– The Dalai Lama
A good heart is the source of all happiness, says His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and we can all be good-hearted with some effort. But better still, he says, is to have bodhichitta—a good heart imbued with wisdom.
Anyone who has good thoughts, who does a lot to help others, and who leaves behind good memories is respected by people all over the world, regardless of whether they are religious or not. On the other hand, the ignorance, arrogance, and obstinacy of certain individuals, whether their intentions were good or evil, have been at the root of all the tragedies of history. The mere names of these ruthless tyrants inspire fear and loathing. So the extent to which people will like us naturally depends on how much or how little we think of others’ good.
My practice is the peaceful path of kindness, love, compassion, and not harming others. This has become part of me.
Speaking of my own experience, I sometimes wonder why a lot of people like me. When I think about it, I cannot find in myself any specially good quality, except for one small thing. That is the positive mind, which I try to explain to others and which I do my best to develop myself. Of course, there are moments when I do get angry, but in the depth of my heart, I do not hold a grudge against anyone. I cannot pretend that I am really able to practice bodhichitta [awakened heart], but it does give me tremendous inspiration. Deep inside me, I realize how valuable and beneficial it is, that is all. And I try as much as possible to consider others to be more important than myself. I think that’s why people take note of me and like me, because of my good heart.
When people say that I have worked a lot for peace, I feel embarrassed. I feel like laughing. I don’t think I have done very much for world peace. It’s just that my practice is the peaceful path of kindness, love, compassion, and not harming others. This has become part of me. It is not something for which I have specially volunteered. I am simply a follower of the Buddha, and the Buddha taught that patience is the supreme means for transcending suffering. He said, “If a monk harms others, he is not a monk.” I am a Buddhist monk, so I try to practice accordingly. When people think this practice is something unique and special and call me a leader of world peace, I feel almost ashamed!
A good heart is the source of all happiness and joy, and we can all be good-hearted if we make an effort. But better still is to have bodhichitta, which is a good heart imbued with wisdom. It is the strong desire to attain enlightenment in order to deliver all beings from suffering and bring them to Buddhahood. This thought of helping others is rooted in compassion, which grows from a feeling of gratitude and love for beings, who are afflicted by suffering just like you. . .
Our greatest enemy is to consider ourselves more important than others, which leads us and others to certain ruin. From this attachment to “I” arises all the harm, fear, and suffering in this world.
How Lojong Awakens Your Heart
Pema Chödrön’s commentary on Atisha’s famed mind-training slogans that utilize our difficulties and problems to awaken the heart.
Who was Atisha? (982–1054) Atisha was a Bengali Buddhist religious leader and master from the Bengal region of the subcontinent. He was one of the major figures in the spread of 11th-century Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism in Asia and inspired Buddhist thought from Tibet to Sumatra. He is recognised as one of the greatest figures of classical Buddhism.
When I first read the lojong (“mind training”) teachings in The Great Path of Awakening by the nineteenth-century Tibetan teacher Jamgön Kongtrül the Great, I was struck by their unusual message—that we can use our difficulties and problems to awaken our hearts. Rather than seeing the unwanted aspects of life as obstacles, Jamgön Kongtrül presented them as the raw material necessary for awakening genuine uncontrived compassion. It is apparent that in this present age it is necessary to emphasize that the first step is to develop compassion for our own wounds.
It is unconditional compassion for ourselves that leads naturally to unconditional compassion for others. If we are willing to stand fully in our own shoes and never give up on ourselves, then we will be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others and never give up on them. True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.
The lojong teachings are organized around seven points that contain fifty-nine pithy slogans that remind us how to awaken our hearts. Presented here are nineteen of those slogans.
Train in the preliminaries first.
The preliminaries are also known as the four reminders.
In your daily life apply these:
- Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life.
- Be aware of the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone.
- Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result; what goes around comes around.
- Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness.
Regard all dharmas as dreams.
Whatever you experience in your life—pain, pleasure, heat, cold or anything else—is like something happening in a dream.
Although you experience things as very solid, they are like passing memory. You can experience this open, unfixated quality in sitting meditation; all that arises in your mind—hate love and all the rest—is not solid. Although the experience is extremely vivid in relative reality, it is ultimatley a product of your mind. Nothing solid is really happening in ultimate reality.
Sending and taking should be practiced alternately and should ride the breath. This is instruction for a meditation practice called tonglen. In this practice you send out happiness to others and you take in any suffering that others feel. You take in with a sense of openness and compassion and you send out in the same spirit. We extend ourselves to those in need with this meditation practice.
Drive all blames into one.
This is advice on how to work with your fellow beings. Everyone is looking for someone to blame and therefore aggression and neurosis keep expanding. Instead, pause and look at what’s happening inside you. When you hold on so tightly to your view of what others did, you get hooked. Your own self-righteousness causes you to get all worked up and to suffer. So work on cooling that reactivity rather than escalating it. This approach reduces suffering—yours and everyone else’s. All blame can be driven into lack of awareness and ignorance.
Be grateful to everyone and everything.
Others will always show you exactly where you are stuck. They say or do something and you automatically get hooked into a familiar way of reacting—shutting down, speeding up or getting all worked up. When you react in the habitual way, with anger, greed and so forth, it gives you a chance to see your patterns and work with them honestly and compassionately. Without others provoking you, you remain ignorant of your painful habits and cannot train in transforming them into the path of awakening.
All dharma agrees at one point.
All Buddhist teachings (dharma) are about lessening one’s self-absorption, one’s clinging. Non-clinging is what brings happiness to you and all beings.
Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.
The two witnesses of what you do are others and yourself. Of these two, you are the only one who really knows exactly what is going on. So work with seeing yourself with compassion but without any self-deception.
Always maintain only a joyful mind.
Constantly apply cheerfulness, if for no other reason than because you are on this spiritual path. Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.
Abandon any attachment to fruition.
The key instruction is to stay in the present. Don’t get caught up in hopes of what you’ll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.
Don’t be so predictable.
Do not hold a grudge against those who have done you wrong.
Don’t malign others.
You speak badly of others, thinking it will make you feel superior. This only sows seeds of meanness in your heart, causing others not to trust you and causing you to suffer.
Don’t bring things to a painful point.
Don’t humiliate people.
Don’t act with a twist.
Acting with a twist means having an ulterior motive of benefiting yourself. It’s the sneaky approach. For instance, in order to get what you want for yourself, you may temporarily take the blame for something or help someone out.
All activities should be done with one intention.
Whatever you are doing, take the attitude of wanting it directly or indirectly to benefit others. Take the attitude of wanting it to increase your experience of kinship with your fellow beings.
Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.
Whatever happens in your life, joyful or painful, do not be swept away by reactivity. Be patient with yourself and don’t lose your sense of perspective.
Train in the three difficulties.
The three difficulties (or, the three difficult practices) are to
- recognize your neurosis as neurosis,
- not to do the habitual thing, but to do something different to interrupt the neurotic habit,
- and to make this practice a way of life.
There are six teachings that you might misinterpret: patience, yearning, excitement, compassion, priorities and joy. The misinterpretations are:
- You’re patient when it means you’ll get your way but not when your practice brings up challenges.
- You yearn for worldly things but not for an open heart and mind.
- You get excited about wealth and entertainment but not about your potential for enlightenment.
- You have compassion for those you like and admire but not for those you don’t.
- Worldly gain is your priority rather than cultivating loving-kindness and compassion.
- You feel joy when your enemies suffer, but you do not rejoice in others’ good fortune.
If you train in awakening compassion only some of the time, it will slow down the process of giving birth to certainty. Wholeheartedly train in keeping your heart and mind open to everyone.
Train enthusiastically in strengthening your natural capacity for compassion and loving-kindness.
Don’t investigate the roots of things,
Investigate the root of Mind!
Once the Mind’s root has been found,
You’ll know one thing yet all is thereby freed.
But if the root of Mind you fail to find,
You will know everything but understand nothing.
A hundred things may be explained, a thousand told,
But one thing only should you grasp.
Know one thing and everything is freed—
Remain within your inner nature. Be aware!
– Guru Rinpoche
Postings curated weekly for group discussion by Tarané Sayler | Private Sessions With Tarané Available at: www.HeartMind-Hypnotherapy.com