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Dharma Woman: Reflections of a Modern Buddhist Woman.

20 Heart it! Marie Minnich 1.8k
May 2, 2018
Marie Minnich
20 Heart it! 1.8k

I consider myself extremely fortunate that I’ve experienced a great deal of hardship in my life.

Without these hardships, I doubt that I would have become the compassionate human being that I am today. Without the hardships I’ve experienced, I may never have found my Buddhist path.

I’ve been practicing meditation and following the teachings of Buddhism for a long time—over 40 years to be exact. I emphasize the word “practice,” as it is an ongoing daily challenge to open our hearts and minds to the precepts and teachings of Buddha, particularly as citizens of the secular world. We sometimes need all the help we can get to conquer the habitual traits and negative emotions that lead to our greatest failures as human beings.

Enter: Lojong.

Lojong, or mind-training instruction, is handed down by two great Tibetan Buddhist master teachers: Atisha in the 10th century—and then Geshe Chekhawa in the 12th century, who summarized the teachings into 59 slogans, or aphorisms, formally named Lojong. This is when Lojong was birthed—and venerable Lojong has survived for a few centuries now.

The 59 slogans are provided as principles for study and meditation. (There are many venerable books and commentaries on Lojong just waiting for you to discover.) Once I found Lojong, I was inspired to incorporate the 59 slogans into my daily Buddhist practice. Lojong study proved to be an immense help. Reflecting or meditating on a slogan can be exactly what I need to shift my perspective at exactly the right moment.

Although the slogans are progressive, in this article I’m commenting on three of the slogans which really resonate with my practice.

Lojong Slogan 28. Abandon any Hope of Fruition

This slogan can seem really depressing at first. I used to hate this slogan. It was enough to make me want to abandon my Buddhist practice. But eventually, I began to see it in a new light.

It seems like the opposite of a positive affirmation—but I think what it means is that we have to accept the fact that we are human beings, and so we are basically always going to be imperfect. Meditation is not going to save us from ourselves. Meditation will make us see things more clearly, which can actually be sort of brutal. We’re going to have some wonderful times when things are great—things can be pretty wonderful at times. But we can never have complete and total fruition by virtue of the very fact that we are human beings living in an imperfect world.

If we meditate for the rest of our lives, we will have many moments of peace. We can have a very good life. We will experience joy. But there will always be loose ends—things we cannot tie up in a neat package. We can attain every dream we’ve every wanted, but there will still be annoyances and things we don’t like about ourselves and our life.

Life is pretty much a process of disillusionment. We get everything we ever wanted, and then we’re still not happy. Or we’re happy, but then someone we love isn’t happy. Or we’re happy, but the rest of the world is a mess.

Meditation is not the answer to all our prayers. It’s not our happy pill, or the great “now I’ve found it, I have no more work to do.” Meditation is just one part of the puzzle of life—as is Buddhism, and as is practicing slogans or practicing compassion and loving-kindness.

Life is holistic, so it’s best not to hope for fruition, but rather to live in the present. Don’t see this as a negative, but rather as a wise prescription that helps us be more positive in dealing with things exactly as they are right now. This doesn’t mean that things can’t get better or improve; rather, it means that things are always in a state of flux.

Everything is temporary. So just don’t get hung up on thinking that wherever you’re at in life, it’s the finality. It never is. This is a good reason to enjoy the fruits of the good times even more.

Lojong Slogan 29. Abandon Poisonous Food

Poisonous food is the food of our own negative emotions. When we’re filled with negative emotional energy, it’s as if we have baked a cake and filled it with poisonous ingredients, then cut a slice and served it to ourselves.

“Oh yum, eat some cake filled with malice, envy, and despair, topped with poisonous berries of malignancy!”

Be careful what we are feeding ourselves and our loved ones. Abandon the poisonous food we feed ourselves daily. Our social media newsfeed and the daily news on the television are filled with poisonous food and unwholesome things for us to chew on. If we must read or watch the news (which as informed citizens is fine), acknowledge the negativity. After all, it exists. But we don’t have to chew on it, digest it, and take it into ourselves as an entire meal!

Rather, we can abandon the poison. We can spit it out and replace it with something wholesome and clean. Bake yourself an emotion cake filled with joy and love—and top it with some delicious fruits of peace. Chew on that for a while. Make a meal of wholesome emotional food. Abandon poisonous food. Spit out that poisonous sh*t before we choke on it and it kills us. Bon appetit!

In Tonglen, we take it a step further. Take in the poisonous energy sh*t for everyone, masticate it, then spit it out. Breathe out the wholesomeness and see everyone else being nurtured. This is the Buddhist way.

Lojong Slogan 30. Don’t be so Predictable

We’re totally predictable as human beings. We can’t help it; it’s how we’ve been conditioned since the time we were born. We’re conditioned to avoid pain, defend ourselves, and lash out at those who’ve hurt us. Every circumstance in life seems to teach us this reactivity. From television shows, to sports, to playing with our siblings as children, everything we learn is basically based on a “defend ourselves first” system. Fortunately, we do have systems of religion and morals that help give us teachings to offset some of this defensiveness.

But for the most part, our basic reactivity is so deeply ingrained that we’re totally predictable. If someone compliments us, we respond with ego-inflating joy. If someone criticizes us, we deflate with bone-crushing depression. This slogan instructs us to react differently. To not take things so personally. To be more neutral.

Basically, we shouldn’t take anything personally. If someone compliments us, it’s not really about us—it’s about them. We’re just the mirror to something they see inside of themselves—likewise, when someone criticizes us. So we needn’t be so predictable. Instead, we could stop defending ourselves.

When we’re criticized, instead of clamming up and retreating into our armor, we could open our hearts. We could try to understand where the other person is coming from. We could respond with love, empathy, and compassion, instead of hatred or rejection. Likewise, when we’re complimented, we can say thanks without having our ego get all inflated. We can remain humble and grateful. We can keep in mind at all times that most of what happens is never really about us at all.

~

Relephant:

Buddhist Lojong Slogan: “Practice giving and taking alternately on the medium of the breath.” {tonglen meditation instruction}

 

~

Author: Marie Minnich
Image: Unsplash/Beth Solano
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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20 Heart it! Marie Minnich 1.8k
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hirshf2 May 3, 2018 9:16am

Thank you for a clear, educational, and insightful article. I will “find” for Lojong for myself, now!

    Marie Minnich May 5, 2018 10:54am

    With deep gratitude for your response??

      Marie Minnich May 5, 2018 10:58am

      Re: last response, question marks were unintended!??

coen May 9, 2018 1:47am

Thank you Marie!
I did find your article at exact the right time 🙂
In the now :)))
Never heard about Lojong before. Seems like very inspiring heart and mind opening.
Thank you you for sharing your beautifull insights.

    Marie Minnich May 9, 2018 3:39pm

    Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback. I’m amazed at how many people have not yet run into Lojong. I’m deeply grateful that I’m able to provide just a small introduction. Lojong has become such a pillar of my practice.

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