Ironically, with this lojong (mind training) reminder I always forget what the “three basic principles” are, so wind up returning to the Dharma to refresh my memory.
It turns out, depending where we are on the path, “the three” can refer to different things.
Most simply, the three principles refer…
(1) to taking refuge in the Buddha, dharma, and sangha (the community of meditators) in order to achieve individual liberation;
(2) to dedicating ourselves to Mahayana benevolence, while refraining from outrageous behavior;
(3) to developing patience.
Taking refuge in the Buddha is following the inspiring example of this human being, who, through practicing meditation, realized the true nature of mind and of all phenomena. Taking refuge in the dharma is taking to heart the teachings and experiences of the buddhadharma, discovering for ourselves what is true. Taking refuge in the sangha is participating in meditation and dharma study with our fellow meditators.
Having taken refuge in these “Three Jewels” one begins to feel ready to take on more, to be open to the possibility of being of genuine benefit to everyone one meets. We feel less self-centered and wish to share our joy and inspiration with others.
This is where the third principle, a red flag, comes into play. We do not wish to proselytize. We do not wish to intrude nor to be over-zealous in our enthusiasm. We need to be patient, and actually we soon realize that our actions speak more persuasively than words. If we are kind, generous, have a sense of humor about ourselves, are ready to give a helping hand, and in general are friendly and awake citizens of planet earth—this is noticed and can inspire others. This is the behavior that magnetizes people, or at least makes them curious.
This slogan is also connected with sharpening our critical intelligence or prajna. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says, “prajna is…the sword that cuts the bondage of ego.” And he continues, the way to cut this bondage is through awareness, through relating to the rest of our world and post-meditation life.
It is the critical insight of prajna that cuts through our habitual neurosis and frees our innate gentleness, openness, kindness, and compassion. It is prajna that enables us post-meditation to exchange ourselves for others, in other words–to put others first.
This is particularly difficult when in the workplace or schoolyard we are sometimes being insulted, made fun of, or disrespected. But the habitual reaction either to strike back verbally or to feel hurt and to dwell on that is ego. It is prajna that can see what is going on and helps us to let go. It is prajna that can cut through our first degree hurt, second degree anger, or third degree self-pity.
As our mindfulness-awareness practice continues post-meditation, we can catch ourselves before, during, or after we react to being “burned”. It is never too late. As meditators, the difference is that sooner or later we do catch ourselves, reflect, and let go. And when we let go, we are ready for a fresh start. We harbor no grudge. There’s no carry-over or hangover from the previous difficult encounter.
We do not want to waste our time complaining, being disruptive, or in any way making a spectacle of ourselves. In order to be of benefit, we need to be patient with everyone, not just our friends. We also need to be patient with ourselves when illness strikes or when, for no reason why, we feel the “blahs”, just as we need to maintain mindfulness-awareness when great happiness sweeps us off our feet. It is prajna’s wakefulness that can alert us and remind us to be open and of benefit.