---The 16th Mind Training Slogan of Atisha
Although these slogans emerged and were passed on as secret teachings in Tibet by the emigre Indian teacher, Atisha, they were codified and then opened to a wider audience in the 12th century by Tibetan teacher Geshe Chekawa. Now, in the 21st century, in the melting pot of American Buddhism, I not only get to read a number of commentaries of teachers from the Tibetan tradition (Chögyam Trungpa, Pema Chödrön and B. Alan Wallace), I get to read the commentaries of an American disciple of Japanese Zen, Sensei Norman Fisher.* It's like peering at the facets of a diamond while slowly spinning it around.
How cool is that?
At one point years and years ago, after having been struck by Ram Dass's teachings in Be Here Now,
I scribed a couple of "reminders" with colorful magic markers on index cards and taped them at eye level at strategic points around the house. The first was "BE HERE NOW". The second was "BREATHE!" Often, when my eyes caught the card, I remembered! If only for a moment or two, I had the opportunity to interrupt the habitual storylines running through my head and recalibrate the focus and quality of my awareness. After awhile, I had internalized the reminders. It was quite helpful.
The Mind Training Slogans of Atisha are, to say the least, a bit more sophisticated approach. The 59 slogans are organized into 7 Points with the purpose of guiding one's Practice--both on and off the cushion. In familiarizing yourself with the slogans, in taking time to reflect on their meaning, the idea is that you'll be more likely to remember. The notion is that in formal meditation practice and during the helter skelter of one's daily life that one of the slogans may emerge in that moment to frame how to use that moment as an opportunity to practice. Rather than react in our "normal" and generally neurotic habitual manner to the world inside and outside of us, we have a chance to interrupt that flow, to train ourselves in greater openness, kindness and compassion.
And then, as Pema Chödrön sees it, they don't even get you to the other shore. As the Practice deepens, they just sink leaving you there with no ground to stand on!
All you have left, then, is an open mind and a caring heart.
(To be clear, I haven't studied the Lojong Practices with a qualified teacher and it's not been a major focal point of my own practice. It does resonate, however, with my own understanding, a skillful means for some who may be drawn to it. Who knows where the MMM Circle will roll?)
* As well as Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chögyam Trungpa, Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön, and Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong by Norman Fisher, there was an excellent weekly presentation of the entire sequence of 59 Lojong slogans done by Acharya Judy Leif at Tricycle Magazine On-line.