world and from other people, and when those expectations are not met, we feel angry and sorry for ourselves. Notice the kinds of expectations you have and the relationship between those expectations and the arising of disappointment and self-pity.