The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #51
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.
51. This time, practice the main points.
Every so often, opportunities to practice the dharma come up. How many times have you let those opportunities pass you by? I think of this slogan as the mañana slogan. It is the idea that there will always be time to practice later, but right now there are just too many other things going on.
The split between times you can practice and times you cannot goes against the grain of the whole lojong approach, which is that every situation is an opportunity for practice. In lojong, there are no excuses and there is no right or wrong time. Basically “this time” is the only time we have, so why not infuse it with mind training?
"Practice the main points"
What are the main points to keep in mind? The first is to take the attitude that benefiting others is more important that benefiting yourself. Obviously, this is a pretty major attitude shift! But you could begin simply, by noticing what you think about: how much do your thoughts revolve around you and your concerns, and how often do any thoughts of others arise, let alone thoughts of actually benefiting them?
The second point is that practice is more important than study. Often practice and study are described as being like the two wings of an airplane, since they are both essential and complementary. But this slogan tips the plane a tad, tilting it towards practice. Book learning or theoretical knowledge only goes so far: practice is what brings the dharma to life and gives it power.
The third point is that of all the possible practices you might do, bodhichitta practice is the most important. Loving-kindness is not just a warm fuzzy add-on, but it is the very core of the Buddhist path. Too much focus on self-improvement can make us even more self-centered, while what we really need to cultivate is greater love, compassion, and sympathy for our fellow suffering beings.
Loving-kindness begins simply, with connection. Notice in your interactions the ways in which you are continually connecting with and disconnecting from others. What draws you out of yourself? What causes you to pull back?
Image: Thomas Hawk