During this final review of the lojong mind training aphorisms, Peter described how the lojong tradition is a revisiting of the Four Noble Truths from a Mahayana perspective, with emphasis on tonglen, the practice of compassion. The last stage of the lojong listing is a reminder of the important things to integrate into meditation practice and daily lifestyle routines in order to further the process of awakening.
Here are the aphorisms referred to in the talk: GUIDELINES FOR APPLYING THE COMMITMENTS
Next week’s discussion will focus on the value of regular meditation practice and occasional retreat participation to maximize the benefits received from the Buddhist process of awakening.
This talk focuses on the lojong commitment “Don’t Rely On Consistency”, which emphasizes how social norms put pressure on individuals to conform, even when such conformity violates the Buddhist principle of benevolent intention. One example would be the pressure to conform with materialistic drives regarding the upcoming holiday season–the perfect party, the perfect gift, etc. Another example is the conformity of ethnic prejudice, that is, the culturally conditioned feeling of aversion around someone who looks Muslim.
The discussion also focused on the struggle of individuals to conform to their own conditioned expectations of themselves, and the frustration experienced when one doesn’t meet a standard of performance.
During the discussions, Peter repeatedly referred back to aphorisms discussed in prior meetings, such as being a “child of illusion” and the importance of daily meditation practice to build the capacity to be mindful and nonreactive to cultural pressures that conflict with benevolent intention.
Here are the notes for this discussion: Working With Unpredictability
This week’s discussion broached two aphorisms: Don’t speak about others’ defects, and Don’t become preoccupied with the opinions, behaviors and motivations of others. These aphoristic commitments focus on activating Wholesome Speech, Action and Livelihood from the Eightfold Path. Peter emphasized the practical steps for cultivating the mental clarity and constraint necessary to check one’s speech, avoiding anything that may create a sense of separation and diminishment of others, most exemplified by gossip. He also commented on the common human mistake of “mind reading”, that is, the inclination to jump to conclusions about what someone’s intentions are. This was followed by discussions among those present of examples of gossiping and mind reading, along with what benefits regular daily meditation and memorizing the aphorisms can bring to interrupting hurtful and thoughtless behaviors.
Here are the notes developed for the talk: AVOID FOCUSING ON THE DEFECTS OF OTHERS
Next week’s talk will focus on the benefits of intentionally investigating the emotionally charged self-states with mindfulness and equanimity.
During this talk, Peter introduced one of the lojong aphorisms, classically stated “When evil fills the world and its inhabitants, change adverse conditions into the path of awakening.” He suggested an alternative: “Be mindful whenever possible so everything provides an opportunity for practice.” The talk provided an opportunity to review the progression of the training: First, establish a regular meditation practice to cultivate stability of focus and relief from the influence of the five hindrances, then to realize during meditation that all thoughts are transient “fantasies”. During regular daily routines, cultivate an attitude of perceiving life’s roles as a “game”, rather than as having certainty. Practice transforming unwholesome self-states into compassionate awareness (the tonglen practice). The current topic involves integrating the training mentioned above sufficiently so that every difficulty encountered becomes an opportunity for liberation from confusion and distress.
Those present during the evening were provided with a copy of the aphorism and invited to write opportunities that come to mind for turning “poison into medicine” in their lives. This provided opportunities to relate the progression described at the outset of the discussion to the incidents reported.
Here are the notes prepared for the presentation: TRANSFORMING ADVERSITY INTO OPPORTUNITY
Next week’s discussion will involve the aphorism “Focus on your responsibility for alleviating suffering; don’t displace it to outside sources.”
This talk introduces a new topic, the Tibetan Buddhist Lojong trainings. These trainings were developed around the year 1,000 C.E. to support integrating Buddhist principles and practices into daily life routines. The core of Buddhist teaching is compassion, that is, the path leading to liberation from distress. This core practice is integrated into Lojong through Tonglen, which is a Tibetan compassion meditation. The most famous contemporary representative of the benefits of Lojong is Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.
The talk provides an overview of the training; over the next several weeks, different training points will be explored. Peter’s approach to this training is an attempt to make the archaic nature of the training aphorisms more understandable for contemporary American meditation students.
The notes prepared for this talk will be posted after this posting.