Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Empathy Series: Buddhist Mind-Training (Lojong)

Master Shantideva

Empathy Series Class 2: Buddhist Mind-Training (Lojong)

Whatever joy there is in the world, comes from cherishing others.

Whatever suffering there is in the world, comes from only cherishing yourself.

What need is there to say more: the childish work for their own benefit while the Buddhas work for the benefit of others. Just look at the difference between them! – Shantideva

Meaning of the word Lojong:

Lo = Mind/Heart Jong = Training/Developing

Training the mind in wisdom, training the heart for compassion.
Implicit meaning is using life's challenges and difficulties for one's spiritual development.

Two Main Problems:

Svartha = self-preoccupation
Svabhava = self-existence

Two Main Remedies:

Karuna = Compassion
Prajna = Wisdom

History of Mind-Training:

The mind-training practice was developed over a 300-year period between 900 and 1200 CE, as part of the Mahayana school of Buddhism. Atisha (982–1054 CE), a Bengali meditation master, brought these and other practices such as the stages of the path (lam rim) to Tibet. Atisha's most renown text is the Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment (Bodhipathapradipam). The lojong practice is based upon Atisha's studies with the Sumatran teacher, Dharmaraksita, author of the lojong text called the Wheel of Sharp Weapons.

There are three lineages of the mind-training teachings: The Sevenfold Cause and Effect instruction; the Fourfold Equalize and Exchange of Self and Other (dakshen nyamje), which is the second point of the Seven-point Mind-Training system; and, the Elevenfold Mind-Training synthesis, which is an integration of the previous two systems. Numerous text and commentaries on these three systems comprise the mind-training literature. In 2006, a total of 43 texts on mind-training were edited by Thupten Jinpa and published by Wisdom Publications entitled Mind Training: The Great Collection.

The lineage of the mind-training traditions are directly linked to the Buddha. The Sevenfold Cause and Effect instruction was taught by Buddha to Maitrya, to Asanga, to Lama Serlingpa, to Lama Atisha, to Je Tsongkapa. The Fourfold Equalize and Exchange of Self with Other method, found within the Seven-point Mind-Training, was taught by Buddha to Maitreya, to Shantideva, to Lama Serlingpa, to Lama Atisha, to Je Tsongkapa. The Seven Point Mind-Training in its present form was composed by Geshe Chekhawa (1101–1175 CE). Chekhawa studied with Sharawa, who was a student of the great master Langri Tangpa Dorge Sangye (1054–1123). The Seven-point instruction and the Fourfold method were combined into an Elevenfold Mind-Training synthesis by Je Tsongkapa (1357-1419).

The rise of Mahayana Buddhism, occurs 500 years after the Buddha in a time when spiritual practices were becoming popular with the laity outside the monastic circles. At this time a new wave of teachings and literature on the wisdom of emptiness (shunyata) appear, which highlight the relativity and interdependence of things. The turn of the millennium in Buddhist India and East Asia is then characterized by an ethos of love and compassion designed to transform the very fabric of urban society. The emphasis on renunciation in early Buddhism is replaced in the Mahayana by compassion firmly grounded in wisdom. Spirituality is brought back from the ashrams on the outskirts of society, back into the marketplace and the hearts and mind of urban dwellers.

Extending the Nervous System:
Our three-part series follows the trajectory of the historical development of Buddhism in India known as the three vehicles (yanas). Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana are three systems of Buddhism each exploring new horizons while subsuming the teachings of the former. They can be characterized by their emphasis on: Hinayana = Dispassion/Renunciation and self-healing, Mahayana = Compassion and social healing, and Vajrayana = pure Passion and embodied healing.

If we use the lens of contemporary psychotherapy and attachment theory we might say that the first phase was about becoming a parent to ourselves, the second phase about becoming a parent to others, and the final phase about becoming a supremely blissful parent to all beings. First the nervous system is regulated and calmed, then the calm nervous system is extended to others who are deregulated, and finally the deepest potential of nervous system is harnessed to expedite the process of regulating others.

Sevenfold Cause and Effect instruction:

1. Recognizing all beings as kin.
2. Remembering their kindness.
3. Vowing to repay their kindness.
4. Developing love for all beings.
5. Developing compassion for all beings.
6. Generating the wish to save all beings.
7. Perusing full enlightenment in order to fulfill one’s wish.

Equalize and Exchange Self and Other
(Point 2 of the Seven-point Mind Training)

I. Equalizing Self and Other
II. Contemplating the Limits of Sefl-preoccupation
III. Contemplating the Benefits of Empathy
IV. Exchanging Self and Other
V. Giving and Taking Meditation (tonglen)

The Seven-Point Mind-Training (with the 59 slogans)
Source: Wikipedia Lojong Entry

ONE: The preliminaries, which are the basis for dharma practice
1. First, train in the preliminaries.

TWO: The main practice, which is training in bodhicitta.
Absolute Bodhicitta
2. Regard all dharmas as dreams.
3. Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
4. Self-liberate even the antidote.
5. Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence.
6. In postmeditation, be a child of illusion.
Relative Bodhicitta
7. Sending and taking should be practiced alternately. These two should ride the breath.
8. Three objects, three poisons, three roots of virtue.
9. In all activities, train with slogans.
10. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself.

THREE: Transformation of Bad Circumstances into the Way of Enlightenment
11. When the world is filled with evil, transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.
12. Drive all blames into one.
13. Be grateful to everyone.
14. Seeing confusion as the four kayas is unsurpassable shunyata protection.
15. Four practices are the best of methods.
16. Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.

FOUR: Showing the Utilization of Practice in One's Whole Life
17. Practice the five strengths, the condensed heart instructions.
18. The mahayana instruction for ejection of consciousness at death is the five strengths: how you conduct yourself is important.

FIVE: Evaluation of Mind Training
19. All dharma agrees at one point.
20. Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.
21. Always maintain only a joyful mind.
22. If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained.

SIX: Disciplines of Mind Training
23. Always abide by the three basic principles.
24. Change your attitude, but remain natural.
25. Don't talk about injured limbs.
26. Don't ponder others.
27. Work with the greatest defilements first.
28. Abandon any hope of fruition.
29. Abandon poisonous food.
30. Don't be so predictable.
31. Don't malign others.
32. Don't wait in ambush.
33. Don't bring things to a painful point.
34. Don't transfer the ox's load to the cow.
35. Don't try to be the fastest.
36. Don't act with a twist.
37. Don't make gods into demons.
38. Don't seek others' pain as the limbs of your own happiness.

SEVEN: Guidelines of Mind Training
39. All activities should be done with one intention.
40. Correct all wrongs with one intention.
41. Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.
42. Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.
43. Observe these two, even at the risk of your life.
44. Train in the three difficulties.
45. Take on the three principal causes.
46. Pay heed that the three never wane.
47. Keep the three inseparable.
48. Train without bias in all areas. It is crucial always to do this pervasively and wholeheartedly.
49. Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.
50. Don't be swayed by external circumstances.
51. This time, practice the main points.
52. Don't misinterpret.
53. Don't vacillate.
54. Train wholeheartedly.
55. Liberate yourself by examining and analyzing.
56. Don't wallow in self-pity.
57. Don't be jealous.
58. Don't be frivolous.
59. Don't expect applause.

Quotes on Bodhicitta The Spirit of Enlightnement / Awakened Heart:

Although it is the stick that hurts me, I am angry at the one who wields it, striking me. But they in turn are driven by their hatred (and misperception); Therefore it is with their hatred that I take offense. - Shantideva
(v. 41, Chapter 6) on "Patience", from the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life

First of all I should make an effort

To meditate upon the equality between self and others:

I should protect all beings as I do myself

Because we are all equal in wanting pleasure and not wanting pain.

Although there are many different parts and aspects such as the hands;

As a body that is to be protected they are one,

Likewise all the different sentient beings in their pleasure and their pain

Have a wish to be happy that is the same as mine.

The suffering that I experience

Does not cause any harm to others.

But that suffering is mine because of my conceiving of myself as "I";

Thereby it becomes unbearable.

Likewise the misery of others

Does not befall me.

Nevertheless, by conceiving of others as "I" their suffering becomes mine;

Therefore it too should be hard to bear.

Hence I should dispel the misery of others

Because it is suffering, just like my own,

And I should benefit others

Because they are sentient beings, just like myself.

When both myself and others

Are similar in that we wish to be happy,

What is so special about me?

Why do I strive for my happiness alone?
- Shantideva

"May I become food and drink in the aeons of famine for those poverty-stricken suffers.
May I be a doctor, medicine and nurse for all sick beings in the world until everyone is cured.
May I become never-ending wish-fulfilling treasures materialising in front of each of them as all the enjoyments they need.
May I be a guide for those who do not have a guide, a leader for those who journey, a boat for those who want to cross over, and all sorts of ships, bridges, beautiful parks for those who desire them, and light for those who need light.
And may I become beds for those who need a rest, and a servant to all who need servants.
May I also become the basic conditions for all sentient beings, such as earth or even the sky, which is indestructible.
May I always be the living conditions for all sentient beings until all sentient beings are enlightened."
From A Guide to a Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Shantideva, tr by Stephen Batchelor, Chapter VIII, verses 90-95,, Snow Lion Publications.

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