Train Your Mind, Slogan 8

Atisha's 59 Lojong Slogans with commentary by Acharya Judy Lief

Judy Lief

The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #8

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.


8. Three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of virtue.

Judy Lief logong slogansThree Objects: Labeling our World
One way of looking at this slogan is that it is about the power of labels. It is about the way we categorize our world and what happens as a result. At a crude level and very quickly we are always sizing people up. We put the people we deal with into mental bins such as “friend,” “enemy” or “not worth bothering with.” We do this both individually and collectively.

There are times when this ability to categorize may be crucially important for our survival, which depends on knowing whom we can trust and whom we need to avoid. Simply recognizing that someone is a friend or enemy or neither in that way is not in itself particularly problematic. But what happens is that those labels take on a life of their own. They change from being simple observations of a current situation or interaction to become unchanging definitions of the way things are. They become the world according to us.

Three Poisons: Fixed Reactions to Our Own Labels

When our labels become solid in that way, we can’t see past them, we can only react. And the way we do so, according to this slogan, is in three dysfunctional ways: by grasping, by hatred, and by avoidance or indifference. This trio is traditionally referred to as passion, aggression, and ignorance. As we scan our world, we pick out highlights and focus on those people who further or threaten our self-serving agendas, ignoring the rest. We are always struggling to draw in friends and push away enemies.

Three Virtuous Seeds: Taking Responsibility for Our Own Reactions
We first need to see this pattern at work. Then, when a poison such as hatred arises, instead of blaming the “enemy” that triggered such a response, we can see that hatred and the other poisons are our own creation. We can take full responsibility for them. Without the excuse of an external object, the poison is left hanging, with no support. When the three poisons arise, we can take them in and hope that, in doing so, others may be freed of such harmful patterns. In that way, we can transform the three poisons into the three virtuous seeds.

Today’s Practice

Pay attention to labeling and notice how tenacious such labels are. When you react, notice what you are reacting to and where you place the blame. Explore the connection between the poison and the object.

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bevnelder's picture

Dear Judy,
In a response to the post for today (Friday April 1, 2011), I mentioned another translation of commentary on the maxims presented in Atisha's Seven Point Mind Training (Enlightened Courage by Dilgo Khyentse). I commented that reading several translations of the same text sheds light on the original from different angles, allowing the reader to form an idea of the intention behind the original. In this case (point 8) the translations are quite close to one another.
The Padmakara Translation Group has it: "Three objects, three poisons, and three roots of virtue".

The commentary by Rinpoche in his talk differs quite a bit from yours above, and then my own rather simplistic understanding was yet again different.
I have thought that the three objects are those we use to interact with the world - body, speech and mind.
The three poisons are the ones so often refered to (as above) - greed, anger and ignorant stupidity.
And I thought perhaps the three roots of virtue that can help rescue us from the poisons are the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

I also wonder what are the "Seven Points", since the list is obviously much longer?

Thanks for your insights and your sharing.
beverly