May 15, 2009

Everyday Buddhadharma with Linda Lewis: Lojong Slogan “Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.”

Atisha’s Buddhist Lojong Slogan #7

“Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.”

It is said in all the Buddhadharma texts that Prajnaparamita is the mother of all the Buddhas. What does this mean?  It means that one’s own prajna (insight) gives birth to wakefulness. 

It also means that insight is the principal witness. Only you know your motivation whether or not you are purely self-seeking or trying to be of benefit. Only you know if you have ulterior motives, whether you are pretending or acting genuinely, whether you are being cowardly or doing your best to lean into a difficult situation. Only you know when you are lazy and indulgent, or disciplined and applying self-control. And only you know when you are speeding past to avoid someone, or are open and willing to be present to whatever occurs.

As Shakespeare said:

This above all, to thine own self be true,

And it must follow as the night the day

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Moment by moment, post-meditation prajna helps us to be true to our innate Buddha Nature, or questions us, “Could I have been more gentle, skillful, or kind?”

Usually when such a question pops up, the answer is, “Yes, I could have been more gentle, skillful, and kind”—otherwise the question would not have arisen.  We know when we are trying to get away with something. We know when there is a disconnect between the image or appearance we are trying to project and what we are hoping to hide.  The more we see such things, the more we recognize the folly and futility of such behavior. 

Who else knows your habitual patterns and how hard or how little you work to free yourself from them?  You are prime witness of your progress on the path.  Only you know if you have really taken mind training to heart?

Being a witness is based on trusting your intelligence.  Who else can cut through your self-deception, aggression, or self-cherishing?  It is you who can catch yourself in an unkind thought or word or lie and stop.  It is you who know whether you have been naughty or nice. 

When someone congratulates you, you know deep inside how much you actually held back.  Conversely, when someone blames you or lays a trip on you, you also know just how hard you tried, how much extra time and effort you applied.

Trusting yourself in this way is not ignoring feedback, but trusting in what rings true—something more fundamental and basic, and not at all fickle. 

You have probably discovered in life that whatever flag you send up a flagpole, there will be those who like it, some who dislike it, and others who simply do not care.  People have a variety of opinions. If it rains, some will complain…while firefighters and farmers rejoice. If a local road full of potholes is repaved, not everyone is thrilled; parents of small children and those who don’t drive might complain that now cars go too fast.

Thus when others praise or blame you, do not let your head swell or your chest fall. The authentic witness is your own insightful reflection on your conduct.  Furthermore, your Buddha Nature neither increases nor decreases with the onslaught of praise and blame, nor with the successes and failures of life.  Seeing actions from this egoless point of view is the witness that cannot err in knowing what is or is not completely true.

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