Opening Our Hearts Through Mind Training
Lama Zopa Rinpoche once asked his teacher what was the quickest way to attain lamrim realizations. He said, “Practicing the remedy to the self-cherishing thought.” In the Mahayana tradition, mind training (Tib: lojong) is the process of transforming the everyday difficulties that we all face in our lives into happiness by changing the way we relate to these difficulties. Instead of seeing difficult people and situations as the problem, we learn to regard our self-cherishing thought as the problem and the people and situations as precious opportunities to progress on the path to enlightenment.
Among the most celebrated lojong texts is Atisha’s Seven-Point Mind Training. The seven points are further divided into 59 slogans that help us understand how to apply the Dharma to various challenging situations that arise in daily life. For each of the six sessions, we will learn about a new group of slogans and share our experiences applying the prior week’s slogans. Between sessions, you are encouraged to try to use the slogans throughout the week, bringing the insights you gain to the next session to share with the group.
As these teachings come to us from the Kadampa tradition, a lineage that is part of both the Gelug and Kagyü schools, we will use commentaries written by teachers from both schools to help illuminate the profound meaning of these precious slogans.
1. The Bodhicitta View
We will discuss the four preliminaries to engaging in mind training with slogans and examine how ultimate (or absolute) bodhicitta informs everything we do with our practice.
Suggested Reading: Chödron, Chs. 1-4
2. Transforming Problems into the Path
Life is about constantly facing challenging situations that often seem insurmountable. We will examine how the slogans on relative bodhicitta give us the specific method to use these problems to further our ultimate goal of enlightenment.
Suggested Reading: Chödron, Chs. 5-11
3. How to Train
We will discuss how to create good habits to keep the teachings in your heart by practicing the five strengths, training wholeheartedly, and engaging in self-reflection.
Suggested Reading: Chödron, Chs. 13-15, 22
4. Compassionate Attitude
We will work with instructions for changing your mindset from one that feeds self-cherishing to one that promotes action and communication from a true heart of compassion.
Suggested Reading: Chödron, Chs. 16-17, 19
5. Taking Responsibility
We will work with slogans that provide specific instructions for taking responsibility for our own actions when interacting with others.
Suggested Reading: Chödron, Chs. 18
6. Looking in the Mirror
In our final session, we will reflect on the challenge of squaring our ideals with the reality of the situations we face every day, and how facing this struggle is precisely how we progress on the path.
Suggested Reading: Chödron, Chs. 20-21
The commentaries that we will be discussing come primarily from the texts below. You may find it helpful as you are applying the slogans throughout the week to refer to these sources for greater understanding.
- Chödron, Pema. Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living (Shambhala Publications, 2001).
- Trungpa, Chögyam. Training the Mind and Cultivating Lovingkindness (Shambhala Publications, 2003).
- Kyabgon, Traleg. The Practice of Lojong: Cultivating Compassion Through Training the Mind (Shambhala Publications, 2007).
- Jinpa, Thupten (trans.). Mind Training: The Great Collection (Wisdom Publications, 2014).
About the Facilitator
Nick Cutz has been on the Buddhist path since 2006 when he met his husband, Gus (who teaches the center’s Discovering Buddhism course). He has attended many teachings at the center over the past ten years. Nick’s practice is inspired by teachers across the Buddhist landscape, particularly Lama Yeshe, Ven. Robina Courtin, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. As part of Shantideva Center’s Communications team, he is responsible for publicizing the center’s events and managing the website. He as recently been trained as a K-12 mindfulness educator and also teaches ballroom dance.