Working with Lojong Mind Training Slogans.
By Linda V. Lewis
In the previous article we discussed the slogan, “Regard all dharmas as dreams” and focused on how mindfulness-awareness is the foundation for extending the experience of openness into post-meditation.
Yet, a few moments after meditating, especially (for example) if the phone rings, I can fall back into habitual, dualistic patterns—as if an instantly re-solidified Linda-self were on the line with “annoying Other”—say, a man on the phone trying to sell me a subscription to our local newspaper, the “Chronicle Herald” (or the “Chronically Horrid,” as I call it).
This is the moment when Atisha’s Lojong slogans can be most helpful. Rather than trying to remember the meditative experience in the midst of such worldly distractions, we can flash on a slogan such as,
“In post-meditation, be a child of illusion.”
Being a child is seeing and hearing and touching the world with fresh eyes, ears, fingers and the rest of the five senses…plus mind.
It’s pre-concept. This is a great way to keep the mind and heart open. So although I do not want the daily newspaper, I can have a listening ear. The man’s accent is intriguing. Guessing he’s Greek. I can still wish him “Kali mera”—good morning.
Walking to work I feel the crunchiness of fresh snow underfoot and see the little glittering chunks of salt on the sidewalk where the snow has been shoveled.
At work, being a “child of illusion” enables me to see the bigger picture, exploring what might work for everyone. By letting go of ideas and things I tend to fixate on or cling to, the work place can become the arena of my post-meditation practice.
When things are not polarized…everything becomes workable.
As a real bonus, neither praise nor blame tends to stick to “the child of illusion.” We’re not inflated by compliments, nor crushed by criticism. We simply continue to do the best we can—responding with openness, flexibility and curiosity to ways to improve.
Letting awareness illuminate appearances and situations post-meditation reveals not only their transparency and fluidity, but also their vividness. Buddhadharma is not nihilistic. We still have to pay attention to the octagonal red stop sign. We still have to mind our steps over ice. We still need to respect the karma of cause and effect.
Although there is no singular, solid entity to be found, everything is in flux and is interdependent. This planet is our community. It knows no national boundaries. Filling the landfills and oceans with plastic, burning and releasing carbon fuel into the atmosphere, destroying the rainforest—these mindless human actions endanger feather, fur, fin and skin. These actions are not to be ignored but to be reversed. It’s simple: mindless and careless causes and conditions have harmful effects.
As “a child of illusion” we realize we are vulnerable and mortal. When we feel ill, we are ill. There is no need to ignore the illness and push through it. There is no need to bully ourselves or to allow ourselves to be bullied to go beyond what we are capable of. These are times to relax into what is.
The Buddhadharma is not about martyrdom, denial nor nihilism. It is about paying attention, caring for ourselves, and living compassionately in this ever-changing world. And to accomplish this, Atisha’s slogans are a great aid in making our practice whole-hearted.
Post Script: So who was this masked man, Atisha, originator of the Buddhist Lojong Slogans?
Born a prince in Bengal in the 10th century, his life somewhat mirrored that of the Buddha in that he too gave up palace life to become a monk. As a teenager he was magnetized to the Buddha’s teachings, and subsequently studied with many of the great teachers of his time. Teaching at the University of Vikramashila, Atisha became known for his skill in debate. But what he is famous for today are these teachings on mind training, which he brought to Tibet. Invited to teach in the Land of Snows toward the end of his life, he presented these simple, accessible, evocative slogans to help practitioners sustain awakened heart and mind.
For more, read Training the Mind.