Everyday Buddhadharma with Linda V. Lewis.
Atisha’s Lojong Mind-Training Slogans:
All Dharma Agrees at One Point
As we meditate each day, it is important to pause now and then to reflect on our progress. Is ego-clinging decreasing? Is our mindfulness-awareness increasing? Are we more kind? Are we any more skillful in dealing with others? Is our mind stolen away by distraction or frivolity? Are we just spacing out in practice, and still quite mindless post-meditation?
Although we don’t evaluate actual meditation sessions, it is important to apply prajna or honest insight to see if our practice on and off the meditation cushion is wakeful.
Mindfulness develops one-pointedness so that we can be present now—rather than daydream, wander in memories, or get caught in hopes and fears of the future. Awareness dissolves the solidity of our habitual reference point of “me” and “mine,” so that we become less self-centered. Tonglen furthers this by encouraging us to exchange self for others. It helps us feel expansive post-meditation by eroding territoriality so that we can think bigger and be of spontaneous benefit. Our practice altogether encourages us to be open and flexible.
But if this is not happening, it’s important to recognize our shortcomings—not as a way of condemning ourselves, but as a way of overcoming the blindness of ignorance and arrogance.
Atisha’s slogan, “All Dharma agrees at one point”, means that all the teaching of Buddha, and for that matter all the experience of phenomena, point to egolessness and impermanence.
By reflecting on our actions, how we behave post-meditation becomes the measure of how far our mindfulness-awareness practice has revealed that point.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche emphasizes the importance of contemplating and examining our motivation. He has said, “Use compassion and wisdom to move forward on the path of virtue. Once we are in tune with life in this way, making decisions isn’t so difficult.”
And he asks us to reflect on our day. Are we only thinking of personal gain? Are we continually searching for an external source of happiness and security? Have we forgotten how simple it is to be content? How have we acted today? What have we said? What was our motivation? Whatever we do or say inevitably has an effect.
There was a recent fire in the Halifax area, which endangered and engulfed the homes of many. For several days and nights flames shot so high into the sky that they could be seen from far away and the smell of smoke and ash was all-pervasive. People had only moments to think what they would take as the swift flames approached their homes. Others, away at work when the fire started, could not do anything to save their home, pets, or possessions.
What would our state of mind be if this happened to us? How thorough and genuine is our ability to let go when everything is gone except the clothes we’re wearing?
The poet John Keats who cared for his brother, dying of TB, and who contracted it himself in the process, suffered and died in his youth. Yet even suffering the death of his brother and his own early dying said, “We must be open to confusion and darkness without an irritable grasping.”
If you read the first part of his poem, “Endymion,” you can see that Keats knew how to be with suffering and knew the peace of “quiet breathing.” He knew how to be present with whatever was occurring. By not railing against suffering and the lack of resolution, which is the reality of living, that openness to whatever is occurring, happy or sad, turns into peace and wisdom.
Yet we identify so strongly with our possessions—our home, car, giant thin-screen TV—as if these provide us with eternal security. But there is no real guarantee. No insurance in the world can do that. Everything is impermanent and we are all mortal.
Fortunately no human lives were lost in the fire, but the fire did wake everyone in Halifax to what was important—compassion and egoless action. Kindness–in the form of care, support, limitless friendship and hospitality–was extended by so many Nova Scotians to those evacuated. The fire seemed to melt everyone’s sense of territoriality and everyone paused to see what was really important.
Rain fell after a few days and the winds that fanned the flames decreased, helping the valiant fire fighters put out the hot spots. But our hearts and minds are still wide open, feeling both the truth of groundlessness and the power of kindness.
All Dharma agrees at one point—egolessness.
Both Dharma and life burn holes in the illusion of permanence. This makes this precious human life all the more important. So why not now gently take an honest look at oneself and the quality of one’s meditation practice? By applying prajna-insight to post-meditation experience, the hot spots of self-centeredness can be recognized and then. gradually, each day we can let go and open a little bit more—extending kindness to others and in so doing bring more real warmth into our own experience.