Lojong # 9: In all activities, train with slogans

In daily life, use the lojong slogans to help you put words to “the first thought” (as in arising anger, etc.). When the feeling of I-ness hits, Trungpa suggests we think: “May I receive all evils and my virtues go to others; profit and victory to others, loss and defeat to myself.”

Sort of a corrective for the usual tendencies, such as putting self first. A little additional help may come from using something like this with your morning vows: “I vow to pursue Bodhichitta and develop a sense of gentleness toward self and others; I promise not to blame others but to take their pain on myself; I vow to put others before self.”

It may seem impossible, but the nature of the Bodhisattva vow is – simply interpreted – that you vow to do what you know can’t be done. Such as save all the innumerable sentient beings on the planet, extinguish your inexhaustible delusions, master the immeasurable Dhamma teachings, and follow completely the Buddha’s endless way.

In the Japanese, it’s:

Shu jo mu hen sai gan do, (Beings are innumerable, I vow to save them)

Bon no mu gen sai gan dan, (Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to extinguish them)

Ho mon muryo sai gan gaku, (Dharma teachings are immeasureable, I vow to master them)

Butsu do mu jo sai gan jo. (Buddha’s way is endless, I vow to follow it completely)

(Three bows.)

It’s a tall order.

Lojang #8 Three objects, three poisons, three seeds of virtue

This one seems obscure at first, but is really very accessible… and very powerful. It can change your life, all by itself.

The three objects are friends, enemies and neutrals…

The three poisons are craving, aggression, ignorance (which are  sometimes rendered as: passion/anger/delusion, or attachment/aversion/indifference).

The three virtues are the wisdom sides of the three poisons – i.e., ‘the flip side’! What this means is, the wisdom you gain from observing carefully when you experience the three poisons. On one level, this is the post-meditation/everyday life version of tonglen, and can be practiced fully only when tonglen is understood. Basically this amounts to uncoupling from the objects of your emotions and attachments and realizing that without the objects, the passions have no power… Trungpa:

The practice of this slogan is to take the passion, aggression, and delusion of others upon ourselves so that they may be free and undefiled… Whenever any of the three poisons happens in your life, you should do the sending and taking practice… If you have no object of aggression, you cannot hold your own aggression purely by yourself…. you can cut the root of the three poisons by dealing with others rather than by dealing with yourself.

But the simple, straightforward level, the accessible version of this is to realize that whatever bad experiences you are in at this moment can teach you what suffering is for others and thus help you develop understanding, insight or wisdom (panna) — and thus compassion for others.

A simple personal example: I was driving to work a few days ago in a very stressed state due to a combination of circumstances too complicated and mundane to go into, but suffice it to say I was so stressed that I began to wonder if I was safe to drive. As I was driving along, I realized that many of the people around me on the road must be experiencing the same kinds of stress, and that indeed that stress could be the source of many of the frightening and annoying things that other drivers often do  – things that typically get an angry or at least contemptuous response from me. Seeing how this stress could be affecting others, I realized I was able to tap into a source of compassion for them which is helping me be less annoyed and much more equanimous in my daily drive.

Lojong #7 Sending and taking should be practiced alternately…

… These two should ride the breath.


This is a simple description of the very advanced practice of tonglen, which is the main practice in developing relative Bodhichitta, awakened heart. Extensive practice in basic meditation, beginning with awareness of breath (anapana in Pali, shamatha in Tibetan), is essential before attempting this practice. A solid background in Metta practice, the practice of sending loving-kindness and compassion out to all the world, is also very helpful, as tonglen can be very dark and overwhelming otherwise.

The practice involves taking into oneself, with each inhalation, all the bad in one’s surroundings (eventually the world) and sending out with each exhalation all the good one has, actually transforming the bad in the environment into good and giving it away.

This turns the natural tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain on its head, and generally seems absurd to the conventional consciousness. After some years of meditation and observation of the practice, one will usually come to an understanding of its wisdom and transformational power.

Pema Chodron writes about tonglen in her wonderful book The Wisdom of No Escape.

I’m not suggesting that anyone try this, but if you do decide to try, please read what Trungpa and Pema have to say about it. I’m introducing it here because this is a foundational notion in much of the lojong practice: the idea that one can take negative energies or situations and transform them, simply by one’s willingness to do so – not thru any kind of occult powers or anything. It’s a powerful idea.

Trungpa actually recommends in addition that one seek out a teacher for proper instruction in the practice.

A few quotes from Trungpa’s Training the Mind will impart some of the flavor of his commentary:

You give away your happiness, your pleasure, anything that feels good…. As you breathe in, you breathe in any resentments and problems, anything that feels bad. The whole point is to remove territoriality altogether.

Sending and taking are interdependent. The more negativity we take in with a sense of openess and compassion, the more goodness there is to breathe out…. In tonglen we are aspiring to take on the suffering of other sentient beings.

The suffering that other people are experiencing can be brought in because, in contrast to that, you have basic healthiness and wakefulness, which can certainly absorb more suffering because you have a lot more to give.

The problem with most people is that they are always trying to give out the bad and take in the good. That has been the problem of society in general and the world altogether. But now we are on the mahayana path and the path is reversed.

Beyond that, you begin to develop a sense of joy. You are actually doing something very useful and workable and fundamentally wonderful. You are not only teaching yourself how to be unselfish, in the conventional sense, but you are also teaching the world how to overcome hypocrisy, which is becoming thicker and thicker lately as the world get more and more sophisticated, so to speak — more and more into the dark ages, in other words.


Lojong 4, 5, and 6

I’ve been delinquent in posting our lojong on a daily basis, as I’ve intended to do.

We’ve been moving thru the lojong a bit slowly these last couple of weeks, with things a little busy. In addition, we’re realizing some of them require more than a day to sink into deeply.

I’ve dropped in links to the original posts on the last three, and will resume posting new single entries after this.

Lojong #4 Self-liberate even the antidote

Permalink: https://shunyatasapprentice.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/lojong-4-self-…n-the-antidote/


Lojong #5 Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence

Permalink: https://shunyatasapprentice.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/lojong-5-rest-…ya-the-essence/


Lojong #6 In post-meditation, be a child of illusion

Permalink: https://shunyatasapprentice.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/lojong-6-in-po…ld-of-illusion/

Lojong #3, Examine the Nature of Unborn Awareness

This was Monday’s slogan:

#3 Examine the nature of unborn awareness.

Ah, this is a pithy one!

Simply look at your own basic awareness, mind, noting that if you pursue it to the deepest level (which means spending a lot of very still, silent time) there is nothing there.

No color, no shape, no size, no attributes or qualities – just awareness. Sometimes referred to as “pure awareness.” Awareness that has no content. Essentially, we realize that awareness is simply the potential to be aware of some content. So the mind, in itself, without anything else, is nothing.

Pursuing this, eventually we see that the nature of everything is impermanence, emptiness or shunyata – not that it doesn’t exist, but simply that everything is empty of an independent, abiding nature. So it doesn’t exist in and of itself, it only exists in co-existence with everything else. Everything is Anicca, or changing, in the original formulation from Pali.

This is also sometimes referred to as paticca samupada, or the dependent co-arising of phenomena. This is what the Buddha awoke to, as Joanna Macy says.

As I said, pithy. You might have guessed that this is the essential thing you must get before much else in the Buddhist meditation catalog really works for you… but don’t approach it as an exercise in philosophy to be understood, just stay open, meditate and wait patiently for experience of this reality in your own life.

Lojong #2, Regard all dharmas as dreams

Left my laptop in ATL last Sunday, just got it last night. Good lesson in mindfulness!

So, need to catch up! This was Sunday’s entry:


#2 Regard all dharmas as dreams.

Trungpa says that this is an expression of compassion and openness… “Nothing ever happens. But because nothing happens, everything happens.” I.E. don’t take this so-called ‘reality’ too seriously. Whatever ‘reality’ is, all we can ever know of it is what our mind-system perceives and conceives. Which keeps everything light and open…. all with the purpose of developing compassion.

Bodhichitta means enlightened (open) heart or mind… ultimate Bodhichitta slogans are those that are concerned with the absolute nature of reality, as opposed to relative, which is the everyday practical stuff.

Before you get too stuck on this one, be sure you go on to #3 and #4… all these slogans play off each other, keeping things in balance, so never grasp on one as the whole truth of the matter!

Lojong (mind training) slogan #1

Another round with the Lojong slogans!

Beginning today, I will do one each day, and try to post commentary here. I’ll probably just re-post the ones I’ve already shared here, with added comments as appropriate, and then continue all the way thru number 59.

Lojong, or mind training, is a daily practice from the Kadampa tradition in Tibetan Buddhism. These slogans were laid out in The Great Path of Awakening by J. Kongtrul, and are presented here as interpreted by Chogyam Trungpa in Training the Mind: Cultivating Loving-kindness.

I recommend reading both of these books, as well as looking for a real teacher, if these teachings seem interesting and helpful to you.

My intention here – beyond motivating myself to dwell on the slogan each day – is to simply introduce this practice, not to try to teach it. It is a fairly advanced meditation practice, and not something I would try to teach anyone. But sharing my own process of working with these slogans seems to have the possibility of helping others to see their application to whatever spiritual path one is on.

The slogans are very down-to-earth, practical admonitions (for the most part) in ways of thinking and being that will help one to stay on that path. They point out both positive ways for maintaining commitment and daily practice as well as potential traps to avoid. Trunpa says the slogans constitute a manual on how to handle life properly, a ‘grandmotherly fingerpoint’ to practice and the spiritual life.

The teachings assume that one has done considerable work in basic meditation – as Point One clarifies – and is committed to a serious spiritual practice. The main meditation practice referred to in the slogans, tonglen, is a powerful practice that requires a basic understanding of the truth that ‘self’ and ‘other’ are mistaken concepts, illusions that arise from our essential ignorance.

Only in this understanding can one grasp the meaning – even the possibility! – of a practice that suggests we take in all the bad stuff around us and then breathe out all that we have that is good. It turns our normal way of looking at the world on its head.

But properly understood and practiced, it is a powerful way to transform one’s life and transform the negative influences that surround us.

If it is helpful to you, dive in deeper and learn the practice. I welcome questions and comments here!


Slogan #1: First, Train in the Preliminaries

The Preliminaries means shamatha meditation – basic, formless meditation.

This also includes the idea of the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind (to the path of Enlightenment): 1. the precious opportunity of a human life; 2. impermanence and death; 3. the reality of karma (cause & effect); and 4. the suffering that is samsara – normal life.

Kongtrul, one of the early commentators on these slogans, says: “Take an attitude of devotion to the path of loving-kindness.”