Lo Jong Teachings
    May 11-13, 2001


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Introduction

Cultivating tonglen practice is extraordinarily powerful. If you want to stay stuck in samsara, donít even think about practicing tonglen.

 

Seven Points of Mind Training - Origin of Lineage: all teachings trace back to Buddha Shakyamuni. In the course of history, great masters like Nagarjuna and Asanga held and perpetuated the Mahayana teachings. In Tibet the experiential aspect of Mahayana Buddhism has been continuously upheld through the practice of pith instructions received from the masters who are living emissaries of Bodhicitta mind and have realized authentic love and compassion.

 

Atisha purified the lineages and passed along the essence of the mind training teachings that he received from his master, Serlingpa. Atisha passed the lineage to Dromtonpa who passed the lineage to Langri Tangpa. But it was Geshe Chekawa who revived the lineage of lojong. One day he this profound pith instruction which shocked his mind:

 

Take all defeat upon myself.

Offer all triumph to others.

 

Chekawa went to see Langri Tangpa, who already passed away. Chekawa was very sad, because he thought the lineage died, but he found a disciple named Shawara who upheld the teachings. Chekawa stayed with Shawara for an un-luxurious twelve years just to learn these two lines. Chekawa endured many hardships to receive the seven points of mind training, which represent the depth of Mahayana training.

 

This extraordinary lineage has been passed down through all the sects of Tibetan Buddhism, so I simply wish to share the blessings of this teaching I have received from my masters with you.

 

Essential Meaning

Every morning we need to take Bodhisattva vows to re-affirm our commitment to awakening Bodhicitta mind. We visualize the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas and offer the strength of our commitment for the benefit of all beings. In this way we develop the courage to live an authentic way of life in each moment of every day.

 

Lo Jong means mind training. All we do in Buddhism is train our minds. There is a prayer from Buddha Shakyamuni:

 

One should not commit any non-virtuous deeds.

One should cultivate perfectly virtuous deeds.

And one should tame their wild mind.

This is the Holy path of all Buddhas.

 

Why should we train our minds? Because our minds are so neurotic, filled with hope and fear, anger and resentment. Our minds are very unstable. But through training our minds and taming our minds, we will be able to practice genuinely. Taming the mind is a way of healing the kleshas, the afflicted emotions.

 

Imagine the mind is like an athlete who is sick. In order to perform at an optimal level, the athlete needs to take care of the illness, taking medicine, nourishing the body, recovering slowly and steadily until there is a complete and solid rebound.

 

Mind training is like cultivating a wild field that we wish to plant a beautiful garden in. We have to take care to remove the wild scrub, heavy rocks and scraggily weeds before we can sow the seeds that will produce perfect flowers. Similarly, each of us has extraordinary capability within, but we must be very deliberate in taking care to cultivate the incredible qualities that already exist within each of us, creating positive conditions for the seeds of virtue to bare the perfect fruit of enlightenment.

 

Physical Discipline

Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes training the mind. It is also important to train in practicing virtuous physical deeds, but the emphasis here is mental [and emotional]. Without mind training, we can never experience any true achievement. Once we focus, on mind training, then we experience incredible results. There is only one discipline in Buddhism: training oneís mind.

 

Physical discipline is essential. Guarding the five precepts is crucial for laying the foundation for higher development. It is really up to us, how much we disregard the physical trainings, but the vows are for us to develop a sense of moderation. It is also good to practice sojong twice a month.

Dignity is essential on the path, and is a real sign of our development of enlightened qualities. We must always observe our actions. Physical disciplines are ultimately for training our minds, for manifesting the inherent qualities of love and compassion through purifying our obscurations of hope and fear.

 

Happiness

In the Mahayana perspective, happiness is quite cheap. In Tibet, Yak butter and toilet paper is more rare than happiness. Happiness is always readily available. But somehow, we have missed it here in the west. We all desire happiness, whether we admit it or not. Happiness has become a myth in this culture. Mind training is about achieving true happiness, not false happiness. Human beings have the idea that their fantastic illusions of being wealthy, powerful, and attractive will produce happiness. But authentic happiness has nothing to do with anything outside of ourselves. Our conditioned belief system leads us down the same habitual road where we discover that our great efforts to manufacture artificial happiness are futile. We always wind up wanting more.

 

However, happiness can only come from within. Even though the essence of Mahayana teachings is not necessarily about achieving happiness, happiness is essential to attain enlightenment, according to Aryadeva. We are actually seeking for the most profound realization, which transcends even happiness. We are searching for who we are by directly realizing the nature of mind, which is Bodhicitta.

 

The ultimate goal in this life is quite simple. When we shift our perspective towards realizing the nature of our minds, the meaning of our lives becomes evident, because the meaning is always now, so we donít have to search for the nature of our minds. It is already apparent as the conviction to awaken to who we truly are. This responsibility lays above all conventional goals. All relative endeavors are secondary to actualizing love and compassion towards all beings, and this is actually the greatest happiness, the greatest wealth. Unfortunately, most people never hear this message. Most people donít even know they have Buddha nature, so it is important to reflect on what a precious opportunity we all have to realize our sublime potential and to follow the extraordinary path that leads to complete awakening.

 

One day a Bodhisattva heard a voice from space, saying, One day you will meet a Bodhisattva who has an enlightened verse, but you must cross fiery mountains and blazing grounds, flooded fields and thorny valleys filled with dead animals to receive the blessings of that verse. This great being faced every obstacle without fear because he knew that true happiness could only come from realizing enlightenment. Once he heard that one word, he dedicated his life to contemplating and realizing the essential teaching, and thus he became an arhat.

 

We simply need to be thankful for this great blessing: to receive such precious teaching. We must hold this intention the whole way through. This means we must express great appreciation for the infallible knowledge we have the good luck to receive. The responsibility is ours, whether we actualize these teachings or not. Knowledge is the great equalizer. Our freedom and happiness depends on ourselves, not on the masters, not on the lineage, but in applying the teachings in everyday life, generating love and compassion in each moment. Every individual has the capacity to realize enlightenment in this lifetime. This is the efficacy of these precious teachings. We have to meet the power of the teachings with confidence in our Buddha nature in order to actualize them.

 

View, Meditation and Action

Having the right view is crucial, otherwise we will not develop according to the teachings. Pure qualities will not manifest if we are not certain concerning the view.

 

A monk in my monastery wanted to be a Dzogchen yogi, whatever that means. He started eating dried yak shit because he thought he going to be something special. One day, an elder monk teased him, calling him stinky and so forth. The monk got very upset and embarrassed. Then the elder said, ďWhat kind of Dzogchen yogi are you, getting upset like that. You donít understand a thing about the pure view of Dzogchen!Ē

 

We need to cultivate pure intention, carrying all it the way through in every aspect of our lives.

 

5.12.01 Seven Point Mind Training

 

First train in the preliminaries

This refers to practicing ngondro, engaging in the contemplations of the four thoughts, and establishing the correct motivation. The preliminaries are not some sort of temporary practice we dispense with in favor of more esoteric practices. Ngondro requires great effort and sacrifice, something that we practice everyday, as it is what goes before any practice or activity we engage in. Just as we cannot cook without certain ingredients, ngondro is indispensable to every other practice because it is actually the means to the personal discovery of liberation. Practicing ngondro is a way of practicing authentically because it short-circuits the graspings to the illusory self, thereby establishing a pure, powerful motivation that can leas us to enlightenment in this lifetime.

 

Ngondro begins with taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Then we generate the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. With the right intention, all of our activity becomes beneficial, whether we are cooking or cleaning or washing the dishes or driving a car or having a conversation, everything becomes sacred because there is less fixation on the self. So from morning to night, when we wake up until we go to sleep, our intention is to generate enlightened activity for the benefit of all beings. We gather so much momentum in this way, cutting through our mental and emotional fixations.

 

We need to lay the foundation of ngondro practice. If we donít have this foundation, then regardless of whether we practice higher teachings, we will continually fall back into the same habitual patterns that cause us suffering.

 

Consider all phenomenon as a dream

Absolute bodhicitta is the realization of primordial or innate wisdom. This is the state of samadhi where we experience the union of wisdom and compassion. In the beginning, the two states appear as separate. But by thoroughly investigating the nature of mind, raising the question, Who Am I?, we reach the pinnacle of unification where there is a single stream of experience that is the union of wisdom and compassion. In order to experience this union, however, we need to develop deep compassion, otherwise we become attached to the states of bliss that arise from deep meditation on emptiness. It is very important to bridge the gap in the beginning between the seeming separation. Buddha said in the sutras, The wisdom without compassion is a way of binding Bodhisattvas to samsara. Likewise, those who practice compassion without wisdom are bound to samsara. But for those Bodhisattvas who practice the complete union of the two, these Bodhisattvas are travelling to the city of nirvana.

 

Phenomenon has no inherent reality. Our experience is usually a projection of our own minds. The Taoist sage Chuang Tzu said, I had a dream that I was seeing a butterfly. But when I awoke, I could not tell whether Chuang Tzu was dreaming of the butterfly or the butterfly was dreaming of Chuang Tzu.

 

Our waking lives have no inherent existence. It is like seeing a movie projected on a screen. But for sentient beings life seems so solid and concrete. Suffering seems so real, therefore happiness seems even more real, as if it has a specific cause.

 

In Tantra, for example, we regard everything as the deity, but we knowingly cultivate this illusory perception, because even wisdom is an illusion, which means reality and illusion are not two different things. However, we desperately cling to our illusions because we have not had a deep enough taste of our authentic state. Suffering is not real. Happiness is not real. Wisdom is not real. Ignorance is not real. There is nothing we can find to call real, especially ourselves. But we need to find the special illusion we cling to, namely our sense of I, in order to see its illusory nature.

 

We need to carry this contemplation throughout the day: that our lives are a dreamlike. It is very easy to return to our old faulty perception that everything is real. During meditation, we are enlightened, but in post-meditation we need to stabilize our conviction that all phenomenon is a dream, whether we see beauty or ugliness. When we go down to the beach, we can contemplate the illusory bathing suits, the amazing illusory bodies, the illusory suntans, event the illusory poor people we normally disregard.

 

By contemplating the illusory nature of what we think, see, hear, smell, taste and touch, we destroy the dualistic notions of good and bad. We can wipe out the entirety of samsara in this moment by utilizing the profound weapon of this contemplation. Without reacting to anything, we overcome our fear of suffering, and pass through the gates of  duality to genuine freedom.

 

When life presents us with favorable conditions, we feel good. When we experience unfavorable circumstances, we suffer. But this is fundamental ignorance that misperceives the nature of phenomenon, seeing situations and circumstances as being real. When we cut through this misperception, we experience great equanimity, which is true happiness. This is the realization of a spiritual resilience that does not react to anything because all things are see purely, naturally, as fundamentally being the same. There is no heavy investment of emotions to distract us. There is only genuine feeling, which expresses authentic qualities of love and compassion because it is not based on the dream.

 

The real world does not exist outside of oneís self. Nirvana is the only real world, which is what the teachings constantly remind us of. Dharma is what has authentic quality in this life, because Dharma teaches us the nature of reality: that all suffering, birth, death, aging, hope and fear are all illusions. By recognizing the nature of these illusions, then we are truly content, and we become real Bodhisattvas, expecting nothing, rejecting nothing, chasing after nothing, just completely satisfied with life as-it-is. The mind of the Bodhisattva itself is nirvana.

 

Analyze the unborn nature of awareness

The mind itself is an illusion. The mind has no source, no place it resides, no place to dissolve. The mind is unborn yet unceasing. Mind is always there, yet it is not locatable, not findable, whether we are awake or asleep. This mind we experience right now is the same mind we experienced lifetimes ago, yet is has no substantiality, even though it stores all memory, karmic patterns and inclinations. Mind itself is emptiness, regardless of whether we are experiencing bliss or sadness. Mind is like sky. It is immeasurable. It is an infinite inexpressibility, yet it is here right now.

 

The mind seems to have some factual substantiality, because its power drives us through life, orders us around, dominating us. But the purpose of meditation is to drive the mind, instead of letting the mind drive us.

 

How can we be free of our untamed mind? Can we discipline our mind? Most teachings offer techniques to control the mind. But in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, the teachings are not about disciplining the mind. If I tell you not to think about a monkey with wild red hair eating big juicy apples, it would be impossible not to think about.

 

In Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, the path is one of meditation and investigation of the nature of mind, exploring how mind comes into being in order to be free of the samsaric entrapments. We do this by simply seeing that what arises in mind is in fact the unlimited expression of the nature of mind. Thoughts and feelings have no inherent reality, but we cannot realize this through discipline because we continue to distance ourselves from our immediate experience by repressing, which in turn often causes us to act out. However, with confidence that comes from glimpsing the nature of mind, we can experience the illusory nature of our thoughts and feeling in the midst of thought and feeling, whatever the flavor.

 

Investigate! What is the nature of mind? Where does mind reside? Where does mind dissolve?

Mind is always changing. Where does this change occur? Finally, through inquiry we discover the luminous wisdom of ultimate bodhicitta simply by realizing exactly what the nature of mind is. This we must find out for ourselves with diligence.

 

The antidote will vanish of itself

Mind itself is self-liberation. Mind liberates itself without any other antidote, like a snake that is tied in a knot unties itself. The same with mind: mind itself is self-liberation. This is called rangdrol. We are not really looking for any antidote, because an antidote perpetuates the lingering sense of dualism, which is still suffering, though positive thinking can be helpful on some level. We are not interested in subduing negative emotions, however. We are viewing all antidotes as emptiness. Emptiness, whether expressed as love or compassion, is the ultimate antidote. This is Buddhaís mind, the Dharmakaya, which is always liberated, spontaneously so, because it is ungraspable, ineffable, so all illusions simply fall away on their own accord. There is no need to reject or accept anything within oneís self. By engaging with the duality of accepting and rejecting, we fall into attachment and experience hatred and anger, pride and jealousy. But since everything is an expression of Dharmakaya mind, liberation here means not being attached to any state of mind. Whatever the antidote, we recognize it as emptiness.

 

The nature of the path rests in the alaya

Alaya is the basic ground, the Dharmakaya, which is the natural state of mind. By searching for the nature of mind, without coming up with any conclusions about mind, we discover the Dharmakaya mind by simply resting in the state of not-finding, where we experience the extraordinary, spontaneous effortlessness of naturally arising love and compassion. This state is not a blank or dry state of mind, but filled with an infinite richness.

 

During the waking state, the dream state, in meditation and post-meditation, we always reside in the Dharmakaya mind. We are actually always residing in the ground of being, the Dharmakaya, only we havenít recognized this until now. But mind is the all-creator, the ground of everything. We only have to refer back to this constantly in order to experience genuine happiness, which is the freedom from delusion. Liberation is simply the absence of mental confusion. When there is no more mental confusion, there is perfect clarity of mind.

 

Nirvana and samsara, hatred and love are all states of mind. Mind is the universe. We live in our minds, but mind should live in us.

 

In post-meditation, consider phenomenon as illusory

This is a very necessary discipline, because it is easy for us when we are in the temple sitting on the cushion, but when we are in the world, having our buttons pushed, it is easy to forget that phenomenon are illusory. We confuse ourselves by setting limited standards that are created by our conceptual interpretations of what practice is, and these interpretations are based on our false identities. We need to be courageous to practice in each moment of the day, in every situation, which means recognizing the illusory nature of the mental fixations we cling to for our false sense of satisfaction.

 

We need to have a sense of urgency concerning our practice, which goes against the grain of our habitual formulations and ideas about practice. Practice is always what is happening. This moment is practice. We need to abandon our conventional spiritual notions and embrace our lives completely. This is how we consider phenomenon as illusory in post-meditation, so actually there is no post-meditation. Realization continues all the way through our lives and can even be more powerful in various contexts of our lives that appear as more mundane or ordinary.

 

Eventually we reach a level where we stabilize in our meditation. Then there is no distinction between what is practice and what is not. Love and compassion always arise when we stabilize in meditation, which happens by abandoning our hopes and fears. Then there is utter simplicity. We should make our lives simple. By making our lives simple, we can guarantee our happiness and benefit others. This simplicity is the Buddha-field of our pure perception, where meditation becomes reality.

 

Train to give and take alternately; mount them both upon your breath

This slogan is actually the teaching on tonglen, which we have covered quite extensively. Tonglen is my favorite teaching, though not necessarily my favorite practice!

 

This text we are studying is a very sacred text. It is not ordinary. It is like the tonglen bible, which I will hand out to you at the end of the retreat.

 

When Buddha was passing into parinirvana, his disciples were sad, but Shakyamuni said, ďDonít worry. During the degenerate times I will always manifest in the world as letters in sacred texts for the benefit of all beings.Ē We donít ever have to feel unfortunate, because here in these sacred texts we have the heart essence of all the great masters and enlightened beings, consecrated by the protectors. These teachings we study are treasures of the enlightened mind and are filled with vast, immeasurable qualities that empower our practice, guiding us to the complete unfoldment of enlightenment.

 

When we experience afflicted emotions, all we have to do is open one of these sacred texts, read some of the teachings and automatically we experience a shift in perspective. This is quite remarkable.

 

Three objects, three poisons, and three roots of virtue: in all of your actions, train yourself with maxims

We must remember not attach to anything outside of ourselves, or feel threatened by fears of imagined circumstances, because everything is an illusion. Mind itself is an illusion. That is why mind is Dharmakaya mind. If mind was substantial, it could not be Dharmakaya mind, because the nature of mind itself is already free, not bound to anything. But our ordinary experience of mind is that it is inflexible, heavy and restrictive. But mind has no substantiality.

 

How long have we struggled with mind? Forever, because we havenít seen the nature of mind, even though we may practice spiritual disciplines. We impose spiritual ideas upon others and ourselves concerning what practice is, but this is obviously not practice. Practice is an unconfined experience.

 

Three objects refers to what we see as beautiful, what we feel as beautiful, which is attachment, and what we see as ugly, what we feel as ugly, which is aversion, and the other is what we experience as a neutral state, which is indifference. Whenever we encounter any of these phenomena, regard them all as an illusion. In this way, attachment, hatred and ignorance are self-liberated, and we accumulate the three virtues, which is the transformation of the three poisons into the three wisdoms.

 

In order for us to experience this transformation, we need to engage with everyday life in a very practical way, a very pragmatic way, which is the meaning of the statement train yourself with maxims. We can always remember slogans to guide us through the day, like be mindful, picking out a particular klesha and making a mantra out of it, like, Donít be angry, Donít be narcissistic, Donít be foolish, Donít judge other people, Donít project things outside of yourself, Be compassionate, Be in the moment, Open your heart, No resistance, Be natural, Think quickly, speak slowly, and my favorite: It doesnít matter! And the last, Love it the way it is.

 

Begin the training sequence with yourself

This means actualizing ultimate and relative bodhicitta utilizing tonglen meditation, starting with ourselves. In this way, beginning with ourselves, our meditation is completely enhanced and easy for us to put directly into action, which has a powerful, transformative effect, because we experience the results directly. It is a completely felt experience, that of liberation, which is always happenings when we apply the meditation at the appropriate time, in the appropriate place.

 

When all the wold is filled with evils, place all setbacks on the path of liberation

Bring negative circumstances onto the path to enlightenment. For a Bodhisattva, life itself is always filled with challenges that provide us with the rich nutrients to grow into the fully realized beings that we are. When we embrace unwanted circumstances, we develop incredible strength and character because we are striking the heart of ego, which is resistance to suffering. Bodhisattvas do not look for comfortable or positive circumstances. If we really reflect upon our minds, we may see some kind of fear of certain situations, which creates the hope for certain situations that will keep us stuck in comfort. This I call the big bang of samsara.

 

Human suffering is not always the heavy emotional ups and downs. It is much subtler, lying underneath all of our lifeís activities as the dichotomy of hope and fear. Even on the path, we bring hope for enlightenment and fear of not being a good practitioner.

 

For example, we can reflect on how we have experienced your day in the subtle way, what our interactions with others have been, how hope and fear have conditioned our lives. What is there to hope for? What is there to be afraid of?

 

Sometimes we may like to be in certain situations that we feel are conducive for our utmost happiness. Are we creating a fantasy? Are we really being honest with ourselves? Are perfect situations going to emancipate us from suffering? We have to look closely at our hopes. Are they rational or irrational? Can we see how these hopes spawn our fears, and vice versa.

 

The problem with hope is that is comes as a package deal. Wherever there is hope, there is fear. We even have to go beyond the hope for enlightenment, to go beyond the vestiges of our dualistic mind.

 

So we see that the root of hope and fear is the belief in positive and negative circumstances. But for a bodhisattva, everything is positive, everything is a blessing, therefore there is always complete devotion. This almost sounds outrageous to us, but it is actually a living experience. When we are caught up in certain situations, like hope and fear, it is impossible to see life as a blessing, because the luminosity of life as-it-is is obscured by our expectation, which always defeats our noble aspirations.

 

However, everything is a source of inspiration. Each moment presents itself as an opportunity to experience reverence towards all life. Maybe your house is burning. Maybe you have a terminal disease. Maybe you recently found out that you smell. Maybe you found out that people donít like you. It doesnít matter. Donít judge anything as negative or positive. When we judge reality through the lenses of hope and fear, then actually everything is negative because it is bound to cause us more suffering. But without judgement, everything is a blessing and a source of extraordinary happiness, presenting the perfect opportunity to unfold in the practice of the six perfections because everything is seen as an illusion. There is no obstruction to wisdom and the unfolding of genuine compassion, because wisdom and compassion simply abide as the ever-fresh awareness of awakened mind.

 

The great Longchenpa said, ďI can only laugh and laugh and laugh because I see everything as an amazing illusion.Ē

 

Most of us here come to the path because we are suffering. This is actually very positive, because we are bringing negative circumstances to the path. So we see that even suffering can be a great source of blessing.

 

We all have to go through this human initiation where life turns upside down and nothing makes sense. Our irrational emotions are stirred up. This is the spiritual harvest for us, because then we have the chance to realize our true nature, applying the teachings by practicing love and compassion towards all beings, and ourselves. Love is the ultimate remedy for all situations. When we practice love there is no longer any suffering.

 

Lay the blame for everything on one

This is an ultimate change in perspective for us, because we are often blaming reality for the felling that our lives are a great tragedy, that life is difficult, having the nature of suffering. But this is just conditioning, reflecting our own perception.

 

Life is very rich. Life always offers the perfect time to experience enlightenment, so we cannot blame reality. Letís think about making a resolution right now. We are going to leave our karmic bag behind. We are going to end the constant complaint against reality. His Holiness never complains about China. He always explains the situation in terms of karma, regarding it as the path to enlightenment for countless beings.

 

The idea of blaming oneís self is taking responsibility for oneís self, examining the nature of this I that is the cause of suffering. There is no notion of guilt involved. This slogan is about gaining perspective concerning the nature of reality: all happiness and suffering are determined by our own minds. Nirvana is not outside. It is pure perception. Samsara does not exist outside. It is a state of misperception that exists within our minds.

 

If our mind is enlightened, then no matter where we go, whom we are with or what we do, everything is the experience of the pure land. It is like being on a golden island. There is no birth death old age and suffering. Nirvana is a portable paradise. We can take it with us. The same with samsara: it is a mobile-home hell that we can also take with us wherever us go. The choice is ours to make.

 

Reflect upon the kindness of all beings

This is another Bodhisattva perspective to remember the incomparable kindness of all beings. In the Mahayana teachings we are told to regard all sentient beings as our own mothers, without any boundaries or notions of separation. This is called equanimity.

 

Usually, we establish grim divisions between ourselves as others, calling some friends and others enemies. But Bodhisattvas, who are extremely humble, regard all sentient beings as true spiritual teachers. All beings become the source of inspiration of love because all beings teach us how to be kind and compassionate in an authentic way.

 

It is very easy to practice compassion in relation to our cat, but with enemies, or those with whom we have personality conflicts, like they way someone dresses or talks or gestures, those whom we scrutinize with arrogance of judgement, it is not so easy to practice authentic compassion. Why?

 

Because we hold ourselves in the sense of separation, which is egoís trap, the snare of the sense of I, which creates the idea of wanting to be special, which we then use to keep others out of our hearts and prevents us from entering into theirs. We keep ourselves out of our own hearts in this way because we perceive ourselves as not good enough, never living up to our own expectations.

 

We must always demonstrate kindness and forgiveness towards all beings. These virtuous qualities arise from genuine humility, which comes from realizing that we are indeed no one special, which means we have realized that we completely are.

 

Love and compassion require no compensation. A bodhisattvaís life is a free gift to the world, for the benefit of all beings. A bodhisattva always practices generosity without expectation, ever-widening the circle of love and compassion, whether the gift is material, physical or spiritual. Bodhisattvas hold only pure motivation, which means there is no sense of separation between the giver, the giving and the one given to. Since there are immeasurable beings, imagine developing love and compassion in this immeasurable way! This is how we reflect upon the kindness of all beings.

 

Voidness is the unsurpassed protection; thereby illusory appearance is seen as the four kayas

This is a way of seeing all circumstances. Whatever arises can be regarded as the four kayas: Dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, nirmanakaya, svabhavivikaya. We can discuss this contemplation a bit more in the future, when we practice Dzogchen. Essentially what this means is that with unstained perception we regard everything as Buddha phenomenon.

 

When we realize emptiness, we see things as they are, not through the distortions of our mindís misperception. Emptiness means things are empty of our thought, our preconceived opinions. When we see from a pure perspective, we see everything is a manifestation of the four kayas, meaning there is no good to be hoped for, nothing to be feared, no beauty to enjoy, no ugliness to avoid. Seen in this way, nothing happens. So we cannot find any single phenomenon that causes happiness. Genuine happiness is uncaused.

 

We think lots of things happen in our lives, but on the level of emptiness or Dharmakaya, nothing happens, which is the best insurance policy for our lives. There is nothing greater, nothing else that will provide us with happiness in this life, in this world. The true sanctuary lies within ourselves, in realizing this nothingness that is always happening.

 

Suffering is simply karma, our internal issues. Outer conditions provoke our samsaric inclinations. Then we project and blame outer circumstances. In the same way, by examining this dynamic in our minds, we can find that there is actually no suffering, there is no outer circumstance, there is no karmic condition. If we are courageous enough to trace suffering back to itsí source, we will be amazed at what we find: we wonít find anything! But we continue to suffer because we donít look.  We donít look because our minds are imbued with a great sense of expectation. We expect to find some great abyss of pain, so we always stop short of landing upon the shores of nirvana because we are afraid of letting go of egoís games. But perfect freedom is waiting to de discovered within the dimension of our own minds.

 

The best of the methods is to have four practices

The four are:

 

         Accumulating merit is done even through ordinary actions. For example, speaking kind, loving words. Ultimate compassion can be our motivation, making others happy. The power of this virtue is amazing because it comes from pure motivation. The effect of any action does not depend on itsí size, but on the purity of the intent. Bodhicitta quality manifests through forgetting the self. This is the source of pure motivation, which is the demonstration of immeasurable love and compassion in measurable circumstances.

 

         Confession is very important, which we do every evening through practicing sojong. It is a way of reflecting upon our minds and our activity during the day. The ultimate confession is recognizing our true nature.

 

         Giving torma to the Dharmapalas, the protectors. This is very necessary. Gesar and Ekajati and Mahakala are some of the spirit-protectors. We ask them to remove obstacles on the path. We ask them to remove ultimate obstacles of hope and fear by making offerings of torma and prayer.

 

         And making a simple offering, like leftover food, to the hungry ghosts. This is an excellent means of connecting with the basic ground from which all virtue and positivity, as well as negativity, manifests. This practice has to do with the practical aspect of developing generosity that transcends egoistic notions of self and other, good and bad.

 

To bring the unexpected to the path, begin to train immediately

This is a way to use internal and external circumstances without reacting in a habitual way. We use everything as a catalyst to practice meditation. The substance of liberation is actually our emotional turmoil. To cut through, we simply have to recognize. The more turmoil we experience, the greater our capacity to awaken.

 

Imagine our meditation is like fire. Fire needs substance to burn. The same with our capacity to awaken: the greater the substance, the greater the fire. [It is important to address denial, which may appear as nirvana because our minds seem subdued. But really we are leaving karmic issues un-addressed. Actually, there is a very fine line between denial and nirvana.] So our inner turmoil can actually be very positive. Irrational emotions can be excellent fuel for the meditation fires of purification. We can use all circumstances without be subjugated by them. Rather, we can use all things in our lives as a chance to develop love and compassion in relation to ourselves and towards all beings. This is enlightened courage that subdues all fears.

 

The pith instructions briefly summarized: put the five strengths into practice

This is an essential phrase, the essence of Mahayana practice in one package that we can carry throughout our entire lives.

 

Motivation-Impetus [decision]: this is the Mahayana practice for living and dying. Living and dying are the two major processes we experience. Dharma teaches us how to live and how to die. This is what we need to learn. The major question on the path is, How should we live? All the virtuous Dharma principles manifest from this question. Dharma is way of life, something that we can practice and utilize everyday, not just during ceremony and meditation.

 

From the Mahayana point of view, the five forces are the guidelines. The first is the force of motivation, which means one should develop absolute and relative Bodhicitta mind, the realization of great emptiness, which we experience through constantly relying on the notion that everything is an illusion. In Dzogchen, we rely on rigpa, which is the ultimate Bodhicitta. When we realize the nature of mind, beyond the duality of subject and object, then we are experiencing absolute bodhicitta. Tonglen encompasses the relative level of bodhicitta, where we practice tolerance and forgiveness, love and acceptance, compassion and understanding for all beings, even insects crawling on flowers, even spirits we donít see.

 

We have to practice compassion in action, towards ourselves, towards others, towards animals and insects, etc. When we really determine to practice compassion towards all beings, we find countless opportunities to practice, to put our meditation into action. Our whole world becomes compassion, filled with compassionís activity. For example, kind speech is an excellent practice of compassion, plus itís cheap. It doesnít cost anything. But kind words can shape and alter a life if offered with pure motivation.

 

We must address our hard-heartedness, however, if we are to really practice compassion in every moment. We have selfish motivations in our hearts. This is okay. The awareness of this simply softens the tendency until it dissolves. We must be patient and loving to ourselves, letting go of the resentment we have towards ourselves that keeps us hanging onto our habitual tendencies. To work through the process, to resolve these habitual tendencies, we need to practice the relative bodhicitta towards ourselves, applying tonglen meditation by offering ourselves forgiveness and love, caring and compassion so that we can emanate the pure state of our being for all beings.

 

The ultimate teaching of Buddhism is practicing love and compassion, whether we are practicing Dzogchen or Mahayana. Relative bodhicitta is practicing love and compassion in action through the paramitas, especially generosity.

 

It is really easy to be seduced by our own comfort, which distracts us from practicing authentic compassion. Sometimes we rely heavily on physical and psychological comforts, even meditation. Meditation can stick to us with itsí notions of peace and bliss. But Buddha said MahaNirvana is going beyond samsara and the meditative experience of bliss. It is very easy for us to be attached to the bliss, not caring about otherís suffering, being close hearted. If someone asks us for help, we may say, Get out of my way. Donít disturb my meditation! We become enchanted with our spiritual illusion, like being in LALA land. We have all gone there. It is a very beautiful place to be. It is like being at Disneyland with Mickey Mouse, where there is no suffering. But now and then, we run into wrathful teachers who tell us we are stuck in spiritual delusion, interrupting our spiritual game. We like to avoid these teachers.

 

All we need to do is to become aware of our habitual tendencies of hope and fear. Until we do, we are still bound to samsara, repeating the same patterns that cause suffering.

 

The core essence of Dharma, in my experience, is to purify habits. Therefore, we have to find out what the nature of our ego is. What is the part of us that cannot expand beyond itself, demonstrating love and compassion towards all beings in a meticulous way, not an abstract way?

 

Imagine a person that you do not appreciate, someone with whom you have a personal conflict, like your boss, who is very demanding and harsh, or even some sangha members we have conflict with, which always has to do with personality conflict - consider the personís life, their experience of suffering, their fear, their hope. All beings are the same as ourselves. Love and compassion is a tremendous equalizing force that prevents us from escaping our responsibility towards ourselves and towards all beings. We are forced to face our close-heartedness, which arises from the sense of I, which is sometimes so powerful, so dominant in our minds. When we encounter this incredible resistance, which is the sense of I, we can practice. We must practice diligently in order to find out where and how we shut our hearts down. When we know this about ourselves, this knowledge, which arises from the nature of our minds, dissolves all conflict. The radiance of this dissolution is unimpeded love and compassion expressed precisely for the benefit of all beings.

 

It is always good to recall the experience of being completely loving and compassionate towards all beings. Remember the flavor of that experience, which is one of joy and happiness, filled with pure, boundless luminosity. This is how we can inspire ourselves, how we can befriend ourselves completely!

 

There is really no language to describe the true quality of love and compassion. It is inexpressible. But is so worthwhile to discover this inexpressibility within ourselves, right now, in this moment.

 

It may be difficult for us to believe that we can actually experience love and compassion in each moment, from now until the moment we die. It is actually very possible for all of us to arrive at such a place where we live out of genuine love and compassion in every moment. There are many great beings that have achieved this level of realization. To be enlightened means to actualize love and compassion in a very authentic way. Without true development of love and compassion, there is no enlightenment.

 

Bodhisattvas have only one purpose in life: to love all beings, to care for all beings with compassion. All of us are already bodhisattvas, because love and compassion is inherent in each of us, but we have to dedicate everything, including our Dharma practice, to this transcendental goal of manifesting love and compassion for all beings. Whether we are artists or lawyers or doctors or teachers, cooks or even garbagemen (or women), we can always dedicate our activity to actualize bodhicitta mind for the benefit of all beings.

 

Virtuous deeds: carry love and compassion in thoughts, words and deeds, instead of judging and making neurotic comment. Rather, we try to relate to every being through love and compassion, recognizing their Buddha nature. We can especially use loving words to benefit beings, or recite mantras to create positive environmental energy conducive to the experience to genuine spiritual qualities.

 

Consider the virtuous deed of speaking kind, loving words. Imagine the impact words have had on our lives, and the impact the words we have spoken have had on the minds of those in our lives. Speech is very powerful.

 

Generosity also speaks loudly, resonating with genuine quality of love and compassion we have developed through practice.

 

Familiarization: Being Bodhisattva means being a love maniac in some way. One has to be kind of crazy to put into effect love and compassion towards all beings, isnít it? Love everyone. This is all. Then we familiarize ourselves with the uncontrived experience of our true nature as Buddha.

 

Consider how we initially relate to beings? Often we superimpose our judgements and preconceived opinions on who we see. We donít see beings in this way, we only see the corruption of our distorted egoistic perceptions. So we see suffering, our own suffering, and never the honesty of the good heart. But imagine seeing with love and compassion. Then these powerful qualities are reflected in a direct way, and have the capacity to burn through all that is false. All illusion vanished instantly in the radiant face of love and compassion.

 

So fundamentally, as Bodhisattvas, we wish to actually be the cause to happiness in the lives of other beings, because we have relationships with countless beings. So imagine reflecting timeless love and compassion, instead of the fear and paranoia that seeks to protect itsí own interests. By reflecting love and compassion, our experience of the experience of others can become that of the pure land of Akanishtha, or the Potala palace. We can visualize all beings as Avalokiteshvara, which will transform our lives and deeply affect the lives of others by empowering them to reflect their own positive spiritual qualities.

 

Repudiation: When we wake up in the morning we always have a lingering sense of responsibility to our relations and towards ourselves. Sometimes it is a silent lamentation. Sometimes there is exuberance. But we have to deal with our own ego always. With this in mind, it makes it quite easy to relate to every human being. By relating to ourselves with the honesty of tenderness and genuine affection towards ourselves, we will never encounter any one we cannot deal with, any one we cannot practice love and compassion towards. When practicing lojong, we take all blame onto ourselves, onto the ego, then examine the nature of ego until we realize itsí insubstantiality. This is the bodhisattvas heroic message that delivers merciless wisdom, destroying the flimsy architectures of ego without hesitation.

 

Dedication: Dedication is something we do at the end of practice, commuting the postive vibration of our efforts to guide and liberate the minds of all beings. Dedication is the ultimate generosity that cuts through the attachment towards our own virtue. Dedication is the way to let go of everything, offering all that we have and all that we are to all beings.

 

Practicing these five forces with a full commitment is the ultimate way of life, which is the authentic Dharma. My recommendation is to take these teachings and make a commitment to live according to these five forces in every day. Each day is precious. For Dharma practitioners, time is extremely precious. Each moment is a golden opportunity to experience liberation through practicing love and compassion.

 

We should keep a Dharma diary to monitor our progress, confessing any downfalls. This is a way of checking out our minds, to observe our own phenomenon, to track where we backslide on ourselves by engaging in habits. This is an excellent method we can use to make great progress. Use the diary in a constructive way, not in a neurotic way to abuse ourselves.

 

On how to die, the Mahayana teaches these five strengths. It matters how you act

How are we going to die? This is a very powerful and provocative meditation. Am I going to die with confidence? There is really no distinction between living and dying. If we know how to live, we know how to die if we know how to die, then we know how to live. It doesnít matter how young or old we are. We always need to consider death. It is the most relevant consideration we can entertain if we are to truly live. If we can face death, we can resolve our karmic issues of doubt and insecurity.

 

Imagine you are dying. Imagine that you are dying. Imagine that you are dying, right now. Maybe you have a terminal disease. Maybe you are old. Maybe you are alone, or in the hospital, surrounded by loved ones.

 

Imagine what emotions you would confront. We may confront regret that we havenít done something we really wanted to do but never had the chance. Or we may regret that we were never really able to be who we truly are. We may feel that our lives duties are not finished. We will have fear of losing everything we have earned and invested in.

 

Try to see what is happening in your minds. Is the mind filled with fear and insecurity, or is there a sense of joy and gratitude towards life, that you are finished completely?

 

What feelings arise right now in your mind? It is good to remember these emotions because they are relevant to your situation right now, whether there was fear or regret or attachment.

 

Now we can use these extraordinary teaching to resolve the emotions of karmic tendencies that obstruct us from being the perfectly awakened one. Whatever is influencing our lives right now, including Dharma practice, can be resolved through these teachings and this meditation on tonglen and on death.

 

The Mahayana understanding of birth and death is that they do not exist. But the very reason we are bound to our emotions, our physical bodies, the place where we live or work is because we have not been able to be who we really want to be. We have not given ourselves a sufficient chance to discover who we truly are, so we fear death, maintaining the illusions of our insecurity and self-doubt. Thus we fear loneliness, afraid of facing the unknown because we have not resolved the conflict between who we are and who we think we wanted to be.

 

The reason we raise these emotions is to transcend them, living in each moment, as each moment, filled with love and compassion. We bring up these emotions because ordinarily we are hiding from ourselves by distracting our minds. We are dying to get on the spiritual spaceship of creativity to avoid dealing with ourselves directly.

 

We begin to meditate to discover the source of these hidden emotions. When we blame reality we get very depressed. We feel very pessimistic because we think that happiness is unattainable. Though in the west, worldly perfections are attainable, still there is the sense of hopelessness because we rely on the impermanent world of illusions to provide us with what we are searching for. We remain stuck in samsara because we focus outwardly. But discovering the ultimate spiritual property is true happiness and it abides within. We only need to be willing to look.

 

No matter who we are, we possess Buddha essence, love and compassion. The only difference between enlightened beings and sentient beings is in the knowing that arises from recognizing these inherent qualities of love and compassion. We can actually stop hiding from what we seek by simply recognizing who we are, which the Buddha has taught, what all the Dharma teachings provide the key to: that we are Buddha.

 

We only have to refrain from taking refuge in external illusions. When we cut the misperception that happiness exists outside of us, then we see the natural goodness of our own hearts that has been obscured for countless lifetimes by the gross habits of hope and fear.

 

Motivation: I am not going to die with regret, anger or resentment. We never know when we are going to die, so if we donít resolve our issues, we will face great fear upon the moment of death. Each moment is the perfect opportunity to resolves the issues of our lives, that we can die with the fearless realization of joyís great confidence. We can even attain rainbow body, but we must intend to die without fear. If we are able to die with joy, then we can say our lives were very meaningful, that we have had a very happy life.

 

We can reflect that in each moment we are dying. Our physiology is always changing, our minds are changing. So we must consider firmly establishing the intention to resolve all of all issues.

 

Virtuous deeds: When we die, the practice of the force of virtuous deeds is to give everything away, especially our cherished bodies.

 

The body is actually the elements, so imagine your body is the universe. When you die, your body dissolves into the elements of earth, water, wind, fire and space. By regarding our bodies as the elements, we see clearly that there is really nothing to attach to. How can you say, ďThis is my earth. This is my water. This my space. This is my fire. This is wind. Who owns anything really?Ē So we must give it all away.

 

Familiarization: regarding everything as Buddha phenomenon, enacting tremendous love and compassion.

 

Repudiation: Exploiting the sense of I. The notion of I comes up when we are facing death. We ask, Am I going to die with confidence? This notion of I, which is a form of fear, prevents us from remembering the teachings and practicing meditation. We have to recognize ego as it arises and resolve it into emptiness.

 

Dedication: When we die, thatís the end of our session! Itís all finished, so we must dedicate all the amazing things we have done for the benefit of all beings, gathering all the power of our practice, the merit we have accumulated so we can liberate ourselves and all beings from the fear of death.

 

When we have absolute faith in our Buddha nature, then we can give everything away. Bodhisattvas give everything away. This is how they radiate love and compassion towards all beings.

 

All Dharma has a single goal

Whatever practice we are participating in, there is a single goal: to be enlightened through taming oneís mind. Shantideva said, Without being mindful, no matter how much mantra you recite or deities you visualize, you will experience no result.

 

When we say taming mind, there is irony there. Mind is already enlightened. Buddha said, Mind is not even min. Mind is luminous wisdom. Taming mind means bringing mind back to its natural state. What we may be experiencing right now is the conditioned state. Taming our minds means to bring mind back to its natural state. This is what we discover in meditation, and how we come to realization: that mind is not mind, but luminous wisdom.

 

The unconditioned state of mind is what we are pointing out as Buddhaís mind, the nature of mind. Mind is like water that is contaminated by dust or mud, yet the water contains a pure transparent quality. The same with mind: though we may experience delusions of hope and fear and the five poisons, the essence of mind always remains unstained. Mipham Rinpoche said, The reason why we can never discover the secret of mind is because it is so close to us.

 

All teachings are a way to study the nature of mind, the secret of mind that is the pure intrinsic essence beyond mind. By learning about mind we are going beyond mind. Mind is not mind because mind does not exist. Mind does not exist in the past, in the future or in the present. Look right now at mind. Can you find it? Where is your mind?!

 

What is the nature of mind? Can it be pointed out? No, there is nothing to point out, but in the Dzogchen teachings they refer to the nature of mind. In the lojong teachings they refer to the alaya, the basic ground of being.

 

Why study? Why practice then? Is there a separate goal for all of the different vehicles? All teachings and practices seek to find the nature of mind. The Buddhaís teachings are about mastering the mind, becoming the great magician of our own lives. If we want to conquer old age and death, then conquer the concepts about old age and death, which exist solely in the mind as fear or resistance to these situations. When we map our minds, mastering it completely, then we have infinite choice. We become the creators of reality.

 

What is the nature of mind? The nature of mind is the unconditioned state of mind, which we can discover when we relax all of our preconceptions, going beyond all effort. Going beyond meditation even. We need to go beyond all concepts, all thought. We can do this by applying every teaching, every connection we have made with teachers, every mantra we have recited, to realize the natural state of mind. We engage with all activity with the intention to realize who we are. There is no other reason for studying or practicing Dharma.

 

The realization of the nature of your mind is the absolute liberation. This is the true color of your mind, Dharmakaya mind.

 

Rely upon the better of the two witnesses

This means rely on your own intelligence, not the opinions or judgements of others. We have to have some way of relying on our own minds. This can be interpreted in terms of our Dharma practice. People may tell us we are good or bad practitioners, but those words are inconsequential. We should not be disturbed by anything anyone says about us. Always check out your own mind. In this way then youíll know which tendencies you must work on and also youíll know what kind of progress youíve made.

 

Always be sustained by cheerfulness

Joy means cultivating happy mind. Constantly we must cultivate a happy state of mind in everyday life. Life should be based on happiness. Every day we should begin with a joyous mind. Every evening we should end the day with a joyous mind.

 

We can buy almost everything in the market, but one thing we cannot buy is joy. We must generate joy from within. Joy cannot be bought. We do not need to crave after joy, Rather generate joy and give joy to all beings.

 

We must have unmistakable confidence in our Buddha nature. This confidence is joy, and radiates pure unconditioned happiness for the benefit of all beings. It is inexhaustible unfolding of love and compassion for all beings. In this uncontrived state there is no confusion. There is absolute enlightenment. Like His Holiness the Dalai Lama: he is like the Joy Generator!

 

Do not look for joy in any forms. However we have a habitual conviction that joy comes from eating delicious foods, wearing nice clothes, visiting beautiful places, having pleasant companionship with lovers and friends, teachers even.  We must always look for joy within. Buddha is not the source of joy. The devil is not the source of joy. We waste ourselves by projecting that the source of joy exists outside of ourselves.

 

Joy is madness. It is not rational because there are no conditions, no fixed dispositions, no cause. Joy is the spontaneous effulgence of enlightenment. In order to actualize this non-duality, we need to visualize every being as Avalokiteshvara, recite six syllable mantra of OM MANI PADME HUNG, and view all motion of thought as intrinsic wisdom. In this way we can experience the inexhaustible treasure of joy.

 

What do we do when we feel bad about ourselves, feeling guilty, etc? Do we beat ourselves up, or do we reflect upon our Buddha nature? Do we reflect upon death to short circuit the machineries of confusion? Worrying and anxious considering are not for us! We only need to be happy, because ultimately nothing matters, especially when we die. We can take nothing with us when we die, so why accumulate illusions of hope and fear created by our attachments to the frozen fixation of the sense of I? Impermanence is good to reflect upon. Always reflect upon impermanence. Then you will always feel happy, because there will be no obstruction caused by grasping.

 

Joy is an excellent place to end.

 

To study the entirety of the Seven Points of Mind Training all of us can read Jamgon Kongtrulís Commentary on Lojong in the book The Great Path of Awakening.

 

Letís dedicate all merit from these teachings for the peace, happiness and enlightenment of all beings.