The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #53
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.
53. Don’t vacillate.
When you first encounter the dharma, you may be intrigued but wary, or quick to be inspired. If you are inspired, you may jump in enthusiastically, and read all sorts of books, take tons of classes, and practice a lot. But such enthusiasm tends to be short-lived, and after a while, your interest and energy begins to peter out. You begin to have second thoughts about the whole thing.
If you are more wary, you may decide to spend more time checking it out before you make a commitment. Before you dip your toe into the dharma, you want to find out about different teachers and communities and read a few more books. Although you are drawn to the dharma, you are afraid to go too far without more understanding of what you are getting into. But whenever you reach the point of being about to make a commitment, you hesitate and step back.
No matter how you enter into the practice of mind training, the idea is to become more steady and confident. Constantly changing your mind about what you are doing drains away your enthusiasm and leaves you depleted of energy. You sink into a kind of undertow of self-doubt. It is important to break this pattern and to develop more self-confidence and certainty in the dharma and in your own insight.
When we lack confidence, what happens is that we think too much. It is hard to make a decision because there is no end of options, alternatives, contingencies, and what if’s. Commitment is scary because it means choosing one direction and abandoning others, but unless we do so, it will be hard to make any progress in any direction. So once you see what you need to do, the point is to go ahead and do it!
The idea of this slogan is that once you make a decision to practice mind training, you should stick with it so that it becomes a steady thread throughout your life. Although your circumstances are always changing, your commitment to mind training should be unwavering.
When your enthusiasm seems to be flickering, try to drop down a layer to a more steady and fundamental stream of inspiration. By placing whatever you experience within that stream, you can gradually gain greater certainty in the view and practice of lojong.