To be honest, I was starting to think maybe I’d picked the wrong word this year. A month has passed already and instead of feeling immersed, focused, clear, I was feeling a little lost. Yoga and writing come more naturally to me, but I was finding it hard to meditate, let alone deepen my study of the dharma. This morning I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, trying to find some direction or distract myself when I saw a post from Lodro Rinzler, “New video teaching up to kick off a year series studying Atisha’s mind training slogans.” I recognized the screen capture from an email I got at the beginning of the week from him, one that I’d filed away like all the others for some later date when I have “more time.”
You can sign up for Lodro’s newsletter and he sends a meditation challenge every Monday. Sometimes I watch, but more often I file it away for later. When I saw the post on Facebook, I actually read what it was about, and I was in.
Three years ago, Susan Piver was focusing her Open Heart Project Practitioner teachings around the lojong slogans. I enjoyed it so much, was learning so much. I have two books from Pema Chödrön about the same topic and was using them to help deepen my understanding. Then Susan made the difficult decision to discontinue the Practitioner program, and we never made it past the 17th one. So I was so happy to see that Lodro was teaching them, that he was committed to the full set of 59.
Lojong (or “mind training”) slogans are from a classical Tibetan Buddhist text, and are described by Pema Chödrön as offering “pithy, powerful reminders on how to awaken our hearts in the midst of day-to-day life, under any circumstances.” The editor of the book by Chögyam Trungpa about these same slogans describes them this way,
The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind is a list of fifty-nine slogans, which form a pithy summary instruction on the view and practical application of mahayana Buddhism. The study and practice of these slogans is a very practical and earthy way of reversing our ego-clinging and of cultivating tenderness and compassion. They provide a method of training our minds through both formal meditation practice and using the events of everyday life as a means of awakening.
Pithy. Practical. Perfect. I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, kind and gentle reader, but it’s that practical application component that draws me to Buddhism. All the stuff about various deities and realms and karma is interesting to me as an intellectual exercise, but it’s the part where the rubber meets the road that I get excited about. I look to the dharma as a way to understand how to be a better human — how to meet what is beautiful and tender and keep my heart open, how to face what is brutal and terrible and not give up.
And the first lojong slogan is one of my favorites. It presents what are sometimes referred to as the Four Reminders. The slogan is “first, train in the preliminaries,” and those preliminaries or reminders are:
- Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life, the luck of a human birth
- Be aware of the reality that life ends, death comes for everyone
- Know that karma is real, actions have consequences
- Contemplate that as long as you are caught up in yearning for pleasure and shying away from pain, the suffering of suffering, you will remain trapped in unhappiness
I’ve written about the Four Reminders before. I was happy to revisit them this morning. Even happier to feel myself back on the path, encouraged by what Pema says about this study, that “when we work with the slogans, ordinary life becomes the path of awakening.”