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A classic mind training (lo-jong) text by Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa.
This mind training (lo-jong) root text was composed by Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa (1054–1123). The verses were translated by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery, 1980, and lightly edited by Ven.Constance Miller, 1997.

See also The Everflowing Nectar of Bodhicitta, a practice by Lama Zopa Rinpoche that combines the eight verses with the Thousand-arm Chenrezig practice, and his Commentary on The Everflowing Nectar of Bodhicitta,  taught at the Eighth Kopan Course in 1975.

Also refer to the Commentary on the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

1. Determined to obtain the greatest possible benefit from all sentient beings, who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel, I shall hold them most dear at all times.
2. When in the company of others, I shall always consider myself the lowest of all, and from the depths of my heart hold others dear and supreme.

3. Vigilant, the moment a delusion appears in my mind, endangering myself and others, I shall confront and avert it without delay.

4. Whenever I see beings who are wicked in nature and overwhelmed by violent negative actions and suffering, I shall hold such rare ones dear, as if I had found a precious treasure.

5. When, out of envy, others mistreat me with abuse, insults, or the like, I shall accept defeat and offer the victory to others.

6. When someone whom I have benefited and in whom I have great hopes gives me terrible harm, I shall regard that person as my holy guru.

7. In short, both directly and indirectly, do I offer every happiness and benefit to all my mothers. I shall secretly take upon myself all their harmful actions and suffering.

8. Undefiled by the stains of the superstitions of the eight worldly concerns, may I, by perceiving all phenomena as illusory, be released from the bondage of attachment.

A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna’s “Precious Garland": Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation. Analyzed, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1998.

Pabongka Rinpoche. Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Translated by Michael Richards. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991.

Shantideva. A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Translated by Vesna A. Wallace and B. Alan Wallace. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1997.

Sopa, Geshe Lhundub. Peacock in the Poison Grove. Edited and co-translated by Michael Sweet and Leonard Zwilling. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

Tegchok, Geshe Jampa. Transforming Adversity Into Joy And Courage: An Explanation Of The Thirty-Seven Practices Of Bodhisattvas. Edited by Thubten Chodron. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1999.

Tsong Khapa, Lama Je. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Three volumes translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2000, 2002, 2004.

Other teachings on the Seven-Point Mind Training

Chödrön, Pema. Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1994.

Druppa, Gyalwa Gendun, the First Dalai Lama. Training the Mind in the Great Way. Translated by Glenn H. Mullin. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1993.

Gehlek Rimpoche. Lojong: Training of the Mind in Seven Points (edited transcript). Ann Arbor: Jewel Heart Publications. See www.jewelheart.org.

Gomo Tulku. Becoming a Child of the Buddhas: A Simple Clarification of the Root Verses of Seven Point Mind Training. Translated and edited by Joan Nicell. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1998.

Gyalchok, Shönu & Könchok Gyaltsen (compilers). Mind Training: The Great Collection. Translated and edited by Thupten Jinpa. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2005. (This excellent book contains the root text and several important early commentaries to the Seven-Point
Mind Training
as well as many other essential mind training texts, more than forty in all.)

Gyatso, Tenzin, HH the Dalai Lama. Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.

Gyeltsen, Geshe Tsultim. Mirror of Wisdom: Teachings on Emptiness. Long Beach and Boston: TDL Archive and Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2000. (Contains a commentary on the Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun.)

Khyentse Rinpoche, Dilgo. Enlightened Courage: A Commentary on the Seven Point Mind Training. Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1993.

Konchog, Geshe Lama. A Commentary on the Seven Point Mind Training.

Kongtrul, Jamgon. The Great Path of Awakening. Translated by Ken McLeod. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1987.

Nam-kha Pel. Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun. Translated by Brian Beresford, edited by Jeremy Russell. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1992.

Pabongka Rinpoche. Op cit. Contains a translation of and a commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training, pp. 589–625.

Rabten, Geshe, and Geshe Dhargyey. Advice from a Spiritual Friend. Translated and edited by Brian Beresford, with Gonsar Tulku and Sharpa Tulku. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1977, 1996.

Tharchin, Sermey Khensur Lobsang. Achieving Bodhicitta. Howell: Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1999.

Trungpa, Chogyam. Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving Kindness. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1993.

Wallace, B. Alan. Buddhism With an Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind-Training. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2001.

———. The Seven-Point Mind Training. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications,
1992.

There’s also a website devoted to this practice: http://lojongmindtraining.com/

A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training

 by Pabongka Rinpoche 30

Homage to great compassion.
The essence of this nectar of secret instruction
Is transmitted from the master from Sumatra.

Revealing the features of the doctrine to engender
respect for the instruction

You should understand the significance of this instruction
As like a diamond, the sun and a medicinal tree.
This time of the five degenerations will then be transformed
Into the path to the fully awakened state.

The actual instruction for guiding the disciple
is given in seven points

1. Explaining the preliminaries as a basis for the practice

First, train in the preliminaries.

2. The actual practice, training in the awakening mind

(a) How to train in the ultimate awakening mind

(b) How to train in the conventional awakening mind

(According to most of the older records, the training in the ultimate awakening mind is dealt with first. However, according to our own tradition, following the gentle protector Tsongkhapa, as contained in such works as the Mind Training like the Rays of the Sun, Ornament for Losang’s Thought, The Essential Nectar and Keutsang’s Root Words, the order is reversed for special reasons.)

(b) Training in the conventional awakening mind

Banish the one to blame for everything,
Meditate on the great kindness of all beings.
Practice a combination of giving and taking.
Giving and taking should be practiced alternately
And you should begin by taking from yourself.
These two should be made to ride on the breath.

Concerning the three objects, three poisons and three virtues,
The instruction to be followed, in short,
Is to be mindful of the practice in general,
By taking these words to heart in all activities.

(a) Training in the ultimate awakening mind

When stability has been attained, impart the secret teaching:
Consider all phenomena as like dreams,
Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
The remedy itself is released in its own place,
Place the essence of the path on the nature of the basis of all.

In the period between sessions, be a creator of illusions.

3. Transforming adverse circumstances into the path to enlightenment

When the environment and its inhabitants overflow with unwholesomeness,
Transform adverse circumstances into the path to enlightenment.
Apply meditation immediately at every opportunity.
The supreme method is accompanied by the four practices.

4. The integrated practice of a single lifetime

In brief, the essence of the instruction is
To train in the five powers.
The five powers themselves are the Great Vehicle’s
Precept on the transference of consciousness.
Cultivate these paths of practice.

5. The measure of having trained the mind

Integrate all the teachings into one thought,
Primary importance should be given to the two witnesses,
Constantly cultivate only a peaceful mind.
The measure of a trained mind is that it has turned away,
There are five great marks of a trained mind.
The trained (mind) retains control even when distracted.

6. The commitments of mind training

1. Don’t go against the mind training you promised to observe,
2. Don’t be reckless in your practice,
3. Don’t be partial, always train in the three general points,
4. Transform your attitude but maintain your natural behavior,
5. Don’t speak of others’ incomplete qualities,
6. Don’t concern yourself with others’ business,
7. Train to counter whichever disturbing emotion is greatest,
8. Give up every hope of reward,
9. Avoid poisonous food,
10. Don’t maintain misplaced loyalty,
11. Don’t make sarcastic remarks,
12. Don’t lie in ambush,
13. Don’t strike at the vital point,
14. Don’t burden an ox with the load of a dzo,
15. Don’t abuse the practice,
16. Don’t sprint to win the race,
17. Don’t turn gods into devils,
18. Don’t seek others’ misery as a means to happiness.

7. The precepts of mind training

1. Every yoga should be performed as one,
2. All errors are to be amended by one means,
3. There are two activities—at beginning and end,
4. Whichever occurs, be patient with both,
5. Guard both at the cost of your life,
6. Train in the three difficulties,
7. Seek for the three principal causes,
8. Don’t let three factors weaken,
9. Never be parted from the three possessions,
10. Train consistently without partiality,
11. Value an encompassing and far-reaching practice,
12. Train consistently to deal with difficult situations,
13. Don’t rely on other conditions,
14. Engage in the principal practices right now,
15. Don’t apply a wrong understanding,
16. Don’t be sporadic,
17. Practice unflinchingly,
18. Release investigation and analysis,
19. Don’t be boastful,
20. Don’t be short-tempered,
21. Don’t make a short-lived attempt,
22. Don’t expect gratitude.

This is concluded with a quotation from Geshe Chekawa, who had an experience of the awakening mind:

My manifold aspirations have given rise
To humiliating criticism and suffering,
But, having received instructions for taming the misconception of self,
Even if I have to die, I have no regrets.

Colophon

In the literature of the old and new Kadampa there are many versions of the commentaries and root text of the Seven-Point Mind Training. The order of presentation and the number of words in them differs greatly. Some of them we cannot confidently incorporate within the outlines when we are giving an explanation, and some include unfamiliar verses in the root text. For these reasons I [Pabongka Rinpoche] had been thinking for a long time of producing a definitive root text by collating the editions to be found in the Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun, Ornament for Losang’s Thought and The Essential Nectar. When I was teaching the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment at Chamdo Jampa Ling in 1935 (wood-pig year), Lam-rimpa Phuntsog Palden, a single-minded practitioner, presented me a scarf and an offering and made such a request, so I have compiled this after careful research of many root texts and commentaries and supplemented it with outlines.

Notes

30From the appendices of Mind Training like the Rays of the Sun. [Return to text]

 

A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training 

There are twenty-two instructions, or pieces of advice, on mind training.

1. Every yoga should be performed as one,

We should combine everything we do—coming, going, sitting, sleeping, eating and all other activities—with the practices of mind training.

2. All errors are to be amended by one means,

We should maintain our mind training practice no matter whether things are going badly or well.

3. There are two activities—at beginning and end,

When we start any activity, we should generate a positive motivation, especially bodhicitta. When we finish, we should dedicate the merit.

4. Whichever occurs, be patient with both,

We should practice patience whether things go badly or well.

5. Guard both at the cost of your life,

We should hold on to Dharma instructions in general and those of mind training in particular, even at the cost of our life.

6. Train in the three difficulties,

The first difficulty is remembering and being mindful of the antidote to a particular afflictive emotion; the second is stopping an afflictive emotion when it begins to arise; and the third is completely severing that afflictive emotion for all time.

7. Seek for the three principal causes,

The first principal cause is to meet a good spiritual teacher; the second is to make the mind suitable, or serviceable, for practice—to put it into good shape; and the third is to eat and drink the right amount, neither too much nor too little.

8. Don’t let three factors weaken,

We should not let weaken our faith in and appreciation of our teacher, our delight in mind training, or our conscientiousness in activities of body, speech and mind.

9. Never be parted from the three possessions,

There are three things we should possess by becoming inseparable from them. Physically, we should make prostrations, circumambulate holy objects and so forth; verbally, make requests, recite mantras and so forth; and mentally, never separate from bodhicitta.

10. Train consistently without partiality,

We should practice equanimity and impartiality with all beings and not just be pleasant to our friends, unpleasant to our enemies and ignore or forget those who are neither friend nor enemy. We should be impartial to all.

We might wonder how to do this because friends help, enemies harm and others do neither, but that’s only because we’re looking at just this one present life. If we take into consideration our countless past lives’ experiences, there’s every reason to be impartial.

11. Value an encompassing and far-reaching practice,

We should maintain our practice of mind training at all times, in all situations and places.

“Encompassing and far-reaching” means that instead of our mind training being just words we should practice it from the heart.

12. Train consistently to deal with difficult situations,

“Closely related” 28 is the translation of a Tibetan term that has the connotation of “the few singled out from the many.” Who do we single out? First, our relatives and friends; second, our enemies; third, those whom we have helped a great deal in this life but have harmed us in response; fourth, those for whom we feel an instinctive dislike because of some particular personal connection, even though they have done us no identifiable harm; and fifth, our parents. It is said to be more difficult to train with these five; therefore they are singled out for special attention.

Let us look at the first of the five—literally, “people at home”; primarily, our partner. Since we have to spend so much time with this person there’s a specific risk that things might get fractious. Couples easily get upset with each other, which can lead to all sorts of problems. For instance, one of them has a hard time at work and comes home and takes it out on the other because there’s nobody else to take it out on. If this happens we should not immediately get upset and complain, “I haven’t done anything. What are you picking on me for?” thereby allowing it to develop into an argument. Instead, we should think that our partner must have had a bad day and is somebody I normally care about and who cares about and helps me so much, and simply let it be, remembering mainly the positive things in the relationship. Let things be and don’t let them get out of hand.

With our enemies and those who have harmed us in response to our help, we should practice patience.

With those for whom we feel an instinctive dislike just by seeing them even though they seem not to have harmed us, we should reflect very carefully on the situation and recognize it as just a karmic obstacle.

Sometimes our parents might scold or nag us. Instead of getting angry we should try to remember that they have always cared for us and been very kind. Even when the children have grown up and the parents are quite old, they still worry about what happens to their kids. We should think that their scolding and nagging is simply a reflection of how much they care for us and not get annoyed or upset with them.

13. Don’t rely on other conditions,

We should be particularly careful when things are going well because such times are very dangerous. If, for example, we have no worries about food, clothing, housing and so forth, our mind can get too relaxed, then distracted, and finally let go of the mind training practice altogether. We should be especially vigilant at such times.

We should also be very careful when things are going badly and we’re facing many difficulties because again we’re in danger of letting our mind training practice go.

It can be quite difficult to practice every single aspect of mind training so we should try to understand the main points in general and train in those. Then, when challenging circumstances arise, because of our familiarity with the main points of the practice, we’ll more easily be able to recollect and engage in them.

14. Engage in the principal practices right now,

This means that our future lives are more important than this one and that from looking at our present mind we can get a general sense of what kind of future life we’re headed for. Through persistently moving our mind in a positive direction by generating positive thoughts and so forth we can be fairly confident of a good future life. If, however, our mind tends to be more negative than positive, we can be fairly certain of an unfortunate rebirth. This can come about if, through ignorance or apathy, for example, we neglect to practice mind training and as a result our mind is constantly full of negative thoughts and moving in a negative direction.

In general, we should put all the Buddha’s teachings into practice, but the mind training ones contain the collected essence of the key points. In this context we can figure out what our most important personal issues are and therefore which practices we should concentrate on.

15. Don’t apply a wrong understanding,

There are six kinds of things we do out of wrong understanding.

The first two are wrong enthusiasm and patience, whereby we neglect our Dharma practice and meditation in favor of worldly activities such as drinking, smoking and so forth and allow ourselves to do so.

The third is wrong compassion, which means that instead of feeling compassion for worldly people, who are constantly creating non-virtue and the causes for tremendous suffering, we feel compassion for Dharma practitioners, who are working hard meditating, studying and so forth and therefore wearing ragged clothing and not getting much sleep.

Once there was an old lama who looked terrible because of his meager diet. Whenever he went to Lhasa people would feel sorry for him because he looked so pitiful and poor, but he found this quite strange and would tell them, “Well, actually, I feel sorry for you and the way you live.”

The fourth is wrong interest, which refers to things like monks getting their students—or parents their children—interested in worldly, negative activities instead of spiritual pursuits and Dharma practice.

The fifth is wrong aspiration, which means aspiring to worthless, worldly aims and actions instead of positive ones.

The sixth is wrong rejoicing, which means rejoicing in others’ negative actions instead of virtue and good deeds; for example, thinking of a famous person who has killed thousands of people, “Oh, he was really brave!”

16. Don’t be sporadic,

Instead of working hard at our practice for a short period and then giving it up for days, weeks or months at a time because we feel tired or fed up, we should be moderate in everything we do. Moderation in practice means pacing ourselves and practicing at a sustainable intensity. This also entails getting enough food, drink and sleep, all of which are necessary to sustain our body in support of our practice. This is much better than working very hard for a while and then completely giving up. Try to keep going. Some days we might be too busy to do very much, but when this happens we should not give up completely but let go a little, temporarily, and then continue steadily into the future.

17. Practice unflinchingly,

The point here is that the intelligent way to practice is to first think deeply about the teachings to make sure that they’re really going to bring the results they promise. For example, we’re encouraged to give up the selfish mind, practice altruism and work for the sake of others, so we should investigate carefully to see whether or not it’s true that if we do that we’ll benefit.

If we examine the teachings like this we will, in fact, find that by practicing in this way our self-cherishing will gradually diminish, our altruism gradually increase and we’ll eventually attain enlightenment. Moreover, it is said that when we attain enlightenment our own and others’ welfare are achieved simultaneously. Thus by practicing Dharma we will definitely get the results we seek.

Because we’re sentient beings, working for the sake of all beings also benefits us; when we accomplish something that benefits all living beings we’ll benefit too, just as when we do something for an entire nation we also benefit because we’re a part of that population. Through the skillful methods of Dharma, bodhisattvas achieve their own and others’ welfare simultaneously. They understand that through completely dedicating themselves to others’ welfare their own is taken care of by the way. Thus, when we generate bodhicitta, the determination to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, the purpose of others includes our own.

18. Release investigation and analysis,

Here, investigation means checking on a general level and analysis means checking in finer detail. Through checking in both ways we liberate ourselves from problems.

19. Don’t be boastful,

We should not show off when working for the benefit of others. When we generate bodhicitta we make a commitment to benefit others, so when we then do something that does benefit them we’re simply fulfilling our commitment, which is nothing to boast about.

20. Don’t be short-tempered,

We should not make a big fuss when somebody harms us in some small way.

21. Don’t make a short-lived attempt,

We should not be over-sensitive, getting euphoric when things go well or depressed when even small things go badly. Instead of always being up and down we should be steady, whether we’re dealing with our family, our partner, our workmates or anybody else with whom we’re in regular contact. Our emotions should not come and go like clouds in the sky.

22. Don’t expect gratitude.

We should not think how good it would be if people knew that we were practitioners in order to get their admiration and respect. Instead, we should keep our practice private. It’s OK if people happen to find out but we should avoid really wanting them to know about it.

When the Kadampa lamas of the past neared death they would say that they had spent their whole life practicing according to their teachers’ instructions as well as they could and that it was OK that the time of death had come. We too should try to practice like this.

Notes

28 Geshe Chekawa’s version of the root text in Advice from a Spiritual Friend has “Always meditate on those closely related” as the twelfth precept, which is presumably where this comment comes from. [Return to text]

 

A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training

Next are the eighteen samayas, or commitments, of mind training, which teach us to act in ways that are consistent with the mind training instructions.

1. Don’t go against the mind training you promised to observe,

2. Don’t be reckless in your practice,

3. Don’t be partial, always train in the three general points,

We should guard against thinking highly of ourselves just because we’re doing this practice for the sake of others and be unbiased in how we relate to all beings—not friendly to some and less friendly to others but friendly and helpful to all. 26

4. Transform your attitude but maintain your natural behavior,

We should change our mind from selfishness to altruism but at the same time avoid any external display of having done so. Rather than trying to create the impression that we have changed—like making our eyes look very compassionate to make people think that’s how we are— we should just behave normally.

5. Don’t speak of others’ incomplete qualities,

When somebody has a fault we should not broadcast it to everybody.

6. Don’t concern yourself with others’ business,

We should not be preoccupied with investigating other people’s faults as this is not our business.

7. Train to counter whichever disturbing emotion is greatest,

We should deal with our most evident—that is, most powerful—delusion first.

8. Give up every hope of reward,

When we work for the benefit of others it should truly be in order to attain enlightenment for their sake rather than our own.

9. Avoid poisonous food,

We should not practice mind training just to overcome spirits and so forth or to compete with others in realizations, which would merely perpetuate our delusions instead of destroying them by means of the antidote.

10. Don’t maintain misplaced loyalty,

We should not harbor a grudge against somebody who has harmed us in some way by nurturing a grudge and waiting to get revenge. This is similar to the twelfth commitment.

11. Don’t make sarcastic remarks,

We should not interfere when others are trying to achieve a virtuous goal or prevent them from doing something positive.

12. Don’t lie in ambush,

We should not lie in wait for an opportunity to get revenge on somebody who has harmed us.

13. Don’t strike at the vital point,

We should not undermine people in public or recite mantras to overcome spirits, gods and so forth.

14. Don’t burden an ox with the load of a dzo, 27

We should not try to cover up our own mistakes by making out that they are somebody else’s, blaming others for errors that are actually our own.

15. Don’t abuse the practice,

When working with other people, for example, collaborating on a project, we should not take all the credit, suggesting that although the others helped a bit, we ourselves did most of the work.

16. Don’t sprint to win the race,

We should not use mind training simply to overcome those harming us, for example, spirits, or to benefit just our family and friends.

17. Don’t turn gods into devils,

If through the mind training practice we become tricky, deceitful or proud, these are examples of turning a god into a devil. A god is supposed to be good but we turn it into a devil; we turn something good into something bad. We should not do this.

18. Don’t seek others’ misery as a means to happiness.

We should not give others a hard time or cause them to suffer just to find happiness for ourselves. We should not hope to gain happiness through the suffering of others in any way.

Notes

26 The three general points are these first three commitments. Geshe Tegchok addresses the first and third. Pabongka Rinpoche says that the second means not to use mind training as a pretext for not refraining from harming others by cutting down trees and so forth, pretending to have no more self-cherishing (Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, pp. 618–619). [Return to text]

27A dzo is a cross between a yak and a cow, and stronger than an ox. [Return to text]

 

A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind

The fifth point is the measure, or criterion, of success in the mind training practice. The text says,

Integrate all the teachings into one thought.

We should understand that the one underlying purpose behind all the teachings of the buddhas and bodhisattvas is the elimination of the self-cherishing and self-grasping minds.

Primary importance should be given to the two witnesses.

This means that if, for example, we’re falsely accused of stealing, even though we might be able to call up a witness to testify to our innocence, we ourselves are the main witness because we know that we are, in fact, innocent and will not have to experience the karmic results of this action that we have not actually created.

Constantly cultivate only a peaceful mind.

We must sustain our practice whether things are going badly or well. When they go badly we sustain ourselves by using the techniques of transforming difficulties into the path, and, in this way, whatever happens, always maintain our practice and remain on the spiritual path.

Some people tend to get angry at the slightest provocation and say or do all kinds of destructive things. We should not be like that but try to remain steady in our practice. Instead of being touchy and easily upset, when things go badly we should think that it’s OK; we should be easygoing. Equally, when things go well, we should think that that’s OK too and be easygoing at such times as well. Everybody appreciates easygoing people and their consistency throughout the day. This is how we should be in our practice.

The measure of a trained mind is that it has turned away.

At this point the commentary mentions certain signs indicating some success in our mind training. For example, when we’ve been practicing for a while, even though we might not have fully abandoned every last sign of selfishness, having been able to weaken it a little is a sign of success. In other words, we know that we’re doing well if our selfishness has at least diminished.

There are five great marks of a trained mind.

A person who has practiced mind training may exhibit five great signs:

(a) The great ascetic—when we’re well trained we can accept all kinds of suffering if doing so enables us to benefit others and sustain our practice and can tolerate difficulties for the benefit of all beings or even just the community in which we live. It has various levels.

(b) The great being—we care more for others than ourselves.

(c) The great practitioner—our mental, verbal and physical activities mostly, though not completely, accord with mind training.

(d) The great disciplined one—we refrain from activities that harm others.

(e) The great yogi [or yogini]—we can combine the understanding of emptiness with our activities on various levels for the benefit of others.

By persevering in our practice of mind training we’ll find that these five signs gradually manifest and then become stronger and stronger.

The trained (mind) retains control even when distracted.

The commentary says that when we have trained our mind we can maintain control and continue practicing even when we’re distracted, just like an experienced horse rider doesn’t fall off, even when distracted.

 

A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta

So far we have looked at the source of this instruction and its qualities. This section shows how the teacher should lead students through the instruction. Because the text explains the practice in seven sections, it is called the Seven-Point Mind Training.

The first of the seven points is stated in the line

First, train in the preliminaries.

While mind training is a practice of the person of great scope, it depends upon the preliminaries, which are practices explained mainly for persons of small and middle scopes. There are four. The practices for a person of small scope are thinking about

(a) the precious human life—how difficult to achieve and valuable it is;

(b) impermanence—in the sense of meditating mindfully on death; and

(c) refuge and karma—the explanation of karma and its results is the advice we should follow after going for refuge.

The practices for a person of middle scope, which are based on the above, are mainly

(d) meditating on the faults and sufferings of cyclic existence.

However, we don’t have time here to discuss all these small and middle scope preliminary practices in detail.8

Notes

8For detailed teachings on all three scopes see, for example, The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand.

A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training

The subject of this teaching is mind training [Tib: lo-jong],4 which has the connotation of cleansing, or purifying, our mental,verbal and physical actions. Actually, from that point of view, all the Buddha’s teachings are mind training in that they were all given for training the body, speech and mind.

The source of this teaching

This text, the Seven-Point Mind Training, is associated with Atisha, a great scholar and practitioner born in India in the tenth century. He received this teaching from Serlingpa, “The Man (or Teacher) from the Golden Isle,” which refers to Sumatra.

There are two methods for generating and practicing bodhicitta, the sevenfold cause and effect instruction, which, during Atisha’s time, was available in India, and the method of exchanging self and others, which was not. Therefore Atisha had to undertake the difficult, thirteen-month journey from India to Indonesia to receive the teachings on exchanging self and others.

The text begins5

Homage to great compassion

The term “great compassion” may be understood on two levels: interpretive and definitive. On the interpretive level, it refers to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion; on the definitive level, it is the mind wanting to free all beings from suffering. This is the compassion that is important at the beginning, like a seed; in the middle, like the moisture and nutrition that make a plant grow; and at the end, like the ripening of the fruit.

The essence of this nectar of secret instruction
Is transmitted from the master from Sumatra, Serlingpa.

These two lines explain the great qualities of the teacher in order to generate confidence in the source of the mind training teachings. They originated with the Buddha himself and have come down to us today through an unbroken lineage of masters, including Serlingpa and Atisha.

Generally speaking, nectar means immortality—here it specifically indicates something that overpowers the various demonic forces that put an end to our life. Thus it actually indicates the Buddha, because the story of the Buddha tells how he overcame those forces. So when the text says “this nectar” it shows that this teaching has come from the Buddha.

He actually taught the method of generating bodhicitta through equalizing and exchanging self and others in a couple of sutras where he described how he had practiced it himself in previous lives. This teaching on exchanging self and others then passed down from master to master until it reached the great Nagarjuna, who wrote in his text, the Precious Garland of the Middle Way,

May the negativity and suffering of others ripen on me
And may all my virtue and happiness ripen on them.6

Buddha Maitreya also taught it in his Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras and Asanga taught it in his seven treatises on the levels, specifically in his Bodhisattva Levels. Moreover, Shantideva taught this subject very clearly in his Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, where he explained exactly what equalizing and exchanging self and others means. Thus this lineage shows that this teaching comes from an authentic source—the Buddha—and is not something newly fabricated.

The root text continues:

You should understand the significance of this instruction
As like a diamond, the sun and a medicinal tree.
This time of the five degenerations will then be transformed
Into the path to the fully awakened state.

This section, an explanation of the greatness of the text, is designed to excite our interest in it. The second line says “like a diamond, the sun and a medicinal tree,” the Tibetan word dorje [Skt: vajra] being translated as “diamond” here. Even a small fragment of diamond is more valuable than gold or other precious substances, so a diamond is said to outshine them all. Similarly, even a small, partial instruction from the Seven-Point Mind Training is exceptionally powerful and very effective for destroying our selfishness, and in that way it surpasses all other kinds of teaching.

Then it says that mind training is like the sun. Of course, when the sun is up and fully visible in the sky it completely illuminates the land, but even before it has actually arisen its light dispels much of the darkness of the night. Similarly, even when we understand or practice only a part of mind training it is already very powerful in overcoming selfishness and the other delusions.

Finally, mind training is likened to a medicinal tree, whose roots, trunk, branches, flowers and leaves are all therapeutic, making the whole tree medicinal. Therefore, while of course the whole tree can cure disease, even one of its leaves or petals is similarly effective, and in the same way, even a partial explanation of this mind training is very powerful in overcoming the negative mind.

Therefore, just as diamonds, the sun and medicinal trees are regarded as important and precious, so, too, is this mind training teaching.

The last two lines of this verse say “This time of the five degenerations will then be transformed into the path to the fully awakened state.” Without going into the time of the five degenerations in detail, it refers to a period such as the present, when people’s minds and activities have degenerated.7 For instance, even though we have used our mind to make incredible technological advances—for example, we have harnessed nuclear power with all its positive uses—we have also used that very same intelligence to create weapons of mass destruction.

Somehow, ours is a time of fear, and in that sense it is degenerate. Nuclear power stations can be very dangerous if they malfunction and nuclear weapons obviously threaten us all. There are many adverse circumstances within our external environment and our own minds and bodies that likewise cause us many problems. At such times it is very easy for practitioners to completely abandon their practice. If we fail to respond to such difficulties properly we will experience only negative consequences.

We’re liable to face many dangerous and harmful situations where not only do we risk giving up even trying to practice Dharma but sometimes things are so bad that we end up killing ourselves. Usually we’re very fond of ourselves—nobody cares for us as much as we do—but when the going gets rough some of us even kill ourselves.

Therefore, instead of just letting things be, we need to find a method that enables us to transform unfavorable conditions into a support for our practice and not let them stop us from doing it altogether.

Notes

4 Sometimes translated as thought transformation. [Return to text]

5 In this commentary, the root text is indented and italicized; quotations from other sources are indented but not italicized. [Return to text]

6 Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation, p.162, verse 484. [Return to text]

7 The five degenerations are those of life span, view, delusion, sentient beings and time. See Advice from a Spiritual Friend, pp. 86–87, for a brief description. [Return to text]

 

A Commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Editors’ Introduction

We are extremely fortunate to live at a time when the Mahayana mind training teachings abound. There was a time not so long ago when they were much harder to find. Of course, as many lamas point out, all of the Buddha’s teachings are for training the mind, in that mind training can be said to be the subject of the oftquoted verse,

Do not commit any non-virtuous actions,
Perform only virtuous actions,
Subdue your mind thoroughly—
This is the teaching of the Buddha.1

But in the Tibetan tradition, at least, the connotation of mind training is the development of bodhicitta, the determination to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. And of the various methods for the development of bodhicitta, mind training emphasizes the practice of transforming suffering into happiness, using the various problems and obstacles we encounter in life as supports for our spiritual practice and not allowing them to overwhelm us or even slow us down.

Based on a couple of lines from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, the main Tibetan source of the mind training teachings is Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s Seven-Point Mind Training. Currently there are at least fourteen English-language commentaries on this text by both Tibetan and Western teachers, as detailed in the bibliography of this book, which is another reason that we’re extremely fortunate. However, the availability of these teachings is not enough. We have to put them into practice.

Therefore we are most grateful to the great Geshe Jampa Tegchok for adding his lucid explanation of how to practice mind training. With reference to a special Tibetan commentary,2 he engages us in a debate between our inner selfish voice and our altruistic motivation, which makes this teaching especially personal in helping us take on that greatest of challenges—defeating the false logic of our own selfishness. We are honored to have been able to edit this oral teaching to make it available for worldwide distribution free of charge.

We thank Ven. Steve Carlier for his excellent translation, Ven. Geshe Lhakdor, director of the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives, Dharamsala, for allowing us to use the translation of Pabongka Rinpoche’s edition of the root text found in the LTWA’s Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun, Clive Arrowsmith for his beautiful photography, and Jeff Cox of Snow Lion Publications for sending us Alan Wallace’s teachings for reference.

Notes
1. The Dhammapada, Chapter 14.
2. See Chapter 10: Conclusion.

Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok gives a commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training.
In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.

You can read this book here or order a print copy or ebook version of the book from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

The Kindness of Others
The Kindness of Others: Editor's Introduction
Chapter One: Motivation
Chapter Two: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Chapter Three: The First Point - The Preliminaries as a Basis for the Practice, Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Four: The Second Point - The Actual Practice,Training in Bodhicitta
Chapter Five: The Third Point - Transforming Adverse Circumstances into the Path
Chapter Six: The Fourth Point - The Integrated Practice of a Single Lifetime
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Point - The Measure of Having Trained the Mind
Chapter Eight: The Sixth Point - The Commitments of Mind Training
Chapter Nine: The Seventh Point - The Precepts of Mind Training
Chapter Ten: Conclusion
Appendix: The Seven-Point Mind Training
Bibliography and Recommended Reading

Geshe Jampa Tegchok

"Shantideva pointed out that everything good—every form of happiness, all positive qualities and so forth—comes through the kindness of others. Therefore, the mind devoted to their welfare is like a wish-fulfilling jewel, the source of all happiness and everything good and useful in the world. Just as a farmer who possesses an extremely fertile field, where everything he plants always grows, is very happy to have it and cherishes and takes great care of it, we should feel the same way about other sentient beings—that they are extremely valuable, and cherish and take care of them.

"It is interesting that, whether we are Buddhist or not, if we think about the great kindness of all beings it will be evident that all our happiness does indeed depend upon them."

In this book, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Tegchok explains how we can train our mind away from self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering, and develop compassion, the cause of everything that is good. He bases his explanation on Kadampa Geshe Chekawa’s classic text, The Seven Point Mind Training, which, amongst other things, teaches us how to transform problems into happiness.


 

A commentary given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the text written by Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa in Dharamsala, India, 1981.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave this teaching in Dharamsala, 7 October 1981. It was translated by Alexander Berzin, clarified by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, edited by Nicholas Ribush and first published in the souvenir booklet for Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre's Second Dharma Celebration, November 5-8 1982, New Delhi, India. This teaching was published in 2005 in the LYWA publication Teachings From Tibet.

See also the newly updated Eight Verses of Thought Transformation root text and The Everflowing Nectar of Bodhicitta, a text composed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche that combines the Thousand-arm Chenrezig practice with the eight verses.

Also refer to the Commentary on The Everflowing Nectar of Bodhicitta, teachings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the Eighth Kopan Course in 1975.

The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, a text by the Kadampa geshe Langri Tangpa, explains the Paramitayana practice of method and wisdom: the first seven verses deal with method—loving kindness, bodhicitta—and the eighth deals with wisdom.1

1. Determined to obtain the greatest possible benefit for all sentient beings, who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel, I shall hold them most dear at all times.

We ourselves and all other beings want to be happy and completely free from suffering. In this we are all exactly equal. However, each of us is only one, while other beings are infinite in number.

Now, there are two attitudes to consider: that of selfishly cherishing ourselves and that of cherishing others. The self-cherishing attitude makes us very uptight; we think we are extremely important and our basic desire is for ourselves to be happy and for things to go well for us. Yet we don’t know how to bring this about. In fact, acting out of self-cherishing can never make us happy.

Those who have the attitude of cherishing others regard all other beings as much more important than themselves and value helping others above all else. And, acting in this way, incidentally they themselves become very happy. For example, politicians who are genuinely concerned with helping or serving other people are recorded in history with respect, while those who are constantly exploiting and doing bad things to others go down as examples of bad people.

Leaving aside, for the moment, religion, the next life and nirvana, even within this life selfish people bring negative repercussions down upon themselves by their self-centered actions. On the other hand, people like Mother Teresa, who sincerely devote their entire life and energy to selflessly serving the poor, needy and helpless, are always remembered for their noble work with respect; others don’t have anything negative to say about them. This, then, is the result of cherishing others: whether you want it or not, even those who are not your relatives always like you, feel happy with you and have a warm feeling towards you. If you are the sort of person who always speaks nicely in front of others but badmouths them behind their back, of course, nobody will like you.

Thus, even in this life, if we try to help others as much as we can and have as few selfish thoughts as possible, we shall experience much happiness. Our life is not very long; one hundred years at most. If throughout its duration we try to be kind, warm-hearted, concerned for the welfare of others and less selfish and angry, that will be wonderful, excellent; that really is the cause of happiness. If we are selfish, always putting ourselves first and others second, the actual result will be that we ourselves will finish up last. Mentally putting ourselves last and others first is the way to come out ahead.

So don’t worry about the next life or nirvana; these things will come gradually. If within this life you remain a good, warm-hearted, unselfish person, you will be a good citizen of the world. Whether you are a Buddhist, a Christian or a communist is irrelevant; the important thing is that as long as you are a human being you should be a good human being. That is the teaching of Buddhism; that is the message carried by all the world’s religions.

However, the teachings of Buddhism contain every technique for eradicating selfishness and actualizing the attitude of cherishing others. Shantideva’s marvelous text, the Bodhicaryavatara [A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life], for example, is very helpful for this. I myself practice according to that book; it is extremely useful. Our mind is very cunning, very difficult to control, but if we make constant effort, work tirelessly with logical reasoning and careful analysis, we shall be able to control it and change it for the better.

Some Western psychologists say that we should not repress our anger but express it—that we should practice anger! However, we must make an important distinction here between mental problems that should be expressed and those that should not. Sometimes you may be truly wronged and it is right for you to express your grievance instead of letting it fester inside you. But you should not express it with anger. If you foster disturbing negative minds such as anger they will become a part of your personality; each time you express anger it becomes easier to express it again. You do it more and more until you are simply a furious person completely out of control. Thus, in terms of mental problems, there are certainly some that are properly expressed but others that are not.

At first when you try to control disturbing negative minds it is difficult. The first day, the first week, the first month you cannot control them well. But with constant effort your negativities will gradually decrease. Progress in mental development does not come about through taking medicines or other chemical substances; it depends on controlling the mind.

Thus we can see that if we want to fulfill our wishes, be they temporal or ultimate, we should rely on other sentient beings much more than on wish-granting gems and always cherish them above all else.

Q. Is the whole purpose of this practice to improve our minds or actually to do something to help others? What is more important?
His Holiness. Both are important. First, if we do not have pure motivation, whatever we do may not be satisfactory. Therefore, the first thing we should do is cultivate pure motivation. But we do not have to wait until that motivation is fully developed before actually doing something to help others. Of course, to help others in the most effective way possible we have to be fully enlightened buddhas. Even to help others in vast and extensive ways we need to have attained one of the levels of a bodhisattva, that is, to have had the experience of a direct, non-conceptual perception of the reality of emptiness and to have achieved the powers of extra-sensory perception. Nonetheless, there are many levels of help we can offer others. Even before we have achieved these qualities we can try to act like bodhisattvas, but naturally our actions will be less effective than theirs. Therefore, without waiting until we are fully qualified, we can generate a good motivation and with that try to help others as best we can. This is a more balanced approach and better than simply staying somewhere in isolation doing some meditation and recitations. Of course, this depends very much on the individual. If we are confident that by staying in a remote place we can gain definite realizations within a certain period, that is different. Perhaps it is best to spend half our time in active work and the other half in the practice of meditation.

Q. Tibet was a Buddhist country. If these values you are describing are Buddhist ones, why was there so much imbalance in Tibetan society.
His Holiness. Human weakness. Although Tibet was certainly a Buddhist country, it had its share of bad, corrupt people. Even some of the religious institutions, the monasteries, became corrupt and turned into centers of exploitation. But all the same, compared with many other societies, Tibet was much more peaceful and harmonious and had fewer problems than they.

2. When in the company of others, I shall always consider myself the lowest of all, and from the depths of my heart hold others dear and supreme.

No matter who we are with, we often think things like, “I am stronger than him,” “I am more beautiful than her,” “I am more intelligent,” “I am wealthier,” “I am much better qualified” and so forth—we generate much pride. This is not good. Instead, we should always remain humble. Even when we are helping others and are engaged in charity work we should not regard ourselves in a haughty way as great protectors benefiting the weak. This, too, is pride. Rather, we should engage in such activities very humbly and think that we are offering our services up to the people.

When we compare ourselves with animals, for instance, we might think, “I have a human body” or “I’m an ordained person” and feel much higher than them. From one point of view we can say that we have human bodies and are practicing the Buddha’s teachings and are thus much better than insects. But from another, we can say that insects are very innocent and free from guile, whereas we often lie and misrepresent ourselves in devious ways in order to achieve our ends or better ourselves. From this point of view we have to say that we are much worse than insects, which just go about their business without pretending to be anything. This is one method of training in humility.

3. Vigilant, the moment a delusion appears in my mind, endangering myself and others, I shall confront and avert it without delay.

If we investigate our minds at times when we are very selfish and preoccupied with ourselves to the exclusion of others, we shall find that the disturbing negative minds are the root of this behavior. Since they greatly disturb our minds, the moment we notice that we are coming under their influence, we should apply some antidote to them. The general opponent to all the disturbing negative minds is meditation on emptiness, but there are also antidotes to specific ones that we, as beginners, can apply. Thus, for attachment, we meditate on ugliness; for anger, on love; for closed-minded ignorance, on dependent arising; for many disturbing thoughts, on the breath and energy winds.

Q. Which dependent arising?
His Holiness. The twelve links of dependent arising, or interdependent origination. They start from ignorance and go through to aging and death.2 On a more subtle level you can use dependent arising as a cause for establishing that things are empty of true existence.

Q. Why should we meditate on ugliness to overcome attachment?
His Holiness. We develop attachment to things because we see them as very attractive. Trying to view them as unattractive, or ugly, counteracts that. For example, we might develop attachment to another person’s body, seeing his or her figure as something very attractive. When you start to analyze this attachment you find that it is based on viewing merely the skin. However, the nature of this body that appears to us as beautiful is that of the flesh, blood, bones, skin and so forth, of which it is composed. Now let’s analyze human skin: take your own, for example. If a piece of it comes off and you put it on your shelf for a few days it becomes really repulsive. This is the nature of skin. All parts of the body are the same. There is no beauty in a piece of human flesh; when you see blood you might feel afraid, not attached. Even a beautiful face: if it gets scratched there is nothing nice about it; wash off the paint—there is nothing left! Ugliness is the nature of the physical body. Human bones, the skeleton, are also repulsive; a skull-and-crossed-bones has a very negative connotation.

So that is the way to analyze something towards which you feel attachment, or love—using this word in the negative sense of desirous attachment. Think more of the object’s ugly side; analyze the nature of the person or thing from that point of view. Even if this does not control your attachment completely, at least it will help subdue it a little. This is the purpose of meditating on or building up the habit of looking at the ugly aspect of things.

The other kind of love, or kindness, is not based on the reasoning that “such and such a person is beautiful, therefore, I shall show respect and kindness.” The basis for pure love is, “This is a living being that wants happiness, does not want suffering and has the right to be happy. Therefore, I should feel love and compassion.” This kind of love is entirely different from the first, which is based on ignorance and therefore totally unsound. The reasons for loving kindness are sound. With the love that is simply attachment, the slightest change in the object, such as a tiny change of attitude, immediately causes you to change. This is because your emotion is based on something very superficial. Take, for example, a new marriage. Often after a few weeks, months or years the couple become enemies and finish up getting divorced. They married deeply in love—nobody chooses to marry with hatred—but after a short time everything changed. Why? Because of the superficial basis of the relationship; a small change in one person causes a complete change of attitude in the other.

We should think, “The other person is a human being like me. Certainly I want happiness; therefore, she must want happiness, too. As a sentient being I have the right to happiness; for the same reason she, too, has the right to happiness.” This kind of sound reasoning gives rise to pure love and compassion. Then no matter how our view of that person changes—from good to bad to ugly—she is basically the same sentient being. Thus, since the main reason for showing loving kindness is always there, our feelings towards the other are perfectly stable.

The antidote to anger is meditation on love, because anger is a very rough, coarse mind that needs to be softened with love.

When we enjoy the objects to which we are attached, we do experience a certain pleasure but, as Nagarjuna has said, it is like having an itch and scratching it; it gives us some pleasure but we would be far better off if we did not have the itch in the first place.3 Similarly, when we get the things with which we are obsessed we feel happy, but we’d be far better off if we were free from the attachment that causes us to become obsessed with things.

4. Whenever I see beings that are wicked in nature4 and overwhelmed by violent negative actions and suffering, I shall hold such rare ones dear, as if I had found a precious treasure.

If we run into somebody who is by nature very cruel, rough, nasty and unpleasant, our usual reaction is to avoid him. In such situations our loving concern for others is liable to decrease. Instead of allowing our love for others to weaken by thinking what an evil person he is, we should see him as a special object of love and compassion and cherish that person as though we had come across a precious treasure, difficult to find.

5. When, out of envy, others mistreat me with abuse, insults or the like, I shall accept defeat and offer the victory to others.

If somebody insults, abuses or criticizes us, saying that we are incompetent and don’t know how to do anything and so forth, we are likely to get very angry and contradict what the person has said. We should not react in this way; instead, with humility and tolerance, we should accept what has been said.

Where it says that we should accept defeat and offer the victory to others, we have to differentiate two kinds of situation. If, on the one hand, we are obsessed with our own welfare and very selfishly motivated, we should accept defeat and offer victory to the other, even if our life is at stake. But if, on the other hand, the situation is such that the welfare of others is at stake, we have to work very hard and fight for the rights of others, and not accept the loss at all.

One of the forty-six secondary vows of a bodhisattva refers to a situation in which somebody is doing something very harmful and you have to use forceful methods or whatever else is necessary to stop that person’s actions immediately—if you don’t, you have transgressed that commitment.5 It might appear that this bodhisattva vow and the fifth stanza, which says that one must accept defeat and give the victory to the other, are contradictory but they are not. The bodhisattva precept deals with a situation in which one’s prime concern is the welfare of others: if somebody is doing something extremely harmful and dangerous it is wrong not to take strong measures to stop it if necessary.

Nowadays, in very competitive societies, strong defensive or similar actions are often required. The motivation for these should not be selfish concern but extensive feelings of kindness and compassion towards others. If we act out of such feelings to save others from creating negative karma this is entirely correct.

Q. It may sometimes be necessary to take strong action when we see something wrong, but whose judgment do we trust for such decisions? Can we rely on our own perception of the world?
His Holiness. That’s complicated. When you consider taking the loss upon yourself you have to see whether giving the victory to the others is going to benefit them ultimately or only temporarily. You also have to consider the effect that taking the loss upon yourself will have on your power or ability to help others in the future. It is also possible that by doing something that is harmful to others now you create a great deal of merit that will enable you to do things vastly beneficial for others in the long run; this is another factor you have to take into account.

As it says in the Bodhicaryavatara, you have to examine, both superficially and deeply, whether the benefits of doing a prohibited action outweigh the shortcomings. At times when it is difficult to tell, you should check your motivation. In the Shiksa-Samuccaya, Shantideva says that the benefits of an action done with bodhicitta outweigh the negativities of doing it without such motivation. Although it is extremely important, it can sometimes be very difficult to see the dividing line between what to do and what not to do, therefore you should study the texts that explain about such things. In lower texts it will say that certain actions are prohibited while higher ones tell you that those same actions are allowed. The more you know about all of this the easier it will be to decide what to do in any situation.6

6. When somebody whom I have benefited and in whom I have great hopes gives me terrible harm, I shall regard that person as my holy guru.

Usually we expect people whom we have helped a great deal to be very grateful and if they react to us with ingratitude we are likely to get angry. In such situations we should not get upset but practice patience instead. Moreover, we should see such people as teachers testing our patience and therefore treat them with respect. This verse contains all the Bodhicaryavatara teachings on patience.7

7. In short, both directly and indirectly, I offer every happiness and benefit to all my mothers. I shall secretly take upon myself all their harmful actions and suffering.

This refers to the practice of taking upon ourselves all the sufferings of others and giving away to them all our happiness, motivated by strong compassion and love. We ourselves want happiness and do not want suffering and can see that all other beings feel the same. We can see, too, that other beings are overwhelmed by suffering but do not know how to get rid of it. Thus, we should generate the intention of taking on all their suffering and negative karma and pray for it to ripen upon ourselves immediately. Likewise it is obvious that other beings are devoid of the happiness they seek and do not know how to find it. Thus, without a trace of miserliness, we should offer them all our happiness—our body, wealth and merits—and pray for it to ripen on them immediately.

Of course, it is most unlikely that we shall actually be able to take on the sufferings of others and give them our happiness. When such transference between beings does occur, it is the result of some very strong unbroken karmic connection from the past. However, this meditation is a very powerful means of building up courage in our minds and is, therefore, a highly beneficial practice.

In the Seven Point Thought Transformation it says that we should alternate the practices of taking and giving and mount them on the breath.8 And here, Langri Tangpa says these should be done secretly. As it is explained in the Bodhicaryavatara, this practice does not suit the minds of beginner bodhisattvas—it is something for a select few practitioners. Therefore, it is called secret.

Q. In the Bodhicaryavatara, Shantideva says: “…if for the sake of others I cause harm to myself, I shall acquire all that is magnificent.”9 On the other hand, Nagarjuna says that one should not mortify the body. So, in what way does Shantideva mean one should harm oneself?
His Holiness. This does not mean that you have to hit yourself on the head or something like that. Shantideva is saying that at times when strong, self-cherishing thoughts arise you have to argue very strongly with yourself and use forceful means to subdue them; in other words, you have to harm your self-cherishing mind. You have to distinguish clearly between the I that is completely obsessed with its own welfare and the I that is going to become enlightened: there is a big difference. And you have to see this verse of the Bodhicaryavatara in the context of the verses that precede and follow it. There are many different ways the I is discussed: the grasping at a true identity for the I, the self-cherishing I, the I that we join with in looking at things from the viewpoint of others and so forth. You have to see the discussion of the self in these different contexts.

If it really benefits others, if it benefits even one sentient being, it is appropriate for us to take upon ourselves the suffering of the three realms of existence or to go to one of the hells, and we should have the courage to do this. In order to reach enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings we should be happy and willing to spend countless eons in the lowest hell, Avici. This is what is meant by taking the harms that afflict others upon ourselves.

Q. What would we have to do to get to the lowest hell?
His Holiness. The point is to develop the courage to be willing to go to one of the hells; it doesn’t mean you actually have to go there. When the Kadampa geshe Chekawa was dying, he suddenly called in his disciples and asked them to make special offerings, ceremonies and prayers for him because his practice had been unsuccessful. The disciples were very upset because they thought something terrible was about to happen. However, the geshe explained that although all his life he had been praying to be born in the hells for the benefit of others, he was now receiving a pure vision of what was to follow—he was going to be reborn in a pure land instead of the hells—and that’s why he was upset. In the same way, if we develop a strong, sincere wish to be reborn in the lower realms for the benefit of others, we accumulate a vast amount of merit that brings about the opposite result.

That’s why I always say, if we are going to be selfish we should be wisely selfish. Real, or narrow, selfishness causes us to go down; wise selfishness brings us buddhahood. That’s really wise! Unfortunately, what we usually do first is get attached to buddhahood. From the scriptures we understand that to attain buddhahood we need bodhicitta and that without it we can’t become enlightened; thus we think, “I want buddhahood, therefore I have to practice bodhicitta.” We are not so much concerned about bodhicitta as about buddhahood. This is absolutely wrong. We should do the opposite; forget the selfish motivation and think how really to help others.

If we go to hell we can help neither others nor ourselves. How can we help? Not just by giving them something or performing miracles, but by teaching Dharma. However, first we must be qualified to teach. At present we cannot explain the whole path—all the practices and experiences that one person has to go through from the first stage up to the last, enlightenment. Perhaps we can explain some of the early stages through our own experience, but not much more than that. To be able to help others in the most extensive way by leading them along the entire path to enlightenment we must first enlighten ourselves. For this reason we should practice bodhicitta. This is entirely different from our usual way of thinking, where we are compelled to think of others and dedicate our heart to them because of selfish concern for our own enlightenment. This way of going about things is completely false, a sort of lie.

Q. I read in a book that just by practicing Dharma we prevent nine generations of our relatives from rebirth in hell. Is this true?
His Holiness. This is a little bit of advertising! In fact it is possible that something like this could happen, but in general it’s not so simple. Take, for example, our reciting the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM and dedicating the merit of that to our rapidly attaining enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. We can’t say that just by reciting mantras we shall quickly attain enlightenment, but we can say that such practices act as contributory causes for enlightenment. Likewise, while our practicing Dharma will not itself protect our relatives from lower rebirths, it may act as a contributory cause for this.

If this were not the case, if our practice could act as the principal cause of a result experienced by others, it would contradict the law of karma, the relationship between cause and effect. Then we could simply sit back and relax and let all the buddhas and bodhisattvas do everything for us; we would not have to take any responsibility for our own welfare. However, the fully enlightened one said that all he can do is teach us the Dharma, the path to liberation from suffering, and then it’s up to us to put it into practice—he washed his hands of that responsibility! As Buddhism teaches that there is no creator and that we create everything for ourselves, we are therefore our own masters—within the limits of the law of cause and effect. And this law of karma teaches that if we do good things we shall experience good results and if we do bad things we shall experience unhappiness.

Q. How do we cultivate patience?
His Holiness. There are many methods.10 Knowledge of and faith in the law of karma themselves engender patience. You realize, “This suffering I’m experiencing is entirely my own fault, the result of actions I myself created in the past. Since I can’t escape it I have to put up with it. However, if I want to avoid suffering in the future I can do so by cultivating virtues such as patience. Getting irritated or angry with this suffering will only create negative karma, the cause for future misfortune.” This is one way of practicing patience.

Another thing you can do is meditate on the suffering nature of the body: “This body and mind are the basis for all kinds of suffering; it is natural and by no means unexpected that suffering should arise from them.” This sort of realization is very helpful for the development of patience.

You can also recall what it says in the Bodhicaryavatara:

Why be unhappy about something
If it can be remedied?
And what is the use of being unhappy about something
If it cannot be remedied?11

If there is a method of overcoming your suffering or an opportunity to do so, you have no need to worry. If there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, worrying cannot help you at all. This is both very simple and very clear.

Something else you can do is to contemplate the disadvantages of getting angry and the advantages of practicing patience. We are human beings—one of our better qualities is our ability to think and judge. If we lose patience and get angry, we lose our ability to make proper judgments and thereby lose one of the most powerful instruments we have for tackling problems: our human wisdom. This is something that animals do not have. If we lose patience and get irritated we are damaging this precious instrument. We should remember this; it is far better to have courage and determination and face suffering with patience.

Q. How can we be humble yet at the same time realistic about the good qualities that we possess?
His Holiness. You have to differentiate between confidence in your abilities and pride. You should have confidence in whatever good qualities and skills you have and use them courageously, but you shouldn’t feel arrogantly proud of them. Being humble doesn’t mean feeling totally incompetent and helpless. Humility is cultivated as the opponent of pride, but we should use whatever good qualities we have to the full.

Ideally, you should have a great deal of courage and strength but not boast about or make a big show of it. Then, in times of need, you should rise to the occasion and fight bravely for what is right. This is perfect. If you have none of these good qualities but go around boasting how great you are and in times of need completely shrink back, you’re just the opposite. The first person is very courageous but has no pride; the other is very proud but has no courage.

8. Undefiled by the stains of the superstitions of the eight worldly concerns, may I, by perceiving all phenomena as illusory, be released from the bondage of attachment.

This verse deals with wisdom. All the preceding practices should not be defiled by the stains of the superstitions of the eight worldly dharmas. These eight can be referred to as white, black or mixed.12 I think it should be all right if I explain this verse from the point of view of the practices being done without their being stained by the wrong conception of clinging to true existence—the superstition of the eight dharmas.13

How does one avoid staining one’s practice in this way? By recognizing all existence as illusory and not clinging to true existence. In this way, one is liberated from the bondage of this type of clinging.

To explain the meaning of “illusory” here: true existence appears in the aspect of various objects, wherever they are manifest, but in fact there is no true existence there. True existence appears, but there is none—it is an illusion. Even though everything that exists appears as truly existent, it is devoid of true existence. To see that objects are empty of true existence—that even though true existence appears there is none, it is illusory—one should have definite understanding of the meaning of emptiness: the emptiness of the manifest appearance.

First one should be certain that all phenomena are empty of true existence. Then later, when that which has absolute nature14 appears to be truly existent, one refutes the true existence by recalling one’s previous ascertainment of the total absence of true existence. When one puts together these two—the appearance of true existence and its emptiness as previously experienced—one discovers the illusoriness of phenomena.

At this time there is no need for an explanation of the way things appear as illusory separate from that just given. This text explains up to the meditation on mere emptiness. In tantric teachings such as the Guhyasamaja tantra, that which is called illusory is completely separate; in this verse, that which is called illusory does not have to be shown separately. Thus, the true existence of that which has absolute nature is the object of refutation and should be refuted. When it has been, the illusory mode of appearance of things arises indirectly: they seem to be truly existent but they are not.15

Q. How can something that is unfindable and exists merely by imputation function?
His Holiness. That’s very difficult. If you can realize that subject and action exist by reason of their being dependent arisings, emptiness will appear in dependent arising. This is the most difficult thing to understand.16

If you have realized non-inherent existence well, the experience of existent objects speaks for itself. That they exist by nature is refuted by logic, and you can be convinced by logic that things do not—there is no way that they can—inherently exist. Yet they definitely do exist because we experience them. So how do they exist? They exist merely by the power of name. This is not saying that they don’t exist; it is never said that things do not exist. What is said is that they exist by the power of name. This is a difficult point; something that you can understand slowly, slowly through experience.

First you have to analyze whether things exist truly or not, actually findably or not: you can’t find them. But if we say that they don’t exist at all, this is a mistake, because we do experience them. We can’t prove through logic that things exist findably, but we do know through our experience that they exist. Thus we can make a definite conclusion that things do exist. Now, if things exist there are only two ways in which they can do so: either from their own base or by being under the control of other factors, that is, either completely independently or dependently. Since logic disproves that things exist independently, the only way they can exist is dependently.

Upon what do things depend for their existence? They depend upon the base that is labeled and the thought that labels. If they could be found when searched for, they should exist by their own nature, and thus the Madhyamaka scriptures, which say that things do not exist by their own nature, would be wrong. However, you can’t find things when you search for them. What you do find is something that exists under the control of other factors, which is therefore said to exist merely in name. The word “merely” here indicates that something is being cut off: but what is being cut off is not the name, nor is it that which has a meaning and is the object of a valid mind. We are not saying that there is no meaning to things other than their names, or that the meaning that is not the name is not the object of a valid mind. What it cuts off is that it exists by something other than the power of name. Things exist merely by the power of name, but they have meaning, and that meaning is the object of a valid mind. But the nature of things is that they exist simply by the power of name.

There is no other alternative, only the force of name. That does not mean that besides the name there is nothing. There is the thing, there is a meaning and there is a name. What is the meaning? The meaning also exists merely in name.

Q. Is the mind something that really exists or is it also an illusion?
His Holiness. It’s the same thing. According to the Prasangika Madhyamaka, the highest, most precise view, it is the same thing whether it is an external object or the internal consciousness that apprehends it: both exist by the power of name; neither is truly existent. Thought itself exists merely in name; so do emptiness, buddha, good, bad and indifferent. Everything exists solely by the power of name.

When we say “name only” there is no way to understand what it means other than that it cuts off meanings that are not name only. If you take a real person and a phantom person, for example, both are the same in that they exist merely by name, but there is a difference between them. Whatever exists or does not exist is merely labeled, but in name, some things exist and others do not.17

According to the Mind Only school, external phenomena appear to inherently exist but are, in fact, empty of external, inherent existence, whereas the mind is truly existent. I think this is enough about Buddhist tenets for now.18

Q. Are “mind” and “consciousness” equivalent terms?
His Holiness. There are distinctions made in Tibetan, but it’s difficult to say whether the English words carry the same connotations. Where “mind” refers to primary consciousness it would probably be the same as “consciousness.” In Tibetan, “awareness” is the most general term and is divided into primary consciousness and (secondary) mental factors, both of which have many further subdivisions. Also, when we speak of awareness there are mental and sensory awareness, and the former has many subdivisions into various degrees of roughness and subtlety. Whether or not the English words correspond to the Tibetan in terms of precision and so forth is difficult to say.

Notes
1. See Lama Zopa Rinpoche, The Everflowing Nectar of Bodhicitta, for a complete meditation practice on the Eight Verses. [Return to text]

2. See Geshe Rabten’s teaching on the twelve links. [Return to text]

3. From Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, verse 169 :

There is pleasure when a sore is scratched,
But to be without sores is more pleasurable still;
Just so, there are pleasures in worldly desires,
But to be without desires is more pleasurable still.

See Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation: Nagarjuna's Precious Garland. [Return to text]

4. This does not mean that these beings’ fundamental nature is unchangeably evil but refers more to their character or behavior. [Return to text]

5. This is the 16th secondary vow: “The auxiliary vow to abandon not dispelling another’s negative actions with wrathful methods that you know will be effective” (Lama Yeshe & Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The Bodhisattva’s Precepts: Golden Ornament of the Fortunate Ones, Pleasing All Sentient Beings. Kopan Monastery, 1974). [Return to text]

6. See A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, Chapter 5, and Shantideva, Shiksa-Samuccaya: A Compendium of Buddhist Doctrine, translated by Cecil Bendall & WHD Rouse; Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1971. [Return to text]

7. See A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, Chapter 6, and note 10, below. [Return to text]

8. See Advice from a Spiritual Friend, pp. 92–93. [Return to text]

9. See A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, Chapter 8, verse 126. [Return to text]

10. See His Holiness the Dalai Lama's book Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective, a commentary on the sixth chapter of Shantideva’s Guide. [Return to text]

11. See A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, Chapter 6, verse 10. [Return to text]

12. The eight worldly dharmas are attachment to (1) everything going well, (2) fame, (3) receiving material goods and (4) praise, and aversion to their opposites. According to Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, such actions are black when done with attachment to the happiness of this life, mixed when done without attachment but with self-cherishing and white when done without self-cherishing but with clinging to the I as truly existent. Another explanation has it that black are actions that both look non-virtuous and are done with non-virtuous motivation, mixed are actions that look virtuous but are done with non-virtuous motivation, and white are those such as this example: a monk who is not a particularly good one acts very properly, as if he is always like that, when he is in public so that people will not criticize the Sangha. (Notes 12 through 17 are from clarifications made by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche.) [Return to text]

13. His Holiness chooses to explain “without their being stained” here from the point of view of the practices being done free from the wrong conception of holding things as truly existent as well as free from attachment to this life. The other way they can be stained is by self-cherishing. [Return to text]

14. “That which has absolute nature” is the interpretive translation of the term chhos.chan used by His Holiness, where chhos means absolute nature. [Return to text]

15. A mirage appears to be water but it is not. When we understand the reality that what we are seeing is an optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions, we still see the water but it appears illusory. [Return to text]

16. Take, for example, “I am going to Kathmandu.” How are the subject I, and the action, going, dependent arisings? Why do you say “I am going”? Your aggregates are going to Kathmandu and you merely label them “I”—the subject is dependent upon the aggregates, as are the subject’s actions. When you consider how the I exists dependent upon being imputed by thought to its basis, the aggregates, and how actions too depend upon thought and the basis of imputation, you can see the subject and the action as dependent arisings. While you reflect on this—that subject and action exist dependent upon the aggregates (the basis of imputation), the label and the thought—you lose the truly existent I on the aggregates and the truly existent I going to Kathmandu. By realizing that the aggregates are empty of the truly existent I and its action of going, automatically you realize that the I and its actions exist dependent upon the aggregates and their actions, and by the power of name. [Return to text]

17. The real person and the phantom person are both merely labeled, but the real person actually exists because his basis of imputation, the aggregates that are labeled “person,” exists. The phantom person does not exist because there are no aggregates, no consciousness for him to depend on; he does not exist in name. In a dream, the appearance of a person serves as a basis of imputation but it is not a proper base as there are no aggregates. [Return to text]

18. For more on tenets, see Geshe Lhundup Sopa & Jeffrey Hopkins. Cutting Through Appearances. 1989. Daniel Cozort & Craig Preston. Buddhist Philosophy: Losang Gönchok’s Short Commentary to Jamyang Shayba’s “Root Text on Tenets.” 2003. Both Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. [Return to text]

A teaching on the Seven-Point Mind Training by Geshe Lama Konchog at Atisha Centre, Bendigo, Australia, from October 31 to November 3, 1987.
A commentary on the root text The Seven-Point Mind Training given by Geshe Lama Konchog at Atisha Centre, Bendigo, Australia, from October 31 to November 3, 1987. Translated by Dhawa Dundrup. Transcribed and edited by Ven. Thupten Konchog, who accepts all errors and omissions. Second edit by Sandra Smith, January 2013.

This teaching is also available for download as a free e-book from Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore.

Chapter 1: Putting Effort into Spiritual Practice
Chapter 2: The Preliminaries
Chapter 3: Equanimity
Chapter 4: Generating Bodhicitta
Chapter 5: Equalising and Exchanging the Self With Others;Taking and Giving
Chapter 6: Conventional and Ultimate Bodhicitta; Taking and Giving

Chapter 1: Putting Effort into Spiritual Practice

Lama Tsongkhapa said, in Songs of Experience, that to have attained a human body is a very rare experience and it should be used to its maximum potential for the Dharma. This human body has great potential if used positively but also great power if used negatively. We can illustrate the great potential of human rebirth by putting all the animals of this universe on one side and a single human on the other; even the combined number of the other sentient beings cannot equal the potential and ability that one human has to do positive actions.

Let us imagine a magical machine that has the power to produce anything a person could desire. If such a machine is used to produce only straw instead of using it to produce many wonderful things, we can understand how stupid that would be. Likewise, our human body is just like a magical machine and if we use it in a trivial way then we, too, must be considered to be very stupid. There is not a more ignorant person than the one who possesses a human body yet does not put it to proper use.

If we use this human body in a negative way, it has the potential to be very destructive, but used in a proper and positive way, it has the power to generate bodhicitta and the mind of enlightenment. When it is used meaningfully, this body can help us attain realizations on all the various levels of the path. In the past, many great masters from India and Tibet used their human bodies to reach the desired goal of enlightenment. If we do the same, we can be just like them and have the same kinds of achievements and accomplishments.

Our normal attitude to life is such that the possibility of achieving material gain is far more important than putting our human body to proper use. This attitude is due to not realizing the importance of this precious human body. Maybe some people do realize its importance, yet they are still tempted by the prospect of material gain. These people feel more strongly about acquiring material possessions than they do about directing their mind towards a spiritual path.

We might feel that spiritual practice is beyond us, but if we think and examine this carefully we will realize that spiritual practice is very easy. It is as easy as changing and transforming our mind and attitude; there is nothing to transform externally. If we stop doing something bad that we have been doing for a long time and substitute it with a positive attitude, along with good actions, that is spiritual practice. Spiritual practice only depends on the transformation of the mind; it is easy.

Our present way of thinking is to regard this life’s interests and welfare as far more important than the next life, so we use this body to accomplish the good things of this life only. What we have to do is completely turn this attitude around and instead, be more interested in the next life’s welfare and employ this body to do the things that will bear fruit in the next and following rebirths.

We can make a boundary line to decide whether we are acting for this life’s interests or the next, by deciding whether our actions are Dharma-based—whether they are spiritual or non-spiritual actions.

We usually use our body, speech and mind for this life’s interests only and in doing so we use them in ways that are harmful and not helpful to other sentient beings. So what we must do is change or transform our actions of body, speech and mind so that we help others and do not cause them harm. We also need to be very aware of the next life. From this point of view we can understand that spiritual practice is not something difficult or too distant.

If we put all our efforts into spiritual practice, we can attain the best possible result in the next rebirth and even if not, we can still attain an intermediate result. Even if we can’t attain that, we can attain the lowest result to be achieved by spiritual practice. So there are lots of options which we can choose, in accordance to our abilities and mentalities. It is only a matter of putting in the effort to do so.

In the past we have attained many human rebirths, yet in all those lives as a human we did not use our body for proper spiritual practice or in a proper way, because we were not able to achieve the results of having higher realizations. Now, if we do not use our rebirth properly, the pattern will continue.

Even up to this present moment, we have spent most of our time pursuing things totally related to this life only. If we consider our present life carefully, we would see that we have spent much of our time doing things that can bring no profit for future rebirths.

We have had many rebirths as different aspects of sentient beings, from the top of cyclic existence to the lowest. We just do not remember them. Actually there is no form of sentient being that we have not taken in the past. This pattern will continue if we do not carry out our spiritual practice, and our past will continue to be our future. We have been born into many different forms and experienced many different forms of suffering; if we were to remember them we would find it unbearable.

However the past is the past; it is over, but what we have to do for the remaining part of this life, is to put effort into spiritual practice for the next life. At best, we should be able to achieve enlightenment and at the intermediate level, we should be able to attain individual liberation. If we cannot attain these two levels, then the remaining part of our life should be spent doing spiritual practices, so at least we will avoid future migration into the three bad migrations—as a hell being, a hungry ghost or an animal.

If we know that we will have this human body for a very long time, there will be plenty of time to do spiritual practices, but we do not know this and it is a very bad mistake to think like this. It is also wrong to think that we can put it off until the next rebirth, because it is not easy to obtain a human rebirth as it requires all the proper causes and conditions. What we have to realize is that this is the time we have the freedom to decide: “Am I going up to a good migration or down to a bad one?” It is up to each one of us to use this body to its maximum potential for the purpose of next life.

To take rebirth as a human is not at all easy. Rebirth is not a product without causes or conditions; it all depends on causes and conditions and they do not occur easily. First we have to observe the morality and discipline of observing virtuous conduct and we have to practice the six perfections together with pure aspirational prayers. If all these factors are complete, then the next rebirth as a human is possible, otherwise it is not.

The human body as a basis for spiritual practice depends on being able to do the practice. We may be rich with material possessions, but if we have not used our body for proper spiritual practice, then in the real sense we are not rich. However, a person with no material wealth who has used his body for spiritual practice is in the real sense of the word a rich person.

We may think, “I will use this body for spiritual practice, but first I must have all the material facilities, so I must work, earn some money and look after my family and then I will be able to do my practice.” That kind of procrastinating attitude deludes us.

If the older students are asked, they would have to admit that most of their time is spent in worldly activities and very little in Dharma practice. Even for any of the older students to have done pure spiritual practice is quite doubtful.

Our normal attitude is such that we go on procrastinating. We think, “I will do it tomorrow, tomorrow.” We never think, “I may die today!” So we just go on and on, putting it off from day to day. If death comes today we have achieved nothing, so we must be very intelligent and clever, and practice this very moment.

People who do not procrastinate, do their spiritual practice with a decisive attitude. Even though they realize that they may die today, there is no regret because they are doing the practice right now. Such a person is an intelligent person.

The human body has great potential, but death can come at the most unexpected time, for instance by a car accident or a deadly disease. For some people, when the sickness is very serious and life-threatening, the teacher or lama can only give instructions such as thought transformation, as nothing else may be of help.

The only thing that we can take with us to the next rebirth is our spiritual practice, the Dharma. It is the only thing that will bring happiness and success in the next rebirth. We all want happiness and we do not want suffering, and even if we die today, spiritual practice is important because we can make aspirational prayers in order to have a good rebirth, which is the basis for the attainment of enlightenment. If we have done generous and charitable acts during our lifetime, then there will be no shortage of possessions in the next rebirth. In this life we may have many facilities, but if we have not done spiritual practice then in the next life they will be absent.

Spiritual practice is really a preparation for happiness in the next life, so it is very important. We want happiness and we do not want to suffer—that is the innermost desire within everyone of us and because of this, spiritual practice is so important.

A person who is mindful of death feels afraid now, but does not fear death when he is dying. This person is an intelligent person. However, a person who is not afraid of death at present, but is very frightened when death actually comes, is a foolish person.

Milarepa sang a song which says, in effect, “I am afraid of death because I am not mindful of it, so I have gone to the mountain retreat to understand the relative nature of the mind. Because of this, for the time being, I seem to have no fear of death”. We need to be very mindful of the death process and make preparation for it, so that when the time comes we will feel no fear.

Another good saying from Geshe Potowa is, “I am not afraid of dying, I am afraid of taking the next rebirth.”

At the time of death, our mind will not dissolve into nothingness as the external substances of the body do. The mind is not like that. It is and always has been, a stream of continuity. The subtlest mind, which is inseparable from the subtlest wind, goes on from one rebirth to the next. There comes a time when this subtlest mind, in combination with other causes or other gross minds, becomes more in amount and engages in more activity. However, at the time of death it loses its composite parts and becomes the subtlest mind and wind, and goes to the next rebirth.

We have to understand the nature of the subtlest mind and wind, and once we have attained the realization and understood it completely and properly, there will be no more fear—just like Milarepa, who discovered he had no more fear when he understood the reality of the mind.

We have to understand the nature of the subtlest mind, which is known in Tibetan as “the remote mind.” This is like, for example, a person in total solitude in a mountain retreat. That person is said to be abiding in remoteness. So like that, if our most subtle mind remains too deeply inside, it is only the coarse mind that is performing activities. What we understand is only the external coarse mind and not the innermost subtle mind. Scientists doing studies on the function of the mind only find the external, coarse mind. If we could find the innermost mind by research, then we would not have to experience any more suffering of samsara, cyclic existence.

We all possess this innermost, subtle mind, which is the seed, the very potential, for the attainment of enlightenment. At present we have not been able to find or understand the most subtle mind, so we have not been able to employ it properly. This is why we have not attained enlightenment and have been wandering about in cyclic existence.

Once we have discovered the most subtle mind, it is called by the term “the knowing wisdom.” At present our minds are ignorant, which means in Tibetan “not knowing,” so what we have to do is to find that most subtle mind and use it properly.

Our mind-stream has much more negativity than virtue, so there is naturally a greater possibility that our next rebirth will be in one of the three bad migrations. There is far less possibility that we will attain a higher rebirth such as a human or a god.

After death, rebirth is determined by either of two ways. The first is by the heaviness or lightness of the negativities or the merit on our mind-stream; and the other is by determining which of these we have become more accustomed to.

If we have met with a Dharma teacher and done good spiritual practices, we naturally become more accustomed to performing virtuous deeds and thereby accumulating more merit. So naturally when death comes, if we have become more familiar with doing virtuous acts than non-virtue, we will definitely have a good rebirth.

If we have become more familiarized with doing virtuous deeds we will have accumulated merit, so in the next rebirth we will enter the formless or form realm. This means our rebirth will be as a human or as a god. If we have done many non-virtuous acts, then the next rebirth will be any of the three bad migrations, such as a hell-being, a hungry ghost or an animal.

We have developed great power in collecting negativities onto our mind-stream, which becomes the cause of going down to the three bad migrations. We are like a super-power in collecting negativities, but like an underdeveloped country in collecting virtue.

We can see which rebirth we will be taking just by looking at our actions now—negative or positive, virtuous or non-virtuous. If we have done more non-virtuous actions than positive, then it is likely to be a bad rebirth.

If we are reborn in a hot hell realm, the body will become inseparable from the very nature of the flames, or fire. In hot weather here in Australia, we feel uncomfortable and turn on our air conditioners, but in the hot hells our body becomes fused with the fire and is unbearably hot. If we are born as a cold hell being, then our body becomes inseparable from the coldness of the ice and once again there is no relief. But at the present time if the weather becomes cool, when we find it unbearable we turn on our heaters.

When we do the fasting practice, the nyung-nä, we do it only for the required amount of time, but if we were born as a sentient being in the hungry ghost realm, then for aeons we would have to stay without food in a constant state of starvation.

If we were born as a sentient being in any of those bad migrations we would understand just how bad it is there and we would seek refuge. Just as a criminal turns to a solicitor to defend him, we too, would have to turn to the kind of refuge we could rely on for support.

A criminal must depend on a solicitor for the entire length of time that all charges are made against him. Likewise, we have much negativity created from beginningless lifetimes and so we have to depend for protection on refuge in the Three Jewels. This has to be continuous and for a very long duration. Before death comes we should at least have generated the attitude of going for refuge and observing the law of cause and effect.

If we can generate a feeling of fear towards the suffering of the bad migrations and so generate an attitude of wanting to go for refuge to the Three Jewels as well as observing the laws of cause and effect, then definitely in the next life we will obtain rebirth as a human. However, a practice done only with this much motivation is merely a spiritual practice, without pure motivation, because to be reborn again as a human being is not a permanent release from suffering.

So if a person has not done any spiritual practice, they will still continue with those sufferings. This body is called the aggregates of the contaminated mind, which means that it is the result of negative actions. This human body which has been attained is the result of non-virtuous actions. This is called in itself, cyclic existence.

No matter what kind of body we have, as long as there is suffering, that body is called the contaminated result of non-virtuous actions. The aryas, the ones who have attained realizations on the path of seeing, have eliminated the cause for suffering, the ego-grasping, so they no longer suffer experience cyclic existence. However, as long as we have ego-grasping, there will be this suffering body.

Of course, the wisdom realizing emptiness is the only means to uproot the cause of suffering, the ego-grasping. We can do visualizations, aspirational prayers, the practice of Chenrezig the Buddha of Compassion, as well as other practices and we can be reborn in one of the pure realms. Once we are reborn there, we are still ordinary people of course, but because we are doing practices and receiving teachings, from there we can gain enlightenment.

If we do the nyung-nä fasting practice along with very pure mantra recitation, as well as aspirational prayers to the deity, we will be reborn in one of the pure realms. So from this point of view, we can understand the very great potential of this human body.

If we decide to do a spiritual practice there are many options and alternatives available to us. There are practices that will bring us rebirth into any of the pure realms. It is only a matter of choosing to practice or not. It is just like going to a very big shopping centre where we can choose from the many different products being offered.

If we want to eliminate the causes of suffering during this lifetime, we must attain the wisdom realizing emptiness and for this purpose, for the time being, we have to abide on the three higher trainings. These are the trainings in morality or discipline, in concentration and in wisdom. If we practice these higher trainings, we can, at least, be freed from the three lowest realms of cyclic existence.

When we attain liberation, we are freed from cyclic existence, but that is not enough because there is still self-interest there. It is a completely selfish attitude to be only interested in our own attainment of the goal, because there are still mother sentient beings who suffer. To be freed from cyclic existence is not the ultimate attainment, because we have still not attained all the qualities and overcome all the weaknesses.

The attitude we must generate is one of great courage. We have to think, “I will release all these sentient beings from suffering. With this purpose in mind, I will first have to attain the state that has all the qualities and is completely without any evils or weaknesses.” In other words, we must attain buddhahood. The word for buddhahood in Tibetan means being awakened from the sleep of ignorance and having all the qualities developed. This is the state we must attain in order to help all sentient beings.

In order to do the practice so that we will attain the state of buddhahood, first we must understand the practice. To understand the practice, we must first listen to the teachings, and so it is with this attitude and understanding that we must now generate the motivation for listening to the teachings.

The Seven-Point Mind Training Practice

The practice to attain buddhahood—completely attaining the qualities without any negativities—is a very profound subject. It is called the Seven-Point Mind Training practice.

This is a most profound teaching and in a sense it is the innermost essence of the teaching of the Great Vehicle, the Mahayana path. It is the practice that we must consider as the most important in order to attain the highest form of enlightenment. There is no greater or meaningful practice than this one.

This Seven-Point Mind Training text was written down by Geshe Chekawa, but it was not something that he invented, nor is it new. The subject was taught by Buddha along with all the practices of mind training, but no matter what subject headings and subdivisions there are, they are all included in the Seven-Point Mind Training practice by Geshe Chekawa.

The source of this text originated with the Buddha and most especially when he generated bodhicitta in the hell realm while pulling a chariot along with other sentient beings. The source also lies with the text by Nagarjuna called The Precious Garland and the great Shantideva’s Engaging in the Deeds of the Bodhisattva (Bodhicaryavatara).

At the beginning of the text, Geshe Chekawa pays homage to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, by saying, “I prostrate to Avalokiteshvara.” This has a special significance because it ensured that his work of compiling the text would be successful and be without any hindrances. It seems that respect is paid explicitly to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, but it also implies that respect is paid to the compassion that is within all sentient beings, because this was the actual source that the Buddha of Compassion arose from.

All the qualities of the Mahayana path have great compassion as their source either in the beginning, the middle or at the end. In the beginning, great compassion is like the seed being planted in the soil; in the middle, the seed is nourished with water, sunlight and caring which is like the cause for continuous practice; and at the end it is like the ripening of the crop so that we can eat and live.

If there are no continuous conditions such as teachings and discourses, there can be no result, therefore all the qualities of the Mahayana path lie in the beginning, the middle and the end.

In order to show that the Seven-Point Mind Training text was not newly invented by himself, and in order to show its authenticity; that it originated with the Buddha, Geshe Chekawa states in the second line of the text that “this teaching has been passed from Lama Selingpa.”

The teaching was passed from Shakyamuni Buddha to Atisha, who passed it to Dromtönpa under a seal of secrecy. Dromtönpa passed it to Potowa and others in secret. Geshe Sharawa passed it to his disciple Chekawa, who gave the teachings to the public.

In the Beginning

This teaching has its origins in the great compassion or bodhicitta of the Buddha when during one of his rebirths as an ordinary sentient being suffering in a hell realm, he saw others trying to pull a very heavy chariot. Through his great compassion, he understood that the ego-grasping mind was something negative, whereas caring for others was something positive. This became the basis of the Seven-Point Mind Training practice. With this attitude in mind, he helped the other people pull the cart. The agent of the hell realm crushed a very heavy hammer down on the head of Buddha and said, “Why are you taking onto yourself the burden of others? You do not need to do that!” From then on the Buddha took rebirth into a higher aspect. So it is that this teaching, with its emphasis on the great compassion, originated from the very first act of Buddha at that time.

In the Middle

This teaching also has a deed of the Buddha in the middle. Once he was born as a boy, but each boy born to that mother died, so it was believed that he should be given a girl’s name. So this Buddha was named Zaway Pumo. Zaway Pumo sold things in the market place and gave the money to his mother. However, one day he wanted to go with other merchants to trade in faraway countries, but his mother insisted that he didn’t go as it would be too dangerous. He decided to go, so he walked over his mother’s body and was out of control.

This boy went on a sea voyage and passed the coasts of four different islands or countries, each with a different name. The first place was called “the country of joy.” He met four or five different girls there, but still he moved on to the next place. The next place was called “the supreme joy.” He continued on to all these wonderful islands in this way and it was believed that this journey was the result of the boy giving his earnings to his mother. So a very good result ripened from this action and he was able to enjoy the benefits of those countries.

Finally he came to a country where there was a house and inside there were many people who were suffering very badly. An iron rod circulated over the heads of the people like a fan and as it went around it kept cutting and smashing their heads. The boy saw this and it caused him great distress. When he asked these people why they were experiencing such strange suffering, they replied that it was because they had stepped over their mother’s head in the past. This was considered to be a very disrespectful act.

Suddenly a voice sang from somewhere in the sky, saying that the rod that had been circulating over the heads of these people would now stop and the people did not have to suffer any more. But now the iron rods would circulate over the head of the boy instead. This was the result of the ripening of the act where the boy had walked over his mother’s head in the past. While the boy was experiencing the great suffering of the iron bar over his head, he began to consider the self-cherishing and ego-grasping mind and so it was at this point that he generated the attitude of caring for other sentient beings more than for himself.

At the End

He thought about the unbearable suffering of those who had committed similar acts towards their mothers and how they would have to experience similar suffering. With this reasoning he thought, “May the result of sentient beings of the past, present and future who may have stepped over their mother’s body ripen upon me.” Because he generated this attitude so powerfully, the iron rod that had been circling over his head immediately went away.

If we experience problems with sickness or other similar desperate situations, it is good to think about this incident of the Buddha during one of his past lifetimes when he had a girl’s name. Instead of being depressed, we can generate an attitude of courage—that this sickness can be substituted for the sufferings of other sentient beings.

So whenever we experience physical or mental suffering, no matter what the problem, instead of being depressed, generate a good heart towards taking on the responsibility for others. This can be very effective. This method is a very profound instruction; it is very effective in removing suffering.

The spiritual practice of the Great Vehicle, the Mahayana, is something that has to be accumulated bit by bit, atom by atom. It does not come upon us suddenly and at a certain time. The process is not like that, it has to be achieved bit by bit.


Chapter 2: The Preliminaries


 

 

HH Zong Rinpoche gave this introductory teaching on Mahayana thought transformation at Camp Kennolyn, Soquel, California, 20 May 1978.
His Holiness Zong Rinpoche (1905-84) was born in Kham, Tibet, studied at Ganden Monastery, gained renown as a learned geshe and great debater and served as abbot for nine years. He fled to India in 1959 and later served as principal of the Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath.

Rinpoche gave this introductory teaching on the first day of a two-week course on Mahayana thought transformation at Camp Kennolyn, Soquel, California, 20 May 1978 during his first trip to the West. It was translated by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and appears in the 2005 LYWA publication Teachings From Tibet.

Practicing Dharma is a personal choice

Generally speaking, it’s up to you as an individual whether or not you practice Dharma. It’s not something you can be forced to do—unless it’s the law of the land, in which case everybody has to do it. But even then, it’s not really practicing Dharma because adhering to the law of the land is done just for this life.

If you live just for this life, you don’t benefit your future lives, whereas if you practice Dharma, you bring happiness to not only all your future lives but your present life as well.

However, you have to find and practice the right Dharma; if you practice the wrong Dharma, no matter how much you practice it, you waste your whole life.

I don’t need to explain why you need to practice Dharma; I think you understand that. Various religions have appeared on this Earth but Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma offers happiness and benefit at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Its cause is virtue, it results in virtue, it creates virtue all the time and, therefore, brings continual benefit.

Originally, Buddhadharma spread widely throughout India and later went to Tibet. These days, because of unfavorable conditions, the Dharma is again spreading in India and even beyond. I use the word “unfavorable” because the conditions I’m referring to are the ones that destroyed Buddhism in Tibet. However, since these same conditions have helped Dharma spread to other countries, from that point of view perhaps they’re not so unfavorable.

What should you do when you encounter Dharma? First you should listen, then try to understand the meaning and, finally, meditate. If you practice in that way, you can attain enlightenment.

There are two reasons for listening to [or reading] teachings: one is simply to gain intellectual understanding, the other is to know how to practice. If you practice Dharma, it will get rid of disturbing negative thoughts and transform your mind; change it for the better. This brings you happiness in this and future lives.

If you listen to [or read] the Dharma to gain an intellectual understanding but don’t put the teachings you hear into practice, you don’t benefit your mind that much. However, since what you’re listening to is Buddhadharma, there is some benefit—hearing the teachings leaves imprints on your consciousness; it plants seeds in your mind. Then, in a future life, you’ll more easily be able to understand and realize the Dharma.

Therefore, if you are listening to [or reading] the teachings in order to understand and meditate on them, that’s excellent, but even if you’re simply trying to gain an intellectual understanding, that, too, creates extensive merit and is a cause for rejoicing. Whatever your motivation for thinking about the Dharma, you should feel, “How greatly fortunate I am.”

Since we have met the Dharma in these degenerate times, it’s extremely important that we do not waste this opportunity. Once you’ve begun to practice, it’s essential that you not only continue to do so but that you also complete your practice. First try to understand the teachings; then try to make what you’ve understood as beneficial as possible for other sentient beings.

In order to develop Dharma in your mind, you must find a perfectly qualified guru. These days, there are a number of learned monks, geshes and lamas outside of Tibet, far more than there are in Tibet itself. In Tibet there’s no longer any freedom in either the material life or Dharma practice; what used to be has been completely destroyed.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has taken upon himself the great responsibility of trying to guide the Tibetan people in exile both materially and spiritually. If he is not successful in gaining independence for Tibet, the teachings will really be in danger of getting lost, because many of the highly realized lamas are now quite elderly and will soon pass away.1 If His Holiness is successful, the Dharma may again spread throughout Tibet, which will also be of great benefit to the rest of the world. The redevelopment and preservation of the Dharma in Tibet is of enormous importance, so please pray that all of His Holiness’s holy wishes will be fulfilled.

That which we call Dharma is medicine to treat the mind, to change it from its unsubdued, pre-Dharma state to a better one. From beginningless time our mind has been stained, foggy, polluted and disturbed by the three poisons of ignorance, attachment and anger because we have either not understood or practiced the teachings. Dharma is medicine to change that kind of mind for the better.

Reincarnation

Buddhism isn’t the only religion that teaches rebirth. In ancient India, for example, there were many non-Buddhist faiths that believed in reincarnation.2 But one of these religions—the Charvakas (Hedonists)3, whose view was particularly limited—denied the existence of rebirth because they believed that only things that you can see with your eye exist. That was their logic: if you can see it, it exists; if you can’t it doesn’t. Even ordinary people would agree that this is an extremely limited, ignorant view. There are many things that you can’t see—like the back of your head, things buried underground or what other people are thinking—but they still exist.

There are many reasons proving the existence of past and future lives, but if you haven’t studied the extensive texts that go into those reasons, it’s difficult for me to explain them and for you to understand.

However, since you are already interested in the practice of Dharma, it’s not imperative that I try to explain the existence of reincarnation to you. Anyway, the number of existent phenomena that we can’t see is vastly greater than the number of things we can; there’s basically no comparison. The things that we don’t see or realize are countless; our present knowledge is almost zero. Just that shows how little we know.

What you need to know to practice Dharma

Probably the best thing you can do to practice Dharma is to follow the teachings on the three scopes of the graduated path to enlightenment: the paths for those of least, intermediate and greatest potential, or capability. By practicing the teachings, you can generate the three principal aspects of the path—renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta and the right view of emptiness—which qualifies you to follow the graduated path of secret mantra, or the Vajrayana.

However, the main thing you should do is to train your mind in bodhicitta, because without this, there’s not the slightest possibility of attaining the blissful state of enlightenment; you absolutely must engage in the great practices of the Mahayana thought transformation. Without training in bodhicitta, you’re not even permitted to listen to teachings on tantra, let alone put them into practice. And when you do enter the path of tantra, you should keep your practice secret; that’s why the tantric teachings are also called secret mantra.

Not only can the teachings of secret mantra not be explained to those whose minds are unripe and unreceptive, even the teachings of the great Mahayana thought transformation should not be revealed to those whose minds are not ready. You can’t just go out into the middle of town and give them to any passer-by. In fact, they should be given only to students who sincerely ask their teacher for them.

If you want to attain enlightenment, you need to practice tantra, and to do that, you need to train your mind in bodhicitta. In order to train in bodhicitta, you need to practice the great Mahayana thought transformation, and to do that, you need to receive teachings on it. Therefore, you should sincerely request your teacher for teachings on the stages of the path, especially those on thought transformation. Then, even if your mind has not become bodhicitta, if it’s close to bodhicitta, you can receive initiations and teachings on secret mantra, which is extremely beneficial; this leaves a great impression on your mind.

Before you receive teachings on the great Mahayana thought transformation, you need to study the preliminary teachings on the graduated path to enlightenment.

The purpose of Dharma is to subdue your mind, to correct the actions of your daily life so that they become beneficial. So, Dharma teachings are a mirror that clearly reflects the actions of your body, speech and mind so that you can judge whether they are beneficial—the cause of happiness—or harmful—the cause of suffering.

Since beginningless previous lives, we have been under the control of disturbing negative thoughts, which have forced us to constantly create, without choice, harmful actions, negative karma, the cause of suffering. As a result, since beginningless time, we have been experiencing the various sufferings of samsara and, even in this life, we continue to do so. From the time of our birth, we’ve not had one day free of problems.

In other words, we’re sick; we’re patients. We’re suffering from the disease of the disturbing negative thoughts, which cause us to create mistaken actions, which bring the result of suffering. What can cure this illness? What can alleviate our suffering? What treatment do we need? It’s Dharma. Dharma is the only medicine that can help.

Now, the thing about medicine is that it has to be taken. The patient who has the right medicine but doesn’t take it doesn’t get cured. Similarly, if we don’t practice the Dharma teachings we receive, we can’t put an end to the problems of our daily life or escape from suffering.

Before receiving teachings on the great Mahayana thought transformation, we need to accomplish the preliminary practices. These are the right foundation for the meditations on bodhicitta. These initial teachings include those on the perfect human rebirth—what it is, how meaningful it is and how difficult it will be to receive again; impermanence and death; refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; karma; and the shortcomings of cyclic existence. You should begin your practice by studying and then putting into practice the teachings on the perfect human rebirth.


Notes

1. Note that this teaching was given in 1978. [Return to text]

2. See Hopkins, Jeffrey: Meditation on Emptiness, p.317 ff. for a discussion of non-Buddhist systems. [Return to text]

3. Song Rinpoche refers to them by one of their other names, Yang-pän-pa [Skt: Ayata]. See Meditation on Emptiness pp.327–30 for a discussion of this system. [Return to text]

A definitive root text on the seven-point mind training, supplemented by outlines.
In the literature of the old and new Kadampa there are many versions of the commentaries and root text of the Seven-Point Mind Training. The order of presentation and the number of words in them differs greatly. Some of them we cannot confidently incorporate within the outlines when we are giving an explanation, and some include unfamiliar verses in the root text.

For these reasons I [Pabongka Rinpoche] had been thinking for a long time of producing a definitive root text by collating the editions to be found in the Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun, Ornament for Losang’s Thought and The Essential Nectar. When I was teaching the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment at Chamdo Jampa Ling in 1935 (wood-pig year), Lam-rimpa Phuntsog Palden, a single-minded practitioner, presented me a scarf and an offering and made such a request, so I have compiled this after careful research of many root texts and commentaries and supplemented it with outlines.

—From the appendices of Mind Training like the Rays of the Sun.

Translated into Vietnamese by Anh Ho.

Homage to great compassion.
The essence of this nectar of secret instruction
Is transmitted from the master from Sumatra.

 

Revealing the features of the doctrine to engender
respect for the instruction

You should understand the significance of this instruction
As like a diamond, the sun and a medicinal tree.
This time of the five degenerations will then be transformed
Into the path to the fully awakened state.

The actual instruction for guiding the disciple
is given in seven points

1. Explaining the preliminaries as a basis for the practice

First, train in the preliminaries.

2. The actual practice, training in the awakening mind
(a) How to train in the ultimate awakening mind
(b) How to train in the conventional awakening mind

(According to most of the older records, the training in the ultimate awakening mind is dealt with first. However, according to our own tradition, following the gentle protector Tsongkhapa, as contained in such works as the Mind Training like the Rays of the Sun, Ornament for Losang’s Thought, The Essential Nectar and Keutsang’s Root Words, the order is reversed for special reasons.)

(b) Training in the conventional awakening mind

Banish the one to blame for everything,
Meditate on the great kindness of all beings.
Practice a combination of giving and taking.
Giving and taking should be practiced alternately
And you should begin by taking from yourself.
These two should be made to ride on the breath.

Concerning the three objects, three poisons and three virtues,
The instruction to be followed, in short,
Is to be mindful of the practice in general,
By taking these words to heart in all activities.

(a) Training in the ultimate awakening mind

When stability has been attained, impart the secret teaching:
Consider all phenomena as like dreams,
Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
The remedy itself is released in its own place,
Place the essence of the path on the nature of the basis of all.

In the period between sessions, be a creator of illusions.

3. Transforming adverse circumstances into the path to enlightenment

When the environment and its inhabitants overflow with unwholesomeness,
Transform adverse circumstances into the path to enlightenment.
Apply meditation immediately at every opportunity.
The supreme method is accompanied by the four practices.

4. The integrated practice of a single lifetime

In brief, the essence of the instruction is
To train in the five powers.
The five powers themselves are the Great Vehicle’s
Precept on the transference of consciousness.
Cultivate these paths of practice.

5. The measure of having trained the mind

Integrate all the teachings into one thought,
Primary importance should be given to the two witnesses,
Constantly cultivate only a peaceful mind.
The measure of a trained mind is that it has turned away,
There are five great marks of a trained mind.
The trained (mind) retains control even when distracted.

6. The commitments of mind training

1. Don’t go against the mind training you promised to observe,
2. Don’t be reckless in your practice,
3. Don’t be partial, always train in the three general points,
4. Transform your attitude but maintain your natural behavior,
5. Don’t speak of others’ incomplete qualities,
6. Don’t concern yourself with others’ business,
7. Train to counter whichever disturbing emotion is greatest,
8. Give up every hope of reward,
9. Avoid poisonous food,
10. Don’t maintain misplaced loyalty,
11. Don’t make sarcastic remarks,
12. Don’t lie in ambush,
13. Don’t strike at the vital point,
14. Don’t burden an ox with the load of a dzo,
15. Don’t abuse the practice,
16. Don’t sprint to win the race,
17. Don’t turn gods into devils,
18. Don’t seek others’ misery as a means to happiness.

7. The precepts of mind training

1. Every yoga should be performed as one,
2. All errors are to be amended by one means,
3. There are two activities—at beginning and end,
4. Whichever occurs, be patient with both,
5. Guard both at the cost of your life,
6. Train in the three difficulties,
7. Seek for the three principal causes,
8. Don’t let three factors weaken,
9. Never be parted from the three possessions,
10. Train consistently without partiality,
11. Value an encompassing and far-reaching practice,
12. Train consistently to deal with difficult situations,
13. Don’t rely on other conditions,
14. Engage in the principal practices right now,
15. Don’t apply a wrong understanding,
16. Don’t be sporadic,
17. Practice unflinchingly,
18. Release investigation and analysis,
19. Don’t be boastful,
20. Don’t be short-tempered,
21. Don’t make a short-lived attempt,
22. Don’t expect gratitude.

This is concluded with a quotation from Geshe Chekawa, who had an experience of the awakening mind:

My manifold aspirations have given rise
To humiliating criticism and suffering,
But, having received instructions for taming the misconception of self,
Even if I have to die, I have no regrets.